Last Year’s Winner: Bill Hader, “Barry”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: Showtime has the longest nominations streak of any network in this category, with eight years in a row earning at least one slot. Spread across three actors, 13 nominations, and dating back through 2011, William H. Macy (“Shameless”), Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”), and Matt LeBlanc (“Episodes”) have all helped keep the premium cable network in the race, year after year. However, a Showtime actor has never won the Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.
Fun Fact: John Goodman (“Roseanne”), Matt LeBlanc (“Friends” and “Episodes”), and Hal Linden (“Barney Miller”) have the most nominations without ever winning an Emmy in the category. LeBlanc and Linden have never won an Emmy period, but Goodman took home the 2007 trophy for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series for — you guessed it — Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived NBC series “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”!
Notable Ineligible Series: Donald Glover, “Atlanta”; Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”; Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”; Zach Galifianakis, “Baskets”
At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (listed in alphabetical order). This article will be updated throughout the season, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz from the 2019 race, and read predictions in the rest of the categories, as well. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15. The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, September 22. Fox is broadcasting the ceremony.
The State of the Race
After a long, successful awards run for the freshman season of “Barry,” Bill Hader is back for another round. But the defending champion will take on at least a few fresh faces in 2019, as the absence of Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) and Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) leave two spots up for grabs. Who will fill them? Well, Ted Danson (“The Good Place”) and Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”) remain strong returning figures. The same can’t exactly be said for William H. Macy (“Shameless”), whose involvement in the college admissions scandal could keep him off the campaign trail and out of voters’ good graces.
Michael Douglas is looking strong for “The Kominsky Method,” recording a win at the Golden Globes and a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. Jim Carrey (“Kidding”) also earned a Golden Globes nod, and the major movie star (turned political painter) will mainly have to make sure people watch his low-rated Showtime series to snag a spot at the Emmys. Don Cheadle will likely get a big push from the premium cable network for “Black Monday,” given his past success with the TV Academy in “House of Lies” (not to mention four other nominations for everything from HBO’s “The Rat Pack” to his guest spot on “E.R.”).
That’s the least of the newcomers’ competition, and not even the last contender from Showtime: Sacha Baron Cohen is hoping to return to Emmy favor after four nods for “Da Ali G Show,” though “Who Is America?” will be a tough sell for actors who are used to performing scripts. He’ll face off against a slew of Netflix reps, including Idris Elba in “Turn Up Charlie,” Ricky Gervais in “After Life,” and Asa Butterfield in “Sex Education,” not to mention other performers in freshman series like Drew Tarver (“The Other Two”), Fred Armisen (“Forever”), Ramy Youssef (“Ramy”), and Wyatt Russell (“Lodge 49”).
And then there are the veterans. Jim Parsons wants back in the game for his final season on “The Big Bang Theory” — but after four wins and six nominations, the Old Sheldon actor hasn’t been nominated since 2014. There’s also Eric McCormack in “Will & Grace,” John Goodman in “The Conners,” and Andy Samberg in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” — all three don’t exactly have history on their side, but they’re well-liked in the industry and could make gains on the campaign circuit. But don’t sleep on Eugene Levy. “Schitt’s Creek” has been gaining more and more followers every year, and the critical accolades are stacking up. Perhaps this is the year voters finally take notice. After all, there’s room on the ballot for a few surprises.
- Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
- Jim Carrey, “Kidding”
- Ted Danson, “The Good Place”
- Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
- Bill Hader, “Barry”
- Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Spoilers: Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”; William H. Macy, “Shameless”; Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”; Ricky Gervais, “After Life”
In a Perfect World: Chris Geere, “You’re the Worst”; Randall Park, “Fresh Off the Boat”; Hank Azaria, “Brockmire”; Wyatt Russell, “Lodge 49”; Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”