The British invaded Radio City Music Hall for the American debut of Amnesty International’s Secret Policeman’s Ball. The comedy benefit has been raising money for AI since 1976, when Monty Python alum John Cleese co-created the series. The celebrity-saturated roster made for a packed Music Hall as several American faves (plenty of Saturday Night Live stars, Rashida Jones, Paul Rudd, Sarah Silverman, to name a few) plus big-name Brits (Russell Brand, Eddie Izzard, and John Oliver) took the stage. Epix broadcast the event live last night, and it will be available on their site tomorrow. Until then, we single out a few of the night’s best moments and share the stars’ picks for Funniest Person Alive.
Jon Stewart appeared early in the program, kicking off a multi-sketch bit in which North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (played by Entourage alum Rex Lee) demanded to be allowed in on the jokes. Other topical references: Bill Hader dusted off his always funny Julian-Assange-by-way-of a-Bond-villain impression. Waldorf and Statler took their snark to the Twittersphere. Eddie Izzard got in a Hitler joke less than minute into the evening, and U.K. TV presenter Jimmy Carr did a bit connecting 2012, the London Olympics, Al Qaeda, and Catholic priests that I’m still wrapping my mind around. It was an event championing free speech, after all!
Blue Steel: Still very much a thing
During a bit when Ben Stiller and Little Britain’s David Walliams compared American and English parlance, Walliams explained that, in England, “blue steel” is a missile. Stiller didn’t need to say a word to prompt one of most uproarious cheers of the night. If the crowd last night was any indication, expect big opening weekend grosses for Zoolander 2 in New York. Another surprise crowd favorite: The Muppets’ Statler and Waldorf. The camera phones came out en masse during the first of many appearances by the famous curmudgeons.
Well, it was at the Music Hall
In between stand-up routines and off-the-cuff skits, mini-sets by Mumford & Sons and Coldplay kept the crowd revved up during an admittedly long show. Mumford & Sons buoyed the energy early with their hit “Little Lion Man,” and Coldplay brought out the lasers and confetti for a rousing, night-ending performance of “Viva La Vida.” Dishonorable mention: A scattered performance by the Amnestones, led by SNL’s Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen. It was like Garth and Kat but even less funny (maybe Coldplay frontman Chris Martin should have reprised his November cameo?). Since the failure of the 2011’s Emmytones, I think we can agree that you should not be naming your band anything to do with the word Tones unless you have Santana Lopez in tow.
One to watch
Brit comedian Jack Whitehall hasn’t hit it big in the States yet, but his quickie routine at the Ball was a strong start. His rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness takedown of Tyra Banks’ “nonsensical pseudo-philosophical” affectations on America’s Next Top Model was particularly impressive. It must be seen to be fully appreciated. Fortunately, you can do that here.
You knew it was coming…
This is America! Where no night is complete without shout-outs to the Kardashians and Lindsay Lohan. Stewart told his dictatorial scene partner awkwardly, “I was told I’d be doing this with a different Kim.” Before the show itself, the red carpet was abuzz with talk of Lohan’s heavily hyped fourth gig hosting SNL this weekend. “She was wonderful,” said SNL Featured Player Taran Killam. “She was game… she was the one who was, like, ‘Go to town!’ She really wants to turn it around, and she was great. I was surprised.” Alum Rachel Dratch thought Lohan-as-Rapunzel in a Real Housewives of Disney skit was hilarious, and Bobby Moynihan was impressed with Lohan’s improv skills in a hip-hop morning show sketch he wrote with Killam. (Moynihan also spoke about Jersey Shore’s most famous – and possibly pregnant? – Meatball Snooki, laughing, “I just want her to be happy. I think she’s got it pretty good.”)
NEXT: The attendees name-check their picks for Funniest Person Alive