When there is a group of characters who are all just totally weird, either in general or in a particular scenario, the Only Sane Man is the only one who, well, isn't.
Picture this: Alice is a Psycho for Hire, Bob is a Cloudcuckoolander, Doug is an Empty Shell, and Emily is a Mad Scientist. Looks like your standard Dysfunction Junction. But then you have Gardenia. Gardenia is actually a very well-adjusted individual. She reacts with appropriate horror to things like Alice's finger collection and the crimes against nature that Emily calls pets. Gardenia is the Only Sane Woman.
The other variant is where the other characters aren't always that weird, but everyone save one character is acting weird in a particular situation. For example, they might regard something absurd as Serious Business, with the Only Sane Man the only one who notices how crazy that is.
This latter variant also includes a standard comedy piece: something absolutely insane is going on, but only one person notices (or cares). There are usually three stages, with a rough correspondence to the Five Stages of Grief: Bewilderment (Shock and Anger), trying to get others to see or admit the weirdness (Bargaining and Denial), and bitter sarcasm (Acceptance).
In the more extreme cases, the poor soul may be trapped in a World Gone Mad and/or wind up Giving Up on Logic in frustration. Sometimes, though, they are Not So Above It All. A character may also think of themselves as the Only Sane Man without proper justification.
A Too Dumb to Fool character may be the Only Sane Man, although he is likely to be less worked up about the failures of others to see than in most cases.
The Only Sane Man is often relied upon as the Only Sane Employee. This character often ends up a Knight in Sour Armor. For a more horrific version, see Through the Eyes of Madness. For the sci-fi version, the Ignored Expert is your go-to guy. The comedy version will often end up being either a Butt-Monkey or a Chew Toy. If all the other characters are otherwise sane, and really should see something, but only one guy does, he's an Einstein Sue. See also Cassandra Truth, Surrounded by Idiots, and Surrounded by Smart People; contrast with the Unfazed Everyman. May temporarily overlap with What the Hell, Hero?
If several characters take turns being the Only Sane Man, they're playing with a Sanity Ball. If it's a two-person show, with one person playing the Only Sane Man to the other's wackiness, it's a Straight Man and Wise Guy scenario. This trope is the savvy half of a Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl duo, one third of a Comic Trio, and part of the Four-Man Band.
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- The US Fire Emblem 7 commercial has several barbarian kings all eating and laughing around a table (the gist was that they'd all just agreed to be allies). One of the men suddenly keels over, dead. There were many confused faces and cries of alarm, prompting one of the kings to shrug and say, "I put poison in his mutton." After a pause, the kings laugh and continue eating... except for one, whose facial expression clearly communicates that he knows that he's the Only Sane Man in the room.
- These hilarious commercials of CareerBuilder.com. Of course, Everything's Better with Monkeys.
- Exit Tunes Presents ACTORS: Hinata Mitsutsuka. Despite his character design and cheerful personality, he is in fact the one who reins in his fellow club members' more...unorthodox ideas.
[talking to the Singing Club, about the cat the Singing Club had accidentally adopted] "Like I said, that kind of naming sense is no good!!"
- In ACTORS2, Rei Ichijoudani. While he has his moments where he acts otherwise, for the most part, he acts like this. Especially when it comes to his former nanpa partner Takato...
- In ACTORS3, Seijun Yuyama, mostly with regards to his Club President Kouya and friend Kaoru.
Seijun: Don't drag me into this conversation, you perverts.
Kaoru: I'm no pervert! I'm a Covert Pervert!
Seijun: Don't just say that so easily!!
- Most comedians are trying to invoke this trope a lot of the time, particularly in observational material.
- This is the schtick of Japanese comedian Jinnai Tomonori. His sketches involve him being placed in the middle of increasingly surreal situations where he's forced to point out just how ridiculous what he's dealing with is, and futilely try to enforce order on the situation. This is a fairly typical example. It's similar to a Boke and Tsukkomi Routine, except that the Boke is not an actual individual character, but anything from a video game, to an ATM, to someone we never see who's controlling the lights on a building.
- Dilbert, as seen on the page image above, has been this at various points.
- Frank Mellish from Liberty Meadows gets flustered and dismayed at the animals' antics.
- Sam from InSecurity may have his quirks, but compared to his wife Sedine and her cousin Roy, he's practically the voice of reason.
- Conchy and Oom Paul split this role between them in Conchy, with Conchy being The Everyman and Oom Paul being a Deadpan Snarker.
- In Bolt, Mittens the cat is the only one of the main characters who doesn't constantly have her head in the clouds, and is also the only one who is aware of the fact that Bolt is living in a fantasy world — Bolt believes that everything he's been in on his TV show is real, and Rhino would have the capacity to know what Mittens would know if he wasn't so cripplingly fanatical about Bolt and so off his rocker.
- In El Arca, everyone seems to be totally in love with the female panther Panty, all of them singing and dancing to her song "I will Survive", none of them seeming to notice she's talking about MURDERING AND EATING THEM except for the pig, who is clearly uneasy and suspicious, while everyone else, including the other prey animals, is completely oblivious to the actual words of the song, only really seeming to pay attention to Panty's... um... ''assets''
- Charlotte's Web: Edith Zuckerman is the only one to point out that the writing in the eponymous spiderweb ought to be taken as a sign that the spider is special. She is quickly dismissed.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas Sally seems to be the only denizen of Halloween Town who even approaches the realization that people don't want to be scared or attacked on Christmas.
- Trolls: Branch gives off vibes of this, compared to the hyperactive Poppy and her happy-go-lucky brethren when dealing with the Bergen trying to eat them.
- In Wall E, Captain McCrea is the only human on board the Axiom that isn't entranced by the 700-year-long ennui of their existence.
- The Beatles: "The Fool on the Hill".
- The protagonist from Harry Chapin's "The Rock".
- The singer in Tears for Fears' "Mad World" sees himself as this. It's arguable whether he actually is.
- The Spine of Steam Powered Giraffe is arguably this, being much more calm and rational than his siblings.
- Contessa of Emilie Autumn's Bloody Crumpets likes to see herself as this. Then again, seeing as how the Crumpets are supposed to be a group of asylum inmates, "sane" is relative.
Contessa: I would like to make it very clear that I am not, I repeat, I am not, not, NOT insane!
Everyone Else: [hysterical laughter]
Emilie: [to the audience] ...She eats people!
- Daniel Amos: The album ¡Alarma! includes a short story in the liner notes where the narrator winds up in a decrepit city, where he's the only one to notice that the religious leaders are all spouting nonsense. The narrator outright calls himself "the only sane mind in this mad world."
- Drake is naturally this on the four-way collaboration "Forever" from the More Than A Game Soundtrack, since the other three are Eminem, Lil Wayne and Kanye West.
- Caleb the medic from the Firefly game of Cool Kids Table is the only member of the Zelda's crew who isn't weird (Roc), bloodthirsty (Kimmy), or just plain thirsty (Mickey).
- Kakos Industries has the company owner, Corin Deeth the III, act as this for the most part. He's a lot more logical to an almost pretentious degree though even he has had instances of becoming obsessed with inanimate objects and believes having a live baby implanted into someone's thigh is a good idea for a Halloween costume.
- In Welcome to Night Vale, most Night Vale residents are so often exposed to Orwellian government surveillance, eldritch abominations, and supernatural disasters that they don't recognize such events as odd any more. Carlos, a recently-arrived scientist from the outside world, is the only person in the town who realizes just how WRONG all this is. Though even he doesn't seem to appreciate the full extent of just how weird Night Vale is
- Georgie is this in Wooden Overcoats, being an easy-going Hyper-Competent Sidekick among a misanthropic jerkass (Rudyard), a shy, Covert Pervert mortician (Antigone), a talking mouse (Madeleine), and a Parody Sue (Eric). She's also Funn Funeral's Only Sane Employee.
- Joey Styles was signed to play precisely this trope in ECW. Paul Heyman told him "In the midst of all the craziness, I want you to be the steady voice of reason"
- Jim Ross was this in WWE, and Michael Cole did as a face on Smackdown. Pretty common for play-by-play guys to do this.
- In a rare example of the colour commentator coming off as this, William Regal on WWE NXT
- This is continuing now that he is the GM of NXT
- Several heels tend to think they're this, including Chris Jericho, CM Punk, and Damien Sandow. They usually tend to drift into Not So Above It All.
- Whenever WWE or TNA wrestlers venture out into the "real" world for skits, there is usually at least one bystander who fills this role. The "Special Guest Host" on Monday Night Raw (usually a non-wrestling-related celebrity) also tends to play this part, but there have been some exceptions - and, in at least one instance, the Special Guest Host turned out to be the heel of the show.
- Jerry Springer filled this niche when he guest-starred on Monday Night Raw. Yes, that's right - Jerry Springer. (Double-subverted when he proved to be Not So Above It All, of course.)
- Jonathan Coachman caught the Sanity Ball - temporarily, anyway - at the 2007 Royal Rumble. He, Theodore Long, and Kelly Kelly - representing Raw, SmackDown, and ECW, respectively - were backstage watching the Royal Rumble Match participants file in to choose their numbers from a bingo tumbler that Kelly was cranking. It wasn't long before Coachman was becoming visibly unnerved by the Carnival of Killers - including a pair of vampires (Kevin Thorn and Ariel) and a mentally-challenged Indian giant (The Great Khali) - lining up to take their numbers, as well as frustrated that Theodore Long and Kelly Kelly seemed completely unfazed by these frightening individuals. Finally, Coach lost his temper and - in a manner that made him look anything but sane - screamed at Long and Kelly that he had had all he could stand of "Your SmackDown freaks!" and "Your ECW degenerates!" As it happened, the final man to enter the room was Ric Flair - and this caused Coach to cheer up and become pleased that at last they had a classy, "normal" Superstar in their midst. Then Flair revealed that he was Not So Above It All by getting down with his bad self at an impromptu dance party thrown by Kelly's "Extreme Exposé." Talk about Playing with a Trope until its wheels fall off.
- At Survivor Series 1999, wrestling porn star Val Venis led his team of "Sexual Chocolate" Mark Henry, wrestling vampire Gangrel and, filling this role, wrestling martial artist "The Lethal Weapon" Steve Blackman to victory over Davey Boy Smith and The Mean Street Posse.
- CHIKARA 2009-2010: Crossbones played this role in UltraMantis Black's The Order of the Neo-Solar Temple, as a subtrope of The Un-Favourite. Mantis would fawn over Hydra and Delirious while belittling or dismissing Crossbones.
- Nobody was better at being the eye of the storm while wrestlers were ranting and raving than Gordon Solie was.
- On a late 1992 episode of WWF Prime Time Wrestling, Bret Hart teamed with THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR to defeat wrestling voodoo master PAPA SHANGO and KAMALA THE UGANDAN GIANT!
- Central to the style of comedy team Bob & Ray. As neither was a classic Straight Man, they played point/counterpoint between this and the Cloud Cuckoolander instead.
- The Goon Show: Hercules Grytpype-Thynne fills this role, not that this is particularly difficult.
- The Jack Benny Program: Mary was generally the most level-headed character on the show. Jack and the guest stars would fill this role often as well.
- Old Harry's Game: At the start of the show, The Professor is the only major character who isn't completely incompetent and/or a vicious sadist. After he leaves, Edith takes his place.
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- Despite her mental illnesses that make her believe that she's unstable, Zia is shown to be one of the more dependable characters in tense situations. When she finds a group of students attempting to break out the school- without even bothering to check the emergency exits first- she calls them out for overreacting. She does so again when the group jump to killing Benjy now that he's hulked out, rather than seeking a non-violent solution.
- Nurse Dini lacks the quirks of the other staff at Rogers High, and is instead a straight-talker who's sensible to her patients.
- In Code:Realize, Victor is not particularly any more normal than the rest of his companions — a group which includes a self-proclaimed gentleman thief with peculiar ideas about justice, an excitable and mishap-prone Gadgeteer Genius who plans to travel to the moon, the mysterious and eccentric Comte de Saint-Germain, the hero of the Vampire War who's known as a "human weapon," and an amnesiac girl who melts anything she touches — but he is the only one of them who seems to expect people to behave or events to occur in a reasonable manner. Cardia is also normally sensible but doesn't have a strong frame of reference for what's normal and what isn't, which means poor Victor is the one most often reacting in dismay and exasperation to the group's antics.
- The protagonist is the only one in Dra+Koi who seems to actually be at all well balanced. His classmates are all crazy and his mother wants to rape him. The dragon herself indicate she'd like to eat him or sleep with him and sees little difference between the two options.
- Grisaia no Kajitsu: Makina believes that this is how Yumiko sees herself, and considering the quirky and wacky nature of her classmates, it' no wonder.
- Kenji and Hisao both claim they're this in Katawa Shoujo. Kenji is quite offended at Hisao's claim: "There can't be two last sane men... There can only be one, like in that foreign movie where there could only be one, and in the end there is only one dude left, because that was the point." (In other words, Hisao is, Kenji only thinks he is.)
- Natsuki from Doki Doki Literature Club! is the only member of the titular club who keeps her head throughout the entire game, even as the game starts to show its true psychological horror colors. She even writes a letter begging the player to help Yuri with her Self-Harm problem and is the only member of the group who doesn't commit suicide when she dies.
- Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair: Raiko, the Player Character, is a somewhat gloomy introvert, but she's by far the least eccentric of the ten teenagers who attend Rie's party. It's played seriously at the climax, when Raiko is the only surviving character who thinks rationally and doesn't immediately accuse Kamen of the murders.
- GBW in AH.com: The Series. About half the time this is played straight, while the other half it's subverted as the universe is so chaotic that a rational approach never yields the right answers.
- The Black Legion of the Dark Lord Sketch Melkor has Mac, who is a friend of the Dark Lord Sketch and holds the title of Plain Old Bilbo. She has, so far, basically been the only one to attempt talking reason to Sketch. Everyone else just goes along with everything she says.
- Welshman in Englishman started out like this (and usually turned out to be wrong) while later on he seems to give up and accept the insanity of the Englishverse.
- Sasha Hunter in Greek Ninja finds herself rolling her eyes all the time at her comrades' antics.
- Guy of Life in a Game, being the only "real" person in his video game world, is the only one who questions the insane video game logic that everyone else seems to take for granted. It comes and goes, but the best example of it is in Episode 6-2.
- Rational Wiki: The category Right of Reason is for conservatives with enough reasonable viewpoints that they can be taken seriouslynote . The leftist version is called Left of Reasonnote .
- Algernon's characterization in the Something Awful: Dungeons & Dragons gaming sessions, being dragged into increasingly ridiculous situations with increasingly ridiculous people.
- Whateley Universe: Both Lancer and She-Beast play this role for Team Kimba and the Bad Seeds, respectively.
- Several in Farce of the Three Kingdoms, on different levels. Of the founders of the titular kingdoms, Sun Quan is the only one who could possibly be described as "sane." Zhou Yu is far from sane, but he's the only character to point out that the hero/villain premise is absurd, and the first to react appropriately to Liu Bei.