: Woodhouse, what're you doing? Woodhouse
: Uh, sitting down sir. Archer
: What, at the table? Like people?! Mallory
: Sterling! Archer
: What? He thinks he's people!
For every bumbling investigator
, overly idealistic hero
, delusional superior
, or short-sighted "mastermind
," there's an assistant, that one guy who has to do all (or most) of the work, deal with the consequences of his boss' antics, and generally play clean up. As a result of having to deal with his boss' foolishness, this character is continually exasperated, and would probably rather be anywhere
else. On the bright side they singlehandedly keep their side relevant.
Expect this kind of character to be a Servile Snarker
and/or a master of the Face Palm
. Related to the Sassy Secretary
. Not the same as a Hypercompetent Sidekick
, who, despite the fact that they work their butt off for little pay and no credit, is generally fine with the way things are. The Beleaguered Assistant is not, and would probably have called it quits a long time ago, but stays around either out of a sense of duty, having been assigned to his post by the military or another authority, or because they owe their boss, or someone else, a fairly big favor, or simply out of fear for the repercussions (being labeled a deserter or being jobless).
Some Beleaguered Assistants treat their boss with contempt and rudeness, yet the boss simply ignores them because they are either too stupid to notice or don't care. Alternately, they act as if they are delighted to help, and hate themselves for it.
Note that the more incompetent the boss is
, the more likely this type of character will show up, though less incompetent (and more hyperactive) characters can have these as well.
Often the Only Sane Man
and The Reliable One
. Only Sane Employee
is when this character has far more to deal with than just his incompetent boss. A good character to use when determining whether other characters are Nice to the Waiter
. See also Conservation of Competence
and Success Symbiosis
. Contrast Professional Butt-Kisser
. If they are male and their employer is female they may be half of Mistress and Servant Boy
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Akagami no Shirayukihime, Sakaki is this to his hopelessly idiotic, useless master Raji.
- In Code Geass, Cecile Croomy is this to Lloyd Asplund. Often turned up to memetic levels in the Fanon.
- Reever Wenham in D.Gray-Man is this to his Mad Scientist boss Komui Lee. When Komui is left to his own devices, he tends to lose important paperwork and wander off to build Schizo Tech robots.
- Lucky Star: Minoru Shiraishi is Akira's Beleaguered Assistant on Lucky Channel. He eventually snaps under her abuse and Trashes the Set.
- Rumiya to his sister Ramia in Magical Project S.
- Elise of Nodame Cantabile has to rein in her Loveable Sex Maniac boss Stresemann, even flying around the world to drag him back to Germany for work.
- Kyon from Suzumiya Haruhi. One of the few cases where the Beleaguered Assistant is the main character.
- Itsuki may count as well, despite his apparent eagerness and his asskissing (as Kyon sees it) on the inside he finds her actions to be quite exhausting.
- Ijyuuin from Team Medical Dragon is this minus the snark.
- Tomoe from Kamisama Kiss is this to the energetic, prone to act without thinking heroine, Nanami.
- Tono To Issho could be called Beleaguered Assistants: The Anime, since 95% of all the retainers count. In particular, Kagetsuna and Shigezane have become so used to Masamune's bizarre behaviour they rarely even try to prevent it any more.
- Dilbert to the Pointy-Haired Boss, at least in early strips. Dilbert's learned to game the system to a degree, so Asok took over that role for a while until he became Wally's apprentice. Alice, who stubbornly refuses to put her sanity before her work ethic is the one who fits this best currently.
- In Peanuts, Woodstock is occasionally one of these to Snoopy.
- Henchmen in Nodwick have this as their stock in life: They're stuck hauling implausibly large amounts of loot and being used as monster bait for various adventurers, but are contractually obliged to stick to their employers to the degree that they're not allowed to pass on to the afterlife as long as there's any chance of them being brought back to life.
- Nodwick himself skirts between this trope and Hypercompetent Sidekick because he does care for his employers — at least somewhat.
- Major Domo from the various x-books, beleaguered by his psycho-megalomaniac boss Mojo and his junior, Minor Domo.
- Pepper Potts for Tony Stark at times. It's apparently bad enough that Pepper's fiance hated Tony for "ruining" Pepper's life, and this hatred made him a worthy candidate for a Mandarin ring.
- They Just Don't Care Anymore: Jazz for the Autobots, Cyclonus for the Decepticons.
- One strange d20 crossover game included the Goa'uld Hermes, whose First Prime Autolycus was a Beleaguered Assistant charged with ensuring that his boss' insane antics didn't get either of them killed.
Films — Animated
- Sir Hiss in Disney's Robin Hood.
- Igor (2008) is about an Igor who hopes to rise about his station as Beleaguered Assistant and become a Mad Scientist himself. Has his own beleaguered assistants in the form of dim-witted Brain and Deadpan Snarker Scamper.
- Lawrence to Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog, so much so that he ends up scheming with Dr. Facilier to get rid of him.
Films — Live-Action
- Number 2 from Austin Powers. To wit, in the intervening years between when Dr. Evil was frozen and thawed, Number 2 had managed to turn his company into a legitimate business easily worth many times more than what Dr. Evil could manage.
- To a lesser extent, Semmi in Coming to America. He likes Prince Akeem, but wishes he wasn't his servant.
- Andy Sachs to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.
- Hercule Lajoy is one of these to Clouseau in the second Pink Panther film, A Shot in the Dark.
- The Secretary Bird in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
- Planchet, as portrayed by Roy Kinnear, in The Three Musketeers and its two sequels. Became a bit Harsher in Hindsight when he died after being thrown from a horse during the filming of the third one.
- Pepper Potts from Iron Man. While she does end up running Stark Industries as the CEO by the end of Iron Man 2, there was no indication it was ever going to happen; Tony just dumped the job on her. The only reason she stuck around for all those years is because she was in love with Tony.
- In A Face in the Crowd, Marcia Jeffries is, in Mel Miller's words, "the little wheel of efficiency without which the great streamline express called Lonesome Rhodes plunges off the track and leaps to destruction." She tries to prevent him from firing people on a whim, and helps ensure that he doesn't embarrass himself by venting his most egotistical opinions on the air... until she has had enough and allows him to do just that.
- Sancho Panza to Don Quixote.
- Ponder Stibbons among the faculty of Unseen University in the Discworld. Described as "the one person in the organisation who knows what's going on and why it's happening and who's doing it, although he often wishes he didn't"
- This gets to the point where he's accumulated enough of the jobs no one feels like doing that he has a majority vote.
- Abner Dowling, General Custer's adjutant in the first few novels of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series. His relationship with Custer is almost identical to that of Kif and Zapp, to the point where he's frequently having to explain to an oblivious Custer that sending wave after wave of your own men charging across an open field at machine gun nests is probably not a good idea. Also, like Zapp, Custer's career survives by being politically savvy, plus one enormously lucky victory that finally breaks the stalemate and wins the Great War.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- Ivan often finds himself cast in this role to Miles, though Miles is by no means incompetent:
Gregor: As you know, an Imperial Auditor may request anything he pleases. The first thing he requested was an assistant. Congratulations.
Ivan: He wanted a donkey to carry his luggage, and the first ass he thought of was me.
- Even worse, After Gregor gets engaged, Ivan gets seconded to act as his mother's assistant in the wedding planning.
- Fisk to Michael, in the first book of the Knight and Rogue Series, where they put more emphasis on their 'knight and squire' relation. Fisk eventually develops into more of a perpetually exasperated friend
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Clem to Harmony.
- Beaker to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew on The Muppet Show.
- Ryan sometimes played this role to Michael in the early seasons of The Office. He would eventually become Michael's boss.
- Ryan? Who never made a sale? He might've had more knowledge of the business world than Michael, but he certainly never did Michael's job (or much of anything else that we could see).
- And because Characterization Marches On, he's now a Dandy Jerk Ass with an inflated ego.
- Baldrick in Blackadder is a perfect example of this trope, especially in the first series when he was the Straight Man and Hyper Competent Sidekick to Blackadder's Pointy-Haired Boss. (No, really.)
- Also Captain Darling to General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth.
- The title character in Merlin embodies this trope. He runs around doing Arthur's chores, including extremely demeaning ones, while Arthur insults him and throws things at him. When Arthur wants to shirk his royal duties, it's Merlin's job to cover for him— which has more than once landed him in the stocks. And of course he spends most of the series repeatedly saving Arthur's life. Using his very illegal magic that he could be killed for having. Possibly on the orders of Arthur himself. And he gets no credit for any of this. It Makes Sense in Context why Merlin puts up with all this. Mostly.
- Leo from Fairly Legal. Not that Kate is incompetent, she just does not stick to schedules very well (she is always late, or haring off to do some other task), leaving him to juggle the various conflicts till some resolution can be reached.
- The Taiwanese Series Fated To Love You. Xi Yi never says no, so ends up handling all the menial tasks in her office, plus fetching coffee and lunch, and working into the late night hours doing the work of her other coworkers.
- Lee Yeon Jae from the Korean Series Scent of a Woman pretty much is dumped on by the entire staff of the travel agency she works at, as well as being sexually harassed by her boss.
- Teo, the assistant of Johnny Tolengo. It's hard being the assistant of such a greedy rich man
Tolengo: Teo, the cofee you served is cold
Teo: Wait a moment sir, I will warm it right away!
Tolengo: No, forget it, I will drink it as it is
Teo: But sir, it is not a problem for me to warm it
Tolengo: It is not a problem for you, but I don't get the gas for free.
- Several Touhou Ninja Maid or Battle Butler characters are like this. Youmu has to put up with the relentless teasing of Yuyuko whenever she isn't keeping her Big Eater boss fed. Reisen's boss is an absolute sadist. Perhaps worst of all is Sakuya Izayoi, who has to constantly use her superpower to keep the mansion in its Bigger on the Inside status, plus use time stopping to clean it because all the other help is completely useless, plus gratify her selfish Ojou's every whim, plus keep Enfant Terrible Flandre from using her One-Hit Kill superpower to destroy the world, plus defend the mansion from the Kleptomaniac Hero Marisa (and others), plus turn humans into the tea and cakes her vampire mistress drinks and eats.
- Kamek serves this role to the impulsive, immature Baby Bowser in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time.
- Tachibana Muneshige to Otomo Sorin in Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes, having to constantly suffer through his lord's jerkass tendencies and fascination with Xavism.
- Nele Baeker of Infinite Space is the long-suffering aide to Bunny-Ears Lawyer Lord Roth, who needs constant prodding to wake up, show up at briefings, and conduct business instead of hanging out with his hordes of adoring fangirls.
- The series Blockhead has the Conscience serving this role, who takes form as a snarky fat guy on a couch whose duty as a voice within his head is to constantly shout at at the titular main character to stop whatever maniacal wackiness he's doing to no effect.
- Wayne the Goblin in One Ring to Rule Them All.
- Johnson Johnson in Dark Maze Studio's Press Start Adventures.
- Left-Hand Man Gary to King Steve in 8-Bit Theater. He has to keep tabs on King Steve while he drills for mana, orders assassins to Kill The Messenger, wages war on a whim in the name of pacifism, builds robot duplicates of himself that explode at random, and loses the kingdom in a poker game. To a length of string. Also, Gary is the "left-hand man" because the king's right-hand man is Rodney. Rodney is a coffee stain.
- Dr. Wily of Captain SNES: The Game Masta was originally the Hyper Competent Sidekick of potential president Hagar, but between Hagar's incompetence and Blues blackmailing him, he quickly degenerated into this.
- In El Goonish Shive, Dan's uryuom minion, Minion is this for Dan.
- Lucy Hardt of Lackadaisy is the secretary to Sedge"Wick" Sable, a childish alcoholic who spends all of his time working while having hallucinations about ducks he killed when he was a child, who also happens to be attracted to a widow running a failing criminal enterprise. Said woman threatens her with dismemberment the very first conversation they have.
- Redcloak from The Order of the Stick is somewhere between Beleaguered Assistant and Hyper Competent Sidekick. On one hand, he constantly expresses frustration with the haphazard way Xykon runs the show (or doesn't, as the case may be). On the other hand, he continues to work with him out of choice, seeing Xykon as a powerful ally for furthering his own agenda.
- In Sidekick Girl many of the Sidekicks are far more competent than their asigned superhero, this is because intelligence, skill or even useful powers aren't qualifications to be a hero. Ya know what is? Looking hot in spandex or having a kickass backstory.
- Sidekick Girl, in particular, has great skills in martial arts and is highly intelligent, but is saddled with an idiot super who is best known in the business for getting all of her previous sidekicks killed or maimed.
- In MYth, there's Delphin, Poseidon's assistant who's always worried about how Poseidon puts the paperwork aside. Hermes is one too for Zeus but in a lesser degree.
- Phelous was this to The Nostalgia Critic all throughout Kickassia, what with getting constantly smacked and having the Critic say all his ideas were stupid, only to claim they were his own ideas. Phelous turned the latter on the Critic during his overthrowing by getting him to suggest that everyone kick his ass. This went a long way to rescuing Phelous from the scrappy heap in the eyes of That Guy with the Glasses fans.
- BFF Nella tends to the Nostalgia Chick, often falling victim of whatever madcap schemes the Chick thrusts her into. This lead to a number of fans thinking that Lindsy really did treat Nella like this, which in turn caused the pair to parody the idea with a skit that basically said the Chick was paying Nella to fill the role, because the Chick was Hollywood Homely and would look more attractive if next to someone even less desirable.
- Nail to Super Kami Guru in Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
- Tails to Sonic in Sonic The Other Movie.
- Whateley Universe example: Greasy, the sidekick and inventor to Peeper. If Peeper isn't getting both of them beaten up for perving on girls, he's hitting Greasy because Peeper busted Greasy's latest invention before it got the desired result (perving on girls).
- Kif Kroker in Futurama is the poster boy for this trope, as pictured above. His job as Zapp Brannigan's assistant is recognized as so terrible that Brannigan once punished (then-soldier) Fry by making him Kif's assistant. Needless to say, Kif proceeded to unload years of frustration on his new inferior.
- Kif has it so bad that an exasperated sigh is pretty much his Catch Phrase.
- Brannigan is apparently aware of his frustration, which is why at one point he tells Kif not to groan.
- Aladdin: The Series had the the incredibly incompetent "bandit king" Abis Mal paired with his constantly annoyed advisor Haroud, who constantly made sure plans went the way they were supposed to and who, unfortunately for the heroes, happened to be Dangerously Genre Savvy.
- In the Fisher King episode "Bad Mood Rising," the king is a moody brat and the Wazir is a Beleaguered Assistant. He doesn't seem to be any less beleaguered once the king cheers up, because the king has awful proposals for improving the kingdom, like "We'll make EVERYONE a Wazir!"
- Arthur. Honestly, he fits this like a guy in a moth suit wearing a glove.
- Brain in Inspector Gadget, who is constantly facing personal injury in order to keep Gadget safe, and to a much lesser extent Chief Quimby, who is actually Gadget's boss. His niece Penny, who is possibly in the biggest position to be an example, seems not to mind solving the cases as much. Occasionally subverted when Gadget saves Brain from falling to his death, usually because he thinks Brain is a MAD agent who's trying to escape. Also subverted when Brain wants Gadget to think he's a MAD agent and give chase.
- Gromit in the Wallace & Gromit series.
- Woodhouse, the butler in Archer, who suffers constant belittlement, humiliation and occasional psychical torment at the hands of the titular character. Woodhouse takes a bit of revenge every now and then by knocking Archer unconscious and afterwards claiming that his blackout was caused by another drinking-binge.
- Charles Foster Ofdensen of Metalocalypse, who's a one-man trope machine.
- Cornfed to Duckman.
- Shego to Dr. Drakken in Kim Possible.
- Luxor the cat to Tutenstein
- Steve to Dr. Weird in Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
- It's also sort of implied that Emory is this to Oglethorpe. Emory is usually the one who comes up with plausible ideas or points out Oglethorpe's lack of logic, but is often overruled.
- In Duck Dodgers, Eager Young Space Cadet always has to tag along with whatever dangerous missions his narcissistic, selfish and considerably less competent higher-up, Duck Dodgers, gets himself into.
- Porky served as one of these to Daffy in several of the classic Looney Tunes shorts, as well.
- While Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons is a competent businessman, he also lacks the skills for dealing with people, is out of touch with any cultural development that has taken place since the end of World War II, and is extremely physically weak. Naturally it falls to Smithers to make up for these defects and make sure Burns remains as successful as he is. Subverted when it's made clear that Smithers actually enjoys this, and has an almost psychological need to serve Burns.
- Schnitzel in Chowder, who gets more and more comically unappreciated as the series goes on.
- Sheep in the Big City has Private Public trying to keep up with General Specific's less-than-sound schemes.
- Samy Garvin on Jimmy Two-Shoes.
- Slinkman in Camp Lazlo.
- The pageant in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Hearth's Warming Eve" features three such characters: Clover the Clever (played by Twilight Sparkle) is the Beleaguered Assistant to the unicorn ruler Princess Platinum (played by Rarity), Smart Cookie (played by Applejack) is the Beleaguered Assistant to the earth pony ruler Chancellor Puddinghead (played by Pinkie Pie), and Private Pansy (played by Fluttershy) is the Beleaguered Assistant to the pegasus ruler Commander Hurricane (played by Rainbow Dash).
- More generally, Angel Bunny sometimes feels like this when taking care of Fluttershy.
- Spike often fills the Beleaguered Assistant role to Twilight Sparkle, keeping things together when Twilight's head is in the clouds or she's running off the rails.
- Robotnik's assistant Snively in Sonic Sat AM. Robotnik isn't exactly incompetant, but he is prone to great outbursts of rage with Snively as the only target. Snively hates his job and despises Robotnik.
- Jared to the Warden in Superjail!.
- PJ from Goof Troop is, depending on the episode, either this or a Hypercompetent Sidekick to Max. While Max isn't really incompetent, he's shortsighted, self-centered, and danger-prone. On some occasions, PJ is the only reason Max is alive. Despite his hard work and consistent helpfulness, even in the face of unreasonable hostility, PJ gets almost no credit. PJ is usually cynical about Max's plans and is treated as The Drag-Along.
- Mina to Trina in Grojband.
- Admit it; you've probably been in this spot before.