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“It’s a pain,” remarked Elton John to co-host Neil Patrick Harris at the top of this year’s Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party on Sunday night.

He was describing how it felt to pivot the 29th annual affair from an in-person, glamour-drenched fundraiser to a streaming event due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but he was quick to walk back the comment. “It’s not a pain. I wish we could be there. It’s more fun to be there. This is the only way we could do it.”

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He made no attempts to clarify his opinions later on, during the live viewing party that streamed online thanks to meeting platform Cisco Webex. After the 60-minute preshow — which featured a shimmering set from global pop superstar Dua Lipa and appearances by Lady Gaga, Cynthia Erivo and the cast of It’s a Sin — John and partner David Furnish appeared during commercial breaks along with Eric McCormack.

During the first break, John unloaded on the Academy Awards’ Union Station venue, saying, “The Oscar ceremony looks like it’s coming from a Starbucks somewhere.”

During the subsequent break, in between compliments to early winner Daniel Kaluuya (“He’s a lovely man”), John doubled down on his hot take. “I still can’t get over the set, though.”

Digs and all, the EJAF Oscars party raised $3 million, with no long lines at the valet.

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