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Emmys: ‘Saturday Night Live’ Hosts Dominate Guest Performer Categories

The Emmy nominations offered a few surprises this year, but there’s one thing voters are consistent about: they love “Saturday Night Live.” Since 2009, half of the Emmys awarded in the guest actor/actress comedy slots have gone to hosts of the popular sketch program. That includes last year’s winners Dave Chappelle and Melissa McCarthy, who won after three previous hosting noms.

This year sees a small drop from last year, when five of the 12 nominees were “SNL” hosts, but still yields four nominees: Tiffany Haddish, Tina Fey, Bill Hader and Donald Glover were all recognized for their hosting duties. Also worth noting: former “SNL” players Molly Shannon and Maya Rudolph were singled out for their work on “Will & Grace” and “The Good Place,” respectively.

“I noticed this year it’s a lot of ‘SNL’ alum and so many amazing women,” Shannon says. “It’s a really great training ground for performing and writing so it doesn’t surprise me people get recognized and then go on to continue great work.”

The hosting recognition is one of five nominations for Hader, who was also nominated for writing, directing, producing and starring in HBO’s “Barry.” Hader, who was previously nommed for hosting in 2015 and in 2012 and 2013 as supporting actor when he was a cast member, says that for him, hosting is a completely different animal.

“It’s such a ticking clock on ‘SNL,’ you have to be your best self,” he says. “You’re usually working with all new stuff you wrote that week whereas with ‘Barry’ we’ve had time to think and talk and hone things for months. The immediacy of ‘SNL’ makes it exciting, but terrifying.”

Asked why the hosting gig breeds so many nominations, Hader says: “Maybe it’s the high-wire act of it. You have one chance to land it, and it’s on live television.”

Haddish agrees. “I think your colleagues are impressed with what you do. It’s a lot of work, it’s not easy. Anyone who’s ever hosted will tell you that.”

Haddish was also Emmy-eligible for other projects, including “The Last O.G.,” but says hosting was the hardest job she did last year.
“I lost 10 pounds. I call it the ‘SNL Stress Diet.’ There’s so much moving around, doing so many things,” she says. “Maybe I made it hard on myself.”

It’s not just hosts who are allowed to show range, though. Also nominated for her guest turn as Sophie Lennon, a female comic living a secret life on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” is Jane Lynch. Lynch has already won Emmys in three different categories for her work on “Glee,” “Hollywood Game Night” and “Dropping the Soap” and says she puts just as much thought into a guest spot as any other character.

“I created this role in the same way I create any role,” she says. “That it’s only a guest spot doesn’t really change the way I approach it.”

Even though her appearance was only in one episode (“Put That on Your Plate!”) in the freshman comedy, she says the role was incredibly layered.

“That kind of character-driven, loud and out there comedy was a joy to embody,” she says. “Her off-stage persona is completely different, erudite, smug and self-satisfied. I was given so much to play with.”

Also given a lot of room to go crazy — literally — is Shannon, who returned to the reboot of “Will & Grace” as neighbor Val Bassett, who goes to extreme measures to befriend Karen (Megan Mullally). In its original run, “Will & Grace” yielded multiple guest star nominations and won statues for Gene Wilder, Bobby Cannavale and Leslie Jordan. But this is Shannon’s first nomination for the role.

“Performing on that show is pure joy and they give you so much to work with,” Shannon says. “It’s no surprise so many great people are happy to drop in.”

Whoever does win this year, history has already been made: Haddish is the first female black comic to host “SNL,” and now the first to be nominated for hosting.

“That means everything,” she says. “I hope some foster kids see it and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do anything.’ Because to be honest, I don’t care about awards. They’re not checks!”

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