WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: On paper, it almost sounded like a groan-inducing gimmick: Comic vet Anderson playing the mother of Zach Galifianakis’ titular wannabe clown. But Anderson’s achingly subtle work as a lonely, occasionally cruel, frequently dessert-obsessed California suburbanite reeling from undiagnosed diabetes and her husband’s unacknowledged suicide was nothing short of revelatory. Her pettiness and resilience not only helped us understand Chip Baskets’ singularly strange journey, but created an unforgettable scene-strealer in the process.
TITUSS BURGESS, UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Just when we thought we couldn’t possibly love the eccentric weirdo known as Titus Andromedon any more, along came Season 2 of Netflix’s Kimmy Schmidt, in which the former geisha — one of his past lives, naturally — became a more fully rounded character. Burgess was up for every challenge, be it a heartfelt scene with love interest Mikey (“In the words of Sara Bareilles…”) or a gut-busting cutaway involving him accidentally shooting another actor during an audition (“You said this was blanks!”). Always unpredictable, and always a pleasant surprise, Burgess might just be the show’s most unbreakable cast member.
JAIME CAMIL, JANE THE VIRGIN
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Jane’s learning-as-he-goes father didn’t always know best, but Camil was simply unmatched when it came to bringing humor and heart to Rogelio’s antics. The actor threw himself with childlike exuberance into every joke about the soap star’s vanity and each of Jane‘s telenovela twists. In Season 2, Camil showed us the depth of his character’s love for his daughter as he comically went full Father-of-the-Bridezilla (and changed a two-stories-up lightbulb in a way that was both gut-wrenching and hilarious) . He also brought a newfound vulnerability to Rogelio after he was held hostage by a crazy fan. But it was the commitment to the absurd that Camil displayed during his scenes on the fictional time-traveling telenovela Tiago in Time, that had us laughing so hard, we wished it was a real show.
MAX GREENFIELD, NEW GIRL
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Greenfield’s performance matched the superior writing for Schmidt in an Emmy-worthy season of the veteran comedy. His engagement to Cece and his revisited daddy issues made the loft’s resident douche a fully-formed human again (after a couple of seasons teetering on the brink of cartoon). This isn’t to say that Greenfield isn’t great with more outlandish material — his pantomiming of a Drumline solo was, in a word, brilliant — but that he excels when allowed to play Schmidt at both his most confident and most vulnerable. Take for instance “D-Day,” an episode which featured the groomzilla defending the obscene seating arrangements for his wedding and timidly reintroducing himself to his deadbeat dad. The previous Emmy nominee should have no trouble reentering the race with terrific showcases like that.
CHARLIE McDERMOTT, THE MIDDLE
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Honestly, McDermott merits an Emmy nom this year for all of the same reasons that he has for the six that preceded it. (What are you waiting for, Television Academy?) Not only did the young actor prove a master of physical comedy — we’d swear he has rubber bands where other people have ligaments — but he was a whiz at never letting us forget that, as much as his bratty Axl disses his family, he secretly loves them. (Yes, even Sue.) Plus, as the character took tentative steps toward adulthood in Season 7 — with a thankless internship and a bummer of a breakup — his portrayer nimbly navigated the transition, introducing a (slightly) older, (slightly) wiser Ax Man… who was still blessedly immature enough to run a grilled-cheese business out of his RV!
SAM RICHARDSON, VEEP
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: The HBO comedy’s Washington is a mean, snarky, cut-you-down place in which a verbal kill shot is as common as Senate legislation and press briefings. Thank goodness for Richardson’s brilliant portrayal of good-natured Meyers administration idiot Richard Splett, whose oblivion makes him president of the Happy To Be Here Club. Richardson’s timing — especially alongside frequent scene partner Timothy Simons — is a thing of genius, imbuing Richard with such comic naivete that even something as simple as the character saying his last name can evoke giggles. And if Veep‘s fictional White House continues to reward incompetence, we’ll be the first to buy a “Splett 2020” button — because Richardson is a talent in whom we trust.
MATT SHIVELY, THE REAL O’NEALS
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Quite rightly, Noah Galvin has been hailed as a breakout star of ABC’s sitcom about a teenager who comes out to his very Catholic family. But he wasn’t the series’ only breakout. Season 1 had scarcely gotten underway when Shively, as Kenny’s adorably dingy older brother Jimmy, won us over with his contagious combination of enthusiasm and goofiness. (Seriously, there are puppies that are more restrained and serious than Jimmy is — and we love him for it!) The sweeter and sillier the character’s supportiveness of Kenny became — Jimmy even helped him surf the net for gay porn — the funnier the scene-stealer was. In short, he’s the, ahem, real deal.