The tributes were flying when Ben Stiller received the American Cinematheque Award on Nov. 15 at the Beverly Hilton, and so were the jokes. Yes, people extolled Stiller's $2.6 billion worth of hits, and Bill Clinton said in a video tribute, "His work [raising over $14 million for Haiti relief] is important -- and more important, persistent." But many guests honored Stiller by roasting him, getting rather loose because the event was not televised. Here are their more striking comments preserved for posterity.
"Ben has one of the most marvelous, vibrant and exciting penises I've ever seen," said a deadpan Will Ferrell. "I used to do a lot of cocaine in the '80s, so believe me, I've seen a lotta penises. Ben's is a real charmer … think Paul Newman around the time of The Hustler … fun, almost cute and cuddly. … So thank you, Ben, for your talent and your friendship and your penis. Or as you call it, 'Dr. Patrick Bigshot.' "
William Shatner, on video, claimed to be Stiller's father. "I've never said this before -- if the tabs get hold of it ... Jerry [Stiller] and I, we knew each other, and, well, Anne [Meara], she's incredible. She's smokin', man. And Jerry was aware that Anne and I -- and then when she was pregnant. … I want to congratulate you on your talent, the looks -- you have everything that I'm well known for. And if you'll take a DNA test, maybe you'll leave me a small part of your enormous fortune. Congratulations, Ben! My boy."
Patton Oswalt accused Stiller of looking young because he's a killer: "Clearly, Ben's bathing in the blood of drifters or something. You're not aging! There's something creepy."
"If Kubrick, Ron Howard and Scorsese had a baby, that baby would still suck compared to Ben," said Tropic Thunder executive producer/co-writer Justin Theroux.
Andy Dick roasted himself, but it was still a bit sadistic because he was trying to make Stiller squirm by saying inappropriate things. "Ben Stiller gave me everything that for the next 20 years I f---ed up. … He told me drinking red wine buffs you up. I took it and ran with it. … .Ben Stiller is bigger than Abbott and Costello together. Did you know that? I Googled it. Please don't Google me. You can't wait for me to get off the stage. … Ben, thank you for giving me everything that I f---ed up."
Some speakers were more on the level. Jennifer Aniston put her finger on Stiller's gift: "Ben has the ability to make sexy smart, smart sexy, and nebbishness nonchalant. That's a tongue twister! He projects an earnest tenderness." Earnestly, tenderly, Laura Dern remembered growing up with Stiller. "Our parents worked with each other fighting for various good causes," said Dern. "We met and played as small children -- this was before we both made our appearances on The Merv Griffin Show, just a normal childhood rite of passage. … [Ben's] one seriously talented dramatic actor."
Jeffrey Katzenberg showed a page of the Madagascar script and said: "As you can see, the page is blank. We knew nothing we could write could be as good as what he would improvise." Judd Apatow said of his breakthrough job as executive producer of The Ben Stiller Show, 1990-92: "It was the biggest opportunity of my career. You knew what you were doing. I did not. I can tell you now I was scared shitless. … I still don't know why we were canceled. It might have been [that] we were the lowest-rated show on TV."
When Eugene Levy and Martin Short finally presented Stiller the American Cinematheque Award, they and the winner razzed one another. Levy said, "As Gen. Petraeus said to Paula Broadwell, 'It's time for me to give it to you.' "
Stiller replied: "When I was younger, I wanted to be you. Now that I'm older, I just want to be me, younger." He added: "I'd like to thank Steven Spielberg, who hired me for my first job in Empire of the Sun. Which led to a 25-year run of him not casting me in anything, though I actually did self-tape for Lincoln. … I'd like to thank Jeffrey Katzenberg for teaching me a press junket is not just for fun, it's a way of life. And Jerry Stahl, my best friend in life, who taught me how to do heroin. Which came in handy on the last Madagascar press tour with Jeffrey. … Dad, you've always been there for me. Well, not always, but there was that four-month period between Seinfeld and King of Queens."
In keeping with his comic persona and his self-deprecating style in real life, Stiller roasted himself. "It's nice to get an award for nothing specific. It's sorta like there wasn't any one thing you did that was all that great, but when you put them all together, there's something there." He added, "I want to thank the Academy -- someday."