Last week, we had the high-profile comedic bombing of Jo Koy during his monologue at the 2024 Golden Globes. No matter where the camera pointed in the crowd, frowns abounded, especially after jokes about Barbie and Taylor Swift cut to the unpleased faces of their creators. And especially after last year’s controversial Will Smith and Chris Rock fiasco at the 2023 Oscars, Jo Koy’s performance has made me ask: Why can’t these professional comedians and performers host one of these events right?
Here’s the full monologue to view if you feel inclined.
Frankly, I feel the reason has to do with something at the very core of comedy, negativity. That may sound outlandish because some of the most revered comedians use negativity for great humor (for me, George Carlin stands out), but I feel that negativity is what destroys these award show hosts. Negative comedy is hilarious, but context matters. Making negative jokes during a ceremony that is supposed to honor and celebrate everyone there just kills the vibe, especially when the target of the humor are the people and the work being celebrated.
Let’s look at what went wrong.
Jo Koy’s joke about Barbie being based on “a plastic doll with big boobies” is a masterclass in failing to read a room. Belittling the film by simplifying it to that degree when it was nominated for SIX awards that night (and won 2) is not a good look. It wouldn’t be a good look doing that to any film, but doing it to an openly feminist movie gives the joke even worse connotation because the joke becomes rooted in misogyny. This one line completely killed the positive, celebratory attitude that award shows should have.
Further killing the mood was Koy’s response to his lackluster performance. This is something comedians do all the time that never helps: making negative, off-the-cuff jokes while bombing. The easiest example of this is Michael Richards infamously saying racial slurs while being heckled in 2006. While Koy’s remarks were nowhere near as severe as Richards’, he still turned to negativity in the moment, blaming the other writers for the performance. And no matter how true what he said was, it was a complete mistake. If I were a writer for this and Koy publicly blamed the show on me, I would never want to work with him again, frankly.
So how can these comedians do better?
Part of me hates saying it, but for events like these, they should leave the edgier material at home. Sometimes safe, kind jokes are the best, and for award shows, I think they are. Instead of joking about how Oppenheimer should’ve been longer, a simple joke about how Oppenheimer blew up the box office would’ve been fine. Is that joke overused and stale? Yes. Is that joke at the expense of the film that won Best Picture? No, and that’s what’s most important. No matter how corny it is, it aligns with the goal of the show: celebrating film and TV.
The other option is just finding a new target to direct these jokes at. Koy had so many great targets for negative jokes that would’ve had the crowd and the public on his side. He could’ve made a joke about how a studio executive (who still isn’t named) said they were willing to wait out the strike until writers go homeless. Koy could’ve targeted the many (figurative) bad actors in the industry, like Kelly Clarkson, who ran and aired her talk show during the writer and actor strikes, or Jonathan Majors, who was convicted for assaulting his girlfriend. These were easy targets to punch up at, but instead, Koy decided to punch down and belittle the films and people that were there to be celebrated, showing a lack of respect for those nominated and the artists of this industry as a whole.
Thanks for getting to the end of this little opinion piece. It was fun to reflect on this moment as someone who loves comedy and film. In case you’re wondering, I’m quite content with the winners, although I would’ve loved to see Barry win anything in the TV categories, but Succession and The Bear are just so good that I can’t blame the voting committee. If you wanna read more from me, I got another post about reality TV editing, or you can check out our news coverage from the lovely Yade. I recommend this post about student housing.