For Your Consideration: Last-Minute 2021 Emmy Performances Worth Nominating

Tonight’s the deadline to submit your Emmy Awards ballots, after which number-crunching will determine who receives nominations in 2021 for work over the past 12 months.

I’m not an Emmy voter this year. But if I were, or if you are, I urge you to consider marking the following on your ballots today:

Outstanding Variety Talk Series 

This category, historically dominated by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart before that, could use some fresh perspective. Desus & Mero is a trendy pick — they broke through with a victory earlier this year at the WGAs. But why not also consider Doing The Most with Phoebe Robinson? This limited series, kinda buried by Comedy Central, was a pure delight as Robinson interviewed her guests in their own chosen environments, and got them talking more freely than they do when they’re in studio (or definitely on Zoom).

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

Look. I’m friends with folks on Saturday Night Live. But nobody can say SNL has been putting out its greatest content, certainly not worthy of four consecutive wins in this category, no matter how much Emmy voters wanted to stick it to Trump. A Black Lady Sketch Show was by far the better and best show in the category last year. Snubbing them in 2020 was a crime. Now they’re joined by two new amazing feats: The Amber Ruffin Show on Peacock, and How To with John Wilson on HBO. I’ve already argued that SNL just give Ruffin the final half-hour on NBC. Give her the Emmy now, at least! Wilson’s show, on the other hand, might stand a better chance in two other categories.

So I say…put down How To with John Wilson on your ballot for the following: Outstanding Narrator — John Wilson, How To With John Wilson (HBO); and Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming — How To With John Wilson How To Cook The Perfect Risotto Season Finale. To thank his elderly landlord for all the times she has cooked and cleaned for him, John attempts to make her favorite dish. Adam Locke-Norton, Editor

Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction SpecialBelushi (Showtime); Class Action Park (HBO Max)

Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction SeriesExpecting Amy (HBO Max)

Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

This has become an even tougher category for comedians to crack as the digital comedy boom allowed for more specials on more platforms, while also having to compete with all of the other specials that fall under the “variety” tag. Even with the pandemic slowing down the output, we got 35 entries from stand-ups since last June. The stand-ups do stand a better chance in the Writing version of the Outstanding Variety Special category. Please consider any of these comedians and their specials, who produced my favorite hours of the past 12 months.

  • Beth Stelling: Girl Daddy
  • Bo Burnham: Inside
  • Jim Jefferies: Intolerant
  • Natalie Palamides: Nate – A One Man Show
  • Nate Bargatze: The Greatest Average American
  • Sam Jay: 3 In The Morning
  • Sherman’s Showcase Black History Month Spectacular

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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