As host of the 2021 Emmy Awards, actor and stand-up comedian Cedric the Entertainer kicked off Sunday’s event by leading the audience in a cover of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” with the chorus, “TV, you’ve got what I need.”
Markie, who was dubbed the “clown prince of hip-hop,” died in July this year, at the age of 57. The performance was a lively tribute to the legendary rapper. “RIP Biz Markie,” Cedric the Entertainer said at the end of the number, which included participation from LL Cool J, Rita Wilson and many others.
The lyrics included phrases like “sick of the quarantining” as audience members were shown dancing and singing along.
The comic shared that he wanted to host the show for a personal reason. “It gives me a chance to thank TV for all it has meant to me.” He said that his favorite TV memory is sitting with his grandmother, watching shows together.
“It’s the Emmys people!” said the 57-year-old comic, whose real name is Cedric Kyles, before introducing Reggie Watts who was DJ for the evening.
In his host monologue, which occurred after a few awards had been announced, Cedric the Entertainer declared, “It feels good, we’re all vaxxed.” Noting how everyone looked great, he said: “Lock the doors, we’re not leaving ’til we find a new host for Jeopardy!“
“It’s a celebration here tonight,” he continued. “What I like about this awards show is everyone is dressed like regular rich folks.” He later quipped, “Billy Porter, y’all know he’s gonna come with it.”
Striking a serious note, Cedric the Entertainer said: “This is a big job, it comes with a lot of pressure, being Black, hosting a job like this.” He noted that a lot of Black people are nominated, going on to shout out Anthony Anderson, in particular.
He mentioned The Crown, which is nominated multiple times. “As great as The Crown is, it pales in comparison to the real monarchy,” he joked.
Cedric the Entertainer is known to many for co-starring in The Steve Harvey Show and has appeared in numerous films from Barbershop to Johnson Family Vacation and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. He is currently starring in CBS sitcom The Neighborhood.
The Emmy opener continued into the main program, in which Netflix’s The Crown and Disney+’s The Mandalorian lead the night’s nominees with 24 nods each.
The event was broadcast live on CBS and Paramount+, and included for the first time an ADA-compliant ramp designed for disabled members of the entertainment industry to access the Emmys stage.
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.