Colbert has boosted his own show’s ratings in the Trump Era by keeping the president in his comic cross-hairs.
The choice of Colbert to host this year's Emmycast instantly sparked speculation: how far would he lead this annual ceremony of accolades into Trump mockery?
The answer: farther into politics than any Emmy show in memory. And appropriately far to reflect the unrest since last November's election.
Colbert’s opening song-and-dance number drew a sly contrast between the refuge available on TV and the world's current state.
His musical number included many TV regulars, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who on her comedy Veep plays a bumbling, self-centred former president, yet, as she suggested, a leader with a few saving graces.
“Imagine if your president was NOT beloved by Nazis,” she trilled in her persona as Selina Meyer.
But this backhanded tribute to Trump was just a warm-up for Colbert’s sharp, spot-on monologue, a large portion of which was devoted to zinging the nation's chief executive.
This even included a surprise appearance by Sean Spicer, Trump's former White House press secretary, who rolled in with his podium and, as if a comedy flashback of his real-life (and untrue) insistence that Trump's inaugural crowd was the biggest in history, assured Colbert: “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys. Period. Both in person and around the world.”
Colbert went on to observe that “the biggest TV star of the last year is Donald Trump”. He paused. “And Alec Baldwin, obviously.”
He then cut to Baldwin, (who a bit later would land an Emmy for his unsparing Trump impersonation on Saturday Night Live) who was seated in the audience.
“You guys are neck-and-neck,” Colbert told him. “And Alec, you're up against a LOT of neck.”
Then he went on to note that the Emmys have always meant a lot to Trump, who was twice nominated as a Celebrity Apprentice producer, but never won.
Colbert played a clip from one of last year's presidential debates when Trump's opponent Hillary Clinton pointed this out and recalled that Trump tweeted that the Emmys were rigged, to which Trump cut in with: “Should've gotten it.”
“Why didn't you give him an Emmy?” Colbert upbraided Emmy voters in the hall. “If he had won an Emmy, I bet he wouldn't have run for president. So, in a way, this is all YOUR fault!”
Then he ignited one of the night's biggest cheers by declaring: “Unlike the presidency, Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote.”