The Most Outrageous Moments from the 2020 Emmys

A night of awkward technical problems, bad pandemic jokes, and some impressive sweeps.

2020 emmys

While cloistered away in our homes as the world fights a global pandemic with no end in sight, we have all been asking each other one question: How could one, hypothetically, put on an awards show in the middle of a nationwide quarantine? After Sunday night, now we know! The 72nd Emmys were a potpourri, both familiar and very, very different. The ceremony was as socially distanced as possible, with only host Jimmy Kimmel and a handful of presenters (and one alpaca) allowed within the walls of Los Angeles' Staples Center, the nominees video-calling in from their homes while cardboard cutouts of them "sat" in the audience, delivering their acceptance speeches to canned applause. What the show lacked in Hollywood glamor it made up for in sheer creativity, the Television Academy pulling out all the stops to make the bones of its biggest night at least watchable. Come for the drama, stay for the occasional glimpse of what Damon Lindelof has on his bookshelf. Here are all the best moments from the oddest awards show we've ever seen.

The red carpet was a Zoom call mess

What does a red carpet look like in pandemic times? Unsurprisingly, t's really weird! E! powered through -- because, really, what is E! without a red carpet? -- hosting a two-hour pre-show where nominees beamed in on grainy feeds to talk the usual nonsense. At one point, host Nina Parker asked William Jackson Harper of The Good Place, “Congrats on your nomination for The Good Place, does it feel like you are in a good place right now?” But the specter of the virus hung over even the most frivolous of enterprises. Red carpet fixture Giuliana Rancic was supposed to be at her usual post, but tested positive for COVID. So did Vivica A. Fox, who was supposed to host alongside Rancic. Meanwhile, ABC just avoided the red carpet problem entirely by broadcasting Celebrity Family Feud before the big show. The episode featured Weezer facing off against Fall Out Boy. Fall Out Boy, who also had Seth Green on their team, won. -- Esther Zuckerman

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The very, very strange opening monologue

The opening monologue of this year's Emmy ceremony, which switched locations from the Microsoft Theater to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, was always going to be a little bizarre, especially without an audience to laugh along with each punchline. Or was there? In the first few minutes, host Jimmy Kimmel, returning to host for the third time, leaned into the inherent strangeness of it all, telling his jokes about the absurdity of "having an awards show in the middle of a pandemic," "this miserable year," and perpetual punching-bag Quibi while cutting to shots of celebrities laughing along in the crowd. (Nice hat, Norman Lear!) Eventually, Kimmel revealed that the cheering crowd was recycled footage from the Emmys the year before, going on to explain the odd circumstances of the production and underlining the safety procedures being followed. In a perfect world, he would've kept the prank going for the whole show, but it was fun while it lasted. -- Dan Jackson

Jason Bateman crashed the Staples Center broadcast

The Emmys couldn't keep every celebrity away. As the camera panned across the empty Staples Center during Kimmel's monologue, Ozark star Jason Bateman appeared among the cardboard cut-outs. "You can stay, but you have to laugh at my jokes," said Kimmel, prompting Bateman to reconsider his decision. It was the only awkward Bateman moment of the weekend: the multiple-nominee was accidentally announced as the winner of the Guest Actor in a Drama Series category for his work on The Outsider during the Creative Arts Emmys in a Moonlight-like mishap. Luckily, he already has an Emmy to keep him company. -- DJ

Jimmy Kimmel set an Emmys envelope on fire

Because we're still at the mercy of a global pandemic, we've had to get creative with how we sanitize the objects around us. Not content with giving an Emmy envelope a simple wipe-down with an antibacterial cloth, Kimmel opted to spray it down with Lysol and, just to be sure, set it on fire. Luckily, Jennifer Aniston was on hand with a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze. Hey, at least we know there aren't any germs on it! -- Emma Stefanksy

Catherine O'Hara borrowed Moira Rose's capacious vocabulary

At the start of Schitt's Creek's absolute domination of the comedy categories, Catherine O'Hara accepted her well-deserved trophy for playing Moira Rose. And while she didn't do it as the be-wigged and loquacious former soap star and matriarch, she did incorporate some of her character's elevated vocabulary into her speech. She described her costume team's work as "munificent" and said she would be an "ungrateful doddy-pole" not to mention it. -- EZ

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A DJ replaced the orchestra

No orchestra, no problem. Instead of packing a bunch of mask-wearing musicians into a tight space, the Emmys went a different route and enlisted legendary DJ D-Nice, who started hosting popular "Club Quarantine" dance parties on Instagram early on in the pandemic, to provide music and transitions throughout the show. The comedy bits with the presenters felt strained at times, but D-Nice thankfully kept the show moving and the records spinning. -- DJ

Ramy Youssef showed what happens when you lose

Jimmy Kimmel attempted, many times, to explain the logistics of this whole endeavor, but there were still some lingering questions. For instance, did someone really show up at every nominee's home with a trophy even if they didn't win, just like he said? Turns out, yes. We know this thanks to a perfect tweet from Ramy Youssef of a person in a hazmat suit tux holding an Emmy, who waved goodbye after Youssef lost the prize for actor in a comedy series to Daniel Levy of Schitt's Creek. A perfectly bizarre image for a perfectly bizarre night. -- EZ

Schitt's Creek swept all of the comedy awards

Yay, David! Schitt's Creek made the first section of the ceremony almost boring, sweeping every comedy award, a first in Emmys history. The Creek crew, including Daniel and Eugene Levy,  celebrated from a lovely, masked up, socially distant party in their native Canada, and looked genuinely surprised as they kept racking up trophies and giving speech after speech. And indeed, they should be. Schitt's went from an obscure favorite to a genuine phenomenon over the course of its six seasons and it's going out on perhaps the highest note they possibly could. -- EZ

Tracy Morgan fills in for Tracey Ullman

Have you ever thought about how many Tracys (Tracies?) there are in Hollywood? Weirdly a lot! Because some of tonight's nominees had scheduling conflicts, or simply couldn't figure out how to connect to Zoom, there were a few vacancies during the ceremony, but Tracey Ullman, nominated this year for Mrs. America, had a backup plan: Get another Tracy to sub in! Instead of Ullman, Tracy Morgan appeared on her video screen, holding a cardboard Ullman mask over his face. As it turns out, this isn't Morgan's first time subbing in for a fellow Tracy. "You remember Dick Tracy?" he told Kimmel. "I had his back too." -- ES

Succession creator Jesse Armstong got a phone call during his acceptance speech

As predicted, Succession claimed Outstanding Drama Series -- as was its right being fucking great -- and creator Jesse Armstrong accepted from a colorful room in London. But his speech showed the hazards of doing this thing from home: He got a call, presumably congratulations, in the middle of his speech, prompting a cut to Kieran Culkin, who was laughing his face off, and another to Sarah Snook, who was holding a clearly homemade Emmy made of tin foil and painter's tape. Instead of thanks, Armstrong offered "un-thank you's" to the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson for their poor pandemic response, eventually ending with a note to the Roy family, offering another "un-thanks" to media moguls. -- EZ

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