Alan Alda Talks First Emmy Win, ‘Horace and Pete’ and Doing Cartwheels at 80

Alan Alda First Emmy Win MASH
AP Photo

With 34 nominations and six wins, Alan Alda is an Emmy institution. He even won an Intl. Emmy in 2012. His first win came in 1974 for his iconic role as “Hawkeye” Pierce in “MASH” — when he triumphed over “Kojak” star Telly Savalas in an “Actor of the Year” showdown for a “Super Emmy” pitting the drama series winner against the comedy series champ. (The first, and last, time the Emmys ever tried that.) This year, Alda is in the running as part of the ensemble cast of Louis C.K.’s drama “Horace and Pete.”

After so many awards, what’s your best advice on giving a speech?
The only thing you have to be careful of is not to say “I thoroughly agree with you.” You can’t let that creep in. It is hard. The show business awards are different from most other awards. In most other awards they actually expect you to say something that’s worth listening to and they give you more than 30 seconds. The hard part is to think of something short enough to say that expresses something you mean.

Do any Emmy wins stand out more than the others?
The writing one meant so much. I wanted to be a writer and a good writer since I was 8 years old. To get an Emmy for writing meant so much that that was really spontaneous when I did the cartwheel on the way to the stage. I guess it’s stuck in my mind because, I’m 80 now, but a couple of months after my 80th birthday, I was on the beach in the Virgin Islands and I said, “I’m gonna see if I can still do a cartwheel.”

How did it go?
It doesn’t look a lot like a cartwheel, but it technically was a real cartwheel. I landed on my feet, staggered around a bit and pumped the air as if I had done something spectacular.

Has anything changed for you about going to award shows over the years?
I don’t think there’s been any change except as my grandchildren have got older they’re always rooting for me to get an Emmy or an Oscar nomination so they can come. They want to walk the red carpet with me. They were very funny when I was nominated for an Oscar [for “The Aviator”], they were doing the interviews instead of me.

What’s the best part of being recognized with something like an Emmy?
It can help the project you’re doing. I hope [“Horace and Pete”] gets nominations and wins some Emmys because I think it’s such a powerful piece of work that it would really benefit from attention being drawn to it by an Emmy or two. Of course, you can’t take it too seriously, because I think it’s true the day after an award show it’s very hard to remember who won, except the person who has the trophy to remind him or her. Still, it’s a wonderful thing. When I think of the surprise I felt the first time and I think of the amazement I felt as I got more. You can’t not feel terrific about it.

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