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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2013 at 8 P.M. ET/5 P.M. PT ON CBS
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Emmy gems
A collection of killer acceptance speeches

By Vinnie Penn
Special to MSN TV

Nothing is remotely as amusing as the winner at an awards show, clutching an enormous statue at the mic and feverishly rambling, "I didn't think I'd win so I didn't prepare anything!" That never gets old. I can believe the not thinking he or she would actually win part, but the nothing prepared? C'mon! Even plumbers rehearse acceptance speeches when they're showering. Then, of course, said actor or actress rattles off a slew of names, tells a zippy anecdote involving an old teacher or agent and appears the improv master. Yeah, right.

That is why the collection of speeches gathered herein is so perfect; from those who have mastered either appearing off-the-cuff (see Julia Louis-Dreyfus) or truly doing it off-the-cuff.

Bing: More on Julia Louis-Dreyfus | The 65th Primetime Emmys

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (for "Veep")

The Louis-Dreyfus hat trick (an Emmy for her role on "Seinfeld," one for "The New Adventures of Old Christine," and this most recent) put her in rarified air indeed, and also afforded her -- ostensibly -- the opportunity to horse around and go for a big laugh (plus get it). That first win is all precious, pouting proclamations, odes to the spouse sitting next to your vacated seat; by the third, and for three entirely different roles, why wouldn't you hatch a plan with another nominee (especially when that nominee is Amy Poehler) that you accidentally swapped acceptance speeches? See for yourself.

 

 

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Greg Garcia (for "My Name is Earl")

Easily the only name on this list many folks probably won't even recognize, Garcia nailed his acceptance speech as creator of the zany comedy that was "Earl," starring Jason Lee and Jaime Pressly (also an Emmy winner), both with punch lines and pace. Eschewing saying thank you to a litany of people, Garcia instead singled out those he didn't wish to thank, including a former school teacher who once said he wasn't funny, and God. The latter for taking his hair. Or is it Latter?

 

 

Jaime Pressly (for "My Name Is Earl")

Despite the fact that Ms. Pressly was on nomination No. 2 for her riotous turn as the titular character's rootin' tootin' ex on "My Name Is Earl," Pressly cracks during her speech, which makes her underdog win that much more touching. While she admits Garcia wrote her a great line and that it's the first line of dialogue he's written for her that she's forgotten, she still wraps the whole thing up with a gushing, guttural celebration of "the little engine." And no acknowledgment of "Poison Ivy 3!"

 

 

Peter Dinklage (for "Game of Thrones")

Look, there's a ton of jokes I could make here about having never seen a microphone at an awards show slung so low or that the statue looks almost as big as the guy holding it. Fact is, that's all been done before, plus Dinklage scares me. As the relentless force to be reckoned with on the visceral HBO hit, "Game of Thrones," Dinklage delivers. And he delivers while accepting his speech too, especially when he gives a nod to his dog-sitter named Kitty.

 

 

More: 50 things you didn't know about the Emmys | See this year's nominees in all the major categories

 

Katherine Heigl (for "Grey's Anatomy")

Just as Heigl was on the verge of that much-ballyhooed "America's Sweetheart" status, she earned her Best Supporting Actress Emmy, and her opening line about her own mother's certainty she wouldn't win is worth checking this out alone. Especially when the camera is suddenly on said mother! This was fresh-off-"Knocked Up" Heigl, her reputation for being outspoken in its infancy, before she'd leave the series that put her on the map and then be vocal about wanting to return. Okay, maybe not infancy; after all, doesn't it look like she curses when Eva Longoria reads her name?

 

 

Kristin Chenoweth (for "Pushing Daisies")

Chenoweth's acceptance speech is better-remembered than the role (and series) for which she won it. From a sight gag suggested by (who else?) Amy Poehler to Chenoweth's list of series that she'd be up for working on since "Daisies" had already been canceled by the time she won, this paved the way for Chenoweth to begin springing up like a daisy on a variety of different shows, though the one that she gets to call her own, and that gets renewed, still eludes.

 

 

Jane Lynch (for "Glee")

Lynch's acceptance speech is the most eloquent of the lot, besting even Sally Field (stick around for that), simultaneously thanking both her parents for being "unintentionally hilarious" and her "lord and creator," the latter being a reference to the mastermind behind "Glee" and her character in particular. While "Modern Family" star Ed O'Neill voiced displeasure that Lynch beat out his TV wife, there's no denying Lynch's comedic prowess. She just shouldn't count on bringing home gold for "Hollywood Game Night."

 

 

James Spader (for "The Practice")

Maybe they just got tired of giving Shatner statues or finishing the sentence "and the winner is James..." with "Gandolfini"; either way, Spader's wins, and the acceptance speeches that accompanied them, were as dry as one would expect, yet much funnier. They were tough to choose from for the purposes of this piece, but his flip comment about shoes and dresses and his ode to the make-up artists won by a hair.

 

 

Melissa McCarthy (for "Mike & Molly")

In a lot of ways, this would be like David Spade winning an Emmy for "Rules of Engagement." "Molly," a steady-at-best CBS sitcom, should have long since been abandoned by mega-star McCarthy, but this down-to-earth gal, who also doubles as maybe the funniest female on the planet, isn't having it. She's sticking with the show, even though predecessor "Samantha Who?" gave her more to work with, and the silver screen is being very good to her – and she to it.

 

 

Sarah Jessica Parker (for "Sex and the City")

It can be argued that the only reason Parker won an Emmy for the role of Carrie Bradshaw on the HBO hit is because it was the final season, which is often the case with Emmys. It can also be argued that the only reason she won was because Emmy envied the killer Golden Globe speeches Parker was giving for years. Both hilarious and heartfelt, they became a staple of the second-tier award show for a while there. Here Parker isn't quite hilarious, but her shout-out to NYC makes it a must for this list. (Besides, seeing fellow nominee Jennifer Aniston sitting next to then-husband Brad Pitt is worth the price of admission alone!)

 

 

Sally Field (for "Brothers & Sisters")

Long before she would play Aunt Mae in a "Spiderman" movie, and long after she would gush, Oscar in hand, "You like me, you really like me," Sally is simply still a galvanizing presence. The "cut-off" controversy was the epitome of silly in this writer's opinion. She had just finished an epic statement about mothers and sons - especially those coming home from war -- to thunderous applause; who wouldn't cue the music? But, then, how to back out of it? Here it doesn't matter anyway: unedited and unapologetic, the Emmy-winner ends her speech with a line that tops even the one that started the mayhem. Exceptional.

 

 

HONORABLE Mention: Fred Rogers (for "Mister Rogers")

The Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech given by the late Fred Rogers in 1997 takes us into Daytime Emmy territory and, as such, excluding Susan Lucci from this list could be perceived as a glaring omission. Don't read too much into it. Just giving props to Mister Rogers, a guy who clearly was not playing a role when he slipped on his kicks for a walk through the neighborhood, and his imploring of the audience to take 10 seconds to think of a person who might have helped him or her in life – and then actually counting down the time on his watch – is a thing of beauty. What other "entertainer" would give up 10 seconds of his allotted acceptance speech time?

 

10Comments
Sep 17, 2013 6:06AM
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Of the bunch, Fred Rogers' was the best
Sep 17, 2013 5:27AM
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News flash, people-- ever wonder where all that touching surprised sincerity comes from in such a self-congratulatory forum? They're actors! I think a truly amazing speech will explain why they want to memorialize doper Corey Monteith rather than Larry Hagman or Andy Griffith; he doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as them.
Sep 17, 2013 8:18AM
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It's likely people at the Emmys have been practicing acceptance speeches since their mothers took them to their first audition for a commercial.  These award shows they keep coming up with to honor themselves are so self-aggrandizing, it amazes me people can bear to watch.  Why are we feeding their inflated egos?
Sep 17, 2013 7:21AM
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Tom Hanks' speech when he won for the movie "Philadelphia."  Yes, it was not TV, but among all speeches like these, and I've heard A LOT,  it blew me away!
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