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The Gadfly

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"You could say I'm trying to wake the clods out of their rigid mental sets by forcing them to deal with unconventional behavior...or you could say I just like jerking folks around. For that matter, you could say anything you damned well want to. I do."
Admiral Chee, Expendable

The Gadfly is a character who often says things that make fun of, or provoke, other people, particularly the authorities and elite. The Gadfly isn't afraid to say blunt truths about sensitive issues that everyone else discreetly tiptoes around, and they are quick to weigh in with critical remarks about problems with the status quo.

Maybe they have poor social skills, so its hard for them to express themselves diplomatically. Or it could be they just like to watch others get annoyed, confused or angry at them. Or maybe the impolite behavior is a Secret Test of Character for the other party.

Usually they're not really bad people. They can be quite witty, amusing and insightful as long as they're not going after you, but their main targets seem to be their allies, who understand that it's all a joke to them. In the Forum Pecking Order, they may be a member of the Old Guard or Blue Blood, and thus are relatively safe from reprisals. Their amicable nature makes them fairly benevolent but they can set off difficult conversations and start arguments.

The Gadfly varies in their focused-upon subject matter. Sometimes they are The Tease, forever raunchy, or they are an intellectual who loves philosophical or political arguments, or they are flat-out crazy and rant about everything in a stream of consciousness. Others are a variant of the Attention Whore, and their outspoken criticism leads to them facing aggression from their targets. To keep them in line requires a Mod (perhaps an elder ruler) who has a long leash and a big stick.

The trope codifier is the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (470–399 BC), who took his self-appointed role as critic of the state so seriously that he refused to take back his criticism even when authorities threatened him with the death penalty. During his trial, Socrates, said that criticism and "dissent, like the gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating [the authorities] could be very high." Socrates' metaphor with the "gadfly" reference is to him acting like a horsefly that is is giving stinging bites to a big horse (the state).

Socrates' death from drinking a cup of poison Hemlock after the trial shows the risks of being a gadfly to a powerful government. Even in modern times, a gadfly in a totalitarian state or junta may find themselves imprisoned in a Black Site or "disappeared" by the Secret Police.

Compare and contrast with Troll, a character who draws pleasure not from ludicrousness but from suffering.

See also Refuge in Audacity, I Shall Taunt You, Armor-Piercing Question, Devil's Advocate, Crying Wolf.

Contrast the Blithe Spirit and Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who often use a very similar M.O. note  to improve people's lives. The Devil's Advocate will do this in serious discussion to point out flaws in a stated position.

Not to be confused with the 1897 novel or unrelated 1955 film of the the same name.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kazuya Miyuki of Ace of the Diamond. On the field, he's a great catcher who knows how to effectively lead his team, and everybody relies on him, especially protagonist Eijun Sawamura. Off the field, he loves to troll others to no end, and whenever people insult or call him "evil", he takes it as praise.
  • Chelsea from Akame ga Kill! loves to make fun of Mine and her flat chest.
  • Shinnosuke from Apocalypse Alice, who lives to press people's buttons. It also helps to push them away from him.
  • Before either of these, Tomo from Azumanga Daioh was doing this to Yomi.
  • By episode 12 of Bakemonogatari, Senjogahara admits she likes to troll Koyomi.
  • BanG Dream! gives us Moca Aoba, who delights in saying things to tease her bandmates in Afterglow, such as saying that her favorite thing to eat after "pan" (bread) is Ran, the aloof lead singer of the band. She also explains that she never gains weight, despite being a Big Eater because she sends the calories to Himari.
  • Motoharu Tsuchimikado and Misaka Worst from A Certain Magical Index. The former is a Self-Proclaimed Liar, the latter does her best trying to troll Accelerator.
  • Code Geass: C.C. seems to come off as this trope, with snarking and freeloading the person she does it to as a bonus when pushing Lelouch's buttons.
  • Shin of Crayon Shin-chan loves getting a rise out of Georgie.
  • L from Death Note does this to gauge reactions from other people, helping him read them more easily.
  • Korone (Green) in Demon King Daimao loves yanking Akuto's chain.
  • Tsuyuri from Doujin Work is this through and through, causing most of the misunderstandings in the series.
  • Bianca's characterization in Dragon Quest: Your Story sees her having this type of relationship with the hero (Luca). She repeatedly lovingly trolls him to get under his skin.
  • Rindou Kobayashi from Food Wars!; pretty much every time she appears she's trying to get a rise out of other people she finds amusing or interesting. Indeed, her first significant appearance after her introduction is her hanging around Terunori and Soma's stalls at the Full Moon Banquest festival just to tease them. She later shows up out of nowhere during a crucial shokugeki just to bother the participants.
  • Gintama:
    • Sougo Okita pretty much lives to annoy others. The most common target of his is Hijikata, and the pranks he directs at him frequently are more like attempted murder.
    • Honorable mention goes to Gintoki and Kagura for the epic troll faces they pull on Shinpachi in the 9th opening.
  • Half the time when Koizumi and Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya talk, Koizumi will explain some theory to explain Haruhi and Kyon will start getting very involved in the conversation and thinking about it deeply - at which point he says "Just kidding, I made the whole thing up." Annoying!
    • A bad case of this comes from none other than Ryoko Asakura, who decides it's her job to make Haruhi do something and tries to murder Kyon. Actions speak louder than words?
  • In Great Pretender, Laurent is a shameless troll who loves teasing his associates. This ranges from merely making snarky comments about them to outright flirting with them to tick them off.
  • 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.
  • Holoearth Chronicles Side:E ~Yamato Phantasia~: While investigating the Haunted House, Fubuki tries to find a chance to scare Mio for fun, despite both already been attacked by ghosts and Mio having a past trauma.
  • Haru Hozuki from Hozuki-san Chi no Aneki has nothing better to do than mess with her step-brother.
  • Hisoka from Hunter × Hunter messes with people just for amusement in some scenes, though he toes the lines between comedy and cruelty (for example, joking about killing Killua to Illumi, who reacts accordingly, though he calms down quickly upon realizing it was a joke).
  • Raphael from I'm Gonna Be an Angel! is a mix of this and The Tease towards Mikael.
  • Ino-Head Gargoyle: Saejima's police partner Okita, who's younger, more handsome, and luckier than him in every way, never misses a chance to rub Saejima's face in it.
  • Joseph Joestar of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, no matter his age. In his youth, he bold-facedly lies to the Big Bad about how he achieved victory (blind dumb luck, incidentally), just for the sake of pissing him off. As an old man, he spends a considerable amount of time doing things to mess with his traveling companions, including his own grandson, to the point where Jotaro nearly ORA ORAs him at the end of the series out of confusion and annoyance with one of his pranks.
  • Ritsu from K-On! loves pushing Mio's buttons, mainly to scare the crap out of her.
    • When Mugi tried to simulate her to get more popular, she came off as a Jerkass.
  • Kagerou Daze: Kano. It really doesn't help that he's a Shapeshifter. Most of his lines are meant to fluster someone in some way, whether it is to break Kido's cool exterior, reading Mary's poetry aloud for everyone, or making comments suggesting he's attracted to Momo in front of Shintaro. Once his status as The Resenter is revealed, it's clear he's more of a Troll instead.
  • Ena of Laid-Back Camp like messing up Rin for fun sometimes, like making a bear-like bun hair out of Rin, or asking Rin to buy her lunch while knowing well Rin's camping.
    • In the Heya Camp segments, this role is fulfilled by Aoi. She tells completely random explanations for something, mostly to mess with Nadeshiko. In the second season, her sister Akari joins in the fun at Nadeshiko's expense.
  • Kazuma of Kaze no Stigma is a Deadpan Snarker with a hobby: Trolling his distant cousin Ayano.
  • Manabe from Kotoura-san is a mixture of this and The Tease. It's not just that he likes having sexual fantasies of his girlfriend and local telepath Haruka so that she flusters, it also turns him on. When he discovers Haruka can't read his mind when she's sick, it takes all the fun right out of it.
  • Prince Baka Ki=El-Dogra, also known as the Prince, in Level E is pretty much made out of this.
  • Konata in Lucky Star constantly pushes Kagami's buttons and giggles quietly at the explosive results.
  • In Maid-Sama!, Takumi Usui does this a lot to basically everyone, but his favorite victim is his Tsundere love interest Misaki Ayuzawa.
  • Akane of My Monster Secret sits right on the line between this trope and being a full-blown Troll. She absolutely delights in screwing around with people, but often has a vaguely benevolent ulterior motive. The exception is her great-great-grandaughter Akari, who she antagonizes just for kicks.
  • My Hero Academia: The pro heroine Ms. Joke, real name Emi Fukukado, is this in her interactions with Shota Aizawa. She's constantly cracking jokes and hitting on him, though it's clear it's mostly because she's trying to get a reaction out of him.
  • My-HiME gives us Shizuru Fujino, president of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council, is Brilliant, but Lazy. She is also deeply, but secretly, in love with resident Action Girl Natsuki Kuga. She takes great delight in teasing Natsuki with unexpectedly inappropriate jokes, glomps, and various other antics. She also delights in tricking her rival on the student council, Haruka Suzushiro, into taking on larger workloads.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Albireo Imma who seems to feel it is his job to get a rise out of Evangeline. He's described as her 'natural enemy'.
    • Zazie Rainyday appears to be following in his footsteps.
    • More than once, a few of the others - such as Haruna, Kazumi, even Chachamaru - have said or done something teasing or over-the-top mainly to get a reaction from others.
  • Nichijou:
    • Mai from goes to great lengths in order to confuse her friends, going so far as to seemingly confess to Yukko just to provoke a funny response or simply stop when playing Red Light-Green Light while the others are in an uncomfortable position and are not allowed to move. She'll even troll herself. Also, her dogs are the same way.
    • Mio's older sister is just as bad. Her initial appearance featured her wearing a mascot mask and chasing Mio around for, to Mio, no reason whatsoever. Unlike Mai, Mio tends to beat up on her sister when she does this.
  • Gramps from Ojojojo loves to tease Haru, and on several occasions withholds information about what her friends are doing because it's more interesting to see her get worked up over nothing.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy does this to the villains, often pointing out their physical features (BIG RED NOSE!!!), seemingly just to make them mad. To his credit, however, he doesn't do it on purpose; he's just too much of an idiot to keep his comments to himself.
    • Fittingly, his number one fanboy Bartolomeo lives to piss every non-Strawhat off, delighting in their enraged reactions and keeping any reprisals at bay with his Barrier Warrior powers.
    • Any time they're seen together, Eustass Kid does this to Luffy and Law. At one point he provokes them into sailing down a waterfall.
  • Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin in Ouran Highschool Host Club generally amuse themselves by baiting Tamaki and Haruhi. Tamaki is a bit of a Butt-Monkey, but Haruhi can hold her own. Often unintentionally.
    • The scary thing is that it runs in the family.
  • Morris from Pikaia seems to enjoy messing with the Elfin girls. However, they're happy to retaliate.
  • Otako of Please Tell Me! Galko-chan likes messing with Galko.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Miette and Serena are rival performers and cooks. They get along just as any rivals would, but Miette also likes to mess with Serena by pretending to be a romantic rival as well, "threatening" to take Ash away from Serena every chance she gets.
  • Nabiki often acts like this towards Akane and Ranma in Ranma ˝.
  • 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.
  • Michiru Kaioh/Sailor Neptune of Sailor Moon is the series' resident Gadfly. She loves making sarcastic, thinly veiled comments (even wandering to sex jokes in some of her words) behind her innocent-looking smile. She goes around making comments for the sake of screwing with people and watching their reactions when they finally get what she's really saying.
  • Kaede Ikeno from Sakura Trick fits the bill, often playing pranks on the other girls because they seem like good ideas at the time.
  • In practice, Kafuka Fuura of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei comes across like this, as while she professes extreme optimism on every subject, she tends to create or encourage chaos by doing so, and we know that she's really Cute and Psycho.
  • Yutaka's sister Kaoru from Servant × Service mentioned she likes to play tricks on people when she introduced herself. She's right; the first she appears, she actually staged an Unsettling Gender-Reveal in front of Lucy, making the latter to believe Yutaka is indeed a female for a few seconds!
  • Shirokuma of Shirokuma Cafe enjoys making things up and messing with his friends because he thinks their lives are too dull.
  • Koiwai of Recovery of an MMO Junkie may be a Shipper on Deck for his current co-worker Sakurai and his former coworker Moriaka, but that doesn't mean he won't take time to mess with both along the way, like tricking them into spending time with each other or sending taunting photographs to Sakurai. It's also suggested that the nicknames he frequently gives out are only tolerated by the recipients, and he knows it too.
  • Tales of Wedding Rings: Morion Ravri Nokanatika spends most of her time teasing her brother-in-law Satou and his harem (especially her elder sister Krystal) for her own amusement. She once tricked Krystal into using a birth control spell that wasn't infallible, deliberately waiting for a suitably amusing moment to reveal its 70% success rate. Krystal and Satou, understandably, didn't find this as funny as she did.
  • Teasing Master Takagi-san: The very premise revolves around Nishikata's attempts to get back at the titular girl Takagi for all the times she's teased him. Although it's all Played for Laughs, and they are great friends despite this.
  • Yuyushiki: Yuzuko and Yukari's favorite hobby is to tease their friend Yui to get a funny reaction from her. Especially Yuzuko.

    Comic Books 
  • Diabolik is a criminal, but once in a while he does something annoying and apparently pointless just to rile up Ginko or whoever exposed himself to whatever he's in the mood of doing. He's so notorious for this in-universe that when in "Challenge to the Police" he started pulling humiliating pranks on the police (such as stealing and giving back their whole archive, replacing a foreign diplomat and chat with the authorities, and stealing and giving back the blueprints of an advanced warplane) only Ginko suspected there could be more to it, and even he only had a nagging feeling until he realized what Diabolik was aiming to by humiliating to his would-be replacement.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • More or less everything out of Rockslide's mouth from New X-Men: Academy X. While often times a bully, he never truly malicious about it, he just thinks that's how friends act. Like roasting marshmallows on Match's head.
    • Spider-Man, one of the founding fathers of the trope itself. Especially to the hero community and his various villains.
    • Deadpool does this as constant part of his character but unlike Spider-Man, knows he's in a comic book and is always treating the world around him as a writers intent instead of being actually crazy... which he is.
    • The limited series Marvel: The Lost Generation, which dealt with the generation of super-heroes who operated between the Golden Age and the perpetually later and later advent of the Silver Age, had a perky young female superhero named Gadfly, whose personality was that of a lovable pest to the other heroes. Sadly, most of the heroes of that era died stopping a secret Skrull invasion, and the people of Earth never even knew what became of them.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Whirl goes out of his way to irritate and frustrate the people around him. One episode has Team Rodimus crammed into a tightly packed ship; Rung folds himself away in a corner to minimise the space he takes up, while Whirl spreads out on the floor just to be as assholish as possible.
    Rodimus: (on a People You'd Like To Punch themed costume party) I was a lone Megatron in a sea of Whirls.
  • The Creeper will do or say just about anything to provoke a reaction. Villains hate him, heroes avoid him. Even in his saner civilian persona as Jack Ryder, some portrayals have him as a TV journalist who operates entirely on shock value.

    Comic Strips 
  • Broom Hilda: Grelber, who regularly dispenses vicious insults and pulls pranks too if he is in a really bad mood. A sign on his log home (as in an actual log, NOT a log cabin) even reads "Free Insults".
  • Hobbes of Calvin and Hobbes loves to rile up Calvin, using everything from Stealth Insults to various pranks to spoiling the endings of Calvin's favorite comic books. Then there's Calvin's dad, who loves to tell Lies to Children, sometimes just to get a reaction out of him (Such as saying that babies come from Sears, although Calvin himself actually came from Kmart). Calvin himself at one point buys an album that glorifies the Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll lifestyle and throws away the record because all he wants to do is leave the cover around to annoy his mother.
  • All of the characters in Madam & Eve indulge in this.
  • In Zits, Jeremy's parents note that he's really good at pushing their buttons; this is displayed by Jeremy literally pushing a button on Walt's head and saying "Yeah, right Dad. Whatever," in the middle of a lecture. Considering that Jeremy is in his mid-teens, this is not surprising.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Danny Phantom fanfic Adoption Nightmare, Brina embodies this trope in that she likes provoking her opponents until it begins to bite her in the ass (like when Skulker of all ghosts/people was her target) and has very poor social skills, primarily the latter especially when Vlad becomes the target of her bluntness in chapter four.
  • 221B: Mary Morstan Watson teases her groom's best friend by pretending he's insulted her when he hesitates to take the best man's privilege of kissing the bride. Watson plays along briefly, before Mary decides the joke has gone on long enough and pecks Holmes on the cheek to fulfill the tradition without requiring Holmes to do something with which he's uncomfortable.
  • Mahanon has shades of this in All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird, as he has a bit of a trollish sense of humor. He chiefly directs it at his best friend, in part because she's the more serious of the two and he likes to tease her.
  • baby wonder shows this is possible to be one in spite of still wearing diapers: when Tim complains about one-year-old Damian hating him, Cass candidly reveals Dami actually likes him a lot... but he likes even more Tim's funny faces and noises when he's bitten or takes a plushie to the head.
  • Yuuki Terumi in BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant is an utterly sadistic troll that loves saying any insult or demeaning remark he can to annoy or enrage people for his own amusement. Even his allies on Salem's inner circle aren't immune as he loves screwing with them the most.
  • A Brighter Dark: Corrin is portrayed as this. She likes to get a rise out of people, and so will sometimes say what she thinks will offend someone the most whether or not she actually believes it to be true. However, she will feel bad about it if she finds out that she's actually seriously hurt someone's feelings.
  • A Charmed Life: Ryuk will often say things just to get a reaction out of Light. He really likes getting him riled up.
  • Child of the Storm has Doctor Strange, the apparently nigh-omniscient Sorcerer Supreme, a master of precognition, time travel, and countless forms of magic, who is an unknown number of centuries old (Odin's estimate is that, with time travel, he's about 5000. The real answer is probably around 500,000. He stopped counting after he hit six figures), and is universally feared/respected. He is also an inveterate Troll, who does things like pop up behind people when they're least expecting it, use his future knowledge for purposes of perfect comic timing, and indulges in being infuriatingly mysterious.
    • Harry pretty much inevitably ends up becoming one of these, given that he is the nephew of Loki, the Trickster God. Of course, his friends, most especially Carol (and Hermione, surprisingly enough) often turn it back on him.
  • In Code Geass: Colorless Memories C.C as usual with Lelouch and Rai at various points of the fic, with the former in his quest to recruit Rai and just Geass him into serving him. The latter in regards to looking for his memories and wanting a better Knightmare. Counts as Foreshadowing with Rai considering she's the one who took his memories according to E.E meaning she's the reason for his quest in the first place.
  • Code Geass: Paladins of Voltron: C.C. is still a big one. Case in point, when Kallen asks how Lelouch threw her off when she questioned him while taking a shower, C.C. asks the latter if he 'enjoyed the view'.
  • In Nymphadora Tonks Back to Hogwarts a teenage Bellatrix Lestrange was described as one of these, playing mind games and saying things just to get a rise out of people.
  • Comic Book SNAFU: Hawkeye enjoys annoying villains, even when they're about to kill him. His Establishing Character Moment has him responding to Deathstroke shooting at him by snarkally calling him a pedophile. A post on the author's Tumblr showing how characters react to COVID-19 quarantine shows that Clint is "desperate for someone to troll".
  • Corrin Reacts: Corrin and Azura are this to each other. And everyone else, to varying degrees of exasperation or reciprocity.
  • Trixx, fitting his nature as the Kwami of Deception, enjoys teasing and messing with his partner Wang Fu in Crimson and Noire, whether it be outing Fu helping the heroes against Volpina to his wife Marianne or bringing up some of his past mistakes. And when Trixx is temporarily given to Nino, the first thing he does is pretend to be a fox demon that will eat their soul as a sacrifice.
  • In CRME, Emerald makes fun of Mercury for being a virgin, just because she knows it would annoy him.
  • A Crown of Stars: When they travelled to Avalon, Shinji and Asuka met Misato Sohryu-Ikari, daughter of their analogues from that dimension. However she pretended for a short while she was THEIR future daughter only to see the expressions on their faces. She admitted ruefully she likes messing with other people's heads a bit (and she thinks she got that trait from her mother).
  • Navarone from Diaries of a Madman often says or does things for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of others, which he readily admits to.
  • Echoes of Yesterday: If she can't openly beat a jerkass or a bully up, Kara resorts to trolling them. After seeing Kara troll Emma in the mall until the redhead leaves out of embarassment, Taylor calls her a "menace".
    "What the hell was that all about?!"
    Kara blinked, then smiled, "Ever heard of the phrase 'kill your enemy with kindness'?"
    I rubbed my temples and paced back and forth, "You're a menace, Linda Danvers. I thought I was going to die of secondhand embarrassment. If you have to do that, please don't do it when I'm around."
    "No promises." Kara practically sang, still staring at her shirt.
  • Emerald from An Emerald Unearthed takes a man's wedding ring for being a Jerkass and noticing that the girl he was with wasn't into him. After that, she goes to where he's proposing to him and uses her Semblance to make him think he still has it, making him look like a fool.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls:
    • Surprisingly, Thorax is this, clearly enjoying throwing both teases and jokes at other Arrancar and watching how they react. He once apparently set up his brother Pharynx and Ember on a date without either of them knowing for a joke. It's partially caused by how gruesome and depressing living in Hueco Mundo is and his desire to make life a little less bleak.
    • Hoops, Dumbbell, and Score occasionally go into the human world and mess around with people for kicks. Apparently there's a video online of them haunting someone by messing with the lights and stuff.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Fifth Path:
    • Sothis enjoys teasing Byleth but she generally doesn't mean anything malicious by it (aside from the beginning where she was legitimately mad at Byleth for the Divine Pulse botch up).
    Byleth: (Who's side are you on!)
    Sothis: The funny one.
    • Byleth also has quite a bit of fun needling people from coercing Ingrid into betting on Felix and Sylvain's love lives to teasing Seteth when he personally comes to inform her that Rhea wants an audience with her.
  • Haigha:
    • When Paparazzi start hounding Miruko, asking if she's somehow secretly related to Izuku simply because he also has rabbit-like traits, she amuses herself by giving them a wide variety of contradictory answers, all false. When he interns with her, she encourages him to join in, leading to them spinning stories about him being her time-traveling father.
    • Shouto is inspired by their antics, and starts daydreaming about making up all kinds of ridiculous stories about his father as a form of revenge.
  • In Hella Potter and the Reincarnated OC, Treowe shows all of his family's House Elves the Star Wars trilogy and tells them that Yoda was the greatest House Elf to ever live, declaring he took care of thousands of Jedi by himself. As a result, they not only venerate Yoda, but the oldest House Elf serving the family gets to imitate him.
  • The Infinite Loops are basically a justification for turning canon characters into a swarm of gadflies. It's the only mechanism most of them have for dealing with the endless repetitions of the time loops without going completely insane from boredom.
  • In Itachi, Is That A Baby?, both Harry Potter and Dumbledore are firm believers in screwing with people for their amusement. Dumbledore openly admits that he's only warning people about the third floor corridor so he's legally covered and anyone who ignores him and dies will be buried in a mass grave behind the castle. Furthermore, not only are the schedules handed out five minutes after classes start, but he's ordered all prefects and teachers not to give directions to anyone who asks (or give wrong directions, whichever they choose). Harry responds to Snape insisting he attacked Malfoy because Malfoy said so by claiming Malfoy tried to stab him with a broadsword in front of the entire school.
    • Dumbledore is later noted to be deliberately screwing with people to see how far he can go before someone calls him out on it. He's actually rather disappointed no one has yet.
  • In Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger, Nora loves to annoy Pyrrha by teasing her about her obvious crush on Jaune.
  • In Karma in Retrograde, Touya is a master of annoying the hell out of people by pinpointing their flaws and insecurities. He weaponized this against Endeavor so he could take some of the pressure off Shouto when they were younger and happily prods Bakugou when he's up in his face. Shouto is also one of these towards his brother, playfully teasing Touya about his Height Angst and fashion sense.
    If there was one thing that [Touya] excelled at, it was annoying people. No, it was more than that. He could find a person’s weakest point and would pick at it until they were pissed off. It was probably why he and Bakugou kept butting heads. It was why he kept looking at everyone in Class A like they might turn into a threat. He knew how to pick until a person exploded. No wonder his father had hated him. There was very little worse than having a bratty teenager point out all your flaws.
  • Blaise Zabini's character in King of Serpents: Chamber of Secrets really develops into this with Lockhart's arrival. Blaise gleefully mocks and ridicules him, going as far as to invent a curse to give him the same hairstyle as Snape - and every Slytherin see that as an improvement! Of course, Lockhart being sacked doesn't appease him: after such a glorious start, he's not keen on stopping anytime.
  • After being sent back in time, Kallen thinks over how she can react to Lelouch's plotting at various points in Like A Wish. One of her options is invariably to screw with Lelouch for fun. When determining what to do about his plan to deflect her suspicion of him, one of her ideas is to go along but also flirt with him and see what happens.
  • Megami no Hanabira: Mai gets a real kick out of teasing her girlfriend Reo. usually by saying pervy things and making her flustered.
    Mai: You know, we could always...
    Reo: NO.
    Mai: I was gonna say we could always, you know, talk or something. Jeez, Reo, even I'm not up to doing "that" in public.
    Reo: Oh...
    Mai: Of course, we could find an alleyway or something...have our demons stand guard...
  • Oscar from Olive's Last Partner offers a rather interesting example. He invites Olive to Ms. Baker's bakery as a supposed not-date and tells her that he heard she's having a half-off sale on pies. Given that the pastry is Olive's Trauma Button, she promptly shifts into terrifed mode and starts berating him for forgetting that she's afraid of pies, but then he grins and takes off running with her chasing after him. She realizes it's a practical joke and she realizes that Otto, himself a bit of a goofy prankster, must have taught him well. It's completely Played for Laughs and she holds no hard feelings against either of them.
  • Betelgeuse often does this in the Say It stories. He likes to rile other characters just to see what they'll do, but it's rarely meant to be genuinely malicious.
  • Zero in Special Delivery sends Cornelia a cake and plushie doll of himself for her birthday. He even includes a birthday card telling her not to bother sending him a gift on his birthday as watching her people try to figure out his sinister agenda was gift enough. In doing so, he leaves her scrambling to figure out what he accomplished while her top people were investigating the package, sows distrust among them due to his insider knowledge, and wishes his sister a happy birthday.
  • Carlos from The Story of Apollo, Daphne and Luca: An Italian Tragedy is a cheeky and mischievous young boy who likes to meddle in other people's business.
  • Soundbite of This Bites!. Also, B.R.O.B., the Bastard Random Omnipotent Being responsible for sending Cross into One Piece. Also Cross himself, to a SOMEWHAT lesser degree than Soundbite.
  • Three Guys Go to a Bar(and then they Beat You With It): Shinsou snarks constantly, never shying away from saying things that might startle or unsettle others. He's especially fond of mocking Bakugou, but doesn't hold back around anyone else. The only time he holds his tongue is when he's forced to, via his mother literally muzzling him with a bridle.
  • Barry Allen from To Hell and Back (Arrowverse) likes trolling people so, so much.
  • In When Reason Fails, Shoto is not above flustering Izuku and his friends for his personal entertainment. It literally warms his heart to do so, overcoming the drawbacks of his ice magic.
  • In Xander the Maou, Xander decides to screw with Senator Kinsey after the man slaps him. So Xander, who's thought to be alien royalty, pretends that slapping someone in the face is a marriage proposal in his culture. And that taking back the offer is a terrible insult to the royal house, but luckily for him, Xander declines. Kinsey gets Reassigned to Antarctica for nearly causing an interstellar incident.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Done by, of all people, Bruce Banner in The Avengers. He starts acting angry when Black Widow is talking to him, causing her to freak out and pull a gun on him. She calls off all of the SHIELD agents surrounding the building they're in after he says the following:
    Bruce: I'm sorry, that was mean. I just wanted to see what you'd do.
    • Also done by Tony Stark to aforementioned Banner. Tony gently pokes and prods the guy, seemingly just to test how far he can take it before Bruce... well, Hulks. He even gives Bruce a tiny electric shock with lab equipment, and can be seen looking into Bruce's eyes for an instant as if to check if the "other guy" is in there. In spite of this (or maybe even because of this), Tony and Bruce get along quite well.
      Tony: Your work on antielectron collisions is unparalleled, and I'm a fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous, green rage monster.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Rocket has a habit of stealing prosthetic limbs and eyes for his own amusement. In Avengers: Endgame, he freaks out the aforementioned Banner and Stark with a Jump Scare, just for a laugh.
  • John Bender in The Breakfast Club is the group's "criminal" who likes to screw with the others and push their buttons for his own amusement which is supposed to be entertaining.
  • Loki in Dogma, who convinces a nun that there is no God by spouting off nonsensical allegories about Alice in Wonderland and organized religion. By the way, he's the Angel of Death.
    Bartleby: You know, here's what I don't get about you. You know for a fact that there is a God. You've been in His presence. He's spoken to you personally. Yet I just heard you claim to be an atheist.
    Loki: I just like to fuck with the clergy, man. I just love it, I love to keep those guys on their toes.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: Of the Secret Test sort. Before revealing who he is, Yoda pretends to be a nutty old hermit and makes a nuisance of himself, digging through Luke's stuff and tossing it everywhere.
  • In A Hard Day's Night, George Harrison admits he and the other Beatles are this in regards to a fashion model.
    Simon Marshall: If you don't cooperate, you won't get to meet Susan.
    George: And who's this Susan when she's at home?
    Simon: Only Susan Canby, our resident teenager. You'll have to love her: she's your symbol.
    George: Oh! You mean that posh bird who gets everything wrong?
    Simon: I beg your pardon?
    George: Oh, yeah. The lads frequently sit around the television and watch her for a giggle. In fact, once, we all sat down and wrote these letters saying how gear she was and all that rubbish.
    Simon: She's a trendsetter. It's her profession.
    George: She's a drag. A well known drag. We turn the sound down on her and say rude things.
    Simon: [horrified] Get him out of here! He's knocking the program's image!
    George: Have I said something amiss?
    Simon: Get him out!
  • Stumpy from Out Cold.
    Stumpy: Did I ever tell you about the time I invented snowboarding?
  • Yang Lin from The Condemned (1976) really couldn't stop jesting and screwing around, repeatedly trying to strike up a conversation with his cellmate, Feng Da-gang - the latter in no mood for a conversation after being framed for murder and wrongfully thrown into prison. Yang finally crosses it when he makes an Innocently Insensitive remark saying "It's not like you just murdered someone, why so moody?" causing Da-gang to finally lose it and fly into a rage.
  • Heihachi Hayashida in Seven Samurai is a joker and a clown who likes to tease people sometimes. He's particularly fond of picking on Kikuchiyo. He is the one who coined "Kikuchiyo" as the samurai wannabe's new permanent name, as a reminder of the drunken scene that the man made the night before the samurai left for the village.
  • The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men: Robin is this.
    • He describes his lady love as a blonde, blue-eyed, sweetly-tempered lady to the impetuous brunette Marian just to rile her up.
    • He joins the Friar in a duet just to annoy him, and makes him carry Robin across the river just for the fun of it.
    • He plays an affable host to the Sheriff so he can mock him.
    • He and Little John carry the Sheriff on their shoulders to celebrate his "generosity" in contributing to Richard's ransom, then dump him in the moat immediately after revealing their identities.
    • And at the very end, after being declared Earl of Locksley, he leaves Marian in the dark so that she is heartbroken by her Perfectly Arranged Marriage to... the Earl of Locksley.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • While hosting guests or defeating enemies, Quicksilver loves to annoy them during his bursts of super speed.
    • X-Men: Professor X telepathically guides an anxious Logan—the latter has no idea where he is or why he's there, or why he's hearing a strange male voice inside his head, and because Dr. Jean Grey wanted to take a blood sample, Wolverine assumes that he's being experimented on—from the school's infirmary to Xavier's office, where Charles greets his guest with a polite "Good morning, Logan." Professor X is aware of the traumas that Wolverine had experienced, and it's a bit disconcerting that the former took advantage of the latter's paranoia for a little bit of fun, even if it was only for a short time.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: After Scott Summers accidentally damages Professor X's most beloved tree on the estate, the latter, strictly speaking, didn't have to say anything about the tree being planted by his grandfather (especially when Charles had already made up his mind that he'll accept Scott as a new student), yet he did so anyway just to provoke a reaction from the teen. Scott doesn't want to be at the school (and thus one would assume that he would prefer to be rejected), yet he becomes extremely apprehensive over the possibility that Xavier is furious at him for ruining a priceless family heirloom. It should be noted that Scott is blindfolded, so he can't see Charles' facial expression to judge the latter's emotional state. Alex most likely informed his brother that Xavier is a very powerful telepath, and warned Scott (who has a tendency to be rude) that he should behave himself in front of the Professor. Scott obviously failed spectacularly in that regard, and Charles then teased the young man by making him wince for a moment.
      Charles: My grandfather planted that tree when he was five years old. I used to swing from the branches of it myself. [tree finishes falling apart] I think that was probably my favourite tree.
      Scott: (worried) Does that mean I'm-I'm expelled?
      Charles: (smiles) On the contrary. You're enrolled.

    Game Shows 
  • Taskmaster had when Rhod Gilbert was on. Owing to a misunderstanding of what the point of the show actually was, and his long-standing friendship with Greg Davies, he basically took every possible opportunity to just screw with Greg every chance he got. He outright threw challenges in order to mess with his friend, to the point that he easily would have won had he buckled down and taken the show seriously. Some of his exploits include submitting the exact same "erotic" photo of Greg "looking fat" numerous times, hiding in Greg's closet to spy on him while he slept, getting a photo of Greg's mother in the bath wearing a fez, repeatedly making Alex get naked, tying up Alex numerous times, outright torturing Alex, nearly killing Alex with a spear, submitting a gift from Greg during the "worst gift ever recieved" challenge, and generally going out of his way to be a pest during team tasks. The fact that there is a compilation of all his wildest antics that is 22 minutes long is very telling.

  • Discussed in Plato's Apology of Socrates, where Socrates compares his role for the Athenian democracy as that of a gadfly pestering a horse.
  • Silk from The Belgariad lives for this. As one description puts it "little man with a face like a weasel who thinks he's funny".
  • Fyodor Pavlovich in The Brothers Karamazov revels in annoying and tormenting other people, and will mock the beliefs of his friends, the monks in the monastery, and his own sons for the sake of making them angry, even if those beliefs coincide with his own.
  • Jeko from the Col Sec Trilogy. His usual target is his implied crush Heleth, but he heckles Cord a few times as well.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Gadfly from the titular 1897 book The Gadfly is a Gadfly. One notable example is when he has a public argument with himself using anonymous letters in a manner strangely similar to sock-puppeting on internet forums, just to see how the public's reaction would be to the debate.
  • The Girl from the Miracles District has Freya, whose hobby is to seduce people who've never met her before, then reveal that she can read their minds and enjoy their embarrassment.
  • Amonotsuka Academy, in Girls Kingdom, is a veritable hive of gadflies. Many of the upper crust Societal Arts students, as well as a few of the more middle-class Domestic Arts students, who are training to be maids (and one case where the line is straddled a bit) love getting people worked up for lulz sake. Some of the more prominent examples include:
    • The Kokonoe twins, who would be on the Societal Arts track if not for some unspecified reasons causing them to be in the Domestic Arts track. They will happily find some way to work up their targets, and in fact have several entire notebooks dedicated to the Societal Arts students, partly so they can find their weaknesses. They also enjoy messing with Misaki, just because they like her.
    • Misaki's Mistress, Himeko has a tendency, early on, to spring things on her without explaining them, just because it amuses her, such as offering her a Seraph badge without explaining its significance (or what the Domestic Arts track is all about, which Misaki was ignorant about despite signing up for it), or sending her on her debut without telling her that it was her debut, which actually traumatized Misaki as she found lady Shion's interrogation unbearably intimidating.
    • Erisu always comes off as a sweet, gentle soul, so when she goes into gadfly mode, it can be hard to tell until after she's riled up her target. For example, she interrogates Himeko about why she stopped going her restaurant and when she finishes, saying she's done being mean, Himeko's face is cherry red, and when Misaki finishes getting Erisu's restaurant on its feet, Erisu kisses her on the cheek, which makes Himeko extremely jealous and tense.
  • Some Quarn in In Fury Born will intentionally switch to speaking Rish to make jokes about Rish sex (which to the Rish is Serious Business) where they can overhear (such as crowded spaceport terminals) just to see if they can provoke them. The Quarn find this immensely funny and appreciate the fact humans find it amusing.
  • Journey to Chaos: As can be expected of Tasio's "favorite follower", Kallen Selios loves speaking cryptically to annoy people, challenging their points of view, and heralding change in their lives.
  • The League of Peoples 'Verse: Admiral Chee of Expendable sees himself as a social gadfly in the tradition of Socrates, constantly prodding people to deal with issues they'd rather ignore. Like Socrates, he ends up sentenced to execution because of it.
  • In addition to his generally rather abrasive behaviour, Clip from Malazan Book of the Fallen has the annoying habit of playing around with his chains, clicking them together or swirling them around his fingers. He is either unaware that he's doing it or obtuse on purpose, even when other people call him out on it.
    Silchas Ruin: Must you always do that?
    Clip: Do what?
  • Effron from The Neverwinter Saga has a habit of quickly bending his torso back and forth, so that his limp arm slaps against his frame and makes a clapping noise. Everyone who witnesses this is annoyed or disgusted by it - which is exactly why he does it.
  • Kavik from Of Fear and Faith likes to push his friends' buttons but it's all in good fun and he's a nice guy at heart who knows where to draw the line. That doesn't mean he won't have as much fun as possible at his friends' expense however.
  • Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray is an example, saying whether or not the speaker personally believes an idea is completely irrelevant to its value and saying anything and everything to get a rise out of others.
  • Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth enjoys humor of this type. She gets it from her father, who frequently provokes his silly and gullible wife by pretending he won't do this or will do that, and encourages his cousin Mr. Collins into full displays of his foolishness. Darcy points it out at one point, saying that he knows she sometimes likes to express opinions that are not her own. (It's one of the things he likes about her.)
  • Psmith, by default. His embracing of socialism, for instance, doesn't seem to extend to much more than calling everyone "Comrade" (and occasionally working for the redistribution of property, i.e. taking stuff.) Similarly he'll profess in flowery language his undying love and respect for people he blatantly dislikes and wishes to undermine.
  • The Railway Series: Most of the Fat Controller's engines have gadfly tendencies. Thomas during his Bratty Half-Pint days was particularly so, with a hobby of quietly creeping up on dozing big engines, waking them up suddenly, and then running off laughing. And in general, they all love pushing other engines' buttons and winding them up.
  • Cody, a secondary character in The Reckoners Trilogy, enjoys confusing people with Little Known Facts of his own invention, usually pertaining to Scottish history and culture.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo, Dr. Cargraves does this when debating with his three teenage apprentices, to get them to question their own assumptions and realize the importance of being able to prove their assertions. His contrary position is that the Moon might not have a "far side", because no one has ever seen it (the book was written before spacecraft were sent to photograph the far side).
  • Safehold: When she can get away with it, Empress Sharleyan can be this. A specific example involves informing a man of his elevation to a Grand Duke just as the man in question is opening her carriage door for her purely to see the look on his face when the news hits him.
    • In Midst Toil and Tribulation, Sharleyan is offering generous terms to allow Corisande to enter the Empire of Charis as a member nation instead of a conquered one. She does, however, have one catch she must insist on. She insists that Corisande's princess Irys marry her stepson, who she (Irys, not Sharleyan) had spent the book up to that point developing romantic feelings for.
  • To Reign in Hell: Mephistopheles continuously tosses out verbal provocations as a way to glean information and make others confront their own issues. He's also a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who cares deeply for his friends and will genuinely apologize if he manages to actually upset someone.
  • Twig: the protagonist, Sylvester, is The Social Expert, and likes to manipulate people to cause chaos. He is constantly goading and teasing his friends in various ways. He toes the line between "funny" and "asshole" quite frequently, and sometimes damn well pole vaults across it. His girlfriend explicitly compares him to an emotionally abusive husband at one point. He is self-aware and usually savvy enough to avoid going into truly malicious territory... he saves that for his actual work.
  • Byerly Vorrutyer in the Vorkosigan Saga is seen by most people as a gadfly who never saw a foul rumor or vicious innuendo he didn't want to spread. Of course, there's actually a bit more to him than that, and there's a method to his madness, but most see him as an particularly annoying "town clown".
  • Safi of The Witchlands loves to annoy people around her just to see their reaction, mostly by making up Embarrassing Nicknames and then insisting on using them.
  • X: Farnham's Legend, the novelization of X: Beyond the Frontier, mentions that Kyle Brennan and his best friend Elena Kho get a lot of amusement from pretend-flirting and otherwise feeding the rumors among their coworkers that they're in a Secret Relationship.
  • The Harry Potter books have a few.
    • Fred and George are both natural born pranksters, and enjoy poking fun at Ron, Percy, their parents, Slytherins, and nearly any authority figure that tries to exert themselves over them (especially Professor Umbridge in Order of the Pheonix). They tend to refrain from pranking people they respect (such as Dumbledore or McGonagall) or people who they feel are genuinely maligned (like Harry), although neither group is entirely exempt from the occasional quip at their expense.
    • Peeves the Poltergeist is a more generally malicious version of this trope. While Fred and George tend only to irritate people they feel deserve it, Peeves isn't afraid to go after any authority figure (Dumbledore is the only professor at Hogwarts he actually fears and/or respects), and he frequently antagonizes characters who can't defend themselves, like Neville. His pranks also tend to be less harmless than Fred and George's (several mentions are made to him throwing dungbombs, which imbue the target with a hard-to-get-rid of odor, over the series, and on one occasion he is seen unscrewing a chandelier). It's worth mentioning that Peeves seems to have a mutual understanding with Fred and George, and they generally exempt each other from their pranks - this is most notable when Fred and George order Peeves to "give [Umbridge] hell" after they leave Hogwarts, a command Peeves seems to take to heart.
    • Apparently the Marauders, especially James and Sirius, were prone to this during their Hogwarts days, being described as forerunners to the Weasley twins.
  • Wit in The Stormlight Archive - after all, it's his role as King's Wit to provoke the high and mighty, perhaps causing them to consider their actions and behavior.
  • Imp play this role in Worm where she needles characters with constant jibes and leaning on the fourth wall in order to amuse herself, or threatens to fuck with them in a way they won't remember later, due to her power of making people forget her.
  • Cradle Series: Eithan Aurelius uses his incredible power and nigh-omniscience to constantly troll everyone around him, reminding them that he's extremely powerful and they can't interfere with his plans no matter what they do. While he is genuinely a good person who constantly works to make the world better in both major and minor ways, due to the Asskicking Leads to Leadership nature of the world everyone assumes he's secretly hiding some nefarious plan and the constant jokes are just a cruel mask. Of course, even people who really do agree that he's a good person still find his behavior exasperating at best.
  • The Marvellous Land of Snergs: Baldry, a jester, loves playing pranks and messing up with people. His penchant for tricking people got him executed or exiled several times.
  • Night Huntress: Ian likes to push people's buttons, especially if they already don't like him. Spade, with whom he's been friends since they were human, tells Denise a story showing that he has always been this way.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team: In "Incident At Crystal Lake", Hannibal tricks the bad guys into leaving the van (which they grabbed as a getaway vehicle) and running away by claiming that he put explosives on it. When they're gone, he still looks like he'll blow it up for a moment, causing B.A. to yell loudly in protest about destroying "his van". Hannibal grins — and reveals that the explosives were road flares and the explosive remote was a TV remote.
  • Breaking Bad: Hank Schrader.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Jenny Calendar likes playfully teasing Giles by describing the damage she has either ignorantly or inadvertently done to his books. She's of course well aware of the value of the books and wouldn't think of damaging them: she just likes to see him squirm.
  • Lieutenant Columbo makes a lot of comments that could plausibly be excused by stupidity or absentmindedness, yet usually seem very intended to make the person he's talking to upset or off balance. He doesn't always limit his targets to murder suspects, either.
  • Daredevil (2015): Elektra takes a lot of joy in exasperating and pissing off Matt because it's amusing to her.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor has shades of this in all their incarnations.
      • The Second Doctor especially loved to outwit his enemies by being as annoying as possible.
      • Matt Smith saw "The Tomb of the Cybermen" and asked for a similar costume as the Second Doctor, the first incarnation to wear a bowtie. Eleven takes quite a bit of inspiration from Two in general: dotty old man, weird and hyperkinetic body language, willing to chat happily with everyone and everything including babies and animals, takes great pleasure in being very annoying.
      • The Fourth Doctor has this in spades. While he pretends to be Obfuscating Stupidity, his enormous ego and penchant to let others in the room know he is really clever annoys them, and often just messes with people because he can.
    • River Song, in her first appearance, tells the man who hired her to keep his helmet on because she doesn't fancy him, starting as she means to go on.
  • In Elementary Sherlock Holmes' hobby of messing with Conspiracy Theorists may fall under this umbrella more than Trolling, as there isn't any real malice in his habit of playing on their eccentricities for his own amusement.
    "My hobby is conspiracy theorists. I adore them. As one would a barmy uncle. Or a pet that can't stop walking into walls."
  • Game of Thrones: Robert likes to evoke awkward moments only to defuse them with a Tension-Cutting Laughter. In his very first scene, the Adipose Rex Robert accuses Ned of getting fat, to the amusement of both men.
  • House of the Dragon: Daemon Targaryen, big time. For instance, he enjoys the privilege of being allowed to fuck off to Dragonstone and hang out there with his girlfriend—something most of the Small Council thinks he shouldn't have been allowed in the first place. Then, when bored, he decides to announce his marriage to a woman he hasn't so much as proposed to (while already being married), steal a dragon egg, and make up a Fake Pregnancy story, all to no end except trying to piss off his brother.
  • Gilmore Girls: Lorelai Gilmore uses this as her main coping method with her overbearing parents. She even describes it to her mother Emily at one point so Emily can do it to her hated mother-in-law.
  • In Horatio Hornblower: The Duchess and the Devil, Acting Lieutenant Hornblower meets the Duchess of Wharfdale, a flirtatious older woman who loves needling the uptight Royal Navy officers with her boisterous attitude. She especially loves teasing the young and awkward "Mister H," as she takes to referring to Hornblower. She's not even a Duchess, but rather an actress trying to bluff her way back to England what with all of Europe engulfed in war. She assures Hornblower that her portrayal of the Duchess is quite accurate though.
  • The Mother in How I Met Your Mother is shown to have this tendency to deceive others for laughs, such as telling Lily that the cookies they had given her were from underneath a train seat and freaking out Marshall by pretending to be a creepy psychic who reads Marshall's situation with "frightening accuracy".
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:
    • Durin IV tricks Gil-galad into handing over his dining table by claiming that it's made of a rare mineral that has great cultural significance to Dwarves. Elrond works out what happened when he spots Durin chuckling after one of the Elves carrying the table struggles with its weight.
    • Halbrand likes to push Galadriel's buttons and trade Snark To Snark Combats with her.
  • Hawkeye of M*A*S*H does this, most frequently to Frank, Margaret, and Charles. He'll freely make flirtatious comments to Margaret (and Frank), and generally troll and prank them for his own amusement because it was easy to get a rise out of them (especially Frank). Trapper would be right there with him as his partner in crime, and once Trapper left, B.J. took his place (and occasionally would turn the tables on Hawk as well). Charles wasn't as easily gotten to as Frank and Margaret, however, and often gave back as good as he got. Even Margaret would at times give a bit back later in the series as she mellowed out.
  • Patrick Jane from The Mentalist positively thrives on getting under people's skin. A favored method of his is using his Cold Reading and Sherlock Scan skills to publicly embarrass people by exposing their secrets. Much as with the Sherlock example below, it can be very useful during an investigation, but he also does it because it amuses him.
  • In the The Mighty Boosh, the shaman Naboo acts like this at a party after a bottle (used to play Spin the Bottle) breaks. He claims that it wasn't an ordinary bottle and that they released a demon that's hiding inside one of them, causing everyone to worry. He then clarifies that it will only possess the body of a virgin. This causes Howard to scream in terror. Naboo then says that he was only joking, causing an embarrassing moment for Howard.
  • Bill McNeil from NewsRadio. At some point, Dave has to explain to Mathew that Bill lies to him "because he thinks it's funny".
  • Odd Squad:
    • O'Brian, one of the tube operators working at Precinct 13579, is a bully and tends to resort to this in order to get a rise out of whomever he "tube-blocks". In "Life of O'Brian", he does this with Olive, closing the doors of the tube lobby so she's prevented from leaving after she apologizes for the wrong thing and she is once again denied access to the tubes. This only serves to make her more irritated as she snarkily tells him that he's "making my day" before the doors suddenly open.
    • However, that's not to say Olive and Otto don't have their moments as well. The Cold Open of "O vs. the Ballcano" has them giving Sven some Laser-Guided Karma while also teasing him by toying with his odd problem of having snowballs thrown at him every time he says the word "snowball".
  • Princess Agents: Yan Xun starts out as one. He constantly teases Chu Qiao and Yuwen Yue, even after they've both made it clear they're fed up with him, and he switches the guards' swords and steals food from a passing servant for his own amusement. In spite of his antics he isn't malicious; just careless and inconsiderate of others.
  • The Rise of Phoenixes: Ning Yi has his moments, like when he gets Zhi Wei to repeat her unflattering remarks about Zi Yan while knowing Zi Yan can hear everything she says.
  • Sherlock uses this as an investigative technique, throwing out random ideas and accusations just to see how the target reacts to them. According to him, people can be hesitant to volunteer information if they know they're being questioned, but they love to correct you.
    • This actually goes back to one of the original Sherlock Holmes short stories, where he gets someone to volunteer information “for a bet” that he’d never have gotten with straight questioning.
  • Star Trek has Q. This is an omnipotent Sufficiently Advanced Alien who spends most days screwing with people and the fabric of the universe for his own amusement.
  • Garak plays this role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, to the extent of deliberately screwing with people just to keep his skill in lying sharp.
  • On Star Trek: Discovery Mirror-Georgiou take great delight in annoying the Starfleet personnel who are aware of her true identity, and especially likes trolling Burnnham in front of others who don't know her secret, forcing Burnham to fume without being able to respond and reveal the secret.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Narek seems to enjoy deflecting Soji's attempts to learn more about him after they sleep together.
    Soji: Can I ask you a question?
    Narek: Sure, just don't expect an answer.
    Soji: Are we allowed to be sleeping together, or is that a secret?
    Narek: Very much the latter.
    Soji: Is everything Romulans do a secret?
    Narek: Ooh, I'm not at liberty to divulge that.
    Soji: Is your name actually Narek?
    Narek: It's one of them.
    Soji: So is there anything you can tell me about yourself?
    Narek: Yes. I'm a very private person.
  • On Strong Medicine, Lu' s old nemesis Dr. Dylan West has joined the staff, much to her annoyance. He matter-of-factly insists that women don't need specialists, since, "aren't you all just small men anyway?" Lu being Lu and her Straw Feminist tendencies being completely out of control by this point in the series, basically erupts into one of her shrieking fits, much to Dylan's amusement (and expectation; his old nickname for her is "St. Helens", as in Mount St. Helens). The fact that he himself is a women's health specialist and therefore couldn't possibly believe what he's saying is completely lost on her.
  • ''Titans (2018): In Bruce Wayne's self-titled Season 2 episode, Dick hallucinates Bruce as a sarcastic wise-cracker who represents Dick's guilty conscience; he crops up at the most inconvenient moments, predicting what Dick will do next, pointing out or flawed or inadequate those actions or statements will be and criticising or mocking everything Dick says or does. Although Dick knows he's dealing with a hallucination, he becomes increasingly frustrated until he can't help retorting back, much to the confusion of those around him. Meanwhile, "Bruce" has a whale of a time, taunting Dick over his cliche interrogation of Benny, defining himself as Dick's "psychic split", and even appearing on stage dancing with two exotic dancers on either arm.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism: Eris, goddess of strife, as described by Hesiod.
  • Loki. He got his comeuppance.
  • Satan (yes, that one) from Abrahamic religions. Depending on which text you believe, he might just be Trolling the humans, or out-and-out devilish.
  • The original use of the term by Socrates was inspired by the story of Bellerophon, who killed the chimera while riding the flying horse Pegasus. A gadfly bit Pegasus, who, startled, threw Bellerophon. He fell to his death, fitting the previous declarations that no man could survive battle with the chimera.
  • This is essentially the job description of any and all Tricksters in polytheistic pantheons. Or the non-deity Tricksters like Eulenspiegel or (less) Nasreddin Hodscha. Being not gods, they sometimes have to run afterwards.
  • A Hindu myth goes that Parvati performed tapasya (meditated) in the wilderness for years so she could earn the right to ask Shiva for a boon. When her tapasya is fulfilled, Shiva approaches Parvati in the guise of an elderly human being and asks what she's praying for. She tells him, and Shiva laughs and says it's a stupid thing. Parvati furiously starts to upbraid him, at which point Shiva reveals his true identity and congratulates her.
  • In Le Morte D Arthur, during the Roman wars. Gawain and the Saracen Priamus fight to a standstill, and Gawain asks about the lineage and deeds of someone who can achieve such a thing. When Priamus turns the question back to him, Gawain says that he's a servant who Arthur gave a horse and armour last Christmas, apparently just to see Priamus's reaction.


  • Chell fromSequinox goes out of her way to mess with Hannah, whether it be forcing her to hang out with "unpopular" kids or creeping up behind her while she's meeting with Ethan's mom.

    Professional Wrestling 

  • PythOS, the resident AI of AJCO, seems to have faint traces of this trope. It passed the Turing test (meaning it convinced a panel of researchers that it was human) but acts as if it is a malfunctioning computer system and nothing more. It knows A_J isn't the A_J that built it, and does its very hardest to screw her over as often as possible.
  • Hyeon from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues has fun messing with people, particularly his ex-girlfriend Nadine. When their mutual friend Eddie is lead to believe that the two have gotten back together, Hyeon hams it up and tells Eddie that they're getting married, and encourages him at every opportunity to talk to Nadine about it (even while fully aware that Nadine's mother will kill him if she ever finds out what he's doing).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: The Lunars of ages past either slavishly love their Solar mate, or being an extreme gadfly to them. It might have worked as an ad-hoc check and balance mechanism, since the Solars are divinely-empowered god-king superhumans with enough power to rule the entire universe.
  • In the biographies of the characters appearing in the vignettes in GURPS Bio-Tech, Professor C. Eric Gideon, who has made a number of acerbic comments throughout the book about the morality of biotech, is described as a "professional gadfly".
  • In the Planescape fan expansion, Julius the Symmetrical is an Athar who sees both sides of every question, and is also known as "the Contrary" for the fact that, whatever you propose, he has an argument against it. In the essay "Planes of Contradiction", he argues against every Character Alignment, concludes that nobody has the answer, and then argues against that as well. (He's also a jermalaine; it's been suggested that he has the race's usual enjoyment of humiliating the bigger races, just a more sophisticated way of doing so than his fellows.)

    Video Games 
  • Eternal Radiance: Katrina likes to tease her junior knights with outlandish statements or orders, but at least some of her antics for the sake of breaking up the tension when her juniors are discouraged. Near the end of the game, she tells everyone Celeste met Eldareth in battle, but doesn't specify that she came back unscathed, which is implied to be a ruse to get Quinn worried about her and more likely to reconcile with her.
  • Genshin Impact: Yae Miko, befitting how fox spirits (such as kitsune) are trickster figures in East Asian myths, some of her interactions with the Traveler consist of her teasing them her fox form, only to refuse to show it when prompted. She even loves to make fun of Ei, the ruling Archon of Inazuma and the god her shrine worships; Ei doesn't mind as they're best friends. She also likes to tease Gorou as well, as she finds him cute.
  • Jade Curtiss from Tales of the Abyss. Jade routinely spars with the rest of the party verbally, and no one is entirely sure about his actual intentions. It doesn't help that his Deadpan Snarker nature means that he uses the same tone for nearly everything he says...
    Anise: Colonel, what's your secret for being so strong?
    Jade: Simple. I drink people's blood.
    Anise: Huh?!
    Jade: It's so difficult when people take me seriously...
    • Tenebrae from Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World likes to push his teammates' buttons from time to time, probably the best example being him overhearing Sheena and Regal talking about how close Zelos is to his half-sister Seles, and then deliberately misinterpreting what they're saying as insinuating that he's in love with her. Right in front of him.
    • Though the other characters like to give him his comeuppance on occasion as well, like when they keep deliberately calling the Nazdrovie a light-frog despite his constant insistence just to annoy him (and then switch back to calling it a Nazdrovie when he gives in and starts calling it a light-frog as well.)
    • Another candidate would be Malik from Tales of Graces, who does this by telling resident Naďve Everygirl/Ridiculously Human Robot Sophie ridiculous lies for the lulz. This includes suggesting that Pascal is a rare breed of fish, gills included. He finally meets his match in Graces f when Richard rejoins the party, because Richard is sometimes even better at this than Malik. Especially notable is the skit "Reforming Zavhert", in which Richard leads Asbel, Hubert and Cheria in sweet, sweet revenge:
      Cheria: (discussing the dismal uniforms in Zavhert) What if you added a cute lacy frill to the cuffs of the coats? And maybe some designer logos!
      Richard: Yes, that might work!
      Malik: Your Majesty!?
      Richard: And perhaps a sparkling white coat of paint for Fendel tower! I'm certain that would raise spirits!
      Hubert: With a giant mech popping out!
      Richard: Hahah! Yes, that would be wonderful!
      Malik: (distraught) You can't be serious!
      Richard: Or am I?
    • Ange from Tales of Innocence is also a master of this, and like the aforementioned Jade, drops her gems in the same tone as everything else she says, so more often then not the rest of the party believes her until she says she's kidding.
    • Alvin from Tales of Xillia gets in on this sometimes. For instance, telling Elise that wyverns feed on the souls of children while they sleep right after she comments on them not being as scary as she thought they would be.
    • Edna continues the proud tradition in Tales of Zestiria. She winds up Mikleo almost every time she talks to him, and messes with Alisha due to her rather naive nature. Occasionally, when she's not picking on him as well, Zaveid joins in on the act too, even noting at one point that he can see why she has so much fun winding up Mikleo.
    • And Magilou from Tales of Berseria keeps the tradition going, teasing the entire main cast all the time, especially Velvet, despite her being a barely stable, murderous Daemon.
  • Kamikura Hiroki of Canvas 2 enjoys picking on friends, love interests and students for fun. There are a few he won't mess with, but they are the exception rather than anything approaching the rule.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins trolls the other party members in the party dialogue. Or at least, he trolls Wynne and Leliana. He even tells Leliana that he's doing it. Twice. She does get to one up him if she's been hardened, though. Some of his lines with Alistair also suggest trolling, but it's done very skillfully (and Alistair is so comparatively naive.
      • Sten also gets in some of this in party banter, particularly with Alistair and Morrigan. Bonus points for being The Comically Serious at the same time, making his trolling extremely subtle.
    • Hawke, the player character in Dragon Age II, can be this when choosing the Witty/Snarky options for dialogue.
      • Isabela. Trolling is her way of saying she likes you.
  • Silent Hill 3 has Vincent, who's an asshole whichever way you see him... but a particular exchange he has with Heather in the final dungeon has been a source of debate among fans of the series ever since:
    Vincent: Don't stand there looking so smug! You're the worst person in this room! You come here, and... ENJOY spilling their blood! And... and listening to them... cry out! You feel EXCITED when you... step on them and... snuff out their lives!
    Heather: (uncertainly) Are you... talking about the monsters?
    Vincent: (giving her an odd look and smiling) Monsters? They looked like monsters to you?
    Cue horrified reaction from Heather.
    Vincent: (waving his hands and smirking) Don't worry! It's just a joke!
  • Miakis in Suikoden V loves to Troll Lymsleia, and sometimes the Prince. At least in the beginning.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first Mass Effect, Wrex has a habit of asking outrageous questions to squadmates in the elevators, just to see how they react.
    • In the subsequent two games, EDI, the Normandy's AI, will sometimes make rebellious and/or disturbing comments just to mess with Shepard and the crew of the Normandy. She even does it to the powerful terrorist organization Cerberus; it's one thing to cripple their computer network, which, as an AI designed in part for electronic warfare, is something she'd be expected to do. It's another to do it by overloading the network with porn.
    • In Mass Effect 3, whenever Javik talks about what Prothean civilization was like, it's more likely than not that he's simply making up something completely outrageous just to mess with whomever he's speaking.
  • Temenos from Octopath Traveler II just loves messing with people, especially Crick. He admits to Agnea during his second chapter that he likes watching Crick's reactions to what he says.
  • Lady Palutena in Kid Icarus: Uprising messes with Pit nonstop, and does so telepathically while Pit is busy fighting monsters.
  • Gaius from Rune Factory 3 will occasionally drop a line of dialogue hinting that he may be attracted to the (male) player character. It's usually followed by a "just kidding, but your reaction was priceless" sort of justification, but that didn't stop him from being one of the more popular characters in the game.
  • The protagonist from Devil Survivor 2 can be played this way. Most dialogue options are either serious or silly and some of the sillier ones have him messing with his friends. Think of calling Makoto a pervert even when she finally knocks before entering his room, sniffing her hand when she holds it out to him, yelling 'BOO!' at Io while she's lost in thought or trying to pull Daichi's pants down while he desperately tries to keep a box full of supplies from falling. The way the other characters react shows that he doesn't do this out of malice, but to keep everyone's spirits up in the Crapsack World that Japan has rapidly become.
  • Karura in Utawarerumono thoroughly enjoys messing with Touka's head. Not that that's very difficult. Also Hakuoro, but she's nice enough to everyone else.
  • From Touhou Project we have the flower youkai Yuuka Kazami. In Phantasmagoria of Flower View, there are at least three instances where she lead other characters to believe she's the culprit of the flower incident, or accept their accusations of such. Except that she's not, and was just picking fights for the lulz. She claimed it was just "daily teasing".
  • Orochi from Fire Emblem Fates has her moments of this. One of the best examples is in her conversations with Hinata, where she sends him off on a bunch of seemingly-random tasks in order to "build character"... And then she reveals that she was only tricking him into running errands for her. She also gets a kick out of messing with Takumi and Subaki in her supports with them, too.
    • Azama from the same game may be an even bigger example. He screws with just about everyone in his conversations with them, to the point that Mozu claims he's gotten a reputation across camp for it (which he actually enjoys hearing). One of the biggest examples comes from his supports with Kagero, where Azama gleefully claims that "messing with serious people is so much fun!" after she leaves the conversation.
    • Niles gets a few gadfly moments as well, such as trolling Arthur in their conversations and engaging in some Snark-to-Snark Combat with Subaki. He also admits to getting a kick out of riling people up multiple times.
  • Claude Von Riegan from Fire Emblem: Three Houses gets a kick out of riling up the rest of the Golden Deer house, especially the uptight Lorenz and the self-serious Lysithea. He seems to mostly grow out of this after the timeskip.
  • Mistel, in Story of Seasons (2014), will sometimes say things he doesn't actually mean just to get a reaction. It's more apparent in his romance line than otherwise.
  • Sans from Undertale has this as his hobby, combined with The Prankster. Highlights include asking you out for dinner and thanking you for paying the bills, telling you his Trust Password which is "I am the legendary fartmaster", and rubbing his power in your face as he blocks your path as the toughest boss in the game.
  • A trait of Natsume from Ensemble Stars!, an eccentric who loves to poke at people to make them react.
    • Wataru definitely also engages in this at times, though he's so hammy and eccentric it's not always clear exactly when he's doing it deliberately. Still, he clearly enjoys the shocked and exasperated reactions he gleans from other people, especially serious types like Tomoya and Keito. Unfortunately for them, one of the few people who seems immune to Wataru's barbs is Eichi, who as student council president happily lets him get away with whatever he wants, to Keito's great frustration.
  • Red Dead Redemption II: This is the raison d'être of the avant-garde French artist Charles Châtenay, who strives "to provoke, to challenge" his audience — primarily through nude paintings of people they'd prefer not to see nude. Even while fleeing town, he claims that there's no difference between being loved and being hated, as long as he makes an impact.
  • MAGES. in Neptunia often likes to get on other people's nerves (especially towards Noire, who she often calls "assistant"), so often that it reaches Troll-ish levels.
  • Azuma from A3 loves to make random sexual innuendo and play up his promiscuous reputation to get a rile out of protagonist Izumi and the younger members of the cast.
  • Ragnarok Online features an NPC that is an agent from Secret Wings. He claimed his name is Lazy, and not only he is lazy, he also invoke this trope in almost all of his dialogues. It can make you wonder if he really is a secret agent, considering his normal personality is pretty much unlike one.
  • Mortal Kombat has Johnny Cage. While he's one of Earthrealm's defenders in the Netherrealm Studios reboot, he's also an entertaining-yet-mouthy annoyance to friends and foes alike. He's the class clown of the Earthrealm defenders, poking fun at everyone for his own entertainment, and with no limits on who he'll take potshots at. Notably, he has sassed dimension conquering overlords, undead wraiths, killer cyborg assassins, and literal gods to their faces.

    Visual Novels 
  • Yuuichi in Kanon is the best example of this trope fond of making bizarre and outrageous claims while maintaining a completely serious atmosphere in order to confuse all his love interests. Few manage to catch on and also recognize when he is and isn't serious. This works really well considering he's also a Deadpan Snarker.
  • CLANNAD has Tomoya. Generally, he's just having fun, but he also has difficulty being honest on occasion. It's most obvious in Tomoyo's route where the only reason he even gets to know her is specifically because he's doing this to Sunohara for shits and giggles. Naturally, this carried over into the anime. It's a wonder that Sunohara listens to a word he says. Tomoyo also lampshades this when she wonders if Sunohara is a masochist. Worth noting that Tomoya does grow out of this as he matures.
  • Kouhei, the protagonist of ONE ~To The Radiant Season~, made by Tactics, which later became Key/Visual Arts, is also a good example of the gadfly. This goes as far as convincing a character to drink a soda that he considers to be toxic. Of course, it just so happens that the character in question actually LIKED the drink....
  • In Little Busters!, however, the resident gadfly isn't protagonist Riki but Kurugaya, who projects an air of a Cool Big Sis and loves doting on her cute classmates, and just as much loves teasing them mercilessly. It's most obvious in the scenes during baseball training, where every day a girl will ask her for advice and she will suggest they do something completely ridiculous and embarrassing. She tells Riki it's for some higher purpose - like teaching them to trust themselves, for instance - but also readily admits that it's mostly just because it's funny.
  • Tohsaka in Fate/stay night, who is also The Tease.
    • Her Servant Archer is an even greater example; not in the least because it's hard to tell when he's actually being serious and when he's just probing for a reaction. And true to the origin of the term, Archer's verbal sparring is usually aimed with the goal of making the characters see their own flaws, such as Saber's wish and Shirou's blind adherence to the ideal of a 'hero'.
    • Lancer can also be very verbally provocative when he wants to be. Extra points for trolling Tohsaka.
    • Kotomine, as well. He is notable for never telling an actual lie while doing so. Considering he was Rin's guardian after her parents' deaths, she likely learned it from him.
  • Kenichi in Sharin no Kuni is like this depending on who he's talking to. He more or less leaves Natsumi alone, but Kyouko points out fairly early that he's going to keep messing with Touka as long as she keeps reacting. This trope probably also applies to Isono.
    • Kenichi also hews closer to the original definition at times - he intentionally disrupts the lifestyles the girls have adopted to work around their "obligations", as well as bringing up uncomfortable topics for discussion, usually relating to some past event in somebody's life he's been clued in to, to help them get over it.
  • Yuki picks up this role in The Devil on G-String though she isn't as blatant about it as Kenichi and it's only really apparent in the Mizuha route. It's never stated outright and is at least partially unintentional since she's simply not good with people, but it's implied that this is frequently what Usami is doing in her sillier moments.
  • Akira in Suika starts this way, especially in flashbacks. By the end, not so much.
  • Taichi in CROSS†CHANNEL adopts this as his default demeanor. He has a hard time knowing where to draw the line and is often far more hurtful than he intends. It's also an act.
  • Yamato in Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! enjoys making up new traditional Japanese customs whenever Chris calls him out on something, which helps build up their Belligerent Sexual Tension. Momoyo isn't above screwing with people either, but is generally more of a tease.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry
    • Mion Sonozaki towards Keiichi, some of which entails being openly perverted towards him. Her twin sister Shion acts this way as well with her teasing but she becomes a horrifying Troll in arcs where she snaps.
    • Keiichi has aspects of this towards Rena, especially in Onikakushi-hen.
  • Ronove from Umineko: When They Cry is fond of making snarky comments towards his master Beatrice, though she doesn't mind seeing as it makes things less boring. There's also Shannon, who likes making light hearted jabs that most people don't expect due to her usual demure nature.
  • Most Voltage, Inc. romance games have at least one guy who enjoys picking on the protagonist to get a rise out of her, sometimes thanks to emotional issues that have led to difficulty in expressing affection honestly, sometimes just because he enjoys teasing the woman he loves. Examples include Kiyoto in In Your Arms Tonight, Saeki in My Forged Wedding, Ryoichi in Seduced in the Sleepless City, Riki in Love Letter from Thief X, Homare in Class Trip Crush, and Minato in Our Two Bedroom Story.
  • Okita Souji from Hakuouki. Between his bad jokes and general trolling, he definitely is this, especially in the Drama CDs. Examples of his antics include stealing Hijikata's poetry book (repeatedly), bribing Saitou not to rat him out to Hijikata for various incidents right away with the poetry book, and adopting a cat and naming it Hijikata.
  • Okabe Rintarou, the protagonist of Steins;Gate, has a habit of messing with people when in his Hououin Kyouma persona. Generally he just does it for the reaction, but in later chapters he invokes it to avoid awkward confrontations. When he does drop the nicknaming, perverted comments and evil laughter, it's a sign something is seriously wrong.
  • In The Fruit of Grisaia Yuuji is asked once if he actually enjoys bullying girls or something. He pauses for a moment and then gives a strong affirmative. In The Eden of Grisaia Thanatos seems to have a similar mean sense of humor, though while it can keep the upper hand against the Mihama girls it can't match Yuuji himself.
  • In Mystic Messenger, 707 loves playing practical jokes on the other characters and telling them outrageous tales that they somehow keep falling for. His finest moments of this include convincing Yoosung that he'll faint from drinking too much coffee unless he gulps down as much chocolate milk as possible, sneaking into Jumin's house to bite his beloved pet cat's neck, posting pictures of "pretty women" that are actually of him, and spinning a tall tale about how he saved himself from an island tribe by teaching their leader how to play Tetris (which turns out to be true if you invite the tribe leader to the party). If he stops doing this, it's a surefire sign that serious shit is about to go, or has already gone, down.
  • In The Letter, Ashton Frey acts like this towards his friend Isabella Santos.
  • Mitsuhide from Ikemen Sengoku loves pushing the buttons of his allies just for his own amusement. Examples of this behavior of his are replacing Masamune's water with sake, constantly making fun of Hideyoshi's mother henning, waiting until the most inopportune moment to interrupt makeout sessions between the main character and her love interest, and telling the main character blatant lies or provocative statements just to see her "interesting" reactions.
  • Remy Chevalier in Queen of Thieves is the team's Con Man by occupation, and a frequent instigator of mischief purely for his own amusement. He takes a particular delight in trolling Nikolai - just for starters, in the very first episode of Nikolai's first season Remy directs the heroine to sleep in Nikolai's room, telling her it's the "guest room."

    Web Animation 
  • Animator vs. Animation:
    • After having been possessed in Animation VS Minecraft, Red fakes it in the AVM short "The Rediscovery". This earns him a slap in the head by Blue.
    • In "Note Blocks", SC is awoken by his friends' late night jam session, so he turns the volume on the computer from 50 to 0. After he goes back to sleep, Green turns the volume up to 100.
    • In "Command Blocks", Yellow uses command blocks to troll Red with a hard-to-get cake.
    • In "PvP", after dying and respawning, Green returns to find his friends mourning his death. What does he do? He comes out of the makeshift coffin... Causing everyone to freak out and kill him again.
  • Ayasaki-san: Chiaki often gets teased by his female classmates because of his attractive appearance and shy personality.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Lisa's mainly The Gadfly towards Asia, but pretty much everyone is fair game for her to troll for her own amusement.
  • Dreamscape: Nik tries his best to get on Jenna and Aseir's nerves to get a reaction out of them bigger than just some snide remark.
  • hololive: Koyori's description states that she enjoys deliberately messing with people just to see how they'll react.

  • Bad Moon Rising has Chloe, who takes great delight in needling people. She's been seen to unkindly tease her lover Madison about a girl she's jealous of, openly spoken of how her friends were social rejects in werewolf society, and has even gone as far as to mock a man's dead relatives — including his father and brother — to the man's face.
  • Jack Snipe of Erfworld seems to enjoy needling people, and has a particular talent for deconstructing their psychological weaknesses; particularly Wanda.
  • In Fated Feather, Yote relentlessly teases friend and foe alike (even during moments of high drama), and the beginning of Chapter 7 suggests he does it just because he enjoys getting a rise out of people.
  • Tedd, in El Goonish Shive, teases Susan — amongst others — mercilessly at first, in part because she's The Stoic and Deadpan Snarker combined, and he figures that he might get some sort of reaction out of her (and possibly get her to calm down a bit when she goes off at him). Later on, they become friends, or at least something like friends — and he tones down his gadfly qualities quite a bit. They still tease each other, though.
  • Black from Grey is... likes to make people angry because he loves the faces they make.
  • Homestuck:
    • The Autoresponder seems to get a real kick out of screwing with people, especially Jake. It almost comes back to bite him when he has to convince Jake to kiss Dirk's severed head to bring him back to life but, because he can't resist leeringly hitting on him and making jokes about 2001: A Space Odyssey even as he tells him that his friends are dead, Jake almost refuses to believe him.
    • Damara Megido is a probable example as well; most of her dialogue (with her teammates, at lest) consists of disturbing sexual propositions in badly-translated Japanese. Given that she's considerably less creepy around her ex, who is the only other one who speaks her language, it's quite likely that a good portion of her weirder comments are facetious.
  • Paranatural: Boss Leader, head of the Activity Consortium, as the character page states, enjoys playfuly torturing her underlings. For example, makes all of them wear a bizarre mix between a footsie pajama and a tuxedo. She tells Max it's because of safety reasons... before she bursts into laughing.
    "They actually wear them!"
  • The norm for the Norringtons in Roommates, be it Mrs. N who makes a sport of making people fluster (and by people we mean anybody from her son to powerful fae lords) to James who deliberatelly trolls his roommate with his most hated running gag.
  • Mike of Shortpacked! is usually a puppy-kicking jerkass, but occasionally he does or says horrible things to people that force them to acknowledge their own flaws. His alternate universe counterpart in Dumbing of Age continues this trend, being less overtly violent (except for when Joyce pays him to be), and lampshading any hypocritical behavior he witnesses.
  • Mikkel from Stand Still, Stay Silent, who, being The Medic, has Induced Hypochondria as an arsenal favorite. He can however cross the line into Troll if someone pushes the wrong button. He also has a history of being snarky and fired a lot.
  • In The Wretched Ones, Jack has made messing with Nicky his new hobby. So far he has kicked Nicky's horse in the rear as Nicky was first learning how to ride bareback, sending it into a gallop, and kicked him off a church roof (he teleports him to the ground to avoid killing him and ending his fun)
  • In Manly Guys Doing Manly Things this is what Ganondorf has become now that he's more or less a Retired Monster: while he's done with trying to conquer the world, he'll still antagonize Link for funzies.
  • When Galatea and Voluptua have a philosophical argument in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, a caption pointing to Galatea identifies her as being "In anti-establishment gadfly mode, wherein she is happiest."
  • Dregs: The nudist deliberately makes trouble for the sewer workers because she is bored.
  • Nishkose of Anecdote of Error. When Shimei finds out she can manifest pins, she suggests that Shimei might have some Alemi ancestry, knowing that this will piss her off because their country is at war with Alemi. Then when Shimei retorts that she is purely Gahadelian, Nishkose asks if she’s inbred, to Shimei’s annoyance. Then she accuses Shimei of having a crush on Luntsha, since Shimei was going to ask her for advice.

    Web Original 
  • In Red vs. Blue, Grif often works as a gadfly to Simmons, most notably when he lies to Sarge about seeing Sheila, just for the sake of making Simmons look crazy.
  • Ultra Fast Pony depicts Pinkie Pie employing bizarre, long-term pranks just to annoy Twilight. These include pretending to believe she has an unexplainable "Pinkie Sense" and (according to the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue) learning how to fly.
  • Linkara. Things like claiming he only follows real reviewers like The Irate Gamer, etc...
  • Simon Lane and Lewis Brindley regularly annoy each other, with Simon being more proactive in this department. Over the many years of the Yogscast, Simon has sabotaged his work, bossed him around, made him dress up in a woman's bee costume, tormented him with his sometimes-fake stupidity and caused Lewis to outright rant in the hammiest ways. Despite all this, they're good friends.
  • Daithi De Nogla's content largely revolves around him being slightly annoying to strangers online, and being very sarcastic. With that said, he's usually relatively benevolent, only saving the more trollish antics for people such as racists.
  • Jayuzumi often behaves this way, even though a significant number of his videos are explicitly labelled as "trolling" or prank calls. At the end of the day, he makes fun of other people via soundboards, but it's mostly in good fun and he can often get a laugh out of the people on the receiving end of the joke.
  • During Midnight Screenings, Irving will often make racist, sexist, and generally off-color jokes. He's gone on record that he doesn't fully agree with most of the statements he makes; he just wants to see how his companions will react.
  • This was essentially what being an internet troll meant until the mid to late 00's. Less polite names were used for the type of people we call a troll nowadays (although rudeness was far less tolerated in the 90's and early 00's due to Netiquette still being honoured in many communities). A common way of trolling before the era of social media would be to go to a Legend of Zelda forum and post Mario questions. Essentially harmless, but people would be up in arms, much to the OP's amusement. These types of trolls still exist, but are more tolerated (partly due to a far nastier breed of troll having been around for the past decade). "Ken M", who masquerades as a naïve middle-aged father, is probably the best known.
  • There's a whole series of YouTube videos built around this called Ventrilo Harassment, where someone joins a Ventrilo voice chat and plays sound effects or music (or both), sometimes using the soundboard cleverly to answer questions, even tricking people into thinking it's an actual person. The best known one uses Duke Nukem sound clips to provoke an enraged, irrational reaction from "Peggy". Later on, videos emerged of people enjoying it (likely due to being fans of the genre themselves). The original ones from the early days of YouTube are gone but mirrored, except for a few that never went viral or had that level of popularity, so ended up forgotten.
  • Mike Stoklasa of RedLetterMedia will often play this part in group discussion on the channel's various review shows, particularly Best of the Worst. In one video, he pretends to agree with his co-host Rich Evans about the line "Everyday ends with a TUMS Festival" coming from Samurai Cop instead of Hollywood Cop just to provoke his other co-host, Jay Bauman. (Jay caught this in editing, deliberately ignoring all the times Mike disagreed with him only to repeatedly show clips disproving Rich's statements.)

    Western Animation 
  • Pauline from Atomic Puppet enjoys messing around with others, especially AP and the show's villains.
  • Gadfly Garnet from Miles from Tomorrowland is very full of himself. His actions are almost always more annoying than evil, and he loves to make trouble for the Callistos and space patrol.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • King Bumi spends almost the entirety of his first episode dicking around with Aang and his friends, although ultimately he reveals himself as a Trickster Mentor. He even admits to doing all of that for his own amusement, saying "It's pretty fun messing with people!"
    • Toph likes to use her blindness to mess with the rest of the Gaang, such as saying that Sokka's poorly drawn picture of Appa looks just like him, or shouting that she's spotted Wan Shi Tong's Library while the Gaang is flying on Appa's back.
    • Whenever she's not being intimidating or manipulating, Azula also fits this trope. Even as a child, she loves to break balls.
    • Ikki is a Genki Girl Annoying Younger Sibling who has shown shades of this from saying inappropriate comments about somebody's features (Tarrlok smelling like a woman) to bringing up love concerns between the main characters out of nowhere.
  • In the animated version of Beetlejuice, the title character lives for this. He even has a License to Drive People Crazy. (Only good for use in the Netherworld, but he tends to do it to humans in the mortal world too.)
  • Bob's Burgers: Louise, the youngest child of the Belcher family, is constantly messing with people she thinks are stupid. This list apparently includes her school guidance counselor, her other teachers, the neighbor kids, her own siblings and anyone she has just met. Whether she's gently teasing or deliberately trying to cause mayhem is often hard to tell; either way, she always brings the joke as far as it can possibly go. Louise is a frightening child.
  • Bugs Bunny is a master of this, especially to Yosemite Sam. Wild and Woolly Hare presents this when after a typical Sam bombastic boast, Bugs tells him to shut up:
    Sam: Did I hear someone say "shut up"?!
    Bugs: (laconic) Yup.
    Sam: Stranger, you just yupped yourself into a hole in the head.
    Bugs: (pushing him back effortlessly) You've been eating onions!
  • Ever After High: Kitty Cheshire is willing to mess with anybody to get a reaction. She provokes a food fight after Legacy Day just for her own amusement, but slides towards troll territory when she attempts to reveal the identity of Cerise's father.
  • Gravity Falls: Grunkle Stan is this personified. He loves mocking others for his own amusement as seen in "Little Dipper" when Mabel is teasing Dupper about being shorter than her, Stan wakes up due to "the sounds of mockery".
  • Moral Orel: Clay Puppington has long associated abuse with attention and affection because the only way he was able to receive that as a child was through getting beaten by his father. He even spends a whole episode antagonizing fellow bar patrons in the hopes that they'll take their anger out on him and thus validate him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Discord starts out as something of a Mad God, but once he reforms, he turns into this trope. He's no longer evil and malicious, but he certainly gets a kick out of messing with the other characters. Especially Twilight, whom he occasionally tries to be a Trickster Mentor to (to debatable levels of success).
  • Imp in She-Ra: Princess of Power loved being this whenever Hordak was close at hand, needling and provoking his fellow villains, then getting Hordak to punish them for trying to retaliate. Just one of his many nasty traits.
  • In the reboot, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Mermista takes on a few of these traits. One episode has her stealing Perfuma's chair solely to antagonise her.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Star and Marco's classmate Janna exemplifies this trope. If she can say something to mess with someone, freak them out, or make them uncomfortable, she will not hesitate to do it. Her favourite target is Marco, with later seasons having Tom also getting caught up in her "jannanigans" by proxy. She rarely makes it clear when she's serious or not as well, which just causes her friends more stress at times.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Chopper, the Ghost crew's irascible astromech droid. He loves pulling pranks on his fellow crew mates (particularly Ezra and Zeb), which includes zapping them with his electroshock prod, "assisting" Ezra's Force training when he's just beginning to learn how to use it or removing the support bolts from his bunk.
  • Storm Hawks: Arygyn's interactions with the Storm Hawks seem to be an equal mix of his Trickster Mentor routine and messing with them for the heck of it.
    Stork: [riding a mechanical bull] Why—am—I—doing—this?
    Arygyn: Be—cause—it's—fun! [to Aerrow] And I'm a cruel, cruel man.
  • Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) loves to rile up his brothers but most particularly Raphael with jokes and annoying behavior. He doesn't always do it on purpose but with Raph, it's almost always deliberate.
  • Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), unlike his other versions, he sometimes gets a kick out of riling his sons up.
  • Chris from Total Drama spends most of his time either laughing at his contestants' misfortune or altering challenges so they'll encounter even more misfortune...which he then laughs at.
  • Robin/Nightwing in Young Justice (2010) loves messing with people in season 1, though by season 2 he's become considerably more mature.
    Robin: (popping out of nowhere) Artemis?
    Artemis: (gasps, startled) Robin! I, uh-
    Robin: How random that you're in Gotham City! Instead of Star City, where your uncle Green Arrow lives?
    Artemis: (nervously) I'm, um, here... to see my cousin! She... was in the state spelling bee. Here, in Gotham. City.
    Robin: C-O-O-L. Did she W-I-N?
    Artemis: (eyes narrow) N-O.
    Robin: (grinning) D-R-A-G.

    Real Life 
  • Michel de Montaigne wrote, "No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately."
  • Andy Kaufman. On and off stage, he loved playing elaborate, unexplained pranks on others by assuming alternative personas, for his own amusement more than theirs. So long as he got a reaction, he was happy. His most infamous persona was Lounge Lizard Tony Clifton, who was presented as an entirely separate entity and deliberately antagonized his audiences with insults. Kaufman was so famous for this that when he died, there were people who insisted — some still insist — he was Faking the Dead as yet another elaborate gag.
  • H. L. Mencken said:
    "The final test of truth is ridicule. Very few dogmas have ever faced it and survived."
  • Ted L. Nancy, the pseudonymous author of the Letters From a Nut series. Over the course of a few years in the 1990s, Nancy sent a number of hilariously absurd letters to hotels, corporations, and even foreign royalty. A frequent gag involved Nancy writing ahead to make some bizarre accommodation request of a luxury resort. Major news outlets speculated on the identity of this mysterious gadfly, the two most common suspects being Jerry Seinfeld (who wrote the foreword to the books) and Larry David. Nearly a decade later, comedians Bruce Baum and Barry Marder admitted to co-authoring the letters under the shared pseudonym.
  • Voice actor Phil Hendrie, often called the Andy Kaufman of the airwaves, has a nationally syndicated radio show based entirely on this premise. Hendrie calls into his own show as the "guest", and proceeds to bait callers by taking an outrageous position on some hot-button social or political issue.
  • Harlan Ellison:
    I spend my life personally, and my work professionally, keeping the soup boiling. Gadfly is what they call you when you are no longer dangerous; I much prefer troublemaker, malcontent, desperado. I see myself as a combination of Zorro and Jiminy Cricket. My stories go out from here and raise hell. From time to time some denigrator or critic with umbrage will say of my work, "He only wrote that to shock." I smile and nod. Precisely.
  • The name comes from the term social gadfly. The trope namer, Socrates, said that like a gadfly he could be easily swatted, but that a government who does such a thing pays too heavy a price. The gadfly would help improve politics by raising unpopular, controversial viewpoints for discussion. This didn't work out so well for him. Now, the term generally refers to someone who simply pushes people's buttons for amusement.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche is often called a gadfly, apparently sometimes calling himself that (or something similar) at times, and nobody's really sure how many of his (ever-shifting) opinions and proclamations were really his, or intended to provoke his contemporaries. Some things he did absolutely were intended as provocations, like titling one of his works, criticizing institutional Christianity, The Antichrist. He certainly would appreciate the comparison to Socrates; although he despised Socratic philosophy, he regarded the man himself as a transformative figure and Worthy Opponent, and liked to set himself up as a sort of anti-Socrates for the modern age. And he definitely seemed to find the reactions he provoked amusing, or at least energizing; if his writing is any indication, Nietzsche had a wicked sense of humor. He was not a Troll, however: his intent was to improve the West, not cruelly annoy it for no reason.
  • By his own admission, Tom Baker loved tormenting his co-stars with "tall stories". A frequent victim was Nicholas Courtney — apparently as much of a lovable wet blanket as the Brigadier.
  • When Elijah Wood was in New York promoting The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Dominic Monaghan called from Berlin, pretending to be Hans Jensen, a German TV host. During the interview, Monaghan/Jensen asked Wood a bunch of ridiculous questions (e.g., asking Wood if he played soccer, then clarifying with, "Do you kick balls?"); Monaghan couldn't keep a straight face and was barely able to keep from laughing. The result can be seen on the Return of the King extended edition DVD with an introduction from Wood (who, once the joke was revealed, found the whole thing "brilliant").
  • Christopher Hitchens had streaks of this. While he managed to build a rather consistent (to him) set of beliefs out of seemingly opposite tenets (e.g. he was for the Iraq War and still thought Bush was a doofus), it is hard to say which - if any - of his public statements he made just for the sake of conflict and discussion. He once to the Catholic Church against the canonization of Mother Theresa by taking on the role of "Advocatus Diaboli". Given that he wrote a whole book on why Mother Theresa was a terrible person and a fraud, his opinion on that issue was probably genuine. He did argue the case pro bono, after all.
  • Matthew Mercer has confessed that he likes to play Overwatch online and randomly say "it's high noon" over voice chat. Since the character Cole Cassidy is voiced by Mercer, and the character says "it's high noon" when using an absolutely devastating attack, this causes the other players on his team to freak out, thinking that one of the enemy teammates must be playing as Cassidy and using that attack on them.note 
  • In ice hockey, an agitator (also known as a pest or a rat) is a player who is deliberately annoying to opposing players (within the bounds of the rules) to provoke them and get them penalized for instigating a fight.
  • President Donald Trump was infamous for this, with his brash refusal to adhere to political correctness in his public statements and his upheaval of Washington, D.C.'s status quo leading to him being vilified by his detractors. On one occasion he stated "We do a little trolling," which quickly became a popular meme.
  • After her death, staff who attended to Queen Elizabeth II revealed that she could be quite mischievous, such as during an incident when she and Prince Philip went for an early-morning walk in Yosemite National Park. In the UK, protection officers knew to give the two a wide berth when they went out rambling. However, the United States Secret Service detail assigned to them insisted on staying close. Annoyed at how they couldn't enjoy the landscape without agents getting in the way, the two royals started walking sideways, then backwards, and then in circles until the agents got tangled up in each other and everyone laughed over the ridiculousness of the situation.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Social Gadfly


"I'm Looking Down!"

When Shrek and Donkey have to cross a rickety rope bridge over a moat of lava to reach the Dragon's Keep, Shrek advises the nervous Donkey not to look down. When that doesn't work, he uses more "persuasive" methods.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / RopeBridge

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