Like most viewers during Sunday's Tony Awards, I haven't seen any of that night's nominated musicals or plays, don't plan to in the near future, and tuned in to watch for one very obvious reason. It's no secret that 'Hamilton' is the biggest and best thing to happen to Broadway theater maybe ever. Commercially successful, groundbreaking, artistically brilliant, and just downright catchy as hell, 'Hamilton' and its soundtrack have transcended musical theater in a way that maybe nothing else has or likely ever will again.
I haven't been alone in predicting for months that 'Hamilton' creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is bound to win the EGOT at some point in his career. This will happen, and likely sooner than later. For the uninitiated (or those who never watched '30 Rock'), EGOT is the distinction bestowed on the very small group of people who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Lin-Manuel is just an Oscar away from this feat, and if he achieves it at next year's Oscars, which is possible, he'll be the youngest person to do so. He would also join the even more exclusive PEGOT (EGOT plus Pulitzer) club if he wins the Oscar at any point in his career.
If you've got an internet connection or have been exposed to any popular culture in the past year, this is probably not a surprise to you. Everyone, from the President of the United States, to Dick Cheney, the Commissioner of the NFL, late night talk show hosts and anybody with Spotify, have raved about Miranda and his achievement. One thing about the Tony's was surprising, though - for somebody who isn't a Broadway nerd, I sure did recognize a lot of the nominees.
It seemed like lots of people were dipping their toes into the EGOT waters, if you asked me.
Let me remind you, EGOT is an exclusive club. Only twelve people have won it. And only two have won the PEGOT. Honestly, winning just one of these awards would be a career-making achievement for the average artist or industry person. And yet, I couldn't help but wonder if the numerous "Hollywood" actors I saw in the audience on Sunday were doing Broadway not just for their love of acting or theater, but because they would very much like to join the exclusive club themselves.
Of the nominees in all categories, there were several award-winning names that jumped out at me. These included Lupita Nyong'o (Oscar winner), Steve Martin (honorary Oscar, Grammy, Emmy), Julian Fellowes (Oscar), Andrew Lloyd Webber (Oscar, Grammy, Tony), Scott Rudin (EGOT), Jeff Daniels (Emmy), Jessica Lange (Oscar, Emmy, Tony), Laurie Metcalf (Emmy), Sophie Okonedo (Tony), and Jane Krakowski (Tony). This is not to mention actors and actresses who have been nominated several times and not won, like Michael Shannon and Michelle Williams. In other words, this year's Tony's were a murderer's row of talent.
Look, art is supposed to be subjective. We've all been told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that art should exist for the sake of itself. Art is not a sport - winners and losers are objectively determined in sports (the Olympics notwithstanding). And yet, the entertainment industry, including film, music, TV and theater, is a very vain industry. We prize the beautiful over the ugly, and we usually like winners over losers. Which is why I wondered if maybe, all this talk about loving the work and just enjoying the feeling of being on stage or behind a camera is really just code for saying the right thing to win that trophy. Maybe everybody's playing the game, and winning actually does matter to even the purest of artists.
Now, I'm not suggesting the conspiracy theory that all artists are just money- and fame-hungry egos who don't care about their craft - of course that's not completely true. But I can tell you that thinking about awards shows in terms of the EGOT makes them a lot more fun, and I'm way more likely to watch the Tony's than before. Whether it's the way of the world or just an observer's pessimism, I like keeping some sort of score. It helps things make sense to me.
I'm a guy who grew up loving sports. I'd played fantasy football for over a decade and there was never a season where one sport or another didn't catch my attention. Recently, whether it's me just growing older, the moral ambiguity of many of our professional sports leagues, lack of time, or a combination of these, I've stopped caring as much about most teams and leagues. I don't necessarily miss it, but it does sometimes feel like there's a small void to be filled. If keeping track of who has three of the four EGOT awards and who is coming up in the proverbial EGOT farm system is how I fill that void, then I think that's okay.
I still love catching the NCAA tourney, but instead of intensely monitoring the NFL every Sunday, I think I'll watch more Oscar nominees, or try to see some more live theater. I expect there will be more deserving EGOT-caliber artists in the future, and I certainly can't wait for Lin-Manuel Miranda's acceptance speech/rap at the next Oscars. Let's just hope he finds a way to bring Daveed and Leslie with him.