Straight Man and Wise Guy

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An oft-recurring trope in comedy. The Straight Man and Wise Guy are an inseparable Odd Couple duo who play off each other for comedy. The Straight Man approaches everything seriously (even things that are patently ludicrous) and presents a straightforward, sane, conventional point of view. The Wise Guy is a jokester who answers the Straight Man's stodgy pronouncements with puns, wisecracks, and wackiness.

Oftentimes, this will involve one bringing up a topic of discussion, only to have the other interrupt, correct, or otherwise play foil to him. Traditionally the Straight Man brings up a serious topic and the Wise Guy riffs on it, but sometimes the Wise Guy brings up a loony topic, the Straight Man objects to its lunacy, and the Wise Guy riffs on that. The point is for the Straight Man to "set up" a situation which the Wise Guy can joke about.

See also Boke and Tsukkomi Routine, where a foolish character sets up the jokes for a straight man to correct, often violently.

Examples of Straight Man and Wise Guy include:
  • Abbott and Costello, the classic American comedic duo played off of this almost exclusively.
  • Laurel and Hardy mixed Straight Man and Wise Guy with slapstick physical comedy. In either case, Oliver Hardy (the fat one) was the straight man.
  • Howard and Nester formed a Straight Man and Wise Guy duo in the long running Nintendo Power strip, with the difference being that Howard never physically "corrected" Nester - the environment (or an enemy nearby) corrected Nester for him.
  • In Family Guy, it's Brian and Stewie. Also happens with Brian and Peter, but not as often.
  • This is the main focus of the comic book series Cable and Deadpool. Deadpool was a crazy, No Fourth Wall character who loved pop-culture references and extreme violence. Cable was a serious leader who barely tolerated Deadpool's antics.
  • George Burns and Gracie Allen used a variant: Straight Man And The Ditz.
  • Rowan and Martin also used this in a straightforward way. Dan Rowan was the straight man; Dick Martin, the Wise Guy.
  • In the Marx Brothers movies, Groucho was always the Wise Guy; whoever he was talking to (except for Chico) would be his Straight Man (or in Margaret Dumont's case, Straight Woman).
  • Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob.
  • Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, in Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and anything else they do.
  • Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, although that's really more of a "wise guy and wise guy" duo.
  • Kenan and Kel
  • Morecambe (Wise guy) and Wise (Straight man)
    • Morecambe and Wise are often cited as a subversion of this in their later (and funniest) years—one description was "Ernie Wise is a wise guy who isn't funny, Eric Morecambe is a straight man who is".
  • Tycho and Gabe of Penny Arcade.
  • Adam and Jamie of MythBusters.
  • Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet in Belgian series Dag Sinterklaasje
  • In the early seasons of Supernatural, Sam often played straight man to Dean's wise guy. This happened less and less often as the show fleshed out their relationship.
  • The Joker invariably plays the Wise Guy to Batman's Straight Man... a psychotic, murderous, twisted genius of a Wise Guy, and an obsessive, violent, angst-ridden Straight Man. Mental health is not the strong point of the Batman oeuvre. Given that that Batman is the world's most Comically Serious, he plays the straight man to all his flamboyant Rogues Gallery, and other superheroes.
    • Except Alfred, who serves as a more snarky version of the wise guy to Master Bruce and is quite possibly one of the only level heads in Gotham.
  • Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, especially in their legendary "2,000 year old man" routine, which involved a news reporter (Reiner, the straight man) interviewing a Jewish fellow who happened to be 2,000 years old (Brooks, the wise guy.) This routine was actually created on the fly; the two spontaneously came up with it at a party.
  • Parodied in a sketch in The Kids in The Hall, where the Straight Man ruined the joke every time by laboriously explaining why it's funny.
  • Brothers Henry and Stanley in The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan (though Henry is often a Deadpan Snarker and gets some funny lines).
  • Most of the Fire Emblem games have at least one pair:
    • Mystery of the Emblem: Julian and Ricardo
    • Genealogy of the Holy War: Jamuka and Deu
    • The Blazing Sword: Kent and Sain, Dorcas and Bartre
    • The Sacred Stones: Kyle and Forde
  • Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, from The Odd Couple to Grumpy Old Men.
  • Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin
  • The Pork Chop duo plays with this trope, alternating between the roles of Straight Man and Wise Guy after every punchline is delivered.
  • On The Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf unintentionally play the Wise Guy to Fozzie's Straight Man. It's the only reason that Fozzie's act is funny.
  • Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, which overlaps with the outdated Vaudeville act of An Irishman And A Jew.
  • MASH, which had one wise guy (mostly Alan Alda) for every straight-man (or woman).
  • Of course Balki and Larry deserve to be listed here, don't be ridiculous.
  • In Home Improvement, Al and Tim usually seem to pull off this dynamic in Tool Time, but they once switched roles accidentally and had Tim play the straight man when they did a cooking show.
  • Shawn and Gus! Or Shawn and Juliet. Or Shawn and Lasseter. Or Shawn and his dad. Or Shawn and pretty much any other character on Psych.
  • Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning show.
  • Geraldine Granger (or sometimes David Horton) and everyone else on The Vicar of Dibley.
  • Piro and Largo, initially, in Megatokyo.
  • Pinky and The Brain, with Pinky as the Wise Guy and The Brain as the Straight Man.
  • Walter is the Costello to Tiren's Abbott in Dubious Company. Also occasionally, Mary and Leeroy are the wise guys to Sue and Sal respectively.

Tiren: So where are we...?
Walter: Nowhere.
(beat) Tiren: Walter, I will beat you to death with a coconut!

Wallace: I know! I'll build a wacky elaborate contraption to solve this ordinary mundane problem!
Gromit: (gesticulates wildly)
Wallace: Hm, you're right. It will have to be exceptionally wacky and elaborate to get the job done. Let's go!
Gromit: (rolls eyes)

  • Early The Simpsons had Lisa and Bart as a classic Straight Man And Wise Guy pair, especially when they investigates mysteries together. Usually, Lisa would compare the situation to some historic moment or classical literature, and Bart would make a joke about it.

Lisa: This is so cool, Bart. We're just like Woodward and Bernstein.
Bart: Yeah, except their dad wasn't waiting in the car reading Archie comics.