Lance Armstrong raised eyebrows – and got laughs – as host of Wednesday night’s ESPY Awards, where he cracked crude jokes about new best friends Jake Gyllenhaal and Matthew McConaughey.
The actors, who’ve been photographed recently clad in Spandex and biking with Armstrong, were in the audience at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre. Armstrong, in a reference to Gyllenhaal’s Brokeback Mountain role, asked why Gyllenhaal was sitting in the front when Armstrong thought he preferred to be “in the rear of the theater.”
Then, referring to McConaughey’s recent PEOPLE honor, Armstrong said, “The Sexiest Man Alive is here, Matthew McConaughey. We don’t all have to turn and look – we all know what he looks like. Jake, eyes up here!”
(Backstage, Armstrong told reporters, “Matthew I’ve known for the past seven or eight years now, and the last couple of years we’ve gotten closer. We just enjoy hanging out. Cycling is a sport that he doesn’t know – it’s a sport that I introduced him to. We’ve been doing a bunch of riding. He’s a true sportsman.”)
From the podium, Armstrong also joked about his testicular cancer, bashed the French (a French newspaper had erroneously accused him of doping after one of his seven Tour de France victories) and was shown in a doctored photo catching Britney Spears’s falling son, Sean Preston
He also picked up his fourth consecutive male athlete of the year award. “It wasn’t rigged, I promise,” he told the audience after receiving his silver trophy from Mariah Carey.
Backstage, Armstrong described how he’s been handling life since quitting professional cycling last year. “I’m still trying to be retired,” he said. “Life is busy, life is hectic – I suppose that’s the way I like it.”
At the afterparty at the Mondrian Hotel’s Skybar, Armstrong, McConaughey and Gyllenhaal hung out with actors Cole Hauser and Matthew Perry, while Arizona Cardinals footballer Matt Leinart stuck with Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo. Other guests included Ashley Judd, Brandy, Venus and Serena Williams and Kiefer Sutherland.
The ceremony will be broadcast Sunday night on ESPN.
With reporting by JED DREBEN, KIM LANSING and NICHOLAS WHITE