From Viola Davis’ emotional powerhouse of a speech to Jon Hamm climbing on stage, here are how the Emmy acceptance speeches ranked:
Making history as the first African-American woman to win this category, Viola Davis gave a speech that left just about everyone in tears. Beginning with a quote from Harriet Tubman, she said, “In my mind, I see a line. And over that line I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no-how. I can’t seem to get over that line.”
Then she started looking to the present. “Let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color form anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” So she thanked all of the people who have “redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.” She then rounded things out by calling out fellow actresses, including Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington, Halle Berry, and more to say “thank you for taking us over that line.” Who’s got a tissue?
If anyone knows just how much humor to inject into a speech, it’s Jon Stewart. No stranger to the Emmy stage, Stewart used his speech as a chance to give out a little advice, telling everybody on television to “cling to it as long as you can, like death.” After only six or seven weeks off the air, “this is the first applause I’ve heard,” he said, informing everyone that it’s a “barren wasteland out there.” Because in the real life, there are tables with food, “but you can’t take it.” Ending on a sincere note, he thanked everyone involved with the show, noting that he will never have an experience like this again … which means “you will never have to see me again.” We all hope that’s not true, Jon.
Fun fact: Amy Schumer’s writers’ room had to buy Final Draft after their show got picked up. In other words, they didn’t even have the software to write a script. But now, not only do they have the software, but they have an Emmy to celebrate their work. With tears in her eyes, Schumer thanked her team for everything, from stopping her from making a stupid talk show to the make-up artist who gave her the smokey eye she rocked tonight. And that is why we love her.
Everyone loves a story, and that’s what Tambor gave us, talking about the teacher who used to tell him, “When you act, you have to act as if your life depends on it.” And now? He’s been given an opportunity “to act because people’s lives depend on it.” He thanked showrunner Jill Soloway, his gorgeous cast, his teachers and his wife — even touching on the publicity team at Amazon — before dedicating his performance and this award to the transgender community for its patience, courage, stories, inspiration, and for “letting us be part of the change.”
Not only did Uzo Aduba start her speech with an adorable “Hi,” but within seconds, she had tears streaming down her face as she thanked show creator Jenji Kohan, her entire cast and crew, her team, and her family. All but sobbing, she told her sister, that she’s “humbled to call myself your sister.” All in all, there’s something to be said about genuine emotion.
If anyone knows how to give an acceptance speech, it’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus. This being her fourth consecutive win, she knew just how to kick things off — with a Donald Trump joke. Quoting Veep, she said, “What a great honor it must be for you to honor me tonight.” She followed that with, “Sorry, Donald Trump said that. Sorry.” Then she hit all the necessities, thanking her writers, cast and crew, before turning to the other women nominated in her category. “I love powerful funny women,” she said. Don’t we all.
You know a speech is going to be good when it begins with Janney holding the thing she uses to blot her face and tossing it to the side … on stage. With that out of the way, Janney thanked Chuck Lorre, her co-star Anna Faris, and her entire cast and crew with such speed that she decided she should sing the rest of her speech. So she did. At least until she decided to end on a serious note, saying how honored she is to be on a show about addiction, and telling addicts, “There is hope. Lots of hope.”
Starstruck, Jenkins started his speech with a simple realization: “That was Lady Gaga,” referring to Gaga having presented him with this award. After thinking about how very jealous his kids are going to be about him meeting Gaga, Jenkins thanked the “incredible women who made Olive Kitteridge.” His best thank you went to Frances McDormand, “for letting me surf your enthusiasm and your artistry for four months. It was a ball.” Ending on a mention of his family, Jenkins walked off-stage a winner in more than one regard.
If done correctly, there’s nothing better than a genuine, I-didn’t-prepare-anything-because-I-didn’t-think-I’d-win, off-the-cuff speech. And that’s what Regina King gave us. As she put it, she “should’ve brought one of those papers that all the comedy people had.” Instead, she went with her gut, thanking everyone she worked with, and her mother and grandmother for teaching her “the power and blessing of being a woman.” Ending on a heartfelt note, she told her son, “You make being a mother my greatest accomplishment. I love you. Cheers!” Cheers to you, Regina.
Finally winning for his final season as Don Draper, Hamm didn’t want to waste a minute of his speech time, even climbing his way on stage because the stairs would simply waste time. Once on stage, he couldn’t get over how “impossible” his whole journey had been on the show and the very fact that he was standing on the Emmy stage. He thanked all of the people who worked to get him to this point, “families who have chosen for some reason to take me in and be nice to me along this strange, strange road.” Ending on a classy note, he thanked everyone who watched the show.
11. Olive Kitteridge‘s Bill Murray, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie
Bill Murray wasn’t there, and we love him for it.
With this being Hale’s second Emmy win for his role on Veep, he came to the stage prepared with a list of people to thank, which he read at a record pace. From expressing his excitement for the show’s writers — who had just won — to mentioning the work of his fellow nominees and thanking his family, Hale hit everything on the speech checklist. The only time he took a breath? To express his fear that his zipper was down. (It wasn’t.) From there, he gave some love to his castmates, who aren’t just good at what they do, but are “good people.” And according to Hale, “that’s what matters.” Comedy, sincerity, and speed? Well played.
The Veep writers kept things very short and sweep, thanking their cast, their directors, their crew, and finally, HBO, “for letting us come over here and make fun of American politics and make American money.”
Dinklage, who was so under-prepared that he was even chewing gum, gave credit to his fellow nominees — but really just Jonathan Banks — before saying that actors are “only as good as our writers.” He then thanked his writers, George R.R. Martin, and everyone in the cast, “which is like thousands of people, so goodnight.” You gotta love it when they know when to stop.
Leave it to Jill Soloway to work an important message into her speech. After thanking everyone she works with, she turned to the fact that it’s still legal in 32 states to deny renting a home to trans people. She then urged everyone to go to transequality.com and vote to pass the trans equality bill.
16. Oliver Kitteridge‘s Jane Anderson, Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special
There’s something about genuine joy that makes any speech better, and that’s half the charm of Anderson’s speech. Between that and her nod to all of the writers in the room — they all “face that horrible, horrible blank page” — Anderson was nothing if not a pleasant class act.
McDormand kept things short and sweet. Noting that her colleagues already thanked everyone, she simply said we are all here because of the “power of a story well told.” As she put it, “sometimes that’s enough.”
18. Game of Thrones‘ David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
You have to love the guys who refer to themselves as “two schmucks with no experience” and then give us our first — and only – bleep of the night.
19. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart‘s Elliott Kalan, Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
To be fair, Kalan wasn’t aware he’d be the one giving the speech, but he did all right. He thanked Jon Stewart for giving the writers a place they could all work and be proud of for a long time. It wasn’t exciting, but at least it wasn’t painful.
20. Veep‘s Armando Iannucci, Outstanding Comedy Series
“If Veep is about one thing, it’s about hope,” Iannucci said, launching into a short speech that was equal parts funny and sincere, if not particularly memorable.
21. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart‘s Chuck O’Neil, Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series
After noting that he’s used to being on the other side of the camera — so don’t be mad if he’s awkward — O’Neil thanked Jon Stewart, his wife, and all the people he worked with on the Daily Show.
22. Olive Kitteridge, Outstanding Limited Series
Whenever there are multiple people on stage, the quality of the acceptance speech is taken down a few notches. And as much as we loved watching Frances McDormand say, “Yay HBO yay,” the speech was a bit all over the place. Sharing the mic almost always ends with someone getting played off.
23. Game of Thrones‘ D. B. Weiss and David Benioff Outstanding Drama Series
Weiss and Benioff pretty much used their second time on stage to thank everyone they forgot the first time. Who can blame them?
24. Game of Thrones‘ David Nutter, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Nutter, clearly a little panicked, began his speech with: “What am I doing up here?” From there, he managed to get off the necessary names — all while shaking — and gave a shout out to his wife, too.
25. Olive Kitteridge‘s Lisa Cholodenko for Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
You know those speeches that are so slow that you want to leave the room because it’s getting awkward? Yeah, that was this one.
Bringing the shade to the stage, Burnett first said, “Sorry Amazing Race. This is our year this year.” He then patted himself on the back by calling The Voice “America’s favorite music show,” before thanking all the judges who’d been on the show aside from Shakira and Cee-Lo?
What was your favorite speech of the night? Sound off in the comments!