Comedy shows demand flawed characters and usually the more flawed they are, the higher the laugh factor. We’ve seen all kinds of character archetypes; from snobs to slobs, idiots to the hyper-intelligent. But sometimes the hardest laughs come from characters that you can laugh with. Awkward characters always draw fans because it’s their vulnerability that’s put on display. It makes it easier for an audience to empathise with them. And when we do, we’re laughing at ourselves and our own experiences as much as we’re laughing with them.
Here’s a list of some of our favourite weirdos and the idiosyncrasies that have not only drawn us to them, but taken the shows they’ve been a part of to new heights!
MARK CORRIGAN – PEEP SHOW
Mark Corrigan is the model worker-bee. He is intelligent, presents himself very neatly (trimmed hair, a clean shave and a suit), he has an unhealthy fear of authority, he goes about his work diligently (mostly because he’s very uncomfortable, socially). Mark is, in short, a bore. The personification of the 9-5 grind. But there’s a lot more under going on under the surface.
Eternally in his own head, Mark’s inner-monologue drives British sitcom Peep Show, the longest-running comedy series in the history of broadcast network Channel 4. Mark is cynical and, at times, crippled by his social awkwardness. The two traits make him avoid confrontation, and the show capitalises on this inability. We watch in real time as Mark goes through his day, facing workplace adversity seemingly quietly, while in his head he’s judging his colleagues and thinking up comebacks and jibes.
KENNETH PARCELL – 30 ROCK
Kenneth Andromakennethamblesorton Parcell doesn’t drink hot beverages because that’s the devil’s temperature. He does however drink alcohol, a cherished drink from early childhood that he calls “hill people milk”. A small-town boy, Kenneth is a humble page at television network NBC, and endures the daily grind amongst New York’s cut-throat executives without ever letting the smile leave his face. You’d think this makes him the de-facto corporate punching bag, but he also carries a gun. Yikes!
The success of Kenneth’s character lies in his mysterious upbringing and past. He always seems two-steps removed from the Big Broadcasting hustle and completely at bliss working his dream job. NBC President Jack Donaghy fears and respects Kenneth’s enigmatic character. After being unable to read the page during a poker game at work, Donaghy tells a rival executive that in five years they would either “be working for him or dead by his hand.”
TOBIAS FUNKE – ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
If I told Tobias Funke he was consistently, unintentionally homoerotic, he would reply, “You sir, are a mouthful!” Newbie actor Tobias Fünke has a penchant for misunderstanding situations and being completely unaware of the not-so-subtle implications of his words. A classic example of this is when he decides he will coin a new term for a himself having been a professional analyst and therapist. An “analrapist.”
The jeans-shorts wearing “never-nude” (a fairly self-explanatory and absolutely made-up psychological condition) is clumsy, dramatic and without a shred of self-awareness. A deadly combo when it comes to making the most out of situational humour.
ABED NADIR – COMMUNITY
Socially awkward and unusually straightforward, an interaction with Abed Nadir can be daunting despite his good nature and intentions. But the most interesting part about a character who could otherwise have ended up being a fly on the wall is his deep knowledge of pop culture and continuous view of life as a TV show.
For Abed, each year in Greendale community college passes by as a season. The challenges his Spanish study group faces can be broken down to points along a larger “plot”. If a camera is slowly panning away from another character’s face, the guy might even attempt a voice over. In this way, Abed’s character adds a self-reflective dimension to Community. It’s his ability to bust or satirise television tropes which takes the show to a new level.
TINA BELCHER – BOB’S BURGERS
Tina Belcher, the oldest of the Belcher children is the perfect encapsulation of adolescent awkwardness. She’s still growing into her body and she moves like it; uncoordinated with a little slouch. Her peculiarities don’t end there, Tina’s dry delivery and strange voice can be credited to actor and comedian Dan Mintz.
Like all high school kids, Tina also struggles with an unyielding, unhealthy crush. How does she with her newfound sexuality? Writing erotic fiction and promptly reading it out at the dinner table, of course. Though many find her love for boy butts excessive, she’s also got a soft side. Tina is deeply conscientious and is constantly making friends with inanimate objects and animals. She’s got bags of potential (to forgive your younger self for all the times you’ve stayed up asking why you would admit your love for your first crush to all your friends and their families) and we’re giving her full marks in our report card.
CREED BRATTON – THE OFFICE
Okay, Creed is like that stoner in college who loves going off on weird tangents, but also has hints of a dark past. For the record, I too believe that monsters are real and the Loch Ness monster isn’t. But who grows beans in their desk? Maybe that’s why Creed always seems out-to-lunch. He punches in and checks out.
Whether it’s work (he’s a quality assurance director at Scranton’s Dunder Mifflin office) or just a conversation with colleagues, Creed always seems like he’s operating on a different frequency. And that makes it a little easier for us to stomach our own office antics.
MONA-LISA SAPERSTEIN – PARKS AND RECREATION
There’s dressed to the nines and then there’s whatever number Mona-lisa Saperstein is at. Childish, dramatic and in your face, Mona-lisa may not be awkward herself, but she’s on the list for making everyone around her awkward.
From interrupting a group conversation to steal Tom Haverford away for sex in a tree, to demanding money from Ben Wyatt after setting her dad’s car on fire because she was bored, the self-absorbed and unpredictable Mona-lisa can make any situation painfully awkward just by turning up. Not that we mind as long as the laughs keep coming!