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Fellow standups come to Jo Koy's defense after Golden Globes

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We are smack in the middle of the Hollywood awards season, with the Emmys coming up next. And for the people who host these things, the pressure is on, as Jo Koy found out this week. By most accounts, he pretty much bombed at the Golden Globes. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, his fellow comedians are now coming to his defense.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JO KOY: I loved "Oppenheimer." I loved "Oppenheimer." I just got one complaint - needed another hour.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: On social media, comedian Steve Martin congratulated Jo Koy on, quote, "the toughest gig in show business." Martin has hosted the Oscars three times. He wrote that Koy hit, missed, was light on his feet and now has 20 minutes of new material for his stand-up. Michael Che, Kevin Hart and Whoopi Goldberg had similar reactions. Goldberg hosted the Oscars four times.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: So they went and gave me a live microphone for three hours.

BLAIR: On "The View" this week, she said awards shows can be brutal.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE VIEW")

GOLDBERG: I mean, you know, if you read any of the reviews of some of the...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yes.

GOLDBERG: ...Gigs that I've had...

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDBERG: ...Where they've just, you know, wished me into the cornfield.

BLAIR: Bombing, comics will tell you, is part of the job. In London, one comedy showcase even calls it a noble failure. Viv Groskop, host of the podcast "How To Own The Room," says it's an event where comedians try out brand-new material.

VIV GROSKOP: Every time a comedian finishes their set, the audience must applaud and shout out, a noble failure, regardless of whether it was incredibly successful or totally bombed.

BLAIR: A number of comedians who've come to Koy's defense say part of the problem was that he didn't know the room, and the room didn't know him, even though he's a star in the stand-up comedy world. Howard Stern said on his show this week, Hollywood doesn't have a sense of humor about itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE HOWAD STERN SHOW")

HOWARD STERN: Those people in that audience do not want to be made fun of. They're very concerned about their image and their publicists. I mean, if you're shelling out 25, 30% of your income on publicists and agents and managers, you don't want to be goofed on on television.

BLAIR: When Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosted the Golden Globes during the pandemic, first responders were in the audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TINA FEY: We are so grateful for the work that you do and that you're here so that the celebrities can stay safely at home.

AMY POEHLER: Yes. Thank you so much.

BLAIR: Now that celebrities are back in the room, so are those cutaway reaction shots. Viv Groskop says this is something else that makes awards shows challenging for stand-ups. They're used to being in rooms where the audience is dark.

GROSKOP: Comedy's all about losing yourself in the moment. So it's this incredibly contradictory environment where everyone is looking at everyone else and checking for their reaction, and there's nothing that is less conducive to laughter than that.

BLAIR: Another issue Koy faced - time. Jimmy Kimmel is known to spend months prepping for the Oscars. Koy?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KOY: I got the gig 10 days ago. You want a perfect monologue? Yo. Shut up.

BLAIR: Perfecting material takes comedians a lot of time and a lot of practice.

GROSKOP: Every single word, every single pause has to be intentional, but it has to sound as if and look as if you just thought of it in that second. And to maintain that level of incredible preparation alongside imaginary spontaneity is incredibly skilled.

BLAIR: Now there's some anticipation about what Anthony Anderson will do when he hosts the Emmys on Monday, says journalist and comedian Adam Glyn.

ADAM GLYN: I think his thing moving forward is to be fun, not necessarily funny, 'cause funny can be opinionated. Funny is subjective. But fun is contagious.

BLAIR: Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACKLEMORE SONG, "MANIAC") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.