We’ve discussed how the actress categories are packed with absolutely talented ladies—but the lead actor category is nothing to sneeze at. From invigorating performances for trans and gay characters to highly energized technophiles, this category kind of has it all, too! And though this category has gotten a bit stale over the past couple years (some of those repeat nominees are still on my list), here are my picks for the lead actor in a comedy category:
Louis C.K., Louie
Louis C.K.’s heightened Louie character is perhaps the most subversive Hispanic role on all of television at the moment. That’s right; I said it! C.K. is Mexican, and we’re claiming him! Honestly, though, C.K. has brought a grounded level of talent to his absurd comedy series that allows him to soar to those ridiculous heights. As my sister said while we were watching a recent episode: “He’s so good! Just—his face!” It’s true. C.K. might just rival Lisa Kudrow in Amazing Face Acting. But since that isn’t a category, the next best is lead actor—and he deserves it.
Jonathan Groff, Looking
Speaking of grounded performances, Jonathan Groff’s Patrick is subversive in its own right. On Looking, it’s difficult to make a character stand out for being wholly three-dimensional. That’s because Looking is one of the most true-to-life series on television. Or at least it was. But Groff does so expertly with his leading character. Equal parts mature, neurotic, and in denial, Patrick feels fully formed. Groff’s subtlety goes a long way into making us love him—and wanting to smack him for all the choices he makes!
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
OK, but this is a comedy category. And what are comedies supposed to do: make us laugh. Episodes is one of the most hilarious shows on television at the moment, and Matt LeBlanc is one of its funniest talents. As “Matt LeBlanc,” LeBlanc takes diva jerk and makes it downright entertaining. Look: he makes us laugh. And he’s damn skilled at it.
Chris Messina, The Mindy Project
You know how when actors are asked how do they play the comedy, and they’re all, “You play the truth”? That’s always irked me. But with Chris Messina, playing the truth is what he does best. His grumpy Danny Castellano is a perfect complement to Mindy Lahirir’s audaciousness. But that’s not all, alongside Mindy Kaling, Messina is just as skilled at turning the show’s insane rapid comedy into a full-on dramatic scene. It’s a delight to watch on-screen.
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
If there were a Outstanding Neurotic Character, then Thomas Middleditch would win hands-down. His portrayal of Richard is some of the toughest acting I’ve ever seen on television. I know I couldn’t do it. This season, Richard has tried to grow from his panicky ways into the deserved CEO and leader of Pied Piper, and watching Middleditch blend those two at-odds-personalities into Richard has been one of the highlight comedic performances on television this season.
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
I don’t think I laughed once during Transparent. Nevertheless, it is in the comedy category, and Jeffrey Tambor was its leading actor. I think it’s inevitable that Tambor will be nominated—and that he will win. But, boy, what a deserved win! Tambor was absolutely magnetic in his role as transgender woman Maura. Talk about playing the truth, Tambor’s performance was heartbreaking and incisive. No doubt one of the most revealing performances on television this season.
Honorable Mentions: I have yet to watch Black-ish and The Last Man on Earth, but I have no doubt that Anthony Anderson and Will Forte are absolutely amazing on those shows! I also thought that Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation, brought it again this final season.
Predictions: You can all probably guess it. Well, for one, there’s no way Jeffrey Tambor won’t be nominated. Then expect mainstay Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory to make his for-certain appearance, rounded out by Louis C.K., Matt LeBlanc, and William H. Macy, Shameless. Now Don Cheadle could make another appearance here, and I’m betting it’s going to be difficult for the Emmy voters to leave him out, but I think Billy Crystal, The Comedians is going to be nominated in the last slot.
This is one in a series of Emmys posts this awards season. Check out the Emmys tag for more dream nominees and features.