Stephen Colbert kicked off the 69th annual Emmy Awards on Sunday night with a song-and-dance number praising television before moving into his monologue, during which he took aim at President Trump, lamented Oprah Winfrey’s Emmy snub and both thanked Leslie Moonves and accepted his own gratitude on behalf of the absent CBS Corp. chairman and CEO, among other quips.
Read a full transcription of Colbert’s opening monologue below.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the 69th Emmy Awards. I’m your host Stephen Colbert. This is exciting, can you feel, this is TV’s highest honors. Us celebrating us. Tonight, we binge ourselves, can you feel it? This room is crackling with the qualitative energy of people who for the last 48 hours have consumed nothing but distilled water and Crest White Strips.
All the nominees look so beautiful this evening, so happy, so hopeful. Just a reminder if you do win, don’t forget to thank everyone who helped you get up here, mainly Game of Thrones for not being eligible this year. Now, personally I have to take a moment to thank CBS chairman Leslie Moonves — I literally have to thank him. It’s in my contract. Unfortunately, Les could not be tonight to receive my gratitude, so I accepted on his behalf.
We did it. But while we are thanking people, nobody deserves more thanks right now than our first responders. They have been working tirelessly following the disasters in Texas and Florida. And we have to thank also the friends who showed up with the food. The neighbors with boats, the nuns with chainsaws, the complete strangers who stepped up to help rebuild. If you haven’t donated to the hurricane relief yet, you still can by going to handinhand2017.com and giving generously. I believe Billy Eichner is still standing by to take your call. How’s it going Billy?
Billy Eichner: “Stephen I’m on the phone! Please don’t embarrass me in front of Louie Anderson. Oh, they just hung up.”
I apologize to all of you. Well, what a year it has been for television. The industry is booming, there are over 450 original scripted shows made this year. Of course, there’s no way anyone could possibly watch that much TV, other than the president, who seems to have a lot of time for that sort of thing. Hello sir, thank you for joining us! Looking forward to the tweets.
And there have never been more platforms to get your TV than right now. You have broadcast, you have cable, you have Amazon, you have YouTube, Hulu, voodoo, Netflix, Vitamix, Vimeo, you have Twitch, you have Crackle, you have Crunchle, Bumble, Twerk-gorp, Flurp, Uber-eyeball, and DintyMooreStew.com. Oh yes, it’s going to be in the trades tomorrow. Dinty Moore has a 10-episode deal with Martin Scorsese. Rumor is, Liev Schreiber is playing a brooding chunk of meat. Yes, just like that, but with carrots and potatoes around him.
Of course, these days everyone loves streaming video, just ask Ted Cruz. But knock first — you want to just walk in? Netflix alone raked in 92 Emmy nominations this year. Why not? And may I remind you, five years ago their hottest show was a scratched DVD of Finding Nemo.
Now we’ve got amazing shows like Stranger Things. Millie Bobby Brown is here tonight. She’s amazing in that show, proving once and for all that there are roles in Hollywood for women over 12.
Of course, premium cable still has a ton of great shows. I’m sure HBO will take home a lot of Emmys tonight, which they’ll have to melt down to pay for next year’s hacker ransom. Too soon?
Broadcast TV also had its triumphs this year, remember broadcast? The TV O.G.? Where it started? Broadcast TV is breaking new ground. In fact, this season, CBS will have twice as many Sheldons as any other network in history. All the broadcast networks have put out great shows the past year, like This Is Us, incredible.
But seriously, Milo, you’re going to die this season, right? Just give us a hint. Do you slip in a bathtub? Bad clams? Are you mauled by a circus lion in a convenience store? What happens? I’m just saying, your fans want to see you dead. It’s a compliment.
And this has been a great year for diversity in television. In fact, for the third year in a row, this is the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history. That’s impressive, I did not know you could applaud while patting yourself on the back at the same time. Well done, lovely job.
And there’s so many talented African-American nominees. Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis, Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba, Anthony Anderson from ABC’s Black-ish, and of course Bill Maher. I assume he’s black since he’s so comfortable using the N-word. I don’t know. Goodnight! That’s my time everybody.
There’s so many stars here tonight. Oprah, Oprah’s in the front row right now. Yeah, Oprah was snubbed this year, what is wrong with you people? What in the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is wrong with you people? I’m so sorry, Oprah, I was really hoping this would be your breakout year. Hopefully next year you’ll have a better seat. I’m sorry.
But if we’re honest with ourselves as artists — and we have to be honest with ourselves — we know that the biggest TV star of the last year is Donald Trump. No, we may not like it, but he’s the biggest star. And you know, Alec Baldwin, obviously. You guys are neck and neck. And Alec, you’re up against a lot of neck. However you feel about the president, and you do feel about the president, you can’t deny that every show was influenced by Donald Trump in some way. All the late-night shows obviously, House of Cards, the new season of American Horror Story, and of course, next year’s Latin Grammys, hosted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Muy caliente. And we all know the Emmys mean a lot to Donald Trump, because he was nominated multiple times for Celebrity Apprentice, but he never won. Why didn’t you give him an Emmy? I tell you this, if he had won an Emmy, I bet he wouldn’t have run for president. So in a way, this is all your fault. I thought you people loved morally compromised antiheroes. You liked Walter White, he’s just Walter Much-Whiter. And he never forgave you, and he never will. The president has complained repeatedly that the Emmys are rigged. He even went after the host a few years back, tweeting, “That Seth Meyers is hosting the Emmy Awards is a total joke. He is very awkward with almost no talent. Marbles in his mouth!” Wow, marbles in his mouth, that’s harsh. That’s quite an accusation, do you have a response Seth? (Marbles fall out of Meyers’ mouth).
And even during the campaign, he wouldn’t let it go. This actually happened, this exchange actually happened in the debates. (Video showing Clinton mentioning Trump’s Emmy loss in debate).
But he didn’t. Because unlike the presidency, Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote. Where do I find the courage to tell that joke in this room? Of course, what really matters to Donald Trump is ratings. He’s got to have the big numbers, and I certainly hope we achieve that tonight.
Unfortunately, at this point, we have no way of knowing how big our audience is. I mean, is there anyone who could say how big the audience is? Sean, do you know? (Sean Spicer comes out on podium).
Sean Spicer: “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period. Both in person, and around the world.”
Wow, that really soothes my fragile ego. I can understand why you’d want one of these guys around. Melissa McCarthy everyone, give it up! Beautiful.