Partway through the 2016 Emmys, host Jimmy Kimmel threw to his mother Joan, standing in a kitchen making piles and piles of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 7,000 of them in fact, enough to feed the entire audience. (Despite winner Jill Soloway’s call for toppling the patriarchy, there was no help for poor mom.) Kimmel had joked that since it was a long show and many of the audience members probably hadn’t eaten since Labor Day (ba dum bum!), it was high time for a snack. So he called in the kids from Netflix’s Stranger Things to hand sandwiches out to the audience.
Does this all sound a little familiar? Maybe it calls to mind the time Ellen DeGeneres ordered a pizza for hungry celebrities at the 2014 Oscars, or two years later, when Chris Rock brought a troupe of Girl Scouts to the Oscars to take cookie orders.
Or maybe, if you’re looking for a non-Emmys predecessor, it takes you all the way back to when comedian Andy Kaufman took an entire audience out for milk and cookies after a show at Carnegie Hall in 1979. But while Kaufman’s was a typically dada bit of performative boundary-pushing, were any of these stunts actually funny when performed as part of a network awards show? Sure, they sometimes lead to cute sub-moments, like Jared Leto grabbing a slice of pizza for his mom, or Jimmy Kimmel getting to hand several juice boxes to David “Juice” Schwimmer. But from the pizza to the Girl Scout cookies to the PBJ, these bits have come to feel less like zippy awards show host banter than some belabored crowdwork that is really just an excuse to sneak a few extra A-list cameos into the broadcast.
With the 2016 Emmys, it may be time to declare that the “you all must be hungry!” joke has had its day. We get it: these people are famous, they’re wearing svelte tuxes and clingy dresses, and they probably were too busy looking telegenic (or starving themselves, so the joke goes) to eat. Let them eat at the afterparties! Sure, there’s the comic juxtaposition of fancy party and not-so-fancy food, but even that is goofier in theory than in execution: there’s only so much hilarity to be wrung from watching Kevin Spacey eat peanut butter and jelly. At least this year’s food gimmick was a convenient way to feature some very cute little actors from a zeitgeist-y new show that wouldn’t have otherwise been mentioned in the Emmys. But in a year when speeches kept getting cut off, would you rather watch stars tear into sandwiches, or hear the rest of what Aziz Ansari had to say?