Rolling with Laughter at Variety’s Power of Comedy Honoring Jimmy Kimmel

It was a veritable laugh riot in Hollywood Saturday night as some of the town’s funniest people turned down other gigs to attend the fourth annual Variety Power of Comedy event and pay tribute to its honoree, late night host Jimmy Kimmel.

Hosted by roastmaster extraordinaire Jeff Ross, Kimmel was the recipient of a large, healthy R-rated dose of ribbing from the likes of David Spade, Kevin Nealon, Will Arnett, Joel McHale, Adam Carolla, Azia Ansari and Dana Gould–all to the accompaniment of Cleto and the Cletones. Not unexpectedly, there were a few antics from “Jimmy Kimmel Live” sidekick Guillermo.

Ross got the party, sponsored by XBox One,  started with a couple of zingers. “What’s a Quinceañera?” he asked the sellout crowd of 650 seated at the Avalon. “It’s a bat mitzvah for the help.”  And then, “Jay Leno is down the street at the El Capitan, scouting locations for his next show.”

It was all for a good cause, with proceeds from the evening benefiting the Noreen Fraser Foundation, which funds cancer research. In the midst of all the comic relief, Ms. Fraser took the stage to personally think Kimmel for his support—and to toss him some guest towels she had made for his wedding. “Fork Cancer,” read one, “Motherforker” the other.

There was spirited bidding to win a signed Xbox One.  When two audience members agreed to each bid $4,000 to “split” the new console, Xbox representatives quickly volunteered to auction off another, raising a total of $8,000 for the  Foundation.

One of Kimmel’s well-known lovers, Ben Affleck, sent video greetings. ”When I was inside you, you were like a Swedish meatball, but now you’re all ripped for your wife,” Affleck noted.

Adam Scott introduced a series of messages sent via Skype, one of the event’s sponsors, from Zooey Deschanel, Rob Lowe, Ray Romano and Robin Williams. They were capped off by ex-girlfriend Sarah Silverman, “speaking from her vagina” – a smart phone held sideways between her legs with her lips mouthing the words that were hard to hear above the laughter.

As the evening came to a close, Will Arnett presented the Variety Power of Comedy Award to Kimmel, who thanked all of his friends and family for supporting him through the years, and ended the night singing a great rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Heartlight.”

Additional sponsors of the event included Amazon Studios, GUINNESS, Johnnie Walker, and Unite4:Good.him

–Hillary Atkin

Sparkly Gowns and Crystal Trophies at the Costume Designers Guild Awards

Anne Hathaway had the crowd going when she dramatically announced, “We should all take a moment of silence…,” took a long pause, and then continued, “for the more than 100 disco balls that died for the sake of my dress.”


It was a comment that may have missed its mark comedically – Hathaway, a recent “Saturday Night Live” host, bowed to the greater expertise of Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph there– but her comment was perfectly appropriate within the context of the 15th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards.


Actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted the gala, held Tuesday February 19 at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom.


Awards season regulars call it the most fun and loose of the guild presentations which, with the exception of the Screen Actors Guild ceremony, are not televised, and therefore foster a much wider swath of freedom of speech.


The Costume Designers Guild hands out awards for costume design excellence in seven categories in film, television and commercials, as well as four honorary statues.


Hathaway was honored with the LACOSTE Spotlight Award, which was presented by her “Les Misérables” co-star, Russell Crowe, in a rare public appearance.

“I did a lot of research on Anne. She originally wanted to be a nun, but ditched that idea because she wouldn’t be part of an organization that couldn’t love her gay brother,” Crowe said. “She measures everything with her heart,” he said in introducing a clip reel that showcased the costumes she wore in films ranging from “The Princess Diaries” to “The Devil Wears Prada,” Brokeback Mountain” to “The Dark Knight Rises” and her latest and much acclaimed  outing as Fantine in “Les Miz.”


“I have always wanted a crystal crocodile,” Hathaway said in accepting the award.


Earlier in the evening, Rudolph, Poehler, “30 Rock” and “SNL” costume designer Tom Broecker and Steve Martin had lauded producer Lorne Michaels for receiving the Distinguished Collaborator Award. Rudolph reflected on her days at “SNL” when her costume changes went from Beyoncé to Maya Angelou in the space of a commercial break.


“Lorne Michaels is a legend,” Martin said. “Lorne Michaels does it all. He produces…,” (insert audience laughter here), “and I’m glad were not giving him a plaque, and that it’s a trophy. Not one man in Hollywood wants a plaque wife. He wants a trophy wife.”


Another honorary award went to Eduardo Castro, for career achievement in television, spanning 25 years of his work on shows including “Miami Vice,” “Ugly Betty” and “Once Upon a Time.”


Castro gave a lengthy acceptance speech that highlighted anecdotes from his career, beginning as a student at Carnegie Mellon and moving on to an apprenticeship at Western Costume before touching on other stories from his years as a costume designer — a protracted speech that had McHale proclaiming “holy shit” when it finally ended.


Molly Maginnis kept her acceptance nice and tight when she took the prize for costume design in a contemporary television series for NBC’s “Smash.” “Downton Abbey’s” Caroline McCall won the trophy for period/fantasy television series and Lou Eyrich got the award for made-for-TV movie or miniseries with “American Horror Story: Asylum, Season 2.”


Judianna Makovsky took the stage twice, once for winning for commercial design with “Captain Morgan Black” and again in receiving the career achievement award in film for her work in pictures including “The Cotton Club,” “Dick Tracy,” “Big,” “Lolita,” “The Devil’s Advocate,” “Reversal of Fortune,” “Seabiscuit,” “Great Expectations” and “The Hunger Games.”


Another highlight of the evening, presenter Shirley MacClaine, who called costume designers “intricate people who mess with your body” and “people who make the past live.”


They also apparently get to keep whatever is left in the pockets of their costumes. Said McHale, “Edith Head made a fortune from black tar heroin she found.”

–Hillary Atkin




Women of the Small Screen Light Up the Night with Elle

Claire Danes graces the cover of the February issue of ELLE and to celebrate women in television, the magazine threw a sparkly dinner at one of LA’s most beautiful locations, the Soho House.


Hosted by ELLE Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers and ELLE Creative Director Joe Zee, together with presenting sponsors Hearts On Fire Diamonds and Wella Professionals, the event brought together a lively group for a celebration of women’s achievements in television.


Guests included Molly Sims, Nicole Richie, Busy Philipps, Madeleine Stowe, Joel McHale, Morena Baccarin, Maria Menounos, and many others, including “Mad Men” costume designer Janie Bryant, who is featured in a Hearts on Fire ad campaign. She, along with other guests like Kim Raver and Jenna Elfman, were outfitted in some of the line’s gorgeous earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets.


Pieces of diamond jewelry also graced the red rose centerpieces on the dinner tables, which also offered floor-to-ceiling views of the Los Angeles skyline.

The evening started off with a red carpet and Moet for all, before Myers officially welcomed all of the attendees to the celebration.


On the menu: burrata, beets and baby kale salad with basil, branzino baked with peppers and cherry tomatoes, Provencal braised short ribs, roasted artichokes and olives, along with baked brussels sprouts with bacon, rosemary garlic roasted potatoes, and grilled broccoli with salted ricotta and pine nuts.


The dessert, apple and blackberry cobbler, was served family style by the Soho House’s attentive staff.


The best after dinner treat was trying on the diamond jewelry, even as unobtrusive security kept a watchful eye to see that none of it walked away.

–Hillary Atkin

And So It is Written: Writers Award the Best On Screen

These truly are the glory days of ABC’s smash hit comedy, “Modern Family,” which by the conclusion of the 2012 Writers Guild of America Awards Sunday night had added two more trophies to its already awards-laden mantle. 


It was the third year in a row that ““MF” walked away with the guild’s top comedy series award, cementing its position as the one to beat against other laughers in the category that included “30 Rock,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Louie” and “Parks & Recreation.”


“We are very scared that people are sick of us,” showrunner Steve Levitan admitted to the audience, referring to the freshness of its recent wins at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. Not to mention those five Emmy Awards from last fall.


When his show also took the statuette for episodic comedy, which recognizes specific episodes, all of the credited writers came up on stage and spit out a one-liner indicative of their talent, including Elaine Ko, who spoofed Asian-American stereotypes by saying, “I’m bad at math, I don’t play an instrument, and I’m not Jeremy Lin.”


The WGA West ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium—a simultaneous one was held by WGA, East at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York, was filled with such laughs — due in no small part to its hosts, “Community’s” Joel McHale and this season’s TV comedy “it” girl, Zooey Deschanel. The star of “New Girl” started off the festivities by saying “Welcome to the nerd prom” and proceeding to make fun of male writers’ penchant for wardrobes filled with plaid shirts, admonishing them to shield themselves from the harsh lights of the outside world.


The list of  West Coast presenters ranged from Tom Selleck to Amy Poehler, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, Bryan Cranston and Vince Gilligan, Patton Oswalt and Lisa Kudrow as the Guild awarded a series of honors in other television categories, new media, video games, documentary and feature films.


AMC’s “Breaking Bad” gained proof that it is stronger than ever, taking home two trophies, one for drama series and one for episodic drama, tying with up-and- comer “Homeland,” which is already stacking up a cache of awards from its freshman season on Showtime.


With Poehler, who had appeared on “SNL” the night before, pushing for her former show in the tough competition for the comedy/variety (including talk) prize, it was Colbert that was in the cards. Stephen’s writing staff bested the scribes at “Conan,” “Jon Benjamin Has a Van, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Since no one from “The Colbert Report” was in the audience, Poehler temporarily claimed the winged statue.


In the animation category, “The Simpsons” scored four of the six nominations (episodes from “Futurama” and “Ben 10: Ultimate Alien were the others) and funny enough, Bart and company scored the prize in an episode entitled “Homer the Father” by Joel H. Cohen.


In the long form original category, only two contenders duked it out, “Five” on Lifetime, and “Cinema Verite” on HBO, which took home theWGA. In long form adapted, again only two candidates and both aired on HBO: “Mildred Pierce” and “Too Big to Fail,” a dramatization of the financial crisis starring William Hurt that bested its rival in the eyes of WGA voters.


As usual during this untelevised kudofest, some of the best material came during the presentation and acceptance speeches of the honorary awards. “The Help” co-stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, both sitting pretty for the Academy Awards next weekend in their respective lead and supporting actress categories, presented screenwriter-director Tate Taylor with the Paul Selvin Award, which recognizes work that embodies the spirit of constitutional rights and civil liberties.


Taylor, a white man from Mississippi, has been maligned in some quarters for adapting Kathryn Stockwell’s novel about black maids working in Jackson,Mississippi during the 1960s, on the brink of the civil rights movement– as has Stockwell herself, because she is white.


In his acceptance speech, Taylor adroitly addressed those issues, after revealing that he was co-raised by a black woman and had been roommates with Spencer for years as they both tried to break into the entertainment industry, noting that they kept loaning each other the same $500 and would fight over the last bowl of chili in their apartment.


“I’ve become aware of a troubling irony,” Taylorsaid. “As ‘The Help’ began its rise, there are those that said two white people had no right to tell the story. Two white people in 2010 had no right to tell the story of people in 1963. But we came from a place of love as Southerners with respect and admiration for those women and millions like her the world over–who may be home with your children right now. People should have the right to tell any story they choose. If not, we all lose. We should strive for a place for people to tell the kind of stories they want without judgment.”


Judgment was exactly what David Fincher said drew him to Eric Roth, the recipient of the Laurel Award for Screen, which honors lifetime achievement in outstanding writing for motion pictures. Roth’s work ranges from “Forrest Gump,” “The Insider” and “Ali” to this year’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which Fincher directed.


“I found someone who hated more people in Hollywoodthan I did, and that was something to build on,” said Fincher, in a funny taped piece set on a soundstage.

For his turn, Roth read a lengthy email reply to Brad Pitt’s query about the importance of storytelling in film, starting out with, “Blondie, go back to what you do best—off-road motorcycling.”


Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television. They received it after kudos from a writer they mentored, Jason Katims, and a lengthy clip from the pilot of their first breakout hit, “thirtysomething” that brought back a lot of memories of that groundbreaking 1980s show.


“Midnight in Paris” got the WGA’s top honor for original screenplay for its writer (and director) Woody Allen, a win to which McHale reacted by saying, “I can’t believe he’s not here.” He wasn’t at the New York ceremony either, but recently made his West Coast presence known through a taped piece for the DGA Awards.


For the best adapted screenplay, Alexander Payne won the prize for “The Descendants,” which he also directed, with co-writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon. Payne thanked novelist Kaui Hart Hemmings for her Hawaii-set book, saying they had a very good time in her world.


Meanwhile, McHale noted that his friend Rash wrote all the dialog for George Clooney’s wife, who….um, hello, was in a coma.


It was that kind of night.


(A complete list of winners can be found here: )