You probably had to be there, but Larry David said the Writers Guild issued him a death sentence in handing him the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television.
It was the culmination of a hilarious acceptance speech at the WGA Awards in Los Angeles Saturday in which David revealed that his mother’s dreams for him were to become a mailman, that he’d long ago scouted out a place on 44th St. on which to camp out when he became homeless — and that he hates writing.
Humor was a hallmark of the evening, beginning with host Seth McFarlane’s opening song-and-dance number, which profanely mocked anyone in the business who thinks they can do it without writers. Chris Rock brought down the house with his riff on Tiger Woods’ apology, Billy Crystal razzed Barry Levinson for not hiring him, but a different kind of Jew — named Mickey Rourke — for “Diner” and Levinson in turn thanked comedy god Mel Brooks in accepting the Laurel Award for Screen. Naturally, Jason Alexander (David’s thinly disguised alter ego as George Costanza) killed with his intro of David, joking that lauding him was tantamount to seeing Mel Gibson on the next Chabad telethon — and saying he thanked God for the “Seinfeld” blessing every day.
Cementing its critically acclaimed status with two trophies, the writing staff of ABC’s “Modern Family” walked away with the award for best new series and tied with “30 Rock” for episodic comedy.
And it was “Rock’s” time to shine again — for the third year in a row — as it picked up the trophy for best comedy series. Never one to take anything for granted, though, Tina Fey accepted the award in New York by saying, "Network TV is seen by so few people that it is as precious as live theater," and reminded the audience, "Our special moment may not last forever."
Tina, let’s hope there is an extended shelf life for you and the other “Rock” talents.
“Mad Men” continued its heavily awarded reign, taking best drama series for the second year running. "I’m really hungry, I can’t drink, I’ve gotta pee and I have low blood sugar,” said Matthew Weiner in accepting the award for his writing staff — a reference to the fact that in order to coordinate the East Coast/West Coast ceremonies, the folks in Southern California had been drinking for nearly four hours at that point, with dinner still to be served. ("Curb Your Enthusiasm" regular Susie Essman hosted at the Millennium Broadway Hotel’s Hudson Theatre in New York.)
The writers of "House" took the episodic drama trophy for their two-parter "Broken." Coincidentally, star Hugh Laurie had a presenter’s role after that award was given, saying he had been prepared to unleash a torrent of hate if his show had lost — as he fully expected.
And in a very tough call in which I agree with the decision, guild voters just couldn’t decide which show was better written, so there was a tie between the staff of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," led by head writer Steve Bodow, and "Saturday Night Live," headed by Seth Meyers, for best comedy/variety series.
"I want to thank Jeff Zucker for having nothing to do with our show and network," said "The Daily Show’s" Tim Carvell from the New York ceremony.
The NBC Universal chief was also a target of Chris Rock, who called him "the Elgin Baylor of TV"—a joke that left many in the audience a bit confused, but nonetheless amused.
For longform original, “Georgia O’Keeffe,” written by Michael Cristofer, edged out the popular “Grey Gardens” to take the trophy, and for longform adaptation, the well-decorated “Taking Chance” got the prize for its teleplay by Lieutenant Colonel Michael R. Strobl, USMC (Ret.) and Ross Katz, based on the short story by Strobl.
Other highlights: Morgan Freeman (the new James Earl Jones of the voiceover world) presenting the Paul Selvin Award to “Invictus” screenwriter Anthony Peckham, and Rock and Ali LeRoi’s spiel before Carl Gottlieb accepted the Morgan Cox Award for long-time service to the WGA.
(For a complete list of winners, click here.)