Jimmy Kimmel opened the 2016 Emmys with a slew of jokes in his monologue directed toward Donald Trump

By Brittany King and Aurelie Corinthios
Updated September 18, 2016 09:15 PM
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Talk about an opener.

Jimmy Kimmel brought razor-sharp humor to several surprising targets in front of a packed Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles as host of Sunday’s 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards.

As he’d exclusively revealed to PEOPLE, Kimmel, 48, pulled no punches in his opening monologue, delivering zinger after zinger about famous friends and nominees alike – and he saved his punchiest material for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

But first things first: After a fiery, Jeb Bush-ful opening video, Kimmel started his monologue by finding Transparent‘s Jeffrey Tambor in the audience and handing him an Emmy.

“Alright, that saves us 22 minutes,” Kimmel said. (And he was right: Within the hour, Tambor was called back up to accept his acting Emmy for real.)

Kimmel continued, referencing the pop culture dominance of both Game of Thrones and The People v. O.J. Simpson, “The rest of you, if your show doesn’t have a dragon or a white Bronco in it, go home now.”

But Kimmel’s main target was Trump … and the people who may have made him possible.

“Television can also tear us apart,” Kimmel said. “If it wasn’t for TV, would Donald Trump be running for president? No, he would be at home quietly rubbing up against his wife Malaria while she pretends to be asleep.”

The host then threw a few digs at producer Mark Burnett, blaming him for Trump’s political ascension.

“Many have asked who is to blame for Donald Trump. And I’ll tell you who … Mark Burnett, the man who brought us Celebrity Apprentice,” said Kimmel as the camera panned to a laughing Burnett. “Thanks to him, we don’t have to watch reality shows anymore because we’re living in one.”

“Thank you, Mark. Thank you for coming all the way from England to tear us apart,” Kimmel continued. “You sneaky little crumpet muncher, you.”

Pointing Burnett out – “He’s responsible – Kimmel said, “I’m going on the record right now: If Donald Trump gets elected and he builds that wall, the first person we’re throwing over it is Mark Burnett.”

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Turning from Trump, Kimmel also took a moment to acknowledge the winner of "tonight’s plus-one contest"The People v. O.J. Simpson‘s Sarah Paulson, who brought Marcia Clark, who she portrayed in the series, as her date to the show.

“Because everyone in L.A. knows if you want to win, sit next to Marcia Clark,” Kimmel quipped. “Marcia, this must be very strange for you. Are you rooting for O.J. to win this time?”

John Travolta is here. Welcome back to television, we’re happy to have you,” he continued of Paulson’s costar. “If you win, are you going to thank O.J.? How do you handle that? Technically, you wouldn’t be here without him.”

And of the series’s star, Kimmel said, “Cuba Gooding Jr. was so good in The People v. O.J. Simpson – he played O.J. so well I now believe Cuba may have done it.”

The monologue’s other fodder centered on Hollywood’s lack of diversity, which were a major controversy at this year’s Oscars.

“Fortunately for everyone in this room there are more shows and more roles than ever before and more diversity than ever before,” Kimmel said. “This year’s nominees are the most diverse ever, and the only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity.

“The Oscars are now telling people we’re one of their closest friends – we’re not by the way.”

Kimmel even had some advice for the attendees, joking, “If you are a person of color in our audience tonight, especially if you’re a nominee, find a white person. Please take a moment to reach out and say thanks for your bravery.”

“There you go, make a rainbow connection,” he said as Aziz Ansari and Ty Burrell embraced.

But Kimmel’s final target was perhaps the most unexpected: Downton Abbey star Maggie Smith.

“If we call your name and you’re not here to accept, the Emmy goes to the next name on the list. It’s called the ‘Maggie Smith rule,’ ” he said, joking about how the actress is usually never present despite being regularly nominated and appearing at other award shows.

“This year she had a Sunday ceramics class she couldn’t miss,” Kimmel cracked of Smith. “She showed up at the Oscars to get an Oscar, she showed up at the Tonys, she goes to the Soul Train Awards every year. … She’s Downton Absent is what she is.”

“Why do we keep nominating this woman?” he wondered. “She’s treating us like the People’s Choice Awards. If you want an Emmy, you better hop on a plane right now and get your dowager count a– over here.”

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards are airing live on ABC.