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The Emmys Target the Election

The election is less than 50 days away, but don’t let that make you think that political humor gets better as the campaign season ages.

The 60th annual Emmy Awards was a parade of jokes that just fell flat.

“The world hasn’t seen a pairing like this since John McCain and Sarah Palin,” Kathy Griffin said as she stood onstage with Don Rickles.

Mr. Warmth gave her a nice try.

In fact, it was Rickles who stole the show, and he even quipped at the dreadful material that was posted on teleprompters for hosts and presenters to recite: “Let’s read these jokes they wrote for us,” he said, as the audience finally got the joke.

Otherwise, political statements were not necessarily meant to be funny — just subtle swipes.

There were digs at the administration. Jon Stewart: “I’m just saying I really look forward to the next
administration, whoever it is.” There were other digs at GOP attacks on community organizing. “John Adams” star Laura Linney said she was
“so grateful and thankful for the community organizers that helped form our country.” And there were shots at the current state of campaigning. “John Adams” scribe Kirk Ellis thanked for “this amazing opportunity to talk about a
period in our history when articulate men articulated complex thoughts
in complete sentences.” Then he was cut off.

This close to the election, politics was unavoidable, as much as networks bristle when controversial statements are injected into award ceremonies. Why not? It’s these moments that people will remember, not the clips or the presenters or even the winners.

Nothing quite compared to last year’s “no more goddamned wars” comment from Sally Field, with portions edited out by Fox censors (for language). Instead, the most controversial figure onstage was Tommy Smothers, receiving an Emmy he should have gotten in 1968. “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” was taken off the air by CBS for its irreverence directed at the Vietnam War.

He said on Sunday, “It’s hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing peace is only obtainable through war.There’s
nothing more scary than watching ignorance in action. So I dedicate
this Emmy to all the people who feel compelled to speak out and not
afraid to speak to power and won’t shut up and refuse to be silenced.”

This time, he wasn’t censored — and you could all but see him thinking of saying something more daring.

Otherwise, laugh out loud comedy was in short supply, as the show got off on the wrong foot with a disastrous segment featuring reality hosts Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Ryan Seacreast, Jeff Probst and Howie Mandell.

Stephen Colbert, presenting with Jon Stewart, started eating a bag of prunes as Stewart spoke. “This dried up old fruit has the experience we need,” Colbert said. A passable McCain joke.

It would have been great if the final presenter, Tom Selleck, a Republican, could have thrown one right back at them, equal opportunity proof that the other party exists in Hollywood. But he said nothing. They were running short on time, and given the track record of the night’s humor, perhaps it was for the best.

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