Emmy Nominations: TheWrap Picks Dream Contenders for Outstanding Lead Actor Comedy

This installment of TheWrap’s series on performers and programs that are deserving of Emmy awards recognition, even if they’re unlikely to get it, salutes comedy actors

Emmy nominations will be announced on Thursday morning, and we all know what that means: We’ll sit in front of the TV and hear the same names we heard last year, and the year before …

Also read: Emmy Dream Nominees: Comedy Supporting Actors and Actresses

Emmy voters, after all, are creatures of habit who tend to go for the same shows and performers over and over. But while we have nothing against “Modern Family” and Bryan Cranston and Claire Danes, TV is so vast and so good that lots of worthy shows can stay on the air season after season without ever landing Emmy nods.

So to salute the whole wide world of great TV, TheWrap staff would like to throw out some names that we don’t expect to see on the Emmy ballot – but wouldn’t it be a wonderful surprise if some of them did make it?

Also read: 5 Questions With ‘Mindy Project’ Star Ike Barinholtz: Emmy Contender Quickie

With “30 Rock” done and Alec Baldwin out of the running, there is a little bit of room in this category. But voters haven’t shown much flexibility with their top picks in recent years. Jim Parsons will no doubt be there again, as will Don Cheadle, Louis C.K., and Matt LeBlanc. The few slots that remain after the perennial favorites get nominated don’t leave nearly enough room for all the worthy contenders, so we’ve gathered some of them here.


Jeff Garlin, “The Goldbergs”Jeff Garlin The Goldbergs


The show is arguably the biggest new hit of the season, due in large part to the performance of Garlin as the blowhard dad who refused to wear pants in the house. Garlin managed to make a clueless and overwhelmed father of three who did nothing but yell both lovable and sympathetic. The problem is that by today’s standards, “The Goldbergs” is charming and sweet and funny, but it’s not edgy, and edgy is what gets the attention of Emmy voters. They might laugh at Garlin’s on-screen antics while voting for Louis C.K., but that’s about as close as he’ll likely get to a nomination. –Jason Hughes

See video: ‘Goldbergs’ Star Jeff Garlin Trashes ‘Need for Speed’ on ‘Conan’: ‘So Bad That I Was in Awe’

John Goodman, “Alpha House”John Goodman Alpha House

Amazon Studios

From “Roseanne” to “Treme” to this Garry Trudeau comedy available only on the wilds of Amazon prime, Goodman has specialized in larger-than-life bluster – but by casting him as a moderate Republican confounded by the political cartwheels he must turn to placate the Tea Party, “Alpha House” does a terrific job of undercutting the bluster with panic. –Steve Pond

Also read: ‘Alpha House’ Creator Garry Trudeau: Political Gridlock Is Good for Comedy

Jake Johnson, “The New Girl     Jake Johnson New Girl


It’s hard for Johnson to be considered a leading comedic actor on a TV show that now has four very talented main men: Johnson, Lamorne Morris, regular-turned-recurring-guest-turned-regular-again Damon Wayans Jr. and Max Greenfield, who was nominated for an Emmy in 2012 and has the best chance to repeat due to his standout character of Schmidt. But Johnson is broadening himself more than any other cast member, and is poised for (more) greatness. –Tony Maglio

Also read: Max Greenfield Tells Conan His Father Was Ashamed of His Kitten Nipple-Licking Scene on ‘New Girl’

Ashton Kutcher, “Two and a Half Men”Ashton Kutcher Two and a Half Men


Kutcher had his work cut out for him when he stepped in as the new star of CBS’s massively popular “Two and a Half Men,” following series star Charlie Sheen‘s ouster after a nuclear-grade meltdown. As Internet billionaire Walden Schmidt, Kutcher has admirably tackled the almost impossible task of making viewers forget that the show was basically built around a fictionalized version of Sheen, even if the ratings haven’t matched up to his efforts. –Tim Kenneally

Also read: Mila Kunis Reveals She Never Planned to Get Married — Until She Met Ashton Kutcher

Danny McBride, “Eastbound & Down”Danny McBride Eastbound and Down


It’s Kenny F—ing Powers, people. If voters needed to know more than that, they weren’t watching. –SP

See video: HBO’s Kenny Powers aka Danny McBride as ‘Star Wars” Darth Vader

Stephen Merchant, “Hello Ladies”Stephen Merchant Hello Ladies


Come on America, open up your doors for a few more members of the British comedy invasion! Merchant is terrific in absolutely everything he does. Ironically, he may have a better chance at a nomination for a small guest role on “Modern Family” than in a leading one on his own HBO vehicle. “Hello Ladies” was underrated and deserved a second season, but won’t get one. What we will get going forward are plenty of additional top-notch comedy performances from the lanky Englishman. –TM

See exclusive video: ‘Hello Ladies’ Stephen Merchant on Excluding Ricky Gervais, British vs. American TV

Chris O’Dowd, “Family Tree”Chris O'Dowd Family Tree


The HBO comedy “Family Tree” — which the network opted not to go forward with after its first season — was rarely a laugh-out-loud proposition. But O’Dowd’s Tom Chadwick, a 30-year-old man who begins investigating his family’s unusual past after inheriting a mysterious box of belongings, was engaging enough to keep the show from imploding in a ball of quirky, “Oh, isn’t that clever” preciousness. –TK

Also read: James Franco, Chris O’Dowd Compare ‘Of Mice and Men’ Opening to Sleeping Together for First Time

Steven Van Zandt, “Lilyhammer”Steven Van Zandt Lilyhammer


His role in “The Sopranos” was all scowl and attitude, but this strange Norwegian black comedy about a fish out of water — which, let’s face it, is way off Emmy voters’ radar — has enough charm and bite to justify the time it takes Little Steven away from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. –SP