On May 18, 2009, at a ceremony in Hollywood’s Steve Allen Theater, I received a special honor, presented by the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) at the Center for Inquiry–Los Angeles.
The handsome Lucite award reads: “For his commitment to educating the public in skeptical thinking through entertainment Joe Nickell is hereby inducted into the IIG Hall of Honor.” Sometimes called “The Houdini Award,” it was given twice before: first, posthumously to Harry Houdini and Carl Sagan, then in 2008 to the world’s foremost skeptic, James Randi. It was humbling to follow such august trailblazers, but there was more.
The presentation was made by comedian Paul Provenza and was accompanied by filmed tributes from James Randi, my mentor and friend of 40 years; Michael Shermer, ever a powerful voice of skepticism; Eugenie Scott, courageous defender of science; and—the Mythbusters themselves—Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage.
Other IIG Awards honorees were actress Amanda Peet (for her pro-vaccine work), the Mythbusters TV series, Bill Maher’s Religulous , and Lewis Black’s The Root of All Evil . In addition, some shows—notably A&E’s reprehensible Psychic Kids —received the Truly Terrible Television Award for promoting credulity.
In accepting my award, I was, uncharacteristically, almost at a loss for words. However, continuing in the fun style of the presenters (who included comedians Andy Kindler, Frank Conniff, Kathleen Madigan, and Dana Gould), I did manage to ask: “Does anyone have some prepared remarks I can borrow?” I went on to say a few words about my investigative (rather than debunking) approach and to stammer out my appreciation for the honor bestowed. I want to again emphasize my thanks to Jim Underdown and all the dedicated members of IIG, as well as the entire CFI–Los Angeles staff. Nothing is more rewarding than the approval of one’s peers.