Defending Jo Koy’s Golden Globes Performance

by Emil Guillermo

Social media was brutal. Even among Filipinos. Media commentators were no better. The overwhelming majority crucified comedian Jo Koy for his jokes at the Golden Globes on Jan. 7.

But I will not.

Koy, who was born Joseph Herbert in the Philippines to a Filipino mother, has made a name for himself telling Filipino stories, and I shall defend what he did that night.

But first, is anyone surprised there were no real political speeches given at the awards event?

Not a peep for the earth, global warning, or any of the world’s geopolitical hotspots, pro or con. No calls for a ceasefire.

Not even in Koy’s case, a cease-monologue.

There were only words of gratitude from the winners and those lucky enough to be in the room.

And that’s OK, because the crucial political speech we need for 2024 may have been given by President Joe Biden on the eve of Jan. 6—the third year after insurrection day in America, the most threatening anti-government violence in the U.S. since before the Civil War.

“Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time,” said Biden. “And that’s what the 2024 election is all about.”

Make no mistake. Democracy is on the ballot, and so is your freedom, the president said. “The alternative to democracy is dictatorship. The rule of one, not the rule of we, the people.”

The rule of one? That would be the former president who wants to be president again.

“[Donald Trump] is willing to sacrifice our democracy to put himself in power,” said Biden as he contrasted Trump’s campaign with his own.

“Our campaign is about America. It’s about you. It’s about every age and background that occupy this country.”

Which means America is all about diversity, equity and inclusion. And guess which end of the political spectrum is mounting a full-scale attack on that?

The history of Jan. 6, 2021 is a somber one with more than 1,200 people charged with assault, and nearly 900 of them convicted or pleading guilty.

“The whole world watched in disbelief and Trump did nothing,” Biden said as he went over the history, noting how Trump calls insurrectionists hostages and patriots.

Like I said, if you haven’t read or watched the speech, do so now: Biden’s not acting but deserves a Golden Globe. The situation is for real.

In 2024, if you make every day a commemoration of Jan. 6, you’ll never forget the importance of your vote this coming November.

No shortage of freedom and diversity at the Globes and Jo Koy led the way
I’ve been covering representation issues for years in my “Amok” columns. This was one of the few awards shows where diversity was on full display from start to finish.

Perhaps the most historical award went to Lily Gladstone, the female lead actress in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” ICT-Indian Country Today called Gladstone the first Native woman to win the Golden Globe award for best actress in a dramatic film.

Latinx? Barbie’s America Ferrara was in our faces as nominee and presenter.

African Americans? From Da’Vine Joy Randolph in “The Holdovers” to Ayo Edebiri in “The Bear,” new emerging talent was honored that night.

And then there was “Beef.”

To Biden’s earlier point about democracy and dictatorship, would a “Beef” be even possible in, say, North Korea?

Nope. But look what happens when South Korean director/writer/ executive producer Lee Sung Jin collaborated with Asian Americans like Ali Wong and Steven Yeun.

It was historic with Golden Globes for all.

The only thing I didn’t like about “Beef” was its repeated references to “the Filipinos.” But that’s OK. David Choe was fearful of them. It was a joke. About Filipinos. I get it.

Which brings us to the night’s host, Jo Koy.

Never met him. But I’m defending the brother, the first Filipino Asian American ever to host the Golden Globes. That’s not insignificant in show business.

As a fellow firster too (I was the first Filipino Asian American to host a national news show), I was cheering him on.

The dude was funnier than people give him credit for being. Review the video. He got laughs. And he got under the thin skin of many an Ozempic-addled starlet in the audience when he poked fun at Taylor Swift.

“We came on after a football double-header,” joked Koy. “The big difference between the Golden Globes and the NFL? On the Golden Globes, we have fewer camera shots of Taylor Swift.”

It was a current barb worthy of satire and would have been a solid 3- or 5-second laugh, if Koy hadn’t out of nervousness cut the bit short and started apologizing for the joke.

He did that for a few of his jokes. But that one hit hard. Proof? Off stage, reports say Emma Stone, a Globe winner, felt compelled to rally to the defense of her sister Swift, calling Koy an “a-hole.” Stone should know better. It’s a joke.

Other journalists and writers are out there piling on, one says Koy was the wrong host for the show.

Caribou manure.

They don’t understand comedy.

After Ricky Gervais hosted the Globes, the celebrities should know, when you go to the Globes, you’re fair game, Hollywood elites lined up as ducks in a row for the host’s monologue.

The only thing that would have made Koy’s appearance perfect was if Swift’s suitor, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce were actually there to do a Will Smith number.

He could have said, “Get my Pop Star’s name out your mouth,” or some such. Then he punched him out.

Now that would have blown up the internet.

I don’t condone it. I just mean to point out that Koy didn’t really bomb as much as some are saying.

A Vanity Fair headline, “Jo Koy’s Jokes Draw Stony Silence at the Golden Globes 2024,” doesn’t apply to his whole ten-minute set. Some received less than enthusiastically, but having been in standup situations myself, you just keep throwing punches.

He even landed a few.

I guess it’s all about taste. It’s why you say “Oppenheimer” and I say “Barbie.”

If you analyze that monologue, Koy did an admirable job given he was just announced in December as the host.

He wasn’t as controversial or insulting as Ricky Gervais in the past.

Koy’s nerves did seem to get the better of him, as he went on playing up how he’d watched the Globes growing up, and gee, look at all the stars in the room.

Instantly, he became an uncomfortable gawker. He acted like he didn’t belong.

But he did. It was almost like a case of comedian imposter syndrome.

Koy scored when he was edgier.

When he joked about “Killers of the Flower Moon,” director Martin Scorsese’s Native American drama, Koy praised the cast, including Gladstone, who would by night’s end become the first Native American to win best actress in a motion picture. A big deal.

“The one thing I learned about that movie is that white people stole everything,” said Koy to more laughs. “100 percent of everything. You took the land. You took the oil. You took the premise of the movie.”

That was a solid 4-second laugh, which ended abruptly when someone in the crowd, maybe Scorsese sitting in the front, said it was his premise.

“That was your premise?” Koy asked aloud. “It’s just that the room is really white.”

But Koy struck a nerve. That used to be known as a comedian’s job. But apparently, not in the age of cancel culture.

So Koy may not have been as great as he’s been as when he’s sold-out theaters in Hawaii and around the country. But Koy just wasn’t as terrible as some reports are saying the morning after.

He did get in a Filipino accented joke talking about his mother’s love for Meryl Streep. He proclaimed his Filipino-ness in a joke about how “the Golden Globes wanted to honor my culture, so for the very first time they served sushi.”

Then the punch. “But I’m Filipino. We cook our fish.”

He even got a solid laugh when he went back to Streep mimicking a comical what-if scene where she proclaims, “Wakanda Forever.” That visual got a big laugh.

Jo Koy acknowledges it was a rough night, in an interview with the LA Times. He still would give himself an A+ for courage. No loss of self-esteem there.

But I agree. He even closed the show the way I close every one of my Emil Amok’s Takeouts. (You can listen at It’s a Filipino thing?

There really are too many positives about the night that drew a record 9.4 million viewers on CBS. That was several times more than last year.

The Globe’s diverse winners had that look of our American democracy. That’s what we should be talking about, how the show represented the diverse voices in showbiz.

Not about whether Jo Koy was the right choice to host the show. Or whether he was funny.

Of course, he was. The Filipino guy.

It’s just a new era of comedy, where people—if they don’t agree with your premise—are quicker to debate than laugh.

EMIL GUILLERMO is a journalist, commentator, as well as a monologue artist who performs at theater festivals around the country. Ill talk about this column on my microtalk show, Emil Amoks Takeout, on Contact:

About Author

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.