"I didn't think I'd be asked again, and I didn't think I'd say yes if I was asked," the British funnyman, 49, who will indeed return as host this Sunday, tells PEOPLE.
Now, of course, he wants to misbehave even more this year. "I don't think I went far enough," he says. "I think I can notch it up. That was me on sort of like 2 or 3. I think I can notch it up to 4 or 5."
Among other barbs, Gervais last year made fun of Aniston's career, Gibson's drinking, Farrell's temper and Paul McCartney's divorce. But in the end, he was fine with what his peers thought of those little jabs.
"Colin Farrell, he liked it," Gervais says. "He whispered in my ear, and he came up and hugged me. He said, 'I f'ing knew you'd say something like that.' "
Gervais adds: "I worried about how Paul McCartney would take it. But he came back afterwards and said, 'I loved it.' And I heard Jennifer Aniston liked it."
In fact, as far as Gervais is concerned, he's delivering compliments, however backhanded. "I say much worse things to my friends, so they can take it as a show of affection," he says. "If I'm insulting you, then I think you're worthy!"
So, what sealed the deal for him to return as host this year? An agreement that no one would try to rein him in.
"I asked, 'Can I say what I want?' They went, 'Yes.' And also, 'I don't need to rehearse, do I? I can just show up?' And they went, 'Yeah.' I thought, this really this is the perfect gig for me."
The 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Ricky Gervais, will air live Jan. 16 on NBC at 5 p.m. from the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.