Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the focus of the night, of course, was on which shows, actors, directors, writers, and producers took home a golden statue for their work. But within the main event were some truly memorable moments. Here are some of the best.
Jimmy Kimmel’s hosting job
Kimmel did a stellar job, coming strong right out of the gate with a hilarious opening skit. These days, how a host arrives on stage for such an event is nearly as important as what they say, and Kimmel delivered. He started out in a white bronco, speeding down the highway with Malcolm Jamal Warner in a shout out to The People vs O.J. Simpson. He next jumped in a minivan with the Dunphys from Modern Family, sang Wham’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go in Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, tried to hitch a ride in Jeb Bush’s Uber limo, and finally, crashed into the studio (and Ryan Seacrest!) on a flying dragon with Emilia Clarke. It was fun, but we wanted more.
Once on stage, he held nothing back, taking jabs at TV’s elite. First, was Jeffrey Tambor, to whom he ran up, handed over an Emmy, and said “There. That just saved us 22 minutes.” (Of course, while Tambor returned it, the award found its way back to the actor when he eventually won in his category.) He later went on to take another jab at Tambor’s show about a transgender parent, noting that it “was born a drama but identifies as a comedy.” He also pointed fingers at Mark Burnett, telling us we should blame him for Donald Trump because Burnett created Celebrity Apprentice. “Thanks to Mark Burnett,” he said, “we don’t have to watch reality television shows anymore because we’re living in one.”
But the harshest jab was at Marcia Clark, who was in attendance as the “plus-one” for the actress that played her on TV, Sarah Paulson. “Yeah, if you want to win, sit next to Marcia Clark,” Kimmel joked sarcastically to Paulson. “This must be very weird for you,” he added, addressing Clark. “Are you rooting for O.J to win this time?”
Teetering on the line of questionable, Kimmel delivered a few jokes that made the audience feel a bit uncomfortable: the first was when Dr. Bill Cosby was announced as a presenter. There was silence as the audience waited for someone to come on stage. Eventually, Kimmel walked on noting that Cosby wasn’t really there, he just wanted to see how everyone would react. The second time was his joke following Courtney B. Vance’s win for The People vs. O.J. Simpson. Vance won for playing Johnnie Cochrane, and Kimmel went a bit dark in his response. “I bet Johnnie Cochrane is looking up at us all with a smile,” Kimmel joked, followed by “too soon?”
Aziz Ansari’s non-speech
Aziz Ansari’s acceptance speech was mainly memorable simply because he didn’t really give it. After taking the stage to accept the award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for Netflix’s Master of None, the pint-sized comedian got cut off when writer Alan Yang ended what was to be his portion of the speech with a passionate mention about the lack of diversity for Asian-Americans. “… Asian parents out there, if you could do us a favor and just a couple of you get your kids cameras instead of violins, we’ll be all good,” Yang concluded. Then, the dreaded music kicked in. Ansari awkwardly approached the mic a few times in an attempt to say something, until he simply ran back to his seat. He did finally get his chance once back on stage to present the award for writing for a Variety Special, and he took the opportunity to give kudos to his parents.
Two other speeches were memorable for their non-existence: both Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) and Bloodline’s Ben Mendelsohn won for their respective supporting roles in a Drama, and each was the only nominee not present from their category. At the beginning of the broadcast, Kimmel noted that he was changing the rules, and the Emmy would go to the next person should a winner not be present to accept it. Ironically, he had given Smith’s name as an example, pointing out that she’s never appeared at the Emmys even though she’s won many of them. So when her name was announced as the winner, Kimmel jumped on stage to declare that the award would be in the Lost & Found.
Kate McKinnon’s tears of joy
The award for most sincere speech, however, goes to Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon. As the first woman to win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series from a sketch comedy show, McKinnon’s tears seemed genuine. While she was prepared with a list of those she wanted to thank on hand, it was obvious she was finding it difficult to compose herself. “I’m really crying,” she assured. “I’m not making this up.”
Sterling K. Brown’s call out
Winners thanking their significant others is nothing new, but Sterling K. Brown unintentionally started an ego-driven trend when he called his wife the “hottest chick in the game rocking his chain.” It suddenly became a contest for every male winner accepting afterward to deliver an ego-boosting ode to their own significant others.
Rami Malek and Tatiana Maslany
Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Drama Series winning speeches by Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) were both memorable for separate reasons. Both first-time winners, Malek used the platform to bring awareness to how we treat people like his character Elliot, who often feels alienated, while Maslany applauded her show for being one that puts women at the center of the plot. But Malek didn’t waste the chance to use his character to help express his disbelief at winning: “please tell me you’re seeing this too?” he asked the audience as soon as he stepped on stage.
But perhaps the most impactful speech came from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who started off joking about her show and its relation to the real political landscape. “I think Veep has torn down the wall between comedy and politics,” she joked. “Our show started out as a political satire but it now feels like a sobering documentary.” Then, she ended on a more sombre note, thanking her father who passed away just days earlier.
PB and J
Unlike awards shows like The Golden Globes, attendees are not served any food or drinks at the Emmys. So Kimmel took it upon himself to have his mother “make” thousands of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for everyone. Then, he had them delivered, along with juice boxes, by the kids from Stranger Things. OK, so we’ve seen the whole “deliver food to hungry Hollywood folks” before: remember when Ellen DeGeneres ordered pizza to the Academy Awards? But this one was much better executed. Not only did those cute kids scoot down the aisles on their bikes delivering brown bagged lunches, there even personal notes for some of the top actors on their napkins.
Matt Damon’s apples
In keeping with Kimmel’s ongoing mock feud with Matt Damon, the A-list actor surprised viewers by showing up on stage, conveniently right after Kimmel lost Outstanding Variety Talk Series to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. Damon’s nonchalant nature was hilarious as he chomped an apple while pointing out that Kimmel would have to now finish his Emmy hosting gig in front of everyone after he just lost. “Tell your mom I like dem Apples,” Damon uttered as he departed the stage.
Leslie Jones is hilarious
SNL cast member Leslie Jones was able to spice up the typically boring Ernst & Young accountants presentation by suggesting that, rather than protect information like the Emmy award winners that no one is trying to steal so well, they should focus on things like her Twitter account. She went on to reference her recent privacy hack as well. “Ya’ll using your skills to protect best voiceover on a French sitcom,” she said. “Meanwhile, I’m butt naked on CNN. I just wanted to feel beautiful ya’ll. Can a sister feel beautiful?”
The in memoriam segment is always a worthwhile watch at the Emmy Awards, and this year was no exception. The event paid tribute to entertainment figures we lost this year, like Jackie Collins, Anton Yelchin, Morley Safer, Doris Roberts, Garry Shandling, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Abe Vigoda, David Bowie, Patty Duke, Gene Wilder, and Prince. But it wasn’t just a great visual experience, it was also a fantastic audio experience with Tori Kelly’s haunting rendition of Hallelujah.