Following such multi-hyphenates as Donald Glover (“Atlanta”) and Tina Fey (“30 Rock”), this year three comedy actor-writers nabbed Emmy love for not only acting, but creating their characters.
For the second season of “Barry” (HBO), executive producer Bill Hader again scored writing, directing, and lead actor nominations as well as Best Comedy Series for his high-wire show about an hilariously conflicted actor-hitman, who explores his sensitive side while executing kills with cool precision. “Barry” scored 17 nominations — adding supporting nominees Anthony Carrigan and Stephen Root to last year’s winner Henry Winkler — the most of any comedy series.
After landing a writing nomination for an episode of “Killing Eve,” with a lift from enthusiastic critics and BAFTA, executive producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge was finally recognized by Emmy voters on her second go-round for writing Episode 1 as well as playing the title role in her fourth-wall breaking comedy series “Fleabag” (BBC/Amazon). It nabbed 11 nominations including Comedy Series, as well as acting noms for Olivia Colman, Sian Clifford, Fiona Shaw, and Kristin Scott Thomas. With the series ended, in-demand writer Waller-Bridge will now reprise the character on the West End in August.
And for the Netflix limited series “Russian Doll,” which scored 13 nominations, Natasha Lyonne landed both writing and lead actress recognition for the outrageous New York time-loop death spiral comedy, which is entirely created by women, including executive producers Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, who also directed.
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What’s so riveting about “Russian Doll” is the brazen female anti-hero at its center, Lyonne’s brainy narcissist trash-talking hard-living game coder Nadia Vulvokov, who spills Altman-speed profane dialogue that feels exploded out of a cannon.
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The unifying factor: All three pushed their characters deeper and darker than most mainstream Emmy comedies dare to go. Finally, the Emmys are rewarding shows that pop and grab, and that aren’t the same as everything else.