Best Surprise Comedian: Bill Withers
Bill Withers improvised his acceptance speech several times: "Hold that teleprompter for a minute," the feisty 76-year-old said, "because I'm about to go off script." ("I didn't use it," replied Stevie Wonder in jest, eliciting big laughs from the crowd). Wonder, who inducted the "Lovely Day" legend with a short but tender speech citing the West Virginia native's later-in-life success and deep emotional quotient, praised Withers' catalog as "songs that were for every single culture there is; everyone can relate, somewhere in the world."
Withers accepted his honor with a slew of good-natured barbs. He said he wasn't usually around people like this since he spends his time watching Judge Judy, and he later made a Big Bang Theory reference, citing it as his favorite show. He walked through his whole career, naming every single person that helped him out, carefully announcing who was alive and dead. He even thanked the DJs that turned his early single over and played "Ain't No Sunshine."
Some of his killer lines: "Stevie Wonder inducting me in the Hall of Fame is like a lion opening the door for a kitty cat"; "While I was sitting listening to people speak, Joan Jett was talking about A&R issues — I call them antagonistic and redundant"; "Steve Cropper was nice enough to mention my name, and Beck! I didn't know Beck and I were boys! He came up to me and said, 'We know some of the same cats!'"
But the line that brought the house down was a response to so many honorees and speakers referencing their rehab and addictions: "One other thing crossed my mind, this has got to be the largest AA meeting in the western hemisphere," he jested. Everyone roared.