Emmys Producers React to Seth Rogen's Off-Script COVID Safety Jokes: 'It's Deeply Frustrating'

"It made three months of very hard work ... feel a little bit wasted," producer Ian Stewart told Variety this week

Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty

Seth Rogen made quite a stir on Sunday during the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, and the event's producers are speaking out.

According to Emmy Awards producer Ian Stewart, Rogen went off-script during his monologue as presenter for the first award of the night. The 39-year-old joked about the hundreds of industry professionals crowded into a large tent for the evening, alluding that it was unsafe in terms of COVID-19 safety protocols.

During his bit at the top of the night, Rogen quipped, "What are we doing? They said this was outdoors. It is not. They lied to us!"

"We're in a hermetically sealed tent right now," the Sausage Party actor continued. "I would not have come to this. Why is there a roof?"

On Monday, Stewart and fellow executive producer Reginald Hudlin responded to the remarks in an interview with Variety.

"We have worked for months and months to make that a safe space," Stewart told the publication. "We've worked with all the health authorities. We were signed off by LA County, we came up with a plan with them. Those tables were distanced. Everyone was vaccinated. Everyone was negative tested in that audience. And also he had rehearsed."

"So he knew exactly what it was. So, I just felt it was an unfortunate misdirect from him," Stewart continued. "Because it wasn't just our decision. This is the health authorities' decision as well, to say that it's a completely safe environment if you do all those things."

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This year's awards show was hosted at L.A. Live's Event Deck in lieu of the indoor Microsoft Theater to heed COVID-19 concerns. There was a limited audience of nominees and their guests, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences also capped the number of people allowed on the red carpet.

On-site media, all guests, crew, and vendors were required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to be admitted, and also show a negative test for the viral disease taken within 48 hours of the big event, the Television Academy said.

Stewart added that Rogen's comments "made three months of very hard work and many, many discussions to get it absolutely right feel a little bit wasted, really."

"And then we just sort of played catch up," he added, noting that he and his team tried to ensure that Emmys host Cedric the Entertainer and the night's DJ, Reggie Watts, explained to viewers exactly how the event, the tent and all attendees were in proper COVID compliance.

Stewart said they "wanted the audience to know how safe it was in there," adding: "We work in this industry, we're desperately aware of COVID. I've done 50 productions nearly in COVID and not have people get sick. So, it's deeply frustrating."

Despite the comments, Stewart and Hudlin had something to celebrate on Sunday night, as the Emmys telecast bounced back after last year's show, with 7.4 million viewers.

The figure was significantly higher than last year's almost entirely virtual show, which resulted in a "record low" viewership number of 6.1 million.

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