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Emmy Predictions 2020: Best Actor in a Comedy Series

Two veteran comedy stars lead a formidable group of nominees, including a buzzy breakout looking to play dark horse. [Updated September 20]

THE GOOD PLACE -- "Chidi Sees the Time-Knife" Episode 312 -- Pictured: Ted Danson as Michael -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Ted Danson in “The Good Place”

Colleen Hayes/NBC

Throughout Emmy season, IndieWire will be evaluating the top contenders for TV’s most prestigious prize, and it all starts here. At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. This article will be updated throughout the coming months, along with all our predictions, to reflect an up-to-the-minute state of the race. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest coverage on the 2020 Emmys, including breaking news, analysis, interviews, podcasts, FYC event coverage, reviews of all the awards contenders, and more. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out the week of September 14. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place virtually on Sunday, September 20. (See our awards calendar for a more detailed breakdown of important dates.) ABC is broadcasting the ceremony.

Last Year’s Winner: Bill Hader, “Barry”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Bill Hader has won back-to-back trophies for Best Actor in a Comedy Series in 2018 and 2019, becoming the first repeat winner since… Jeffrey Tambor in 2015 and 2016, and Jim Parsons in 2013 and 2014. (Parsons also won in 2010 and 2011, right after Alec Baldwin won in 2008 and 2009). What can we say? Once the TV Academy chooses its male comedy star, they stick by him!
Fun Fact: Sixteen actors have won two or more Emmys in this category, but one performer stands alone with the most nominations: Ted Danson, who has 14 nominations (for “Cheers” and “The Good Place”) and two wins (both for “Cheers”).
Notable Ineligible Series: Bill Hader, “Barry” (Season 3 has not aired); Donald Glover, “Atlanta” (Season 3 has not aired); Aziz Ansari, “Master of None” (Season 3 has not aired)

The State of the Race

Can Ted Danson win his first Emmy since “Cheers” ended? Or will “Schitt’s Creek” star Eugene Levy snag his first Primetime trophy since “SCTV?” These have been two of the biggest questions facing the Best Actor in a Comedy Series category, and they remain top of mind as voting gets underway. Both stars are beloved. Both are coming off their respective series’ final seasons. Both have passionate fans in their corner. So who’s going to come out on top?

Levy came out of nominations’ morning with a little more pull. After cracking into the Emmys for the first time last year, “Schitt’s Creek” made the most of its final season, snagging 15 nominations including a Best Comedy Series nod. That’s a strong sign of support from the TV Academy, and it’s worth remembering Levy has never won an acting Emmy. (His two trophies are for writing “SCTV.”) But it’s important to note that a) “The Good Place” is also up for Best Comedy Series, and b) both shows have the same number of acting nominations. If the acting branch wants to honor NBC’s four-season gem, odds are they’ll do it here, with Danson. (Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Guest Actress are even more competitive.)

Though the cases for both of these excellent actors are strong, there’s still a chance someone plays spoiler. Ramy Youssef already surprised a few prognosticators when he took home the Golden Globe for his Hulu comedy and, despite the show’s lack of a Best Comedy nod, he could benefit from being a writer, director, producer, and star. (Given the recent wins for Bill Hader and Donald Glover, voters have been eager to honor the face of a series.)

Meanwhile, Don Cheadle (“Black Monday”) and Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”) are back in the race yet again. After six acting nominations for Anderson and 10 for Cheadle (10!), neither have won. That’s a long time to go winless and a lot of nominations to add up to zero trophies. Disney and ABC put together a drive-in FYC event for “Black-ish,” while Showtime has been plastering FYC ads all over town for “Black Monday,” and it’s an extremely easy case to make that these two are overdue. Maybe voters just need a little nudge

That just leaves Michael Douglas. The two-time Oscar winner mainly has his good name going for him. Though the show was nominated for Best Comedy Series, as was his co-star Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor, “The Kominsky Method” only pulled in those three nominations overall, which doesn’t show widespread support. Also, Douglas last won a trophy fairly recently (in 2014 for “Behind the Candelabra”), and his Netflix series isn’t over yet, so there’s no pressure to give him an Emmy right now. Stranger things have happened, but he’s not the Hollywood veteran to look out for — Levy and Danson have the edge.

Power Ranking the Nominees:

1. Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
2. Ted Danson, “The Good Place”
3. Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”
4. Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”
5. Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
6. Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”

Will Win: Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Could Win:
Ted Danson, “The Good Place” or Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”
Should Win:
Ted Danson, “The Good Place”

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