Eddie Murphy's bleep, that awful Whitney Houston joke and Austin Butler's accent — the 2023 Golden Globes highs, lows and head-scratchers

From l to r: Austin Butler, Steven Spielberg, Ryan Murphy and Eddie Murphy at the 80th Annual Golden Globes (Photo: Getty)
From l to r: Austin Butler, Steven Spielberg, Ryan Murphy and Eddie Murphy at the 80th Golden Globe Awards. (Photo: Getty)

And the award for most strenuous comeback goes to... the 80th Golden Globes. It has been nearly two years since a bombshell Los Angeles Times report helped get the show pulled from the airwaves after disclosing ethical lapses and the lack of diversity within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that hosts the ceremony. This year's telecast was supposed to be a return to normalcy, while also signaling to the industry that the HFPA had changed for the better. While some of those changes were reflected in the diversity of the winners — including Abbott Elementary's Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams, Black Panther queen Angela Bassett, and Everything Everywhere All at Once powerhouses Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan — and the quality of the speeches, some high-profile no-shows and questionable creative decisions means that the Globes' future is still cloudy. Here are the highs, lows and head-scratchers from the closely watched telecast.

HIGH: The A-listers brought their A-game for the acceptance speeches

Turns out Quan, Jennifer Coolidge and Yeoh aren't just great actors — they're also great awards acceptors. That trio — along with Ryan Murphy, who picked up the honorary Carol Burnett Award — delivered the night’s most moving and memorable speeches, casting their victories in personal terms. Whether it was Quan giving a shoutout to his first director, Steven Spielberg, or Yeoh speaking of her struggles in Hollywood or Murphy directing the attention away from him and onto his diverse collaborators, they all made us believe the Globes really mattered. And that’s great acting.

LOW: But several big winners were MIA

We pretty much expected no-shows. Frankly, we were surprised how much Hollywood showed up at the 2023 Golden Globes just one year after the 2022 edition was canceled (both figuratively by critics and literally by NBC). But the absence of a handful of winners confirmed the Globes aren't back back quite yet. There were four high-profile winners who failed to show up to collect their awards. Three of those — Cate Blanchett for Tár, Zendaya for Euphoria and Amanda Seyfried for The Dropout — were, according to presenters, said to be working or "in production." Here's the thing, though: Successful actors are nearly always working, and in years past, it would be a very, very safe bet that the trio would have been able to call out for a day to attend. The most believable excuse belonged to Yellowstone winner Kevin Costner, whom presenter Regina Hall went to great pains to explain was stuck in Santa Barbara because of Southern California's heavy rainstorms and mudslides this week. It was something his publicist also swore to us backstage. We'll buy that one.

HIGH: Brad Pitt is the new Jack Nicholson

Once upon a time in Hollywood, Jack Nicholson was the king of the Oscars, acting as the life of the party for each and every ceremony. Brad Pitt served that function at this year’s Golden Globes, getting the laughter going for Jerrod Carmichael's uncomfortable opening monologue and clapping wildly for all the winners. Even when he lost his own Globe — Quan scooped up the Best Supporting Actor statue Pitt was also up for — Pitt acted like a winner.

HIGH: Eddie Murphy remembered to be funny

Accepting the very serious Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Saturday Night Live icon mostly kept a straight face. But it turned out that's because he was saving a haymaker of a punchline for the end of his speech. Rattling off the three things he learned over the course of his Hollywood career, Murphy finished by saying: "Keep Will Smith's wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth!" That's why he's Eddie Murphy, dammit.

LOW: Don't shoot the piano player

Chloe Flower landed the best/worst gig possible when she was hired to serve as official Globes pianist. On the one hand, she got to perform for a celebrity-filled audience. But she couldn't have anticipated that those same celebrities would threaten to beat her up for interrupting their speeches. None of that was Flower’s fault, of course, but the insults clearly took their toll. She disappeared midway through the show — replaced by a DJ — and when she returned, Carmichael made a point of mentioning the "hate" she was getting on Twitter and thanked her for her service. Here's hoping her tip jar was overflowing.

LOW: The Globes cloud hasn't lifted

Even as Carmichael fired shots at the HFPA, almost everyone else in the room tried to carry on as if the evening was awards business as usual. Not so on social media, where many commentators mentioned how strange it was to be celebrating a show — and an organization — with such a checkered profile. Towards the end of the show, current HFPA President Helen Hoehne took to the stage to give some brief remarks about how the group is trying to do better. But there's clearly a lot of work left to do before the party starts again in earnest.

HEAD-SCRATCHER: Austin Butler’s voice has left the building

Austin Butler wrapped shooting on Elvis over a year ago, but he clearly hasn't shaken Presley's ghost. Accepting his Best Actor in a Drama statue, the actor raised eyebrows by talking like the King of Rock 'n' Roll instead of the Kid from Anaheim, Calif. Backstage, Butler told reporters he didn't realize he was speaking in his Elvis voice. Sounds suspicious (minds) to us.

HIGH and LOW: Host Jerrod Carmichael kept the audience entertained, most of the time

As any good host does, Carmichael landed a few funny jabs at the expense of the absentee Tom Cruise and Will Smith. But there were also some big misses. If Kanye West would have been there, he would have caught the misguided moment when Carmichael announced he and West had watched The Fabelmans together and told Spielberg that the director's autobiographical film "changed everything" for the embattled rapper, who has come under fire for repeated antisemitic remarks. The comedian even mocked the very awards show he was hosting as he was hosting it, bringing up the controversies that the Golden Globes has faced as of late in the first few moments of the show, which didn't go over well on Twitter. And in his biggest whiff, Carmichael caused some in the Globes audience to gasp when he attempted to crack a joke noting that Whitney Houston died at the very hotel where the awards took place. Viewers made it known on social media that they were gasping, too.

— Additional reporting by Raechal Shewfelt and Taryn Ryder