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10 Most Shocking Things to Happen at the Emmy Awards In Primetime History

Whenever you put celebrities in a room together, odds are it’s going to be a good time. Now, whenever you put celebrities in a room together with a lot of booze, well, things are definitely going to get interesting. This is one reason why watching award shows are always so much fun — there’s always a chance something shocking will happen on camera.

On Sunday, September 20, Jimmy Kimmel will host the 72nd Emmy Awards from an empty Staples Center in Los Angeles surrounded by a small crew — no nominees and no audience. For the first time in television history, the show will be held virtually. This, of course, means there won’t be an opportunity for awkward makeouts or romantic on-stage marriage proposals. So, while there are undoubtedly going to be unforgettable moments from the 2020 Emmys, we’re looking back at the years when gathering in large groups was okay.

Here are the wildest things that have happened at the Emmy Awards in primetime history.

The 2020 dumpster fire gone wrong

At the 2020 Emmys, Jennifer Aniston came out to help Jimmy Kimmel present the first award — and a gag about Lysol disinfecting got a little too real when it took both of their full efforts with fire extinguishers to put out the very real fire on stage. Ah, 2020, where even jokes about how bad it is go worse than you could expect.

That joke about Felicity Huffman

Days before the 2019 Emmys, Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison for the college admissions scandal — and Thomas Lennon, well, his jab at the 57-year-old actress went viral.

“The producers have asked me to give a special shoutout to any of our previous Lead Actress winners who are watching tonight from prison,” Lennon said as the show went to commercial. “Hopefully those two weeks are going to fly by. Keep your chin up.”

A romantic spectacle

Now here’s something we don’t see every day. When Glenn Weiss won the Emmy for Best Variety Special in 2018, he brought his then-girlfriend Jan Svendsen up on stage and got down on one knee. Everyone was in tears.

An unexpected smooch

As Julia Louis-Dreyfus made her way to the stage to accept the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the 2014 Emmys, we were reminded of that time Bryan Cranston played Elaine Benes’ love interest on Seinfeld.

Miss Emmy Awards

In pure pageant form, the women nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2011 left presenter Rob Lowe a bit confused.

Helen Mirren’s naughty mouth

Helen Mirren is someone we never, ever thought would utter a curse word — but Mirren proved us wrong in 2006 while accepting her award for Best Actress. “My great triumph is not falling a** over tit as I came up those stairs,” she said. And because she said it so fast, it wasn’t edited out, either.

Joan Rivers and Eddie Murphy’s jaw-dropping shtick

These two co-hosted the 35th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 1983 and were not asked back.

Cartwheels on stage

Gone are the days of touching unknown surfaces so this one stands out to us especially. In 1979, Alan Alda won an Emmy for writing an episode of M*A*S*H and was so excited he cartwheeled his way to the stage.

Punked by The Great Imposter

Case of mistaken identity? Well, no. Just a guy trying to steal the spotlight. In 1985, actress Betty Thomas was upstaged by a man named Barry Breman (later named The Great Imposter because he’d sneak into A-list parties) who accepted her award for Best Supporting Actress. “Betty was not able to be here and she asked for me to accept this award and thank everybody else who is here,” Breman said into the mic. No. Thomas had been there wanting to accept her Emmy, but producers were so confused they went to commercial break.

Barbara Stanwyck’s dress snafu

We know that wardrobe malfunctions happen, we just don’t always see them on camera.


While the 2020 Emmy Awards may look different this year, as the stars will be accepting their awards from the comfort of their own homes… we’re confident something will go down that will leave us speechless.

Before you go, since there won’t be a red carpet this year…click here to see some of the best dresses from Emmy history. 

Mandy Moore at arrivals for 71st Primetime Emmy Awards - Arrivals 3, Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, CA September 22, 2019.


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