New York -- Tim Russert, Susan Lucci and city Mayor Michael Bloomberg lent star power, but Chris Albrecht delivered the best punchlines at the 2006 Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame ceremony Monday night.
Albrecht, the HBO chairman and CEO, followed several speakers to the podium and handled the situation like the standup comic he once was. He complained that Bloomberg, Meet the Press host Russert and others had already told his jokes. Coming after a couple of lengthy honorees, he made what he called an obligatory Hall of Fame joke: "It's really great to be included in this really illustrious group of people, who I only had one thing to say to -- two to three minutes."
And Albrecht later quipped, "Although I think that a hall of fame is supposed to be an award that you get at the end of your career, because I am mid-alimony and middle age, I would like to think I am mid-career, so I hope to be able to get a few more of these along the way."
But seriously. The 16th annual dinner and ceremony, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, did feature Bloomberg, the Bloomberg L.P. founder, who extolled New York's TV and film industry and B&C's First Amendment advocacy; NBC's Russert, who as he often does praised his World War II veteran dad; and ABC soap star Lucci, who invited Russert to appear alongside her character, Erica Kane, in a future All My Children. Bloomberg earlier pointed out that he'd appeared on Lucci's show with her.
News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin finished things up with a speech that came in right at Albrecht's three-minute limit. "I love television, and I believe deeply in its ability to inspire and entertain, to awaken and sometimes even to outrage," Chernin said in remarks that singled out News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who attended. "And I've spent most of my career working for a company that embodies those qualities I just mentioned every day."
Other honorees included Lifetime Television CEO Betty Cohen, who spoke movingly of bonding with her father over the puns in Rocky & Bullwinkle; Group M, WPP Group CEO Irwin Gottlieb; Pappas Telecasting chairman and CEO Harry Pappas, who alluded to Bloomberg's opposition to public smoking with a joke about Bill Clinton liking a good cigar; CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group president Nancy Tellem and the syndicated TV show Entertainment Tonight. Mary Hart helped accept the award.
The dinner benefits the Broadcasters Foundation of America and Cable Positive.