Emmy Episode Analysis: Steve Buscemi (‘Portlandia’) makes celery sexy again

Steve Buscemi is nominated for Best Comedy Guest Actor for his one-episode appearance on IFC’s sketch comedy “Portlandia.” It’s his second nomination in this category, following a guest role on “30 Rock” in 2008, but it’s his seventh Emmy bid overall including another this year, for Best Short-Format Nonfiction for AOL’s “Park Bench with Steve Buscemi.” He has yet to win in any category.

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SYNOPSIS: The episode “Celery” parodies conspiracy thrillers. In it, Buscemi plays Marty, who markets the title vegetable but finds his job at risk when sales plummet. How can he make celery competitive against trendy heirloom tomatoes and kale?

A colleague (Fred Armisen) suggests that Marty partner with bacon in order to make celery more popular. He meets with the ominous “bacon guy” (also Fred Armisen), who trades his cooperation for a night with Marty’s wife (Carrie Brownstein).

A distraught Marty is ready to take the deal, but he’s approached by the FBI, who ask him to wear a wire during his next meeting with the bacon guy. However, when he does, he learns they weren’t the FBI at all, but in fact the corn lobby, who have their own scheme to make corn the world’s most popular vegetable.

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John Grisham soon writes a bestselling novel about the nefarious scheme, called “The Celery Incident,” and puts Marty back on top.

Will this send-up of Hollywood thrillers end as well for Buscemi as it does for celery? Let’s consider the pros and cons:


Buscemi has substantial screen time, playing a lead role in his own complete story arc.

Buscemi is better known for darker roles in TV shows and movies like “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Sopranos,” “Fargo,” and “Reservoir Dogs,” so voters familiar with his past work may be especially impressed by his change-of-pace comic turn.

By goofing on thrillers, Buscemi gets to be funny and dramatic at the same time, delivering lines like “My wife’s gonna bang a guy from bacon” with straight-faced conviction, giving him both comic impact and range.


“Portlandia’s” quirky brand of humor may be an acquired taste; voters who aren’t already familiar with the show may not know what to make of it.

Scene partners Armisen and Brownstein, playing multiple characters, may steal some of his comic thunder.

Much of the humor is derived from the episode’s absurd premise and tone. Will voters attribute the laughs to Buscemi’s performance or to the writing?

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Buscemi ranks fourth in our predictions with 12/1 odds. Do you think he can follow his surprise nomination with a surprise win? Make your predictions below:

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