A man of a big ego, a prodigious appetite and a preternatural talent for slinging the bull — that’s how Vice Media leader Shane Smith was roasted by friends and colleagues Wednesday at a fundraiser for the Center for Communication.
Smith received the org’s Frank Stanton Award for Excellence in Communication at a luncheon gathering at Manhattan’s Pierre Hotel. Hearst Corp.’s David Barrett noted that it was surely the first time in the award’s 32-year history that the Sex Pistols were used as intro music for the honoree.
The roast coincided with the launch of a Vice-sponsored journalism fellowship and mentoring program with the Center. It’s designed to “infuse into journalism the young and diverse voices that are essential to our media future,” according to CFC exec director Max Robins.
Vice Media’s growing presence in the TV world was underscored by the number of CEOs in the room, a list that included Discovery’s David Zaslav, 21st Century Fox’s James Murdoch, HBO’s Richard Plepler and former Viacom chief Tom Freston, an early champion of Vice. In fact, Freston reminded the crowd that Viacom bought half of Vice when he was CEO, but two years after he left, Smith bought the stake back for $3 million. Today the valuations of Vice Media today start with a “b” not an “m.”
With Smith as the subject, the presentation was inevitably packed with F-bombs and colorful phrases from roasters that included Freston, Plepler, Eddie Huang, Johnny Knoxville, Fred Armisen (in the guise of Jeremiah, an earnest but clueless millennial host of faux Vice show “Drones”) and Clare O’Kane, one of Vice’s latest hires.
Here are the six best — or at least printable — lines from the roast:
- From Tom Freston: Vice Media today “has got a valuation now as bloated as Shane is.”
- From Richard Plepler, referring to Vice’s recent special on federal prisons that featured President Obama: “The President called Shane to thank him for the interview and the delightful contact high.”
- From Eddie Huang: “Shane is the Genghis Khan of white Brooklyn.”
- From Clare O’Kane: “Vice is just Fox News for people who do Molly. If you don’t know what Molly is, it’s the only reason your kids are nice to you.”
- From Johnny Knoxville (tie): “You look like a groundhog who roadies for Bob Seger.” Noting Smith’s flair for showmanship, Knoxville predicted the Vice boss would later brag online “about the 30,000 of us who gave you the Media Titan of the Century with the Biggest Dick in Brooklyn Award.”
Smith closed the proceedings on a serious note, noting the impressive amount of cultural and business influence represented in the new and old media types who assembled in the ballroom.
“Media is probably the greatest single industry you could pick to go into,” Smith said. “It has so much power, and so much responsibility comes with that power.”