Surrounded by Idiots

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Henchmen. Evil, obedient, bright -- pick any two."

Evil help is hard to find. How else can you explain the fact that the Evil Overlord's Dragon is a complete nincompoop, Mooks are all dimwits who graduated from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, the elite special forces consist of a Quirky Miniboss Squad, and all the ninjas are standing around in plain sight or queuing up to attack the heroes one at a time?

Sometimes, it seems like the lead antagonist has deliberately chosen the most incompetent, craven, cowardly, or just plain unreliable underlings around... the trope often culminates in a Dragon that, instead of being the best of what the lower ranks has to offer, seems to be a living distillation of everything that makes the incompetent underlings what they are. This version is often punctuated by having the right-hand man actually trying to secretly oppose and/or betray the Evil Overlord, but just too incompetent to be a real threat.

The fact that the underlings may be Too Dumb to Live explains why they continue to work for an abusive employer, but we still have to wonder why the Evil Overlord hired them in the first place. We can't pretend he's not aware of his hirelings' shortcomings, because of course, he never hesitates to exclaim about them: "FOOLS! CRETINS! BUNGLERS!", and of course, the oft-repeated Trope Naming line, "I'm surrounded by idiots!" - sometimes accompanied by a Face Palm.

Occasionally, one will respond to this exclamation by looking around and asking, "Where?"

This trope even made the Evil Overlord List.

Of course, one possible explanation may be that smart minions tend to try and take over....

When the boss is an incompetent dolt, you have General Failure.

Truth in Television in distilled form. Just ask anyone with a day job (or any gifted public high school student that has ever had to work in a group). See also Conservation of Competence.

Examples of Surrounded by Idiots include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Black Butler Sebastian is the head butler, and he has his hands full with the incompetent staff; a maid who breaks dishes and confuses shoe polish with wax, a gardener who destroys everything he touches, a cook who uses flamethrowers, and a guest who keeps trying to turn himself in to the police.
  • While the Strawhat Crew of One Piece aren't actually idiots, they do act the part. Zoro and Nami take turns being the Only Sane Man to Lampshade the idiocy. Robin has moments of her too, what with her being The Stoic of the group. This is lampshaded during a scene where everyone save Nami and Vivi are drinking, Vivi worries but Nami calms her down telling her that everyone knows what they have to do if a storm starts.
  • A rare heroic example comes from the anime Martian Successor Nadesico, where Little Miss Snarker Ruri Hoshino frequently says of her crewmates, "Baka bakka"—literally, "I'm surrounded by idiots".
    • It has gotten to the point that many people have used this phrase as the base of "Ruri's Law", a cousin of Sturgeon's Law: "The vast majority of people are idiots".
  • The detective in Paranoia Agent.
    • He's more of an Only Sane Man, given he's a good guy, and the situation is just that weird.
  • Another hero example: Orphen repeatedly utters this sentence (and variants) in the manga of the same name. You can't really blame him, though, since he is surrounded by nothing but loads and millstones.
  • Mercurymon from Digimon Frontier. "I'm surrounded by buffoons!"
  • Not quite a direct example, but Hotaru's various idiot-bashing tools, anyone?
    • It's straighter than you think. The Idiot Cannon only works on idiots. She uses it in almost every fight scene on almost everyone.
  • In the case of Unsui in Eyeshield 21, he was surrounded by perverts. But in the Where Are They Now? Epilogue, this trope is played straight and he seems to be on the verge of saying this.

Comic Books

  • Doctor Doom, of course, has pulled it more than once. Then again, Doom has it harder than most—in his eyes—as everyone who isn't Doom fits this quote...

"My greatest flaw. I surround myself with idiots."

  • Dr. Light (The hero) was the overly serious member of the late 80s "bwa-ha-ha" Justice League. She said this a lot.
  • Lex Luthor's flunkies, back in the day, tended to be dunces and were sometimes played for comic relief. They also might make Heel Face Turns. Otis and Miss Tessmacher are actually quite faithful to this type in the comics.
  • Subverted in Empowered where Thugboy and the other self-dubbed Witless Minnions pretended to be this to aspiring Supervillian so they could fleece their high tech equipment (and administer some quick, unexpected justice when a supervillain tried to cross the Moral Event Horizon). It wnet pretty well for them for a while, then It Got Worse - So, SO Much Worse.


  • Evil, the Big Bad in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, is surrounded by incompetent henchmen. At one point, he says to one of them who's just said something particularly idiotic, "Oh, my dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence." This is likely his own doing, however, as both of the Mooks who dare to raise serious questions about Evil's plan are blown to smithereens.
  • Scar says this exact quote about the hyenas in Disney's The Lion King:

Scar: *Face Palm* I'm surrounded by idiots...

  • Twice in All Dogs Go to Heaven, the villain Carface shouts "Morons! I'm surrounded by morons!"
  • In Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Lex Luthor had Otis. "It's amazing that brain can generate enough power to keep those legs moving."
  • In Spaceballs, everyone working for Dark Helmet is an asshole. At least, they have the surname Asshole. (The novelization bowdlerises this to "idiots". And the TV Edit substitutes Moron.)

Dark Helmet: "How many Assholes we got on this ship, anyway?"
Everyone: "Yo!"
Dark Helmet: "I knew it. I'm surrounded by Assholes." [closes faceplate] "Keep firing, Assholes!"

Doctor Evil: Why must I constantly be surrounded by frickin' idiots?

    • Used in the trailer for Goldmember as well, by the narrator.

'He is brilliant. He is deadly. And he is still surrounded by frickin' idiots.

    • Of course he's not too smart himself... Number Two and Scott fit this more.
  • Elijah Kalgan wants you to know that his Space Mutiny is being undermined by his own disciples.
  • Averted in The Wicker Man.

Lord Summerisle: You did it beautifully!

  • Justified in The Spirit as the Mad Scientist villain can create cloned (e.g. expendable) henchmen, but not cloned henchmen who are smart. One attempt to do so creates a bouncing Which is just plain damn weird.
  • Mr. Vandegelder seems to believe this in The Matchmaker, as he states directly to the audience "Ninety-nine percent of the world is populated by fools. And the few that aren't are in grave danger of being overcome by them". Dolly apparently believes it to be the case as well, to a degree, though she feels it's equally foolish to try to separate one's self from them ("A fool among fools, or a fool alone?").
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As Butch, Sundance, and their employer are on a mission to pick up a payroll, Butch and Sundance are watching for an ambush. The employer says "Morons. I've got morons on my team.", and explains that no one will ambush them because they don't have the money yet.
  • Lawrence of Arabia. After attempting to discuss the uniqueness of Lawrence's face with his minions, they simply don't get what he's talking about. The Turkish Bey laments to Lawrence that he's "surrounded by cattle. If I [he] were posted to the dark side of the moon, I [he] could not be more isolated."
  • Get Shorty. Very few people not named Chili Palmer consider the consequences of their actions or the possibility that they might not be as smart/sneaky/powerful as they think they are.
  • In the New Zealand road movie, Snakeskin, the leader of the skinheads proclaims,

Speed: Terry your brother is a fucking idiot. You're a fuckin' idiot too, I'M SURROUNDED BY FUCKING IDIOTS!

Bickford: I'm surrounded by soon-to-be Deltas of the Brave New World.

  • In Merlin, Vortigern wonders aloud "Why is it that I surround myself with a bunch of incompetent fools?"
    • This is the same guy who prides himself on acting before thinking, which is precisely what causes his downfall (pun intended).
  • In the Live Action Adaptation of One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Cruella: Congratulations. You three have just won the Gold, Silver, and Bronze in the Morons Olympics!
Horace: Who won the gold?
"Cruella": SHUT UP!


  • Smee, first mate of the Jolly Roger in every adaptation of Peter Pan, is portrayed as cowardly and bumbling, a little bit too jovial for a member of Hook's crew, and in the live-action "sequel" Hook, is all too happy to run off with his pockets full of treasure when things start going badly.
  • Terry Pratchett likes this one.
    • Evil Harry Dread in the Discworld book The Last Hero deliberately chooses his underlings for their stupidity, and they quickly kill themselves in battle. He's a traditionalist: "if I surround myself with morons, as I'm supposed to, then the hero will let me get away, like he's supposed to." It's just Terry Pratchett's usual method of taking things to the breaking point to make a joke.
    • Carcer in Night Watch, especially after he becomes Captain of the Palace Guard. This is somewhat justified, in that "[Carcer's men] hated Keel with that gnawing, nerve-sapping hatred that only the mediocre can really bring to bear, and that was useful."
    • Exactly the same joke/point is made in Guards! Guards!, an earlier Discworld novel which also stars Vimes.
  • Ignatius Reilly, the protagonist of A Confederacy of Dunces, views his fellow citizens of New Orleans as such. Inverted to a degree, in that Ignatius himself is very foolish and has some serious Mommy Issues.
  • Pavel Kazakov, Big Bad of the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class, says "I'm surrounded by cowards and incompetents" after Tin Men take over one of his oil tankers.
  • Redwall's Cluny the Scourge muses on this trope in the first book, and decides that putting up with stupidity from his followers is worth the utter obedience he gets because they're too dim to think for themselves.

Live-Action TV

  • A heroic example is seen in Dad's Army with Captain Mainwaring initial opinion of his men. As he states in the episode "Gorilla Warfare"-

Mainwaring: You know, Wilson, over the years that I've come to know the members of the platoon, I've grown quite fond of them. But I can't help feeling sometimes that I'm in charge of a bunch of idiots.

"I'm being undermined by my own disciples!"

Chaotica: (suspicious) "Why this preoccupation with the Shield?"
Janeway: "Oh, forgive me. It's just that, as a fellow ruler of the cosmos, I often have to do things myself."
Chaotica: "Ah. Because of the incompetence of your inferiors, no doubt!"
Janeway: "Something like that."
Chaotica: "Oh, Arachnia, my love, my life! how well you understand our plight. If it weren't beneath my dignity, I...I would weep. How I've longed for someone who would understand."

  • Jerry Seinfeld when plot developments start getting out of control, although his default mode is the Unfazed Everyman.
  • In the original Disney Zorro TV series, the evil commandant of the pueblo at one point actually said, verbatim, "I'm surrounded by incompetents!" Until I read this page, I heard that line as "I'm surrounded by incompetence."
  • Aeryn in Farscape references this when she considers who on board Moya is worth keeping. Running down the list, Crichton eventually gets annoyed enough to suggest she just have the whole ship to herself. Aeryn's response: "Mmm. Is that an offer?" Ironically, when one of the people she believes should have left Moya apparently dies later that episode, she reacts with open horror. Guess she was just in a bad mood.
  • King Arthur and Father Blaise in Kaamelott. Every time there's a Round Table recap of "heroics".
  • Doctor Who. The Ogrons, ape-like minions of the Master and the Daleks, are a literal version of this trope.
    • Oddly, that's more of an Informed Ability, as they actually are fairly effective minions, able to hold their own against human soldiers or guerillas as well as draconians.
    • In the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Sabbath's minions are an assortment of normal (but seemingly fairly well-trained; they can handle guns) Earth apes. They seem to be about as clever as can be expected, but don't comprehend video cameras and get scared if they hear one producing an imitation of his voice, suggesting he's a bit of a Bad Boss to them.
    • Queen Katrika, in Trial of a Time Lord uses this one almost by name while wandering round lost in the underground.
  • In an episode of Babylon 5, Emperor Cartagia comments that while he is infallible, he has to put up with everyone else making mistakes.
  • This is Reba Hart's default expression. (The other one is "I hate your living guts.")
  • On The Wire, Stringer Bell increasingly feels like this, which prompts his "40 Degree Day" speech. Even after that, some of his Mooks *still* don't get it. In an interview, Dennis Lehane, who wrote the episode, said he wrote that speech specifically to embody this trope.
  • Beautifully lampshaded in Sanctuary after Magnus beats the crap out of a mook, steals his gun, and points it at the boss.

Forsythe: Why? Why do I even hire these guys?

  • Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones is a rare case of a Big Bad who, while unhappy about the situation, is aware of his subordinates' tendency toward idiocy and accepts it as a fact of life. That doesn't stop him from berating them for their incompetence, but he doesn't get angry about it.
  • Lieutenant Stone from the early seasons of Power Rangers had the misfortune of having Those Two Guys as his subordinates. He could frequently triple the IQ of a room by entering, and he knew it.


  • "I am Surrounded By Incompetence", by You've Got Foetus on Your Breath.
  • Wrathchild America's Surrounded By Idiots. Can be cathartic to hear.
  • Mr. Burns sings about his lazy employees to Smithers in 'Look at all those idiots'. The words surrounded by idiots is even in the lyrics.


Charles: I come in here in the morning, I look at him, I look at you, and I want to open the window and shout "I'm not mad! I'm the warden!"


  • Leon, a young man who arrives in a town where everyone is cursed to be stupid, in the play Fools.

Video Games

  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert, in the twelveth Soviet mission, Stalin says the exact same line in response to Nadia and Georgi Kukov questioning his desire to obtain the Allies' Chronosphere.
  • In the Jazz Jackrabbit manual comic (which serves as a premise to the game), Jazz learns from a rebel turtle that Devan Shell "has got a huge ego, so he tends to surround himself with morons."
  • Your minions in Overlord are so loyal, they would gladly jump into a giant smelter to fuel the forging of your new equipment. However, they're all complete fools.
    • The sequel has Queen Fay and the ineffectual Stupid Good Elves. She gets out of her position soon after though, and one of the elves was only acting stupid.
  • Cesare Borgia tries to play this card near the end of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, though it's really more like "Surrounded by dead people and one very, very good Assassin."
  • Pokémon Platinum: After crafting a beautiful speech about recreating the world for Team Galactic, Galactic Boss Cyrus admits when you confront him that the speech he gave was somewhat of a lie in that the new world would be for him alone, as his minions are not worthy of being in it, telling you that "you yourself must know that they are uniformly useless and incomplete." ("Incomplete" is kind of Cyrus's favorite word.) In fairness, most of the minions you'll have faced, aside from the commanders, really are useless.
    • By the end of Pokemon XD, Big Bad Greevil points out that after he finishes the XD project and makes irredeemable Shadow Pokemon, he would get to work on making Shadow Pokemon that can act independently so he doesn't have to rely on clunky Admins - like the five you beat down on the way to him. That kind of comment, from the man in charge of the most evil organization in Pokemon history, downplays Cyrus and his lies big time.
  • Space Colony: you control, or try to control, a series of idiots, slackers and various personalty problems.
  • Touhou's Sakuya Izayoi has to clean and guard the entire Scarlet Devil Mansion in spite of having a virtual army of hundreds of guards and maids single-handedly because the other meidos would do more harm than good, and the other guards, including Butt Monkey Hong Meiling, tend to sleep instead of stand watch. Which is just as well, they're too incompetent to stop the Kleptomaniac Hero Marisa, anyway.
    • It's also literal - all the other maids are fairies. The msot intelligent fairy appears to be Cirno, and considering that she's the ⑨, that sets the bar very low.
    • Reisen gets similar treatment; her boss is an absolute sadist Mad Scientist who experiments on her just to pass the time, none of the underlings she supposedly commands listen to her, Tewi (who they do listen to) is a Trickster who would rather torment her than help her, and the other Earth Rabbits are just as lazy, stupid, and easily distracted as any fairy. Because of these things, she winds up being just a no-good bunny, only useful for her sex-appeal.
  • In what appears to be a Shout-Out to Austin Powers, Geartop, a robot, says this when one of his gnome Mooks lets the players enter his lair in EverQuest:

Geartop shouts 'Deal with it! Whatever you do, don't open that door. They can't get in unless you open the . . . Idiots. I'm surrounded by fleshy idiots.'

  • Present in Evil Genius and, like everything else, lampshaded to hilarity.
  • During Fuuko's route in Clannad, Tomoya's sanity begins to strain as he is forced to spend more time with certain people. Who? Fuuko herself, Sunohara and Nagisa and her family, who are all as strange as Fuuko. Eventually he starts getting to the point where he wants to scream and ask "Why are all you girls (Sunohara is generally excluded from notice) such idiots!" Obviously not a villain, but he almost says the line word for word.
  • King K. Rool mutters this in Donkey Kong 64, during a cut scene in which Diddy Kong uses his jetpacks to trick two Kremlins into running straight into each other.
  • A ganglord Sanchez in Desperados throws a magnificent temper tantrum including this complaint after the heroes steal some horses from his mooks. He even knocks one of his mooks out cold on the spot.

Sanchez: Mierda! Idiota! I can't believe this! You let one, ONE lousy American soldier steal your horses?!

  • A quest in World of Warcraft called "A Wolf in Bear's Clothing" had the following intro:

High Warlord Cromush: "These worgen take us for fools! One would think that only an idiot would mistake one of their druids in bear form as a real bear. Unfortunately, there are many idiots here at the Forsaken Front. We've already lost a few battalions to organized worgen bear attacks. Yes, it's even more idiotic than it sounds."

  • Bowser, in varying forms of media, suffers from this. While the degrees of stupidity vary, it's quite clear that his evil minions aren't smart enough for his liking.
  • While not actually in the game, a player in League of Legends may feel like he's in this if he is the only competent player on his team.

Web Comics

  • Demonade gives a female main character with two not so bright "Body Guards" who apparently let the inept thief go free because he got them to point out how their jobs sucked so bad they weren't paying attention, while there employer shows some measure of Genre Savvy and she actually utters the trope over three panels to emphasize how much she doesn't like her hired help.
  • Eight Bit Theater here:

Black Mage: Well, at least I shall die as I have lived. Completely surrounded by morons.

    • Black Mage's homicidal impulses seem directly linked to how many stupid things are said in his vicinity at any given point in time. For example, if three people are having a conversation which defies the laws of logic, he will probably snap and stab anything and everything in arm's reach. If his sanity is finally broken by said stupidity, he'll just nuke everything in a five mile radius with a hadoken.
  • Pretty much any villainous organization in Sluggy Freelance has this problem. Of course, in the Sluggy Freelance multiverse, there aren't many non-idiots to choose from.
  • A variation seen recently in Girl Genius:

Gilgamesh: If I let everyone I thought was an idiot die, there wouldn't be many people left.

Anakin: So, what are you up to?
Grievous: My armpits in incompetence!

Web Original

  • Justified in Sailor Nothing: Dark General Cobalt's 'henchmen' (with one exception) are heartless made from the darkest impulses of the human mind (emphasis on "impulse") and are incapable of subtlety, organization, or planning. Or anything that doesn't immediately lead to satisfying those desires, really. And Cobalt isn't aware that the only reason he's capable of it is because of magical help.
    • Things really don't improve for him in the epilogue, even though he's gone on to command real humans in the normal world.
  • Poor Vegeta.

Vegeta: "I'm surrounded by idiots."
Goku: "I thought you were surrounded by gumdrops and ice cream?"

    • And then there's Nappa...

Nappa: "What's wrong Vegeta?"
Vegeta: "I'm just... having an aneurysm from sheer stupidity."
Nappa: "I didn't know you were that stupid, Vegeta."

Higuchi: What's the point of having minions if they don't do your work for you! I should be watching the Home Shopping Network in my underware but NO, I have to go out and commit a murder!

    • And:
    • Also when Mello's mafia minions kidnap an old grey-haired guy...

Mello: I asked you to bring me Sayu Yagami. A 17 year old girl. Does this look like a 17 year old girl to you?
Minion 1: No...
Minion 2: Yes.

Western Animation

  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward always says, "Why am I surrounded by idiots?"
  • In Pinky and The Brain, one is a genius, the other is, well...Pinky.
    • They never specify which one is the genius or the insane one. Still, one is drawing complicated mathematical equations on a chalkboard, and at the same time, the other one is dancing around with his tongue hanging out and is tied up in his own arms... do they really need to specify which one?
      • Considering what happened when The Brain enhanced Pinky's intelligence, it might not hurt.
      • Especially if you've seen the episode where The Brain actually lets Pinky attempt it on his own (the "Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?" bit) and it WORKS until The Brain screws it up
  • Mr Burns of The Simpsons fame, as stated in a Character Song produced during the 1990s:

Look at all those idiots! Look at all those boobs! An office full of morons, a factory full of fools!

  • Prime Evil, from Filmations Ghostbusters. (However, his henchmen did prove themselves to be capable on rare occasions.)
  • Megatron of the original Transformers has nothing but bad things to say about Starscream's intelligence, bravery, and trustworthiness... but continually places him in a position of authority and trusts him with pivotal missions. This was eventually given a Lampshade Hanging when, after noting the arguments against bringing Starscream back, Megatron explains why he did it: "Because I'm an idiot, that's why!"
    • The quote was actually from the comic adaptation. Now an important thing to note about Megatron bringing Starscream back there is that the comics did NOT have the same writers as the cartoon, and did not have Starscream trying to overthrow Megatron every 5 minutes, in no small part because Megatron didn't even spend much time as leader of the Decepticons, and Starscream wasn't able to make many attempts at taking over because he didn't appear very much.
    • In the G1 cartoon episode Auto Berserk, Megatron actually makes a rare pop culture reference by perfectly quoting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, screaming out in the middle of battle "I've got MORONS on my team!".
    • In Transformers Animated with have this little gem from Megatron when Lugnut and Shockwave are brawling over who's the more loyal minion after some prodding from Starscream.

Megatron: Face Palm "Oh for spark's sake."

Skull Dagon: "You talk big, Bo-Starr, but you're no match for my legion of Invincible Deathbots!
(cue evil synth chords)
Skull Dagon: "...which I'm not going to be using. Go and get them, Grass-man!"
Grass-man: "Brwabrwabrwebrweebrweebrwabrwabrwah!"

Cobra Commander: Idiots! I'm surrounded by incompetent IDIOTS!!

    • But then the Commander's own battle plans were hardly worthy of Sun Tzu either.
    • In all actuality, Cobra Commander has never been very appreciative of his employees.

Cobra Commander: Morons! I have Morons on my payroll!
Cobra Commander: I shall be waiting to reward your genius, or to have you beheaded for terminal stupidity! I have spoken.

  • In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog Robotnik reaffirmed the lack of intelligence possessed by Scratch and Grounder in pretty much every episode. However they're typically his first choice to send after Sonic, and he often trusts them with important inventions he created. This was lampshaded in the episode "Spaceman Sonic" in which Sonic states that Robotnik will figure it cheaper to put Scratch and Grounder back together than to build new robots.
    • In the episode "Robotnik's Rival", he claimed that this was a Xanatos Gambit to ensure that they never betrayed him. Given that he was gloating over the eponymous rival who had just been backstabbed by his own super-competent henchbot, (and given that it's Robotnik) this was doubtless an Ass Pull.
    • From the episode "Blackbot the Pirate": "I'm surrounded by defective circuitry!"
    • From "Robolympics": "I'm surrounded by a bunch of burnt-out circuits!"
  • Another rare heroic example: In DuckTales (1987), Scrooge McDuck is preparing to retrieve his vast fortune from the Marinaras Trench. He sees Doofus, Launchpad, and Gyro Gearloose, the crew that will help him, trip each other up and fall all over the place. And so, Scrooge can't help but exclaim in exasperation, "MORONS! I've got MORONS on my team!!"
  • Shredder, Arch Enemy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 would often lament "Why am I surrounded by such brainless morons?".
    • Shredder: "... so unlike the sniveling idiots that I've been forced to suffer!" Krang: "I'm right here, I CAN HEAR YOU!"
  • Krabo/Draffsack of Insektors uses this excuse when the Yuks/Kruds plans fail. The thing is, he's actually right.
  • In Donkey Kong Country, K.Rool would bemoan the fact that his henchmen were, in his words, 'Home-spun idiots'.

K.Rool: It's at times like this I find that I must ask myself again and again: 'Do I really want the Crystal Coconut this badly?'"

    • Kranky Kong was also a heroic version, with his attitude towards Donkey and Diddy.
  • Junkman's henchmen in The Incredible Crash Dummies, although it is his fault (he built them from scrap).
  • Megabyte in ReBoot, and how! He's the most brilliant mind in Mainframe, and by rights should be routinely walking over Bob... but all his minions are Dumb Muscle With An F In Evil.
    • Played hilariously straight when the plot makes them heroic sidekicks instead of evil henchmen.
    • There was also the episode where Enzo accidentally made everyone but himself into dimwits.
  • In one late episode of Gargoyles, Xanatos's robot Coyote screws up. Xanatos sighs and, sounding more resigned than anything, says "It's so hard to build good help these days."
  • After a failed attempt to teach the other kids of the cul-de-sac after various demonstrations of them being Too Dumb to Live, a lamenting Edd of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy says this verbatim.
  • Raven of the Teen Titans, no doubt.
    • In "Lightspeed", Jinx remarks "I don't know why I hang around with you nitwits." By the end of the episode, she's done hanging around with those nitwits.
  • Phaeton in Exo Squad is constantly berating his generals for their incompetence. Even when they're right. ESPECIALLY when they're right.
  • In The Fairly OddParents "Wishology" trilogy, The Lead Eliminator is noticably more competent than his comrades.
  • Pete on Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers.
  • Interesting inverted in Kim Possible when Shego constantly complains about her boss being a nitwit.
    • On the other hand, the trope is played straight with Drakken's rank-and-file henchmen.
    • Also, Shego seems to have been driven to her Face Heel Turn by exasperation with her brothers' cluelessness.
  • Duke Igthorn on Gummi Bears probably would've have been more successful in conquering Dunwyn if his ogre minions (well, except for Toadwart) didn't have the intelligence of mayonnaise.
  • More than once on Sheep in The Big City, when General Specific's army men turn incompetent, he expresses; "I'm surrounded by buffoons!" Then, the camera pans out to show actual madmen out of nowhere, encircling him and bumbling incoherently in propeller hats and diapers.
  • Cat from CatDog is always like this.
  • In ChalkZone, Rudy and Penny are around this in the real world.
  • Heloise and (especially) Samy Garvin in Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • Benson from Regular Show.
  • Adam Lyon from My Gym Partner's a Monkey. With the possible exception of Windsor.
  • Slinkman and Edward from Camp Lazlo.
  • Hollywood from Two Stupid Dogs.
  • Bob's Burgers Protagonist Bob.
  • This often happens with Stan and Kyle in South Park.
  • On The Hair Bear Bunch, whenever Mr. Peevly wasn't annoyed by the antics of the bears, he was frustrated by the incompetence of his oafish assistant, Botch.
  • Limburger from Biker Mice From Mars. Especially when it comes to The Dragon, Greasepit.
  • Scarecrow has a pair of oft-insulted henchmen who "never liked school" and are impressed to find they're working for an (ex)professor in his introductory episode of Batman the Animated Series.
  • Fung's bandit gang in Kung Fu Panda Legends of Awesomeness. It's even more frustrating considering that Fung had given themselves a year to be successful in the trade; now it's month 11 and the crocs are definitely still stumblebums.
  • Derek Powers in Batman Beyond is a living radiation generator. His doctors, picking him up from a frozen-over lake, have brought him a blanket in case he's cold. Powers just glares angrily and states "You are idiots."

Real Life

  • Most popular depictions of Adolf Hitler during Villainous Breakdown mode during the last part of World War II involve him raving about being surrounded by traitors and fools. Whether any of this was right is another trope entirely, but most historians conclude that Hitler was losing his mind and his cohorts were busily trying to salvage their own skins. He was never a military genius and the maneuvers he insisted on helped lose the war faster, as well as costing him the loyalty of his former cohorts.
    • This is played straight in the parodies of Downfall. Hitler's staff is mostly made up of idiots who have such incredibly useful skills as pointing at maps, providing Hitler with useless information, objecting to all of his plans, and ranting. Naturally it's often because of them that Hitler's schemes always backfire. It also doesn't help that most of the people who are slightly more competent are constantly targeting him for their own gain.
  • You. Admit it. You think you're surrounded by idiots.
    • Being exposed to Fan Dumb too much can lead one to this trope.
      • Being exposed to Fan Dumb at all places them squarely within this trope for the duration.
    • Being exposed to Hate Dumb too much can lead to this as well.
  • As cathartic as it sometimes is to indulge in, it's worth pointing out that the "everyone's an idiot but me" attitude is both a hallmark of the dreaded psuedointellectual and one of the root causes of Anti Intellectualism. It doesn't make one smart to assume that everyone else is stupid, even if the person who thinks this is actually right.
  • People with Asperger's Syndrome often experience the "world full of aliens" feeling.
  • Apparently, Julian Assange feels this way about his organization which he more or less maintains total control over and runs from the top down. Telling quote:

In an encrypted online chat, a transcript of which was passed to The Times, Mr. Assange was dismissive of his colleagues. He described them as “a confederacy of fools,” and asked his interlocutor, “Am I dealing with a complete retard?”