Movies with a message were the focus of the Los Angeles Salute to Excellence at the Paley Center for Media. But despite those pics’ serious themes, Tuesday’s event honoring Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll had its fair share of laughs.

Host Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of the Paley Center, made her former ties with Skoll clear, jokingly cautious of the event being a “related persons activity. Just in case there’s a Securities and Exchange commissioner in the audience, I did serve on the Participant Media board,” Mitchell duly noted. “But given that none of the successes that we’ll celebrate this evening came during my tenure, and neither I nor Jeff made any money for the time that I was on the board, I think it’s safe to declare that this award comes without any conflicts of interest.”

Despite current accolades, Skoll said that his intro to Hollywood years ago wasn’t so inviting. “My favorite line that I kept hearing was that ‘the streets of Hollywood are littered with the corpses of people like you who think you’re going to come to this town and make movies,'” Skoll recalled. “Needless to say, people weren’t exactly encouraging.”