Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Sara Hammel
March 03, 2015 10:55 AM

George Clooney definitely married up.

The Oscar winner went solo to SeriousFun Children’s Network‘s New York City gala on Monday, honoring the late Paul Newman. But his wife of five months, Amal Clooney, wasn’t far from his thoughts – particularly when he stumbled on his facts in talking about Newman’s legacy of helping sick children.

Newman’s camps for kids, including the Hole in the Wall Gang, let them “find joy and friendship, all the things that camp should be,” said Clooney, 53. “Today, there isn’t just one camp, but there’s a thriving community in the U.S., in Europe, in Israel. Since 1988, these camps have brought over a half-million sick kids and their families from over five hun – over 50 countries – five hundred countries would be too many. There aren’t actually that many.”

As the audience chuckled, he added: “My wife’s the smart one.”

The actor closed on a serious note, saying of Newman: “He is the best version of us. And I don’t mean actors. I mean humans.”

The gala brought out many other stars, including Danny DeVito, Meryl Streep, Carole King, Tom Hanks, David Letterman, Aloe Blacc, Natalie Cole and Ingrid Michaelson.

Clooney palled around with his old friend DeVito on the red carpet, mingling with a few of the dozen kids in attendance who have attended Newman’s summer camps. The Tomorrowland star even sweetly asked kids including Joey Green, 12, if they’d gotten a chance to “play in the snow.”

Once inside, it took no time for Hanks to choke up. He introduced some of the children, who performed throughout the program, and spent some time on the Lincoln Center stage with Sammi Blansett, 11, and her mom. When he was about to lose it, Hanks waited a beat and then admitted, “I’m such a sap.”

DeVito also got emotional speaking about the good that Newman’s charity has done.

“Somebody’s riding a zipline battling a heavy-duty disease,” he said. “Somebody’s laughing when they’re going through something that would make anybody cry. Knowing that there’s a kid acting like a kid when everybody looks at him like a patient.”

When it was Clooney’s turn, he used his trademark humor to lighten the mood.

“You’re done,” he told DeVito, who was reluctant to leave the stage. As DeVito did stalk off, Clooney mimed tossing back a drink – perhaps a reference to the duo’s infamous2006 limoncello drinkathon – as the audience roared.

Meryl Streep and Carole King
Taylor Hill/Filmmagic

Streep also clearly enjoyed the evening. “We celebrate how young he will stay,” she said of Newman, who died in 2008 at age 83. She also joined Blacc, King and others on stage for a rousing musical finale.

Hanks told reporters that his own summer camp experience – full of “bug juice,” “pranks” and “fireflies” – was amazing, and it’s only fair that these children also have a chance.

“I was an average goofy doofus as much as anybody,” he said, “but if you get to be one of the kids here and you get to experience the same sort of thing, that’s [the best].”

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