The Emmys are bad. Most of the major awards shows are terrible, but the Emmys have earned a special reputation for just being a massive waste of time, with a history of rewarding the same shows and actors over and over, well past their peak in either quality or relevance (see last night’s best drama victory for Game of Thrones). Sometimes the show is at least semi-watchable, though, due to the comedy that pads out the broadcast. When the host is funny, the Emmys, unsurprisingly, can be funny.
We knew going into last night’s show that the hosts probably wouldn’t be funny. Colin Jost and Michael Che, the co-anchors of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, struggle regularly on that show (which somehow won another Emmy for Variety Sketch Series last night, despite a miserable season). Their attempts at political comedy on SNL lack inspiration and conviction, which they’ve all but admitted to in various interviews and social media posts about the subject. They’re out of their depth on SNL, but perhaps, with a focus on entertainment and the frivolity of Hollywood, they would do better at the Emmys. Somehow they were still out of their depth last night, though, even while hosting a three-hour back-patting celebration for professional narcissists. By all accounts, this year’s Emmys were an especially hard watch, and it started with the hosts.
There was at least one bright spot, though. Hannah Gadsby, whose Nanette isn’t just one of the best stand-up specials of the year so far, but an unjustifiably controversial hour that serves as a great litmus test for figuring out who in comedy is and isn’t full of shit, presented the Emmy for the best director of a drama series. (Perhaps having her present the drama award instead of the one for comedy was Emmy producer Lorne Michaels trying to subtly argue that Nanette is not comedy, like so many other boring old comedy relics who take their bad jokes way too seriously?) In her brief appearance she alluded to the ridiculous reaction to her special from so many in the comedy world who have argued that Nanette isn’t actually comedy, doing so in the same defiant but understated way familiar from the beginning of Nanette. Take a look.
Gadsby’s unexpected appearance (at least by me—I have no idea if this was mentioned in advance anywhere, because who the hell cares enough about the Emmys to read about stuff like the presenters in advance?) was especially surprising because Michael Che has been a critic of Nanette on his ever-laughable Instagram Story feed. This is despite maybe not having seen it. Gadsby didn’t say anything about Che during her time on stage last night, but it’s hard not to think of him when she talks about the men who don’t like or understand her comedy. In a bad night for comedy, this short bit of Gadsby salvaged at least a couple of minutes of this mind-numbing telecast.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.