The Emmy Awards are a yearly ceremony honoring the best actors and actresses in television. It’s a glitzy occasion – but things can sometimes go a little wrong. Sometimes wardrobe malfunctions happen, or people are snubbed, or stars get up on stage and shade other celebrities. It can get super awkward – but maybe that’s one of the reasons why it draws the audience it does.
40. When Allison Janney pulled her rival on stage
Allison Janney won for The West Wing in 2004, and one of her competitors was Mariska Hargitay. Apparently, according to Janney, she’d promised to give her award to Hargitay, but had realized at the last moment how silly that sounded. So instead she invited the other actress on stage with her, and the Law and Order alum just stood there… which wasn’t really any less silly.
39. When Alex Borstein (probably) let out a swear word
In 2018 Alex Borstein won Outstanding Supporting Actress for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. However, as she headed for the stage she appeared to mouth something that was almost certainly the f-word… oops. And once she got onstage she told everyone she wasn’t wearing a bra, which was probably true for most of the women there, but still a little awkward.
38. When two Taylor Swift exes were in the same room.
Tom Hiddleston attended the 2016 Emmys not long after breaking up with Taylor Swift… and another Swift ex, John Mayer, happened to be there too. Sadly the audience were deprived of them actually appearing in the same shot together, but there was an interesting pan of the camera from Hiddleston to Mayer at one point.
37. When Keith Urban saw his wife kissing another man
Audiences were quite shocked at one kiss shown at the 2017 Emmys. Nicole Kidman kissed her Big Little Lies co-star Alexander Skarsgård right in front of her husband Keith Urban. But later on that year Kidman said on The Graham Norton Show, “I’ve got an amazing, supportive, gorgeous husband, who I love more than anything in the world. And I gave Alex a congratulatory kiss and he’s like a mannequin.”
36. When TikTok got involved
At the 2019 Primetime Emmys comedians Ken Jeong and Nick Cannon did a slow and rather boring “comedy” bit that seemed basically to just be an advertisement for the social media platform TikTok. The official Twitter account of the video sharing website loved the moment… and absolutely nobody else did.
35. When Merrit Wever ran off stage
Merrit Wever may be a talented actress, but acting in front of a camera and accepting an award in front of millions are two very different things. So when she won for Nurse Jackie in 2013, all she could manage was “Thanks so much. Thank you so much. I gotta go. Bye.” In amongst all the glitz and glamour it was a very relatable moment.
34. When Matthew Perry and Lauren Graham flopped
Matthew Perry and Lauren Graham – who were actually once boyfriend and girlfriend before amicably splitting up – did a disastrous double act at the 2010 Emmys. No one found them funny, seemingly not even Perry himself. At the end of their bit he declared, “That didn’t go as great as we thought.” He was right.
33. When Natasha Lyonne clapped weirdly
At one point in history Nicole Kidman was everybody’s favorite Celebrity Awkward Clapper. Then actress Natasha Lyonne swooped in and claimed that title at the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards. Twitter was amazed at how she moved her hands. One person tweeted, “I will think about nothing else for a week.”
32. When two This Is Us stars wore almost the same outfit
Mandy Moore and Susan Kelechi Watson, both stars of the hit show This Is Us, accidentally wore very similar outfits to the 2019 Emmys. They each had on red and pink dresses with ruffles. Luckily though there were no hard feelings. Both of them wrote on social media that they were happy to “twin” with a friend.
31. When Amy Schumer shared too much
Amy Schumer may be a comedian but sometimes her jokes veer into “eww, no,” territory. At the 2016 Emmys Giuliana Rancic asked her on the red carpet who she was wearing, and she answered, “an OB tampon.” Her sister happened to be standing next to her and she looked like she wanted the ground to swallow her up.
30. When Bill Hader hugged a creepy stranger
When Bill Hader went up to collect his award at the 2018 Emmys, he hugged a bunch of people. And one of them happened to be Teddy Perkins from Atlanta, the creepy Michael Jackson-esque character usually played by a heavily made-up Donald Glover. Onstage Hader deadpanned, “I don’t know who that guy was I hugged.” Was it Glover? Or someone else?
29. Jeff Daniels thanked his horse more than his wife
Jeff Daniels won an Emmy award for Godless in 2018, and delivered a speech in which he thanked a beloved animal more than any loved one. He sung the praises of his Godless horse Apollo, mentioned that his equine companion had also once been used by Jeff Bridges in True Grit, and explained that the horse had once thrown him off and broken his wrist but it was “officially healed now!”
28. When Matt LeBlanc got a bit creepy
Matt LeBlanc’s character on Friends was known for womanizing, but alas it’s less funny in real life. While being interviewed on the red carpet for the 2016 Emmys, the man who used to be Joey Tribbiani revealed he wanted to catch up with Game of Thrones because “that’s when [Emilia Clarke] started getting naked.”
27. When Felicity Huffman got dragged
Felicity Huffman wasn’t present at the 2019 Emmy Awards because she had been sentenced to two weeks in prison for her role in a fraud case. And commentator Thomas Lennon decided to make a joke about it. He said on camera, “The producers have asked me to give a special shoutout to any of our previous lead actress winners who are watching tonight from prison. Hopefully those two weeks are going to fly right by. Keep your chin up.” Ouch.
26. When Jimmy Kimmel insulted the In Memoriam segment
Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2016 Emmys and of course he made plenty of jokes, but mocking the tributes to stars who’d passed away that year was a little much. After that part of the show he said, “That ‘In Memoriam’ montage kicked ass. That’s gonna be tough to beat next year.” Many beloved people had died in 2016, including Prince, Alan Rickman and David Bowie.
25. When Elisabeth Moss dropped the f-bomb, twice
Elisabeth Moss of The Handmaid’s Tale swore not once but twice when she accepted her Emmy in 2017 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. And one of her f-bombs came when she was thanking her mother, a woman she described as “kind and a f***ing badass.” But there could have been more! Backstage Moss told The Hollywood Reporter magazine, “That was the best version you could have possibly gotten of that. That was the clean version.”
24. When Jon Hamm climbed the stage
In 2015 Jon Hamm picked up an Emmy for Mad Men, but he got up on stage in an unconventional way. He hoisted his leg up and then struggled into a standing position. Later he told E! Online, “Well, that was just stupid! It seemed like the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and I was sitting right there and Tina said my name and usually when she says my name, I have to come running.”
23. When Tatiana Maslany was given a random request
On the red carpet outside the 2016 Emmys, Tatiana Maslany was asked by Giuliana Rancic if she would sing a happy birthday song for Jimmy Fallon. Why? Because his birthday was the next day and both of them were Virgos. Maslany looked like she didn’t want to do it, but did so anyway, and it was immensely awkward.
22. When Barbara Stanwyck’s dress got stuck
Back in 1961, actress Barbara Stanwyck had a wardrobe crisis at the 13th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. She went to accept her award and her cape got stuck on her dress. Staff had to quickly move to help her and ended up just ripping the cape bit off. Luckily though, because there was no internet in those days, people didn’t get to comment or make memes out of it.
21. When a random man photobombed
During the 2013 Emmy Awards, a man who nobody knew accidentally found himself on stage behind show host Neil Patrick Harris. He realized the cameras were on him too late, and had no choice but to very…very…slowly…shuffle away. Everybody saw. What a way to achieve your fifteen minutes of fame.
20. When Sofia Vergara was used as a prop
At the 2014 Emmys a bizarre bit took place on stage: actress Sofia Vergara stood on a rotating platform and struck poses while Bruce Rosenblum gave a talk about diversity. It was meant to be funny, but to most of the audience it definitely wasn’t. After the sketch aired Time magazine labelled it “completely sexist.”
19. When Terrence Howard’s wife said something uncomfortable
Terrence Howard walked the red carpet with his wife Mira Pak at the 2019 Emmy Awards. Both of them were stopped by Giuliana Rancic and she asked, what could audience expect from his Empire character? Howard answered, “He’s an a**hole. And then Rancic asked if Howard ever brought his work home and she answered, “Yeah, he does, quite often actually.” The couple had already been divorced once.
18. When Colin Jost and Michael Che weren’t very funny
Colin Jost and Michael Che of SNL performed at the 2018 Emmy awards, but social media users considered that they didn’t exactly set the place alight. One Twitterer wrote, “I’m not sure exactly what happened tonight but that was pretty tough to get through. So many cringeworthy moments. Ugh. Wanted so much more.”
17. When Amy Poehler made a weird joke
At the 2009 Emmy Awards, all the nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy wore silly eyewear. It was Amy Poehler’s idea, but it seemed to fall flat with Vanessa L. Williams, who didn’t wear anything and looked crossly at the camera when her name was called. Was it part of the show or was she genuinely annoyed?
16. When Helen Mirren swore
Veteran actress Helen Mirren doesn’t seem like the type of person to have a potty mouth, but apparently she does. When she accepted her Best Actress Emmy award in 2006 she said, “My great triumph is not falling a** over tit as I came up those stairs.” And she said it so fast that it wasn’t bleeped out, either.
15. When Viola Davis got the wrong label
During the 2015 Emmy Awards, entertainment journalist Adam B. Vary tweeted noticed something on the television screen and tweeted out, “Uh, @TheEmmys, Viola Davis has not won an Oscar. YET.” They had labelled her as an Oscar winner when she wasn’t one. But just two years later Davis did indeed win an Academy Award, for her performance in Fences.
14. When Katherine Heigl shaded her own mom
Actress Katherine Heigl won a Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for her performance in Grey’s Anatomy. However, she began her acceptance speech with the words, “My own mother told me I didn’t have a shot in hell of winning tonight, so I really don’t have anything prepared.” The camera then cut to her mother, and it was extremely awkward.
13. When Sally Field gave a rambling speech
Sally Field won Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Brothers & Sisters in 2007, and gave an overly long acceptance speech about war. That might not have been so bad in itself, but she kept mumbling and forgetting what she’d come there to say. The “wrap it up” music had started to play before she announced, “If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no god-damned wars in the first place,” and left.
12. When Isaac Hempstead Wright didn’t get to go on stage
At one point during the 2019 Emmy Awards, the whole cast of Game of Thrones – Peter Dinklage, Masie Williams, Lena Headey, Gwendoline Christie and many more – got up on the stage. But, as many people watching at home pointed out, Isaac Hempstead Wright was clearly at the ceremony and yet wasn’t on stage with his castmates. What happened?
11. When Issa Rae was caught checking her phone
Issa Rae was seen checking her phone during a big Betty White speech at the 2018 Emmys, which was awkward. A few days later she told Jimmy Kimmel on his show, “My phone broke. My family was probably texting me because I had just lost and so I was trying to silence it. I actually don’t know what I was doing, to be honest, but I was paying attention.”
10. When a dirty joke was passed around
In 1991 Kirstie Alley accepted an Emmy and thanked her husband. Alas, she praised him by calling him “the man who has given me the big one for the last eight years.” Right after that Jerry Seinfield told the cameras, “The big one? That could be anything!” and then Burt Reynolds made it even worse by thanking his wife for giving him “two big ones.”
9. When a reporter forgot a very important detail
While the stars were walking on the Emmys red carpet in 2013, one Entertainment Tonight reporter decided to ask Will Arnett a question about significant others. But unfortunately, Arnett and his wife Poehler had split up the year before. Arnett was left to awkwardly say, “I don’t really have a significant other… She doesn’t exist.”
8. When Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell threw some shade
The year before Matthew Rhys won at the 2018 Emmys, actor Glenn Weiss had proposed to his girlfriend live on stage. But apparently not everyone appreciated that. While accepting his award he thanked his partner Keri Russell and declared, “She said, ‘If you propose to me, I’ll punch you clean in the mouth.’”
7. When Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner were laughed at
For the 2019 Emmys Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner got on stage to present the award for Outstanding Reality TV series. However, it didn’t go as planned. Kardashian said, “Our family knows first-hand how truly compelling television comes from real people just being themselves, telling their stories, unfiltered and unscripted.” And the audience, remembering Keeping Up With the Kardashians, laughed.
6. When Heidi Klum fell
During the 2008 Emmy Awards host Heidi Klum had an unexpected mishap. Her co-presenter Tom Bergeron was meant to do a dance move with her, but instead he dropped her. It wasn’t only embarrassing, it was painful, and she was left with a huge bruise. Yet all through the rest of the show she kept going like a trooper.
5. When Sterling K. Brown got cut off
Sterling K. Brown was the first black actor to win an Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series for almost twenty years, so it infuriated people when his speech was cut off halfway through in 2017. He got less than two minutes, but Nicole Kidman came after him and got three. Later on in the week Brown told Stephen Colbert on his show, “Not everybody can be pretty Australian white women who have won Oscars in the past.”
4. When enormous heads were everywhere
For the 2018 Emmys the set designers apparently wanted to try something different. Every time an actor received an award and went on stage, the massive monitor behind them showed a picture of the character they’d won for playing. But the effect just looked like a huge person was looming over the poor actor, and fans didn’t like it either.
3. When Jimmy Kimmel made a Bill Cosby joke
As the 2016 Emmy Awards came back from a break, the announcer declared that Bill Cosby was next up. Cosby had at that point been accused of sexual assaults on several women. But then Jimmy Kimmel walked out and said, “He’s not really here, I just wanted to see what you guys would do.” The audience laughed, but social media users were highly unimpressed.
2. When Bryan Cranston and Julia Louis-Dreyfus kissed
At the 2014 Emmys Bryan Cranston and Julia Louis-Dreyfus shocked and delighted audiences with one pretty spectacular kiss onstage. And yes, both were married at the time. Luckily they’d gotten permission from their spouses. Backstage, Cranston cheerfully told the Associated Press about the kiss, “It’s not a question of why, but more a question of why not?”
1. When Kathy Griffin said something inflammatory
In 2007 Kathy Griffin did something so controversial at the Emmys it even has its own page on fact-checking website Snopes. On accepting her award she said, “Now, look, a lot of people come up here and they thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus… All I can say is suck it Jesus, this award is my God now.” It did not go down well.