Variety Special race filled with Emmy faves: Kennedy Center, Betty White, Mel Brooks, Kathy Griffin, Tony Bennett

What happens when past Emmy favorites like Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks, Dick Cavett, Kathy Griffin, Betty White, and “Kennedy Center Honors” all contend for the same prize? We will find out at the creative arts ceremony on September 15 as they are all in contention for Best Variety Special this year.


For the past three years, the CBS post-Christmas program “Kennedy Center Honors” has claimed  this category. The 2011 annual celebration of the arts honored the careers of Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma, Sonny Rollins, and Meryl Streep. Since it began in 1978, this cultural showcase has won the top prize five other times.

NBC celebrated the life and career of White in the January special “Betty White’s 90th Birthday“. Edward Asner, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Amy Poehler and White’s “Hot in Cleveland” co-stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick were just a few of the celebrities on hand for the party. While White has won five prime-time Emmys and is nominated as Best Reality Host this year, she is not one of the nominated producers on this special.

Griffin picked up her ninth nomination for “Kathy Griffin: Tired Hooker.” Bravo aired the comedy special in December, taped from an Atlantic City concert by the two-time Emmy winner.

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Cavett has chatted with Brooks on his various talkers over the years. HBO reunited them for “Mel Brooks and Dick Cavett: Together Again” airing last September. They discussed much of Brooks’ EGOT career, which has included an Oscar, three Grammys, three Tonys, and four Emmys. Cavett won two Emmys for his ABC late night talk show (1972, 1974). 

Bennett is a two-time Emmy champ whose program “An American Classic” won this category in 2007. PBS aired the January special “Tony Bennett: Duets II” with performances by Michael Buble, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Faith Hill, Norah Jones, Queen Latifah, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, and Carrie Underwood.  

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