Credit: Lester Cohen/

The minute Amy Poehler introduced herself as “the founder of Facebook, the creator of Harry Potter, and the best of Herman Cain’s lovers” and admitted she was too lazy to go full host and would instead act as the evening’s announcer/voice of God, it was obvious that the Trevor Project’s annual benefit, Trevor Live, was not going to be the average stuffy snoozefest.

“That’s exactly my goal because I do too many of these things as an audience member and they can get a little boring with too many speeches,” Adam Shankman, the evening’s special guest director, told EW on the red carpet outside the Hollywood Palladium Sunday night. “I’m taking my cue from the Grammys and making it all about performances and a couple of speeches. Everyone in there knows what the problems are and is already a supporter, so I figure we show them a good time and hope that encourages them to donate even more.”

Shankman’s strategy proved successful on both levels, as the event raised funds for the organization’s crisis-intervention and suicide-prevention services provided to LGBT and questioning youth, and the show, which combined mostly song, a little dance (talents from Step Up and So You Think You Can Dance wowed with their joint-defying feats), comedic banter, and sometimes a combo of the three, was a crowd-pleaser.

Many performers choose Christmas carols including Queen Latifah (who had to stifle a laugh after the “make the yuletide gay” lyric elicited whoops from the audience), NCIS: Los Angeles’ Barrett Foa (who punctuated his jazzy rendition of “Jingle Bells” with pelvic thrusts), and American Idol’s Stefano Langone (whose rendition of “O Holy Night” received an energetic standing ovation).

Others like Kris Allen (“Imagine”) and Mary J. Blige (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”) picked covers that thematically illustrated the organization’s mission. LeAnn Rimes, who belted out “What I Cannot Change,” was accompanied by Dermot Mulroney on cello. (Does this up his hotness quotient by like 1000 percent?) Others played to the audience of mostly power gays and the people who love them, like Neil Patrick Harris and his partner David Burtka, who sang “You’re the Top” from Anything Goes, in a bed. (A vocal misstep at the start left us wondering if the usually spot-on Harris, who also skipped walking the carpet, was rattled by his Live! With Kelly scandal earlier this week. In typical NPH form, he playfully acknowledged the screwup aloud.)

However, it wasn’t all fun and games. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” commercial aired during the 2020 Award presentation to Google, or when Lady Gaga accepted her Hero Award from the family of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old New Yorker who committed suicide 11 weeks ago after years of being bullied about his sexuality. “This means more to me than any Grammy I could ever win,” said Gaga, looking unusually tame in a black leather floor-length gown with a bedazzling snake detail on the strap. “I learned long ago that my time on earth would not be just for pop singing.” (Unfortunately, despite producers making sure there was a piano on standby, she wasn’t spontaneously moved to song.)

Even presenters were not immune to sudden bouts of emotion. Amy Adams, Zac Efron, and Michelle Pfeiffer were among the actors who told touching stories of troubled teens and twenty-somethings helped by Trevor’s services. Recently out actors Zachary Quinto and Amber Heard were paired up, and his personal tale moved Heard to tears, making her retelling noticeably difficult. “They only sent me my script [so] I wasn’t prepared to hear that,” she said. “Sorry if I stumble through my part.” Midway through her story, a cell phone went off. While guests audibly chastised the offender, Heard thanked a friend in the audience, “You planned that. I needed that.”

As the duo exited the stage, Poehler lightened the mood: “God would have sex with both of you.” It was one of the Parks and Recreation star’s many brilliant asides. In fact, her running commentary pretty much stole the show. After JC Chasez sang “True Colors,” she joked, “God just cried. God’s not made out of wood, people.” When introducing her costar Rashida Jones, she explained that Parks was God’s favorite show. When Jones asked God if she’d had a couple of drinks that night, she bellowed, “Mind your own f—ing business.” When Sean Hayes told her that he liked her book, she replied, “Yes, Prime Time by Jane Fonda.” She even reminded folks during the live auction, “You can’t take it with you. Release your money.”

Glee’s Darren Criss, who performed for the second year in a row, pretty much summed up the temperature in the room when he told EW, “It’s a great show and an even better cause. Hopefully they’ll have me back same time, same place next year.”

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