Host Mike Birbiglia shocked and delighted the audience with his opening monologue at the IFP Gotham Awards Monday night when it slowly became apparent that he was reciting honoree-of-the-evening David O. Russell's notorious tirade against Lily Tomlin from the set of I Heart Huckabees. "I'm just trying to fucking help you, you understand me?" Birbiglia mock-snarled. "I'm just being a fucking collaborator! I'm trying to help you figure out the fucking picture, okay, bitch? I'm not here to be fucking yelled at! I haven't been working on this thing for three fucking years to have some fucking cunt yell at me in front of the crew! I'm trying to help you, bitch!'"
With Russell sitting only a few feet away, the cheeky host then said, "I was just fired." But the Silver Linings Playbook director — who was on hand to receive a career tribute award — turned out to have developed a sense of humor about the embarrassing Tomlin meltdown. "It's old news!" he told Vulture with a smile. "What are you going to do? I take it in good fun. You have to laugh at your mistakes."
Meanwhile, back onstage, a Russell clip reel had just been shown, and Birbiglia pronounced himself moved — but unrepentant about his earlier gag. "The reel was really inspiring and wonderful," he told the crowd, "and my joke was excellent. One of my favorite directors. I love my joke, I love his movies, thank you very much!" Off in the winners' room, Russell was also looking back over his career and saying he wished he had made Huckabees a little more emotional, and made Three Kings with "a little less action, a little more personal stuff. That's something I wish I could go back and do now."
Birbiglia ran into Vulture after the show and explained himself. "Why did I want to use [Russell's rant]? There are only a few filmmakers that people are familiar with, in an independent film setting," he said. "You can make jokes about ... David O. Russell, because he's wildly popular. And I love his films. So it just seemed like a good thing to joke about."