Will ‘New Girl’ funny guy Jake Johnson break through at Emmys?

A year ago, no one had even heard of Jake Johnson. But today, he stands on the cusp of receiving his very first Emmy nomination thanks to a savvy category switcheroo and increased screen time on Fox’s “New Girl.”

The Emmys failed to recognize Johnson last year in the Comedy Supporting Actor race for the first season of “New Girl,” instead opting for his co-star Max Greenfield, who plays the over-the-top Schmidt. Also receiving nominations were “Saturday Night Live‘s” Bill Hader and four “Modern Family” stars — Ed O’Neill, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ty Burrell and eventual winner Eric Stonestreet.

With all six of last year’s supporting players eligible again, not to mention a hoard of oncoming “Arrested Development” men and past nominee (and Emmys host) Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother“), things were looking dour for Johnson. That is, until he decided to make the shift from the Supporting Actor race to the less-crowded Lead Actor category.

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All of a sudden, Johnson’s chances have increased so much that he currently comes in seventh place in Gold Derby’s poll of Experts, Editors, and Users for Comedy Actor.

But for Johnson to receive his first career Emmy nomination, he will need to take out one of the six frontrunners in this race.

Two-time winners Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock“) and Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory) lead the pack in our polling, followed by Louis C.K. (“Louie“) with 4/1 odds, Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”) with 9/1 odds, Don Cheadle (“House of Lies“) with 14/1 odds and last year’s winner Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men“) with 20/1 odds. Much like Johnson, Cryer used to submit in the Supporting Actor category before trying his luck (successfully) in the Lead Actor race.

But lest you think Johnson’s switcheroo is category fraud, it’s undeniable that his character truly had a leading role this time around. While his character Nick was integral in the first season, it was the second season when he really came front and center thanks to his increased screen time and lovey-dovey relationship with Jess (Zooey Deschanel).

Johnson told Gold Derby’s Chris Beachum last month, “To be totally honest, I was really happy” with the increased screen time for Nick. “I felt like Season Two, from the very beginning, [the writers] had him honed in and it was just a lot of fun to play him this year.” (Watch the complete Q&A here.)

If the Emmys nominate Johnson next week, they won’t be the first organization to recognize his talent. The Critics’ Choice Television Awards cited Johnson last month, while the Television Critics Association named him as one of the five funniest people on television, regardless of gender and screen time.

Find out July 18 if Johnson makes the cut with the Emmys. In the meantime, vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu.

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