Oh, man, the 2017 Golden Globes were boring. And they’re supposed to be the fun awards! All the talent should be on the drunk spectrum between slightly tipsy to entertainingly sloshed thanks to the huge bottles of bubbly being passed around the tables, plus the mix of TV and movie stars means double the A-lister eye candy. And since the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is essentially a joke organization, edgier hosts like Ricky Gervais are hired and ballsier jokes are used that would never fly at the hoity-toity Oscars. (Just peep Tina Fey’s all-time best jibes: “Like a supermodel’s vagina, let’s give a warm welcome to Leonardo DiCaprio” and “In Gravity, George Clooney would rather float off into space than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.”) But I knew going in last night we were doomed. Why? Jimmy Fallon was hosting.
Now, I don’t hate Jimmy Fallon. He is charming in Fever Pitch and he is the creator of my all-time favourite Saturday Night Live sketch, “Barry Gibb Talk Show.” You would even think someone with my predilection for hijinks and tomfoolery would be pleased that he has, in the words of Difficult People, “slowly turned The Tonight Show into a children’s birthday party.”
But stern daddy Johnny Carson must be yelling at the TV with some frequency from his comfy armchair wherever he is now (Palm Springs Heaven, most likely) and I raise my voice alongside him in rage. Jimmy Fallon is a suck-up. And that does not make for good comedy. Fallon is the warm, cuddly style of late-night host, soft-balling his questions and bounding around the stage like a large puppy, his open, eager face eternally twisted in a joyous rictus of “isn’t life great and ain’t I lucky to be doing this? Wheee! Whimsy!”
Now, “being an asshole” isn’t one of my host requirements. But Hollywood in general and the promotion circuit in particular is pretty self-indulgent, insular and, when you take a step back, somewhat ridiculous in terms of the amount of cash and time spent on it. I don’t think we should abandon making art in favour of donning sackcloth and returning to gathering ’round the Victrola, but I do think it’s important for people operating within the system to take the piss out of it on occasion, especially when it comes to high-profile award shows and their oft-skin-crawling circle-jerk vibe. (And this coming from an avowed award show apologist who has watched every Oscars since I was wee, including hoofing many miles during my cable-free years in high school to watch it at faraway friends’ houses and during vacation in Thailand.)
Jimmy Kimmel has done this brilliantly with his decade-long bit of bumping Matt Damon as well as his brilliant segment, “Mean Tweets,” where he makes celebrities read out loud the horrible things people say about them. (Even his bits outside of Hollywood, like his long-running tradition of soliciting parents to film themselves telling their greedy little spawn that they ate all their Halloween candy, skewer consumerism and gluttony marvellously.) Jimmy Fallon, in contrast, delights in joining his fancy pals in childish, irritating parlour games and endless annoying musical numbers featuring himself. Unsurprisingly, the Idiocracy-level silliness “Lip Synch Battle” began on his show, spiralling out from a recurring segment into the grotesquerie of a full-length show featuring celebrities lip-synching popular hits. Last night, Tom Hiddleston won for best actor in a miniseries or TV movie. His speech started off well enough, using his time in receiving an award for acting in a series about an arms dealer to call attention to the plight of south Sudan. It, however, then veered into a horrifying car-crash of white saviour insanity when he essentially said that he is so pleased that The Night Manager exists because it entertains aid workers. See, a good host, a fearless Jimmy Kimmel satirist, would have made a quip about this to take Tom down a peg for this grotesque display. But no.
The choice of Jimmy Fallon for this particular Golden Globes is telling. We are less than two weeks away from Donald Trump’s inauguration, a time when even peaceful protests are being curtailed, so it makes sense that a bland, inoffensive host unlikely to make any cutting jokes is the order of the day. But criticism and protest are some of the prime movers of humour, and of change—the best jokes fight back. Jimmy Fallon doesn’t want to fight. He wants everyone to make up.
Just look at the difference between the Emmys and the Golden Globes. In Jimmy Fallon’s opening monologue, there were three decent political jokes. Three. Other than one quip about the teleprompter mix-up, those were the only good jokes in the entire show. Flash back to the Emmys, when Jimmy Kimmel—a much pricklier Jimmy—was hosting. During the opening monologue alone, he had much more pointed jokes about ageism and racism, and, more importantly, the momentum continued throughout the show as he tossed out zinger after zinger about race, including “now there’s too much diversity in this show” after Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang won best writing for a comedy series and, when introducing the presenters for the variety or talk show series host award, “for a category comprised exclusively by white people, it’s ironic that this is the one called variety.” Misogyny also got skewered after Jill Soloway won for best directing on a comedy series, when he said in reply to Soloway’s cries to topple the patriarchy: “I’m trying to figure out if ‘topple the patriarchy’ is a good thing for me or not.”
This is the type of humour we require today, not the sweet, inoffensive pablum of sentient flop-sweat Jimmy Fallon. Thank god Kimmel is hosting the Oscars this year. Kimmel is the Jimmy we need.
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