Teasing in the workplace: The case study of Matt Damon at the Golden Globes

The Golden Globes is the ultimate good-time awards show. It’s funny, irreverent, full of drunkards, curmudgeons and egotists, as well as serving as a grand networking opportunity.  And while it is a bit of a circus, with teleprompters not working, it is actually an important first step in the road to Oscar gold. Have a good showing here and some may have a grand payoff at the Oscars-the end all be all of award shows. Win an Oscar your career can take off like a rocket ship, unless you are Cuba Gooding Jr. I tease, I tease. Not really. The Golden Globes, just like many workplaces and in particular non-profits, may be zany but carries an important weight. Furthermore, because of this anything goes atmosphere, the Golden Globes, just like the non-profit workplace, is rife with acts of teasing.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Red Carpet spectacle at the Golden Globes was at one point literally mired in sewage. Yet, again the similarities between the Golden Globes and the non-profit world never cease to amaze me.
In many non-profits there is often a sense of familiarity. There is an overwhelming drive at times to bond and build rapport. Although those very same rapport-starved individuals are the ones to state they are not there to make friends when they seemingly can’t connect with someone.  Part of the rapport building that readily occurs in the workplace entails the act of teasing.  Teasing can be playful or it can be hurtful, or perhaps a little bit in between. Teasing has lately been associated with bullying, in particular in school settings. But besides being playful, teasing in the workplace and in particular more “family” like settings, can be a gesture of acceptance. Teasing usually highlights a quirky aspect of a person. I get teased by the messiness of my office, the hundreds of shoes under my desk and my extreme sense of competitiveness. The tease serves to highlight the fact that others know of these quirks. The tease also serves to note “acceptance” of the teaser(s) of said quirks.

The Golden Globes is basically a three hour tease-fest where everyone in the audience can be the butt of a joke but as such are shown signs that they are accepted by Hollywood. Well, to a point. I will get back to this momentarily. Fey and Amy Poehler referred to Matt Damon as the garbage man alluding to the Hierarchy that the Golden Globes maintains despite there being both television and movie actors sharing the same space.  Matt Damon by all definitions is an A-list actor and celebrity.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were yanking his chain.  Considering his A-list status, Matt Damon comes off as fairly humble.  He avoids a lot of spotlight, isn’t mired in scandals and has some very non-glamorous charity causes.  For example, he co-founded water.org to bring awareness to the looming global water shortages.   Later on at the Golden Globes, presenter Melissa McCarthy did a goofy impression of him that I actually did not quite get.  She pretended to have been hit on the head and as a result thought she was Matt Damon. Pretending to be a fellow co-worker is definitely a way to playfully tease someone. But it is usually more playful if you exaggerate a particular quirk. On a business trip once, about six of us were in the hot tub. Drinks had been imbibed and the teases were full on. One major particular component of the teasing was the “impression” whereby for about 30 seconds pretended to be a colleague. Some were so spot on they actually scared me into thinking the impersonator was possessed. Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of Matt Damon fell fairly flat to me; although it seemed that people laughed in the audience (although it is a bit hard to tell from the television screen).  In her impersonation of Matt Damon she kept winking at people and talking about the wife.  There are worse things to be teased about I suppose. If you can’t figure out what personality/personal quirk is being highlighted then it’s not a tease. Teasing someone, in order for it to be playful, needs to highlight the obvious.

How did Matt Damon handle all that Golden Globes teasing? Very well.  Very well, indeed. He came onto stage at one point to introduce one of the nominated films and immediately declared himself the garbage man and got a chuckle from the audience. What often occurs is that the teased celebrity is in the know beforehand.  But even if they are not, they join in on the teasing of themselves. Tom Hanks, one must say, looked thoroughly confused at the beginning of the broadcast when he was referred to as Tom Hunks in one of the opening jokes of the Golden Globes. However, Hanks is fairly well-natured about that stuff; even if he doesn’t get it. Back to Matt Damon. In his own personal charity work, he has even made his own video where he noted he was going to go on a toilet strike. It was all in good humor to bring attention to a the looming water shortage.  The guy can take a good joke and tease. He was such a good sport about being teased all night at the Golden Globes, that People Magazine named him the Belle of the 2014 Golden Globes noting that Matt Damon was a “good sport.”  That is what being teased playfully is all about.

Note that note all teases at the Golden Globes are gentle or to show acceptance of the teased celebrity. For instance, I don’t believe the past teases of  Mel Gibson at the Golden Globes were about acceptance, but were rather about corrective action.   There had to be a way to let Mel Gibson know that his racist and anti-sematic rants were not acceptable.  Specifically, Ricky Gervais at the 2012 Golden Globes noted that he was told there was a list of things he couldn’t say “‘And I mustn’t mention Mel Gibson this year. Not his private life, his politics, his recent films or especially not Jodie Foster’s Beaver.”  Mel Gibson, did take the teasing fairly well.  Last year, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-hosted the Golden Globes for the first time and they did take aim at Director James Cameron.   The jokes about James Cameron were not so much about acceptance either. They were about holding his ego in check.  In introducing Director Kathryn Bigelow, they noted that Bigelow had an understanding of torture because she was married to James Cameron.  The joke was alluding to his well-known massive ego. He was the one to exclaim many years back at the Oscars ceremony that he was “the king of the world.”  Once you make such a sentence you should expect some teasing to keep your ego in line.

If you get teased in the workplace, try to figure out why? Is it that your colleagues are showing you acceptance?  Are your colleagues trying to keep your ego in check? Are your colleagues trying to let you know that one of your past actions was not very wise?  Assess the environment and the organizational culture. Also, conduct your own form of espionage and get the goods on others.   Teasing can be a two-way street if done playfully. Just ask Matt Damon-the belle of the ball.


6 replies »

  1. Teasing is often dismissed and shut down these days as out of line; I’ve always been a bit of a teaser & have had to learn to stop doing so – or at least really minimize it – over the past number of years. This is a thoughtful & well done piece on the benefits of teasing & what it really represents… Thanks! And happy Monday!


    • I totally hear ya. I like teasing but it’s somewhat frowned upon. But this being a high pressure work week ahead I foresee a lot of teasing occurring by many different people. Lol. Hope you have a great week ahead!


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