Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globes with unrivaled aplomb.
Their jokes were on fire. Their ad-libs killed. They were so good at the job that watching their performance was equal to two straight days of entertainment. First came the watching of the actual live ceremony. Then, the next day, came the ranking and repeating of their best lines.
From 2013 to 2015, Fey and Poehler set the gold standard for emceeing at the annual ceremony held by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — an occasion known for being much looser than the Oscars and Emmy, thanks in no small part to all the champagne and cocktails involved.
They are the women who landed this magnificent jab at sexism and ageism in their 2014 monologue: “’Gravity’ is nominated for best film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.”
Now the dynamic duo is returning to host the Golden Globes on Sunday night to a very different vibe. Thanks to the harsh reality of COVID-19, this will be a virtual event. There will be no ballroom packed with mega-stars to laugh or gasp when the hosts launch their best lines. Instead, the nominees will be on-camera at home, waiting for the winners to be announced.
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It’s enough to daunt even Fey and Poehler, who starred respectively in the sitcom hits “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation” and together in the movies “Baby Mama,” “Sisters” and “Wine Country.” They’ve each written best-selling books. They both played influential roles in political image-making with their definitive impressions on “Saturday Night Live” of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.
And yet, they seem a little nervous.
“We just have a few final questions: When, how, why, where and what? Just those, that’s all we need to find out. But we’re going to figure it out,” Poehler told Seth Meyers last month on NBC’s “Late Night.”
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Timing is everything in comedy, which makes the reality that Fey and Poehler will host from separate coasts an enormous challenge.
Fey will be working from the Rainbow Room in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, while Poehler will be at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Even if there are no technical glitches, the physical separation increases the difficulty of being funny in tandem.
The situation, however, does give Poehler and Fey room to mock their own strange set-up — and the entire live-TV viewing experience that has become the norm during the pandemic. Let’s hope they simulate some disasters to explore what could go wrong. Just imagine the possible jokes about Zoom meetings with muting fiascos or text messages mistakenly shared on-screen that reveal their panic.
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We’re also praying that Tina and Amy find spontaneous fun in the handing out of statuettes to celebrities at home. Maybe they could review the wallpaper and bookshelves of celebrity houses, much like Twitter’s popular Room Rater account does for cable news guests.
Their celebrity pals could help out by volunteering to be trashed for their interior decorating on the air. We’re already chuckling at the thought of Fey and Poehler critiquing, say, Will Ferrell’s man cave or Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ she shed.
The buzz leading up to the Golden Globes has been about the Los Angeles Times investigative reporting on financial and ethical questions regarding the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
The newspaper conducted extensive interviews and reviewed documents that “paint a picture of an embattled organization still struggling to shake its reputation as a group whose awards or nominations can be influenced with expensive junkets and publicity swag.”
The L.A. Times also reported that the 87-member HFPA has no Black journalists. This year’s Globes nominations for best picture drew criticism for not including well-reviewed movies with predominantly Black casts like “Da 5 Bloods” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
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Fey and Poehler should use their comedy platform to deliver the sort of pointed rebukes that could prod the Globes to making changes that are long overdue. Instead of ignoring the headlines, they can make them the focus of their toughest jokes.
And might we suggest one or two or 27 jokes about the fact that Netflix’s meringue-fluffy “Emily in Paris” is a Globe nominee, while HBO’s intensely brilliant “I May Destroy You” was snubbed?
Even though 2020’s stress has become 2021’s continuing worries, Fey and Poehler aren’t paid to be soothing. They need to stick to their style of unflinching humor that delights in mocking hypocrites and deflating big egos.
The unleashed it in 2013, when Fey and Poehler earned applause for zapping the director of “Titanic.” Addressing the complaints that “Zero Dark Thirty” director Kathryn Bigelow was getting for the film’s portrayal of torture techniques, Poehler said, “I haven’t really been following the controversy over ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ but when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.”
The hosts also have called out Joaquin Phoenix for showing up at the Globes after publicly describing awards shows as “total and utter bull(bleep)” and skewered Hollywood’s treatment of and unrealistic standards for women.
Noting the arduous makeup that transformed one nominee, Fey joked in 2015: “Steve Carell’s ‘Foxcatcher’ look took two hours to put on. .… Just for comparison, it took me three hours today to prepare for my role as human woman.”
There are numerous potential targets for Fey and Poehler to choose from for Sunday’s opening monologue: men and women from the worlds of show business, politics, social media and Wall Street. But one individual stands out at the moment for his vacation choices during the Texas power failure crisis. Watch out, Ted Cruz!
One development since Fey and Poehler’s last hosting gig is Clooney’s new status as the father of 3-year-old twins. It’s quite a change from the suave actor’s previous image as a matinee idol paired with younger actresses, hence the that awesome “Gravity” joke.
Clooney earned more flak from the pair when he received the Golden Globes prize for contributions to the industry, the Cecil Be. DeMille Award. Noting his marriage in 2014 to Amal Alamuddin, Fey described her as an accomplished human rights attorney “who worked on the Enron case, an adviser to Kofi Annan on Syria and was appointed to a three-person commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza strip.”
The punch line? “So tonight her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award.”
Clooney seemed to enjoy the line immensely, but now that he has become just another harried father scrambling to keep up with his toddlers, Tina and Amy should make peace with his ordinariness.
With all of the soul-searching that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seems to need, this should be Fey and Poehler’s farewell to the Globes.
The two already have addressed the idea that handing out trophies has dropped from frivolous to meaningless in 2021. In the promos for Sunday’s broadcast, Fey says, “The stakes have never been lower.” To which Poehler adds, “We play our cards right, this could be the last awards show ever.”
This doesn’t mean Fey and Poehler should give up helming award shows altogether. The Oscars are in desperate need of hosts who could become regulars at the job the way Johnny Carson and Billy Crystal were in past years.
Just be sure to add Maya Rudolph to the mix. Remember at the 2019 Oscars, when Rudolph joined Fey and Poehler as presenters? That was cool. Fey told the audience, “We’re going to stand here a little too long, so the people who get USA Today tomorrow will think that we hosted.”
It worked, or at least it proved that they should become a hosting triad. When it comes to Fey, Poehler and Rudolph as combined forces, three very funny women are even better than two.
The Golden Globes will air live coast-to-coast on NBC at 8 EST/5 PST.
Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds at email@example.com