Emmys 2012: The Lead Comedy Actress Race in Review, Including Our Dream Nominees

This year’s Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series contest is bound to have some fresh contenders, thanks to the bounty of high quality comedies (many of them new). We’re betting New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel and Girls’ Lena Dunham will hear their names announced on July 19, alongside previously honored ladies like Parks and Recreation’s Amy Poehler and 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey. 

More Emmy Races In Review | Outstanding Drama Series | Lead Drama Actor | Lead Drama Actress | Supporting Drama Actor | Supporting Drama Actress | Outstanding Comedy Series | Lead Comedy Actor | Supporting Comedy Actor | Supporting Comedy Actress | Outstanding Reality-Competition Series | Outstanding Movie/Miniseries

Review this slideshow of the major contenders — including TVLine’s Dream Nominees — then vote below for who you think are the six best. And check back Tuesday as we tackle the Supporting Comedy Actor 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. Ava says:

    If Amy Poehlor does not win this, there is no justice.

    • Rachel says:


      • beatriceblythe says:

        THIS. She has deserved this for at least two years. She is so earnest and fantastic that I completely forget she’s Amy Poehler. SHE IS LESLIE KNOPE!

    • CJ says:

      Absolutely. Her performance in the season finale was phenomenal, and the rest of the season was fantastic as well.

    • Jess says:

      Yep! I’m rooting for her!!!

    • AJ says:

      She is the one I am pulling for. Definitely deserves to win.

    • grace2552 says:

      Yep. I love a lot of the ladies on this list very dearly, but when it comes right down to it, even my favorites seem like the Bobby Newport to Amy’s Leslie Knope.

    • KND says:

      I couldn’t agree more but since this is the emmys unfortunately she won’t.

      • Ryan says:

        Agreed and the emmy’s are terribly so they definitely won’t give it to her, even though she is hands down the greatest character on TV right now. Love her.
        Also, can we please discuss how excited I am to see what she pulls this year? Last year’s “Beauty Pageant” was amazing. How will she and Martha Plimpton top themselves? They should tie and win for that stunt last year alone!

    • Amy says:

      Yes! Yes! Yes! Amy Poehler is absolutely brilliant as Leslie Knope. If she can’t win for this season, I don’t think she ever can. She did it all and did it with intelligence, wit, and heart. Come on, Emmy voters!!

  2. Not only should Zooey be nominated but I think she also should be the winner! I’d also love to see some of the other newbes up there like Krysten and Jane! Hopefully this could be were Network Television wins all, as opposed to Drama! Could they not just make Cable and Network separate at awards ceremonies, especially the EMMYS!?

  3. Chris says:

    Zooey is the 4th best on her own show! Hannah, Jake, and Max are all better than she is. I hope Rickards can sneak in, but no there is no real chance at that.

    • Ava says:

      I agree with this comment 100%. ZD is the least appealing cast member on New Girl. If the boys hadn’t been so darn hilarious I probably would have dropped New Girl long ago.

    • Eliza says:

      Agree with you and Ava! Give me those 3 over Jess any day.

      • JASon says:

        Disagree 100%. Zoey is the show!!!! Schmidt is good as well but the other two are boring and unfunny.

        • Ava says:

          Whoa, seriously? You don’t enjoy Winston? Winston who is afraid of werewolves and has an affection for bells and belting out the soundtrack to Wicked when he is driving alone? Winston, boring? Unfunny? Never./

          • Adriana says:

            I also can’t enjoy Winston, he is funny on occasion but his story is too separate from the rest of the group and his girlfriend is super boring.

  4. kop says:

    Please,it have to be Courteney Cox! She deserves,damn it!!

  5. godzilla's_foil says:

    Kat Dennings, hah. Lowest point of a horrible show.

    • Chris says:

      Dennings actually deserves to be nominated. She is unquestionably hilarious and her comedic timing is outstanding. She makes the show work…

      • godzilla's_foil says:

        I don’t know about “unquestionably”, Chris, as I’d seriously question it. She’s terrible at what she does and her comedic timing is close to nonexistent. She delivers everything with the same face and tone, all the time. Beth is way better than her in all aspects.

  6. Ashly says:

    I will be so disappointed if Amy Poehler doesn’t win this year. I used to dislike her on SNL and initially didn’t watch Parks & Rec because of that. Once I started watching Parks & Rec, I gained a whole new appreciation for Poehler. She’s so amazing. Crossing my fingers she gets to take home the Emmy!

  7. nyla says:

    This HAS to be Amy’s year. No question about it. Leslie Knope is a national treasure.
    If she get’s slighted, it will be a damn shame and I fear it will (eventually) turn into a Steve Carell situation – it’s crime that he never got an Emmy for Michael Scott.

  8. Eliza says:

    My girl Amy Poehler!!! I have so much love for Martha Plimpton and Mary-Louise Parker too. There are actually a lot of great women on this list.

    But, sorry, if Lena Dunham or Zooey win over Amy…bleh, I won’t be happy at all!

  9. Sarah says:

    This really has got to be Amy Poehler’s year. I watch several of the other shows mentioned and while the women are good they can’t compare to her. She was amazingly funny all season and brought me to tears with her victory speech in the season finale.

  10. Ben says:

    Lea Michelle? Really? She sucks as an actress. She maybe a good singer, but that’s all. Come on!

    • Emily says:

      I don’t love Lea Michele, but even I can’t say she’s a bad actress. She did solid work this year.

      • Ben says:

        Maybe a little bit in her drama part, but she is not fun at all!!

        • Julie says:

          The award is “Actress in a Comedy” not funniest actress. If it was the latter, then past winners/nominees like Edie Falco, Laura Linney, Laura Dern, and Toni Collete (to name a few) didn’t deserve their nominations/wins. Frankly, last year’s win for Melissa McCarthy was totally stupid. She didn’t deserve the win at all.

          I think Lea has done some great work and been funny, too, when she’s been given the material. Frankly, Glee wasn’t very comedic this year at all but that isn’t the actors’ fault. I think she deserves to be considered. I also don’t think she’ll be nominated, which has less to do with disinterest in her from Hollywood and more to do with the strength of the category.

          All that being said, I hope Amy Poehler wins just so I don’t have to hear all the complaining again. She deserves it, but I’d rather have her stans shut up about it. Also, I’d like to point out that Amy will likely win due to her more DRAMATIC turns in the show rather than the comic turns. Ironic, isn’t it, considering your complaints about Lea Michele.

  11. Juan says:

    it is a travesty that Courtney Cox has been overlooked completely for Cougar Town, not even one nomination for it not to mention a nomination for friends. She deserves it.
    BTW where is the poll

    • ChrisGa says:

      Totally agree; she was the only cast member of Friends to never get a nom and she can’t even get one for what is arguably her best work to date. That’s the Emmys for ya.

    • liddad says:

      I disagree competely. CC definitely deverved a nomination for friends, but for Cougar Town – not so much. She’s now been doing the same type of thing for fifteen years, and she’d need one hell of a season for any decent chance for being nominated

  12. Liz says:

    COURTENEY COX. She needs to be nominated already!!

  13. Ally says:

    I have a hard time with this category. Lea Michele is great for for her DRAMATIC acting. I can’t compare her with comedic actors because the methods are so different. There seriously needs to be a dramedy category. Its hard for me to pick an lead actress for comedy. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see Girls. The comedies I’ve checked out his year are Last Man Standing, Don’t trust the B, Two Broke Girls, Raising Hope, Big Bang Theory, Rob, New Girl and Mike and Molly, and of those I’ve only regularily watched Big Bang Theory and Last Man Standing. I’ve gotta say that only Big Bang Theory actually makes me laugh out loud. Is it just me or are the shows just not as funny as they used to be? I would say my top picks for lead actress in a comedy are Kat Dennings (Two Broke Girls), Melissa McCarthy (Mike and Molly) and Nancy Travis (Last Man Standing).

    • Matthew Thomas says:

      If you’re saying shows aren’t as funny as they used to be, it’s because you’re doing a pretty terrible job picking good comedy shows to watch. Parks & Recreation, Community, 30 Rock, Louie, Veep, Modern Family, Suburgatory, The Middle are all way better than the shows on your list.

      • Ally says:

        I have checked out all of those (I’m actually a TV critic for another site up here in Canada so I’m required to watch at least the first two episodes of everything) but none of them have really held my interest.

        • Manuel says:

          Wow… So let me see if I got it right.

          You watched the first two episodes of Parks & Recreation, Community and Louie and you ditched them because you didn’t think they were as good as 2 Broke Girls, Last Man Standing and Mike & Molly?

          Good god…

      • the girl says:

        To this list I would also add Cougar Town (!) and Up All Night. I do believe Courteney Cox should be nominated this year, just so she won’t (will?) start Coopering.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      It’s just you, because there are a lot of funny comedies on TV. As a “tv critic” you really ought to be giving the shows Matthew listed more of a chance as they are very well made shows.

  14. mehdi0204 says:

    Amy Poehler as a winner, Lea Michele as a nominee.

  15. Elibu says:

    I quit New Girl after the first two episodes because Zooey’s character is so annoying and unrealistic. I tried another episode later last fall because the buzz about the show was so positive, but I still couldn’t stand the character. And even my friends who still watch say they do so only for the other characters and tend to ignore her when she’s on the screen.

    Also, I tried to get into Girls, but I just couldn’t care about such unappealing, pathetic characters. I realize that’s my opinion and a lot of people enjoy it, but I read an interview with Lena Dunham where she admitted that she only writes/plays variations of herself and doesn’t really consider herself an actor. Therefore, I can’t really see that she should be a “Dream Nominee” for Best Actress if she’s not really acting.

    • Sal says:

      And yet, with all the buzz for this show, it’s looking pretty likely that she will get nominated. If she’s only playing variations of herself, why is she even submitting herself for a nomination?

    • ChrisGa says:

      Spot on about the unappealing characters on Girls, particularly the lead, who is getting all kinds of praise. Frankly, it dumbfounds me.

  16. ted says:

    Lea Michelle should be nominated this year. And I wonder what you all think that Zooey Deschenal should submit — I’m thinking Jess and julia. I really wish that Jake johnson gets a supporting actor nod.

  17. user says:

    i like Amy Poehler, i really do, but the funniest lady in this company is Martha Plimpton.

  18. jasie says:

    Julia Louis-Dreyfuss for the win. She is perfect in VEEP.

  19. Mel says:

    I absolutely think Amy should win but I fear Julia Louis Dreyfus sneaking in because the voters sometimes get excited about new shows starring perennial favorites. I really hope Christina Applegate gets a nom too–she is so great in everything (RIP Samanth Who?).

  20. trev says:

    Community though…

    • Johnny says:

      All the ladies on that show are supporting.

      • Angela says:

        I was wondering about that-I find it weird that none are considered “lead actress”, but then again, I guess, who would they pick for that title?
        Well, given that fact, then, based off the list that exists, while I’ve still yet to check out “Parks & Rec” (very behind, I know), I do like Amy Poehler, so I’d be cool with seeing her win this one.

        • liddad says:

          Yeah, Dan has said in an interview before that he doesn’t like writing for women as he can’t get into the right mindset to do it. That’ll explain why none of them are the “lead”.

          But especially in the last season, none of the characters have really been a “lead actor”. They started taking a little bit of focus off of Jeff in season 2 and have continued that this year. Season 3 was more about the group than it was about any one character, and I’ve got to say, I much prefer it that way!

          • Angela says:

            That’s interesting. I fully understand that and appreciate that he just let them work out their characters their own way instead of trying to create them in his image.
            Also, I agree with you. I like that the show gets to spread the attention around and everyone’s had their moments to shine. Shows that center in solely on one character with everyone revolving around them just for the sake of a story never work-ensembles are so much better.

          • I think Joel is still submitted for Leas Actor though because the show is still technically about Jeff getting his real degree

  21. Jay says:

    Ashley rickards for me, her physical comedy combined with straight girl to the mad adults was charming.

  22. Alex says:

    I like how this was really a year for female-centric comedies…If Zooey Deschanel, Lena Dunham, and Julia Luis-Dreyfuss aren’t all at least nominated, I’ll be surprised.

  23. JASon says:

    Yes. Zoey knocks it out of the park very week!! They should submit the episode “Bad In Bed” that was tour de force comedy. Hysterical. The guy who plays Schmidt should get supporting actor nod as well.

  24. Becks says:

    Lots of talented women on this list, but it’s gotta be Poehler this year.

  25. CJ says:

    Knope We Can! Knope 2012! Go Amy Poehler!!!

  26. atoz15 says:

    AMY POEHLER. she did the best work I saw all year; comedic & dramatic. the scene in the ‘smallest park in the world’ where she confesses her love to ben, the debate, election day, the christmas episode just all AMAZING and so much more in depth than most everything on TV. THIS IS HERS!!!! (it has to be!)

  27. iloen says:

    Seriously, where’s Aubrey Plaza in this? Gillian Jacobs? Alison Brie? SERIOUSLY?

  28. kika says:

    Courteney Cox!!! It’s a shame she was never nominated so I want a nomination for her

  29. Velvet says:

    Zooey Deschanel

  30. Talmidge Mcgulliger says:

    why is there no Happy Endings love in any of these poles?

  31. bob says:

    if Deschanel wins over Amy Poehler,Julia Louis-Dreyfuss or Lena Dunham, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

  32. DF says:

    Big Bang Theory is often lame, but Kaley Cuoco never is. She’s the sexiest funny woman since Mary Tyler Moore, and she’s figured out how to play smart and dumb at the same time. She elevates the performances of her male co-stars every week.

    • Ben says:

      I could not agree more. Kaley Cuoco is so sweet, fun and, well, let’s face it, lovable. She should get a reward for that, if not an emmy.

    • Charles says:

      I totally agree with you.

      Also, Kaley can do so much with just her tone of voice and body language.

  33. mar says:

    I’d like Amy Poehler to win and Lea Michele to be nominated. She was brilliant in an otherwise shaky Glee season 3. The only drawback is that most of her best work was on the dramatic side rather than comedic..

  34. duke says:

    Amy Poehler and Julia Louis-Dreyfus ftw….they are both brilliant

  35. ElKabong says:

    Veep is terrible. Eveyone involved should be banned from entertainment forever. I love Tony Hale but am willing to sacrifice him to see this happen.

    Ok so that’s hyperbole, but I really don’t like that show, and am baffeled that anyone thinks it’s award-worthy.

  36. YowzaPowza says:

    Lisa Kudrow for Web Therapy.

    • ChrisGa says:

      Really? I love LK, but that is one of the most affected, off-kilter performances I’ve seen in awhile(well, at least since her performance in The Comeback).

      • YowzaPowza says:

        I’m not saying she should win, or even necessarily be nominated, but she should be in the running on here. It’s a very underrated performance. There’s not many people on this list I would willingly watch sitting in front of a computer screen for a half hour every week. I would even argue that most of these women couldn’t do what she does on that show.

  37. murley says:

    I think lea michele does comedy incredibly well. I would like to see her nominated. That said amy poehler should win. She is a no brainer as far as I am concerned.

  38. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Courtney Cox, Lena Dunham, Edie Falco, Laura Linney, Amy Poehler, and Krystin Ritter; with Amy Poehler as the winner. I almost voted for Zooey here, but at the last second gave the spot to Krystin Ritter instead. I just don’t like New Girl that much. It is okay, and she is kinda funny on it, but overall it is kind of an overrated show.
    Now who really gets the nominations will be: Zooey Deschanel, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Melissa McCarthy, and Amy Poehler. Ugh, and it’s probably going to be Zooey Deschanel that wins. It really ought to be Amy Poehler.

    • jay says:

      Lena Dunham as an actress is the worst thing in her show, her writing is amusing but her ability to convey that herself is really poor.

  39. Hester says:

    Amy Poehler for the win! She should’ve gotten it the last two years already. This has to be her year. There is no character in the world I’m more emotionally involved with than Leslie Knope… My hero. And Amy plays it brilliantly!

  40. lisa says:

    Amy Poehler!!!

  41. Um, Kristin Chenoweth? Your list is invalid.

  42. Ronda says:

    Kristin Chenoweth in GCB great show and she was hilarious in it

  43. Kristen Bell from House of Lies RUTSes half of these nominees, talent-wise. As in runs up the score. Showtime did her wrong in relegating her to supporting actress when she is clearly the lead on HOL. It was done, IMO, to placate the egos of Falco, Linney and Louise-Parker so they could get first dibs on nominations. Shameful.

  44. Audrey says:

    I think Lea MIchele’s comedic acting is pretty good and of course her dramatic acting is amazing! I would love to at least see her be nominated! :)

  45. Deena says:

    Where is the love for Martha Plimpton? She is an acting gem!

  46. Diogo Silva says:

    I would like to see Lea Michele nominated. She rocks in Glee. The best actress, and the final scene in the car was pure gold. However, her work in dramatic :( but will see.

  47. Richard says:

    Brooke Elliott – “Drop Dead Diva”. The list is imcomplete.

  48. Riz says:

    just because her material this season are more drama that doesn’t mean lea michele didn’t do great at her comedic material. her inner monologue in the beginning of ‘choke’ episode and in the christmas episode are great and hilarious

    • Julie says:

      Good examples of Lea’s comedic acting. Her 60’s era Christmas special acting as the highlight of that episode. She doesn’t get enough (and obviously from people like Ben, any) credit for her comedic acting. Though I will admit she shines in her dramatic scenes, I think she’s one of the few young actors on that show that can do both well.

  49. london boy says:

    amy to win and hope martha gets nommed she brill. they would of nommed courtney if they had changed that god awful name for the show

  50. Leo says:

    ok this is one of the hardest ones but how can we forget the ladies of Wisterian Lane? Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria and especially Marcia Cross deserve the nominations they were just expectacular this year! Plus would be their final nomination for this amazing show!

    Apart from that I’m between Amy Poehler, Martha Plimpton & Courteney Cox! This 3 ladies are so hilarious! I don’t care which one od them win!