Golden Globes: That Tom Cruise & Shelly Miscavige joke explained

Jerrod Carmichael at the Golden Globes and an image of Shelly MiscavigeNBC/Leah Remini/Twitter

Jerrod Carmichael made a cutting joke about Tom Cruise and Shelly Miscavige at the Golden Globes – if you were left feeling a bit clueless, we’re here to break it down.

Ah, the Golden Globes: the drunken precursor to the prestige of awards season, coming on the crest of the BAFTAs and Oscars nominations and acting as a decent indicator of the nominations to come.

This year, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan both took home awards for their performances in Everything Everywhere All at Once, while Steven Spielberg won the Best Director award, and Eddie Murphy was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

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The ceremony was hosted by Jerrod Carmichael, who didn’t pull his punches: he mocked the diversity complaints surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press, made a joke about Will Smith, and one gag regarding Tom Cruise and Shelly Miscavige was particularly sharp.

Golden Globes: What was Jerrod Carmichael’s Tom Cruise joke?

During the show, Jerrod Carmichael returned to the stage holding three Golden Globes. “Hey, guys, backstage I found these. It’s the three Golden Globe awards that Tom Cruise returned,” he said.

Cruise won awards for his performances in Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire, and Magnolia. However, he returned them in 2021 amid criticism of the Hollywood Foreign Press’ lack of diversity within its membership.

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He was praised by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who tweeted: “That time that Tom Cruise sent his @goldenglobes for Jerry Maguire, Magnolia and Born on the Fourth of July in an actual box to the reception desk of HFPA to stand against their sexist, homophobic, racist practices of exclusion, harassment, and bias.”

However, Carmichael’s joke didn’t stop there. “I’m just a host briefly or whatever, but I have a pitch. Maybe we take these three things and exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige,” he added.

Who is Shelly Miscavige?

Shelly Miscavige is the wife of David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology. She has not appeared in public since 2007, and her whereabouts have been the subject of intense speculation over the past decade.

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Cruise has been attached to Scientology since the 1990s, and while he’s distanced himself from the church in the public eye since the 2010s, it’s believed he’s still a member. In 2016, he told ITV News: “It’s something that has helped me incredibly in my life.

“I’ve been a Scientologist for over 30 years. It’s something that is, you know… without it, I wouldn’t be where I am. So, it’s a beautiful religion. I’m incredibly proud.”

Shelly Miscavige was once dubbed the “First Lady of Scientology”, but nobody seems to know where she is. Two missing person reports have been filed with the LAPD, which classified them as “unfounded.”

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Actress Leah Remini, who also tried to highlight Cruise’s Scientology amid Top Gun: Maverick’s success, posted a lengthy thread about Shelly’s “disappearance” in November last year.

She cited her absence at the wedding of Cruise and Katie Holmes in 2006. “Shelly was always with her husband. She was his shadow, not only because she was married to him but also because she was his top aide. For her not to be in attendance was not only unusual but also unimaginable,” she wrote.

Remini also accused the LAPD of colluding with the church. “Scientology has always done a great job at ingratiating itself with law enforcement despite being experts in obstructing justice,” she alleged.

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While Shelly’s lawyer “categorically confirmed that she is not missing and devotes her time to the work of the Church of Scientology” to The Telegraph in 2012, others believe she’s being held against her will.

Steve Hall, a former Scientologist who left the church in 2004, told Business Insider: “Yes and no… nobody wants to be held. The answer is the Stockholm Syndrome.”

For more information on Shelly Miscavige, we’d recommend this investigation by Vanity Fair.