As the line between politics and entertainment has become nonexistent, commentary at this year’s Emmy Awards about the Trump administration began with the opening number and never let up. While host Stephen Colbert set the quasi-political soapbox on stage, plenty of talent weighed in during their onstage speeches and backstage.
On Living in Trump’s America
During his acceptance speech, Outstanding Comedy Actor and Comedy Directing winner Donald Glover had thanked Donald Trump for “making black people No. 1 on the most-oppressed list.” Backstage, he didn’t really elaborate on that comment, but added, “It’s pretty obvious. Someone told me once that people in a dystopian society don’t realize they’re in a dystopian society… I think people are aware.”
The Role of TV Questioning the Government
Alec Baldwin, who was a shoo-in to win for playing Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” jokingly offered his Emmy to Trump in his acceptance speech, but backstage he downplayed the importance of his role to America.
“People are overwhelmed. We’re in a situation now where we’re at critical mass,” he said. “People find it unacceptable where we are… reinforced by the words and deeds of this person. I’m a conduit for them… they’re frustrated… confused and in pain. They walk up to me slap me on the back… I, in some small way, manage that pain.”
Kate McKinnon — who won the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy award for her various “SNL” roles, including spoofing Hillary Clinton — added, “I think satire is so important whenever there’s anything flouting around in the consciousness. The salience of our show just proves that.”
Producer Lorne Michaels noted that on a show with political satire, “Not all of [the states] are going to agree with what you’re doing… Philosophically, whoever is in power should be questioned.”
Michaels also addressed challenges of constantly having to rework the show at the last minute based on the President’s latest actions or late-night tweets. “This was a year that it was incredibly important for us to get it right,” he said. “Everything changed every day… Because it’s live, it has to hit and to be of the moment.. with a clear point of view.” In particular, he pointed to the episode hosted by newly minted Emmy winner Dave Chappelle because it had followed Election Day, when the results were the opposite of what had been expected and written about.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” creator Bruce Miller added that viewers were drawn to the tale for the same reason Margaret Atwood’s novel has been popular – that it reflected a society that was all too real. “The book had exactly the same kind of following,” he said. “Nowadays people are worried that they’re living in a society where big things are happening and the government is doing things they can’t affect.”
A Very Spicey Evening
Besides the relentless jabs and references to the POTUS, one of the most surreal moments came during Colbert’s monologue, when former White House press secretary Sean Spicer rolled up on stage on a Segway-podium to send up himself, no Melissa McCarthy required.
Although McKinnon remained somewhat neutral and said, “I enjoyed seeing him again,” Baldwin seemed to feel generous. The actor lauded Spicer for his “sense of humor” in poking fun at himself, and also sympathized with the difficult position Spicer had been in trying to spin for Trump while dealing with a demanding press. He was “compelled to do certain things” that most people didn’t respect, but it was “critical in order to do his job.” Baldwin also noted that he’s done some things in his own career that people wouldn’t respect or admire either.
An Homage to Hillary
McKinnon had far more to say about Clinton, whom she had thanked for her “grace and grit” in her acceptance speech earlier in the night. Backstage, she was able to be more effusive.
“It’s been the greatest honor of my life, the greatest role I’ve gotten to play,” McKinnon said. “I am certainly a great admirer of her and I hope it is mutual. I think that it is.”
McKinnon, who once had a dinner with her hero, reported, “It was very surreal. She was warm and gracious as always. And I ate too much.”
The Solution to All of Our Ills
Earlier in the evening, “Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker said “love will defeat hate” and proposed that if everyone at the Emmys would make love on the count of three, then love would win. Although the audience did not comply for his mass love-in, a few others had ideas on how to improve today’s crazy world.
“Veep” star and executive producer Julia Louis-Dreyfus noted that with so many feminist Emmy-winning shows, that could be a good sign. “Let’s hope the this the beginning of something even better in our country and in the world,” she said and added, “I think the world would be a better place if the women were in charge.”
“This Is Us” Outstanding Actor in a Drama winner Sterling K. Brown had been played off the stage before he could properly thank everyone involved with the show and his role, including his wife. But when he got the chance to finish backstage with a very pointed thank you to “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman.
“He is the Hebrew hammer with which our house is built,” Brown said. “He’s not trying to make America great again; he’s trying to make it the best it’s ever been.”
It seems that love does win, at least at the Emmys.