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Jo Koy falls flat with jokes at Golden Globe Awards—and a Vancouver comedian of Filipino ancestry explains why

Jo Koy by Golden Globe Awards.
Jo Koy's joke about Barbie blew up against him on social media. Photo by Golden Globe Awards.

Comedian and actor Jo Koy has received a rough reception over social media after hosting last night’s Golden Globe Awards. As he delivered jokes at the event, actor Harrison Ford could be seen scowling at the front of the room.

Other celebrities reacted in a similar manner to some of his lines, including Helen Mirren, Emma Stone, and Selena Gomez.

Another A-lister, Taylor Swift, dished up what can only be described as a death stare as she sipped her drink. This came after Koy’s joke about how her face pops up far more often on NFL broadcasts than it would that evening at the Golden Globes.

Koy is the son of a white former American Air Force serviceman and a Philippines-born mother. Because of this background, I was curious how Koy’s performance was viewed by a Vancouver comedian and writer of Filipino ancestry, Jorelle Almeda. I profiled Almeda last month in Pancouver.

“I think it was an interesting display of a comedian that felt uncomfortable given the circumstances he was put in,” Almeda replied over email. “As I understand it, Jo was only given 10 days notice of the gig.

“To some, that seems like enough time but for Jo, in particular, we can see that he struggled,” he continued. “When a comedian has so much of his routine based on his cultural experience, it can be difficult to appeal to broader audiences.”

Jorelle Almeda
Jorelle Almeda writes screenplays and sketches, creates storyboards, paints, and makes films.

Almeda describes Koy as a talented comedian

Almeda emphasized that he loves Koy’s standup routines, describing Koy as one of his favourite comedians. For Almeda, Koy’s TV specials that touch on his Filipino experiences strongly resonate with him.

As the Golden Globe Awards host, Koy brought his mother into the beginning of his monologue. But according to Almeda, “the mention of his Filipino identity was almost muddled”. And this resulted in an “impersonal and mediocre performance as a host”.

“Jo is a talented comedian but it feels clear to me that he didn’t have the time or maybe the permission to be himself on stage,” Almeda stated.

Moreover, Koy’s Barbie joke fell flat for Almeda. For describing it as a film about “a plastic doll with big boobies”, Koy has been ripped online for being sexist.

“It could have been a commentary on how most audiences may have received the film but it definitely did not help Jo’s overall performance and may have been a swing and a miss,” Almeda noted. “That said, let’s not overlook the fact that the movie at its core was made to sell more Barbie dolls. Sure, [director] Greta Gerwig had a message that is poignant and one that needs to be understood regarding gender constructs in society—but we shouldn’t forget that she was paid millions of dollars by Mattel to sell more toys.

“So, that joke was a bit off but again, in the realm of comedy I think it’s okay to poke fun,” Almeda added. “That joke just didn’t land. Jo should not be crucified for bits that don’t work, given the time constraint and his inability to be his genuine self.”

Cards stacked against Koy from the start

Elsewhere in his email. Almeda noted that we still haven’t hit the apex of hearing true Filipino stories on a large scale. That may have led Koy to “resort to punching down on his writing staff since he felt the pressure of his jokes not landing”.

“Jo wasn’t given enough time to be original and find a way to use his perspective to build jokes off of,” Almeda commented. “Perhaps that was also due to the fact that he was forced to do broader comedy.”

In fact, Almeda feels that the cards were stacked against Koy from the start. That’s because Koy was “not able to tap into the goldmine that is his personal experience and perspective which have elevated him to the comedian he is today”.

“I will also say that I believe the backlash isn’t necessarily fair,” Almeda stated. “Finally, I know a lot of this is being brought up because he poked fun at Taylor Swift, which is apparently a taboo in modern society. That to me was ridiculous.

“When [former Golden Globes Awards host] Ricky Gervais made jokes, there were similar if not worse reactions to his bits,” Almeda concluded. “But Ricky was able to use his personal spin or ‘brand of comedy’, which is crossing being brutally honest and clever. And to date, a lot of the Internet maintains that Ricky should have done it again or that he is the best to have done it.”

For more information on Jorelle Almeda, visit his website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.