The Study Group (Jeff Winger) | Other Main Characters | Greendale Staff and Students | Other Characters
Central characters of Community who are not original members of the Study Group.
Benjamin Franklin "Ben" Chang
Played By: Ken Jeong
A mean-spirited, unstable (to the point of being borderline insane) and scheming rival and antagonist to the Study Group. In the first season he's the school's bullying Spanish teacher, but his life becomes increasingly chaotic and erratic as the show progresses (which also makes him a bit of a season indicator). He's largely detested by the rest of the group, but often tries to be included by them.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Has this vibe with the entire study group, but mainly Jeff and Shirley.
- Aborted Arc: During the second season when seen talking to himself he was supposed to be talking to his twin sister Connie, who he ate in utero. Eventually she was supposed to show up in the "flesh" and they were to kiss. However, the creator and writers thought it maybe going too far.
- And Starring: With Ken Jeong.
- Animal Motif: Invoked, Chang gives himself a tiger motif. Chang refers to himself as "El Tigre" during Season 1, with his paintball gun in the Paintball Episode even being orange with tiger stripes. He also wore a jacket with a tiger emblem on it.
- Apathetic Teacher: When he's not being a Sadist Teacher.
- The Artifact: The final two seasons bend over backwards to keep Chang in the main cast, even though his continued presence in the show raises multiple questions. Sometime during the Time Skip between Seasons 4 and 5, he manages to get let out of prison on a work release (despite nearly committing a deadly act of terrorism), he manages to get a job as a math professor at Greendale (despite previously trying to blow up the school), and he manages to get invited to join the "Save Greendale" committee (even though none of the other committee members particularly like him, and they all know that he's seriously mentally disturbed). It doesn't make a lot of sense, but he was a popular character who'd been around since Season 1, and there were some positions that needed to be filled after several of the other main cast members had left, so he was allowed to stick around for old time's sake. He even lampshades it in "Basic Email Security":Elroy: This was a study group?Abed: Yeah, Chang was our teacher.Elroy and Frankie: WHAT?!Chang: That's right! And frankly, haven't been well-utilized since!
- Ax-Crazy: He's a psycho, to say the least.
- Badass in a Nice Suit: Dresses himself in black slacks and white shirt and coat during the Season 1 Paintball Episode.
- Becoming the Mask: In Season 4, "Kevin" starts off as just a way to let Chang infiltrate Greendale to help City College crush them and allow Chang to gain revenge for being rejected. However, in "Heroic Origins", Abed convinces him that, no matter what his motives, "Kevin" is a legitimately better person now and both Greendale and the study group are giving him a second chance to turn his life around and be included.
- Big Bad: The closest thing to a main antagonist the show has, although he only actually assumes the villain role for the last few episodes of Season 3.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Becomes the main threat in Season 3 as he takes over Greendale, while Vice Dean Laybourne tries to get Troy to join the AC Repair Annex.
- The Blind Leading the Blind: As it turns out he does not actually know Spanish. At one point, he was teaching them Klingon.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He is an outright Sadist Teacher but even with all the complaints about his conduct they can't fire him because as mentioned in "Environmental Science" he is the only Spanish teacher around. Subverted when it turns out he doesn't actually know any Spanish.
- Butt-Monkey: Not so much in Season 1, but in Season 2 almost nothing ever seems to go right for him. Not that he doesn't often bring it on himself.
- He takes to replacing words that rhyme with Chang and the word "change" (or, eventually, just random words/parts of words in general) with "Chang", much to everyone's disgust.Jeff: It's not even clever! You keep using it as the word "change"!
Jeff: It makes me so CHANGRY! Oh God, now I'm doing it too.
- Even the advertising gets in on it.
- From the end of "Regional Holiday Music"
- He takes to replacing words that rhyme with Chang and the word "change" (or, eventually, just random words/parts of words in general) with "Chang", much to everyone's disgust.
- Celeb Crush: On Nathan Fillion, as he reveals in "Geothermal Escapism".
- Celebrity Paradox: Jeff and Annie make a Take That! to the Marvel Cinematic Universe during the Grand Finale. Ken Jeong appeared in Avengers: Endgame along with Yvette Nicole Brown.
- Characterization Marches On: While always a hammy Jerkass, in Season 1 he is competent enough to fake his way into being a Spanish teacher and also shows glimmers of having a more normal personal life than most of the study group. Come Season 2 and being an idiot and a loser are among his biggest defining traits for the rest of the series.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Anytime the Study Group show the remotest sign of trust in him, expect him to betray them before too long. To the point where at the end of Season 5, Chang betraying the rest of the group is apparently on the "Save Greendale" committee's To-Do list.
- In "A Fistful of Paintballs", he kept switching sides.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Chang's mind truly is an enigma.
- Convenient Replacement Character: While he's been on the show from the beginning, it's not until the episode after Troy leaves that he officially joins the main group, right down to sitting in Troy's seat. He also fills a similar narrative purpose, being the resident ditz and Cloudcuckoolander, and even begins hanging with the group outside of school more often.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: While playing an Anthropomorphic Personification of drugs "Celebrity Pharmacology", Chang starts threatening the families of the kids watching.Chang: I'll deep fry your dog and eat your mom's face! I'm gonna wear your little brother's SKIN like pajamas!
- The Ditz: In later seasons, he takes over Troy's role as the least intelligent member of the group.
- The Dragon: To Dean Pelton's Big Bad in the paintball game in "Modern Warfare". Downplayed in that the only person we actually see him take out is Britta.
- Dragon-in-Chief: In Season 3 he uses a squad of youth to take over Greendale, where he enforces ludicrous policies upon the school as de facto commander with his fake dean acting as a powerless figurehead.
- Drunk with Power: Putting Ben Chang in a position of authority (however trivial) is not a good idea, as it tends to lead to this trope. In Season 1, he basically abuses and flaunts his power and authority over his students in bullying, sadistic and at-times creepy ways. In Season 3, after spending the previous season as the Butt-Monkey, he's made a campus security guard, which gradually sees him become Head of Security when all the other guards quit. And that leads to Chang becoming, in the words of Jeff, "a psychotic wanna-be warlord."
- Easily Forgiven: Lampshaded by Jeff in Season 4; despite the fact that he kidnapped the Dean and nearly blew up the school, the study group and dean are willing to believe in "Kevin" and Changnesia. Deconstructed in Season 5 when the group files a lawsuit against the Dean for hiring him again as a math teacher.
- Epic Rocking: Performs key-tar solos that typically last nine minutes, and does so regularly enough that Abed knows how long one can be expected to last.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
- Ben has a fairly good relationship with his brother, who is a rabbi. While they question their life professions, Ben will punch anyone in the face who draws a swastika, even if by accident.
- He never stopped loving his wife Alessandra, even after she kicked him out for sleeping with Shirley on Halloween. Jeff nearly busts him for Changnesia being fake by bringing her to an event about "Kevin" and revealing he's been calling her repeatedly. Chang visibly goes Oh, Crap! when he sees her again and realizes his cover is nearly blown.
- Even Evil Has Standards: He looks visibly guilty when lying to Alessandra that he doesn't remember her and she's hopeful they can reconcile. "Kevin" knows that Benjamin Chang was an awful person, and admits as such, because what kind of person would throw away a chance to reconcile with his wife?
- Everything Is Racist: Chang is rather sensitive to racism and tends to see it even if it's not there. However, this only applies when the perceived racism is towards him; he has no problem making racist comments towards Shirley, Troy, Annie and Abed.
- Evil Laugh/Laughing Mad: Has a very evil laugh and a tendency to employ it when going completely insane.
- Faking Amnesia: Or as he calls it, Changnesia. His scheme in Season 4 is to be "Kevin" and infiltrate Greendale to help Dean Spreck. It doesn't work because Jeff has been watching him after failing to prove that Changnesia is fake, and the Dean's plan is pretty nonsensical.
- Flanderization: Starts out as a dick with some quirks. In later seasons, he becomes outright antagonistic, and even further down the road, his quirkiness evolves into full-on Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies.
- Foil: To Jeff. As revealed near the end of Season 1: he's spent years faking his way through his teaching job with a phony teaching degree, just like Jeff spent years faking his way through his legal career with a phony law degree; he's even forced to enroll at Greendale when he gets caught, just like Jeff. But while Jeff is (mostly) humbled by his experiences, and manages to make the best of his situation by forming lasting friendships with his classmates, Chang just goes further and further off the deep end until he tries to conquer Greendale by force.
- Freudian Excuse: "Heroic Origins" suggests that his Sanity Slippage might stem from a dose of "experimental monkey fever" he caught from Annie's Boobs.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: He takes over the role from the recently deceased Pierce when he finally joins the group in Season 5.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: From a fake teacher to an insane student to a maniacal warlord.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: The slightest insult — or innocent thing he irrationally takes to be an insult — can set him off into a tantrum.
- Upon being informed in "Social Psychology" that the experiment was going to start late he immediately exploded in a violent, childish temper tantrum, involving throwing furniture and screaming "MOMMY!" Since the purpose of the experiment was to test how long people would put up with being delayed before exploding, Professor Duncan was quite pleased:Duncan: Houston, we have an idiot.
- Upon being informed in "Social Psychology" that the experiment was going to start late he immediately exploded in a violent, childish temper tantrum, involving throwing furniture and screaming "MOMMY!" Since the purpose of the experiment was to test how long people would put up with being delayed before exploding, Professor Duncan was quite pleased:
- HeelFace Mole: In Season 4 as "Kevin".
- HeelFace Turn: Starts in Season 5 when he finally joins the study group/Save Greendale Committee. He does relapse in the finale, but by the time Season 6 comes, he truly becomes one of them.
- Hidden Depths:
- "Modern Warfare" reveals that he enjoys arts and crafts and apparently paints watercolors.
- He met his wife in a salsa club.
- He is a decent actor and almost becomes a movie star before insulting Steven Spielberg.
- Honorary True Companion: As of "Heroic Origins", Abed realizes that Chang handing out fliers at Yogurts-burgh is what brought them all to Greendale. He invites Chang along for some fro-yo and tells him he's actually been part of the group all along.
- Humble Goal: "Heroic Origins" reveals that, for all his increasingly grandiose Jerkass nature and scheming, when it comes down to it all he really wants is to be included by the study group, as was his main goal in Season 2.
- Hypocrite: In the first season especially, Chang is hyper-defensive regarding any hint of racism and stereotyping directed towards himself, but has little problem making racist statements about others, in particular members of the study group. Furthermore, despite his lengthy "I AM A SPANISH GENIUS!" rant about breaking stereotypes around Asian people by teaching Spanish, most his expressions of interest in Spanish culture rarely go beyond the stereotypical (dressing as a matador, wearing sombreros, etc.).
- I Just Want to Have Friends: For most of Season 2, all he wants is to join the study group.
- Incoming Ham: He enters plenty of scenes in the most hammy, loud way possible.Chang: Did someone say CRAZY PERSOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON?!
Everyone Else: No.
Chang: Well, I heard it.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: In Season 2. While still an asshat, there are numerous scenes showing him as lonely and pathetic.
- Insane Troll Logic: When we get to hear his thoughts things go from bizarre to outright surreal.
- Jerkass: He's not a particularly nice person.
- Jerkass Has a Point: When Star-Burns protests over Chang referring to him as 'Star-Burns' rather than 'Alex', Chang counters that a guy who spends hours sculpting his side-burns into massive star-shapes doesn't really get to whine if people latch onto them as a nickname.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Very, very rarely. For the most part, he's just a straight-up Jerkass.
- Karma Houdini: In the Season 5 finale, Chang gets away with betraying the study group and even takes the million dollars entrusted to him by the school board for himself.
- Karma Houdini Warranty: Manages to avoid any punishment for his crimes in Season 3 by Faking Amnesia all throughout Season 4. In the Season 5 premiere, he reveals he owned up to his mistakes and briefly went to jail, and is now out on work release.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: The reason his debut has him shout "I AM A SPANISH GENIUS!". The Season 1 finale reveals he knows less about Spanish than his students, and was at one point teaching them Klingon.
- Large Ham: The biggest one on the show, given his tendency to get very, very melodramatic about things.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: In Season 4. And of course it turns out he's just faking all of it in "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking".
- Last-Name Basis: Pretty much everyone just calls him Chang, largely due to his constant Smurfing.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler/Walking Spoiler: Chang's role in the show changes from season to season, so it's often hard to describe what he's doing without spoiling the previous season for anyone who hasn't already seen it.
- Lethally Stupid: He almost burns down the whole school and everybody in it when he tries to kill the study group with fireworks in "The First Chang Dynasty".
- The Mentally Disturbed: Starting in Season 2, escalating in Season 3. Eventually lampshaded by Chang himself in Season 5 when he betrays the group again, stating that he's probably just mentally ill.
- The Mole: Chang is one for City College in Season 4.
- Morality Chain: Alessandra was this for him. He wasn't great before, but he goes off the deep end after she kicks him out.
- My God, What Have I Done?: He is guilty about lying to Alessandra that he doesn't remember her, despite her being eager to help him regain his memories, as shown by his Oh, Crap! when she appears at his event. This is why he goes easy on Jeff for trying to bust him for Faking Amnesia, because he knows Jeff is absolutely right that he is lying and in other circumstances, he would have won his wife back.
- The Nicknamer: He is the originator of the 'Starburns' nickname. During Season 1, he also has a tendency to bestow racist nicknames on his students.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Acting stupid isn't difficult for him, but he can act even more imbecilic than he is at times in order to fool people. Particularly as "Kevin" in Season 4.
- Out of Focus: His screen time is reduced partway through Season 3, almost to Demoted to Extra levels, but this was All According to Plan. Chang spends Season 3 slowly gaining power before reappearing as the brand spanking new Big Bad.
- Panicky Expectant Father: At least until it turns out the child wasn't his. And in his case, interestingly enough, the issue was not that he was having a child, it was if he would get to be the child's father. Completely subverted when Shirley gives birth, where he becomes rather soothing and very helpful in calming Shirley down.
- Pet the Dog: After Jeff becomes a pariah for failing to expose that Kevin is Faking Amnesia, Chang sits with him at lunch and sincerely says he has every right to be cynical, since Benjamin Chang was an awful person, and helps him reconcile with his friends. It would have been better for Chang if Jeff had remained ostracized.
- Psychopathic Manchild: There's a reason that, in the third season, Chang's army is made up entirely of twelve-year-old boys.
- Pungeon Master: He "chang"-ifies alot, most notably when coining the name of his disease Changnesia.
- Sadistic Choice: He faces one when Jeff reintroduces him to his wife and asks if he remembers her. Either he can admit that he misses her and remembers her despite supposedly having Changnesia, or keep playing dumb and miss the chance to reconcile with the love of his life. Chang chooses the latter, with a regretful expression.
- Sadist Teacher: In "Environmental Science", he drags Annie out of his classroom for failing to put her pencil down at the end of a test, assigns an essay to the rest of the class as punishment, extends the length of the essay every time a student says something (eventually coming to "TWENTY PAGES, EN ESPAÑOL, ON ASS-KISSING!"), makes it worth thirty percent of the students' overall grade for the class, sets it due the following Monday (despite the class being an introductory Spanish class), and promises to follow it immediately with "a big-ass quiz." He also openly insults nearly every student in the class on a regular basis (see his explanation of "Usted" on the Quotes page). Apparently, the school has been trying to fire him for years, but couldn't because nobody wanted his job. (He would eventually be fired when it was discovered that he didn't have any teaching credentials. Or Spanish credentials.)
- Most of the scenes involving him appearing in a teaching capacity generally tended to involve him abusing, insulting, ranting at or on some occasions even borderline molesting his students.
- Sanity Slippage: Progressively throughout Seasons 2 and 3. Not that he was very sane to begin with.
- Second Episode Introduction: He does not appear in the pilot episode.
- Sixth Ranger: At least, he would very much like to be this. The Study Group isn't having any of it, however. At least until Season 5, when they finally accept him as one of their own.
- Small Name, Big Ego: He has an incredibly inflated sense of his own skills, talents and importance to the world.
- Stalker with a Crush: To the entire study group in Season 2; he really, really wants to be part of the group.
- Stupid Evil: Deconstructed. He is dumb which means Annie eventually records him admitting he's not a certified Spanish teacher to Jeff. It also means he's nearly set the school on fire and attempted to blow it up twice, which would have gotten him killed as well as hundreds of others, including children and the School Board members who like him. Then, instead of staying on the lam, he risks going back to jail to help the City College Dean infiltrate Greendale as an amnesiac. Jeff figured out he was faking it but couldn't prove it, so he backs off and merely watches him.
- The Team Wannabe: Something even recognized by the study group. When making a diorama of themselves making a diorama, they include a figurine of Chang peering at them from outside the study room.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Two pretty notable ones in Season 6. After spending the majority of the series as a hapless Butt-Monkey he pulls off a powerful performance in a stage production of The Karate Kid and saves the day with a rousing speech at Garrett's wedding. Both events earn him praise and respect from the group.
- Token Evil Teammate: Given his tendency to turn on the group at the drop of a hat.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: In Season 1, he's somewhat incompetent but still bright enough to fake his way into being a teacher. By Season 3, he actually believes fire can't travel through doors because "it's not a ghost".
- Took a Level in Jerkass: From annoying and inept teacher to insane attempted murderer.
- Took a Level in Kindness: He's less overtly dickish in Season 5, although he does end up betraying the Save Greendale committee once again at the very end. Season 6 has him at his least jerkish and he gets several Pet the Dog moments in return.Chang: I like this group. I'm at my best when I'm with you guys.
- Twofer Token Minority: He's Chinese and considering his brother is a rabbi he's probably also Jewish. Of course, since he faked his credentials as a Spanish teacher, who's to say his brother isn't faking his credentials as a rabbi?
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Lampshaded by Jeff. She is also significantly taller than he.
- Villain Song: A Boastful Rap entirely about himself and how awesome he is, which he even plays in class.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: His relationship with Duncan following "The Psychology of Letting Go" has elements of this.
Dean Craig Isadore Pelton
Played By: Jim Rash
Dean of Greendale Community College. He's intensely determined to raise the reputation and profile of the school to make it seem more like a 'proper' university but, unfortunately, is usually neither clever or competent enough to do so. Has a tendency to latch on to any excuse to both dress up in an unusual and often gender-crossing costume (particularly to deliver news) and to try and get close to Jeff.
- Abhorrent Admirer: To Jeff, though not so much in appearance (he's actually pretty attractive when not crossdressing or wearing his unflattering day-job outfit) but for the facts that A) Jeff is straight, and B) the Dean is rather willfully ignorant of how unwanted his advances are.
- Breakout Character: Was eventually promoted to the main cast due to his popularity with the fans.
- Camp Gay: His sexuality is so complex that the school board asking him to pretend that he is "just" gay for publicity causes him angst and pent-up stress. In his own words:Dean: If coming out is a magic show and gayness is a rabbit coming out of a hat, I'm one of those never-ending handkerchiefs.
- Catchphrase: Uses "Dean" in nearly every word he can make a (sometimes barely) passable pun out of. At times it borders on being a Verbal Tic.
- Celebrity Paradox:
- Friends was frequently mentioned throughout the show's run. Jim Rash notably guest-starred during the show's Grand Finale.
- The show makes frequent jabs at Glee. Jim Rash was a frequent guest-star during its last two seasons.
- Jeff and Annie make a Take That! to the Marvel Cinematic Universe during the Grand Finale. Jim Rash appeared in Captain America: Civil War as a college dean.
- Character Tic: Whenever he's lying, nervous, or expecting/receiving backlash for his actions, he tends to touch his chin / cheek.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Rather lovably quirky with his hobbies and fetishes.
- Costume Porn: To the point he has a whole closet full of costumes in his office.
- Creepy Crossdresser or Wholesome Crossdresser: Especially from Season 2 onwards. A lot of his costumes are dresses. Even a few of his male costumes are rather... Stripperific, and were clearly meant to be worn by women.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Dean Pelton has a hard time resisting his lust for Jeff regardless of the situation.
- Dogged Nice Guy: He can be seen this way. His conduct towards Jeff is definitely inappropriate, but Jeff clearly considers him more or less harmless and he's a pretty likable and sympathetic character in many ways.
- Drop-In Character:Jeff: We were debating how many times a year a man can drop in a study room in a dumb costume with irrelevant news.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Most of the time he is referred to as Dean Pelton, or just Dean.
- Though Jeff tends to call him by his first name whenever he is being deadly serious about something.
- Extracurricular Enthusiast: Dean Pelton fits this to a T. There is no school activity/event that he can't get excited about.
- And wear a ridiculous costume to promote.
- Fake Guest Star: In the first two seasons, Jim Rash is credited as a guest star despite the Dean appearing in nearly every episode and often driving the plot (not to mention being the very first main character introduced).
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sanguine
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Downplayed. While they don't dislike him, the study group only just barely seem to tolerate him more often than not, and when the Save Greendale Committee is formed, their first order of business is to ban the Dean from attending their meetings.
- Furry Fandom: He's got this thing for Dalmatians.Dean: This better not awaken anything in me...
- A God Am I: He becomes all about this after buying, and becoming addicted to using, an extremely lame virtual reality rig, in which the act of opening an ordinary file suddenly becomes an epic demonstration of his godliness.
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: A particular specialty of his is to appear whenever the word "Dean", or something that just sounds close enough is spoken. Though it may not be so inadvertent after all, if "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations" is to be believed. Apparently, he listens in on the study group's conversations with a cup to the wall.
- Jerkass Ball: In the episode "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux", and also took a level in crazy.
- Large Ham: He can get really dramatic about things. His reaction to seeing Jeff in sunglasses deserves some mention.
- Lethally Stupid: The Zombie Apocalypse in "Epidemiology" happened because the Dean thought hazardous experimental material from a military surplus store was taco meat with a goofy label. Not to mention hiring people like Chang.
- Manipulative Bastard: For somebody normally so incompetent, he's very good at using blackmail and bribes to get the student body in general (and particularly Jeff and Annie) to do what he wants.
- Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Played with in "Epidemiology"; the Dean's actions are what helped prevent an Apocalypse How.
- Political Overcorrectness: Has a tendency to slip into this, causing the creation of the "Greendale Human Being" (Jeff: "I think not being racist is the new racism") and the non-denominational Mr. Winter ("Merry Happy!"). This habit of his is also apparently the reason the degreeless Chang got the Spanish teaching positionPelton was afraid of being called a racist for asking an Asian man for Spanish credentials.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Starting in Season 3.
- Pungeon Master: He loves finding new ways to work the word "Dean" into his sentences.
- Sitcom Archnemesis: He becomes more contemptuous of Britta as the seasons progress.
- Stalker with a Crush: Quite a few plots are instigated by the Dean wanting to get closer to Jeff.
- Stepford Smiler: We see in "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" that organizing events is the only way that he can make Greendale and himself feel less like a failure.
- Teacher's Pet: Inverted; the study group don't spend a lot of time sucking up to him and actually downright resent the very idea of being considered his favourite students, but they're his most beloved attendees in the entire college and he utterly adores them. Particularly Jeff.
- Tempting Fate: He can be summoned when other characters tempt fate.
- Took a Level in Badass: In "Modern Espionage". He was completely useless in the previous paintball episodes (although, to be fair, he wasn't exactly participating back then, but still). This time he "survives" until the end along with Jeff.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: Bordering on Too Dumb to Live in Seasons 5 and 6.
- Transparent Closet: Really, really transparent, but he never explicitly acknowledges his sexuality until Season 6, where he states that he's not openly gay because he's "not openly anything."
- Unlimited Wardrobe: As a Running Gag, his office is stocked with a seemingly boundless array of costumes that he'll take any opportunity to wear, no matter how slight.
Dr. Ian Duncan
Played By: John Oliver
The school's psychology professor and counselor. An old friend and client of Jeff's, he is rather insufferable and morally flexible.
- Abhorrent Admirer: To Britta. The abhorrent part comes from the manipulative and self-serving ways he plans to get with her throughout the series, despite Brittas clear lack of interest in him. This comes to a head and is eventually resolved in "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality", in which he weasels his way into being alone with her while shes having an existential crisis. However, instead of taking advantage of her, he has a change of heart and lets the idea go. He does momentarily regret it though, after Britta admits that she was vulnerable enough to have consented if he had tried to hit on her.
- The Alcoholic: He likes his booze a little too much.
- Apathetic Teacher: Certainly as an anthropology teacher, he very visibly cannot give two whole shits about the subject or teaching anything worthwhile about it, to the extent that he doesn't even buy the textbook since it's too expensive, spends entire weeks playing YouTube videos, improvises a class of anesthesiology at one point simply because a pretty student got the room number wrong and sets the final exam as simply an excuse for everyone to drink. It's possible that he improves when he's actually teaching psychology, but considering he once expressed his astonishment at learning what anthropology actually was by exclaiming he'd "thought psychology was a dodge", it's very unlikely.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Jeff in his lawyer days helped Professor Duncan get out of a legal scrape involving driving. For that reason, Dr. Duncan treats him nicely compared to everyone else. As he admits, he owes Jeff for saving his butt.
- British Teeth: A go-to insult by others.
- The Bus Came Back: He returns in Season 5 after disappearing near the end of Season 2 and being absent for the entirety of Seasons 3 and 4. He was then Put on a Bus again for the final season.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Quietly disappears after Season 2. This is duly lampshaded in Season 4's "Intro to Felt Surrogacy":Troy: Has anyone else noticed Professor Duncan hasn't been around for a long time?
- Demoted to Extra: The character was initially featured in early promotional material as the main professor character in the show, but after a handful of episodes he disappeared, with Señor Chang (Ken Jeong) essentially taking his place. Oliver returned in the Season 1 finale and was the professor for their anthropology class as a Recurring Character in Season two. This was the result of Oliver's decision to not become a regular cast member because he didn't want to leave The Daily Show (the two programs are filmed on opposite sides of the country) and Ken Jeong's breakout role in The Hangover in the interim between pilot and broadcast.
- Dr. Jerk: Well, amoral psychologist that's described by John Oliver as a combination of narcissism and self-loathing.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the pilot he was the Only Sane Man of the ensemble who advised Jeff to not try and cheat his way through his college career. That vanished when he conducted a cruel psychological study with Annie helping him.
- Fake Nationality: A borderline In-Universe example: Duncan does have a British accent and was born in the UK, but has spent most of his life in America. When he tries invoking any British stereotypes or talk using words commonly used in British English, it always comes out as wrong or at least a bit forced.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Melancholic.
- Freudian Excuse: When pressed enough (or drunk enough) Duncan reveals himself to be a very lonely man with some unprocessed childhood trauma.Abed: [responding to Duncan reliving childhood memories] Where's your dad? It's Christmas, professor. Where's your dad?Duncan: I DON'T KNOW! We never know! Mum won't stop crying! I'm going to America with Grandma! [sobs]
- Hidden Depths: Apparently plays pianoand plays it wellfor the Glee Club.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: His attempt to establish "The Duncan Principle"note ends with him becoming the victim of said principle when Abed sits there for twenty-six hours waiting for the meeting he's been told to expect.
- Jerkass: In between his alcoholism, his rather amoral and inept approach to psychiatry and his overall pompous, self-serving nature, Duncan is all in all a bit of a self-righteous prick, although not entirely without his sympathetic or decent side. He ends his run on the show squarely in Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory, however.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts", he sets the final exam as an excuse for everyone to drink, orders Annie bullied down when she queries the fairness of automatically passing everyone regardless of merit, and gleefully revels in keeping the fact that Anthropology has been a complete dodge of a class all year from the Dean. So, of course, the Dean chooses the exact moment when he's happily toasting this to walk in and completely scuttle his plans.
- The fact that Abed tends to turn his psychoanalysis back on him can be considered this, since his profession tends to bring out his dickish side.
- Pet the Dog: He's in this mode in retrospect during the pilot, where he advises Jeff to earn his degree honorably and does an ultimately harmless Secret Test of Character. Justified in that Jeff helped him get out of a legal scrape before the start of the show.
- Professor Guinea Pig: An inadvertent example; every time he tries plying his trade on Abed, Abed somehow manages to turn it back on him.
- Psycho Psychologist: Nonlethal version, but Duncan has been shown to run ethically questionable experiments and lure patients into therapy for ulterior motives (hitting on them and getting publication material for a case).
- Put on a Bus: He is absent in Seasons 3, 4 and 6.
- Son of a Whore: By his own admission. This caused an awkward moment between him and Hickey when it's revealed that Hickey could possibly be his father. He's not, but it's very likely that Hickey is the father of Duncan's cousin.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Averted. Duncan is a Sore Loser, has almost no resolve, and is fairly easily pushed into emotional breakdowns. In "Social Psychology" he even throws a full-blown temper tantrum when his experiment ends up backfiring on him.
- Took a Level in Kindness: When he returns in Season 5 he's a lot nicer and more sympathetic than many of his previous appearances. This is particularly displayed in "Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality", where he decides not to take advantage of Britta while she's in a vulnerable state, instead driving her home and giving her a pep talk to demonstrate that her life does have meaning. Additionally, the preexisting friendship established between him and Jeff in the pilot episode is explored and developed more than it was in either of the first two seasons.
- Two First Names: Both the actor and the character.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: His interaction with Chang following "The Psychology of Letting Go" has elements of this.
Played By: Jonathan Banks
The gruff, ill-tempered and cynical criminology professor at Greendale who joins the "Save Greendale" committee. Introduced in Season 5, he is Annie's teacher, and shares an office with Jeff.
- Actor Allusion: Given the massive popularity of Breaking Bad, at least a few to Banks' character Mike were inevitable:Hickey: (concerning Annie) She needs to be taken out.
(Jeff gives an incredulous look)
Hickey: ...Of your class.
- The B Grade: Tells Jeff that minus grades were invented by teachers just to spite students they don't like.
- Celebrity Paradox: Breaking Bad was blatantly mentioned in Season 3. Jonathan Banks was a main cast member of both the show and the Sequel Series Better Call Saul.
- Cool Old Guy: Troy certainly thinks so:Troy: Are you the coolest person in the world?
Hickey: I doubt it.
- Crazy-Prepared: He's a bit of a survivalist, is building a fallout shelter and carries rope around with him everywhere he goes. At one point he also apparently thinks of a completely different plan to the one his friends are enacting just in case the person he's being interrogated by happens to be telepathic.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Not much has been revealed, but he's apparently a former cop, was involved in the investigation of the "Black River Ripper," has "seen human heads used for things other than heads", and "watched (his) third wife die".
- Disc-One Final Boss: He's set up as the biggest threat to the heroes during the game of "The Floor is Lava" in "Geothermal Escapism", but is upstaged when Britta quickly eliminates him during the final round.
- Fake Guest Star: Hickey is present in nearly every episode of Season 5 but is credited only as a guest star.
- In many ways, he's essentially a much older Jeff who never went through the Character Development the latter got thanks to his friendship with the study group. His first appearance in "Introduction to Teaching" highlights this several times.
- In other ways, he's much like Pierce.
- Whereas Pierce was clueless and bumbling, Hickey is competent and intelligent.
- Pierce was a deluded Small Name, Big Ego convinced he was the most popular guy in the study group, while Hickey is less pretentious and concerned with popularity.
- Pierce was a sheltered and pampered rich guy, while Hickey is a jaded and cynical former police investigator.
- Pierce was often at odds with and disrespected by the other members of the study group, who nevertheless regarded him as an integral member of their family. Hickey, on the other hand, seems to receive a lot more respect from the other members of the group, but is less close to them.
- Grumpy Old Man: The times throughout his appearances where he's not bad-tempered about something can be counted on one hand.
- Hidden Depths: He draws duck-based cartoons in his free time. Apparently several publishers are interested.
- Despite being a typically gruff man's man type he apparently has a much better relationship with his openly gay son than he does with his straight son. He even paid for his gay son's wedding. His straight son is a pretty big nerd who plays D&D, so perhaps his gay son is Manly Gay and therefore has more in common with him.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- Jeff finds out that Professor Hickey is right that you can't let a student undermine your authority. When that student is Annie, Jeff gets annoyed about how she's micromanaging the way she teaches, with Hickey mentioning she's the same in his class. Eventually, they get into an argument where Jeff wins, causing Annie to leave in a huff and the students impressed that Jeff won an argument against little Miss Adderall. The rush inspires Jeff to teach for real, using his experience as a lawyer rather than the textbook.
- Whilst maybe handcuffing Abed to a filing cabinet for ruining his work was an action too far, Buzz does have a point about how Abed needs to learn the concept of consequence, as he does often do most of his stunts without considering how it affects other people or their time.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He can be pretty mean and bad-tempered to those around him. He does ultimately see the error of his ways, however. Furthermore, in "Geothermal Escapism", despite his ruthlessness to win the game he takes pity on Britta and invites her to join him because he takes exception to Troy and Abed abandoning her for 'dead'.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: His treatment of Leonard, while cruel, seems to be exclusive to Leonard (who, being a bit of a Jerkass himself, arguably deserves some comeuppance).
- Killed Offscreen: A Freeze-Frame Bonus in Season 6 seems to confirm this. Banks reprising his Breaking Bad character Mike on the spin-off show Better Call Saul probably had something to do with it.
- Retired Badass: Despite being at least 20 years his senior, shorter and not being in as good a shape as Jeff, he has no problem hog-tying him in no-time flat.
- Running Gag: He doesn't know how to fist bump, and will respond to people setting him up for one by doing things such as shaking Annie's hand or triple knocking on Britta's fist. As his son does the same thing in "Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons", this is apparently a Shared Family Quirk.
- Second Episode Introduction: Makes his first appearance in the second episode of Season 5.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: He's an older guy, who doesn't care for politeness and sits next to Troy at the study table. Remind you of anyone?
- Lampshaded by Duncan, who actually mistakes Hickey for Pierce. He thought that Pierce had been wearing a Dodgy Toupee the entire time and congratulated him for finally mustering up the courage to go without it.
- Also played with, since age and gruffness aside he's quite noticeably different from Pierce in many ways; he lacks Pierce's delusions of cool and obsessive need to be the centre of attention, is a lot more grounded and competent, and is less spiteful and vindictive.
- Uncertain Doom: Disappears in Season 6 and a later episode shows the Greendale network being hacked and all of the Lunch lady's emails being publicly released on the Internet. One message has the subject "Buzz Hickey Memorial Services", either indicating that Buzz Hickey has passed away, or that he had retired his job as Professor to begin his career as a funeral director for his own company.
Francesca "Frankie" Dart
Played By: Paget Brewster
Greendale's new administrator, introduced in Season 6.
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Tall, brunette, beautiful and generally uptight.
- Ambiguously Gay: A comment about not letting her sexual orientation define her personality has caused the rest of the group to start up a betting pool. Jeff has $300 down on "chapstick lesbian", and Annie, who picked last, was apparently stuck with a rather disgusting option. It is later revealed that Jeff's main reason for believing that Frankie is lesbian is the fact that she hasn't hit on him.
- Author Avatar: Strangely, of Yahoo! once they became the producers of Season 6. With the move from TV to online streaming, some of Frankie's dialogue in "Ladders" seems to be reassuring people that just because someone new is in charge doesn't mean everything has to change for the worse.
- Celebrity Paradox: Friends is frequently mentioned throughout the show's run. Paget Brewster was a recurring cast member there during its fourth season.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: To the Dean, and occasionally to Abed.
- The Comically Serious: For the Save Greendale committee, and apparently her actual family.
- Contractual Genre Blindness: Given that she doesn't own a TV, you can forgive her on this. This is a zig-zagged trope however given that she holds up well when dealing with the group's crazy antics and constant lampshading of the sitcom tropes they play into. This is also shown through her strange bond with Abed and playing along with his "life is a TV show gimmick" and knowing that good TV shows change, despite not being familiar with the conventions.
- Control Freak: She has a rehearsed speech that's used for things like job interviews where she states that "someone has to be in control" and "that person is her".
- Dysfunctional Family: Hinted at in bits and pieces to have relatives who are "literally insane".
- Fake Guest Star: Frankie and Elroy are essentially main cast members of the final season yet are only credited as guest stars.
- Fish out of Water: In both Greendale and normal society.
- Gender-Blender Name: Frankie.
- The Generic Guy:
- Frankie seems to be a Community-style take on the trope. Compared to the other main characters she doesn't possess any outstanding personality quirks or flaws, but she herself is fine with this and quite proud to be the boring character since her job is financially sustaining Greendale and not being a character on Abed's TV show. Immediately lampshaded by Abed.Abed: I can't determine if you have any specific flaw, quirk or point of view that makes you a creative addition to the group.
Frankie: I don't know what that means, but I'm writing it down.
- As she puts herself "quirks are not her strong suit." Her genericness and overall balanced personality is what makes her a good financial consultant for Greendale and to keep it open. The trope is zig-zagged, given that she has unique qualities as having a Dysfunctional Family and the above-mentioned status as being Ambiguously Gay.Frankie: This is the first I've heard that I'm a character on a TV show, I'm excited to be one, but I agree I'll be a boring one. Quirks are not my strong suit: results are. I love quirky people, I come from a big family of people who are literally insane. I moved out here to take care of one of them, but I myself am exceptionally boring and I am quite proud to be that way because it allows me to help the less boring people to turn quirks into results.
Abed: That's the most interesting take on not being interesting I've ever heard.
- Frankie seems to be a Community-style take on the trope. Compared to the other main characters she doesn't possess any outstanding personality quirks or flaws, but she herself is fine with this and quite proud to be the boring character since her job is financially sustaining Greendale and not being a character on Abed's TV show. Immediately lampshaded by Abed.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: One time went to sleepover where the girls threw stones at her. And her family is apparently a whole other story.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Compared to the Dean, Frankie is far more intelligent, sensible and equipped to fix Greendale's financial troubles than he is. This isn't really saying much since the Dean has impulsively bought a VR machine and a whole range of Honda vehicles with the school's money.
- Identical Stranger: She looks a lot like IT administrator Debra Chambers, who appeared in Season 5.
- Only Sane Man: She's not without her own issues (witness her absurd attempt to secure a new job using the same speech she used to convince the Save Greendale committee to allow her to take charge) but despite this she nevertheless clearly displays far more common sense, maturity and normality than most of the people at Greendale, in her initial appearance at least. To take one example, banning alcohol on campus in order to secure favourable insurance premiums is clearly a far more sensible and reasonable option than letting alcohol consumption go unrestricted at the expense of securing any insurance whatsoever, as the study group end up doing.
- Pragmatic Hero: She's just as devious as Jeff when it comes to saving Greendale, though she doesn't voice her cynical opinions as often and she tries to downplay ruthlessness.
- Straight Man: She plays the confused everyman to her zanier friends on the Save Greendale committee. Frankie tries to break out of this role on occasion (see her tantrum when she finds the school's secret speakeasy) but fails more often than not with amusing results.
- Statuesque Stunner: The tallest female cast member at 5'8.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: When she gets dressed up for the Gala For A Cleaner Greendale event.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Subverted, each character tends to see her as one, but don't really agree on whom she replaces.
- The Dean introduced her as "New Shirley."
- Abed fears she's "not distinct enough from Annie, both in terms of physicality and purpose".
- Jeff calls her "the new Abed".
- Annie compares her worldview to Jeff's. She lampshades this:Frankie: Jeff said I sound like Abed. I wonder if Britta thinks I sound like Chang. I assume Chang thinks I sound like distant explosions and crying babies — you know he's unstable, right?
Played By: Keith David
Introduced in Season 6, an inventor of a virtual reality system in the 1990s who becomes the newest member of the Greendale faculty and the "Save Greendale" committee.
- Badass Baritone: As per usual with Keith David. Dean Pelton even points it out in "Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care" (the first episode Elroy is in).
- Celebrity Paradox: The show's famous "Six seasons and a movie" quote is made with direct reference to the show The Cape, which Keith David was a main cast member of.
- Covert Pervert: Was caught making anatomically correct virtual models of Britta, Annie and Frankie, although he insists that they were for a video game about "lady time travelers."
- Fake Guest Star: Elroy and Frankie are essentially main cast members of the final season yet are only credited as guest stars.
- Hidden Depths: Is a fan of Britta's favourite hipster band, Natalie is Freezing. He even used to date the singer.
- Identical Stranger: Keith David was the narrator of the season 3 episode Pillows and Blankets. Downplayed since it was only his voice.
- Jaded Washout: Of the 90's Virtual Reality craze.
- Magical Negro: In "Wedding Videography", he reveals that he has a bit of a problem with this...Elroy: My name is Elroy Patashnik, and between 2006 and 2009, I was addicted to encouraging white people.
- Outdated Outfit: His outfits are mix of garish sweaters, vests, and evening wear several decades out of date. Mocked in the group's emails.
- Put on a Bus: In the series finale, Elroy abruptly leaves Greendale for California to take a job with LinkedIn (helping them to figure out why so few people use LinkedIn) and to reconnect with a woman from his past. When the others ask if he'll ever return, Elroy responds noncomittally before wishing them all a great summer.
- Second Episode Introduction: Introduced in the second episode of the final season.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
- "Basic Crisis Room Decorum" makes it clear that he's this for Pierce, albeit a much more self-aware and savvy one. He even goes off on a Pierce-esque tangent about the prices of candy bars when he was young.
- In "Advanced Safety Features", Chang proposes that Elroy is uncomfortable in the group because he doesn't know what his role is yet.Chang: Is he black Pierce? Old Troy? Or Shirley without a giant purse?
- Token Minority: Is very conscious about avoiding becoming this for the group.