Acceptance speeches are hard. You want to be natural, funny, appreciative, profound, and thank all the VIPs in your life in a brisk 45 seconds. It's high-stakes pressure and not everyone is equipped for this. There's no right way or wrong way to deliver an acceptance speech, but there are definitely ways to leave your mark. If anyone of this weekend Emmy nominees need some inspiration, they can look to these on-point speeches from ceremonies of yesteryear.
1. Meryl Streep (2004)
Streep's acceptance speeches are works of art. I mean, she's given a bazillion of them, so she's had a lot of practice. But she manages to make every single one memorable and distinctly Meryl: witty, self-aware, grateful, polished and spontaneous. When she picked up her second career Emmy in 2004 for Angels in America, she opened with this charmingly killer delivery, "You know there are some days when I myself think I'm overrated... but not today." Your fave could never.
2. Viola Davis (2015)
Streep and Davis are not only besties and acting goddesses, but they're both speech queens. Davis' speeches are life-affirming moments. And nothing made us want to bow down more than last year, when the How to Get Away with Murder star became the first African-American actress to win the drama lead actress Emmy. Addressing Hollywood's diversity problem, Davis opened with a quote from Harriet Tubman and then delivered this salvo: "The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity."
3. Alan Alda (1979)
The speech itself was great, but Alda ensured he went down in the awards show annals by doing a cartwheel en route to the stage after winning comedy writing for the M*A*S*H episode "Inga." "The reason I was so exuberant a second ago is because it has been many years since I've been trying to be good at being a writer," he said. Alda remains the only person to have won acting, directing and writing Emmys for the same show.
4. Steve Carell and Ricky Gervais (2007, 2008)
Gervais wasn't there to accept his surprise comedy lead actor win for Extras in 2007, so presenters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert did the next best thing. "Ricky Gervais couldn't be here tonight, so instead we're going to give this to our friend Steve Carell," Stewart said, as our stateside Office boss bounded the stage for an over-the-top group hug. Gervais got his revenge the following year, when he demanded his Emmy back from a straight-faced Carell. These clips hurt more every passing year when you remember that Carell is still Emmy-less.
5. John Travolta (1977)
If Travolta wins either of his two nominations this year — limited series and TV movie/limited series supporting actor for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story — it wouldn't be his first time going up to the Emmy stage. But it would be his first time accepting for himself. In 1977, the actor brought everyone to tears when he accepted a posthumous Emmy for his girlfriend and The Boy in the Plastic Bubble co-star Diana Hyland, who had died six months earlier. "Wherever you are, Diana, I love you," he said. "You did it, baby."
6. Kirstie Alley (1991)
Remember the quaint days when publicly talking about sex was taboo? Alley sent everyone into a tizzy when she accepted her first and only Emmy for Cheers, which was arguably a, um, long time coming. After remarking that she didn't have to wait as long as co-star Ted Danson — who had finally won the year before after seven previous nods — for an Emmy, Alley thanked her then-husband Parker Stevenson for "being the man who has always given me the big one for the last eight years." The Big O then became a big running joke, with Burt Reynolds later thanking his then-wife Loni Anderson for giving him "two big ones." (And yes, that's Macaulay Culkin, at peak Home Alone frenzy, presenting to Alley.)
7. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (2012)
JLD's awards show gags all started here, when she picked up her first of four straight Emmys for Veep. She whips out a piece of paper and you're thinking, "Ugh, no, Julia, you're better than this." But then you're like, "Wait, what?!" when she opens her mouth. "I want to thank NBC, Parks and Rec, my beautiful boys Archie and Abel... Um..." Cut to Amy Poehler in the audience with her own piece of paper. Yup, they "accidentally" swapped speeches. This is the only time written speeches are acceptable.
8. Rue McClanahan (1987)
All four of The Golden Girls stars won Emmys — the show is one of three, along with All in the Family and Will & Grace, whose main cast all won Emmys — and we'd hate to pick favorites, but McClanahan's speech is flawless. It's classy and sweet, as she recalls her 27-year journey to get to that stage. And it contains this cutting gem that would make Blanche Devereaux proud: "My agents told me I'd never work on TV, that I wasn't photogenic. My mother told me life was a lot of kicks and a lot of boosts. I won't mention who gave the kicks, but you know who you are — and you'll be in the book."
9. Merritt Wever (2013)
No one was more surprised by Wever's upset win for Nurse Jackie than the actress herself. Rather than stand there and try to string together her thoughts, Wever did the greatest thing ever and peaced out. It was the human form of #kthxbai.