The temperature outside was frightful on Saturday, but they both were so delightful — based on the raucous receptions that greeted renowned actors Bob Odenkirk and Jennifer Coolidge as they received this year’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals Man and Woman of the Year awards in separate ceremonies last week.
Coolidge braved historically frigid temperatures Saturday afternoon, as hundreds lined the streets to cheer her on during a ceremonial parade through Harvard Square.
But the Massachusetts native (she jokingly referred to herself as “Jennifuh from Nahwell”) said she “didn’t feel the cold” as she enthusiastically waved and beamed, stylishly attired in an animal print cape over a cream-colored coat with a puffy pink fur hat.
Known for scene-stealing supporting parts in film comedies like “Legally Blonde,” “American Pie,” and “Best in Show,” it was Coolidge’s leading dramatic role as doomed heiress Tanya McQuoid in the first two seasons of the dark HBO series “The White Lotus” that reinvigorated her career, earning Coolidge a 2022 Emmy award and a Golden Globe last month.
Following a traditional comedic roast that evening in which she judged a Jennifer Coolidge impersonator contest and re-enacted her campy “White Lotus” character’s parting words — “The gays, they’re trying to murder me!” — an emotional Coolidge accepted her pudding pot.
“I’ve just been so blown away that this experience is happening. I never expected it,” she said, in part because her late father and his two brothers, both Hasty Pudding members, went to the College. “So, it’s a big deal. This is amazing.”
Though riding high now, Coolidge spoke candidly after the ceremony about the rejection she faced as a young actor waiting tables in New York City and the lean years that followed even after her breakout role as Stifler’s mom in 1999’s “American Pie.” Get out there and act, no matter how small a part it is, because you never know who will see you, she advised, and don’t take what others say too seriously.
“I saw people who were so talented when I was in [the LA improv troupe] The Groundlings who didn’t know how good they were because of the negative things that were said to them. They just took it all to heart,” she said, adding that she too “wasted years” listening to critics. “I feel like it’s very important to just really have faith in yourself.”
Earlier in the day Coolidge met with Hasty Pudding members at Farkas Hall, where she added her name plate to the wall plaque of previous Woman of the Year honorees, who include Katharine Hepburn, Cher, and last year’s winner, Jennifer Garner. Tenor William Murray ’26 and the Harvard Krokodiloes, the School’s oldest a cappella group, serenaded her with the 1962 hit “What’s Your Name,” and she perused yearbooks from the times her father, Paul Coolidge ’42 and uncle Francis Parkman Coolidge ’49 spent at Harvard. She also toured the campus and visited where her father lived while an undergraduate.
During Thursday’s award ceremony for Odenkirk, the Emmy winner was asked to don a pink dress on top of his black blazer and black pants, read cue cards with lines poking fun at him, sketch a drawing of a model in 30 seconds, and place his hands on a big slab of butter, an homage to the display of the handprints of stars in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At one point, Odenkirk, best known for his role as shady lawyer Saul Goodman on the hit TV shows “Breaking Bad” and its spinoff, “Better Call Saul,” pleaded “Stop being mean” with fake exasperation.
In 1989 the Illinois native earned an Emmy award for writing for his work on “Saturday Night Live.” He co-created and starred in “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” which has been called the American Monty Python and ran on HBO for four years (1995-1998). He is also the star and the executive producer of “Lucky Hank,” a mid-life crisis tale to be aired in March on AMC.
Odenkirk said he was “knocked out” by the celebrations. At a press conference that followed the roast and presentation of the pudding pot award, Odenkirk expressed his gratitude for having been chosen. Past recipients include Robert Downey Jr., Tom Hanks, Chris Pratt, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Justin Timberlake, and Ryan Reynolds. Last year’s Man of the Year was Jason Bateman.
Created in 1795 as a social club for Harvard students, Hasty Pudding Theatricals is the country’s oldest theatrical company. It presents the Man and Woman of the Year awards to “performers who have made lasting and impressive contributions in entertainment.”
“I’m thrilled,” said Odenkirk. “It’s a crazy honor to be a part of the club and see all the people who have gotten it before me.”
For Coolidge it was all that — and perhaps a bit more. Asked what her father, who died in 2015, would have thought of the celebration in her honor, Coolidge said, “I wish he could have come tonight. This would have just been his dream come true — because his experience at Harvard was so positive. He made so many great friends. He was someone who really relished every second he was at Harvard. That’s why this is truly one of the greatest nights of my life. because it just sort of came full circle. It has so much meaning.”
Additional reporting by Harvard Staff Writer Jill Radsken.