So many hilarious performances on television, so little time! I’m dubbing this category #YearoftheChris because two of my hopefuls are blessed with said first name, and that can’t just be happenstance, can it? I didn’t think so either.
From a doctor to a single dad, from a would-be womanizer to an amateur genealogist, from a start-up’s CEO to a nerdy city planner, below are–in my mind–the cream of the crop of television’s comedy actors.
Without further delay, here we go: my dream Emmy Ballot for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series!
Louis CK, Louie Chris Messina, The Mindy Project
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley Stephen Merchant, Hello, Ladies
Chris O’Dowd, Family Tree Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation
Honorable Mentions: H. Jon Benjamin, Archer; William H. Macy, Shameless; Ricky Gervais, Derek; Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Elijah Wood, Wilfred
“Show your work…”
The criminally underappreciated Family Tree was–pardon the impending pun–rooted firmly in the excellent performance by Chris O’Dowd. Thanks to O’Dowd’s one-of-a-kind charm, Tom Chadwick became a man whose multi-continental journey became a symbol for his own self-discovery following a divorce. O’Dowd tempered the show’s moments of outrageous quirkiness with ace reaction shots but could also deliver the funny himself: see his diatribe against an angry motorist for spouting off “mythical racism.” I’ve resigned myself to the reality that O’Dowd will not receive the gift of a nomination, and that’s a true shame.
Speaking of requisite straight-men in the face of absurdity, is there a character better suited to the role than Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt? Mr. Leslie Knope has the difficult job of grounding some of the more ludicrous situations and characters (see Andy Dwyer), but he does so with such deadpan aplomb, he manages to elevate this standard role to something truly funny. Scott knows just when to ramp up Ben’s childlike glee (or outrage) when it comes to his nerdy wheelhouse, whether that’s his reaction shot to Letters of Cleo reuniting for the Unity Concert or showing the boys how a real man plays Cones of Dunshire. For me, Leslie Knope is the heart of Parks and Recreation, but thanks to Adam Scott, Ben Wyatt is its lungs, finding new ways to breathe new life into otherwise standard comedy tropes.
In years to come, doctoral candidates will be analyzing the unadulterated brilliance of FX’s Louie and the way it quietly and single-handedly altered our expectations of what a comedy series can accomplish, and none of that would be possible without CK’s titular performance. Whether struggling with the modern realities of life as a single-father or delivering gut-busting stand up, Louis CK’s fearless performance can match the dauntless writing step for step. It’s an incredible performance brimming with pathos, humor, and more than a pinch of sadness.
Thomas Middleditch is spectacular as the socially awkward but technologically brilliant Richard in HBO’s Silicon Valley. His mannerisms and speech patterns give his character a fullness because Middleditch clearly has no interest in poking fun at Richard; rather, he wants to expose his quirks and idiosyncrasies as well as his genius. Great stuff. Stephen Merchant, on the other hand, walks a fine line with Stuart Pritchard in Hello, Ladies. At times, we need to fume at Stuart; other times, we pity him. We laugh at him (how hilariously awkward was the scene of him trying to get out of the sports car in front of the club in the pilot episode?); we laugh with him. That’s quite a bit to ask of an audience, but Merchant manages handily, creating a full portrait of a man trying too hard to find a connection when there’s one right under his nose.
Chris Messina has been great for what feels like forever, so it’s about time to laud this guy with the props he so richly deserves. His Dr. Castellano is the most charming curmudgeon to grace our small screens in quite some time, and Messina did an excellent job dismantling Dr. C’s bravado a piece at a time over the course of the excellent second season to reveal the beating heart of a true romantic. The Mindy Project enjoyed such phenomenal success this year in no small part due to Messina, whose electric chemistry with fellow dream-nominee Mindy Kaling virtually set our televisions on fire. Oh, and the dude can dance apparently.
There we have it, ladies and gentlemen. Tomorrow, stay tuned for the culmination of this first half of my Dream Emmy Ballot experiment: Best Comedy Series! Until then, don’t forget to keep that mythical racism in check. Leprechauns are people too! #TheMoreYouKnow