With THE presidential race grabbing much of the national spotlight, politics naturally shaded this year’s Emmy ceremony featuring references ranging from subtle and sarcastic to burning.
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin took much of the heat. Only minutes into the broadcast, co-host Howie Mandel fired the first shot, comparing a mostly failed comic routine involving him and his fellow reality show co-hosts to being on “Sarah Palin’s bridge to nowhere.”
One of the most pointed barbs at the Alaska governor was fired by Laura Linney, following her win for best lead actress in a miniseries or movie in HBO’s “John Adams.” In a clear dig at Palin who mocked Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s roots as a community organizer at the Republican National Convention earlier this month, the actress said her experience in working on the miniseries made her “so grateful and thankful for the community organizers that helped found our country.”
Linney was more blunt backstage.
“Our founding fathers were community organizers,” she said in the media tent. “I just feel it’s been disparaged a bit. I don’t feel anyone should be disrespected, no matter what party they’re in. No matter who they are.”
Perhaps the most anti-Palin comment came from Tina Fey, who recently impersonated Palin on “Saturday Night Live.”
“I want to be done playing this lady Nov. 5,” said Fey, who won Emmys in comedy for her acting and writing. “So, if anyone can help me be done playing this lady, that would be good for me.”
In one of the show’s comedic highlights, Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” and Jon Stewart from “The Daily Show” staged a routine in which they promised to stay away from politics. Colbert then pulled out a bag of prunes and started eating.
“I think right now America needs a prune,” he said. “Granted, it is shriveled and at times hard to swallow . . . ...but this dried-up fruit has the experience we need.”
When Stewart replied, “After eight years of prunes, you would think . . .” But he was interrupted by Colbert, who added, “Never enough. What could possibly go wrong?”
Colbert got a little more pointed backstage in the media tent. Asked which actor he would cast as Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Colbert said, "[Don] Rickles, obviously, would be good. And maybe me for Sarah Palin, because I also have absolutely no business being vice president.”
A more serious note was struck by Tommy Smothers, who accepted a commemorative Emmy for outstanding writing for his work on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” which aired on CBS from 1967 to 69.
“Freedom of expression and freedom of speech aren’t really important unless they’re heard,” said Smothers, whose costar and brother Dick was in the Emmy show audience. “It’s hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war.”
Freedom of speech also was on the mind of Kirk Ellis, who won an award for writing “John Adams.” Backstage, he was still reeling after being cut off during his acceptance speech.
“I love freedom of expression in this country,” he said sarcastically, adding that he was told to wrap it up “as soon as I got up and opened my mouth.”
Maria Elena Fernandez, Matea Gold and Stephanie Lysaght contributed to this report.
‘Being here tonight is a big thrill for me because, as a kid, I used to run home from school and get all dressed up and play 60th anniversary Emmy Awards.’
-- Steve Martin,
before introducing comedian Tommy Smothers, who received an honorary Emmy