It’s incredible the Primetime Emmy Awards is heading into its 65th year. There has to be some pressure, even for TV’s brightest stars, to host TV’s biggest night. A host should be witty, but not distasteful; charming and confident, but not self-aggrandizing. The job isn’t easy, and the Primetime Emmy Awards has seen its share of hosting hits and misses through the years. However, these five Primetime Emmy Hosts (who are all Emmy winners) breezed through their broadcasts effortlessly, giving a captive global audience an Emmy Hosting Master Class.
Jimmy Fallon, 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (2010)
The recent proud new papa of late night television Jimmy Fallon earns top honors for his crowd-pleasing Springsteen-inspired lead at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Fallon brings a fresh, contagious energy to everything he does, and his job as Emmy host proved no exception. The Born to Run opener featuring the Glee cast, Tina Fey, Jon Hamm and more got the auditorium and viewing audience revved up and ready to rock. His between segment riffs sizzled and he slayed his Elton John “Candle in the Wind”-tuned-tribute to 24’s Jack Bauer. The part-host, part-rock star might just rule the Emmy hosting roost, though, because he wore his fan-boy fondness for all our favorite shows right on his sleeve and we could relate to a guy like him. How cool is that?
Johnny Carson, 14th, 23rd-26th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (1963, 1971-1974)
The late, great King of Late Night TV hosted the Emmy Awards first in 1963 with Bob Newhart and David Brinkley, then four times in a row solo from 1971-1974. Anyone who’s anyone in the hosting world takes their cue from him and looks upon his legacy with reverence and respect. Johnny brought a special blend of cool and comedy to the Emmy stage that his successors have striven to emulate throughout the years with varied degrees of success.
Ellen DeGeneres rose to the challenge when she hosted the 53rd Annual Emmy Awards, which were delayed due to the devastating terror attacks on 9/11. Our nation was reeling, caught in a post-trauma state of shock, fear and grief. Ellen somehow managed to strike the delicate balance between humor and respect for what we, as a nation, were feeling. Everything from the Bjork swan dress to her infamous quote about network executives stifling creativity, excellence and joy was just what we needed to hear.
Neil Patrick Harris, 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (2009)
Neil Patrick Host – er, Harris that is, just seems born for this kind of gig. He’s smooth. He’s charming. He can sing and dance. He’s easy on the eyes and mindful of the broadcast clock. He’s the Gene Kelly of hosts (graceful, multi-talented and timeless). We wanted to put down our remotes during his catchy song and dance opener. And, just how was he able to scat off all those network call letters, anyway? He did such a fantastic job at the 61st Emmys that he’s been tapped to host this year’s event. He’s also a nominee for Outstanding Special Program for the 66th Annual Tony Awards, for which he served as co-producer and fourth time host. Neil previously won the Emmy twice in this category.
Conan’s laugh-out-loud lanky leg-pulling antics and self-deprecating dry humor have earned him legions of loyal fans, despite his somewhat rocky road to late night success. He did an outstanding job hosting TV’s biggest gig in 2006, and many critics compared his TV show traveling opening skit to Oscar host Billy Crystal’s pop-ins on Oscar nominated films. It was especially funny watching Conan step into an exam room on “House” and get “evaluated” by Hugh Laurie: “Dermis pale, clammy. Subject could be anemic, possibly albino. Grossly swollen cranium, probably macrocephaly. Lips: thin, wormy. Eyes: beady. Age: 92 or 12.” Conan to a tee, wasn’t it? Plus, Conan’s interaction with Bob Newhart, who was trapped in an airtight chamber with three hours of air, was hilarious. If the show went over, Bob would suffocate. Would he make it out alive? Conan kept us laughing while we guessed!
Lori Melton is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.