This category is filled with veterans, including four past Emmy winners, albeit not necessarily winners in this particular category. Bill Hader is the reigning champ here, having won last year for the first season of Barry, but he has formidable competition from a past two-time Lead Actor Comedy winner, a past four-time nominee here, a current five-time nominee, a two-time Oscar winner who’s now back in a TV series for the first time in nearly 50 years, and a beloved SCTV vet with his first nomination since 1983.
Of all the nominees in this year’s Lead Actor Comedy category, Anthony Anderson is the most consistent in terms of nominations. He has gone to bat and been nominated five times for black-ish. He has also consistently lost, so can this finally be his year? He can take solace from a fellow nominee: Ted Danson, who was nominated seven times consistently for Cheers before finally taking an Emmy on his eighth try, so there is always hope, Anthony. Just don’t lose to Ted this time.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again with a different series. Cheadle, who has been nominated nine times overall in his career, was up four times for his previous comedy series, House of Lies, but never won (also see Anthony Anderson). Demonstrating his peers’ love for him, he’s back in the game for the first season of Black Monday, and if enough voters actually see this underdog entry, perhaps he can change his luck this year. He’s always a contender.
The Good Place
Danson won two Emmys for Cheers after losing seven times in a row. He also has another three past noms for the drama series Damages, and was first nominated for NBC’s The Good Place last season, losing to Bill Hader. There is much love in the industry for this true TV veteran, and if that translates for this penultimate season of the show, then he may well find himself in the winners’ circle once again.
The Kominsky Method
Yes, Douglas is a past two-time Oscar winner, as well as an Emmy winner in the Limited Series/Movie category for his stunning turn as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra, but this nomination for the first season of The Kominsky Method represents his first for a regular role in a TV series in nearly half a century. In the early ’70s he was nominated three times in the Supporting Actor Drama Series category for The Streets of San Francisco. Now in his 50th year in the business, will it be full circle for Douglas, who already won the Golden Globe for this show?
Hader was a surprise winner here last year for Barry, and the talented multi-hyphenate is back again this year, with two additional nominations for his off-camera work on the show too. The fact that he pulled off a win so early for this series about a hitman who’s also trying to be an actor is proof positive that Academy members really liked the character and what Hader did with it. If he follows the Emmy tradition of repeating, he’ll win again this time.
If there’s a sentimental favorite in this category it has to be Levy. He may have nine previous nominations and two wins for writing Second City TV, but this is his first acting nod, and his first Emmy nomination in an incredible 36 years. This was the big surprise of Emmy nomination morning, since Schitt’s Creek had been previously overlooked in other seasons, so it was welcome indeed to see this happen for Levy. He could be the dark horse winner, so don’t count him out.
Beloved TV veteran Henry Winkler finally won his first-ever Emmy last year for his role as the quirky drama teacher in Barry, receiving an instant standing ovation at the ceremony. This year, he’s facing competition from his own show, with two other cast members landing nominations in the same category: Anthony Carrigan and Stephen Root. Neither has the name or backstory in the business that Winkler does, so maybe he doesn’t have to worry about them canceling him out for a second win. The big competition comes from past two-time winner Tony Hale of Veep in his last go-round for the series, as well as from popular veteran Tony Shalhoub, who’s nominated again for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and boasts three past Emmy wins for other shows. However, is it really possible to resist 85-year-old Alan Arkin in The Kominsky Method? Will the Oscar winner finally add an Emmy after four previous tries? Yes.
WINNER: Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method