Ah, the idiot. It’s a character that has truly stood the test of time. It goes back to the Greek word for “person lacking professional skill,” but over time it’s morphed into the definition we know today: someone lacking in intelligence, who makes stupid decisions; someone who was napping when the brains were handed out.
We love to laugh at the bumbling idiot. It makes us feel superior. And their moronic antics can just plain be hilarious, too. So it’s no surprise that the history of television comedy has been filled with idiots, imbeciles, burnouts and morons. They run the gamut from crazy cartoon characters to blonde bimbos to doltish dudes.
Here they are, the 17 Most Idiotic TV Characters of All Time.
17 TROY BARNES (COMMUNITY)
On Community, even the backstory of Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) is stupid: a star high-school quarterback, he buckled under pressure and torpedoed his chances at a university scholarship by intentionally dislocating both shoulders (or faking a knee injury, depending on the story) before a big game. Ultimately, this forces him to continue his education at the most pathetic institute of learning in America, Greendale Community College.
Of his dreams of post-secondary education, Troy once dimly boasted, “I was gonna be the first person in my family to graduate from community college. Everyone else graduated from normal college.” Troy had a strange evolution on the show, starting out as a jock and transforming into an emotional nerd, thanks in part to his bromance with Abed. He goes from a sex-obsessed kid to a guy who’s almost clueless on the subject. When he sees Pierce’s S&M room, he asks, “What are all these collars for? Secret dogs?” Ultimately, though, it seems intelligence was always an issue for Troy, who, when he’s told he’s actually a year older than he thought he was, responds, “Which would make me 20, because everyone is 10 for two years... because fifth grade is hard for every... one... MOM! HOW MANY LIES HAVE I BEEN LIVING?!”
16 MICHAEL SCOTT (THE OFFICE)
You know that person at work who’s in a leadership position and they’re so inept that you can’t imagine how they got there? We all know one of those, and Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is perhaps the ultimate TV personification of them. On The Office, he’s the regional manager of a branch of a paper company, who wants desperately to be everybody’s best friend while at the same time being the consummate leader. But he fails constantly at both.
In his defense, he may be a good paper salesman. But he’s constantly doing things so insensitive and ill-advised that most real-life companies would fire or suspend him instantly. Take, for instance, the time he tried to scare his employees straight by acting like a hardened prison inmate, calling his underlings “beyotch” and warning Ryan not to “drop the soap.” Early in the series, he hosted a highly offensive “Diversity Day,” ultimately getting him slapped in the face. He was madly in love with the “that’s what she said” trope, and even used it in front of his own bosses. This is a man who once burned his foot on a George Foreman grill because, to make a long story short, he wanted to wake up to the smell of bacon, so he had it running on the floor of his bedroom.
15 ANDY DWYER (PARKS & RECREATION)
In the first season of Parks and Recreation, Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) is just kind of a lazy rock-star wannabe, but in subsequent seasons he was elevated to full-on ditz mode. Granted, the season 1 storyline that had him in a cast because he tried to get a discarded toaster out of a pit, revealing a certain level of brainlessness.
Part of Andy’s charm is his childlike enthusiasm. He loves what he calls his “shock wire,” an exposed wire above his bathtub. With great enthusiasm he says, “I call it that ‘cause if you take a shower and you touch the wire, you DIE!” An item on his bucket list is to remake the Shaquille O’Neal genie movie Kazaam and “get it right.” He wants to represent Germany in a mock U.N. because, he reasons, they’ve never been the bad guys. And, staring out over the beauty of the Grand Canyon, he asks, “Where’s all the faces? Of the presidents?”
14 KELLY BUNDY (MARRIED WITH CHILDREN)
One of Fox’s first hits in 1987, running for 11 seasons, Married with Children was conceived as the anti-family sitcom. It’s the antithesis of, say, The Cosby Show, where you had happy parents and smart, happy kids. Here, you had a cranky dad, a dysfunctional marriage, a son who was smart but useless with girls, and a teenage daughter, Kelly (Christina Applegate), who got by on her looks because there was nothing going on upstairs.
When they want to replace their couch with the same model, they’re told only two were ever made and one was sold. Her bright idea: “Great! Then all we have to do is find the one they sold.” In another episode she asks someone, “So that island that you own… is it near the beach? Despite her stupidity, though, she could still come up with quick one-liners when it came to insulting her little brother Bud.
13 BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD (BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD)
We’ll group the stars of the 90s animated hit Beavis and Butt-Head together because they’re almost interchangeably brain deficient. They’re so stupid that in one episode, the ninth graders are forced to return to kindergarten. Beavis was once known to say, “Thinking sucks.” In fact, they’re lacking in just about every area of emotional and intellectual development, which could be due in part to the fact that they don’t appear to have any parents or guardians of any kind in their lives – although it would appear someone cared about Butt-Head enough at some point to buy him braces.
These two heavy-metal-loving burnouts were so moronic that they once legitimately thought a homeless man was a werewolf and wanted him to turn them into werewolves. But, amazingly, Beavis always seemed to be slightly more lost in stupidity, often to the point of being dangerous. He was obsessed with fire and wanted to kiss his own butt. Meanwhile, despite his lack of any kind of real intelligence, Butt-Head occasionally showed some kind of awareness of the world and wit, like when he said of the band KISS, “You know, these guys are pretty cool for a bunch of mimes.”
12 GOB BLUTH (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT)
On Arrested Development, there’s really only one Bluth brother of the three that has any real semblance of intelligence, and that’s Michael. So, in the race for most idiotic for this list, it comes down to Gob and Buster. But the thing about Buster is that most of his deficiencies seem to come more from emotional disorders like social anxiety. George Oscar Bluth, aka Gob, played to perfection by Will Arnett, on the other hand, is just plain 11 donuts short of a dozen.
He believes himself to be a master magician, although his illusions more often than not explode in his face – sometimes literally. When he’s upset, his grammar reverts practically to caveman-speak, as in, “Still mad me, Michael?” He ignorantly and enthusiastically creates an offensive ventriloquism routine with a puppet that spews African American stereotypes. And one of his catchphrases, perfect for a character on this list, is “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
11 CHRISSY AND CINDY SNOW (THREE’S COMPANY)
When Three’s Company started, there were three roommates, a blonde, a brunette and a guy, just as it was when it ended. But there were three different blondes. The last, Teri, was a smart nurse, so she has no place here. The first was Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), who was the quintessential lovable ditzy blonde.
Often, she just didn’t get what was going on. Other times she got it in a way that only she could understand. To wit, she explains to Jack why he can’t see her nude, but strangers can: “If they see me nude, it doesn’t matter because I don’t know them and they don’t know me and I don’t know who’s seeing me and they don’t know who they’re seeing. But I know you and you know me and I know who you’ll be seeing and you know who you’ll be seeing and both of them are me.”
As for Cindy, Chrissy’s cousin, played by Jenilee Harrison when Somers quit, she took the dumb up a notch, almost to the point of being a caricature. Her stupidity often took the form of clumsiness, too often resulting in bumps and bruises for Jack.
10 MR. BEAN (MR. BEAN)
Rowan Atkinson, the star and co-writer of the British series Mr. Bean, described the titular character as “a child in a grown man’s body.” We’d expand on that to describe the child as super slow-witted. Mostly silent, he concocts ludicrous schemes to navigate everyday situations.
This is a man who attaches a comfortable recliner to the top of his tiny car and devises an insane scheme to drive it from up there, only to wind up falling down a hill. This is a man who tosses salad in public by taking his sock off, placing the lettuce in it, and shaking it around with sheer stupid confidence. How do you make tea in public if you’re Mr. Bean? Why, pull out a hot water bottle, dunk your tea bag in it, take out of your pocket a baby bottle full of milk, suck it and spit it into the hot water bottle, shake gently, and serve.
9 MICHAEL KELSO (THAT '70S SHOW)
Fox had a hit with Kelly Bundy and they had another with her male counterpart, Michael Kelso, on That '70s Show, the role that put Ashton Kutcher on the map. He’s a male bimbo, getting by on his looks because there’s not much between his ears.
When lying to his girlfriend Jackie about how his shirt was in another girl’s laundry, Kelso claims it’s his friend Eric’s shirt. But his mom had sewn his name into it. His response: “Man, Eric’s gonna be pissed!” And then there’s this classic: “So, I’m at home, and I’m watching Scooby Doo. And I think to myself, ‘You know what, you should go hang out with Hyde and Donna.’ And then I think no, because maybe Scooby and Shaggy found a real ghost this time. But it wasn’t. It was just another crazy old guy.”
8 TACO MACARTHUR (THE LEAGUE)
On The League, Taco MacArthur (Jon Lajoie) is a stoner musician, who, like Kelso, gets by on his looks rather than brains to have great luck with the ladies. And he’s even won the series’ fantasy football league once, despite his sheer stupidity. This despite drafting Canadian Football League players and kickers, who would yield few, if any, points.
He’s so dumb he doesn’t realize it’s healthy to wash your hands, he just does it because it feels good. He’s so dumb he thinks having sex in a Prius is good for the environment. And he’s so dumb that he once said this: “When Steve Jobs invented the first job, everyone thought he was an idiot, but today everyone has jobs.” Despite all this, though, it’s been revealed that when he’s not high, he’s actually quite smart.
7 JOEY TRIBBIANI (FRIENDS)
Joey (Matt LeBlanc) from Friends very much falls into the lovable doofus category. He means well most of the time, and he’s immensely protective of his friends and family, but he’s far from the sharpest tool in the shed. But, despite his lack of intelligence, he kills with the ladies, thanks largely to his killer line, “How YOU doin’?”
How stupid is he? There was the time he ate everything in the fridge because the fridge broke. He doesn’t "get" air quotes. There’s the likely no-longer PC line, “If Homo sapiens were in fact ‘homo’ sapiens, is that why they’re extinct?” He calls his Adam’s apple his Joey’s apple. And then there’s one of his funnier stupid lines, when Ross says he wants to talk to Joey about something uncomfortable, Joey replies, “How about, uh, you showering with your mom?”
6 PATRICK STAR (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS)
When you’re a not-enormously-intelligent sponge and you’re not the dumbest one in your friend group, you’re one lucky sponge. Such is the case for SpongeBob Squarepants, whose friend Patrick is dumber than a box of hair. His species was a wise choice for series creator Stephen Hillenburg, who’s also a marine biologist and knew that starfish are literally brainless. They have no brain. And, interestingly, he’s voiced by actor Bill Fagerbakke, who also played the dopey character Dauber on the sitcom Coach.
Patrick’s lack of brain is constantly on display in SpongeBob Squarepants. He sucks on a dangling fishing hook, dopily muttering, “Mmm, cheesy. No danger here.” He wonders if mayonnaise is a musical instrument. Working at the Krusty Krab restaurant, he answers the phone, someone asks, “Is this the Krusty Krab?” and he frustratedly responds, “No, this is Patrick!”
5 COACH AND WOODY (CHEERS)
Seeing as we lumped Chrissy and Cindy Snow together, we couldn’t resist pairing Cheers’ lovably dim bartenders into one spot here. After all, Woody (Woody Harrelson) was very much the reincarnation of the late Coach (Nicholas Colasanto), in terms of their being a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Coach Ernie Pantuso, who as a pro baseball player led the league in being hit by pitches twice (explains a lot), was full of lines that revealed that he just didn’t get it. In the bar, when asked, “Where is your bathroom?” he responds, “Uh, next to my bedroom.”
When Pantuso sadly died of a heart attack during the third season, they waited until the fourth season to add a new bartender in Woody Boyd. To illustrate their shared lack of brains, it’s revealed that Woody and Coach were pen pals – not in the usual sense, but as two people who sent pens to each other in the mail. And this quote is a pretty good illustration, too: “I'm really mad at her. She's just a rich... a rich... I'd like to call her a nasty name, but I can't think of anything that rhymes with 'rich!'”
4 ERIC MATTHEWS (BOY MEETS WORLD)
On the 90s sitcom Boy Meets World, Eric Matthews (Will Friedle) wasn’t always profoundly stupid, but he sure turned out that way. He started out as Cory’s cool older brother, but slowly deteriorated as his crazy schemes became crazier, until he was a full-on dumb guy by season 5. Nothing goes right for him. He refers to himself as Kyle for no apparent reason.
What other moronic things has he done? Focusing exclusively on his stupidity surrounding fire can nicely illustrate that. When Cory is deciding who to name his best man, Eric claims he should get the honor because he’s bigger and stronger and can lift Cory up “for the traditional 'For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow' dance,” which, of course, is not actually a thing. He proceeds to pick Cory up, knock him into some candles, setting some curtains on fire. In another episode, he absentmindedly throws a match and sets the house on fire. In another, he tries to suavely extinguish a candle with his fingers and calmly says, “Ow, dat hot.”
3 PETER GRIFFIN (FAMILY GUY)
Ten years after Homer Simpson set the standard for animated patriarchal stupidity on The Simpsons, along came Peter Griffin and Family Guy to try to out-dumb him. They are very similar characters: portly, beer-guzzling fathers who too often neglect their families in favor of their own insane pleasures and whacked-out ideas.
Let’s take a quick walk down moronic memory lane. Peter once swallowed loads of nickels to try to break a record and became blind in the process; he was declared “mentally retarded” after winning at the preschool edition of Trivial Pursuit, then used a See ’n Say instead of a calculator on an intelligence test; he blew his fingers off with fireworks; and perhaps in his most gruesome act of idiocy, he put his… male appendage… in a pencil sharpener.
2 CHARLIE KELLY (IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA)
There’s really not much going on in Charlie Kelly’s (played by Charlie Day) noggin. Not helpful towards any hope of sustaining brain cells: he’s often seen sniffing glue or paint on the long-running FX series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Like a child, he’s super excited by the smallest things.
Really, none of the main cast on this show is particularly smart. They think they are, but they are so not. Intelligent people would learn from their many, many mistakes. For Charlie’s part, he eats cat food because he thinks it helps him fall asleep. He can’t read or write – instead he uses childlike pictures, as in his dream book, which he labels “Dram Bok.” He mispronounces words, like “forknights” instead of “fortnights.” And he uses words incorrectly, like when he tries to emphasize a point by confidently saying, “I think I’ve made myself perfectly redundant.” And he thinks the twist in The Sixth Sense is that “the guy in the hairpiece was Bruce Willis the whole time.”
1 HOMER SIMPSON (THE SIMPSONS)
After ranking the 12 dumbest things Homer Simpson has ever done, how could we not give him top spot on this list? He’s so monumentally moronic that it would take all day to list every stupid thing he’s ever done. But let’s just rhyme of a few, shall we: he got his head stuck in a drawbridge, he’s narrowly avoided nuclear meltdowns at his power plant job countless times (thanks to dumb luck), nearly doomed a space shuttle mission and got both arms stuck in two vending machines.
However, Homer is beloved not just for his sheer stupidity, but for his enormous heart. Though he can be enormously selfish most of the time, and he even (comically?) strangles his son on occasion, ultimately, he loves his children and his wife dearly and would do anything to keep them safe – even stupendously stupid things like accidentally fall down a gigantic gorge.
Can you think of any other dumbos who should have made this list? Let us know in the comments!