Emmy Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Kenan Thompson Could Be a Double Acting Nominee With ‘Kenan’ and ‘SNL’

·11-min read

Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Emmys ceremonies from film awards editor Clayton Davis. Following history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Emmy predictions are updated regularly with the current year's list of contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. The eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and is subject to change.

To see all the latest predictions, of all the categories, in one place, visit THE EMMYS COLLECTIVE
Visit each individual category, according to the awards show from THE EMMYS HUB
Link to film awards hub THE OSCARS HUB

More from Variety

DRAFT>>>PRE-SEASON>>>REGULAR SEASON>>>POST SEASON

2021 EMMYS PREDICTIONS:
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

UPDATED: May 30, 2021

AWARDS PREDICTION COMMENTARY: Having the year of his career, there’s an excellent chance that the longest-running cast member of “Saturday Night Live” could be a double nominee this year. Nominated twice before in the supporting comedy actor race for “SNL” (including just last year), His namesake series is Kenan Thompson’s first chance at scoring lead love. The first season ended just as FYC season was kicking in, but its renewal helped boost buzz to both the show and its star.

Former “Saturday Night Live” star Jason Sudeikis may be an undeniable recognition this year for his work as the lovable eponymous coach Ted Lasso on Apple TV Plus’ show. Not only is he on a roll after picking up the Golden Globe and the SAG Award, but that the second season is kicking off this summer is keeping him even more top of mind.

Two-time Emmy winner William H. Macy has a career 14 Emmy nominations under his belt, including five for his portrayal of the debaucherous but still beloved Frank Gallagher on Showtime’s dark comedy. Now that the show has aired its final season, this is the last time the Academy can celebrate his performance, and they may want to do just that.

The two-time Oscar winner lost his first two bids as the titular Sandy Kominsky in Netflix’s buddy comedy but may get a sentimental push, as the series signed off with this third season. A previous Emmy winner for “Behind the Candelabra,” Michael Douglas’ work shifted slightly in this final season, as his usual scene partner, Alan Arkin, was no longer a part of the story, pushing him even more firmly in the center of the spotlight.

Anthony Anderson is a bonafide ballot staple, being nominated six times consecutively since 2015 in this category. (He also has three other noms for his role as executive producer on the ABC family sitcom). Always consistently delivering the laughs and the heart, he is a safe bet for continued recognition this year.

Call this a wildcard entry, but NBC’s “Superstore” could get the “Schitt’s Creek” treatment this year as many discovered its magic during the pandemic lockdown. One of the beneficiaries could Ben Feldman, who has been a staple of the show but came into his own further when series lead America Ferrera departed. The Academy knows and likes him already: He received a guest drama actor nod for his work on “Mad Men” in 2012.

The eligibility period ends on May 31 before nomination-round voting begins on June 17, concluding on June 28. The Primetime Emmy nominations will be announced on July 13, 2021.

AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE:

  1. Jason Sudeikis
    "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV Plus)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Ted Lasso

    CREATORS: Bill Lawrence, Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly
    SYNOPSIS:
    Follows US American Football coach Ted Lasso heading to the UK to manage a struggling London football team in the top flight of English football.
    STARRING
    : Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed, Juno Temple

  2. William H. Macy
    "Shameless" (Showtime)


    EMMY HISTORY: 14 nominsions, 2 wins (lead actor in a miniseries or a movie and tv movie for "The Wool Cap" in 2005)
    ROLE: Frank Gallagher / Jerry Gallagher

    CREATORS: Paul Abbott, John Wells
    SYNOPSIS: A scrappy, feisty, fiercely loyal Chicago family makes no apologies.
    STARRING: William H. Macy, Jeremy Allen White, Ethan Cutkosky, Shanola Hampton, Steve Howey, Emma Kenney, Cameron Monaghan, Noel Fisher, Christian Isaiah, Kate Miner

  3. Michael Douglas
    "The Kominsky Method" (Netflix)


    EMMY HISTORY: Eight nominations, one win (lead actor in a miniseries or a movie for "Behind the Candelabra" in 2013)
    ROLE: Sandy Kominsky

    CREATOR: Chuck Lorre
    SYNOPSIS: An aging actor, who long ago enjoyed a brush with fame, makes his living as an acting coach.
    STARRING: Michael Douglas, Lisa Edelstein, Jane Seymour, Kathleen Turner

  4. Anthony Anderson
    "Black-ish" (ABC)


    EMMY HISTORY: Nine nominations
    ROLE: Andre 'Dre' Johnson

    CREATOR: Kenya Barris
    SYNOPSIS: A family man struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood.
    STARRING: Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin, Laurence Fishburne, Jeff Meacham, Jenifer Lewis, Peter Mackenzie, Deon Cole, Katlyn Nichol

  5. Ted Danson
    "Mr. Mayor" (NBC)


    EMMY HISTORY: 18 nominations, two wins (lead actor in a comedy series for "Cheers" in 1990 and 1993)
    ROLE: Neil Bremer

    CREATORS: Robert Carlock, Tina Fey
    SYNOPSIS: A wealthy businessman becomes the mayor of Los Angeles.
    STARRING: Ted Danson, Holly Hunter, Vella Lovell, Mike Cabellon, Kyla Kenedy, Bobby Moynihan

  6. Kenan Thompson
    "Kenan" (NBC)


    EMMY HISTORY: Four nominations, one win (original music and lyrics for the song "Come Back, Barack" on "Saturday Night Live" in 2018)
    ROLE: Kenan Williams

    CREATOR: David Caspe, Jackie Clarke
    SYNOPSIS: A recently-widowed dad tries to raise his kids with his persistent father-in-law.
    STARRING: Kenan Thompson, Don Johnson, Chris Redd, Kimrie Lewis, Dani Lane, Dannah Lane

NEXT IN LINE CONTENDERS:

  1. Rob McElhenney
    "Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet" (Apple TV Plus)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Ian

    CREATOR: Megan Ganz, Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day
    SYNOPSIS: The owner of a successful video game design company and his troubled staff struggle to keep their hit game 'Mythic Quest' on top.
    STARRING: Rob McElhenney, Ashly Burch, Jessie Ennis, Imani Hakim, David Hornsby, Charlotte Nicdao, Danny Pudi, F. Murray Abraham

  2. Ralph Macchio
    "Cobra Kai" (Netflix)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Daniel LaRusso

    CREATOR: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
    SYNOPSIS: Decades after their 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament bout, a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence find themselves martial-arts rivals again.
    STARRING: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni DeCenzo, Martin Kove, Vanessa Rubio, Peyton List

  3. William Zabka
    "Cobra Kai" (Netflix)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Johnny Lawrence

    CREATOR: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
    SYNOPSIS: Decades after their 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament bout, a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence find themselves martial-arts rivals again.
    STARRING: Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni DeCenzo, Martin Kove, Vanessa Rubio, Peyton List

  4. Ben Feldman
    "Superstore" (NBC)


    EMMY HISTORY: One nomination (guest actor in a drama series for "Mad Men" in 2012)
    ROLE: Jonah

    CREATORS: Justin Spitzer
    SYNOPSIS: A look at the lives of employees at a big box store.
    STARRING: America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Lauren Ash, Colton Dunn, Nico Santos, Nichole Sakura, Mark McKinney, Kaliko Kauahi

TOP-TIER AWARDS CONTENDERS:

  1. Ed Helms
    "Rutherford Falls" (Peacock)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Nathan Rutherford

    CREATOR: Ed Helms, Sierra Teller Ornelas, Michael Schur
    SYNOPSIS: A small town in the Northeast is turned upside down when local legend and town namesake, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) fights the moving of a historical statue.
    STARRING: Ed Helms, Michael Greyeyes, Jana Schmieding, Jesse Leigh, Dustin Milligan

  2. Martin Freeman
    "Breeders" (FX)


    EMMY HISTORY: Three nominations, one win (supporting actor in a miniseries or a movie for "Sherlock" in 2014)
    ROLE: Paul Worsley

    CREATOR: Martin Freeman, Chris Addison, Simon Blackwell
    SYNOPSIS: A comedic look at the trials and tribulations of parenthood.
    STARRING: Martin Freeman, Daisy Haggard

  3. John Goodman
    "The Conners" (ABC)


    EMMY HISTORY: 11 nominations, one win (guest actor in a drama series for "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" in 2007)
    ROLE: Dan Conner

    CREATOR: Matt Williams
    SYNOPSIS: Follow-up to the comedy series "Roseanne," centering on the family members of the matriarch after her sudden death.
    STARRING: John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson, Michael Fishman, Emma Kenney, Ames McNamara, Jayden Rey, Maya Lynne Robinson, Jay R. Ferguson

  4. Topher Grace
    "Home Economics" (ABC)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Tom

    CREATOR: John Aboud, Michael Colton
    SYNOPSIS: Three grown-up siblings find themselves living at vastly different levels of financial security from one another.
    STARRING: Topher Grace, Caitlin McGee, Jimmy Tatro, Karla Souza, Sasheer Zamata, Shiloh Bearman, Jordyn Starr Curet, JeCobi Swain, Chloe Jo Rountree

  5. Alan Tydyk
    "Resident Alien" (Syfy)


    EMMY HISTORY: One nomination
    ROLE: Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle

    CREATOR: Chris Sheridan
    SYNOPSIS: A crash-landed alien named Harry who takes on the identity of a small-town Colorado doctor and slowly begins to wrestle with the moral dilemma of his secret mission on Earth.
    STARRING: Alan Tudyk, Sara Tomko, Corey Reynolds, Alice Wetterlund, Levi Fiehler, Judah Prehn

  6. Walton Goggins
    "The Unicorn" (CBS)


    EMMY HISTORY: One nomination
    ROLE: Wade Felton

    CREATOR: Grady Cooper, Bill Martin, Mike Schiff
    SYNOPSIS: A widower is eager to move on from the most difficult year of his life, only to realize he's utterly unprepared to raise his two daughters on his own and equally unprepared for the dating world where he's suddenly a hot commodity.
    STARRING: Walton Goggins, Rob Cordrry, Omar Benson Miller, Maya Lynne Robinson, Ruby Jay

  7. Ryan O'Connell
    "Special" (Netflix)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Payton Hobart

    CREATOR: Ryan O'Connell
    SYNOPSIS: A young gay man with cerebral palsy branches out from his insular existence in hopes of finally going after the life he wants.
    STARRING: Ryan O'Connell, Jessica Hecht, Punam Patel

  8. Ben Platt
    "The Politician" (Netflix)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Payton Hobart

    CREATOR: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Ian Brennan
    SYNOPSIS: Payton Hobart, a student from Santa Barbara, has known since age seven that he's going to be President of the United States. But first he'll have to navigate the most treacherous political landscape of all: Saint Sebastian High School.
    STARRING: Ben Platt, Zoey Deutch, Lucy Boynton, Bob Balaban, David Corenswet, Julia Schlaepfer, Laura Dreyfuss, Theo Germaine, Rahne Jones, Benjamin Barrett, Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judith Light, Bette Midler

  9. Jamie Foxx
    "Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!" (Netflix)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Brian Dixon

    CREATOR: Jamie Foxx, Jim Patterson
    SYNOPSIS: A single dad and cosmetics brand owner figures out fatherhood on the fly when his strong-minded teen daughter moves in with him.
    STARRING: Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Kyla-Drew, Porscha Coleman, Jonathan Kite, Heather Hemmens

  10. Lamorne Morris
    "Woke" (Hulu)


    EMMY HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Keef

    CREATOR: Keith Knight, Marshall Todd
    SYNOPSIS: Keef is an African-American cartoonist on the verge of mainstream success when an unexpected incident changes his life.
    STARRING: Lamorne Morris, Blake Anderson, T. Murph, Rose McIver, Sasheer Zamata

ALL AWARDS CONTENDERS (UNRANKED):

AWARDS CATEGORY HISTORY (Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)

The Primetime Emmy Awards, better known simply as the Emmys, is television’s most prestigious artistic award. There are many records held for both wins and nominations in the near eight decades.

For wins: Four actors have won the most prizes in this category, with four in all of Emmy history – Michael J. Fox, Kelsey Grammer, Carroll O’Connor and Jim Parsons. Fox and O’Connor have won three consecutive years. Except for Fox, Grammer (“Frasier”), O’Connor (“All in the Family”) and Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) won for the same television series. Fox won three for “Family Ties” and the other for “Spin City.” Four men have three times – Don Adams, John Lithgow, Tony Shalhoub and Dick Van Dyke.

For nominations: Ted Danson has the most nominations ever in this category with 14 (winning twice for “Cheers”). Alan Alda and Kelsey Grammer are next in line with 11, while Michael J. Fox, Carroll O’Connor and Tony Shalhoub have eight each.

John Goodman, Matt LeBlanc and Hal Linden have the most nominations without ever winning for lead actor in a comedy series. Goodman (“Roseanne”) and Linden (“Barney Miller”) were all nominated for the same series. LeBlanc’s nods are split between “Friends” (3) and “Episodes” (4).

“Cheers” and “M*A*S*H” are the leading series with nominations in this category, with 11 with “Frasier” and “The Odd Couple” (1970-1975) nabbing 10. NBC has won this category the most for any network with 26, while CBS and ABC have 19 and 11 wins. Amazon Prime Video is the first and only streaming platform to win this category for Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) in two consecutive years.

2021 Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions

About the Primetime Emmy Awards (Emmys)

The Primetime Emmy Awards, better known as the Emmys, is given out by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS). Since 1949, the awards recognize excellence in American primetime television programming. They are divided into three classes – Primetime Emmy Awards, the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards (honors artisan achievements) and the Primetime Engineering Emmy Awards (recognizes significant engineering and technological contributions). The typical eligibility period is between June 1 and May 31 of any given year. The Television Academy comprises over 25,000 members, representing 30 professional peer groups, including performers, directors, producers, art directors and various artisans and executives.

  • The 73rd Emmy Awards are scheduled to air on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8:00 pm est on CBS and on-demand on sister streamer Paramount Plus.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.