Jeff Probst has the rare distinction of winning his first individual Emmy the same year he co-hosted the awards ceremony. The “Survivor” emcee claimed the inaugural award for reality competition host and then took the prize again the following three years. Though he hasn’t been nominated since, Probst remains one of the most indelible frontmen on TV. And about that ill-
fated Emmy hosting gig? He’s come to terms with it … mostly.
The Emmy host is not usually up for an Emmy, and on top of that you guys bombed.
On paper it seemed like a really good idea to have all five [hosting] nominees host the Emmys. Great idea on paper, horrible idea on stage. Who could have predicted that the five quote unquote best hosts would turn out to be the five underlined worst hosts. I think even my mom, who is my biggest fan, would agree it was the worst hosting performance of any person or persons in the history of any awards show on this planet or any other. It has taken years for me to fully embrace that, but I now completely own it.
Were you concerned it wasn’t going to work?
I have a vivid memory of the night before. I was at an Emmy party and I saw Jimmy Kimmel, I told him what we had planned for the show. I’ll never forget how kind and gracious he was in telling me how badly we were going to bomb. He was really great in making sure I understood that, “Yes, you’re going to suck but you will survive.” It’s the night before the show. I go home thinking, “Oh my God, it’s as bad as I thought.” We all knew it was gonna be bad. We were sitting in Ryan Seacrest’s house, a week before, writing the reviews. Which does beg the question, “Why weren’t you writing better material?”
What do you remember about the actual win?
It’s the very last category to be presented, and the presenter is Jimmy Kimmel — it’s all coming full circle. Kimmel read my name and as he handed me the statue I reminded myself, “This is for your work on ‘Survivor.’” It was a very humbling slash humiliating moment to get an award. The most humbling aspect was I wanted to be a part of the Emmy scene for so long. I wanted to feel included in that family. I finally get recognized and then absolutely blow it in front of all the people I wanted to impress. When I got the award I was really conflicted because I knew everyone in the audience is going, “This is the most ironic thing I’ve ever seen.”
Were you able to appreciate it despite the show?
I didn’t know Jon Hamm, but we were backstage and he was rushing off to do an interview and he stopped, came back to me, grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye and said, “You deserve that.” I felt like he was giving me a hug of love. As if to say, “Everybody’s been there, brother. You had a bad night, but you still deserve that award.” Between Kimmel and Hamm, my takeaway was really positive. It did make me feel like I still belonged in spite of everything.