When Sean Spicer exited his post as White House Press Secretary in July, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was a "wonderful person" whose "future is bright." It seemed to be an optimistic reach for Spicer, whose brief tenure had been mired in controversy, but, in a way, Trump’s prediction came true.
At least it looked that way at Sunday night’s Emmy Awards where Spicer’s world — and his celebrity — looked shockingly bright as he practically received a hero’s welcome the moment he stepped off stage following a surprise appearance during host Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue.
There were hugs and handshakes in the Microsoft Theatre lobby where Spicer was spotted by The Hollywood Reporter just before 7 p.m., clutching a large beer and posing for pictures with anyone who asked — and anyone who could bust their way through the mob of well-wishers forming around him. One woman, a publicist, bragged that she was happy to share a few seconds with him. “He felt like a celebrity,” she said. “And he was enjoying it.”
Then, following the show as Spicer joined the stream of Emmy guests making their way to the L.A. Convention Center for the official Governors Ball afterparty, Spicer couldn’t walk two feet without being besieged by more photo requests. (J.J. Abrams walked nearby without incident.) That’s when The Hollywood Reporter caught up with him.
“It’s an honor,” Spicer said of the chance to attend and participate in the Emmys. “I have a lot of respect for folks who do what they do in film and on television, so it’s a real honor to be invited.”
As for how his appearance came together, Spicer said it was quite simple. “I had a conversation with Stephen [Colbert] and his executive producer,” he explained. “They came up with a concept, and I thought it was kinda funny. I said I’d be there.”
The concept that came to life saw Spicer push out a podium and declare on live television that “this will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys. Period. Both in person and around the world.” The statement was delivered to make light of his assertions about Trump’s inauguration, and that fact didn’t sit well with many Emmy viewers and members of the media who also had taken a beating during his White House run.
“Sean Spicer’s Emmy Awards Cameo Was a Sickening, Cynical Laugh Grab,” read a Slate headline, while The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon wrote “Sean Spicer at the Emmys: Don’t Make This Guy a Folk Hero.” “Stop celebrating,” he wrote. “This guy doesn’t get to be funny.” Esquire called the cameo “profoundly unfunny.” Uber producer Craig Zadan wrote on Twitter that Spicer’s appearance was a “big mistake and bad judgement.” He added: “Not funny but extremely offensive on Emmys. He doesn’t get off the hook so easily.”
When asked whether he considered the negative reactions his appearance might receive, Spicer said “not so much,” because he had other concerns to grapple with. “I was more worried about the logistical reactions,” he said. “I’ve never wheeled a podium before. The one I’m used to is pretty stationary.”
Before he got moving himself, Spicer said it was unclear how late he would stay out because he was still on East Coast time, but he predicted that he and his wife, Rebecca, would hit “a couple” of parties. He was photographed getting a kiss on the cheek from late-night host James Corden at the Governors Ball, even if his Hollywood late-night debut was on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last week.
On Instagram, he made sure to offer gratitude to the host for the Emmys invitation. “Thanks to Stephen Colbert for having me at this year’s Emmys,” he wrote next to a pic of him smiling from the podium onstage. In another, he was seen beside his wife with the Emmys stage in the background and the caption #datenight.
It’s surely not a typical night out for Spicer, especially with the avalanche of positive attention. Even he seemed taken aback. “I haven’t fully digested it all,” he said of his Sunday night. Now, the world waits to see how his former boss will digest it and if he will claim that he called it months ago.