Emmys: Colin Jost, Michael Che, Guest Stars Tackle Diversity in Opener
The "Weekend Update" co-hosts were joined by Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson, Kristen Bell, Sterling K. Brown, Andy Samberg, Tituss Burgess and RuPaul for an extended start to the awards show.
The 2018 Emmy Awards wasted no time in tackling the diversity of this year's nominees with the opening of the show. Although Colin Jost and Michael Che are the official hosts of the telecast, their Saturday Night Live colleagues Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson took the stage first, quickly launching into a song about how since this year's Emmys has "the most diverse nominees in Emmy history," "we solved it."
"Diversity's not a problem in Hollywood anymore," McKinnon marveled before Thompson began singing a song praising the diversity of this year's Emmy nominees, with a refrain that proclaimed, "we solved it."
The song continued, with more and more special guests — including Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess, Sterling K. Brown, Ricky Martin, John Legend — singing about the diversity of the audience inside the Microsoft Theater ("democrats to liberal democrats," as Brown sang) and name-checking Shonda Rhimes and Sandra Oh, who's the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for the best drama actress Emmy. But, as Oh quipped from the audience, "It's an honor just to be Asian."
The song also alluded to the #MeToo movement and the many entertainment industry figures who've been accused of sexual misconduct, with Thompson encouraging attendees at the show to "pat yourself on the back, but don't touch your neighbor."
Kristen Bell also proclaimed that the industry had "banished every creep who broke the law" to an Arizona spa, referencing where Harvey Weinstein supposedly sought treatment after he was the subject of multiple sexual misconduct claims.
RuPaul ultimately interrupted the performance with a phone call for Thompson.
"Oh, we did not solve it," Thompson said into the phone, realizing the celebratory song was premature. "Long way to go…cart before the horse…spiking the ball at the 50-yard line."
Jost and Che soon took the stage, continuing to talk about diversity as they looked back at the Emmys' 70-year history.
"I don't know if you knew this, but the first Emmys were held back in 1949. Things were very different back then," Jost began. "Gas was 17 cents a gallon, a new home cost $7,000 and we all agreed that Nazis were bad."
The punchline is likely a reference to President Donald Trump last summer claiming there were "very fine people on both sides" of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
The pair also poked fun at Trump's feud with former president Barack Obama, with Jost joking that with the Obamas' new Netflix production deal, his "dream is that the only thing they produce is their own version of The Apprentice…and it gets way higher ratings."
Che later added, "TV has always had a diversity problem," before calling out ER and Cheers for their lack of inclusivity. The pair did, however, note that a number of planned reboots are in the works with more diverse takes on older series, before joking that the new series will be "balanced out" by an Atlanta reboot focused on "white women who call the police on the cast of Atlanta."
In conclusion, Che said, "TV has come a long way in the past 70 years," before Jost added, "With the amazing contributions from everyone in this room tonight, I think we can keep television going for another five, six years tops."
At the latest awards show since the #MeToo movement, Jost and Che also joked about the many Hollywood men who've been accused of sexual misconduct.
Che began their monologue by quipping, "It is an honor to be here sharing this night with the many talented and creative people who haven't been caught yet."
Jost soon added that this year's Emmys will allow attendees to drink in their seat, joking, "The one thing Hollywood needs right now is people losing their inhibitions at a work function."
Speaking about Netflix scoring a leading 112 nominations, Jost joked, "If you're a network executive, that's the scariest thing you could possibly hear except maybe, 'Sir, Ronan Farrow is on line one.'"
The pair also name-checked nominees Black-ish, which Che said was how he'd "been asked to behave tonight," and This Is Us and The Handmaid's Tale, with Che describing the latter series' repressive world as "What black people call history. It's Roots for white women. Roots with bonnets."
And they spoke about Roseanne Barr, who, the pair joked — after referencing shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man Standing, which were canceled by one network before being picked up by another — was "canceled by herself" before being "picked up by white nationalists."
Che also addressed the comedian's planned move to Israel, saying, "How messed up is your life when you have to go the Middle East just to get peace of mind?"
In a running gag throughout the show, the pair sought answers to Emmy trivia questions from "experts," Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen, but shortly after Jost and Che introduced the SNL alums, now appearing together in Amazon's new series Forever, it became apparent that Rudolph and Armisen hadn't studied up.
Still, Jost and Che kept turning to them for answers they didn't have, with Armisen asking, "You good?" after the pair bluffed their way through a response and Rudolph sarcastically whining, "oh, no" when told they were out of time.
In a pretaped video, Che continued to address the Emmys' lack of recognition of African-American actors, passing out trophies to the stars of shows like The Jeffersons, Good Times, Family Matters, Martin and A Different World.
Che dubbed the prizes "Reparations Emmys" and said he "stole" them from Bill Cosby, who won a number of Emmys throughout his career but has since seen his legacy tarnished by multiple sexual misconduct claims against him. Cosby was recently convicted of sexual assault.
Jost later urged people to donate to relief efforts for those who have been affected by Hurricane Florence.
At the end of the show, the band played the SNL closing music as Jost and Che talked over the credits, much like the SNL hosts do when each week's episode comes to an end. The pair joked that the show ran long, even though it finished pretty close to its scheduled three-hour run time, and apologized to the superstar presenters they didn't get to, including Beyonce, Bill Clinton and Colin Kaepernick.
Jost and Che are the first duo to host the Emmys since Jenna Elfman and David Hyde Pierce in 1999 and the first current SNL castmembers to host the show since Eddie Murphy in 1983. The "Weekend Update" co-hosts aren't the show's only SNL connection, with SNL creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels executive producing the telecast.
Jost and Che have gone back and forth on how much of their monologue would consist of political jokes, with Jost telling Vanity Fair, "It is kind of fun for us to do something that is not political. The exciting part is to do things about television and that particular awards ceremony and make it, in general, less political than normal. There’s a lot to celebrate in television right now. It’s a very strong time."
But, more recently, in a video interview with the Associated Press, Che conceded, "There's gonna be political jokes and we're gonna come out on the wrong side of history, for sure. We're aiming toward it."
SNL won eight Emmys after earning 21 nominations this year, bringing its all-time nominations total to 252, the most for any series.
The 70th annual Primetime Emmy Awards aired live on NBC.