There is no escaping the lure of the montage.
On Monday night, the 14th annual Webby’s started the way most awards ceremonies do, with a mashup of images designed to stir some nostalgic hunger to honor what has been. But, as with anything on the Web, the highlights are a bit more blue and a lot better than anything scripted for prime time. Amorous koala bears upstaging Andy Roddick, the “ f------ that chicken” gaffe, and, of course, the smoking baby all made the cut.
Click Below to View Our Gallery of the Webby Awards
Gilded by warm lights beneath the 70-foot ceiling of Cipriani Wall Street, Internet entrepreneurs, entertainers, and Webby types applauded over their appetizers during the proceedings, appreciating whatever glory comes from being on the inside of the joke. They get it: There’s no way to capture the offbeat brilliance that reigns online, so may as well celebrate it (and endure all the nerd jokes).
The ceremony, presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, honors achievement in more than 100 categories across websites, interactive advertising, online film and mobile divisions. Each award has two winners; one chosen by the Academy, one chosen via “people’s choice.”
The only rule: Keep acceptance speeches to five words.
So while the night’s emcee, B.J. Novak of The Office fame, was trumpeting the “battle for Web supremacy,” it was clear the more bitter battle was for the most clever speech. Many of the night’s honorees—and there were many—earned applause peppered with deferential laughs for their five-word works.
But, an illustrious minority prompted flip cams to rise above the seated crowd, angling to get the speeches on camera. Among the vaunted: Animal and Floyd Pepper of the Muppets (“Another Webby bites the dust,” said Pepper after Animal ate the award), Chatroulette founder Andrey Ternovskiy (“Internet is a cool thing”) and Zach Galifianakis (“How am I on time?... Aw shit!”).
Other charmers included a trio for Next New Networks, who sang, “everything sounds better autotuned” in deference to their winning video remix “Auto-Tune the News” and Aflac-duck wielding Gilbert Gottfried, who shrieked, “Who needs five words? AFLAAAAC.”
The most prized personalities of the night, however, were Roger Ebert, Buzz Aldrin, P.S. 22’s chorus, and Vinton Cerf, who earned standing ovations. Ebert capped his win with “veni, vidi, vici,” while Aldrin landed a dancing stage entrance with, “Humanity. Colonization. Phobos. Monolith. Mars!”
Cerf, aka the father of the Internet, offered the finale. All deep voice and white beard, he championed: “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” to a crowd of his successors, who stood to applaud before heading, expectantly, for the afterparty.
Lauren Streib is a reporter for The Daily Beast. She was previously a reporter for Forbes.