A character (frequently the main one) in a comedy who is a huge Jerkass (or just a flat-out villain), yet is supposed to be rooted for, despite being pretty much everything a human being shouldn't be... or everything a human being essentially is.
Because much of comedy is derived from eliciting laughs at another's misfortune, the UCP is often necessary to the comedic formula. If horrible things happened to a character that the audience genuinely liked, the reaction to their plight would be sympathy and angry letters rather than guffaws and chortles. But if the character in question is irredeemable, brought the misfortune on themselves, or just generally seemed like they deserved it, the audience can disconnect from their pain and let loose the belly laughs when the character gets the inevitable Pie in the Face.
Sometimes the character is presented as the only moderately sane, intelligent person in a land of fools. Alternatively he or she is someone whose loneliness and self-loathing make them, if not likeable, at least pitiable, despite engaging in Comedic Sociopathy. Nevertheless, it's not surprising when watchers actually take the "Unsympathetic" side of the character literally, with less than pleasant consequences for the fandom if they don't shut up about it, so it's not surprising that most try to avoid basing an entire series (at least where big money is involved) on this. This trope is often the difference between laughing with them and laughing at them, if there's any laughing at all. Despite all this, there are a few actors who try to make a living out of portraying these characters (e.g. Will Ferrell, Ricky Gervais, Adam Sandler), to extremely mixed results that relies heavily on the actor's ability to be charming (at least to the audience) and not over the top, which usually creates a "love them or hate them" response from the audience.
This seems to be more prevalent in British comedy than in US comedies. If it's an ensemble comedy with 4+ main characters, expect one of three things: 1) at least one of them to channel this role to some degree (and don't be surprised if they're also the Token Evil Teammate); 2) for the role to jump around as the various plots demand; or 3) for some combination of the two.
Compare with Jaded Washout, Nominal Hero, Small Name, Big Ego, Designated Hero, and Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
Not to be confused with Sociopathic Hero or Heroic Comedic Sociopath; those pages are about one way a character can be a horrible person, while this page is about characters who are horrible people (for that reason or otherwise) having bad things happen to them.
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Anime and Manga
Oga from Beelzebub is an arrogant, notoriously violent, good-for-nothing delinquent who has few redeeming qualities, yet his character is just so off the wall and his situation so hilariously weird and awful that you can't help but like him a little. Furuichi counts, too. In the end, they're really just jerks with hearts of gold, though.
Richard Moore/Kogoro Mori on Detective Conan who regularly punches, kicks, and berates Conan. If Conan were a REAL child he would likely turn out to be some sort of severely messed up Omnicidal Maniac from the treatment Richard gives him.
Or from, you know, viewing horrific murders on a daily basis.
Keroro in Sgt. Frog can often be this, with the other Platoon members save Dororo all fitting this trope as well.
Ataru Moroboshi (and quite a bit of the rest of the cast) on Urusei Yatsura.
The eponymous Haruhi from Haruhi Suzumiya is an example of this trope completly gone wrong. She's an unrependant jerk who generally threats people like garbage, claims that the resident Shrinking Violet is nothing but a mere toy who she can drug and abuse to her leisure and worse there is nothing the other characters can do - Haruhi has god-like powers unknown to her and everyone else but Kyon is simply too scarred out of their minds of what would happen should Haruhi start using them directly rather than by chance - The End of the World as We Know It being the big possibility. Viewers may be allowed to feel that Haruhi needs a fist in the face. Then the Deconstruction kicks in - Haruhi's antics are enough to piss off an Emotionless Girl who proceeds to hack reality and strip Haruhi off her powers, get her Put on a Bus and allow Kyon a normal life. Since Status Quo Is God he rejects it outright.
Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman: Most of the people who interact with Reid, including almost all of the people on his route, are absolutely terrified of him. The only concessions towards making him sympathetic are: A) he's particularly vile to other jerkasses, like his supervisor, Mr. Crabbe, B) Rule of Cool, C) Rule of Funny, and D) he's the World's. Toughest. Milkman!
Spider Jerusalem, outlaw journalist, badass, and relentless truth-hunter, of Transmetropolitan.
In the direct-to-video sequel Kronk's New Groove, Kuzco offers far more evidence that he's learned his lesson. This A) is practically unheard of, especially in light of the TV show, and B) works surprisingly well, because Kuzco is mostly a member of the audience like us, and appears to be emotionally connecting to Kronk's plight. Not any specific way that he's connecting, necessarily, so much as the fact that he's connecting at all.
Brüno, who is a narcissistic, attention-seeking Jerkass that embodies virtually every negative gay stereotype imaginable.
All the characters in the 2011 film Carnage qualify as this.
Pierre Brochant in The Dinner Game. He and his friends organize dinners where they each have to bring one guest. What the guests don't know is that they're invited because they're considered idiots, that everyone is going to make fun of them behind their backs and that the guy who brings the "best" idiot wins. "Il est méchant Monsieur Brochant," vraiment. When he gets stuck in his apartment with a bad back and the champion of idiots, he deserves nearly everything he gets
Ethan Tremblay from Due Date. To clarify he gets Peter Highman kicked off the plane for planting marijuana on him, gets Peter high against his will, randomly accuses Peter's best friend of sleeping with his wife to his face and it's eventually revealed that he stole Peter's wallet to force him to come with him across the country when Peter's wife is going into labor. The writers attempted to make him sympathetic by giving him dead Daddy issues but...nope still a douche.
The four main characters in Four Lions because..well, they are suicide jihadi terrorists.
Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) in the 2011 film version of The Green Hornet. He's a thick dunce who cares for no one but himself and doesn't see anything wrong with that. In addition, all of his plans are utterly stupid, and Kato (his sidekick) is the smarter one. The duo even gets into a fight over it and split up for a while.
He's so dumb that as he sits there piecing together the villains' plan (after it has basically been spelled out for him), the villain asks if he's ok because apparently he was just staring into space with a pained look on his face for a good 30 seconds.
Captain James B. Pirk of Star Wreck is intentionally the exact opposite of the character he's parodying, James T. Kirk. That is, he is a cowardly, loud-mouthed bully who gets incredibly lucky. The writers thought he was too nice in the fifth film of the series (where he actually seemed motivated to save the world besides his own skin) and made sure that he was his own nasty self in the feature film.
Octave Parango in 99 Francs is a habitually late, drug-abusing, infantile, misogynist, snobby jerk. The Film of the Book implies that he successfully performs a Karma Houdini trick by vanishing before the authorities can have a word with him about his rampage in Miami. However, Word of God says that he serves jail time before the sequel.
Adrian Mole has been providing a typical British example of this for years.
Mr Bagthorpe of Helen Cresswell's Bagthorpe Saga. No other children's character comes near him for arrogance, misanthropy and sheer awfulness- but he's still hysterically funny.
All of the main characters in the Clique series, with the tentative exception of Claire. Rude, bratty, spoiled rotten teenage girldom at it's finest and you'd better believe the author knows this and plays it up. Massie is an especially good example; she once justified her maid cleaning and refurbishing her private clubhouse (for free!) because the maid had to enjoy it, as "why else would she choose cleaning as her profession?"
Georgia Nicolson of Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, is this to a lesser extent: she's a bratty teenager who hates pretty much everything except for boys (and sometimes even boys), stalks the girlfriend of a boy she likes, gets mad at her friend for going out with a boy she likes (who she wasn't even dating anyway), skips class to hang out with popular girls, and is extremely rude to her caring family. Occasionally gets a Pet the Dog moment.
Greg Heffley, the title character in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid novels. Though he feels victimized by the world and is suffering at the hands of his obnoxious older brother Rodrick, Greg brings a lot of his problems on himself; he's always trying to take the easy road out of any difficult situation and lies and cheats to get ahead (though he rarely gets far). As the books consist of his journal entries, it's clear from reading them that he is oblivious to his flaws - and a fair amount of the comedy comes from the reader recognizing that.
Harry Flashman, the "hero" of a series of historical novels by George MacDonald Fraser. Outwardly, Flashman appears to be a stereotypical Victorian hero. But the books, which are told from Flashman's viewpoint, reveal he is an unprincipled coward who prospers through luck and deceit, not to mention opportunism and low cunning.
Of similar vintage to the above, Billy Bunter of Greyfriars. Originally a Unsympathetic Comedy Side-Character, Bunter, a Fat Bastard constantly on the scrounge for extra tuck, on the prowl for gossip, ready to giggle helplessly at another's misfortune, bragging of his possibly mythical titled relations, and saying the wrong thing at the worst possible moment, actually became so popular that he took on title role for the series.
John Self, protagonist of Martin Amis' novel Money, is a drunken, loutish, womanizing boor. He's an advertising executive who creates stupid TV ads that insult the viewers' intelligence. For some reason, you quite like him anyway.
Many of the engines in The Railway Series are arrogant and rude, and prone to getting some sort of Humiliation Conga at the end of each story as a result of their delusions of grandeur. Gordon, James and Sir Handel are arguably the most notable (though occasional redeeming moments keep them in check). This was kept up in early points of it's Animated AdaptationThomas the Tank Engine, though the later Lighter and Softer seasons usually allow them more moments of clarity and have them make amends after their wrongdoings, leaning most of them more into Mr. Vice Guy territory.
Saki's stories usually have unsympathetic protagonists, typified by Clovis Sangrail. He is cruel, unprincipled, sly, and lives for mischief: the archetypal trickster.
From The Wind in the Willows, we have Toad of Toad Hall, who frequently swings from jerk to noble idealist in the space of as little as two paragraphs. Toad tends to be the focus of most TV & movie adaptations, but Mole is really the protagonist of the original novel. This is at least partially because Toad is seen as a broader, funnier character, while Mole's character arc tends to concern subtler, more wistful things.
Live Action TV
Vince Clark from 15 Storeys High. His flatmate Errol is kind, considerate, thoughtful whereas Clark is a misanthropic, cynical, borderline sociopath and Social Recluse. Some of the things he has done to Errol include: Gluing his hands to a fish tank, not allowing him to eat chicken or bring people over to his flat, not helping him get out of a room full of cactuses, and slicing his trainers in half and putting them on a ledge knowing full well that Errol suffers from Vertigo and thus will be unable to get them back.
In After Lately, it's almost everyone, but Chelsea in particular.
Archie Bunker from All in the Family, and Sacha Baron Cohen's character Borat Sagdiyev stand as extreme examples, where many of the jokes derive from their extreme ignorance or outright bigotry. A dangerous device, if any bigots in the audience fail to get the joke.
Well, the comedy in Borat is derived entirely from idiotic and bigoted people failing to get the joke...he pretends to be a bigot, and so shows up and humiliates the real bigots out there. The best example is probably "Throw the Jew Down the Well"...where he gets an entire bar of rednecks cheerfully singing along to a song about...well, throwing a Jew down a well.
As any Brit or Aussie can tell you, the original model for the above characters was Alf Garnett of Till Death Us Do Part; a right 'orrible little man, but for some reason, sympathetic (sometimes, anyway). (The US show All in the Family and its equivalent character Archie Bunker were directly inspired by him.)
Archie Bunker, for what it's worth, is more sympathetic than he first appears; he often seems more ignorant than ill-intentioned, and in certain episodes, it's heavily implied that he's more a product of his environment than anything, and, while misguided, he seems to be a generally good person.
For this, you don't have to look any farther than his speech at the end of the Klan episode.
Don't forget Archie's black counterpart, George Jefferson from The Jeffersons.
Near miss for Michael, since he is the Only Sane Man in a land of fools and tries to save his family from financial and legislative ruin. He is more of a hypocrite than a Jerk Ass though. He keeps trying to do the right thing, but usually ends up have to do something wrong because of the position the rest of his family puts him in. And of course since he Can't Get Away with Nuthin' any time he does act selfishly or immorally, it will blow up in his face even worse than usual
Mind you a large number of the fandom do feel some level of sympathy for him, it helps that he suffers from a severe Ambiguous Disorder, has a level of childlike naivety, rarely means to cause any harm, and had a genuinely quite miserable childhood. Likewise on occasion considering even his friends don't particularly seem to like him, and the fact that multiple very simple things (such as minor changes to routine) cause him incredible levels of stress, he shifts closer to being a Jerkass Woobie. The fact he does genuinely care about his best friend, his family and his girlfriend also helps.
Bernard Black in Black Books: misanthrope, alcoholic, hates his customers who takes Manny for granted. Extremely unsympathetic. At least until the last episode.
It should be noted that are numerous hints throughout the series that Bernard was not always the way he his now. When his traditionally dark clothes are actually washed, they're white.
The other characters aren't much better: Manny is a hopelessly incompetent Man Child, while Fran is just as much of a workshy drunk as Bernard.
Blackadder, Blackadder – his life was almost done!
Blackadder, Blackadder – who gives a toss? No one!
'Edmund, do you have someone special in your life?' 'As a matter of fact, I do.' 'Who is it?' 'Me.' 'No, I mean someone you love and cherish, and want to keep safe from all the horror and the hurt.' 'Still me, really.'
Bill Bittinger (Dabney Coleman) in Buffalo Bill.
Jonty de Wolfe from Campus. He starts off from the first episode by calling Stephen Hawking a spastic and throughout the rest is thoroughly bigoted, rude and offensive.
Gareth Blackstock on Chef!
Valerie Cherish of the short-lived HBO series The Comeback is a deeply vain, insecure, and self-absorbed D-list actress who desperately wants fame at any cost. She occasionally ventures into The Woobie (or The Chew Toy depending on your perspective), though, because as bad as she can get she constantly has to deal with people and situations that are even worse.
Community has Pierce, who falls on this trope depending on how bad he's being in a given season.
Also, Jeff, as per the page quote, and later in the series, Abed.
Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, where he stars As Himself, and is portrayed as even a bigger jerk than his previous character from Seinfeld; he is incredibly self-involved, he's very dishonest at some times and rudely honest at others, and he's so abrasive and annoying that few people can stand being around him.
Hollywood superagent Ari Gold from Entourage, and he hasn't got better after six seasons. The other cast members have their moments as well.
Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) in Extras is saddled with a self-awareness that at times turns otherwise-ignorant actions into intentional cruelty.
Everybody Loves Raymond has this in spades, with the entire cast being this way, but especially with Ray and Debra. Ray is portrayed as lazy, whiny, and a selfish Momma's Boy. Debra is portrayed as a shrieking harpy.
The title character from Father Ted. "JUST PLAY THE F***ING NOTE!" It's his interaction with Father Jack and Father Dougal that really bring it out of him, as he's portrayed as fairly normal - although still a bit of jerk - when he doesn't have to deal with them.
He also stole money meant for sick children, which is how he wound up banished to Craggy Island. Although as he's always quick to claim the money was "just resting in his account".
Basil Fawlty on Fawlty Towers. Interestingly, Basil is based on a real person, whom his wife said was nothing like what was portrayed on the show, until a bunch of previous guests wrote the media saying "Oh yes he was!"
Donald Sinclair, the proto-Fawlty, was apparently aware of Fawlty and not at all happy about it. Try and imagine Fawlty's reaction to finding out a TV show had been made lampooning him. Try really, really hard not to laugh.
Josie and Kingsley from Series/Fresh Meat. The first series makes them out to be the only sane people compared to their eccentric flatmates. By the second series, Kingsley has become a pretentious wanker with a soul patch, while Josie tried performing dental work whilst hung over and puncturing her patient's face.
All the main characters from Frontline except for Emma.
Tony Hancock from Hancock's Half Hour. In that show Hancock was playing a twisted version of himself. He is pompous, rude to pretty much everyone around him, venal, self-centred and a really nasty piece of work. In the episode "The Cruise" a woman is trying to come on to him and all he can do is be obscenely rude at her.
Barney from How I Met Your Mother manages to be the most popular character on the show, despite being a Corrupt Corporate Executive, misogynistic womanizer, and a borderline sociopath in general. For most viewers, he avoids becoming truly unlikable partly because he does have a sensitive, caring side (even if it only comes up once or twice a season), and partly because he uses and manipulates people with so much style that he enters Magnificent Bastard territory.
There's also that he's played by Neil Patrick Harris. If you can play a mad scientist named Dr. Horrible who wants to join the Evil League of Evil and rule the world (not necessarily in that order) and still have the entire audience rooting for you, then getting people to like you when you're playing a character like Barney is a piece of cake.
Samantha "Sam" Puckett in iCarly is part of a ¡Three Amigos! group rather than being the main protagonist, but one wonders why the other two would still have anything to do with her. Freddie especially-it's a small miracle that nothing she's done to him has resulted in a permanently disabling injury.
Drake Parker from Drake & Josh spends much of the time being a jerk, taking advantage of girls, and getting everything he wants, but somehow we all love him. It helps that occasionally he shows his sensitive side.
Steve Coogan's Im Alan Partridge persona. Egomaniacal (despite no observable talent), treats everyone around him with utter contempt whilst expecting complete loyalty in return, given to constant hideous faux pas, ignorant, clearly doesn't care about anyone but himself and anything but his career, and bigoted in every conceivable way. Not content with merely talking down to and humiliating his guests on Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, he even kills one of them live on air.
Later Partridge media plays with this in an interesting way. In his in-universe autobiography I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan he massively plays up tiny unpleasant incidents in his childhood such as his parents having a very mild argument about VAT receipts or being told to clear out the garage on a sunny day into severely traumatic experiences - and being Alan, he goes out of his way to specify that he's not exaggerating anything because his publishers thought his childhood might be boring - and later in his life recounts his "Toblerone addiction" as if it's heroin addiction. However, life events that are genuinely unpleasant like living in a Travel Tavern for six months after his wife left him and his children have no interest in him, and to a lesser extent the resultant nervous breakdown, are if anything played down and given a positive spin. Of course, still being Alan, he annihilates any potential sympathy it might create in the reader by remaining a generally loathsome human being throughout: for instance, recounting how his assistant Lynn helped him get back on his feet after his breakdown to the point of offering to help him shower, he marvels at how much time she dedicated to him and thought she must not be getting any actual work done, and thus knocked her temporarily down to a part-time wage when he already pays her a pittance.
Made especially funny because the show will occasionally give us a reason to sympathize with him or at least feel sorry for him...and then he'll do something even more ridiculous and/or awful
Roy from The IT Crowd. He does so much to get out of his job unless the person who's asking him is a hot chick, has slapped a police officer for ruining a twist in a film, has told Moss all of his inventions are worthless, tried stealing 20 pounds from his knocked out boss (who was faking, but he didn't know that) and tried sabotaging Jen's speech for kicks.
Then again, the people he works for are idiots who can't seem to work out the most simple functions of computers while still mostly treating him as a dogsbody because he can, the police officer was throwing the book at him and Moss for copyright violation but didn't seem interested in the fact that the person they were with was a cannibal, the 20 pounds actually was his in the first place and he tried to sabotage Jen's speech because Jen had become utterly Drunk with Power after being nominated for an award (largely on the backs of Roy and Moss) and was due for a bit of ego-puncturing. He's not the only jerk around.
And tricking Jen into thinking that 'googling Google' would break the internet was pretty awesome.
And laughing at his girlfriend's grandfather's funeral, and telling a midget barista that he's too short to be one! Let's just say that his absurdly huge Butt Monkey status is mostly provoked.
Though every once in a while (such as the "It's Jack's birthday!" episodes) the rest of the cast would acknowledge that Jack was a particularly harmless, even endearing example of this type. Then things would go back to normal by the next show.
Jack was always pretty benign in his show, being portrayed as much more self-absorbed and stingy as opposed to out-and-out malicious, and his character rarely strayed into Jerk Ass territory. In Real Life, Jack Benny could not have been any farther from his on-air persona — apparently he was very much a man who'd give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it.
Jackie Thomas in The Jackie Thomas Show.
Kim from Kath and Kim. She's bratty, whiny, irresponsible, self-centered and treats everybody around her like crap. She's just a horrible, horrible person.
Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances. Big time. Although her relatives are supposed to be completely pathetic slobs, they come off as quite admirable when contrasted with Hyacinth. This isn't an accident.
Rick Spleen in Lead Balloon is another case where the character arguably worsened over time, with him being slightly sympathetic in season one and then doing a massive Kick the Dog at the beginning of season two. However, in season two there was also an episode that focused on him doing a good deed by supporting a charity with no evident ulterior motive...and it still blew up in his face.
Given how he can't even save a man from committing suicide without it all going wrong its no wonder he's such a misanthropic guy. Life just hates poor Rick so he's obviously decided to hate it right back
With the possible exception of Taco, pretty much everyone on The League is like this from time to time, with Ruxin probably being the least sympathetic.
Baber in Little Mosque on the Prairie who may be a retired economics professor, but he's still unapologetically the Islamic version of Archie Bunker.
Actually most-if not all-of the cast have pretty sketchy morals at times. Fortunately, the sketchy moments are divided more or less evenly between the Christian and Muslim characters.
Al Bundy of Married... with Children. All of the Bundys could qualify, but none of them are as callous and uncaring as Al.
Although considering just how miserable his life is, how he is arguably the most moral of his whole family and the fact he never wins, sometimes you honestly can't blame him for ending up that way.
Howard Moon and Vince Noir of The Mighty Boosh. Howard is a prickly, asocial, know-it-all; Vince is vain, shallow, and flighty. Howard is the more sympathetic of the two, being the Butt Monkey of the show.
The cast of the British puppet series Mongrels except (sometimes) for Nelson, though especially Vince.
He gets little better in the cartoon series, but still qualifies as this trope.
Mr D's title character. In the anti-bullying episode he shows himself to be the worst bully in the school.
The three main characters from Nathan Barley, particularly the eponymous Nathan, who Word of God described as a "strutting, meaningless cadaver-in-waiting" who "genuinely deserves to die".
Some measure of the writer's feelings towards Barley can be gleaned from its origin, a fictional program on Charlie Brooker's TV Times-parody website TV Go Home, simply named Cunt.
Christine Campbell on The New Adventures of Old Christine. She's obnoxiously neurotic, clingy, dishonest, desperate, meddling, a helicopter parent, shallow and a borderline alcoholic. And those are her more charming qualities.
Jill Tyrell from Nighty Night. She is a Narcissistic, selfish, devious, manipulative, passive-aggressive and violent. She is without guilt or morals and will do anything to get what she wants, even killing people.
Lee and Tim in Not Going Out decay into this in some episodes of the third season.
Michael Scott from The Office (US) can come off as this depending on the episode. Although Michael is portrayed as more of a genuine Man Child who just wants to be liked and doesn't always fully understand the consequences of his actions despite his best intentions.
When Andy took over Michael's job, he was originally clueless but lovable. However, in the final season, the writers decided to turn him into such a Michael/David clone that he's now displaying Jerk Ass behavior and even shows genuine disdain for coworkers Nellie and, all of a sudden, Toby (Get it? Because Michael hated him too).
Series creators Gervais and Merchant claim that Brent is not a horrible person, despite the things he does in the show; he's just an idiot, a fallible human being who is star-struck by the Mockumentary film crew, which drives him to act the way he does to get attention. By the end of the second series his true colours are shown and he is much more sympathetic, no more so than when he breaks down when he is about to be made redundant and practically begs for his job back. Word of God also says that the character of Chris Finch was introduced so Brent would appear less of a wanker by comparison.
Brent's 'Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist' status was also lampshaded and explored in The Office Christmas Specials as being at least partially a consequence of the Mockumentary format of the show; he bitterly notes how the documentary crew 'stitched him up' in order to make him look bad, arguing that they overlooked or downplayed his achievements and benevolent qualities and presented an uneven focus on his incompetence and stage-hungry nature in order to present him in the worst possible light for the sake of ratings. That same episode also ultimately showed Brent in a more positive light — hinting that he was actually quite a talented salesman (if not actually management material), showing him manage to charm a woman and actually managing make the staff laugh in genuine good humour at one of his impressions — almost as if the fictional documentary makers were trying to make it up to him.
Averted with Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses. He has many of the common traits of the typical UCP, including ambition that far exceeds his ability, criminal tendencies, substance abuse (of the cigarettes and alcohol variety), is a Jerk Ass and has a complete shopping list of personality flaws. However, his unflappable optimism, highly protective attitude to his friends and family and the occasional glimpse that under the surface he can actually be quite sensitive make him a very sympathetic character for all his failings.
Boycie plays this trope straight, he's sleazy and smug and there really isn't an awful lot to like about him. Also his moustache is stupid.
Peep Show — between Jeremy eating a girl's dog in an attempt to have sex with her and Mark attempting to get out of his wedding by hiding in the church balcony both of these guys are about as unsympathetic as it gets.
Its not just them either. Pretty much every character on the show gets a moment that makes you wonder how no one has killed them.
However, the "point of view" nature of the show prevents this trope from applying completely. Mark's underdog nature and, to a lesser extent, Jeremy's equally present insecurities, allow the audience to often sympathise with them even when they're doing horrible things to each other and everybody else. Take the moment where Mark has a breakdown about the boiler after receiving the most devastating news in his life, or the "minimal water damage" scene.
The horrible, horrible Lynda Day of Press Gang, who blackmails her bosses and employees alike, steals her ex-boyfriend's passport, attempts to push her childhood best friend out of a window... and still keeps the audience on her side.
Shawn in Psych often butts up against this with his self-centered man-child shtick.
Rimmer from Red Dwarf. To a lesser extent, the rest of the cast.
Lister, despite being a slob and not that bright is a pretty sympathetic character. And Rimmer for all his faults has Pet the Dog moments now and then. The best example is the Cat...shallow, self interested, vain and selfish. And we wouldn't want him any other way.
He's shallow, self interested, vain and selfish...with a great ass!!!
Personally Albert Steptoe was the nasty one and Harold Steptoe was actually a good guy. All Harold wanted to do was move up from the grog heap of his life into something better. But his father did everything he could to prevent Harold, his son, improving himself—especially if it means him leaving home. Albert was also lazy, stubborn, narrow-minded, foul-mouthed, and had revolting personal habits.
Pretty much all the main characters in Seinfeld, with a special mention reserved for George Costanza, who is selfish, insensitive, untrustworthy, abrasive, cowardly, dishonest, annoying, cheap, lazy and stupid. Jason Alexander himself feels that Seinfeld is "a very dark show about very dark people".
In a bit of Lampshade Hanging, in the episode "The Fatigues", Jerry acknowledges that he's not the nicest guy in the world:
Abby: I need someone I can trust. Jerry(disappointedly): Oh.
Also lampshaded, of course, in the final episode, when they're actually put on trial for their selfishness.
Truth in Television, since Alexander based his portrayal of George Costanza on Larry David, Seinfeld's head writer at the time. Interestingly, he thought the character was based on Woody Allen until one day, after reading a certain episode's script, Alexander told David he didn't understand the situation detailed in it since "not only could this never happen, but no human being would react like this". David responded that it happened to him and this was the way he reacted. From that point on, Alexander understood just who Costanza was meant to be.
Carrie Bradshaw (and, to a point, the other ladies) of Sex and the City. Self-absorbed: check. Shallow: check. Materialistic: check. Immature: check. Was there anything redeemable?
Almost everyone in the main cast of Slings and Arrows, especially in the first season. Richard Smith-Jones is probably the most egregious example.
Everyone in The Thick of It. The most sympathetic character is a complete bastard, which says a lot about the rest of them.
Liz Lemon of 30 Rock is portrayed as a lovable nerd, but she is constantly doing evil things played for laughs. She frequently lies and manipulates to get a man, tried to split up a couple so she could adopt their baby, heroically refused a flu shot since they weren't available for everyone only to get one in secret, and went to her high school reunion to meet the classmates she used to bully and then bullied them all over again.
Every character save for one and maybe two from Unhitched is a horrible, horrible excuse for a human being.
Veep gives us Vice President Selina Meyer. She treats all her subordinates like worthless Mooks, is hopelessly out-of-touch with her daughter, and is completly uncaring about anyone's interests but her own. She acts like Gary is an indentured servant, though he seems all too willing to perform this function and even uses him to break up with her boyfriend when she cannot. It's a testamant to Julia Louis-Dreyfus that she comes off as sympathetic the handful of times that she does.
This is the entire point of We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High.
Despite being a drug dealer, Nancy from Weeds was for the most part still a fundamentally good person and quite sympathetic in the early seasons. This largely changed from Season 4 onward. And her accountant Doug was a horrible person from the start.
All main characters in The Young Ones (except perhaps Neil, sometimes). According to DVD commentary for the pilot, when it was shown to American networks the writers were asked which of the characters was supposed to be the "hero" the audience sympathizes with, and had to explain that none of them really were and that that was sort of the point.
Not to mention the Balowski family. But Vyvyan was a particularly good example of this, arguably one of the most likable "complete bastards" in the history of British comedy, precisely because he was a totally unpredictable bastard.
Though audience reactions to him vary wildly, Charles Schultz always intended for Charlie Brown of Peanuts to be this. While it's easy to feel bad for him being such a Butt Monkey, if not a full-blown Cosmic Plaything, the thing a lot of people miss is that between his constant wallowing in self-pity and apparent refusal to just stay the hell away from things that cause him trouble he deserves a good chunk of the misery he gets and very often brings it on himself. These days, though, most of the hate he gets is from feminists who despise him for being a Stalker with a Crush to the litle red haired girl.
Charles Prentiss in Absolute Power. According to Stephen Fry "There's not much to say that's nice about him, except that there is some pleasure in watching a natural born killer at work and knowing whatever happens he will win."
William Shakespeare's character Falstaff from Henry IV, his most popular and beloved by far. How popular? The play had two sequels and a spinoff starring Falstaff, called "The Merry Wives Of Windsor," reputed to be commissioned by Queen Elizabeth herself.
Of a sort: Mr Punch of the traditional puppet show Punch and Judy is a thoroughly vile fellow given to outrageous acts of villainy. He beats his wife and mistreats their child. He solves all his problems by repeated application of a big stick: he is convinced that's the way to do it, and says so frequently. He violently resists any attempt by any form of authority to bring him to justice or impose any kind of richly deserved punishment - whether that authority be the local policeman, or the devil himself. Throughout all this the audience watching cheers and laughs.
Vincent, the protagonist of Catherine. An unassuming, unambitious 30-something video game designer caught between his pushy girlfriend Katherine and young fling (read: succubus) Catherine, or in the words of Ben Croshaw, "a complete fucking tool who keeps digging himself deeper with every word that comes out of his fucking mouth".
Rufus of Deponia is a selfish lazy bum who mooches off his ex-girlfriend and generally annoys everyone in town.
His screwed-upness is perfectly summed up in a single quote from Desperate Struggle: "Everybody deals with grief differently, right? Some people fuck at funerals. I cut off heads".
At least at first. He has a few redeeming qualities by the end of the game. A few.
Even more by the end of Desperate Struggle, when he realizes how many lives the UAA has destroyed, and decides he has had enough with the assassination scene, instead vowing to destroy the UAA because of this.
In Sengoku Rance Rance himself qualifies for this trope. Anything he does is out of amusement for us audiences. Except for the part where Sill gets frozen.
In Simon the Sorcerer the player character is a little bland but generally sympathetic. This all changes by the second game when he acts like a sexist, mean-spirited, stubborn, self-loathing, whiny, sadistic jerk to everyone he meets. Many of the game's puzzles require Simon to screw over the game's other characters in order to get his own way. This continues in the third game where, when tasked with assembling four specific characters, he discovers that three of them are people that he has variously killed, crippled and turned into a frog in his adventures up to that point. The fourth he simply leered at whilst making near-constant remarks about her large chest and revealing outfit. It helps that Simon gets dumped on almost as often as he messes with everyone else, preventing him from becoming a monster and generally leading to hillarity. Bonus points for the fact that in the first game, he is voiced by Chris Barrie, who played the similar character Rimmer in the Red Dwarf example above.
Hazel Tellington of Girls with Slingshots varies from Deadpan Snarker to Jerk with a Heart of Gold to Jerk Sue to this, depending on the story line. Although some of the setbacks she encounters, such as losing a great job, are not her fault, most of the problems in her life result from her immaturity, irresponsibility, and constant drunkenness. Occasionally lampshaded in the comic by different characters, mainly her friend/former boss Clarice, and ex-boyfriend Zach.
Rayne from Least I Could Do, in spades. The character is incredibly rude, selfish and arrogant, yet is held up to be the object of admiration for men and a sex god for women. The typical storyline is 90% Rayne trying to bed hot girls, live out his Gary Stu fantasies, and/or insulting his friends, and 10% him "being awesome", which usually involves getting the cast out of sticky situations that he got them into in the first place. While he does have some redeeming traits (like unconditional love for his niece Ashley) these only tend to crop up in Author's Saving Throw moments just when the audience is wondering why nobody's shot the asshole yet.
Virtually the entire cast of Ménage à 3 are less than perfectly sympathetic — but the comic tends to be relatively subtle about this. For example, Gary is a kind-hearted, nervous geek, who is also passive and manipulable to the point of irresponsibility; Zii takes her Manic Pixie Dream Girl tendencies to the point of manipulating other people for her sexual amusement; and DiDi is an open-hearted ditz who breaks countless men's hearts without even knowing it. This leads to minor Values Dissonance problems for some readers, who complain when people they thought they were supposed to like do somewhat despicable things. The alternative way of looking at this is that the cast are all flawed human beings; other readers claim to find them more sympathetic for their sometimes-large failings, because, like real people, they make mistakes, but are worth tolerating for their better moments as well as their comedy value.
Belkar Bitterleaf of The Order of the Stick is an excellent example. He's outright evil, a murderous sociopath with no redeeming qualities. He still remains hilarious to read for two main reasons. First, his teammates (who are actual heroes) have learned how to use him like a weapon; they point him in the direction of their good intentions and let him off the leash, because Belkar doesn't care who he's killing so long as he's killing somebody. Secondly, because he's the guy who doesn't care about anyone or anything, he's in position to get a lot of the funniest jokes.
It's even Lampshaded when Belkar under the influence of the Mark of Justice and its curse. Lord Shojo appears to him and basically tells him that if he keeps going like this he is heading into Scrappy territory and that the only cure is Character Development or at least to fake it.
Something Positive averts this trope in regards to Davan. He has enough humanizing moments to keep him sympathetic, misanthropic bastard that he is. Aubrey and Pee-Jee invoke an awful lot Comedic Sociopathy, beating up friend or even strangers for kicks in the early years, but both have plenty of moments in which they show themselves to be kind and sympathetic. Peejee in particular, gives Jhim $1,000 so that he can move away from Boston and be happy, despite the fact that she has a major crush on him and is shown crying after he leaves. She also friggin' moves to Texas just to help and support Davan who must go home to take care of his father Fred, who has developed Alzheimer's, and her continual kindness is pretty much the sole reason for Mike's Heel-Face Turn, even though he insulted her repeatedly and never believed that she was just trying to help him before she finally got fed up gave him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, which caused said Heel-Face Turn. Aubrey is less prolific in her good deeds, but she still finds time to worry about Davan and specifically try to make him happy, to the point of sending Nerdrotica girls on a flight to Texas in order to make Davan look impressive at his high school reunion, since she knew full well he would be miserable at it. She is also a loving wife to Jason, and chooses to adopt a baby, citing that she could give an orphaned child a home, rather than have a new child.
Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff: Both of the eponymous characters establish themselves as this very quickly. Hell, pretty much every character present leans into this (except maybe Geromy).
Graham, the 'hero' of Wizard School, is a misandrist Jerk Ass whose main occupations are sex, alcohol, and sarcasm. Justified, since he was deliberately chosen by the Big Bad to be as useless a "chosen one" as possible.
Tom from Echo Chamber is a total ass to everyone, especially Zack.
White Whine is this, in a meta sense, for its posters. F My Life is probably more Kafka Komedy.
Pittsburgh Dad, a constant complainer and malcontent, is constantly giving his wife and kids a hard time for various annoyances. Even his favorite activity (watching the Steelers play) is rife with criticism.
It's telling that by the time Church lightens up through Epsilon the show has gotten much darker.
Doug Walker originally intended The Nostalgia Critic to be this, however, he actually became a lot more sympathetic as the series progressed, falling more into Jerkass Woobie territory. And the things he did in the Scooby-Doo review and To Boldly Flee show that he had actually drifted far away from this trope, which is even discussed between creator and character in the latter. He seems to have become one again after the Uncancellation, though.
Many of his fellow reviewers, on the other hand, are this through and through.
Jobe Wilkins of the Whateley Universe. The Jobe stories are hilarious, and all from Jobe's point of view, but there's no mistaking he's an obnoxious jerk even for a sociopathic Mad Scientist.
Allen and his father, Richard in Allen Gregory. Allen constantly hits on the principal (who is an obese 60 year old woman), insults his teacher, and lashes out against his sister and his father's life partner. Richard is a complete attention seeker like Allen is and is even more so if any of that attention is on his life partner, Jeremy. Richard is also never wrong, despite what everyone else tells him.
Daria Morgendorffer from Daria. She's a downright bitch to everyone in existence, but the other people in the series are exaggerated stereotypes of annoying things found in high school and suburban America.
The entire cast of Drawn Together. Running down the main character list, we have:
Captain Hero, the narcissistic superhero who rapes dead bodies and uses teenage girls as a shield against bullets, despite being impervious to them.
Foxxy Love, who, despite being the most normal, is still a total black slut who can't even turn down All Roker.
She even has a grandchild, despite being in her mid twenties.
Xander, a video game character who isn't really a bad guy, just an extremely offensive gay stereotype.
Wooldoor Sockbat, an insane Spongebob-esque cartoon character who has done MANY unforgivable things over the course of the series.
Spanky Ham, a internet porn pig who regularly bullies Wooldoor, kills animals, enslaves immigrants, and escapes all punishment with flatulence.
Toot, who, after being unable to become the sex symbol of the house due to changing standards of beauty, decides to become "the bitch".
Ling Ling, a psychotic pokemon who killed/mercilessly attacked his master and uses skulls as sex toys.
Jason Alexander supplied the voice for another one in Duckman.
Eric the Cavalier from Dungeons & Dragons, for a given value of Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Since Moral Guardians and Executive Meddling meant that nothing good could ever really happen to him until he relented and went along with the group, he was definitely meant to be unsympathetic, even though he was the most sympathetic character in the show because he was the only one reacting realistically to their situation, and many of the bad things that happen to him are distinctly slapstick, since he has to survive to agree to go along with the group's plans later.
Peter Griffin on Family Guy. He constantly undermines his wife (who herself isn't to fine and dandy of a character either), scolds Chris when he finds out he has a larger penis than him, constantly bullies and mistreats his own daughter, and has apparently put all of his kids in a coma while hiding it from his wife and not taking them to a hospital.
Possibly Glenn Quagmire too. Actually, there isn't a single member of the main cast who hasn't been Flanderized into being a Jerkass.
Xander Crews from Frisky Dingo. Probably moreso than the "villain", Killface. Of course, Killface may be the protagonist of the series. But pretty much every character fits this trope anyway!
Bender, of Futurama: "Bite my shiny metal ass." Most of the main cast have strong Jerkass tendencies, actually.
Helga Pataki of Hey Arnold!. She's often abrasive, and gives others (especially Arnold, her secret crush) a hard time. However, many of her flaws stem from an unhappy childhood as The Unfavorite. Often times, she still remains the Only Sane Man among classmates, lamenting their stupidity.
Invader Zim is trying to conquer/destroy the Earth and everything on it, but because (in Gaz's words) "he's so bad at it", his machinations are more amusing than mortifying. Being a Large Ham doesn't hurt.
June from KaBlam!, who is featured doing her thing in the page image. While she's quite likable and has a big heart underneath her cute but tough, snarky exterior, it's not uncommon for her to give her best friend / implied crush Henry hell - whether he deserves it or not. And if you think what she's doing in the page image is bad, just check this out. While her Jerkass qualities tend to vary from writer to writer - and the cake scenes are from season 3, in which she Took a Level in Jerkass (but was toned down for season 4) - she more than qualifies for this trope.
Tim of The Life & Times of Tim. A slight twist in that he isn't a character who goes out looking for awful things to do, but in almost every single episode he goes along unquestioningly with the awful things that his friends do and then gets surprised that it gets him into trouble.
Played with in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, wherein almost all the ponies (and whoever is in the spotlight) have moments of this due to the show's heavy deconstructing of the character's shortcomings and insecurities, meaning at least once, they act like a Jerkass and cause enormous problems concerning their defining flaws. The usage of Aesops and redeeming moments tends to keep them in check overall however.
Despite their flaws, Twilight Sparkle and her friends (the Mane Six) are sympathetic more often then not, given their good points outweigh their bad, and their realistic flaws make them easier to relate to. Not to mention that when they DO mess up, they tend to feel bad about it and try to fix the situation, making it debatable whether or not they really qualify for this trope.
The Warden in Superjail!. He goes from ultraviolent sadistic Cloudcuckoolander to potentially becoming an ultra-violent sadistic Nazi-esque overlord in a possible future- just in the space of ten episodes. He spends most of the first season drunk, sick, oblivious to everything around him, angrily berating and abusing his assistant for not properly honoring him, terrifying his staff and inmates alike, giving birth to grotesque manifestations of his inner child through his anus, and following sex-crazed alien cult leaders around. Of course, the viewers don't mind this at all. He's toned down a bit in the later seasons, becoming more of a simple Man Child but still causes trouble for the jail, such as burning it down in the season 3 finale.
Alice can also be seen as this, as even if she does have an unfortunate backstory and a kinder moment here and there, she's also admittedly described as a "sadistic bully" by the creators, and will abuse her power to force inmates to have sex with her as well as also bullying Jared.
Basically all the cast have elements of this, even Jared here and there.
The Captain of the Jupiter42 in Tripping the Rift is ugly, crude, disgusting, sarcastic, depraved, and his crew never misses a moment to lampshade it. Not lampshaded yet is that his name, Chode, sounds much like the stretch of flesh between the testicles and asshole, which is where his mentality seems to reside.
And the rest of the crew aren't exactly sympathetic either. Apart from Six who, ironically as she's an android, is the only one who seems to actually have a heart.
And a brain, in addition to a lot of common sense. As a matter of fact, most sex droids on this show tend to be built to be remarkably smarter than their owners.
In The Venture Bros., Rusty Venture fits the trope perfectly. Greedy and selfish, the Brilliant, but Lazy super scientist regularly neglects his sons as well as takes them around the world on dangerous adventures. The bigger reason why he is so neglectful is because he knows that when they die (they have died a LOT) he can just clone new ones. He becomes much more protective once he loses his backup clones.