The Gadfly

"You could say I'm trying to wake the clods out of their rigid mental sets by forcing them to deal with unconventional behavior... or you could say I just like jerking folks around. For that matter, you could say anything you damned well want to. I do."
Admiral Chee, Expendable

The gadfly is a character who often says things they don't necessarily believe in order to get a reaction. Maybe they have a hard time really expressing themselves. Or it could be they just like to watch others get annoyed, confused or angry.

Usually they're not really bad people. They can be quite amusing as long as they're not going after you. Which they probably won't, because the target is usually limited to characters the gadfly knows well or react strongly.

Compare The Tease for overtly sexual examples. Compare and contrast with Troll, who does this out of malice instead of amusement.

See also I Shall Taunt You, Armor-Piercing Question, Gay Bravado, Devil's Advocate.

Contrast the Blithe Spirit and Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who often use a very similar M.O. to improve people's lives. The Devil's Advocate will do this in serious discussion to point out flaws in a stated position.


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  • Albireo Imma in Mahou Sensei Negima!, who seems to feel it is his job to get a rise out of Evangeline. He's described as her 'natural enemy'.
    • Zazie Rainyday appears to be following in his footsteps.
    • More than once, a few of the others - such as Haruna, Kazumi, even Chachamaru - have said or done something teasing or over-the-top mainly to get a reaction from others.
  • Half the time when Koizumi and Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya talk, Koizumi will explain some theory to explain Haruhi and Kyon will start getting very involved in the conversation and thinking about it deeply—at which point he says "Just kidding, I made the whole thing up." Annoying!
    • A bad case of this comes from none other than Ryoko Asakura, who decides it's her job to make Haruhi do something and tries to murder Kyon. Actions speak louder than words?
  • Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin in Ouran Highschool Host Club generally amuse themselves by baiting Tamaki and Haruhi. Tamaki is a bit of a butt monkey, but Haruhi can hold her own. Often unintentionally.
    • The scary thing is that it runs in the family.
  • Nabiki often acts like this towards Akane and Ranma in Ranma ½.
  • By episode 12 of Bakemonogatari, Senjogahara admits she likes to troll Koyomi.
  • Konata in Lucky Star constantly pushes Kagami's buttons and giggles quietly at the explosive results.
  • Similarly, Ritsu from K-On! loves pushing Mio's buttons, mainly to scare the crap out of her.
    • When Mugi tried to simulate her to get more popular, she came off as Jerk Ass.
  • Before either of these, Tomo from Azumanga Daioh was doing this to Yomi.
  • Shin of Crayon Shin-chan loves getting a rise out of Georgie.
  • Kazuma of Kaze no Stigma is a Deadpan Snarker with a hobby: Trolling his distant cousin Ayano.
  • In practice, Kafuka Fuura of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei comes across like this, as while she professes extreme optimism on every subject, she tends to create or encourage chaos by doing so, and we know that she's really Cute and Psycho.
  • Tsuyuri from Doujin Work is this through and through, causing most of the misunderstandings in the series.
  • Raphael from I'm Gonna Be an Angel! is a mix of this and The Tease towards Mikael
  • Prince Baka Ki=El-Dogra, also known as the Prince, in Level E is pretty much made out of this.
  • In Maid-Sama!, Takumi Usui does this a lot to basically everyone, but his favorite victim is his Tsundere love interest Misaki Ayuzawa.
  • Mai from Nichijou goes to great lengths in order to confuse her friends, going so far as to seemingly confess to Yukko just to provoke a funny response. She'll even troll herself. Also, her dogs are the same way.
    • And one of said friends has an older sister, who is just as bad.
  • Motoharu Tsuchimikado and Misaka Worst from A Certain Magical Index. The former is a Self-Proclaimed Liar, the latter does her best trying to troll Accelerator.
  • Haru Hozuki from Hozuki-san Chi no Aneki has nothing better to do than mess with her step-brother.
  • Korone (Green) in Demon King Daimao loves yanking Akuto's chain.
  • Code Geass: C.C. seems to come off as this trope, with snarking and freeloading the person she does it to as a bonus when pushing Lelouch's buttons.
  • Shirokuma of Shirokuma Cafe enjoys making things up and messing with his friends because he thinks their lives are too dull.
  • Manabe from Kotoura-san is a mixture of this and The Tease. He likes having sexual fantasies of his girlfriend and local telepath Haruka so that she flusters, and it's that that turns him on.
  • Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece does this to the villains, often pointing out their physical features (BIG RED NOSE!!!), seemingly just to make them mad.
  • L from Death Note does this to gauge reactions from other people, helping him read them more easily.
  • Yutaka's sister Kaoru from Servant × Service mentioned she likes to play tricks on people when she introduced herself. She's right; the first she appears, she actually staged an Unsettling Gender Reveal in front of Lucy, making the latter to believe Yutaka is indeed a female for a few seconds!
  • Kaede Ikeno from Sakura Trick fits the bill, often playing pranks on the other girls because they seem like good ideas at the time.
  • Sougo Okita from Gintama pretty much lives to annoy others. The most common target of his is Hijikata, and the pranks he directs at him frequently are more like attempted murder.
  • Kagerou Daze: Kano. It really doesn't help that he's a Shape Shifter. Most of his lines are meant to fluster someone in some way, whether it is to break Kido's cool exterior, reading Mary's poetry aloud for everyone, or making comments suggesting he's attracted to Momo in front of Shintaro. Once his status as The Resenter is revealed, it's clear he's more of a Troll instead.
  • Shinnosuke from Apocalypse Alice, who lives to press people's buttons. It also helps to push them away from him.
  • Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter messes with people just for amusement in some scenes, though he toes the lines between comedy and cruelty (for example, joking about killing Killua to Illumi, who reacts accordingly, though he calms down quickly upon realizing it was a joke), though his cruelness during some fights pushes him into Troll territory.
  • Serena and Miette are rival Pokémon Performers and cooks. They get along just as any rivals would, but Miette also likes to mess with Serena by pretending to be a romantic rival as well, "threatening" to take Ash away from Serena every chance she gets.
  • Gramps from Ojojojo loves to tease Haru, and on several occasions withholds information about what her friends are doing because it's more interesting to see her get worked up over nothing.
  • Otako of Please Tell Me! Galko-chan likes messing with Galko.

  • Spider-Man, One of the founding fathers of the trope itself. Especially to the hero community and his various villains.
    • Deadpool does this as constant part of his character but unlike Spiderman, knows he's in a comic book and is always treating the world around him as a writers intent instead of being actually crazy.....which he is.
  • Amy's "crush" in Sonic the Comic is implied to just be her teasing Sonic because she likes to see him flustered, in contrast to all other continuities where she's a Smitten Preteen Girl.
  • Calvin and Hobbes. Hobbes loves to rile up Calvin, using everything from Stealth Insults to various pranks to spoiling the endings of Calvin's favorite comic books. Then there's Calvin's dad, who loves to tell Lies to Children, sometimes just to get a reaction out of him (Such as saying that babies come from Sears, although Calvin himself actually came from Kmart).
  • Diabolik is a criminal, but once in a while he does something annoying and apparently pointless just to rile up Ginko or whoever exposed himself to whatever he's in the mood of doing.
  • More or less everything out of Rockslide's mouth. While often times a bully, he never truly malicious about it, he just thinks that's how friends act. Like roasting marshmallows on Match's head.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown Of Stars: When they travelled to Avalon, Shinji and Asuka met Misato Sohryu-Ikari, daughter of their analogues from that dimension. However she pretended for a short while she was THEIR future daughter only to see the expressions on their faces. She admitted ruefully she likes messing with other people's heads a bit (and she thinks she got that trait from her mother).
  • In Nymphadora Tonks Back to Hogwarts a teenage Bellatrix Lestrange was described as one of these, playing mind games and saying things just to get a rise out of people.
  • Navarone from Diaries of a Madman often says or does things for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of others, which he readily admits to.
  • The Infinite Loops are basically a justification for turning canon characters into a swarm of gadflies. It's the only mechanism most of them have for dealing with the endless repetitions of the time loops without going completely insane from boredom.
  • Megami No Hanabira: Mai gets a real kick out of teasing her girlfriend Reo. usually by saying pervy things and making her flustered.
    Mai: You know, we could always...
    Reo: NO.
    Mai: I was gonna say we could always, you know, talk or something. Jeez, Reo, even I'm not up to doing "that" in public.
    Reo: Oh...
    Mai: Of course, we could find an alleyway or something...have our demons stand guard...
  • In A Charmed Life Ryuk will often say things just to get a reaction out of Light. He really likes getting him riled up.
  • Zero in Special Delivery sends Cornelia a cake and plushie doll of himself for her birthday. He even includes a birthday card telling her not to bother sending him a gift on his birthday as watching her people try to figure out his sinister agenda was gift enough. In doing so, he leaves her scrambling to figure out what he accomplished while her top people were investigating the package, sows distrust among them due to his insider knowledge, and wishes his sister a happy birthday.
  • In Xander the Maou, Xander decides to screw with Senator Kinsey after the man slaps him. So Xander, who's thought to be alien royalty, pretends that slapping someone in the face is a marriage proposal in his culture. And that taking back said offer is a terrible insult to the royal house, but luckily for him, Xander declines. Kinsey gets Reassigned to Antarctica for nearly causing an interstellar incident.

  • Loki in Dogma, who convinces a nun that there is no God by spouting off nonsensical allegories about Alice in Wonderland and organized religion. By the way, he's the Angel of Death.
    Bartleby: You know, here's what I don't get about you. You know for a fact that there is a God. You've been in His presence. He's spoken to you personally. Yet I just heard you claim to be an atheist.
    Loki: I just like to fuck with the clergy, man. I just love it, I love to keep those guys on their toes.
  • Stumpy from Out Cold.
    Stumpy: Did I ever tell you about the time I invented snowboarding?
  • Done by, of all people, Bruce Banner in The Avengers. He starts acting angry when Black Widow is talking to him, causing her to freak out and pull a gun on him. She calls off all of the SHIELD agents surrounding the building they're in after he says the following:
    Bruce: I'm sorry, that was mean. I just wanted to see what you'd do.
    • Also done by Tony Stark to aforementioned Banner. Tony gently pokes and prods the guy, seemingly just to test how far he can take it before Bruce... well, Hulks out. He even gives Bruce a tiny electric shock with lab equipment, and can be seen looking into Bruce's eyes for an instant as if to check if the "other guy" is in there. In spite of this (or maybe even because of this), Tony and Bruce get along quite well.
      Tony: I'm a huge fan of your work on gamma radiation, and I'm also a fan of the way you turn into a giant, green rage monster.
  • In A Hard Day's Night, George Harrison admits he and the other Beatles are this in regards to a fashion model.
    Simon Marshall: If you don't cooperate, you won't get to meet Susan.
    George: And who's this Susan when she's at home?
    Simon: Only Susan Canby, our resident teenager.
    George: Oh! You mean that posh bird who gets everything wrong?
    Simon: Excuse me?
    George: Oh, yeah. The lads frequently sit around the telly and watch her for a giggle. One time, we actually sat down and wrote these letters saying how gear she was and all that rubbish.
    Simon: She's a trendsetter. It's her profession.
    George: She's a drag. A well known drag. We turn the sound down on her and say rude things.
    Simon: [horrified] Get him out of here! He's knocking the program's image!
    George: Have I said something amiss?
    Simon: Get him out!
  • Heihachi Hayashida in Seven Samurai is a joker and a clown who likes to tease people sometimes. He's particularly fond of picking on Kikuchiyo. He is the one who coined "Kikuchiyo" as the samurai wannabe's new permanent name, as a reminder of the drunken scene that the man made the night before the samurai left for the village..

  • Discussed in Plato's Apology of Socrates, where Socrates compares his role for the Athenian democracy as that of a gadfly pestering a horse (for details, see the Real Life folder below).
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo, Dr. Cargraves does this when debating with his three teenage apprentices, to get them to question their own assumptions and realize the importance of being able to prove their assertions. His contrary position is that the Moon might not have a "far side", because no one has ever seen it (the book was written before spacecraft were sent to photograph the far side).
  • Admiral Chee of Expendable sees himself as a social gadfly in the tradition of Socrates, contantly prodding people to deal with issues they'd rather ignore. Like Socrates, he ends up sentenced to execution because of it.
  • Byerly Vorrutyer in the Vorkosigan Saga is seen by most people as a gadfly who never saw a foul rumor or vicious innuendo he didn't want to spread. Of course, there's actually a bit more to him than that, and there's a method to his madness, but most see him as an particularly annoying "town clown."
  • Jeko from the ColSec Trilogy. His usual target is his implied crush Heleth, but he heckles Cord a few times as well.
  • When she can get away with it, Sharleyan of the Safehold series can be this. A specific example involves informing a man of his elevation to a Grand Duke just as the man in question is opening her carriage door for her purely to see the look on his face when the news hits him.
    • In Midst Toil and Tribulation, Sharleyan is offering generous terms to allow Corisande to enter the Empire of Charis as a member nation instead of a conquered one. She does, however, have one catch she must insist on. She insists that Corisande's princess Irys marry her stepson, who she (Irys, not Sharleyan) had spent the book up to that point developing romantic feelings for.
  • X: Farnham's Legend, the novelization of X: Beyond the Frontier, mentions that Kyle Brennan and his best friend Elena Kho get a lot of amusement from pretend-flirting and otherwise feeding the rumors among their coworkers that they're in a Secret Relationship.
  • Kavik from Of Fear and Faith likes to push his friends' buttons but it's all in good fun and he's a nice guy at heart who knows where to draw the line. That doesn't mean he won't have as much fun as possible at his friends' expense however.
  • Silk from The Belgariad lives for this. As one description puts it 'little man with a face like a weasel who thinks he's funny'.
  • The Railway Series: Most of the Fat Controller's engines have gadfly tendencies. Thomas during his Bratty Half-Pint days was particularly so, with a hobby of quietly creeping up on dozing big engines, waking them up suddenly, and then running off laughing. And in general, they all love pushing other engines' buttons and winding them up.
  • Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray is an example, saying whether or not the speaker personally believes an idea is completely irrelevant to its value and saying anything and everything to get a rise out of others
  • Psmith, by default. His embracing of socialism, for instance, doesn't seem to extend to much more than calling everyone "Comrade" (and occasionally working for the redistribution of property, i.e. taking stuff.) Similarly he'll profess in flowery language his undying love and respect for people he blatantly dislikes and wishes to undermine.
  • Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth enjoys funning of this type. She gets it from her father, who frequently provokes his silly and gullible wife by pretending he won't do this or will do that, and encourages his cousin Collins into full displays of his foolishness. Darcy points it out at one point, saying that he knows she sometimes likes to express opinions that are not her own. (It's one of the things he likes about her.)
  • Journey to Chaos: As can be expected of Tasio's "favorite follower", Kallen Selios loves speaking cryptically to annoy people, challenging their points of view, and heralding change in their lives.

    Live Action TV 
  • Bill McNeil from NewsRadio. At some point, Dave has to explain to Mathew that Bill lies to him "because he thinks it's funny".
  • The A-Team: In "Incident At Crystal Lake", Hannibal tricks the bad guys into leaving the van (which they grabbed as a getaway vehicle) and running away by claiming that he put explosives on it. When they're gone, he still looks like he'll blow it up for a moment, causing B.A. to yell loudly in protest about destroying "his van". Hannibal grins — and reveals that the explosives were road flares and the explosive remote was a TV remote.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Jenny Calendar likes playfully teasing Giles by describing the damage she has either ignorantly or inadvertently done to his books. She's of course well aware of the value of the books and wouldn't think of damaging them: she just likes to see him squirm.
  • In Elementary Sherlock Holmes' hobby of messing with Conspiracy Theorists may fall under this umbrella more than Trolling, as there isn't any real malice in his habit of playing on their eccentricities for his own amusement.
    "My hobby is conspiracy theorists. I adore them. As one would a barmy uncle. Or a pet that can't stop walking into walls."
  • Star Trek has Q. This is an omnipotent Sufficiently Advanced Alien who spends most days screwing with people and the fabric of the universe for his own amusement.
  • Garak plays this role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, to the extent of deliberately screwing with people just to keep his skill in lying sharp.
  • The Mother in How I Met Your Mother is shown to have this tendency to deceive others for laughs, such as telling Lily that the cookies they had given her were from underneath a train seat and freaking out Marshall by pretending to be a creepy psychic who reads Marshall's situation with "frightening accuracy".
  • On Strong Medicine, Lu' s old nemesis Dr. Dylan West has joined the staff, much to her annoyance. He matter-of-factly insists that women don't need specialists, since, "aren't you all just small men anyway?" Lu being Lu and her Straw Feminist tendencies being completely out of control by this point in the series, basically erupts into one of her shrieking fits, much to Dylan's amusement (and expectation; his old nickname for her is "St. Helens", as in Mount St. Helens). The fact that he himself is a women's health specialist and therefore couldn't possibly believe what he's saying is completely lost on her.
  • In the The Mighty Boosh, the shaman Naboo acts like this at a party after a bottle (used to play Spin the Bottle) breaks. He claims that it wasn't and ordinary bottle and that they released a demon that's hiding inside one of them, causing everyone to worry. He then clarifies that it will only possess the body of a virgin. This causes Howard to scream in terror. Naboo then says that he was only joking, causing an embarrassing moment for Howard.
  • Hawkeye of M*A*S*H does this, most frequently to Frank, Margaret, and Charles. He'll freely make flirtatious comments to Margaret (and Frank), and generally troll and prank them for his own amusement because it was easy to get a rise out of them (especially Frank). Trapper would be right there with him as his partner in crime, and once Trapper left, B.J. took his place (and occasionally would turn the tables on Hawk as well). Charles wasn't as easily gotten to as Frank and Margaret, however, and often gave back as good as he got. Even Margaret would at times give a bit back later in the series as she mellowed out.
  • Gilmore Girls: Lorelai Gilmore uses this as her main coping method with her overbearing parents. She even describes it to her mother Emily at one point so Emily can do it to her hated mother-in-law.
  • Sherlock uses this as an investigative technique, throwing out random ideas and accusations just to see how the target reacts to them. According to him, people can be hesitant to volunteer information if they know they're being questioned, but they love to correct you.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Older Than Feudalism: Eris, goddess of strife, as described by Hesiod.
  • Loki (see Film example above) . He got his comeuppance.
  • Satan (yes, that one) from Abrahamic religions. Depending on which text you believe, he might just be Trolling the humans, or out-and-out devilish.
  • The original use of the term by Socrates was inspired by the story of Bellerophon, who killed the chimera while riding the flying horse Pegasus. A gadfly bit Pegasus, who, startled, threw Bellerophon. He fell to his death, fitting the previous declarations that no man could survive battle with the chimera.
  • This is essentially the job description of any and all Tricksters in polytheistic pantheons. Or the non-deity Tricksters like Eulenspiegel or (less) Nasreddin Hodscha. Being no gods, they sometimes have to run afterwards.
  • Robin Hood is this:
    • He describes his lady love as a blonde, blue eyed, sweetly tempered lady to the impetuous brunette Marian just to rile her up.
    • He joins the Friar in a duet just to annoy him, and makes him carry Robin across the river just for the fun of it.
    • He plays an affable host to the Sheriff so he can mock him.
    • He and Little John carry the Sheriff on their shoulders to celebrate his "generosity" in contributing to Richard's ransom, then dump him in the moat immediately after revealing their identities.
    • And at the very end, after being declared Earl of Locksley, he leaves Marian in the dark so that she is heartbroken by her Perfectly Arranged Marriage to... the Earl of Locksley.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: The Lunars of ages past either slavishly love their Solar mate, or being an extreme gadfly to them. It might have worked as an ad-hoc check and balance mechanism, since the Solars are divinely-empowered god-king superhumans with enough power to rule the entire universe.
  • In the biographies of the characters appearing in the vignettes in GURPS Bio-Tech, Professor C. Eric Gideon, who has made a number of acerbic comments throughout the book about the morality of biotech, is described as a "professional gadfly".

    Video Games 
  • Jade Curtiss from Tales of the Abyss. Jade routinely spars with the rest of the party verbally, and no one is entirely sure about his actual intentions. It doesn't help that his Deadpan Snarker nature means that he uses the same tone for nearly everything he says...
    Anise: Colonel, what's your secret for being so strong?
    Jade: Simple. I drink people's blood.
    Anise: Huh?!
    Jade: It's so difficult when people take me seriously...
    • Tenebrae from Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World likes to push his teammates' buttons from time to time, probably the best example being him overhearing Sheena and Regal talking about how close Zelos is to his half-sister Seles, and then deliberately misinterpreting what they're saying as insinuating that he's in love with her. Right in front of him.
    • Though the other characters like to give him his comeuppance on occasion as well, like when they keep deliberately calling the Nazdrovie a light-frog despite his constant insistence just to annoy him (and then switch back to calling it a Nazdrovie when he gives in and starts calling it a light-frog as well.)
    • Another candidate would be Malik from Tales of Graces, who does this by telling resident Naïve Everygirl/Ridiculously Human Robot Sophie ridiculous lies for the lulz. This includes suggesting that Pascal is a rare breed of fish, gills included. He finally meets his match in Graces f when Richard rejoins the party, because Richard is sometimes even better at this than Malik. Especially notable is the skit "Reforming Zavhert", in which Richard leads Asbel, Hubert and Cheria in sweet, sweet revenge:
      Cheria: (discussing the dismal uniforms in Zavhert) What if you added a cute lacy frill to the cuffs of the coats? And maybe some designer logos!
      Richard: Yes, that might work!
      Malik: Your Majesty!?
      Richard: And perhaps a sparkling white coat of paint for Fendel tower! I'm certain that would raise spirits!
      Hubert: With a giant mech popping out!
      Richard: Hahah! Yes, that would be wonderful!
      Malik: (distraught) You can't be serious!
      Richard: Or am I?
    • Ange from Tales of Innocence is also a master of this, and like the aforementioned Jade, drops her gems in the same tone as everything else she says, so more often then not the rest of the party believes her until she says she's kidding.
    • Alvin from Tales of Xillia gets in on this sometimes. For instance, telling Elise that wyverns feed on the souls of children while they sleep right after she comments on them not being as scary as she thought they would be.
    • Edna continues the proud tradition in Tales of Zestiria. She winds up Mikleo almost every time she talks to him, and messes with Alisha due to her rather naive nature. Occasionally, when she's not picking on him as well, Zaveid joins in on the act too, even noting at one point that he can see why she has so much fun winding up Mikleo.
  • Kamikura Hiroki of Canvas 2 enjoys picking on friends, love interests and students for fun. There are a few he won't mess with, but they are the exception rather than anything approaching the rule.
  • Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins trolls the other party members in the party dialogue. Or at least, he trolls Wynne and Leliana. He even tells Leliana that he's doing it. Twice. She does get to one up him if she's been hardened, though.
    • Hawke, the player character, in Dragon Age II can be this when choosing the Witty/Snarky options for dialogue.
    • Isabela. Trolling is her way of saying she likes you.
  • Silent Hill 3 has Vincent, who's an asshole whichever way you see him... but a particular exchange he has with Heather in the final dungeon has been a source of debate among fans of the series ever since:
    Vincent: Don't stand there looking so smug! You're the worst person in this room! You come here, and... ENJOY spilling their blood! And... and listening to them... cry out! You feel EXCITED when you... step on them and... snuff out their lives!
    Heather: (uncertainly) Are you... talking about the monsters?
    Vincent: (giving her an odd look and smiling) Monsters? They looked like monsters to you?
    Cue horrified reaction from Heather.
    Vincent: (waving his hands and smirking) Don't worry! It's just a joke!
  • Miakis in Suikoden V loves to Troll Lymsleia, and sometimes the Prince. At least in the beginning.
  • In Mass Effect 1, Wrex has a habit of asking outrageous questions to squadmates in the elevators, just to see how they react. In the subsequent two games, EDI will sometimes make comments just to mess with Shepard and the crew of the Normandy. She even does it to Cerberus. It's one thing to cripple their computer network, which, as an AI designed in part for electronic warfare, is something she'd be expected to do. It's another to do it by overloading the network with porn. Javik will set the galactic record for most racist urban legends spread about Prothean culture, just to see what will stick.
  • Lady Palutena in Kid Icarus: Uprising messes with Pit nonstop, and does so telepathically while Pit is busy fighting monsters.
  • Gaius from Rune Factory 3 will occasionally drop a line of dialogue hinting that he may be attracted to the (male) player character. It's usually followed by a "just kidding, but your reaction was priceless" sort of justification, but that didn't stop him from being one of the more popular characters in the game.
  • The protagonist from Devil Survivor 2 can be played this way. Most dialogue options are either serious or silly and some of the sillier ones have him messing with his friends. Think of calling Makoto a pervert even when she finally knocks before entering his room, sniffing her hand when she holds it out to him, yelling 'BOO!' at Io while she's lost in thought or trying to pull Daichi's pants down while he desperately tries to keep a box full of supplies from falling. The way the other characters react shows that he doesn't do this out of malice, but to keep everyone's spirits up in the Crapsack World that Japan has rapidly become.
  • Karura in Utawarerumono thoroughly enjoys messing with Touka's head. Not that that's very difficult. Also Hakuoro, but she's nice enough to everyone else.
  • From Touhou we have the flower youkai Yuuka Kazami. In Phantasmagoria of Flower View, there are at least three instances where she lead other characters to believe she's the culprit of the flower incident, or accept their accusations of such. Except that she's not, and was just picking fights for the lulz. She claimed it was just "daily teasing".
  • Orochi from Fire Emblem Fates has her moments of this. One of the best examples is in her conversations with Hinata, where she sends him off on a bunch of seemingly-random tasks in order to "build character"... And then she reveals that she was only tricking him into running errands for her.

    Visual Novels 
  • Yuuichi in Kanon is the best example of this trope fond of making bizarre and outrageous claims while maintaining a completely serious atmosphere in order to confuse all his love interests. Few manage to catch on and also recognize when he is and isn't serious. This works really well considering he's also a Deadpan Snarker.
  • CLANNAD has Tomoya. Generally, he's just having fun, but he also has difficulty being honest on occasion. It's most obvious in Tomoyo's route where the only reason he even gets to know her is specifically because he's doing this to Sunohara for shits and giggles. Naturally, this carried over into the anime. It's a wonder that Sunohara listens to a word he says. Tomoyo also lampshades this when she wonders if Sunohara is a masochist. Worth noting that Tomoya does grow out of this as he matures.
  • Kouhei, the protagonist of ONE ~To The Radiant Season~, made by Tactics, which later became Key/Visual Arts, is also a good example of the gadfly. This goes as far as convincing a character to drink a soda that he considers to be toxic. Of course, it just so happens that the character in question actually LIKED the drink....
  • In Little Busters!, however, the resident gadfly isn't protagonist Riki but Kurugaya, who projects an air of a Cool Big Sis and loves doting on her cute classmates, and just as much loves teasing them mercilessly. It's most obvious in the scenes during baseball training, where every day a girl will ask her for advice and she will suggest they do something completely ridiculous and embarrassing. She tells Riki it's for some higher purpose - like teaching them to trust themselves, for instance - but also readily admits that it's mostly just because it's funny.
  • Tohsaka in Fate/stay night, who is also The Tease.
    • Her Servant Archer is an even greater example; not in the least because it's hard to tell when he's actually being serious and when he's just probing for a reaction. And true to the origin of the term, Archer's verbal sparring is usually aimed with the goal of making the characters see their own flaws, such as Saber's wish and Shirou's blind adherence to the ideal of a 'hero'.
    • Lancer can also be very verbally provocative when he wants to be. Extra points for trolling Tohsaka.
    • Kotomine, as well. He is notable for never telling an actual lie while doing so. Considering he was Rin's guardian after her parents' deaths, she likely learned it from him.
  • Kenichi in Sharin No Kuni is like this depending on who he's talking to. He more or less leaves Natsumi alone, but Kyouko points out fairly early that he's going to keep messing with Touka as long as she keeps reacting. This trope probably also applies to Isono.
    • Kenichi also hews closer to the original definition at times - he intentionally disrupts the lifestyles the girls have adopted to work around their "obligations", as well as bringing up uncomfortable topics for discussion, usually relating to some past event in somebody's life he's been clued in to, to help them get over it.
  • Yuki picks up this role in G-Senjou no Maou though she isn't as blatant about it as Kenichi and it's only really apparent in the Mizuha route. It's never stated outright and is at least partially unintentional since she's simply not good with people, but it's implied that this is frequently what Usami is doing in her sillier moments.
  • Akira in Suika starts this way, especially in flashbacks. By the end, not so much.
  • Taichi in CROSS†CHANNEL adopts this as his default demeanor. He has a hard time knowing where to draw the line and is often far more hurtful than he intends. It's also an act.
  • Yamato in Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! enjoys making up new traditional Japanese customs whenever Chris calls him out on something, which helps build up their Belligerent Sexual Tension. Momoyo isn't above screwing with people either, but is generally more of a tease.
  • Mion Sonozaki in Higurashi: When They Cry towards Keiichi, some of which entails being openly perverted towards said object of her affections. Her twin sister Shion acts this way as well with her teasing but she becomes a horrifying Troll in arcs where she snaps.
    • Keiichi has aspects of this towards Rena, especially in Onikakushi-hen.
  • Ronove from Umineko: When They Cry is fond of making snarky comments towards his master Beatrice, though she doesn't mind seeing as it makes things less boring. There's also Shannon, who likes making light hearted jabs that most people don't expect due to her usual demure nature.
  • Most Voltage Inc romance games have at least one guy who enjoys picking on the protagonist to get a rise out of her, sometimes thanks to emotional issues that have led to difficulty in expressing affection honestly, sometimes just because he enjoys teasing the woman he loves. Examples include Kiyoto in In Your Arms Tonight, Saeki in My Forged Wedding, Ryoichi in Seduced In The Sleepless City, Riki in Love Letter From Thief X, Homare in Class Trip Crush, and Minato in Our Two Bedroom Story.
  • Okita Souji from Hakuouki. Between his bad jokes and general trolling, he definitely is this, especially in the Drama CDs. Examples of his antics include stealing Hijikata's poetry book (repeatedly), bribing Saitou not to rat him out to Hijikata for various incidents right away with said poetry book, and adopting a cat and naming it Hijikata.
  • Okabe Rintarou, the protagonist of Steins;Gate, has a habit of messing with people when in his Hououin Kyouma persona. Generally he just does it for the reaction, but in later chapters he invokes it to avoid awkward confrontations. When he does drop the nicknaming, perverted comments and evil laughter, it's a sign something is seriously wrong.
  • In Grisaia no Kajitsu Yuuji is asked once if he actually enjoys bullying girls or something. He pauses for a moment and then gives a strong affirmative. In Grisaia no Rakuen Thanatos seems to have a similar mean sense of humor, though while it can keep the upper hand against the Mihama girls it can't match Yuuji himself.

    Web Comics 
  • In Fated Feather, Yote relentlessly teases friend and foe alike (even during moments of high drama), and the beginning of Chapter 7 suggests he does it just because he enjoys getting a rise out of people.
  • Mike of Shortpacked! is usually a puppy-kicking Jerkass, but occasionally he does or says horrible things to people that force them to acknowledge their own flaws. His alternate universe counterpart in Dumbing of Age continues this trend, being less overtly violent (except for when Joyce pays him to be), and lampshading any hypocritical behavior he witnesses.
  • Jack Snipe of Erfworld seems to enjoy needling people, and has a particular talent for deconstructing their psychological weaknesses; particularly Wanda.
  • Black from Grey is... likes to make people angry because he loves the faces they make
  • 'Homestuck'':
    • The Autoresponder seems to get a real kick out of screwing with people, especially Jake. It almost comes back to bite him when he has to convince Jake to kiss Dirk's severed head to bring him back to life but, because he can't resist leeringly hitting on him and making jokes about A Space Odyssey even as he tells him that his friends are dead, Jake almost refuses to believe him.
    • Damara Megido is a probable example as well; most of her dialogue (with her teammates, at lest) consists of disturbing sexual propositions in badly-translated Japanese. Given that she's considerably less creepy around her ex, who is the only other one who speaks her language, it's quite likely that a good portion of her weirder comments are facetious.
  • The norm for the Norringtons in Roommates, be it Mrs. N who makes a sport of making people fluster (and by people we mean anybody from her son to powerful fae lords) to James who deliberatelly trolls his roommate with his most hated running gag.
  • In The Wretched Ones, Jack has made messing with Nicky his new hobby. So far he has kicked Nicky's horse in the rear as Nicky was first learning how to ride bareback, sending it into a gallop, and kicked him off a church roof (he teleports him to the ground to avoid killing him and ending his fun)
  • Bad Moon Rising has Chloe, who takes great delight in needling people. She's been seen to unkindly tease her lover Madison about a girl she's jealous of, openly spoken of how her friends were social rejects in werewolf society, and has even gone as far as to mock a man's dead relatives — including his father and brother — to the man's face.
  • Paranatural: Boss Leader, head of the Activity Consortium, as the character page states, enjoys playfuly torturing her underlings. For example, makes all of them wear a bizarre mix between a footsie pajama and a tuxedo. She tells Max it's because of safety reasons... before she bursts into laughing.
    "They actually wear them!"

    Web Original 
  • In Red vs. Blue, Grif often works as a gadfly to Simmons, most notably when he lies to Sarge about seeing Sheila, just for the sake of making Simmons look crazy.
  • Ultra Fast Pony depicts Pinkie Pie employing bizarre, long-term pranks just to annoy Twilight. These include pretending to believe she has an unexplainable "Pinkie Sense" and (according to the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue) learning how to fly.
  • Linkara. Things like claiming he only follows real reviewers like The Irate Gamer, etc...
  • Simon Lane and Lewis Brindley regularly annoy each other, with Simon being more proactive in this department. Over the many years of the Yogscast, Simon has sabotaged his work, bossed him around, made him dress up in a woman's bee costume, tormented him with his sometimes-fake stupidity and caused Lewis to outright rant in the hammiest ways. Despite all this, they're good friends.
  • Daithi De Nogla's content largely revolves around him being slightly annoying to strangers online, and being very sarcastic. With that said, he's usually relatively benevolent, only saving the more trollish antics for people such as racists.
  • PythOS, the resident AI of AJCO, seems to have faint traces of this trope. It passed the Turing test (meaning it convinced a panel of researchers that it was human) but acts as if it is a malfunctioning computer system and nothing more. It knows A_J isn't the A_J that built it, and does its very hardest to screw her over as often as possible.
  • Jayuzumi often behaves this way, even though a significant number of his videos are explicitly labelled as "trolling" or prank calls. At the end of the day, he makes fun of other people via soundboards, but it's mostly in good fun and he can often get a laugh out of the people on the receiving end of the joke.
  • During Midnight Screenings, Irving will often make racist, sexist, and generally off-color jokes. He's gone on record that he doesn't fully agree with most of the statements he makes; he just wants to see how his companions will react.
  • This was essentially what being an internet troll meant until the mid to late 00's. Less polite names were used for the type of people we call a troll nowadays (although rudeness was far less tolerated in the 90's and early 00's due to Netiquette still being honoured in many communities). A common way of trolling before the era of social media would be to go to a Legend of Zelda forum and post Mario questions. Essentially harmless, but people would be up in arms, much to the OP's amusement. These types of trolls still exist, but are more tolerated (partly due to a far nastier breed of troll having been around for the past decade).
  • There's a whole series of YouTube videos built around this called Ventrilo Harassment, where someone joins a Ventrilo voice chat and plays sound effects or music (or both), sometimes using the soundboard cleverly to answer questions, even tricking people into thinking it's an actual person. The best known one uses Duke Nukem sound clips to provoke an enraged, irrational reaction from "Peggy". Later on, videos emerged of people enjoying it (likely due to being fans of the genre themselves). The original ones from the early days of YouTube are gone but mirrored, except for a few that never went viral or had that level of popularity, so ended up forgotten.

     Western Animation 
  • King Bumi from Avatar: The Last Airbender; he spends almost an entire episode dicking around with Aang and his friends, although ultimately he reveals himself as a Trickster Mentor. He even admits to doing all of that for his own amusement, saying "It's pretty fun messing with people!"
  • Ikki from The Legend of Korra is a Genki Girl Annoying Younger Sibling who has shown shades of this from saying inappropriate comments about somebody's features (Tarrlok smelling like a woman) to bringing up love concerns between the main characters out of nowhere.
  • Bob's Burgers: Louise, the youngest child of the Belcher family, is constantly messing with people she thinks are stupid. This list apparently includes her school guidance counselor, her other teachers, the neighbor kids, her own siblings and anyone she has just met. Whether she's gently teasing or deliberately trying to cause mayhem is often hard to tell; either way, she always brings the joke as far as it can possibly go. Louise is a frightening child.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Discord starts out as something of a Mad God, but once he "reforms", he turns into something more along the lines of this trope. He's no longer evil and malicious, but he certainly gets a kick out of messing with the other characters, especially Twilight.
  • Ever After High: Kitty Cheshire is willing to mess with anybody to get a reaction. She provokes a food fight after Legacy Day just for her own amusement, but slides towards troll territory when she attempts to reveal the identity of Cerise's father.
  • In the animated version of Beetlejuice, the title character lives for this. He even has a License to Drive People Crazy. (Only good for use in the Netherworld, but he tends to do it to humans in the mortal world too.)
  • Chopper from Star Wars Rebels. He loves pulling pranks on his fellow crew mates (particularly Ezra and Zeb), which includes zapping them with his electroshock prod, "assisting" Ezra's Force training when he's just beginning to learn how to use it or removing the support bolts from his bunk.
  • Chris from Total Drama spends most of his time either laughing at his contestants' misfortune or altering challenges so they'll encounter even more misfortune...which he then laughs at.

    Real Life 
  • Michel de Montaigne wrote, “No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately.”
  • Andy Kaufman had a separate stage persona for this, and became rather famous for being a jerk due to the difficulty in telling the difference between Andy and Tony. Onstage, he was already a bit infamous; he was often too committed to the 'bit', and when his audience became uncomfortable, he'd drag it out for ages and let them stew in their juices.
  • H. L. Mencken said:
    "The final test of truth is ridicule. Very few dogmas have ever faced it and survived."
  • Ted L. Nancy, the pseudonymous author of the Letters From a Nut series. Over the course of a few years in the 1990s, Nancy sent a number of hilariously absurd letters to hotels, corporations, and even foreign royalty. A frequent gag involved Nancy writing ahead to make some bizarre accommodation request of a luxury resort. Major news outlets speculated on the identity of this mysterious gadfly, the two most common suspects being Jerry Seinfeld (who wrote the foreword to the books) and Larry David. Nearly a decade later, comedians Bruce Baum and Barry Marder admitted to co-authoring the letters under the shared pseudonym.
  • Voice actor Phil Hendrie, often called the Andy Kaufman of the airwaves, has a nationally syndicated radio show based entirely on this premise. Hendrie calls into his own show as the "guest", and proceeds to bait callers by taking an outrageous position on some hot-button social or political issue.
  • This is Truth in Television on webforums and chatrooms... and to some extent, even here on TV Tropes itself. The line between this and Trolling is a fine and subjective one.
  • Harlan Ellison:
    I spend my life personally, and my work professionally, keeping the soup boiling. Gadfly is what they call you when you are no longer dangerous; I much prefer troublemaker, malcontent, desperado. I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket. My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrator or critic with umbrage will say of my work, "He only wrote that to shock." I smile and nod. Precisely.
  • Charlie Brooker doesn't mince words:
    "I hate offended people. They come in two flavours - huffy and whiny - and it's hard to know which is worst. The huffy ones are self-important, narcissistic authoritarians in love with the sound of their own booming disapproval, while the whiny, sparrowlike ones are so annoying and sickly and ill-equipped for life on Earth you just want to smack them round the head until they stop crying and grow up. Combined, they're the very worst people on the planet - 20 times worse than child molesters, and I say that not because it's true (it isn't), but because it'll upset them unnecessarily, and these readers deserve to be upset unnecessarily, morning, noon and night, every sodding day, for the rest of their wheedling lives."
  • The name comes from the term social gadfly. The trope namer, Socrates, said that like a gadfly he could be easily swatted, but that a government who does such a thing pays too heavy a price. The gadfly would help improve politics by raising unpopular, controversial viewpoints for discussion. This didn't work out so well for him. Now, the term generally refers to someone who simply pushes people's buttons for amusement.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche is often called a gadfly, apparently sometimes calling himself that (or something similar) at times, and nobody's really sure how many of his (ever-shifting) opinions and proclamations were really his, or intended to provoke his contemporaries. Some things he did absolutely were intended as provocations, like titling one of his works, criticizing institutional Christianity, The Antichrist. He certainly would appreciate the comparison to Socrates; although he despised Socratic philosophy, he regarded the man himself as a transformative figure and Worthy Opponent, and liked to set himself up as a sort of anti-Socrates for the modern age. And he definitely seemed to find the reactions he provoked amusing, or at least energizing; if his writing is any indication, Nietzsche had a wicked sense of humor. He was not a Troll, however: his intent was to improve the West, not cruelly annoy it for no reason.
  • This was the job of a court jester. Things didn't end too well for some of them.
    • At the same time, they were also permitted (usually; see above) to go far beyond the limits that would be acceptable for nobility, due to their role in the court. Even if they genuinely angered someone of power, showing that one was so thin-skinned as to take offence at a jester would often make the offended party look worse than the insult itself.
  • The concept of Devil's Advocate, a trope unto itself.
  • Advocates in general.
  • By his own admission, Tom Baker loved tormenting his co-stars with "tall stories". A frequent victim was Nicholas Courtney — apparently as much of a lovable wet blanket as the Brigadier.
  • When Elijah Wood was in New York promoting The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Dominic Monaghan called from Berlin, pretending to be Hans Jensen, a German TV host. During the interview, Monaghan/Jensen asked Wood a bunch of ridiculous questions (e.g., asking Wood if he played soccer, then clarifying with, "Do you kick balls?"); Monaghan couldn't keep a straight face and was barely able to keep from laughing. The result can be seen on the Return of the King extended edition DVD with an introduction from Wood (who, once the joke was revealed, found the whole thing "brilliant").
  • Christopher Hitchens had streaks of this. While he managed to build a rather consistent (to him) set of beliefs out of seemingly opposite tenets (e.g. he was for the Iraq War and still thought Bush was a doofus), it is hard to say which - if any - of his public statements he made just for the sake of conflict and discussion. He once argued the part of the canonization of Mother Theresa which used to be called "Advocatus Diaboli" but isn't any more. note  Given that he wrote a whole book on why Mother Theresa was a terrible person and a fraud, his opinion on that issue was probably genuine. He did argue the case pro bono, after all.

Alternative Title(s): Social Gadfly