Conan O’Brien lost his last chance to win an Emmy for his TBS late-night series on Sunday, but he still managed to steal the spotlight at the ceremony that otherwise didn’t hold too many surprises.
O’Brien provided a moment of spontaneity when he ran on stage with Stephen Colbert and the team behind the Showtime special “Stephen Colbert’s Election Night 2020,” which won the kudo for live variety show special.
O’Brien stood behind the team, waving to the crowd to extend his already towering six-foot-four frame. “Saturday Night Live” trouper Aidy Bryant, who presented the live variety special kudo, looked confused as she stood to the side to give the floor to Colbert and a large group of writers and producers.
Backstage, Colbert admitted that the two had hatched in advance the plan for O’Brien to join them on stage if they won for variety special. Both Colberta and O’Brien, along with “The Daily Show’s” Trevor Noah and “Jimmy Kimmel Live’s” Jimmy Kimmel lost in the variety talk series category to “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”
O’Brien had been seen as a sentimental underdog contender in the category given that the well-liked star in June ended his nearly 30-year run in late-night and 11 years on TBS with “Conan.” The former writer-producer for “SNL” and “The Simpsons” went on camera in 1993 when he succeeded David Letterman on NBC’s “Late Night.”
Oliver himself gave quite a hat tip to O’Brien as he accepted his sixth consecutive win in the variety talk series category. “Like many in this room, I was kind of rooting for Conan O’Brien so this is bittersweet,” Oliver said from the stage at L.A. Live.
Colbert and his “Election Night” team told reporters in the Emmys virtual backstage room, “We love Conan. We’re super-fans of Conan O’Brien.”
Colbert joked that O’Brien had worked on the “Election Night” special but wound up getting fired. “It was a budgetary thing,” Colbert said. “They said ‘Cut people by height.’ “
O’Brien also drew laughs from the Emmy Awards crowd by standing to salute Television Academy chairman Frank Scherma as he took the stage to introduce the Governors Award presentation to Debbie Allen, the multihyphenate triple threat who was lauded for her long career as an choreographer, actor, director and producer.
Industry insiders and fans called out O’Brien’s antics as a highlight of the three-hour Emmy telecast that aired live on CBS.
— Dan Fogelman (@Dan_Fogelman) September 20, 2021