Stephen Colbert Explains Conan O'Brien's Awkward Stage Crash at the Emmy Awards

Stephen Colbert's big win at Sunday's 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards became a meme-worthy moment, when Conan O'Brien joined him onstage without context or explanation.

Colbert was seen ascending to the stage at Los Angeles' L.A. Live to collect his Outstanding Live Variety Special trophy for Stephen Colbert's Election Night 2020: Democracy's Last Stand Building Back America Great Again Better 2020.

And the celebratory moment also became somewhat comedic, when former late-night host O'Brien strolled onto the stage with the crew behind the live broadcast of the presidential election—despite having no part in it.

O'Brien was seen hugging Colbert and triumphantly pumping his fists, before standing with members of the crew as the winning host made his speech.

"Wow, I haven't met some of these people before," Colbert stated, drawing laughs from the star-studded audience.

Colbert gestured to the sizable crew gathered behind him as he made another quip about O'Brien, saying: "These people behind me are absolutely... most of the people behind me really deserve this Emmy right now."

TV personality Colbert kept the jokes coming when he and the show's crew made their way backstage—this time without O'Brien in tow.

"Conan would be here, but I had to fire him in the last five minutes," Colbert told Entertainment Tonight. "It was a budgetary thing.

"COVID has hit a lot of budgets really hard and we had to cut. They said cut by height. It's been an honor to work with him and I'm sure he'll find a gig someplace."

However, Colbert later conceded to the outlet that O'Brien didn't crash the stage at all, as he was invited up by his friend beforehand.

"I said: 'Why don't you come onstage with us if we win?' and he said: 'Really?' I said yeah and he went: 'OK, if you change your mind just let me know.' And he came up!" Colbert said. "We love Conan, and we're honored to be superfans."

Meanwhile, Colbert also revealed to Entertainment Tonight that his Emmy-winning turn almost didn't happen, as he had initially rejected the idea of covering the 2020 presidential election, as he had previously done in 2016.

"I said: 'No I do not! Do you remember what four years ago was like? I'm not sure my bone marrow can take another one of those,'" Colbert recalled. "So I forgot to thank the American people for making it a much better [election night] evening."

O'Brien drew laughs elsewhere in the show, when he loudly instructed the audience to give Frank Scherma, the chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, another standing ovation as he kicked off his speech.

After the audience obliged, O'Brien remained standing—and even saluted—as Scherma pressed on.

Comedian O'Brien was nominated in the Outstanding Variety Talk Series category for his recently wrapped TBS show Conan, but ultimately lost out to Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.

This year's Emmy Awards marked a return to celebrities gathering together for the show, after the COVID pandemic forced producers to stage the show virtually in 2020, with the winners giving speeches from their homes and other remote locations.

Hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, the glitzy awards ceremony included a number of memorable moments, including Rita Wilson rapping her way through a Biz Markie tribute at the top of the telecast.

Stephen Colbert and Conan O'Brien
(L-R) Stephen Colbert and Conan O'Brien attend the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. LIVE on September 19, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. O'Brien drew laughs when he unexpectedly joined Colbert onstage after he scooped an award for his live coverage of the 2020 presidential election. Rich Fury/Getty Images