“Tonight is going to be the biggest outdoor event this year besides the storming of the Capitol,” said Noah, taking an outdoor stage in front of the Stapes Center in downtown Los Angeles to a small, socially distanced crowd of the star-studded nominees. “Tonight is about bringing us all together as only music can. Well, music and vaccines.”
Aside from the few jabs (“This is going to be the rare awards show where the white stuff going up people’s noses is cotton swabs,” he quipped), the Daily Show late-night host utilized his monologue slot to bring viewers on a tour of the show’s intimate, pandemic-era set-up, noting that the night is meant to be “full of joy, new beginnings and coming together — never forgetting what happened in 2020, but full of hope for what is to come.”
Noah hosted the 63rd annual awards show amid a pandemic-hit awards season. The Late Late Show exec producer Ben Winston took over from Ken Ehrlich in producing this year’s show. He said his biggest task, after a seven-week TV delay, was safely putting 23 acts in one room at the convention center. “There’ll be elements of it put on tape in the week leading up to that night, but it’s still very much a live show — a really ambitious show as well,” Winston had told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Sunday’s televised event. “Somebody told me the other week that making television now is doubly hard. It really is. You feel like you’re walking through treacle. Just getting into this building today took me 15 minutes with the tests, getting my temperature and being cleared for the wristband that shows I’m safe.”
Coming off the heels of a tech-glitchy Golden Globes, Winston promised, “We’re not doing a virtual Grammys. We are going to be in person. We have designed a set and a way of doing it that I first thought of a year ago when it was clear we probably wouldn’t be able to have that live audience.”
The inside set consisted of five stages to host the show’s performances, with host Noah designed to be in the middle with the viewer — “because that’s where the cameras will be,” Winston had described. The trophies, meanwhile, were handed out on the outdoor stage, where all of the nominated artists were seated in the tented limited audience. “There’s more tension in that tent than at a family reunion at Buckingham Palace,” Noah noted in his monologue.
As THR reported, CBS and the show producers worked with a group of medical advisers for months to prepare this year’s Grammys to meet COVID-19 protocols. Those included mandatory testing and face masks, health questionnaires and screenings, social distancing, sanitation crews, and face shields for anyone coming within 10 to 15 feet of artists. The show also brought Hollywood its first major red carpet experience in a year; the limited attendance rules nixed entourages and personal publicists, with artists only allowed a plus-one for the show.
Read Noah’s full monologue, here.