Former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver returned to host this year’s Crunchies, the tech industry awards show co-hosted by Gigaom, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch. And he didn’t pull any punches. After starting off the night by immediately yelling “f*** you” to an audience member whose wolf whistle struck him the wrong way, the host launched into some more pointed commentary about the tech industry in general, including its not-so-positive sides. With what was sometimes darker humor, he joked about everything from the Google bus protests to the NSA.
He even made up his own awards, one of which was for tech’s best “cartoon villain.” And two people “won” it.
“It’s an honor to be in a room with such high-functioning nerds,” said Oliver, greeting the jam-packed house at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco where the awards were held. Oliver claimed he didn’t know what the Crunchies were last year when he was invited to host for the first time, and admitted that he still fundamentally didn’t get it.
“It seems like it’s an award show where the tech industry celebrates and quietly criticizes each other,” he said. It’s like “Nobel prizes given out in an atmosphere of high school bitchiness. That’s how you all sound to me.”
But one of the themes of Oliver’s humor/social commentary during the evening was that so-called “nerdom” is not what it used to be.
“You’re no longer the underdog!” Oliver exclaimed. In fact, he pointed out, the tech community in San Francisco had become so powerful that they were “pissing off an entire city – not just with what you do at work, but how you get to work!” (Of course, he was referring to the anti-gentrification protestors and Google bus protestors, who also showed up at last night’s event. More on that here.)
“You’re accused of over-gentrifying a city that was already the most expensive city to live in!” said Oliver, explaining that San Francisco had been gentrified so many times, it might even go full circle to turn back into a “sh**hole.”
He later said that the modern-day “Wolf of Wall Street” would take place in San Francisco – with 100% of the wealth, but only 10% of the sex. (Burn!)
However, one of the better lines of the evening was just a small comment he made before launching into jokes surrounding the NSA revelations. Referring to the technology used by the NSA, Oliver stopped mid-sentence and said: “Thank you for providing that, by the way,” while looking into the crowd. He then referenced one of the more high-profile hacks, with that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (You know, the whole, “we’re not hacking the phone now, and we will not hack it in the future” thing.)
Not all the jokes were about tech’s darker side, though. Oliver talked, too, about his favorite American innovation: the t-shirt cannon…which was followed by the burrito parachute apparently. These gave the audience a good laugh, but didn’t really hit as close to home as his earlier bits.
Before wrapping up his opening remarks, Oliver also announced a couple of awards he came up with on his own: one for “creepiest marketing idea,” which he gave to Uber and its scheme to deliver kittens on demand for 15 minutes of cuddling. (Sounds great, except there’s that one house that keeps ordering more batches of kittens…the kitten murderers…oh, you just have to hear that one for yourself, I guess.)
Better was the award for “cartoon villain,” which had two winners this year: Larry Ellison for cheating during the America’s Cup – a yacht race of all things! – and venture capitalist Tom Perkins who recently compared the plight of the 1 percent to that of the German Jews. (Yes, really.)
“He could not be anymore of a cartoon villain without sitting in a swivel chair, stroking a hairless cat…that he had delivered by the maniacs at Uber!”
Throughout the event, Oliver also popped in from time to time to offer some additional commentary around the winners, like for example, when he noted how glad “heroin dealers and assassins” all over the world must be delighted that Bitcoin won for best new technology.
Later, when Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations won the Crunchie for biggest social impact, Oliver said if Snowden really cared about the Crunchies, he would have picked that award up himself.
Of course, he added, the NSA would have put a tracking device in it.
You can watch the rest for yourself below: