• Mon. May 27th, 2024

Jo Koy on hosting Golden Globes 2024: ‘I gotta make sure I bring it’

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It was Tuesday morning, in Los Angeles’s Studio City neighborhood, on the second day of the new year, and Jo Koy was taking calls while lying down underneath his Casper comforter.

“It’s just caught up to me,” the 52-year-old Filipino American comedian said of his hectic schedule, which saw him headlining arenas from New York to Singapore in 2023. “I haven’t left the house since I got back.”

That’s partly the reason he brought in the New Year on his couch, binge-watching TV shows and films with his ex-wife (who he refers to as his “best friend”) and 20-year-old son. But he was also “cramming” — on Sunday, Koy will host the 81st Golden Globes, where he will be only the second person of Asian descent to shepherd the show (Sandra Oh was the first, in 2019), and the first Asian American man to do so. And he was given less than two weeks to prepare.

The Globes, commonly referred to as “the Drunk Oscars” for its glitzy, boozy energy, will mark the first major awards show since the end of the dual writers and actors strikes that shut down Hollywood for months last year. Being named master of ceremonies — and following in the footsteps of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Jimmy Fallon — also caps a meteoric seven-year run, which saw Koy go from Netflix reject to global headliner.

“I’ve had [hosting] gigs before, but nothing to this level,” Koy said. “So I gotta make sure I bring it.”

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The job of emceeing the entertainment industry’s big award shows has frequently fallen to America’s most beloved comedians — Billy Crystal, Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock and Trevor Noah to name a few. These gigs also have a reputation for being difficult: keeping an audience laughing for three or more hours is challenging enough, but hosts also have to weigh playing to the room or the audience at home.

The Globes, which began enlisting comic hosts in 2009, has developed a reputation for bringing more of an edge to its proceedings. Ricky Gervais, who has hosted the show multiple times, has been both praised and criticized for mocking “woke” celebrities he considered hypocritical. Jerrod Carmichael, who hosted the show last year after scandals rocked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, took the HFPA to task in his opening monologue, stating bluntly, “I’m here because I’m Black.” (Dick Clark Productions and Eldridge company bought the rights for the awards show last year.)

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But in the wake of the contentious strikes by the writers and actors guilds — a “scary time” for the industry, Koy noted — the comedian wants to set a more celebratory, sunny energy to the proceedings.

“I just want to have fun,” Koy said. “I just want to treat it like one of my shows.”

Koy, whose real name is Joseph Glenn Herbert, has been grinding on the stand-up comedy circuit for decades, steadily amassing a diverse fan base drawn to his deeply personal, kinetic — and, occasionally, unabashedly lewd — brand of comedy. His 2017 breakout comedy special, “Live from Seattle,” saw Koy lean hard into stories about his multicultural upbringing (his mom’s cure for every ailment? Vicks VapoRub), raising a (smelly) teenage boy and being broke. As Koy has recounted in interviews and subsequent stand-up shows, Netflix was adamantly against financing the special — so much so that when Netflix executives found out he was self-funding the taping in hopes of selling it to the streamer, they called him to emphasize that they “really don’t want it.”

Koy filmed the special anyway — and upon watching it, Netflix suits changed their minds.

Since then, Koy has filmed three more specials for the streaming service, including a show shot in the Philippines with an all-Filipino crew, “In His Elements.” He has one more coming later this year, and another set to release in 2025. He also starred in the 2022 family comedy “Easter Sunday” and played Coach Komura in the 2023 animated film, “Leo,” featuring Adam Sandler, Bill Burr, Jason Alexander and Cecily Strong.

Both his struggles and successes have convinced Koy of the power of representation, a topic he can’t help but think about as he prepares for the Globes.

Watching awards shows such as the Globes, Emmys, Grammys and Oscars was a family event at Koy’s house when he was growing up. He likened these viewing parties to the “ultimate game show”: three hours of taking bets on the winners and cracking jokes on one another in between. (No one, he says, roasts him harder than his mother.) “When you’re broke, the only form of entertainment you have is each other,” Koy said.

He wants his family and fans to be proud, of course, but he’s also thinking of how other Filipinos and mixed-race people might feel seeing him entertain some of the biggest names in Hollywood — Will Ferrell, Michelle Yeoh, Oprah Winfrey.

“I have a lot riding on this,” Koy said. “I got the weight of a lot of people counting on me.”

Prep for the event has been, like most of Koy’s work, a family affair. Koy says his son, Joseph Herbert Jr., wrote down all the nominees and their categories this week, after noticing that his dad kept Googling who was up for awards (“I didn’t even ask him to do this for me. … It was just the cutest thing,” Koy said). There’s also his chosen family of fellow comics — when Koy leaves home, it’s to go to the Laugh Factory and “sharpen his tools.” During a recent visit to the comedy club, he ran into Tiffany Haddish, an old friend who, 20 years ago, would hold his infant son as Koy worked the stage.

“She’s so happy for me … It’s a beautiful thing to go from broke dreamers to, you know, living out our dreams,” Koy said.

He’s also received advice from other comics — Seth Meyers, Ali Wong and Chris Rock, whose first turn hosting the Oscars in 2016 left a deep impression on Koy (“I felt like he was speaking to the younger generation,” Koy said). It’s Rock’s advice that stands out the most.

“He goes, ‘Everyone’s always worried about the costume change.’ Watch the show, watch the entire show so you’re prepared — if anything goes bad, if there’s a funny moment that happens, you saw it first,” Koy recalled. “That resonated so much because I’m like that on tour anyway.”

On tour, Jo Koy makes a habit of observing his audience — going on extended riffs about one member’s “lactose walk,” imitating a man’s sleep apnea or spinning an imagined scenario in which he is abducted by a Ukrainian named Dan. These bits have a tendency to steer toward the vulgar (fellatio comes up a lot), but they are also lighthearted — everyone is in on the joke.

As an entertainer, he thrives off nervousness, he says, and leans into his instincts. And he doesn’t shy away from the present, no matter how strange or surreal it may be. That’s certainly been a theme of the last few years, he said.

“I remember watching Michael Jordan win all his championships at the United Center. And then there I am with my son onstage. … Like, what’s going on right now?” Koy said. (The comedian is known to bring his son, who works for him, onstage at the end of his act.) “I just want to be in the moment, you know?”

The 81st Golden Globe Awards will air at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS and stream on Paramount Plus.

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