Jerrod Carmichael made quite a few surprising jokes as host of the 80th Golden Globes on Jan. 10, but his most daring quip of the evening called out Tom Cruise and his connection to the Church of Scientology.
During the award show, which was held at The Beverly Hilton, Carmichael appeared on stage after a commercial break holding three Golden Globe trophies in his hands.
“Backstage, I found these three Golden Globe awards that Tom Cruise returned,” he said.
Variety reported in May 2021 that the “Top Gun: Maverick” star had returned his trophies for “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Jerry Maguire” and “Magnolia” to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The 60-year-old actor was one of several actors who protested the HFPA after a 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation included accounts of sexist, homophobic and racist behavior at the association’s events, and found that the award show's voting body had no Black members.
Carmichael hadn’t arrived at the punchline yet. The 35-year-old comedian continued, “Look, I’m just the host, briefly, whatever. But I have a pitch. I think maybe we take these three things and exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige.”
Cruise, a member of the Church of Scientology, did not attend the ceremony Tuesday night.
As Carmichael shrugged, members of the crowd audibly gasped while others applauded.
His joke was a reference to the headlines surrounding Shelly Miscavige, the wife of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige.
TODAY has reached out to the Church of Scientology for comment.
In 2013, actor Leah Remini, a former member of the Church of Scientology who parted ways with the church that same year, filed a missing persons report for Shelly Miscavige and claimed she had not seen her friend since 2007.
On Aug. 9, 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles Police Department had closed their investigation after locating and speaking with Shelly Miscavige.
After Carmichael’s comment about Shelly Miscavige began trending on social media, Remini shared a clip of his joke on Twitter and applauded the Golden Globes emcee.
“Thank you Jerrod Carmichael!” Remini tweeted. “Where is Shelly??”
In November, Remini posted a Twitter thread to update fans about Shelly Miscavige, who, Remini said, has now been missing for over 15 years.
The 52-year-old actor has been speaking out about the Church of Scientology since she left the religious organization in 2013. She had been a member for over 30 years at the time.
“She was getting to the age where the acclimation into the Church would have to start,” she said.
The "King of Queens" star explained, “In my house, it’s family first — but I was spending most of my time at the Church. So, I was saying ‘family first,’ but I wasn’t showing that. I didn’t like the message that sent my daughter.”
In response to Remini’s 2014 interview, the Church of Scientology sent a statement to TODAY that said, “It comes as no surprise that someone as self-absorbed as Leah Remini with an insatiable craving for attention would exploit her former faith as a publicity stunt by rewriting her history with it, including omitting that she was participating in a program to remain a Scientologist by her own choice, as she was on the verge of being expelled for her ethical lapses.”
The following year, Remini released a memoir titled “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” that detailed her experience as a member of the organization.
She appeared on "20/20" to speak about being a Scientologist and mentioned Cruise.
“Being critical of Tom Cruise is being critical of Scientology itself,” she said. “You are a person who is anti the aims and goals of Scientology. You are evil.”
The organization again responded to Remini’s criticisms. “Her repeated ethical lapses and callous treatment of others led to an ecclesiastical review, which resulted in her being expelled,” it said in a statement sent to NBC News. “She now regurgitates the tired myths the church has repeatedly debunked.”
Remini has not been deterred. She also released an A&E documentary series in 2016 called “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.”
She appeared on TODAY in 2016 and told Savannah Guthrie that she was “not going to get a dime” for addressing the church’s alleged behavior. Remini added, “It’s for the victims … it’s for people who just maybe don’t have the strength to fight.”
While viewers discussed Carmichael’s remark about Shelly Miscavige online, they also commented about his opening monologue and other controversial jokes.
Carmichael, the first Black host of the event, roasted the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for its lack of diversity in the past.
“I am your host, Jerrod Carmichael, and I’ll tell you why I’m here,” he said as he began his speech. “I’m here because I’m Black.”
He then said, “This show, the Golden Globe Awards, did not air last year because the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — which, I won’t say they were a racist organization, but they didn’t have a single Black member until George Floyd died. So do with that information what you will.”
The Golden Globes were not shown live last year following the 2021 Los Angeles Times article that confirmed the organization did not have any Black members and highlighted the association’s voting process.
The Emmy winning creator of “Rothaniel” made a polarizing joke about the late Whitney Houston during the broadcast as well.
“So, we are here, live, from the hotel that killed Whitney Houston, the Beverly Hilton,” he said to a quiet audience. The legendary singer tragically died on Feb. 11, 2012 at age 48 after she accidentally drowned in a bathtub at the hotel.
It seemed nothing and no one could avoid being roasted by Carmichael — except Rihanna, whom he complimented during the ceremony. He encouraged to take her time on her next album.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com