After a host-less edition last year, Jimmy Kimmel returned to emcee the 2020 Emmys and went straight to the heart of why this year has been an especially calamitous one so far.

“The big question is why would have you an award show in the middle of a pandemic. No seriously, I’m asking why are we having an awards show in the middle of a pandemic,” Kimmel began.

“This has been a miserable year, a year of division, injustice, disease, Zoom school and death,” he went on, before lightening the mood a little with some cheeky digs at Norman Lear for his substantial age and Quibi for its substantial expense.

Kimmel is hosting live from a stage in the Staples Center, but the massive stadium is empty due to COVID-19. He managed to turn the lack of an audience into a bit, by having a fake virtual crowd from previous Emmys laugh along to his first few jokes. The bit caused quite a lot of confusion on social media, before Kimmel finally revealed he was all alone in Staples; well, except for an immobile Jason Bateman.

The veteran late night host previously addressed cracking jokes to an empty room and having an entirely virtual audience.

“Just think about having a Zoom with your family and how complicated it is to get your grandma to look at the camera, get her whole face on camera, and multiply that by a million and that’s what we’re dealing with here,” Kimmel said.

The show’s producers asked Kimmel to host the ceremony well before the pandemic swept the nation and shutdown Hollywood. “It seemed like it was would be fun at the time,” Kimmel said. “Now it seems like it’s going to be less fun.”

Despite the understandable negativity going into the show, Kimmel still did his utmost to raise spirits and get viewers laughing in their living rooms. Here are the best jokes from his Emmy monologue:

  • “You know what they say: You can’t have a virus without a host.”
  • “When Norman (Lear) was a boy, his fear was to not get kicked to death by a horse…the only thing I’m gonna be producing when I’m 98 is phlegm.”

  • “Quibi has 10 Emmy nominations this year [it won two awards]… it’s the dumbest thing to ever cost a billion dollars.”

  • “If you win, a guy will drive to your house and chuck an Emmy through your window.”

  • On not being able to swear on broadcast TV: “HBO can show us a big blue penis no problem, I can’t stay the word Schitt’s with a ‘C’?”

  • When the fake audience bit was revealed: “Wait, that would mean that I’m up here all alone, just like prom night.”

  • “Of course I’m here all alone. This isn’t a MAGA rally, this is the Emmys.”