From a group of irreverent Staten Island vampires to a podcast-obsessed trio, this year’s slate of television comedies brought some of the most hilarious, snort-inducing stories ever seen on the small screen. And, while laughs are a prerequisite to any great comedy, the minds behind these beloved series still believe that a substantially deeper meaning drives their shows. For longtime TV legend and current “Barry” star Henry Winkler, his darkly comic show represents a sort of culmination of a decadeslong dream.

“I had a dream about the actor I wanted to be when I first arrived here in Hollywood in 1973, and this year I came closer to that dream in 1973,” Winkler said. “That is just the truth. That is it. I am overwhelmed that I had this experience and it’s like, I don’t know, a gift from the heavens.”

Winkler was joined by Paul W. Downs from “Hacks,” John Hoffman from “Only Murders in the Building,” Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Brendan Hunt from “Ted Lasso” and Paul Simms from “What We Do in the Shadows” for a conversation with TV editor Michael Schneider for the Variety Virtual TV Fest: The Nominees. Together, the creators, producers, stars and showrunners took a deep dive into their Emmy-nominated seasons of remarkable television. “Hacks” co-creator Downs believes that the real soul of his acclaimed comedy lies in its hilarious protagonist duo.

“I hope the viewers watching the show get to laugh really hard because I think things today are really crazy and it’s nice to have a little bit of an escape,” Downs said. “I think, by the same token, hopefully in the show, they get to see people like Jean Smart who’s 70 years old and Hannah Einbinder, who’s a 25-year-old queer woman, and they get to have a little bit of empathy for their experience, especially in a time with the overturning of Roe and the potential investigation of LGBTQ rights with same-sex marriage. I hope that people not only get to laugh, but also get to empathize with stories about women and queer people, because that’s really what the show is about, about these two women who are cast aside for one reason or another.”

For “Ted Lasso” star and writer Hunt, the message of Season 2 really isn’t that complicated.

“Just see a shrink,” Hunt said. “Find a way. Your first shrink might not be your best shrink, but it’s going to be a walk on the path to the shrink you need. Just everybody, do it. See a shrink.”

Watch the full conversation in the video above.