With Game of Thrones and Veep wrapping up their final seasons in the coming weeks, many have wondered what will be next for HBO. Their beloved, worldwide phenomenon and their critically adored political comedy have been two of the network's most defining shows of the past decade, and one would imagine their departures would leave execs in a state of fear. While we don't know what's going on behind HBO's doors, we do know about a television show that airs between the two on Sunday nights that should squash any fears about the HBO brand. Barry, which is currently airing its second season, is having a fantastic run of episodes. Walking the finest tightrope between zany comedy and high-stakes thriller, Barry tells the story of an army-veteran-turned-hit-man-turned-aspiring-actor (played by Emmy-winner Bill Hader) and his struggle to maintain those various identities.
Barry has all the markings of HBO's greatest shows: exceptional writing, innovative directing, and excellent lead actors who create instantly unforgettable performances. But another hallmark of a great HBO show is the way its bit players crawl their way into the American cultural psyche. The greatest example of this — so great that his character ultimately became too prominent to include on this list — is Entourage’s Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). On Barry, the burgeoning Ari Gold is none other than NoHo Hank. A Chechen mobster with a heart of gold, Anthony Carrigan hilariously slots Hank into the pantheon of HBO scene-stealers. Below, we take a look at Hank and some of the other second bananas who've helped make our Sunday nights at HBO so memorable.
NoHo Hank on Barry
Perhaps the greatest scene stealer of the current television season, NoHo Hank is the perfect encapsulation of what makes Barry such a unique show. A Chechen mobster with a flare for Lululemon, Hank is both endearing and frightening at the same time. You’re well aware of how disturbed and corrupt he might be, but Anthony Carrigan unearths a fuzzy, charming human beneath all of that. As Barry plummets deeper down his broken psyche, it’s Hank who has become the lovable - albeit frightening - heart of the show.
Kelli on Insecure
With HBO just announcing Insecure won’t be returning until 2020, now's the perfect time to catch up on (or rewatch) the first three seasons of Issa Rae’s hit comedy. While Rae is clearly the face of the show, serving as creator, producer, writer, and lead star, attention should also be paid to Natasha Rothwell’s hilarious performance as Issa’s friend Kelli. Whether she’s delivering witty retorts, giving deathly side-eye, or getting tased at Coachella, Rothwell makes every moment she’s on the show into comedy gold (not to mention the time she stole Love, Simon out from under its entire teen cast.)
Jonah Ryan on Veep
Now that Jonah (played by Timothy Simons) has completely leaned into his awful, politically incorrect, Trump-ian personality, it’s hard to look at his performance as simply comedic relief. If anything, his character has become one of the most disturbing on television at the moment. But that is what makes his character such a scene stealer. Having begun as a dim-witted manchild and grown into an even dimmer, crueler manchild, Jonah Ryan is a character that lingers long after each episode of Veep ends, even if our laughs have grown more nervous.
Tom Wamsgans on Succession
It only takes one episode of Succession to think anybody who decides to marry into the Roy family is absolutely crazy. Which is exactly why Tom, as played by Matthew Macfadyen, has become one of the breakout characters on the show. He’s both commanding and a bit of a dope at the same time, and watching Macfadyen negotiate this hilarious dichotomy is a total delight. His scenes with cousin Greg are of particularly sardonic (and perhaps seductive?) interest.
Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos
The Sopranos was known for its ability to walk the line between absurdist humor and devastating tragedy. Almost all the characters met some kind of tragic fate during the run of the show, but on the humor side of things, we have to go with Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) for providing the show's most consistent laughs. Maybe it’s the voice, or the constantly confounded look on his face, or the way he made nearly freezing to death while chasing a mysterious Russian through the Pine Barrens a comedic high point of the show. Regardless, it’s hard not to consider him one of the best scene stealers this side of the Hudson River.
Elijah Krantz on Girls
When Andrew Rannells first stepped onto Girls as Elijah, Hannah’s obviously gay, possibly HPV-carrying ex-boyfriend from college in its third episode, it seemed like perhaps it was just a one scene deal. Whether or not it was Lena Dunham’s plan from the beginning to have Elijah join the cast as a mainstay from season two onwards we don’t know, but it’s hard to imagine not wanting to keep Rannells around just for his the delivery of “it was nice to see you, your dad is gay!” alone. Lucky for us, she did, and we got five more seasons of Elijah’s hilarious and often endearing antics.
Stephen Hladik is a freelance culture writer and actor. You can follow him on Twitter @stephen_hladik