Dinos, Whales, Snitching Squid and Bono headline AMNH Gala

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Sylvain Gaboury/PMC
Friday, December 1, 2017

All was quiet on the western side Thursday night, as most of the top brass at NBC breezed past the press on the red carpet—or skipped it entirely—at the American Museum of Natural History’s annual fall gala.

Lorne Michaels, Colin Jost, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Brokaw and current SNL cast members Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Leslie Jones, Michael Che and Kenan Thompson all turned out to support the museum at the annual fundraiser, held just 48 hours after Matt Lauer was ousted from the network. While a few NBC affiliates posed for photos before the cocktail portion, Bryant Gumble and Keegan-Michael Key were the only ones who made their way over to reporters, with Gumble commenting “I still love [Lauer]” to the Daily News. The two served as the best man at each other’s weddings.

Fittingly, all attention was on the museum, as the evening is its largest fundraiser, with programs like free admission for all New York City schoolchildren benefiting from the money raised. “We’re the third biggest family attraction in the U.S., and #1 in New York,” said AMNH president Ellen Futter. Annually, 2.5 million schoolchildren visit the American Museum of Natural History. “For a lot of schoolchildren, this is their introduction to the sciences,” said board member Richard Lefrak. “It’s done in a very friendly and encouraging way, because the museum is visual, tactile and fun.”

NBC and the museum have had a longstanding relationship, with Michaels and Tina Fey both on its board. Though absent from this year’s fete, Fey has come in years past.

“Different ways in each case,” said Futter about how each became involved, who added that Fey’s kids attend the museum’s programs. Lefrak interjected that, “It’s all due to [Futter]. She is the single greatest leader of a cultural institution in New York City.”

As a testament to her efforts, the night, which included a live auction, raised $4.5 million, making it the most successful gala to date.

“If you look at the data around the world, [gala fundraisers] are a uniquely American thing—that people with power and with influence will support causes that matter for the greater good of society,” said astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the event. Tyson is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

The evening began with a cocktail party in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, before guests made their way to the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life to dine under the iconic blue whale. Brokaw kicked off the evening’s festivities, commenting on the importance of the institution before introducing Futter.

Jost, who attended with girlfriend Scarlett Johansson, next took the stage as the evening’s host. References to the barrage of recent firings were not entirely off the table. Jost told attendees to “Enjoy this night, enjoy sitting under the whale. I was just informed that there is a pretty serious New York Times piece being written against the whale. The squid finally named names.”

After dinner, Fallon introduced the night’s musical guests—Bono and The Edge, who joked that they were not there to support the museum, but rather to promote their new album “Song of Experience,” out December 1.

On a more serious note, Bono commented that comedians have taken the place of rock and roll stars in “speaking the truth, which is power.” He added that, “Lorne knows.”

While he couldn’t be persuaded to speak on the red carpet, Michaels was coerced into changing his initial offering of  just one SNL VIP experience for live auction. When a bidding war broke out, Jones jumped onstage to strong arm her boss into doubling down on his prize. Both bidders happily agreed to pay $140,000 for the chance to watch a live taping and attend the after party, underscoring why so many A-Listers braved the potential media circus to turn out—to support the museum.


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