9 Things Scene and Heard Inside Steve Martin’s AFI Life Achievement

Everybody loves Martin Short, T. J. Miller comes ready for musical chairs, and the two comics in particular made “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels laugh the hardest

Last Updated: June 5, 2015 @ 2:58 PM

Live from the Dolby, It’s Thursday Night!

Considering that Steve Martin delivered the “SNL 40” opening monologue in February, it is no surprise that Martin’s AFI Life Achievement Award had significant crossover with that cross-generational comedy homecoming earlier this year.

Of the things TheWrap saw and heard at the event at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Thursday, start with Lorne Michaels seated at Martin’s side at the head table.

The “Saturday Night Live” creator was wedged between Diane Keaton (“Father of the Bride”) and one of the honoree’s closest pals, Martin “Marty” Short. Next to the man of the evening was, of course, his wife Anne Stringield. Michaels served as the best man at their surprise 2007 wedding.

Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey migrate towards the head table, reaching out to Martin Short as Lorne Michaels looks on. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)

Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey migrate towards the head table, reaching out to Martin Short as Lorne Michaels looks on. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)

So This is What It Looks Like to Win an Oscar

The honoree, speakers, and a few hundred VIP guests at AFI’s big night actually sat on the Dolby Theatre stage, where the Oscars are handed out.

A quick turn towards the balconies in the back affords a momentary glimpse of the view that Oscar winners get when addressing a packed house during Academy Awards ceremonies. It is also the view Steve Martin had himself had when he last hosted the Oscars with Alec Baldwin in 2010.

Amigos No More?

The NYC-based Baldwin could be counted on a very short list of curious absences on Thursday night, along with third amigo Chevy Chase. While Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Ron Howard sat for taped pieces, the non-showing by Baldwin and Chase felt conspicuous.

Conan sets a bar with Steve and Nancy Carell. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)

Conan sets a bar with Steve and Nancy Carell. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)

The Wildest and Craziest Guys (and Girls)

As TheWrap’s Awards Editor Steve Pond reports, a machine gun fire of comedy and comedians flowed for about three hours on Thursday night.  After Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Silverman, Mel Brooks, Queen Latifah, Conan O’Brien and Jack Black, one guest told me that her cheeks hurt.

Fey’s opening speech, a clip from “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” Carl Reiner proving the provenance of his Jonny Carson tie with a close up of the “JC” initials, and Short’s roast of Martin got the loudest laughs.

Fred Armisen, Lorne Michaels, and Netflix's Ted Sarandos/ (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Fred Armisen, Lorne Michaels, and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos/ (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Mel Brooks (right) presented to Martin. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Mel Brooks (right) presented to Martin. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

A series of candid personal photos of Martin with famous pals, and one with the late Robin Williams in particular, drew emotional “ahhhs” from the crowd.

Anne Stringfield shoots a photo of her husband, the man of the night. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

Anne Stringfield shoots a photo of her husband, the man of the night. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

Martin Short’s Fan Club President: Jeff Garlin

During Short’s late-in-the-program takedown of his good buddy (sample lines: “Steve is so white, he looks like someone put a toupee on a urinal,” and Martin’s secret to “longevity in the entertainment industry is to look like you’re in your 70’s in your 30’s”) drew an enthusiastic response across all seating tiers, most notably from Jeff Garlin.

Seated over Martin’s shoulder, Garlin’s laugh quakes will read on camera when the show airs June 13.

Jay Roach, Susanna Hoffs, architect Linda Brettler, and Matthew Weiner welcome Martin Short down to their table. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)

Jay Roach, Susanna Hoffs, architect Linda Brettler, and Matthew Weiner welcome Martin Short down to their table. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)

Let’s Get Some Face Time

As for other seat plotting, late-night host O’Brien sat next to Kevin Reilly, president of TNT and TBS, the channel airing the special next Saturday. Still on his “Mad Men” victory lap, Matthew Weiner shared a table with Jay Roach and Bangles member Susanna Hoffs, and then huddled with fellow AMC kingpin Vince Gilligan as the dinner broke up.

Michael Sheen and Sarah Silverman. Silverman  also presented at the Mel Brooks tribute in 2013. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Michael Sheen and Sarah Silverman. Silverman also presented at the Mel Brooks tribute in 2013. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Sarah Silverman and boyfriend Michael Sheen were spitting distance from Carl Reiner, seated side by side, after Silverman had passed through the arrivals interviews and greeted the bleacher fans solo. AFI chairman Sir Howard Stringer anchored the front row table closest to the podium next to veteran executive Bob Daly, the guy AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale says “picks up the phone for AFI every day.”

Martin put truth to the “phone” claim, saying that Daly himself called to ask him to be the honoree, joking that the first question was “Are you available on June 4?”

Dan Aykroyd and Donna Aykroyd with, from left: Riko Hirai, President and CEO of Sony Corporation Kazuo Hirai, Sony Chairman Osamu Nagayama, (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

Dan Aykroyd and Donna Aykroyd with, from left: Riko Hirai, President and CEO of Sony Corporation Kazuo Hirai, Sony Chairman Osamu Nagayama, (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

Tricked You: The Back Row and The Front Row Are Both The Best

AFI smartly set up the Dolby with the honoree’s head dais in the back, doubling the available “best seats” in the house to include both the front and back rows.  AFI also looks after their corporate partners aggressively at these events by seating partners like Audi (where I sat) just outside the shadow of the spotlight on Martin throughout the night.

Jenna Elfman, Audi's Jeri Wald, and Mike Cagle. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

Jenna Elfman, Audi’s Jeri Wald, and Mike Cagle. (Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI)

Jenna Elfman joined that table, as Natasha Lyonne, Maya Rudolph, Brad Garrett, Fred Armisen, and studio heads like Sue Kroll, Alan Horn, and Jim Gianopulos filled the floor.

Kate Gorney and T.J. Miller cut through the tourist gauntlet to enter the Dolby. (Mikey Glazer)

Kate Gorney and T.J. Miller cut through the tourist gauntlet to enter the Dolby. (Mikey Glazer)

Who Made Lorne Laugh?

Of all the comics, Michaels laughed the hardest at Fey and Martin himself.  Recent Critics Choice winner T.J. Miller continues to be the hot newer kid on the block, getting a shout out from Amy Poehler on stage, as well as a visit from Kevin Nealon, another comic at Martin’s table, who did not make a presentation.

(Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

(Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Martin and Brooks stuck around to make a cameo at the after party upstairs at Hollywood & Highland, as the few remaining Audis dotting the shut-down lanes on Hollywood Boulevard peeled off.

Hollywood Nightlife, Part “Deux”

Meanwhile, a few blocks away on Cahuenga, the former Sunset Room came back to life as Le Jardin. It’s been a few economic cycles since there has been a grand nightclub opening, the kind with a red carpet and unpaid, organic celebrities (see: Aaron Paul, Emily VanCamp) turning up.

With veterans providing a familiar welcome — the Batman and Robin duo of Pantera Sarah and Zen Freeman on Thursday nights — and the producer of web video series “Guest List Only” actually on the ropes with a paper list in hand, it was a reunion for those whose credit card statements track the history of the ownership group through the White Lotus and Cabana days in the early 2000s. Samantha Ronson spun “Lose Yourself” on Thursday, setting back the clock appropriately.

For those who have been waiting for a high-walled, open-air, dance under the stars at the successor to Les Deux, there is a big summer season ahead.