Everyone expected the smattering of stars at the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards to get political, and host Stephen Colbert kicked things off in a big way. The late-night host devoted a large portion of his opening monologue to taking digs at Donald Trump.
The host began the night with a pre-taped song-and-dance number, packed with cameos from stars, before taking to the live stage to give his opener. Things started off tame, with jokes about “Game of Thrones” not being eligible to win this year and the self-congratulatory nature of the awards, but it didn’t take long for the jokes about the president to come.
“The industry is booming. There were 450 original scripted shows this year,” he said. “Of course, there’s no way anyone could watch that much TV, other than the president, who seems to have a lot of time for that sort of thing.”
He then looked directly to camera and addressed Trump.
“Hello sir, thank you for joining us. Looking forward to the tweets.”
Just when you thought that would be enough, Colbert made it clear that he wouldn’t pull any punches when talking about politics at the TV event.
“We know that the biggest TV star of the last year is Donald Trump,” he said. “And however you feel about the president, and you do feel about the president, you can’t deny that every show is influenced by Donald Trump in some way. Every late night show, obviously, ‘House of Cards,’ the new season of ‘American Horror Story’ and, of course, next year’s Latin Grammys, hosted by Joe Arpaio.”
The host was referencing the recent controversial pardon of the Arizona Sheriff by the president. Next, Colbert turned things back toward the show, mentioning the fact that the president was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards for “Celebrity Apprentice” in the past but never won.
“Why didn’t you give him an Emmy? I tell you this, if he had won an Emmy, I bet he wouldn’t have run for president. So, in a way, this is all your fault.” he said, gesturing to the whole room. “I thought you people loved morally compromised anti-heroes! You love Walter White, he’s just Walter much-whiter. And he never forgave you and he never will. The president complained repeatedly that the Emmys are rigged.”
He then segued into a clip from the presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton, where she criticized him for saying the Emmys were rigged and the then-candidate interrupted to say that he should have won.
“But he didn’t, because unlike the presidency, Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote.”
Despite the applause his remarks received, Colbert acknowledged that the room full of celebrities wasn’t necessarily the toughest crowd to tell anti-Trump jokes.
Colbert closed out his politics-riddled monologue with a surprise cameo featuring former Press Secretary to the Trump administration Sean Spicer. Colbert pretended to lament that he was unsure how big the viewing audience is and got some help from Spicer.
“This will be the largest audience to witness and Emmys, period,” Spicer said emphatically. “Both in person and around the world.”
Colbert then asked for a round of applause for Spicer, who he identified as Melissa McCarthy, who previously won an Emmy for her parody of Spicer on “Saturday Night Live.”
The next jab at Trump came from Alec Baldwin whose impersonations of Trump have propelled “SNL” to its best season in years, bringing in viewers and also Emmys glory. Baldwin’s win is the third win for “Saturday Night Live” during Sunday’s show.
“I suppose I should say at long last Mr. President, here is your Emmy.”
He went on to joke that putting on the orange wig is the best birth control for men given he and his wife didn’t have a baby during the election year. He left his speech with some final words about the arts during turbulent political times that seemed pointed directly at the president.
“When you die, you don’t remember a bill that Congress passed or a decision the Supreme Court made or an address made by the president. You remember a song, you remember a line from a movie, you remember a play, you remember a book, a painting, a poem. What we do is important and for all of you out there in motion pictures and television, don’t stop doing what you’re doing, the audience is counting on you.”
The next stars to take a shot at the president was “Grace and Frankie” co-stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. Taking the stage to announce the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie with Dolly Parton, the actresses joked that the enemy in their 1980 film “9 to 5” was a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” and said that they’re still fighting one in 2017.
Later in the show, Donald Glover took home two Emmys in 2017 for his FX series “Atlanta.” While accepting his award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy series, he issued a backhanded “thank you” to the president.
“I want to thank Trump for making black people the number one on the ‘most oppressed’ list,” he said. “He’s probably the reason I’m up here.”
When earning a record-breaking award for her role on HBO’s “Veep,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus joked that they abandoned a storyline about impeachment because they were worried “someone else might get there first.”