Jalal’s Take: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Jalal Haddad takes a look at the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy race in a series of posts leading up to the Emmy nomination announcement on July 14th. Over the next few days, Jalal will be concluding his own expert analysis in individual races and covering the top ten contenders in each category.

The Lead Actor in a Comedy Series race has become infamous over the past couple years for overflowing with filler nominees. A tie led to seven nominees last year but with Louie and Episodes on hiatus only five of those men are returning. The string of weak years has led to many repeat winners, which is great news for Jeffrey Tambor. With new shows from Donald Glover, Pete Holmes, and Timothy Olyphant maybe next year will be more exciting?

 1. Jeffrey Tambor (Maura Pfefferman)

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: Amazon)
Emmy voters have payed attention to Tambor’s career progression starting from The Larry Sanders Show to Arrested Development all the way to his career defining performance on Transparent. He’s already won an Emmy, a Critics’ Choice Award, a Golden Globe, and two SAG Awards for his work, and his popularity hints that this momentum isn’t slowing down. Even though Transparent probably won’t be as big of an Emmy contender for the second season Tambor is likely to be the front-runner for the next couple of years.


 2. William H Macy (Frank Gallagher)

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: Showtime)

One of the smartest awards choices Showtime made a couple of years ago was to petition for Shameless to be re-categorized as a comedy. William H. Macy immediately began receiving Emmy nominations and even won a SAG award for the fourth season. With the show solidifying its spot as one of Showtime’s most successful current shows he’s almost assured a twelfth career nomination.


 3. Anthony Anderson (Dre Johnson)

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: ABC)

Anderson was the sole nomination for the first season of black-ish, and it makes a lot of sense since he is the face of the show. His performance has earned him two Critics’ Choice Awards, and as the show grows in popularity and acclaim he won’t fall off of the radar of voters. His only detractor might be that the show and his performance could come across as too much of a classic sitcom compared to the other contenders that air on streaming sites. As an actor who has been consistently working in Hollywood for the past two decades, he should have no problem standing out.


 4. Aziz Ansari (Dev)
Masters of None

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: Netflix)

As the only new lead actor with any sort of awards traction, Aziz Ansari has been getting a lot of attention, and, with Louis CK out of contention, Ansari stands out even more as a writer/producer starring in a fictionalized account of his life as a performer. He was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award for his work on the show, and after years of being on Parks and Recreation this is the perfect opportunity for Emmy voters to finally recognize him as an actor. He could suffer from the show being released on Netflix over eight months ago but with little substantial competition voters will easily remember him.


 5. Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper)
The Big Bang Theory

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: CBS)

Jim Parsons has dominated the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series race over the years which is what made his omission last year even more shocking, especially with seven nominees. Emmy voters have been known to take breaks from their winners (Margulies) and its possible some members didn’t vote for him thinking he was a sure bet. It’s rare for an actor to have such a strong winning streak and then be completely dropped especially when he is still being nominated by SAG, so he’ll probably make a resurgence this year.


 6. Don Cheadle (Marty Kaan)
House of Lies

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: Showtime)

I have yet to find anyone let alone an Emmy voter who watches and loves House of Lies. That hasn’t stopped the acting branch from name-checking Cheadle into a nomination for the past four years. His popularity can only carry him for so long on a show a lot of people haven’t even heard of, and now that the race has some stronger competition he is probably at his most vulnerable.


 7. Will Forte (Phil Miller)
The Last Man on Earth  

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: FOX)

The Last Man on Earth premiered as a comedy about the last person to survive a nondescript plague, and the excitement around the pilot was big enough for Will Forte to receive an Emmy nomination for his first starring role post SNL. Now that they are endlessly introducing new characters the gimmick has worn off. Because of that, voters will probably abandon the show.


 8. Will Arnett (Chip)

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: Netflix)

Hardly anyone has a positive thing to say about Flaked, the critically panned Netflix comedy about a self-help guru in LA, but someone as well-known as Arnett on such a major streaming network is almost a given to be considered in such a barren category.  Voters do like Arnett, a former nominee, and they do have a self-absorbed obsession with LA set shows. That probably isn’t enough to overlook the sour first season.


 9. Bill Hader (Various Characters)
Documentary Now!

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: IFC)

Documentary Now is a very small show on IFC that ordinarily wouldn’t have a shot at a major Emmy nomination, but in such a weak year for lead actors someone like Bill Hader could easily break into the race for being one of the most popular comedic actors working on television. The show did receive a lot of buzz for their Grey Gardens spoof, and if enough voters seek out the episode they might feel inclined to vote for Hader, although not likely.


10. Thomas Middleditch (Richard)
Silicon Valley 

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
(Photo: HBO)

As Silicon Valley increases in popularity within the industry, awards trackers have always wondered when the actors would start getting recognized. Even a bro-y show like Entourage (which many compare Silicon Valley to in terms of male driven content) was embraced by the acting branch for more than one of their actors. I’m skeptical of the cast ever breaking into an acting category especially if they weren’t recognized last year for their best season.

Worth Mentioning: Fred Armisen, Zach Galifinakis, Gael Garcia Bernal, Eugene Levy, Randall Park

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