Eddie Vedder Covers U2, But It’s Borat Roasting Kanye West And Joe Biden That Steals The Show At Kennedy Center Honors

The 45th Annual Kennedy Center Honors took place in Washington D.C. last night, honoring lifetime achievements for the arts with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden in the building. This year’s honorees included U2, soul music legend Gladys Knight, Christian pop singer Amy Grant, blockbuster actor George Clooney, and Cuban composer Tania León. Eddie Vedder honored U2 with renditions of two of their songs, but it was an appearance from Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat that raised eye brows and low key stole the show by roasting Kanye West and then some friendly ribbing of Biden.

Vedder sang both U2’s “Elevation” and “One” and there was also a tribute to Knight with a performance from Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, CeCe Wynans, and BeBe Wynans. But Borat, let’s talk about Borat, because the (fake) Kazakh television reporter got super spicy. “I know the president of US and A is here,” Borat said, according to The Guardian. “Where are you, Mr Trump?” The audience roared, before Borat kept playing along saying how he thought the President looked different than he remembered. “But I see you have a new wife. Wawaweewah! She is very erotic. I must look away before I get a Bono.”

Soon, the audience response became a bit split when Borat joked about antisemitism, namely as it relates to Kanye West. “Before I proceed, I will say I am very upset about the antisemitism in US and A. It not fair. Kazakhstan is No 1 Jew-crushing nation. Stop stealing our hobby. Stop the steal! Stop the steal!” The joke was received tepidly, but Borat continued: “Your Kanye, he tried to move to Kazakhstan and even changed his name to Kazakhstanye West. But we said: No, he too antisemitic, even for us.”

It says something about the state of American arts culture, when Kanye jokes and his despicable behavior became a topic of conversation at an otherwise prestigious arts ceremony. And it threatened to take away the shine from honorees like U2. But actor Sean Penn tried to keep the focus on the honorees, praising U2 as “four scrappy Dublin punks” and “great musical poets of the ages.”