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Screwy Squirrel

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Acid isn't the only thing that gives bad trips.

"Now that's comedy!"
Slappy Squirrel (at the end of every episode, and usually after a particularly nasty act of violence), Animaniacs

A type of Jerkass who mercilessly pranks characters primarily for his own (and the audience's) amusement. This is sometimes over a minor slight where the character is annoyed that the perpetrator doesn't even acknowledge it.

Many writers of original animated shorts felt it was more difficult to sympathize with an obviously clever lead doing this kind of thing too often. A famous comparison is the early "Tex Avery style" Bugs Bunny, who was zany on sheer principle (or better yet, Bob Clampett's take on Bugs, which portrayed him as a manic, short tempered egotist who breaks down when met with someone of his own wile). Chuck Jones turned Bugs into a Karmic Trickster. He was paired with bombastic or life-threatening antagonists who deliberately threaten or mistreat him without provocation. Given that he responds only in retaliation or in self-defense, Bugs was more easily excused for his behavior, and even then he tended to play on the stupidity of his enemies rather than outright aggression. A problem with this moral logic of the encounter was that it is always incredibly one-sided— since Bugs is rarely in real danger, it shades into Why Did You Make Me Hit You?.


On the bright side, this kind of character will rarely, if ever, cause any permanent or serious damage to their victims, mainly due to the downtoning of this trope. Modern examples of this trope will usually result in a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, who, while causing other characters a lot of annoyance, will notice when they have gone too far even for them. They are trying to amuse themselves, after all, and some levels can flat out be disturbing even to them. Writers also frequently took pleasure in showing the odd occasion where such pranksters to have absolutely no sense of humor when it is they who act as the butt of a joke, often leading to a Humiliation Conga. If they have a favorite victim, on the other hand, they will usually be very protective of them should another similar-minded prankster show up and do the same on them, reasoning that it is only he or she is allowed to treat the victim in such a manner, which often leads up to a Hypocritical Heartwarming moment.


If the Screwy Squirrel is an otherworldly being, the character may also be an Amusing Alien or a Great Gazoo. A Troll is the online version of this trope. Often criss-crosses with The Prankster whose focus is on practical jokes.

Media Watchdogs for Saturday Morning Cartoons in the 1980s came down heavily on any remaining Screwy Squirrels, citing them as bad influences on children; many revivals of them tend to be toned down considerably.

Not to be confused with Crazy Awesome.


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    Trope Namer 
  • Screwy Squirrel, a Tex Avery MGM character from the '40s for whom the trope is named. He at least had the excuse of being, well, screwy: One of the shorts starts with him escaping from an asylum and tormenting the asylum's guard dog while wearing a Napoleon hat.
    • Perhaps best encapsulated in 1997, when Screwy Squirrel, on April Fool's day "took over" Cartoon Network and refused to show anything but a repeat viewing of his short Happy-Go-Nutty while demanding his own animated series.
    • Screwy Squirrel is so completely demented a character he came to scare his creator. There were only four or five Screwy Squirrel shorts made - and already the Fourth Wall was in smithereens - before Tex Avery decided to stop using the character; the unlimited potential for utter insanity and chaos unnerved the animation team.It's particularly telling that the final short "Lonesome Lenny" featured Screwy running afoul of a dimwitted but friendly dog named Lenny who ends up hugging him to death.
    • Incidentally Screwy did gain his own animated series in the early nineties (segments placed alongside Droopy, Master Detective), albeit renamed "Screwball Squirrel". Similar to Bugs, his sadism was toned down and made more karmic.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Suiseiseki of Rozen Maiden appears at first to be as aloof and proper as Shinku, but in actuality she loves nothing more than tormenting Hinaichigo with tricks and pranks. Really, her "properness" is about as deep as her paint job. She's more like a spoiled and immature royal who is more than willing to smack around her "subjects." She only sobers up during life and death situations. She acts like this during common situations, she is easily the most caring of the dolls anyway (it says something when she is the only doll who never even tried to become Alice out of fear of losing her sisters). When she snaps out of it, she snaps out of it hard. There's even one instance in the drama CDs when she tries to rectify her behavior after realizing that she had gone too far.
  • Urusei Yatsura: Ryoko Mendou (younger sister of Shutaro) loves to act like The Ojou, but in reality she's this. She loves pulling pranks, setting people up against each other, and generally causing utter mayhem for reasons boiling down to "it was funny" or "because". And she always does this. Her antics include (but are not limited to): shoving someone she knew couldn't swim into the water, removing the ladder someone had used to scale a tree, putting firecrackers in the mouth of someone who was sleeping, encasing someone in a block of concrete, locking her severely claustrophobic brother up in a locker, planting bombs in a building where people were throwing a Christmas party she wasn't invited to, and goading people into climbing a giant tree and then launching that tree into the stratosphere (it was actually a rocket disguised as a tree) because they were not climbing the tree quickly enough for her liking… and more importantly it looked like they were having fun without her…
  • Hayate × Blade: Amachi] Hitsugi, being the head of an Absurdly Powerful Student Council, often uses her powers to amuse herself, usually at the expense of others.
  • Azumanga Daioh: Tomo may be an unintentional version of this trope, strangely enough. She is a good example of what a Jerkass with ADHD can become when she tries a bit too hard to be a Genki Girl.
  • Haré+Guu: Guu is a Deadpan Snarker who spends most of her time pulling various pranks on Hale using her seemingly unlimited powers. With Hare + Guu being a rather screwy anime in the first place, the fact that one of the main characters is a Screwy Squirrel is to be expected.
  • Yukari from Rosario + Vampire is introduced as one (in addition to Tsukune's love rival for Moka's affection), but she gradually mellows out.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fiction 


  • Geronimo Stilton's cousin, Trap, is a relentless prankster who teases his cousin whenever he sees him, when he isn't taking advantage of Geronimo's fame and fortune.
  • The Cat in the Hat is a benevolent example. Played straight though with Mr. Fox in Fox in Socks.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • Trickster gods in general are like this. Zaticana caused a Curse of Babel because she thought it would be funny, Remoh terrorizes entire cities in the name of "performance art" and Tasio makes water pipes burst or fills buildings with skunks. However, they make sure nobody is hurt and they often have a Trickster Mentor style ulterior motive.
    • Aio is a high energy boy that loves messing with people, especially Eric. One time, he snuck up behind Eric while he was reading and shut the book on his head.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation's Q is another non-cartoon example, and a perfect one; many a Great Gazoo falls into this category.
  • Janitor in Scrubs torments J.D. to an insane degree. His own amusement is at least one of the possible reasons. Other interpretations include him honestly feeling just as tormented by JD (which is sometimes the case, though not because J.D. wanted to) or that he actually sees him as a friend but is too screwed up and socially awkward to properly show it (Something his actor believes). The finale reveals that J.D. really did put the penny in the door and the Janitor saw it was an honest accident, but by repeatedly lying about it, he failed the Janitor's Secret Test of Character.
  • House: Dr. Gregory House has been known to ruin people's lives for no reason other than that he found them annoying. The fact that the majority of his victims wouldn't be alive were if not for him is the only thing saving him from complete Jerkassery.
  • The Sesame Street Muppet character Harvey Kneeslapper had some of these qualities, and parental concerns about this were one reason (along with his loud voice, which was hard on Frank Oz's vocal chords) why he was eventually dropped from the show.
  • Captain Kangaroo's Mr. Moose and Mr. Bunny Rabbit kind of fit this trope, too.
  • The Office (US):
    • Jim Halpert can verge into this. He tends to play pranks on Dwight and Andy out of boredom, but occasionally because they're driving him crazy and pranking them allows him to turn their insanity into comedy. How sympathetic Jim is depends a lot on how funny his pranks are and how much the victims did to deserve them that episode.
    • In one episode Dwight discovers a box full of his grievances against Jim for this that he thought Toby had been sending to corporate. As Michael read through the list, Jim commented that these didn't sound nearly as funny back to back. Since then, he has occasionally been shown being nice to Dwight, or having his pranks backfire, or even being the victim of the occasional prank by Dwight. He takes it better than most Screwy Squirrels do.
  • He takes this from his counterpart in The Office (UK), Tim Canterbury, who played pranks on Gareth to try to cope with the soul-crushing boredom of working in the office environment.
  • Niles the butler from The Nanny. While normally his actions are limited to bitter sarcasm, his life's passion seems to be playing cruel tricks on C.C. Babcock.
    C.C.: So, tell me, Rochester, what did you do to kill a day before I came along?
    Niles: Well, truth be told, my life was a little empty. But now, I have a hobby.
  • Alluded to in an early season of MythBusters: the animated intro to the myth of whether you could stop a bullet by putting your finger in the gun barrel depicts stoic Jamie as an Elmer Fudd-like hunter and goofy Adam as a cartoon squirrel.


  • No Good Gofers have Bud and Buzz, the aforementioned gofers of the game.
    Buzz: "Go pound some sand, hacker!"
  • Earlier than them is Gunther the Gopher of Gottlieb's Tee'd Off, whose only purpose is to taunt the player and distract him from his golf game.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Older Than Print: Loki in Norse Mythology comes off as this, since his motivations are rarely explained. Why did he cut off Sif's hair? Why did he kill Baldur? Nobody knows.

  • Cirque du Soleil's Mystere has Brian Le Petit, the principal clown, who is explicitly described in the backstory as an intruder of the Magical Land the show takes place in. He constantly teases the pompous emcee (at one point successfully tricking him into stepping off a high ledge), pretends to lead audience members to their seats only to lead them on a roundabout path, steals their popcorn, and in the long climactic scene tricks a man from the audience into climbing into a crate, which Brian locks so he can woo the man's date. Nothing toned down about him, and most audience members love him for it. Once his plan starts falling apart, his increasingly absurd efforts to save himself edge him towards Crazy Awesome status. In the end, he's tossed out of the show and doesn't appear in the curtain call.
  • Launcelot Gobbo, the clown in The Merchant of Venice, seems to genuinely love Old Gobbo, his aged, blind father. Which doesn't stop him from practicing deceptions on Old Gobbo's blindness when the poor guy doesn't recognize him, finally informing him that his son has died.
  • Comes up occasionally in the Commedia dell'Arte, although with so much of the plays Depending on the Writer, it varies who it is—usually either Harlequin or Pulcinella. Any clever zanni, really.
  • Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream is this most of the time, although Oberon generally tries to employ him as a Karmic Trickster (for Oberon's definition of karma). However, he's introduced as a prankster who plays tricks on travelers, self-serious old ladies, and random horses, he transforms Bottom's head into that of an ass just for the fun of it, and he's thrilled when it turns out he's given love potion to the wrong Athenian, so he fits this category much better.

    Video Games 
  • Touhou:
    • Tewi Inaba. Despite leading most of the youkai rabbits in Eientei, she is said to have a deceitful personality (this is later shown when Reisen Udongein Inaba arrives at Eientei, and Tewi often pulls pranks with her as the victim). Fanon takes it so far that she pulls pranks on everyone (mostly the lower-leveled girls), though canon and semi-canon shows that this isn't far from the truth, with her victims in both Bohemian Archive in Japanese Red and Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth having included Aya, Meiling, Eirin, Kaguya, Mokou, Suwako, and Yorihime. Strangely, her power is to give good luck to humans...
    • Kijin Seija, Big Bad of Double Dealing Character, tried to cause a revolution, overthrow the society which had given the strong free reign to opress the weak and cause a societal upheaval which would allow the weak to rule over the strong instead. What drives her in her quest towards this ambitious, visionary goal? While she, herself, claims it's revenge for years of opression, the truth is that she, as an amanojaku with the power to turn anything upside-down and the personality to match, simply felt like turning the world around her on its head. No matter what the results or consequences of such an act would be, just the act of doing it was her motivation.
  • The skull kids from The Legend of Zelda commonly possess this kind of personality. The one in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is said to have possessed such a personality prior to finding the titular mask, who also may have appeared in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, as implied in the game's ending. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess also has a similar-minded skull kid, pulling pranks on Link while he's searching for the Master Sword.
  • While usually more an Idiot Hero or simple Cloudcuckoolander, Crash Tag Team Racing placed Crash Bandicoot as a rather conventional version of the trope for numerous easter egg FMVs, harrassing Park Drones with endless pranks and Amusing Injuries.
  • The protagonist of Untitled Goose Game is, quote, "a horrible goose", who terrorizes a small English village with pranks seemingly for nothing but their own amusement.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The earliest incarnations of Looney Tunes characters Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny were "screw balls", a character type that, along with Porky Pig's everyman, put Warner Bros. animation on the map.
    • Before Bugs turned into an agent of righteous reprisal, his personality largely depended on his adversary's intelligence: when facing Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam styled dumbasses, Bugs could only be a screwball tormentor; paired with certain gremlins or tortoises of equal wiles, however, Bugs was the tormented.
    • Daffy, who became a star by stealing the show, used screwiness to grab attention, and, in fact, may have been the first recurring example of this type of character; as various writers and directors learned, however, watching a screwball get his just desserts could be just as funny. A decades-long process of Flanderization turned him into the greedy, egotistical, self-righteous Jerkass we know today.
    • Foghorn Leghorn was an interesting take on the Screwy Squirrel: in his cartoons, clueless outsiders would be drawn into an ongoing prank war between Foggy and Barnyard Dog; as such, both characters, while low-key, were relentless tormentors with no stated motivation.
    • Sylvester the Cat, usually a hapless Butt-Monkey of a provoker to such characters as Tweety, was utilized as a "screwball" type to good effect in Back Alley Op-roar, in which he drives a sleepy Elmer Fudd to distraction with his late-night singing. Kitty Kornered similarly played a prototype Sylvester (and three similar cats) as zany hecklers against Porky Pig.
      • Sylvester himself also fell victim to Screwy Squirrels on a few odd occasions (eg. Canned Feud). Granted since his tormentor was a mouse, we were possibly meant to interpret some Offscreen Villainy on Sylvester's part, after all Cats Are Mean, but based on the short alone he played an unprovoked victim rather straight.
    • Other examples of this type in the Looney Tunes world: Charlie Dog, the Goofy Gophers, the mice Hubie and Bertie, and the Do-Do in Porky in Wackyland.
      • Charlie Dog may also count as a somewhat twisted Loveable Rogue, in that his antagonism was usually motivated by a profit of some kind, usually a roof over his head. This also applies to Hubie and Bertie and (occasionally) Daffy. That said, it's not as if they weren't shown to take sadistic enjoyment in driving their foils crazy a lot of times.
    • In the classic short Duck Amuck, it's the artist (who is none other than Bugs Bunny) who plays the Screwy Squirrel. Bugs got his comeuppance in Rabbit Rampage, when the artist was Elmer Fudd.
  • Woody Woodpecker, whose merciless, skull-splitting cackle begged for comeuppance he seldom received, is a good example of why Screwy Squirrels get toned down. By the '50s the character was considerably more laid-back.
  • Although usually depicted as personable, Donald Duck's famous temper is usually catalyzed by Screwy Squirrels, most often Chip 'n' Dale.
    • Huey, Dewey, and Louie actually debuted as this type of character in the 1938 short Donald's Nephews. For most later instances, however, it was actually Donald who started the fights, and they retaliated with some Disproportionate Retribution. Chip 'n' Dale were also similarly retaliators or Loveable Rogues a lot of occasions. In contrast, the little orphans common in the Classic Disney Shorts were always Screwy Squirrels against Donald, and sometimes Mickey had to suffer as well.
    • Contrary to popular belief, it was Chip and Dale, not Donald Duck who usually made the first attack. A lot of times it was merely their curiosity or hunger that grated on Donald's nerves, and led him to respond disproportionately, after that it was free game. They seemed to play the role more consistently against Pluto.
    • Ironically, Donald himself played this role in The Band Concert, as he annoyed Mickey by continually turning his band's performance of the William Tell Overture into "Turkey in the Straw" with an endless supply of flutes.
    • In the early shorts Goofy can be as much of a victim of Screw Squirrel-types, due to his simple nature.
    • One bizarre Running Gag of the earlier Disney shorts was to have the tormentors be inanimate objects. Be it a piano, a diminutive tornado or the innards of a giant clock, their humour plays off from them being things that shouldn't be alive, and yet constantly malfunction and move almost independently in a way that causes abuse for Mickey and co, sometimes even making intricate gestures that imply they are sentient and out to make them miserable.
  • Possibly a reference to the former character, this was the profession of the fictional retired cartoon "actress" Slappy Squirrel on Animaniacs. Slappy occasionally followed later laws regarding violent retribution, but always favored overkill and knew that her enemies were harmless. An obvious subversion, Slappy rarely excused her actions and frequently commented that modern cartoons take themselves too seriously.
    • The most epic demonstration of this is when she tried to throw away a can of soda into a neighbor's trash can. Said neighbor asked Slappy to remove said can and place it in her own trash can, about five feet away. Said neighbor insists, and gets on Slappy's nerves. After clarifying that the neighbor did indeed want Slappy to remove the can she just discarded and place it in her own trash can, the neighbor asked, "Do you have a problem with that?" Slappy replies with "No, but you do." The rest of the episode is Slappy annoying her by using it, and eventually getting back at said neighbor because she kept throwing the can back at her (aiming for the head) by driving her completely and totally insane over the course of several months, until she gets rendered insane to the point that she believed the can was her baby.
    • The Warners were a less-lampshaded but more prominent example. They typically act as hyperactive Constantly Curious children who ask questions, glomp and kiss every Hello, Nurse! in sight, and perform gags whenever it strikes them, But otherwise, they're generally harmless until someone acts like a real Jerkass, at which point they label him their "Special Friend", and turn into Karmic Tricksters. However this has backfired at least once, such as how Mr. Director (a Jerry Lewis Expy) got a kick out of the very things that annoyed most people, and they didn't know how to react.
      • One episode depicted them being forced to contend with an overly nice Maria Von Trapp-type character. They realized that they couldn't justify tormenting her when she hadn't been cruel to them like most of their foes, making them more Bugs Bunnies than Screwy Squirrels. Their solution was to summon Slappy, who had no problem with violently dealing with anyone.
      • In another episode they tormented a television anchorman who refused to tip them for delivering his food. The episode established the anchorman as a supreme Jerkass before the Warners appeared… but he only didn't tip the Warners because they arrived late, got the order wrong, and then ate the food anyway. It came across as Laser-Guided Karma (because he was cruel to his coworkers) but technically he didn't do anything to or in sight of the Warners themselves to deserve becoming their target.
      • In instances where they ARE true screwy squirrels, when the victim retaliates, the Warners usually realize they deserved it and leave it as is. Such as when they sang the "International Friendship Song" with an obese chef and eventually began to make fun of his weight (which he still took in good humour), but when they began taking his clothes away he gave them the literal boot, and the episode ended there.
    • Slappy probably gets away with it because she's at Social Security age.
      • Sometimes we see clips of her old cartoons. Aside from being a sprightly young probably twenty-something, the only real difference is that she's cheery about it.
  • Quite a few of the early Tom and Jerry shorts portray have Jerry going after Tom with little to no reason, but most of the time Tom is allowed to have the last laugh. Similarly there were a lot of times Tom was less intent on catching Jerry and just tormenting him for kicks. Until Chuck Jones came anyway.
  • One of these turned up on Clone High. "Try and catch me, bitch!"
  • Itchy and Scratchy. The entirety of the Simpsons' show within a show within a show's purpose was to take this trope to the nth+ 1 degree, where Itchy is a violently psychopathic mouse that revels in repeatedly murdering Scratchy the cat in unbelievably graphic and gory ways. Interestingly, the supposed wrongs that Itchy is paying back are never shown or implied in the slightest. Itchy is merely portrayed as being an unrepentant psycho.
    • Likewise, virtually all of the Simpsons characters react to Itchy's horrific cartoon sadism, by screaming with laughter.
    Homer: Itchy's a jerk!
    Bart: *Laughs* Yeah...
  • The Aracuan Bird first introduced in The Three Caballeros seems to be like this. It steals José's cigar while he's still using it, and then later draws false train tracks that cause all the individual cars of a train to separate. When it shows up again in the Melody Time short Blame it on the Samba, it cheers up an incredibly depressed Donald and José, apparently just so that they'll be in a better mood for messing around with them. It also stars in a Classic Disney Short, a similar Mickey Mouse Works sketch and stars in an episode of House of Mouse where it is torments Donald in various ways in all three.
  • Digeri Dingo from Taz-Mania was a combination of this, Deadpan Snarker, Fourth-Wall Observer and Too Clever by Half.
  • Sledgehammer O'Possum from What A Cartoon! Show really pushes the envelope of this trope, violently and repeatedly attacking victims who not only didn't cross him, but who amiably shared lunch with him.
  • Eric Cartman of South Park parodies this character type when the gang encounters Osama Bin Laden, and Cartman becomes a Screwy Squirrel cartoon-character while attacking him.
  • The bird in The Dirdy Bird.
  • The three cockroaches in Oggy and the Cockroaches
  • The three rodents in Big Buck Bunny, the most virulent of them is a squirrel.
  • The Teen Titans Go! episode "Squash and Stretch" is about the Titans trying various ways to get their bowl of nuts back from one of these.
  • Pocahontas: Meeko the raccoon repeatedly steals food from anyone at any opportunity, although the hapless victim is generally Percy. It's gotten so bad that Percy is never shown eating more than a bite of food on-screen.
  • The Red Guy from Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel in his less villainous moments.
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk, whenever he showed up on Superman: The Animated Series. Slightly inverted when he ends up effortlessly tricked into banishing himself by Superman; in that case the Screwball archetype is being tricked, but just to keep him out of the strait-laced hero's hair. Supes does briefly get to be a Smug Super when he finally banishes Mxyzptlk once and for all.
  • This seems to be The Monarch's modus operandi in regards to "arching" Dr. Venture in The Venture Bros.: to be Venture's Arch-Nemesis and basically just screw with his life as much as possible. In episodes where he's actually out for blood (and not targeting Dr. Venture), he's scarily competent.
  • Terrytoons had Heckle and Jeckle, two mischievous magpies who caused trouble as often as they put a stop to it. Also, the Dingbat (their expy of Warner Bros.' Dodo) from Gandy in Dingbat Land.
  • Circe in Justice League. After being released from Tartarus she decides to humiliate an old enemy by turning her daughter into a pig... And then going clubbing. In the end, she voluntarily ends the curse in return for having Batman sing in public.
  • Beneath the intimidating demeanor, Lord Dominator from Wander over Yonder is a bratty, slightly-goofy young woman who likes to screw with people and is in on the whole "Galactic Villain Leaderboard" thing because mayhem and wanton destruction are her idea of fun. Word of God explicitly says she's the Screwy Squirrel to Wander's Bugs Bunny.
  • While the regular chipmunks averts this completely, the Direct-to-Video movie Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein parodies this trope when Alvin drinks a potion from Dr. Frankenstein that turns him into a Warner Bros. esque screwball character.

Alternative Title(s): Merciless Prankster


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