Usually, villains have a personality or manner that underscores how evil they are. They may kick puppies for giggles, be particularly insensitive and/or fanatically obsessed with their cause, or might just be too unknowable and/or eldritch to be anything but evil.
Then there are villains who are Affably Evil. There is absolutely nothing separating them from being normal, polite people except for the fact that they want to Take Over the World or use human souls to power their Artifact of Doom. They're not the Stepford Smiler or the Bitch in Sheep's Clothing—their affability is a genuine part of their personality, not a mask. And this is what ultimately differentiates them those tropes and Faux Affably Evil. If they have underlings, expect them to be a Benevolent Boss. In one way, they're the opposite of an Anti-Hero. They may Pet the Dog on occasion, but won't hesitate to kick it with steel-toed boots the next second if it helps them accomplish their Evil Plan. They may well be a Villain with Good Publicity because, after all, being evil doesn't mean you have to be anti-social.
If this trope gets exaggerated, this villain will invite the hero out to tea, offer them a favorite dish, talk friendly, try to appeal to the hero's better nature, and convince the heroes that the villain's plan isn't worth getting involved in or is even worth joining. Of course, if the hero still won't change their mind, the villain will remind them that they are, after all, still a villain. It may or may not involve a Death Trap, depending on how nice the villain really is when crossed. Of course, inviting the hero's mom out to tea might send a stronger message. The friendliness of said villains can serve to humanize these guys. In situations with Evil vs. Evil, they are often A Lighter Shade of Black in this conflict.
Usually a Wicked Cultured, charismatic Chessmaster. They are sometimes comedic or a Well-Intentioned Extremist who really believes that they are right. More often than not, they are a form of Anti-Villain because a straight villain wouldn't easily be so genuinely good-natured. Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor is not true for them, and their affability even makes them easy to "compliment" with an Insult Backfire. Captives of an affably evil villain won't be kept in dungeons, but in a Gilded Cage. Even an outright psychopath can come off as this if charismatic and funny enough. In fact legitimately insane characters can at times balance this with Faux Affably Evil more easily than sane ones, since the contrast is explained by their mental instability.
In the event an Affably Evil villain does undergo a Villainous Breakdown, the very traits that make them so pleasant often serve to make their breakdown extremely creepy or outright scary. A kind, friendly man suddenly going into a psychotic rage is made all the more scary by the simple fact that he was previously so nice and kind. If they keep their inviting personality while going Ax-Crazy, they may cross into Faux Affably Evil territory with only skin-deep manners, which is a much more frequent behaviour than a truly kind criminal.
- Adaptational Nice Guy: A villain can become Affably Evil in an adaptation of a work where they were depicted as being a jerk.
- Ambiguously Evil: If someone is such a nice person, can they really be a villain? (Yes.)
- Anti-Villain: A villainous character that is in a moral grey area, sometimes overlaps with this trope.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Basically the Evil Counterpart of this trope.
- Churchgoing Villain: A villain who doesn't see any reason being a criminal should stop them from being devoutly religious (unless they're The Fundamentalist or they go to the Church of Happyology, in which case, they're Faux).
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: It's just not polite to be prejudiced, even if you are a villain.
- Even Evil Has Standards: A villain who will not cross certain ethical and moral boundaries, and is outright disgusted or appalled by others who do so or even mention them.
- Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: Villains are mutually nice to each other.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: They themselves may be evil, but they certainly don't want that evilness to be create a Villainous Lineage.
- Evil Virtues: Polite and friendly villains will often hold "good" morals and values in order to win support for their followers.
- Fair-Play Villain: When the villain invokes Bond Villain Stupidity simply because it's tradition.
- Family Values Villain: A villain who holds to good old fashioned down-home family values, because Even Evil Has Standards.
- Friendly Enemy: When the main villain of the work is legitimately friends with the protagonist.
- Gentleman Thief: Steals things only from people who deserve it, and is very polite and classy about it.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: The villain puts aside their differences with the hero to play a game or spend some quality time together.
- A Hero to His Hometown: Can sometimes be seen as affably evil by other characters in-story, even if they're not actually a villain.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: A villain that will often be the lesser of two evils in an Evil vs. Evil situation.
- Lovable Rogue: Technically on the side of wrong, but they're so darn likeable, they become an Anti-Hero.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: The villain captures the hero and treats them to a fancy formal dinner.
- Noble Demon: A villain with standards who never goes the extra mile to be truly monstrous.
- Obliviously Evil: A villain that doesn't realize that they're a villain. It should probably be obvious as to why this trope applies to this type of character.
- Politically Correct Villain: The villain is against the discrimination of a group of people.
- Pragmatic Villainy: A villain who may be affable for their own reasons. Some definitely overlap with this trope.
- Punch-Clock Villain: The villain may not be exactly evil, depending on what their villainous duties are — they simply have a job to do, and their employer just happens to be evil. Of course, if that job involves something like brutally slaughtering innocents, their apathetic detachment makes them not much better.
- Token Good Teammate: One member of the Rogues Gallery who isn't as malicious as the rest.
- Too Funny to Be Evil: The villain's good sense of humor makes people think they couldn't possibly be a bad guy.
- Villain Respect: They respect the hero as their rival, and consider them a Worthy Opponent. Sometimes, they'll also help the hero out, against Eviler Than Thou villains.
- Villain with Good Publicity: This trope may be the reason why they're so popular with common people.
- Villains Out Shopping: Affably Evil behavior in otherwise normal villains. Often a trait of a Card-Carrying Villain, especially in the more ironic portrayals.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: A person who believes they are serving a good cause will not likely be someone who is needlessly cruel and can even be quite reasonable.
- Baddie Flattery: The villain gives the hero some compliments, but only as a ploy to confuse them or throw them off guard.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The character hides a more sinister side behind a nice facade — unlike them, Affably Evil characters are genuinely nice.
- Complete Monster: The most heinous characters played seriously with no redeeming or altruistic qualities. They are 0% nice (though may be Faux Affably Evil). These characters therefore cannot be affably evil in any sense.
- Enemy Mine: The villain realizes they need to cooperate with their enemy to achieve a common goal. That doesn't mean they have to be nice about it.
- Evil Is Petty: A villain who harasses others for the sheer delight of it and takes pride in being a disreputable person, and is as far from nice as can be.
- Faux Affably Evil: A villain who adopts an affable demeanor that isn't genuine, basically mocking Affably Evil. They'll chat pleasantly with their victims while engaging in Cold-Blooded Torture, or hum cheerfully to themselves while setting an orphanage on fire. Unlike Affably Evil characters, they're genuinely mean, and often do things For the Evulz, but it might not be obvious just by talking to them.
- Good Is Not Nice: The opposite of this trope. The guy's a hero, but is rude, crude, and sometimes, sometimes even outright cruel.
- Good Is Not Soft: A hero is genuinely nice but ruthless to their enemies. Essentially the good version of this trope which could be interpreted as "(very) affably Anti Heroic".
- Harmless Villain: When the villain is not necessarily affable, just no one to be scared of.
- Laughably Evil: The villain derives humor from their crimes. There's nothing necessarily nice about them, and usually just serves to showcase that Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor.
- Lovable Traitor: It's obvious you can't trust them, but they're still all right to hang out with.
- Minion with an F in Evil: The reverse of this trope; whereas the Affably Evil is a nice person who is evil, the Minion with an F in Evil is a nice person who tries to be evil but fails miserably due them not bringing themselves to do anything that heinous.
- Nice Guy: The heroic opposite of this trope, when The Hero is outright nice.
- Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The character is not really evil, seen as villain only because their intention and goal are contrast to the heroes. Affably Evil characters are genuinely evil, though their niceness is sincere.
- Not Me This Time: They may not have the crime at the moment, but that doesn't mean they won't do it in the future.
- Terms of Endangerment: Kind words as a sign that the villain is about to do something especially terrible.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: The hero is dismayed to be seen as the kind of person the villain would be nice to.
Good Is Not Nice is the Inverted Trope, and such good guys are particularly good at giving the Affably Evil a proverbial punch in the nose. When both Good Is Not Nice and Affably Evil are used, you may end up with Polite Villains, Rude Heroes. I'm Not Hungry is often dealing with this villain. A villain will sometimes engage in Too Funny to Be Evil to achieve this effect. No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine is a subtrope in many instances.
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- Huo Haha from Happy Heroes works for the antagonists Big M. and Little M. and clearly shows interest in helping them find the elemental staffs in Season 8 so that the Supermen can't use them to wake up the president, but he has a heart of gold and will take into account the feelings of others. He often accomplishes this through trivial things such as apologizing for his Evil Laugh since he thinks the Supermen might be scared by it.
- The Adventure Zone: Balance: John, the source and avatar of the Hunger, which consumes entire realities, is pleasant and polite, even playing chess with Merle, and enjoying their conversations. He also kills Merle repeatedly, and his goal is to eat all of reality so he can undo the laws of the universe.
- The Magnus Archives:
- Michael Crew is a servant of the Vast, and has cheerfully screwed up countless lives in it's service- but when Jon confronts him, he remains a very polite host until he's asked a question he finds prying. And even then, he still answers the question and doesn't make his attack on Jon fatal.
- Oliver Banks remains pleasant and cordial, even after giving in to his status as an Avatar of the fear of death itself.
- Helen becomes this, after she replaces her former captor and becomes the new incarnation of the Distortion. She's friendly and sometimes even helpful to Jon and the rest of the Archive's staff- which doesn't mean she won't willingly throw away her humanity and embrace her new status as a part of the Twisting Deceit, trapping and terrifying humans just as she herself once was.
- In Sequinox, several stars come off like this. Part of it comes off as them trying to awkwardly work human concepts into their conversations despite not understanding how any of them work. Antares is happy that she gets to talk to people instead of just destroying the planet right off the bat. Sargas is very polite when he tells the students of Vertumnus to turn over the Sequinox girls or else he'll kill everyone.
- During the Gemini arc when the girls land in a gothic horror-themed dimension, Vampire!Ethan is this. He's very cordial to the group, allows Harmony to stay in a wing of his home when she's chased there, and eats as few humans as possible. That being said he mainly allows the group inside because they're monsters, as is Harmony, and he does believe that he's "owed" humans to eat.
- Welcome to Night Vale: Lauren Mallard, the NVCR program director from StrexCorp. She seems to be a genuinely sweet, bubbly young woman, and Cecil describes her as "a delight" and "the kindest, most gentle manager we have ever had at this station" (although, to be fair, that's not saying much). But she takes a rather sinister interest in knowing the names of Cecil's loved ones, which he becomes wary of.
- Baron Ragoon in Hello, from the Magic Tavern is the ruler of a minor domain just over the mountains fro Hogsface. He comes across like a small-town mayor with a strong interest in keeping order, expanding infrastructure, increasing employment, and reducing Foon's ridiculously high rate of child mortality. He is unfailingly polite and welcoming, and invites our heroes to live in his pleasant realm. He's also an open, devout supporter of the Dark Lord whose plan to reduce child mortality to have wild animals kidnap children and put them to work, and he found a wife by abducting a woman and killing her fiancée and family. Chunt is surprised that somebody so nice could be so evil; Arnie points out that there's a difference between being nice and being polite.
- Also, the protagonists' counterparts in the mirror universe are just as friendly and easy-going as the main universe (or more so in Chunt's case), but casually discuss conquering Foon in the name of the Dark Lord over a tasty meal of fresh human flesh.
- Old Harry's Game:
- Satan zigzags this trope and Faux Affably Evil. To most people, he's faux affably evil, often utilizing Exact Words or even outright lying to make them think he's about to give them what they want right before torturing them. To other supernatural beings, and the handful of humans he genuinely respects, he's this; he'll still torture them if they become annoying, but when he's not doing so he's fairly friendly and can sometimes even act as a caring presence.
- Thomas is introduced as a Faux Affably Evil Corrupt Corporate Executive. However, over the course of the series, the Prof and Scumspawn manage to reform him somewhat; he's still evil, but he's closer to this trope.
- Gary, Satan's initial top demon, is quite polite despite his love of cruelty.
- God is respectful of those he speaks to, generally willing to listen to reason (provided you don't question whether there are other gods), wishes his angels were more able to lighten up and have a laugh, and frequently sends people to Hell for little to no reason.
- SCP Foundation: The mileage on whether they're evil varies wildly (often from entry to entry), but the Foundation itself can be considered this, as they are most often portrayed as Well-Intentioned Extremist AntiVillains who often engage in genuinely evil actions for the sake of protecting humanity from the paranormal.
Remember this: the Foundation is not evil. We do not torture people "just because". We are against unnecessary cruelty. Which means somebody has to decide when cruelty is necessary. And that somebody is us.
- Within the Foundation, the Ethics Committee can be considered this; they are the ones who decide what is and isn't ethically acceptable for the Foundation to do on a case-by-case basis. While they do try to be as ethical as they can, "ethical" here is entirely relative to the situation; these are the people who invented Procedure 110-Montauk, after allnote . The Ethics Committee orientation sums this up best; the Foundation isn't evil, but sometimes they have to do evil things, and the Committee has to decide when to be humane and when to be evil.
- Cao Cao in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. He's generally being completely sincere.
- Bill Seacaster from the Fantasy High campaign of Dimension 20. He's a ruthless pirate who fully admits he'll go straight to Hell when he dies, and has killed and robbed countless people with zero remorse. But he fiercely loves his son, doting on him and encouraging him every step of the way, and is a genuinely outgoing, cheerful kind of guy. He treats his son's friends as part of his family immediately upon meeting them, and takes it upon himself to give them some training when he realizes they don't really know how to fight or defend themselves. He even handles it with good grace (more or less) when Fig politely calls him on some thoughtless (but completely unintentional) sexism.
- Several characters from Six Chances are this. First, there's Francis Foxman, a mafia head, who gladly watches children beat the living crap out of a traitor for vengeance but who also refers to everyone by Mr and Ms. Then there's the pirate captain Maria who gladly welcomes people she's conquered onto her crew with a smile all while saying that they now belong to her.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible isn't even all that evil at first, and he starts out wanting nothing more than respect.