“I’m working on a new character… Larry, the David Guy,” Zach Galifianakis deadpanned from the stage at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
He was only through fourteen minutes of stand-up Monday night that provided a comedy tangent — and the highlight — on a night otherwise aimed at the sober business of preventing another Sandy Hook.
“I grew up on the streets of the Grove,” Galfianakis added, flipping casually through a spiral-bound notebook, either pretending to, or actually, workshopping new material.
It was a few miles (and hours) tonally removed from the sober beginning of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s program, when newsreel packages from Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., set the tone for the night that would honor comedy writer-director Adam McKay.
McKay also happens to distribute Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” and is a vocal NRA critic.
Meanwhile, the Brady Center serves as a foil to the gun lobby, trying to “change the conversation” from a linear less guns versus more guns debate and instead towards pushing for universal background checks and enhanced safety education. Past Brady Center honorees from the entertainment industry have included Showtime’s Matt Blank, Piers Morgan, and “Modern Family” creator Steve Levitan.
Although known for goofball hits like “Step Brothers,” “Talladega Nights,” “The Dictator”, and currently awaiting word on an NBC comedy pilot “Bad Judge” with Kate Walsh, McKay’s also the guy quoted in the Washington Post offering a tear down of the National Rifle Association’s political tactics. McKay also discussed whether Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren could, or should, challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 democratic nomination.
“(The NRA’s) Wayne LaPierre is obviously just an old, crumpled-up road apple who’s half out of his mind and just wants money and power,” McKay said in Monday’s Post, a quote highlighted by Brady Center president Dan Gross in his speech.
“Use me in any way you need,” McKay told TheWrap of his instructions to the Brady Center. “I will invite everyone.”
“Fortunately with this cause, it’s a passionate cause,” he said. “People didn’t even blink. After Sandy Hook, I just don’t think anyone’s messing around with this. It’s a national shame. It has to change. All my friends showed up.”
Those friends included Steve Carell, who approached the stage to inspect and bid on a mundane conch shell signed by both McKay and his Gary Sanchez Productions partner Will Ferrell, igniting a war that the comic-heavy crowd ironically stoked in to the hottest contested auction of the night. It went for $2,000.
Moby performed the rare electric guitar set, making the crowd sing the trumpet solo in a cover of “Ring of Fire.” He said he likes required sing alongs at these types of events because it makes everyone uncomfortable.
Before reclaiming the mic for the “Jason Bourne” theme he remixed for each installment, Moby tried out freelance auctioneering, cobbling together a home concert “super group” with himself, host Tom Lennon, Carell, and McKay, throwing on $5,000 of his own to the $14,000 winning bid.
Other McKay friends in the room included Garry Shandling; David Koechner (who berated the Beverly Hills Hotel’s catered fried chicken and mashed potatoes as “hobo food”); Billy Eichner (whose under-appreciated Fuse show is produced by “Funny or Die”); Howard Bragman; first lady of L.A. Elaine Wakeland; and producer Jason Goldberg and his wife Soleil Moon Frye.
Considering Goldberg’s background, ushering in the modern era of surprise cameras (“Punk’d), he could have been one of many to appreciate a new face and potential star in the room.
A young woman named Kelley Byrdsong spoke, telling the story of how she witnessed her father get shot, fight to live, and die as a victim of gun violence when she was ten. Now an adult, she screened a video taken a few weeks ago of her ambushing several lobbying meetings between gun-friendly United States Senators and gun lobbyists on Capitol Hill, crashing the meetings to ask why they do not support background checks that could have thwarted her father’s killer from acquiring the murder weapon.
It was a powerful moment, even after following a speech from the mother of a Sandy Hook victim.
“This all boils down to money,” McKay told TheWrap. “When the money stops going in to Congress’ hands for the election, they’ll start voting in sane legislation.”
Despite the serious tone, there was still humor (“gallows humor,” celebrity divorce lawyer Laura Wasser called it) peeking through beyond Galifianakis and the comedy mafia in the room, as Ferrell lobbed one in from afar.
His program ad read: “Adam, You are an amazing friend with a limitless depth of compassion. Also, can we get reimbursed for our table at some point?”
Another industry-heavy crowd will break bread together later this week.
Two former judges on TV singing shows will be putting their free time to good use when they perform at Nancy Davis’ annual “Race to Erase MS” gala at the Century Plaza this Friday night, May 2.
The crowd that gives seven figures for multiple sclerosis research always gets a real (not a corporate) performance at the Friday night gathering, like last year when Elton John did an eight-song set that included “Tiny Dancer”, “Rocketman,” and “Your Song”. Steven Tyler may similarly go long, as he is gearing up for a summer tour with Slash.
Meanwhile, “Idol” holdover Keith Urban is gearing up for his off season, returning to HSN with a collection of guitars tied to his “Light the Fuse” tour on Sunday May 18.
Earlier in the day on Friday, Viola Davis, Emily Deschanel, and Cheryl Saban will be among those breaking ground in Santa Monica on a new Stuart House, the Rape Foundation’s treatment center for sexually abused children.