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Cedric the Entertainer kicks off 2021 Emmys with musical tribute to TV — and Biz Markie

 Cedric the Entertainer speaks at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. Live in Los Angeles.
Cedric the Entertainer speaks at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. Live in Los Angeles.
(Television Academy via AP)

Live and in person (!) from L.A. Live, the 2021 Emmy Awards officially began Sunday with a sing-along tribute to television, set to the sounds of the late rapper Biz Markie.

Host Cedric the Entertainer kicked off television’s biggest night before a scaled-down crowd of nominees and their guests. It was a slightly more typical setup than last year’s mostly virtual ceremony, which saw helpers in hazmat suits delivering trophies to winners in remote locations.

During the show’s opening act, the “Neighborhood” star celebrated this year’s nominees — recognized across dozens of categories spanning comedy, drama, limited series and more — through song.

With help from Lil Dicky, LL Cool J and the casts of “This Is Us,” “Black-ish,” “Ted Lasso,” “Pose,” “Hamilton” and more, Cedric launched into a crowd-pleasing, TV-themed cover of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” — which served as both an ode to the small screen and a tribute to the rapper, who died in July at age 57.

Find out the winners of this year’s Emmys right here. We’ll be updating the list live throughout the show.

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“I wanted to host the Emmys because it gives me a chance to thank TV for all that it’s meant to me,” Cedric said.

“We all have our favorite shows from growing up, but my favorite TV memory is sitting with my grandmother, watching our programs together. And tonight, it isn’t just about the very best of this past year — it’s all about the things that we love about television.”

Per tradition, the host also delivered a witty monologue riffing on the the evening’s esteemed guests.

“This is a celebration here tonight, man,” he said.

“It’s always great, looking around this room. That’s what I like about this award show. Everybody’s dressed up like regular rich folk. This ain’t like the Met Gala, where everybody’s overdoing it. … [‘Pose’ star] Billy Porter, you know he gon’ come with it. … I saw him on the red carpet one year — he was dressed like a White House chandelier.”

But there’s still work to be done behind the scenes to make television better, says the star of ‘The Neighborhood’

The TV Academy tapped the veteran actor and comedian to emcee the non-virtual 2021 festivities. Late night’s Jimmy Kimmel hosted the first pandemic-era Emmy Awards to favorable reviews last year.

“I feel like television definitely was something that we all needed and gravitated to throughout this pandemic,” Cedric told the Los Angeles Times over the summer.

“With the opportunity to get back out and celebrate in person where people will be there, I want it to be a celebration. We’re going to have a good time.”

Leading the Emmy nominees this year are Netflix’s royal drama, “The Crown,” and Disney+'s “Star Wars” spinoff, “The Mandalorian,” with 24 nods apiece — followed closely by the Marvel flagship series “WandaVision,” which scored 23.

Among the projected frontrunners are “WandaVision” and “The Crown,” as well as “Mare of Easttown,” “I May Destroy You,” “Pose” and “Ted Lasso.” Check out our full slate of Emmys predictions here.


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