Monday, February 9, 2009

30 Rock Wins Big at the WGA Awards

On Saturday night in both New York and Los Angeles, the Writers Guild of America simultaneously handed out its annual awards.  The East Coast ceremony boasted such big names as 30 Rock's Tina Fey, Judah Friedlander and Jack McBrayer; Law & Order's S. Epatha Merkerson, Alana de la Garza, Linus Roache and Sam Waterston; comedy legends Jerry Stiller & Anne Meara; Curb Your Enthusiasm's Susie EssmanUgly Betty's Ana Ortiz; The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi and John Oliver; Gilbert Gottfried; Bill IrwinDoubt screenwriter John Patrick Shanley; former thirtysomething star Polly Draper with her kids, "Naked Brothers" Matt and Alex Wolff; VH1's Paul F. Thompson; Oz creator Tom Fontana and Mad Men stars John Slattery and Talia Balsam.

As a "celebrity wrangler," my job was to pluck many of the presenters out of the audience and usher them backstage at just the right time.  It was a great excuse to share even a few moments with writers and actors I admire, and in the case of such greats as Stiller & Meara, have admired my whole life.

As far as winners, 30 Rock and Mad Men defeated all comers.  Early on in the night, Anne Meara referenced Tina Fey in the audience, begging for her to employ Jerry Stiller on her show, to get him out of the house.  (Although Meara let the audience know that that was merely banter scripted on her cue cards.)  Later, Tina was there to applaud as two of her writers, John Riggi and Andrew Guest, won the Best Episodic Comedy award for the episode entitled "Succession."  Tina was then up on stage with all her writers when 30 Rock took the trophy for Best Comedy Series - - and then again, accepting on behalf of Saturday Night Live, the Comedy/Variety series winner.  She was only involved on the periphery of SNL this fall, she said, when the show produced 8 live episodes (including those Thursday night specials) in the space of 6 weeks.  "It was great to see those f---ers have to work that hard," Tina had to admit.

And of course the other show which continues to have writers -- and everyone else -- abuzz is AMC's drama Mad Men.  We got to see one of that series' handsome stars, John Slattery, on stager twice on Saturday night:  first, as he and wife Talia Balsam presented the awards for Long Form Adaptation and Long Form Original, but more excitingly a second time, as Slattery again took to the stage on behalf of Mad Men, the winner for Best Drama Series.

In other "wrangling" news from my viewpoint, Ana Ortiz looked spectacularly beautiful, at I think 4 months pregnant, in a vintage gown with just a hint of baby bump under her pink skirt.  Jack McBrayer turned out to be adorably like his character, 30 Rock's NBC page Kenneth:  when I introduced myself to him and told him I'd be coming to get him later, his answer had a very Southern, very friendly and formal "sir" in it.  "Yes sir."  And of course, then there's Susie Essman (who by the way says things are going "very well" in the filming of this newest season of Curb, which started back in December.)

I had brought her backstage a little early, and so Susie was given her cue cards of her category's nominees while John Patrick Shanley was accepting the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for lifetime achievement in writing, with a speech that harkened back all the way to the drama of the ancient Greeks.  At the end, Susie, who had been studying her cards, looked up and asked me, "What the f--- did he say?"  THAT's why I love her!

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