Emmys: 12 Most Memorable Moments

9:33 PM 9/22/2019

by Alexandra Del Rosario and Abbey White

From historical wins to hostless antics, here's a roundup of the biggest moments from Sunday night's awards show.

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards brought together the finest of television to honor accomplishments in writing, directing and acting.

Sunday's awards show, held at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, was a night of firsts and lasts. Billy Porter made history with his win for best lead actor in a drama series as castmembers of Game of Thrones and Veep made their final appearances as an ensemble.

The hostless evening also included moving speeches and glitzy musical numbers. 

Read on for a recap of Sunday night's most memorable moments.


  • Anthony Anderson Saves Homer Simpson's Animated Opening

    The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards kicked off with an appearance by an American television icon: Homer Simpson.

    Donning a tuxedo, Homer welcomed the nominees and the rest of the Emmys audience. But his introduction came to an abrupt end when he fell down a hole on the stage. The camera panned to Anthony Anderson, who went into award-show emergency mode.

    The Black-ish star rushed from his seat onto the Microsoft Theater stage, hoping to keep the show together. He ran backstage making TV-related jokes anytime he got the chance.

    "Taraji, I will not have this empire fall," he reassured the Empire actress. 

    From jabbing at the Game of Thrones Starbucks mishap to Anderson's mother stashing an Emmy statuette away in her purse, the chaos ensued until Bryan Cranston rushed to the stage to deliver a more serious tribute to television.

  • Ben Stiller and Bob Newhart Heckle Each Other

    While announcing this year's nominees for best supporting actor in a comedy, Ben Stiller and Bob Newhart teamed up for a hilarious sketch to remember and celebrate some of Hollywood's comedic legends.

    Stiller began by waxing poetic about two people who helped change the face of comedy — Lucille Ball and George Burns — while walking past life-like wax figures of late icons. Stiller eventually stepped up to the very still, but definitely breathing, 90-year-old comedy legend Bob Newhart, who had to interject and remind us all that not only do some legends never die, there are plenty who are very much still alive.

    Newhart questioned whether Stiller even knew his heart was still beating after putting him next to "George and Lucy in this weird wax museum of comedy." Stiller responded that the display is more for "legends of comedy — alive, dead, all different types of legends," before Newhart quipped, “This legend is gonna kick your ass. That way you’ll know I’m alive.”

  • Maya Rudolph and Ike Barinholtz Fumble Nominees' Names After "Lasik Surgery"

    Presenters Maya Rudolph and Ike Barinholtz completed their looks at the 71st Primetime Emmys with matching accessories: post-Lasik eye surgery glasses. 
    "Blinded" by the bright lights of the Microsoft Theater, the presenters struggled to read off the teleprompter as they attempted to list the nominees for lead actor in comedy series. 
    They jokingly mangled Hollywood names like Michael Douglas and Bill Hader as well as the titles of their respective shows. However the presenters spared one nominee, getting Ted Danson's name right.
    The pair ended the act by presenting Bill Hader, name properly pronounced, with his Emmy.
  • Colbert and Kimmel Play Victims of the No-Host Strategy

    In a surprising move, the 2019 Emmys went hostless —and it took several opportunities throughout the show to remind viewers of its daring decision.

    Among the most notable was a sketch between fellow late night hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert. Colbert kicked things off, asking the crowd how "the old 'no-host' thing" was going before the two called the decision to go without a host a "joke" and "a dumb idea."

    Playing bitter, Kimmel and Colbert claimed they were the true "victims" of the night. "Hosting is the only thing we know how to do," Colbert said with a quiver in his voice.

    In a hilarious attempt to trump up sympathy for their lost jobs, the two began pointing to the work only hosts could do, which for Kimmel included sitting behind a desk while pretending to listen to Jason Bateman's "vacation stories." When the camera panned to Bateman, his first response was a smile before it melted into a less than pleasant resting face as the crowd broke out in laughter.

  • Nominated 'Game of Thrones' Castmembers Take the Stage

    Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams and more Game of Thrones nominees made an appearance onstage at the Microsoft Theater, where their fellow nominees cheered them on with a standing ovation. 

    The HBO show, which came to an end in June, led all series with 32 nominations, including acting noms for the above as well as Alfie Allen, Gwendoline Christie and Carice van Houten, who submitted themselves for nominations. 

    Of the nominated castmembers, only Peter Dinklage walked away with an Emmy, marking his fourth win for the role. 

    The show, however, triumphed over Better Call Saul, Bodyguard, Killing Eve, Ozark, Pose, Succession and This Is Us for one last best drama series win.

  • Phoebe Waller-Bridge Wins Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

    Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the rest of the cast and crew behind Fleabag were big winners at this years Emmy Awards, to the joy — and at times surprise — of many.

    While the now-ended Amazon series took home a big win for best comedy series, Waller-Bridge's lead actress in a comedy Emmy may have garnered the most shock as most expected a swan-song win for Veep star and multiple Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

    Waller-Bridge thanked her (acting) agents, Fleabag's networks and studios, as well as her fellow cast as she accepted her award. "Thank you," Waller-Bridge said while holding her award. "I find acting really hard and really painful. To be nominated with these unbelievable actresses whom I’ve looked up to and watched and laughed with for so many years — it means so much."

  • Thomas Lennon Takes On Felicity Huffman

    Writer-actor Thomas Lennon played color commentator at the 2019 Emmys, helping to fill the gaps in the night's programming by taking swipes at nominated shows, talent and the ceremony itself. One of the most notable jabs came when Lennon addressed actress Felicity Huffman's recent 14-day prison sentence for her involvement in the Operation Varsity Blues college bribery scandal.

    As RuPaul exited the stage after accepting his best reality/competition series win, the camera panned to Lennon, who declared that the award show's producers had asked him to make a special shout-out to "any previous lead actress winners who are watching tonight from prison."

    In case it wasn't entirely clear who he was talking about, Lennon added: "Hopefully those two weeks are going to fly right by."

  • Jharrel Jerome Spotlights the "Exonerated Five"

    Earlier in the night, director Ava DuVernay had already made a statement on the 2019 Emmys purple carpet after appearing alongside Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise, the exonerated men in the Central Park Five case.

    But When They See Us star Jharrel Jerome took the stage to accept his award for best lead actor in a limited series or a movie, he put all five men back in the spotlight. Beginning his speech with a nod to his Bronx roots, the first-time Emmy winner and Moonlight star thanked his family and DuVernay before passionately turning his speech to “the men that we know as the Exonerated Five.” As Jerome raised his award up and smiled, the five men all stood to a standing ovation from the crowd.

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus Channels Selina Meyer for 'Veep' Cast Appearance

    The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards audience also paid tribute to Veep, yet another HBO program that came to a close this past year. 

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, joined by Veep cast members including Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky and Timothy Simons, embodied her her raunchy character one last time. 

    After the applause subsided the lead actress began her speech with a Winston Churchill quote, only to disrupt it.

    "I'm sorry I was told that I'd be up here alone," the actress quipped. "I was the Veep."

    When Simons attempted to continue the speech, Dreyfus continued on to list the nominees for best actress in a limited series. 

  • Michelle Williams calls for Pay Equity After Win for 'Fosse/Verdon'

    After receiving the trophy for best actress in a limited series or movie from presenter Julia Louis-Dreyfus and thanking her partners and co-stars, Fosse/Verdon's Michelle Williams focused her acceptance speech on equal pay for women in the workplace

    Williams won for her portrayal of Gwen Verdon, an American actress, dancer and wife of choreographer Bob Fosse. 

    "Next time a woman ?— and especially a woman of color, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterpart ?— tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her, because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it."

    Williams beat out Amy Adams, Patricia Arquette, Joey King, Aunjanue Ellis and Niecy Nash for her first-ever Emmy win.

  • Adam Devine Defines "Variety" With Song and Dance

    Last year's ceremony opened with a musical ode to Hollywood's lack of diversity. The 2019 Emmys tried something a little different, dropping this year's musical number into the middle of the show and playing up the juxtaposition of "inclusion" in the variety categories.

    Actor-comedian Adam Devine delivered a tribute to the genre with a performance featuring a random assortment of acts and faces, including late night host Samantha Bee and masked singers. As Devine slid and hand-waved his way across the stage, a group of acrobats, jugglers and gold-vested dancers fluttered around him.

    During one line, Devine recognized the very white and male category of late night and comedy show hosts. In response, comedian and host Samantha Bee popped out from behind feathered show dancers to remind the audience she is not "some middle-aged white man sitting behind a desk."

  • Bill Porter Makes History With First Emmys Win

    Back in July, Billy Porter made history as the first openly gay black man to receive a nomination for best lead actor in a drama series. On Sunday night, the actor took home the Emmy.

    Porter, nominated for his work as Pray Tell on FX's Pose, evoked the words of writer James Baldwin upon receiving the honor. 

    "'It took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this earth like I had the right to be here,'" he said. "I have the right, you have the right, we all have the right."

    The Pose actor beat out fellow nominees Jason Bateman, Sterling K. Brown, Kit Harington, Bob Odenkirk and Milo Ventimiglia. 

    He closed his speech addressing his fellow actors and actresses: "We, us artists, are the people that get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and the minds of the people who live on this planet. Please don't ever stop doing that; please don't ever stop telling the truth."