Since the inception of the Comedy Supporting Actress Emmy in 1954 – won that year by the ultimate sitcom sidekick, Vivian Vance (I Love Lucy) – a total of 15 performers have triumphed multiple times in the category.
Among those actors is Alex Borstein, Comedy Supporting Actress champion of the past two years, once again in contention for her scene-stealing turn as no-nonsense manager Susie Myerson on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Should Borstein, who also has a Character Voice-Over Performance Emmy under her belt for Family Guy, again triumph this year, she will join an elite group of Emmy favorites – only the fifth to date – who scored three consecutive Comedy Supporting Actress prizes. Those four performers who have the distinction of achieving this feat are sitcom icons Valerie Harper (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Rhea Perlman (Cheers), Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne) and Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond).
Is Borstein on the verge of making that elite quartet into a quintet? Let’s take a look at this year’s Comedy Supporting Actress field.
Borstein faces familiar company, with three 2019 competitors – Betty Gilpin (GLOW), Marin Hinkle (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live) – back in contention. While all brilliant turns, there’s scant reason to think any of them will top Borstein this year if they couldn’t last time around, though McKinnon, as a two-time Comedy Supporting Actress winner, cannot be entirely counted out. Also in for an uphill climb may be Cecily Strong, who faces the daunting statistic that only McKinnon has scored this prize since Saturday Night Live players began contending in the category. Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Vanessa Bayer, Leslie Jones and Aidy Bryant all earned nominations, only to come up short for the win.
If Borstein’s streak is to end, it will likely be stopped by one of the remaining three contenders.
After three critically acclaimed seasons that generated negligible Emmy recognition, Insecure finally took off in nominations with its fourth season, including a bid for first-time contender Yvonne Orji. While Orji isn’t the most familiar face in this lineup and may at first seem like a long shot against some of these heavyweights, voters have clearly come around her series and it’s entirely possible she could ride that strong reception to an upset.
Then, there are fellow first-time nominees D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place) and Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek), both contending for the final seasons of their respective series. While we know the other programs in this category, including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, are coming back, this is the last opportunity for voters to award one of these two devastatingly funny performers. There is precedent for voters awarding a contender’s final season in this category, with the likes of Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) and Carol Kane (Taxi) triumphing for their programs’ swan songs.
It is unclear, however, which of those two sentimental favorites might have an edge, or if Insecure will actually triumph on any of its series-high eight nominations. The lack of a clear alternative is an undeniable boon to Borstein. Yet, it should be noted that several Comedy Supporting Actress contenders have earned two consecutive prizes – including McKinnon, Ann B. Davis (The Bob Cummings Show), Betty White (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers), Julie Bowen (Modern Family) and Allison Janney (Mom) – without locking down that third in a row.
Well-positioned as Borstein may be, it remains tough to pull off a feat like this – and Comedy Supporting Actress may be more ripe for an upset than anticipated.