When it comes to the thought of tubthumbing himself to his peers during Emmy season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-creator Michael Schur personally exclaims, “I don’t want to get involved with vote solicitation.” Shur’s philosophy isn’t uncommon among the denizens of actors, actresses and show creators during Emmy season: Nobody wants to be seen schilling for a vote.
However, in the last few months, a prospective nominee might have had the opportunity to make a couple of appearances outside the litter of TV Academy screenings; events that by their nature aren’t considered traditional Emmy campaign stops, but in hindsight, were potentially the best exposure for a contender in the conversation: The American Comedy Awards and The White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Yes, the American Comedy Awards which deep-sixed in the overnight ratings for NBC on May 8 with 1.0/3 and 3.1 million viewers. How could this once dormant-and-born-again TV franchise resonate with TV voting members? First, the show is produced by Emmy ceremony guru Don Mischer. If there’s a time for a comedian to trot out a zany bit in hopes of possibly showcasing on the Emmys, there was no better place to audition than at the American Comedy Awards. Even more important, similar to the Friars Roasts of yore, the ceremony was a place to showcase the best of your talents; not because you’re vying for an Emmy, rather because you are in front of your peers. Such sincere motivation produced some of the zaniest moments in awards television: Craig Robinson (who is apt to be in the guest comedy acting mix for his turn as the Pontiac Bandit on Brooklyn Nine-Nine) kept the room’s vibe alive with his satirical funk R&B band The Nasty Delicious. Veep‘s Timothy Simons and Matt Walsh provided great banter as presenters about the Oscars. Accepting her award for best supporting actress, Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon delivered an unforgettable speech that no potential Emmy voter in the room could forget: She screamed at the top of her lungs. Not to mention, endorsements abounded on the show. Amy Poehler, after collecting an award for TV comedy actress on Parks and Recreation, (a much needed boost as she’s often overlooked for a final Emmy win), exclaimed, “I think a lot of people ask ‘Are women funny?’ but I think not enough people make the statement that black people are funnier than white people,” before giving a shout out to Robinson and suchcritically acclaimed shows like Comedy Central’s Key & Peele (contender for the variety series category). In the end, a kinetic comedic energy prevailed at the Hammerstein Ballroom, easily outstripping the impromptu moments of the Golden Globe and the pungent punchlines doled out by Catskillian hosts (read Brad Garrett) at the WGAs.
Similarly, if you were a Washington, D.C.-based show such as House of Cards, Scandal or Veep, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner provided the ideal un-shilling spotlight. While the CNN telecast of the event drew minimal eyeballs, it wasn’t so much who was watching as who was in the room that mattered. The antics of the Hollywood crowd who attended went viral, such as Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ video with Vice President Joe Biden that drew 1.6 million viewers to HBO’s YouTube channel. The Scandal and House of Cards teams, though without their stars, tweeted up a storm.
— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) May 4, 2014
Whether such events are Emmy nom bellwethers remains to be seen. For that matter, any kind of Emmy promotion isn’t a surefire guarantee for recognition. But at the very least, these un-campaign stops potentially offer the best, most carefree exposure for a contender in the conversation.