If I had an Emmy ballot 2011: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Senior Television Writer
06.18.11 30 Comments

Welcome to part four of our journey through the Emmy ballot on HitFix. Once again, Fienberg and I are approaching each category from two directions, with Dan as the pragmatist and me as the optimist. So as we move onto the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy category, Dan has his usual exhaustive photo gallery of potential nominees, starting with the most likely candidates before eventually moving onto a bit of wish fulfillment, while after the jump, I continue to pretend that I’m a voting member of the TV Academy and have to pick six nominees for this category. (And, again, actors determine what category to submit themselves in, or whether to submit at all. You can download the full performers list here.)

This category isn’t quite as brutal as its drama equivalent, but it’s close. I briefly pondered resurrecting the “one actor per show” idea to deal with it, but ultimately didn’t think that was fair to two exceptional pairs of co-stars.

I actually almost made it three pairs, with either Adam Scott or Chris Pratt joining Nick Offerman from “Parks and Recreation” on my fake ballot. But as with last year, I ultimately felt that Offerman is so far above everyone else from that show in this category – with all due respect to Scott’s marvelous straight man work and Pratt’s great boyish enthusiasm – that I would just go with the man, the mustache, the legend: Ron Effing Swanson. Obviously, Ron is one of the best-written characters on television, but Offerman’s absolute conviction, his willingness to do anything (including dance in a tiny hat) and his charisma make Ron not only incredibly funny, but somehow believable. Just check out this clip below, which is a joke about Ron’s love of meat, but is played with such weariness by Offerman that it says so much about what a struggle it is to be a Swanson in a world of non-Swansons.

Picking Offerman on his own left room for another solo act, and for the second (and last) category in a row, I have someone from “Glee.” Again, the show as a whole is a big mess, but there’s no mistaking just how great Chris Colfer is as Kurt. Raw, honest, effective dramatic acting, and Kurt’s emotional moments tend to be among those rare occasions when “Glee” manages to get out of its own way. As I said in the supporting actress post, the category isn’t Funniest Supporting Actor, but Outstanding Supporting Actor. I’m not sure “Glee” is a comedy, and Kurt is only occasionally a comic character, but he’s eligible here, and he’s really really good.

Now we come to our first pair, from “Community.” I simply couldn’t choose between Donald Glover and Danny Pudi. I think Glover makes me laugh more than anyone else on that show – Troy’s crying (as you can see in the clip below) now triggers an almost Pavlovian response from my funny bone – and yet was able to turn on a dime and anchor a warm, largely serious episode like the one about Troy’s 21st birthday. Pudi, meanwhile, helps enable “Community” to try so many styles and tones with the way he commits to his role as Abed, the show’s navigator, but he’s versatile enough that he can play Abed as Han Solo, a mean girl or – in a transformation so impressive that he seems to be an entirely different person – the Andre Gregory character from “My Dinner With Andre,” delivering a spellbinding monologue about being an extra on the set of “Cougar Town.” 

All year long, I referred to this as an up and down season of “How I Met Your Mother,” and virtually all of the ups came from one or both of Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris. As Marshall and Barney lost and found a father, respectively, both actors got to do some impressive dramatic work (Segel especially) while still shouldering most of the laugh load in an otherwise problematic season.

Tough omissions: Like I said, I would love to find room for Adam Scott, Chris Pratt and also Aziz Ansari, but this is Ron Swanson’s world, and they’re just co-starring in it. With last year’s winner Eric Stonestreet unfortunately hobbled by repetitive, annoying writing this season, Ty Burrell made me laugh more consistently than any of the other “Modern Family” men. In another largely dramatic role, John Corbett was excellent throughout this final season of “United States of Tara” at showing a man torn between the woman he loves and the kids she’s unintentionally destroying. (For that matter, Keir Gilchrist was terrific as the destroyed son.) Charlie Day always cracks me up on “Always Sunny,” and likewise Garret Dillahunt on “Raising Hope.” And even if he wasn’t the only “Cougar Town” man to submit himself this season (unless you count Bob Clendenin submitting as a guest star for playing Tom), Josh Hopkins would have gotten some high consideration from me for continuing to be so silly and fun while slowly carrying more and more emotional weight.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

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