In this publicity image released by NBC, Hollywood Foreign Press Association President Philip Berk is shown during the Golden Globe Awards, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater)
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The Golden Globes have never really been a paradigm of dinner etiquette, but the 2011 show was notable for going out of its way to insult its hosts, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
From emcee Ricky Gervais to honoured guest Robert De Niro, there were several pointed jokes directed at a group that has just been sued and accused of engaging in payola and is engaged in another fight over its lucrative TV rights.
"I'd like to quash this ridiculous rumour going around that the only reason 'The Tourist' was nominated was so the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie," Gervais quipped in the show's opening moments. "That is rubbish. That is not the only reason. They also accepted bribes."
The zinger was enough to get laughs from the audience and a wry smile from Depp, but the HFPA didn't find the accusation funny when it was included in a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles by the Globes' former publicist.
They called Michael Russell's allegation without merit and an attempt to steal some of the spotlight from the year's first major awards show, which attracted plenty of A-listers on Sunday night.
The host also got a bit personal in another segment featuring HFPA President Phil Berk.
"Next up, Eva Longoria has the daunting task of introducing the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press," Gervais started. "That's nothing, I just had to help him off the toilet and pop his teeth in. It was messy."
Ridicule from second-year host Gervais is to be expected. The British comedian spent much of his monologue last year insulting Globes nominees and broadcaster NBC, and he poked fun at many other stars this year, including Charlie Sheen, Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson.
But De Niro, the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award, also made light of the HFPA's reputation for using its awards show to curry favour with Hollywood stars.
"The important thing we are all in this together," De Niro said. "The filmmakers who make the movies and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association members who in turn pose for pictures with the movie stars."
The acting legend continued the roast-like atmosphere.
"I'm sorry more members of the foreign press aren't with us tonight, but many of them were deported right before the show," De Niro said. "Along with most of the waiters. And Javier Bardem."
The Globes have long been known as a boozy, less formal affair than other awards shows such as the Oscars. Gervais and De Niro aside, plenty of actors thanked the group for their Globe statuettes.
It's also unclear how much of the joking may have been done with the approval of the 90-member HFPA. It's unlikely to have any impact on Globes' legal fights, and probably won't do much to change the reputation of the show or the association, which has for many years been the subject of whispers in Hollywood about its credibility.
Berk, the Australian journalist who was ridiculed early in the show by Gervais, also showed that the host can bite back.
"Ricky, next time you want me to help you qualify your movies," a deadpan Berk said, "go to another guy."