Melissa McCarthy wins best comedy actress Emmy

LOS ANGELES Mon Sep 19, 2011 7:23am EDT

1 of 2. Actress Melissa McCarthy accepts the outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for 'Mike & Molly' at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 18, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - First-time Emmy nominee Melissa McCarthy won the award for best comedy actress on Sunday for her role in "Mike & Molly," capping a breakout year in which she also wowed movie audiences in comedy "Bridesmaids" earlier this year.

She was joined onstage by her fellow nominees, including the likes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who broke with Emmy tradition by taking the stage en masse when their names were announced and forming a line not unlike a beauty contest.

When McCarthy's name was announced, they all hugged her, gave her a bouquet of roses and put a tiara top her head.

"Holy Smokes. Wow," said a beaming McCarthy onstage. "This is my first and best pageant ever."

On "Mike & Molly," the 41-year-old actress plays a teacher who finds romance with a man she meets at a self-help group for overeaters. The series has been widely lauded for putting heavy-set actors in lead roles in a marked contrast from typical skinny Hollywood stars.

The CBS series marks the first time McCarthy has stepped up from her supporting roles on TV shows like "The Gilmore Girls and "Samantha Who?" to take a lead role.

It's been a breakthrough 2011 for McCarthy, who also wowed critics in the raunchy summer female comedy "Bridesmaids." Coming into Sunday's Emmys, some awards pundits thought her role as the loudest member of the wedding party in that film would help her Emmy chances.

A cousin of actress Jenny McCarthy, the Illinois native started her career as a stand-up comedian and was a member of the Los Angeles improvisational comedy troupe the Groundlings.

In 1997 she appeared on "the Jenny McCarthy Show" and went on to take roles on the big screen and in television series, including "Charlie's Angels" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Sheri Linden; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and )