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Public Meltdowns and Profane Dames: 20 Off-the-Hook Emmy Moments

The unforgettable highs, lows and straight-up WTF occurrences that have happened on the TV awards show’s broadcasts


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The Primetime Emmys have never been the most salacious awards show on TV, usually upstaged by the drunken antics of the Golden Globes and the glitzy glamour of the Oscars. But it is still the gold standard when it comes to handing out small-screen statuettes — and it definitely has had its share of water-cooler moments. From Patty Duke's despondent thousand-yard stare to a thrill-seeking stage-crasher to same-sex kissing and political statements, the Emmys have provided some memorable moments throughout their 66-year history.

The 2014 ceremony, hosted by Seth Meyers, takes place on August 25th in Los Angeles, and in preparation for the annual television event, we look back at a few firsts, flubs and genuinely entertaining incidents. (Ellen DeGeneres in a swan dress, anyone?)

Obama Victoria Rowell

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Victoria Rowell’s Obama Dress (2009)

Love him or hate him, the general consensus was thumbs down for President Barack Obama when he showed up on the red carpet – in the form of a well-panned dress the Young and the Restless actress boldly wore during his first year in office. Although a flop fashion-wise, the garment came with good intentions: she donned it to show support for Obama's universal healthcare plan, which was still in its infancy. Next time, though, a tasteful ribbon might do.


Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Born To Run’ (2010)

Remember when people couldn't get enough of Glee, and Fallon was just an ambitious rookie on the late-night talk-show circuit? Two cultural phenomenons intersected in a glorious way when Fallon hosted the telecast, opening the show with an energetic, show choir-themed rendition of Bruce Springsteen's 1975 hit. With cameos by Tina Fey, Joel McHale, Betty White and others (RIP Cory Monteith), it was a pop-culture nugget of perfection.


Melissa McCarthy Crowned Best Actress (2011)

In a show of girl-power, all six nominees for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy – including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Edie Falco — stepped onstage when their names were called before the trophy was given out and held hands, pageant-style, awaiting the results. When first-timer McCarthy came out on top for her role on Mike & Molly, she was handed a bouquet of flowers and crowned with a tiara. "Holy smokes! It's my first and best pageant ever!" she quipped before crying. 


Charlie Sheen Apologizes (2011)

Six months after getting fired from Two and a Half Men for his outrageous public antics, the self-proclaimed warlock presented the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy, a category he had previously been nominated in (but never won) for the popular TV series. After months of spinning out and mouthing off, Sheen surprised everyone when he graciously wished his former co-stars "nothing but the best" before handing the trophy to The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons. The following year, Men star Jon Cryer dominated the category for the time (after previously receiving a supporting actor award). Winning, indeed.