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Emmys 2015: What exactly was going on with Andy Samberg's opening monologue?

His funniest moments came in the spaces between his worst jokes

Andy Samberg is hosting tonight's 67th Primetime Emmy Awards, and he just pranced off the stage having used a strange blend of classic award show host tactics. He opened with pre-filmed song-and-dance man antics and cracked wise about the glut of quality programming; he referenced the wackiest possible figures across the political spectrum, from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders; he spent several minutes on a funky bit weaving together Ed Asner, Uzo Aduba, Allison Janney, and arcane Emmys trivia.

It felt peculiar even as Samberg was delivering it, and every cut to members of the audience featured someone looking a little confused. You can't blame them: how else do you react to a set that followed up Justin Timberlake references with half-serious jabs at the industry's entrenched racism and sexism?

Samberg relied on his benevolent bro charisma

Samberg's funniest moments felt like tacit admissions that there's just too much comedic and demographic ground to cover when you're hosting a show like the Emmys. After a joke that failed to land, he'd stand silent for an extra second with an off-kilter grin, an anxious little yelp, and an implied collar tug. Every joke about dancing at Kim Davis' four weddings has to be coupled to an insular one about voting and category changes or a note about the impact ageism has on actresses. By putting a spotlight on those awkward interstitial spaces and the jokes that felt obligatory, Samberg was playing to his strengths, namely his benevolent bro charisma and his rubbery face. If it's impossible to cover all of the Emmys' bases, we might as well acknowledge the silliness of its demands.

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