In retrospect, we should’ve seen Jimmy Fallon’s opening Golden Globes number and monologue coming.
Fallon — who tapped in for Golden Globes hosting duties this year, following his former Saturday Night Live co-stars and 2015 hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — kicked off the ceremony with a rousing musical number, as is fitting for someone prone to sporadically bursting into song on The Tonight Show.
He staged an elaborate recreation of the opening number from La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s swooning tribute to classic Hollywood that was nominated for six Golden Globes. But instead of aiming the spotlight at frustrated commuters on the Los Angeles freeways like Chazelle did, Fallon took to the Golden Globes red carpet itself.
And in keeping with his Tonight Show tradition, Fallon enlisted lots of his famous friends to poke gentle fun at themselves: Amy Adams skipped up the carpet flanked by people in bright orange hazmat suits like the one she sported throughout Arrival. Evan Rachel Wood powered down as her cyborg Westworld character. The cast of FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson — which led the TV nominations with five — grinned that “not all the nominees are white!”
And in keeping with a bit she literally did on The Tonight Show in September in which she rapped all of Nicki Minaj’s “Monster,” Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown dropped by with her co-stars — yes, including Barb — to rap about “eating Eggo waffles by the pound.”
It was all very cute, even if you could see every single beat — especially the final sweeping waltz with Fallon’s perpetual partner in musical smarm, Justin Timberlake — coming from a mile away.
But the predictability of the La La Land opening was nothing compared with the monologue that followed (temporary teleprompter fritzing notwithstanding).
One of the main questions going into Sunday’s ceremony was how Fallon would or would not address Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election. Not only does Fallon have a reputation for avoiding politics on The Tonight Show (in contrast to many other late-night hosts), but he was the target of a hefty backlash in September after conducting an overwhelmingly docile interview with the then-presidential candidate (which notoriously featured the host mussing Trump’s hair like he was cozying up to an adorable puppy).
Fallon answered that question immediately with the monologue, teeing up one obvious joke after another.
He quipped that the Golden Globes are “one of the few places left where America still honors the popular vote” — even though the Golden Globes are voted on by an entirely foreign press). He then shouted out the Game of Thrones cast, musing, “What would it have been like if Joffrey would’ve lived? Well, in 12 days we’re gonna find out.”
He nodded at nominee Manchester by the Sea as “the only thing from 2016 that was more depressing than 2016,” and joked that Meryl Streep’s role as the “world’s worst opera singer” in Florence Foster Jenkins “turned down performing at Trump’s inauguration.”
And then he launched into an extended Chris Rock impression, because sometimes you just have to go with what worked in your 1998 SNL audition.
It’s not surprising that Fallon, when talking politics, went for layups. He isn’t known for particularly pointed comedy; in fact, Fallon himself has been pretty open on his show about the fact that he prefers his comedy rounded at the edges, the better to just relax and have a good time.
But as he told the Hollywood Reporter last week, Fallon knew the upcoming inauguration would “be on everyone’s minds,” so maybe he felt compelled to comment, even glancingly. The problem is that Fallon is so visibly uncomfortable making jokes laced with criticism that his hesitant attempts to wade into that arena were too basic to land anywhere interesting. At least when he was waltzing with Justin Timberlake, he looked like he was enjoying himself.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Fallon impersonated Cuba Gooding Jr. during his Golden Globes monologue. He impersonated Chris Rock.