In Black Butler Sebastian is the head butler, and he has his hands full with keeping the incompetent staff in line. There's maid who breaks dishes and confuses shoe polish with wax, a gardener who destroys everything he touches, a cook who uses flamethrowers, and a guest who keeps trying to turn himself in to the police. (As it turns out, this is mostly because the staff were hired on the basis of their competence in very different areas.)
In Mazinger Z, Dr. Hell often feels like this— and rightfully so. When he was young it was because he thought he was smarter than anybody, but now it is because his minions are, well, stupids. In an episode he invokes the trope almost word by word. His Co-Dragons have been fighting for the whole episode, even when they were supposed to engage the enemy. At the beginning he had tried to stop them and force them to cooperate, but it did not work. So during their latest fight he is (unsuccessfully) trying to ignore them as he has dinner:
Dr. Hell: Why, oh, why such a genius as myself is surrounded by idiots?
While the Strawhat Crew of One Piece aren't actually idiots, they do act the part. Zoro and Nami take turns being the Only Sane Man to lampshade the idiocy. Robin has moments of her too, what with her being The Stoic of the group. This is lampshaded during a scene where everyone save Nami and Vivi are drinking, Vivi worries but Nami calms her down telling her that everyone knows what they have to do if a storm starts.
Another hero example: Orphen repeatedly utters this sentence (and variants) in the manga of the same name. You can't really blame him, though, since he is surrounded by nothing but loads and millstones.
In Pokémon, Giovanni often has to put up with the Team Rocket trio (Jessie, James, and Meowth) and often will comment on their stupidity.
The trio were actually fired from Team Rocket and could only get back in if they repaid all the money they borrowed for their schemes. This plot point was later dropped. Later on Giovanni would have them do important missions for him despite how incompetent they had been in the past. (Yeah, the makers of this show often don't pay attention to their own story.)
From Eroica with Love's Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach feels that this trope is in effect, but in reality his hapless subordinates are actually fairly competent (most of them, anyway), it's just that he has ridiculously high standards.
Doctor Doom, of course, has pulled it more than once. Then again, Doom has it harder than most — in his eyes — as everyone who isn't Doom fits this quote...
"My greatest flaw. I surround myself with idiots."
Dr. Light (The hero) was the overly serious member of the late 80s "bwa-ha-ha" Justice League. She said this a lot.
Subverted in Empowered where Thugboy and the other self-dubbed Witless Minions pretended to be this to aspiring supervillian so they could fleece their high tech equipment (and administer some quick, unexpected justice when a supervillain tried to cross the Moral Event Horizon). It went pretty well for them for a while, then It Got Worse - So, SOMuchWorse.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As Butch, Sundance, and their employer are on a mission to pick up a payroll, Butch and Sundance are watching for an ambush. The employer says "Morons. I've got morons on my team.", and explains that no one will ambush them because they don't have the money yet.
Get Shorty. Very few people not named Chili Palmer consider the consequences of their actions or the possibility that they might not be as smart/sneaky/powerful as they think they are.
Lawrence of Arabia. After attempting to discuss the uniqueness of Lawrence's face with his minions, they simply don't get what he's talking about. The Turkish Bey laments to Lawrence that he's "surrounded by cattle. If I [he] were posted to the dark side of the moon, I [he] could not be more isolated."
Scar says this exact quote about the hyenas in Disney's The Lion King:
Mr. Vandegelder seems to believe this in The Matchmaker, as he states directly to the audience "Ninety-nine percent of the world is populated by fools. And the few that aren't are in grave danger of being overcome by them". Dolly apparently believes it to be the case as well, to a degree, though she feels it's equally foolish to try to separate one's self from them ("A fool among fools, or a fool alone?").
In Merlin, Vortigern wonders aloud "Why is it that I surround myself with a bunch of incompetent fools?"
This is the same guy who prides himself on acting before thinking, which is precisely what causes his downfall (pun intended).
Justified in The Spirit as the Mad Scientist villain can create cloned (e.g. expendable) henchmen, but not cloned henchmen who are smart. One attempt to do so creates a bouncing foot...man...thing. Which is just plain damn weird.
In Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Lex Luthor had Otis. "It's amazing that brain can generate enough power to keep those legs moving."
Evil, the Big Bad in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, is surrounded by incompetent henchmen. At one point, he says to one of them who's just said something particularly idiotic, "Oh, my dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence." This is likely his own doing, however, as both of the mooks who dare to raise serious questions about Evil's plan are blown to smithereens.
Winifred: WHY? Why was I cursed with such IDIOT sisters?
Sarah: Just lucky, I guess.
In the movie Becket, when Henry II sends some loyal members of his court to arrest the Turbulent Priest, Becket not only refuses to plead to the charges but manages to turn the tables on his accusers by reminding them that he's their spiritual father and threatening their souls if they arrest him on false accusations. Henry II, watching this turn of events from afar, breaks down laughing and says in amazement, "He's made mincemeat of them. I'm surrounded by fools! Becket is the only intelligent man in my kingdom and he's against me."
In BEACH PARTY (Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon), the world's least scary motorcycle gang leader, Eric von Zipper, declares toward the end of the film that he has "an army of stupids." Not that he has much room to talk.
Evil Harry Dread in the Discworld book The Last Hero deliberately chooses his underlings for their stupidity, and they quickly kill themselves in battle. He's a traditionalist: "if I surround myself with morons, as I'm supposed to, then the hero will let me get away, like he's supposed to." It's just Terry Pratchett's usual method of taking things to the breaking point to make a joke.
Carcer in Night Watch, especially after he becomes Captain of the Palace Guard. This is somewhat justified, in that "[Carcer's men] hated Keel with that gnawing, nerve-sapping hatred that only the mediocre can really bring to bear, and that was useful."
Ignatius Reilly, the protagonist of A Confederacy of Dunces, views his fellow citizens of New Orleans as such. Inverted to a degree, in that Ignatius himself is very foolish and has some serious Mommy Issues.
Pavel Kazakov, Big Bad of the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class, says "I'm surrounded by cowards and incompetents" after Tin Men take over one of his oil tankers.
Redwall's Cluny the Scourge muses on this trope in the first book, and decides that putting up with stupidity from his followers is worth the utter obedience he gets because they're too dim to think for themselves.
In The Return, Sixth Ranger Traitor David recruits a pair of thugs to do his dirty work, seeing as how he's now trapped in rat morph. They're not very bright, though, and David laments their idiocy several times. Eventually, they even end up turning on him.
In A Song of Ice and Fire Cersei laments this, unaware that the reason is she's driven away or ignored everyone with good advice.
In Winnie-the-Pooh, this was A.A. Milne's explanation for why Eeyore is depressed.
Live Action TV
A heroic example is seen in Dad's Army with Captain Mainwaring initial opinion of his men. As he states in the episode "Gorilla Warfare"-
Mainwaring: You know, Wilson, over the years that I've come to know the members of the platoon, I've grown quite fond of them. But I can't help feeling sometimes that I'm in charge of a bunch of idiots.
Edmund Blackadder IS this trope, at least from second season onward.
At one point, during a first season episode of MST3K, Joel Robinson, prompted by yet another difficult wrangling of the robots, declares in anger 'I'm surrounded by idiots, of my own design!'
In the original Disney Zorro TV series, the evil commandant of the pueblo at one point actually said, verbatim, "I'm surrounded by incompetents!" Until I read this page, I heard that line as "I'm surrounded by incompetence."
Aeryn in Farscape references this when she considers who on board Moya is worth keeping. Running down the list, Crichton eventually gets annoyed enough to suggest she just have the whole ship to herself. Aeryn's response: "Mmm. Is that an offer?" Ironically, when one of the people she believes should have left Moya apparently dieslater that episode, she reacts with open horror. Guess she was just in a bad mood.
Doctor Who. The Ogrons, ape-like minions of the Master and the Daleks, are a literal version of this trope.
Oddly, that's more of an Informed Ability, as they actually are fairly effective minions, able to hold their own against human soldiers or guerillas as well as draconians.
In the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Sabbath's minions are an assortment of normal (but seemingly fairly well-trained; they can handle guns) Earth apes. They seem to be about as clever as can be expected, but don't comprehend video cameras and get scared if they hear one producing an imitation of his voice, suggesting he's a bit of a Bad Boss to them.
Queen Katrika, in Trial of a Time Lord uses this one almost by name while wandering round lost in the underground.
Harrison Chase from "The Seeds of Doom" declares this twice in one episode.
In an episode of Babylon 5, Emperor Cartagia comments that while he is infallible, he has to put up with everyone else making mistakes.
Beautifully lampshaded in Sanctuary after Magnus beats the crap out of a mook, steals his gun, and points it at the boss.
Forsythe: Why? Why do I even hire these guys?
Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones is a rare case of a Big Bad who, while unhappy about the situation, is aware of his subordinates' tendency toward idiocy and accepts it as a fact of life. That doesn't stop him from berating them for their incompetence, but he doesn't get angry about it.
When Arya has one of his lieutenants assassinated right in front of him, Tywin's brief sigh before calling for the guards seems to be less fear he was the intended target, but more exasperation that he's going to have to find someone to replace this idiot!
Lieutenant Stone from the early seasons of Power Rangers had the misfortune of having Those Two Guys as his subordinates. He could frequently triple the IQ of a room by entering, and he knew it.
House acts this way around his employees, and is this when it comes to his patients—especially the clinic ones.
On an episode of Batman, Catwoman is exasperated by the mooks working for her, and asks, "Why can't I get good help?"
Charles: I come in here in the morning, I look at him, I look at you, and I want to open the window and shout "I'm not mad! I'm the warden!"
Leon, a young man who arrives in a town where everyone is cursed to be stupid, in the play Fools.
In 1776, John Adams continually laments this about Congress. Near the end, Franklin calls him out on his dismissive attitude and points out that the other Congressmen are accomplished men who have been given the trust and responsibility of their colonies, just like Adams, and deserve respect even if they disagree.
Happens quite often in team-based online multiplayer games, especially those that are free-to-play.
Lazarevic in Uncharted 2 after executing a soldier who stole from him: "I am surrounded by traitors and fools!!
Cesare Borgia tries to play this card near the end of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, though it's really more like "Surrounded by dead people and one very, very good Assassin."
Pokémon Platinum: After crafting a beautiful speech about recreating the world for Team Galactic, Galactic Boss Cyrus admits when you confront him that the speech he gave was somewhat of a lie in that the new world would be for him alone, as his minions are not worthy of being in it, telling you that "you yourself must know that they are uniformly useless and incomplete." ("Incomplete" is kind of Cyrus's favorite word.) In fairness, most of the minions you'll have faced, aside from the commanders, really are useless.
By the end of Pokemon XD, Big Bad Greevil points out that after he finishes the XD project and makes irredeemable Shadow Pokemon, he would get to work on making Shadow Pokemon that can act independently so he doesn't have to rely on clunky Admins - like the five you beat down on the way to him. That kind of comment, from the man in charge of the most evil organization in Pokemon history, downplays Cyrus and his lies big time.
Space Colony: you control, or try to control, a series of idiots, slackers, and various personality problems.
Somewhat Flandernized by fanon in Meiling's case, even though she does take the usual siesta, It doesn't interfere with her work in any way. The only exception are the imposible to beat playable characters. Plus, she is more of a gardener than anything.
It's also literal - all the other maids are fairies. The most intelligent fairy appears to be Cirno, and considering that she's the ⑨note moron, that sets the bar very low.
Geartop shouts 'Deal with it! Whatever you do, don't open that door. They can't get in unless you open the . . . Idiots. I'm surrounded by fleshy idiots.'
Present in Evil Genius and, like everything else, lampshaded to hilarity.
During Fuuko's route in CLANNAD, Tomoya's sanity begins to strain as he is forced to spend more time with certain people. Who? Fuuko herself, Sunohara and Nagisa and her family, who are all as strange as Fuuko. Eventually he starts getting to the point where he wants to scream and ask "Why are all you girls (Sunohara is generally excluded from notice) such idiots!" Obviously not a villain, but he almost says the line word for word.
King K. Rool mutters this in Donkey Kong 64, during a cut scene in which Diddy Kong uses his jetpacks to trick two Kremlings into running straight into each other.
A ganglord Sanchez in Desperados throws a magnificent temper tantrum including this complaint after the heroes steal some horses from his mooks. He even knocks one of his mooks out cold on the spot.
Sanchez:Mierda! Idiota! I can't believe this! You let one, ONE lousy American soldier steal your horses?!
A quest in World of Warcraft called "A Wolf in Bear's Clothing" had the following intro:
High Warlord Cromush: "These worgen take us for fools! One would think that only an idiot would mistake one of their druids in bear form as a real bear. Unfortunately, there are many idiots here at the Forsaken Front. We've already lost a few battalions to organized worgen bear attacks. Yes, it's even more idiotic than it sounds."
Bowser, in varying forms of media, suffers from this. While the degrees of stupidity vary, it's quite clear that his evil minions aren't smart enough for his liking.
The Courier from Fallout: New Vegas: Old World Blues is this (providing s/he has an INT higher than 1), with the majority of the people there being clinically braindead, with the beings actually capable of communicating with him being a nymphomaniac robot, his own Jerkass brain, a Large Ham Mad Scientist who cannot control THE VOLUME OF HIS VOICE!, a megalomaniacal toaster, and two bickering lightswitches. The only other sane people are Doctor Mobius, who is addicted to every drug in the game from the stress, and Doctor 8, who can only speak in programming code.
Black Mage: Well, at least I shall die as I have lived. Completely surrounded by morons.
And when he dies and ends up in Hell, Black Mage initially thinks he's dreamed the entire (mis)adventure to date:
Black Mage: What a horrible dream. There was this idiot and these two other idiots. We kept running into idiots. So horrible.
Black Mage's homicidal impulses seem directly linked to how many stupid things are said in his vicinity at any given point in time. For example, if three people are having a conversation which defies the laws of logic, he will probably snap and stab anything and everything in arm's reach. If his sanity is finally broken by said stupidity, he'll just nuke everything in a five mile radius with a hadoken.
Anakin: So, what are you up to? Grievous: My armpits in incompetence!
Demonade gives a female main character with two not so bright "Body Guards" who apparently let the inept thief go free because he got them to point out how their jobs sucked so bad they weren't paying attention, while there employer shows some measure of Genre Savvy and she actually utters the trope over three panels to emphasize how much she doesn't like her hired help.
Pretty much any villainous organization in Sluggy Freelance has this problem. Of course, in the Sluggy Freelancemultiverse, there aren't many non-idiots to choose from.
Silas Morth from Exterminatus Now deliberately invokes this, since he plans to sacrifice his minions in exchange for power.
Sasha Hunter in Greek Ninja feels that she is (and is right on a few circumstances).
Justified in Sailor Nothing: Dark General Cobalt's 'henchmen' (with one exception) are heartless made from the darkest impulses of the human mind (emphasis on "impulse") and are incapable of subtlety, organization, or planning. Or anything that doesn't immediately lead to satisfying those desires, really. And Cobalt isn't aware that the only reason he's capable of it is because of magical help.
Things really don't improve for him in the epilogue, even though he's gone on to command real humans in the normal world.
Also when Mello's mafia minions kidnap an old grey-haired guy...
Mello: I asked you to bring me Sayu Yagami. A 17 year old girl. Does this look like a 17 year old girl to you?
Minion 1: No...
Minion 2: Yes.
This is one of Henri the cat's laments in Henri 2, Paw de Deux: "The white idiot writhes on his chair, begging for cheeseburgers... I'm surrounded by morons."
While the Real LifeHitler is considered to be an inversion of this trope, the Downfallparodies Hitler is played straight. Hitler's staff is mostly made up of idiots who have such incredibly useful skills as pointing at maps, providing Hitler with useless information, getting drunk, objecting to all of his plans, and ranting. Naturally it's often because of them that Hitler's schemes always backfire. It also doesn't help that most of the people who are slightly more competent are constantly targeting him for their own gain.
They never specify which one is the genius or the insane one. Still, one is drawing complicated mathematical equations on a chalkboard, and at the same time, the other one is dancing around with his tongue hanging out and is tied up in his own arms... do they really need to specify which one?
Considering what happened when The Brain enhanced Pinky's intelligence, it might not hurt.
Especially if you've seen the episode where The Brain actually lets Pinky attempt it on his own (the "Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?" bit) and it WORKS until The Brain screws it up.
Look at all those idiots! Look at all those boobs! An office full of morons, a factory full of fools!
And in another episode:
Jackanapes! Lolligaggers! NOODLEHEADS!
Prime Evil, from Filmation's Ghostbusters. (However, his henchmen did prove themselves to be capable on rare occasions.)
Megatron of the original Transformers has nothing but bad things to say about Starscream's intelligence, bravery, and trustworthiness... but continually places him in a position of authority and trusts him with pivotal missions. This was eventually given a Lampshade Hanging when, after noting the arguments against bringing Starscream back, Megatron explains why he did it: "Because I'm an idiot, that's why!"
The quote was actually from the comic adaptation. Now an important thing to note about Megatron bringing Starscream back there is that the comics did NOT have the same writers as the cartoon, and did not have Starscream trying to overthrow Megatron every 5 minutes, in no small part because Megatron didn't even spend much time as leader of the Decepticons, and Starscream wasn't able to make many attempts at taking over because he didn't appear very much.
In the G1 cartoon episode Auto Berserk, Megatron actually makes a rare pop culture reference by perfectly quoting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, screaming out in the middle of battle "I've got MORONS on my team!".
In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), Skeletor was fond of going off on tirades against the intelligence of his many henchmen, calling them lamebrains and numbskulls several times an episode. Not that he was particularly bright himself. Maybe it was just a bad pun.
Skeletor: I have to be brilliant, just to make up for them!
Played with in the season 2 finale, in which Azula's disguised sidekicks blab that they are Fire Nation. As it turns out, she had staged the situation; the Dai Lee overhearing is key to their take over.
In all actuality, Cobra Commander has never been very appreciative of his employees.
Cobra Commander: Morons! I have Morons on my payroll!
Cobra Commander: I shall be waiting to reward your genius, or to have you beheaded for terminal stupidity! I have spoken.
Ganon's minions in The Legend of Zelda definitely fit this description. In one episode when they got sick of his abusive management style, they actually managed to overthrow him and tried to take matters into their own hands, leading to an extremely ill-conceived and self-defeating assault on Zelda's castle. That episode may very well have been the closest Link and Zelda ever came to taking Ganon's Triforce of Power for themselves. (Of course, since succeeding at that would pretty much have been the end of the show, they managed to fumble their own expedition as well.) The main reason he keeps these losers around at all appears to be that since they always regenerate, he's basically got an infinite supply.
In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog Robotnik reaffirmed the lack of intelligence possessed by Scratch and Grounder in pretty much every episode. However they're typically his first choice to send after Sonic, and he often trusts them with important inventions he created. This was lampshaded in the episode "Spaceman Sonic" in which Sonic states that Robotnik will figure it cheaper to put Scratch and Grounder back together than to build new robots.
In the episode "Robotnik's Rival", he claimed that this was a plan to ensure that they never betrayed him. Given that he was gloating over the eponymous rival who had just been backstabbed by his own super-competent henchbot, (and given that it's Robotnik) this was doubtless an Ass Pull.
From the episode "Blackbot the Pirate": "I'm surrounded by defective circuitry!"
From "Robolympics": "I'm surrounded by a bunch of burnt-out circuits!"
Another rare heroic example: In DuckTales, Scrooge McDuck is preparing to retrieve his vast fortune from the Marinaras Trench. He sees Doofus, Launchpad, and Gyro Gearloose, the crew that will help him, trip each other up and fall all over the place. And so, Scrooge can't help but exclaim in exasperation, "MORONS! I've gotMORONS on my team!!"
More than once on Sheep in the Big City, when General Specific's army men turn incompetent, he expresses; "I'm surrounded by buffoons!" Then, the camera pans out to show actual madmen out of nowhere, encircling him and bumbling incoherently in propeller hats and diapers.
Aku complained about this more than once in Samurai Jack (and the fact that the majority of his minions were mindless robots didn't tend to help). The fact that Jack was able to turn his robots to junk with such ease was the biggest reason for him trying to face him mano-a-mano in "Jack Versus Aku".
Of course, in that episode, the breaking point for him was a pretty big Epic Fail, when he sent a whole army of robots after Jack, and then one of them tripped, causing all of them to fall over like dominoes, destroying the entire army. Jack never did a thing. You can't blame Aku for wanting to rethink his plans after something like that.
Scarecrow has a pair of oft-insulted henchmen who "never liked school" and are impressed to find they're working for an (ex)professor in his introductory episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
Fung's bandit gang in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. It's even more frustrating considering that Fung had given themselves a year to be successful in the trade; now it's month 11 and the crocs are definitely still stumblebums.
Derek Powers in Batman Beyond is a living radiation generator. His doctors, picking him up from a frozen-over lake, have brought him a blanket in case he's cold. Powers just glares angrily and states "You are idiots."
Dib: "Okay, am I the only one who sees the alien sitting in class?"
At least Dib still has some hope for humanity, his sister, Gaz, on the other hand sees everyone around her, including Dib, as idiots. She knows Zim is an alien, but doesn't really care.
Gaz: "Yeah, Zim's an alien, but so what? He's toodumb to take over the Earth."
The Sheriff of N.O.T.T. from Rocket Robin Hood shouts a variant of this tropes when insulting his Guards for failing to keep Rocket Robin Hood and Little John in a pit. The exact speech:
Sheriff: IMBECILES! BUFFOONS! COWARDS! I'm surrounded by cowards! I asked you to guard twoooo prisoners! Just - TWOOOOO! PRISONERS! I EVEN PUT THEM 10 FEET UNDERGROUND IN A STEEL VAULT TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR YOU! (Then, he calms down somewhat) And, what happens?
The intro song to Daria has the repeated lyric, "You're standing on my neck," alluding to the title character feeling this way about her peers; their presence is so smothering that she can't function normally.
Storm Hawks: With the exception of the Dark Ace, this is Master Cyclonis's situation. No wonder the Storm Hawks always win.
Most popular depictions of Adolf Hitler during Villainous Breakdown mode during the last part of World War II involve him raving about being surrounded by traitors and fools. Whether any of this was right is another trope entirely, but most historians conclude that Hitler was losing his mind and his cohorts were busily trying to salvage their own skins. He was never a military genius and the maneuvers he insisted on helped lose the war faster, as well as costing him the loyalty of his former cohorts.
As cathartic as it sometimes is to indulge in, it's worth pointing out that the "everyone's an idiot but me" attitude is both a hallmark of the dreaded psuedointellectual and one of the root causes of Anti Intellectualism. It doesn't make one smart to assume that everyone else is stupid, even if the person who thinks this is actually right (and no matter how surely you think this is the case, keeping the sentiment to yourself is by far the best way to prove it).
Most people who are even mildly competent at something are far better at it than the average person, just because there are so many different possible things to be mildly competent at and most people will have chosen a different one. When in a situation where those skills are useful, it's entirely logical that the mildly competent person might feel "surrounded by idiots".
Keeping up this attitude can also lead to a nasty blow to one's self-esteem when you inevitably run into someone smarter than you. Humility is better for your long-term mental health.
Apparently, Julian Assange feels this way about his organization which he more or less maintains total control over and runs from the top down. Telling quote:
In an encrypted online chat, a transcript of which was passed to The Times, Mr. Assange was dismissive of his colleagues. He described them as “a confederacy of fools,” and asked his interlocutor, “Am I dealing with a complete retard?”
Several studies has shown that intelligent people tend to underestimate their intelligence and unskilled people overestimate theirs: the Dunnin-Kruger effect. So stupid people will tend to think that they are surrounded by idiots.