It's always a little disconcerting -- and even irritating -- when stars at awards shows, dripping in Chopard jewelry and self-regard, try to banter about current events. But there is at least one reassuring point to it: if television actors feel free to make light of dark events then things must not yet be that bad. It's when comedians stay silent that you know things are really dire -- think of the frothy escapist Busby Berkeley musicals and screwball comedies that distracted audiences during the Great Depression.
By that standard, then, Sunday night's 60th Primetime Emmy Awards were not all that reassuring. The funniest stars there -- Stephen Colbert, Ricky Gervais and Steve Martin -- were very funny but didn't make any jokes about the looming financial crisis. Even Alec Baldwin, not known for restraint, held back. Tina Fey did, though, thank NBC for sticking with her show despite "the turkey burger economy."
It was the unamusing Howie Mandel, the host of the NBC game show "Deal or No Deal," who took it head on.
He and his four fellow reality-show M.C.'s opened the show by telling the audience they had no prepared material. "It's like we are on Sarah Palin's Bridge to Nowhere," Mr. Mandel mugged. The audience laughed less when Mr. Mandel went on to the Treasury Department's $700 billion bail-out proposal -- the ultimate "Deal or No Deal" -- saying, "The government can't even bail us out of this."