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Smart Jerk and Nice Moron

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A trope about a duo in which the smarter, more aggressive individual bullies his dumb but pleasant comrade.

They're usually in a commander-henchman type scenario, though this isn't mandatory, nor is the smart guy necessarily all that brilliant or successful. The important part is that they ''know'' they're the smarter of two and mistreat the slower one. Their relationship holds because the less intelligent one is unaware that they're being treated unfairly and remains something of an Extreme Doormat, not always out of weakness, but ignorance.

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Usually, the smart guy comes up with schemes (not necessarily evil, just very selfish) and ends up bumbling them, because the dumb guy tries too hard to help out, while the dumb guy doesn't really get that they're inconveniencing other people. Or, if they succeed, the dumb guy tries to stop the smart guy and explain to them that it's not nice to use people.

A relationship-based variety of Dumb Is Good, often overlapping with Vitriolic Best Buds. Often, the smart one is an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist (or an Academic Alpha Bitch in a school setting) and the dumber one is his Bumbling Sidekick. If they are a Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey, the dumber one is his Minion with an F in Evil. This dynamic is the heart of the Boke and Tsukkomi Routine.

Sub-Trope (child trope) of Kindhearted Simpleton and Insufferable Genius. Compare Brains Evil, Brawn Good which is a correlation between intelligence and morality, and Anti-Intellectualism. Compare and contrast Straight Man and Wise Guy and Comic Trio; this trope is distinguished from both by a lack of the Only Sane Man, as both characters generally contribute to goofy antics in different ways. Supertrope to Fat and Skinny and Big Guy, Little Guy, which have a similar dynamic emphasized by a physical difference between characters. Rude Hero, Nice Sidekick is a hero-specific variant that is not necessarily comedic.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragonball Z, Goku and Vegeta display this while teaming up to defeat Majin Buu. Vegeta often gets outraged whenever Goku does or says something stupid while Goku just remains nice and friendly to his arch-rival.
  • In My Hero Academia, Bakugo is an irritable Genius Bruiser who constantly pushes others away with his desire to be the best at everything. His Morality Pet, Kirishima, is a Book Dumb Nice Guy who is one of the few people able to tolerate Bakugo's attitude. This becomes a plot point when Kirishima is the only one Bakugo will willingly accept help from when Midoriya and the others are trying to rescue Bakugo.

    Comedy 
  • Abbott and Costello. Bud Abbott's character is always portrayed as more intelligent than Lou Costello's, and often talked down to him and complained about him as well as slapping him. Lou Costello was almost always nice and friendly, but not very bright.
  • Laurel and Hardy is the Trope Codifier in film. Every other variation in comedy pays lip service to them. Though it must be said that Hardy isn't that much brighter than Laurel. He just assumes he is.
  • The Marx Brothers: Chico and Harpo are usually paired up together, with Chico as the scheming leader, while the mute Manchild Harpo just tags along. Nevertheless, Chico often scolds Harpo for being stupid and not understanding him.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Supreme Power universe, brilliant sociopath Emil Burbank frequently finds himself stuck working alongside Shape, a developmentally-disabled ex-janitor. Everyone else in the Squadron Supreme gets along fine with Shape, while Burbank is so despised and distrusted that the government takes him out of the field and puts him in charge of devising contingency plans for taking down his teammates.
  • In Super Sons, Jon and Damian have this dynamic. Jon is an open and friendly Nice Guy while Damian is an Insufferable Genius. While they both hate school, Jon is more Book Dumb (but he isn't quite stupid and can sometimes be more reasonable than his partner) while Damian is bossy and constantly uppity towards others.
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    Films — Animation 
  • Disney's The Emperor's New Groove has the wicked, scheming high priestess Yzma engineer a coup d'etat, assisted by her muscular but moronic henchman, Kronk. Yzma is described in-universe as "scary beyond all reason" and shows no sympathy to anybody, while Kronk is a Minion with an F in Evil, who even fills in as a line cook to keep a diner running.
  • Flushed Away: Spike tends to take great pleasure in the pain and suffering of others and tends to be the smart one when compared to his partner, Whitey, who is a Minion with an F in Evil and considered to be the nicest guy in the film.
  • Disney's Lady and the Tramp has Lady's neighbors: Jock, the Scottish terrier and Trusty the bloodhound. Jock is an irritable and temperamental ankle-biter, but quite rational; while Trusty is much more genial, but notably scatter-brained. The dichotomy gets spotlighted during the effort to rescue Tramp from the dog-catcher's wagon. Jock disparages the effort, as the streets are soaked with rainwater, dissolving the scent, and tells Trusty bluntly, "You've lost your sense of smell." Though stung to the core by this, Trusty makes no reply, instead redoubling his effort, which succeeds in unerringly attaining the wagon.
  • The Lion King: The frenetic and bellicose meerkat Timon is paired with genial but dim warthog Pumbaa. Timon leads the pair on the theory that smarter equals louder. Never better demonstrated than the scene where Simba introduces Nala to them.
    Pumbaa: Pleased to meet you.
    Nala: The pleasure's mine.
    Timon: Hold it, hold it! You know her. She knows you. And she wants to eat [Pumbaa]. And everybody's okay with this?
  • Corvax and Thimbo from Muzzy Comes Back. Corvax is an Evil Genius Smug Snake who brags about his intelligence and uses advanced technology, kidnapping the King's baby granddaughter to usurp the throne. The latter is a dim-witted thug who Never Learned to Read, but is very kind with said baby and unlike Corvax, he genuinely cares for her.
  • Cruella DeVil's henchmen from Disney's 101 Dalmatians are Horace and Jasper. Jasper is the tall, lanky one, who takes the lead and seems to enjoy being a criminal. Horace is the short, hefty one that follows Jasper because he can't think of anything better to do.
  • In Toy Story, Rex often plays the Likable Moron to both Hamm and Mr. Potato Head's Smart Jerk on occasions, although this is played straighter with Mr. Potato Head. Rex can be something of a Cloudcuckoolander but is more of a Gentle Giant and Hamm is a Deadpan Snarker and Mr. Potato Head is quite a Jerkass.
  • Among Charles Muntz's battalion of servant dogs in Pixar's Up, Alpha the Doberman is a Drill Sergeant Nasty that leads them. Alpha tends to heap abuse on dimwitted but determined Dug. This mistreatment is a huge catalyst in Dug's Heel–Face Turn in siding with Carl, Russell and Kevin.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Richard Hayden and Tommy Callahan in Tommy Boy. Richard's the right-hand man to Tommy's father, Big Tom Callahan, but comes off as an Insufferable Genius who routinely disparages other people, especially Tommy. Tommy is a bumbling ditz, taking seven years to finish college, but he's willing to do whatever it takes to keep his family's company afloat, even giving up his inheritance. After spending most of the movie struggling to make sales, Richard realizes that Tommy has street smarts when he sees him successfully talk a waitress into giving them a special, and after Tommy learns to stop trying to emulate his father and act naturally, they make many sales.

    Literature 
  • In The Princess Bride, Vizzini is clever, but frequently verbally abuses Fezzik and Inigo. On the other hand, Fezzik is by no means smart but makes up for it in sheer friendliness.
  • Of Mice and Men:
    • Played with. George appears to be more gruff, severe and stern than mentally handicapped Lennie (who Does Not Know His Own Strength) who is a cheery, childlike person. However, he's doing this for Lennie's protection, since the later is incapable of realizing the damage he causes.
    • It also comes up in the Back Story when George tells a story about making Lennie do stupid stuff just for laughs, and how he learned An Aesop not to do that anymore.
  • Raistlin Majere often plays the smart jerk to his twin brother Caramon's nice moron in the Dragonlance novel series. Caramon's a good bit less moronic than many other examples though, it's just that his brother's genius is quite genuine.
  • Percy The Small Engine of The Railway Series and even more so its Animated Adaptation, Thomas the Tank Engine. While occasionally insightful, Percy is naive and childishly innocent, so often plays the Likeable Moron to several more experienced but arrogant engines such as James or Gordon (Thomas was also his most frequent Smart Jerk until having Took a Level in Kindness, and gaining enough Cloud Cuckoo Lander points to border him as a Likable Moron himself).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ant Farm:
    • Chyna's two best friends are the brilliant but insensitive Olive and the kind but slightly slow-witted Fletcher.
    • Lexi is a devious Alpha Bitch who is always bossing around her much dumber sidekick Paisley. Unlike Lexi, Paisley is always cheerful and friendly.
  • Blackadder: In the first series, Edmund Blackadder and Baldrick were an inversion; Blackadder was an Aristocrats Are Evil Upper-Class Twit, while Baldrick was (relatively) more intelligent. Subsequent seasons (which each featured a later descendant) had Blackadder as a snarky, scheming, Jerkass who heaps abuse on his dimwitted, good-natured servant sidekick Baldrick.
  • House of Anubis: The duo of Jerome and Alfie, who are best friends and pranking partners, has this dynamic. Jerome is intelligent, manipulative and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold at best, using his brains for trickery and amusement. Alfie, meanwhile, is a lot less intelligent by comparison, but also less mean, getting along more easily with the house members and being the one manipulated by Jerome rather than an equal partner.
  • Glee: Schoolgirl Lesbians Santana (a cold and cunning Manipulative Bitch) and her best friend/Love Interest Brittany (a sweet and innocent girl who provides the page image for The Ditz). Although Santana shows more her jerk side to other people than to Brittany, who is her Morality Pet.
  • Victorious: It's the dynamic between Jade (mean, snarky, and one of the smartest in the group) and Cat (childlike, ditzy, and sweet). In the spin-off Sam & Cat, Cat also serves as the Nice Moron to Sam's Smart Jerk.

    Music 
  • 2D and Murdoc of Gorillaz, at least in Phases 1 & 2. Murdoc beat him up, stole his girlfriends, regularly insulted and humiliated him, yet 2D still referred to Murdoc as his 'best mate' and often either aided in his antics or looked the other way from the more... dubious behavior. He finally seems to have sharpened up in the Plastic Beach arc, openly resenting Murdoc and his growing insanity.

    Video Games 
  • In Crash Twinsanity, Crash Bandicoot teams up with his former enemy Cortex for the entirety of the game. Crash is an Idiot Hero and is often pretty friendly, so is the nice moron. Cortex, who was the Big Bad of most of the other Crash Bandicoot game and Evil Genius, is the smart jerk. The duo status ends after defeating the Evil Twins with Cortex attempting to kill Crash, only to end up in his head.

    Web Animation 
  • Later episodes in Homestar Runner have this dynamic between Strong Bad and Homestar. Originally, they were enemies, but over time develop into something more like Vitriolic Best Buds. Homestar is a kind, loveable idiot who thinks he's Strong Bad's friend, while the schemer Strong Bad constantly tells Homestar he hates him, but the message never appears to sink in. Of course, Strong Bad tends to overhype his own cleverness, and Homestar is often Too Dumb to Fool, but the distribution of brains between the two is clearly unequal.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick: Mr. Jones and Mr. Rodriguez, who appear out of nowhere whenever the plot calls for a lawyer. Mr. Jones is a walking Evil Lawyer Joke, who throws legal impediments in the path of the Order (except when they retain his services; he's a professional). Phil Rodriguez is affable and dimwitted, regularly committing legal gaffes and Malapropisms. Whenever they lose a case, Mr. Jones manipulates the court transcript so that Mr. Rodriguez is listed as primary counsel, allowing Mr. Jones to maintain a "perfect" record at trial.
    Mr. Rodriguez: Aww, man! That means my record will fall to 0-147.
    Mr. Jones: Naturally, I remain perfect at 5-0.
  • In Spacetrawler, Nogg's two main followers are Gurf, who's kind but dumb as a brick—and Krep, member of an alien species who bred stupidity out of themselves generations ago, which had the side-effect of making them all sarcastic jerkasses.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs:
  • Downplayed with Beavis and Butt-Head: While they both act like brainless troublemakers, Butt-Head is the more aware and unrepentantly self-centered of the two. With Beavis, it's shown that he acts much nicer without Butt-Head's influence.
  • CatDog has this with the titular two-headed creature, who has the head of both a sophisticated but elitist cat and also a simple-minded, easygoing dog. Naturally, Cats Are Mean and Dogs Are Dumb stereotypes abound.
  • Danny Phantom: Jack Fenton, Danny's dad, is a Genius Ditz, who, despite his sometimes self-absorbed tendencies, loves his family very much and even thinks of Vlad Masters as an old friend. Unfortunately, Vlad is a Villain with Good Publicity who hates Jack for "stealing" the affections of the woman he wants to marry.
  • Darkwing Duck: Though Darkwing is the primary protagonist of Saint Canard, he's also a Large Ham, temperamental, and snarky enough to meet Anti-Hero specs. Launchpad is less brainy than Darkwing, but makes up for that with a more affable and generous demeanor. Launchpad tends to receive the brunt of Darkwing's irritation with anything, but the other duck does have a semi-concealed soft spot for him. Additionally, sometimes the dynamic gets flipped given that Darkwing can become Too Clever by Half at times, while Launchpad proves himself wiser than his comrade or notices things he misses.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: A sibling example. Dexter is a Child Prodigy and Insufferable Genius who has no patience for his sister Dee Dee's stupidity. Despite being Lethally Stupid to annoying levels, Dee Dee is cheerfully well-meaning and adores her brother no matter what.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    • Eddy and Ed. Eddy calls him names, picks on him and bosses him around constantly, and Ed cheerfully obeys his commands.
    • Sarah and Ed are a sibling example. In this case, Sarah is far more meaner to Ed than Eddy is as she is horrible and abusive bully to Ed while Ed is nice and caring to Sarah no matter how much she mistreats him.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Billy is a total idiot who only seems to have hard feelings towards the bully Sperg and his son Jeff (who is a spider). His best friend Mandy, however, is a straight-A (or rather, "A+++++++") student, who hates just about everyone else, and finds the idea of having a crush on someone to be repulsive.
  • Invader Zim: Zim is a Smart Jerk while GIR is a Nice Moron. Zim wants to enslave humanity and while not really a genius per say in the eyes of the viewer, he still has far better technology let alone keener common sense than the human characters on his show (minus Dib). GIR isn't evil or hellbent on enslaving humanity like Zim is, he just wants to watch TV and eat pizza all day.
  • The Loud House gives us a duo of Valley Girl sister roommates, Lori and Leni. The former is the Only Sane Man of the house but exhibits a colossally bossy attitude towards her younger siblings, while the latter is a Kindhearted Simpleton who's rarely if ever truly malicious.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Mindy's two friends, Mitchell and Lillian, fall into this category. Mitchell is quite smart for a kid his age, and he's also very blunt and snarky, with a high-and-mighty attitude at times. Lillian, on the other hand, is ditzy and forgetful, but makes up for it with her politeness and sweetness. However, Mitchell is nice deep down, and unlike most examples, he certainly doesn't go out of his way to bully Lillian.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: Ren is intelligent but selfish, violent-tempered and outright psychotic. Stimpy is dim-witted, but kind natured and perpetually cheerful. In many episodes (particularly in later seasons), Stimpy borders as a slave for Ren, and is verbally and physically abused on a regular basis. He rarely takes any of it to heart and thoroughly enjoys doting over Ren.
  • The titular characters in Rick and Morty: Rick is a foul-mouthed genius inventor who constantly puts Morty (and anyone else he doesn't respect, such as Jerry) down. Meanwhile, his grandson Morty, who serves as his Bumbling Sidekick assistant, is kindhearted and empathetic, but is much less competent than Rick and is implied to have some kind of intellectual disability. Rick heaps abuse on Morty, but secretly loves him. Meanwhile, Morty knows Rick is a jerk but repeatedly gets dragged into adventures against his will, where he then frequently needs Rick to fix his problems for him.
  • The Smurfs: Brainy Smurf fancies himself as a genius and is so obnoxious that he's hated by almost everyone, except his friend Clumsy Smurf. Clumsy is a Kindhearted Simpleton who genuinely admires Brainy and likes being around him, despite Brainy's arrogance.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Squidward considers himself an "artistic genius" and has disdain for his stupid but well-meaning neighbors Spongebob and Patrick.
    • Mermaid Man is a Scatterbrained Senior, his sidekick Barnacle Boy is more cranky and bad-tempered than him, and easily annoyed by Mermaid Man's absentminded behavior.
  • South Park: Cartman is a calculating sociopath who regularly drags Butters into his schemes, or just casually bullies him for fun, but Butters is cheery, innocent and usually friendly to Cartman (notably being one of very few to call him by his first name).
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: George and Junior. George is the Schemer while Junior is the dimwitted Fat Idiot.
  • Total Drama:

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