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Emmys 2017 Acceptance Speeches: Were Certain Winners Cut Off Too Soon? Analyzing the Numbers

Sterling K. Brown called out the producers for playing him off, but you'd be surprised how short some of this year's acceptance speeches were — or how long they could be.

Sterling K. Brown accepts the award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for "This Is Us" at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles2017 Primetime Emmy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Sep 2017

Sterling K. Brown

Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

One of the more eyebrow-raising moments of the 69th annual Emmy Awards came when Sterling K. Brown, accepting the award for Best Actor in a Drama (the first time the Emmy had gone to an African-American man since Andre Braugher in 1998, whom Brown name-checked), was cut off mid-speech. It’s a pattern familiar to those who watch awards shows, especially given that the award was one of the last of the night. But exactly how long had Brown been talking at that point? And how did the length of his speech compare to others of the evening?

IndieWire crunched the numbers and has the answers. We clocked the runtimes for each acceptance speech (as hosted on CBS’s official YouTube page), beginning our timer with the first word or “Ummmm” spoken into the microphone, listing them in ascending order of length. There’s no explicit pattern to why a speech might be longer or shorter than others, though if you’re a 12-time winner Lorne Michaels, you’re probably going to keep it tight.

Sometimes acceptance speeches can feel like they last an eternity — even when the show’s producers attempt to cut them off early — and other times, the winners are so boisterous that it would be fine if they went on forever. But here’s the truth: Acceptance speeches are rarely as long as you might think. Here’s a look at the length of some of this year’s thank yous.

Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies,” Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series: 37 seconds

Notable for being the shortest of the night, while also quite charming. He could have stayed on the stage a little longer.

“Saturday Night Live,” Outstanding Variety Sketch Series: 38 seconds

After countless wins and nominations over the years, it’s clear that Lorne Michaels doesn’t have a lot of awe left in him — hence his abbreviated speech.

Charlie Brooker, “Black Mirror,” Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or TV Movie: 43 seconds

The British writer didn’t have anything prepared, but kept his remarks relatively short. (Which was a relief — sometimes, an unprepared winner can end up rambling.)

Don Roy King, “Saturday Night Live,” Outstanding Directing for a Variety Sketch Series: 44 seconds

“I never had a problem being short,” the director joked at the beginning of his speech.

Donald Glover, “Atlanta,” Outstanding Directing in a Comedy: 44 seconds

Glover wasn’t on stage long, but did take the time to dedicate the award to his collaborator Hiro Murai, as the person who taught him the most about directing.

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” Outstanding Writing for a Variety Talk Series: 48 seconds

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” Outstanding Variety Talk Series: 53 seconds

Maybe it’s John Oliver’s innate British modesty that kept both of his acceptance speeches so tight. But we appreciate him taking the time to joke about his staff puking at Universal Studios.

“Black Mirror,” Outstanding TV Movie: 56 seconds

Brooker took a little extra time during his second appearance on stage to make an odd joke encouraging the audience to have an orgy, which followed him also noting the comparisons often drawn between his dark view of the future and the current state of 2017. “If I’d written it it wouldn’t be quite so on the nose,” he joked.

Donald Glover, “Atlanta,” Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series: 57 seconds

Like many two-time winners, Glover used his second appearance on stage to thank some people he forgot to thank the first time as well as share some personal thanks to his family. He also thanked Donald Trump for “making black people number one on the most oppressed list.”

Bruce Miller, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series: 57 seconds

Much of Miller’s speech was focused on the women of the show, including fellow winners Reed Morano and Elisabeth Moss.

Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live,” Outstanding Supporting Actress for a Comedy Series: 1 minute, 2 seconds

This is the shortest speech that the producers attempted to play off Sunday night, which is pretty surprising given that it came relatively early in the evening, as opposed to later, when the time crunch is more keenly felt.

Jean-Marc Vallee, “Big Little Lies,” Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series: 1 minute, 2 seconds

The “Big Little Lies” director also got played off — though in one of the night’s more surreal moments, the music of choice wasn’t a song from the HBO limited series, but a blast of “9 to 5,” which they must have had cued up because Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton were set to present next.

“The Voice,” Outstanding Reality Competition Series: 1 minute, 4 seconds

Despite being right in the middle of the pack, length-wise, the “Voice” producers started getting played off about 45 seconds into their speech.

“The Handmaid’s Tale,” Outstanding Drama Series: 1 minute, 5 seconds

Perhaps because it was the last award of the night — and showrunner Bruce Miller had already received one trophy already — this speech was relatively short. But it did include an enjoyable Rory Gilmore reference and a final moment of inspiration.

Reed Morano, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series: 1 minute, 7 seconds

Another winner who got played off, though just at the tail end of her speech.

John Lithgow, “The Crown,” Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: 1 minute, 13 seconds

The first award of the night was accepted by a man who likes to take his time, and was allowed to speak his piece at length (comparatively).

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep,” Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: 1 minute, 13 seconds

Louis-Dreyfus has a track record for incorporating comedy bits into her speeches, but this year, as she made history with a record number of wins, she played it relatively straight — and was given full reign of the stage.

Alec Baldwin, “Saturday Night Live,” Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: 1 minute, 16 seconds

He needed the time for some extra Trump jokes, we suppose.

Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies,” Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series: 1 minute, 21 seconds

Here’s about the mark where these speeches started feeling pretty lengthy. But it was Dern’s first Emmys win, and thus a big moment for her.

Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: 1 minute, 23 seconds

National Treasure Ann Dowd can take as long as she wants.

Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, “Master of None,” Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series: 1 minute, 24 seconds

This was actually slightly longer than that runtime might suggest, especially given that only Waithe spoke — it was preceded by a 10-second standing ovation as the winning writers made their way to the stage.

Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of,” Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series: 1 minute, 24 seconds

One of the clear ways to avoid getting played off is to bring up social issues and the dearly departed, which is probably why Riz Ahmed got through his entire time on stage without getting played off.

“Big Little Lies,” Outstanding Limited Series: 1 minute, 35 seconds

Both stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman accepted this award, and repeated comments they’ve made previously about the need for more roles for women. This followed Kidman’s win for Best Actress, which will make an appearance far further down this list.

Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: 1 minute, 37 seconds

Given how long coming this award was, it makes sense that it was one of the night’s longest speeches, one that went uninterrupted by the producers.

“Veep,” Outstanding Comedy Series: 1 minute, 45 seconds

As this is the second-to-last year that “Veep” will be eligible (the show is ending after Season 7), it makes sense that showrunner David Mandel would take the time to throw in some jokes about “being out of a job” — but perhaps the producers weren’t amused, because the Best Comedy winner started getting played off early. Mandel fought the music for a good 20 seconds towards the end, which is a pretty impressive feat.

Sterling K. Brown, “This is Us,” Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: 2 minutes, 21 seconds

And here’s where it gets interesting. When Brown got played off the stage, he tried to fight it — but his speech still ended up being the second longest of the night. (Brown was given the chance to finish his speech in front of reporters in the Emmy press room.) However, the longest speech was…

Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies,” Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

…And the producers never even hinted at playing the music — perhaps because of her stature as an actress, and because she devoted a fair portion of her time on screen to discussing the issue of domestic abuse.

What do we learn from all this? That most acceptance speeches aren’t really as long as they might seem, and that you can never tell who might choose to grab that mike and not let it go.

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