When Stephen Colbert is going to host something, you know it’s going to be smart, funny, and biting (but, you know, in an intellectual way). It was like that when Colbert hosted the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, and it was the same as Colbert took the stage to host the 2017 Emmys. Of course, not all of the jokes landed as well as he hoped they would — Stephen Colbert’s best and worst jokes at the 2017 Emmys ranged from Donald Trump to diversity and everything in between.
Many of the jokes Colbert kept for the show were political and Trump-related, and for good reason. Though the Emmys ceremony is a Hollywood awards show, it’s still political. Everything today is political. Colbert said so himself in a recent interview with Variety. “The story we are telling is what happened on television this year,” Colbert said. “It’s not a political monologue, but you can’t keep politics out of it, because politics was the biggest TV story this year.” He added, “The biggest story of the year is not Westworld. It’s not The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s not Milo Ventimiglia’s luscious abs. That’s not what we cared about. The biggest TV star of the year is Donald Trump.”
And a majority of the jokes (especially in the opening monologue) were Trump-focused, so much so that Colbert said he couldn't wait to see the tweets that will arrive the next morning. Here's a look at the best and worst jokes of the 2017 Emmys.
The Whole Opening Song
A reminder to the world that the news is ugly and bad, so it's not so bad to get lost in television. We're supposed to be awake and all, but sometimes you have to shut your brain off.
Ted Cruz's Retweet
In his monologue, Colbert made light of Ted Cruz's alleged like of a tweet from a porn studio, saying, "Everybody loves streaming video… just ask Ted Cruz. But knock first — you don’t want to just walk in." Great for the audience (it got a huge laugh), but not so great for the notorious Congressional Puritan. (Note: Cruz blamed a staffer for the tweet and said it wouldn't happen again.)
The Bill Maher Burn
In a joke about diversity, Colbert was listing off all of the famous African Americans nominated for Emmys. "And of course, Bill Maher — I assume he’s black since he’s so comfortable using the N-word." Maher used the epithet on his show in June 2017 and apologized soon after.
Donald Trump Has No Emmys
"Unlike the presidency," said Colbert, "Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote," explaining why Trump never won an Emmy for The Apprentice. This one got a huge laugh from the audience.
Billy Eichner On The Phone
In a serious moment, Colbert encouraged viewers to donate for hurricane relief ("And if you haven’t donated to hurricane relief yet you still can by going to handinhand2017.com and giving generously," he said) and noted that an irritated Eichner was still standing by. It's a silly sight gag, but a fun one.
The most unexpected (and unwanted, too) appearance of the night was former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who ran in on a podium and declared that this year's Emmys boasted "the largest audience to witness an Emmys both in person and around the world." Everyone's face was enough to say, "This was probably a bad idea."
Jokes About Hollywood Being Self-Serving
Hollywood is really good about patting itself on the back, so the jokes about how good Hollywood is being to itself are old and frankly, pretty dull. Just take when Colbert said that the Emmys were "TV’s greatest honor, us celebrating us. Tonight we binge ourselves." We know that award shows are just here to serve Hollywood, but they're fun to watch, so let's leave it alone.
Millie Bobby Brown Being 13
Colbert took a moment to applaud Millie Bobbie Brown from Stranger Things, declaring that her acting proves "that there are roles in Hollywood for women over 12." The intention was there, to say that women hit a certain age and they're over, but the joke just didn't land.
The Game Of Thrones Absence
There had to be at least one joke about the fact that Game Of Thrones wasn't at the Emmys, and Colbert made it. He said, "All the nominees look so beautiful this evening. So happy. Just a reminder if you do win, don’t forget to thank everyone who helped you get up here, namely Game of Thrones for not being eligible this year." Low hanging fruit, Stephen.
Colbert is a seasoned host, so his jokes were more hits than misses. But they can't all be good ones. Colbert's brand of comedy is political, which is why it worked so well in the 2017 Emmys — the whole world is political right now, and Colbert knows exactly what to say to play to his audience. Until next year, Emmys viewers.