“The Colbert Report” (Comedy Central)
Head Writer: Barry Julien
Highlight: Colbert took his faux commentator to a new level by forming his own super PAC — “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” — raising more than $1 million and putting on prank ads in several states.
Sidelight: Colbert’s sit-down with “Where the Wild Things Are” author Maurice Sendak to talk about everything from homosexuality to Newt Gingrich proved particularly poignant with the author’s passing later in the year.
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central)
Head Writer: Tim Carvell
Highlight: Stewart skewered politics and media by showing how Fox News declared war on everything from salt to fall holidays, while denying laws against women’s rights was a war on women.
Sidelight: Samantha Bee deflated Occupy Wall Street with a hilarious expose of class divisions within the movement.
Head Writers: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Jonathan Krisel, Karey Dornetto
Highlight: Armisen and Brownstein’s campaign against the Olympics coming to Portland takes a U-turn after diving champion Greg Louganis explains things in a hot tub.
Sidelight: The Allergy Pride Parade, in which soy punks, the lactose intolerant and bikers allergic to insects stage a low-energy procession complete with a princess who rides in an ambulance to avoid air, water and sun.
“Real Time With Bill Maher” (HBO)
Head Writer: Billy Martin
Highlight: Maher continues to nail it with his weekly “New Rules,” mixing humor such as a book titled “100 Ways to Make Rick Santorum Throw Up,” with a convincing argument that the counter-culture has joined the mainstream.
Sidelight: Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi’s dueling videos — one making fun of rural conservatives, the other aimed at New York City welfare recipients — ignited exactly the kind of political firestorm Maher revels in.
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Head Writer: Seth Myers
Highlight: Melissa McCarthy’s turn as host was full of surprises, none more uncomfortably riveting than her role as a desperate ranch-dressing taste-tester that ended with the “Bridesmaids” star squirting a bottle of dressing in her face.
Sidelight: The “Saturday Night Live” mix of political satire and just plain lunacy came together nicely in “Newt Gingrich: Moon President.”
Where the gags write themselves?
And the nominees are:
Drama | Comedy | Miniseries & Movies | Variety | Nonfiction