To present the award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series at the Monday night ceremony, comedian Will Arnett dragged Kimmel on stage by his legs.
"Jimmy couldn't be here tonight," Arnett told the audience as Kimmel pretended to be unconscious on the stage floor. “This like the 13th time in a row that he’s lost.”
The joke was in reference to Kimmel losing his nomination in the Outstanding Variety Talk Series category to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. While the skit was received well by the audience, Kimmel remained committed to the joke after Abbott Elementary creator Quinta Brunson was announced as the winner of the award, marking her first Emmy win.
Arnett attempted to drag Kimmel out of the way as Brunson approached the microphone. However, to give her acceptance speech, Brunson was forced to step over Kimmel and played along with the joke.
“Jimmy wake up I won!” Brunson told Kimmel, adding when he didn’t respond, “OK hold my phone,” to which he gave her a thumbs up.
Kimmel remained lying at Brunson’s feet throughout her entire speech, during which she thanked her co-star and family for their support in creating Abbott Elementary. Brunson continued to play along with the joke, thanking Kimmel at the end of her speech.
While Brunson didn’t seem fazed by the skit, many social media users found the joke to be disrespectful.
“If Quinta Brunson stepping over Jimmy Kimmel who literally laid in her spotlight on the day she won an Emmy isn’t a metaphor for what it means to be a WOC in a white mans world, I don’t know what is,” tweeted sociology professor and author of Refuge, Heba Gowayed.
Andy Dehnart, secretary of the Television Critics Association, also expressed his distaste for the skit, tweeting, “Jimmy Kimmel not moving to get out of Quinta Brunson's way [was a bad] choice."
George M Johnson, the author of All Boys Aren’t Blue, posted a photo of Brunson on stage and asked his followers if anyone could edit Kimmel out of the photo.
He later posted a photo that was edited by influencer Jonta that shows Brunson alone on the stage.
While the Emmy Awards didn’t show footage of Kimmel being dragged off the stage by Arnett, writer Chris Garner was present at the ceremony and posted a video showing the moment, commenting on Kimmel's commitment to the joke.
Backstage, Brunson told reporters that the joke “didn’t bother me that much” and explained that Kimmel was always supportive of her career and presented her with her first late-night appearance on his show.
“In that moment, I was just really happy that it was Jimmy up there,” she said, adding with humour. “I don’t know — tomorrow maybe I’ll be mad at him. I’m gonna be on his show on Wednesday, so I might punch him in the face. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”