Let's get this out of the way. Most of my fellow coworkers are directing their dream Emmy nominations toward actors or shows who/that haven't won an Emmy yet. The Bold Type, Penn Badgley, Chris Geere, etc. That's nice, but they're all far-fetched dreams whose chances for an actual Emmy are as empty as their trophy cases. My nominee, Hank Azaria, already has six Emmys for The Simpsons and some guest work, so he's got the chops, he just hasn't won one for a lead performance. Well, he deserves one for his pitch-perfect grand slam dinger of a performance as foul-mouthed baseball announcer Jim Brockmire in IFC's Brockmire. Why? Because he is the best curser and insult-slinger on TV.
Azaria takes over that title from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won six straight Emmys for her storm of swears and parade of putdowns as Selina Meyer on the just-ended Veep (she wasn't eligible in 2018 but could still take home her seventh Emmy for the role this year), so there's definitely precedent for giving one of TV's most prestigious awards for TV-MA dialogue. Like Louis-Dreyfus, Azaria is an artist and creative cussing and depraved descriptions are the paints that fill his palette. And when he gets to show off those master strokes, it is beautiful.
When Azaria delivers the following threat to his overbearing boss Matt "The Bat" (J.K. Simmons, whose character is dying of cancer but is still a dick) — "I'm gonna carve through you like ice in a urinal, so open wide motherf---er, because here comes my mind piss!" — his hands come out like claws, his bottom lip quivers on his upper teeth on the F in the f-bomb until it unleashes the remainder of the granddaddy of all curse words, and the hiss of the long S in piss could go on for weeks if it weren't interrupted by Matt puking into a toilet. The next insults come out more nurturing, as compassion sweeps over Brockmire while his rival erupts bile. He tells Matt about the time he f---ed his sister and compares his past cocaine addiction to dwarfing Stevie Nicks own tootin' problems, but he says them with heart this time, the dagger still meant to kill but without the twist that makes the pain linger. In the same scene, Brockmire lets the swearing rip but delivers them in two very different moods. Azaria takes words, often bad ones, and turns them into perverse poetry through masterful delivery.
He casually calls Orlando a "cum gutter" likes it's an everyday diss. He says "sheeee-yit," as though we're all saying it wrong. When asked to visit Matt as he's getting eaten away by cancer, Brockmire adamantly rejects the notion: "He's in a cancer ward, in a hospital, in Central Florida, that's depression cubed right there. Triple play. That is a Russian nesting doll of abject misery." And Azaria says it all in his faked baseball announcer cadence that bounces up and down on different syllables like a high chopper to third base. He's the Harry Caray of tearing anything to shreds without caring, the Vin Scully of sullying. When he opens his mouth to unleash fury or say 100 words when four will do, you're dying to know what's about to come out.
It's not all locker room talk from Brockmire, though. In Season 3, Azaria was tasked with becoming more of a listener as Brockmire achieved sobriety. He turned into a problem-solver for those around him rather than a troublemaker for everyone, peeling back a new layer as Brockmire transformed into the compassionate friend. Azaria rose to the occasion effortlessly, toning down the Brockmire shtick to show off a man in the midst of self-repair, one who found joy in life and baseball rather than wallowed in misery and what-could-have-been.
Late in the season, a bedside chat with a dying Matt and a subsequent soliloquy about his passing as he spread Matt's ashes on the baseball diamond cemented that Azaria, as Brockmire, could turn this character filled with rage into a man on the mend as he remarked on the existence of a baseball god who grants second chances at life while tears welled up in his eyes and snot filled his nose. It's one of the most impressive character transformations of the year, and Azaria is the one who sells it.
Look, I know Azaria is known more now for his involvement in the Apu voice controversy, but let's not forget that he won an Emmy for that same role in the late 1990s. Voters, don't be hypocrites. Nominate Azaria for Brockmire.
The first two seasons of Brockmire are available on Hulu, and the third season is available on demand. Emmy nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 16. The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on Fox.