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Late-night host Conan O’Brien paid tribute to the man who started his career in television during the Autism Speaks Celebrity Chef Gala on Friday night in Los Angeles. The 10th anniversary celebration of the organization honored co-founders Bob Wright — former NBCUniversal chairman and CEO — and his wife, Suzanne, with a humanitarian award and treated guests to a one-of-a-kind personal chef experience.
O’Brien lauded his former boss, joking onstage about his old network, which is now home to Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers.
“When Bob was in charge of NBC, NBC was kicking ass and their crowning jewel was Must See TV Thursdays,” said O’Brien. “Since Bob left, things were a little different. Now they have Could-Be-Worse Wednesdays.”
Before hosting the evening, Conan told The Hollywood Reporter on the “blue” carpet that with the recent talk show host switch-ups, he feels late night is now in a good place. Trevor Noah recently succeeded John Stewart on The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert took over Late Show after David Letterman‘s retirement.
“I think Stephen Colbert is doing an amazing job,” said O’Brien. “All I’ve heard is that Trevor Noah has just been a very smooth transition. They have a really good operation at The Daily Show, so it was a very smooth handoff.”
Added O’Brien: “I’m usually impressed that we’re in an era now where everyone is playing to their strength. When I see people, I enjoy them because I think they they are doing it their way. It’s nice. We’re in an era of television, especially late night, where people like John Oliver have a different take and it’s really nice. Not everyone is doing the same thing.”
The real treat of the evening was the specialty dining experience that O’Brien dubbed “Benihana for the one percent.” Guests including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Furious 7’s Jordana Brewster were treated to unique four-course meals prepared at their tables by L.A.’s top chefs including Brandon Kida, executive chef of power lunch spot Hinoki & the Bird and Osteria Mozza’s Nancy Silverton. The opening reception hors d’oeuvres were catered by Wolfgang Puck.
Stephen Curry’s wife Ayesha Curry and Al Roker served as special sous chefs. Michael Voltaggio from Ink restaurant, who says he chooses his charity events carefully, chose to participate and prepare caviar sprinkled with cauliflower snow, white fish and wagyu beef cheeks along with liquid nitrogen ice cream for dessert.
Garcetti acknowledged in his opening remarks that Bob and Suzanne Wright’s grandson inspired them to establish Autism Speaks. The organization has since collaborated with Google to launch a groundbreaking online portal, MSSNG, which uploads the largest database of DNA sequencing of those affected by autism to a digital cloud that can be accessed by scientists for further research.
Pink and songwriter Billy Mann performed a song they wrote together titled “Beam Me Up.” She later donated $50,000 to Autism Speaks that will go toward providing iPads with special learning tools designed to help children affected by autism.
When O’Brien presented Bob and Suzanne with their humanitarian award, Suzanne recalled memories of asking O’Brien to introduce Johnny Carson at Bob’s 50th birthday party and spoke on the importance of the advancement in treatment for autism.
“Conan, you went to seize the moment,” said Suzanne Wright while accepting her humanitarian award with her husband. “And I think that’s what this evening is all about — seizing the moment for our loved ones with autism and always working from a special place of unconditional love, because love and compassion fuel and drive determination.”
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