Entertainment

Trump tirades, love for Canada dominate discussion at the Emmys

Stephen Colbert hosted Sunday's ceremony, which went hard on Trump, honoured diversity

Haydn Watters - CBC News

September 18, 2017

Host Stephen Colbert warned us ahead of Sunday's prime time Emmys that politics would not be off-limits.

But it felt like U.S. President Donald Trump was everywhere during the ceremony — his name turning up in rambling tirades, acceptance speeches and taking up a good chunk of Colbert's opening monologue, always the butt of the joke.

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Perhaps the show was just punching back. 

The president has spent years slighting it, seemingly holding a grudge ever since he was twice nominated for The Apprentice only to lose both times. Trump even took a moment during one of the presidential debates to say he should have won an Emmy after Hillary Clinton brought up his losses.

Host Stephen Colbert opens the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, with a little help from scantily clad handmaids (from The Handmaid's Tale.) (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Politics may have overshadowed the show, but it also made for some of the night's most memorable moments. There were, however, a few entirely apolitical highlights too. Here's what happened.

Dumping on Trump

There were plenty of easy jabs at the president. Colbert lampooned his tweets and quipped that "Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote." But sandwiched between those were fierce critiques of his administration. 

Atlanta's Donald Glover sarcastically thanked Trump during his best comedic actor acceptance speech "for making black people number one on the most oppressed list."

"He's probably the reason why I'm up here," he said.

Alec Baldwin accepts the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for his portrayal of U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Presenter Lily Tomlin didn't call out Trump by name but subtly told the crowd she refused "to be controlled by a sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot."

It came full circle when Alec Baldwin won best supporting actor in a comedy series for his portrayal of the president on Saturday Night Live.

"I suppose I should say, at long last Mr. President, here is your Emmy," Baldwin said, while clutching the trophy.

The return of Spicey

The night's biggest surprise was also Trump related. It came just moments into the show when Colbert brought out former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, podium and all.

Spicer, who guested on Jimmy Kimmel Live last week, grinned while lecturing the crowd on the potential size of the Emmys viewership.

"This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period," he said, an allusion to his demonstrably false claim in January that the audience to Trump's inauguration was the biggest ever. 

Many stars dropped their jaws and covered their mouths, while a camera captured a stunned Melissa McCarthy (who played Spicer on SNL) scratching her nose and holding her chin.

As the real Spicer wrapped, Colbert thanked "Melissa McCarthy" for showing up.

Diversity reigns

The focus on Trump may have blurred what was arguably the night's most important trend: a clear focus on honouring a diversity of industry players. Or as presenter Dave Chappelle put it, "I'm truly amazed how many black people are here ... I counted 11 on the monitor."

Master of None's Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe won for outstanding comedy writing, making Waithe the first black woman to win the prize.

Aziz Ansari, left, and Lena Waithe pose with their Emmy for outstanding writing for a comedy series for their show Master of None. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

"The things that make us different — those are our superpowers," she said during her acceptance speech, thanking everyone for embracing a queer black girl from the south side of Chicago. 

She added backstage: "What it does is, it says that it's possible."

Along with his best comedic actor win, Atlanta's Donald Glover also scored best comedy direction. "This is nuts," he said. "I just love everybody out here for letting me be up here."

Donald Glover smooches one of his Emmys in the press room Sunday. The Atlanta star won for his acting and directing. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The Night Of's Riz Ahmed took home best actor for limited series or movie. And This is Us' Sterling K. Brown paid tribute to Andre Braugher during his acceptance speech for lead actor, drama. Braugher was the last black man to win the honour. 

"I'm the first African-American in 16 years nominated. That kind of blows my mind," he said.

Female empowerment

The academy also recognized many strong female roles this year, a move praised by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman while accepting the best limited series Emmy for Big Little Lies, which the pair starred in and co-executive produced. 

But they also urged for more of these types of roles.

"Bring women to the front of their own stories, and make them the hero of their own stories," Witherspoon said during the speech.

She elaborated back stage: "It's great to be the architect of your own destiny and create material for yourself."

Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon share the stage with cast and crew of Big Little Lies while accepting the prize for outstanding limited series. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The Handmaid's Tale, which took home eight Emmys including best drama series, also showed a range of strong female voices in its adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel.

"I think there's still a lot of work to be done but incredible progress has been made," said the show's star Elisabeth Moss, who won best dramatic actress for her role as the handmaid Offred.

Canadian pride

Atwood, who was in attendance, was feted numerous times and got a standing ovation as she made her way onto the stage after The Handmaid's Tale won best drama series.

And each time the show won a trophy, the recipient thanked Atwood. Reed Morano, who won for her directing, called Atwood "her idol." Show star Moss was also generous in her praise.

"Oh my gosh, thank you for what you did in 1985, and thank you for what you continue to do for all of us," she said while accepting for best dramatic actress.

Margaret Atwood, centre, in red, joins the cast and some crew of The Handmaid's Tale as they accept the award for outstanding drama series at Sunday's Emmys. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

It wasn't just Atwood — fellow Canucks Jean-Marc Vallée, director and executive producer of Big Little Lies and Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels were thanked over and over as their shows kept racking up awards.

Big Little Lies' Laura Dern told reporters in the press room that working with Vallée was like "doing a little dance" every day and she loved the fact that he was "gender blind."

SNL's Don Roy King paid his tribute to Michaels while accepting for best directing, variety — "Because of Lorne Michaels, I have the best job in television."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Haydn Watters

Haydn Watters is a Toronto-based online and broadcast journalist. He has also worked for CBC News in Halifax, Yellowknife and at the politics bureau in Ottawa.

With files from Zulekha Nathoo and the Associated Press
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