Ah, the Emmys: The glitz, the glamour, and of course, the acceptance speeches.
Seeing our favorite TV stars get teary-eyed (like Kristin Chenoweth) or pull a hilarious stunt (like Bryan Cranston and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is one of the best parts of the year.
And while every speech is filled with humor, gratitude and a lot of emotion, there are some speeches that stand above the rest – here are some of our favorites.
Sarah Jessica Parker, 2004, Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Watching Parker accept her long-awaited Emmy for the final season of Sex and the City is like taking a trip back in time. A smiling Jennifer Aniston sits in the crowd, nominated for Friends. On stage, the original two of Two and a Half Men, Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen, are presenting. But the best part comes after SJP is announced as the winner — as she kisses her SATC co-stars one last time, marking the end of an era — that makes the speech super special.
Meryl Streep, 2004, Lead Actress in a Limited Series
With more than 250 various nominations and upwards of 160 wins, there’s no denying that Streep is one of Hollywood’s reigning queens. And when she took the stage at the 2004 Emmys, she came out with a line that would become an iconic one for the show: “You know, there are some days when I myself think I’m overrated. But not today!”
Greg Garcia, 2006, Writing for a Comedy Series
Let’s face it: When you’re watching an awards show, the time used to hand out behind-the-scenes awards (think writing, editing, cinematography) is usually reserved for bathroom breaks. But if you skipped My Name Is Earl writer Garcia’s speech in 2006, you seriously missed out. Rather than taking the usual route of thanking the people who contributed to his Emmy win, he chose to call out the people he didn’t want to thank. These included his eighth-grade social studies teacher and a boss who forced him to clean gum off a shoe.
Kristin Chenoweth, 2009, Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Acceptance speeches can get routine, especially when the winner has a collection of statues sitting at home. But that was not the case with Chenoweth! The Pushing Daisies actress was so surprised when she won the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series that she couldn’t help but burst into tears. Even better, she quickly gave her speech a (hilarious) light-hearted spin, offering herself up as a guest star on Mad Men, 24 and The Office since Pushing Daisies had been canceled.
Melissa McCarthy, 2011, Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Audiences watching McCarthy win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series were treated to a little pageantry and a lot of emotion. Bucking convention, the Mike & Molly star and her fellow nominees lined up hand-in-hand on stage, Miss America-style. Once Rob Lowe and Sofia Vergara announced McCarthy as the winner, she was handed a bouquet of roses and a crown (as well as her gold statue!). The speech was funny and full of emotion, but its crowning moment was when she said, “I’m from Plainfield, Illinois, and I’m standing here, and it’s kind of amazing.” Melissa McCarthy is all of us, guys.
Merritt Wever, 2013, Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
No “get off the stage” music needed here. When Wever took home a trophy for her role on Nurse Jackie, her speech redefined the meaning of “short and sweet.” It was so quick, in fact, that the entire thing fits here: “Thanks so much. Thank you so much! Um, I’ve got to go. Bye.”
Aaron Paul, 2014, Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Move over, Kim Kardashian West — Paul’s 2014 acceptance speech quite literally did break the Internet. For his third (!) win for Breaking Bad, Paul knew how to play the game: a heartfelt thank you to “my friend,” Bryan Cranston, as well as thanks to all the cast and crew, plus a shout-out to his fellow nominees. He ended with plug for his wife’s non-profit, Kind Campaign, which caused such a frenzy that it ended up crashing the organization’s website.
Stephen Colbert, 2014, Variety Series
The Colbert Report‘s 2014 win for Outstanding Variety Series was all the sweeter knowing it was the show’s second-to-last season. However, Colbert wasn’t the one who was doling out thanks: fellow nominee Jimmy Fallon stole the microphone to hand out accolades of his own, making for a hilarious interruption.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 2012, 2013, 2014, Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
If you had to name a queen of the Emmys, the title could very well go to Louis-Dreyfus, who has been nominated 22 times, winning eight statues for three shows (Veep, The New Adventures of Old Christine and, of course, Seinfeld). Her appearances on the Emmys stage may be numerous, but the star still manages to keep things interesting each year:
At the 2012 awards, she “accidentally” started reading off of Amy Poehler’s speech notes, thanking NBC and the entire team over at Parks and Recreation. The “flub” was realized early on, and ended with Poehler rushing up to the stage to exchange notes. The speech only got more amusing when Louis-Dreyfus told the audience: “It’s a bit mystifying to me, because people say this show is a comedy, but I don’t see anything funny about me being vice president of the United States.”
In 2013, her Veep co-star Tony Hale joined her on stage — and in character — holding her clutch while she went on to thank everyone involved in the show except for him.
And in 2014, her acceptance stole the show before she even hit the stage, when Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston stopped her mid-walk with a kiss.
Viola Davis, 2015, Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Davis made history as the first African-American woman to win this award — for How to Get Away with Murder — and used her time to passionately appeal for more roles for women of color in Hollywood. “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” she said, acknowledging the work of fellow stars like Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington, who watched tearfully. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
Glenn Weiss, 2018, Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special
No one was going to call time on this one! When Weiss won for his work on the 90th Academy Awards, he mentioned his mother, who had died two weeks prior. “Mom always believed in finding the sunshine in things, and she adored my girlfriend Jan,” he said of his girlfriend and date for the night, Jan Svendsen. “Jan, you are the sunshine in my life, and mom was right, don’t ever let go of your sunshine. You wonder why I don’t like to call you my girlfriend — because I want to call you my wife.” Svendsen hit the stage, the crowd went crazy, and Weiss formally got down on one knee, proposing with the ring his father had given his mother 67 years before.
The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards are airing live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles starting at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.