If you attend enough theater and live comedy in town over the years, watching TV can sometimes feel like a game of spot-the-onetime-Chicagoan. That's never more true than when Emmy nominations roll around.
This year's nominees include a hefty number of men and women who are from the Chicago area or trained here for a substantial period of time.
Some highlights. First, the individual nominations:
Allison Tolman, who still resides in Chicago (though likely not for long, based on a conversation we had in the spring) is nominated for her deeply affecting role as Officer Molly Solverson in "Fargo," which also showcased her talent for deadpan comedy.
Mandy Patinkin, who hails from Chicago (and is cousins with Sheldon Patinkin, an influential early member of Second City) once again is recognized for all his bearded CIA magnificence in "Homeland."
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has won the past two years for her title role on "Veep," is nominated for a third year. A Northwestern University alum, she wasn't in Chicago for long. After college, she and future husband Brad Hall formed the Practical Theatre Company in town, which staged a sketch-and-improv revue at Piper's Alley called "The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee" in the summer of 1982 — a show that led directly to her hiring on "Saturday Night Live" that fall.
Gary Cole, the Steppenwolf ensemble member and a mainstay of Chicago's burgeoning off-Loop theater scene in the early 1980s, is nominated for his terrifically low-key but acidic performance as a White House strategy man on "Veep."
Anna Chlumsky, the Chicago native who attended the University of Chicago, was also nominated for her role as a competent-but-stressed-out vice presidential aide on "Veep."
William H. Macy, nominated for his role as the worst father in the world on "Shameless," moved to Chicago in the early 1970s where he met David Mamet. The pair would found the St. Nicholas Theater Company and Macy would originate many roles in Mamet's plays, including Bobby in "American Buffalo." "Shameless," which is set in Chicago, shoots all its interiors on the West Coast, but the exteriors are filmed here in town.
Amy Poehler, who honed her comedic talents at iO Theater as well as part of Second City's touring company, is nominated for her effervescent portrayal of a small town bureaucrat on "Parks & Recreation."
Andre Braugher, the Chicago-born actor and St. Ignatius College Prep alum, is typically known for his dramatic roles, but has picked up a nomination playing a stoic police captain on the sitcom "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."
Fred Armisen, nominated for "Portlandia," wasn't part of Chicago's sketch and improv scene, oddly enough. During his years in Chicago he was the drummer for the punk rock band Trenchmouth.
Stephen Colbert, who takes over David Letterman's late-night spot on CBS next year, spent almost a decade in Chicago, first at Northwestern University and later on stage at the Annoyance, iO and Second City. Colbert wasn't nominated individually, but "The Colbert Report" is nominated for Outstanding Variety Series.
Let's not forget the unseen writers including Second City alumni Rich Talarico and Keegan-Michael Keyfor the sketch comedy show "Key & Peele" (how Key wasn't also nominated in an acting category is mind-boggling) and more Second City vets including "Colbert Report" writers with Second City ties, Tom Purcell and Paul Dinello.
As for the nominated shows themselves:
"Veep" and "Silicon Valley" are both nominated in the comedy category.
"Veep" in particular plays like a Chicago reunion. Aside from Louis-Dreyfus, Cole and Chlumsky, the cast includes former Chicago theater actor Timothy Simons, Hinsdale South High School grad and former iO Theater and Annoyance performer Matt Walsh and Kevin Dunn, as well as a seemingly endless stream of guest stars with Second City roots including David Pasquesi, Dan Bakkedahl, Sam Richardson, Mary Grill and Tim Baltz.
"Silicon Valley" notably features three lead actors who sharpened their comedy chops in Chicago, including Thomas Middleditch (seen frequently at iO performing in "Improvised Shakespeare") and from the stand-up scene, T.J. Miller and Kumail Nanjiani.
-"The Big Bang Theory" (nominated for best comedy) co-stars Johnny Galecki, who spent his early childhood years in Oak Park.
-"Modern Family" (also nominated for best comedy) is created by Chicagoan and Glenbrook South High School alum Steven Levitan.
-Half the women in the Comedy Guest Actress category have a local connection including Evanston native and Chicago resident Joan Cusack (for "Shameless"), Second City vet Tina Fey (for "Saturday Night Live") and Plainfield native Melissa McCarthy (also for "SNL").
-McCarthy, by the way, was also nominated for her sitcom "Mike and Molly" (she's already won one Emmy thanks to the show in 2011).
-Chicago-raised Bob Newhart (who graduated from Loyola University of Chicago) is nominated for his appearance on "The Big Bang Theory."
-Annoyance and Second City alum Jane Lynch is nominated for reality host ("Hollywood Game Night").