WELCOME TO THE TENTH ANNUAL CELLY AWARDS honoring exceptional achievements in cellular thespianism! Before we begin, could I ask all of you to turn your phones off?

(Hold for laughter.)

I kid! Plug in those headsets, flip open those clamshells, and crank those ring tones all the way up, ’cause this is a night when we forget those who would call us insensitive jackasses. Let them say we are “jerkwads” who “ruined” their “anniversary dinner.” We know who we are. We are cellular thespians! And tonight we celebrate the best among us. The few. The brave. The extra, extra loud!

(Hold for applause.)

Our first award tonight is for Feature-Length “Conversation” Consisting of Ten or Fewer Words. Who can forget Caitlin Wakefield’s mesmerizing work in Not Much. How ’Bout You? Or Logan Lutz’s spellbinding performance in Dude! No Way, Dude! Or Missy Bustamante in No, You Hang Up First? But the judges agreed that the thirty-minute bravura performance that Samantha Lipstet shared with all the diners at the Cheesecake Factory could not be beat. The Celly goes to Samantha Lipstet for I Dunno!

 Okay, Sami is holding up one finger. She’ll get back to us with that acceptance speech.

Next, Best Performance Before a Captive Audience. I know some will quibble and say all our audiences—in restaurants, concert halls, libraries, churches, operating rooms, funeral homes, or just the next stall—are captive. But no. This category is specifically confined to performances at venues where escape would mean death. And what means death more than being trapped 8,750 feet above the earth on an aerial tram car? Yes, who else but our very own Rodney Pettigrew would boldly choose the Sandia Peak Tramway as his stage? This was where Rodney transfixed the fifty passengers who’d paid $15 each for what they thought would be a silent, meditative mountain moment.

(Hold for laughter.)

As if. Can we roll that clip?

For those few who don’t know Rodney, he’s the one with the mullet and the “Basswipe” fishing cap. Let’s listen to Rodney repeat or, actually, translate in his booming voice every word the car operator says, along with his own piquant commentary. As the scene opens, the operator has just informed the car that a respiratory virus has decimated local wildlife.

RODNEY: Hey, Wade, you know them big horn sheeps they use to had up here?! They’s daid!! I tell you ’bout that drywall job bid on up to Grapevine?!! Got it! Oh, hell yes! That motherBLEEPER is mine, motherBLEEPER!!

Rodney, what can I say? You own this award, man. Rodney? You out there? Anyone seen Rodney? Oh, okay. Rodney’s backstage working that Motorola camera phone to send photos of Catherine Zeta-Jones back to Wade, but he just wants to say—

“Theng yew!!!”

Ha! There’s that famous Pettigrew projection.

Our next award is for Best Display of How Really, Really Important You Are. We all know about audiences pretending they aren’t impressed by our awesomeness when we broadcast those details about the level we just reached in Counter-Strike, the way we showed Pinsky in Accounting, how we told Ashleigh that she could just kiss our butt if she was going to be that way.

But there’s no pretending with our next honoree, Jasper Portico. Whether it’s treating all the guys on adjoining StairMasters to a high-volume treatise on how he likes his Hummer detailed or sharing his thoughts on third-quarter earnings with everyone in line at Blockbuster, I think we can all agree that no one breaks down the fourth wall like Jasper. But you already know that if you were stuck on the Southwest flight that was grounded for two hours in Lubbock. Passengers in rows 1 through 22 acted as if they didn’t enjoy Jasper’s thunderous dressing-down of an underling, warning her that she was “circling the drain” and had to start “thinking outside the box” and “pushing the envelope” unless she wanted to be “voted off the island” and that they had to have some serious “face time” when he wasn’t “out of pocket.” Though Jasper rolled his eyes and made the quack-quack gesture with his hand at audience members, they resisted his attempts to include them in his glamorous, high-roller world. Instead of appreciating what a master of the universe he was, they began pelting him with Ritz Sticks. One woman started reading at an even higher volume from Spirit magazine, and another began taking very obvious notes. Someone else handed him a card with the words “shut” and “up” printed on it.

Jasper earned his Celly for the masterful way he held focus, then truly committed to the moment. Still working the Treo with one hand, Jasper got his wife on the Nextel Walkie-Talkie with the other so that the entire cabin could thrill to both sides of a powerfully graphic discussion of the effects of unpeeled cucumbers upon the Portico digestive system.

But still, we can’t, we mustn’t, ignore the signs out there. Our entire country is in danger of becoming Manhattan, where no one pays any attention unless you’re not walking down the street yelling at the top of your lungs. There used to be a time when a person discussing her last visit to the gynecologist could rivet an entire elevator. No longer. They’re tuning us out, which is why we’ve introduced a new category this year, Most Attention-Grabbing Opening. These award-nominated opening lines are how we’ll all start our calls from now on if we want anyone to notice us. So, with no further ado, the nominees are:

“Charge the defibrillator! Push thirty cc’s of lidocaine! I’ll be right there!”

“Hey, Kinky Friedman, it’s me. The stick turned blue. I’m havin’ your baby.”

“The grand jury said what?!”

“Madonna, no, Madonna, I told you for the last time—”

(Cue exceptionally tinny “La Cucaracha” ring tone.)

Is that me? Where’d I put that? Oh, okay, here it is. Sorry, but I really have to take this. Just one second, okay?

“Hey. Not much. How ’bout you?”