Straight Man and Wise Guy
An oft-recurring trope in comedy. The Straight Man and Wise Guy are an inseparable Odd Couple duo who play off each other for comedy. The Straight Man approaches everything seriously (even things that are patently ludicrous) and presents a straightforward, sane, conventional point of view. The Wise Guy is a jokester who answers the Straight Man's stodgy pronouncements with puns, wisecracks, and wackiness. Oftentimes, this will involve one bringing up a topic of discussion, only to have the other interrupt, correct, or otherwise play foil to him. Traditionally the Straight Man brings up a serious topic and the Wise Guy riffs on it, but sometimes the Wise Guy brings up a loony topic, the Straight Man objects to its lunacy, and the Wise Guy riffs on that. Though often misunderstood, the point is for the Straight Man to "set up" a situation which the Wise Guy can joke about. The Straight Man typically isn't much of a Deadpan Snarker, though he may have his moments. See also Boke and Tsukkomi Routine, where a foolish character sets up the jokes for a straight man to correct, often violently. Often paired with Fat and Skinny; usually the skinny one's the straight man, but not always.
Examples:Comedians and Comic Duos
- Abbott and Costello: The classic American comedic duo played off of this almost exclusively.
- George Burns and Gracie Allen used a variant: Straight Man And The Ditz.
- Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau: From The Fortune Cookie to Grumpy Old Men
- Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.
- Laurel and Hardy: They mixed Straight Man and Wise Guy with slapstick physical comedy. In either case, Oliver Hardy (the fat one) was the straight man.
- Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner: Especially in their legendary "2,000 year old man" routine, which involved a news reporter (Reiner, the straight man) interviewing a Jewish fellow who happened to be 2,000 years old (Brooks, the wise guy.) This routine was actually created on the fly; the two spontaneously came up with it at a party.
- The Joker invariably plays the Wise Guy to Batman's Straight Man... a psychotic, murderous, twisted genius of a Wise Guy, and an obsessive, violent, angst-ridden Straight Man. Mental health is not the strong point of the Batman oeuvre. Given that that Batman is the world's most Comically Serious, he plays the straight man to the more flamboyant of his Rogues Gallery, and often other superheroes such as the wisecracking The Flash as well.
- Alfred also serves as a more snarky version of the wise guy to Master Bruce and is quite possibly one of the only level heads in Gotham.
- Cable & Deadpool: This is the main focus of this comic book series. Deadpool is a crazy, No Fourth Wall character who loves pop-culture references and extreme violence. Cable is a serious leader who barely tolerates Deadpool's antics.
- Sunnyville Stories: Samantha plays the straight role to Rusty; essentially, Rusty says or does something funny and Sam reacts.
- W.I.T.C.H.: Has Cornelia as the Straight Girl to Irma's Wise Girl. They're also each other's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis.
- Animorphs has Jake as the team's natural leader as he is brave, responsible, cool under pressure, and able to take charge during a crisis. His best friend is Marco who throughout the war always maintains a sense of humor, able to crack jokes and make sarcastic remarks in the midst of battle.
- Psmith: P. G. Wodehouse's original wise guy Psmith has Mike Jackson as his straight man.
- The Andy Griffith Show: Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were like this. Andy's Andy Taylor was the straight man and Knotts' Barney was the wise guy. Although it was originally to be the other way around.
- Perfect Strangers: Of course Balki (Wise Guy) and Larry (Straight Man) deserve to be listed here, don't be ridiculous.
- Dag Sinterklaasje (Sinterklaas Day): Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet in this Belgian series.
- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Part of Stewarts reformulation of the show from the Kilborn years is that, instead of the correspondents playing the Straight Man part to the antics of the subject, who are cast as oblivious Wise Guys, Stewart himself plays the Straight Man to the correspondents' antics. Most often, the correspondents take on the role of a Straw Man, Up to Eleven version of whatever (usually conservative) political ideology or position the segment is meant to skewer. Stephen Colbert was successful enough at this that his conservative-pundit-Wise-Guy persona was spun off onto its own show.
- Most Extreme Elimination Challenge has Kenny Blankenship play Wise Guy to the snarky Vic Romano.
Kenny: Heh, that Troper just called me a wise guy.Vic: Right you are, Ken.
- Home Improvement: Al and Tim usually seem to pull off this dynamic in Tool Time, with Tim as the bumbling-but-wisecracking Wise Guy and Al as his competent-but-long-suffering Straight Man sidekick, but at one point they switch roles accidentally and have Tim play the straight man when they do a cooking show.
- MythBusters: Adam, the gleeful, prank-loving Wise Guy and Jamie, the no-nonsense, Comically Serious Straight Man.
- Psych: Gus and Shawn! Or Juliet and Shawn. Or Lassiter and Shawn. Or Shawn's father Henry and Shawn. Or pretty much any other character and Shawn.
- QI - Stephen Fry & Alan Davies.
- In the early seasons, Sam often played straight man to Dean's wise guy. This happened less and less often as the show fleshed out their relationship.
- Castiel and Dean also have this dynamic.
- Dragon Age:
- Everyone and everyone else at various points in Origins. That the entire cast is composed of sarcastic people doesn't help. The Warden and Alistair is probably the most notable example.
- In Awakening, Anders, Sigrun and Oghren are generally the wise guys who bounce off of Nathaniel, Velanna and Justice. Nathaniel gets a little snarkier around Velanna...
- Dragon Age II gives us Merrill or Anders (how times change) as the Straight Man when placed opposite Silly!Hawke. Aveline and Fenris tend to act as the straight men to Isabela / Varric / Silly! Hawke (again). Especially Silly!Hawke and Aveline:
Silly!Hawk: (To Aveline)"You don't want me as sour-and-dour as you. You need a counterpoint."
- Fire Emblem:
- Most of these games have at least one pair:
- Mystery of the Emblem: Julian and Ricardo
- Genealogy of the Holy War: Jamuka and Deu
- The Blazing Sword: Kent and Sain, Dorcas and Bartre
- The Sacred Stones: Kyle and Forde
- In Splatoon, idol singers Callie and Marie play the parts of wise guy and straight man, respectively, in newscasts announcing the current stage rotation, Splatfests, and updates. However, they invert the roles of set-up and response: Callie is the jokester that often opens conversations with a bad joke or by saying something ditzy, and Marie is the straight woman that sneaks in a quietly (or blatantly) snarky comment playing off it.
Callie: Help! I have a sudden craving for peanut butter!
Marie: Great stage tip, Callie. Really helpful.
- Death Battle: Wiz and Boomstick are almost the epitome of this trope, with Wiz taking the entire show seriously and Boomstick always interrupting to say something funny and/or crude.
- In the PTA episodes of The Most Popular Girls in School: Veronica & Mrs. Zales, Darren & Cameron, Pamela & Trish (especially the last one).
- Llamas with Hats: Paul and Carl.
- Dubious Company: Walter is the Costello to Tiren's Abbott. Also occasionally, Mary and Leeroy are the wise guys to Sue and Sal respectively:
Tiren: So where are we...?Walter: Nowhere.(beat)Tiren: Walter, I will beat you to death with a coconut!
- The Fourth Wall: Foul-mouthed, perpetually disgruntled snarker Ric plays the Wise Guy to Greg's Straight Man.
- MegaTokyo: Piro and Largo, initially.
- Stairwell: This webcomic is a little on the odd side as it has Norman as the Straight Man AND the Wise Guy (which is represented by a manifestation of Norman's brain)
- Game Grumps: When doing Game Grumps, Egoraptor is the Straight Man, while JonTron (or Danny as of June 25th, 2013) is the Wise Guy.
- Danisnotonfire often plays Straight Man to AmazingPhil's Wise Guy in their collabs.
- John Bain and Jesse Cox, with the former as the straight man and the latter as the wise guy. You wouldn't think so, given Jesse's wacky and outgoing personality and WowCrendor's monotone deadpan voice, but this is an Inverted Trope when the two partner up. This is because Crendor's more Cloudcuckoolander traits tend to make Jesse the straight man.
- The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan: Brothers Henry and Stanley (though Henry is often a Deadpan Snarker and gets some funny lines).
- Goof Troop: Max and PJ, though which one is which depends on the episode. As a pattern, PJ is more likely to be the straight man and Max the wise guy, but there are some episodes where the roles are reversed and others where they can switch roles in the span of a single scene. It helps that they're both in the Competence Zone and naturally snarky.
- Looney Tunes: This dynamic is a common setup, with a designated victim like Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam set up as the Straight Man to Bugs Bunny's Wise Guy tomfoolery. Occasionally, Porky Pig will play a humbler, more unassuming Straight Man to Daffy Duck's even kookier Wise Guy antics.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Twilight Sparkle is the Straight Mare and Pinkie Pie is the Wise Girl.
- Pinkie is so bizarre that any interaction with her tends to convert characters who would normally serve as the Wise Guy into the Straight Man, most obviously her seemingly unlikely friendship with Boisterous Bruiser Rainbow Dash.
- In fanfiction Lyra and Bon Bon usually end up like this with Bon Bon having to put up with Lyra's crazy antics.
- Pinky and the Brain: With Pinky as the Wise Guy and The Brain as the Straight Man.
- The Simpsons: Early episodes had Lisa and Bart as a classic Straight Man And Wise Guy pair, especially when they investigated mysteries together. Usually, Lisa would compare the situation to some historic moment or classical literature, and Bart would make a joke about it:
Lisa: This is so cool, Bart. We're just like Woodward and Bernstein.Bart: Yeah, except their dad wasn't waiting in the car reading Archie comics.
- ChalkZone: Rudy is the Straight Man and Snap is the Wise Guy.
- The hosts of KaBlam! - Henry is the Straight Man while June is the Wise Girl.
- The Jeff and David Show: David and Jeff, respectively.
- Kenan & Kel
- Most of Kevin Smith's films have Jay and Silent Bob, with Silent Bob being the Straight Man.
- The Kids in the Hall: Parodied in a sketch, where the Straight Man ruined the joke every time by laboriously explaining why it's funny.
- The Mark & Brian Radio Program:
- Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps often had this dynamic during the twenty-five year run of this show, with Mark as the Straight Man & Brian as the Wise Guy. Often during sketches it's Brian who would perform whatever outlandish character they needed while Mark interviewed him and tried to keep a straight face.
- When Mark retired from radio, Brian also left their radio station and joined with longtime friend Jill Whelan to produce The Brian And Jill Show. However, as self-described "Comedy Soul Mates", Brian & Jill are often both wise guys and rely on staff members Donnie and Kathy to provide the Straight Men.
- Marx Brothers: In the movies, Groucho was always the Wise Guy; whoever he was talking to (except for Chico) would be his Straight Man (or in Margaret Dumont's case, Straight Woman).
- M*A*S*H: Early episodes were mainly multiple wise guys (Hawkeye and Trapper, with occasionally Col. Blake or Radar) against straight men (Frank and Margaret). Later on, though, Hawkeye and BJ comprised one of these duos, with clean-cut BJ as straight man (most of the time).
- The Merchant of Venice: Lorenzo (Straight Man) and Launcelot (Wise Guy).
- Mike & Mike in the Morning: Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on this ESPN Radio show.
- Morecambe and Wise: Morecambe (Wise guy) and Wise (Straight man). However, they are often cited as a Subverted Trope in their later (and funniest) years—one description was "Ernie Wise is a wise guy who isn't funny, Eric Morecambe is a straight man who is".
- "You[Wise]'ll be short and angry, and I[Morecambe]'ll be tall and stupid. And we'll both be idiots."
- The Muppet Show:
- Nitro Game Injection: KyleJCrb is the Straight Man to Liontamer's Wise Guy in this video game music podcast.
- Penny Arcade: Tycho and Gabe.
- The Pork Chop: This duo plays with this trope, alternating between the roles of Straight Man and Wise Guy after every punchline is delivered.
- Revolution (1989): Desmond "Olivier" Dingle is the straight man and Wallace is the wise guy.
- Rowan and Martin also used this in a straightforward way. Dan Rowan was the straight man; Dick Martin, the Wise Guy.
- Sesame Street: The other Muppet show has Bert being the Straight Man to Ernie's Wise Guy.
- In the original season, a non-muppit sketch series starred Buddy, (Wise Guy) and Jim (Straight Man).
- Shrek - Shrek & Donkey.
- Simon Pegg and Nick Frost: In Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and anything else they do. In The World's End, however, these roles are reversed.
- Harold Ramis and Bill Murray in Stripes and the Ghostbusters films.
- David Spade and Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live and their films Tommy Boy and Black Sheep (1996).
- Stephen Fry often plays straight man to Hugh Laurie whenever they are in the same production.
- Thalia's Musings: Apollo often ends up playing the Straight Man to Thalia's Wise Guy. Though, strictly speaking, he's not a straight man.
- Tiger & Bunny: Barnaby serves as the Straight Man to Kotetsu's Wise Guy.
- The Vicar of Dibley: Geraldine Granger (or sometimes David Horton) and everyone else.
- Wallace & Gromit: Notable in that the Straight Man (Gromit) is completely mute and only expresses himself through pantomime. Their exchanges are usually along the lines of:
Wallace: I know! I'll build a wacky elaborate contraption to solve this ordinary mundane problem!Gromit: (gesticulates wildly)Wallace: Hm, you're right. It will have to be exceptionally wacky and elaborate to get the job done. Let's go!Gromit: (rolls eyes)
- Quantum and Woody
- Jackrabbit Messiah: Jackrabbit is the wise guy to, of all people, God as the straight man. (God is actually the predominant voice in Jack's head - Jack is schizophrenic).