"Now that's comedy!"
— Slappy Squirrel
(at the end of every episode, and usually after a particularly nasty act of violence), Animaniacs
Someone who mercilessly pranks characters primarily for his own (and the audience's) amusement. This is sometimes over a minor slight where the character is annoyed that the perpetrator doesn't even acknowledge it.
Many writers of original animated shorts felt it was more difficult to sympathize
with an obviously clever lead doing this kind of thing too often. A famous comparison is the early "Tex Avery
style" Bugs Bunny
, who was zany on sheer principle (or better yet, Bob Clampett
's take on Bugs, which portrayed him as a manic, short tempered egotist who breaks down when met with someone of his own wile). Chuck Jones
turned Bugs into a Karmic Trickster
. He was paired with bombastic or life-threatening antagonists who deliberately threaten or mistreat him without provocation. Given that he responds only in retaliation or in self-defence, Bugs was more easily excused for his behavior, and even then he tended to play on the stupidity of his enemies rather than outright aggression. A problem with this moral logic of the encounter was that it is always incredibly one-sided— since Bugs is rarely in real danger, it shades into Why Did You Make Me Hit You?
On the bright side, this kind of character will rarely, if ever, cause any permanent or serious damage to their victims, mainly due to the downtoning of this trope. Modern examples of this trope will usually result in a Jerk with a Heart of Gold
, who, while causing other characters a lot of annoyance, will notice when they have gone too far even for them
. They are trying to amuse themselves, after all, and some levels can flat out be disturbing even to them. Writers also frequently took pleasure in showing the odd occasion where such pranksters to have absolutely no sense of humor
when it is they who act as the butt of a joke
, often leading to a Humiliation Conga
. If they have a favorite victim, on the other hand, they will usually be very protective of them should another similar-minded prankster show up and do the same on them, reasoning that it is only he or she is allowed to treat the victim in such a manner, which often leads up to a Hypocritical Heartwarming
If the Screwy Squirrel
is an otherworldly being, the character may also be an Amusing Alien
or a Great Gazoo
. A Troll
is the online version of this trope.
for Saturday Morning Cartoons
in the 1980s came down heavily on any remaining Screwy Squirrels
, citing them as bad influences on children; many revivals of them tend to be toned down considerably.
Not to be confused with Crazy Awesome
, or Nutty Squirrel
(for real squirrels).
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- Screwy Squirrel, a Tex Avery MGM character from the '40s for whom the trope is named. He at least had the excuse of being, well, screwy: One of the shorts starts with him escaping from an asylum and tormenting the asylum's guard dog while wearing a Napoleon hat.
- Perhaps best encapsulated in 1997, when Screwy Squirrel, on April Fool's day "took over" Cartoon Network and refused to show anything but a repeat viewing of his short Happy-Go-Nutty while demanding his own animated series.
- Screwy Squirrel is so completely demented a character he came to scare his creator. There were only four or five Screwy Squirrel shorts made - and already the Fourth Wall was in smithereens - before Tex Avery decided to stop using the character; the unlimited potential for utter insanity and chaos unnerved the animation team.It's particularly telling that, as highlighted in And Call Him George, the final episode featured Screwy running afoul of a dimwitted but friendly dog named Lenny.
- Incidentally Screwy did gain his own animated series in the early nineties (segments placed alongside Droopy: Master Detective), albeit renamed "Screwball Squirrel". Similar to Bugs, his sadism was toned down and made more karmic.
Anime and Manga
- Suiseiseki of Rozen Maiden appears at first to be as aloof and proper as Shinku, but in actuality she loves nothing more than tormenting Hinaichigo with tricks and pranks.
- Really, her "properness" is about as deep as her paint job. She's more like a spoiled and immature royal who is more than willing to smack around her "subjects." She only sobers up during life and death situations. She acts like this during common situations, she is easily the most caring of the dolls anyway (it says something when she is the only doll who never even tried to become Alice out of fear of losing her sisters). When she snaps out of it, she snaps out of it hard. There's even one instance in the drama CDs when she tries to rectify her behavior after realizing that she had gone too far.
- Urusei Yatsura: Ryoko Mendo enjoys pulling pranks, causing mayhem and setting people up against each other for motives boil down to "it is funny" or "only because". And she does it the whole time. Antics she deems funny include: shoving in the water someones does not know swimming, removing the ladder someone had used to go up a tree, putting firecrackers in the mouth of someone is sleeping, burying someone in a block of concrete, locking her claustrophobic brother into a locker, planting bombs in a building where people is throwing a Christmas party she was not invited to, goading people into climbing a giant tree and then launching it towards the atmosphere (in reality it was a rocket disguised like a tree) because they were not climbing it quick enough to her liking and above all it looked like they were getting fun without her...
- Amachi Hitsugi, being the head of an Absurdly Powerful Student Council, often uses her powers to amuse herself, usually at the expense of others.
- Tomo may be an unintentional version of this trope, strangely enough. She is a good example of what a Jerkass with ADHD can become when she tries a bit too hard to be a Genki Girl.
- Guu is a Deadpan Snarker who spends most of her time pulling various pranks on Hale using her seemingly unlimited powers. With Hare + Guu being a rather screwy anime in the first place, the fact that one of the main characters is a Screwy Squirrel is to be expected.
- Yukari from Rosario + Vampire is introduced as one (in addition to Tsukune's love rival for Moka's affection), but she gradually mellows out.
- Geronimo Stilton's cousin, Trap, is a relentless prankster who teases his cousin whenever he sees him, when he isn't taking advantage of Geronimo's fame and fortune.
- The Cat in the Hat is a benevolent example. Played straight though with Mr. Fox in Fox in Socks.
- Journey To Chaos:
- Trickster gods in general are like this. Zaticana caused a Curse of Babel because she thought it would be funny, Remoh terrorizes entire cities in the name of "performance art" and Tasio makes water pipes burst or fills buildings with skunks. However, they make sure nobody is hurt and they often have a Trickster Mentor style ulterior motive.
- Aio is a high energy boy that loves messing with people, especially Eric. One time, he snuck up behind Eric while he was reading and shut the book on his head.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation's Q is another non-cartoon example, and a perfect one; many a Great Gazoo falls into this category.
- Janitor in Scrubs torments J.D. to an insane degree. His own amusement is at least one of the possible reasons. Other interpretations include him honestly feeling just as tormented by JD (which is sometimes the case, though not because J.D. wanted to) or that he actually sees him as a friend but is too screwed up and socially awkward to properly show it (Something his actor believes).
- Dr. Gregory House. Has been known to ruin people's lives for no reason other than that he found them annoying. The fact that the majority of his victims wouldn't be alive were if not for him is the only thing saving him from complete Jerkassery.
- The Sesame Street Muppet character Harvey Kneeslapper had some of these qualities, and parental concerns about this were one reason (along with his loud voice, which was hard on Frank Oz's vocal chords) why he was eventually dropped from the show.
- Captain Kangaroo's Mr. Moose and Mr. Bunny Rabbit kind of fit this trope, too.
- Jim Halpert from The Office (US) can verge into this. He tends to play pranks on Dwight and Andy out of boredom, but occasionally because they're driving him crazy and pranking them allows him to turn their insanity into comedy. How sympathetic Jim is depends a lot on how funny his pranks are and how much the victims did to deserve them that episode.
- He takes this from his counterpart in The Office (UK), Tim Canterbury, who played pranks on Gareth to try to cope with the soul-crushing boredom of working in the office environment.
- In one episode Dwight discovers a box full of his grievances against Jim for this that he thought Toby had been sending to corporate. As Michael read through the list, Jim commented that these didn't sound nearly as funny back to back. Since then, he has occasionally been shown being nice to Dwight, or having his pranks backfire, or even being the victim of the occasional prank by Dwight. He takes it better than most Screwy Squirrels do.
- Niles the butler from The Nanny. While normally his actions are limited to bitter sarcasm, his life's passion seems to be playing cruel tricks on C.C. Babcock.
- Alluded to in an early season of MythBusters: the animated intro to the myth of whether you could stop a bullet by putting your finger in the gun barrel depicts stoic Jamie as an Elmer Fudd-like hunter and goofy Adam as a cartoon squirrel.
Religion and Mythology
- Older Than Print: Loki in Norse Mythology comes off as this, since his motivations are rarely explained. Why did he cut off Sif's hair? Why did he kill Baldur? Nobody knows.
- Cirque du Soleil's Mystere has Brian Le Petit, the principal clown, who is explicitly described in the backstory as an intruder of the Magical Land the show takes place in. He constantly teases the pompous emcee (at one point successfully tricking him into stepping off a high ledge), pretends to lead audience members to their seats only to lead them on a roundabout path, steals their popcorn, and in the long climactic scene tricks a man from the audience into climbing into a crate, which Brian locks so he can woo the man's date. Nothing toned down about him, and most audience members love him for it. Once his plan starts falling apart, his increasingly absurd efforts to save himself edge him towards Crazy Awesome status. In the end, he's tossed out of the show and doesn't appear in the curtain call.
- Launcelot Gobbo, the clown in The Merchant of Venice, seems to genuinely love Old Gobbo, his aged, blind father. Which doesn't stop him from practicing deceptions on Old Gobbo's blindness when the poor guy doesn't recognize him, finally informing him that his son has died.
- Comes up occasionally in the Commedia dell'Arte, although with so much of the plays Depending on the Writer, it varies who it is—usually either Harlequin or Pulcinella. Any clever zanni, really.
- Tewi Inaba from Touhou Project. Despite leading most of the youkai rabbits in Eientei, she is said to have a deceitful personality (this is later shown when Reisen Udongein Inaba arrives at Eientei, and Tewi often pulls pranks with her as the victim). Fanon takes it so far that she pulls pranks on everyone (mostly the lower-leveled girls), though canon and semi-canon shows that this isn't far from the truth, with her victims in both Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red and Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth having included Aya, Meiling, Eirin, Kaguya, Mokou, Suwako, and Yorihime. Strangely, her power is to give good luck to humans...
- Kijin Seija, Big Bad of Double Dealing Character, tried to cause a revolution, overthrow the society which had given the strong free reign to opress the weak and cause a societal upheaval which would allow the weak to rule over the strong instead. What drives her in her quest towards this ambitious, visionary goal? While she, herself, claims it's revenge for years of opression, the truth is that she, as an amanojaku with the power to turn anything upside-down and the personality to match, simply felt like turning the world around her on its head. No matter what the results or consequences of such an act would be, just the act of doing it was her motivation.
- The skull kids from The Legend of Zelda commonly possess this kind of personality. The one in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is said to have possessed such a personality prior to finding the titular mask, who also may have appeared in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, as implied in the game's ending. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess also has a similar-minded skull kid, pulling pranks on Link while he's searching for the Master Sword.
- While usually more an Idiot Hero or simple Cloudcuckoolander, Crash Tag Team Racing placed Crash Bandicoot as a rather conventional version of the trope for numerous easter egg FMVs, harrassing Park Drones with endless pranks and Amusing Injuries.
- Bun-Bun from Sluggy Freelance can often be like this. Oh, he'll usually claim that the people he torments did something to piss him off, but for Bun-Bun sometimes just existing in the same room as him is enough to do that.
- Nearly all of the primary characters in Something Positive, but especially Aubrey.
- In Men In Hats, Aram seems to love setting his friends on fire or tossing scorpions on their faces for no better reason than that he grows bored easily.
- The Black Hat Guy of xkcd, being based on the aforementioned Aram, also fits this trope.
- Unless Word of God says so, Black Hat Guy was probably based around the old black-hat/white-hat notion of hackers. Black-hats (as in the bad guys from cowboy movies) were the ones that hack maliciously; white-hats are out to test security systems (and occasionally rob the rich to give to the poor).
- Elijah And Azuu has Fraja's Mom, who has actively antagonized every character she's interacted with at least once simply for her own amusement. She actually helps her son get through a romantic crisis by helping him realize that, as a demon, being impulsive and doing whatever you want is part of life.
- The romantic crisis only came about because she herself seduced her son's boyfriend.
- In Freefall, Sam Starfall is all about pranking and generally causing trouble for others, though none of his plans have involved the intent to cause real harm.
- In Sinfest, this is how Ezekiel and Ariel act when around Satan. Part of their job appears to be "annoy the Devil as much as possible so he'll be too distracted to corrupt mortal humans". Their favorite way to do this is to dress up as Jehova's Witnesses and ring his doorbell.
- Tia Darkness fills this role in Eerie Cuties, both for the lulz and in order to sustain her existence.