“My many talents — one of them is not making speeches,” warned “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm at the start of his amusing address at Oceana’s eighth annual SeaChange Summer Party at Dana Point on Saturday night. “Especially when they’re not written by Matt Weiner. So this could get rough. Lower your expectations. Stay with me… if I have any trouble, I’m going to get Kiernan Shipka up here and she’s going to sing a song — she’s way better at this than I am.”
But the night’s beloved special guest — joined at the whimsical “Mad for the Oceans”-themed fundraiser by his “Mad Men” co-stars January Jones, Kiernan Shipka and Michael Gladis, as well as actors Sam Waterston, Beth Behrs, Aimee Teegarden and Oscar Nunez — went on to disprove his humble speechmaking claim.
“A very famous American named Ambrose Bierce, a fellow Midwesterner who also moved out to the Pacific, over 100 years ago, he wrote, ‘Ocean, as defined: a body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man who has no gills,’” Hamm relayed, before interjecting his token humor. “(Beirce) also said, ‘It’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean!’” Hamm paused, while the crowd erupted. “He didn’t say that? He didn’t say that all? Okay, I’m really sorry, (Oceana board member) Ted Danson told me that he said that.”
Earlier, Hamm — a California resident of over 20 years and “certified scuba diver in a lake in the Ozarks” — spoke of his upbringing in St. Louis, Missouri, which isn’t exactly known for its pristine beaches. “But summertime, we would go down to Florida, my grandparents had a house, so I’d spend the entire summer in the water. And the oceans should be clean and available to everyone.” Hamm’s former co-star Jones is a longtime Oceana advocate, and of their little cast reunion, he said, “The ‘Mad Men’ connection is a nice reminder that we had a show on the air once!”
That show’s final season and Hamm himself, as lead actor, will soon contend in the Emmy race for the eighth time, in hopes of finally triumphing. “A win would certainly be nice; it would be nice every year,” Hamm said. “We’ve certainly had our run. (The final nom) was a nice thing to raise the awareness of the show, when we were so successful so early.” Still, he acknowledges that the current television landscape is unlike any he can recall. “There’s so much good on the air — on the air is even an archaic saying now! From ‘Bloodline’ to all of the other Netflix shows, to the Amazon shows, the Hulu shows, it’s really a great time to be a consumer or an advocate of television.”
No matter the Emmy outcome, Hamm is grateful that playing notorious adman Don Draper opened doors. “It’s a wonderful thing to be recognized for something that you do, something that you love, and ideally it gives one an opportunity to do more of it, and to keep challenging yourself and keep doing things that you hope other people like. I’ve had the really good fortune because of ‘Mad Men’ to do things like ‘Kimmy Schmidt’ and ‘Wet Hot’ and ‘Young Doctor’s Notebook’ and these kind of weird things that have been a little bit out of the box for me, but really exciting to do.” (As for more “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” he optimistically quipped, “We’ll see! That’s up to Robert and Tina.”)
Jones has moved on to Will Forte’s “The Last Man on Earth,” the second season of which she’ll start shooting next week. (“We’re not in Tucson anymore,” is all she could disclose.) “I’ve liked having this opportunity to go back to comedy and do something a little bit different,” Jones confessed. “As much as I love ‘Mad Men’ and the opportunity and Betty, I just want to remind people that I’m not Betty!” said the Oceana ambassador who is fine to be defined by her love of sharks, which she’s passing down.
“I have a 3-year-old son, and he also has a great love of dinosaurs and sharks,” she relayed to the crowd. “He’s very anxious to grow up and swim alongside a whale shark with me in Belize … I haven’t yet told him that by the time he’s old enough, there may not be that many left to swim with. So I’m up here to ask all of you, to help me help sharks.”
She had some help in championing the world’s largest ocean conservation organization. “One day I realized, I was writing the obituary of marine life,” professed marine ecologist and Seachange honoree Dr. Enric Sala. “Too much pollution, fishing and global warming are eating away the ocean’s natural habitat which provides so much for us — like more than half of the oxygen we breathe and the seafood we eat. Without the living ocean, our lives would be miserable,” he urged, before an auction of lavish items that ranged from a retreat to the Maldives to designer handbags.
Hamm, while equally passionate, couldn’t speak from quite the same parental perspective as Jones. “I don’t have children… that I know of,” he said, though after uttering the words, decided to recall them. “That’s not a joke that people should say. Just let me know when you want Kiernan up here, because it’s only going to get worse!”
He recovered though, comically. “It’s a simple fact that every child, every ocean… Billy Ocean, he’s a great guy!” Hamm burst. “Every child… including young Billy Ocean… every child deserves a healthy ocean. That’s something I think we can all get behind.” And in closing: “I really wish I could be played off right now by ‘Caribbean Queen.’ Instead I will just say thank you, thank you for having me here!”