By Kate Emswiler
The Emmy nominations came out last week, and although I’m glad to see certain folks nominated in the comedy category (Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, Julia Louis-Dreyfus), I couldn’t help but notice that there’s a significant lack of Kates on that list. Specifically, there are two “Kates” (though neither one is technically named Kate) who definitely deserve more recognition for their comedic talents: Kathryn Hahn (above left) and Kaitlin Olson (above right).
1. Kathryn Hahn
I am always weary of the qualification “female comedian”. Because Hahn is easily more comedically gifted than many male comedians — or, as they’re usually called, just “comedians”. (Slate’s culture blog BrowBeat already brow beat me to the punch on this one, and eloquently so.) After Hahn was the only thing I remembered about the otherwise lackluster comedies “How Do You Know” and “Our Idiot Brother”, I started to take notice of Hahn in all of her many supporting roles — on both the big and small screens. On “Parks and Recreation”, a show that is positively lousy with funny people, Hahn managed to steal the spotlight as Jennifer — the shrewd, smarmy political strategist to Amy Poehler’s rival in the race for city council.
She’s also had a recurring role on “Girls” — as a character named Katherine, no less! — and most recently as a one-time paramour for Jeff Daniels’ character on Aaron Sorkin’s “Newsroom”.
I may be one of the seven people, total, who watched every episode of the short-lived “Free Agents” in which Hahn provided some saucy spark to balance out Hank Azaria’s sad sack drollness, but I really enjoyed that show. The characters were likable and interesting and I was excited to see what they (mostly Hahn) would do each week. So I hope that she gets to star in her own comedy again soon because, to echo Slate’s L.V. Anderson, “She’s enormously charismatic, with a smile as endearing as Julia Roberts’. And she can play straight roles as readily as silly ones. What’s not to like?”
2. Kaitlin Olson
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” could probably stand to have a few more roles for ladies overall, but as it is, Kaitlin Olson more than holds her own as “Sweet Dee”, the only female lead in the cast. And by “holds her own”, I mean that every character in this show is terrible and offensive (hilariously so, of course) and Olson makes Dee just as awful as any of her male counterparts, including her vain twin brother Dennis and their pals at Paddy’s Pub, selfish Mac and dimwitted Charlie. She’s greedy, self-absorbed and sometimes temperamental. Most of the laughs in this show come from the horror of these characters’ actions (beating up a homeless man for masturbating outside of their bar, say), but I find Dee endearing in some way and perhaps it’s simply relating to her position within “The Gang”, which is literally a boys’ club and from which she is frequently excluded or dismissed. There’s something hapless about her and it’s wonderfully/disgustingly human. She’s the lone female character on a highly dude-oriented show, but she’s not the dumb blonde nor is she simply the hot girl. There are a few more layers to her. (Only a few. Sure, I haven’t forgotten what show we’re talking about.) Despite it all, she’s never entirely spiritually broken and she never detaches from her Gang.
Most of all, Olson will always hold a place in my heart because she produced a bit of comedic television that I pull up whenever I need an immediate laugh: her dry heaving attempt at stand-up comedy. Check it out and tell me what you think of TV’s funniest Kates.