Emmy Awards – The best photos from over the years

We’re so excited for the 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 19, 2021, where our favorite TV stars will be honored for their amazing work on the small screen. Every year, the ceremony includes moments full of glam, laughter, drama and even a few tears — and we can’t wait to see what 2021 brings! Join Wonderwall.com as we relive some of the best Emmy moments through the years as seen in photos, starting with the hilarious announcement of the 2011 Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy. It was Melissa McCarthy’s first-ever Emmy nomination, and her pals and fellow nominees — including Martha Plimpton, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Laura Linney and Edie Falco — decided to prank the audience by ascending the stage when their names were called instead of sitting in their seats and smiling. Once on stage, the women hugged and held hands as if they were contestants in a beauty pageant, feigning nervousness while the audience died laughing. When Melissa’s name was announced as the winner, presenters Rob Lowe and Sofia Vergara produced a rhinestone tiara and bouquet of red roses in addition to the shiny gold statue, which made her comedy win one of the funniest ever.

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A fire was just one of the many problems during the 2020 Primetime Emmys! The unconventional and largely virtual telecast — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — included only a few in-person appearances by stars like Jennifer Aniston, who joined host Jimmy Kimmel at Los Angeles’s Staples Center to announce the outstanding actress in a comedy series award. The pair were making a joke about coronavirus safety protocols by dousing the winner’s envelope in anti-bacterial spray before lighting it on fire, but the flames unexpectedly flared up again after Jen thought she’d put them out. The surprising — and very obviously accidental and live — fire shocked Jennifer, who managed to think fast and continue to blast it with a fire extinguisher.

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During the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 2016, the HBO drama “Game of Thrones” broke an Emmy record when it won nine awards, bringing its total number of wins at the time to an astounding 35 — more than any TV drama in history. Several members of the cast — Rory McCann, Conleth Hill, Iwan Rheon, Hannah Murray, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maisie Williams, Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner and Kit Harington — posed for a group photo while celebrating their sweeping success that year.

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Tiffany Haddish posed with her Emmy for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series — which she earned for her hilarious hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live” — during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2018.

Remember when Donald Trump was a reality TV star? Before politics and a presidential election, the former face of “The Celebrity Apprentice” appeared on stage during the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 2005 alongside comedic actress Megan Mullally to sing “Green Acres.” It was a moment of pure hilarity that didn’t involve early morning tweets.

“The Crown” star Claire Foy inspected her Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2018.

This may, to the untrained eye, seem like a picture of Ellen DeGeneres wearing a funny dress, but it’s so much more. On Sept. 11, 2001, the country experienced one of the worst terror attacks in history, which caused the Television Academy to postpone the annual September airing of the Primetime Emmys not once but twice, giving our nation time to heal. When the ceremony finally took place on Nov. 4, Ellen was given the enormous task of hosting the show that many celebs felt too afraid to attend for fear of another large-scale attack. Using her trademark blend of gentle sarcasm and innocent teasing, Ellen managed to break the ice and get people laughing (especially when she stepped on stage wearing this hilarious dress imitating a swan-inspired gown singer Bjork wore to the 2001 Academy Awards), which was no easy feat for any comedian. Critics later commended Ellen for her handling of the awards show, calling it one of her finest moments.

This image from the 31st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 1979 made us catch our breath — and then smile. Each year stars arrive at the show full of life, excitement and laughter, celebrating their achievements with their closest friends and colleagues. In this picture, comedians John Ritter and Robin Williams were silly and carefree, which is particularly touching considering both later passed away at relatively young ages while they were still actively working in Hollywood. At the time, Robin was excited for his nomination for best lead comedy actor for his performance as Mork on the popular series “Mork & Mindy,” and John, although not in the running that particular year, had been nominated for the same award a year prior.

We’re pretty positive that host Jimmy Kimmel’s mom has this very photo from the 68th Annual Primetime Emmys in 2016 hanging on her fridge. During Jimmy’s opening speech, he jokingly told the audience he knew how long the show was and how hungry they could get waiting for the ceremony to end. Then he introduced his mom, who was backstage, dutifully making over 7,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the entire audience. Along with the help of the kids from “Stranger Things,” Jimmy passed out brown bag lunches to the crowd and didn’t miss an opportunity to brag, saying, “Anthony Anderson’s mom is here. How are you? My mom made food for everyone.” Ultimate burn.

While we could have picked this picture simply for the fact that Viola Davis looked stunning in her Carmen Marc Valvo gown during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmys in 2015, our motives are far more inspirational. Viola’s award for best lead actress in a drama series was a historical feat, marking her as the first African American woman to have ever won the category. The actress used the powerful moment to remind the audience, viewers and the Television Academy that for too long, women of color have been denied the chance to shine. After quoting Harriet Tubman, Viola said, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” Say it, Viola!

Jessica Biel kissed husband Justin Timberlake on the cheek backstage during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2018.

We think one of the awards at the Emmys should be “best reaction to getting snubbed” — which would clearly go to Amy Poehler thanks to her ingenious seated performance during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmys in 2015. After years of being nominated but not winning (blame Julia Louis-Dreyfus for that), Amy decided to show how much she didn’t care by throwing on a hoodie and shades. As the winner was announced (Julia again!), Amy flashed two peace signs and then proceeded to raise her fist in the air in congratulations. Everyone was laughing — especially Jimmy Fallon, who was sitting right behind Amy enjoying the spectacle.

The joy was palpable during the 59th Annual Primetime Emmys in 2007 when presenters (and bromancers) Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced Ricky Gervais as the winner of best lead comedy actor award. The only problem? Ricky wasn’t there to accept it. So to keep things moving along, Jon and Stephen decided to give the award to Steve Carell. As Steve ran to the stage to accept the statuette, Jon and Stephen jumped in the air, cheering wildly and then embraced their friend in one of the happiest hugs we’ve ever seen on live TV.

This image isn’t just comedian Ricky Gervais making a stink face. It’s actually his triumphant return to the Emmys, where he reclaimed his stolen award from fellow comedian Steve Carell. The hilarious confrontation occurred during the 60th Annual Primetime Emmys in 2008, one year after Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart reassigned the award for best comedic actor to Steve in Ricky’s absence. Ricky took his opportunity on stage as a presenter to demand his Emmy, even stooping so low as to tickle Steve until he produced the golden statuette.

It’s a “9 to 5” reunion! Thirty-seven years after their film’s release, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda joined forces again at the 2017 Primetime Emmys. The legends were all in attendance as nominees that night — Lily and Jane for their work on Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” and Dolly for her TV movie “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” — but their on-stage reunion came when they handed out the statue for best supporting actor in a limited series or movie.

“Schitt’s Creek” made history at the unconventional Primetime Emmys in 2020. The show swept the four acting awards, with stars Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy all taking home trophies, as well as the categories for writing and directing — plus the show won for outstanding comedy series. Everyone accepted their awards and made their speeches from their own watch party in Toronto, as the show was largely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

OK, maybe Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Millie Bobby Brown from the Netflix original series “Stranger Things” didn’t take home any Emmys during the 2016 awards show, but we can’t get over how fierce their fashion was at the big event. The trio popped on the red carpet and in the audience, and even though they didn’t win, they were the picture of grace and good sportsmanship — which we totally loved.

For her next acceptance speech at the 2014 Primetime Emmys, Julia Louis-Dreyfus decided to surprise the audience and planned a little in advance this time! Bryan Cranston was presenting the outstanding lead actress in a comedy series category that year. Julia decided that if she won, they would orchestrate a passionate kiss. She later told ELLE magazine that the two had planned it and even checked with their respective spouses beforehand.

In an attempt to keep the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards show from going over on time (a bad habit of the ceremony), host Conan O’Brien took matters into his own hands. Instead of relying on loud music to drown out long-winded stars during their acceptance speeches, Conan thought a more visual representation of time would help — so he placed TV legend Bob Newhart in a sealed chamber with only enough oxygen to last the exact length of the show. Conan hilariously explained the consequences to the celebrity audience when he said, “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s very simple. If the Emmys run one second over three hours, Bob Newhart dies.” Thankfully, the prank worked: The show ended three whole minutes early!

William H. Macy and wife Felicity Huffman relaxed in the Backstage Creations Giving Suite at the 70th Annual Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2018.

This is a picture of Aziz Ansari holding his first Emmy, which he won during the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 2016. What’s so significant isn’t that this funny actor and comedian won the Emmy for outstanding writing for his Netflix original series “Master of None” but that he was the first Indian American actor to even be nominated for an Emmy for outstanding lead actor (which he didn’t win). Just being nominated is a huge feat, made even sweeter by taking home a statuette (even if it’s in another category).

There are so many things to love about this picture, but what we can’t get over is how genuinely happy and excited Taraji P. Henson looks while her friend, Regina King, accepts her outstanding supporting actress award during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Terrence Howard may look all dashing and dapper, but it’s Taraji who’s giving us all the feels.

Talk about a blast from the past! Featured in this photo is former Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron and Evie deWolf at the very first Emmy Awards on Jan. 25, 1949. The ceremony was hosted at the Los Angeles Athletic Club and had a small turnout. However, as its reputation spread, more stars made the effort to attend the ceremony, and within just a few short years, it had become a popular annual event.

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” co-stars Darren Criss and Ricky Martin celebrated Darren’s outstanding lead actor in a limited series of movie win in the Lindt Backstage Lounge during the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2018.

Meryl Streep is a boss, and she proved that with a vengeance during the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 2004 when she accepted her statue for her four incredible roles on the HBO miniseries “Angels in America.” While most stars downplay their talent, Meryl cut right to the chase: “Oh boy. Thank you. You know, there are some days when I myself think I’m overrated. But not todaaaay,” she said. The crowd went wild, and Meryl taught us all a little thing called self-love.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is known for giving some epic speeches, but we’re partial to her award acceptance at the 2013 ceremony. While picking up her best lead actress in a comedy series trophy, the “Veep” star brought co-star Tony Hale up on stage, and he proceeded to serve as her assistant. Tony held her clutch and occasionally provided her with names for her speech — just like the relationship between their on-screen characters. Talk about clever!

Julia Louis-Dreyfus began her Emmy reign in 2012 when she was nominated for outstanding lead comedy actress for her work on “Veep” — a nomination that she earned (and won) for six years running. Upon accepting her award that first year, Julia stopped to give a hug to friend and fellow nominee Amy Poehler before walking on stage (where the pair appeared to quickly exchange notes). As Julia spoke into the mic and thanked NBC and “Parks and Recreation,” it was clear the duo were pulling a prank on the audience. Pretending to have accidentally swapped speeches, Amy rushed to the stage to give Julia the right one, creating one of the funniest and most memorable Emmy acceptance speech moments ever.

Can you believe that Cicely Tyson is 92 here? The Hollywood legend, who died in 2021, made a rare appearance at the 2017 Emmys ceremony where she presented the best supporting actress in a drama series prize alongside Anika Noni Rose. Her mere presence on the stage resulted in a standing ovation from the crowd. Cicely admitted that she was nervous, but Anika helped calm her as they handed out the award to Nicole Kidman for her performance on “Big Little Lies.”

Their show may have been called “I Love Lucy,” but it’s clear from this photo from the 1954 Emmys that Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball had major love for Desi Arnaz. The two women were feeling extra warm and fuzzy after their show won the Emmy for outstanding comedy series and Vivian won her first and only award for best supporting actress.

At the 2019 Primetime Emmys, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” cleaned up after scoring a record-breaking 32 nominations, the most nods in a single year for any comedy or drama series. The show was recognized for its eighth and final season at that year’s ceremony and ended up winning in 12 categories including best drama series (seen here) for the final time. That night, the popular drama tied its own record for most Emmys won by a series in a single season.

Late night talk show hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon took to the stage in 2011 during the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmys to present the award for supporting comedy actress and managed to get into quite the kerfuffle. When Kimmel asked Fallon if he’d prepared a speech for his own nomination for outstanding comedy writing, Fallon fibbed and said no. But Kimmel decided to tackle him to prove he was lying. The pair rolled on the ground like a pair of school kids before Kimmel stood up and read Fallon’s hilarious (phony) Emmy acceptance speech.

We’re just going to call it right now: There can never be a better opening skit than the one led by Jimmy Fallon during the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmys in 2010. The star-studded “Glee”-inspired performance of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” included a crazy line-up of characters like Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Amber Riley (from “Glee”), Tina Fey, Joel McHale, Kate Gosselin, Jon Hamm, Betty White, Tim Gunn, Jorge Garcia and even Randy Jackson on the guitar. The scene captured in this photo is one of our favorites — when Jimmy awkwardly caressed Tina’s face, practically blinding her with her own hair.

You never know when there might be a surprise smooch! Take the 2003 ceremony, for example, when two comedy stars locked lips. While handing out the best supporting actress in a comedy series trophy with “Friends” co-star David Schwimmer, presenter Matthew Perry laid a big kiss on the winner — Doris Roberts. The “Everybody Loves Raymond” star took the extra prize in stride, starting her speech with: “Wow! That was worth coming up here for.”

The 2019 Emmys stage was graced with a true comedy star — a then-90-year-old Bob Newhart, who was on hand as Ben Stiller talked about different eras of TV. The funny segment — which came during the host-less telecast — saw Ben checking out wax figures of stars like Lucille Ball and George Burns before reaching Bob Newhart and making the joke that Bob is actually still alive.

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