Dave Nelson (Dave Foley)The news director at WNYX. A Naïve Newcomer in the pilot episode, he quickly realizes the kind of place he's dealing with.
- Benevolent Boss: Most of the time. He's somewhat embittered by the end of his tenure.
- Book Dumb: He's intelligent and has a good vocabulary - enough for his "big words" to sometimes annoy the other characters - but almost all of his cultural references come from movies and TV. In conversation with Lisa he reveals that the last book he read was Goober in a Nutshell, the autobiography of The Andy Griffith Shows George Lindsey.
- Canada, Eh?: In "The Trainer," the other characters find out he was born in Canada and react accordingly. This is an Actor Allusion. (In one outtake, Dave Foley really does tack an accidental "eh" onto the end of a line.)
- The Cassandra: Dave is a terrific news director. He's tough, has foresight, good instincts and a lot of common sense, and is a BS detector. Despite this, nobody at the office ever believes his warnings and his authority is roundly dismissed, as much of the staff see him as just a killjoy.
- Character Development: While the other characters were pretty much Flanderized in typical sitcom style, Dave had more of an arc: first he was alarmed by the craziness of his coworkers, then he got used to them and learned to manage them, and in the final season he simply got sick of it all until he didn't want to make the move to New Hampshire in the series finale.
- Closet Geek: Stargate Defender. Also, when Matthew buys him a sword, he waits until he's alone in the office and then pretends to be Obi-Wan Kenobi.
- Hidden Depths: His continually growing list of secret talents was a mild Running Gag (though mostly contained in the episode "Stupid Holiday Charity Talent Show"). He speaks Spanish, can tapdance, was involved in 4H, starred in Grease in high school, sang in an a cappella group in college, and can throw knives and his voice.
- Minnesota Nice: Wisconsin. Despite the revelation of his technical Canadianness, there were many more Wisconsin jokes from the other characters over the course of the show.
- Must Have Caffeine: When trying to get Bill to quit smoking, Dave gives up coffee at the same time to prove the point. They both fail.
- Not So Above It All: He does become unhinged occasionally, notably in "Security Door."
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Bill, according to the letter in "Bill Moves On"
Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman)The star anchor and a constant thorn in Dave's side.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's apparently fairly famous and his segment is the most professional-sounding bit of the show we usually hear.
- Catch-Phrase: The toast "salud!" (which makes another appearance after he dies) and "Good times…" (always said after telling a story that sounds like the opposite of that).
- Embarrassing First Name: Evelyn William McNeal.Bill: It's pronounced "Eeee-ve-lyn."
- The Gadfly: His main method of annoying Dave. More than once he adopts a new habit just for attention. This was also a big part of his rivalry with Catherine.Dave: Why the cane?
Dave: The cane. The walking stick.
Bill: Oh, you mean my cane!
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: As revealed through the many anecdotes he mistakenly believes are heartwarming, or at least normal.
- Jerkass: Especially toward Matthew.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Misattributing quotations (thinking Keats said everything) and exhibiting Global Ignorance, Historical Character Confusion, and Delusions of Eloquence, always in the most condescending tones possible."We could all be burned alive, like those people on the Titanic!"
- Large Ham: No one could yell like Phil Hartman.
- Pet the Dog: Very occasional and often leading to a punchline, but still, they're there.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Dave, according to his final letter in "Bill Moves On"
- Waistcoat of Style: He usually wears a three-piece suit, which makes him look very professorial. He isn't.
Lisa Miller (Maura Tierney)A reporter who believed she was headed for Dave's job until he came along. Also his on-again-off-again love interest.
- The B Grade: She has this attitude toward actual grades and toward life in general.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Played for Laughs; she has an extensive criminal record, but it's all connected to her overachieving. She had to steal that car to get to the SATs on time.
- Good with Numbers: A trait that gets brought up repeatedly. When the characters need to win Bill back because Jimmy Lost Him in a Card Game, they choose to teach Lisa the rules of poker rather than send someone who already knows how it works.
- The Lancer: To Dave.
- Only Sane Employee: She belongs to the cast of wacky characters Dave has to manage, but only through being a neurotic perfectionist and hardworking to a fault, which makes her about a mile saner than the next sanest employee.
- Sleeping with the Boss: Has an on-going relationship with Dave.
- WorkaholicLisa: There's more to life than work!
Dave: No there isn't, and I wish you'd stop pretending you're any different about that than me!
Jimmy James (Stephen Root)The Eccentric Millionaire who owns WNYX and sure seems to devote a lot of his time to it. He enjoys playing God with the station and is often responsible for whatever Zany Scheme or Secret Test drives the episode, but also clearly cares for the people who work there.
- Affably Evil: Has shades of this. He swings wildly between this, Big Fun, and on the rare ocassion Faux Affably Evil, usually depending on the writer.
- Benevolent Boss: He tries, anyway. On one occasion, after realizing he got everyone really crappy Christmas presents, he tries it again a bit more personally, but apparently runs out of steam after giving Matthew some tapes of Fibber McGee and Molly and just buys everyone else brand-new Mazda Miatas; in a Double Subversion, it turns out that in addition to the tapes, Matthew got the rights to the show. He also sometimes appears to actively seek his good-boss reputation, by making Dave make the unpopular decisions for the company.
- In Jimmy's defense of the caps, he genuinely thought they were cool (and even had one made for himself) until he tore the patch off and saw that it said "Jimmy James, Incorporated"- and agreed that would suck if he wasn't Jimmy James.
- Big Fun: Usually. However, there are episodes where he can display a mean streak that would lead one to question if he was this or really just Faux Affably Evil.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He might be literally insane, but you can't fault his business instincts.
- Catch-Phrase: GOOD!
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The shady nature of his business dealings and political connections is a Running Gag. If he had turned out to be D.B. Cooper, would anyone have been surprised?
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Jimmy James is not only deceptively intelligent but deceptively spry. When an ex-employee denounces him on-air, James dives across Dave's desk to hit the kill-switch button (done off-screen).Lisa: (stunned) I have never seen you move that fast before.
Jimmy: I save energy for times like this.
- Large Ham: In close competition with bill for the largest ham on the show.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Johnny Johnson certainly underestimates him.
- Repetitive Name: James James
- Talks Like a Simile: With varying success.Dave: Lisa has decided that she wants to have a baby, but that she doesn't want to get married. Now I know that if you were awake you'd probably say something like, "Well, son, why milk the cow when you've got a fridge full of steaks?" And I would probably say, "That makes absolutely no sense, sir," and then you would say, "Well, it sure sounded like it made sense when that guy Chuck Connors said it in that movie Chinatown," and then I would be forced to say, "Sir, Chuck Connors wasn't in the movie Chinatown..."
- Team Dad: Or Team Cool Uncle.
Beth (Vicki Lewis)Dave's assistant.
- Bare Your Midriff: Many of her outfits are this.
- Ms. Fanservice: Particularly of the Bare Your Midriff variety.
- No Name Given: We never got a last name for her. In "Freaky Friday," she says she doesn't have one.
- Oral Fixation: Beth's perpetual gum-chewing was a Running Gag.Dave: Guess how many pieces of gum Beth chewed last year.
Lisa: Seven hundred and fifty.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Unlike with Matthew, it remains clear what Beth's job was, but she can be spectacularly lazy about it. In the episode where Dave has everyone define their job, all she comes up with is that she makes coffee in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. When he tells her to call a staff meeting in five minutes, she tells him to add "call a staff meeting in five minutes" to the list, then flounces out yelling, "Staff meeting in twenty minutes!"
- Plucky Office Girl: In one DVD Commentary, the writers say they had to stop putting in references to how little money Beth made because instead of laughing, the studio audience would feel sorry for her.
- Rummage Sale Reject: "Dresses like a barmaid from Blade Runner," as Dave puts it.
- Sassy Secretary
Matthew Brock (Andy Dick)A reporter.
- Catch-Phrase: "What up?"
- Cloud Cuckoolander: More than anyone else in the office, which is saying a lot. By the end of the series he believes in magical creatures such as unicorns.
- The Klutz: Say what you will about Andy Dick, but the guy can fall down.
- The Load: There was a whole arc where the other staffers tried to keep his job for him, then get it back when he lost it, even though they could make pretty much no case that he really deserved it (and even though he was revealed to be a qualified dentist in the meantime). When Jimmy did agree to take him back, it was with the reasoning that "the damage he does is pretty minimal most of the time" and with several caveats about the others cleaning up after him.
- Love Martyr: At some point he becomes obsessed with Bill and believes he's the greatest man in the world, while Bill continues to look at him as a source of sick amusement, if at all.
- Nerds Are Virgins: Subverted in that losing his virginity doesn't make him even slightly less nerdy.
- Plucky Office Girl: A male example.
- What, Exactly, Is His Job?: He's a reporter, but after the first season or so you'd never know it. He himself doesn't know at one point when asked.
Joe Garelli (Joe Rogan)The station's electrician.
- Almighty Janitor: Joe is a world-class engineer, which is played entirely for laughs. He makes all of his own equipment (even duct tape) and can read binary code.Catherine: Where did you find a camera small enough to fit in an action figure?
Joe: I made it.
Catherine: I mean, where'd you get the parts?
Joe: I made 'em!
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's a brilliant Mr. Fixit, otherwise a bit of a meathead.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Not unlike Joe Rogan.
- Embarrassing Last Name: It's not clear why he wouldn't like his surname, but he uses it so infrequently that "Your name is Garelli?" is a Running Gag.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: Like an older brother, he both bullies Matthew and protects him.
- Phrase Catcher: "Your last name is Garelli?"
- Unmanly Secret: Joe is very concerned about maintaining his tough guy persona, and therefore does his best to hide his more caring side. When Jimmy James falls into a coma, Joe spends his turn to watch over him pouring his heart out to him, eventually holding his hand and later hugging him; when his co-workers walk in on him doing this, he immediately pretends to be explaining wrestling moves to the (still unconscious) Jimmy.
Catherine Duke (Khandi Alexander)Co-anchor with Bill until she leaves for a London radio station in season four.
- Deadpan SnarkerBill: You like my cane, don't you, Catherine?
Catherine: It's a cane, Bill. Who cares?
- Ms. Fanservice: Not to the same extent as Beth, but she did wear some ridiculously low-cut tops and typically showed a lot of leg.
- Put on a Bus: "Catherine Moves On." The Bus Came Back for the first episode of season five, to deal with Phil Hartman's death.
- Spell My Name with an "S": She takes offense when a magazine review spells it Katherine, as she considers Catherine regal and Katherine trashy (Dave: "Yeah, like that cheap slut Katharine Hepburn").
- Token Minority: In "Daydream," her fantasy is that there are other black people at the station.
- Working with the Ex: She and Bill used to date.
Max Louis (Jon Lovitz)The new anchor who replaces Bill in season five.
- I Have Many Names: After he's hired, Beth finds out that he worked at all his previous radio jobs under various aliases. When confronted about this, he appears to think it's normal to adopt a different persona with each new job.
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: To Fred and Mike Johnson, both one-off characters that appeared before Max. Max's habit of adopting new identities every time he changes jobs suggest that these characters may all be one and the same, making Max more of a Recurring / Ascended Extra instead.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Like Bill, he has an inflated opinion of himself and alienates everyone in the office, but the emphasis is more on his neurosis and lack of social skills whereas Bill was usually able to maintain his maddening superiority until he inappropriately snapped.
Johnny Johnson (Patrick Warburton)A business rival of Jimmy's who takes over the station while Jimmy is briefly in jail in season five.
- Affably Evil: Even after learning that he is evil and Mr. James' rival, everyone but Dave is still fond of him. Lisa even marries him.
- The Alcoholic: After being defeated, he becomes a subway-dwelling wino (their king, at that).
- Evil Sounds Deep: As befits a character played by Patrick Warburton.
- Noble Demon: When he takes over Jimmy's company (including WNYX), as a small mercy he offers to give him back a single employee from the station. Jimmy surprises everyone by picking Johnny himself (which he could do, since Johnny explicitly made himself head of the station). Instead of vetoing the obvious Loophole Abuse, Johnny congratulates Jimmy on his quick thinking and gives back his company (much to the surprise of everyone else).