important awards

Backstage at the Las Culturistas Culture Awards

Photo: Sachyn Mital/Lincoln Center

A rowdy line spanned multiple blocks outside of Lincoln Center, but in place of opera tuxes and evening gloves were referential “Tayla Swift” and “Padam Padam” T-shirts. The most prepared had umbrellas, picnic blankets, wine bottles, and tall boys. One pair was even crafting seaweed hand rolls on the sidewalk. This blend of high and low culture could only happen in honor of the Las Culturistas Culture Awards, a master class in manifestation. Hosted by comedians and Las Culturistas podcast hosts Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, the parody awards show has graduated from celebrating culture to creating it in just two years, staging a massive production complete with musical numbers and four-hour-long queues.

“Those tickets were harder to get than Taylor Swift tickets,” siaid Gaby, a fan who was stuck waiting on the general-admission line. A group of ticket holders confirmed that “there was a waiting room — just like Taylor Swift.” They obtained their coveted spots via group-text coordination. “Nothing was keeping us from this event — rain or shine,” they said, gesturing at their matching ponchos. “The joy of this event sustains you for many months.”

Others in the line admitted that they were not prepared for the massive crowd. As the show began, the line to get in still snaked around the block. “Morale is low. Capacity is high,” one remaining fan said. “I think it’s delusion.” Perhaps next year, Madison Square Garden, MetLife, and “the Thunderdome — wherever that is” will be better suited for the event, another fan suggested. “I wasn’t quite prepped for how insane this would feel,” said comedian and presenter Charlie Bardey. “It’s like, We’re going to do a fun comedy show in Lincoln Center! And then it was like, Oh my God, there’s one bajillion people here.”

Fire Island star Tomás Matos said that no matter how high-budget the production became, the awards show would always stay true to its absurd beginnings. “It’s just stupid!” Matos explained backstage, wearing a full-length metallic netted gown (possibly an allusion to the award they accepted last year, Fish Comma All, in the category Best Animal in the Sea.) “It’s just a little dumb, but that’s what you need. It’s nice to do this and not take it so seriously. It’s a good manifestation for when the bigger awards are coming and I can be like, Oh, this is stupid too!

Yang agreed that the show itself is “incredibly obtuse” but admitted that there was an added sheen of seriousness this year — he was interviewed by journalists on an actual red carpet, after all. This tension between the legitimate and totally ludicrous is evidenced in the varying ways that performers described the show — including “gay Coachella,” “a gay football game,” “the hottest ticket in Manhattan,” and “a backyard production of Pippin.” Pat Regan compared the camaraderie between the performers and attendees to a park hang: “It’s, like, I’m doing birthday drinks at McCarren — stop by whenever …” Yang cut in: “But then, also, there’s, like, 3,000 people watching.”

While thousands of fans cheered outside, the awards-show talent hid and mingled. In a chaotic downstairs greenroom, the cast of Titanique chatted with SNL performers and comics raced to review scripts that were offered moments before showtime. At one point, Matos ran in mid–outfit change, looking for a safety pin to help hold together their sexy Santa costume.

MUNA caused the biggest stir both onstage and off. D’Arcy Carden gravitated toward them immediately backstage with a loud “OMG!” On the preshow red carpet, fans screamed, “I fucking love you, MUNA!” at the rock-star trio. Titanique’s Constantine Rousouli confessed, “When I met MUNA, I died a little bit inside.” Ironically, given their nomination in the new category of MUNA Award for Hottest Queer, the band seemed more fixated on the hotness of their fellow performers.

“Seeing the line, and seeing all the bustling going on backstage, the thing that strikes me is that this is something that they just made up in their silly little minds,” MUNA’s Katie Gavin said, before taking the stage to present their eponymous award. “And now, it’s a huge night at Lincoln Center with so many people coming together to celebrate things that we love but in a really silly way. I can’t believe they really did that.” Josette Maskin chimed in, “To be so committed to the bit that the bit becomes Lincoln Center — that’s high art, baby.”

Backstage at the Las Culturistas Culture Awards