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Two Drink Minimum: Emmys 2016 – Progress Comes Quicker with Comedy

(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Two Drink Minimum is a comedy-based column by Vague Visages writer Jacob Oller.

Rather than Hollywood, progressivism has found its artistic home in indie movies and the various realms of television distribution. As much as some would like to believe, this isn’t because there’s a conspiracy orchestrated by Big Film to resist against all progress — it’s far more practical and cynical than that. It’s a question of adaptability and elasticity. Indie films can be financed, shot and released in the same year. Television shows must be cast, written and shot anew each season. They have the ability to react to political climate change and the growing concerns of representation in the media.

Hollywood, the lumbering beast that it is, is composed of corporations too unwieldy to impose such rapid change upon its products. When studios have planned out their blockbusters until 2020, do you think they’ll rock the boat for (what they see as) the small issue of casting or hiring people of color or women? They’re locked in their ways, which are white and male and simple and (as they see it) safe. Then we look again to TV.

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards have helped shake up the industry with its most explicitly progressive and comedic self-congratulating. Below, you can see the nominees and bolded winners in the comedy categories, which I address afterwards.

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Louie Anderson, Baskets

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele

Ty Burrell, Modern Family

Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Tony Hale, Veep

Matt Walsh, Veep

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Niecy Nash, Getting On

Allison Janney, Mom

Judith Light, Transparent

Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent

Anna Chlumsky, Veep

LEAD ACTRESS IN A  COMEDY SERIES

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep

Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Laurie Metcalf, Getting On

Traces Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer

Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish

Aziz Ansari, Master of None

Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth

William H. Macy, Shameless

Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley

DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

Jill Soloway, Transparent

Aziz Ansari, Master Of None

Alec Berg, Silicon Valley

Mike Judge, Silicon Valley

Dave Mandel, Veep

Chris Addison, Veep

Dale Stern, Veep

WRITING FOR A COMEDY SERIES

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, Master Of None

Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe

Dan O’Keefe, Silicon Valley

Alec Berg, Silicon Valley

David Mandel, Veep

Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, Veep

VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

Key & Peele

Documentary Now!

Drunk History

Inside Amy Schumer

Portlandia

Saturday Night Live

COMEDY SERIES

Veep

Black-ish

Master of None

Modern Family

Silicon Valley

Transparent

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

All four acting awards went to performers portraying women, as the two male categories went to Jeffrey Tambor’s performance as a trans matriarch and Louie Anderson’s performance as the mother of twins. Julia Louis-Dreyfus remains unshaken as the queen of comedy from her throne atop one of the most biting, unfortunately-relevant shows on TV, Veep. Kate McKinnon’s win for Saturday Night Live makes her the first regular cast member to win since SNL became eligible in the main comedy acting categories. McKinnon’s portrayal of Hillary Clinton (who congratulated the actress on Twitter) helped solidify her victory and brings the liberal-comedy relationship back around.

What seems like moments after Jimmy Fallon’s flaccid, mewling treatment of Donald Trump on his late night show, the Emmys came in with political cylinders firing. Jill Soloway called for the dismantling of the patriarchy and Tambor called for representation of trans talent. And the host, Jimmy Kimmel, whom nobody would think as the ballsy, politically woke alternative to Fallon, came out scathing. He dug into Trump’s modern relevancy as a television personality and a creep, blaming his industry for the creation of monsters (quite explicitly when speaking to Mark Burnett, creator of The Apprentice).

Louis-Dreyfus and Aziz Ansari, a writing winner for Netflix’s Master of None, joked about the overwhelming sentiment of political fear hanging over the crowd. Veep’s dysfunctional vulgar absurdity is a few missteps away from fruition and Ansari’s satiric recommendation to “remove all Muslim and Hispanic nominees immediately” included a bittersweet burn on the more Trump-friendly Oscars.

Alan Yang, who won with Ansari for Master of None’s “Parents” episode, delivered one of the most personal victory speeches of the evening, focused around representation. His show is an extremely personal self-reflection of a millennial whose immigrant parents struggled so he wouldn’t have to, on a platform that reaches more well-off millennials of color than any other. The first-ever streaming platform win in the comedy writing category, Master of None (which I’ve written about here) encourages more diverse representation — more so than the black-focused Oscar pushes — outside of the main networks. Though Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish have made strides for POC in Big Four comedies, streaming services and more specialized channels seem to offer the creative freedom that allows for the most effective ways to tell these creators’ stories. That the Big Four networks only picked up three awards over the course of the Emmys might mean that they have a few lessons to learn from these upstarts if they too want to progress.

From AAA TV to Z-movies, Chicago-based critic Jacob Oller (@JacobOller) would like to bring the world together through entertainment, writing about it for publications like The Guardian, the Oklahoma Gazette, and his own blog. He’s a decent impressionist, semi-decent karaoke participant, and terrible dancer, although you’ll have to get a few drinks in him first.

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