Hosting an awards show is always risky. Just ask Seth “We Saw Your Boobs” MacFarlane. But Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hit the sweet spot at last year’s Golden Globe Awards, skewering everyone from James Cameron to Anne Hathaway with just the right combination of snark and self-deprecation. The result: great reviews and a 17 percent uptick in the ratings with 20?million total viewers. How are they feeling about this year’s return engagement on Jan. 12? The Hollywood Reporter chatted with the duo (separately; their answers are combined) to find out if hosting the Globes is as wonderful the second time around.
Does the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) tell you not to be mean?
Amy Poehler: But we’re not mean. That’s not really our thing. When you host a show you have to hopefully be funny at the top and set the tone for a really fun evening. When we did do it, it felt like it was pretty organic and there wasn’t a lot of stress from the HFPA about what we were going to do.
Tina Fey: If it seems like it’s not too harsh, you hope it’s right. But you don’t know until it comes out of your mouth. Last year, we tried to err on the side of hardly saying anything and just going backstage. That was our strategy; don’t be out there.
Do they tell you anything or anyone is off limits?
Fey and Poehler: No.
What is the worst pitch you’ve ever been given for an awards show joke?
Poehler: You think I’m going to tell you a bad idea for a joke? You’re f—ing crazy. No! Honestly you’re just trying to figure out a fresh take on something. We like to leave a little space and air and sometimes that means having to think up a lot of different versions of the same joke or topic.
Fey: There are no jokes that you’re like, “Oh, that’s terrible” because it’s either, “Oh, we can use that” or it just falls on the scrap pile. The ones that don’t work, you just don’t remember them. I think we read about 1,000 jokes.
NBC is now the Sound of Music network. Are you getting any pressure to do the whole show as a live musical number?
Poehler: OK, I see what you’re doing, you’re going to set up jokes. I’m not falling for that. I didn’t say any of that. I’ve worked at NBC for 12 years so I’m happy they had a successful night of TV.
Fey: We’re going to do most of Sweeney Todd but we’re going to fit it in so it seems like a natural part of the show. It’s exciting because we’re going to kill a bunch of movie stars. That doesn’t sound right at all.
Poehler: You never know. We may just break into spontaneous song. Yeah, I’m going to play Todd.
A challenge: $1,000 if both of you wear Amy Adams’ plunging blouse thing from American Hustle.
Fey: First of all, if you think my going rate for anything is $1,000 you are looking at an old catalog. I get at least $12,000 to dress up in sexual costumes for people. I would wear that for free. You would not have to pay me to wear that.
Poehler: Oh eww, I don’t want to even answer this question. Pass. Next.
Which of the Globes parties is the best?
Poehler: We ended up having our own [last year], which was really cool because we raised money for Worldwide Orphan Foundation, which is an organization I work with. And that was really great to feel like you’re not just being totally gross but doing something for other people that night. It was a fun afterparty. I don’t remember the other ones. So they were all great.
Fey: My only regret about that party — and this is not even a joke — I was very mad at myself that I did not think to invite the cast of Smash because I was a huge Smash viewer. And they were there and I blew it. When will they ever be assembled as a group again?
Virtually all the best actress drama nominees are over 40 — Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, Emma Thompson — and Kate Winslet is almost 40. She’s 38.
Fey: Oh my God, Kate Winslet is still not 40! That is just rude.
So does this signify some sort of shift in power in Hollywood? Should younger actresses start complaining about ageism in Hollywood?
Fey: That’s a good idea. We’ll write some jokes about that for the thing. I think you’re going to see a lot of gowns with sleeves — cap sleeves, ballerina sleeves.
Poehler: If anything I think it’s proof of the longevity and versatility of women. Isn’t 40 the new 30 and 80 is the new 20? I think a lesson is: If you’ve got it when you’re young, you’ll keep it when you’re older. But it’s a good area to make jokes about, so thank you for that idea.
Oprah Winfrey was snubbed for The Butler. Will her career recover?
Fey: You know, as far as her acting career goes, she’s young. She’s got to get out there, do some summer stock. She will have her shot eventually.
Poehler: You know, being snubbed is not always a bad thing at these awards shows because you end up getting a lot of people coming up to you and telling you how great you are. I can’t speak for Oprah, I only want Oprah to speak for me. I’d like it if you could track her down and ask her how I think she feels about it. And whatever she says, I agree with.
Have you seen all of the nominated movies? Anything you’re rooting for?
Poehler: I think it would be funny if I came out in an August: Osage County sweatshirt. It would be funny to just be really rooting for one movie. But I haven’t seen them all. Right now, I’m rooting for Avatar. I know it’s crazy, but I think Avatar could really pull it out this year. So I’m putting my money on Avatar.
There was some carping about Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar hosting performance last year. What did you think of the “boobs” song?
Fey: If Seth MacFarlane answered a question about how he thought my bit was, I’d be furious. So I would never weigh in on somebody else’s bit. It’s not my burden to defend it or attack it. It’s not my problem.
Poehler: It’s so hard to host. I don’t want to comment on anybody else’s performance. Why would you think that we would say anything about anybody’s performance if we’re getting ready to do our own? It’s a hard to job to host anything. Period.
After a lot of public criticism, SNL is adding an African-American women to the cast. Do you think that criticism was warranted?
Fey: I think Kerry Washington did such a great job on the [Nov. 2] show [in a sketch that addressed the controversy]. And you saw how great it was for Jay Pharoah to have someone playing Michelle Obama opposite [his President Obama]. So I feel like they registered that really quickly and they’ve acted on it really quickly.
Poehler: Ugh, I don’t want to talk about this. Pass. [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted in December.]
Seth Meyers has said that you two helped explode the myth of SNL as an insular old boys club. Thoughts?
Fey: I was there for nine years, I think, and the whole span of that time the women in the cast were very strong, from Cheri [Oteri] and Molly [Shannon] and Ana [Gasteyer] through to Maya [Rudolph] and Amy and Kristen [Wiig]. It was a long period of female stars dominating in a lot of ways. The women in the cast were really strong. We had a female director. We had more female writers. And once the numbers change in the room then the taste of what gets on changes organically. You saw that in the Kerry Washington-hosted show; having Kerry there changed the makeup of the room. And it goosed the show in a good way.
Poehler: I landed at SNL at a ripe time for women. Tina was at the helm and surrounded by such talented people; Rachel Dratch and Maya Rudolph and Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon and Wiig. For the past almost 15 years now, I feel like the women have been really strong. That boys club mentality wasn’t really around when I was there, so I can’t really speak to it. I just don’t answer those kinds of questions because they’re old news. But I’ll say that working with Seth is and was a dream because he’s such a highly evolved male. He’s not intimidated by really strong women who occasionally sexually harass him during the day. Just light harassment. He can take it and frankly sometimes, I think he asks for it.
Why do you think there seems to be such a temptation to draw a gender line with comedy? I assume you want to be known as a comedian period, not a female comedian?
Fey: I just want to be able to work with my friends. And the people who are funny when you’re in the trenches, those are the people you want around you — Amy Poehler, Tracey Wigfield, Robert Carlock. And the only disadvantage women have is have to keep fucking answering the question of, “Is it hard and are women funny?” The men don’t have to answer that question. That’s the only impairment.
Tina, are you going to be one of the first guests on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show when it premieres Feb. 24?
Fey: Oh I hope so. I’m hoping that the first Tonight Show will open with me singing the national anthem. I haven’t pitched that to anyone. Maybe the French national anthem? I could be the musical guest.
And Amy, you are booked for Meyers’ first Late Night show, yes?
Poehler: That’s the plan. Either way I’m going to watch it — whether it’s from his couch in his studio or from my couch.
With Fallon taking over Tonight and Meyers inheriting Late Night, NBC’s entire late-night lineup will be dominated by SNL alums.
Poehler: We may all host ourselves to death, and if we’re all dead who will host our funerals?
Poehler: Oh, that would be perfect.
What did you learn from last year that you’d put into practice this time around?
Poehler: I’m going to try to keep an open mind and an open wallet and just pay people all night to laugh.
Last year you invented a Golden Globes drinking game for us. Are there any new categories this year?
Fey: Any time you see a gown with sleeves, you’re going to drink. Any time they cut to Tom Hanks for a reaction shot, do five push-ups and you will be ripped by the end of the ceremony.
Poehler: So now I’m just writing a joke for you that I might want to use for the show. How about this for a drinking game? Every time I drink, everybody at home should drink. And if Bryan Cranston speaks, everybody has to do a little bit of meth. Just a touch, because that’s all you need, just a touch.
Who was the drunkest last year in the audience?
Poehler: The best fake drunk was Glenn Close. I guess it would probably be somebody’s plus-one, like a disgruntled plus-one. But most people seemed to be in tip-top shape and on their beta blockers.
Who are you wearing this year?
Fey: I bet I’m not supposed to say yet. But they’re really nice and I love them.
Do they have sleeves?
Fey: It’s just sleeves and then my torso is naked.
Awesome. This is going to be the highest-rated Golden Globes show ever.
Fey: For like 30 seconds. And then the camera is going to pan in a little bit and it’s going to be a zero.