On Oscar night, Best Original Song nominee and Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda will have the opportunity to achieve the coveted status known as EGOT: winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. Only 12 artists since the 1970s have received all four awards (not counting the recipients of honorary or lifetime-achievement awards — sorry, Barbra Streisand!), so it’s a pretty big deal. But when did it start being a big deal? The term EGOT is actually quite a recent invention, brought into common use by a 2009 episode of 30 Rock. A fascinating new article in the Atlantic traces the invention and rise of the acronym, including its surprising originator: a Miami Vice star.
According to the article, actor Philip Michael Thomas introduced the concept of EGOT in a 1984 interview with the Associated Press, explaining that his goal was to win all four awards “in the next five years.” He would end up winning none of them, but as a sign of his commitment, he had the letters EGOT made into a small gold pendant. A year later, he backtracked on the meaning of those letters (“It means Energy, Growth, Opportunity, and Talent,” he told the Miami Herald). But it was his original vision that made it into the 30 Rock episode “Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001,” in which the show-within-a-show’s star Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) acquires Thomas’s old necklace at a jewelry store. “That’s a good goal for a talented crazy person,” Jordan says, immediately deciding that he needs an EGOT of his own. Of course, the actual necklace was nothing like the garish, diamond-encrusted one from the show — but the name stuck, and it has been openly adopted as a goal by everyone from Cyndi Lauper to Helen Mirren. For more EGOT history, read the whole Atlantic article here.
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And then watch a classic Philip Michael Thomas music video: