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Julia Louis-Dreyfus Is Unstoppable

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the Emmy award for best actress in a comedy on Sunday night, bringing her total wins in the category to six, a new record. She’s one shy of Cloris Leachman’s record of eight performance wins, counting her supporting actress Emmy for “Seinfeld.”

On Friday, I looked at Emmy nominees who have been the most well-rounded, and two actors jumped out as having crushed it on multiple shows — Michael J. Fox and Louis-Dreyfus.

PERFORMER SHOWS NOMINATIONS TOTAL
Julia Louis-Dreyfus Seinfeld 7 17
Veep 5
The New Adventures of Old Christine 5
Michael J. Fox The Good Wife 5 17
Family Ties 5
Spin City 4
Tyne Daly Judging Amy 6 16
Cagney & Lacey 6
Christine Baranski The Good Wife 6 15
The Big Bang Theory 4
Cybill 4
Edie Falco The Sopranos 6 13
Nurse Jackie 6
Tina Fey 30 Rock 7 13
Saturday Night Live 5
Allison Janney The West Wing 6 12
Mom 3
Masters of Sex 3
Bea Arthur Maude 5 11
The Golden Girls 4
Julianna Margulies ER 6 10
The Good Wife 4
Candice Bergen Murphy Brown 7 9
Boston Legal 2
Amy Poehler Parks and Recreation 6 9
Saturday Night Live 3
Which actors got Emmy nominations from several different shows?

Any performers with two different programs that count for more than 20 percent of their Emmy nominations apiece

Between the two of them, Louis-Dreyfus comes out on top. Her acting nominations are all in supporting or lead categories, while Fox’s stem from guest appearances as well. And by plotting out the trajectory of her career, we can see that Louis-Dreyfus stands out. The average TV show rating on IMDb is 7.3, and shes has lived well north of that number for most of her career.

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Louis-Dreyfus’s time on “Saturday Night Live” was brief and happened during one of the show’s mediocre periods, but that just means she’s the Robert Downey Jr. of television: a future huge star who was dealt a bad hand at 30 Rock. (Rather, he’s the Julia Louis-Dreyfus of movies, because she came first and is way better than he is.) After “SNL,” she was on “Seinfeld,” which is considered one of the best — if not the best — television comedies of all time. Despite the show’s iconic cast, Louis-Dreyfus became (I’d say inarguably) the most successful member of the “Seinfeld” cast.1 She’s given acclaimed performances as three different characters — Elaine Benes, Christine Campbell and Selina Meyer — all of them delightful to watch given their human if acerbic realism. This woman could win an Emmy for an Old Navy commercial if those shortsighted cowards only called it eligible.

And while her film career has been spotty, “Enough Said” — which united her with another icon of the small screen, the late James Gandolfini — was outstanding, with a 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Indeed, while a recent trend has been for performers to jump from the wild ride of film to the stable world of prestige television, Louis-Dreyfus seems adept at going in the other direction.

Louis-Dreyfus is one of the few people who can say that they have landed in the same tier of achievement as their idols. Back in 2010 — when she was a lowly two-time Emmy winner — she cited Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore and Lucille Ball, among others, as her inspirations. Well, we can pretty confidently say that she is now their peer.

Also, she seems like hella fun to party with.

CORRECTION (Sept. 26, 3:17 p.m.): An earlier version of a table in this article misstated the percentage of Emmy nominations an actor needed to receive from each of two or more shows to qualify for inclusion in the table. It was greater than 20 percent, not greater than or equal to 25 percent.

Footnotes

  1. “Bee Movie” disqualifies Seinfeld and you know it.

Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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