File this under the category of "Why didn’t we think of this before?" Twenty years in, Comedy Central hosted its first awards telecast Sunday night, inaugurating its Comedy Awards even as its corporate cousins MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, TV Land and Spike have had successful kudocasts for years. Using that corporate synergy, the show was simulcast across a swath of those networks.
Was it worth the wait? The show definitely had some fun, and funny moments–and broke some of the rules of televised awards shows to comic effect. Getting right into it without an opening sketch, the network’s Jon Stewart–looking a little ragged around the edges–presented the award for best comedy film to the little-seen "The Other Guys.” Suddenly, scores of people including Will Ferrell and Adam McKay bounded up on the stage to accept the award–a sight gag that mocked the Academy Awards’ recent controversies over the number of producers on a project.
The audience was a who’s who of current kings and queens of comedy from Steve Carell and Will Farrell to Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig. On stage, the show-stealing Steven Colbert appeared with a drink in hand and later got into a tussle with Jon Stewart–literally tossing him offstage after "The Daily Show" won the award for best late-night comedy series. Colbert stole the statuette and announced that he was accepting the award in honor of "every person whose soul has been crushed by Jon Stewart over the past eight years."
Someone who hasn’t been seen much over the past eight years, legendary comedian Eddie Murphy, was presented with the icon award by his self-proclaimed biological son, Tracy Morgan, who raved that Murphy was the one who took stand-up comedy to rock star status.
After a series of clips from his most memorable work in television and film, Murphy–to a standing ovation, of course–took the stage and remarked that this was the sort of award given to an old guy. In what probably came as a surprise to many people, he revealed that he was about to turn 50 and had been trying to make people laugh for 35 years, inspired by comedy greats like Richard Pryor, Charlie Chaplin, Bill Cosby and George Carlin.
Murphy didn’t say anything amusing, or if he did, it was left on the cutting room floor, as the program was actually taped March 26 at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
That means Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, among others, have been walking around for weeks knowing they won–Fey as comedy actress for the film "Date Night" with Steve Carell, and Baldwin toting home yet more hardware for his role on perennial awards favorite "30 Rock."
The "South Park" guys, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, in winning against animated competition including "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy,” put the whole thing in perspective by commenting that winning an award from their parent network was like being student of the month when your mom is the teacher. Meanwhile, they are rocking Broadway with their "Book of Mormon," so expect to see some Tony action for this pair.
No comedy show would be complete without a shout-out to comedy legend David Letterman, and the late-night star got his by becoming the first recipient of the Johnny Carson Award for Comedic Excellence, presented by another comedy great, Bill Murray.
Jon Cryer used his moment in the spotlight on the show to address the elephant in the room, his convoluted relationship with Charlie Sheen, who had called him “a turncoat, a traitor and a troll”–but who has recently taken to praising his "Two and a Half Men" co-star. Cryer did this through a gag involving dancers and rappers and came out, ahem, winning.
A song called "I Just Had Sex” with a handful of repetitive lines as lyrics is obviously a joke tune. But it got the full throttle awards show song and dance number treatment with rapper Akon, Jorma Taccone and “SNL” regular Andy Samberg crowing about how good they felt, with a full complement of scantily clad dancers providing the eye candy. Points scored.
You won’t be seeing that sort of goofy song performed on the Emmy Awards. Nor would you really want to. But it was a perfect fit for these Comedy Awards, a fine first edition that can only get better with age.