They paid $459 each to attend the dinner at New York’s Cipriani’s Wall Street – and they had already paid about half of that to even be considered for a nomination — but the 500 or so nominees at the Webby Awards Monday night were not complaining.
The famous five-word acceptance speeches were mostly amusing. Dinner was served amid a loose, upbeat atmosphere, with attendees – a few in jeans — table-hopping and congregating at the bar during breaks in the ceremony.
Hosting the evening for the second year in a row, Seth Meyers, head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” had some wickedly good lines, many making fun of the Webbys themselves. Kicking off the evening, he said, “If you like the Oscars but wish there were fewer celebrities and more awards, this is the night for you.”
At every turn, he mocked the tech world. Noting the importance of the Obama campaign’s tech savviness in texting the news of Obama’s vice presidential pick at 3 a.m.: “But really, if you are texting me at 3 a.m., you better be someone who wants to hook up.”
“Before the Internet,” Meyers concluded, “if you wanted to see Paris Hilton’s vagina, you had to buy her a drink.”
Winners were announced in May. Only a few dozen of the more than a hundred winners were chosen at random to present their five word speeches during the event Monday. The rest made speeches that were videotaped earlier, to be made available online at www.webbyawards.com.
Some winners who got to go on stage drew loud laughter, including the Onion: “Free all attractive political prisoners.”
Arianna Huffington, who had conducted a contest on the Huffington Post to choose her acceptance speech, went with "I didn’t kill newspapers, OK?"
Cameron Diaz made a surprise appearance to present the special award for Webby Person of the Year to Jimmy Fallon. “I came in late — can we swear?” Diaz asked. Told that she could, she said, “he’s just a funny mother f— er isn’t he?”
Fallon bounded on stage to give his acceptance speech: “Thank God Conan got promoted.”
There were serious moments, too, including Charlie Rose introducing a lifetime achievement award to Internet pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, recognized as artist of the year for web-friendly moves like giving away an album for free on the band’s web site, got applause for his speech: “Wait – we didn’t charge anything?”
While it’s not clear what effect, if any, a Webby award has on someone in Reznor’s realm of celebrity, some of the more obscure winners were pleasantly shocked by the power of a Webby nomination.
The winner for Best Blog, Culture/Personal, 1000awesomethings.com, belongs to a 29-year-old Canadian, Neil Pasricha, who said after the ceremony that he was “a boring guy with a 9 to 5 job.” He started the site because “there was no good news out there. It was ice caps melting, wars being fought—so I just wanted to make a place where for a few minutes a day, you could appreciate the feeling of underwear right out of the dryer.”
Within hours of his Webby nomination, Pasrischa said, he had been contacted by five literary agents. A week later, he had a deal with Putnam to write a book based on the site. His traffic, he said, “has doubled or tripled” since the award.
His acceptance speech: “Short acceptance speeches – awesome!”
Actress Lake Bell, who stars in Rob Corddry’s web series “Children’s Hospital,” which won for Best Comedy, Long Form or Series, was also enjoying herself. “I don’t know if the award will help the show. But when you have a web series, any press is good press,” she said.
About the Webbys evening, Bell said, “They warned us it was going to be long, but it was actually fun. I enjoyed it.”
Overall, Meyers said after the ceremony as he lingered by the stage while the guests filed out for the afterparty, “It was really fun. It’s such an unpretentious awards show.”
His only problem, he said, was the difficulty of “not recycling all the best Internet jokes I did last year.”
As for the future of the Webbys: “It’s obviously a crazy transitional time,” Meyers said. “One hundred years from now, this might be the only awards show.”