"You can smell the pills from here." Live, from the Beverly Hilton Ballroom, it's ... Sunday with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, together again and keeping things as lively as possible as hosts of the 70th Golden Globes. Encore, please. (For a list of winners, go here.)
They worked the star-crowded room with wit and giggles and just a touch of vinegar, like Poehler's salute to Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow: "When it comes to torture, I trust the lady who spent three years married to James Cameron." Or Fey's shout-out to Quentin Tarantino as "the star of all my sexual nightmares." In a nod reflecting how perilous these gigs can be, Fey praised Anne Hathaway's "stunning performance" in Les Miserables by reflecting, "I have not seen someone so totally alone and abandoned like that since you were on stage with James Franco at the Oscars." Earning one of the loudest, longest laughs was Poehler's joke that "Meryl Streep is not here tonight. She has the flu, and I hear she's amazing in it."
These first ladies of TV comedy were pretty amazing throughout. The only time they got the finger from the audience, they asked for it — prompting good-natured Daniel Day-Lewis to show how he played E.T. back in the day. "That is why he's the best," crowed Poehler.
No, you're the best. And as you might expect, the unusually glitchy show dragged whenever they were kept offstage for too long. In one running gag, they appeared in ridiculous disguises (fake teeth for Amy, a Johnny Depp-ian beard for Tina) as presenters read names of fake nominees from something called Dog President. When their own category of TV comedy actress was called, Poehler was shown canoodling with George Clooney, while Fey clutched J. Lo's hands nervously. And after both lost to Girls' Lena Dunham (the TV winners skewed heavily toward pay cable), they acted drunk and bitter — "Everybody's getting a little loose now that we're all losers" — and pointed to Glenn Close, whose flailing mock intoxication led Fey to suggest, "Actually, she might need a medic."
The Tina-and-Amy Show made up for a night of Hollywood revelry that felt routine except for those occasional moments when it was anything but.
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Among the show-stoppers: a surprise appearance by former President Bill Clinton to introduce the clip from Lincoln, noting that "enduring progress is forged in a cauldron of both principle and compromise. This brilliant film shows us how he did it and gives us hope that we can do it again." After which Poehler breathlessly took the stage to declare, "Wow, what an exciting special guest. That was Hillary Clinton's husband!" (A joke that's doubly funny if you remember her own Saturday Night Live Hillary impersonation, and triply funny if you imagine her Parks and Recreation character saying it.)
Highlights of acceptance speeches: "New mum" Adele's infectious delight upon winning a Globe for her song for Skyfall: "It's amazing! We've been pissing ourselves laughing over here." ... Anne Hathaway thanking fellow nominee Sally Field (from Lincoln) "for being a vanguard against typecasting ... I can't tell you how encouraging it was to know that the Flying Nun grew up to be Norma Rae." ... Daniel Day Lewis wondering if "there's room for another ex-president on this stage" as he took his Lincoln acting prize, and in the most eloquent moment telling screenwriter Tony Kushner, "Every day I have to live without the immeasurable wealth of your language, which reminds me every day of the impoverishment of my own."
Try topping that at the Oscars.
But the speech that had everyone buzzing, on Twitter and elsewhere, was Jodie Foster's long and winding, oddly moving though at times exceedingly odd, acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille career achievement award. (For a fuller account, go here.) Part coming-out declaration, part ode to privacy and dignity in a life lived under a spotlight, part lament for a celebrity culture exemplified by prime-time reality shows, and part tribute to her own "modern family" (two sons, an ex-lover, and an ailing mother), it was an expression of raw spontaneity and emotion the likes of which we so rarely witness on such glittery occasions.
Bless Poehler for wrapping the show as it rushed to the end by quipping, "We're going home with Jodie Foster." The perfect grace note for an imperfect but memorable night.