Created By: Takwin on April 8, 2011 Last Edited By: GiorgioDaneri on April 17, 2015

Smart Jerk, Nice Moron

A pair consisting of a smart but mean person & a nice but dumb person.

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DAN 004 wuz ere takin over ur druft


A trope about a duo in which the smarter, more aggressive individual bullies his dumb but pleasant comrade.

They're usually in a commander-henchman type scenario, though this isn't mandatory, nor is the smart guy necessarily all that brilliant. The important part is that he knows he's the smarter of two and he mistreats the slower one. Their relationship holds because the less intelligent one is unaware that he's being treated unfairly and remains something of an Extreme Doormat, not always out of weakness, but ignorance.

Usually, the smart guy comes up with schemes (not necessarily evil, just very selfish) and ends up bumbling them, because the dumb guy tries too hard to help out, while the dumb guy doesn't really get that they're inconveniencing other people. Or, if he succeeds, the dumb guy tries to stop the smart guy and explains to him it's not nice to use people.

A relationship-based variety of Dumb Is Good, often overlaps with Vitriolic Best Buds. Will often involve lots of Boke and Tsukkomi Routine.

Subtrope (child trope) of Kindhearted Simpleton and Insufferable Genius. Compare Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good which is a correlation between intelligence and morality, as well as Straight Man and Wise Guy.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Goku and Vegeta display this while teaming up to defeat Majin Buu. Vegeta often gets outraged whenever Goku does or says something stupid while Goku just remains nice and friendly to his arch-rival.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura. Kinomoto is Book Dumb and incredibly naive, while Syaoran Li is a precocious Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy. While Sakura comes to depend on Syaoran for mentoring, Syaoran's Character Development comes from accepting Sakura's insurmountable kindness and insight as making her more worthy as Master of the Cards. By the time they have become an official couple, there are only vague shades of this, as Sakura has Took a Level in Badass, while Syaoran's softer Adorkable qualities have taken over most of his personality.

Comic Book
  • Suske en Wiske: Lambik is the smart jerk who is actually stupid, while Jerom is is nice and smarter than Lambik is. Still they fit the trope, because Jerom is a Contemporary Caveman and thus not always familiar with 20th and 21st century stuff, while Lambik is. That's why he can command Jerom and take lead in their zany schemes.

Film
  • Among Charles Muntz's battalion of servant dogs in Pixar's Up, Alpha the doberman is a Drill Sergeant Nasty that leads them. Alpha tends to heap abuse on dimwitted but determined Dug. This mistreatment is a huge catalyst in Dug's Heel–Face Turn in siding with Carl, Russell and Kevin.
  • In Toy Story, Rex often plays the Likable Moron to both Hamm and Mr. Potato Head's Smart Jerk on occasions, although this is played straighter with Mr. Potato Head. Rex can be something of a Cloudcuckoolander but is more of a Gentle Giant and Hamm is a Deadpan Snarker and Mr. Potato Head is quite a Jerkass.
  • Disney's The Emperor's New Groove has the wicked, scheming high priestess Yzma engineer a coup d'etat, assisted by her muscular but moronic henchman, Kronk. Yzma is described in-universe as "scary beyond all reason" and shows no sympathy to anybody, while Kronk is a Minion with an F in Evil, who even fills in as a line cook to keep a diner running.
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Steve Martin is the smart jerk, John Candy is the nice moron.
  • The Lion King: The frenetic and bellicose meerkat Timon is paired with genial but dim warthog Pumbaa. Timon leads the pair on the theory that smarter equals louder. Never better demonstrated than the scene where Simba introduces Nala to them.
    Pumbaa: Pleased to meet you.
    Nala: The pleasure's mine.
    Timon: Hold it, hold it! You know her. She knows you. And she wants to eat [Pumbaa]. And everybody's okay with this?

Other
  • [ZCE]Abbott and Costello
  • Laurel and Hardy (who are already mentioned) are the Trope Namer as well as the Trope Codifier in film. Every other variation in comedy pays lip service to them. Though it must be said that Hardy isn't that much brighter than Laurel. He just assumes he is.
  • The Marx Brothers: Chico usually is the smart leader, while the mute Man Child Harpo just tags along. Nevertheless Chico often scolds Harpo for being stupid and not understanding him.

Literature
  • Of Mice and Men
    • Played with. George appears to be more gruff, severe and stern than mentally handicapped Lennie (who Does Not Know His Own Strength) who is a cheery, childlike person. However he's doing this for Lennie's protection, since the later is incapable of realizing the damage he causes.
    • It also comes up in the Back Story when George tells a story about making Lennie do stupid stuff just for laughs, and how he learned An Aesop not to do that anymore.
  • Raistlin Majere often plays the smart jerk to his twin brother Caramon's nice moron in the Dragonlance novel series. Caramon's a good bit less moronic than many other examples though, it's just that his brother's genius is quite genuine.
  • Percy The Small Engine of The Railway Series and even more so its Animated Adaptation, Thomas the Tank Engine. While occasionally insightful, Percy is naive and childishly innocent, so often plays the Likeable Moron to several more experienced but arrogant engines such as James or Gordon (Thomas was also his most frequent Smart Jerk until having Took a Level in Kindness, and gaining enough Cloud Cuckoo Lander points to border him as a Likable Moron himself).

Live-Action TV
  • House had a character who was both: an Insufferable Genius who can't work with people slower than him, but takes pills to restrain his intelligence so he can tolerate them (he claims that intelligence wise, his girlfriend and a baboon are the same).

Western Animation
  • Eddy and Ed in Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy. Eddy calls him names, picks on him and bosses him around constantly, and Ed cheerfully obeys his commands.
  • 2D and Murdoc of Gorillaz, at least in Phases 1 & 2. Murdoc beat him up, stole his girlfriends, regularly insulted and humiliated him, yet 2D still referred to Murdoc as his 'best mate' and often either aided in his antics or looked the other way from the more... dubious behavior. He finally seems to have sharpened up in the Plastic Beach arc, openly resenting Murdoc and his growing insanity.
  • Pinky and the Brain follows Brain, a calculating and short fused Villain Protagonist and his dopey but incredibly loyal Minion with an F in Evil Pinky. Such is Pinky's kind devotion to Brain that he led to latter to suffer a tearful Jerkass Realization midway through one attempt at world domination.
  • Utilized soundly in The Ren & Stimpy Show. Ren is intelligent, but selfish, violent tempered and outright psychotic. Stimpy is dim witted, but kind natured and perpetually cheerful. In many episodes (particularly in later seasons), Stimpy borders as a slave for Ren, and is verbally and physically abused on a regular basis. He rarely takes any of it to heart and thoroughly enjoys doting over Ren.
  • [ZCE, "X is like this" is not context]The relationship between Vlad and Jack in Danny Phantom often plays out like this, though the friendship in reality only goes one way.
  • Spongebob Squarepants. Squidward considers himself an "artistic genius" and has disdain for his stupid but well-meaning neighbors Spongebob and Patrick.
  • Cartman and Butters in South Park. Cartman is a calculating sociopath who regularly drags Butters into his schemes, or just casually bullies him for fun, but Butters is cheery, innocent and usually friendly to Cartman (notably being one of very few to call him by his first name).
  • Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie are a low key example in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Twilight Sparkle started off a fairly acerbic and antisocial magic student to Princess Celestia, and a frequent Straight Man to Pinkie Pie, a tall order Cloud Cuckoo Lander who vigorously makes friends with practically everyone in Ponyville. Downplayed as Twilight gradually becomes more sweet natured (if still occasionally pompous and inconsiderate). Also, Pinky Pie is more of a Cloudcuckoolander rather that a moron, as shows several elements of Simple-Minded Wisdom and Hidden Depths.
  • Tex Avery's George and Junior. George is the the Schemer while Junior is the dimwitted Fat Idiot.
  • Darkwing Duck: Though Darkwing is the primary protagonist of Saint Canard, he's also a Large Ham, tempermental, and snarky enough to meet Anti-Hero specs. Turbo has much less brains than Darkwing, but makes up for that with a more affable and generous demeanor.
  • CatDog: Played straight most of the time because of course Cats Are Mean and Dogs Are Dumb. The fact that they share the same body makes things particularly zany, however.
  • Downplayed with Beavis and Butt-Head: While they both act like brainless troublemakers, Butt-Head is the more aware and unrepentantly self-centered of the two. With Beavis, it's shown that he acts much nicer without Butt-Head's influence.

Community Feedback Replies: 49
  • April 8, 2011
    TonyG
  • April 9, 2011
    Arivne
  • April 9, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    The Johnny Test example may not hold. Johnny's clever in his own right, and mainly lets the twins use him as a guinea pig because he gets powers and fun adventures out of the deal.
  • April 10, 2011
    Takwin
    Good point Paradisca.
  • April 10, 2011
    Ghilz
    Played with in Of Mice And Men: George appear as more gruff, severe and stern than mentally handicapped Lennie (who Does Not Know His Own Strength) who is cheerly, childlike person. However he's doing this for Lennie's protection, since the later is incapable of realizing the damage he causes. The book eventually ends with the tragic consequences of what happens when George is not around to keep an eye on Lennie...
  • April 10, 2011
    randomsurfer
    It also comes up in the Back Story of Of Mice and Men when George tells a story about making Lennie do stupid stuff just for laughs, and how he learned An Aesop not to do that anymore.
  • April 10, 2011
    LeeM
    Arguably any of the paired characters played by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, although "likeable" is highly debatable in their case.
  • April 11, 2011
    Jmacq1
    Raistlin Majere often plays the smart jerk to his twin brother Caramon's likeable moron in the Dragonlance series. Caramon's a good bit less moronic than many other examples though, it's just that his brother's genius is quite genuine.
  • April 11, 2011
    Dec
    • The relationship between Vlad and Jack in Danny Phantom often plays out like this, though the friendship in reality only goes one way.
  • April 17, 2011
    Takwin
    I'm not sure your example works, Lee M, because neither of them seems particularly likable or victimized.
  • April 17, 2011
    dalek955
    Compare this ykttw.
  • April 19, 2011
    Takwin
    They're very similar, but this one's about subordinates and commanders. They're close enough to possibly warrant a fusion, but I'm not sure.
  • April 19, 2011
    jaytee
    There are quite a few of these that fit better under Straight Man And Wise Guy or Fat And Skinny.

    Fat And Skinny in particular, since despite the name, that trope references the fact that Skinny will usually be the smarter, straight man and Fat will be a little more dull and likely to go along with the plots Skinny comes up with.

    There's a subtle difference, to be sure, but I'm not sure it can't be reconciled with a few edits to Fat And Skinny rather than adding a whole new trope.
  • April 20, 2013
    Noah1
  • April 20, 2013
    BlueGuy
    Isn't this just Dumb Is Good?
  • April 20, 2013
    lexicon
    It sounds like a specific version of Dumb Is Good. Any examples with just two names isn't enough. It needs to say how they apply. The only requirement I see in Fat And Skinny is the size and shape of the two characters. This is about character descriptions.
  • December 26, 2013
    313Bluestreak
    • In Dragonball Z, Goku and Vegeta display this while teaming up to defeat Majin Buu. Vegeta often gets outraged whenever Goku does or says something stupid while Goku just remains nice and friendly to his arch-rival.
  • December 26, 2013
    Psi001
    Anime:

    • Cardcaptor Sakura Kinomoto is Book Dumb and incredibly naive, while Syaoran Li is a precocious Arrogant Kung Fu Guy. While Sakura comes to depend on Syaoran for mentoring, Syaoran's Character Development comes from accepting Sakura's insurmountable kindness and insight as making her more worthy as Master of the Cards. By the time they have become an official couple, there are only vague shades of this, as Sakura has Took A Level In Badass, while Syaoran's softer Adorkable qualities have taken over most of his personality.

    Western Animation:

    • Cartman and Butters in South Park. Cartman is a calculating sociopath who regularly drags Butters into his schemes, or just casually bullies him for fun, but Butters is cheery, innocent and usually recessive to Cartman (notably being one of very few to call him by his first name).
    • Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie are a low key example in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Twilight Sparkle started off a fairly acerbic and anti social magic student to Princess Celestia, and a frequent Straight Man to Pinkie Pie, a tall order Cloud Cuckoo Lander who vigorously makes friends with practically everyone in Ponyville. Downplayed as Twilight gradually becomes more sweet natured (if still occasionally pompous and inconsiderate).
    • Spongebob Squarepants is the cheery (and annoyingly clingy) Cloud Cuckoo Lander neighbor to local Grumpy Bear and Only Sane Man, Squidward Tentacles.

    Literature:

    To fix a Zero Context Example:

    • Utilized soundly in The Ren And Stimpy Show. Ren is intelligent, but selfish, violent tempered and outright psychotic. Stimpy is dim witted, but kind natured and perpetually cheerful. In many episodes (particularly in later seasons), Stimpy borders as a slave for Ren, and is verbally and physically abused on a regular basis. He rarely takes any of it to heart and thoroughly enjoys doting over Ren.
    • Pinky And The Brain follows Brain, a calculating and short fused Villain Protagonist and his dopey but incredibly loyal Minion With An F In Evil Pinky. Such is Pinky's kind devotion to Brain that he led to latter to suffer a tearful Jerkass Realization midway through one attempt at world domination.
  • January 6, 2014
    313Bluestreak
    • In Toy Story, Rex often plays the Likable Moron to both Hamm and Mr. Potato Head's Smart Jerk on occasions, although this is played straighter with Mr. Potato Head. Rex can be something of a Cloudcuckoolander but is more of a Gentle Giant and Hamm is a Deadpan Snarker and Mr. Potato Head is quite a Jerkass.
  • January 6, 2014
    iansimsjam
    Tex Avery's George and Junior. George is the the Schemer while Junior is the dimwitted Fat Idiot.
  • January 6, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    pfft. title promotes Zero Context Example.

    how about Our Smart Jerks And Likeable Morons Are Different?

    seriously though, I'm starting to hate X Type Y Type Duo Tropes format due to how it promotes poor examples. can't we have a better title that encourages context like Our Tropes Are Different?
  • January 7, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ X Type Y Type shows variations and/or relationships between the two. Just like the ones listed in Good And Evil For Your Convenience (Good X Evil X).
  • February 14, 2014
    313Bluestreak
    Another Ed, Edd, n' Eddy example:

  • February 14, 2014
    Snicka
    For a similar concept between enemies rather than comrades, see Brains Evil Brawn Good.
  • February 14, 2014
    TheHandle
    • Cain And Abel in The Sandman share this relationship. Abel will do something to annoy Cain, who'll murder him, for the time being (he always gets better).
  • February 14, 2014
    DAN004
  • February 18, 2014
    BrokenEye
    I'm certain this already exists, although I can't remember where
  • February 19, 2014
    Chabal2
    A Patient Of The Week on House is a certified genius, but he takes pills that basically dumb him down to a normal level because it's the only way he can stand them (when he's off the pills at the hospital, he compares having sex with his girlfriend to banging a baboon), and is much less of an Insufferable Genius.
  • February 19, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    and the freaking ZCE are still there. marking...
  • February 19, 2014
    Duncan
    • Some Discworld examples: Though they're both technically bad people, being hired thugs, Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip from The Truth, and Medium Dave and Banjo Lilywhite from Hogfather. Terry Pratchett has said they are parodies of the usual Those Two Guys crime teams.
    • Vizzini and Fezzik from The Princess Bride, with Inigo as a mediator.
  • February 19, 2014
    mbthvsk
    Meryl and Millie, the "insurance girls" of Trigun, though Meryl isn't mean so much as unsociable. Since most of the people she interacts with are either criminals or the kind of people who draw the ire of criminals, it's understandable.

    • Millie's not dumb and not always friendly, but she's a lot sweeter and friendlier around strangers than her "sempai" Meryl, and she's kind of unfocused and silly. Also, Meryl treats her like a highly trusted subordinate, and doesn't trick her into doing anything she wouldn't wanna do.
  • November 8, 2014
    313Bluestreak
  • November 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Who wanna grab this before I do?
  • November 8, 2014
    Chabal2
    House had acharacter who was both: an Insufferable Genius who can't work with people slower than him, but takes pills to restrain his intelligence so he can tolerate them (he claims that intelligence wise, his girlfriend and a baboon are the same).
  • November 24, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • Disney's The Emperors New Groove has the wicked, scheming high priestess Yzma engineer a coup d'etat, assisted by her muscular but moronic henchman, Kronk. Yzma is described in-universe as "scary beyond all reason" and shows no sympathy to anybody, while Kronk is a Minion With An F In Evil, who even fills in as a line cook to keep a diner running.
  • November 24, 2014
    Bisected8
    • In the first series of Blackadder, Edmund Blackadder and Baldrick were an inversion; Blackadder was an Aristocrats Are Evil Upper Class Twit, while Baldrick was (relatively) more intelligent. Subsequent seasons (which each featured a later descendant) steadily raised the intelligence of their Blackadder (while lowering his standing), while keeping their Baldrick's down, fitting this trope from the second season onwards.
  • November 24, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Film Animated
    • Cruella DeVil's henchmen from Disney's One Hundred One Dalmatians are Horace and Jasper. Jasper is the tall, lanky one, who takes the lead and seems to enjoy being a criminal. Horace is the short, hefty one that follows Jasper because he can't think of anything better to do.
  • December 15, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump
  • December 16, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Permit me to suggest a rewrite of the Up example:

    • Among Charles Muntz's battalion of servant dogs in Pixar's Up'', Alpha the doberman is a Drill Sergeant Nasty that leads them. Alpha tends to heap abuse on dimwitted but determined Dug. This mistreatment is a huge catalyst in Dug's Heel Face Turn in siding with Carl, Russell and Kevin.
  • December 17, 2014
    Arivne
  • December 18, 2014
    Patachou
    Notes:

    • Laurel And Hardy (who are already mentioned) are the Trope Namer as well as the Trope Codifier in film. Every other variation in comedy pays lip service to them. Though it must be said that Hardy isn't that much brighter than Laurel. He just assumes he is.

    • Planes Trains And Automobiles: Steve Martin is the smart jerk, John Candy is the nice moron.

    • Suske En Wiske: Lambik is the smart jerk who is actually stupid, while Jerom is is nice and smarter than Lambik is. Still they fit the trope, because Jerom is a Contemporary Caveman and thus not always familiar with 20th and 21st century stuff, while Lambik is. That's why he can command Jerom and take lead in their zany schemes.

    • Darkwing Duck: Darkwing is the smart jerk, Turbo is the nice moron.

    • The Lion King: Timon and Pumbaa.

    • The Princess And The Frog: Naveen the frog and Louie the alligator.

    • The Great Mouse Detective: Basil and Dawson, though Dawson isn't particularly stupid, just naive and gullible.

    • The Marx Brothers: Chico usually is the smart leader, while the mute Man Child Harpo just tags along. Nevertheless Chico often scolds Harpo for being stupid and not understanding him.
  • January 1, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ More context for Darkwing Duck, Lion King and Princess And The Frog plz?
  • January 1, 2015
    DAN004
    Indices maybe?
  • January 2, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    More context? Here goes:

    • The Lion King: The frenetic and bellicose meerkat Timon is paired with genial but dim warthog Pumbaa. Timon leads the pair on the theory that smarter equals louder. Never better demonstrated than the scene where Simba introduces Nala to them.
      Pumbaa: Pleased to meet you.
      Nala: The pleasure's mine.
      Timon: Hold it, hold it! You know her. She knows you. And she wants to eat [Pumbaa]. And everybody's okay with this?

    • Darkwing Duck: Though Darkwing is the primary protagonist of Saint Canard, he's also a Large Ham, tempermental, and snarky enough to meet Anti Hero specs. Turbo has much less brains than Darkwing, but makes up for that with a more affable and generous demeanor.

    As far as indexing, I'd presume that this trope would qualify for the same ones that Red Oni Blue Oni entails, since these two mechanisms function in close parallel.
  • January 18, 2015
    mbthvsk
    I can't believe we don't have this. I always saw this as a trope.

    Usually, the smart guy comes up with schemes (not evil, just very selfish) and ends up bumbling them, because the dumb guy tries too hard to help out, while the dumb guy doesn't really get that they're inconveniencing other people. Or, if he succeeds, the dumb guy tries to stop the smart guy and explains to him it's not nice to use people.

    The "smart guy" is usually stupid in his own respect for getting caught up in his schemes, while the "dumb guy" is actually intelligent when it comes to reversing the effects of whatever the scheme did.

    Like in Kenan And Kel. Kenan is the smart jerk, Kel is the dumb nice guy, best of friends, always caught up in mayhem.

    Another example is Cat Dog, where this trope is played straight almost always, because of course Cats Are Mean and Dogs Are Dumb. The fact that they share the same body makes things particularly zany, however.
  • February 28, 2015
    DAN004
    What should I do to get my final hat?
  • February 28, 2015
    313Bluestreak
    ^Nothing. I gave you one. ^_^
  • February 28, 2015
    Noah1
    Downplayed with Beavis And Butt Head: While they both act like brainless troublemakers, Butt-Head is the more aware and unrepentantly self-centered of the two. With Beavis, it's shown that he acts much nicer without Butt-Head's influence.
  • April 17, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump plz.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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