By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Shows used to end with a kiss. Awards shows now open with them.
After comedian Garry Shandling opened the 55th Annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards Sunday joking about Madonna kissing Britney Spears at the MTV Video Awards, Brad Garrett came on the stage and planted a long kiss on Shandling.
"I want to say to CBS - he's worth every nickel," Shandling said, referring to Garrett's recent holdout for a raise from Everybody Loves Raymond.
The gag got a big laugh, one of many during the evening, proving that Fox's plan to use more than a dozen comedians - instead of one host - was a wise one.
Shandling set the tone in the opening monologue with jokes about everything from David Letterman's expected baby to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Jon Stewart, who lost out to Wayne Brady for best performance in a variety or music program, delighted the Shrine Auditorium audience and Fox viewers with hilarious news clips, such as presidential candidate Howard Dean forcing a smile on CNN's Larry King Live and Fox News putting music to explosions over Baghdad.
Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond was one of many to joke about the California governor recall election. He came out as Arnold Schwarzenegger and announced, "I'm glad they finally found a room for all the candidates for governor of the state of California."
Conan O'Brien's comedy contribution poked fun at TV award shows, which often run long. He danced out in white tails, top hat and cane to sing "That's Entertainment" with chorus girls - when an off-stage announcer told him the number had been cut because the show was running late. He pouted just long enough to sell the bit, and then turned to a dance girl and said, "I don't know if you still get paid - Just go!"
Fox's Wanda Sykes worked the studio audience, joking with Peter Boyle, Kim Cattrall, a reluctant Bill Cosby and Larry David, star of HBO's improvised Curb Your Enthusiasm. "I bet you wrote that acceptance speech, didn't you?" she asked David - and he admitted he had.
Sykes got a big laugh when she admitted she was out of place mingling with the Hollywood elite.
"What the hell am I doing here?" she said. "I should be watching this on TV, booing you all."
Watching on TV, and laughing - a lot.
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