UPDATED, with video: Kenan Thompson is not, by his own description, "that guy who ruffles feathers," and his opening number for tonight's 2022 Emmy Awards on NBC held him at his word. Without so much as a sidelong glance, much less an insulting barb, the longtime Saturday Night Live mainstay opened tonight's ceremony with a nod to classic TV theme shows, some dancers doing dance moves and Oprah dropping by to be Oprah.
The more traditional opening monologue that followed the presentation of the first award – to Michael Keaton – had Thompson returning to the stage with a bit more of the SNL tang. There were two jokes at Netflix's expense, one taking note of the elder statesmen status of nominees Martin Short and Steve Martin (they were seated up front "so it will only take 15 minutes to walk up here") and another addressing the opposite age spectrum (Leonardo DiCaprio's girlfriends), and one targeting the lack of diversity on Succession ("only show that's got three brothers and no brothers").
At the very beginning, calling TV "the greatest invention in the history of mankind" – listing the alternatives as books, TikTok (aka "tiny vertical television") and sex ("gross") – Thompson launched quickly into a dance-heavy tribute to classic TV theme songs (and, inevitably, their move-friendly dance mixes). Friends , of course, got the "I'll be there for you" treatment, The Brady Bunch was included (complete with Thompson in the center square), Law & Order and Stranger Things were repped, and the tribal thump of Game of Thrones marched in with Thompson in full, blond Targaryen locks.
Following the quick and surprise-free theme song bit, Thompson welcomed Oprah Winfrey to do the actual introduction to the night's proceedings, which she did by reminding the world that the chances of winning an Emmy are "300 million to one," and that the trek "starts with a dream, a dream strong enough to endure the knockdowns and rejections."
Self-congratulatory and a wee bit maudlin? Sure, but compared to last year's self-obsessed opening from Cedric the Entertainer (and that burned-into-the-eyelids rap from Rita Wilson) tonight's opener was harmless enough.
Then came the Keaton win and what would, by any stretch, be considered the show's proper opening monologue. The sharpest joke? About those "hard to watch" programs: Squid Game for its violence, Yellowjackets "because it's on Showtime."
After 19 years as SNL 's resident nice guy, Thompson knows live TV inside and out. His persona doesn't have the edge of other recent SNL players-turned-Emmy-hosts like Michael Che and Colin Jost in 2018, Andy Samberg in 2015 and Seth Meyers in 2014 but he still landed somewhere beyond Jimmy Fallon in 2010 and the No Host of 2019.
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