Demerit for Poehler

During last night’s Golden Globes monologue, Amy Poehler said the following: โ€œAfter 12 years A Slave, I will never look at slavery the same way again.” At first I was confused, and then I deciphered her meaning. What she was saying (I think) is that Steve McQueen‘s movie is redundant — that we all know that slavery is and was evil, and so who needs to sit through an artful, brutally frank recreation of what Solomon Northup went through 160 years ago? That’s what I was thinking before I saw it at Telluride. Who needs it? And then it began and I was reminded what knockout movie art can sometimes feel like. Watching 12 Years A Slave awoke me to a reality that I’ve been aware of all my life, but which I hadn’t really felt. I never let it in. And now I have. But Amy Poehler didn’t. Okay, she might have but the joke definitely sucked.

  • Mr. F.

    You *could* interpret the joke that way, except it doesn’t at all take into account Tina Fey’s stunned reaction — “Wait, WHAT?!” — as Poehler just moved on, blathering about the next movie on the list.

    The joke had nothing to do with the movie being “redundant.” It was that Poehler said something so stupid and obviously false that it stopped Fey in mid-line read.

    • Michael Gebert

      Because there’s no way they could have been doing an “act.”

      • Mr. F.

        Poehler and Fey were too busy telling jokes for it to have been an act.

        • Mr. F.

          Wow. Two down-votes? Tough room.

  • You’re both wrong. She was mocking the people who needed to be told by a movie that slavery was bad, while underscoring the importance of the movie itself. She wasn’t dismissing the movie. Tina’s reaction was clearly part of the gag.

    Why anyone would take this gag literally, I don’t know. Do you think she also really thought “Gravity” was about George Clooney’s desire not to date anyone his age?

    • Awardsdaily

      No one should need to be told by a movie slavery was bad – that mantra, that 12 Years is only about “slavery was bad” is so boring and annoying. It completely misses McQueen’s artistry, the same artistry that made it the best reviewed film of the year. If it was only a movie about slavery these lame criticisms could be justified. Unfortunately for the film it was put in the frontrunner’s spot way too early and that made it a target. It’s hard to not get depressed by this kind of CRAP every year.

      • drerivas

        “No one should need to be told by a movie slavery was bad” – That’s the joke, folks.

        • Awardsdaily

          Yep that’s the joke – but Wells is saying if you step back from the joke a bit she was saying not even the movie…

        • criterionstalker

          I thought it was a metaphor.

      • Vinci_Smetana

        Jon Weisman is correct. Either before seeing the film, “Poehler” didn’t: 1) Consider slavery at all, 2) thought slaves were treated well, etc.

        You can stop thinking about the BP race for a second (which hasn’t even been decided yet), and being so depressed and laugh, because it was a funny joke that was entirely at the expense of the racist/ignorant class, while supportive of the film itself.

        • Awardsdaily

          I was not/am not depressed about Poehler’s joke.

          • Vinci_Smetana

            You are depressed because you think that Slave is losing BP. I thought I was clear in my writing.

            • Awardsdaily

              No that isn’t what I’m depressed about – because it IS winning Best Pic. Since you [didn’t, of course you would never] ask – it is to do with all of the bullshit that determines what movie wins and what doesn’t. None of it matters in the end. None of it lasts.

              • Brad

                Did anyone have Chiwetel Ejiofor’s violin from TYAS? Because Stone sure is BEGGING for an encore.

              • Vinci_Smetana

                “it IS winning Best Pic.”

                You secretly fear it won’t and are sharpening your knives in case it doesn’t. Full stop.

              • Mechanical Shark

                It’s not a done deal. American Hustle is well-liked in the industry, and has the actors behind it. If it wins SAG Ensemble and gets three or even four acting nods, watch out! I’d prefer 12 Years a Slave, but reality never quite matches up to my preference.

    • Mr. F.

      “Tina’s reaction was clearly part of the gag.”

      Well, yes, and to be clear: *I did not actually think Tina Fey was honestly stopped in her tracks.* Nor would Poehler actually ignore her and bulldoze on.

      The point I was trying to make: any retelling of the joke has to mention Fey’s response to Poehler.

    • Steven Gaydos

      I know a doctor down in Oaxaca who can help Jeff get that funnybone reattached. Not covered by US med plans, but works. And there’s a six-month supply of mushrooms to keep it working. PS: She’s a comedian!!!! Thnx, Jon, I agree but I actually DO think that was what Gravity was about. Unless someone can explain it to me.

      • I thought it was about country music ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Jason Fitch

          My favorite Dodgers writer commenting on my favorite movie blog just had me mixed up for a few seconds.

      • criterionstalker

        Wait – you’re joking now right? I mean, Oaxaca?

        • Steven Gaydos

          No joke. Medicinal strength mescaline without a prescription. I think that’s what it’s gonna take to loosen Jeff up.

    • pjm

      and mocking stupid people is always good for a laugh!

  • Thom Phoolery

    Demerit for Wells.

    • The joke failed, and my interpretaton of its failure is as valid as anyone else’s.

      • You can certainly interpret it any way you like, but the idea that Amy Poehler was saying the movie was pointless defies logic.

        • Not pointless. Redundant.

          • tomato/tomato

            • criterionstalker


          • JeffMc2000

            It’s not a joke about the movie at all. It’s a joke about Amy herself being racist and stupid. The idea is that before she saw the movie she might have been pro-slavery. Which is obviously ridiculous, and therefore a joke.

      • Pinko Punko

        Jeff, it was Fey’s fault for not quite selling her part of the gag, plus the speed at which they moved on to the next lines. It was an obvious gag that didn’t go great because of timing. Nothing on Poehler though. It was a good gag that didn’t come off.

        • Whatever the intent, the gag was shit.

          • Glenn Kenny

            It was SHIT, you hear me?? SHIT!!!!

            • Pinko Punko

              Poker face Poehler, lowbrow comedienne. She didn’t dot dash dot it quite enough for the sophisticates.

              • criterionstalker

                Maybe they need a flash a chyron that says JOKE for weak-mined rubes.

          • Chris Willman

            The timing of it, with Fey’s reaction as Poehler moves on to the next point, was great. It was a good gag that DID come off. Well, not to everybody. I laughed, as did most of the audience, after it took them a second to get it.

            • Pinko Punko

              The camera was off Fey before she finished and Poehler was on the next joke, I just think it wasn’t there for a bunch of people due to the producer and the camera- I think it went to crowd shot or something. I thought they could have milked it a little more without killing it. Overripe would have been bad, but an eensy bit more ripe would have been broader without being too broad.

              • Chris Willman

                Camera stayed on Fey and Poehler throughout and onto the next gag, with no crowd cutaways. (See video, about 3:20 in. ) As the ultimate arbiter of what is funny, I give the exactly inexact timing a 10, and that’s final!

              • joeybot

                This is why eyewitness testimony is shit…you’re so wrong about this.

        • Chris Willman

          The speed with which Poehler moved on was expert timing. Most comics hosting awards shows stand there and wait for the “Oh, I get it” waves. Remember Whoopi “It’s okay, I’ll give you a minute to comprehend my subtle comic genius” Goldberg? I wish I didn’t.

      • moviewatcher

        The joke worked. You didn’t seem to notice Fey’s clearly rehearsed reaction. I laughed. I thought it was pretty funny and in no way demeaning of 12YAS.

      • FrankV22

        Why does the success of a joke hinge on your understanding? I got it immediately. She was making fun of dumb responses to the movie.

  • JR

    Jeff, you COMPLETELY missed the joke. Good grief, man.

  • K. Bowen

    It’s so hard to believe someone wouldn’t know whether Amy Poehler was joking.

    • Pinko Punko

      This is a good line.

  • otto

    Don’t you commoners get it? It was a METAPHOR. It wasn’t tiresome or overdone- You being offended was the VERY POINT of Poehler’s remarks. It was the BEST JOKE of the YEAR and the simpletons who dare criticize the joke of a LEGENDARY artist JUST DON’T GET IT.

  • Noiresque

    Oddly the worst received joke in the room was about the wigs in American Hustle. People sounded horrified, for some reason.

    • Michael Gebert

      No, I think the worst received joke in the room was Jared Leto trying to claim he had a transvestite period. Fortunately most didn’t even seem to get that that was what he meant even as he tried to make it more obvious.

      • Chris Willman

        The transvestite period gag flew by me, I guess, and for that I am glad.

    • Chris Willman

      The wig joke failed, I think, just because it seemed to be at the expense of Hustle, as if the movie didn’t know it was largely about artificiality and the actors wouldn’t want anyone to know they don’t really wear their hair like that. It doesn’t come as some sort of major revelation to imply that a movie that starts with a lengthy combover scene might be ashamed of employing fake hair.

      • Noiresque

        That’s the thing – people where audibly shocked that a joke was made at the expense of Hustle. It’s a pretty goofy joke, standard awards ceremony ribbing. Hustle is ok, but I have massively underestimated the love Hollywood has for it. It must be the film to beat.

    • Mr. F.

      See, I thought most in the audience were laughing about that one.

  • Sumo-Pop

    Them’s just jokes. Jeff. Although I do see how you could pull that out from her words. I wasn’t sure I got it either.

  • hupto

    Actually, I believe she was riffing on a column by WaPo bonehead Richard Cohen, who said essentially the same thing but wasn’t joking:

  • Bob Strauss

    Some people just can’t get jokes – and they keep telling us WOWS is a comedy.

  • jesse

    Hear that, comedians? Run your jokes by comedy expert Jeffrey Wells. No one knows more about the value of jokes, about parsing their meaning, and about the style and context of today’s comedians than an Oscar blogger who actively resents the sound of human laughter.

    For those just joining us: making a joke that could be in any way (which is to say incorrectly) be construed as at the expense of a movie about slavery is wrong. Saying racist shit is just straight-shootin’ honesty.

    • criterionstalker

      The Comedy Godz have are groaning over this column.

  • Michael Gebert

    I have always suspected Poehler of being a closet Klansman.

  • There were a lot of subtle jokes in their routine. This joke was not one of them. You must have no comic perception at all to have missed this simple joke this badly.

  • chien_clean

    So what is the reality that you knew but now you felt? That you feel like slave? A slave of award shows? You would be right! ๐Ÿ˜€


  • bill weber

    You really are clueless about almost everything on the face of the earth.

  • brenkilco

    Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How it got in my pajamas I don’t know.

    How could anyone find humor in the death of such a magnificent animal? Chuckle at the thought of a baby elephant, weak from hunger, crying out for its dead mother as the predators close in? People are sick I tell ya. Sick.

    • Michael Gebert

      Plus, how are they brothers if one of them is Italian? Obviously they’re not.

      • brenkilco

        You can’t fool me. There ain’t no sanity clause.

    • criterionstalker

      I can’t believe you’d actually kill an elephant and write off its cruel death by only wearing your pajamas. I couldn’t hear the rest of your horrible story because of this banana in my ear.

  • Aaron Paul’s Tuxedo

    A good demonstration of the principle that universal approval is not only impossible, it is, in fact, undesirable. Sometimes the people who don’t like what you do are the best indication that you are on the right track.

  • Michael Gebert

    Yeah, I’m sure one of the founders of Upright Citizens Brigade would never do anything that people would fall for and take seriously.

  • Cineasta

    Wow! Like Sam Rockwell said in THE WAY WAY BACK, “Do you even get comedy?”

  • criterionstalker

    Literate much?

  • criterionstalker

    “You stopped smoking sixteen years ago, is that what you
    said? Oh, I-I don’t understand. Are you joking, or what?”

  • jermsguy

    “If you’re telling me that the fireman is wearing suspenders to keep his pants up, fine. But when you posit to me that they are red, you are clearly emphasizing a detail that warrants further exploration. Why red? Shouldn’t they be like a neon green, something you can better see when near a fire? It’s a legitimate question, but when you reduce it to ‘to keep his pants up’ you’re only making yourself look foolish.”

  • Steven Gaydos
  • Brian Bouton

    Jesus, people, Jeff has given Poehler a demerit. Be happy he didn’t go further. You piss-sprayers better straighten up and fly right or it’s the same for you.