Are Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham the Emmys' First Triple Threats? Almost

Slate's Culture Blog
July 19 2012 6:53 PM

Louis C.K. and Lena Dunham Are Two of the Emmys' First Triple Threats

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Louis C.K.

Photo by Katy Winn/Getty Images

The triple threat—writer, director, actor—is not uncommon in Hollywood. Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, and Sarah Polley have done all three, and they're not alone. It’s more rare in television however: The pace of TV makes the feat more difficult, especially if you’re only counting those who write, direct, and star all in one show. But this year we have two such television triple threats: Louis C.K. writes, directs, and stars in Louie, and Lena Dunham writes, directs, and stars in Girls. More remarkably, both received Emmy nominations this morning for this triple television tasking—a very rare event.

As far as Brow Beat can tell—after a call to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and exhaustive IMDb searches—Alan Alda is the only other actor to achieve single-year, triple-threat Emmy nominations. And he did it four times. In 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1982 Alda received nods for outstanding actor, director, and writer—all for his work on the television show M*A*S*H, in which he played “Hawkeye” Pierce from 1972 to 1983. Three of those twelve nominations resulted in awards for Alda: outstanding directing in 1977, outstanding writing in 1979, and outstanding lead acting in 1982. (In total, he’s been nominated for 33 Emmys, and won six; his most recent nomination was in 2009 for a guest spot on 30 Rock.)

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This year, besides C.K.’s Louie-based nominations for writing, directing and acting, he also received four more nominations for his comedy special Live at the Beacon Theatre, which he famously produced and then sold from his website for $5. If you include Dunham’s three nominations, Girls received a total of five Emmy nominations, including one for best comedy series.

Dunham’s feat might be the most impressive. Since Girls is her first venture into national television, this is the first year she was in contention for an Emmy, or three. A win would be an extraordinary achievement for the young triple threat. “I’m so agog,” Dunham told the New York Times this morning about the nominations. “If my voice sounds weird, it’s because I was literally screaming, all around my house, onto my bed, down the hallway, outside my house, on the phone with everyone I know. I just was doing a big scream-fest.”

Daniel Lametti is a Montreal-based writer and neuroscientist.