The Boss took to the stage at the Right 2 Rock Celebration in aid of the Little Kids Rock organisation at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, where the musician was honoured with a prize in recognition of his charity work.
Springsteen handed his friend the Big Man Award, which was named after the pair's late bandmate, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, prior to his death in 2011, and during his speech, he poked fun at his former roommate's untidiness.
The veteran rocker compared his stint living with Van Zandt to The Odd Couple, a play about two mismatched roommates, telling the crowd, "He was a slob. He was (slobbish) Oscar and I was forced to be (tidy) Felix."
The gig featured performances by stars including Elvis Costello, Darlene Love, Dion, and Rage Against the MAChine rocker Tom Morello, who played Van Zandt's 1985 protest song Sun City, which was written to oppose South Africa's apartheid.