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Sanity Ball

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When characters on the same show take turns being the Only Sane Man or Straight Man, but only one of them is sane at a time, that character is holding the Sanity Ball. Differs from the Smart Ball in that the Smart Ball gives a character the ability to problem-solve; the Sanity Ball gives its holder a rational perspective (and the knowledge that everyone around them is acting irrational).

Whenever the character holding the Sanity Ball gets a Heroic BSoD, or falls for Love Makes You Crazy, or gets Put on a Bus, or otherwise loses the ball, someone else on the show picks up the Sanity Ball and runs with it, becoming the new Only Sane Man.

Every faction has its own Sanity Ball, so the heroes may share one while the villains share another.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Beelzebub does have a few designated Straight Man characters, with Furuichi counting as the Only Sane Man amongst a cast full of delinquents and demons. However even the Cloud Cuckoo Lander Oga comes out with bits of wisdom/cynicism if Furuichi decides to go off on one.
  • Al and Leona in Dominion Tank Police tend to trade off the Sanity Ball rather frequently.
  • Slayers: The Slayers' Sanity Ball is usually tossed back and forth between Gourry and Zelgadis. The secondary Sanity Ball is usually toted around by Xellos (maybe that's what's on the end of his staff?), since he seems to be the Only Sane Villain. Usually.
  • One Piece has this amongst the Straw Hat pirates. Nami's the most common holder of the ball, but Usopp's found himself holding the ball during several occasions. Zoro's also held the ball pretty firmly, but by the time Robin joined the crew, he hardly ever finds himself in the Only Sane Man position anymore, and indulges himself in frivolities like pretending he's Tarzan. Now that Jinbe has officially joined the crew, he easily becomes the most level-headed and mature member of the Straw Hats alongside Robin. Even Robin comments that she is glad Jinbe is around thanks to this.
  • Much of the humor in Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun derives from one (or two) characters holding the Sanity Ball while watching in bemusement (or actively snarking) the craziness caused by the other characters. There are a couple of characters that hold it more often than others, such as Sakura and Hori, but even they had moments when they lost the ball to others. Sakura for example is extremely prone on losing it whenever it involves her crush, the titular Nozaki.
  • Depending on the situation, any given member or combination of members in the Team Rocket trio in Pokémon: The Series can act as a straight man to any other ones. Often justified, though, due to each of them having a lack of critical thinking skills but conflicting personalities.
  • Doraemon: Doraemon and Shizuka are usually more reasonable and less impulsive than the rest of the main cast, and even share the Sanity Ball at times, but neither of them are completely above getting caught up in arguments with the others or succumbing to their own foibles. Doraemon especially is prone to losing his head when he panics or when his favorite food is on the line. Suneo also gets the ball occasionally, despite often coming across as the most selfish and cowardly of the group, as his objections are sometimes shown to be valid concerns.

    Comic Books 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Hobbes generally carries the Sanity Ball when Calvin's interacting with him. On occasion, Hobbes's predator instincts/vanity/etc. take over and Calvin takes the ball. When Calvin interacts with adults or Susie, they'll almost always be holding the ball, although Calvin sometimes seems like the sane one compared to his father's more adult quirks.
  • In The Sandman (1989) — Brief Lives, Delirium (the Anthropomorphic Personification of madness) acts generally insane and wacky while her older brother Dream serves as her rational and pragmatic foil. After receiving some distressing news, however, he starts to lose it, and Delirium has to pick up the Sanity Ball, since "one of us has to keep this thing going". Later on when describing the event, she seems unable to remember anything beyond saying "It hurt..."
  • Suicide Squad The Return has Harley Quinn wind up taking the sanity ball as a result of the Black Vault unleashing a Hate Plague on Belle Reve. As Harley is already crazy and homicidal, it has the effect of making her calm and rational, instead, letting her apply her considerably intellect in ways that her normal insanity doesn't let her do.

    Fan Works 
  • Being an incorrect quote blog, Incorrect Smash Bros Quotes sees the ball get passed around a lot. The most common holders are Mario, Samus, Master Hand, and Galeem, though all of them have their Not So Above It All moments.
  • Every now and again in The Judgement of the World (5Ds), Ax-Crazy Black Rose Dragon manages to grab onto this:
    • When Aki has a panic attack the first time she sees her and Yusei's Duel Spirits all confront each other, Black Rose Dragon is the one who finally resolves things by yelling at everyone to shut up so Aki can speak.
    • She calls out Stardust and Archfiend on their (though mostly the latter's) suggestion of trying to get Power Tool Dragon to talk through force.
    • Downplayed when Aki's school friends are found injured with their Duel Spirits missing after having apparently been attacked. While most of those present start arguing with Red Eyes Black Dragon over whether he should've been with the victims at the time, Black Rose seems more focused on examining the scene of the attack and calming Aki down.

  • Return of the Jedi: The Emperor turns psychotic at the end, and tosses the Sanity Ball to Darth Vader. Vader then gets the ball, has his first moment of sanity in a while, and switches sides.
  • Characters in the Austin Powers films spend a lot of time passing the Sanity Ball around. For example, Scott Evil is usually the only sane man among the villains, but Number Two sometimes has sane moments as well.

  • Happens a lot in Discworld:
    • The witches' coven has a Sanity Ball, usually (though not always) carried by Nanny Ogg.
    • The wizards juggle two or three Sanity Balls, with the Librarian, Rincewind, Ridcully, and Ponder Stibbons being the most frequent holders. The Bursar had one at one point, but it's now considered too sharp to allow him to hold.
    • The Watch's Sanity Ball is usually carried by Vimes, but he'll toss it to Carrot or someone else once in a while, as in the That! Is! Not! My! Cow!! incident.
    • In Death's family, Susan or Death usually have the ball, but Albert takes it occasionally, such as when Death goes on vacation in Mort.
    • In the madhouse that is the political sphere of Ankh Morprok, the ball is usually in the firm grasp of Lord Vetinari. If you happen to hold it for a moment, it is because he dropped it at your feet. If you only think you have it, you will be proven wrong, often fatally wrong.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur starts off with the Sanity Ball, but he soon gets out of his depth. Ford Prefect carries the ball for most of the story, though Trillian/Tricia gets to hold onto it sometimes too.
  • Common in P. G. Wodehouse's books. Bertie Wooster is a semi-frequent recipient, sometimes borrowing it from Jeeves or otherwise sharing it with him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cheers: Sam and Diane go back and forth between who is the sane one in a given situation. At times Diane is the only sane one, reacting to Sam’s over-the-top womanizing and occasional immaturity, but other times, Sam is the rational and calm one reacting to Diane’s incessant pretentiousness.
  • Lost: This happens a lot, especially between Jack and Locke, who seem to alternate between being the voice of reason and acting insane. Usually when Jack is acting crazy it's Locke who is the sane man, and the other way around when Locke is acting crazy. And for most of season five it was Sawyer who had the sanity ball, oddly enough, as Jack had been relegated to second string and Locke was Not Himself.
  • In House, Wilson or Cuddy both hold the sanity ball for House usually. This enables House's brilliance/insanity to counter his teams' mediocre/pragmatic approaches with the sanity ball holder to act as referee. But the ball is sometimes passed, to 13 (when Wilson is dealing with Amber's accident) and to House (when Cuddy is dealing with sick babies). House is reliably crazy when it comes to medical diagnostics but with regards to each team members individual problems (Cameron marrying chase, Foreman switching 13 off placebo, Taub confessing his affair, etc.) House has been sought for his reasonable opinion.
  • Farscape: Early on, Crichton is the Only Sane Man. As the series progresses, John becomes a bit less sane, and Aeryn and even D'Argo are assigned occasional ball-carrying duties.
  • Common on Arrested Development - Michael holds it more often than anyone else, but promptly passes it to George Michael whenever he deals with the kids, and George Michael and Maeby play catch with it when they're together.
  • Lampshaded in the Psych episode "Not Even Close...Encounters" when Gus and Shawn try to refrain from indulging in alien theories during their investigation:
    Shawn (to Gus): Someone needs to hold the sanity bag in this partnership. And, frankly, I miss the days when it used to be you!
    • The character actions in the episode "Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion" may count. Shawn realizes that he may be the only sane man in the universe because everybody else in the episode is either insane, weird, or acting insane or weird and pretty out of character in most cases.
    • In "This Episode Sucks" Juliette exclaims that she is the only sane person working the case as Shawn, Gus, Woody and Lassie all believe they are looking for a vampire.
  • In Doctor Who, the characters seem to be playing a constant game of hot potato with their Sanity Ball. Sometimes the Doctor, sometimes a companion, sometimes a companion's family member. Rory, Matt Smith's companion, gets points for holding onto it for so long he almost becomes an Only Sane Man. Word of God says he needs to be this actively or else he'll get sucked into life with the Doctor like Amy.
  • Fringe: Tossed around quite frequently, as everyone has a slightly different theory on where to draw the line between the very, very strange and the just plain impossible.
    Peter: So you're not buying that it's her husband's ghost?
    Walter: There's no such thing as ghosts.
    Peter: That's where you draw the line? Ghosts?
  • Canadian teen sitcom Mr. Young passes this between Adam and Echo.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Who's given the role of Only Sane Man within the gang tends to vary. This gives the impression of both Hidden Depths and hypocrisy, especially since their role as the Only Sane Man or Straight Man will last for a scene or two, lampshading others' stupidity or horribleness. Everyone in the gang is better at pointing out the flaws of others than their own.
  • Community: The ball seemed to lie pretty firmly with Britta early on, but in later episodes it gets passed around mostly between Jeff, Annie, Troy, and Abed. In general, Jeff is the relatively normal one (heavy emphasis on "relatively") who is the most likely to realize that the Serious Business doesn't really matter, but usually gets swept up in the rest of the school's weirdness anyway. Annie is the most intelligent and often acts as the group's conscience, but doesn't live up to her own ideals as often as not. Troy is generally the most moral member of the group, but a complete idiot. Abed is Genre Savvy to the point of being a borderline Fourth-Wall Observer, but his quirky behavior raises the question of whether he is actually, literally insane.
  • On Lab Rats this can go all over the place, with Tasha and Chase being the most common holders, and Adam generally being the only main character who never holds it.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: London never holds it, but Cody, Maddie, Carey, Mr. Moseby, and even Zack can whenever they need to.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: Ned and Moze toss it back and forth with the latter more often than not holding it, but the main consistent is that it’s never in Cookie’s hands. The staff members (other than Crubbs) can hold it whenever they need to, although some (Mr. Wright, Mr. Monroe, Mr. Chopsaw) more than others. Even Mr. Sweeney, who was introduced as a caricature of a Sadist Teacher, started to get a hold of it more often as the show progressed and his Jerk with a Heart of Gold tendencies began to show (especially in conflict with Crubbs).
  • Malcolm in the Middle: Malcolm usually holds it, as does Francis in his own subplots when he’s away from the family. Reese usually doesn't have it but can borrow it when he's dealing with his parents. During disputes between the parents, 9 times out of 10 it's in Hal's hands.

  • The Sanity Ball is bounced around in Jayden and Crusader a lot. Jayden started out with the ball acting as the straight man to Crusader, but eventually her anger issues and Zoiberg fetish made her pass the sanity ball to Crusader, who passes it off whenever he has something crazy to do. Third is arguably so sane he's crazy.
  • In The Order of the Stick, a good dozen or so characters have passed the Sanity Ball around. Roy usually carries it, but when he was killed, Haley and Durkon picked it up for their respective parties. Elan occasionally takes the ball for a bardic Genre Savvy moment. After Durkon gets vampirized, Belkar picks up the Sanity Ball, at least with regards to that, but so far only the readers and Vampire-Durkon can see this, and therefore be suitably terrified by it.
  • Used a lot in 8-Bit Theater. Usually, both Thief and Black Mage can be relied on to be sane, but Thief will constantly behave irrationally as part of his own schemes, or Black Mage will go crazy and try to kill everyone. When these both happen at once, Red Mage will step in as the voice of reason, but usually his plans turn out to be even worse. But they tend to work anyway. And when the three of them are caught up in bickering and semantics, Fighter becomes the reasonable one, because he's too stupid to realize what's going on.
    • Or, when they're all being crazy, White Mage.
  • Homestuck: It's passed around in all the player's groups.
    • The Pre-Scratch kids: Dave, in spite of his ramblings, is probably the best adjusted character, thinking rationally the most. Jade knows the most about the game, and John usually makes the most moral choices during the campaign. Rose plays the Straight Man the most often, and is the one who lays the plans for the alpha session, before giving up the ball when dealing with her issues becomes too much.
    • The Post-Scratch Trolls: Kanaya and Karkat are the ones who focus most on the mission rather than be consumed with their personal issues.
    • The Post-Scratch Kids: Dirk has the most reason, and plans to get them through the game. He's also the most rational. However, Roxy takes up the ball after she sobers up, and stays out of the love-triangle which messes up everyone, and her issues don't impede her anymore. When Trickster mode goes down, Dirk takes up the ball once again, having been unaffected by it.
    • The Pre-Scratch Trolls: Rufioh and Porrim are the best adjusted, considering their teammates. Meenah is utterly irrational, yet she's the one trying to organize everyone to stop Lord English. Aranea was mixing both, being smart, and not focused too much on her talking obsession but she renounces the ball following The Reveal of her plan.
  • Jared of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things is usually the resident Cloud Cuckoo Lander but amongst Pokemon Professors he's played as the sane man with such revolutionary ideas as feeding Pokemon more that just Macaroons and correctly predicting Lyandre is the kind of guy who'd blow up the world with a laser.

    Web Original 
  • Some of the characters in Red vs. Blue tend to throw the Sanity Ball back and forth with each other, particularly Grif and Simmons, and also Church and Tucker. The general rule is that Church, Carolina, Wash, Tex, and Lopez will almost always have this, Grif, Simmons, and Tucker pass it around and which of them has it generally depends on how funny it will be, and Sarge, Donut, Sister, and Caboose will never have it.
  • Rooster Teeth Shorts: The Sanity Ball seems to be in the hands of someone different every episode. Most obvious with Joel, who tends to swing between being the Only Sane Man and being a complete Cloudcuckoolander.
    • Matt is probably the most consistent with it, as even when he's "crazy", he's usually right or out-crazied by someone else.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, the sanity ball gets passed around a lot between Gohan, Piccolo, Future Trunks, and on rarer occasions, Vegeta or Yamcha.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, the sanity ball is usually held by Yugi, but is passed around liberally; in recent episodes, even Tristan has held it.
  • Homestar Runner moves the sanity ball so much its hard to tell who's smarter than who. Out of the whole cast, Bubs, Strong Bad, Strong Sad, and Marzipan would probably be among the smarter members of the cast, but even then it changes. Marzipan can go from being the only sane person and within seconds become a complete lunatic. Even Strong Sad, who is usually depicted as the Only Sane Man, has his moments of craziness. Note that "sane" is a relative term in this context, since Free Country USA is always Cloudcuckooland.
    • Among the dumber/crazier characters, Homestar himself tends to hold it when dealing with the likes of Coach Z, Strong Mad and Senor Cardgage. Sometimes he'll even hold the ball for Marzipan.
  • Lewis Brindley and Hannah Rutherford initially appeared to be the only sane individuals in the Yogscast, but this was in no small part due to Simon Lane and his antics. While still capable of apparent sanity, they have revealed that they are very much Not So Above It All.
  • Hat Films seems to have two sanity balls. The first alternates between Ross and Trott, who are both the Only Sane Man at different times. The second is sometimes held by Smiffy, since he is capable of being surprisingly useful despite being the Token Evil Teammate.
  • With the entire cast of Scott The Woz being Cloud Cuckoolanders in a world that runs on surreal humor, the role of Only Sane Man relative to our Earth sensibilities gets passed around a lot.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Only a few clone troopers (from Hidden Enemy and Deserter) seem to realize that they are mostly used just to senselessly charge into battle and die.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, either Jimmy or Heloise hold the ball, depending on the joke. When interacting with Jimmy and Beezy, Lucius will occasionally hold.
  • Invader Zim: Zim's robot GIR, dispite his processor being mostly made from trash and spare change, has occasional moments of clarity. The first would be when he question's Zim's plan to kill Dib in the past with time-travel, the second is when Zim decides to stop an explosion by undoing the timefield that's slowed it down.
    • Dib can be manic and gullible or the sarcastic Only Sane Man, depending on the situation. The former is more common when he's talking to Gaz (who alternates a bit herself) while the latter usually occurs with Zim (who's almost always crazy).
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Twilight Sparkle's relative level-headedness amongst her more outlandish friends usually lands her in the role of the Only Sane Mare. However, sometimes she can get carried away in her cynicism, and her OCD makes her susceptible to stress-induced mental breakdowns, at which point the ball is, ironically, shared between her friends (most consistently with Spike and Applejack).
    • The show as a whole likes to evenly swap this around, with each character getting as many moments of clarity as they get flawed moments, depending on the circumstance. Even abrasive goofballs such as Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash sometimes prove more rational than the more lucid Fluttershy or Applejack.
  • TaleSpin constantly trades the Sanity Ball around, most especially between Baloo and Rebecca. On average, both have an equal amount of idiotic or callous moments, usually with the other acting as the Straight Man to it all.
  • A common occurrence with Stan and Kyle in South Park. While they CAN at times both play the Straight Man / Only Sane Man in an episode, if one of them is in possession of the episode's Idiot Ball, the other almost undoubtedly will play the sane one.
  • Generally shared between Leela, Fry, and Hermes in Futurama, with a few rare exceptions.
    • Lampshaded in Into the Wild Green Yonder:
      Amy: Bender, are you crazy?
      Bender: Nah, it's Fry who's crazy in this onenote .
  • On Spliced, the ball gets passed around between Peri, Patricia, and Octocat mainly. Almost everyone except Entree gets a turn with it however.
  • Generally shared around rather evenly in Thomas & Friends, especially in later episodes, where most of the engines have spotlight concerning their flaws so even the most rational engine will sometimes need to be handed An Aesop by another sometimes more abrasive engine (e.g. odd episodes James plays the Straight Man to Toby). Thomas himself in particular fluctuates rather evenly between a reckless Keet or a kindly Big Brother Mentor.
  • The Urpneys often swap the Sanity Ball around erratically in The Dreamstone, ranging from the more intelligent but sociopathic Urpgor, Sgt Blob's more focused but overzealous drill instructions, or Frizz's cowardly (but rightfully so) desire to self preserve or Nug's occasionally brilliant delusions. The heroes are less prone to this, though some do still have the odd fluctuation, especially Amberley.
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball is often the voice of reason in the World of Weirdness that is Elmore, but when he himself acts irrational or immoral, Darwin is usually the one to call him out. When they're both acting like idiots, Anais will usually be the Only Sane Man.
    • However, their mother Nicole definitely grabs onto the ball the longest... unless competition is involved, then someone else has to take the ball. The episode "The Fridge" is a good example; she leads the family into competitive madness with Gumball with ball in hand trying to stop them.
  • In Uncle Grandpa, Mr. Gus is the Only Sane Man in every scene he's in. When he's not there, Belly Bag tends to take his place.
  • In Archer, no-nonsense Lana and stick-in-the-mud Cyril get the ball most often, but even the most Cloud Cuckoolander characters get their turns, and the ball can change possession mid-scene.
  • Total Drama:
    • In the first three seasons, the sanity ball is tossed between Gwen, Noah (the resident Deadpan Snarkers), Trent, and Bridgette (the most down-to-earth of the contestants) depending on the scene and the episode. Occasionally however, other characters get a turn with it if required to for the moment.
    • The Pahkitew Island season usually has the sanity ball thrown around between Sky, Jasmine, and Dave (although Dave's turns with it grow less common over the course of the season). However during the episode "Three Zones and a Baby" it's Shawn of all people who ends up grabbing it.
  • In Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!, Fred and Velma toss this ball around depending on the writer's gags for that episode in question.
  • Dan Vs.: Chris and Elise can alternately act as the voice of reason depending on the episode. It's very rare for Dan to do the same, but it happens from time to time.
  • Sonic Boom juggles the Sanity Ball between its main protagonists. Sonic is often known to have it, but there are times Tails and/or Amy have taken hold of it. And then there are the times Sticks or Knuckles wind up carrying it...
  • Homer and Bart of the The Simpsons are usually the most irresponsible of the family, but if Marge or Lisa get into shenanigans themselves (such as Marge getting addicted to gambling and Lisa becoming rebellious), chances are the lazy, stupid husband and/or the mischievous prankster son would be the ones to make things right.
    • It could be argued Homer less often drops the Sanity Ball than realizes it's rolled too far away from him. While prone to realizing his mistakes, Negative Continuity plus the fact that Homer isn't the brightest usually means his methods of making it up and recovering are as out there as his standard behavior, but genuine (e.g. one episode has Homer apologizing to Lisa for not taking her to an Egyptian exhibit by breaking in after hours to see it and enjoy it all to themselves).
  • During the early episode of Spongebob Squarepants Jellyfishing, Patrick of all people grasps it momentarily when he correctly figures out that Squidward doesn't like them. He lets go of it when Spongebob hand waves this observation away.
  • On The Loud House, Lincoln usually holds it, although some of his sisters (like Lori and Lisa) are better equipped at holding it than others (like Leni and Lola).
  • Teen Titans Go! tosses the ball around like a hot potato, with most episodes featuring either one crazy member of the team or one sane member. Sometimes all of them will be crazy, in which case secondary characters will be the sane ones as in the Serious episode or Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans.
  • The ball gets passed around a lot on Gravity Falls. Dipper holds it the most often, but hands it to Mabel when things like his crush on Wendy come up. Sometimes they both hold it at the same time and apply it to whatever the other character is obsessing over. Stan is usually given custody of the ball when the twins aren't using it. But just about anyone can have it at any given point, even Soos, usually when it involves going against Stan's wishes, or common sense.