How Conan O'Brien Stole the Spotlight at 2021 Emmy Awards

Conan O'Brien didn't get an award at the 2021 Primetime Emmys, but he did win the attention of the internet after his performance at the ceremony.

O'Brien, currently a former talk show host after his TBS show Conan came to an end on June 24, 2021, became a trending topic with his shenanigans at the event.

He was nominated for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, lost out in the category, but ultimately still found himself onstage to accept an award. Here's the reason Conan went viral online after the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards.

What Did Conan Do at the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards?

O'Brien was at the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards as a nominee in one category—Outstanding Variety Talk Series, but his TBS show Conan ultimately lost out to Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.

He appeared unfazed by his loss, but he still managed to steal the show.

O'Brien started the evening in loud fashion when the chairman and CEO of the Television Academy Frank Scherma walked on stage. As Scherma tried to start his speech after the polite applause had died down, O'Brien could be heard from the back of the room encouraging everyone to stand again, which prompted a standing ovation for Scherma. Throughout the entirety of the short speech, O'Brien was filmed respectfully standing and saluting.

Although he didn't win in his category, O'Brien did make it onstage during an acceptance speech thanks to Stephen Colbert.

Colbert and his team won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special (Live) and despite having nothing to do with it, O'Brien was one of the first to arrive on stage to celebrate the win. With most of the team from Stephen Colbert's Election Night 2020 gathered on stage watching on as Colbert gave the acceptance speech, O'Brien beamed along with them with his arm around the presenter of the award, Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live).

Colbert quipped after noticing O'Brien on stage with the team: "Wow. I haven't met some of these people before," gesturing to his team behind him. He also said: "All of the people behind me -- most of the people behind me really deserve this Emmy."

In the winner's room interview afterwards, Colbert confirmed that it was his idea for O'Brien to join them on stage. He added: "We love Conan. We're honored to be super fans of Conan O'Brien."

John Oliver, who won the Emmy that O'Brien was nominated for and thanked him for his contribution to comedy during his speech. O'Brien looked on with glee, but his face comically dropped when Oliver moved on from him.

Oliver also mourned the loss of Norm MacDonald and encouraged people to go watch clips of Norm and Conan together.

How Did Social Media React to Conan O'Brien at the Emmys?

Many people were impressed with O'Brien's antics at the 2021 Primetime Emmys, most notably for his reaction to the arrival of the CEO of the Television Academy.

Vulture writer Anne Victoria Clark said Conan was the best part of the show and he didn't even have to get on stage. Many others loved the image of O'Brien saluting Scherma, while comedian Wanda Sykes said: "Conan is giving no F's tonight!"

Conan is the best part of this show and he hasn't even been on stage. pic.twitter.com/jZfEFo6C5f

— av clark (@annevclark) September 20, 2021

At least give Conan an award for this #Emmys pic.twitter.com/qhEKRnDis9

— Ringer Dish (@RingerDish) September 20, 2021

here's a cutout of @ConanOBrien saluting, have at it pic.twitter.com/oXBcf2hFXt

— Mark (@tole_cover) September 20, 2021

Conan is giving no F’s tonight!😂

— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) September 20, 2021

His arrival onto the stage with Colbert and his team was quickly turned into a gif, as O'Brien's recognizable frame came bundling out of the audience.

Conan is on the stage #Emmys pic.twitter.com/lQR0RfA20u

— Vulture (@vulture) September 20, 2021

The Late Show Twitter account made sure to capture the moment writing: "A moment we'll never forget" including images that clearly include O'Brien in the background.

A moment we’ll never forget. Thank you @TelevisionAcad! #Emmys pic.twitter.com/e39dNRtQHT

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) September 20, 2021

Congratulations to CBS’ own @StephenAtHome and the very tall redhead behind him on stage! 🎉 🥲 pic.twitter.com/ksXwhfsnRj

— CBS (@CBS) September 20, 2021
Conan O'Brien
Conan O'Brien on the red carpet of last night's Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles before he grabbed attention inside. Rich Fury/Getty Images