For the first time ever, the TV Academy has released the nominating ballots for the Best Character Voice-Over Performance category. With 153 submissions for this year’s contest, that means the category will feature six nominees (see Emmy rules). This race could use a bit of a shakeup. The past four years have seen the prize go to cast members from “Family Guy,” with Seth MacFarlane winning in 2016-17 and 2019 and Alex Borstein winning in 2018. Before that it was cast members from “The Simpsons” who took the prize in 2014 (Harry Shearer) and 2015 (Hank Azaria). So, with that in mind, here is a lineup I think would be stellar and refreshing to see in this year’s race.
James Adomian, “Our Cartoon President”
Showtime’s animated look at Washington has been an underappreciated gem that has only gotten better since it premiered in 2018. A big reason for why it’s so funny is James Adomian. He’s listed for four characters on the ballot which have had great moments including Rudy Giuliani (“If you think I treat my ex-wives bad, you should see what I do to a toilet”) and Sen. Ted Cruz (“I’d tell people to take a picture since it lasts longer but I do not show up in photographs”). He’s also listed for voicing Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sean Hannity. In previous seasons he’s also lent his voice to the characters of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, InfoWars founder Alex Jones and former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka and any time those characters were on screen was comedic gold.
Will Arnett, “BoJack Horseman”
I feel like I shouldn’t have to include Arnett in this list because in an ideal world, he would have been nominated (AND WON) last year for his episode-long monologue in “Free Churro.” However, Arnett continued to deliver an amazing performance as the titular horse as his world came crashing down on him in the show’s final episodes. He shows us BoJack at his lowest point, trying desperately to escape the shadow of his years of self-destructive and predatory behavior. Through it all, he allows us to be shocked, disgusted, saddened and also hopeful for this immensely flawed character that we can’t help but root for. He has several episodes that work in his favor including “Xerox of a Xerox,” “Angela,” “The View From Halfway Down” and “Nice While It Lasted.”
Spencer Grammer, “Rick and Morty”
While many seem to gravitate towards one of the title characters, I’ve found the character of Summer Smith to really be the show’s most fascinating one. She started as a generic teenage girl obsessed with popularity but as the show has progressed, we’ve seen a darkness in her that has made any plot she’s a part of much more interesting than it already was. But Grammer not only brings the darkness out in her character; she is always able to give Summer some snark that makes her character twists both shocking and incredibly funny. A standout from this season was “Promortyus,” where she becomes a sort of goddess to a planet full of face-hugging parasites. She also gets to shine in “Childrick of Mort,” where her and Morty abandon their father and she attempts to figure out how to fly a spaceship while tripping hard on gas fumes.
Maya Rudolph, “Big Mouth”
Over the past two decades, Rudolph has become a national treasure and her performance on Netflix’s animated send up of pre-teens going through puberty feels like the culmination of all her talents. She can be caring and motherly when playing Nick’s mother, Diane. She gets to be focused solely on retirement when voicing Principal Barren. But it’s her performance as Connie the Hormone Monstress that keeps us returning for more. She repeatedly steals scenes and got even more exposure this past season when Connie started being Nick’s hormone monster in addition to Jesse’s. Her best episode might just be “How to Have an Orgasm” where Connie helps Jesse discover, well, exactly what’s described in the title. Rudolph’s highlight comes when she tells Jesse to “joojle” something.
Amy Sedaris, “BoJack Horseman”
Since the show began, Sedaris has been a welcome presence as BoJack’s agent/manager and former lover, Princess Carolyn. In the past she’s delivered knockout performances in episodes that are devastating for her, but in the show’s final season we get to see Princess Carolyn achieve real happiness. No episode better demonstrates this for her than “The New Client” from the first half of the show’s final season. We get to see Princess Carolyn trying to manage all her responsibilities including her new role as a mother to an adopted baby. As she tries to maneuver everything, she finds herself having a difficult time connecting with her daughter. But as she works through everything and with the help of several of the show’s trademark tongue twisters, she finally makes that connection with her baby. She even settled on the perfect name, Ruthie.
Kristen Schaal, “Bob’s Burgers”
Even before we heard Louise Belcher speak, we could tell from her bunny ears that she would be a fun character to watch. It’s now ten years into the show’s run and Schaal continues to be a fan favorite for giving Louise her smart-aleck wit that she never shies away from showcasing. My personal favorite of her stories from this past season is in the episode, “Poops!…I Didn’t Do it Again.” Louise gets chosen to feed the sharks during an overnight trip to the aquarium but faces a bigger challenge because she doesn’t like to use public bathrooms to go number two. Schaal gives a great performance as Louise tries to hold in everything so she can make it to the shark feeding. But Schaal also makes us sympathize with what Louise is going through much more than any poop-related storyline has in the past, so that alone makes it deserving of recognition. This wouldn’t be Schaal’s first nomination in this category either. She was nominated in 2017 for “BoJack Horseman” for the episode, “That’s Too Much, Man!”
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