Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search


Abed: I know the difference between TV and reality, Jeff. TV has structure, it makes sense, there are likable leading men. In real life, we have this. We have you.

A character (frequently the main one) in a comedy who is a huge Jerkass (or just a flat-out villain), yet is supposed to be rooted for, despite being pretty much everything a human being shouldn't be... or everything a human being essentially is.

Sometimes the character is presented as the only moderately sane, intelligent person in a land of fools. Alternatively he or she is someone whose loneliness and self-loathing make them, if not likeable, at least pitiable, despite engaging in Comedic Sociopathy. Nevertheless, it's not surprising when watchers actually take the "Unsympathetic" side of the character literally, with less than pleasant consequences for the Fandom if they don't shut up about it, so it's not surprising that most try to avoid basing an entire series (at least where big money is involved) on this. This trope is often the difference between laughing with them and laughing at them, if there's any laughing at all. Despite all this, there are a few actors who try to make a living out of portraying these characters (e.g. Will Ferrell, Ricky Gervais, Adam Sandler), to extremely mixed results that relies heavily on the actor's ability to be charming (at least to the audience) and not over the top, which usually creates a "love them or hate them" response from the audience.

This seems to be more prevalent in British comedy than in US comedies. If it's an ensemble comedy with 4+ main characters, expect one of three things: 1) at least one of them to channel this role to some degree (and don't be surprised if they're also the Token Evil Teammate); 2) for the role to jump around as the various plots demand; or 3) for some combination of the two.

Compare with Jaded Washout, Nominal Hero, Small Name, Big Ego, and Heroic Comedic Sociopath.

Extreme versions of this trope can be essentially Villain Protagonists that are Played for Laughs, although some UCPs can easily drift into this area.

Examples of Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Ataru Moroboshi (and quite a bit of the rest of the cast) on Urusei Yatsura.
  • Richard Moore/Kogoro Mori on Detective Conan who regularly punches, kicks, and berates Conan. If Conan were a REAL child he would likely turn out to be some sort of severely messed up Omnicidal Maniac from the treatment Richard gives him.
    • Or from, you know, viewing horrific murders on a daily basis.
  • The eponymous Desert Punk.
  • Oga from Beelzebub is a notoriously violent good-for-nothing Delinquent who has few redeeming qualities (if any), yet his character is just so over the top and his situation so hilariously weird and unfortunate you can't help but like him a little.
  • Panty from Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt is like this most of the time, and the other characters have their moments as well.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • All the guys, but especially the news team, in Anchorman.
  • Pierre Brochant in The Dinner Game. He and his friends organize dinners where they each have to bring one guest. What the guests don't know is that they're invited because they're considered idiots, that everyone is going to make fun of them behind their backs and that the guy who brings the "best" idiot wins. "Il est méchant Monsieur Brochant," vraiment.
  • Adam Sandler has personified this trope in a bunch of his early films, until the inevitable Pet the Dog moment typically near the end.
  • Captain James B. Pirk of Star Wreck is intentionally the exact opposite of the character he's parodying, James T. Kirk. That is, he is a cowardly, loud-mouthed bully who gets incredibly lucky. The writers thought he was too nice in the fifth film of the series (where he actually seemed motivated to save the world besides his own skin) and made sure that he was his own nasty self in the feature film.
  • The protagonist of both versions of The Heartbreak Kid.
  • W. C. Fields, in most of his films.
  • Bruno, who is a narcissistic, attention-seeking Jerkass that embodies virtually every negative gay stereotype imaginable.
  • Vinnie Antonelli aka Todd Wilkenson, played by Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven.
  • All of the The Hangover guys to a degree, but Phil (Bradley Cooper's character) most particularly.
  • Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) in the 2011 film version of The Green Hornet. He's a thick dunce who cares for no one but himself and doesn't see anything wrong with that. In addition, all of his plans are utterly stupid, and his sidekick is the smarter one. The duo even gets into a fight over it and split up for a while.
  • Ethan from Due Date. To clarify he gets Peter kicked off the plane for putting marijuana on him, gets Peter high against his will, randomly accuses Peter's best friend of sleeping with his wife to his face and it's eventually revealed that he stole Peter's wallet to force him to come with him across the country when Peter's wife is going into labor. The writers attempted to make him sympathetic by giving him dead Daddy issues but...nope still a douche.
  • Wes Anderson must love these or something.
  • All the main characters in Withnail and I. All despicable people. Even Marwood can't be all innocence and light.
  • The four main characters in Four Lions because..well, there suicide jihadi terrorists.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Mr Bagthorpe of Helen Cresswell's Bagthorpe Saga. No other children's character comes near him for arrogance, misanthropy and sheer awfulness- but he's still hysterically funny.
  • From The Wind in the Willows, we have Toad of Toad Hall, who frequently swings from jerk to noble idealist in the space of as little as two paragraphs. Toad tends to be the focus of most TV & movie adaptations, but Mole is really the protagonist of the original novel. This is at least partially because Toad is seen as a broader, funnier character, while Mole's character arc tends to concern subtler, more wistful things.
  • Of similar vintage to the above, Billy Bunter. Originally a Unsympathetic Comedy Side-Character, Bunter, a Fat Bastard constantly on the scrounge for extra tuck, on the prowl for gossip, ready to giggle helplessly at anothers misfortune, bragging of his possibly mythical titled relations, and saying the wrong thing at the worst possible moment, actually became so popular that he took on title role for the series.
  • Greg Heffley, the title character in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid novels. Though he feels victimized by the world and is suffering at the hands of his obnoxious older brother Rodrick, Greg brings a lot of his problems on himself; he's always trying to take the easy road out of any difficult situation and lies and cheats to get ahead (though he rarely gets far). As the books consist of his journal entries, it's clear from reading them that he is oblivious to his flaws - and a fair amount of the comedy comes from the reader recognizing that.
  • Octave Parango in 99 Francs is a habitually late, drug-abusing, infantile, misogynist, snobby jerk. The Film of the Book implies that he successfully performs a Karma Houdini trick by vanishing before the authorities can have a word with him about his rampage in Miami. However, Word of God says that he serves jail time before the sequel.
  • Georgia Nicolson of Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, who is an extremely bratty teenager who hates pretty much everything except for boys (and sometimes even boys), stalks the girlfriend of a boy she likes, gets mad at her friend for going out with a boy she likes (who she wasn't even dating anyway), skips class to hang out with popular girls, and is extremely rude to her caring family.
    • YMMV on that one. Sure, to a degree she is this trope, but especially her dad can be rather unsympathetic.
      • Her dad being unsympathetic doesn't exactly make her sympathetic but to be fair, she does get quite a few Pet the Dog moments.
  • All of the main characters in the Clique series, with the tentative exception of Claire. Rude, bratty, spoiled rotten teenage girldom at it's finest and you'd better believe the author knows this and plays it up. Massie is an especially good example; she once justified her maid cleaning and refurbishing her private clubhouse (for free!) because the maid had to enjoy it, as "why else would she choose cleaning as her profession?"
  • Harry Flashman, the "hero" of a series of historical novels by George Macdonald Fraser. Outwardly, Flashman appears to be a stereotypical Victorian hero. But the books, which are told from Flashman's viewpoint, reveal he is an unprincipled coward who prospers through luck and deceit, not to mention opportunism and low cunning.
  • Saki's stories usually have unsympathetic protagonists, typified by Clovis Sangrail. He is cruel, unprincipled, sly, and lives for mischief: the archetypal trickster.
  • John Self, protagonist of Martin Amis' novel Money, is a drunken, loutish, womanizing boor. He's an advertising executive who creates stupid TV ads that insult the viewers' intelligence. For some reason, you quite like him anyway.
  • Adrian Mole has been providing a typical British example of this for years.
  • Pretty much everyone in Dead Souls.
  • Don Quixote: The first part of the novel settles Don Quixote characterization as a Lord Error-Prone: he almost kills the Biscayan at chapter IX and maimed for life the Licentiate at chapter XIX. This makes easier to read the continuous Humiliation Conga in practically all the chapters for Don Quixote. Misaimed Fandom insisted in seeing him as the much more sympathetic Mad Dreamer. The second part deconstructs the Mad Dreamer into a Wide-Eyed Idealist that everyone else mocks mercilessly because Humans Are the Real Monsters.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

"Hear that, Dan? All these years people thought I was being a bitch; but I was just showing an opinionated, blue collar outlook!"

  • Pretty much all the main characters in Seinfeld, with a special mention reserved for George Costanza. Jason Alexander himself feels that Seinfeld is "a very dark show about very dark people".
    • In a bit of Lampshade Hanging, in the episode "The Fatigues", Jerry acknowledges that he's not the nicest guy in the world:

Abby: I need someone I can trust.
Jerry (disappointedly): Oh.

    • Also lampshaded, of course, in the final episode, when they're actually put on trial for their selfishness.
    • Truth in Television, since Alexander based his portrayal of George Costanza on Larry David, Seinfeld's head writer at the time. Interestingly, he thought the character was based on Woody Allen until one day, after reading a certain episode's script, Alexander told David he didn't understand the situation detailed in it since "not only could this never happen, but no human being would react like this". David responded that it happened to him and this was the way he reacted. From that point on, Alexander understood just who Costanza was meant to be.
  • After Seinfeld ended, Larry David made Curb Your Enthusiasm, where he stars As Himself, and is portrayed as maybe even a bigger jerk than George.
  • GOB, Lucille, Lindsay, and others in Arrested Development.
    • Near miss for Michael, since he is the Only Sane Man in a land of fools and tries to save his family from financial and legislative ruin. He is more of a hypocrite than a Jerkass though. He keeps trying to do the right thing, but usually ends up have to do something wrong because of the position the rest of his family puts him in.
  • Larry Sanders and his sidekick, Hank Kingsley in The Larry Sanders Show.
  • Ricky Gervais' most recognized characters, David Brent in The Office and Andy Millman in Extras.
    • Series creators Gervais and Merchant claim that Brent is not a horrible person, despite the things he does in the show; he's just an idiot, a fallible human being who is star-struck by the Mockumentary film crew, which drives him to act the way he does to get attention. By the end of the second series his true colours are shown and he is much more sympathetic, no more so than when he breaks down when he is about to be made redundant and practically begs for his job back. Word of God also says that the character of Chris Finch was introduced so Brent would appear less of a wanker by comparison.
      • Brent's 'Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist' status was also lampshaded and explored in The Office Christmas Specials as being at least partially a consequence of the Mockumentary format of the show; he bitterly notes how the documentary crew 'stitched him up' in order to make him look bad, arguing that they overlooked or downplayed his achievements and benevolent qualities and presented an uneven focus on his incompetence and stage-hungry nature in order to present him in the worst possible light for the sake of ratings. That same episode also ultimately showed Brent in a more positive light—hinting that he was actually quite a talented salesman (if not actually management material), showing him manage to charm a woman and actually managing make the staff laugh in genuine good humour at one of his impressions—almost as if the fictional documentary makers were trying to make it up to him.
    • It's also debatable whether 'to a lesser extent' applies to Millman, as that character is certainly not without his dickish and unlikeable qualities. In fact, Millman is in many ways arguably worse than Brent; Brent is often insulting or offensive entirely by accident or through poor communication, whereas Millman, as the creators have noted, is saddled with a self-awareness that at times turns otherwise-ignorant actions into intentional cruelty.
    • Michael Scott from the Trans-Atlantic Equivalent of The Office. However, unlike David who eventually got better over time, Michael continues to become a bigger Jerkass with each season, although Michael is portrayed as more of a genuine Adult Child who just wants to be liked and doesn't always fully understand the consequences of his actions despite his best intentions.
  • Basil Fawlty on Fawlty Towers. Interestingly, Basil is based on a real person, whom his wife said was nothing like what was portrayed on the show, until a bunch of previous guests wrote the media saying "Oh yes he was!"
    • Donald Sinclair, the proto-Fawlty, was apparently aware of Fawlty and not at all happy about it. Try and imagine Fawlty's reaction to finding out a TV show had been made lampooning him. Try really, really hard not to laugh.
  • Bernard Black in Black Books: misanthrope, alcoholic, hates his customers and and takes Manny for granted. At least until the last episode.
    • It should be noted that are numerous hints throughout the series that Bernard was not always such-
      • When his traditionally dark clothes are actually washed, they're white.
      • You can even pinpoint when he started his decline- when his girlfriend of several years faked her death to get away from him five years prior to the show. (This suggests he wasn't the nicest guy in the world even then, but perhaps he was at least trying back then...)
  • All the main characters from Frontline except for Emma.
  • Bill Bittinger (Dabney Coleman) in Buffalo Bill.
  • Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge persona. Egomaniacal (despite no observable talent), treats everyone around him with utter contempt whilst expecting complete loyalty in return, given to constant hideous faux pas, ignorant, clearly doesn't care about anyone but himself and anything but his career, and bigoted in every conceivable way. Not content with merely talking down to and humiliating his guests on Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge, he even kills one of them live on air.
    • Later Partridge media plays with this in an interesting way. In his in-universe autobiography I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan he massively plays up tiny unpleasant incidents in his childhood such as his parents having a very mild argument about VAT receipts or being told to clear out the garage on a sunny day into severely traumatic experiences - and being Alan, he goes out of his way to specify that he's not exaggerating anything because his publishers thought his childhood might be boring - and later in his life recounts his "Toblerone addiction" as if it's heroin addiction. However, life events that are genuinely unpleasant like living in a Travel Tavern for six months after his wife left him and his children have no interest in him, and to a lesser extent the resultant nervous breakdown, are if anything played down and given a positive spin. Of course, still being Alan, he annihilates any potential sympathy it might create in the reader by remaining a generally loathsome human being throughout: for instance, recounting how his assistant Lynn helped him get back on his feet after his breakdown to the point of offering to help him shower, he marvels at how much time she dedicated to him and thought she must not be getting any actual work done, and thus knocked her temporarily down to a part-time wage when he already pays her a pittance.
    • Made especially funny because the show will occasionally give us a reason to sympathize with him or at least feel sorry for him...and then he'll do something even more ridiculous and/or awful
  • Pretty much everyone on Becker.
  • Archie Bunker from All in The Family, and Sacha Baron Cohen's character Borat Sagdiyev stand as extreme examples, where many of the jokes derive from their extreme ignorance or outright bigotry. A dangerous device, if any bigots in the audience fail to get the joke.
    • Well the comedy in Borat is derived entirely from idiotic and bigoted people failing to get the joke...he pretends to be a bigot and so shows up and humiliates the real bigots out there. The best example is probably "Throw the Jew down the well"...where he gets an entire bar of rednecks cheerfully singing along to a song about...well, throwing a jew down a well.
    • As any Brit or Aussie can tell you, the original model for the above characters was Alf Garnett of Till Death Us Do Part; a right 'orrible little man, but for some reason, sympathetic (sometimes, anyway). (The US show All in the Family and its equivalent character Archie Bunker were directly inspired by him.)
    • Archie Bunker, for what it's worth, is more sympathetic than he first appears; he often seems more ignorant than ill-intentioned, and in certain episodes, it's heavily implied that he's more a product of his environment than anything, and, while misguided, he seems to be a generally good person.
    • For this, you don't have to look any farther than his speech at the end of the Klan episode.
    • Don't forget Archie's black counterpart, George Jefferson.
  • Steptoe and Son and its American remake Sanford and Son.
    • Personally I think Albert Steptoe was the nasty one and Harold Steptoe was actually a good guy. All Harold wanted to do was move up from the grog heap of his life into something better. But his father did everything he could to prevent Harold, his son, improving himself—especially if it means him leaving home. Albert was also lazy, stubborn, narrow-minded, foul-mouthed, and had revolting personal habits.
  • Peep Show—between Jeremy eating a girl's dog in an attempt to have sex with her and Mark attempting to get out of his wedding by hiding in the church balcony both of these guys are about as unsympathetic as it gets.
    • Its not just Them either. Pretty much every character on the show gets a moment that makes You wonder how no one has killed Them.
  • Gareth Blackstock on Chef!
  • Every single character on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. All of them.
  • Baber in Little Mosque on the Prairie who may be a retired economics professor, but he's still unapologetically the Islamic version of Archie Bunker.
    • Actually most-if not all-of the cast have pretty sketchy morals at times. Fortunately, the sketchy moments are divided more or less evenly between the Christian and Muslim characters.
  • Peter Dragon in Action.
  • Eddie and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous
  • Howard Moon and Vince Noir of The Mighty Boosh. Howard is a prickly, asocial, know-it-all; Vince is vain, shallow, and flighty.
  • Most of the cast of Two and A Half Men.
  • This is the entire point of We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High.
  • The entire point of Strangers with Candy.
  • All main characters in The Young Ones (except perhaps Neil, sometimes). According to DVD commentary for the pilot, when it was shown to American networks the writers were asked which of the characters was supposed to be the "hero" the audience sympathizes with, and had to explain that none of them really were and that that was sort of the point.
    • Not to mention the Balowski family. But Vyvyan was a particularly good example of this, arguably one of the most likable "complete bastards" in the history of British comedy, precisely because he was a totally unpredictable bastard.
    • Bottom
    • For that matter, every single character ever played by Rik Mayall. Including himself in his not-entirely-serious ego-trip of an autobiography, Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ.
    • Allan B'stard of The New Statesman
  • Every character save for one and maybe two from Unhitched is a horrible, horrible excuse for a human being.
  • Victor Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave. Though he does fall in the "at least pitiable" category sometimes, after all he does end up in the oddest predicaments which does go some way explain his eternal grumpiness.
  • Sarah Silverman of The Sarah Silverman Program.
  • Grace from Will and Grace. Just barely has enough morals to not be a Jerkass, but still broke up with someone for having an extra toe, admitted that it was because she was shallow, then asked for sympathy.
  • The title character from Father Ted. "JUST PLAY THE F*** ING NOTE!" Although in fairness, it's his interaction with Father Jack and Father Dougal that really bring it out of him, as he's portray as fairly normal, although still a bit of jerk, when he doesn't have to deal with them.
    • He also stole money meant for sick children which is how he wound up banished to Craggy Island. Although as he's always quick to claim the money was "Just resting in his account".
  • Barney from How I Met Your Mother manages to be the most popular character on the show, despite being a Corrupt Corporate Executive, misogynistic womanizer, and a borderline sociopath in general. For most viewers, he avoids becoming truly unlikable partly because he does have a sensitive, caring side (even if it only comes up once or twice a season), and partly because he uses and manipulates people with so much style that he enters Magnificent Bastard territory.
  • Rimmer from Red Dwarf. To a lesser extent, the rest of the cast.
    • Lister, despite being a slob and not that bright is a pretty sympathetic character. And Rimmer for all his faults has Pet the Dog moments now and then. The best example is the Cat...shallow, self interested, vain and selfish. And we wouldn't want him any other way
    • He's shallow, self interested, vain and selfish...with a great ass!!!
  • Needless to say, the main character of the One-Episode Wonder Heil Honey I'm Home.
  • Jack Benny's eponymous character, on his TV and radio series.
    • Though every once in a while (such as the "It's Jack's birthday!" episodes) the rest of the cast would acknowledge that Jack was a particularly harmless, even endearing example of this type. Then things would go back to normal by the next show.
      • Jack was always pretty benign in his show, being portrayed as much more self-absorbed and stingy as opposed to out-and-out malicious, and his character rarely strayed into Jerkass territory. In Real Life, Jack Benny could not have been any farther from his on-air persona—apparently he was very much a man who'd give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it.
  • Jackie Thomas in The Jackie Thomas Show.
  • Rick Spleen in Lead Balloon is another case where the character arguably worsened over time, with him being slightly sympathetic in season one and then doing a massive Kick the Dog at the beginning of season two. However, in season two there was also an episode that focused on him doing a good deed by supporting a charity with no evident ulterior motive...and it still blew up in his face.
    • Given how he can't even save a man from committing suicide without it all going wrong its no wonder he's such a misanthropic guy. Life just hates poor Rick so he's obviously decided to hate it right back
  • Lee and Tim in Not Going Out decay into this in some episodes of the third season.
  • Rigsby in Rising Damp.
  • Samantha "Sam" Puckett in iCarly is part of a Three Amigos group rather than being the main protagonist, but one wonders why the other two would still have anything to do with her. Freddie especially-it's a small miracle that nothing she's done to him has resulted in a permanently disabling injury.
  • Everyone in The Thick of It. The most sympathetic character is a complete bastard, which says a lot about the rest of them.
  • Shawn in Psych often butts up against this with his self-centered man-child shtick.
  • Hollywood superagent Ari Gold from Entourage, and he hasn't got better after six seasons. The other cast members have their moments as well.
  • The three main characters from Nathan Barley, particularly the eponymous Nathan, who Word of God described as a "strutting, meaningless cadaver-in-waiting" who "genuinely deserves to die".
    • Some measure of the writer's feelings towards Barley can be gleaned from its origin, a fictional program on Charlie Brooker's TV Times-parody website TV Go Home, simply named Cunt.
  • The horrible, horrible Lynda Day of Press Gang, who blackmails her bosses and employees alike, steals her ex-boyfriend's passport, attempts to push her childhood best friend out of a window... and still keeps the audience on her side.
  • Christine Campbell on The New Adventures of Old Christine. She's obnoxiously neurotic, clingy, dishonest, desperate, meddling, a helicopter parent, shallow and a borderline alcoholic. And those are her more charming qualities.
  • Sgt. Bilko of The Phil Silvers Show is an early example from American TV.
  • Almost everyone in the main cast of Slings and Arrows, especially in the first season. Richard Smith-Jones is probably the most egregious example.
  • Al Bundy of Married... with Children. All of the Bundys could qualify, but none of them are as callous and uncaring as Al.
  • Nearly every main character in The League of Gentlemen plays this trope up to eleven.
  • Community has Jeff, who, while not a complete jerk, definitively leans towards the Jerkass side of Deadpan Snarker.
    • For total jerkitude, look to Pierce.
    • While a fan favorite Abed may be an example since his acting as though life is a film or TV show causes a certain disconnect between him and some other characters and discussing life as though its Troperiffic may make the other characters see him this way.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond has this in spades, with the entire cast being this way, but especially with Ray and Debra. Ray is portrayed as lazy, whiny, and a selfish Momma's Boy. Debra is portrayed as a shrieking harpy.
  • Carrie Bradshaw (and, to a point, the other ladies) of Sex and the City. Self-absorbed: check. Shallow: check. Materialistic: check. Immature: check. Was there anything redeemable?
  • Despite being a drug dealer, Nancy from Weeds was for the most part still a fundamentally good person and quite sympathetic in the early seasons. This largely changed from Season 4 onward. And her accountant Doug was a horrible person from the start.
    • It's easier to just say that this goes for nearly every hour-long dramedy on nearly every network. Considering that most of them boil down to successful, self-centered people boinking and backstabbing one another, it's sort of the default protagonist type.
  • Roy from The IT Crowd. He does so much to get out of his job unless the person who's asking him is a hot chick, has slapped a police officer for ruining a twist in a film, has told Moss all of his inventions are worthless, tried stealing 20 pounds from his knocked out boss (who was faking, but he didn't know that) and tried sabotaging Jen's speech for kicks.
    • Then again, the people he works for are idiots who can't seem to work out the most simple functions of computers while still mostly treating him as a dogsbody because he can, the police officer was throwing the book at him and Moss for copyright violation but didn't seem interested in the fact that the person they were with was a cannibal, the 20 pounds actually was his in the first place and he tried to sabotage Jen's speech because Jen had become utterly Drunk with Power after being nominated for an award (largely on the backs of Roy and Moss) and was due for a bit of ego-puncturing. He's not the only jerk around.
    • And tricking Jen into thinking that 'googling Google' would break the internet was pretty awesome.
  • Pretty much all of the main characters of Glee. Sure, the cast is (mostly) comprised of teenagers, but the characters spend an awful lot of time and effort being unforgivably awful to one another (which doesn't excuse the actions of their teachers and parents). This blurs since sometimes Glee is written as a comedy, and sometimes as a dark drama. Regardless, the longer you watch, the harder it is to find anybody on the show sympathetic.
    • See the club's teacher, Will Schuster, as prime example of this. In the second episode of season two, he confronts the dentist who's dating Emma (a woman that Will loves) and tells the dentist that he's going to keep trying to steal Emma away from him. The dentist simply responds with, "Imagine if you were dating Emma, and I kept pursuing her. How would that make you feel?" As opposed to what would've been entirely appropriate; "Hey, quit stalking the woman who chose me over you, and respect her decision and privacy, you creepy pervert?!"
    • Never mind the fact that season two has seemingly devolved into seeing which character cheats on which other character they were in a relationship with last episode. And then next week, the same thing happens again with all new relationships breaking up because everybody's cheating on their partners.
    • It's somewhat balanced by the characters often being called out on how terrible they are. Except for Kurt who is perfect in every way.
    • Take a look at the way the characters reacted to Quinn's pregnancy for example. Quinn cheats on her long-term boyfriend, gets pregnant by his best friend then proceeds to lie about both the cheating and the paternity of the child. You would think she would be reviled for those actions, not so. Instead the entire cast support her choice and agree to keep her secrets, and then blame the biological father for wanting to claim his child because everyone in the group wants to go to Regionals. None of them care at all about how the duped boyfriend's life is being affected.
      • To be fair, at one point Quinn states that the only reason she "cheated" on said long-term boyfriend is because the boy she cheated with got her drunk on wine coolers. The rest of her behaviour is rather awful, but she can't be blamed for being date raped. (The fact that this happened to Quinn is, of course, never actually addressed in the show beyond the one line.)
  • Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances. Big time. Although her relatives are supposed to be completely pathetic slobs, they come off as quite admirable when contrasted with Hyacinth. This isn't an accident.
  • Anti-Villain Alex Russo from Wizards of Waverly Place is lazy, irresponsible, selfish, openly mocks authority, and treats her best friend like a servant. People that still think Disney heroines are all sugar and spice and everything nice are way behind the times.
  • Mr. Bean is so self-centred, he is usually unconcerned about the harm his off-the-wall methods of solving mundane problems do to others. A lot of the show's humour comes from his ability to slip out of situations where anyone would want to punch him.
    • He gets little better in the cartoon series, but still qualifies as this trope.
  • Edmund Blackadder. That is all.

Blackadder, Blackadder – his life was almost done!
Blackadder, Blackadder – who gives a toss? No one!

  • Kim from Kath and Kim. She's bratty, whiny, irresponsible, self-centered and treats everybody around her like crap. She's just a horrible, horrible person.
  • Valerie Cherish of the short-lived HBO series The Comeback is a deeply vain, insecure, and self-absorbed D-list actress who desperately wants fame at any cost. She occasionally ventures into The Woobie (or The Chew Toy depending on your perspective), though, because as bad as she can get she constantly has to deal with people and situations that are even worse.
  • Jill Tyrell from Nighty Night. She is a Narcissistic, selfish, devious, manipulative, passive-aggressive and violent. She is without guilt or morals and will do anything to get what she wants, even killing people.
  • Jonty de Wolfe from Campus. He starts off from the first episode by calling Stephen Hawking a spastic and throughout the rest is thoroughly bigoted, rude and offensive.
  • Tony Hancock from Hancock's Half Hour. In that show Hancock was playing a twisted version of himself. He is pompous, rude to pretty much everyone around him, venal, self-centred and a really nasty piece of work. In the episode "The Cruise" a woman is trying to come on to him and all he can do is be obscenely rude at her.
  • Vince Clark from 15 Storeys High. His flatmate Errol is kind, considerate, thoughtful whereas Clark is a misanthropic, cynical, borderline sociopath and Social Recluse. Some of the things he has done to Errol include: Gluing his hands to a fish tank, not allowing him to eat chicken or bring people over to his flat, not helping him get out of a room full of cactuses, and slicing his trainers in half and putting them on a ledge knowing full well that Errol suffers from Vertigo and thus will be unable to get them back.
  • Pretty much the entire cast of the British puppet series Mongrels except (sometimes) for Nelson, though especially Vince.
  • Mr. D's title character. In the anti-bullying episode he shows himself to be the worst bully in the school.
  • In After Lately, it's almost everyone, but Chelsea in particular.


Machinima[edit | hide]

  • All the characters in Red vs. Blue, especially Church.
    • And Doc might be an exception. Well, he's halfway in this trope.
    • It's telling that by the time Church lightens up through Epsilon the show has gotten much darker.

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

Radio[edit | hide]

  • Charles Prentiss in Absolute Power. According to Stephen Fry "There's not much to say that's nice about him, except that there is some pleasure in watching a natural born killer at work and knowing whatever happens he will win."

Theater[edit | hide]

  • Shakespeare's character Falstaff from Henry IV, his most popular and beloved by far. How popular? The play had two sequels and a spinoff starring Falstaff, called "The Merry Wives Of Windsor," reputed to be commissioned by Queen Elizabeth herself.
  • Of a sort: Mr Punch of the traditional puppet show Punch and Judy is a thoroughly vile fellow given to outrageous acts of villainy. He beats his wife and mistreats their child. He solves all his problems by repeated application of a big stick: he is convinced that's the way to do it, and says so frequently. He violently resists any attempt by any form of authority to bring him to justice or impose any kind of richly deserved punishment - whether that authority be the local policeman, or the devil himself. Throughout all this the children watching cheer and laugh.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Travis Touchdown, the protagonist from No More Heroes. A sociopathic Byronic Hero who kills people largely for fun while generally being a repugnant asshole, his character flaws are so pronounced that he ends up becoming hilarious.
      • His screwed-upness is perfectly summed up in a single quote from Desperate Struggle: "Everybody deals with grief differently, right? Some people fuck at funerals. I cut off heads".
    • At least at first. He has a few redeeming qualities by the end of the game. A few.
      • Even more by the end of Desperate Struggle, when he realizes how many lives the UAA has destroyed, and decides he has had enough with the assassination scene, instead vowing to destroy the UAA because of this. While he managed to be at both extremes at once on the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes, he now instead manages to be only on the sympathetic end of the scale, "the loser", and I think we can all agree that at least that part will never change.
  • Wario in both the Wario Land and Wario Ware games.
  • In Sengoku Rance Rance himself qualifies for this trope. Anything he does is out of amusement for us audiences. Except for the part where Sill gets frozen.
  • In Simon the Sorcerer the player character is a little bland but generally sympathetic. This all changes by the second game when he acts like a sexist, mean-spirited, stubborn, self-loathing, whiny, sadistic jerk to everyone he meets. Many of the game's puzzles require Simon to screw over the game's other characters in order to get his own way. This continues in the third game where, when tasked with assembling four specific characters, he discovers that three of them are people that he has variously killed, crippled and turned into a frog in his adventures up to that point. The fourth he simply leered at whilst making near-constant remarks about her large chest and revealing outfit. It helps that Simon gets dumped on almost as often as he messes with everyone else, preventing him from becoming a Complete Monster and generally leading to hillarity. Bonus points for the fact that he is voiced by Chris Barrie, who played the similar character Rimmer in the Red Dwarf example above.

Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • Strong Bad of Homestar Runner.
    • Homestar himself could be considered this as well, seeing how his general cluelessness has often drifted into to Jerkass territory

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Many, many, many webcomic authors settle for making their main character an Unsympathetic Jerkass Deadpan Snarker, to the point it's becoming one of the internet's most widespread and recognizable clichés.
  • Something*Positive averts this trope in regards to Davan. He has enough humanizing moments to keep him sympathetic, misanthropic bastard that he is. Aubrey and Pee-Jee invoke an awful lot Comedic Sociopathy, beating up friend or even strangers for kicks in the early years, but both have plenty of moments in which they show themselves to be kind and sympathetic. Peejee in particular, gives Jhim $1,000 so that he can move away from Boston and be happy, despite the fact that she has a major crush on him and is shown crying after he leaves. She also friggin' moves to Texas just to help and support Davan who must go home to take care of his father Fred, who has developed Alzheimer's, and her continual kindness is pretty much the sole reason for Mike's Heel Face Turn, even though he insulted her repeatedly and never believed that she was just trying to help him before she finally got fed up gave him a The Reason You Suck speech, which caused said Heel Face Turn. Aubrey is less prolific in her good deeds, but she still finds time to worry about Davan and specifically try to make him happy, to the point of sending Nerdrotica girls on a flight to Texas in order to make Davan look impressive at his high school reunion, since she knew full well he would be miserable at it. She is also a loving wife to Jason, and chooses to adopt a baby, citing that she could give an orphaned child a home, rather than have a new child.
  • Ethan from Ctrl+Alt+Del. Seriously, could you stand being around such a Psychopathic Manchild for more than a few seconds?
    • Lucas has his moments too, especially where relationships are involved.
  • Polkster from Polk Out
  • All four of the Light Warriors in Eight Bit Theater are very much this. Or at least they should be, as many fans do sympathize with the Omnicidal Maniac Black Mage.
    • Well, he's just too pathetic and unlucky to dislike properly.
    • Fighter I'd say is too much of a simpleton to qualify for this though, he's more of an Idiot Hero
  • All four main characters of Exterminatus Now (a jerk, an idiot, a sociopath, and a egotist respectively).
  • The main character of Concerned. He's well meaning, but he's such an idiot he causes pain to many people.
  • Belkar Bitterleaf of Order of the Stick is an excellent example. He's outright evil, a murderous sociopath with no redeeming qualities. He still remains hilarious to read, staying on just this side of the Complete Monster line for two main reasons. First, his teammates (who are actual heroes) have learned how to use him like a weapon; they point him in the direction of their good intentions and let him off the leash, because Belkar doesn't care who he's killing so long as he's killing somebody. Secondly, because he's the guy who doesn't care about anyone or anything, he's in position to get a lot of the funniest jokes.
    • It's even Lampshaded when Belkar under the influence of the Mark of Justice and it's curse. Lord Shojo appears to him and basically tells him that if he keeps going like this he is heading into Scrappy territory and that the only cure is Character Development or at least to fake it.
  • Peter from Birthday Gift, and similarly, Roy from Confiscated Twins.
  • Rayne from Least I Could Do, in spades. The character is incredibly rude, selfish and arrogant, yet is held up to be the object of admiration for men and a sex god for women. The typical storyline is 90% Rayne trying to bed hot girls, live out his Gary Stu fantasies, and/or insulting his friends, and 10% him "being awesome", which usually involves getting the cast out of sticky situations that he got them into in the first place. In fairness, he does have some redeeming traits (like unconditional love for his niece Ashley), but these only tend to crop up in Author's Saving Throw moments just when the audience is wondering why nobody's shot the asshole yet.
  • Black Hat Guy in Xkcd who is a complete sociopath fond of Disproportionate Retribution.
  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff: Both of the eponymous characters establish themselves as this very quickly. Hell, pretty much every character present leans into this (except maybe Geromy).
  • All three of the slightly sociopathic main characters of Two Guys and Guy.
  • Hazel Tellington of Girls with Slingshots varies from Deadpan Snarker to Jerk with a Heart of Gold to Jerk Sue to this, depending on the story line. Although some of the setbacks she encounters, such as losing a great job, are not her fault, most of the problems in her life result from her immaturity, irresponsibility, and constant drunkenness. Occasionally lampshaded in the comic by different characters, mainly her friend/former boss Clarice, and boyfriend Zach.
  • Graham, the 'hero' of Wizard School, is a misandrist Jerkass whose main occupations are sex, alcohol, and sarcasm. Justified, since he was deliberately chosen by the Big Bad to be as useless a "chosen one" as possible.


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Daria, though she's given several Pet the Dog moments and in the last episode realizes what a pain she's been towards her family.
    • Compared to the other entries on this page, she doesn’t fit the description very well. Despite her blatant quirks, she is obviously meant as a likeable character, and being an adolescent (and therefore a pain in the ass) isn’t exactly villainous.
  • Peter Griffin on Family Guy.
    • Possibly Quagmire too. Actually, there isn't a single member of the main cast who hasn't been Flanderized into being a Jerkass.
  • Stan Smith from American Dad, which is actually subtly deconstructed. If you pay attention, Stan's recurring fear (other than seagulls) is if his friends and family still actually love him or not.
  • The entire cast of Drawn Together.
  • Homer and Bart are always this on The Simpsons.
  • Jay Sherman on The Critic.
  • Hank Hill from King of the Hill can wander into this territory. As can his wife, Peggy.
  • Stroker on Stroker and Hoop.
  • Master Shake on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
  • Everyone in Sealab 2021 except Dr. Quinn (especially in episodes like "I, Robot")
  • Selfish, shallow Kuzco in The Emperors New Groove, and, even though he'd supposedly learned his lesson by the end, the following TV series The Emperors New School.
    • In the direct-to-video sequel Kronk's New Groove, Kuzco offers far more evidence that he's learned his lesson. This A) is practically unheard of, especially in light of the patently unnecessary TV show, and B) works surprisingly well, because Kuzco is mostly a member of the audience like us, and appears to be emotionally connecting to Kronk's plight. Not any specific way that he's connecting, necessarily, so much as the fact that he's connecting at all.
  • Bloo, from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
  • Johnny Bravo, a Too Dumb to Live Casanova Wannabe, though he does have some decent points. His stupidity was more apparent in later seasons than in the first season.
  • Eric the Cavalier from Dungeons and Dragons, for a given value of Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Since Moral Guardians and Executive Meddling meant that nothing good could ever really happen to him until he relented and went along with the group, he was definitely meant to be unsympathetic, even though he was the most sympathetic character in the show because he was the only one reacting realistically to their situation, and many of the bad things that happen to him are distinctly slapstick, since he has to survive to agree to go along with the group's plans later.
  • Many "classic" characters in animated shorts fit the bill: Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote, Woody Woodpecker, Tom, Jerry (from Tom and Jerry), Screwy Squirrel, etc.
  • The Warden in Superjail. He goes from ultraviolent sadistic Cloudcuckoolander to ultraviolent sadistic nazi overlord in the space of ten episodes, and spends most of the rest of the first season drunk, sick, oblivious to everything around him, giving birth to grotesque manifestations of his inner child through his anus, and following sex-crazed alien cult leaders around. Of course, the Mr. Fanservice don't mind at all.
  • Fred Flintstone.
  • The Captain of the Jupiter42 in Tripping the Rift is ugly, crude, disgusting, sarcastic, depraved, and his crew never misses a moment to Lampshade it. Not Lampshaded yet is that his name, Chode, sounds much like the stretch of flesh between the testicles and asshole, which is where his mentality seems to reside.
    • And the rest of the crew aren't exactly sympathetic either. Apart from Six who, ironically as she's an android, is the only one who seems to actually have a heart
  • King Julien from Madagascar.
  • George Jetson
  • Early Cuyler on Squidbillies.
  • The entire band Dethklok from Metalocalypse.
  • June from KaBlam!, who is featured doing her thing in the page image. While she's quite likable and has a big heart underneath her cute but tough, snarky exterior, it's not uncommon for her to give her best friend / implied crush Henry hell - whether he deserves it or not. While her Jerkass qualities tend to vary from writer to writer - and the cake scenes are from Season 3, in which she Took a Level in Jerkass (but was toned down for Season 4) - she more than qualifies for this trope.
  • Eddy of Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy is always out for people's money
  • Wilshire Pig from Claymation Comedy of Horrors.
  • Xander Crews from Frisky Dingo. Probably moreso than the "villain", Killface. Of course, Killface may be the protagonist of the series. But pretty much every character fits this trope anyway!
  • Eric Cartman from South Park. He's this trope on his good days (relatively speaking). On his bad days...
  • Bender, of Futurama: "Bite my shiny metal ass." Most of the main cast have strong Jerkass tendencies, actually.
  • Invader Zim is trying to conquer/destroy the Earth and everything on it, but because (in Gaz's words) "he's so bad at it", his machinations are more amusing than mortifying. Being a Large Ham doesn't hurt.
  • Jason Alexander supplied the voice for another one in Duckman.
  • In The Venture Brothers, Rusty Venture fits the trope perfectly. Greedy and selfish, the Brilliant but Lazy super scientist regularly neglects his sons as well as takes them around the world on dangerous adventures. The bigger reason why he is so neglectful is because he knows that when they die (they have died a LOT) he can just clone new ones. He becomes much more protective once he loses his backup clones.
  • Dan of Dan Vs..
  • Beavis and Butthead.
  • Allen and his father, Richard in Allen Gregory. Allen constantly hits on the principal (who an obese 60 year old woman), insults his teacher, and lashes out against his sister and his father's life partner. Richard is a complete attention seeker like Allen is and is even more so if any of that attention is on his life partner, Jeremy. Richard is also never wrong, despite what everyone else tells him.
  • Mad Jack the Pirate.
  • Rodney J. Squirrel from Squirrel Boy, a Butt Monkey / Idiot Hero hybrid.
  • Tak from Tak and the Power of Juju would fall into this category at times.
  • Brain Newport from This Just In
  • Yin and Yang from Yin Yang Yo.
  • Nestor from World of Quest
  • Bessie Higgenbottom from The Mighty B!, they even had an episode where she accuse people for stealing a locket
  • The show Archer has, well, just about everyone in the cast. The titular protagonist Sterling Archer is probably the most prominent example, but we also have Lana Kane, Cyril Figgis and Sterling's mother Malory
  • Helga Pataki of 'Hey Arnold!. She's often abrasive, and gives others (especially Arnold, her secret crush) a hard time. However, many of her flaws stem from an unhappy childhood as the unfavorite. Often times, she still remains the Only Sane Man among classmates, lamenting their stupidity.
  • Rainbow Dash of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic can often be quite abrasive and arrogant towards even her friends. But some episodes also reveal that she has insecurities and a desire for attention which fuel her attitude and personality.
    • Almost all the ponies (and whoever is in the spotlight) have moments of this due to the show's heavy deconstructing of the character's shortcomings and insecurities, meaning at least once, they act like a Jerkass and cause enormous problems concerning their defining flaws. The usage of Aesops and redeeming moments tends to keep them in check overall however.