Emmys 2011: Sizing Up the Lead Comedy Actor Race — Including Our 6 Dream Nominees

Last year’s Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series race was a David-and-Goliath tale, as relative newcomer Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) brought down comedy giant Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) by denying him a third consecutive win. This year, in addition to both of those likely repeat nominees, there’s also Steve Carell to consider. Having bid farewell to The Office, his swan song season becomes Emmy’s last chance to award him for his seminal role. Will he grab gold? Or will a lovable long shot like Community’s Joel McHale emerge from the pack to change the game?

Reviewing the Emmy Races: Lead Comedy Actress | Outstanding Comedy Series

Review this slideshow of the major contenders — including TVLine’s half-dozen Dream Nominees — then vote for your own favorite six below. And check back tomorrow for our review of the Supporting Comedy Actress race!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Joana says:

    Rob Lowe? Seriously?
    Where is Nick Offerman, who plays Ron freaking Swanson, a God among men?

    • Justin says:

      I agree. While I love Rob Lowe, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson is a much better choice to me, not just for the nom but for the win, too.

    • Rock Golf says:

      Offerman is running for Supporting Actor. Lowe made news when he announced for Lead. Apparently he qualifies because he’s listed in the credits as “and Rob Lowe”. That conjunction infers special status.

      This is the same reason the entirely-deserving Ed O’Neill isn’t on the list.

    • Kasey says:

      Hell, yeah, Joana! I mean, I understand why Nick would more likely be in the Supporting Actor category, but then why the heck is Rob Lowe listed here in Lead? Ron is definitely as much of a presence as Chris Traeger, and a superior character! He’s Ron F***ing Swanson!

      • VBarkley says:

        Nick Offerman should be in the lead category, with Rob Lowe in the supporting one, hands down. It’s not the Crris Traeger Pyramid of greatness, dammit!

    • ley22 says:

      Agree! Of all the leading actors there are to choose from why him? Don’t get me wrong, I love Rob Lowe, but he is not the funniest of people on that show.

    • CJ says:

      I was just about to ask the same question – WHERE IS NICK OFFERMAN?!?! Rob Lowe is great and all, but seriously!

    • MCS says:

      Nick Offerman, or at least Aziz Ansari. Parks and Rec is my favorite show but Rob Lowe must be kidding.

  2. AJ says:

    It would be a travesty for Steve Carell not to get a nom this season.

  3. Jen says:

    How is Neil Patrick Harris not one of the options?

  4. susan says:

    Do we know for sure that Nick Offerman submitted in the Supporting Actor Category? This logic still escapes me… but I guess with this potentially being Steve Carell’s last year I can’t be too mad, politics-wise. I don’t even know.

  5. Marlene says:

    How are none of the actors from Modern Family here? You should at least have a write in section.

    • Shauna says:

      They usually submit in the Best Supporting Actor category. Last year, three of them were nominated in that category – Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet.

    • Esta says:

      They all run for supporting categories, never leads.

    • fiona says:

      I thought jay has submitted for lead actor before? Like in the golden globes or something

  6. mawhi says:

    How long is it gonna take the Glee fans to find this poll and flood it with votes for Matt Morrison?

    • JT says:

      :/ Unfortunatley prob not too long. I’m a fan of glee but Matt Morrison does not deliver comedy in any sense of the word. Steve Carell All The Way!!!

    • Amber says:

      You probably don’t have to worry too much about that. As a huge Glee fan I would never cast a vote for Matt Morrison for this category (and I did not in this poll). I don’t really see him as a lead, he had crap storylines this last year, and overall I’m disappointed with season 2 to the point where I don’t think either the show are any of the actors are deserving of an Emmy nod with the exception of Lea Michele. And if a huge fan like me can’t even defend it….you know it’s bad.

    • Jeff says:

      The fans where people who thought Lea deserved the nod. Matt is less than a lead this year and his character is not funny.

      I ma a glee fan but do not vote for those I don’t think deserve it.

      The anit-glee stuff is sad and unnecessary.

      • mawhi says:

        Oh, I don’t hate blindly. Glee really let me down this year. (Also, I’m just poking fun at how the Lead Actress poll got swamped with a ton of votes for Lea Michelle all of a sudden, don’t mind me.)

        • Jeff says:

          It let me down too. But I still think Lea and Chris deserve acting nominations.

          Chris is always good. plus had a decent storyline and I think even though people don’t always get the nature of Lea’s character she always is on and does whatever possible for the character. When she is annoying I’m annoyed at her, but in the next scene when she is sad so am i, when I should still be mad for the annoying thing she just did. I know a lot people say they hate the character but I think in way appreciate her too.

          With Lea she is always acting the part like a few others. Even doing something while she is just in the background. You can look Rachel at any time she is on the screen and know what she is thinking, be it happy, sad or annoyed at the other kids.

          Plus I love the all out over the top singing and things from Rachel.

          I don’t think Matt sure have gotten the nomination last year. He is a ok actor but that is about it.

    • adam says:

      Not as long as it took the Chuck fanboys to get here.

  7. Matt says:

    Glee??? Seriously?

    I hate it when Matt gets nominated for Comedy Series when it should go to one of the kids who actually have funny storylines. As Glee’s resident adult his role is to stand by, make faces while they sing, and fake-cry when thy touch his “emotions”

    Not to mention this whole season Will’s been one hot mess.

    • Stacey says:

      Couldn’t agree more! I wouldn’t consider him a lead role either.

    • Stop whining about glee says:

      Cory Monteith or Chris Colfer were more a lead than Matt was this year.

      And yes I voted for Lea becasue I think she deserves it. Matt not so much.

  8. Justin says:

    My proposed six are, in order:
    1. Rob Lowe
    2. Zachary Levi
    3. Steve Carell
    4. Jim Parsons
    5. Matt LeBlanc
    6. Alec Baldwin
    I would put a vote in for Johnny Galecki, but with Parsons there, it would be a wash, plus I think Sheldon is much funnier.

  9. Sarah says:

    I love Parks & Rec but Rob Lowe as Lead Actor? Seriously? Maybe as Supporting Actor, but only after Nick Offerman and Adam Scott. I think y’all were mesmerized by his pretty eyes again.

  10. mawhi says:

    Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy is going to be OUT OF CONTROL.

  11. bluebonnetbelle says:

    Lucas Neff has been one of the best things to come out of this past TV season.
    What a great find, I hope he starts to show up in projects outside of Raising Hope soon!
    That being said, Jim Parsons has been my fav actors since I saw him in plays at the University of Houston back in the 90’s. I don’t even hold that crazy Quizno’s spot with the wolves against him.

    • Snsetblaze says:

      While I love some of the nominees, I’d suggest that Colin Ferguson from Eureka be added (that show is in the gray area – its not really a comedy or a drama (like Glee). I also wonder where Garrett Dillahunt is (if Martha Plimpton is in best lead actress, he should be in best lead actor).

    • Dana says:

      TOTALLY AGREE, Lucas Neff seems so natural on Raising Hope. That show can get weird, if the three central actors weren’t so convincing, it’d be an awful show, but great as they are, it’s one of my favorites.

  12. Buffy Freak says:

    I like Rob Lowe in Parks and Recreation but I don’t see him as a lead actor. But I’m all for any nominations for P&R…

  13. Justin says:

    Rob Lowe is a joke. As much as I whole heartedly love Parks and Rec, the guy is delusional if he thinks he’s a lead actor. The only lead on that show is Amy. Also, I’d include David Duchovny for Californication. Say what you want about the show, but I think he’s great as Hank Moody, far better than most of these guys (coughCharlieSheencough)

  14. Soso says:

    #1 Steve Carell (really hope he’ll win)
    #2 Joel McHale
    #3 Alec Baldwin
    #4 Jim Parsons
    #5 Rob Lowe (that’s not very a lead role but he’s makes me laugh every time on P&R)
    #6 Matt LeBlanc or Levi

    Where is Matthew Perry ??? And Charlie Day ou Danny DeVitto ??

  15. Renee says:

    Anybody but Alec Baldwin, please. Not only has he won too many times (even more than deserved), but he has been such a snoozefest this season. Isn’t anyone tired of his character? I sure am. I am so tired of Liz Lemon’s antics, too.

    • Amy says:

      Alec Baldwin has won a lot — but for the “Reaganing” episode alone, he earned a nomination spot this year.

  16. Renee says:

    LUCAS NEFF HAS WON ME OVER THIS SEASON. He deserved a nomination, but Steve Carell should win. Also, where is Garret Dillahunt?! Or is he running for supporting?

  17. Amy says:

    Josh Radner and Jim Parsons!

    • eddie says:

      I loved josh radnor in the first seasons of HIMYM, he was a really cool and funny character. but as of late they have made him dorky, lame and not as funny. It really bugs me that the main focus is on barney as the main charcter, he gets good storylines, he gets good jokes, and he gets more air-time…. Josh deserves a lot better. in the first 3 seasons i felt that he was deserving of a nomination, but now… he just doesnt get good enough material to warrant a nomination.

      • Ciara says:

        I completely agree.
        VERY recently, they’ve been giving him a bit more, but since Season 3/4, they’ve been giving all the characters, except Barney, really dry patches. They’re dealking with the Barney Favoutitism (if I spelt that right) in the wrong way – they’re giving him more and more funny moments, more of the spotlight, and downgrading the rest of the cast, when they SHOULD be emphasising the comedic talents of the other actors…that’s why it’s lost so much respect. They’ve been giving Cobie a bit more, too, now that she’s becomming the nex favorite, right next to Neil.
        I love me some Barney moments, but what they REALLY need to do is take a good look at the scrips and give Josh, Jason, Alyson and, yes, Cobie some more funny lines. Alyson and Cobie shone in The Perfect Cocktail, Jason shared the Big Laugh Award with Neil for a while there, and Josh – when given something to really sink his teeth into – is a hoot. Drunk Ted? I have to say, I laughed more at that than I did during plenty of Barney’s moments.
        They need to shape up and share out the funny. The actors are doing good, but they could very well be THE ensemble cast of this generation, if the writers would just give them a little more to work with! I love them all, Neil included, but he’s starting to be overused. Give the rest of the gang a shot, guys. They can bring it…
        Think about it; in earlier Seasons, when everyone generated some genuine belly laughs, it wa a lot more likeable. Now all the characters are running a little dry…except Barney. And all the fans are losing respect. It’s not working that way.

  18. Mariel says:

    Community and TBBT fans need to leave. Rob Lowe, Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell is where it’s at.

    • bb says:

      so your opinion is the final word? it’s a poll, people can vote for whoever they prefer regardless of your opinion.

    • Rob Lowe isn’t even the lead actor on his show! I would argue that Adam Scott’s character is much more suitable to be labeled the lead for Parks & Recreation.

  19. How does the Big Bang Theory have two Leading Actors yet Modern Family has none?

    • Jen says:

      If you read the earlier comments you would see that it was already said that the cast of Modern Family all submit their names to the Supporting Actor category because it is a ensemble cast.

  20. kec says:

    what about
    Nick Offerman from Parks and Rec or the guy plays Bobby on Cougar Town

  21. torontogirl98 says:

    Joel is my dream candidate, and I know Ron/Nick is absolutely hilarious but Rob Lowe has made me laugh so hard this season

  22. Cdn Izzy says:

    Mike and Molly
    Raising Hope
    Modern Family

    are all the funniest, best written and best acted shows on TV.

    Why aren’t they getting the nominations/votes???

    What the heck?

  23. jlaff says:

    seriously rob lowe not cool, they can choose another from parks n rec, but him not isnt that funny, well here’s my 6s:

    1- Jim Parsons
    2- Joel McHale
    3- Matthew Morrison
    4- Steve Carell
    5- Alec Baldwin
    6- Someone From MOdern Family

  24. T McNeil says:

    I would think Carrell would get a nomination (he had three VERY strong episodes that would be hard to deny if submitted). I thoroughly enjoy McHale, but I don’t remember his character as being more than reactionary this past season. Emmy voters tend to select the same people repeatedly (especially the winners; I’m looking at you, John Laroquette). I will only get concerned when Nick Offerman and Adam Baldwin are shut-out for supporting nominations.

  25. Jenny says:

    I don’t really care about who is nominated as much as who wins! I think it is Steve Carell’s time! Please give this man an emmy! After 7 years of AMAZING performances on The Office, he definitely deserves it!!!

  26. JD says:

    why is everyone hating on Rob Lowe? the reason he submitted for Lead Actor is becuse if both him AND Nick Offerman submitted as supporting actor, that could have caused the vote to split, allowing someone else to win. it’s much safer to only have one actor from each show in each category. he didn’t do it because he thinks too much of himself. he did it because he ALSO thinks Nick should win.

    • mawhi says:

      For me, it’s because there are three other true supporting actors on that show that have more storylines than Rob Lowe’s character and shouldn’t have to split with Nick either. They’ll probably be completely ignored, unfortunately.

      It may have been a very smart and/or respectful move, I don’t know. I can’t know.

    • Jamie says:

      Yes! Thank You! I keep thinking to myself that Parks and Recreation was probably gonna get cancelled. Now its a bonafide NBC hit thats sure to stay on the air for many years. If one year ago you told me my options are Parks and Rec is cancelled but Nick Offerman submitted in lead OR Parks and Rec on for many years but Rob Lowe submitted in lead, I would Gladly take the 2nd option. Let’s get realistic fellow Parks fans, yes, Rob Lowe isn’t the lead actor, but its a sacrifice we should be willing to make to assure the show gets to continue. We should just be thankful that there is a 4th season.
      Finally, look at Nick Offerman outside of PArks and Recreation, does he really seem like someone who cares about this kind of stuff. As long as he’s making his own canoes, he’s happy.

  27. Amber says:

    I agree that Rob Lowe submitting himself as lead actor is pretty uncool. I don’t even really find the character to be all that hilarious, he’s only half-hilarious, and it’s kind of an insult to other actors on the show who have more airtime than him. And I disagree that 30 Rock was stellar this year. I was incredibly disappointed by what was once my favorite show. But to each his own, I guess. I am also hoping Alec Baldwin won’t get nominated because Alec winning the best actor Emmy seems like such old news. It’s time for someone new to get a chance. So in order of who I would want to win…

    1. Steve Carell (and I think he really will win based on his body of work on The Office. It will be a parting gift.)
    2. Joel McHale (What can I say? I’ve never been shy about proclaiming I’m in love with the man and his acerbic wit. And his biceps.)
    3. Jim Parsons (He’s a genius, but he’s lower on the list because he already has a win for last year. I like to see the Emmy love get spread around.)
    After this point, it gets hard to pick another 3, because those three are the most deserving, I think, but I will go with…
    4. Louis C.K. (his show is sometimes polarizing to me, but the man isn’t just a quintuple threat, he’s a true auteur. And I respect the h#ll out of the fact that he edits his own show.)
    5. Johnny Galecki (I think he gets overlooked a lot because of his scene-stealing costar, Parsons, but he’s got pretty good comic timing himself.)
    6. Josh Radnor (see no. 5 and substitute in Neil Patrick Harris for Parsons)

  28. Christie says:

    If Joel McHale isn’t nominated, something is very seriously wrong with the system.

    My choices, in order:

    1) Joel McHale
    2) Josh Radnor (so overlooked!)
    3) Steve Carrell (It would be lame not to nominate him in his last season)
    4) Jim Parsons (I’ve only seen a handful of BBT eps, but he seems funny)

    I’ve never seen the rest of the shows (except Glee, but MM isn’t really ‘comedy), sooo…

    5) Alec Baldwin (Have never seen 30 Rock, but… whatevs)
    6) Zachary Levi (Chuck looks good, but again, I’ve never seen it.)

  29. sashay says:

    Joel McHale, hands down. Superb comedy timing, and he pulls off the good-looking lead very well too. Amazing abs! I would never have guessed that, just from watching him on The Soup.
    I’m hoping that Danny Pudi is also nominated, for best supporting actor, although I recognize that yes, it may be the most competitive. Still, I think the entire cast of Community is far funnier than most of the other suggestions put forth here.
    I would also like to see Steve Carell here, for his last season. He gave it his all, and rescued the show from near-oblivion, where it seemed to be going last season.

    • k says:

      Community; Joel, Danny, Gillian FTW! They need to be nominated, quality television needs to be acknowledged at award shows or there is something very wrong with the industry. Community is just EPIC!

  30. Sasha says:

    I want Johnny Galecki to at least get a Nomination and Jim Parson for the win…lol

  31. Mike says:

    Got to be Ty burell

  32. HappyHappyJoyJoy says:

    I voted for Zachary Levi cause he’s a fantastic actor & i think from this list there is no one funnier then him :) and we are voting for lead actor in a comedy right ?

    • chuckfan says:

      i agree, he is a great actor and he is hilarious in Chuck. The whole cast should be recognized for their work on the show. They are amazing and have such talent. VOTE ZAC!!!!

  33. João Amaral says:

    Rob Lowe and Joel McHale. easy

  34. Cana says:

    God parks and recreation better not be snubbed again. I loved the the third and second season. Its at the best its ever been. It needs to be in the race its the best comedey on TV.

  35. Sladewilson says:

    So are we just hating on Modern Family or what? First none of the MF ladies are nom for Lead Actress in a Comedy and now the fellas of MW are totally left out? Ugh…

    Anyway, no teasing – Jim Parsons FTW – the man is juat absolutely hysterical…

  36. Thomas says:

    I think Josh Radnor is one of the most underrated actors on TV. I know Neil Patrick Harris gets a lot of love (and rightly so) in regards to HIMYM. But Radnor just has often has me cracking up laughing and brings a lot of heart, pain and likability to Ted.

  37. Alex says:

    lol at Charlie Sheen having the lowest percentage of votes. Uhhh, yeah. Pretty much guarantee no nomination for him this year. haha.

  38. Bryan says:

    What is the obsession with Alec Baldwin? He is not a funny man. He may say funny things on ’30 Rock’ but that’s because that show has excellent writers! The same with Charlie Sheen…

    • Sassy says:

      Actually, no, Alec Baldwin is very good with his own ad-libs. Have you heard him on the red carpet at celebrity events? Or promoting one of his movies? Self-depreciating humour always goes over well (I know, it sounds like the opposite of his Jack Donaghy persona, or the quotes he give the press). I don’t know if I’d necessarily like him if I met him in person, but I do think he is a very entertaining man. Unlike Sheen, a talentless bundle of crap that lucked into a money maker and blew all his opportunities away. I’m hoping that we never hear from him again.

  39. Amy says:

    I sincerely hope they reward Steve Carrell this year. He is completely deserving. The Office isn’t the same without him. He should win based on his last episode alone. The man is brilliant (and also nice). I would love for Joel McHale to be the dark horse though. He is my number 2. Brilliant as Jeff Winger. I literally love Rob Lowe as Chris Trager, but he should be in the supporting category.

  40. jenna says:

    i’m thinking it will be steve carell for the win.

    I don’t watch a lot of the shows on the list but why episodes has made it on for both categories so far I have no idea.

  41. VBarkley says:

    I only voted for Zachary Levi and Rob Lowe, but then I threw in Lucas Neff, because he is really good on Raising Hope, and he’s a definite underdog. I just didn’t feel anyone else was worthy of my vote. Steve Carell didn’t have anything to work with, Jim Parsons – it’s just getting old, and as much as I love Johnny Galecki, well, he’s really Jim Parson’s straight man.
    Adam Baldwin uses no acting range with his character.
    Louis C.K. – never heard of him
    Bill Gardell – don’t like Mike & Molly
    Danny McBride – never saw the show
    Josh Radnor – he’s a capable actor but not Emmy worthy
    Charlie Sheen – seriously? No effing way
    Matt LeBlanc – Sorry, I still haven’t forgiven him for the ‘Joey” debacle
    Joel McHale – don’t think he’s that funny
    Matthew Morrison – should be in the all new dramedy category I want to invent

  42. Jackson says:

    GO Matthew Morrison

  43. Raksha says:

    Oh, my choices are:
    Joel McHale
    Matt LeBlanc
    Jim Parsons
    Adam Baldwin
    Steve Carell
    Zachary Levi (This was not becasue he is more deserving, but I love him. However, if I am being honest, Josh Radnor is a little bit more deserving.)

  44. bhm1304 says:

    I really think Lucas Neff was one of the best finds of this season. He holds his own with the veterans Plimpton, Dillahunt and Leachman and plays such a charming idiot you can’t help but root for him.

    Joel McHale deserves it but won’t get it. I think he should have gotten it last year and won; he had more Winger-centric episodes in Season 1. His personal best this year may have been the “My Dinner With Andre” spoof.

    As far as best lead actor on a comedy, no one is better than Louis C.K., no one is even in the same zip code. Matthew Morrison is what is left after Louis C.K. leaves the rest room.

    M.I.A. – John Corbett “USoT”, Thomas Jane “Hung”, and Jason Schwartzman “Bored to Death”; three names missing from your list that I think deserve consideration. All are actually the male leads on their respective shows, and all had very good seasons. The underappreciated John Corbett as the glue holding the disfunctional Gregson clan together against Toni Collette’s larger than life character has always deserved consideration. Schwartzman, Jane, and Danny McBride were all entering the second season of their respective HBO shows, yet only Schwartzman and Jane’s shows were better in their second seasons whereas “Eastbound” took a huge step back.

    Matt LeBlanc is excellent on “Episodes” but is he really submitting himself as the lead actor? He only appeared in 6 of the 7 episode abbreviated first season and it was always in a supporting capacity. He has a better shot at Supporting. What about David Duchovney for “Californication” instead?

    The darkhorse that begs consideration is Chris Elliott for Adult Swim’s “Eagleheart” the most offensively hilarious 15 minute program on television. Chris Elliott has forgotten more about comedy than Matthew Morrison will ever know. He got Mickey Rooney to cameo. Of all the US Marshall’s currently being portrayed on television his “Chris Monsanto” is easily the funniest;)

    My dream list would be Lucas Neff, Joel McHale, Jason Schwartzman, John Corbett, Louis C.K., and David Duchovney whose ommission from your list had to have been an oversight because deserves to be there. You put Zach Levi, Matthew Morrison, Josh Radnor, Johnny Galecki, and Billy Gardell on your list but leave off Duchovney. Brother please….

  45. Sheikia says:

    I keep hoping that when Emmy voters vote, they look at the whole picture as opposed to individual season performances, but they never do. If they did, LOST would have won some awards. We all knew that LOST did not have the best acting or writing or show in the last season, but I thought they would give it to them anyways because of the bigger picture, to recognize what an impact they made on television.

    I fear the same thing will happen to Steve Carell. Instead of saying, “We need to finally recognize Steve for all his amazing work on 7 years of The Office”, they will say “well I liked Jim Parson’s acting better in that scene in that episode he submitted”

    Unfortunate, but true.

  46. Joseph says:

    Jason Schwartzmann should be in the conversation. He’d be a dream nominee for me along with yours mentioned – McHale, Baldwin, Carrell and McBride.

    Rob Lowe has always submitted himself as a lead actor – on West Wing, Brothers and Sisters and now Parks.

  47. Olina says:

    Jim Parsons is literally the reason I started watching Comedy series.

  48. IC says:

    Seriously? Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell are part of your “dream nominees” They get nominated every single year!!! It’s so freaking boring.

  49. Victoria says:

    Rob Lowe is great on P&R, but Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt, and Adam Scott are all much more deserving of awards for the show, IMO.

  50. SK says:

    Matthew Morrison? Seriously? Really, who made this poll?