Emmys: 5 Supporting Comedy Actresses Who Deserve a Shot at Emmy

22A BIZ Slot Machine Illustration
Clockwise from center: Adam Rose/Fox; Scott Green/IFC; Jordan Althaus/Showtime; Patrick McElhenney/FX; Jordin Althaus/NBC; iStock

Clockwise from center: Heather Morris, Carrie Brownstein, Pamela Adlon, Kaitlin Olson, Alison Brie

In an unusually rich year for the category, these talents seem poised to break out of the pack.

The Emmys are infamous for rewarding the same people over and over. But new talents do triumph now and then.

In this unusually rich year for supporting comedy actresses, here are five dark horses who seem poised to break out of the pack and into Emmy's inner circle.

Pamela Adlon
Californication (Showtime)

If Adlon wins an Emmy for playing the long-suffering Marcy Runkle -- who has been known to break bathroom sinks during sexual encounters -a- she'll be the only supporting actress to have also won an Emmy for playing a plump, dumpy 13-year-old boy: Bobby Hill on King of the Hill. Her voice, more entertainingly raspy than (though not quite as nasal as) Fran Drescher's, helps her nail every line in Showtime's mostly macho 5-year-old comedy. Noting her character's newly single status, Adlon has said of Marcy, "She's open for business." And also for serious Emmy consideration.

Alison Brie
Community (NBC)

How could Brie possibly win an Emmy when her character, overachieving student Annie, is just one ensemble member in a comedy with a cult following? Because she's also on Mad Men, which Emmy madly loves, and that affection might spill over and splatter her like the Sherwin-Williams barrage she gets in Community's annual paintball-war season finale. You're so used to seeing her prim, proper and dressed to the nines as Mad Men's ritzy '60s wife Trudy Campbell that it's startling to see her comedy chops. Her Annie is like Trudy's id unleashed. Brie is taking center stage this season, and Emmy might wake up and like what it sees.

Carrie Brownstein
Portlandia (IFC)

The unlikeliest comic genius in Emmy history might be Brownstein, the former guitarist-singer for the Northwest indie band Sleater-Kinney. Brownstein's indie cred and hipster reputation proved the perfect perch for spoofing Portland's smug self-satisfaction in IFC's breakout sketch series. And it helped that she had met Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen early in his rocketlike ascent and once worked at Portland's Wieden+Kennedy, the ad agency responsible for the Emmy-winning Old Spice commercials, which is lampooned on Portlandia. There's never been a fresher or more original comic breeze than Brownstein. Emmy, get hip.

Heather Morris
Glee (Fox)

The former Beyonce backup dancer originally was only meant to teach the Glee cast the steps for its juggernaut "Single Ladies" routine. But she was so funny that she got a third-banana role as shy, dim-bulb cheerleader Brittany. Because she has turned out to be as funny a dummy as Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe on Friends, Morris graduated to key player toward the end of Glee's second season. Next to Emmy winner Jane Lynch, Morris has the funniest lines on the show, and she deserves the same consideration as her co-stars. 

Kaitlin Olson
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

The Groundlings-trained Olson might be just the woman to break Sunny's Emmy losing streak. Her bar-owning lowlife crew was shameless before Shameless was cool. They dumpster-dive and find babies! As Sweet Dee, the only woman in the lot, Olson is the keystone to the comedy. Even her irregular features are amusingly askew: It looks like she put her pretty face on in the dark, and her limbs are so long, she's sometimes played by an ostrich in flashback scenes. (She's also the funniest dancer since Seinfeld's Elaine.) Prestige-craving voters laugh at Olson's antics in private -- maybe this year they'll go public with their guilty pleasure.