Review: Gerry Visco reports on the 9th Annual Nightlife Awards

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Bruce Vilanch at the 2009 Outfest Legacy Awards
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New York Press
Give My Regards to Broadway
Gerry Visco reports on the 9th Annual Nightlife Awards
By Gerry Visco


As much as I adore long rambling acceptance speeches, The 9th Annual Nightlife Awards honored the best of New York’s cabaret, comedy and jazz artists by having the award winners perform rather than blather on and thank their agent, mom and pet canary. The show, held Monday night at Town Hall, a venue now celebrating its 90th birthday, was like an extended nightclub show featuring some of the best talent in town.

The show snagged a funny host, Emmy-award winner Bruce Vilanch, who’s written comedy for luminaries like Bette Midler, Elizabeth Taylor, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman. Vilanch is also a walking sight gag: He’s a chubby and outrageously gay dude with a long fried mop of blond hair wearing crazy spectacles and a silly T-shirt. He had the cojones to play Edna Turnblad in Hairspray and he was a regular on Hollywood Squares, so this job had to seem like a breeze.

Vilanch took a couple of days off from his gig of writing the Academy Awards script, which he’s been doing for the past 21 years, to host and quipped, “I was hoping Cher would be nominated for her song in Burlesque so James Franco could impersonate her.” He made his entrance wearing a bloodied bandage over his head, claiming he’d just run over from the accident-waiting-to-happen known as Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark.

The crowd that was there was made up of old-time New Yorkers who enjoyed Vilanch’s brand of humor; I certainly couldn’t complain about the presence of stars like Christine Ebersole, Colin Quinn, Karen Akers, Nellie McKay, Charles Busch, Karen Oberlin and Julie Halston. Hannibal Buress was voted the outstanding comedian, edging out finalist Reggie Watts, who I’d say has an edgier humor.

After the show, down in the bowels of the theater, I said hello to the performers and took some photos. “Bruce, what’s up with the Oscars right now?” I asked. “Well, it’s a whole new ball game with James Franco and Anne Hathaway. A new slate,” he said. I asked him if he were staying in New York. “I’ve been living in L.A. for many years, but I’m from here. I’m staying with my mother out in Jersey,” he said. “I have to leave early tomorrow morning.”

An interesting, exciting awards show that doesn’t drag on all night? Vilanch’s other gig should take notes.

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