Inside track: Emmy race for Best Comedy Actress — who’s ahead to win?

The race for Comedy Actress pits reigning champ Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) against four of her last year’s nominees — Lena Dunham (“Girls”), 2010 winner Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”), 2008 winner Tina Fey (“30 Rock”) and Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”) — as well as 2012 Golden Globe winner Laura Dern (“Enlightened”).

Louis-Dreyfus is heavily favored to repeat in this race. If she prevails, she will become the first woman to win for the same role twice since Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) in 2001.  While Louis-Dreyfus has won twice since, she triumphed in 2006 for “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Her Emmy episode is titled “Running” and features her character — the Vice President of the United States — hopped up on meds after walking through a glass door. Emmy voters love seeing uptight characters like Selina Meyer let loose while in an altered state. 

RELATED: Emmys toast drunks, lushes & alcoholics

Dunham also submitted an episode in which her character is under the influence of drugs. However, her drug of choice is illegal in nature. “Bad Friend,” which Dunham co-wrote, sees her character Hannah Horvath try cocaine in order to her have something to write about as a freelance journalist. Her trip takes her on a wild journey as she goes through a range of emotions. Two years ago, Melissa McCarthy (“Mike & Molly”) pulled off a surprise win in this race with an episode in which her character mixes cough syrup and wine. 

Fey has submitted the two-part series finale, “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch,” the latter of which also reaped her a writing bid. While Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex and the City,” 2004) and Helen Hunt (“Mad About You,” 1999) won with their final episodes, Debra Messing (“Will & Grace,” 2006) and Lisa Kudrow (“The Comeback,” 2006) lost. While “30 Rock” hasn’t won any Emmys in the past three years, Fey and co-star Alec Baldwin both won at the SAG Awards in January. Could this be a sign of the potential for a comeback at the Emmys? Fey certainly has a great showcase in this two-parter, as her character Liz Lemon bids farewell to her colleagues. She has several heartwarming scenes with Tracy Jordan and Baldwin. However, she shares the hour with the large ensemble cast, putting her at a disadvantage in the screen time department.

Like Fey, Poehler has a two-part submission. The first episode, “Emergency Response,” includes a recurring gag in which Poehler appears in pre-taped segments while playing a variety of characters.  Playing multiple parts is a winning Emmy strategy: Toni Collette (“United States of Tara”) won this category in 2009 as a character with dissociative identity disorder. The second of Poehler’s episodes is “Leslie and Ben,” which centers on her character Leslie Knope’s wedding. Emmy voters love a bride, as was seen in 1975 when Valerie Harper pulled off an upset with her win for “Rhoda’s Wedding.” 

Dern is the only nominee to appear in every scene of her episode. Although “Enlightened” contends as a comedy, “All I Ever Wanted” is particularly dramatic as her character Amy Jellicoe deals with the unexpected return of her deadbeat husband from rehab. While such dark matter could deter voters looking for laughs, Falco (2010) and Collette (2009) prevailed for largely dramatic performances. 

Falco entered “Luck of the Drawing,” in which her character, recovering drug addict Jackie Peyton, battles her ex-husband for continued joint custody of their two daughters. Falco is the only actress in Emmy history to win the lead awards for both drama (“The Sopranos”) and comedy series.

Who do you think will win Best Comedy Actress? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 

More News from GoldDerby