Filipino viewers react to Jo Koy’s Golden Globes hosting gig

Jo Koy Photo from Instagram/@jokoy

ON Sunday, Jan. 7, famed Filipino American stand-up comedian Jo Koy hosted the 81st Golden Globes and the public consensus was clear — he was dreadful.

As soon as Koy — who had only gotten the gig 10 days before the ceremony — began his hosting duties, it was clear that Koy and his writing team prepared material that was neither culturally relevant nor decidedly clever.

He did not reference the recent writers’ and actors’ strikes — which could have been an easy softball for him in terms of material — but notably, his jokes directed at Taylor Swift and the uber-popular “Barbie” prompted indignation across social media.

“As you know, we came on after a football doubleheader. The big difference between the Golden Globes and the NFL? On the Golden Globes, we have fewer camera shots of Taylor Swift, I swear,” Koy said during the show, which was followed by a cut to Swift who appeared unimpressed by the joke.

And referencing the two most successful films of 2023, Koy quipped, “‘Oppenheimer’ is based on a 721-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Manhattan Project, and ‘Barbie’ is on a plastic doll with big boobies. The key moment in ‘Barbie’ is when she goes from perfect beauty to bad breath, cellulite, and flat feet. Or what casting directors call character actor!”

Acknowledging that the monologue was not going his way, Koy threw his writing team under the bus in an awkward attempt of self-preservation, ad-libbing, “Yo, I got the gig 10 days ago; you want a perfect monologue? Yo, shut up. You’re kidding me, right? Slow down. I wrote some of these, and they’re the ones you’re laughing at.”

Universally panned among critics and across social media, Koy’s monologue at the beginning of the show likely dictated the rest of the show, for which he mysteriously did not reappear.

“I had fun. You know, it was a moment that I’ll always remember,” Koy said the morning after the Globes. “It’s a tough room. It was a hard job, I’m not going to lie…I’d be lying if [I said] it doesn’t hurt. I hit a moment there where I was like, ‘Ah.’ Hosting is just a tough gig. Yes, I’m a stand-up comic but that hosting position it’s a different style. I kind of went in and did the writer’s thing. We had 10 days to write this monologue. It was a crash course. I feel bad, but I got to still say I loved what I did.”

Among all American award shows, the Globes are notoriously difficult to nail as a host — see Jerrod Carmichael’s less-than-impressive Globes hosting performance last year and the several times Ricky Gervais hosted and revulsed viewers.

It’s a famously boozy event that brings together film and television, two tangential industries that have different personalities and sensibilities, and powerful media tastemakers like Ted Sarandos of Netflix, Bob Iger of Disney and all its properties, and Oprah Winfrey of, well, broad global influence.

Justin Lee, a Filipino and Vietnamese American aspiring stand-up comedian based in Los Angeles, told the Asian Journal that while he understands the challenges of comedy, Koy’s material felt “dated” and “overall, dull.”

“I can’t imagine what he was going through because a gig like that can make or break you because there are so many people watching,” Lee said, adding, “his jokes just didn’t reflect” contemporary sensibilities about humor or the current state of American entertainment.

“Everyone has their own sense of humor, but I think making a joke about reducing ‘Barbie’ to a movie about a doll with ‘big boobies’ was just uninspired. That part was such a cringefest,” Lee lamented, adding that Koy and his humor seemed “out of place.”

To Lee’s point, what makes Koy’s performance so spectacularly bad is that the Globes are so far from his usual milieu.

Over the past three decades, Koy built a career based primarily on observational humor tailored toward the Filipino American experience — to strong success among Filipino audiences and beyond.

Among the in-jokes about being Filipino American, his bread and butter was always his colorful stories about his mother, which often extended to well-intentioned caricatures of older Filipino women: titas. The relatability factor of Koy’s comedy served him well for years, to the point where his fan base grew and diversified.

But to go from doing hour-long shows making niche jokes to a dedicated fan base to hosting a major awards show, it’s safe to say that the odds were stacked against Koy in nearly every way.

“All of the jokes just felt very first thought, you know, like they didn’t take the time to really refine the script. Very disappointing,” said Melanie Lopez, a Filipino American grad student focusing on media studies.

Lopez said that the joke that confused her the most was Koy’s quip about “Oppenheimer” being too long a film.

Laughing, Lopez said, “‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ [which was nominated in many of the same categories as “Oppenheimer”] was a longer movie! The jokes just didn’t make sense.”

Like many Filipino millennials, Lopez grew up watching Koy’s comedy and while she found him funny years ago, she said his material has gone “stale.”

“I think Jo Koy really needs to branch out, and the response from this awards show should be a wake-up call because you could tell he was uncomfortable with the situation. For years, he’s done the same thing, doing ‘if you know you know’ jokes about being Filipino. You can only rely on that for so long before people start to get tired of it, and I think a lot of us Pinoys are tired of it,” Lopez said.

Lolita Garcia, a Carson-based mom who used to work in the entertainment industry, expressed pity for Koy, whom she says she still supports.

“You know, we as Filipinos want to root for people in our community, especially when they’re famous and successful,” Garcia told the Asian Journal, adding that she applauds Koy for acknowledging his lackluster performance.

“Yeah, [the monologue] wasn’t great at all, but I think this might motivate him to improve as a comic, which is a really difficult job that I don’t think people really appreciate,” Garcia said. “This is hopefully a turning point for his career.”

Even though Koy has been one of the most famous, if not the most famous, comedians of Filipino descent, this flub shouldn’t be seen as a major step back for the Filipino community, said Randy Solar, a Filipino American marketing professional based in Orange County.

“I want better for our community, for sure. But representation is important and I think part of that means that we shouldn’t be so [reactive] when a Filipino doesn’t meet our expectations, whatever they are,” Solar said, adding that he, too, was unimpressed by Koy’s hosting.

“Don’t get me wrong, he was terrible. But everyone has off days at work, [and] Koy just had the misfortune of stumbling in front of millions of people,” he said.

He added, “I think this just really highlights the need for greater representation and diverse representation within just the Filipino community — so we don’t have to put so much pressure and stock into one person.”

 

Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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