03/21/1994 at 01:00 AM EST
CHARLES GRODIN INSISTED HE WOULD have stayed home had he known Chevy Chase was host ("I'm careful with my career"), and John Larroquette called the event "right up there with the Jackson Family Honors." But, one-liners aside, the American Comedy Awards on March 6 at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium turned out a zany crowd of 1,500 to salute jokesters including Dick Van Dyke, Lily Tomlin and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
After a brief tribute to comedians John Candy (see page 92) and Bill Hicks, who each had died days earlier, the repartee began in earnest. Eying Jack Nicholson, who was charged on Feb. 28 with smashing a fellow motorist's windshield with a golf club, Jack Carter said he planned to hold on to his post-earthquake party favor—a plastic hard-hat—"in case I run into [Jack] on the way home." Calvert De-Forest, accepting the award for Funniest Male Lead in a TV Series on behalf of his boss, David Letterman, was introduced as Valerie Bertinelli and began with a solemn, "Friends, colleagues and esteemed members of NATO nations..." Hail, Freedonia!