Emmys: What Happens If There Is a Steve Harvey Moment

Jimmy Kimmel is seen backstage at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards - AP - H 2016
AP Images

Jimmy Kimmel is seen backstage at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards - AP - H 2016

The Ernst & Young accountant who keeps Emmy's secrets reveals the oops-wrong-name protocol, and just how close the races can be.

For 17 years, Ernst & Young accountant Andy Sale has been counting Emmy ballots (he also leads the Golden Globes process), a task that became a lot less strenuous since ditching the old Scantron ballots in favor of an almost entirely digital system. THR queried the night’s ultimate straight man, who shared some of his team’s cloak-and-dagger strategies.

How has transitioning the voting process from paper to online changed the outcome?

The platform has eliminated inadvertent errors that someone might make. And it's much more convenient for the members to participate now, so what we're finding is that the bunching up of votes around particular nominees is less than it used to be. There's more separation today. Plus, the amount of people participating has grown significantly — high-single digits to low- double digits [percentage-wise].

What's been the closest race you can remember?

We had a situation some years ago when it was really one vote that separated one of the best comedies from winning. We literally spent four days manually recounting that category multiple times just to make sure we had it right.

Have you always been pretty good at keeping secrets?

Yes. It's a core competency. People ask, "Does your spouse know?" She's never asked. She finds out the Emmy winners when the envelope is opened onstage and not a minute before. The number of people [who know the winners in advance] could be counted on one hand.

What is the most challenging part of keeping this all under wraps?

Continuing to change up our protocol so we're not predictable. We try to switch up how we handle envelopes and the manner in which we get transported to events. Sometimes we drive ourselves, sometimes we don't. Sometimes the people who are carrying the briefcases have the envelopes and sometimes they don't. We have had situations in the past where the envelopes were delivered in a laundry bag.

What happens if there's a Steve Harvey moment onstage?

If a presenter were to read the wrong name or say the wrong name, there is a protocol to correct it. I would go out onstage, take the envelope from the presenter, show it to the world and announce the proper name. That's never happened, thank goodness.

Has anyone ever reached out to you after the show questioning the results?

I've never had a situation where someone questioned that. But we do get calls from the talent from time to time because they want a souvenir envelope. Sometimes when they win their Emmy, they almost have an out-of-body experience and they'll walk off the stage and forget to collect it. So we gather them all up and we try to take them with us because we know that we will be asked for it soon.

But probably not the one that Jimmy Kimmel ate last year, right?

That one did not get delivered to the talent, no. That was the one irretrievable envelope. (Laughs.) I'm sure he regrets that because it's very thick card stock.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.