You know you’re in Canada when a shmuck like me is allowed into a star-studded comedy awards ceremony and the security guard actually apologizes for making me wait in line.
One of the premiere events at this year’s Just For Laughs Festival is the Awards Luncheon, which honored Modern Family Creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd for Comedy Writers of the Year, Ken Jeong for Breakout Comedy Star of the Year, Paul Feig for Comedy Director of the Year, Garry Shandling for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Louis C.K. for Comedy Person of the Year.
Maybe “premiere event” is a little too strong. As MC and Comedy Central Roast mainstay Jeffrey Ross described the event’s setting, “It’s like the Oscars of Comedy if the Oscars were held at noon at a mall in Canada.”
The first recipient to take the stage was Steve Levitan, presented by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet. His speech was short and humble.
“I can think of nothing worse than having to give a speech after being named comedy writer of the year,” he said. "I didn’t start out in stand-up. Like any comedy writer, I was at home writing a Family Ties spec and masturbating to Mallory."
Next up was Ken Jeong. David Wain, who directed Jeong in Role Models, presented his award. “He is the Margaret Cho of his generation,” Wain said. Jeong’s speech was also short. He thanked all the directors who took a chance on him (Judd Apatow, David Wain, Dan Harmon and Todd Phillips) and talked about all he wants to do is become a better actor.
Paul Feig kept the theme going of giving short, sweet and endearing award speeches. Feig’s frequent collaborator Judd Apatow presented via video feed a montage of Feig’s early stand-up work as well as a highlight reel of some the hit shows Feig has worked on as a director, including Bored to Death, 30 Rock, Nurse Jackie and The Office, among others.
In his taped speech, Apatow apologized for not recognizing Feig’s talent as a director earlier in the run they had together creating Freaks and Geeks. Feig directed the series’ final episode. “I’d like to say Paul, I’m sorry,” he said. “I screwed you over.” Feig’s speech was gracious, and he thanked Apatow and Shandling for giving him his first shot in show business.
Following Feig was Garry Shandling, who received the ceremony’s first standing ovation after, true to form, he approached the stage to present himself the Lifetime Achievement Award. Shandling was the sole recipient who performed actual bits during his speech. “I was with a woman and she said ‘Not in the ass.’ I told her ‘Hey it’s my thumb and my ass. If you don’t like it, go in the other room.”
Shandling talked at length and was introspective and self-deprecating about his long career in show business. It was also mockingly self-aggrandizing, as he took credit for creating Louie, directing Bridesmaids, and creating ice hockey. The star and creator of HBO’s seminal The Larry Sanders Show closed with some advice for the artists in attendance.
“If you can’t get laid at the Hyatt Regency bar, you’re a fucking loser,” he said.
Ross couldn’t resist the opportunity to roast Shandling a bit when his speech ended. “It’s ironic that your speech also lasted a lifetime,” he said.
The ceremony’s other standing ovation was reserved for Louis C.K., who received Comedy Person of the Year. C.K. took the stage in serious mode, despite the strange introduction from Tom Green, who talked about as youngsters, the two vacationed together in Namibia and went on wild boar hunts. C.K. thanked Shandling and Ross for cursing in front of his children, who were in attendance. He has an affinity for Montreal and talked about how Candada is just a funny country.
“America is not as funny as Canada. We have this thing about greatness and that’s not funny,” he said. “Canada’s like, ‘yeah fuck it.’ And that’s just funny.”
C.K. even got a little emotional as he thanked his manager Dave Becky for giving him everything he has. But his speech wasn’t all serious. He reminisced about his early years at the festival and took a shot at his friend and fellow stand-up comic Bobby Slayton, who C.K. said was a dick to him during his early years.
“I used to watch Bobby Slayton and think I’ll never be that good,” he said. “Now I’m better than him.”
Phil Davidson is a writer whose work has appeared in um, well, Splitsider.