WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Finally, finally Anderson has found the comedic role for which he was intended. The talented actor drove black-ish‘s first season by turning in a hilarious performance as the always-divided Dre: Though the Johnson family patriarch liked to lecture his kids about knowing their roots, Anderson’s character was never funnier than when he was found to be forgetting his own. Case in point: The “Switch Hitting” episode, in which Anderson’s turned the silliest of lines — “I’m off the Lipitor, son!” — into a gutbuster. Keep it real, Emmys: Let Anderson into the race.
WILL FORTE, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Although The Last Man on Earth and the character of Phil Miller grew more divisive as the freshman comedy moved forward, there was never a shadow of a doubt that Forte was committing to the performance of a lifetime. Whether he was a lovable oddball one week or an arrogant sleazeball the next, Forte took a potentially one-dimensional character and made him a multidimensional being worthy of love, hate and (eek!) raisin balls.
CHRIS GEERE, YOU’RE THE WORST
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: We shouldn’t like narcissistic, self-centered Jimmy Shive-Overly. But we do, and that’s all because of Geere’s slick, silly-in-the-best-way portrayal of the oblivious Brit. Season 1 of the FX-to-FXX comedy found Jimmy inadvertently dragging himself, inwardly kicking and screaming, into a relationship — and Geere’s performance as a man shocked by his deepening feelings for an equally self-involved partner (Aya Cash’s delectable Gretchen) was gold. Add in his breezy dickishness toward roommate/butler Edgar and you’ve got a nom-worthy underdog worth his weight in Emmy gold.
CHRIS MESSINA, THE MINDY PROJECT
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Danny Castellano is a hot mess of a man whose heart has been taking hits since he was a kid, and Messina’s gift is that he knows exactly how to mine all that built-up misery for laughs. (The Diamond Dan dance moves don’t hurt, either.) In Season 3, Messina effortlessly blended Danny’s fear about becoming a father and worries about marrying Mindy with some of the funniest, most outrageous performances he’s given on the show — and yes, we’re including the backdoor action in that episode. After all, who else could imbue two words — “I slipped” — with so much sheepish silliness? And when Messina got to go up against Cheers vet Rhea Perlman as his persnickety Ma, he only got sharper and funnier. Having any doubt about his deservedness in this race? Fuhgeddaboutit!
THOMAS MIDDLEDITCH, SILICON VALLEY
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: When Silicon Valley began in 2014, Middleditch’s computer programmer Richard Hendricks was little more than a walking panic attack. In the HBO comedy’s second season, Richard still succumbs to his anxieties — those were just night sweats, Jared! — but Middleditch has made us laugh even harder as his Pied Piper CEO tries to be aggressive and self-assured. Richard sometimes fails to be the alpha male his company needs — no one on TV today plays awkward and shy more convincingly than Middleditch — but watching this savant navigate the shark-infested, cutthroat tech world is a always joy to behold.
JEFFREY TAMBOR, TRANSPARENT
From the moment Amazon Prime made Transparent‘s pilot episode available, Tambor’s Emmy nomination became something of an inevitability. But the kudos weren’t simply about the fact that the Arrested Development actor slipped so easily into the role of Maura Pfefferman, a retired college professor and father of three who comes to terms with being transgender and reveals to his family his decision to transition to female. The breathtaking nuance of Tambor’s work — the heartbreaking fear of coming out to his kids, the unmistakable joys of stepping into his womanhood — made this one of the all-time great small screen performances.