When it comes to accolades for work on the stage, there are few actors as celebrated as the legendary Nathan Lane.
He has a trio of Tony Awards (for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Producers and Angels in America) and half a dozen Drama Desk Awards (for The Lisbon Traviata, Guys and Dolls, Love! Valour! Compassion!, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Producers and Angels in America) under his belt, not to mention an Olivier Award (also for The Producers).
When it comes to scoring wins for his work on the small screen, however, victory has proven more elusive.
Lane does have a pair of Daytime Emmys, in the category of Animated Program Performer for Timon & Pumbaa and Teacher’s Pet. At the Primetime Emmys, however, prior to this season, Lane had gone 0-for-6 on nominations, losing in his Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series bids for Frasier, Mad About You and Modern Family (which earned him a trio of noms) and an Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series bid for The Good Wife.
This year, on a seventh primetime career nomination, with his acclaimed turn for the episode “The Boy from 6B” from Only Murders in the Building, Lane is on the verge of either ending this losing streak – or setting a new category record for most bids without a win. With this recognition, Lane had set a new record – six – of most appearances by a performer in Comedy Guest Actor, breaking his prior tied record of five with Fred Willard (who also never triumphed in this category).
Will this finally be Lane’s year? Let’s dive into Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series.
Comedy Guest Actor is largely a battle this year among first-time nominees, with Jerrod Carmichael (Saturday Night Live, for the episode he hosted), James Lance (Ted Lasso, for the episode “Inverting The Pyramid Of Success”), Christopher McDonald (Hacks, for the episode “The One, The Only”) and Sam Richardson (Ted Lasso, for the episode “Midnight Train To Royston”) all contending on their first career Emmy bids. Besides Lane, only Emmy mainstay Bill Hader (Curb Your Enthusiasm, for the episode “Igor, Gregor, & Timor”), a three-time winner (in Comedy Lead Actor for Barry and Animated Program for South Park), has previously scored recognition.
Oddly enough, despite his incredible run at the Emmys, it may be Hader who is the greatest long shot in this category. Over its lengthy run, despite earning a plethora of nominations, Curb Your Enthusiasm has only scored two wins – in Comedy Directing in 2003 and Comedy Single-Camera Picture Editing in 2012. It did not triumph on any of its past 12 acting bids. There is scant reason to think Hader can pull off what others before couldn’t, especially with Curb Your Enthusiasm merely picking up a total of four nominations overall – not a robust show of support.
Hader aside, a case could perhaps be made for any of the remaining contenders.
Since Saturday Night Live first surfaced in Comedy Guest Actor in 2009, four contenders on seven occasions (Justin Timberlake twice, Jimmy Fallon twice, Dave Chappelle twice and Eddie Murphy) have prevailed in this category – a trend undoubtedly favorable to Carmichael, who also this year scored acclaim and an Emmy nomination for his comedy special Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel. If there’s a hurdle for Carmichael, it may involve Saturday Night Live itself, which saw a steep decline in nominations from 21 last year to just nine this year.
Then there are the remaining contenders, all of whom hail from programs showered in recognition this year.
With a whopping 20 overall nominations, Ted Lasso is the leader among comedies but Hacks and Only Murders in the Building, both at 17 bids a piece, aren’t far behind. Lance has proven a scene-stealing highlight on both of Ted Lasso’s seasons, Richardson may be helped by the additional acclaim he this year received on The Afterparty, and McDonald is a veteran character actor who’s worked with just about everyone in the industry. Any of them can win.
And then there’s Lane, also a veteran actor hailing from one of the season’s hottest, most recognized comedies. His role on Only Murders in the Building has been an integral one and he’s continuing to turn in stellar work on the show’s second season, now airing at a time when voters will be casting their ballots.
Lane may not be a commanding favorite but, between the momentum for his program, acclaim for his performance and sentiment that he’s sorely overdue for a win, the stars sure are aligning in just the right way for him to finally pull it off.
Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu