He promised not to hold back, and he didn't - but Ricky Gervais did get challenged a little more by the celebs he chose to target at this year's Golden Globes ceremony.

The host used his five minute opening monologue to hassle Eddie Murphy, take the mickey out of Justin Bieber and even mock Johnny Depp again.

But both Madonna and Colin Firth got their own back on Gervais later in the show.

Introducing the pop star as an awards presenter, Gervais described Madonna as "just like a virgin,'' then erupted with a theatrical cough.


Madonna fired back, "If I'm still just like a virgin, Ricky, then why don't you come over here and do something about it?''

She paused. "I haven't kissed a girl in a few years ... on TV.''

A camera caught Gervais comedically dashing off stage.

And after introducing Firth as someone who is racist and "punches blind kittens," the British actor accused Gervais of being worse than "fire and brimstone".


"So, where was I?" asked Gervais as he opened his third and final stint hosting the Globes in Los Angeles.

"Tonight you get Britain's biggest comedian, hosting the second biggest awards show, on America's third biggest network ... I'm just kidding, it's the fourth."

Gervais quickly took aim at Murphy, who recently pulled out of hosting the Academy Awards.

"When the man who said, 'Yes' to Norbit says, 'No' to you, you know you're in trouble," he joked.

He then turned his attention to Bieber, bringing up the pop star's recent paternity test.

"The only way Justin Bieber could have impregnanted a girl is if he borrowed one of Martha Stewart's old turkey basters," he said to awkward laughter.

He also took aim at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Helen Mirren and Kim Kardashian. But his worst joke was saved for Jodie Foster and included Mel Gibson jibes and a reference to Foster's movie Beaver.

Then, at the end of his spiel, he introduced Johnny Depp, who he mocked at last year's ceremony for starring in the flop The Tourist.

"Have you seen The Tourist yet?" Gervais asked Depp when he arrived on stage.

"No," said an apparently nervous Depp.

Gervais then left the stage, to which Depp stammered, "Oh boy, he's fun."


Gervais' performance was all anyone talked about before the ceremony.

"I'm kind of interested in what Mr Gervais has to say ... I kind of laughed last year," said Ashton Kutcher.

"I know him so I think he's gonna hit me extra hard. He was great last year and he'll be amazing this year too ... I love him," said Jimmy Fallon.

Ryan Seacrest said Gervais didn't stick around on the red carpet.

"I get the impression he doesn't want to run into anyone before the show," he said.

Gervais also tweeted this photo of his rider backstage at the Globes.

Not everyone enjoyed Gervais' performance.

"I know 2 Globes that didn't show up: Ricky Gervais' BALLS! Not rude enough! #goldenglobes," said Flight of the Conchords star Kristen Schaal on Twitter after the show.


Gervais was censored as he introduced presenters Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.

"They're ridiculously gorgeous specimens, they're extremely talented and probably very interesting,'' Gervais declared.

"I'm not sure,'' he went on, as censors instantly bleeped out the rest of his wisecrack, which declared, "I couldn't understand a (expletive) word they said.''

When he came back on stage with wine glass in hand, Gervais said it was great having a job that allowed you to get drunk and say whatever you wished and still get paid.

Gervais' monologue didn't shock quite the way it did last year - it could be said Seth Rogen's erection joke while standing next to Kate Beckinsale was the funniest line of the night - but it had its share of barbs.

"The Golden Globes are to the Oscars,'' he said, "what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton - a bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker and more easily bought, allegedly.''

After last year's shindig, when Gervais insulted nearly everyone in sight, an invitation back for the British wag seemed doubtful.

But the Globes loves to court outrageous behaviour. That meant another turn for Gervais as host. He explained he had been warned by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association that were he to insult anyone on hand, or "offend any viewers, or cause any controversy whatsoever - they'll definitely invite me back next year as well.''

Then Gervais went on to praise a nominated HBO series, Boardwalk Empire.

"I love that show,'' he said. "It's about a load of immigrants who came to America about 100 years ago, and they got involved in bribery and corruption and worked their way up into high society. But enough about the Hollywood Foreign Press.''

Check out some of the highlights:

- Herald online with AP