The Golden Globes had never even had a host before Ricky Gervais took the reins for the 67th annual ceremony on Jan. 17, 2010. This year, he’s back for the fifth time, a development that is likely to make the celebrity-filled audience at the Beverly Hilton Hotel a bit more nervous than they have been in recent years.
After The Office creator hosted for three straight years at the beginning of this past decade, he passed the torch to SNL alums Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who similarly delighted in torching Hollywood’s most powerful players through jokes for the next three years. Gervais returned for what everyone assumed would be the final time in 2016 before NBC began to bring in safer bets like Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and last year’s wild card duo, Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh.
Before Gervais takes the stage tonight, here’s a look back at some of the most brutal and memorable jokes from the past 10 years.
Ricky Gervais vs. Mel Gibson
The most infamous joke made by Gervais in his first Golden Globes didn’t even come during the monologue. “I hope I haven't offended anyone. It's not my fault. I like a drink as much as the next man,” the host said midway through the ceremony that year. “Unless the next man is Mel Gibson.” The next year, he ended his monologue with another Gibson joke. “Our first presenter is beautiful, talented… and Jewish, apparently,” he said. “Mel Gibson told me that. He’s obsessed.”
Six years later, Gervais and Gibson appeared together on the Globes stage for a bit of celebrity image rehab that did not go over well in the media. Introducing Gibson, who was there to present Best Picture nominee Mad Max: Fury Road, Gervais acknowledged their storied past.
“I blame NBC for this terrible situation,” he said. “Mel blames… we know who Mel blames.” While he said he feels “a bit bad” for all the jokes he made at the actor’s expense, he added, “Mel’s forgotten all about it, apparently. That’s what drinking does.” And then finally: “I’d rather get a drink with him in his hotel room tonight instead of Bill Cosby.”
They capped off the awkwardness with an uncomfortable embrace on stage. Viewers at home didn’t hear it because it was bleeped, but Gervais asked Gibson, “What the fuck does ‘sugar tits’ even mean?” referring to the phrase he used to describe a police officer in his drunk driving arrest 10 years earlier.
Ricky Gervais Trashes ‘The Tourist’—And the Hollywood Foreign Press
Over the years, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hands out the Globes, has often been criticized for its odd taste (see last year’s “Best Drama” winner Bohemian Rhapsody) and obsession with celebrity (see this year’s multiple nominations for The Morning Show). And nothing has exemplified both of these trends more than when the body nominated The Tourist, which was not a comedy or musical, for Best Comedy or Musical in 2011. Stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie also scored nods for the critically derided film.
“It was a big year for 3D movies. Toy Story, Despicable Me, Tron,” Gervais said in his monologue that year. “It seemed like everything this year was three-dimensional. Except the characters in The Tourist. I already feel bad about that joke. I tell you what, I’m jumping on the bandwagon, because I haven’t even seen The Tourist. Who has? But it must be good because it’s nominated, so shut up, OK? And I’d like to crush this ridiculous rumor that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so that the foreign press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That was not the only reason—they also accepted bribes.”
It’s kind of a miracle the Globes invited Gervais back to host for a third time the next year. Especially because in 2012, he joked, “For any of you who don’t know, the Golden Globes are just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem. The Golden Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker, and more easily bought. Allegedly. Nothing’s been proved.”
Amy Poehler Torches James Cameron
2013, the first year Tina Fey and Amy Poehler took over hosting duties from Gervais, was the year of Zero Dark Thirty. Three years earlier, the director of that film, Kathryn Bigelow, became the first—and to this day, the only—woman to win the Best Director prize at the Oscars for The Hurt Locker, beating out her ex-husband James Cameron for Avatar.
“I haven’t been really following the controversy over Zero Dark Thirty,” Poehler said at the top of the show, “but when it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron.”
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Call Out Bill Cosby
“In Into the Woods, Cinderella runs from her prince, Rapunzel is thrown from a tower for her prince, and Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby,” Poehler joked to a combination of groans and cheers from the audience.
This led Fey to break out her Cosby impression, explaining that the comedian admitted to a reporter, “I put the pills in the people. The people did not want the pills in them.”
“That’s not right,” Poehler said in response, pretending to scold Fey for making an inappropriate joke. “It’s more like, ‘I got the pills in my bathroom and I put ‘em in the people!’”
Ricky Gervais Takes on Caitlyn Jenner
Apparently feeling that he had to up the ante when he returned to host the Globes in 2016, Gervais turned his attention to Caitlyn Jenner, who had recently come out as trans.
“I’m going to be nice tonight. I’ve changed,” he said in his monologue, before adding, “Not as much as Bruce Jenner. Obviously. Now Caitlyn Jenner, of course.”
“What a year she’s had!” he continued. “She became a role model for trans people everywhere, showing great bravery in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. She didn’t do a lot for women drivers. But you can’t have everything, can you? Not at the same time.”
Though Gervais was accused of transphobia for that joke—and more specifically a longer bit about Jenner on his 2018 special Humanity—he maintains that the target of the joke was Jenner’s fatal car accident, not her gender identity.
“I was very careful that the joke was about her being a bad driver. The joke was about stereotypes,” he told The Hollywood Reporter recently. “I started off being correctly inclusive saying she's brave, breaking down barriers. And then I [said] she didn't do a lot for women drivers.”
Seth Meyers Tears Into #MeToo Predators
In 2018, Seth Meyers was the first comedian to host a major award show since the #MeToo movement began in earnest the previous fall. “Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen,” he began to a cathartic laugh from the crowd. “It’s 2018. Marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn't.”
Over the course of his monologue, Meyers went on directly address Harvey Weinstein (“Don’t worry, he’ll be back in 20 years when he becomes the first person ever booed during the In Memoriam segment.”); Kevin Spacey (“I was happy to hear they’re going to do another season of House of Cards. Is Christopher Plummer available for that, too? I hope he can do a Southern accent, because Kevin Spacey sure couldn’t”); and Woody Allen, by way of Best Picture nominee The Shape of Water (“When I first heard about a film where a naive young woman falls in love with a disgusting sea monster, I thought, oh man, not another Woody Allen movie.”)
For more, listen to the most recent episodes of The Last Laugh podcast.