On May 22nd, 2016, the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) presented its tenth annual IIG Awards recognizing the promotion of science in the popular arts. This was a big year, and science-lovers from all over Southern California flocked to the Steve Allen Theater to meet guest of honor Ann Druyan, the co-creator of Cosmos and the closest thing to a matron saint that the skeptical community could ever have.
The show began with a musical performance by Hannah Gansen whose songs about the bizarre side of science have become a hit with rationalists nationwide.
The first award was presented by comedian Jim Coughlin to the television series “Adam Ruins Everything.” The show features features Adam Conover – a man that auto-correct desperately wants to be Adam Conifer – going from place to place and debunking popular myths with humor, and sometimes even drama. Adam Conover himself accepted the award via video, expressing skepticism of the IIG’s very existence.
Truly Terrible Television Award
The second presentation was the “Truly Terrible Television Award.” presented to those shows that display a shocking lack of skepticism. Comedian Ron Lynch presented the award to “Hollywood Medium” starring self-proclaimed psychic Tyler Henry who visits with D-list celebrities and makes embarrassingly broad predictions about their careers and occasionally channels the dead in an equally unconvincing manner.
As is the tradition at the IIG Awards, the audience was surprised to see Tyler Henry make an appearance to accept the award. Even though many otherwise skeptical audience members thought we had convinced Henry to appear, it was actor Jason Van Glass with his hair dyed blonde.
“Tyler Henry” promised to make a believer out of Ron Lynch by channelling a dead person right there on the stage of the Steve Allen Theater, and Lynch was characteristically skeptical, until the Hollywood Medium announced that the dead person he was speaking to was Lynch himself. This ushered in a Twilight Zone twist ending that host Jim Underdown refused to play out as he chased the two off-stage.
For the first time ever, the IIG presented an award for best podcast, and we would have unanimously voted for “Oh No! Ross and Carrie” except that Ross Blocher (the “Ross” in Ross and Carrie) – an IIG member – refused to vote for himself.
Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy, who formed a friendship while members of the IIG, decided to conduct detailed investigations into the questionable organizations of the world, and report back on them with humor and depth. “We go there so you don’t have to” is their motto.
Blogger Heina Dadabhoy presented the award to Ross and Carrie who appeared live to accept the Iggies, and remind the audience that the reason for their success was their respect for the religious zealots and other damaged people that they investigate. To Ross and Carrie, it’s about making a personal connection not insulting or degrading people.
Triple threat actor/writer/director and additionally skeptic (quadruple threat?) Glenn Plummer presented the award for the promotion of science and reason in a mainstream production. This year the science fiction film “The Martian” was the winner. Andy Weir, author of the novel upon which the film was based accepted the award via video, and promised to collect our $100,000 as soon as he got his super-hero powers.
Houdini Hall of Honor
At last, the time for us to hear from our guest of honor Ann Druyan as she is inducted into the Houdini Hall of Honor. Ann was introduced by Matt Walsh, an original member of the Upright Citizens Brigade – the improv/sketch group that became an institution – and a great comic actor in his own right with numerous appearances including HBO’s “Veep” and the new “Ghostbusters” film. Matt introduced Ann as the creator of the NASA golden record, adding, “if ‘Johnny B Goode’ or Maori fertility chant is misinterpreted as a declaration of war, you can blame her.”
Druyan took the stage after thunderous applause finally died down and gave a stirring speech blaming the American Media for the rise of Donald Trump and proclaiming that millennials will set right what previous generations got wrong. She left the stage to another standing ovation.
After ten years, the IIG Awards are still going strong, and we have big plans for next year.