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Amid Emmy laughter, a tribute to victims

Gary Gentile Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – It was a delicate dance for Ellen DeGeneres, cracking jokes as host of Sunday’s Emmy Awards as her hometown of New Orleans struggles back from Hurricane Katrina.

But DeGeneres said she was honored to emcee the ceremony after a tragedy for the second time, having hosted a delayed and subdued version after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

“It’s times like this that we really need laughter,” she said.

“And be sure to look for me next month when I host the North Korean People’s Choice Awards.”

The Emmy show’s producers didn’t hold back the humor, even letting Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart poke fun (with two obscured middle fingers) at the tape delay that guarded against any unscripted offensiveness.

In a more serious moment, Tyler James Williams, star of Chris Rock’s upcoming series “Everybody Hates Chris,” delivered a plea for donations to Habitat for Humanity. He was accompanied by his “new friend,” Charles Evans, a boy from New Orleans whom viewers may have seen in news clips asking, “What is going on here?”

Mostly, though, participants recognized the tragedy subtly, wearing magnolias – the state flower of Louisiana and Mississippi – on their lapels.

Entertainment industry support for the relief effort has been more than symbolic, with the TV networks holding a series of fund-raising telethons and sending millions of dollars to a region that has been luring TV and film production in recent years. Production was disrupted in New Orleans, but filming has continued elsewhere in Louisiana.

Director Stephen Hopkins, who won an Emmy for “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” has been there filming “The Reaping” with Hilary Swank.

“I came from there yesterday and I’m going back there to shoot tomorrow and it’s quite an inspiring place to see so much selflessness and see people really putting themselves on the line to help,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Doris Roberts, an Emmy winner for “Everybody Loves Raymond,” said she will travel next weekend to Mississippi for a benefit. “We all should do it,” she said.

Blythe Danner, picking up the Emmy for supporting actress in a drama for Showtime’s “Huff,” turned a Katrina reference into a political statement.

“I know Bruce (her late husband, Bruce Paltrow) would want me to pay tribute to New Orleans, his favorite city, and all the Gulf Coast and our kids in Iraq. Let’s get the heck out of there,” she said.

Amid the glamour of red carpet arrivals, TV personalities took time to express their support and hope for those who endured the storm and its aftermath.

“At some point, suffering will alleviate and joy will be restored,” said best comedy actress nominee Marcia Cross of “Desperate Housewives.”

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