Conan In Ham Mode, Groaner Bits, British Dominance: Winners And Losers From The 2021 Emmys

We say this before and after every major award ceremony, but let’s go ahead and say it again this time just to get it on the record: big award shows are very silly endeavors and should be treated as such, but if we insist on continuing to do them, we should at least try to do them right.

This brings us to the 2021 Emmys, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer from inside a fully enclosed tent. They were, like, okay, as far as these things go. You can find the full list of winners at this link. What we’re doing here, on the other hand, is highlighting notable moments and trends in a Winners and Losers Guide. It might not be very helpful, but it will hopefully be fun. I made a really dumb GIF for this. It’s all the way at the bottom. This is what we in the business call “a teaser.”

Okay, here we go.

WINNER: Some Good Comedies

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Pretty much all of the comedy awards this year ended up getting split between Hacks and Ted Lasso, which was… good. It was good. It was good for a bunch of reasons, too. Reasons including but not limited to:

  • They are good shows that deserve recognition
  • We got to see Brett Goldstein and Jean Smart give acceptance speeches
  • It would have been annoying if one of them won all the awards and it would have led to a backlash situation, which are often more annoying than the things that caused them

The only major downside in all of this is that Jason Sudeikis kept running up on stage without a mustache. Who said he could shave off his mustache? Was it you? Be honest. I won’t be mad. You can tell me if you told Jason Sudeikis to shave off his mustache. It’s fine. It’s fine.

I lied. It’s not fine. I will be mad. I am not kidding when I say that it took me out of the show a little bit each time. This is what we’re working with here. Please keep in mind as you read the rest of these that I was thinking about Jason Sudeikis’s mustache while most of them were happening.

LOSER: Basically Every Show That Wasn’t Ted Lasso, Hacks, Mare of Easttown, The Crown, or Queen’s Gambit

The Emmys always do this. They latch onto a handful of shows and then they throw all the trophies they can at everyone involved in making those shows. This year, it was these five. Some other shows snuck in there for some of the smaller awards (Michaela Cole won for writing, Ewan McGregor won for acting in a miniseries), but basically every other major award went to this crew.

And again, it’s… fine. Kind of. It’s not even so much that these shows didn’t deserve some praise heaped on them. I enjoyed all of them very much, with the exception of The Crown, which I don’t even dislike as much as I just aggressively do not care about it. The bigger issue here is that giving every award to a small group of shows like this means denying awards to a bunch of other shows that were just as deserving. It’s not a new problem. It existed even before there were 7,000 shows every year, some of which are made by a website that also sells paper towels and a company that makes telephones, but it’s getting a little worse now, just because of all those options.

We’ll discuss this more shortly. It could have been worse. Again, at least the shows they heaved awards at all night were good ones. That doesn’t always happen. Baby steps.

WINNER: Conan O’Brien


God bless Conan. Just out there hamming it up throughout the entire show. Saluting the President of the Academy like he’s the actual president, mugging for the camera every time it was near him, crashing the stage and being obnoxious as all hell in the background while someone else was trying to give a speech. All of it. It’s still a little weird to me — someone who stayed up late to watch his old NBC show and who remembers the late-night wars vividly — to see Conan become the kind of elder statesman goofball who can derail a whole ceremony and leave everyone delighted. He’s like television’s silly uncle.

This might be the last one of these he goes to for a while, seeing as his 30-year television career is coming to an end, so I’m glad he went out in such an appropriate way. I’m kind of surprised he didn’t bring the Masturbating Bear as his date.


The less said about the bits and sketches on the show this year the better, so let’s leave it at this: There was a stretch of about 30 minutes there where the show played off both Jean Smart and Jason Sudeikis during sweet acceptance speeches after showing two long groaners of bits — one about, I swear to God, the Mike Pence fly thing from almost an entire year ago — sandwiched by a long commercial break.

It was bad. I did not like it. Fix it.

WINNER: British People and/or Things

Winners this year included:

  • The Crown, a show about British people that stars British people
  • Ted Lasso, a show about an American soccer coach who moves to England and interacts with many British people
  • Mare of Easttown, a show set in America that starred a British woman doing an American accent
  • Halston, a show about an American fashion designer who was played by a British actor

All of which is notable, for many reasons, but mostly for me because of…

LOSER: Gillian Anderson’s British Accent

Gillian Anderson, an actress I have heard speak with a British accent in interviews, accepted an Emmy for playing Margaret Thatcher, one of the most British women in history, and did so using an American accent. This confused me. I was perplexed. So, I stopped paying attention to the ceremony and Googled it. And that’s when I learned all of this.

Anderson can effortlessly use both an American and a British accent because she spent time in both countries growing up. She was born in Chicago and moved to London at age five. She moved back to Michigan when she was 11 and by then, she had spent enough time in both the U.S. and Britain to fluently switch between accents.

And this.

“I sometimes do need to decide — if there’s an American on the line and I’m living in the U.K., it’s really difficult for me not to fall into an American accent because of growing up there in my later years,” she told NPR’s Terry Gross last year. “And so it is a conscious decision in that regard. I have to be careful if there are two — if there’s an American and a Brit that I’m doing an interview with because I end up sounding somewhere in between, in the middle, because my ears are picking up on different things.”

This is fascinating to me. I wish she had started slipping in and out of both of them during this speech, like a robot that is starting to malfunction. Pretty much all the time I did not spend thinking about Jason Sudeikis’s mustache, I was thinking about this. I am great at my job.

WINNER: Jennifer Coolidge

The greatest. I can’t wait until she wins next year for The White Lotus. Let her host, too. And give her the lifetime achievement award. Rename the ceremony The Jennifer Coolidge Awards and make the trophy look like her. I’m joking here, obviously, but, like… barely.

LOSER: Diversity, In Practice If Not in Theory

Diversity was a big theme of the night, with a lot of people saying a lot of things about inclusion and giving a voice to groups that have been voiceless in the past and how important all of it for them, the people in Hollywood, to lead the way on these kinds of huge societal issues, and then…

All of the major awards went to white people. Go look at the list. It is blinding. This is another one of those things that has been happening forever, and I appreciate that they’re at least acknowledging it in some way, but it could not have been more glaring this year with everyone making a big deal about it with their mouths and then doing nothing about it with their actions. Just a bad look.

Fix this, too.

WINNER: Fashion, Generally

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A fashion update from me, a person who wears sweatpants from October through April

  • Big fan of Jason Sudeikis’s velvet suit
  • Kaley Cuoco in all bright yellow was a blast
  • Look at Kenan
  • Bowen Yang had on massive sparkly heels and I had no choice but to respect it
  • Brendan Hunt — my beloved Coach Beard from Ted Lasso — wore a top hat, which was adorable
  • Billy Porter is good at this

This has been your fashion update from me, a person who also spent $60 on long sleeve t-shirts from The Gap this weekend.

LOSER: Rap Intros


lol no

WINNER: Seth Rogen Up There Riffing

Honestly, Seth Rogen is very good at this and we should consider letting him host most of these ceremonies. He won’t want to do it, which makes him even more qualified to do it, in a way (hosting these shows is a little like running for political office in that I am inherently suspicious of anyone who actually wants to do it), so we can force him to get in there if it comes to it.

LOSER: Speeches, Generally

There were good speeches and bad speeches and speeches that got cut off too soon and other ones that just disregarded the music and went on and on and on. It’s a whole thing. Playing people off always seems so wildly disrespectful to me, like hey, congrats, now get lost. In an ideal world, everyone who wins has a little 20-second speech lined up and gets out of there. I still want someone to win and just be like, “I’m gonna thank everyone I need to thank in person, have a good night” and then just walk right off the stage and into a limo to go home.

More importantly, the song they were playing people off with was “Por ti Volare,” and if you did not think of the damn Catalina Wine Mixer every time it happened, well, you and I would probably not get along.

WINNER: Connor O’Malley

Connor O’Malley is a king of super weird and alternative comedy, with credits in everything from I Think You Should Leave to Joe Pera Talks With You. He is pretty much the least likely person you could ever see at a stuffy award show like this. But he is also married to nominee Aidy Bryant, so hey, there he was. It cracked me up whenever I saw him for a split second.

Maybe next year we can just have him recreate this moment instead of playing people off.


Same vibes. Arguably more effective. Definitely funnier. And let Tim Robinson write the bits. These are all good ideas for free. Here to help.

LOSER: The CBS Shows We Saw Commercials for That Will Never Win or Be Nominated for an Emmy

Always funny when the Emmys air on network television and then network television gets basically shut out of the awards, but especially funny when the show cuts to commercial and we get ads for like 40 spin-offs of CSI and NCIS. Television remains a relentlessly weird beast.

WINNER: The Great City of Philadelphia


Two things are true here, and I’m closing with them because they brought me so much joy last night:

  • I joked that Wawa should give out free hoagies if Mare of Easttown won three or more Emmys and I’ve been craving a Wawa hoagie ever since, which has me wondering if the whole show was just a deeply subliminal advertising campaign
  • The local Philly CBS affiliate teased the 11 o’clock news during the ceremony with two stories, the Eagles losing and Mare of Easttown “bringing a lot of attention to Delco,” which is quite possibly the most Philadelphia thing I’ve ever seen

This brings our discussion to a close. See you next year. I’m serious about the “no more bits” thing. Please.