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'It's deeply frustrating': Emmys producers react to Seth Rogen's COVID protocol jokes at show

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If the Emmys were designed to transport viewers from the pandemic for a few carefree hours, Seth Rogen wasn't playing along.

The comedic writer and actor, making the night's first awards presentation, questioned whether an event that touted its COVID-19 protocols was living up to its promises.

Before presenting the award for best supporting actress in a comedy series to winner and "Ted Lasso" star Hannah Waddingham, Rogen offered up some jokes, but they sounded more like a complaint.

"They said this was outdoors. It's not. They lied to us. We're in a hermetically sealed tent right now. I would not have come to this," Rogen deadpanned to the audience gathered in what Emmys organizers described as "a fully air-conditioned tent (that) will allow for more socially-distanced audience seating."

He took issue with the guest spacing – "There is way too many of us in this little room" – but he saved his biggest complaint for the tent's ceiling.

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"It's more important that we have three chandeliers than that we make sure we don't kill Eugene Levy tonight. That is what has been decided," he cracked, clearly disagreeing with the decision on the Emmy structure.

Emmys producers are still fuming over Seth Rogen's remarks

On Tuesday, Variety published an interview with Emmy telecast producers Ian Stewart and Reginald Hudlin, who are still upset Rogen took the shots.

“We have worked for months and months to make that a safe space,” Stewart told the publication. “We’ve worked with all the health authorities. We were signed off by LA County, we came up with a plan with them. Those tables were distanced. Everyone was vaccinated. Everyone was negative tested in that audience. And also he had rehearsed. So he knew exactly what it was. So, I just felt it was an unfortunate misdirect from him. Because it wasn’t just our decision. This is the health authorities’ decision as well, to say that it’s a completely safe environment if you do all those things.”

USA TODAY has reached out to Rogen's reps for comment.

On the night of the show, Emmys host Cedric the Entertainer and awards show DJ Reggie Watts offered quick pushback following Rogen's remarks.

Before going to commercial break, Watts, who is the bandleader on "The Late Late Show With James Corden," said that "despite what Seth might have said, we're going to celebrate and party, but while we're doing that we're absolutely following all the health and safety guidelines that some really smart people asked us to do to keep us safe from COVID."

Seth Rogen stops on the red carpet before presenting at Sundays 73rd Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.
Seth Rogen stops on the red carpet before presenting at Sundays 73rd Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.

If that wasn't enough, Cedric the Entertainer underlined the sentiment in his opening monologue:

"It actually feels amazing in here unlike what Seth (Rogen) was talking about. It feels good. We’re all vaxxed. We had to get vaxxed to come here. I got vaxxed. I did not have a reaction like Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend. I got Pfizer because I’m bougie. Pfizer is the Neiman Marcus of vaccines. Moderna, that’s Macy’s. Johnson & Johnson, that’s TJ Maxx," he said.

Speaking to Variety Tuesday, Stewart said Rogen's remarks “made three months of very hard work and many, many discussions to get it absolutely right feel a little bit wasted, really. And then we just sort of played catch up. Because we wanted the audience to know how safe it was in there. We work in this industry, we’re desperately aware of COVID. I’ve done 50 productions nearly in COVID and not have people get sick. So, it’s deeply frustrating.”

Los Angeles County's Emmy protocols

Los Angeles County, where the event took place, has a mask mandate for all indoor public gatherings, regardless of attendees' vaccination status. But, in a statement to USA TODAY on Monday, the county's Department of Public Health said "exceptions are made for film, television, and music productions."

The department added that additional precautions for the Emmys included requiring attendees to test negative for COVID-19 48 hours before the show and requiring crew members to be either fully vaccinated or undergo twice weekly COVID-19 testing.

"The Emmys reached out to Public Health in advance to share their safety protocols, which exceeded the baseline requirements for television and film productions," the department said.

But the Emmys' set-up still sparked ire on Twitter, where users called out the lack of masks as another case of celebrities not being held to the same standards as the general public.

"I guess Covid and social distancing doesn't apply to Hollywood?" asked @ultrapurwater.

"Ok so no one at the Emmys wore a mask but we are expected to wear a mask even if we are vaccinated," wrote @ChanceTyColeman. "I guess the rules don't apply to politicians and rich people"

"And the #Emmy for proving that mask mandates are finally being properly enforced by income not public health goes to…" wrote @Hegedusinthe216.

According to Emmys organizers, tables were set at least 6 feet apart to meet COVID protocols and the audience was smaller than initially planned. The audience featured only nominees, who were each able to bring one guest.

Some winners made reference to limited attendees onstage.

"I should start off by saying this is not everyone who writes on the show. We were only allowed a small number to come," noted Chrissy Shackelford, accepting the prize for best writing for a variety show for HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver."

"The show sent the hottest writers, which I understand is kind of an oxymoron."

More seriously, Debbie Allen, whose brilliant career was celebrated via the Governors Award, acknowledged the precarious position of children vs. COVID-19 in an inspirational speech that sought to empower women and protecting the health of the next generation.

Part of her message was delivered to " young people who have no vote and who can’t even get a vaccine. They are inheriting the world that we live (in), that we leave them. It is time for you to claim your power, claim your voice, say your song, tell your stories. It will make us a better place."

Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Charles Trepany

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Seth Rogen's Emmys jab over COVID protocols still bothers producers

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