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Bumbling Sidekick

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"One is a genius, the other's insane!"

Baldrick: I've been in your service since I was two and a half, my lord.
Blackadder: Well, that must be why I'm so utterly sick of the sight of you.
Blackadder, "Bells"

The seemingly annoying and incompetent sidekick for another character — usually an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist — who barely tolerates him. The only talent a Bumbling Sidekick has is the ability to tolerate any amount of abuse — and he needs it, given how often his "friends" are yelling at him and throwing him face-first into walls.

Some Bumbling Sidekicks are delusional and think they are appreciated, which is why they put up with the abuse they get. Others are just too desperate for friendship and/or money to leave.

They tend to have extreme luck — either they're the resident Butt-Monkey, or they reap all the benefits of other characters' hard work, which makes everyone resent them even more.

This trope is Older Than Steam, possibly originating in Italian Commedia dell'Arte plays.

Often overlaps with Minion with an F in Evil, Cowardly Sidekick, or The Friend Nobody Likes. They are almost always the Nice Moron in a Smart Jerk and Nice Moron pair. If their stupidity includes rushing into danger unprepared, they're also a Reckless Sidekick. If a villain has two of these, they're a Bumbling Henchmen Duo. This is why villains yell that they're Surrounded by Idiots. Compare and Contrast with the Hypercompetent Sidekick.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A Cruel God Reigns: Savage tends to fall into this category for Ian. He isn't dumb, per se, but he doesn't often think before acting, and he seems to often be swaying for his Even the Guys Want Him type love for Ian. He is very much a secondary, side-kick k character, and the two's interactions are usually played for laughs.
  • Excel♡Saga: All the girls Il Palazzo employs are flawed to some extent, but Excel is the one that is most likely going to mess up whatever new plan he has for taking over Fukuoka City. She is also completely delusional with regards to how much Il Palazzo cares about her.
  • Ranma ½: Sasuke Sarugakure, Ninja servant to the Kunōs in the anime, alternates between being incompetent and the Straight Man for the Kunōs, depending on just how insane his masters are this week.
  • Shirobako: Tarou Takanashi is not actually that incompetent per se, but he's an airheaded braggart who's just about as sensitive as a brick, and has a responsibility of the latter as well. Unfortunately, he's not the worst example of what the protagonist has to deal with on a regular basis.
  • The World God Only Knows:
    • By the third or fourth capture, Keima has acknowledged that his partner Elsie is basically completely useless for helping in his conquests unless he requires the magical assistance of the Plot Device she wears as part of her clothes. He points out that partners are supposed to be intelligent and capable, so she's all happy that she has Keima in that case... which gets her yelled at for thinking she's the main character.
    • Ryou, Nora's partner is on the same level, if not worse than Elsie. He's an incredibly dumb Casanova Wannabe who needs to read lines to pick up girls, but he only makes them want to ignore him. Totally opposite to Keima, Ryou is useless for driving out Runaway Spirits through romancing girls, so Nora has to take it into her own hands to handle Runaway Spirits, which wouldn't be too bad if she didn't try to solve all problems with violence by default.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Adventures: The Avengers Issue #9 introduced Karl, incompetent A.I.M. scientist who causes M.O.D.O.K.'s conversion machine to go haywire, picks a new hideout right next to the Leader's, and finally is drafted by the mutated heroes to help rebuilt the conversion machine and make the changes permanent... which naturally sabotages their efforts and they return to normal. It's implied they would have succeeded without Karl's help.
  • Ukko in Sláine, in addition to being a Servile Snarker. Then again, due to him being a lecherous, greedy, cowardly, obnoxious dwarf, it makes sense. No wonder he's such a Butt-Monkey.
  • Teen Titans: Bette Kane, a former member of the Teen Titans, and prior to some retconning the original Batgirl, has been portrayed as this for many years. Recently, she decided to come out of retirement while in college, only to end up being kidnapped and held hostage by a serial killer a mere issue after her initial decision.
  • Tintin has Captain Haddock. While he himself is a great character (and the obvious Creator's Favorite), he doesn't actually do that much to further the plot (except maybe in his debut album), other than tagging along, making antics, spewing comments, losing fights, and generally being funny.
  • X-Men villain Toad has played this role for Magneto for a very long time. He didn't start to grow balls until the '90s, and even then, he was still the Butt-Monkey until The Movie came out where — thanks to additional ranine abilities like a "nasty tongue" and spitting goo — he became quite an effective villain, which carried over into the comics.

    Fan Works 
  • Blasting Off!: Jessie and Jamie functionally act as Cam's very incompetent sidekicks, bungling pretty much every task given to them. While Jamie is at least self-aware and usually makes understandable mistakes, Jessie suffers from Small Name, Big Ego and Never My Fault. The two biggest examples being the Pallet Town and Silph Co jobs.
    • During the Pallet Town job, they invite themselves along on Cam's solo mission, spend so much time brainstorming a way to impress him (their canon catchphrase) that they end up severely late to said mission, and then promptly ruin the soft interrogation and almost friendly rapport he'd formed with Daisy Oak.
    • While Team Rocket was locking down Saffron City and taking over Silph Co, Jessie and Jamie offer to return Cam's security card to the ground floor. Rather than take the elevator or stairs, they try to use the warp panels and get so lost that they drop the security card somewhere before eventually just taking the stairs.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged turns Nappa into this sort of character, and he quickly became an Ensemble Dark Horse.

    Films — Animation 
  • Kronk, from The Emperor's New Groove is dimmer and less effective, but also kinder, than his scheming boss. If not for him bumbling an assassination the film would have been about ten minutes long, but thankfully for nearly everyone involved he turns his target into a llama. Unusually for this trope he gets a happy ending, mostly due to his Hidden Depths and Achievements in Ignorance.
  • Strange Magic: The Bog King has two unnamed goblins. They're probably his most incompetent minions but are also willing to deal with his violent outbursts.
  • Jeremy Hillary Boob, PH.D. from Yellow Submarine would certainly qualify as he sends the sub off without him or the Beatles aboard, gets lodged in a hole and captured by the Blue Meanies, then attempts (and in spite of his bumbling succeeds) to fight off a Meanie guard.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Cocoanuts, Mr. Hammer tries to recruit Chico to shill for him in the real estate auction; he instructs Chico to make counter-offers against the other bidders to raise the prices for his lots. Chico, being Chico, follows the instructions too well...
  • The burglar Marv in Home Alone 2. In the first film, he and his partner Harry appear to have a more equal relationship but in the second film he is clearly Harry's dragon and a lot dumber than he was in the first film. Also, Cedric the bellboy is the Bumbling Sidekick to Mr. Hector, the hotel concierge at the Plaza Hotel Kevin stays at.

  • Parodied in the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Managra, where the Bumbling Sidekick to the resident dashing hero is in fact a lot smarter than he lets on — and, indeed, a lot smarter than his boss in many ways — but pretends to be a dimwit because it pays better.
  • Stolen from Gypsies has two. The protagonist/narrator has his servant Antonio, and in the story-within-a-story he's writing, there's the character Short Clog. Since the characters in the story-within-a-story reflect the narrator's life, it's likely Short Clog reflects Antonio, although the two are somewhat different- Antonio is a bit of a Hypercompetent Sidekick, whereas Short Clog is a straight up Bumbling Sidekick, being a dullard with bad hygiene.
  • Agent Sydney Bristow to Agent Jack Baxter in The Ultra Violets. While one is a perfect fit for the job, the other couldn't be more out of place.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder
    • "Sod-off" Baldrick is a classic example. In the first season, he was a Hypercompetent Sidekick, but a Retool between seasons transformed him into the clumsy, clingy idiot who put up with a beating an episode. By the time of the fourth TV series, Blackadder Goes Forth, Private S. Baldrick's stupidity borders on insanity.
    • Series 1 and 2 had Lord Percy Percy, Series 3 had Prince George (who Edmund is technically Hypercompetent Sidekick to), and Series 4 had Lieutenant George.
  • Manuel of Fawlty Towers. A Spaniard from Barcelona, Manuel's ineptitude for the English language - combined with the neurotic Basil Fawlty's knack for causing chaos - often made him cause things to go even worse. Basil firmly believes Manuel to be of subnormal intelligence.
  • Galavant:
    • At the end of the first season Richard becomes this to Galavant.
    • Chester Wormwood the evil sorcerer/wedding planner has one of these. He has trouble separating which bits are secret and which aren't, leading to Wormwood exasperatedly explaining that yes, there is the wedding plan, the evil plot and the color scheme, and culminating in him sending out "Save the Dates" for their army's sneak attack.
  • Heroes: Sylar gains one in the form of the teenager Luke in Volume 4. Luke forces Sylar to not kill him by saying that he knows where Sylar's father is. However, Luke himself is a bit of an ass and really gets on Sylar's nerves. Once Sylar finally figures out where his father is, he ditches Luke and never looks back.
  • Schultz from Hogan's Heroes, though he's probably actually not as bumbling as Col. Klink—Klink is at least trying to be competent, whereas Schultz often is deliberately oblivious to what Hogan's crew is up to (expecting that getting involved will only turn out worse for him).
  • Played somewhat seriously on Homicide: Life on the Street with John Munch. Munch starts out as a lazy, somewhat inept detective who coasts by while letting his more experienced partner Stanley Bolander do most of the legwork, and occasionally fails at basic tenets of police work. Bolander's influence results in him gradually growing out of this, and by Season 3 he's a competent detective in his own right.
  • Horrible Histories has several, notably over-sharing Pedro in 'Francisco Pizarro's Very Rough Guide to Mexico': "...and then we steal all their gold!".
  • In the UK comedy series The New Statesman, Piers Fletcher-Dervish is Alan B'Stard's long-and-brutally-suffering sidekick. Not really under any illusion that Alan likes him, but too terrified to end the relationship.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Lonzak, the incompetent henchman of Dr Chaotica in the Captain Proton holoprogram.

  • The Magnus Archives: This is how Jonathan regards Martin, one of his three assistants, though he becomes slightly more sympathetic after Martin’s encounter with Jane Prentiss, and continues to warm up to him over the course of the series, culminating in a Relationship Upgrade at the end of Season 4.

  • In Molière's Don Juan, Juan's servant Sganarelle is pretty much this, a bumbling Dirty Coward who isn't treated very well by his master.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Poor little Pete from Bully kissed Gary's ass for God-knows-how-long until Jimmy saved him.
  • In Fire Emblem Fates, each of the Hoshidan and Nohrian princes and princesses has two retainers assigned to them as bodyguards and servants. In Hinoka's case, her retainers Setsuna and Azama are a lazy klutz who easily falls into traps and a snarky jerk who has no problem whatsoever mouthing off to his mistress. They're competent in battle, but Hinoka notes with some dismay that they're not very helpful, and she ends up having to look out for them. Amusingly, Setsuna's supports with Saizo reveal that Hinoka ends up doing many things for Setsuna (e.g. waking her up in the morning, helping her get dressed, watching out for traps) that Setsuna should be doing for Hinoka.
  • Elliot from Jagged Alliance 2 fits this like a glove. His boss, the very bitchy and hot-tempered Queen Deidranna enjoys killing the messenger. In this case, it's always Elliot, and it always involves her slapping the shit out of him, and in one instance, shooting him with a pistol at point-blank range... only to have him get up and insist that he clean the mess himself. He is incredibly devoted to her, regardless of the abuse he takes, and actually would survive until the end of the game if your mercs don't find him and put him out of his misery.
  • LEGO Jurassic World: During the sequence at the end of Jurassic Park where the Velociraptors are hunting the humans through the Visitor Centre, the subordinate raptors are depicted like this, getting frequently distracted and having slapstick accidents (or getting a Dope Slap from the Big One).
  • Tales of the Abyss
    • Mieu a.k.a. "Thing". He's a typical cutesy animal like you'd find in many a fantasy anime, complete with an annoying squeaky voice and Spoon Speak. What makes him a Bumbling Sidekick is his undying faith in his master, who gives him the aforementioned nickname, bashes him into a soldier's helmet to knock the soldier out, and every other time he speaks, he either kicks it around or tells it to shut up, or (usually) both.
    • One of the members of the Quirky Miniboss Squad is also this. Yes, it's Dist, who attempts to make it very clear that he really does hate that duplicitous snake whom he once counted among his friends Jade, but fails miserably because of his stalkeristic actions. The entire party pretty much just treats him like a joke.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ace Attorney, Detective Gumshoe is this for the various prosecutors he works for, as his mistakes often end up resulting in the prosecutors overlooking critical information. As a result, he's a common scapegoat when the prosecutors lose the case.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Fighter from 8-Bit Theater is, at times, Black Mage's Bumbling Sidekick. When the action heats up, this often gets inverted.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Elan is often portrayed as Roy's Bumbling Sidekick. In the Origin of the PCs prequel, he definitely is toward his Paladin partner.
    • On the villains' side, Thog is this for Nale in the Linear Guild.
  • Vampire Girl: Goofy Idiot Sidekick personifies this for Vampire Hunter, as he is pretty much a useless slacker who does nothing but eat snacks and play video games all day, while Vampire Hunter is actively making attempts to rid society of vampires.

    Web Original 
  • Greasy of the Whateley Universe, the deviser who's the sidekick of annoying horndog Peeper around the Whateley campus. Despite this, he's still more competent than Peeper himself (being a modestly skilled Devisor), but that's not saying much.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Invoked in "Carl Wheezer, Boy Genius", when Carl pretends to be a genius to impress his visiting Pen Pals. He makes Jimmy, the real genius, his "dimwitted assistant" to boss around and scapegoat whenever anything goes wrong.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Meatwad acts like a small child, complete with imaginary friends. This lets him be the perfect Bumbling Sidekick — he's clingy, gullible, stubborn, useless in an emergency, and has no attention span. He also has the wild sidekick luck — his fortunes vary from being sold for cash to becoming the god of Christmas. The golf videogame lampshades this with comments like "What a rotten friend you are!" when describing the pickups allowing you to use him as a golf ball or as a distraction for the enemy to target.
  • Atomic Puppet: Mookie was one to Captain Atomic. However, the humiliation he faced from everybody because of this made him bitter and envious, leading him to replace and control Captain Atomic by turning him into a sock puppet.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Harley Quinn is The Joker's Perky Female Minion who helps screw up his plans and annoy him more often than not. Admittedly, the Joker generally seemed to view her as his favorite henchman. Given that the Joker's favorite person is Batman, however, she still gets treated pretty badly.
  • In Beast Wars, despite his bumbling incompetence Scorponok serves as Megatron's second-in-command. Though he has some limited success at combat and as a science officer, it's implied he only holds this position due to his blind and unswerving loyalty to Megatron whereas every other Predacon would gleefully betray and overthrow Megatron if given the chance: after all, his last second-in-command was Dinobot who tried exactly that in the first episode, Terrorsaur has made several attempts at overthrowing Megatron, Tarantulus has been The Mole from the very start, and Waspinator is generally too busy swirling around empty soda cans to do any level of commanding. After Scorponok's death, he more or less treats Inferno as his second-in-command due to the bot being so batshit insane he actually thinks he is an ant and Megatron his queen and is thus insanely loyal, but he's also too insane to do any level of commanding and more treated as an enforcer than anything else.
  • The Dreamstone: Frizz and Nug are often this to Sgt Blob, if not all that willingly. While Blob himself is delusional enough for even them to have the occasional intellectual superiority to, they lack any sense of tactfulness, bravado, or even much evil ambition whatsoever, so much that if Blob didn't drag them into each mission they'd probably stay at home. Blob himself (along with Urpgor) are bumbling Mooks to Zordrak.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Both Ed and Edd take more than their fair share of abuse from Eddy (although in Edd's case its not stupidity that's the problem but instead being overly moral and verbose). Both however are likely to get Eddy into an unpleasant situation, usually by accident.
  • Fireman Sam: Elvis Cridlington is a downplayed example, in that while his clumsy Cloudcuckoolander personality means he fills a lot of the credentials of this trope during interactions and team busy work (especially around Officer Steele), he usually ups his game considerably during actual emergencies, and has even saved the other firefighters more than once. Ellie and Arnold almost botch their first rescue by refusing to listen to Elvis' directions, convinced he is this trope as much as he is off-duty.
  • Pinky and the Brain: Pinky is not desperate, nor does he ever quite demonstrate the delusion that he is appreciated. Rather, he is simply too scatterbrained and cheerfully oblivious to notice that such a thing as contempt exists, much less that the Brain harbors so endless a supply of it for him. Deep down, the Brain really does care for Pinky as much as Pinky, who considers the Brain his best friend in all the world, cares for the Brain.
  • Sealab 2021: Hesh is considerably ruder and more self-assertive, but he still fits the pattern.
  • Secret Squirrel: Morocco Mole. Not very bright, regularly makes mistakes and misses things, etc.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob's best friend Patrick Star qualifies as this. Even though they have their moments together on their adventures, Patrick is prone to ignite the start of whatever hijinks they get into, with SpongeBob being somewhat the Only Sane Man.
  • The Tick: Arthur seems to subvert this, as he's clearly wiser and more intelligent than the titular hero, until they actually do battle where he plays the bumbling part straight.
  • Touché Turtle and Dum Dum: Dum Dum has his heart in the right place, but he's not the sharpest tool in the shed.