Jenny Slate and Colin Hanks Share Drinks, Stories at Library Benefit

Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging
Colin Hanks

The Library Foundation of Los Angeles let loose with some of Hollywood’s brightest — and funniest — stars for its Seventh Annual Toast.

“The bartenders really did it, so….”

Jenny Slate steadied herself at the podium in the ballroom of Los Angeles’ Line hotel to read a portion of James M. Cain’s classic noir novel Double Indemnity. The room was full of what the Los Angeles Library Foundation calls its “Young Literati”: patrons in their 20s, 30s and 40s who gathered Saturday night for the Seventh Annual Toast to hear stars like Slate, Gillian Jacobs, Jason Reitman and Colin Hanks read passages by some of their favorite L.A. authors.

The evening had officially begun over an hour before when guests like Jenny Lewis, Paul Scheer and Moby sipped signature cocktails on the open-air patio of the hotel’s Commissary restaurant and nibbled unusual, stain-inviting hors d’oeuvres conceived by celebrated chef Roy Choi. By the time everyone was invited to take a seat inside, the buzz had started to kick in.

“Not to act like I’m very smart but I take out a lot of chapter books,” Slate continued, noting that as a child she also relied on her local library to check out VHS tapes of movies like Crossing Delancy, Brigadoon and Meet Me in St. Louis. She then launched into a solid reading from Indemnity (her voice a surprisingly natural fit for noir), but soon paused when someone in the audience giggled inappropriately.

Mae Whitman — as they say in the library, ‘Shhh,’ ” Slate scolded. (Whitman was sitting in the second row, and if she hadn’t actually been giggling before, she was now.)

Next up after Slate was Hanks, who led with the quip, “Old Fashioneds and public reading. What could possibly go wrong?” before doing more than adequate justice to Jerry Stahl’s dark comic essay “Inside Ms. Los Angeles.” Jacobs followed with a quirkily sweet chapter from the Y.A. novel Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, of A Tribe Called Quest, warned the crowd he was just a “Crooklynite” looking to lighten their pocketbooks, before reading a touching poem about L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley called "Enter the Year of the Dragon, 2000" by Russell Charles Leong.

But the creme de la creme of the evening’s program was, hands down, Reitman’s staging of a reading from the movie Heat (an abbreviated version of the Live Read series he does at LACMA), with Whitman in the part of Robert De Niro and funnyman Jason Mantzoukas as Al Pacino. For a 5'1" young woman, Whitman made a startling good De Niro, while Mantzoukas joked that the bartenders had actually given him acid and now he was looking at a "room full of lobsters in suits."

Maybe that’s what Busy Philipps, the evening's host, meant when she said the public library is the “great equalizer.”

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