When it comes to comedy leads, Emmy voters have always had their favorite performers. Jim Parsons has won the last two years and four of the past five for “The Big Bang Theory.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus owns a three-year streak for her turn in “Veep” to go along with the Emmys she won for “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Seinfeld.”
But this year voters showed a willingness to mix things up, snubbing Parsons in favor of newcomers Will Forte and Anthony Anderson. (Louis-Dreyfus, of course, made it.) Will Television Academy members keep the surprises coming when the awards are presented on Sept. 20? A look at this year’s lead acting comedy nominees:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Emmy history: Fifteen acting nominations, five wins.
Outlook: With the show’s fourth season elevating Louis-Dreyfus’ character from Veep to POTUS, it’s easy to imagine the most-nominated comedic actress in Emmy history adding another award to her mantle. Turns out the only thing funnier than striving for power is the harried attempt to hold on to it.
Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”
Emmy history: Seven acting nominations, zero wins.
Outlook: Voters looking for an alternative to Louis-Dreyfus might look to Poehler (Yes, please), the comedy side’s answer to the prolific Emmy snubbing of Jon Hamm for “Mad Men.” When my daughter grows up, I’d love her to be like Poehler’s Leslie Knope -- smart, independent, passionate, optimistic, a little bit crazy, but in a good way. Knope stands as one of television’s great, iconic characters and the woman who brought her to life deserves some love.
Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”
Emmy history: Twelve acting nominations, four wins (three for “The Sopranos,” one for “Nurse Jackie”).
Outlook: Like Poehler, Falco is concluding a great run on a celebrated show that had a small, loyal following. “Nurse Jackie” concluded with a fantastic finale that gave Falco’s compassionate title character an authentic sendoff that might inspire voters to check off the actress’ name one last time.
Amy Schumer, “Inside Amy Schumer”
Emmy history: No previous acting nominations, though she did win a nod for writing last year for her show.
Outlook: Schumer has been everywhere lately, promoting her upcoming movie “Trainwreck” and dominating the cultural conversation with her brilliant, cutting sketch comedy series. The show’s format and limited run will probably ding her in the eyes of some voters, but Schumer’s nomination does signal a willingness to consider the unconventional.
Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”
Emmy history: Eight acting nominations, zero wins, though Tomlin has won six Emmys as a writer, producer and voice actor.
Outlook: Tomlin’s Netflix comedy didn’t win the kind of acclam that greeted the streaming service’s other shows (“Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and so on), but Tomlin is a comedy legend, capable of transcending the show’s cliches and bringing a layered sense of humanity to the proceedings. And her phyiscal comedy still amazes.
Lisa Kudrow, “The Comeback”
Emmy history: Seven acting nominations, one win (“Friends”)
Outlook: Nine years after it first aired, Kudrow’s comedy returned with its singular mission to make viewers simultaneously wince and laugh intact. The time gap made the show’s humor even more corrosive, with Kudrow at the center of its take-no-prisoners showbiz satire.
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”
Emmy history: Six nominations, no wins.
Outlook: The 71-year-old actor has enjoyed a wonderful career, bouncing between guest roles and regular work on series like “Arrested Development” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” But it all feels like a warmup to what he does on “Transparent” as a retired college professor finally owning her identity as a woman. Tambor will probably win the Emmy in this category.
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Louis C.K., “Louie”
Emmy history: Six acting nominations, no wins, though he has taken Emmys for writing, both for his FX series and his comedy specials.
Outlook: You can’t say C.K.'s acting is underappreciated. The academy nominated him again, after all, both here and for hosting “Saturday Night Live.” But voters will probably remain more inclined to reward him for his work behind the scenes.
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Emmy history: Eight acting nominations, one won (for the 2004 TV movie “The Wool Cap”)
Outlook: The Showtime comedy (it is a comedy, right?) continues to fly under the radar of just about everybody but the Emmy voters who continue to give Macy love annually for his crazy, fearless portrait of the worst dad on television.
Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”
Emmy history: Six nominations, no wins.
Outlook: Hollywood loves self-referential self-loathing, making LeBlanc’s clueless narcissist an Emmy favorite. LeBlanc’s fully committed performance continues to make the show work.
Don Cheadle, “House of Lies”
Emmy history: Seven acting nominations, no wins.
Outlook: Surest way to an Emmy nomination: Play a narcissist. Cheadle has always somehow made his shameless character relatable, and now, like Louis-Dreyfus in “Veep,” he may be faced with an even greater challenge -- keeping Marty interesting when things start to go his way.
Anthony Anderson, “black-ish”
Emmy history: No nominations
Outlook: Playing a black family patriarch worried that material success is spoiling his children, Anderson delivered a smart, funny, strong portrait. His nomination was one of the nicest surprises of the day.
Will Forte, “The Last Man on Earth”
Emmy history: One acting nomination, no wins.
Outlook: Forte’s work as one of the lone survivors of a worldwide virus outbreak was bold and crazy, and quite often alienating. In short, it was great! Another great Emmy noms morning surprise.