It was inevitable: About halfway through the Hasty Pudding’s 50th Man of the Year roast, honoree Joseph Gordon-Levitt finally stripped off his tuxedo to raucous applause and cheering. In the service of a Seth Rogen impression, Gordon-Levitt held a family-sized bag of Funyuns in one hand and a “joint” in the other. Wearing little more than tight-fitting black underwear, he puffed out his bare stomach and deepened his voice, punctuating phrases with an imitation of his “50/50” and “The Night Before” co-star’s distinct guttural laugh.
There were likely few actors more willing to play the role of an improv yes-man than Gordon-Levitt, who was extremely game for all of the surprise sketches during the roast. “I really had no idea—I’d seen some photos of men from show business who I respect very much dressed up in flamboyant costumes, and that’s about all I knew,” he said. “They said there was a roast and that I might have to dress up.”
Earlier in the evening of February 5, Gordon-Levitt dove into the audience after pulling on a Robin unitard backward over his tuxedo, a riff on his role in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” He also tenderly simulated fellatio on a cow (Joshuah B. Campbell ’16) and gave a very physical lap dance to a Russian porn star (David A. Sheynberg ’16)—the latter scene resembling Gordon-Levitt’s 2012 Saturday Night Live monologue, when he cemented his leading man heartthrob status with a shirtless “Magic Mike” striptease that spawned thousands of pelvic thrust GIFs.
As co-roasters Kennedy F.Q. Edmonds ’17 and Lily M. Yarborough ’17 relentlessly slung film puns throughout the evening, various members of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals took the stage in cameo appearances as characters from Gordon-Levitt’s filmography, including “Looper,” “Lincoln,” and “(500) Days of Summer.” In a night of unabashed revelry that celebrated the truly ludicrous in entertainment, Gordon-Levitt made a memorable splash on the Farkas Hall stage before ducking upstairs to the press conference room.
It is tempting to stop at the surface level of Gordon-Levitt the entertainer, to walk away amused at his outlandish antics—the byproduct of the Hollywood machine that annually sends two entertainers to Cambridge to kiss the ring of the Hasty Pudding and its eponymous Pudding Pot. But shouldn’t the cerebral Gordon-Levitt defy such shallow expectations? He is the man who once said, referring to America’s pop culture obsession with celebrity, “This all feels like pornography to me.” In that same interview, Gordon-Levitt mentioned struggling with fame and celebrity as a former child star. “Sometimes I feel like people see me as a thing on a screen instead of as a person, which is understandable…. It can be a little uncomfortable, frankly,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, the actor is fiercely private about his family and personal life, which has tended to stay out of the tabloids. “I personally have a thing where I like to protect my family—protect my wife and my child from the kind of attention that my career in show business might bring to them,” Gordon-Levitt said. “And certainly there’s lots of people who are very forthcoming with their family life…but just for us, for our particular family, we prefer not to talk about it much.”
The cynicism, Gordon-Levitt admits, is difficult to shake off. A recent viral internet video of the actor’s appearance on a 1997 episode of “Celebrity Jeopardy” features his overeager response to a question about J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” “That’s my favorite book!” a long-haired and wide-eyed sixteen-year-old Gordon-Levitt exclaims. But the years have changed his perspective on the popular work about teenage angst and alienation. “When I was like 14, 15, 16, I just identified so strongly with that particular character and that particular book. And I think it’s easy to be cynical, and that’s because the world around us deserves a cynical reaction,” he said after the roast. “A good friend of mine said something I really love, and she said, ‘It’s easy to say what you’re not; it’s hard to say what you are.’” The friend, he joked, went to Columbia.
—Staff writer Alan R. Xie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pudding Roasts WalkenEven when asked to dance wearing a pointed brassiere, a wig, and heels, actor Christopher Walken kept his cool at
Hasty Pudding Honors Man of the Year Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Ryan Reynolds Named Hasty Pudding’s 2017 Man of the YearRyan Reynolds, a producer and Golden Globe-nominated actor known for his roles in many box office hits, will be the Hasty Pudding Theatricals 2017 Man of the Year.
Octavia Spencer Honored as Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year
In Historic Reversal, Hasty Pudding Theatricals to Let Women Join Cast