Straight Man and Wise Guy

Boomstick: Wiz, I'm the funny one. Just stick to being boring.
Wiz: Aww....
Death Battle, Wolverine vs. Raiden

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:

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     Anime And Manga  

     Comedians and Comic Duos  

  • Abbott and Costello: The classic American comedic duo played off of this almost exclusively, with Abbott serving as the Straight Man to Costello's Wise Guy. Their Who's on First? routine is a classic example.
  • George Burns and Gracie Allen used a variant: Straight Man And The Ditz. Interestingly, Gracie Allen was initially the Straight Man in their comedy act...until George Burns realized her set-up lines got more laughter than the actual jokes. He switched roles with her and spent the next several decades as one of the classic straight men.
  • Dean Martin served as the Straight Man to Jerry Lewis's Wise Guy in their collaborations.
  • 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 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).
  • 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".
  • Traditional clown routines often would work in pairs where one — typically in whiteface — would act as straight man to the wilder, more obviously silly other. In circuses, the part of the straight man could also e. g. be taken by the ringmaster.
  • The Pork Chop: This duo plays with this trope, alternating between the roles of Straight Man and Wise Guy after every punchline is delivered.

     Comic Books  

  • Batman:
    • 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.

     Film  

  • Stephen Fry often plays straight man to Hugh Laurie whenever they are in the same production.
  • 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.
  • Shrek has Shrek & Donkey, with Shrek as the cynical and pragmatic Straight Man to Donkey's Cloud Cuckoo Lander Wise Guy.
  • The V film in ABCs of Death 2 is a Deconstruction of this trope; a man is on a Skype call with his girlfriend while on vacation with his best friend. Said sleazy best friend, however, starts to show and tell her what they had been doing that night, including sleeping with two prostitutes, with the Straight Man trying to stop him throughout.

     Literature  

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).

     Live Action Television  

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Supernatural:
    • 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, with Castiel as the straight man...Played with in that Castiel's "straightforward, sane, conventional point of view" is that of an angel and frequently quite bizarre from a human point of view, while Dean's joking represents a more typical human perspective.
  • 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.
  • Sesame Street: The other Muppet show has Bert being the Straight Man to Ernie's Wise Guy.
    • In the original season, a non-muppet sketch series starred Buddy, (Wise Guy) and Jim (Straight Man).
  • 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).

     Podcasts  

     Theatre  

     Video Games  

  • 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."
  • 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.

     Web Animation  

  • 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.

     Web Comics  

  • Dubious Company: Walter is the Wise Guy to Tiren's Straight Man. 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.
  • 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)
  • Penny Arcade:The straightlaced Tycho and The Ditz Gabe.
  • Existential Comics: Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, where the latter is shown as being a cool, laid-back womanizer who effortlessly picks up women, while Sartre is a stuffy intellectual, mostly the foil to Camus's barbs. This may some-what reflect their real-life relationship. Also Zeno of Citium and Zeno of Elea, depicted as roommates in the mode of The Odd Couple, the latter mostly getting on the former's nerves when he used his paradoxes as excuses.

     Web Video  

  • 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.
  • Wiz and Boomstick in Death Battle. Wiz is a genius Mad Scientist who often does the hard maths and deductions, while Boomstick is a crude Weapon Nut who makes all the jokes and one-liners.
  • The Jeff and David Show: David (Straight Man) and Jeff (Wise Guy).
    • "You[Wise]'ll be short and angry, and I[Morecambe]'ll be tall and stupid. And we'll both be idiots."

     Western Animation  

  • 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.
  • 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)
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Perry plays straight man to Dr. Doofenshmirtz's wise guy. Keep in mind, Perry's a platypus.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • In Book Four, straight-laced detective Mako gets assigned as the bodyguard to the foppish, hedonistic Casanova Wannabe Prince Wu. Mako doesn't make a secret of how annoying this is and takes some getting used to the whole idea.
    • Bolin, usually something of a wise guy himself, ends up in the same situation with Varrick when the two of them are on the run from Kuvira.


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