During a glittery Emmy ceremony that also played like an extensive rebuke of President Trump, the biggest winner of the night was a series that's been on the air since Gerald Ford was president.
A newly resurgent "Saturday Night Live," which has relentlessly lampooned the outsize personalities and turbulence of the Trump administration, scored four Emmy Awards on Sunday, bringing its haul this year to nine, more than any other show, and outdistancing timely winners such as "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Veep."
The groundbreaking sketch comedy series is coming off its most-watched and politically pointed season in years, as viewers tuned in each weekend to see how "SNL," which will be entering its 43rd season this fall, would address the latest White House upheaval.
Kate McKinnon, who portrayed Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, and Alec Baldwin, who impersonated Trump, won supporting actress and supporting actor in a comedy series, respectively. The show also won for variety sketch series and direction for a variety series.
Even former White House press secretary Sean Spicer punctuated the show's victory, making a surprise appearance that made light of his dubious claims regarding Trump's inauguration crowd. Melissa McCarthy's impersonation of Spicer was one of the season's highlights — the actress picked up an Emmy last week at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards for guest actress in a comedy series.
Accepting the Emmy for variety sketch series, "SNL" creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels recalled the first time the show won the category in its inaugural season in 1976.
"I remember thinking, as I was standing there, alone, that this was it, this was the high point, there would never be another season as crazy, as unpredictable, as frightening, as exhausting or as exhilarating," Michaels said. "Turns out I was wrong."
The only one of the five categories "SNL" didn't win was writing for a variety series, which went to HBO's equally topical "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver."
McKinnon, who sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" in character as Clinton on "SNL's" first post-election episode, thanked Clinton in her acceptance speech, citing her "grace and grit."
Said McKinnon, "Being part of this season of 'Saturday Night Live' was the most meaningful thing that I will ever do, so I should probably just stop right now."
Baldwin started his acceptance speech by taking a shot at Trump, who has frequently complained that he deserved, but never won an Emmy for his reality show, "The Apprentice."
Looking at the camera, Baldwin quipped, "I suppose I should say at long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy."
The "SNL" wins were an ironic twist for the show, which was fiercely criticized when, during the presidential campaign, Trump appeared as a guest host in November 2015 — a move that some critics maintained helped boost his profile and normalize what they called his divisive rhetoric.
But after Trump's stint, Baldwin and several other skits mercilessly skewered Trump, who frequently denounced "SNL" as "really bad television" via Twitter.
"SNL" was one of this year's Emmy nomination leaders, tying with HBO's ambitious sci-fi drama "Westworld" with 22 overall nods. This also marked the most-nominated season in the show's four-decade history. In total, "SNL" has 54 Emmy wins and 221 nominations.
Backstage, the show's longtime director, Don Roy King, spoke to the importance of comedy in a fraught political environment.
"This year it felt different, more important, like we were holding people accountable, doing some healing," King said. "It felt like we were soothing some frayed nerves, and for that reason, it felt even more important."
Staff writer Jessica Gelt contributed to this report.
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