Emmy Analysis: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Two-time defending winner Bill Hader was omitted from this year’s lineup after production for Barry was halted in March due to COVID-19, pushing the show out of the eligibility window. Therefore, with him out of the way, it opens up the field for a new contender to walk away with Emmy gold. 

This year’s nominees are comprised of five actors who are previous nominees and industry vets (nee legends) that share a combined 58 career Emmy nominations, with the remaining sixth nominee a virtual unknown. However, every actor in this category has a legitimate chance to walk away a winner, some with better odds than others. 

Don Cheadle as Mo Monroe, Black Monday (Showtime)

Don Cheadle, nominated for playing ‘80s stockbroker Mo Monroe on the second season of Showtime’s Black Monday, has built a career out of just going about his business consistently delivering brilliant work. He’s earned 10 Emmy nominations and has never won, despite being nominated for four straight years in this same category for House of Lies, and now for the second consecutive time for Black Monday. The Emmys traditionally like to nominate actors who are tied to shows they also consider to be Emmy-worthy, so the fact that Black Monday doesn’t have any other nominations is testament to the love there is for him.  Voters probably haven’t seen the show, but there is clearly a lot of love for Cheadle, especially in a year when the industry is looking to reward actors of color. While it would be an easy vote when considering how overdue he is, the likelihood of him winning is minimal. 

Anthony Anderson as Andre “Dre” Johnson, Sr., black-ish (ABC)

Anthony Anderson’s nomination for playing Andre Johnson in ABC’s black-ish is his 6th straight, and he’s never won. No matter how much that streak may indicate he’s overdue, black-ish has never won a competitive Emmy, so it doesn’t look good for him this year either.

Ted Danson as Michael, The Good Place (NBC)

Speaking of streaks, Anderson has nothing on Ted Danson, who has experienced nomination streaks for three shows over four different decades.  A television legend, Danson was first nominated in 1983 for Cheers and then nominated every until 1993, winning twice.  Since then, he’s gone on to receive nominations for guesting acting in Damages and leading acting for NBC’s The Good Place. With his third nomination for his portrayal as Michael in the series’ final season, this could be the year Danson stands out from the pack. Especially since he’s been the definition of the comedic leading man for four decades. 

Michael Douglas as Sandy Kominsky, The Kominsky Method (Netflix)

The only thing that trumps being a television legend is being a movie legend. Like the Tony’s, the Emmys love to honor movie stars, and it doesn’t get better than Michael Douglas. Considering Douglas’s long career and fame, he’s only won one Emmy, despite being nominated eight times. His win came in 2013 for his brazen and ballsy performance as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra. Movie stars are often expected to win Emmys for larger-than-life performances in TV movies, but Douglas is now nominated for the second year in a row for playing acting coach Sandy Kominsky in The Kominsky Method, a Netflix comedy from uber-producer Chuck Lorre.  It would be hard to imagine the Academy not wanting to reward Douglas, who stars in a show that’s hugely popular with its members.  

Eugene Levy as Johnny Rose, Schitt’s Creek (POP TV)

Just when you think you can’t reach any deeper into the Hollywood legend pool, Eugene Levy pops up.  Levy is nominated for the second consecutive year for playing Johnny Rose, the calm and always-dapper patriarch of the Rose family in the little-series-that-could, POP TV’s Schitt’s Creek.  A series that, like perennial Emmy favorite Breaking Bad, nobody noticed when it debuted but continued to grow an enormous fan base as seasons went on. This year, Schitt’s Creek landed a huge haul with 15 nominations for its final season. While there is significant love for the show as a whole, the praise seems to be richest for Levy and co-star Catherine O’Hara, both of whom have been performing together since their SCTV days in the early ‘80s. Levy’s only Emmy wins were for writing for SCTV, but with his long career combined with the acclaim for Schitt’s Creek, it makes him a solid frontrunner for the first time since winning nearly 30 years ago. 

Ramy Youssef as Ramy, Ramy (Hulu)

Despite the legendary line-up, the actor favored to win this category isn’t even an established actor. Ramy Youssef, a stand-up comic who burst onto the scene in 2012, is nominated for playing a fictionalized version of himself in Hulu’s Ramy, a show that feels similar to others but is nothing like anything we’ve ever seen. A comedy-drama about an American Muslim family living in New Jersey, Ramy is groundbreaking in so many ways and has earned universal critical acclaim.  Youssef, who is also nominated for directing, won the Golden Globe for the role earlier this year, which gives him some momentum.  

Should win:  Don Cheadle

Will win:  Eugene Levy

Sleeper:  Ramy Youssef


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