Seth Rogen says what we were all thinking about COVID-19 safety at the 2021 Emmys

A man with wearing an orange sport coat holds a mic in front of a giant statuette
Seth Rogen presents the award for supporting actress in a comedy series during the Emmy Awards.
(Television Academy / Associated Press)

Come pandemics or earthquakes, Hollywood will still have its awards shows. And actor Seth Rogen was first to acknowledge that fact during Sunday’s 73rd Emmy Awards, roasting the room of attendees about — well — being in a room with so many attendees.

“Let me start by saying there is way too many of us in this little room,” the evening’s first presenter mused aloud upon taking the stage. The gala-style soiree hosted some 600 guests in a decorative tent on L.A. Live’s Event Deck, just outside the ceremony’s usual indoor haunt, the Microsoft Theater, due to the pandemic.

“What are we doing? They said this was outdoors. It is not. They lied to us,” Rogen, 39, continued with mock incredulity over how organizers seemed to flout regulations. “We’re in a hermetically sealed tent right now. I would not have come to this. Why is there a roof? It’s more important that we have three chandeliers than to make sure we don’t kill Eugene Levy tonight. That has been decided.”


Levy, of course, is the beloved “Schitt’s Creek” star and co-creator who was in attendance to present during the ceremony after his comedy had a banner year during last year’s so-called “Pandemmys.” He’s also 74, putting him at a higher risk of severe illness if infected by COVID-19.

The approach was not inappropriate to a medium whose productions have largely glossed over the pandemic. And it was sometimes fun — if nerve-racking.

Sept. 19, 2021

“This is insane,” Rogen quipped. “I went from wiping groceries to having Paul Bettany sneeze in my face.”

Though, Rogen clarified, if someone had to sneeze on him, he didn’t mind it being the “WandaVision” star. And those, he said, were all the jokes he wrote for his bit.

It’s unclear if the actor was serious about the roast, but we do know that people in L.A. County are still required to mask indoors as the Delta variant surge grips the country.

Cedric the Entertainer hosted TV’s biggest night, which included memorable acceptance speeches from Debbie Allen, Jason Sudeikis and Michaela Coel.

Sept. 20, 2021

Neither Rogen nor the high-profile attendees wore masks to the telecast — as seen in an earlier singalong led by Cedric the Entertainer during the show’s opening sequence — and Twitter had a field day with the seemingly lax protocols (as well as Rogen’s decision to wear an orange-hued blazer to the event).

“No Masks at the #Emmys because rules are for the little people,” wrote one Twitter user, echoing the sentiments of many others.

While the no-mask issue sent Twitter ablaze, Rogen’s remarks also seemed to prompt the evening’s DJ, Reggie Watts, to chime in. Before cutting to commercial, Watts reminded attendees and viewers that they were “absolutely following all the health and safety guidelines.”

Host Cedric the Entertainer and a multitude of celebrities kicked off the Emmys with a tribute to the late rapper Biz Markie. Here are the full lyrics.

Sept. 20, 2021


Attendees were required to provide proof of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test prior to admission to the ceremony, according to the Emmys’ website. Actor Ken Jeong even worked the rules into a bit he fumbled through when it was his turn to present later that night.

Here’s a sample of what others had to say about attendees going maskless at the Emmys.