Last Year’s Winner: Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Repeat winners are still trendy in the Best Comedy Actor category. Bill Hader won in back-to-back years for “Barry” (2018 – 2019), Jeffrey Tambor won twice for “Transparent” (2015 – 2016), and Jim Parsons saw repeat wins for “The Big Bang Theory” in 2013 and 2014, after doubling up in 2010 and 2011. With 2020 winner Eugene Levy out of the running, we won’t see a hot streak established in 2021, but there’s no reason to think this won’t be the year that starts one.
Fun Fact: Ted Danson has the most nominations in the Best Comedy Actor category with 14, spread across just two shows (three for “The Good Place” and 11 for “Cheers”). Overall, the walking, talking American treasure has 18 Emmy nominations and two wins (both for “Cheers”), with additional nods stemming from his work in the FX drama “Damages” and the 1984 TV Movie “Something About Amelia.” With one more nomination, he’d become the only actor with multiple wins in the Lead Actor category to be nominated for more than two series. (To date, Danson, Michael J. Fox, Kelsey Grammer, and Richard Mulligan are the only actors to win more than once and be nominated for another lead role.)
Notable Ineligible Series: Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”; Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”; Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”; Bill Hader, “Barry”; Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. This article will be updated throughout the season, along with all our predictions, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest news from the 2021 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys was held from June 17 through June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.
The State of the Race
Similar to Bill Hader’s back-to-back wins for HBO’s “Barry” — a hit series that catapulted its respected writer, executive producer, and star to a new level of acclaim — it’s hard to imagine anyone but Jason Sudeikis walking away with the 2021 Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. The co-creator, executive producer, and mustachioed face of the Apple TV+ hit earned his first four Emmy nominations for “Ted Lasso,” with two coming in writing and the last for Best Comedy Series, so voters could choose to honor him (and the show) elsewhere.
But that’s not typically how they do things. Aside from Hader, Donald Glover also won Best Actor for his debut season of “Atlanta,” Ricky Gervais took home the gold for “Extras,” and even last year, “Schitt’s Creek” co-creator Eugene Levy was part of the series’ Emmy sweep in the Actor category. Performers who are heavily involved creatively may win in other categories, too, but they typically do well with the acting branch.
Still, there are a few spoilers lurking. Michael Douglas has been nominated for all three seasons of “The Kominsky Method” and has yet to win. Given it’s the Netflix comedy’s final season, some fans in the TV Academy may want to see Douglas win once, while others may be swayed by the two-time Oscar winner’s stature within the industry (to say nothing of his work in Season 3). Similarly, William H. Macy made a surprise return to the field for the outgoing Showtime series “Shameless.” Macy is a 15-time nominee who last won in 2003 (for writing and starring in “Door to Door”); he’s never won for “Shameless,” and perhaps there’s enough goodwill for the series to muster a last-ditch victory.
Anthony Anderson is a year away from the final season of “Black-ish,” and there are few other narratives that would result in enough support to win this year. But Kenan Thompson is a double nominee, for “SNL” in the Supporting Actor race and his NBC sitcom “Kenan” here. One could argue the Supporting race is a bit more open, and voters may be split over whether it’s more fitting for Thompson to win for a job he’s held for 18 seasons vs. a show with his name in the title. But there’s clearly a lot of love out there for the veteran comedian. Perhaps all that experience can… no, no. This is Jason Sudeikis’ year.
- Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
- Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
- Kenan Thompson, “Kenan”
- William H. Macy, “Shameless”
- Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
Will Win: Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
Could Win: Kenan Thompson or Michael Douglas
Should Win: Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”