LOS ANGELES — "Saturday Night Live" was triumphing early at Sunday's Emmy Awards 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 he was cheated out of a trophy for hosting "Celebrity Apprentice": "Here's your Emmy," Baldwin said.
Melissa McCarthy was honored at last weekend's creative arts Emmys as best guest actress for her "SNL" work, including portraying Sean Spicer. The former White House press secretary made a surprise Emmys appearance, wheeling in his own podium.
"This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period. Both in person and around the world," Spicer shouted with authority, echoing his claim that Trump's inauguration crowd was the biggest ever and evoking McCarthy's manic portrayal of him.
Colbert's song-and-dance opening — with help from Chance the Rapper — included the song "Everything Is Better on TV," which repeatedly slammed Trump, mentioning his ties to Russia and including the lyric "even treason is better on TV."
John Lithgow, who received the best supporting drama actor for his role as British leader Winston Churchill in "The Crown," took a more diplomatic approach to political commentary.
"Most of all I have to thank Winston Churchill. In these crazy times, his life, even as an old man, reminds us what courage and leadership in government really looks like," Lithgow said.
Alexander Skarsgard and Laura Dern were named best supporting actors in a limited series or movie for "Big Little Lies."
Before the show started, "This Is Us" stars Sterling K. Brown and Ron Cephas Jones were among the Emmy Awards nominees playing it cool as they arrived.
The actors paused for photographs and interviews on the red carpet, which for the first time was tented and air conditioned to provide relief from the usually warm September weather in Los Angeles. Nature provided a break as well, with temperatures in the 70s.
Brown won an Emmy last year for playing O.J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden in the limited series "People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," and this time is up for best drama actor for the NBC drama.
"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.
Andre Braugher, who was the last black actor to get a nod in the category, for "Gideon's Crossing" in 2001, also was the last one to claim top drama performance honors, for "Homicide: Life on the Street" in 1998.
Another "This Is Us" star, Chris Sullivan, made a fashion statement with a top hat, cane and purple bow tie. He wasn't alone in going for a bold look — Jeremy Maguire from "Modern Family" vamped in a purple cape — while Tessa Thompson and Issa Rae dazzled with sophisticated, brightly colored gowns.
Jackie Hoffman, nominated for the FX series "Feud: Bette and Joan" said she's "less freak-out nervous" now that all the pre-Emmy festivities are over and she's finally at the big show.
The honors themselves could make a statement. In the drama category, the nominees include polar opposites "This Is Us," a heartfelt family drama, and the dystopian "The Handmaid's Tale," which some observers have called a reflection of our time.
A victory by NBC's "This Is Us," the first network drama series to be nominated since CBS' "The Good Wife" in 2011, would prove that broadcasters can compete with the more adventurous premium cable and streaming platforms that target niche audiences. No network series has won in the category since "24" in 2006.
With previous two-time winner "Game of Thrones" absent because it fell outside the eligibility window, "This Is Us" and "The Handmaid's Tale" are among an unprecedented number of newcomers that include "The Crown," ''Stranger Things" and "Westworld." Repeat contenders "Better Call Saul" and "House of Cards" round out the field.
Among comedy nominees, the political satire "Veep" is a favored again after two consecutive wins, and its star Julia Louis-Dreyfus is considered equally if not more likely to claim the best comedy actress trophy for the sixth time for her role. Combined with Emmys she's won for "Seinfeld" and "New Adventures of Old Christine," that would tie her with Cloris Leachman as the most-winning Emmy performer ever.Comment on this story
"Veep" is competing with "Atlanta"; "black-ish,"; "Master of None"; "Silicon Valley"; "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "Modern Family," which, with five previous wins in the category, is tied with "Frasier" for most top-series awards ever.
It could be a big night for African-American performers. There are a record 12 black actors competing for lead or supporting honors in continuing comedy and drama series, including "Atlanta" creator and star Donald Glover. But no Latinos and only one Asian-American — "Master of None" star and co-creator Aziz Ansari — were nominated.
AP Entertainment Writers Sandy Cohen and Lindsey Bahr contributed to this report.