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The second annual Comedy Awards were held at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Saturday, April 28, complete with red carpet and white tablecloths for the industry luminaries within view of the roving audience cameras. The full broadcast takes place on Comedy Central Sun 6 at 9pm, but here are some of our impressions from the back of the house during the live event:
• First presenter Chris Rock set the tone, saying, "They televise this, but they don't do the Nobel Peace Prize?" and lamenting the lack of black comics in the category he presented, Comedy Special of the Year. (Louis C.K. won and, taking the award, said, "Thanks, black guy.")
• With Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in the audience, Chevy Chase, Norm Macdonald and Colin Quinn sat behind a Weekend Update desk for a tribute. Chase offhandedly talked about what sparked the original segment while failing to remember Seth Meyers's name; Quinn read the acceptance speech for an award he didn't win; and Macdonald tried to provide Jon Stewart with overtly hacky material about solving the energy crisis by harnessing the hot air created by D.C. politicians. Weird.
• Of the many acceptance speeches, of course, many were funny. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo went from silently, covetously wrangling over their shared award for Best Comedy Screenplay to wrestling and rolling across the stage for it. The Parks and Recreation cast, who won for Best Comedy Series, played on the event's short history: "It's a real honor to join the ranks of all the incredible show that has won this award throughout the last one year." Paul Feig asked Will Arnett to read a mock-scathing salvo after Feig won Best Comedy Director in Film (for Bridesmaids); it ended with Feig using the microphone-shaped award like a phallus to demonstrate what sort of treatment his wife would receive when they got home.
• Louis C.K. won four of the five awards for which he was nominated—both for stand-up and for his FX show, Louie. After the third win, he told the crowd how nice it was to be repeatedly recognized. After the fourth, he snapped: "I hate this now. It's like a fucking nightmare getting this thing." And examining the award, he said, "It's the same one!"
• The final award of the night, the Johnny Carson Comedy Award, went to the playfully irascible Don Rickles, who Jon Stewart called "the patron saint of comedy." His speech was an endearing, heartfelt ramble full of good-natured barbs ("I'm the biggest name here!") and teasing confessions ("I want to go home"), ending the evening on a sweet note.
• This year felt less polished and mapped out than last year's ceremony—the bits were half-hearted in comparison to 2011's big production numbers (the Lonely Island's performance of "I Just Had Sex") and pranks (Will Ferrell and Adam McKay inviting an ungodly number of "producers" to the stage). Perhaps it's just the initial rush of doing something new peeling off; in any case, we're happy for any excuse to remind people that comedy is a skill and an art, and that it's worthwhile to recognize the people who make all those hours of entertainment look effortless.