If the Emmys were designed to transport viewers from the pandemic for a few carefree hours, Seth Rogen wasn’t playing along.
The comedic writer and actor, making the night’s first awards presentation, questioned whether an event that touted its COVID-19 protocols was living up to its promises.
Before presenting the award for best supporting actress in a comedy series to winner “Ted Lasso” star Hannah Waddingham, Rogen offered up some jokes, but they sounded more like a complaint.
“They said this was outdoors. It’s not. They lied to us. We’re in a hermetically sealed tent right now. I would not have come to this,” Rogen deadpanned to the audience gathered in what Emmys organizers have described as “a fully air-conditioned tent (that) will allow for more socially-distanced audience seating.”
He took issue with the guest spacing – “There is way too many of us in this little room” – but he saved his biggest complaint for the tent’s ceiling.
Live blog at the Emmys: Gillian Anderson, Tobias Menzies win supporting honors for ‘The Crown’
Emmys 2021 opener: See Rita Wilson showcase her rap skills, Biz Markie tribute
“It’s more important that we have three chandeliers than that we make sure we don’t kill Eugene Levy tonight. That is what has been decided,” he cracked, clearly disagreeing with the decision on the Emmy structure.
Emmys host Cedric the Entertainer and awards show DJ Reggie Watts offered quick pushback.
Before going to commercial break, Watts, who is the bandleader on “The Late Late Show With James Corden,” said that “despite what Seth might have said, we’re going to celebrate and party, but while we’re doing that we’re absolutely following all the health and safety guidelines that some really smart people asked us to do to keep us safe from COVID.”
If that wasn’t enough, Cedric the Entertainer underlined the sentiment in his opening monologue:
“It actually feels amazing in here unlike what Seth (Rogen) was talking about. It feels good. We’re all vaxxed. We had to get vaxxed to come here. I got vaxxed. I did not have a reaction like Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend. I got Pfizer because I’m bougie. Pfizer is the Neiman Marcus of vaccines. Moderna, that’s Macy’s. Johnson & Johnson, that’s TJ Maxx,” he said.
According to Emmys organizers, tables were set at least 6 feet apart to meet COVID protocols and the audience was smaller than initially planned. The audience featured only nominees, who were each able to bring one guest, and each person was tested and vaccinated.
Some winners made reference to limited attendees onstage.
“I should start off by saying this is not everyone who writes on the show. We were only allowed a small number to come,” noted Chrissy Shackelford, accepting the prize for best writing for a variety show for HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
“The show sent the hottest writers, which I understand is kind of an oxymoron.”
More seriously, Debbie Allen, whose brilliant career was celebrated via the Governors Award, acknowledged the precarious position of children vs. COVID-19 in an inspirational speech that sought to empower women and protecting the health of the next generation.
Part of her message was delivered to ” young people who have no vote and who can’t even get a vaccine. They are inheriting the world that we live (in), that we leave them. It is time for you to claim your power, claim your voice, say your song, tell your stories. It will make us a better place.”
Contributing: Cydney Henderson
More: Kerry Washington honors Michael K. Williams; Twitter compares Emmy loss to Chadwick Boseman
Red carpet glamour! See the 10 best dressed at the 2021 Emmys