The Golden Globes are nigh and host Jimmy Fallon has already let one aspect of the upcoming award show's plan slip. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Fallon teased that Donald Trump jokes will happen at the Globes, especially because the show is happening so close to the inauguration. "The whole night won't focus on that, but it will be a week before the inauguration, so it will be on everyone's mind," Fallon joked. "It's the first and maybe the last party that we'll have in 2017." Would Fallon risk his reputation as a universally likable host by roasting the president-elect during the Golden Globes? It wouldn't be out of character for a Globes host, but it would be for Fallon himself.
Fallon's instinct to play coy is somewhat natural: We can't expect him to give a full play-by-play about how his opening monologue or successive bits will go during the show. That said, his inability to tell us the nature of the Trump jokes (surely stating that alone would be a enough of a reason to tune in?) belies Fallon's already problematic relationship with the public in relation to Trump. Will the Globes feature jokes that go soft or tough on Trump, and will Fallon be the one saying any of them? Let's not forget that we have a bevy of presenters who also get a chance to let the zingers fly during the show.
Fallon remained vague about the Trump jokes during his Entertainment Weekly interview. While stating that he has the benefit of timeliness with his jokes because he is the host of a nightly talk show, Fallon lumped the Trump subject with some more mild joke topics: "I get to see what the pulse is, see what everyone’s talking about. I’m sure there will be Trump jokes, and I’m sure there will be jokes about acting and the business." This statement could indicate that any joke about Trump would be as normal or unoffensive as acting or the film industry. Again, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Will Fallon, and the Golden Globes by extension, be more political in its jokes this year?
There is precedent for Fallon to go low with the Trump jokes. Previous hosts Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler, as well as three-time host Ricky Gervais, have all had the chance to roast their fellow celebrities during their hosting stints. Poehler and Fey delivered an iconic zinger about Amal and George Clooney during the 2015 Golden Globes; Gervais toed the line many times, most notably in a thinly-veiled jab at Scientologists Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Fallon has the historical benefit here in his ability to deride Trump and remain in good public standing, but again, it's worth wondering whether he would take that kind of risk.
Fallon tends to play it safe, that much has been established. Unlike fellow nightly show hosts Seth Meyers or Stephen Colbert, he has never been openly political in his leanings on his show. Fallon has poked fun at Trump, that is true, but that Trump impression has failed to stay in his regular impersonation rotation.
When Fallon interviewed Trump in Sept. 2016, the home stretch of the election season, many regarded him as having been too soft on the then-presidential candidate. Some even thought that Fallon's infamous "messy hair" moment was a crass attempt at normalizing a very polarizing personality.
Even if Fallon isn't writing the Trump jokes at the Golden Globes, his participation — saying them out loud — would imply a comfort and agreement, to some extent, with the material and its message. That's a big thing; Fallon's apolitical personality could be permanently erased. While it's Fallon's first time hosting the Golden Globes, it isn't his first hosting gig by any stretch. A Trump joke in any tone, good or bad, would mark a significant shift in the nightly show host's personality that we've all come to know.