NBC Chairman and 'SNL' Honored at Gala

NEW YORK -- NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright and "Saturday Night Live" were honored Thursday night at a gala sponsored by the Museum of Television and Radio.

More than 880 people attended the gala, which took place at midtown Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. It raised more than $1.4 million for the museum and was attended by such stars and industry luminaries as Glenn Close, Mel Karmazin, Barbara Walters, Dick Cavett and "Saturday Night Live" performers Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Darrell Hammond and others. Tom Brokaw hosted the event.

Wright was honored with the visionary award, which was given for his 20 years of excellence at NBC and NBC Universal as well as his legendary concern for employees and charity work like the Autism Speaks Foundation, founded by Wright and his wife, Suzanne.

"Saturday Night Live" and creator Lorne Michaels were honored for their contributions to TV and comedy for more than 30 years. " 'Saturday Night Live' took television to another dimension and comedy to another form," Brokaw said.

Brokaw said that Wright and Michaels faced internal opposition when they started their careers at the network but that they were proven correct in their drives for change, Wright corporately and Michaels in comedy.

NBC late-night host Conan O'Brien poked fun at his boss, praising him for running the network for two decades and bringing it straight to the top of TV. "Keep in mind that I wrote this 2 1/2 years ago," O'Brien said, noting that with the dissolving of the WB and UPN, there would no longer be "sixth place."

More serious were the lauding of the Wrights' work to combat autism after their grandson Christian was diagnosed with it.

"Bob threw himself into a cause of incredible urgency, not just for our family but for this country," said Suzanne, his wife of 39 years. Wright himself, in brief remarks, noted the statistics for autism and called it "an epidemic."

Taped tributes came from Cablevision's Charles Dolan, CBS Corp.'s Leslie Moonves, Sirius' Karmazin, WMA's Lou Weiss and co-workers Randy Falco and Jeff Zucker as well as former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Wright received a standing ovation.

The serious was mixed with the light-hearted in the tribute to "Saturday Night Live," which for three decades has been produced late-night Saturdays at a studio at 30 Rockefeller Center, not far from the Waldorf-Astoria. Tina Fey paid tribute to the casts of her nine years, who she said had done amazing work that even Oscar- and Emmy-winning guest actors had trouble catching up with. Two video montages assembled some famous moments from "Saturday Night Live" history, including clips featuring the late John Belushi, Phil Hartman, Gilda Radner and Chris Farley as well as other ones involving Steve Martin, a frequent guest host, Dan Aykroyd and Chris Rock.

Hammond, known for his impersonations of former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Dick Cheney, said, "Politics has been in 'Saturday Night Live's' DNA since the very beginning."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former guest host, appeared on videotape to describe his experiences with the show.

Brokaw opened the night asking for a moment of silence to recognize ABC anchor Bob Woodruff, severely injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq.

"We're not competitors, we're family, and we have common concerns," Brokaw said of Woodruff and ABC.

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Paul J. Gough writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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