NEW YORK (AP) -- Three time's the charm - if that's not the wrong word for Ricky Gervais' third year as scathing steward of the Golden Globes.
Or maybe the word is "f-word" - which Gervais blurted out, and which was bleeped, as he introduced presenters Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek late in the show Sunday night.
"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."
Later, when he came back on stage with wine glass in hand, he 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, but it had its share of barbs.
"Nervous? Don't be," he grinned at the room-full of glitterati at the top of the show, aired by NBC on Sunday. "Tonight you get Britain's biggest comedian, hosting the world's second-biggest awards show on America's third-biggest network." He corrected himself: "It's fourth."
"The Golden Globes are to the Oscars," he went on, "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 behavior. 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 a hundred 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."
As the evening progressed, only Madonna dared to challenge Gervais.
Introducing her as an awards presenter, he 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.