Stephen Colbert rose to the top of the late-night ratings — and scored himself an Emmy nomination — by going after President Donald Trump night after night on The Late Show. So there was something ironic about him using his opening number as host of the Emmy Awards to argue that television is the perfect distraction from the world’s problems.
The musical number began with Colbert changing the channel from Kim Jong Un and singing, “The world’s a little better on TV.” Along the way he was joined by other TV characters, like Veep’s Selina Meyer, who sang, “Imagine if your president was not loved by Nazis.”
“The Americans has hotter spies than the Russia inquiry,” Colbert added. “Even treason’s better on TV,” he crooned with Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell.
But if you thought Colbert was going to leave his Trump jokes at home, all you had to do was wait for his far more pointed monologue.
“Well, what a year it has been for television,” Colbert said in his opening monologue. “I mean the industry is booming. There were over 450 original scripted shows made this year. Of course there is no way anyone could possibly watch that much TV... other than the president, who seems to have a lot of time for that sort of thing.
“Hello, sir, thank you for joining us,” he said. “Looking forward to the tweets.”
But Trump was not the only politician to get a shout-out. “Of course, these days everybody loves streaming video,” Colbert said. “Just ask Ted Cruz.”
The host praised the “most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history” for the third year running and singled out some of this year’s African-American nominees. “Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis, Samira Wiley, Uzo Aduba, Anthony Anderson from ABC’s black-ish… and Bill Maher.”
“I assume he's black since he's so comfortable using the ‘n-word,’” Colbert joked of his competitor in the Variety Talk category.
“But if we're honest with ourselves, and as artists I think we have to be honest with ourselves, we know that the biggest TV star of the last year is Donald Trump,” Colbert said. “And Alec Baldwin, obviously.”
“However you feel about the president, and you do feel about the president, you can't deny that every show was influenced by Donald Trump in some way,” he continued. “All the late night shows, obviously. House of Cards, the new season of American Horror Story, and of course next year's Latin Grammys hosted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.”
Colbert also mocked Trump for complaining about not winning an Emmy Award for The Apprentice. “I’ll tell you this, if he had won an Emmy, I bet he wouldn't have run for president,” he said. “So in a way this is all your fault. I thought you people loved morally compromised anti-heroes. You like Walter White. He's just Walter much whiter.”
Trump even declared during one of the 2016 debates that he “should have” won the Emmy. “But he didn't,” Colbert said. “Because unlike the presidency, Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote.”
And then he welcomed the real Sean Spicer — not Melissa McCarthy — to the stage to declare this “the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world.”