Brow Beat

At 97, Norman Lear Just Became the Oldest Person to Win an Emmy

Maggie Lear, Norman Lear and Lyn Lear on a red carpet.
Maggie Lear, Norman Lear and Lyn Lear attending the 2019 Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
Amy Sussman/Getty Images

The first round of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards was held on Saturday night at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles—more Emmys tomorrow night—and at 97 years old, Norman Lear has just set a record as the oldest person to ever win an Emmy. Lear, along with his co-executive producers Jimmy Kimmel, Adam McKay, Justin Theroux, Will Ferrell, Brent Miller, and Eric Cook, won the “Outstanding Variety Special (Live)” Emmy for ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons.’ The special, which aired in May, presented live performances of two classic episodes of Norman Lear’s groundbreaking sitcoms recast with new actors: Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei as the Bunkers and Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes as the Jeffersons. Lear’s show beat out the Golden Globes, the Grammys, the Oscars, the Tonys, and Fox’s production of RENT to win the category.

Lear’s first Emmy wins came nearly a half-century ago in 1971, when All in the Family won both “Outstanding New Series – Comedy” and “Outstanding New Series.” The show won “Outstanding Series – Comedy” again in 1972 and 1973, and Lear was inducted into the Emmys Hall of Fame in 1984, its very first year. Before 2019, the most recent of his fifteen Emmy nominations was in 1991, for the All in the Family 20th Anniversary Special. The Creative Arts Emmys won’t air until Sept. 21 on FXX, so here’s Lear’s acceptance speech for that very first win:

Lear toppled a record that had stood for less than a day, because it was a big night for nonagenarians: David Attenborough, 93, won the “Outstanding Narrator” Emmy for his work on the “One Planet” episode of Netflix’s Our Planet. Attenborough, in his turn, broke a record that had been set one year ago by a 92-year-old named David Attenborough, who won the Outstanding Narrator Emmy for his work on Blue Planet II. Before that, Betty White held the record, for an Emmy she picked up in 2010 at the age of 88 after hosting Saturday Night Live. White (b. Jan. 17, 1922) is six months older than Lear (b. July 27, 1922), which means she is well-positioned to take back the title next year, even if Lear wins again. White, who got her first Emmy nomination in 1951 for co-hosting Hollywood on Television on KLAC-TV, was honored at last year’s ceremony:

There’s only one way to settle this: Norman Lear, Betty White, and David Attenborough must immediately be named as cast members for the next season of Saturday Night Live. What’s the worst that could happen?