From the moment Ricky Gervais walked on stage at the Golden Globes on Sunday night, it was clear he was taking no prisoners.
“If you win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech,” he advised the stars during his opening monologue.
“You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything, you know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg.”
Several winners ignored his advice completely (more on their speeches in a sec), but that didn’t stop the British comedian going all out as he fronted the ceremony for the fifth and apparently final time.
Here are a few of his best jokes, along with five other highlights from this year’s ceremony.
1. Ricky Gervais reclaimed his throne
When Ricky Gervais first hosted the Globes in 2010, his cutting comments and sarcastic style provided a master class in ridiculing celebrities and set a blueprint for the ceremony’s future hosts.
This year, he sensibly pre-empted the inevitable social media outrage over his politically incorrect gags by telling the audience: “Remember, they’re just jokes. We’re all going to die soon, and there’s no sequel.”
Here are a few of his best:
- “I came here in a limo tonight and the licence plate was made by Felicity Huffman.”
- “Martin Scorsese said the Marvel films remind him of theme parks. I don’t know what he’s doing hanging around theme parks – he’s not big enough to go on the rides.”
- “Knives Out has three nominations tonight. See what can happen when you don’t dress people up as Cats?”
- “We were going to do an In Memoriam section, but when I saw the list of people who had died this year, it wasn’t diverse enough. It was mostly white people. And I thought, ‘No, not on my watch.'”
- “In a moment we’re going to see a short clip from The Irishman. It’s 88 minutes long.”
- “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was nearly three hours long. Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere, and by the end his date was too old for him.”
- “Lots of big celebrities here tonight. Legends. Icons. On the same table, there’s Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Baby Yoda. Oh no, that’s Joe Pesci, sorry.”
- “Kevin Hart was fired from the Oscars for some offensive tweets. Luckily for me, the Hollywood Foreign Press can barely speak English and they’ve no idea what Twitter is, so I got offered this gig by fax.”
2. Several winners ignored Ricky’s advice
In other words, used their speeches to make political statements.
Some actors, including Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, made reference to the bushfire crisis, connecting it with climate change.
On the subject of climate change, best drama actor winner Joaquin Phoenix praised the HFPA for only serving vegan meals to stars at the ceremony.
“I’d like to thank the HFPA for recognising and acknowledging the link between animal agriculture and climate change,” he said.
“It was a very bold move making tonight plant-based, and it really sends a powerful message.”
Sir Sam Mendes paid tribute to his grandfather, who fought in World War One, adding that he “fervently hopes [a world war] never, ever happens again”.
The winner of best actress in a limited series, Michelle Williams, gave an impassioned speech about women’s rights, telling the audience: “I’ve tried my very best to live a life of my own making… and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose.”
And Patricia Arquette, who won best supporting actress in a limited series for The Act, made reference to the forthcoming US presidential election.
“While I love my kids so much, I beg of us all to give them a better world for our kids and their kids. We have to vote in 2020,” she said.
3. Ellen’s acceptance speech poked fun at acceptance speeches
“The thing I like about this award is that coming in, I knew I was going win,” joked talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as she accepted the Carol Burnett Award.
The prize recognises outstanding achievement in television and was only introduced as part of the ceremony last year.
DeGeneres, who was announced as the winner in advance, also made light of several acceptance speech tropes and clichés from the stage.
“I couldn’t have done it without my husband Mark. Mark, you are my rock, thank you for supporting me through this crazy journey,” she said to big laughs from the audience (including her wife, Portia de Rossi).
“I know it wasn’t easy for you or the kids – Rupert and Fiona, go to bed!” she added, despite also not having any children.
“The important thing,” she added on a more serious note, “is that you all know me, and obviously you know me or else you wouldn’t have laughed at all of that.
“I feel like we all think we know someone – there’s a connection when we watch them on TV… Television inspired and influenced everything that I am today.”
4. Tom Hanks got emotional. Possibly because he had a cold
The prestigious Cecil B DeMille Award – effectively the night’s outstanding contribution prize – was given to awards season veteran and general legend Tom Hanks.
He told the audience he was feeling “a little jittery” because of how much orange juice he’d been drinking to try and get over a cold he’d had over the weekend.
Being ill turned out to be quite convenient, because when he became teary during his speech, he told the crowd: “It’s the cold that is making this happen. I swear to God, I’m not nearly this emotional at home.”
Paying tribute to his wife and children, he said: “A man is blessed with a family sitting down front like that. A wife who has taught me what love is. Five kids who are wiser and braver than their old man is. I can’t tell you how much your love means to me.”
And before he left, a provided a quick lesson in etiquette and punctuality for budding actors.
“Showing up on time is one of the greatest liberating acts you can give yourself in a movie,” he said, to much applause.
“Those people with radios in their ears don’t need to knock on your doors and say ‘they’re ready for you’ because you’re already ready. You have the freedom to settle down, because when the time comes, you have to hit the marks.”
5. One director championed subtitles (while also breaking a record)
Parasite was widely considered to be one of the best films of last year – but because it’s not in the English language, it wasn’t eligible for nomination in the major categories.
Instead, the South Korean black comedy thriller was named the winner of best foreign language film, becoming the first ever Korean movie to triumph in the category.
Its director Bong Joon-ho used his acceptance speech to encourage the public not to be put off by international films.
“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you’ll be introduced to so many amazing films,” he said through a translator.
“Just being nominated along with fellow amazing international film-makers was a huge honour. I think we use only one language: the cinema.”
It wasn’t the only “first ever” of the ceremony.
Hildur Gudnadottir became the first solo woman to win best score for her work on Joker, while The Farewell’s Awkwafina was the first woman of Asian descent to win best lead actress in a comedy or musical.
6. Brad Pitt was the real Joker of the night
Brad Pitt was clearly in a playful mood as he arrived on the red carpet ahead of the ceremony.
One journalist told him: “Everybody is waiting for you and Jennifer [Aniston, his ex-wife] to run into each other so they can take their picture.”
Pitt replied: “I’ll run into Jen, she’s a good friend,” before joking that it would be “the second most important reunion of her year” after the rumoured Friends HBO special.
Later in the night, Pitt introduced a clip of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood alongside his co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio.
“When I asked Quentin [Tarantino] how he wanted us to play two ageing movie guys who were on their way out, he said ‘just be yourselves’,” Pitt joked.
And finally, as he was accepting his prize for best supporting actor towards the end of the night, Pitt paid tribute to DiCaprio while poking fun at one of his earliest major acting roles.
“He’s an all-star, he’s a gent, and I wouldn’t be here without you man, thank you,” Pitt said from the stage.
Referring to DiCaprio’s on-screen death in Titanic, he concluded: “I would have shared the raft.”