Six top Emmy contenders -- clockwise from top left: Orange Is the New Black's Jason Biggs, 36; Veep's Tony Hale, 43; Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson, 38; Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Andy Samberg, 35; Shameless' William H. Macy, 64; and Episodes' Matt LeBlanc, 46 -- reveal what most bugs them about comedy today, the struggle to land and appreciate great gigs, why it's totally OK not to work for years at a time and why there are worse things than being typecast, especially when you starred in one of the biggest comedies in the history of television.
Samberg spent eight seasons on NBC's Saturday Night Live, during which he became one of the masterminds behind digital short films like Dick in a Box, which scored him an Emmy in 2007. He has earned five other Emmy nominations and won the 2014 Golden Globe for his work as Detective Jake Peralta on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
"There are so many shades of comedy. Sometimes I'm in the mood for the Comedy Central kind of comedy. Sometimes I want the IFC thing like Portlandia. It's exciting but intimidating. There are so many funny people!" says Samberg.
'So Many Outlets'
"[S]o many outlets have allowed things to come out of nowhere. Orange Is the New Black is a great example. People didn't know a show could be on Netflix. Then, it's good. So who cares?" says Samberg.
Hale is a two-time Emmy nominee and won in 2013 for playing Gary Walsh on Veep. He starred in the Fox comedy Arrested Development, which won the 2004 Emmy for outstanding comedy series. The cult favorite was resurrected last year by Netflix for a fourth season.
Says Hale: "One thing that annoys me is [directors] who feel the need to push the comedy. It's like, no, just trust the chaos of the circumstances. Trust the script! 'Go broader?' It's like, 'I don't think that's necessary.'"
LeBlanc earned three Emmy nominations for playing Joey Tribbiani on NBC's Friends, which also won outstanding comedy series in 2002. He since has earned two more nominations for playing a version of himself on Episodes, a role that netted him the Golden Globe in 2012.
"American comedy used to be very hit-you-over-the-head with the joke," says LeBlanc. "That was the style here. You look at the older British comedies -- they were much smarter and assumed a higher level of intelligence of the audience. Now those walls have come way down. There are really smart comedies here in the States."
"During summer hiatuses on Friends, we were all looking for movie roles. I was like, 'I can't be known for this one show!' " says LeBlanc of the pressure not to be typecast.
William H. Macy
Macy earned an Oscar nomination in 1997 for starring in Fargo. He also is a six-time Emmy nominee and two-time winner for co-writing and starring in the TNT movie Door to Door in 2003, based on the life of cerebral palsy-stricken door-to-door salesman Bill Porter.
"When I was starting out, you had to send the tape to L.A. -- it wasn't digital. It was sent by pigeon," says Hale, pictured left with Macy, of auditioning. "All the casting people were there, and it took five days, and in that time, they found the person they wanted."
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Ferguson has earned four Emmy nominations for playing Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family, which has won the outstanding comedy series Emmy four years in a row. If the ABC show wins this year, it would be the only series besides NBC's Frasier to net five consecutive Emmys for best comedy.
"I wore fake teeth from DrBukk.com -- they're called the Eleanor Roosevelts -- for my Spamalot audition," the Modern Family star says of the craziest thing he ever did to land a part. "And I got the role. But I didn't accept the part."
Copycats and Creativity
Says Ferguson of the thing that most annoys him about the state of comedy today: "Lack of creativity. I'm waiting for the next women's prison comedy. I'm frustrated with copycats."
Biggs started his career on ABC's As the World Turns but broke out in the hit movie American Pie in 1999, which spawned two sequels. After subsequent roles in film and TV (The Good Wife), he was cast as Larry Bloom on Netflix's buzzy dramedy Orange Is the New Black, whose second season bows June 6.
"Audiences are also smarter than they've ever been," says Biggs. "Historically there was a need to spoon-feed and keep things right down the middle. The edgier stuff wouldn't have had a home because where do you put it? You'd pitch it at a network, and they'd go, 'Oh, it's too smart for us, too edgy.' Then it disappears, and that comedian doesn't get known."
Passing on Roles
"We are all in a position that's very luxurious, which is, we get offered things," says Samberg, with Hale at his right. "I never don't feel weird about passing on something.
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