While many late-night talk show hosts have taken the reigns of the Emmys over the past decade including Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers, CBS's own late-night host had not yet enjoyed the honor until this year. It makes sense in a way, as Stephen Colbert has arguably supplanted Fallon as the king of late-night, dominating in ratings and relevance as his show got more political during the last presidential election cycle, and has stuck to that track during the Trump Administration.
"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" even enjoyed its first Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Variety Talk Series. But all eyes were first on the quick-witted Colbert to see how he handled his first Emmy-hosting stint. Would he bring out the right-winged blowhard he made famous on "The Colbert Report"? Would he skewer the celebrities or keep his barbs pointed at the White House?
TooFab was all ears as Colbert hit the stage at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles to see which jokes hit their targets and which ones missed their mark.
Colbert brought the fire for sure when it came to talking about the political landscape, going so far as to blame the celebrities in attendance in his sharpest Trump barb of the night. "He was nominated multiple times for Celebrity Apprentice, but never won. If he had, maybe he wouldn't have run for president," Colbert pointed out. "So in a way, this is all your fault."
He got the biggest laughs of the night talking about diversity -- for the third year in a row, this is the most diverse array of nominees -- and listing some of the excellent African-American nominees in attendance. He ended with Anthony Anderson, before adding, "And of course, Bill Maher … I assume he's black because he's so comfortable using the n-word."
Anderson's laughter could be heard louder than anyone else, while many others in the audience just looked on in stunned silence. Reading the awkward moment, Colbert waved his arms and feigned walking off stage, saying, "Good night, that's my time everybody!"
Staying topical netted Colbert the most laughs, including a gentle poke at HBO's recent hacker troubles. "I'm sure HBO will take home a lot of Emmys tonight, which they'll have to melt down to pay for next year's hacker ransom." The room groaned and gasped a little at that, eliciting a "too soon?" from the host.
He even snuck in a jab at the film nominee, and the trend of traditional movie stars shifting their attention to roles on television. "I there there are more movie stars here tonight than there are people who saw movies this summer," Colbert said to harsh laughter. The film industry is reeling from its worst box office summer in decades.
Colbert got in a few good jokes about the current slate of nominees, including a nod to "Stranger Things" Millie Bobby Brown. Her nomination proves "there are roles in Hollywood for women over 12," Colbert said. He also teased Oprah Winfrey for missing out on a nomination this year, but getting a front row seat anyway.
His best celebrity jokes involved the celebrities themselves. After reading a Tweet wherein Trump accused Seth Meyers of having marbles in his mouth, the "Late Night" host did in fact have marbles in his mouth. And when talking about "This Is Us," Colbert tried to get nominee Milo Ventimiglia to reveal how his character died before telling him "Your fans want to see you dead."
Later in the show, he did an extended "Westworld" segment with Jeffrey Wright where Colbert was treated like a malfunctioning automaton. The best joke of the bit? Political of course. "Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?" Wright asked him. "Every day since November 8," Colbert responded.
Billy Eichner stole the best celebrity bit from him, though, pretending to still be taking calls for hurricane relief from the audience. When Colbert cut to him, Eichner attacked the host for interrupting him while he's on the phone. "You're embarrassing me in front of Louie Anderson!" Eichner jabbed as the camera panned down to find the "Baskets" star sitting a few seats away.
He wrapped his monologue by bringing out the real Sean Spicer at the end to tell him the size of the audience for Sunday night's broadcast.
But not all of Colbert's jokes hit their marks. He did the same tired jokes about having to thank CBS head honcho Les Moonves, and even worse he went in for the gag about how the celebrities haven't eaten anything the last few days to look glamorous for the red carpet.
An extended bit about streaming where Colbert "revealed" that DintyMooreStew.com had inked a deal with Martin Scorsese for a 10-episode series starring Liev Schreiber as a brooding chunk meat fell flat, and left Schreiber looking confused. He tried, but couldn't save that one by intimating Schreiber was in character. "Like that, but with potatoes and carrots around you," Colbert added to no notable laughter.
"Tonight we binge ourselves," he told the audience, and it's true. "Everyone loves streaming video," he pointed out. "Just ask Ted Cruz … but knock first." This one also failed to elicit much laughter and left people a little uncomfortable. He misfired again later in the show with what he called the "Traditional Hollywood Prayer."
"Thank you for giving us talent and beauty and the gaping hole inside each of us that craves love and will never be filled," Colbert said to a quiet murmur. Apparently, calling out the insecurities of the entire entertainment industry doesn't go over well with said industry. Who would have figured.
He also elicited discomfort from the crowd when he followed up Dolly Parton's joke about wanting a vibrator from "Grace and Frankie" by holding a supposedly vibrating box. The bit made his Hollywood crowd more uncomfortable than anything else. But no bit failed as hard as his "interview" with Emmy. RuPaul is great and very entertaining, but this segment had zero laughs and felt like it went on way too long.
If they'd cut that, maybe Sterling K. Brown would have had time to finish his speech!
All in all, though, Colbert had a successful night. His opening musical number where he sang that "Everything's Better on TV" was both true and kind of sad, but it indicated why we need television. It's more than just an escapism, it offers new and creative ways to explore the world we live in, the events we experience and the lives that surround us.