As far as the Emmys are concerned, Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory are the only sitcoms out—and that's a shame. Reliable as the former is (and ubiquitous as the latter is), there are a ton of great comedies out that are just getting by with niche audiences, or only beginning to gain Academy recogniton.
The newest crop of sitcoms may be struggle city, but others entering their sophomore or middle seasons are graciously sheltering actors who are flexing acclaimed but otherwise largely unrecognized comedic chops. These are the handful of colorful oddballs and beleaguered straight men and women who are just as meme worthy as some of your favorites. Read on for the Most Underrated Actors on TV Comedies, all currently airing or recently ended.
Current role: Tessa Altman, Suburgatory (ABC)
Suburgatory is one of the best sleeper sitcoms on the tube right now, but it wouldn’t be anything without the perfectly cast Jane Levy as the prototypical city kid relegated to the hellish 'burbs. The role could be as run-of-the-mill as the cookie-cutter neighborhood, but Levy imbues her performance with a sarcasm and desert dryness that all but steals the show out from her dad and co-protagonist, played by the capable Jeremy Sisto.
Damon Wayans, Jr.
Latest role: Brad Williams, Happy Endings (ABC)
Technically the second generation Wayans brother is out of work (at least as far as TV is concerned). Unless his upcoming comedy flick Let's Be Cops catapaults him into film stardom, we hope he finds a new TV home soon, as he stands out in any ensemble he joins. New Girl fans are still eager for his return, and meanwhile, on Happy Endings, he won many of the weekly tug-of-war contests between the cast to emerge as the scene stealer, with a knack for spitfire delivery and the type of zany quirkiness you'd expect from Homey the Clown's son. In fact, if Wayans Jr. does return to TV, it should be as the lead, instead of the over-achieving, out-acting co-star work he's been doing the past three years.
Current role: Andy Dwyer, Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Watching Parks and Recreation is the equivalent of curling up with a cup of hot cocoa by a fire. It's the best thing after a shitty day at work. That's all because of its remarkable cast that play on screen like family. And, with all due respect to Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope, no one knows how to play quite like Chris Pratt's Andy Dwyer.
Pratt has a talent for making the fundamentally dumbest character on screen the most endearing. His fearlessness when it comes to physical comedy, coupled with his perfect delivery make him a performer we simply cannot look away from.
Current role: Morgan Tookers, The Mindy Project (Fox)
You should be watching The Mindy Project because Mindy Kaling is awesome, and Chris Messina (whom you probably know best as the sometimes evil ACN News president from The Newsroom) is great as well, but the breakout award goes to Ike Barinholtz as Morgan the male nurse. By that description alone, of course he must be the oddball of the ensemble, but Barinholtz does the character so well that he made Morgan into a necessity rather than a small-dose goof. Any time a role envisioned as recurring graduates to a supporting cast member, props must be paid.
Latest role: Alex Kerkovich, Happy Endings (ABC)
Who could’ve imagined back during her cougar evading days that Kim Bauer would have one [intentionally] comedic bone in her body? Fast forward a decade though, and Elisha Cuthbert has gone from the bane of every 24 fan’s existence to uncontested MVP of one of television’s sharpest (and woefully underrated) sitcoms.
The Happy Endings cast is filled with actors with backgrounds in comedy and stand-up save her and Zach Knighton, but where Knighton is predictably the ensemble’s weak link, somewhere in the second season the writers decided to turn Cuthbert’s Alex’s dim bulb all the way down and Cuthbert rose to the challenge.
Alex Kerkovich is endearingly bereft of any common sense, a woman of simple pleasures—rom-coms and ribs, and prone to whimsical moves like buying a racist parrot. With Happy Endings officially cancelled as of last spring, hopefully Cuthbert finds another outlet to exercise her comedic chops.