What gets actors like Octavia Spencer, Justin Timberlake, Kerry Washington, Helen Mirren and Jay Leno out into the streets of Cambridge for a raucous celebratory parade in the middle of February? Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding Awards, of course!
The Hasty Pudding Institute, comprising the Hasty Pudding Club, The Hasty Pudding Theatricals and the Harvard Krokodiloes—the oldest a cappella group on campus—dates to 1795. Nymphas Hatch, a junior at Harvard, met with 20 other classmates to create a new society. At each meeting, the group would gather over a pot of pudding, hence the name. Thus, the oldest social club in the nation was born. Members have included United States Presidents (John and John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy and both Roosevelts) as well as actor Jack Lemmon and mega media mogul William Randolph Hearst.
The Hasty Pudding Theatricals rose out of the club as way for the group to tackle thorny topical issues, from the Bolshevik Revolution in 1910 to Hitler and Mussolini in 1938.
Every year since 1951, the drama club selects a Man and Woman of the Year who have made lasting contributions to the entertainment world. And far from a drab awards ceremony, the Hasty Pudding Awards are a chance for students and celebs alike to revel. Club members appear in drag alongside the honored A-Lister as they parade through Cambridge. The Awards end with a banquet to toast the year’s honoree, and the whole event usually turns into a mini-roast. Case in point: at his ceremony, Ryan Reynolds had to dig through a garbage can to look for a green lantern—a not so subtle jibe at his less-than-stellar movie of the same name. The actor, laughing, through it all, took it in stride.
And that’s the best part about the Hasty Pudding Awards. They’re a joyful celebration of theatrics, and a unique way Cambridge honors the arts. The 2018 recipients will be announced mid-January for those excited to head to Cambridge to see the parade.