The comedy relief character?it?s a concept at least as old as Shakespeare?possibly older, depending on how funny you find Oedipus banging his mother. But its purpose as a storytelling device is obvious?to take a little bit of the tension out of a really serious or scary story so the audience doesn?t get too overwhelmed or desensitized.
When it works well you get characters like Hudson in Aliens or Hiro on Heroes?genuinely funny and relatable characters who add to the story and nearly steal the show from the main characters. When it doesn?t work well, you end up with an unfunny, obnoxious drain on the audience?s patience that has them checking their watches every time he?s on-screen. And it almost never works well.
Nine times out of 10 these characters are simply annoying as all shit, and below you?ll find 10 of the most annoying to ever look into a camera and plead to the audience, ?Laugh, you bastards!? And Jar-Jar isn?t #1! Now you want to know who is, don?t you??
10) C-3PO from Star Wars
If you think Threepio is annoying in the movies, imagine how annoying he?d be if you were in the Rebel Alliance. You?re trying to raid the Death Star and capture the Princess, and you?re running and hiding from Imperial troops, and here?s this bright-ass, waddling robot slowing you down and screaming constantly because his voice has only one volume setting. As Star Wars fans we love Threepio, so we?ve kind of blinded ourselves to the fact that we wouldn?t want to spend 30 seconds in a room with him in real life. Remember in Episode IV when Threepio asks Luke if he can switch himself off for the night and then slumps forward lifelessly? Why oh why didn?t he do that more often?
9) Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element
Notice I didn?t name this list the worst comic relief characters, just the most annoying. In many cases those two overlap nicely, but not so for screeching, grating talk radio host Ruby Rhod. Ruby?s incredibly annoying, but that?s what makes him so fantastic. He?s even engendered in me a goodwill towards Chris Tucker that even three Rush Hour pictures can?t entirely extinguish. I can?t help it. Every time I hear the guy?s voice I just picture him shouting ?Corben Dallas!? The movie is ridiculous. Ruby is six kinds of ridiculous. And I love it just for that reason.
8) Wreck-Gar from Transformers the Movie
On the scale of annoying ideas, having a character who speaks only in recycled TV clich?s has got to be right up there with, oh I don?t know, sampling just the shriekiest part of ?It?s a Hard Knock Life? for your rap song. Wreck-Gar goes even beyond the baseline annoyance level of his basic conceit by saying all these annoying catchphrases (sample witty dialogue: ?Film at 11!?) through a sound effects filter that sounds like a robot with a throat full of robo-phlegm. Then there?s that whole ?Bah weep grahna whatever the fuck? thing. Consider this: Eric Idle barely remembers having given voice to this character, possibly as a self-defense mechanism for not thinking about how annoying it was.
7) Herman Ferguson from Judge Dredd
I don?t hate Rob Schneider in everything. Honest. I don?t even hate him on principle as a comic relief character in a Stallone action flick. He?s was perfectly serviceable in Demolition Man (which, incidentally, belongs on a separate list with Fifth Element of ?Top Two Totally Ridiculous and Awesome ?90s Action Movies?). But he was both out of place and patently awful as a Rob Schneider lookalike who somehow gets mixed up with a bad-ass super-cop in Judge Dredd. Just watch this scene, which features some really cool, straight-from-the-comics makeup effects on Mean Machine, plus Schneider, acting like a Mennonite who?s never seen a movie but has had comedy described to him, then was told to act out a comedy script. A really, really shitty script.
6) Scrappy Doo from Scooby Doo
There was this weird phenomenon in the ?70s where it wasn?t enough for comedy sidekicks and tagged-on characters to be ?funny? (meaning not funny), they also had to be ?cute? (meaning hideous). Scrappy Doo was the cartoon incarnation of this phenomenon?the Cousin Oliver of Hanna-Barbera. Here was a cartoon character who took everything the audience loved about Scooby Doo (which, apparently, was the size and shape of his head) and slapped it onto a midget body full of spunk and go-get ?em attitude. Man, was this little shit annoying. He didn?t even have Scooby?s lovable speech impediment or obvious love of ganja. It?s like if some studio executive had decided that Cheech and Chong needed to be a threesome and paired them with 1930s-era Mickey Rooney. I defy you to get more than two minutes into this episode before you smash your computer monitor with your face.
5) Doiby Dickles from Green Lantern
Don?t let the name fool you?the Golden Age of comic books largely sucked. Yes, yes, we must pay tribute to the massive amounts of creativity and ingenuity on display as these brave men built an entire genre out of nothing. That said, the comics themselves were pretty terrible. Submitted as evidence?while many superheroes secured young boys in shortpants to serve as their sidekicks, there was a parallel but largely forgotten trend in sidekick-dom?the fat comic relief sidekick. When was the last time you heard Etta Candy, Wonder Woman?s fat friend who was constantly going on about how much she loved candy, mentioned alongside Robin or Bucky? Never? Count your lucky stars. By far, the fattest and most annoying of the whole bunch was Golden Age Green Lantern?s sidekick Doiby Dickles (one ?s?, folks), a crime-fightin? cabby who was obviously hilarious because he had an extreme Brooklyn accent. You see, they calls him Doiby on account?a he is never wit?out his hat. Yeah, picture trying to read page after page of that. As recently as last decade Doiby was still around and terrorizing teenage superheroes with newly acquired alien technology, because this is DC Comics and no idea is too stupid to dig up and trot out.
4) Snarf from Thundercats
Snarf is an oddity in the world of terrible comic relief sidekicks, because there?s almost no way of telling how the producers even thought he was supposed to be funny. Usually these characters are so overdone they might as well just be holding up placards that say, ?THE FUNNY ONE.? But Snarf is something else entirely. His main comedic talent seems to be bitching and worrying constantly about Lion-O, like some sort of brightly colored four-legged Jewish mother. The only laughs he seems to be going for are when the other characters gather around him after he?s shamed himself with his over-protectiveness and anxiety and chuckle, ?Oh, that Snarf!? The only thing that seems overtly comedic about Snarf is his tendency to say his own name over and over in a simpering tone, which isn?t the least bit funny. Say what you will about Orko?at least it was clear that he was supposed to be telling jokes. Snarf is just an exercise in endurance.
3) Otis from Superman the Motion Picture
As Topless Robot contributor Sean T. Collins recently pointed out, much of the respect that the original Superman film demands comes from people?s nostalgia at finally seeing a convincing superhero on screen. Well, I never saw it as a kid, so speaking as an unbiased observer, I can tell you from an objective point of view that the movie fucking sucks. Is it any wonder that Superman Returns fucking sucked when they were trying to ape this one whole-cloth? The fucking suckitude of the movie has almost nothing to do with the infamous flying around the world to turn back time and everything to do with Dick Donner not being able to decide if he was making a superhero action film or a bad, bad ?70s cornball comedy. Having a pimp comment on your main character?s super-suit is fine. It?s even funny. Having him do it immediately after your character appears in costume for the first time just takes all the wind out of the sails of whatever grandiosity or majesty your movie might hope to achieve. Nowhere was this more painfully evident than in Ned Beatty?s comic relief sidekick character, who one could argue ruined the whole movie. And one could argue it like this?Ned Beatty is such a fucking moron in this movie that Luthor must be a moron for hiring him, and then Superman must be a moron for having to exert himself at all to defeat a moron like Luthor, and then an entire generation of Gen-Xers must be morons for having grown up thinking this was a good movie.
2) Jar-Jar Binks from Star Wars Episode 1-3
You knew this was coming. Jar-Jar?s reputation as a franchise-killer is well deserved. Mooyah mooyah, meesa hatesa every minute he?s on screen. There?s really nothing more to be said about his performance in Episode I that wasn?t posted on some Compuserve message board when the Internet was in its infancy. I?d rather talk about his role in Episode III. Before I went to see that trainwreck, I was praying there would be lots of Jar-Jar in it. If they?d revealed that General Grievous was being remote-controlled by Jar-Jar, that would have been just fine with me. I was really hoping for Jar-Jar to get a grand death scene where he sacrificed himself as penance for introducing the legislation in the Senate that enabled Palpatine?s rise to power. I wanted to like Jar-Jar and view him as a hero by the end of the movie. (Ironically, J.K. Rowling pulled off just this very feat with the terminally annoying Dobby the House Elf.) Instead, Jar-Jar barely showed his ugly CGI face in the fucking thing, meaning that his entire existence was completely and totally unnecessary. His presence in the first film accomplished nothing except making C-3PO seem like a student of Stella Adler by comparison.
1) Sheriff J.W. Pepper from Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun
What kind of he-beast could possibly defeat Jar-Jar in a contest of the most annoying comic relief characters? Gentlemen, say hello to Sheriff Pepper, the inspiration behind this entire list. If you?ve ever watched a James Bond film and thought, ?It?s good, but it could use a fat, high-pitched, racist Louisiana lawman,? he?s your new best friend. You see, when I was a kid I was only exposed to Connery and Brosnan Bonds, and so in my adult life I?ve been going back and watching the Roger Moore movies for the first time?and seeing how right my father was to not allow them in the house. Live and Let Die had its moments, but the moment Shrriff J.W. Pepper appears in all his tobacco spitting, fat-swaggering glory the whole thing went downhill faster than a greased pig sledding down a mountain of shit, to quote a folksy sounding pseudo-Southern homily I just made up.
But worse than Sherriff Pepper on his home turf is Sheriff Pepper on vacation. Man With the Golden Gun actually started out as a fairly decent Bond film?definitely the best Moore film I?d seen. It?s got Christopher Lee, for goodness? sake! But who should be vacationing in Thailand while Bond is there chasing down badguys? Why, it?s this dumbass! And then he accompanies Bond on his adventures for a while, yelling in his high-pitched demon voice all the while. When we last see Sheriff Pepper he?s getting arrested by the Thai police, and one can only hope that what comes next involves bamboo chutes under his fingernails. Fuck you very much, Sheriff Pepper. You are truly the most annoying species of a genus prized and renowned for their annoyingness.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.