In our celebrity-obsessed culture, the EGOT establishes someone as an all-out legend. Achieving an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony is the Hollywood-Broadway equivalent of a quadrathlon. Only 19 people have ever won all four awards and the feat is usually accomplished over several decades. Articles run every award season advising punters of the stars who are ‘nearly there’ – Elton John has finally made it, receiving an Emmy for a streaming performance of his farewell concert.
There is some contrast, however, between the public perception of the EGOT and what it takes to actually win. For example, you might assume that the inclusion of the Grammy implies musical acumen. Not so. Viola Davis, the newest EGOT, won hers for a recorded reading of her autobiography. Audrey Hepburn, who was usually dubbed in her movie musicals, succeeded with a tape of children’s stories. Only Jennifer Hudson and Rita Moreno have been rewarded for a mixture of acting and singing. The usual screen-and-stage polymaths, like Barbra Streisand and the Garland-Minnellis, are rarely considered ‘real’ EGOTs. This is on account of their ‘honorary’ and ‘lifetime achievement’ awards, which are given on an uncompetitive basis (surely exclusion from competition is evidence of competitiveness?).
Inevitably, the four awards overlap. The most efficient route to an EGOT is to write a beloved stage musical which is then turned into a film. A cast recording is fair game for a Grammy, even if you’ve already won something else for the same music. Televise the whole production and you might be up for an Emmy in the mixed-bag ‘variety’ category. Mel Brooks won an Oscar for The Producers in 1967, and then three Tonys and a Grammy for its stage adaptation, put on decades later.