Amy Schumer Captivates TIME 100 Gala, Kanye West Reflects Mid-Song on Art, Brands and the Hamptons (Video)
"My definition of an artist is to tell the truth, even if it f—s up your Pepsi deal," said the honoree during his 35-minute set. "Even if it f—s up your Apple deal, even if it f—s up your Samsung deal."
"I see so many so-called artists, but I have to wonder where their heart is," noted Kanye West at the TIME 100 gala at New York City's Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday night. Midway into his 35-minute set — which got Julianne Moore and Diane von Furstenberg dancing energetically, and Laverne Cox and Amy Schumer fist-pumping from atop their chairs — the honoree launched into one of his now-signature onstage commentaries, performed while sung (with auto-tune), screamed and spoken over a piano.
"My definition of an artist is to tell the truth, your truth, how you feel. My definition of an artist is to tell the truth, even if it f—s up your Pepsi deal, … even if it f—s up your Apple deal, even if it f—s up your Samsung deal," he said to laughter and applause, and with Kim Kardashian standing up to watch him perform. "The other day — I think it's so funny — I'm driving down to Coachella, and there's a fly in the car with us. My buddy was killing it, I open up the window and let the fly go, and it's determined that people are saying what I'm tired of saying — Kanye wouldn't hurt a fly!" to laughter. "I'm so scary, in a world controlled by brands … as opposed to a world branded by truth, love and information."
West said his peace after standing still with a crowd of rag-clad men on James Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," and performing "All Day," “Black Skinhead,” "New Slaves" (which he introduced as a "song is about the state of black men in Hollywood right now"), "Blood on the Leaves" and "Runaway." Before wrapping his set with "Only One," "Good Life" and "Gold Digger," he looked around the amphitheater-like venue, told the audience to stand up (and called out his very seated table-mate, George Lucas), and pointed to Empire co-creator Lee Daniels and shouted, "Lee, don't try to take this on your next season though!"
"There is nothing I liked more than hearing him scream about the Hamptons to a room of people who own a lot of f—ing property in the Hamptons," John Oliver told The Hollywood Reporter after the party, with Seth Meyers and Matthew Weiner also praising the unlikely gala performance pick. "And it is the spectacular response to 'We want pre-nup!' — 60-year-old men, all of sudden coming to life, and saying, 'Actually, Kanye has a point; you have to have this discussion.' That's a lot of millionaires who are absolutely with him on that one!"
The dinner — which was attended by Bradley Cooper, Emma Watson, Barbara Walters, Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman, Bill O'Reilly, Willie Geist, Tamron Hall, Sarah Koenig, Gayle King, Naomi Campbell, Jeffrey Tambor and Padma Lakshmi, among others — began with honoree Tim McGraw performing "Shotgun Rider," "Overrated" ("I think the title is pretty appropriate for tonight," he joked) and "Live Like You Were Dying."
Impassioned toasts were made by a handful of honorees, including director Daniels ("I stand before you a very humble man, a very nervous man; I've been to many award shows but this place is on another level"), ballet dancer Misty Copeland ("The world was going to view me as a black woman, no matter what I decided to do," she said, toasting "to all the brown ballerinas in the future") and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos ("Latinos and millennials will decide the next election, and Latinos won't vote for any candidate that wants to deport your mother, father, friends or neighbors").
One speech from activist Obiageli Ezekwesili, of the "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign to rescue abducted Nigerian youth, was a call to action that had some guests in tears. "Nobody has the right to stop a young woman from being the best that she can be. … I am proud to have my loud mouth and to use it!" she said, then telling the powerful crowd, "You're called 'influential' — use your influence for the girls." Afterwards, a visibly affected Daniels told THR, "I felt like what I'm doing in life is insignificant in comparison to what she's doing. It made me really reevaluate me."
Throughout the evening, THR asked guests what it means to be influential today. "It is not always good, so you have to be careful," warned von Furstenberg, and Karlie Kloss reminded, "There are so many activists, politicians, entrepreneurs here tonight, and they've inspired many people, but influencing simply one person is also powerful." John Green summarized it as "making your work about something more than you." Jenji Kohan said it comes down to the size of a Twitter following. Faith Hill rooted it back to one's "authenticity to stand up for what they believe in. And Daniels professed that it's the commitment to "continue telling your truth — it's very, very, very difficult to tell the truth. It's easy to bullshit people; it's easy to lie. But to live in your truth, ready to take the bullets if people don't like it, that's influential."
Nevertheless, "influence" is inarguably clothed in comedy this year — most consistently, guests were lining up to finally meet Schumer, including Mia and Ronan Farrow, Katie Couric, Jill Solloway and Julianna Margulies. "I watch your show when I'm in my dressing room and ask, 'What will make me feel better?'" the Good Wife actress gushed. "You're sick — mother f—ing fabulous!"
So what does Schumer say is the key to such a fast-expanding and lasting reach? After briefly pausing to reflect on the question, she said, "F— everybody. Trust yourself, and don't apologize for being yourself. Find people that you can be yourself around and feel good. And not everyone is a fighter, not everyone wants to use your voice, but if you have it in you to do so, you have no excuse not to reach your full potential."