Best of 2012: Danny Pudi, Amy Poehler, and Jake Johnson top Comedy Actors

We’re getting to near the end of our nominees in our Best of 2012 series, and both today and tomorrow we’re focusing strictly on performances. We’re not making things easy here, though: all actors and actresses (leads and supporting) are bundled together into two separate categories depending on genre, and we’re starting off here with comedy mostly because it’s always nice to remember to have a laugh here and there.

Do you love any of the actors below? Be sure to vote for them in the poll! We are going to keep the polls open until midnight on December 21, and the results will be revealed in an article at noon. There’s no real criteria here: we try to recognize multiple shows, and focus strictly on the past year rather than any sort of lifetime achievement for a single show.

Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation” (NBC) – It’s hard to think that we once lived in a world without Amy Poehler on primetime TV. What makes Leslie Knope such a fantastic TV character is that she has so many delusions of grandeur that you would never think such a person would exist in real life. Then, Poehler brings the part home with such tenderness and humanity that she immediately, real or not, becomes someone you want to meet. Right now, she’s the anchor of NBC’s Thursday-night lineup despite it airing at 9:30.

Damon Wayans Jr., “Happy Endings” (ABC) – Really, you could either he Eliza Coupe in this spot and it would have been okay. We just find Wayans to be the most criminally-underrated actor in the business right now; he’s continuously funny, plays off of other characters really well, and perhaps the most important thing to us is that he is still willing to take risks on a show three seasons in, a time in which he could be settling into a rut.

Danny Pudi, “Community” (NBC) – We felt like season 2 was in many ways the season for Donald Glover, and the second half of season 3 airing early this year was definitely the darkest (but most entertaining) timeline to Abed. Pudi has quite possibly one of the most-challenging parts on TV: a college student with Asperger syndrome who would probably be very hard to be around in real life at times. The issues with Abed being Abed were fully addressed this year, but there were also constant reminders under the felt beard that there is still such a joy and innocence to this character that we want to cheer for him no matter want. Regardless of “Community” goes six seasons and a movie or not, Abed has to be one of the best characters in modern sitcom history.

Jake Johnson, “New Girl” (Fox)  – Our love for Jake Johnson burns strong. He was nominated as a breakout star, as well, mostly because he is the reason why we’re excited to watch “New Girl” every week. It feels like this is a guy who could exist (in opposition at times to some of our prior nominees), someone who would seem perfectly normal if you saw him from across the room; then, you start to realize overtime that he is absolutely insane, at times gullible, writes zombie novels, and has very strange taste is music. In between his commitment to the writing and his chemistry with Zooey Deschanel, Jonhson delivers week in and week out.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO) – We don’t know if we ever really liked Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer during her first term on HBO, but perhaps that was the point. She was a foul-mouth, dictatorial woman who manipulated the press, yelled at her staff, and often neglected her daughter. Yet, somehow, we were completely captivated by her, and the episode featuring the pregnancy test has to go down as one of television’s finest half-hours of the past year.

Julie Bowen, “Modern Family” (ABC) – We know that it is easy to hate on “Modern Family” for sweeping every awards show out there, but the truth is that it is a good show and deserves recognition (though perhaps not to the extent that it cleans house and keeps other shows from getting a chance). While there are characters who are routinely more over-the-top (Phil, Mitchell), Bowen’s Claire is the glue to the show. She has a subtle layer of madness similar to Johnson’s Nick, and she plays off of all of the young and old actors on the show very well.

Louis C.K., “Louie” (FX) – Any list of comedic performances without Louis C.K. should just be labeled invalid and sent away to a burning barrel somewhere. The guy is just such a comedic mastermind at everything that he does, and he packs a show that is in some ways simple with so much density, realism, and heart … and we’re just talking about his performance, and not the other hats that he also wears on the show.

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!