"I'm going to be nice tonight," promised Ricky Gervais at the beginning of his opening monologue at today's Golden Globes.

He proved to be anything but.

Gervais, returning for the fourth time as host and for the first time in three years, delivered some of his most scathing jokes yet, poking fun at everyone from Caitlyn Jenner to Jennifer Lawrence and Matt Damon.

"I'm going to be nice tonight. I've changed," Gervais said. "Not as much as Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner of course. What a year she's had, she became a role model (but) she didn't do a lot for women drivers," referencing last February's Malibu car accident involving Jenner.

Ricky Gervais takes a shot at Donald Trump.

Gervais' first joke included a poke at Penn, who conducted an interview with a Mexican drug kingpin and penned an essay for Rolling Stone magazine.

Gervais joked he wanted to get through his monologue and go into hiding - somewhere even Penn couldn't find him.

He then called the actor a "snitch" - a reference to Mexican authorities' claims that Penn's interview helped lead them to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Gervais managed to skewer NBC, the network hosting the Globes in America, for receiving zero nominations, said he was being paid exactly the same as last year's hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey ("It's not my fault they wanted to share it"), and labelled Schindler's List a funnier film than the Adam Sandler flop Pixels.

Of Matt Damon, Gervais said: "He's the only person Ben Affleck hasn't been unfaithful to."

Matt Damon tries not to laugh at Ricky Gervais's joke about Ben Affleck.

But his biggest laughs were reserved for the night's winners and the ceremony itself.

Discussing accusations that celebrities would stay away from the Globes because he was returning as host, Gervais said: "As if film stars would stay away from winning a Golden Globe - especially if their film company has already paid for it."

He finished by telling winners that their awards were "worthless".

"If you win tonight, remember that no one cares about that award as much as you do. Don't get emotional, it's embarrassing.

The Globe award, itself, he said, is "a bit of metal that some confused old journalist wanted to give you to meet you in person and take a selfie".

One of his three Globes, Gervais said, he stuffs up his rear.

It makes you wonder how brutal the 20-odd jokes Gervais was forced to cut from his monologue were.

- nzherald.co.nz