You Might as Well Stand on Stage and Kill Yourself: Welcome to the Emmys

Let's be honest: if any of us ever gave an awards show monologue, we'd probably screw it up. Making people laugh is hard. Doing it in a cold room full of people who are all obsessing over whether they'll win or nail their introductions later is even more difficult. Then add the fact that you have to make sure not to include any material that's too challenging or offensive. You might as well stand on stage and just kill yourself. You'd at least kill with one person.

So it was probably not much of a surprise that Neil Patrick Harris went out and started dying. Then the producers made it worse. Because out came Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O'Brien. The trouble with having funny people surround someone who may be failing to be funny is that you spend time thinking about how much they made you laugh. Then you look at the current guy and wonder why he can't be more like them.

The trouble, too, is that "guy in the audience screws with the monologue by yelling at the host" feels like at least 50% of the monologues on Saturday Night Live, and it has pretty negative connotations. As soon as someone on the cast comes out to mess with the host, you suspect that the SNL writers might not have had any confidence that the host could pull the monologue off. It's a wordless indicator to the audience at home that this might not be good.

Seeing NPH surrounded by those previous hosts in just that kind of opening sketch was agonizing. The poor guy. He was going to taaaaaaaaaannnk. And then, thankfully, Kevin Spacey dug it out of the nosedive, with a fourth-wall break into the camera. Suddenly, everything made sense. The chaos and awkwardness were engineered, intentional. His House of Cards nod to the camera killed, and he milked it with the impish evil of his character Frank Underwood.

Most of the time, the whole "the monologue is bombing!" bit really is a bomb. It's tough to get right, because there's nothing more dangerous than telling an audience that they should think that what they're watching sucks. But, sometimes, it works. Tonight was one of them.

 

Discuss

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  • Cory J. Lack
    Cory J. Lack

    And as such, when Conan O'Brien showed up talking about 900 billion people watching porn, my thought wasn't "where are they going with this" but rather "yeah, this is par for the course." The Kevin Spacey gag still worked, but it would be a lot more effective if the gag was more overtly awful; and yet, I'm not sure that's possible, because what was apparently -supposed- to be exaggerated awfulness was exactly what I was expecting from the Emmys. Also, some input about this site itself: If you're going to make me split anything remotely of substance into four separate comments, don't set the videos on the page to autoplay. Thanks.

  • Cory J. Lack
    Cory J. Lack

    I watched an episode of Doctor Who once with a friend and I asked her why everything was so incompetent. She instantly knew what I meant, funnily enough, because she responded with "it's supposed to be like that!" I don't like this idea that making something bad intentionally makes it good. Beaning seven batters in a row doesn't make me a good pitcher, regardless of whether or not that's the plan or not. I bring this up because I have the sneaking suspicion that the House of Cards gag was an incidental inclusion rather than the entire point of the sketch. It would have you believe that it was supposed to be a trainwreck from the get-go; something so bad it HAD to be planned... but I never got that impression. I felt as though it was exactly as bad as I'd expect the Emmys to be: a perfect mix of self-deprecation combined with an ironic sense of self-importance. This whole thing about the "Golden Age of TV" has given these people more reason than ever to be full of themselves (cnt'd)

  • Cory J. Lack
    Cory J. Lack

    This article makes a good point, and I definitely found the Kevin Spacey thing to be the only redeeming aspect of the bit, but at the same time I think "it was supposed to be bad!" doesn't excise the fact that something is, well, bad.