In any given year, there are thousands of people who inspire us, lift our spirits, give us hope, and truly make us believe that this world can be a better place. Unfortunately, there are also people who ruin our days, make us use that Futurama/Dr. Farnsworth meme way too much, and generally make us wish that we could all live on an island of our own, perhaps on Mars, where we’ll start a new breed of man… until that one also becomes too stupid and needs to be replaced by another. So as this year comes to an end, and everyone participates in the time-honored media and internet practice of picking People of the Year, we’re far more interested in those who made us laugh and cry (from laughter) and/or inspired us to always look at the bright side of life, because life’s too short to worry about how many zeroes a sex tape star earned for her stupid freemium video game.
While Time has named “Ebola Fighters” the Persons of the Year for 2014 (over 17-year old Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, which is an arguable snub, but let’s be thankful it wasn’t Roger Goodell) and Amal Clooney was named both Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating Person of the Year and InStyle’s Breakout Style Star (an amazing combo of honors), we’re honoring the men and women who entertained us the most this year. For lack of a better phrase, these people totally owned 2014, winning us over in so many different ways, and we’re happy to bring them back to the stage one more time for another round of applause.
And when it came to dominating pop culture in 2014, no man did it better than this guy…
Person of the Year – “Weird Al” Yankovic
Thirty-one years ago, “Weird Al” Yankovic released his debut album and instantly became the king of parody music for millions of us. His career has featured too many great songs and music videos to list – but we have before – and he has simply been an unparalleled comedy icon, crossing over into TV and film along the way, but ultimately being the industry’s gold standard for goofing on the biggest songs and artists in the world. Well, at least those who pretend to have a sense of humor.
However, looking at Weird Al’s success or lack thereof on the Billboard charts for some recent releases, no one could have expected what happened for this polka prince in 2014. In an Internet era dominated by YouTube parody videos that range from hilarious to please stop sending these to us, Weird Al still managed to not only fire up grassroots buzz over the release of his first independent album, “Mandatory Fun,” but when it came time for him to release one new music video and single each day for eight days, he was the news. Everything was about which single was coming next, who he was mocking and ho awesome the video would be, and we weren’t disappointed at all.
It didn’t stop there, though. The one thing that Weird Al had never done in his amazing career was have a No. 1 record, and that would end up being the icing on a giant cake shaped like an accordion. Jason Mraz and his collection of pork pie hats almost ruined the fun for us, but as July came to an end, a teary-eyed and almost speechless Alfred Matthew Yankovic accepted his framed Billboard album chart from Tom Green, and as he choked back the tears, the singer of legendary hits from “Eat It” to “Tacky” simply said, “Wow… this is amazing.” Amazing and certainly late, but well worth the wait.
Long live the new, free “Weird Al” Yankovic, forever the King of Parody.
Superhero of the Year – Chris Pratt
The drawback of today’s era of instant celebrity superstardom is that as quickly as we build an actor or actress up, people try to tear that person right back down. For example, Jennifer Lawrence reigned in 2013 and most of 2014 as America’s Sweetheart and the Girl Who Can Do No Wrong, but some people started growing tired of the tripping, accidental cursing, vomiting on Madonna’s stairs, and dating Chris Martin, because there’s such a thing as too charming and folksy. So when Chris Pratt broke out from his small but beloved role on the woefully underrated NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation to rival Mark Wahlberg for box office domination this summer, someone should have started the timer on his A-list countdown.
But it doesn’t seem like anyone did.
Pratt’s story is an incredible one, almost too good to be true. It’s impossible to trust any actor who comes off as a squeaky clean do-gooder, as charming as he is humble, because we’ve been burned by plenty of wolves in the past. But with each new day, Pratt seems more and more like he really is that lovable bro’s bro that he plays on TV and in movies, and nobody’s getting tired of it. Well, at least no one who doesn’t wake up and think, “What popular trend can I hate next?”
As we learned this year in his myriad media appearances, promotional interviews, and magazine features, Pratt’s acting career began by chance when he was living in a van in Hawaii. Of all people, forgotten 80s star Rae Dawn Chong takes credit for recognizing Pratt’s star power when he was a waiter at some chain restaurant, and not even a decade later he’s the unlikely star of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was the biggest movie at the domestic box office in 2014. It’s enough to make us believe in fairy tales, but even in those, the spells eventually wear off.
Pratt joked during the making of the second season of Parks and Rec that he had received a phone call from Steven Spielberg to star in a new Jurassic Park film, and this year it came true. Maybe karma is real and Pratt is reaping the benefits, from his incredible rise to stardom to his seemingly perfect marriage to Anna Faris. While he shared his own heartwarming story about coping with the complications of his son’s premature birth, Pratt has become a real-life superhero to so many other children and adults, as his Ice Bucket Challenge video helped silence critics of the fundraising fad, and he appeared at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles in costume as Star-Lord and surprised a theater full of kids in New York City with a special screening of Guardians of the Galaxy, and he didn’t leave until he’d taken selfies with every last kid. Oh, and he’s also a hell of a rapper.
The Internet’s Best Friend of the Year – Anna Kendrick
Much like Pratt, Anna Kendrick’s charm and talents seem to be flawless. Most celebrities try to stay away from Twitter, unless they’ve just assigned a PR person to schedule Tweets with links to trailers, positive news stories, charity work, or random knowledge. Anna is different, because she’s funny, sassy, self-aware, and not afraid to use Twitter for fun. On top of that, she’s a great actress starring in movies we enjoy, and she wasn’t even afraid to mock the hackers of the world when it seemed like nude pics of every woman on the Earth were being revealed.
Specifically, in a year that featured Guardians and Transformers typically dominating the box office, and trailers for Star Wars and Fifty Shades of Grey breaking the fingers of people clicking play over and over, Kendrick’s rising star power was displayed in the immense popularity of the trailer for Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to a film that cast her as the woman that she seems to be in reality. But a movie about song battles and musical cliques, no matter how clever and witty it may be, isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, no matter how many times we tell them, “You don’t know what you’re missing.”
In that sense, Kendrick comes through as the person anyone would love to share a beer with while cursing at random strangers behind their backs. While she’s the deserving new face of Kate Spade, Kendrick might be more qualified to run her own series on Spike TV. She knows her porn terms like no other, and she’ll show up to WrestleMania and hang out just because it’s something to do. She’s not the type of star who worries about her looks, even though she can steal our focus in a photo with Katy Perry. Even thought she claims (and probably lies) that guys don’t ever hit on her, she has no problem tossing diamonds from random strangers in the trash. And in a year that featured a lot of bad Saturday Night Live sketches and hosts, she might win the title of the best.
Basically, Anna Kendrick is cooler than any of our friends, and there’s a shot of Jager and a cold beer waiting for her next to us at the bar.
Late Night Host of the Year – John Oliver
When The Daily Show’s John Oliver announced that he’d be hosting a late night talk show on HBO, some people undoubtedly thought, “That’s cool, but hasn’t this been done before?” After all, he was leaving the critical darling of news satire shows and joining a network that already had a resident bombastic know-it-all in Bill Maher. But then something funny happened – Oliver proved there was still plenty of room for a fresh voice, and he quickly emerged as one of the best in the business with Last Week Tonight. His rants and speeches quickly became our favorites, as he blasted everyone from student loan lenders to Dr. Oz and won our hearts and brains in the process.
Oliver has the luxury of being on HBO and not having to worry about stepping on the toes of advertisers and parent companies, something that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert haven’t necessarily had (not that they’ve really cared about it either). Whether it’s the strength of the writing, Oliver’s strong and confident execution, or most likely the combination of both, Oliver’s words bite harder than anyone else in his business, regardless of whether or not you agree with the stance that he has taken. Airing only once a week on Sunday nights, Last Week Tonight had to make up for the lack of exposure that the other shows have – especially the cable news network titles that provide so much comedic material – and Oliver’s rants proved that he was up to the challenge.
The lottery. The presidential turkey pardons. Big Sugar. The Supreme Court (reenacted in spectacular fashion by dogs). Pumpkin Spice. The Miss America Organization. Ferguson coverage. Payday loan parasites. The struggle for gay rights in Uganda. All of it immediately became not only essential television viewing, but it was some of the best media coverage and all-around work that was produced on any network in 2014. With Colbert now on vacation until he takes over The Late Show in May, we can only hope that HBO ups the challenge for Oliver and his Last Week Tonight team by giving them more exposure.
Stoner of the Year – Seth Rogen
Maybe we could have made a category for Plant of the Year and had the winner be marijuana, because making it legal was quite a priority for a lot of people and states this year. It’s also not fair to Seth Rogen to call him the Stoner of the Year, because it takes away from plenty of other reasons that we like him so much, but whether he likes it or not, he’s the de facto celebrity leader of the legalization movement. After all, before all of this madness started going down with The Interview, Rogen wanted to get high in a theater with his fans while they watched him and James Franco attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-Un. That story seems like it happened two year-end lists ago with all of the hoopla that has happened since.
But beyond a room of high people laughing at a movie that may never be seen in a theater outside of George RR Martin’s home, Rogen has bridged the gap between stoners of all demographics. He taught Snoop Dogg/Lion how to roll the legendary cross joint from Pineapple Express, and when Waka Flocka Flame posted a “job listing” for a full-time joint roller, well, we all sort of hoped that Rogen’s acceptance was the beginning of viral marketing for a new buddy comedy. Hell, he was even one of the first people who got to listen to Kanye West’s latest album, but I think that was less about being high and more about what was almost a kidnapping.
It’s not all bongs and uncontrollable laughter for Rogen, though, even though “Cops cum dicks and flying” had plenty of people laughing, as did Eric Andre’s prank that gave the world his phone number. He teamed up with Bel Biv Devoe and others at Hilarity for Charity to help raise more than $900,000 for Alzheimer’s awareness, the actual cause for which he serves as spokesman, and for that he certainly deserves more respect than simply being the star of the movie that we may never see (but will probably see very soon). But if you only care about the weed, then you can at least appreciate the 33,000-calorie lasagna.
Pop Star of the Year – Lorde
In any given year, there are too many pop stars to even keep track of. You have your standard-bearers like Beyonce and Lady Gaga, and every once in a while Madonna takes her shirt off and Britney Spears lets a photographer take her picture leaving the gym, because she has a new autotuned song coming out. Then there are the up-and-comers like Ariana Grande, with her amazing media demands, and Iggy Azalea beefing with everyone from Tupac to Vanilla Ice on Twitter, and even Taylor Swift shed the last of her country roots to deliver “Shake It Off,” which was so catchy and addictive, it might as well have been crack-cocaine.
But none of them ruled 2014 like Lorde did. Sure, she wrote and performed a haunting theme song for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, while her 2013 album, “Pure Heroine,” performed well into the New Year. However, Lorde earned our respect, admiration and laughter because while most stars fear becoming the animated victims of the kids from South Park, she embraced it and played along. Best part? She didn’t even know what South Park was. She correctly saw her role in the series as a positive thing, and we were all better for it, especially when she sort of performed, “I am Lorde… ya ya ya.”
On top of that, she helped Jennifer Lawrence avoid another embarrassing moment, and she defended her new BFF Taylor Swift’s rear end by telling Diplo he has a small penis. Stay cool, Lorde. Seriously, we can’t lose you to the dark side, too.
Family Man of the Year – Channing Tatum
As another year goes by, we can’t help but marvel at the success of the man who we lovingly refer to as C-Tates, who is so successful now that he earned his own Jeopardy! category. After all, we helped turn the star of Step Up and She’s the Man into an A-list superstar who has not only found his role in the billion dollar comic book movie industry as Gambit, but will also be a force to be reckoned with when the Best Supporting Actor nominees are announced next year (we’re slightly optimistic about Foxcatcher). But unlike 2012, when C-Tates starred in three movies that busted through the $100 million mark at the box office, 2014 was a far more special year for our favorite actor, as he embraced not only his increasing star power, but also simply being a dad.
That led to him opening up to a number of outlets about his personal life and softer side. Above everything, Tatum seems to be well-equipped for any parenting challenges, as he’s using the lessons he has learned in his life, from his struggles with dyslexia to his hard-partying days that were the inspiration for Magic Mike, all while fighting off tabloid divorce rumors that he calls “all bullshit.” He told THR that one of the biggest dilemmas he faces is that he can’t devote all of the time that he wants to his daughter, Everly, so he brought her along to spend time with him on the set of Magic Mike XXL. Hey, every kid needs a story for show and tell.
As he is set to appear in Quentin Tarantino’s highly-anticipated The Hateful Eight next year and still has that whole X-Men thing ahead of him, Tatum is reportedly eager to get to work on a younger brother or sister for Everly to help pass those lessons on to. Maybe they’ll even have a special family meeting on how to properly eat ants.
Breakout Commercial Star of the Year – Lily from the AT&T commercials
There are a lot of really, really bad commercials that are played way too many times during a year, and they often inspire us to feel an almost evil rage toward the poor actors and actresses starring in them. It’s not Stephanie Courtney’s fault that we all hate Flo from the Progressive commercials, and we don’t hate Morgan Smith Goodwin because someone offered her the chance to appear in a ton of commercials, even if her character is a smug know-it-all slinging fast food to annoying guys who won’t shut up about pretzel buns.
And then there’s Lily from the AT&T commercials, a character that isn’t the marketing equivalent of someone dragged their nails across a chalkboard, played by UCB-trained actress/comedienne Milana Vayntrub. She’s just a girl patiently and kindly answering questions for a revolving door of idiot customers. In fact, the annoying girl with the hipster glasses who says, “Zizzeroni” is the perfect counterpart to remind us why we love Lily so much that we wouldn’t mind if she got her own sitcom like those awful Geico cavemen. Just please, no Nick Cannon.
Biggest Sudden Celebrity of the Year – Alex from Target
Anyone can become famous now. It just takes the right gimmick and an audience desperate for something new. Kim Kardashian built an unstoppable empire on a sex tape, and a teen name Alex became a huge star for a week because girls around the world thought he was cute. Seriously, this teenager was just working at Target when someone snapped a picture of him and immediately posted it to Twitter. Then, the godlike power of teenage girls went to work, and within a day this kid’s face was more familiar to girls in America than the solutions to basic math problems.
Of course, because nothing can be organic anymore, some schmuck with a new social media site (that was new in name, not in theory) took credit for Alex’s instant fame, even though he really had nothing to do with it. That was a fun reminder that just as teenage girls can make some random kid from Anytown, USA super-famous, they can unleash an unholy hell of negative attention at the same time. Meanwhile, Alex gained hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers in a matter of hours, and he was eventually on a plane to L.A. to meet Ellen DeGeneres.
And just like that – POOF! – Alex from Target was gone. What a story. People may not have given a crap, or the Internet’s biggest cynics might have rolled their eyes so far back into their heads that they permanently look like the Undertaker having a seizure. Either way, that’s one kid who had a better 2014 than just about anyone else in America, all because of one random photo on one random day. We look forward to his appearance on the 2019 TV series, Hey, I Was An Internet Celebrity.
Random Ensemble Cast of the Year – Too Many Cooks
Come on, you know you wanted to hear that damn song one more time. Hopefully you’ll get it out of your heads by the time 2015 begins.