In his pre-Golden Globe days, comedian Jo Koy would sometimes wonder aloud why the movie industry ignored him.

“Hollywood was just not biting,” he complained in 2022. “I’m an arena act. I’m on a list of people that aren’t comics who are selling out arenas. It’s like Elton John, Billy Joel, Jo Koy and Coldplay. Like, what aren’t you guys seeing?”

Hollywood has seen plenty of Koy in the past week. His hosting of the Golden Globes has gone down as one of the biggest disasters in award show history – a cross between a stand-up gig from hell and the Titanic slaloming into an iceberg.

Jokes about Barbie’s plastic protrusions, a swipe at Taylor Swift and a bit where Koy compared Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose to Barry Keoghan’s non-prosthetic penis were received with an icy silence at the Beverly Hilton.

But it was when the curtains came down that his troubles began in earnest. Incensed Swifties rounded on 52-year-old Koy. Everyone else wondered at the wisdom of sexist jokes about Barbie – a blockbuster that deftly skewered everyday misogyny. To say Koy’s performance was calamitous is a bit like saying Oppenheimer was vaguely on the talky side.

“It’s a tough room,” Koy acknowledged the next day. “It was a hard job, I’m not going to lie … I’d be lying if [I said] it doesn’t hurt.”

At one level, you have to feel for Koy, whose career may never recover. With a host of better-known comedians rumoured to have turned down the gig, he was approached about hosting the Globes just two and a half weeks ago and had nine days to write his opening monologue.

That said, the one group seemingly unsurprised that he bombed are those with prior knowledge of his comedy.

They will tell you naff humour is Koy’s stock-in-trade. If Hollywood has cold shouldering up until now, maybe it was with good reason. Look at what happened when it started paying him attention.

Koy is, in many ways, a self-made comedy star. He was born Joseph Glenn Herbert, the son of a US Air Force father and a Filipino mother, and raised largely in Las Vegas. His stage alias comes from a childhood nickname bestowed by his Filipino aunt. That Asian heritage was a cornerstone of his comedy when he embarked on a stand-up career in the early 1990s.

He was not received with open arms. Finding it difficult to break into Vegas comedy, he took matters into his own hands by renting a local theatre and going door-to-door selling tickets.

The slog paid off. He was soon a regular on the US equivalent of the panel show circuit, appearing on VH1’s Why I Love the 70s and Chelsea Handler’s Chelsea Lately (he and Handler would briefly become romantically involved).

But even as his career took off, Koy continued to see himself as an outsider. In 2016, he approached Netflix about making a comedy special. They rebuffed him. He went ahead anyway, booking the 1800-capacity Moore Theatre in Seattle and filmed a set there. He then returned to Netflix with the completed taping, which the streamer released as Jo Koy: Live from Seattle.

Watched today, that 62-minute film feels like an ominous foreshadowing of the Golden Globes. Koy is highly strung, with a vague air of desperation. The jokes are less than exhilarating. You can sit through the entire hour with funny bone untroubled.

“You go to the Indian reservation, I never see any Indians,’ he says, early in the evening. “Just all Chinese people…gimme one Indian. I want to see Pocahontas.” Terrifyingly, he is just getting started.

“When women laugh, they laugh hard, they don’t give a s…,” begins another routine. “Women will laugh and cry because they are emotional creatures”. Finally, he turns to his Asian heritage. “I’m half-white and half-Filipino.. woooahh!.. You know how much a comedian gets paid in the Philippines… a chicken and flip flops!”

Whatever about the stony-faced Golden Globe audience, the crowd in Seattle laps up his zingers. As did one noted figure in Hollywood.

“Steven Spielberg said, ‘I’m a fan, and I love that special, so let’s work together.’ And I didn’t care about anybody else in this industry,” Koy told the Hollywood Reporter. “If anyone else didn’t get it, I’d be like, “I don’t know if you know this, but Mr Spielberg did, so y’all need to catch up.”

Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment worked with Koy on Easter Sunday, his 2022 autobiographical comedy in which Koy plays a struggling stand-up who returns to his “loud and dysfunctional” Filipino family at Easter.

Reviews were almost as scathing as those for Koy’s Golden Globes spot. Indiewire decried the script’s “general laziness”, “Hopelessly flat”, and “bland”, shrugged the Hollywood Reporter. A contributor to the r/Filipino subreddit, meanwhile, called the film “a disgrace to the community”.

In the aftermath of the Golden Globes, some have spoken up in Koy’s defence. “These hosting gigs are brutal,” said Whoopi Goldberg, though she conceded she hadn’t watched the Globes. “If you don’t know the room, if you’ve not been in these rooms before and you’re thrust out there, it’s hit or miss.”

Aside from Koy – and possibly Steven Spielberg – the entire world will agree the comic was more miss than hit at the Beverly Hilton.

He will no doubt wish to prove he can still crack up an audience that isn’t stacked with Hollywood power-brokers and Taylor Swift. But a brief survey of his career raises a question the Golden Globe organisers should have asked at the outset.

Was Jo Koy all that funny in the first place?

Share.