Tina Fey and Amy Poehler killed it as the co-hosts of The Golden Globe Awards last week, due primarily to the chemistry, trust, and sense of common purpose they share.
Can you imagine two male comedians doing that gig as successfully as they did? In my mind’s eye, I can only see two males on stage together jockeying for position, trying to one-up each other, and elbowing each other out of the way.
We are socialized, and likely wired as well, to expect women to be inclusive, supportive, nurturing and accepting. Sure, that’s a stereotype. But Fey and Poehler’s ability to pull off such a demanding gig with professionalism and grace demonstrates these qualities. They are happy to work as a team, perhaps because they recognize it as a strength.
Contrast this, if you will, with Kanye West’s little performance as a mere presenter, stealing some limelight alongside the winners of the two awards he presented. All I saw was a little boy saying, “HEYYYY! LOOK AT MEEEEE! LOOK AT MEEEEEEE! IT’S ALL ABOUT MEEEEE.” He wasn’t going to be co-anything-ing anything anytime soon. Not that anyone is surprised by this, but REALLY Kanye? REALLY??
So what is it that Fey and Poehler do, and have been doing for the past 15 or so years, better than the men in the industry? Is there perhaps a sense of camaraderie, of cooperation that comes through in a way that it doesn`t when two male comics occupy the same stage? Is it because their humour (their writing) is more accessible to all because it pokes fun at many of the assumptions we make about Hollywood, without relying on the same old same old jokes. What? No boob jokes? What, no nonsensical jokes making fun of women’s names, or penis jokes?
It makes me think of an article I read recently about the tension that existed between Chevy Chase and Bill Murray on set of the classic golf movie, Caddyshack. They basically couldn`t stand to be in the same room together. Really boys? Luckily it somehow worked, and the movie became a cult classic. Like Chase and Murray, Fey and Poehler came up through the Saturday Night Live ranks together. I suppose they could have tried to sabotage one another`s careers, steal skits, compete for airtime, one-up each other every time they had a better audience reaction to a skit. But when I think back to their time on SNL, I recall many ensemble skits involving Fey and Poehler, and sometimes a number of other women as well. All playing a distinct role, contributing to the overall success of a skit. Now that I think of it, I don`t think their entire routine on the Golden Globes highlighted one over the other.
Even the humour used by Fey and Poehler was different than the standard schtick from the usual black-tuxedo’d, stiff and slightly uncomfortable male host. At times it bordered on the silly (Calling Tom Hanks “Tam Honks”, was one that stood out. This was a classic example of Amy Poehler’s ability to make something that isn’t really that funny, funny). Other times it threatened to be shrill – such as when describing the movie Gravity as “ the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age,” or pointing out that Matthew McConaughy’s amazing feat of losing 45 pounds for his role in Dallas Buyers’ Club, is simply what female actors like to call “being in a movie.” But the jokes worked; they weren’t shrill, or whiny, or nasty.
Or maybe the real magic was that although they poked fun at many Hollywood stars, they made fun of themselves as well. Consistently. When is the last time you saw David Letterman make fun of himself? Or even Billy Crystal? Hugh Jackman? Maybe. But Tina Fey and Amy Poehler personify what is right, what is truly excellent about comediennes in the modern era. Dress up as an awkward teenaged boy? Sure. Pretend to be getting liquored while doing an introduction? Why not. Act jealous that your co-host won a Golden Globe for her successful tv series? Of course. It’s funny, because she wasn’t really jealous.
Don`t get me wrong, I think women are more prone, overall, to undercut and sabotage one another. But somehow Fey and Poehler got it right, and have gotten it right throughout their prolific careers. Individually, they are good. Together, they are fantastic. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, because it paled in comparison to their talent, they were classy, gorgeous and sexy as well. You go girls.