WGA Awards: What Happened at the New York Ceremony

Ken Goodman
Bill Moyers, Larry Wilmore and Norman Lear

Host Larry Wilmore's jokes included digs at Brian Williams, NBC's 'The Slap' and Kanye West, while Bill Moyers and Paul Haggis honored Norman Lear.

Kicking off the Writers Guild of America, East ceremony on Saturday at the Edison Ballroom in a snowy New York City was The Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore, who emceed the evening.

Wilmore, in a nod to NBC News' recent anchor controversy, was excited to "honor the great creators of fiction: Wes Anderson … Brian Williams …" and joked of the Ballroom ceremony's scheduling: "What are the odds a bunch of writers would be free on Valentine's Day?!"

After poking fun at the nominated films, he said of the NYC-shot show, The Knick, "It's the only New York Knick anyone actually wants to watch," before clarifying, "I realize this is a group of writers: the Knicks are basketball, the guys who shoved you in your lockers in high school." Of the NBC's new controversial miniseries, he pondered, "What is the second season of The Slap gonna look like? Oh my god, he slapped an old lady!"

Throughout the ceremony, Wilmore also included bits about the odd packaging of screeners — how the Foxcatcher envelope was as creepy as the movie itself, and that Sony would send better ones "if you stopped sending emails about what black movies black presidents should be watching" — and what the 100-percent real titles of projects would be.

He'd call House of Cards, "'Who's Kevin Spacey talking to?' It's been on for two seasons and I still don't know!" and Boyhood, "Where's the masturbation?' Twelve years of a boy's life told over three hours, and not one tug scene. I almost tugged out of protest." He also joked that he did during the Black Lives Matter protest coverage and "couldn't do the Hands Up thing for other reasons. … You guys are sure this is not being televised, right?!"

After warning the night's winners — "If you're up here receiving your award, and you see a black man approaching you rapidly, don't worry, it's Kanye [West] … just yell, 'George Bush hates black people'" — Morgan Spurlock, Sarah Silverman, Judith Light, Robert Klein and more presented the night's awards. "I want to thank the people for writing the fake the news, for challenging us on our crap," said Nelson Mandela: A Man Who Changed the World winner Lisa Ferri, and 60 Minutes' Nowhere to Go winner Oriana Zill de Granados thanked the late Bob Simon: "Unfortunately he can't be with us tonight or any other night, but he's looking down on us." The Last Week Tonight with John Oliver team thanked their host "for being great, and he's been great every week since [their debut]," and the General Hospital team laughed onstage, "If these don't get us laid on Valentine's Day, I don't know what else will!"

Among special awards to Jeremy Pikser, Megan Rico and Liz Essley Whyte were tributes to Norman Lear and Paul Haggis. "It's nice when you can say something about the structure of society and still get some laughs. … He can find something marvelous in what the rest of us see as mundane," said Bill Moyers of Lear. "No patriot I know has done more to uphold the Constitution and guarantee freedom of religion and freedom from religion." Lear, ditching his pre-written speech, said to a standing ovation, "I'm so touched. I'm really a helluva guy! … I have 92 years on record spending every moment of my life to get here."

Haggis — who received the honor for his "unflinching commitment to complexity and authenticity," said presenter Edward Zwick — told the audience, "I f—ing love awards. I love them because I put them right close to where I like to write, and very so often, whenever I need to, I look over and say. 'Oh look, in 1986 I was good. And that would be funny if it weren't so true!"

He also thanked his former boss, Lear, who could "take this society and make it with all its warts entertaining, and condemn us and forgive us. … I learned not only how to write but why we should write, and I think that's most important." He closed by thanking his family: "We give up so much of our lives to write, to create, and other people always pay the price."

The Bananagrams-sponsored NYC ceremony continued a block away at The Attic.

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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