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.
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 all his flamboyant Rogues Gallery, and other superheroes.
- Except Alfred, who 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.
- Blue Beetle and Booster Gold: Although that's really more of a "wise guy and wise guy" duo.
- Cable & Deadpool: This is the main focus of this comic book series. Deadpool was a crazy, No Fourth Wall character who loved pop-culture references and extreme violence. Cable was a serious leader who barely tolerated 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 and Larry deserve to be listed here, don't be ridiculous.
- Dag Sinterklaasje (Sinterklaas Day): Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet in this Belgian series.
- The Daily Show: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, which overlaps with the outdated Vaudeville act of an Irishman And A Jew.
- Home Improvement: Al and Tim usually seem to pull off this dynamic in Tool Time, but they once switched roles accidentally and had Tim play the straight man when they did a cooking show.
- MythBusters: Adam (the wise guy) and Jamie (the 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).
- 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
- 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.
- The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan: Brothers Henry and Stanley (though Henry is often a Deadpan Snarker and gets some funny lines).
- Family Guy: It's Brian (Straight Man) and Stewie (Wise Guy). Also happens with Brian and Peter, but not as often.
- Futurama: Fry (Straight Man) and Bender (Wise Guy).
- 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: Porky Pig (Straight Man) and Daffy Duck (Wise Guy) was the most common example.
- 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.
- Howard and Nester: Formed a Straight Man and Wise Guy duo in the long running Nintendo Power strip, with the difference being that Howard never physically "corrected" Nester - the environment (or an enemy nearby) corrected Nester for him.
- The Jeff and David Show: David and Jeff, respectively.
- 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.
- 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:
- Statler and Waldorf unintentionally play the Wise Guy to Fozzie's Straight Man. It's the only reason that Fozzie's act is funny.
- And Kermit was the Straight Man to the rest of the cast's general zaniness, although he was often the Deadpan Snarker too.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).