Currently, Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) looks safe to repeat his win from last year but he has two actors nipping at his heels (so to say) in the form of Anthony Anderson (black-ish, his second nomination in a row) and Aziz Ansari (Master of None, his first nomination in this category).
Judging episodes alone it would see Anderson has the best material – “Hope” features a deeply impassioned speech about President Obama and is one of those comedy submissions with the right amount of drama to eek out a win. He would be the first black actor to win in this category since Robert Guillaume won for Benson in 1985.
Tambor’s submission “Man on the Land” has him entering a strictly ‘women’s only’ music festival and retreat who don’t regard trans women as ‘real’ women. There he meets a jewelry maker (played by Oscar winner Anjelica Huston, who should have been nominated in Guest Actress) and the two have a torrid affair. It’s far less comedic than the rest of the nominees here but then Transparent isn’t really a full-fledged comedy.
Aziz Ansari stands a good chance at a win here with a show he created, co-wrote and stars in. He’s also nominated for writing and directing of the episode he submitted, “Parents.” It’s a heartfelt love letter of an episode to his immigrant parents and a winner of a submission. His recent response to Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stand could push him to the top.
Below that, I (and the rest of the Emmy Experts) don’t see much chance for Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley, his first nomination), William H. Macy (Shameless, his 11th Emmy nomination, his 3rd here) or Will Forte (Last Man on Earth, his second in a row here, 5th overall) to break into that top three but even though Macy is low on our lists if anyone was going to shock it would be him. He won the SAG for Male Actor in a Comedy Series in 2015 but not against any of his Emmy competition.
Here are the rankings for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series from the Emmy Experts: