The 2014 Emmys were a low-key affair. Host Seth Meyers kept it simple, opening with a monologue instead of an elaborate opening sketch. His spare approach resulted in the show ending two minutes early, instead of running long the way most awards shows do. The majority of the winners had won before — Breaking Bad again winning Outstanding Drama and Modern Family repeating as Outstanding Comedy for the fifth straight year. Fortunately, the ceremony compensated for its predictability with plenty of quips and emotional moments. Here's our roundup of the 10 best quotes of last night's Emmys.
Best Host Joke: The Conclusion of Seth Meyers’s Opening Monologue
Meyers opening monologue had some choice zingers about the television industry. The very best was his closing love letter to TV. “I love television. Not just the high-end cinematic stuff we’re steaming tonight, but the low-rent cable series I stream onto a four inch screen while I’m on the bike at Equinox. That’s what I love about television. She doesn’t play hard to get. She doesn’t demand your full attention. Television has always been the booty call friend of entertainment. You don’t ever have to ask TV ‘You up?’ TV is always up. She’ll happily entertain you while you cook dinner or wrap your Christmas presents. She’s not like that high maintenance diva Movies who expects you to put on pants, drive over to her place and buy 40 dollars worth of soda.”
Best Host Joke That Was Relegated to Instagram: Seth Meyers’s Ice Bucket Challenge
After the Emmys, Meyers posted an Instagram video in which, soon after the credits rolled, he took the Ice Bucket Challenge, then challenged Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. It was funny and would have had the potential to be memorable as a great ending to the show if it had aired. Since the show ran short, why on earth didn’t the ceremony’s producers tell him to go for it while he was on TV?
Funniest Two-Part Joke: Julia Louis-Dreyfus & Bryan Cranston
When Bryan Cranston and Julia Louis-Dreyfus presented an award together, she professed not to know that Cranston played her love interest on an episode of Seinfeld, saying, “You look so much like the actor in Seinfeld who played the dentist that I dated as Elaine and who converted to Judaism for the jokes.” Cranston replied, “That was me.” It seemed like a standard awards show joke until Louis-Dreyfus, as expected, won Outstanding Lead Actress and passionately kissed Cranston before making her way to the stage where she opened her speech with, “Yeah, he was on Seinfeld.”
Best Gaffe: Gwen Stefani, Jimmy Fallon & Stephen Colbert
Presenter Gwen Stefani mispronounced Best Variety Show winner The Colbert Report as “The Coal-bort Report.” Nominee Jimmy Fallon used it as an excuse to join Stephen Colbert on stage, saying, “She pronounced it wrong, so it must be a mistake. I want to see the envelope.” He then proceeded to make a speech on Colbert’s behalf, with Colbert whispering suggestions in his ear, culminating in something filthy enough that when Fallon repeated it, it was bleeped.
Most Believable Claim of Surprise: Kathy Bates
Every pundit thought Julia Roberts would win Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. But it was American Horror Story’s Kathy Bates who went home with the Emmy. She gasped in disbelief when she won. In her speech she said, “I was sure I wasn’t going to win, I’m serious, because the first place I went when I got here was the Green Room and there were the guys in there with the little silver suitcase and they had it open and it was like they were going through the winners and losers and they caught my eye when I walked in and they both kind of tilted their head in that sort of social worker I’m sorry way.”
Best Inside Joke: Matthew McConaughey & Woody Harrelson
The stars of True Detective presented in coordinated colored tuxedos. Woody Harrelson joked that Matthew McConaughey was greedy for wanting an Emmy after winning an Oscar and People’s Sexiest Man Alive. McConaghey quipped, “I think you should have gratitude for what you have and not envy what I do.” Harrelson retorted, “I’m grateful you had all the plagiarized lines,” a reference to an accusation that the show’s writer Nic Pizollatto stole dialogue from novelist Thomas Ligotti.
Best Subtle Insult: Julianna Margulies
The Good Wife star Julianna Margulies won for Outstanding Lead Actress, making her the only winner from a network drama last night. In her speech, she took a classy jab at cable shows, which typically produce six to 13 episodes, saying, “This [award] belongs to [showrunners] Robert and Michelle King, all our writers, who never cease to amaze me with 22 episodes a year.” Ouch.
Most Heartfelt Speech: Billy Crystal
Billy Crystal gave a poignant speech about his friend Robin Williams saying, “As genius as he was on stage, he was the greatest friend you could imagine: supportive, protective, loving. It’s very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives. For almost 40 years he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy. But while some of the brightest of our celestial bodies are actually extinct now, their energy long since cooled. But miraculously, because they float in the heavens so far away from us now, their beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever and the glow will be so bright it will warm your heart, it will make your eyes glisten and you’ll think to yourselves, ‘Robin Williams: what a concept.’”
Best Advice: Bryan Cranston
Outstanding Lead Actor winner Bryan Cranston, who won his fourth Outstanding Lead Actor Emmy for his role on Breaking Bad, used his acceptance speech as an opportunity to offer some wisdom about the transformative power of finding a passion. “I was a kid who always looked for the shortcut, a schemer. My own family nicknamed me Sneaky Pete… I’d like to dedicate this award to all the Sneaky Petes of the world who thought that maybe settling for mediocrity was a good idea because it was safe: Don’t do it. Take a chance. Take a risk. Find that passion. Rekindle it. Fall in love all over again. It’s really worth it.”
Most Surprising Recurring Theme: Marijuana
The Emmys had more marijuana references than a Harold & Kumar movie. They began on the E! Red Carpet show when nominee Sarah Silverman showed Giuliana Rancic the contents of her purse, including a vial of liquid marijuana. When Silverman won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special, she concluded her speech with a phrase that made it appear as though she had indulged: “We’re all made of molecules and we’re hurling through space right now.”
During Meyers opening monologue he joked, “No one is happier to see streaming services take nominations away from cable then network television. It’s not very nice when someone younger comes along, cable. Cable is looking at network television the way Justin Bieber looks at One Direction: through a cloud of marijuana smoke.”
Presenter Jimmy Kimmel joked that Matthew McConaughey didn’t have a television because, “he traded it for a conch shell full of weed.”
In a clip, child actress Ursula Parker said the best directing advice Louis C.K. ever gave her was when he taught her how to hold a joint.
In Meyers and Amy Poehler’s introduction of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, Poehler quipped, “Please welcome two gentlemen whose names are also menu items at most marijuana dispensaries.”