Webby Awards: CNN's Van Jones, Women's March Organizers Urge People to Join Forces
The Joel McHale-hosted awards show, where speeches must be limited to five words, also honored Gillian Anderson and the host of the 'Missing Richard Simmons' podcast, among others.
Monday night's Webby Awards ended with a standing ovation for the organizers of January's Women's March, who were honored with the social movement of the year award.
The people behind the movement took the stage and triumphantly declared, "Women, look what we did," in keeping with the Webbys' rule that acceptance speeches can only be five words long.
It was a memorable political moment that capped a show in which CNN's Van Jones urged people to reject partisan labels and come together; host Joel McHale joked about saying goodbye to "Princess Leia, HBO's Girls and American democracy"; and there were multiple references to "fake news" and even the "failing New York Times," from crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz.
Webbys executive director David-Michel Davies told The Hollywood Reporter that he saw this year's honorees, Jones and the Women's March co-chairs in particular, as those who were using the internet for good and to make a difference in a politically divisive year.
"I think no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on or what your beliefs are, everyone can agree the last year was tumultuous. These are serious times we're in and it felt kind of shitty for the internet on some level — so many negative things," he said. "But these are people who recognize what's going on and they're using the internet to really stand up and do something about it. I think that's really cool. I think overall we're really trying to celebrate here tonight."
The Women's March co-chairs (specifically Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland) said the internet was a crucial part of their effort to organize the massive January event.
"For people who had never organized before and were regular everyday folks, the internet was such a key part of this movement because we didn't know how to get involved," Bland told THR. "While we might have been a part of these on-the-ground movements before, without the internet component of this and the ability for us to go viral in a way that would bring people together not just across the country but across the world, that allowed us to really set the tone for resistance in this administration — but not just that, it's going to continue beyond that. We have to dismantle systems of oppression in this country, and we have to stand together with people like Linda and Carmen and Tamika Mallory, who've been fighting the good fight for years, and that was only possible because of the social media aspect of the march."
Sarsour added that it was remarkable that their internet organizing efforts translated into large-scale human demonstrations.
"It was amazing, it was humbling that we were able to organize people outside physically on the streets, which oftentimes is the struggle," she said. "Can you get people who are active online active out on the streets? And we were able do that."
The group was enthusiastically received by the guests at New York's Cipriani Wall Street, and Sarsour said that even as the January march fades further into the past, the organization is focused on keeping people politically engaged going forward, particularly in the 2018 midterm elections.
"I think our president is doing a pretty good job of keeping people motivated, so he's actually very helpful to us as we continue to stay engaged with the people who came to the Women's March," Sarsour told THR. "We will be focusing on an electoral strategy that is about supporting more women and progressives to run for office that align with us on our principles and also mass voter registration and voter engagement. We really believe that women are going to lead our country in 2018 through the polls and really kind of win back some of those seats to at least maintain some of the privileges and rights that we have right now."
Jones' speech ("Enough red, enough blue, purple") was both a tribute to Prince and a call for political unity.
"Prince was a very close friend of mine, so I wanted to do something to honor him," Jones told THR. "And I also do think that we've gone beyond partisan. We're now hyper-tribal in our politics, so I think we have enough red in terms of Republican extremism, we probably have enough blue in terms of liberal hysteria against [Donald] Trump, so we need to figure out some way to come together. If we came together, it'd be purple."
Earlier, on the red carpet, Jones explained how he thinks people on opposite sides of the political spectrum can work together.
"People talk about bridging the divide. I don't know if the divide needs to be bridged, I just think it has to be better understood," he said. "I think there's this idea that if somebody just said the right thing or somebody just asked the right questions, we'd all get along. That's not the point. It's a democracy. You're supposed to disagree, but you don't have to disrespect. You're supposed to disagree, but you should also try to understand. And I think we've stopped even trying to understand. We throw our hands up at each other, we call each other socialists and racists, and yet we're not going to leave the country. We're all still going to be here tomorrow."
The night wasn't all about politics, though. The Fall star Gillian Anderson, on crutches, accepted the best actress Webby from her fellow X-Files star David Duchovny, with his arm in a sling.
"It was hilarious. The whole thing was hilarious," said Anderson of Duchovny's presentation. "The fact that we're both crippled right now is so f—ing funny. And we're about to start five and a half months of filming, so we're going to have to heal really quickly. It was just hilarious between that clip and his speech and us both being invalids, it made my year so far."
While Duchovny is dealing with a shoulder injury, Anderson said she "jumped in a shallow pool and fractured my heel."
Missing Richard Simmons podcast host Dan Taberski, who won the people's voice award for documentary podcast, meanwhile, acknowledged Simmons' absence in his speech ("Richard couldn't be here tonight") and talked about his headline-making search for the fitness guru.
"I'm just super happy that people think that Richard Simmons is as badass as I think he is," Taberski told THR.
As for the possibility of Simmons returning to public life, Taberski said, "We'll see. I hope he does whatever makes him happy. But I'm certainly interested to see what he does next."
Steve Buscemi accepted the best actor Webby from his fellow Horace and Pete star Louis CK, saying, "Gratitude. Honored. Louis, love you." The artist of the year Webby went to Solange, who sang, "I got five on it.”
Other memorable speeches came from Chef's Table director and executive producer Andrew Fried, who declared, "not food porn, food romance" and the host of the Hilarious World of Depression podcast, John Moe, who observed, "Depression sucks. Jokes help. Yay!"
When asked how he came up with his speech, Fried said, "I had some alt ideas. I was workshopping some things. I was going to take a jab at some of our other Netflix shows. I was texting with David Gelb — who is, of course, the show creator and my fellow executive producer who's in Spain right now shooting another episode — but we went back and forth and ultimately I landed on this one, which is sort of a motto for our show, that I think David said the first time."
Meanwhile, Moe also said he spent a lot of time coming up with his speech, particularly on his flight to New York.
"[I was] trying to think of different combinations about getting help and making jokes because a lot of our show is about the power of humor to demystify things. So I wanted to pack a lot into five words," he said. "But then I came up with, 'Depression sucks, jokes help,' but then I had a word left over I had a word to burn. So I just threw in 'Yay!' because that's how I was feeling about this whole thing."
Watch the full Webby Awards show below and check out more individual speeches and moments here.