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Emmy Predictions: Best Actor in a Comedy Series — Turnover, New TV, and Beloved Teds

Ted Danson or "Ted Lasso"? Emmy members can choose both during nomination voting, but who else can drive devotion comparable to America's favorite Teds?

KENAN -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Kenan Thompson as Kenan -- (Photo by:  Casey Durkin/NBC)

Kenan Thompson in “Kenan”

Casey Durkin/NBC

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 2020 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys will be held from June 17 through June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out in September, at a date (or dates) to be announced. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

Just two of last year’s six nominees remain eligible in the Lead Actor in a Comedy category, meaning this is yet another Emmy race that should see plenty of fresh faces in 2021. Michael Douglas will be submitting his final season of work on “The Kominsky Method,” and in doing so, try to go three-for-three in nominations for the Netflix series. Meanwhile, Anthony Anderson has an even longer streak he’s hoping to maintain: The actor has been nominated six times already for ABC’s “Black-ish,” and another nod this year would make it seven in a row.

While “The Good Place” may have ended, Ted Danson still has a shot to keep his own nominations’ hot streak alive with “Mr. Mayor.” The NBC comedy performed well in the ratings and earned solid marks for its debut season. Danson picked up Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s quippy banter quickly, so a fourth consecutive nomination is certainly feasible. William H. Macy will be hoping to return to the race, as well, for the final season of Showtime’s “Shameless,” while John Goodman would land his first nod since 1995 for playing Dan Conner if he’s nominated this year for “The Conners.”

Still, one has to imagine the TV Academy is ready to welcome a few new faces — or, at least, familiar faces on new shows, and the SAG Award winner for “Ted Lasso” should be first among them. Jason Sudeikis has never been nominated for an Emmy, and that should change in a big way this year. The Apple TV+ comedy is entering this year’s race as a frontrunner in many categories, including this one, and Sudeikis could see nominations for Writing and Comedy Series in addition to his acting work. The same could be said for his Apple TV+ cohort Rob McElhenny, who’s a creator, writer, and director on “Mythic Quest.” Submitting its second season in 2021, the office comedy earned plenty of goodwill since last season, and the new episodes could give the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” co-creator his first Emmy nod.

Other potential contenders include Kenan Thompson, who’s been nominated four times for his work on “SNL” and now leads NBC’s sitcom “Kenan”; Ralph Macchio and William Zabka are both running as lead performers in Netflix’s “Cobra Kai”; Jamie Foxx is joining the Netflix party with “Dad, Stop Embarrassing Me”; Martin Freeman is hoping for better luck with the second season of FX’s “Breeders”; Billy Magnussen should see a nice push from HBO Max for his wild role in “Made for Love”; and lest we forget, Ben Feldman has yet to be Emmy nominated for “Superstore,” and the outgoing NBC sitcom has yet to be nominated, period — why not fix both of those mistakes in one fell swoop?

Predicted Nominees: 

  1. Jason Sudeikis, “Ted Lasso”
  2. Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
  3. Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
  4. Ted Danson, “Mr. Mayor”
  5. Kenan Thompson, “Kenan”
  6. Rob McElhenney, “Mythic Quest”

Contenders: William H. Macy, “Shameless”; Ben Platt, “The Politician”; Ralph Macchio, “Cobra Kai”; William Zabka, “Cobra Kai”; Jamie Foxx, “Dad, Stop Embarrassing Me”; Michael Cimino, “Love, Victor”; Martin Freeman, “Breeders”; John Goodman, “The Conners”; Billy Magnussen, “Made for Love”

In a Perfect World: Ben Feldman, “Superstore”; Glenn Howerton, “A.P. Bio”; Walton Goggins, “The Unicorn”; Alan Tudyk, “Resident Alien”

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