Most Unforgettable Emmy Awards Moments In History

1951: Lucille Ball was the first woman to host the show at the 4th Annual Emmys alongside Desi Arnaz.

This is one milestone that actually happened very early on in Emmy Awards history. Lucille Ball hosted the 4th Annual Emmy Awards in 1951 with Desi Arnaz. It wouldn’t be until the 15th Annual Emmy Awards in 1963 when we would see another female host. Annette Funicello hosted that show with Don Knotts.

1981: David Letterman took home his first award despite terrible ratings.

David Letterman fans might know that The David Letterman Show started as a morning comedy show in 1980. It was only on from June until October before it got canceled because of poor ratings, but it won two Daytime Emmy Awards: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Variety Series and Outstanding Individual Achievement – Writers. The gongs could be what led to NBC keeping the comedian under contract and to do the Late Night with David Letterman show, which premiered in 1982. The latter show won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program in 1984.

1991: Kirstie Alley thanked husband for giving her “the big one.”

It’s not just the award winners and ceremony hosts who make television magic. Sometimes it’s the speeches. There have been a lot of interesting Emmy Awards speeches throughout the decades of the awards show. One speech that people still haven’t forgotten about is Kirstie Alley‘s from 1991. She snagged the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on Cheers. She thanked her then-husband Parker Stevenson for “being the man who has always given me the big one for the last eight years.” Hello. Oh, and she did it in front of a very young Macaulay Culkin, who presented her with the award.

2001: Ellen DeGeneres recreated the Björk swan moment.

No one will ever forget Björk‘s infamous swan dress at the 2001 Oscars. It just might be one of the most memorable red carpet looks of all time. Ellen DeGeneres clearly knew how special it was. When she hosted the 2001 Emmy Awards, she came out onto the stage in a replica of the dress. In 2017, the funny lady revealed that it was her proudest fashion moment. Makes sense!

2004: Sarah Jessica Parker won an Emmy in 2004 for Sex and the City after being nominated every other year for the part.

Every single year Sex and the City was on air, Sarah Jessica Parker was nominated for the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series award for her part as the iconic fashionista Carrie Bradshaw. That’s six nominations from 1999 to 2004… and no wins. That was until 2004, when she finally took home the accolade. Looks like all that waiting paid off!

2007: Steve Carell “receives” Emmy when Ricky Gervais isn’t there.

It’s always a bit awkward when someone wins an award and they’re not there. Sometimes, a pre-recorded speech has been prepared. Other times, the presenter thanks everyone on their behalf. At the 2007 Emmys, Ricky Gervais won for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for Extras. He wasn’t there so Steve Carell “took it” from presenters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Things came full circle in 2008 when Ricky asked Steve during the broadcast for his award back.

2012: Julia Louis-Dreyfus reads the wrong speech.

Some people like to wing their speeches while others prefer to have something prepared. Julia Louis-Dreyfus pulled a hilarious move at the 2012 Emmys by “accidentally” reading out Amy Poehler‘s acceptance speech when she scooped up the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Julia was nominated for Veep while Amy was nominated for Parks and Recreation. Thankfully, everything was sorted out in the end and it made for one of the most memorable Emmy moments to date.

2014: Laverne Cox was the first transgender person to be nominated.

Laverne Cox has had a number of historic moments. One of them was when she became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy Award in 2014. She was up for the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series award for her role as Sophia Burset on Orange is the New Black. As mentioned previously, the award ended up going to her costar Uzo, but the nomination was a milestone that wasn’t forgotten. Here’s hoping she makes history again with an award win.

2015: Tracy Morgan returns to the stage following accident.

There are always shocking moments at the Emmy Awards, but one of the most emotional surprises was when Tracy Morgan made a triumphant return to the stage in 2015. It marked the comedian’s first major appearance fifteen months after a fatal six-vehicle crash left him in a coma and with numerous injuries. He told a visibly moved audience, “Last year, Jimmy Kimmel said on stage ‘I’ll see you next year.’ Thanks to my doctors and my beautiful wife, I’m here standing on my own two feet.” After his speech, he had the honor of presenting the final award of the evening.

2015: Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy for best lead actress in a drama.

Another acceptance speech people will not be forgetting anytime soon is Viola Davis‘s emotional and powerful speech at the 2015 Emmy Awards. She nabbed the Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series trophy for her role as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder. She wasn’t just the first black woman, she was also the first woman of color to win the award in the sixty-six year history of the ceremony and her speech paid tribute to that. Before, other women of color had been nominated but never won.

2015: Uzo Aduba became the first actress to win for the same part in the drama and comedy categories.

There is sometimes a bit of confusion at award shows over the categories shows are nominated in. Take Orange is the New Black, which has made history for being nominated as both a comedy and drama. It’s something that has served star Uzo Aduba well. In 2014, she won her first Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as “Crazy Eyes”. Just a year later, she won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for the same part – making her the only actress to win awards in two different categories for the same role.

2016: Game of Thrones became the show with the most award wins.

Actors keep their award show tallies, but so do shows. Game of Thrones made history for the most Emmy Award wins back in 2016. It beat out the previous record holder Frasier when it won 12 Emmys, bringing its then-total to 38. And it keeps earning accolades. In 2016 alone, it also made history for most nominations ever and wins in a single year. In 2018, it was the most nominated show of the year. Not too shabby, huh? Yeah, it’s pretty clear that the Television Academy really digs GOT.

2017: Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win the Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series Emmy.

Lena Waithe proved she was so much more than a Master of None when she won an award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2017 for the show of that same. It was a historic moment because it was the first time a black woman won the award. Yes, it took sixty-eight years for that to happen. Insanity. Furthermore, it was the first time a black woman was even nominated for the award. It was also a noteworthy moment for the LGBTQ+ community since she won for co-writing the “Thanksgiving” episode of the show, which profiled her character’s coming out story. Lena, who identifies as queer, thanked the LGBTQ+ community and team for their support to share her story.

2017: Riz Ahmed became the second Asian actor ever to win an acting award.

It’s crazy to think, but it’s true. In 2017, Riz Ahmed made history for being the second man of Asian descent to win an Emmy Award for acting. And he was the first South Asian man to win the award. He snagged the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for The Night Of. He played the part of Nasir “Naz” Khan, an Iranian-American/Pakistani student accused of murder. The first Asian actor to win an acting Emmy was Archie Panjabi for The Good Wife in 2010.

2017: Reed Morano became the first woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series in 22 years.

Reed Morano directed the first three episodes of Handmaid’s Tale and it was enough for her to score the Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series award at the 2017 Emmy Awards. Like we mentioned, it had been a staggering 22 years since a woman won the award. The last winner was Mimi Leder in 1995 for E.R. for the episode “Love’s Labor Lost.” Let’s hope that it’s not going to be anywhere near as long until the next female wins.

2017: Donald Glover became the first black person to win the Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series.

The 2017 Emmys has many firsts. Another brilliant moment was when Donald Gloverbecame the very first black person to win the Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series for his work on Atlanta. He scored a second time when he won the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series award for the TV show. Oh, the show was also nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.

2018: Sandra Oh becoming the first Asian woman to be nominated for the Lead Actress In A Drama award.

One of the most recent historic Emmy Awards moments is Sandra Oh becoming the first Asian woman to be nominated for the Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy Award. She was nominated for her role as Eve Polastri on Killing Eve. For those keeping track, she was previously nominated five times in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category for her role as Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy.

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