After pulling off a victory last year, Luke Kirby is aiming to go back to back in the Best Comedy Guest Actor Emmy category. The actor is nominated once again for embodying comic Lenny Bruce on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” He has submitted the Season 3 episode “It’s Comedy or Cabbage” for Emmy consideration.
While on a tour stop in Miami, Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) is surprised to see Lenny in her hotel bar. He invites her to sit on set during his TV appearance on “Miami After Dark,” but Lenny surprises Midge by pulling her into his on-camera act. The pair makes the host of the show uncomfortable with an improvised story about their fake marriage. The bit ends with Lenny getting into a humorous argument with Tennessee Williams, referring to his play “The Rose Tattoo” as “substandard melodrama.”
Lenny and Midge spend the rest of the night at a tiki bar, staring longingly at one another before dancing to the live music. The duo walks back to Lenny’s hotel room as the sun rises, with flirtatious energy running high. But Midge finds herself unable to enter Lenny’s room once he opens the door. She calls off the romantic rendezvous and hails a cab.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of this submission.
Kirby shows up at the 30-minute mark, but his story dominates the episode once he does. Kirby and Brosnahan close out the episode with a touching scene, and the last shot is a closeup of Kirby. These elements ensure that voters are left thinking of his work once the episode ends.
The actor gets to play a wide range of emotions, from broad comedy to subtle romantic moments. This allows Kirby to stand out as a multifaceted character in a world in which other comedic nominees play roles that are purposefully crafted as heightened caricatures. He has the audience chuckling one moment and swooning the next, adding up to a character for whom viewers can root.
While Kirby is able to showcase plenty of range, the overall tone of his appearance reads as “romantic” more than “funny.” If voters are strictly adhering to the “comedy” aspect of this category, they have other nominees to choose from whose performances are designed to induce nonstop belly laughs, including three contenders from “Saturday Night Live.”
While Emmy voters do love repeat nominees, this category does not often support consecutive repeat winners. Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon both won this category twice for “Saturday Night Live,” but both had a gap year between their victories. The last person with back-to-back wins was Mel Brooks (“Mad About You”), who managed three consecutive wins from 1997-99. The only other actor with consecutive victories in this category is Jay Thomas (“Murphy Brown”) in 1990 and ’91. Statistically, it seems unlikely for Kirby to become just the third actor with consecutive comedy guest actor wins.
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