From 'Friends' to Debbie Reynolds: 10 Memorable SAG Awards Speeches

9:05 AM 1/26/2017

by Kara Haar

With the 23rd annual awards approaching Sunday, THR takes a look back at the funniest, most insightful and most emotional comments from the stage.

Debbie Reynolds, left, and Carrie Fisher at the 2015 SAG Awards
Debbie Reynolds, left, and Carrie Fisher at the 2015 SAG Awards
Getty Images

Awards season is in full force, with the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards coming up Sunday.

The ceremony gives recognition to actors in film and TV, as voted on by their acting peers. Past winners have delivered some emotional and funny speeches that, in some cases, reference current events, from Ty Burrell of Modern Family reciting acting advice from a fictional book to Spotlight star Michael Keaton dedicating his moment to the victims of the Flint, Mich., crisis.

This year, films such as Manchester by the Sea, Captain Fantastic, Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight along with TV series including The Crown, The Abbey, Stranger Things, Westworld, Game of Thrones are among those nominated.

Below, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at some of the most memorable acceptance speeches delivered at the SAG Awards over the year.

(Videos courtesy of SAG Awards)

  • 'Friends' Cast

    1996

    Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry accepted the award for best ensemble in a comedy series on behalf of the cast of Friends in 1996. Perry brought out his inner "Chandler" as he made sarcastic jokes throughout his thank-you speech. Kudrow and Cox laughed from the sidelines, each holding an award.

    "This is an informative night for me because I always thought the 'ensemble award' was a wardrobe award," Perry quipped. He continued to thank the crew and studio for their work on the show.

    "[Co-stars] Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston couldn't be here tonight because they are doing publicity for the show," he said. "Thank God for that, because we got to get a way to get this show out there so people know that it's about friends who drink some coffee."

  • Betty White

    2011

    For the best female actor award in a comedy series for the show Hot in Cleveland, Betty White was shocked and excited.

    “This is the biggest surprise I’ve ever had in the business,” she said.

    The audience applauded after White revealed her age (then 89). She touched the body of the man on the award making an “ohh” sound. The speech was emotional as her co-stars teared up in the audience.

    “We are more than family,” she said. “We fell in love the first day we worked together.”

  • Natalie Portman

    2011

    Natalie Portman accepted the awards for best female lead for her role in Black Swan. She thanked the crew and her co-stars, including Mila Kunis. Lastly, she thanked her then-fiancé, Benjamin Millipied, the choreographer of the film, whom she had met on set.

    "My parents who taught me to work my hardest and never be an asshole. It's never acceptable."

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    2013

    Jennifer Lawrence won best female actor in a leading role for Silver Linings Playbook. While heading to the stage, Lawrence’s dress had a wardrobe malfunction. She immediately thanked MTV for her SAG card by giving her a Super Sweet Sixteen promo.

    “It officially made me a professional actor, which put me in a category with all of you,” she said.

    The crowd laughed as she referred to her SAG award as a “naked statue.”

  • Lupita Nyong'o

    2013

    Lupita Nyong’o won the SAG Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role for 12 Years a Slave. She shouted with excitement the moment her name was called. As she was giving her speak, she teared up.

    "My dad was the first person I called when I got this role, and I said to him, 'Daddy, do you know Brad Pitt? I'm going to be in a movie with him.' And he said, 'I don't know him personally, but I'm glad you got a job.' " "So am I, so am I!'"

  • Jared Leto

    2014

    For his role in Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto was named best male actor in a supporting role. He thanked his mother, calling her “the hottest date in town," and then dedicated the award to those with HIV and AIDS.

    "I would like to dedicate this very special honor to all the people that have lost their lives to this dreadful disease, to the people who are out there living with HIV/AIDS."

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    2014

    Accepting the award for best female actor for Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus read a hilarious speech, joking that she messed up her note cards. She then drew laughs by jokingly thanking the wrong awards show.

    “I’d like to begin by thanking the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press for this glorious Golden Globe,” she said. “Again, it is important to understand that it is an honor just be nominated for an Academy Award."

    Her co-star Matt Walsh appeared to hand her the right card after emptying his pockets with a sandwich.

  • Ty Burrell

    2014

    Ty Burrell accepted the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a comedy for his role in Modern Family. He recited lines from his fictional book titled Acting: How To Do It Good. His five-step process for success made the entire audience laugh.

    “Be born in a family that has never had an actor in it. That way, they think everything you do is cooler than it actually is,” he said. “That way you have a false sense of confidence.”

    For his last step, Burrell pretended to forget what he was going to say. “No. 5 — uh — have a knack for memorizing.”

  • Debbie Reynolds

    2015

    Debbie Reynolds accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 SAG Awards. Her daughter, Carrie Fisher, presented the award to her.

    “I’ve been in the business 66 years, so I am very grateful for that and excited to be here,” Reynolds said.

    Reynolds told a story about her “favorite film,” Singin' in the Rain, in which she starred in 1952.

    “Of course, I had a wonderful hairdo in that picture,” she said. “At the back of my head, I had a bun, un ugly bun. So, I warned my daughter Carrie, she got a part in a picture, you know, Princess Leia in Star Wars. I said, ‘Well, Carrie be careful of any weird hairdos.’ So luckily, George [Lucas] gave her two buns. Thank you, George.”

  • 'Spotlight' Cast

    2016

    Spotlight won the award for outstanding cast in a motion picture at the last year's SAG Awards. Mark Ruffalo began the acceptance speech speaking on behalf of the victims sexually abused by Catholic priests. After, Michael Keaton approached the mic and agreed with Ruffalo’s statements. He spoke for himself “personally” and additionally dedicated the award to those in Flint, Mich., who were affected by the contaminated water.

    “This is really for the disenfranchised everywhere, this is for every Flint, Michigan, in the world. This is for the powerless. This is for the powerful who take advantage of the powerless,” he said. “You can hang me for that. I don’t really care.”

    Many in the crowd nodded in agreement at Keaton’s statements.

    “It comes down to two things: There’s fair and there’s unfair, and I’m always going to vote for the fair, I’m always going to vote for the good guys.”

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