After surviving teasing about his less memorable films, a therapy session with a neutered bulldog, and a red beaded bra and blue wig, actor Robert Downey Jr. received the Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ Pudding Pot Thursday night (Feb. 19) as
its Man of the Year. The ceremony preceded the opening night performance of the Theatricals’ “As the Word Turns.”
Muttering “Here it comes, here it comes” as hosts and Theatricals producers Nicholas Ma ’05 and Christine Otal ’05 subjected him to ridicule, Downey nonetheless charmed the sold-out crowd with his flawless comic timing and sharp, ready wit.
– Man of the Year:
Robert Downey Jr.
“You’ve got 50 movies to your credit and only seven to your discredit,” Ma told Downey.
“Eight,” Otal quickly added.
Downey reprised his role as a therapist from the recent film “Gothika” to counsel a bulldog recently stripped of his manhood (played by Bo Meng ’06) and used a bowler hat and cane to seduce two “ladies” (Ryan McKnight ’04 and Peter Dodd ’06) as Charlie Chaplin, the role for which he earned an Academy Award nomination. “Is it bondage night already?” he quipped as he fastened the mustache to his face with elastic.
When McKnight presented Downey with a red beaded bra, the actor reluctantly donned it. “I knew I’d fit right in,” he said, eyeing McKnight’s bejeweled dress.
Mugging and vamping with the Pudding Pot, Downey told the audience he was doubly blessed. “Not only am I the Man of the Year, but this is the first time a convicted felon has won the award,” he said, referring to his well-publicized bouts with drug and alcohol abuse that led to a jail sentence.
At a press conference immediately following his roast, Downey admitted his surprise that his legal scrapes and struggles with substance abuse had been absent from the show. “I was so expecting to just be lambasted,” he said. “I’m very impressed.” He praised Harvard and his hosts, describing the students with admiration as “very sinister and twisted.” Some future projects, he said, include a recording for Sony Classics and a “fabulous film” that he’s starting within the week.
Downey credited his comeback after repeated efforts at rehabilitation to “great words of support and wisdom from my close circle of friends.” He’s grateful, he said, to be free of the drugs and alcohol that plagued him in the past.
“It’s nice to be here right now and get a clean piss test if I want,” he joked, and then added, “It’s nice to feel nice.”
Downey’s Man of the Year duties began earlier in the day with a tour through Harvard Yard. While it may have been scripted, with Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ member Burden Walker ’06 reciting the three lies of the John Harvard statue and the tale of Harry Elkins Widener’s watery demise, it was hardly predictable.
The charming and unruly actor knocked on a window of Massachusetts Hall hoping to capture President Lawrence H. Summers’ attention, performed an impromptu soft-shoe to the Radcliffe Pitches’ serenade, and traded jackets with a lucky freshman.
Downey, his Hasty Pudding hosts, and an entourage of media and handlers hit the highlights of Harvard Yard on the brief tour, which Downey launched by mugging from the steps of Harvard Hall. Upon learning that John Harvard’s initial donation of books earned him naming rights, Downey quipped, “So if I were to give you a bunch of books you’d name it Robert Downey Jr. College?”
Eclectically attired in a navy pinstriped blazer, maroon striped pants, and bright orange Nikes, Downey obliged fans with autographs and dispensed hugs and kisses freely. He clapped and shuffled along with the Radcliffe Pitches, who entertained him with a few songs in front of John Harvard, and wisecracked with his tour guides.
Downey exited the Yard and headed to the Hasty Pudding Club looking far more “Harvard” than when he entered: After posing for a photo in front of Weld Hall with fans Jordan Fox and Ayah Mahgoub, both ’07, the Man of the Year swapped his blazer for Fox’s Harvard sweatshirt.
The Hasty Pudding Man and Woman of the Year awards are presented annually to performers who have made a “lasting and impressive contribution to the world of entertainment.” This year’s Woman of the Year, Sandra Bullock, was honored on Feb. 12.