The comedy races have become some of the most interesting bellwethers for the biggest races of the night. Last year, when few were expecting Fleabag to become the top contender, voters nominated Olivia Colman and Sian Clifford as the first major hint that it was on its way to nearly sweeping the night.
As the Television Academy expanded its membership by the thousands, we’ve also seen the actors branch start picking a few favorite shows and nominating them across the board. Last year, we saw the four biggest comedy contenders make up eleven out of the eventual fourteen supporting nominees. In the past, we’ve seen them go all out for shows like Veep or Saturday Night Live. This year, we know there will be a total of sixteen nominees (eight supporting actress and eight supporting actor). Does that mean voters will stick to their favorite shows, or will more space lend to more creative choices?
This year, there will be some major shakeups in the supporting races. Fleabag and Veep have ended their runs while Barry has taken the year off. Right now, the two comedies to keep an eye on are The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Schitt’s Creek, but what other comedies will rack up supporting nominations?
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
There are a lot of factors that make the Maisel ensemble look like undeniable contenders in the supporting acting races. Each of the supporting comedy races have widened to eight nominees. Last year, Borstein won her second consecutive Emmy while Shaloub won his first Emmy for the role sandwiched between two SAG awards, and Hinkle was nominated for the first time. Now, the Emmy-winning comedy has twice as many viable contenders in a year where there aren’t a lot of other options.
It’s safe to assume that all three of last year’s nominees will return. There is also a lot of confidence in Jane Lynch being brought into the supporting actress race with a larger role after winning the guest race last year. She’s a constant presence in the Emmy conversation for everything from acting to hosting, and this might be her most high-profile role since she won for Glee.
If Maisel remains as popular as it has been, then this will be the year that another actor joins Tony Shaloub in the supporting race. Joel might not be the most popular character, but he has grown since the show’s first season. Michael Zegen could benefit from that especially with Joel taking on a much bigger role.
The third season followed Midge as she embarked on a USO tour with Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) and his manager Reggie (Sterling K. Brown). The storyline around the two characters is so influential to the third season that both stand a good chance of breaking into the supporting actor lineup, especially Brown who has quickly become one of the most popular actors working in television today.
For the final season of Schitt’s Creek, Pop TV has put a lot of time, energy, and money into campaigning the entire Rose family. Because of that, no ensemble has been talked about quite as much this year. There is a good chance that will pay off in the supporting acting races where Dan Levy and Annie Murphy are both predicted to earn their first Emmy nominations. Throughout the show’s six seasons, both actors have brought this tremendous growth to the arcs of David and Alexis ending with both of them as some of the most beloved figures in modern television.
With eight nominees in each category, there is the possibility that voters look beyond the Rose family. If that’s the case then Emily Hampshire should finally earn her first Emmy nomination. She won five Canadian Screen Awards (the Canadian version of the Emmys) becoming one of the most popular characters on the show. She doesn’t have the material she has in the past (she should have been nominated for her Cabaret season), but we’ve seen voters play catch-up before.
And what about the supporting actor race? Noah Reid doesn’t have much to do besides playing the supportive, emotionally constant, fiance but Patrick is popular and Reid has toured the country alongside the core cast. Then there’s Chris Elliot who plays one of the more grating characters on the show but is an actor with whom voters are very familiar.
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live has gone through plenty of highs and lows at the Emmys. The current era began with Kate McKinnon winning two Emmys in a row, ushering in nominations for Vanessa Bayer, Leslie Jones, Aidy Bryant, Kenan Thompson, and even a win for Alec Baldwin. Last year, however, voters went through SNL fatigue with them recycling everyone out except for Kate McKinnon.
So what will happen this year? The show itself isn’t commanding attention the way that it used to. Audiences seem to be turned off by political comedy, and the show hasn’t gone viral the way that it used to. But with eight nominees in each category, it will be interesting to see if someone slips through. The second half of the season received a lot of attention because everyone was curious how the 40+ year old show would handle the pandemic. The end result wasn’t that exciting, but there’s a chance that voters will want to celebrate them for trying something new.
There’s plenty of room in the supporting actor race, and Keenan Thompson is back in the conversation after being left out last year. Bowen Yang is also in the conversation as one of the most exciting new players we’ve seen in years, but he might not have the same recognition as others in the cast.
The Good Place
Last fall, the final season of The Good Place underwhelmed audiences and guild voters with everyone seemingly confused on the direction of the final episodes. That all changed with the new year as the final season beautifully wrapped up its story, taking the time to send off each main character with the car they deserve.
Because of that, after years of giving the funniest performance in the show, a lot of people are finally predicting D’arcy Carden to finally be nominated in the supporting actress race. They unfairly overlooked her last year when she was the MVP of the season with an episode dedicated to the actress playing every character and another where she gets into a massive brawl with herself. This year, Carden doesn’t have to compete against herself on the ballot, and she is finally a big enough name to stand out.
Other than that it is hard to imagine a scenario where anyone else breaks through. Manny Jacinto, William Jackson Harper, and Jameela Jamil all have been there since the beginning, but the final season focus was truly on Bell, Danson, and Carden.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Curb Your Enthusiasm has always been an Emmys staple, but after years of what has felt like autopilot nominations, it finally feels like fans of the show are excited again. Could that lead to one or two surprise supporting nominations? The actors branch always nominates David, and they tend to nominate at least one guest performer every year so a supporting contender isn’t that far out of the question, although they haven’t nominated anyone since Cheryl Hines for the fifth season?
The two actors to keep an eye on are JB Smoove and Ted Danson in the supporting actor race. Danson is someone that should never be underestimated, especially in a category where voters will be scraping the bottom of the barrel to find eight contenders. Smoove is someone who has been a recurring presence since the sixth season but has only been a full-time cast member since the last. If anyone breaks through, he might be the one to surprise, especially with the comedian appearing everywhere throughout awards season.
Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali joining the second season of Ramy was one of the most talked about casting choices of the year, shining an even bigger light on the Golden Globe-winning comedy. He’s one of the most popular actors working today and name recognition alone should get him a third nomination, but it also needs to be asked if the performance is flashy enough to stand out? As the Sheikh, he is pointedly reserved one that on its own doesn’t have an ounce of comedic weight, but his presence is integral to the season. If the second season is going to breakout, then he should be included.
Hiam Abbass has had quite a year playing a maternal figure on not one but two of the most critically acclaimed shows of the year. While she doesn’t have nearly enough material to be a real threat with Succession, she might be one to watch in the comedy race. Her stand stand-alone episode as Maysa tries to understand a rapidly changing world is one of the best episodes of the season. On top of that, the episode also ends with a very pointed monologue at the president, coming across as a rallying cry for November. It’s the type of episode that could certainly win her the Emmy, she just needs to be nominated first.
With an expanding field, there is more than enough room for past nominees to return. But we’ve also seen a recent trend with voters picking a few favorite shows and nominating them across the board. It will be interesting to see if popular actors from not so popular shows continue to stand out.
Even after voters dropped GLOW from almost every other major category, they continued to single out Betty Gilpin, the only actor from the massive ensemble to ever be nominated. This year, the two-time nominee is really having a moment starring in The Hunt, one of the most talked about films of the year.
Predictions are all over the place when it comes to the second season of The Kominsky Method. Some believe it will have a big year at the Emmys while others think it will begin to fizzle out. Either way, most are pretty confident that Alan Arkin will return for the second year in a row. He’s given the best snarky, curmudgeonly, one-liners of the show, and because of that, he’s a pretty safe nominee to predict.
Four years ago, Louie Anderson won the first Emmy of his career for donning drag and playing Zach Galifinakis’s mother in Baskets. Since then, he has been nominated for every season, and the long-loved comedian is back in the conversation after Baskets took a short hiatus. Sometimes when performances take a year off, they lose steam at the Emmys, and this might be the year that voters move on, especially since Baskets isn’t likely to be nominated anywhere else.
Post Skins, Nicholas Hoult has made an interesting career out of playing with really interesting over-the-top character actor type roles while having the face of a handsome leading man. He deserved to be in the Oscar race for his work in The Favourite, and now that he has re-teamed with screenwriter Tony McNamara, he is earning similar reviews. He is by far the standout of the new period comedy, but a nomination probably depends on if voters responded positively to the show and if it premiered in time for them to catch on.
Dead to Me is poised to have a big year at the Emmys. The dark comedy is expected to earn nominations for both of its lead stars on top of series. If it is as popular as it seems, then we should also take James Marsden seriously. The charismatic actor is also an underrated comedic force, and it’s only a matter of time until he’s recognized at some point for his entire career. A coattail nomination seems obvious if Dead to Me really is on it’s way to a huge year, but the show is also truly about its two female leads. Voters might not care to go beyond that.
Four seasons in and Insecure is still outdoing itself this year with one of the most honest and uncomfortable modern portrayals of an unraveling friendship. It hit harder than any romance on TV, and plenty of us are predicting that Issa Rae will be welcomed back into the lead actress race. But it is hard to imagine a scenario where they respond to the emotionally devastating portrayal and don’t also nominate the other side of it: Yvonne Orji.
Two other names percolating in the supporting actress race also gave two of the most iconic comedic performances of the early 2000s: Regina Hall and Anna Faris of Scary Movie. With Black Monday growing more popular in its second season, there has been a lot of excitement around Hall. Then there is Faris who, after years of playing second fiddle to Allison Janney, has instead chosen to submit as a supporting actress. Mom, more than any other show, has gone through a lot of category shifts between its two stars, and it will be interesting to see if something like this pays off.
Right now, largely based off of last year’s wins and the repeat SAG ensemble recognition, we unanimously agree (which is rare for us) that Tony Shaloub and Alex Borstein are the clear early frontrunners. Beyond that is where we differ. Make sure to check out our full comedy predictions which will be published tomorrow!
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
In The Conversation
1. Tony Shaloub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
2. Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
3. Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek
4. Mahershala Ali, Ramy
5. Michael Zegen, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
6. Keenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
7. James Marsden, Dead to Me
8. Sterling K. Brown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
9. Nicholas Hoult, The Great
10. Louie Anderson, Baskets 11. Leroy McClain, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
12. Kumail Nanjiani, Silicon Valley
13. Noah Reid, Schitt’s Creek
14. JB Smoove, Curb Your Enthusiasm
15. Manny Jacinto, The Good Place
16. Chris Elliot, Schitt’s Creek
17. Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
In The Conversation
1. Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
2. Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
3. Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek
4. Jane Lynch, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
5. Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
6. Betty Gilpin, GLOW
7. D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place
8. Emily Hampshire, Schitt’s Creek
9. Yvonne Orji, Insecure
10. Hiam Abbass, Ramy
11. Regina Hall, Black Monday
12. Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live
13. Jessica Lange, The Politician
14. Rita Moreno, One Day at a Time
15. Jameel Jamil, The Good Place
16. Anna Faris, Mom
Readers, what do you think of the expanded supporting field? What performances are you hoping make it in?