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Ellen DeGeneres hasn't had much time to worry about emceeing The 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, which airs Sunday on CBS (8 p.m. live ET/tape-delayed PT).
In addition to signing on for the hosting duties at the annual TV extravaganza, DeGeneres kicked off the third season of her popular talk show just days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, her hometown. "It takes my mind off hosting the Emmys when natural disasters happen," she half jokes.
DeGeneres, 47, was the host of the show in 2001, when the Emmys were postponed for two months after 9/11.
The Katrina devastation, she says, has "a different vibe." The attacks on 9/11 left the country feeling "vulnerable. There was a feeling that this could happen to any of us, vs. this.
"I think a lot of people are horrified at what happened, the amount of people left homeless and jobless and with nothing -- and for me, it's especially close, it's my family and my home town," she says.
"But people are so removed from it. It's more of a compassion for that, but 9/11 was a whole different level of sadness and fear."
She says she'll "walk the line" between acknowledging the tragedy and joking with the crowd on Emmy night. The show is scheduled to open with music by the Black Eyed Peas and Earth, Wind & Fire; then she'll do a monologue. A tribute to Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw is planned.
And throughout the night there will be a spoof of American Idol called "Emmy Idol" featuring different stars singing TV show theme songs. "When you're trying to move on, what better way is there than William Shatner singing the theme song to Star Trek?" DeGeneres says.
Don't look for her to stand around stage much. "I love going into the audience, going backstage," she says. So she's got some stunts lined up? "I have a few tricks up my sleeve, which is why I can't wear a gown," she cracks.
Then, like a college student on exam day, she'll pull an all-nighter, going with her camera crew to Emmy parties and wrapping up the night by hosting a live show at 7 a.m. PT Monday. (Most stations will carry it live at 10 a.m. on the East Coast, tape-delayed in the West.)
"I'm so nervous about it," DeGeneres says. "We're going to be live on the Jumbotron in (New York's) Times Square. It's insane."
She's particularly worried about sleep deprivation. "I'm not somebody who does well on a little bit of sleep. It takes me five hours to prepare for an average show. I am saying it will be live, not good. I want everyone's expectations to be as low as possible."
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