At B. B. King's on Sunday night, at the Writers Guild of America Award ceremony, amidst a lot of foul-mouthed laughs and sober-minded speeches, writer/director Nora Ephron was remembered. As a young novelist, Meg Wolitzer attested, she received a most important recognition when Nora Ephron called to say she wanted to adapt her book, This is Your Life (1988), for film. Ephron, who died last summer of cancer, was a champion of young talent. When Lena Dunham got up to receive her prize for new series, she too spoke about Ephron seeking her out. The Girls originator and star also told a story when at 15 her mom took her to Caroline's Comedy Club to hear Lisa Lampanelli.
Lampanelli, a Catholic school graduate, had just presented awards for radio news writers: who gives a fuck?, she proclaimed and then pummeled the audience with the most effusive, debasing references to various attendees' body parts, so it was not clear where Dunham's story would go. Her mom told Lampanelli, my daughter wants to be just like you. "What? A cunt?" Dunham quoted Lampanelli.
And so the night went on with presenters Bobby Cannavale, Mike Birbiglia, Gina Gershon who now has her own WGA card. Louis CK won for Louie; SNL's Fred Armisen picked up the statue -- some couldn't decide whether or not it was a vagina or a fancy mango holder -- for his new series Portlandia. David Koepp was pleased he was awarded The Ian Mclellan Hunter Award for career -- not lifetime -- achievement. The screenwriter of Mission Impossible, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds, Carlito's Way, and Spiderman thought he might have a few more scripts in him. What distinguishes the work of writers, he told the rapt WGA, was, "You don't need permission to write a script."
Richard Kind, who had never M.C.'d before admirably maintained the flow, cajoling this crowd for its anonymity, dressing as the Ayatollah Khomeini and proudly accepting the statue for the movie he is in, Argo, which won for adapted screenplay. Like many writers such as Mark Boal who won Best Original Screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty, and Malik Bendjelloul for Best Documentary Screenplay for Searching for Sugarman, Chris Terrio, who wrote the Argo script from a book by Tony Mendez, was in Los Angeles for a simultaneous awards presentation. On one occasion Kind needed a hook, for the very long, alcohol-infused rant by Bored to Death writer Jonathan Ames, a reprise of one he did at last year's ceremony that got attention on YouTube, proving, yes, writers can achieve fame however dubious.
Ephron would have enjoyed the tribute. In a clip reel of her films Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail, Meryl Streep as Julia Child gets the news that her book will be published. "Is it K-N-O-P-F or Noff?," coos the cookbook author. That's a pronunciation everyone in this packed room would know.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.