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Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey

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These cookies aren't evil enough! Add more children's screams to them!
Artwork by AmyClark

The unhinged man began to speak, in a phony accent. "I've got a delivery for a Mr. Bludvist, is there a Mr. Bludvist here?"
Drago groaned, already tired of this foolishness. Even after ten years, his deranged lackey never got any less annoying.

In a great deal of media aimed at children or families, there will be more than one villain working together against the hero, and one or more of these villains will be in charge over the other(s). However, the lower-ranked of these villains is meant to be taken far less seriously than the higher-ranked, whether due to being more cowardly, more comical, less powerful, less competent, or even simply less motivated than their dark superior.

This can have a lot of benefits to the writers, such as averting Villain Decay: no matter how many times the heroes triumph over the lesser villain(s), the fact that a more serious villain (or group of more serious villains) is still part of the same organization means there's still a credible threat that the heroes still need to deal with. Also, for works aimed at especially young children, this also allows the writers to have a genuinely scary Big Bad who pushes boundaries, but also make the lesser villain goofy and funny, thus keeping a work lighter and softer and generally less frightening for the kiddies.

A common, but by no means the only, way to show that the higher-ranked villain is serious is to display the lower-ranked villains afraid of him/her, or show that the higher-ranked villain is a Bad Boss who will Shoot the Messenger when brought bad news, or who punishes his minions for failure or for otherwise ceasing to be useful. It's not really necessary for the higher-ranked villain to be cruel to his or her underlings for the trope to apply, though; it's only really needed for the higher-ranked villain to be played noticeably more seriously than his or her underling(s).

The laughable lackey can be an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, but it's not necessary for the lackey to be sympathetic at all for this trope to apply, nor is it necessary for the laughable lackey to be ineffectual or a Harmless Villain: they can even win at times, as long as they're noticeably less serious than their superiors. It's not even necessary for the higher-ranked villain(s) to be out-and-out devoid of comedy for the trope to apply, either; a noticeable difference is all that's really needed. A Bumbling Henchmen Duo, a Quirky Miniboss Squad, or a Goldfish Poop Gang can also fill in the loser villain slot as well as a single villain can. It's also common for the laughable lackey to have an unpleasant, demeaning, or dumb-sounding name.

The Laughable Lackey can also be The Igor, The Renfield, The Imp, a Minion with an F in Evil, a Sycophantic Servant, and/or a Punch-Clock Villain who only Pokes the Poodle, or possibly The Dragon, depending on his/her/their specific role in the evil organization—and in cases where The Dragon is comical due to ineptitude, this overlaps with Number Two for Brains. The Laughable Lackey is often the Butt-Monkey or The Chew Toy, as well, and can also be a Bumbling Sidekick to the serious villain, though there are more ways of being laughable than just clumsiness.

They often form a Red Oni, Blue Oni duo. If the villain is also Laughably Evil, he will usually be the red to the lackey's blue. If the villain is played completely seriously, he will usually be the blue to the lackey's red.

Compare Abusive Parents, Big Bad Wannabe, Brains and Brawn, Evil Duo, Eviler than Thou, A Lighter Shade of Black, The Man Behind the Man, My Master, Right or Wrong, Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness, Sorting Algorithm of Evil, Surrounded by Idiots, The Starscream, What Measure Is a Mook? A Terrible Trio can have this dynamic if one of them is in charge and meant to be taken more seriously than the other two, though the three of them together can act as the laughable lackey if they have a more serious boss, or they can even together act as the serious villain if they're not Played for Laughs and have one or more underlings who are. Sometimes overlaps with Vile Villain, Saccharine Show and Perky Female Minion. Contrast Hypercompetent Sidekick and More Despicable Minion, where it's the Big Bad that's humorous and/or sympathetic and the main minion that's fearsome. Can be a Sub-Trope of Sympathetic Villain, Despicable Villain if the lackeys are inherently more sympathetic (not just funnier) than their boss.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Animal Detectives Kiruminzoo: Misa Hatori is the leader of the animalian revolution and she always does the effort in doing what she must to complete it, but her henchmen, the Kibagumi squad, are a team of Casanova Wannabes who can hardly bite at least one woman.
    • And then there's Keiko. Whenever Kanon asks her a favor, or whenever they team up as the Beauty Bat duo, all she does is screw up her plans.
  • Digimon Adventure:
    • Demidevimon fills this role for Myotismon. While he keeps the Chosen Children/Digidestined separated while Tai is away, as soon as he comes back, Demidevimon begins comically failing and getting punished by Myotismon for his failings.
    • The two Hagurumon working for Machinedramon fit this bill too; Machinedramon has incredible firepower and is willing to devastate his own city to get to the heroes. His gear-like minions cower before that plan, even though they aren't even the targets!
  • The Namek Saga of Dragon Ball Z introduced the audience to Frieza, a Galactic Conqueror who exterminates the populations of entire worlds and has destroyed a number of planets as well. His minions for the most part are as evil as one would expect, except, ironically, his strongest warriors the Ginyu Force. They are a Quirky Miniboss Squad whose first onscreen action is to go into a "Super Sentai" Stance, and before a fight play Rock–Paper–Scissors to determine who fights. Despite their comedic quirks, the Ginyu Force do prove that they are Frieza's strongest warriors, nearly killing the main characters before Goku arrives.
  • The title heroine of Excel♡Saga is her boss Il Palazzo's biggest obstacle on the path to Take Over the World, by the "virtue" of being a worthless (if fiercely devoted and energetic) underling. When Il Palazzo finally drops his Orcus on His Throne act towards the end of the series and fires Excel, he immediately proves himself a scarily efficient villain on his own (with a little help from Hyatt, who also proves a much more competent minion as soon as Excel is out of the picture).
  • Mon Colle Knights has Ruthe, a smart-alecky, whiny-voiced imp, to the fallen angel Zaha, and later to his superior Reda.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • While Team Rocket members aren't always competent, only the Terrible Trio, and later Butch and Cassidy due to characterization changes, are actually goofy. Most members are some level of dangerous. Their boss Giovanni has a case of Adaptational Villainy as he is more violent than in the games in whenever he gets up to fight.
    • Inverted in Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon where Jessie captures a Mimikyu who is always portrayed as a fairly competent opponent to Pikachu. Instead of capturing Pikachu, Mimikyu wants to kill him, making it a case of the vile lackey to the Team Rocket Trio’s Laughable villains.
  • Team Galactic's boss Cyrus in Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure! is a Knight Templar Omnicidal Maniac. The Galactic executives — Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars — are intimidating but this ability does not extend to grunts. B-2 is a near-literal Butt-Monkey who is constantly getting attacked on the butt and isn't a real threat. Subverted with some other Galactic grunts though when they try to bomb a tournament.
  • A common sight with One Piece Arc Villains, especially early on; after an arc's main villain has been sent packing, it's not uncommon for the Laughable Lackey to get A Day in the Limelight in the form of a cover arc, and possibly even redeem themselves somewhat (prominent examples being Jango, Hatchan, and Gedatsu). However, note that even the goofiest of them tend to go into Beware the Silly Ones mode when fighting directly.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Iron Mouse wasn't a very serious villain, but when she failed, she was rightly terrified of how her boss would react. Naturally, when Galaxia decided she’d had enough of Iron Mouse's failures, she promptly appeared before her and removed her bracelets, killing her.
  • Superwomen in Love! has villains that, for the most part, are utterly harmless. One is a yuri fetishist willing to interrupt her own allies when she sees it, one is an otaku, and one is functionally the otaku's caretaker. Only two villains are legitimately threatening: the co-protagonist who defected for love in the first chapter, and X, the leader of the organization. Unlike the others, X is cunning and ruthless, constantly having the upper hand, willing to get her hands dirty, and very willing to play the long game. Even when she loses, she appears to take it completely in stride and is more amused by it than upset. Even when she just shows up to take the main character on a dinner date to learn more about her and has no ulterior motives, she's significantly more threatening than the other three villains while fighting.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • The Dragon and the Butterfly: Whiteout: Drago and Dagur seem to have this type of dynamic, Drago being the glower brute that sucks all whimsy from a room while Dagur tries acting all chummy and start small-talk around him (as fruitless as that would be).
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf is a huge, terrifying Champion of Chaos spearheading an invasion of Westeros by the Ruinous Powers. His henchman Einarr is a Butt-Monkey who gets yelled at in every chapter, and even the prospect of death doesn't seem to faze him.

    Films — Animated 
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven:
    • Carface is the main villain and he operates a crooked canine casino. When Carface discovers that his former partner has escaped the dog pound and survived an assassination attempt, Carface almost disposes of his henchman, Killer (even though Killer was not responsible for the attempts). A myopic, neurotic, weakling of a dog, Killer gets one last chance to avoid the Shark Pool: by killing Charlie Barkin with a Flash Gordon thermo-atomic ray gun.
    • Carface himself becomes the laughable lackey to other villains in the sequel media, like Red in All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 and Belladonna in the animated series. Neither character is devoid of comedy, but they are unambiguously wicked and threatening in comparison to the incompetent buffoon Carface has become.
  • The villains of the An American Tail films have these to varying degrees. Warren in the first film has the bumbling accountant Digit. In the case of Cat R. Waul's lackey Chula in the second film, he only really becomes laughable in the TV series, being Axe-Crazy in the film. The third film has O'Bloat, one of Grasping's Co-Dragons, and Scuttlebutt, the lowest-ranking of all the main villains.
  • In Chicken Run, the main villain is Mrs. Tweedy, a deadly serious, totally merciless farmer who abuses her chickens (the protagonists) just because she can. Her Henpecked Husband Mr. Tweedy is a Butt-Monkey who provides some of the funniest lines in the movie.
  • Despicable Me: The cute and hilarious minions are this for the Villain Protagonist, Gru. While Gru isn't devoid of comedy, he's very competent, unlike the minions who are mostly silly and childish.
  • Disney loves this trope:
    • 101 Dalmatians: Cruella de Vil is a crazy and scary-looking Rich Bitch who wants to skin Dalmatian dogs for her new coat. Horace and Jasper are her two bumbling henchmen.
    • Aladdin: Jafar is a Comically Serious Evil Sorcerer, but his sidekick Iago is an upfront comical character. It must be added though that Iago is one of the most intelligent and competent sidekicks that a Disney villain ever had and is also as conniving as Jafar, being actually the one to suggest the idea of Jafar getting the throne by marrying Jasmine. He contrasts Jafar's cold brooding with his hilarious snarking, loud and obnoxious attitude (being voiced by Gilbert Gottfried helps in that regard), and being a regular victim of physical comedy.
    • Aladdin: The Return of Jafar: Jafar is still serious and ruthlessly cunning, while his new associate, Abis Mal, is an idiotic, childish Big Bad Wannabe.
    • Aladdin and the King of Thieves: Sa'Luk is a strong, genuinely threatening villain while the remaining seven thieves who follow him are comical bandits.
    • Beauty and the Beast: Lefou and Gaston show this dynamic toward the end of the film when Gaston ceases to be Played for Laughs and becomes dead-set on murdering the Beast while Lefou remains a worshipful Butt-Monkey, who as usual follows along.
    • Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas: The main villain Forte is a downright scary and creepy Manipulative Bastard, while his lackey Fife is a silly Minion with an F in Evil who ultimately undergoes a Heel–Face Turn.
    • Pictured above from The Black Cauldron: Creeper is comically drawn (by comparison) and cowardly and he routinely suffers the abuse of the terrifying Horned King. His eagerness to please his boss makes him paradoxically both a very cruel minion and a ridiculous lap dog.
    • Cinderella: Lady Tremaine is never Played for Laughs, but her awkward daughters and buffoonish cat are. In a rarity for Disney, it's actually the buffoonish cat that gets the (apparent) Disney Villain Death rather than Tremaine (he does appear in the sequels so, he survived).
    • DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp Plays with this. Merlock is a cruel, sadistic sorcerer while Dijon is his bumbling henchman who is very incompetent because his kleptomania almost always gets in the way. However, Merlock also has points where he suffers all sorts of abuse when he's shapeshifted into a smaller creature such as a mouse or a bug, and Dijon ends up proving to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain when he gets the lamp for himself and uses it to obtain all of Scrooge's fortune. Of course, he's still a Big Bad Wannabe compared to his former master, so as soon as Merlock steals the lamp back from Dijon, you know what follows...
    • The Emperor's New Groove downplays this trope with Yzma and Kronk. While both are comedic characters, Yzma isn't above regicide, whereas Kronk is a genuinely Nice Guy.
    • The Great Mouse Detective: The film has the hammy but savvy and menacing villain in Ratigan, but his disabled bat lackey Fidget is just an enforcer with little initiative (while far from incapable of real villainy) and isn't nearly as threatening by comparison, but it is worth noting that Fidget manages to accomplish everything that Ratigan asks him to do.
    • Hercules: Pain and Panic are comical, slow-witted twerps and very afraid of their boss, the death god Hades. Downplayed in that, while much more competent, Hades isn't any less comical.
    • Home on the Range: Downplayed with Alameda Slim and the Willie Brothers. Slim balances being cunning and manipulative with Evil Is Hammy (especially when he yodels), while his nephews/sidekicks the Willies are straight-up Bumbling Sidekicks.
    • Downplayed in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney). Minister of Justice Claude Frollo is perhaps the darkest Disney villain of all time with his genocidal agenda and lust for Esmeralda. To contrast, his primary lackeys Brutish and Oafish Guard are certainly unpleasant and dangerous but are subject to a lot more comedic comeuppance (their attempt to chase Esmeralda via Crowd Surfing leads to them receiving a hard landing, Brutish Guard gets sat on twice by Phoebus' horse Achilles). This is played straight with Frollo's Mooks; the rank-and-file are humiliated much more often while the visored soldiers are much more competent and dangerous, giving Phoebus serious injuries by shooting him and breaking the cathedral's door enough that Frollo can enter.
    • Inverted, but downplayed in The Little Mermaid (1989). Ursula is a cunning, manipulative Big Bad, but has a bombastic, hammy, and snarky personality to boot. Her eel minions, Flotsam and Jetsam, are creepy with only sporadic moments of comedy, and they’re also pretty good at their jobs, as they rarely make any mistakes when Ursula commands they do something.
    • The Lion King (1994): The cunning, manipulative Scar has three stupid, unfocused, and constantly bickering hyena minions. Very much downplayed, as the hyenas, despite their stupidity, can pose a real threat to the protagonists and in the end they turn against their master and kill him.
    • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: Zira is a female Scar, but more disturbingly Ax-Crazy. Played with concerning her Co-Dragons. Her son Nuka is vicious but also a bumbling, immature Boisterous Weakling who just wants to please her mother. Vitani by contrast is The Comically Serious but almost as menacing as Zira.
    • Averted with the Hun army from Mulan, as well as Shan Yu's pet falcon Hayabusa, who are all just as terrifying as Shan Yu is, with no comedic moments whatsoever... or at least until Mushu burns Hayabusa's feathers off.
    • Averted in Oliver & Company. Sikes' dogs Roscoe and DeSoto are every bit as competent and menacing as he himself is, providing very little in the way of comedy outside bleak sarcasm.
    • Peter Pan: Captain Hook and Smee have this dynamic. Downplayed since Hook (at least in the Disney movie) is laughable and ridiculous as well, but can be menacing unlike his Bumbling Sidekick Smee.
    • In The Princess and the Frog, Dr. Facilier, the wicked and manipulative Witch Doctor, is assisted by the portly, bumbling, cowardly Lawrence (who was initially Prince Naveen's valet but did a Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal).
    • The Rescuers: Snoops, with his stammering speech, name, softness relative to Medusa, and Butt-Monkey status, is laughable. Medusa herself is cruel, greedy, and emotionally manipulative — and has far fewer funny moments.
    • The Rescuers Down Under has an even more extreme variation than the first film. Joanna the Goanna, while vicious, is a bumbling, stupid animal who spends most of her screentime screwing up her boss's plans and being abused by him verbally and physically. Her boss, a nasty poacher named McLeach, by contrast, is an unhinged lunatic bent on hunting down the last of an endangered species of giant eagle at all costs, solely for the bragging rights, and doesn't care who he has to kill to do so, including children.
    • Robin Hood (1973) has Prince John and Sir Hiss, presented in a case similar to Peter Pan. Prince John is a Laughably Evil type and also a Large Ham, while Sir Hiss is a more quiet and nervous type, but is definitely much less threatening than Prince John can be. The Faux Affably Evil but ruthlessly money-raking Sheriff of Nottingham has this dynamic with the vulture guards Nutsy and Trigger as well, for that matter.
    • Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty is considered one of the most (if not the most) dangerous villains in all of Disney Animated Canon. Her Goons however don't even understand that babies grow up — even after sixteen years they are looking for a baby. However her other lackey Diablo the raven averts this trope; he has very few comedic moments and proves to be her most capable minion as he finds Aurora very quickly once he's sent to find her, coordinates the Goons into a legitimate threat to Phillip's escape, and wakes Maleficent up, leading to the Final Battle.
    • Inverted in Meet the Robinsons. "Bowler Hat Guy" is a laughably incompetent doofus who wastes a huge amount of time on plans that are either petty, impractical or both, and never work because he never actually plans ahead. DOR-15, on the other hand, is the real brains behind the operation, a murderous robot using Bowler Hat Guy as a pawn in her schemes to take over humanity and rebuild it as a terrifying, smog-choked dystopia in her own image. DOR-15 has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and once a horrified Bowler Hat Guy has served her purpose in her plans for the Bad Future, she promptly disposes of him. Unsurprisingly, when this future is prevented by DOR-15's defeat, Bowler Hat Guy makes a Heel–Face Turn, horrified at what he assumed to be his partner wanted.
    • In A Bug's Life, Hopper is a cruel, sadistic, and dead-serious grasshopper, but his brother Molt is a bumbling and amicable Minion with an F in Evil. This trope is actually the reason he was written as Hopper's brother: during the movie's development it became apparent that a murderous psycho like Hopper wouldn't put up with Molt's buffoonery without a good reason, so it was explained that the only reason Hopper didn't kill him was because their dying mother made him promise not to. Molt pulls a Heel–Face Turn at the end of the film after Hopper is lured into a trap and eaten by bird chicks. Thumper, Hopper's other henchman, on the other hand, averts this trope, being even more evil than Hopper is.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): Grubber is a comical, cowardly, un-threatening hedgehog. But he works for the dead-serious Tempest Shadow and her threatening-but-not-quite-so-serious Storm King boss. Tempest's utter humorlessness, when contrasted with the Storm King's more comedic nature, could be considered an inversion.
  • The Prince of Egypt: The Egyptian priests Hotep and Huy, being voiced by Steve Martin and Martin Short respectively, have their funny moments. Neither of the two Pharaohs that they work for do.
  • Don Bluth's Rock-A-Doodle has the Grand Duke as the main villain, whose weather machine clouds out the sun and floods the valley, making the small farm animals easy pickings for himself and his owl mooks. His diminutive but eager nephew Hunch is tasked with intercepting the party of heroes seeking to retrieve Chanticleer, Hunch is woefully outclassed, as even Patou narrates: "He's more a hoot than horrible..." and he's voiced by the late Charles Nelson Reilly.
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf had the Hunch Bunch, a pair of hunchbacked lackeys to Dracula who orders them to make Shaggy lose an auto race in order to change into a werewolf. Their constant bumbling is a source of irritation to Dracula.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Downplayed with Bowser and Kamek: Bowser is huge, strong, ambitious, ruthless, unhinged, and has both dangerous fire breath and a willingness to use it even on minions who so much as annoy him. His dragon Kamek has powerful magic that includes flight, teleportation, and telekinesis, and probably includes object transformation if the games are any indication. Both have plenty of comical moments, but Bowser is clearly the one in charge and more dangerous than Kamek, as the scene were they play piano and Kamek's fingers are slammed under the key cover (and kept there at Bowser's command!!) clearly demonstrates.
  • Tom and Jerry: The Movie: Aunt Figg is the primary antagonist: fat, abusive, ill-tempered and wants nothing more than to claim Robyn's inheritance. Her dog, Ferdinand, is just as evil as she is and also quite competent. However, his weight is played for laughs, needing a skateboard to get around because he can't use his legs.
  • Larry, from Wizards is an Igor-like lizard creature that adores his master, Blackwolf: an undead wizard who wants to revive the Fourth Reich with irradiated mutants as its master race.
  • Max, from Yellow Submarine, is usually at the end of a bitch slap from his boss, the Chief Blue Meanie, especially when Max says "yes" instead of "no".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 102 Dalmatians: This Disney live-action sequel sees Cruella's butler Alonzo taking the role of the laughable lackey instead of Jasper and Horace. He has repeated Butt-Monkey moments where his hand gets hurt in slapstick moments, particularly during his heists of puppies for Cruella's latest fur coat idea that requires the eponymous 102 Dalmatian puppies' skins, and it almost seems like his injured hand was intended to be symbolic of his villainy, as he throws his sling off just as he's cementing his Heel–Face Turn near the film's climax.
  • Beethoven:
    • In the first movie, the veterinarian's goons' bumbling and cowardice were Played for Laughs, but the veterinarian himself was not.
    • In the second movie, Floyd's stupidity was Played for Laughs, but his greedy girlfriend Regina was much more cruel and intentional than he was.
  • Carrie (1976): While Chris Hargensen is even more horrible here than in the book, her boyfriend Billy Nolan has been Demoted to Dragon in this version and is a dim-witted buffoon who is mainly comic relief, with Chris playing him like a fiddle throughout the whole movie.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Played With by King Ghidorah's Multiple Head Case. Ghidorah overall is extremely malevolent and dangerous, but the head named San/Kevin (the left-side head) is generally a goofball and a dunce, and for it, he gets bitten and pushed around by the central head Ichi (who acts more serious and much more sadistic).
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: The Master of Laketown is uncaring about his people, enriching himself while the people starve and become poorer. He has a more comical lackey, Alfrid, who is cowardly enough to use a Paper-Thin Disguise, pretending to be a woman to avoid going into battle. The difference is shown in their deaths: While the Master’s death is portrayed as karmic, Alfrid's death is used entirely for comedy.
  • In Krampus, the eponymous villain is a terrifying and satanic figure, the Evil Counterpart of Santa Claus. His minions, on the other hand, are evil spoofs of things traditionally associated with Christmas, up to and including crazy killer gingerbread men. Justified since it is a horror/comedy movie.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The film's version of Ginnabrik, Jadis's dwarf lackey, is a downplayed example of this. He's a lot more petty and taunting than Jadis is and has a few Butt-Monkey moments, though he Would Hurt a Child and is still as cruel as his book counterpart.
  • Moonraker: Although widely viewed as the campiest film of the James Bond franchise, its Big Bad Hugo Drax is possibly the most chilling villain in Bond's rogues gallery. As a cold, snobbish, understated executive, Drax wishes to exterminate the human race, except for those he considers "superior beings". He hires Jaws, The Dragon from the previous film to be his own. However, this time, Jaws is much less menacing, almost going into Wile E. Coyote levels of ineptitude, and even performs a Heel–Face Turn towards the end.
  • Mowgli: The Big Bad Shere Khan is an enormous tiger who is genuinely threatening despite his crippled foreleg, and is a sadist who breaks the Jungle Law just for his own pleasure. His minion Tabaqui is a snivelling, cowardly hyena who always stays in Khan's shadow and runs at the first sign of danger.
  • Ready Player One (2018): I-R0k qualifies, and is a downplayed example in that, despite being a Hypercompetent Sidekick for all things in-game in the OASIS, I-R0k's neck issues and occasional immaturity are Played for Laughs, but his ruthless Corrupt Corporate Executive boss Sorrento is never funny.
  • Return of the Jedi: Salacious Crumb is a tiny bird/monkey creature that laughs at Jabba's victims. He's no threat, himself, and gets a Butt-Monkey moment when R2D2 electrocutes him, but Jabba is a powerful and wealthy Hutt gangster who keeps Crumb around for no other reason than because he finds him amusing.
  • Scream: Most of the films have a Big Bad Duumvirate donning the identity of the masked killer Ghostface, with one of them as the mastermind and the other as the accomplice. Barring the fifth film where the killers were presented as equals, the mastermind is usually a straight-up psycho with a personal and/or petty motive for the killings, while the accomplice is usually Laughably Evil. Even when they're in costume as Ghostface before The Reveal, the masterminds' phone calls to their victims sound more vicious, angry, and threatening, while the accomplices are often more theatrical and gleefully mock and cackle at their victims.
  • Sky High (2005): Royal Pain is a supervillain whose sympathetic backstory produced a lifetime of bitterness and a desire for vengeance, and who turns genuinely nasty during a climax that comes as close to evoking a school shooting as you can get in a PG-rated Disney family comedy. Royal Pain's henchman Stitches, meanwhile, is Practically Joker minus any of the competence, existing mainly as the butt of jokes, his master's chew toy, and a cover story for Royal Pain's Secret Identity as Gwen Grayson, posing as her father.
  • Tricky People: Reginald Charming is a ruthless, manipulative pedophile who uses pictures of his victims to blackmail them into silence. His sidekick Wendell is the cheerful, clumsy Plucky Comic Relief who exists mostly to provide slapstick. Given the film's deadly serious treatment of Charming and his victims, Wendell's presence seems downright bizarre.

  • In Peter Pan, Captain Hook is a calculating and menacing foe. His sidekick, Smee, while desiring to be evil, is so genial that the captive children are said to not have the heart to tell Smee that they find him lovable instead of frightening.
  • In the New Jedi Order, Supreme Overlord Shimrra is the monstrous and tyrannical God-Emperor of the Yuuzhan Vong, and his sidekick and constant companion is Onimi, a capering, absurd jester who speaks in Rhymes on a Dime. However, it gradually becomes apparent that Onimi is much smarter than he looks and this is ultimately subverted when it turns out he was secretly controlling Shimrra all along, meaning that all of Shimrra's vile acts were really on Onimi.
  • Redwall loves this trope. Even the more competent and threatening of the Mooks aren't above getting involved in physical comedy; see Fangburn and Sela telling Blatant Lies about Redtooth's mysterious death, or Ripfang and Doomeye struggling to break into the hares' cell, in particular.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", the Space Pirate Solomon is one of the more sinister villains the Doctor has encountered, while his two robots are bungling, squabbling dimwits, whom the Doctor describes as "tantrum machines". And they're voiced by Mitchell and Webb.
  • H.R. Pufnstuf: Witchiepoo had her comical moments to be sure, but she was conniving, greedy, and did wield powerful and dangerous magic. But she also had a minion named, we kid you not, "Stupid Bat". Downplayed with her other two minions, who were generally more competent, though this didn’t stop her from hitting them whenever things didn’t go her way.
  • Kingdom Adventure: It seems like each villain who is under the last villain is one of these in comparison to his superior:
    • Magistrate Pitts has two dimwitted Dumb Muscle guards, and compared to them, Pitts is greedy, intentional, and cruel.
    • Pitts himself answers to a demonic warlock named Zordock, and compared to him, Pitts is cowardly, weak, stupid, and clumsy.
    • Dagger's squeaky voice, clumsiness, cowardice, and the fact that he never shuts up (even when he really should) make him laughable next to Zordock, as well.
  • Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation has the threatening Dragon Lord and his puny minion Wick.
  • Power Rangers:
  • Tales of the Tinkerdee: Taminella has an ogre henchman, Charlie, who's played by a human actor, but is only visible from the waist down. And while Taminella is fully capable of coming up with and adjusting schemes that come dangerously close to working and wields dangerous and effective magic, Charlie is a Dumb Muscle dimwit who frequently receives abuse from his boss when he says or does something idiotic.

     Tabletop Games 
  • On Mystara, King Thar is a ruthless Orc Warlord whose dreams of leading The Horde to Rape, Pillage, and Burn every human, Elven Dwarven or Halfling nation in his sight. He combines strength, cunning, charisma and force of will that allowed him to unify monstrous races of the Broken Lands, be them Orcs, Ogres, Goblinoids, Trolls, Gnolls or Kobolds. He is also a rapist, who once assaulted a noblewoman from one of Principalities of Glantri, prompting its Prince, who happenned to be a Nosferatu to personally try to kill him by draining all blood of his body. Unfortunatelly, Thar has survived and became a Nosferatu himself. The main reason why Thar hasn't yet burned down the whole world is that...his forces are composed of absolute buffoons, each of his generals is just the least buffoonish of their people (and the most competent one defected to Glantri at first opportunitty), and even the tribes descending from past great warlords are now only interested in comitting cultural appriopriation of people their ancestors raided and conquered. To his frustration, Thar not only doesn't have army competent enough to conquer anything, he doesn't have army good enough to not get bullied into service by other villains of the setting.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Faz to his stepfather Blaine in Dumbing of Age: while Blaine is truly evil, works for the mob, and has resorted to kidnapping, blackmail, and murder to achieve his goals (namely getting his daughter to drop out so he didn't have to pay her tuition) Faz is more the goofy Smug Snake with No Social Skills who tries to get laid. This gets deconstructed later: It's been implied Blaine is just as much an Abusive Parent to Faz as he had been to Amber, Faz is more or less forced into helping Blaine out, and Faz knows Blaine is evil but is also the sole breadwinner in the household, so will help him to try to keep him out of jail. Blaine, for his part, is willing to risk Faz's own safety to ensure he gets away.
  • In Jenny and the Multiverse, the Man in Grey is a Deliberately Monochrome Humanoid Abomination and serious as a heart attack, while Colonel Major is a rotund, comical, colourful mook.
  • The Order of the Stick: Hel and Thrym in the sixth arc. Hel is the serious villain working towards her goal of ending the world so all of the souls of the dwarves are condemned to her realm while her underling Thrym is a goofy Dogged Nice Guy who isn't taken seriously by Hel or Thor.

    Web Video 
  • Fanscription: In What if a Live-Action Super Mario Bros. (1993) 2 Happened, Wario and Waluigi are a quirky and bombastic duo (though plenty dangerous in their own right). King Wart, on the other hand, is a grim and unsettling presence even when talking to his Co-Dragons.
  • Overlord DVD: Harvey Cthulhu and the Skull of Calderón were probably meant to invoke this trope's feel; they're both imprisoned and can't do more than join Overlord DVD in snarking at corporations' greed and idiocy, but technically they're his defeated enemies, not his minions: only Omnivac can really be called his minion, and given his motivations, even he counts as a defeated and imprisoned enemy. That said, Doomcock only tends to fire up Omnivac when it's time to crunch numbers, and Omnivac thinks this is so far beneath him that most of Omnivac's dialog consists of hilarious tirades that eventually end with him acquiescing and discussing the numbers.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Gummi Bears: Toady is a Sycophantic Servant and regularly suffers abuse from Duke Igthorn, who despite being a laughable villain himself, is nevertheless ambitious and Would Hurt a Child.
  • Aladdin: The Series: In the show, Xerxes, the flying eel, is this to Sorcerous Overlord Mozenrath, usually providing more slapstick humor while his master is the serious Knight of Cerebus antagonist.
  • Avenger Penguins: Harry Slime is a dense Minion with an F in Evil who routinely suffers abuse from his Card-Carrying Villain boss, Caractacus P. Doom.
  • Harley Quinn in some of her appearances is this to The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series thanks to her often being Played for Laughs in a less harmful way than The Joker usually is.
  • Igor, a bumbling dumb news reporter wannabe to Dr. Gangrene in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!
  • Beast Wars: Once Waspinator's role as Butt-Monkey was established, he had this dynamic with Megatron.
  • The Bluffers: Clandestino is a greedy, polluting executive, and has a guard dog named Glum who is a Minion with an F in Evil and is frequently mistreated.
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, the alliance between NOS-4-A2 and XL in the episode "Revenge of the Monsters" plays out like this. XL is a comical villain who usually gets the most laughs in any episode he's in, while NOS-4-A2 is one of the most dangerous and seriously taken villains in the show, along with Evil Universe Buzz. They insist to each other they're actually partners throughout the episode, but it's clear who is calling the shots and who is probably going to be betrayed. In the end, the fear of being turned on causes XL to have a Heel–Face Turn and join Star Command.
    • Also Zurg, while having comedic traits, is quite evil and sinister compared to his Brain Pod and Grub henchmen, who, while having moments of competence, are almost purely comical.
  • In Captain N: The Game Master, Mother Brain may not be as dangerous as her Metroid counterpart, but she is treated as a genuine threat by the characters. Her minions, Eggplant Wizard and King Hippo however, are total failures whose antics provide most of the show's slapstick humour. Mother Brain both verbally and physically abuses the pair constantly. Averted whenever Dr. Wily, Dracula or Donkey Kong show up, as they’re usually portrayed as more competent than King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard.
    • In the episode 'Germ Wars', Viroid wages a war to take over Kevin's body and gets quickly frustrated with his timid "Miserable excuse for an assistant". Said assistant asks Kevin's lead cell for forgiveness afterwards.
  • Care Bears (1980s):
    • Professor Coldheart is a scheming Card-Carrying Villain but has a goofy and idiotic sidekick named Frostbite whose very character design is comical.
    • Beastly and Shreeky function as Laughable Lackeys who bicker with each other and consistently lose to the Care Bears, but Shreeky's uncle Lord No Heart remains a credible threat.
  • Darkwing Duck: Taurus Bulba is a pretty intimidating and uncomical villain, whilst his trio of henchmen, Hammerhead, Hoof, and Mouth, are depicted as pretty goofy.
  • Dragamonz: Wormskull is a comical young Grimwrath who is the servant to Grimserver, the evil leader of the Grimwraths. He is often on the receiving end of Grimserver's abuse, which soon results in him pulling a Heel–Face Turn during the final battle.
  • Clumsy and fearful Toad was often at the receiving end of abuse from his Diabolical Mastermind boss, Dr. Dred, in Drak Pack.
  • The Dreamstone: The Urpneys are comical. The Big Bad they work for, Zordrak, looks like an Evil Sorceror T-Rex, and, while supplying much Surrounded by Idiots humour, is played deadly seriously as a villain.
  • Flying Rhino Junior High: Earl P. Sidebottom is an Evil Genius with a Reality Warper machine at his disposal, capable of putting the students in life-threatening situations. Though he fails pretty much Once an Episode, he's still far more of a threat than his Minion with an F in Evil, Ratticus.
  • Get Ed: Crouch is a robot minion that often fails against Ed and his friends, and who is easily frightened into launching toast out of his head. Bedlam, his employer, is a more serious villain who has admitted that he mainly keeps him around because he likes the toast.
  • In Filmation's Ghostbusters, Prime Evil, the undead robotic skeleton overlord of the evil ghost afterlife, has two direct subordinates Bratarat, who's a small, bulbous, rat/worm hybrid that flies that only snarks at things, and Scared Stiff, a lesser robot skeleton who routinely falls apart out of fright. They sometimes have to perform menial tasks for Prime Evil. They tend to muck it up a lot.
  • Green Eggs and Ham (the Warner Bros. Animation series) has the BADGUYS be like this through and through, with the Serious Business McWinkle and his partner the optimistic Cloud Cuckoolander Gluntz. Subverted by the reveal that the BADGUYS are not the bad guys, although they still have this dynamic.
  • With minions like Dr. Claw's who consistently lose to the hapless Inspector Gadget (or his niece), who needs enemies?
  • Invader Zim is an unusual case in several ways. Zim is a Villain Protagonist and an underling for The Empire, and characters from The Empire higher up than him are indeed far, far more capable, competent, and serious than Zim is. However, they don't actually care about conquering Earth: sending Zim to Earth is their idea of making him Reassigned to Antarctica.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Throughout the five seasons, the Dark Hand Enforcers serve as easily beatable comic relief henchmen for the Arc Villains.
  • The Copycats are the typical cartoonish slapstick villain (like the Coyote) in Kidd Video and serve this role for the much menacing Master Blaster.
  • Kim Possible: Inverted. Drakken is the apparent Big Bad, but given his immaturity and tendency to go off on tangents, he's not a very serious villain. His dragon Shego, however, is an intelligent, competent combatant and is either a supervillainess in her own right or wields powerful fist weapons. Either way, she gives Kim Possible a real fight. (They maintain their respective roles by mutual preference: Shego lacks vision and ambition, and would rather be a well-paid dragon who can snark at her boss than have to pay somebody else to do the planning for her — as well as that worked the one time she tried it.)
  • Lady Lovely Locks: Hairball is the Laughable Lackey to Duchess Ravenwaves. While not incompetent, his voice, cough-like laugh, and appearance make him less of a threat than she is.
  • The Legend of Zelda (1989): Ganon was a competent, cruel villain, exasperated by his idiotic, bumbling moblin minions. It even got to the point where, when they invaded Link's bedroom in Hyrule Castle, Link didn't even need to get up from his bed: they managed to off each other with their clumsiness!
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: Experiment 625, AKA Reuben, works for the series' main villain Gantu. While Reuben has all of Stitch's abilities, he has zero motivation and isn't serious at all. Played around with since Reuben's laziness often led to Gantu being the sole Butt-Monkey of all their failed schemes, with a lot of the former's snark stemming from it while in turn making Gantu the Laughable Lackey to the show's Greater-Scope Villain, Dr. Hamsterviel.
  • LoliRock: Gramorr is a ruthless and treacherous Evil Sorcerer who will stop at nothing to take over Ephedia by destroying the princesses and acquiring the Oracle Gems. He would have to rely on Praxina and Mephisto to accomplish this, but their track record of being defeated by the princesses every single time leaves them much to be desired. And while Praxina is at least competent and wicked enough to be a challenge, the same can't be said about Mephisto. Come the end of Season 2, when Gramorr dies and Mephisto is seemingly killed as well, Praxina actively takes up his mantle.
  • Mad Jack the Pirate: Jack is a Villain Protagonist, and is generally more threatening than his dense Funny Animal first mate, Snuk.
  • The Magician: Downplayed with Spade and Diamond. They're armed, dangerous, and generally competent, but their back-and-forth with each other is occasionally Played for Laughs, whereas their scheming mobster boss Black Jack is never funny.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: Many of the show's villains have a lackey with whom they share this dynamic:
    • The witch Hydia is scheming, calculating, and evil, and has two inept daughters with no motivation for villainy who tend to serve as the butts of jokes and the target of their mother's abuse.
    • The catwoman sorceress, Catrina, is a vicious, violent slave driver whose overall behavior reeks of drug addiction and domestic abuse, but her lackey, Rep, is a Nice Guy who loses a fight to a filly.
    • Squirk is an immortal squid monster who wants to flood Dream Valley, and is assisted by the much smaller and less effective Crank, a miniature lobster, who spends most of his time on air getting punched about by his boss and their enemies.
    • Arabus is a greedy and corrupt cloud wizard who likes to eat pony shadows, thereby removing the happiness from the pony in question. However, he is aided by a stupid and lazy zebra named Zeb.
    • The very dangerous and competent Grogar, ruler of the evil kingdom of Tambelon, has as a minion the bumbling and cowardly donkey Bray.
  • My Little Pony: Make Your Mark: Both Opaline and her lackey Misty have comical moments, given Opaline's tendencies to start Chewing the Scenery and Misty's Bumbling Sidekick moments. But considering Opaline is an out-and-out alicorn implied to have lived long enough to have met Twilight, and Misty's a unicorn without so much as a cutie mark, it's no surprise Opaline is a far more serious threat!
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh:
    • Episodes with villains were few and far between, but one had a giant monster made of goo named "Crud", who had a hyper, overenthusiastic, comical lackey named Smudge.
    • Similarly Stan and Heff, a Heffalump and Woozle duo appeared in a couple of episodes. While both of them were bungling crooks, Stan was far more of a devious Card-Carrying Villain than Heff, an agreeable Dumb Muscle Heffalump with several phobias.
  • The Owl House: Emperor Belos serves as the series' very stern and serious Knight of Cerebus main antagonist who lacks any quirks or visible redeeming qualities and whose ultimate goal is the complete annihilation of life in the demon realm with only a scant few of its inhabitants aware of his monstrous plan. Meanwhile, the rank-and-file coven scouts and coven guards often have comical personal behaviors and their own personalities, with even the coven heads possessing some of their own quirks and behaviors, with even the most bloodthirsty one, Terra Snapdragon having her own funny Black Comedy type moments, something not even Belos has.
  • Smee, as in all other representations, to Captain Hook in Peter Pan & the Pirates.
  • Pinky and the Brain: While neither one is very threatening physically (what with being lab mice and all), the Brain, with his serious demeanor and great intellect, is far more of a threat than the spastic, dimwitted Pinky, who isn't even aware that he's a villain.
  • The incompetent pig henchmen of the determined Corrupt Corporate Executive Cyril Sneer in The Raccoons fill the trope entirely.
  • Rainbow Brite: It's often hard to take Murky Dismal seriously, even if he is Rainbow Brite's nemesis throughout the series. In the premiere, he was working for an evil sorceror only known as "The King of Shadows" and while this setup lasted, Murky and the King of Shadows had this dynamic. After the King of Shadows' death and Murky's promotion to Big Bad status, Murky's idiotic assistant Lurky is even harder to take seriously than Murky, so he ends up creating this dynamic with him.
  • ReBoot: Megabyte could be a dangerous villain when he wanted to be, but his bumbling robotic henchmen Hack and Slash provided some of the show's best comedy.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle: Boris Badinov and Natasha Fatale often fail against Rocky and Bullwinkle, but their Potsylvanian superiors, Fearless Leader and Mr. Big, stay more believable as a threat.
  • Rose Petal Place: Horace is the laughable lackey to Nastina's vile villain. While not incompetent, his voice and mannerisms make him much less of a threat than she is.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Hordak and Shadow Weaver are cold, cruel, and menacing, and Catra is self-destructive in ways that can be uncomfortable to watch. However, the bad guys also have Scorpia (who's big, kind, and ditzy) and Entrapta (a Genki Girl Mad Scientist) to lighten the mood a bit.
  • Silverhawks has Mon*Star, his gang consisting of hardened, monstrous badasses with lethal machinery, all dangerous. Except for Mon*Star's Yes-Man (actually named Yes-Man), a timid, snake-like humanoid whose sole purpose seems to be operating the machine that exposes the Moon Star of Limbo's energy conveniently to Mon*Star's throne, and agreeing with everything Mon*Star says.
  • The Simpsons: Charles Montgomery "Monty" Burns is a horrible person who is willing to harm anyone and everyone for his own personal gain. His right-hand man, Waylon Smithers, on the other hand, is a genuinely nice guy (obedience to Mr. Burns and his creepy crush on him notwithstanding) who tries his best to help others, and is only evil due to his Undying Loyalty to Burns.
  • Scruple, a snarky, delinquent wizard-school dropout, is this to the vengeful Gargamel in The Smurfs (1981). Gargamel himself is not without his comical moments, and acts as a laughable lackey to his abusive godfather Balthazar in every episode the latter is in.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: Scratch and Grounder have this dynamic with Dr. Robotnik. The pair are cartoonishly gormless goons, that even little children were meant to laugh at, unlike Robotnik who, while comedically conceited and blundering, can be a very dangerous and worthy foe for a superhero like Sonic.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): Snively was comical compared to his ruthless and evil uncle, Dr. Robotnik, who was treated as the clearer threat as a ruthless Evil Overlord in this take. However, Snively was known for insulting Robotnik behind his back and did have plans to overthrow him.
    • Sonic Underground: Dingo was childish Dumb Muscle, and far less intelligent than his clever, backstabbing partner mercenary Sleet. Both of them played comic relief lackeys to Robotnik however, who retains the same Evil Overlord role as in Satam.
  • The cowardly Blub Blubs are this to the always-hungry warlord Momo in Star Street: The Adventures of the Star Kids
  • TaleSpin: Ivanod Spigot and Dunder, the two bumbling Thembrian air force men, are very comedic. Spigot is much more cruel than Dunder, but they both contrast with the much more threatening High Marshal.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) has Shredder and his henchmen, Bebop and Rocksteady. Shredder is usually portrayed as competent, though he can provide comic relief, while his henchmen, a menacing anthropomorphic boar and rhino, are actually clumsy and cowardly.
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: A one-off villain from the past named Maelstrom had a lackey with a strange name: Bilge. Downplayed, in that Bilge's only comical aspects were his name and the fact that he is afraid of a giant squid kept in the ship's hold who attacks the heroes at one point.
  • Winx Club:
    • In Season 1, the Trix act as the Serious Villain, with their ogre Knut a more comical villain who eventually underwent a Heel–Face Turn.
    • In Season 2, the Trix were Demoted to Dragon and the status stuck, but they weren't laughable until Season 3 when they repeatedly lost battles immediately upon engaging the Winx and began some minor infighting.
    • In Season 7, Brafilius is a comical, bumbling villain who acts as a lackey for his more serious sister Kalshara. He eventually ends up having this dynamic with the Trix, who are once again serious.


Video Example(s):


The Master and Servant

The Master is a terrifying figure of darkness, but his most direct underling is a comical pink trunk-nosed imp.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / VileVillainLaughableLackey

Media sources: