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23 Things You Didn't Know About the Emmys

From how much they cost to who they're modeled after.

The Emmys have been honoring the biggest shows and stars on television for more than seven decades now, so there is quite a bit of history surrounding the small screen's star-studded night. From the surprising win for an NFL mainstay to how much it costs to even be considered for an Emmy, we've rounded up some of the most shocking facts about the biggest event in television.

Jackie Kennedy is the only first lady to ever win an Emmy.

Portrait of Jackie Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with hand on chin, leaning on couch Emmys facts
GL Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is the only first lady to have ever won an Emmy, even though it was the honorary Trustees Award. The fashion icon snagged a statuette in 1962 thanks to the CBS Tour of the White House special she did with Charles Collingwood that same year. At the ceremony, Lady Bird Johnson—wife of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson—accepted the award on her behalf.

That digital yellow line used in football games has won an Emmy.

Football Stadium Emmys Facts

It's not just your favorite stars and television shows that take home Emmys. Sometimes a technical achievement wins a trophy as well, like the yellow line shown during NFL games—officially named the 1st & Ten line. It was created by technology company Sportvision in conjunction with ESPN in the late '90s; together, the two companies took home an Emmy for their innovation.

The award was originally named "Immy."


When Academy of Television Arts & Sciences founder Syd Cassyd decided to host an award show in the late 1940s, he needed to come up with a name for it. His first suggestion was the "Ike," short for the iconoscope, an old-fashioned video camera tube. However, given the fact that this was also the nickname of war hero and future president Dwight D. Eisenhower, they decided to go with a less recognizable name.

That's when Harry Lubcke, a television engineer and future Television Academy president, came up with "Immy," short for the early image orthicon camera. This new name stuck for a while, but eventually the I was changed to an E once the statuette was modeled after a woman. (More on that next!)

An actual woman served as the model for the Emmy statue.

Emmy Statues

Next, the Television Academy needed a trophy to hand out to the winners. Louis McManus—a TV engineer, film editor, and designer—was one of the 48 people who submitted a proposal for what the statuette should look like. In 1948, his design, modeled after his wife Dorothy, was chosen.

As a result of his efforts, McManus was was awarded a special Emmy during the inaugural ceremony.

The Emmy statue design has a hidden meaning.

Black hand holding Emmy statue

The Emmy statuette depicts a winged woman holding an atom, which is a "symbol of the Television Academy's goal of supporting and uplifting the arts and science of television," the official Emmys site reads. "The wings represent the muse of art; the atom, the electron of science."

The first Emmy ever awarded went to a ventriloquist.

Creepy puppet of a ventriloquist Emmys Facts

The first person to ever receive an Emmy award was then-22-year-old performer Shirley Dinsdale, a ventriloquist behind the title dummy on the children's series The Judy Splinters Show. At the inaugural Emmys in 1949, she was given the award for Most Outstanding Television Personality. At the time, the category wasn't gendered, so her fellow nominees included Rita LeRoy, Patricia Morrison, Mike Stokey, and Bill Welsh.

The first TV program to ever win an Emmy was a game show.

Pantomime Quiz Television Show
Image via YouTube/Mike Stokey Productions

At the 1949 Emmys, the inaugural award for Most Popular Television Program was given to a game show called Pantomime Quiz Time. The show, which was hosted by the aforementioned Mike Stokey, ran from 1947 until 1959 and was later renamed Stump the Stars. Other shows nominated alongside Pantomime Quiz Time included Dinsdale's The Judy Splinters Show, Armchair Detective, Don Lee Music Hall, Felix De Cola Show, Mabel's Fables, Masked Spooner, Treasure of Literature, Tuesday Varieties, and What's the Name of that Song

And there were only six trophies handed out at the first Emmys.

Emmy trophy

Though we're used to watching Emmys ceremonies that threaten to run beyond their three-hour time slots, the very first Emmys likely lasted only a fraction of that time seeing as there were only six awards total (Most Popular Television Program, Best Film Made for Television, Most Outstanding Television Personality, a Station Award, a Special Award, and a Technical Award). Inaugural host Walter O'Keefe must have had quite an easy job that night at the Hollywood Athletic Club.

You have to pay to be considered for an Emmy.

Checkbook Signature Check obsolete home items

Those coveted trophies don't come cheap. According to the Los Angeles Times, entering the Emmys race can cost anywhere between $200 and $800, depending on the size of the team vying for the award.

"It is big business and it's odd to think that Hollywood would spend more than $30 million a year to win a fake gold statuette that costs $400 to manufacture," Tom O'Neil, editor of the entertainment awards site Gold Derby, told The Daily Beast. "But it's a place in the history books, the approval of your peers. It's a pat on the back they crave." Value is in the eye of the beholder!

The statues aren't made of real gold.

Man welding in his shop Emmys Facts

If you think that each and every Emmy award is pounds of pure gold, you're sorely mistaken. The winged woman is actually made of copper, nickel, silver, and gold, with a total weight of six pounds, 12 ounces.

And, as you might expect, it takes some time to craft this beauty. How long, you ask? According to the Emmys themselves, each trophy "takes five-and-one-half hours to make and is handled with white gloves to prevent fingerprints."

There are two names inscribed on every trophy.

Sarah Paulson and Maria Clark at the Emmys

Ever wonder what is actually written on an Emmy trophy? The name of the winning actor or actress is inscribed on the statuette, of course, as well as the name of the character they played.

This Emmys fact came to light in 2016 when Sarah Paulson won for playing prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story and the two women famously watched together as the Emmy was engraved with their names. "It was an amazing night," Clark said of the unique occasion. "I'm so glad I could share it with [Paulson]."

You don't even need 15 percent of the vote to win an Emmy.

Person submitting their vote in a ballot box Emmys Facts

Prior to 2016, Emmy winners were determined by a preferential ballot in which voters ranked the nominees (with 1 being the highest), according to Joyce Eng of TV Guide. Therefore, the person or show with the lowest score won, like in golf. "Now, voters will just mark their top choice and the person/show with the most votes wins," Eng explained. "This plurality system means that in a seven-nominee race, you can win with a little over 14 percent of the vote. Not exactly a runaway majority."

There is no limit on the number of nominees in acting categories.

Peter Dinklage
Shutterstock/Featureflash Photo

You may be wondering why the number of nominees in acting categories isn't always consistent. Well, as Liz Raftery of TV Guide explained, "each of the acting categories has had six nominees as a standard; however, additional nominees are permitted if the actor or actress receives within 2 percent of the vote of the lowest vote-getter of those six nominees. And there's no cap to that rule."

Angela Lansbury holds the Emmys record for most nominations without a win.

Angela Lansbury at the Emmy Awards

While Angela Lansbury has garnered 17 total Emmy nominations so far, the Murder, She Wrote star has exactly zero actual Emmys to her name. However, she does currently hold two Emmys records: To date, she has the most Emmy nominations in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category—12 in total, one for each season of Murder, She Wrote—and she is currently the most nominated star to never take an Emmy home. Somebody get this woman an Emmy!

Kelsey Grammer is the only performer who's been nominated for the same role on three different TV shows.

LOS ANGELES - July 27: Kelsey Grammer at "The Last Tycoon" Premiere at the Harmony Gold Theater on July 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, CA - Image

To date, Kelsey Grammer is the only actor who has ever been nominated for Emmys for playing the same role on three separate television shows. He was nominated for two Emmys for his performance as Frasier Crane on Cheers in 1988 and 1990; in 1992, he was nominated for portraying Frasier on Wings; and every year from 1994 through 2004 (save for '03), he was nominated for playing the character on his eponymous NBC show. Out of all his nominations, Grammer has won four times for his famous portrayal of Crane the Brain.

The youngest-ever Emmy winner was just 14 years old.

Roxana Zal in Something About Amelia, youngest Emmy winner ever
ABC via YouTube

Roxana Zal is the youngest Emmy winner in history. In 1984, the 14-year-old actress won in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special category for her performance in Something About Amelia. The ABC made-for-TV movie, which also starred Ted Danson and Glenn Close, saw Zal play a psychologically traumatized teen who'd been molested by her father.

And the oldest winner was 88 years old.

funniest facts

Not only has Betty White won five Emmys—most of which are for her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls—but she also holds the record for being the oldest Emmy winner ever. In 2010, the icon won a statuette for her hosting duties on Saturday Night Live at the age of 88. What a living legend!

The record for most Emmys won by a performer is a tie.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

When it comes to the person—or, in this case, persons—who have dominated the Emmys, it's all about the ladies. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Cloris Leachman currently have eight individual awards each, the most of any performers in television history.

However, this tie might only be temporary. If Louis-Dreyfus wins at the 2019 Emmys—she is nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category for Veep—she will surpass Leachman and become the solo holder of this record. One could argue, however, that Louis-Dreyfus has already earned this title over Leachman: Not only does she have 26 nominations compared to Leachman's 22, but she's won three additional Emmys for executive producing Veep.

The male performer with the most Emmys is only one award behind the ladies.

Ed Asner at the 1976 Emmy Awards
MediaPunch Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Currently, Ed Asner stands alone as the most Emmy-winning male performer, trailing just behind Leachman and Louis-Dreyfus with seven trophies. Asner famously won three awards for The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1971, 1972, and 1975, and two more for his character's own spin-off show, Lou Grant, in 1978 and 1980. In addition, he also won for his performances in Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976 and in the epic miniseries Roots in 1977.

The TV show with the most wins is Saturday Night Live.

Justin Timberlake at the Emmy Awards

Everyone loves a show that makes them laugh—and no TV series has been doing that longer than Saturday Night Live, which is why it's the most awarded series in Emmys history. To date, the Lorne Michaels-created sketch comedy series has amassed a staggering 62 wins in its nearly 45 years on television, according to the official Emmys website. At the 2019 ceremony alone, SNL is nominated for 18 awards.

Only four shows have ever won in one specific reality TV category.

Rupaul Funniest Reality TV Catchphrases

In the 16 years since the category was created, only four reality shows have won the Emmy for Outstanding Competition Program: The Amazing Race, The Voice, Top Chef, and RuPaul's Drag Race. The Amazing Race leads the pack in wins with a total of 10, while The Voice is whistling a tune behind it with four Emmys. Top Chef stirred things up with a win in 2010 and in 2018, RuPaul's Drag Race sashayed and shanted its way to a trophy of its own.

There's a whole other Emmys you don't get to see.

An empty red carpet Emmys Facts

You're probably most familiar with the Emmy Awards you watch on a given Sunday night in September—the ones that are preceded by a red carpet and honor lead and supporting actors and actresses, as well as TV's top comedies and dramas. But did you know that there's a whole other award show you don't see that takes place the weekend prior? They're called the Creative Arts Emmys and they recognize some of the more technical jobs—like production design, set decoration, and video editing—as well as animated programming, commercials, and guest actors/actresses. There's one of these award ceremonies for both the Primetime and Daytime Emmys.

It would take nearly 16 days to binge watch all of the 2019 nominated shows.

Woman Staying Up Late Watching TV

When The Wrap crunched the numbers on all available seasons of the shows nominated in 2019 in the comedy, drama, and limited series categories, they determined that it would take 15 days and 15.5 hours to get through all of that programming. So, if you plan on watching all of these series before the 2019 Emmys on September 22nd, you better get started ASAP! And for more shows worth binging, check out The Best Netflix Shows You're Not Watching.

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