NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” rejuvenated in large part due to its satirizing of President Donald Trump, continued its Emmy season success Sunday evening, taking home the prize for outstanding variety sketch series.
The show, which earned outstanding guest actor and actress prizes for Dave Chappelle and Melissa McCarthy during ceremonies last weekend, also took home early prizes at the Microsoft Theater for Kate McKinnon as supporting actress in a comedy series and for Alec Baldwin as supporting actor — honored for his portrayal of Trump.
Lorne Michaels, the show’s creator and producer, said he remembered accepting the show’s first Emmy for outstanding variety show after its first season in 1975-76.
“I remember thinking as I was standing there, alone, that this was it. This was the high point,” Michaels said. “There would never be another season as crazy, as unpredictable, as frightening, as exhausting or as exhilarating. Turns out I was wrong.”
“SNL” has won more than 50 Emmys during its run.
Speaking backstage Michaels said he was always conscious of striking a balance on “Saturday Night Live.”
“I think the thing about broadcast is that you’re always aware that you’re on in all 50 states,” Michaels said. “If you have a clear bias, people stop listening.
“This was a year that was incredibly important to us that we get it right,” Michaels said.
Michaels said that during the presidential campaign and the election, the pace of production was frenetic.
“Everything changed every day. … You’d do something on Friday and he’d do something Friday night,” Michaels said, referring to Donald Trump. “It has to be of the moment.”
Asked if the show draws a line that it isn’t willing to cross, the producer said, “Occasionally we do go over, but not because we didn’t think about it.”
What’s important, he said, is a sense of fairness, that it’s “a clean line. That you’re not going after somebody just because it’s just an applause line.”
Immediately following the election, the writers and producers sought to “try and find the way in which there’s not so much raw emotion. … For us it was the Leonard Cohen song.”
Though skits from the show have gone viral and been a political touchstone, Michaels said, “You can’t go into it with the belief that you can change anything.”
“SNL’s” objective is “first and foremost, to be funny” and then to “illuminate an idea.”
Asked whether the show was hearing from critics, Michaels said the negative feedback was louder when the show began.
“In the ’70s we heard a lot, but not so much now … maybe a little bit online,” he said.
The win for McKinnon was her second in a row.
“Being part of this season of `Saturday Night Live’ was the most meaningful thing I will ever do, so I should probably stop now,” said McKinnon, who also thanked Hillary Clinton, whom she portrayed on the show opposite Baldwin.
McKinnon said Sunday evening the past season of “Saturday Night Live” was special.
“Every week had this special kind of electricity running through it,” McKinnon said backstage.
She said this was “a banner year to be part of the show.”
Real-life politics created a pressured pace and there were weekends when major rewrites were required at the last minute.
“It was kind of like a sport sometimes,” McKinnon said. “It was wild. I loved it.
“Playing failed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the show has just been the greatest honor of my life.
“I’m certainly a great admirer of hers and I hope that it’s mutual. I think that it is,” McKinnon said.
Asked about a dinner she had with Clinton, the comedian said, “It was very surreal and wonderful and she was warm and gracious as always. And I ate too much.”
But McKinnon was serious about what the show has accomplished.
“I think satire is so important whenever there’s anything that’s floating around in the national consciousness,” she told reporters.
For Baldwin, the win was his third career Emmy. He won twice for lead actor in a comedy for his work in “30 Rock.”
“I always remember when someone told me that when you die, you don’t remember a bill that Congress passed or a decision the Supreme Court made or an address made by the president,” he said. “You remember a song, you remember a line from a movie, you remember a play, you remember a book, a painting, a poem. What we do is important. And for all of you out there in motion pictures and television, don’t stop doing what you’re doing, the audience is counting on you.”
After winning his Emmy, backstage Baldwin said he was looking forward to returning to “Saturday Night Live” this fall with his impression of President Donald Trump.
“We look forward to picking up where we left off.”
Asked how many more SNL shows it would take to “to get rid” of the president, Baldwin didn’t take the political bait, saying only, “Between three and 103.”
Baldwin, 59, said people come up to him “all day long” to thank him for the portrayal.
“People are overwhelmed … I find myself just a conduit for that. They’re very frustrated … they’re confused and in pain,” he said.
John Lithgow, 71, was also an early winner at the 69th Emmy Awards, taking home the prize for best supporting actor in a drama series for his role as Winston Churchill in Netflix’s “The Crown.”
“`The Crown’ just keeps on giving,” Lithgow said while accepting the award.
In addition to recognizing his fellow nominees, Lithgow gave a shout out to Churchill.
“His life, even as an old man, reminds us what courage and leadership in government really looks like,” he said.
The win was the sixth Emmy for Lithgow, who won three times as lead actor in a comedy series for “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
Laura Dern won her first career Emmy, winning for supporting actress in a limited series or movie for her work in HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” while Alexander Skarsgard won for best supporting actor in the show. Jean-Marc Vallee won his first Emmy for directing a limited series, movie or dramatic special for “Big Little Lies.”
Donald Glover, meanwhile, won for directing in a comedy series for FX’s “Atlanta.”
Bruce Miller was honored for writing a drama series for Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Hosted by Stephen Colbert, the Emmys telecast surprised many in the crowd with a cameo appearance by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Spicer walked on the stage, pushing a podium, during Colbert’s opening monologue, satirizing the much-publicized debate over the size of the crowd at President Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony.
“This will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period, both in person and around the world,” Spicer said.
Baldwin was asked what he thought of Spicer’s appearing on Sunday night’s awards show.
“The average person is grateful for him to have a sense of humor and participate,” he said.
Baldwin said Spicer had done some not particularly admirable things while working for the White House, but the actor said he could empathize.
“I’ve done some jobs that you shouldn’t admire or respect me for either,” Baldwin said. “He and I have that in common I guess.”
–City News Service
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