Emmy Underdogs: 4 Lead Actors I’d Like to See Break Into the Race (Comedy Edition)

lead actor comedy

With Lead Actor and Lead Actress in a Comedy, we reach the end of the acting categories, and where last week I admitted that I felt a bit underqualified to weigh in on the top drama acting categories, I feel much more confident about the comedy side of the equation. I love a good sitcom. I love a mediocre sitcom too, and as a result I have seen at least a little of most every sitcom currently on air (the major exceptions being Awkward, Suburgatory and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).

The four performers I chose for these two categories were no-brainers for me, particularly the two actors. As for the actresses, it’s harder to pinpoint who is an underdog because of the sheer number of female-centric comedies that entered the fold this year. All six of last year’s nominees are still in contention, but there is an influx of fresh talent and newly returned familiar faces in the race as well, which makes this category one of the toughest to predict, so I ultimately went with one actress who could very well earn a nod, and one who definitely will not, but who still turned in some lovely work on an iffy show.

1. Adam Scott– Parks and Recreation

Adam Scott

Ben Wyatt’s role as Leslie Knope’s leading man was solidified in season four, so it is fitting that Adam Scott entered the lead race rather than the supporting one this year. Since he joined the cast at the end of season two, Scott has become an indispensable part of the Parks & Rec ensemble. Ben is a character who has to wear a lot of hats: sometimes he’s a romantic lead, others he’s a human disaster and in between he has to be the straight man foil in a town full of eccentric characters. Scott pulls off each facet of Ben with ease, making each part of his character fold seamlessly into the others.

Ben went through a break-up and a career change in season four (as well as a heartfelt reconciliation) which gave Scott plenty of opportunities to shine, and shine he did. Whether he was gamely donning a Batman suit or throwing himself into Ben’s downward spiral that involved a brief stint into claymation, Scott was an MVP at every turn and the perfect right hand man for Amy Poehler’s Leslie.

2. Elijah Wood– Wilfred

WILFRED: Elijah Wood as Ryan. CR: Frank Ockenfels / FX

When you are playing opposite a guy in a dog suit, there is a very good chance that the guy in the dog suit is going to upstage you. It speaks to Wood’s immense talents that he so thoroughly holds his own opposite Jason Gann’s tour de force performance as the titular Wilfred. By the end of the first season, Wood’s Ryan was every bit as interesting as the talking dog that may or may not signify his own tenuous grip on reality.

It’s not just that Wood is funny in this role (although he is), it’s that he’s funny and dark and still capable of evoking a real emotional response from the audience. In Wilfred, Wood is routinely turning in some of the best work of his career and he’s doing so while starring opposite a scene-stealing co-star who is playing a talking dog. If that doesn’t deserve a commendation I don’t know what does.

3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus– Veep

Julia Louis Dreyfus

Can a certified television star like Julia Louis-Dreyfus really be considered an underdog? I have my doubts, but if it comes down to her or Lena Dunham (or even Zooey Deschanel) earning a spot in such a tight race, I feel like the edge might be in Dunham’s favor based on the level of press her show has generated since its debut. Much as I adore Dunham, I hope I’m wrong.

In Veep, Louis-Dreyfus is caustically funny in a way she hasn’t been since her Seinfeld heyday. There is a ferocity to her performance that is irresistible and it was a delight to watch her profanity-laden tirades every week. Her character, Selina, isn’t a particularly likable person, but you root for her anyway because Louis-Dreyfus is just that good. She has been an Emmy favorite in the past and this is one time I’d like to see the voters favor a familiar face over one of the shiny new ones.

4. Beth Behrs– 2 Broke Girls

Beth Behrs

As a show, 2 Broke Girls is a mess, but it got one very important element so right that I was willing to overlook a sea of imperfections: its two leads are simply terrific. I could have just as easily went with Kat Dennings here, but I ultimately decided that of the two, I was the most pleasantly surprised by newcomer, Beth Behrs.

As Caroline, Behrs is enthusiastic and unafraid to commit to the material whether she is engaging in silly slapstick or crass humor. There is something classical about Behrs’s performance. She is a throwback to a mostly bygone era of the sitcom– her appeal is broad, her character unabashedly sweet, but thankfully not dumb. Caroline is the spoiled little rich girl in name only, thanks to Behrs’s winning performance it was never hard to wish for Caroline (and Behrs herself) to succeed.


All right, now that I have shared my picks I’d love to hear from you. Which performers are you rooting for in these two races?

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