UPDATED with video Tonight’s Emmy Awards – or “Pandemmie Awards,” as host Jimmy Kimmel called it – started traditionally enough: Kimmel walked onstage at the Staples Center to a rousing ovation, and the full house laughed, gasped and rolled eyes just as in years past.
Of course, the audience was from years past: reaction shots from previous Emmys were slotted in for every one of Kimmel’s punchlines with the accuracy and timing of a laugh track. Big guffaws for the big jokes, titters for the small ones and a surprised “oooh” for the risky ones.
“You know what they say,” Kimmel said by way of introduction. “You can’t have a virus without a host.”
Five minutes in, Kimmel got real, ‘fessed up and the old audiences faded to empty seats and a darkened, quiet auditorium, an odd but appropriate mood-setter for a year the host described as one marked by “division, injustice, disease, zoom school and death.”
“I’m up here all alone,” Kimmel joked, “just like prom night.” He added that of course there would be no audience tonight: “This isn’t a MAGA rally.”
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Aside from the oddness of the empty theater and a note of reassurance from the host (“It’s going to be fun, and my God do we need fun”), the monologue leaned into Kimmel’s tried and true comedy style, with lots of jokes and a celebrity appearance: Jason Bateman sat frozen in the audience seats, the only real person, surrounded by cardboard cutouts of the nominees.
“You can stay as long as you promise to laugh at my jokes,” Kimmel said. Responded Bateman, “Huh. I’m going to call a car.”
Kimmel also got in some inside-industry jokes: “Quibi has 10 Emmy nominations this year,” he said, calling the short-form streamer “the dumbest thing to ever cost a billion dollars.” Taking a swipe at ABC standards and practices, the host noted that he couldn’t say Schitt’s Creek without showing the dollar-sign-for-S logo. “HBO can show us a big blue penis no problem, I can’t stay the word Schitt’s with a C?”
Following the monologue proper, Kimmel walked from centerstage to an area with a huge, curved wall of 100 screens, with live feeds from nominees around the world.
“What,” Kimmel asked, “could possibly go right?”
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