As Mr. Spicer prepared to return to Washington, he was asked if he was worried about President Trump taking offense over the skit â which many viewers saw as lampooning the presidentâs preoccupation with the size of his inauguration crowd.
âI certainly hope not,â Mr. Spicer said after a brief pause. âThis was an attempt to poke a little fun at myself and add a little bit of levity to the event.â
Mr. Spicer made his Emmys appearance at the end of Mr. Colbertâs opening monologue, which included a long riff about Mr. Trumpâs uneasy relationship with the entertainment industry and his apparent frustration that his NBC reality series âThe Apprenticeâ never won an Emmy Award.
Mr. Colbert, a frequent critic of both Mr. Trump and Mr. Spicer, went on to say that the president was primarily concerned with TV ratings, but that there was no way to know how large his audience was.
Mr. Colbert asked, âSean, do you know?â
At that point, Mr. Spicer shot out of the wings â pushing a podium similar to the one immortalized by Melissa McCarthy in her impersonation of him on âSaturday Night Live.â
He recited his briefing room statement, nearly word for word. âThis will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period â both in person and around the world,â he declared with a semi-straight face.
Laughter and applause could be heard throughout the Microsoft Theater, and celebrities in the audience were seen on the telecast, reacting with their mouths agape.
Mr. Spicer said he didnât give the president or senior White House staff a heads up about his appearance, which had been in the works for several days.
In fact, virtually no one knew about it. According to Mr. Spicer, Mr. Colbert suggested the idea himself, and passed it to the former press secretary through his producer at CBS, who had gotten to know Mr. Spicer well years earlier when he was a producer on MSNBCâs âMorning Joe.â
When Mr. Spicer and his wife left Washington for Los Angeles on Saturday morning, he donned a disguise. He wouldnât say what it was, though a friend of his hinted that it might have included fake facial hair. After checking in, he stayed in his hotel room, leaving only for a walk-through that took place after the hall had been cleared. When scripts were handed out to crew members and performers, his name was nowhere to be found â replaced by an innocuous surname that began with the letter âS.â
A person familiar with the planning of the Emmy program said on Monday that Mr. Colbert and his staff regarded Mr. Spicerâs appearance as both a joke at the expense of Mr. Trump and a way to poke fun at Mr. Colbert, too. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private discussions involving the Emmys and Mr. Colbert.
Just as Mr. Trump had been thin-skinned in employing a spokesman to exaggerate the size of his inaugural crowd, this person said, Mr. Colbert was mocking himself by using Mr. Spicer to overstate the size of his viewership.
Since leaving the White House last month, Mr. Spicer has been on a speaking and television circuit â trying to rehabilitate his image. On Wednesday, he appeared as a guest on the ABC late-night show âJimmy Kimmel Live,â in an interview that drew criticism for its perceived leniency toward Mr. Spicer.
When Mr. Kimmel brought up the news conference where Mr. Spicer had talked about inaugural crowd sizes, Mr. Spicer answered, âIâm aware. I appreciate the reminder of how it went down.â
âIâve always wanted to talk to that cat,â Mr. Colbert said.
Mr. Kimmel said, âA certain part of me felt sorry for him.â
Mr. Colbert replied: âReally? âCause he wasnât apologizing. He wants to be forgiven, but he wonât regret anything he did. You got to regret something you did to be forgiven.â
But at least among some people in Hollywood, Mr. Spicer may have been forgiven â or at least worthy of an Instagram.
At the Television Academyâs Emmy after-party in Los Angeles, several gown- and tuxedo-clad revelers stopped to gawk at Mr. Spicer.
Other guests patiently lined up nearby â Mr. Spicer was posing for selfies.