Ricky Gervais during his first stint hosting the Golden Globe Awards. (Paul Drinkwater/NBC/AP)

Ricky Gervais, who promised so faithfully after his second time hosting the Golden Globe Awards that it would be his last, has been signed to host the trophy show for a third consecutive year.

“Ricky Gervais will host the 69th Golden Globe Awards on January 15, 2012,” the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which stages the clambake, tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

Gervais, who is rapidly becoming the Billy Crystal of the Golden Globes, raised even the botoxed brows of Hollywood last January when he took pot shots at A-listers while they were his captive audience in the Beverly Hills Hilton hotel ballroom.

(In one of those incredible coincidences, just days earlier, the film academy announced that Billy Crystal had come to its rescue, agreeing to return for his ninth at-bat hosting the Oscars — the mother of all trophy shows — after Eddie Murphy bailed on them, when this year’s Oscar show producer — Murphy’s “Tower Heist” director Brett Ratner — “resigned” to atone for having regaled Howard Stern with stories of his sexual exploits and made a homophobic comment at a “Tower Heist” screening. Phew!)

Among our fond memories of Gervais’s Globe hosting last January:

*Of “Sex and the City 2,” he said, “I was sure the Golden Globe for special effects would go to the team that airbrushed that poster. Girls, we know how old you are. I saw one of you in an episode of ‘Bonanza’.”

*He introduced Bruce Willis as “Ashton Kutcher’s dad.”

*He savaged the Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie flick “The Tourist,” saying, “I haven’t even seen ‘The Tourist.’ Who has? But it must be good because it’s nominated, so shut up, OK? And I’d like to crush this ridiculous rumor that the only reason ‘The Tourist’ was nominated was so that the foreign press of could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That was not the only reason — they also accepted bribes.”

After he introduced Robert Downey Jr. with a stale Betty Ford gag, Downey stole the show when he asked the ballroom of borrowed rags and gems, “Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show has been pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?”

Wednesday afternoon, the HFPA blogged: “While many welcome Gervais’s return, not everyone is happy with the decision because last year his blunt one-liners targeting big-name celebrities caused anger and resentment in some quarters.”

Uh huh... So it’s still unclear what caused the HFPA to go with Gervais another year.

In the aftermath of last January’s trophy how, HFPA – whose president Gervais described during the show thusly: “I helped him off the toilet and popped his teeth in.” — had issued a statement saying it was shocked that Gervais “occasionally went too far.” And, the HFPA made sure it noted, “The HFPA would never condone some of his personal remarks.”

Practically speaking, Gervais’s second gig had clocked about 17 million viewers to the show — same as the previous year when he first hosted. His second time, however, he attracted slightly fewer 18-49 year olds who are advertisers’ — and Gervais’s — bread and butter.

The announcement, while possibly knicker-knotting to some of his celebri-victims, is not so surprising to those who watch trophy show movement closely. Earlier this month, word got out that the president of the HFPA and the head of NBC’s specials programming unit, had been spotted having dinner with Gervais in Paris. And, just before that New York Post report broke, Gervais had been quoted saying NBC had asked him back but he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it again.

Apparently he made up his mind.