LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — The dystopian series “The Handmaid’s Tale” was crowned best TV drama on Sunday at the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, also winning best drama writing and directing and earning Elizabeth Moss a best actress statuette and Ann Dowd a best drama supporting actress award.
“Veep” and “Saturday Night Live” were also big winners.
PHOTOS: 69th Primetime Emmy Awards
Sterling K. Brown won his second back-to-back Emmy for his role in the series “This Is Us” and in his speech honored Andre Braugher, who was the last black man to claim top drama performance honors, for “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1998.
“It does feel different but for different reasons. I’m the first African-American in 16 years nominated. That kind of blows my mind,” he said.
Moss won her first Emmy and thanked her mother in a speech that was peppered with expletives.
Donald Glover won the best comedy actor for “Atlanta,” which he created and which carries his distinctive voice, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus was honored for a sixth time for her role as a self-absorbed politician in the comedy “Veep,” named best comedy for the third time.
“I want to thank Trump for making black people No. 1 on the most oppressed list. He’s the reason I’m probably up here,” Glover said, acknowledging the entertainment industry’s and the Emmys’ tilt toward the nonstop political under President Donald Trump.
Combined with Emmys that Louis-Dreyfus has won for “Seinfeld” and “New Adventures of Old Christine,” her latest trophy tied her with Cloris Leachman as the most-winning Emmy performer ever.
Louis-Dreyfus revealed that the writers were thinking about having a storyline about impeachment, but they abandoned the idea.
“We did have a whole story line about an impeachment, but we abandoned that because we were worried someone else might get to it first,” said Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won for lead actress in a comedy series.
“Saturday Night Live” triumphed early for a season of skewering President Donald Trump, while the ceremony and host Stephen Colbert did likewise.
“I remember the first time we won this award,” creator Lorne Michaels said in accepting the show’s trophy for best variety sketch series. “It was after the first season in 1976. I remember thinking … this was the high point,” and there would never be “another season as crazy, as unpredictable, as frightening, as exhausting or as exhilarating. Turns out I was wrong.”
The trophies for best supporting comedy acting went to Kate McKinnon, who played Hillary Clinton on “SNL,” and Alec Baldwin for his Trump portrayal on the NBC show.
McKinnon thanked Clinton for her “grace and grit.” Baldwin spoke directly to Trump, who has complained in the past that he was cheated out of a trophy for hosting “Celebrity Apprentice”: “I suppose I should say, ‘At long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy.'”
The award for best supporting actor in a drama series went to John Lithgow for “The Crown,” while the award for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie went to Laura Dern for “Big Little Lies.”
Dern thanked the Television Academy for recognizing women and said, “I want to thank the TV academy for honoring our show and working with this incredible tribe of fierce women.”
For outstanding variety talk series, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” was the winner, making it the show’s second win of the night.
Afterward, Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel drank what they called the night’s specialty cocktail: a “Last Week Tonight”
“It’s a really dry British cocktail,” explained Kimmel.
“It’s so high quality they can apparently only make it once a week,” cracked Colbert. Kimmel then wondered if perhaps the Emmys had made mistakes in naming outstanding variety talk series, but Colbert rejected the idea.
Meanwhile, during a presentation by “9 to 5” actors Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda, Tomlin and Fonda said they had fond memories of working together on the film.
“In that movie back in 1980, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” said Fonda, to which Tomlin replied “And in 2017, we “In that movie back in 1980, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”
“That being said, we’re here to tonight to honor men to conduct themselves with the utmost integrity,” said Fonda before giving the award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Limited Series or Movie to Alexander Skarsgard for “Big Little Lies.”
Big Little Lies” won the limited series award, with Nicole Kidman taking the lead actress award and supporting honors going to her castmates Alexander Skarsgard and Laura Dern.
“More great roles for women, please,” said Kidman as she and her fellow executive producer and co-star Reese Witherspoon accepted the miniseries’ award.
Riz Ahmed was honored as best limited series actor for “The Night Of.” “Black Mirror: San Junipero” was named best TV movie.
Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for comedy series writing, for “Master of None,” sharing the award with series co-creator Aziz Ansari, who is of Indian heritage.
“The things that make us different, those are superpowers,” Waithe said. “Thank you for embracing a little Indian boy from South Carolina and a little queer black girl from the south side of Chicago,” she said, basking in a standing ovation from the theater audience.
“The Voice” won the reality competition category.
Earlier at the start of the show, Colbert wasted no time going after President Donald Trump.
After flashing Trump’s face along with Vladimir Putin in an opening skit, Colbert’s monologue was full of follow-up jokes at the president’s expense.
“However you feel about the president, you can’t deny that every show was influenced by Donald Trump in some way,” he said, naming House of Cards and the new season of American Horror Story. “We all know the Emmys mean a lot to Donald Trump because he was nominated multiple times for Celebrity Apprentice, but he never won. If he had won an Emmy I bet he wouldn’t have run for president… So in a way, this is all your fault – I thought you people loved morally compromised anti-heroes.”
Colbert also told the crowd the next Latin Emmy Awards would be hosted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona law enforcement officer who Trump pardoned for criminal contempt related to his tactics regarding undocumented immigrants.
“There’s no way anyone could watch that much TV, other than the president,” added Colbert about the range of programs up for awards, waving to the camera with “Hello sir, thank you for joining us. Looking forward to the tweets!”
Stars in the audience appeared shocked when Colbert asked to get an estimate on the crowd size and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer appeared on stage.
“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys period, both in person and around the world,” Spicer said.
“Wow that really soothes my fragile ego,” replied Colbert as he thanked Spicer. “I can understand why you’d want one of these guys around. Melissa McCarthy, everyone!”
During a skit with Jeffrey Wright, the “Westworld” actor stayed in character as Bernard Lowe to ask Colbert, “Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?”
“Every day since Nov. 8,” he replied, referring to the presidential election last fall.
Trump was not the only political figure targeted by Colbert’s jokes.
“These days, everybody loves streaming video – just ask Ted Cruz, but knock first. You don’t just want to walk in,” he said, poking fun at the Texas senator’s Twitter account recently liking a pornographic video.
At the start of the show, Colbert was also joined by Allison Janney and the three talked about the state of affairs in the world. Janney said, “I heard HBO is bringing back the confederacy.”
“I know the world is getting crazy, but look on the bright side — TV is getting better,” said Colbert.
Janney said she bet Colbert couldn’t sing his argument, but he rose to the challenge.
Colbert sang, “Everything is better on television. When the world’s so scary you close your door and hide, open up, let ‘Archer’ slip inside.”
Colbert bounced around from the set of “Archer” to the set of “This is Us,” singing, “It’s so good to feel so sad,” and visited the sets of “Veep” and “The Americans.” He stood behind Selina Meyer of “Veep” and sang, “Imagine if your president was not beloved by Nazis.”
Chance the Rapper made a cameo to rap along, and Colbert continued onto the set of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” He finally walked onto the Emmys stage with several Handmaids, who disrobed to dance in sequined bodysuits.
Colbert began his monologue and said, “This is TV’s highest honors — us celebrating us. Tonight we binge ourselves. Can you feel it? This room is crackling with the collective energy of people who, for the last 48 hours, have consumed nothing but distilled water and Crest Whitestripes.”
Colbert jokingly thanked “Game of Thrones” for not being eligible for Emmys this year, making room for other shows to win. Then he thanked CBS CEO and said, “I literally have to thank him — it’s in my contract.”
The host then gave a big shoutout to the first responders in the recent disasters around the country.
“They have been working tirelessly following the disasters in Texas and Florida,” he said. “We have to thank also the friends who showed up with food, the neighbors with boats, the nuns with chainsaws and the complete strangers who stepped up to help rebuild.” He directed viewers to donate at Handinhand2017.com and said Billy Eichner was on hand to take calls — Eichner sat in the audience with a landline glued to his ear.
He also said gave a shout out to broadcast networks and said, “CBS will have twice as many Sheldons as any other network in history.”
Colbert added, “This has been a great year for diversity in TV. In fact, for the third year in a row, this is the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history.” He listed prominent black actors nominated for awards like Viola Davis and Anthony Anderson and then said, “And of course, Bill Maher. I assume he’s black since he’s so comfortable using the n-word.”
Later, Colbert decided to meet “Emmy” herself. RuPaul was dressed up as Emmy and put down her sphere for a sit-down with Colbert.
“I’ve been holding that thing up for 69 years,” said “Emmy.” “Honey, get out the china because I’m about to spill the tea.”
She revealed that she once dated “Oscar,” but “couldn’t trust a man who’s naked and holding a sword.”
“Emmy” had some words for winners and said, “if you win, own it, share it, love it. When you get up on that stage, don’t say you’re surprised by how heavy I am, because that’s just plain rude.”
TV academy President and CEO Hayma Washington paid tribute to TV’s increasing diversity. That was reflected in the record number of African-American continuing series acting nominees, but Latinos were overlooked and Ansari was the only Asian-American contender.
The “In Memoriam” segment had several notable exclusions, including Dick Gregory and Harry Dean Stanton.
At the event, many celebrities wore blue ribbons support the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought to shed light on the plight of young immigrants facing the potential of being deported.
CBSNews.com Entertainment Producer Andrea Park contributed to this report.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)