The Emmy Awards were less than 10 minutes into Sunday’s show before host Stephen Colbert gave President Trump a shout-out.
After an opening dance number titled “Everything Is Better on TV” — which included the line, “Turn on every channel except the news” — the Emmys host applauded the TV industry’s booming year and plethora of shows, a whopping 450.
“There’s no way anyone could watch that much TV, other than the president,” said Colbert during his monologue. He added with a wave, “Hello sir, thank you for joining us. Looking forward to the tweets!”
He admitted that the biggest star of the year, in fact, is Trump, reminding the audience and viewers at home of the former reality star’s obsession with the Emmys.
“However you feel about the president, you can’t deny that every show was influenced by Donald Trump in some way,” he said, naming House of Cards and the new season of American Horror Story. “We all know the Emmys mean a lot to Donald Trump because he was nominated multiple times for Celebrity Apprentice, but he never won. If he had won an Emmy I bet he wouldn’t have run for president.”
He added, “So in a way, this is all your fault — I thought you people loved morally compromised antiheroes.”
Noting that Trump has repeatedly complained that the Emmys are “rigged” in the past, he displayed an old Trump tweet about former host Seth Meyers having “marbles in his mouth” — cut to Meyers spitting out marbles for a bit from his seat in the audience — and a flashback to when Trump’s Emmys obsession became a topic during a debate with Hillary Clinton.
But the biggest jab came when Colbert welcomed special guest Sean Spicer onto the stage.
“What really matters to Donald Trump is ratings, you have to have the big numbers,” said Colbert, noting that he was flummoxed about how to predict the night’s crowd size. Then, wheeling his own podium, the former White House press secretary appeared to offer his own prediction about the audience size at the awards show.
“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period. Both in person and around the world,” Spicer said, referencing the now-infamous press conference he gave regarding the crowds at Trump’s presidential inauguration in January.
Colbert’s Late Show was up for best variety series, as well as directing and writing for a variety series. Colbert’s 2016 presidential election special, which aired on Showtime, was also nominated for best variety special. If Colbert ere to win, he would join a small list of hosts who have also brought home a statuette. He has previously won for The Colbert Report and The Daily Show.
Late Show has reaped the benefits of a “Trump bump” in what is being called the late-night host’s comeback year. The Late Show finished the season at the top the late-night ratings for the first time in 22 years.
Though the Hollywood audience inside L.A.’s Microsoft Theater is a target group for anti-Trump jabs, the CBS audience is not as majority liberal. Still, it was deemed a “safe bet” by THR‘s critic Frank Scheck ahead of the show that Colbert would “lob plenty of zingers at Trump” and that presenter Alec Baldwin, Trump’s Saturday Night Live alter ego, would receive one of the biggest audience cheers of the night — another prediction that came true during the monologue.
Later in the show, when Baldwin took the stage to accept his award for best supporting actor in a comedy series, the SNL star brought the opener full circle.
“At long last, Mr. President — here is your Emmy,” he said.
Several other presenters and winners had their own televised messages for Trump.
During an on-stage reunion with 9 to 5 stars Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin, the trio made the plot of the 1980 classic relevant to today. Like in their movie, they refuse to be controlled by a “’sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” in 2017, they said in unison.
Atlanta‘s Donald Glover, who made history as the first black man to win in the best directing category, said, “I want to thank Trump for making black people number one on the most oppressed list. He’s probably the reason I’m up here.”
During the final category of the night, The Handmaid’s Tale — Hulu’s prescient, dystopian drama that found both praise and popularity in Trump’s America — took home the award for best drama. “Go home, get to work, we have a lot of things to fight for,” said showrunner Bruce Miller.
The 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards aired live Sunday on CBS.