At Beefsteak, Stomachs and Hearts Leave Full
Comedy's annual culinary free-for-all includes "marinated mariachi" and a meat marriage.
"Abigail, I meat-love you, and want to meat-spend the rest of my life with you."
The romance was as warm and rare as the platters of filet at Beefsteak 5. This year's outing of the annual throwback to boozy vegan-unfriendly feasts of yore, almost a rite of passage now for Hollywood's TV comedy set, featured an impromptu wedding (of sorts) half-way through the dinner service. Abigail Keever and Conrad Wendland tied the knot before crowd wearing jus-stained smocks over their finest at downtown Los Angeles' Vibiana on Saturday night, offering up steak puns in their brief vows before feeding one another morsels of tenderloin with interlocked arms.
"I'm pretty sure the legality of it is not real, due to the fact that a steak-man officiated, but we look at it as a beautiful commitment to each other," Keever told The Hollywood Reporter a few days after the Feb. 6 banquet of beef, salmon, potatoes and nary a utensil. "It kind of perfectly encompasses us. We're silly people."
They are in good and plentiful company. Beefsteak draws a packed house of 600 to the historic 140-year-old hall, all paying at least $175 for the all-you-can-eat event and some shelling out as much as $350 for a VIP cocktail hour. All proceeds benefit the LA Food Bank, as they have since The Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman, ubiquitous comedian Eric Wareheim and ABC Studios exec Cort Cass threw the first one back in 2011. "Our goal in the beginning was to stuff our faces with meat," said Selman. "The fact that the Beefsteak has become a Los Angeles institution which donates to the LA Food Bank is gravy. Beef gravy."
As proactively unpretentious as silverware-free dining might be, Beefsteak is decidedly see and be seen. Invites went out, via Paperless Post, at the top of the year to a hand-selected group of people who find themselves in the right cross section of comedy's Venn diagram. 2016 attendees included studio brass (ABC's Patrick Moran), familiar scribes (The Office creator Greg Daniels) and head-scratching celebrity (John Mayer) — with several hundred agents and staffed writers in the mix.
Keever, a costume designer for Wareheim's Abso Lutely Productions (Nathan for You, Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories), has been there every year, both as a guest and offering her services. She and colleague Caroline Bader design the costumes for Beefsteak. (This year's theme "Marinated Mariachi," for anyone wondering why the gentleman in the five-foot-wide T-bone costume was also wearing a sombrero.) "I have a completely useless talent anywhere else in the world, but I can make a big steak costume," added Keever, whose first dance as a meat-bride was to Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again."
In addition to philanthropy, appetites and senses of whimsy, some are driven by the fact that, as comedy networking opportunities go, Beefsteak might be unrivaled. Plenty of first-timers were on hand, eagerly making introductions to the members of the old guard. That value might be especially apparent in the number of guests there with little interest in chef Neal Fraser's carnivore-targeted menu.
"I had so much broccoli last year because it was the only thing I could eat," explained one young vegetarian comedy writer, between tugs at a glass flask of pre-mixed Old Fashioned. "I burped the whole ride home, but I wouldn't miss this."
Eric Wareheim, Cort Cass, Matt Selman and Billy Harris