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Villainous Harlequin

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A step down from the Monster Clown, a Villainous Harlequin is a villain that taps into the same clownish vein, but is usually Played for Laughs and rarely attempts to be outright scary.

If the Villainous Harlequin is female, she'll often be the Perky Female Minion of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, rarely going any higher on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. Compared to the Monster Clown — who is genuinely threatening — she is usually closer to an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. She has shades of The Trickster in her impulsive and anarchic ways, but lacks the intelligence necessary for this trait to provide any real danger.

Regardless of gender, Villainous Harlequins may fancy themselves Smug Snakes, but their childish demeanor and outlandish appearance (which may range from traditional jester costumes to impossibly cool outfits or incredibly impractical poofy dresses) ruins any chance of anyone taking them seriously. Expect temper tantrums when their plans inevitably fail, and for them to either be Chew Toys of The Dragon or a member of the Goldfish Poop Gang. Such characters are even more likely to be a Psychopathic Manchild than the Monster Clown but also much more likely to have the childish mentality that goes with it as a weakness that can be used against them by their enemies.

But be careful: if the Villainous Harlequin gets promoted to The Dragon or Big Bad levels, you're going to have a serious case of Who's Laughing Now? on your hands.

The Villainous Harlequin is the product of the popular view of the Court Jester, which is that of an idiotic buffoon. (This is despite the fact that the jester was one of the most insightful members of a king's court, due to his position outside the usual social ranks.) Interestingly, in some Renaissance art Death itself is often portrayed dressed in motley, or "pied" clothing, which is often conflated with the true Harlequin outfit. The more danger a Villainous Harlequin poses to the protagonists, the closer he or she gets to Monster Clown.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Juggler in B't X. Dressed like a harlequin/jester, with a funny mask and a B't named 'Vanilla Fudge', you wouldn't expect this character to be one of the most fearsome, powerful and outright sadistic of the Demon Generals that guard the Area.
  • Papillon from Buso Renkin fits this due to his campy behavior and dress and being Affably Evil.
  • Buggy the Clown from One Piece as well as one of his mooks. He's introduced as the first true pirate villain Luffy faces, but after suffering a humiliating defeat becomes a reoccurring Butt-Monkey who poses no real threat anymore. Although he does gain a huge following of loyal underlings who don't know that.
  • The titular Popee the Performer. He's an easily-angered teenager who works at the circus and very frequently maims or kills the people around him. It's Comedic Sociopathy at its finest.

  • The Temptation of St. Anthony (Rops), the devil (whether he's Satan or some other demon) is portrayed as an ash-grey man wearing a bright-red hooded robe, his horns poking out from the horns on his hood.

    Comic Books 
  • Pierrot Lunaire is a foe of the Musketeer who dresses as the Commedia dell'Arte character Pierrot. He was a member of the Club of Villains that appeared in the Batman R.I.P. storyline.
  • The Joker has wobbled between More Monster / More Clown depending on the decade, with the 50s and 60s leaning most strongly to the latter. Interestingly, the addition of his sidekick Harley Quinn (who takes this to a literal example) ends up balancing the 'more Monster' situations. It's interesting to note that Harley is only Played for Laughs when she's fawning over The Joker. When she goes out on her own, especially when she's out to prove herself to "Mistah J", she takes a serious level in bad ass and becomes a dangerous threat to even Batman himself.
    • The Joker's one-time sidekick Gaggy (a dwarf in a jester costume) also fits. The character was recently revived in Gotham City Sirens where he sought vengeance on Harley Quinn whom he viewed as having taken his place.
  • The Marvel Universe has the Clown from the Crime Circus. Like the rest of the circus crew, he lacks to the power or skill necessary to be truly threatening.
  • Sensation Comics: When Wonder Woman villain Countess Draska Nishki and her International Spies, Inc. first show up they throw a Masquerade Ball at which several of her murderous lackeys dress as clowns, and then pull guns on the Holliday Girls but they're unable to even seriously injure a single one of the well trained brawlers even though the girls are unarmed.
  • In the Superman comics, the second Toyman was a Wicked Toymaker clad in a jester's motley. It is this version of the Toyman who was a member of the Legion of Doom on the Superfriends.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame Clopin has shades of this. He's mostly Chaotic Neutral but turns downright malicious during "Court of Miracles".
  • Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return featured a jester who went evil after getting his hands on a Magic Wand.
  • Jasper the court jester serves as the villain in Rankin/Bass Productions' The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye, an adaptation of The Emperor's New Clothes. Jasper wants to become king by making the emperor vain and care only about clothes, rob the empire blind, and marry the emperor's daughter. The charlatan tailor named Marmaduke and his friends reveal his scheme by making the clothes they claim are invisible to anyone who is stupid.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The eponymous antagonist in Funny Man is a demonic trickster whose appearance is based on Punch and a playing card joker.

  • One of the ten named demons from The Divine Comedy is known as Alichino, a name derived from the Italian for "harlequin." He is the only one whose blood-lust so overcomes his sense that he trusts a damned politician who promises to deliver more souls to kill; naturally, the politician betrays Alichino and leaves him looking like quite the fool.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: In "The Mule", Magnifico Giganticus is a Sad/pathetic Clown, however, he's really the Mule, using his musical performances to create triggers that weaken the morale of his audiences when his fleet catches up to him.
  • In Harry Potter, Peeves the poltergeist is an example. Although rarely central to the plot, he regularly pops up and plays tricks on the students and staff, including pouring water or ink over them, and enjoys winding up Argus Filch, the grumpy student-hating caretaker.
    Peeves: Wandering at night, ickle firsties? Tut tut tut. Naughty naughty, you'll get caughty!
  • Land of Oz: Dorothy Of Oz, by Roger S. Baum, featured a jester who went evil after getting his hands on a Magic Wand.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey: In Murder Must Advertise, Lord Wimsey takes on the persona of a sinister harlequin in order to infiltrate a murderous drug ring.
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's Norby Finds a Villain: Threezy is the name of a clown who plays an over-the-top villain… except it is a cover for Ing the Incredible, as he prepares to destroy the universe and remake it in his image. However, because of nearly dying and then getting healed by the Twintas, he chooses to remain as Threezy the funny clown who does magic tricks.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Googler from Ace Lightning. An insane, maniacal jester, Googler is summoned by Lord Fear after obtaining an Amulet fragment in the first season's seventh episode "Only Human". Imprisoned in a place called White Hot Oblivion by Ace, Googler seeks revenge against Ace. He speaks in third person and creates his own words like "googlerize" (an alternate use of "pulverise"). He wears a spiked shell on his back, which he can curl into, turning him into a dangerous, fast-moving bouncing ball. Googler is accompanied by two talking sock puppets named Zip and Snip, who are able to fly, can chew through any surface, absorb powers, and brainwash Ace in one episode.
  • One episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has Will, Carlton and Uncle Phil dealing with one of these, who demands to be taken to the courthouse (where Phil is to preside over a trial that will be televised) just so he can show his act in front of the cameras. He uses dynamite sticks strapped to his body in order to persuade people into following through with him. However, the bombs later prove to be gag props complete with a "BANG!" flag. He's promptly kicked out of the court for his troubles.
  • Merlin: A king sends a magic-using jester named Trickler to cause Prince Arthur to fall in love with Princess Vivian, causing her dad to challenge him to a duel and disrupt a peace treaty negotiation.
  • Many, many villains from Power Rangers. Rita Repulsa (even when she was the Big Bad), Jindrax (from Wild Force) and Marah/Kapri (from Ninja Storm) are probably the most straight examples of this trope.
  • Maaen from Tomica Hero Rescue Force.

  • The Ringmasters in Cirqus Voltaire, who are green-skinned Jerkass antagonists.
  • The Jinx King of Magic Girl is a fiendish-looking harlequin, who leers at the player from the center of the playfield. Possibly intended as an Expy of the Ringmaster from Cirqus Voltaire

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions has the Black Harlequin, a cheerful, smiley villain who just wants to have fun. His signature weapons are armies of lethal toys, like teddy bears with metal claws, toy soldiers with real rifles and a rag-doll that causes aneurysms.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition Monster Manual IV is a creature called the Taunting Haunt, the vengeful spirit of a clown or preformer that can only be destroyed if beaten in a game of wits.
  • One of these shows up as an antagonist in a Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons module. She's also cheerfully Ax-Crazy, Too Kinky to Torture, and has a crush on her boss.

  • The Porter from Macbeth is a particularly sinister take on Shakespeare's recurring "witty fool" character archetype, and in some productions is even implied to be a kind of Psychopomp or demon, but still largely serves as comic relief, as he spends the entirety of his one scene getting drunk and making vaguely ominous jokes about hell.

    Theme Parks 
  • Chance from Universal's Halloween Horror Nights initially started off like this when she made her first appearance in 2007; possessing a very childlike and ditsy kind of personality. However, she was was made into a much more significant threat over time; to the point that she became the event's "icon" in 2016. Now, she has far more darker characteristics and is very capable of killing - though at times she'll still display traces of her original childlike self.


    Video Games 
  • "The Harlequin" Cahin from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, who uses his acrobatics to dazzle and distract his opponents while he (or his sister Caha) move around to deliver a fatal strike.
  • Harley Quinn from the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City Games.
  • In Captain Silver, the Mini-Boss of the first stage is a Pied Piper-like jester who summons a Swarm of Rats with his Creepy Circus Music, and in the Sega Master System port directly attacks the player with musical notes.
  • The appropriately named Harle from Chrono Cross. However, she's far more of an Enigmatic Minion than an ineffectual villain. And being a villain or not doesn't really seem to be under her control.
  • Crossed Swords have a harlequin magician in the first game as one of the last bosses, directly serving Nausizz the Demon Warlock. This Harlequin can spam projectiles and teleport while attacking you.
  • Cuphead has Beppi the Clown, the boss of "Carnival Kerfuffle". He's a clown, who like the other characters of the game, makes use of Deranged Animation. When the protagonists confront him as part of their gig as the Devil's Debt collectors, Beppi fights them on top of a roller coaster's tracks, and transforms into a creepy-looking balloon man, and later a giant carousel, all with a big grin. The ending shows when not threatened by Debt collectors, Beppi is actually a pleasant enough person.
  • The aptly-named Jevil from Deltarune, the Superboss from Chapter 1. It's debatable if he's truly an antagonist, but it's clear he's sadistic and insane. He was a court jester until he discovered the true nature of the world - which is implied to be just a game - and he decided to treat life as such since he believes that makes it all ultimately inconsequential.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: Jester, who reveals his true evil when he reveals he's actually Arkham, who wanted to maneuver Dante and Vergil into fighting each other so that he could use their blood to undo their father's spell and get his hands on Sparda's power.
  • The Dragon Age II DLC Mark of the Assassin has enemy rogues as Harlequins to fit the flamboyant Orlesian setting.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest IV: The Winksters, Blinksters, and Jinksters, which barrage enemies with their Frizz, Crack, and Sizz spells. Later appearances in Dragon Quest IX and Dragon Quest X would expand the Jinkster's repertoire with Bang, Boom, Frizzle, Egg On, Caduceus, and Snub, while the Blinkster would have Drain Magic and Bound.
    • Dragon Quest VI: One of the enemy types fought in the game, which make their debut, are the Prickly Pranksters, Pesky Jesters, and Jugular Jokers, sai-wielding jester monsters that use a variety of skills and spells in the form of Falcon Slash, Gust Slash, Oomph, Tap Dance, Flame Slash, Lightning Slash, Kacrackle Slash, Ban Dance, Kasnooze, and Sword Dance to overwhelm enemies in battle.
    • Dhoulmagus, the Big Bad Wannabe from Dragon Quest VIII is one of these.
    • Dragon Quest X:
      • Pujyu is a seemingly ordinary human jester who performs for the citizens of Gardlund and entertains them with magic tricks, while his only crimes are causing disappearances from Gardlund Castle and aiding the Fangs of Gazbaran, a separatist group named after the Ogre god of Astoltia. But later on, he is revealed to be a Monster Clown who makes things serious by opening the Netherworld's doors with Kyronos's Shock Seed and was mentioned to have incited Valeria's Invasion of Astoltia. THEN, it turns out he's also one of Jagonuba's Dark Deities, created by the Great Source of Darkness himself to fight against the Poppet God Pinahet.
      • In addition to the returning Jinkster and Prickly Prankster monster lines, the game also introduces the Buddhist Circus monster line, little demon clown creatures that ride Bomboulders, or Rockbombs in the case of Indojesters.
  • Cicero from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of these. You first find him on a road with a broken wagon and he asks you to fetch him some tools to fix the wagon, all while laughing and dancing. Turns out he is actually a member of the Dark Brotherhood, a league of very dangerous assassins. After you find that out he becomes considerably more malicious.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Kefka in Final Fantasy VI is initially presented as an almost harmless looking Villainous Harlequin. That perception doesn't last long, as he commits multiple atrocities during the course of the game, and ends up becoming the Mad God of the world during the game' second half.
    • Zorn and Thorn from Final Fantasy IX. They are twin jesters that serve under Queen Brahme's court, and during the game they try to capture Garnet to steal her Eidolons. After the events of Disk 2, they start to work for Kuja.
  • Shannon, the succubus-slash-stripper from God Hand.
  • Heidelberg 1693 has harlequin zombies as recurring enemies, who can spam flying snakes as ranged attacks.
  • The redesign of Thanatos in Kid Icarus: Uprising goes for this. While he's a rare example who's The Dragon and can prove to be powerful and threatening, more often than not he's the butt of many jokes thanks to his childishness and laziness.
  • Shaco the Demon Jester in League of Legends. If the title or his glowing green eyes didn't give it away, his name is an anagram of "chaos".
  • Marx from Kirby Super Star. He's an Ax-Crazy jester who tricks the sun and moon to fight each other to get Kirby to summon Galactic Nova so he can rule Popstar.
  • Malcolm the Jester from The Legend of Kyrandia, who goes from being a Chaotic Evil Sorcerer to a depowered Villain Protagonist trying to Clear His Name in the third game.
  • Harlequin, the psychic gambler pig from Link: The Faces of Evil.
  • Clown Man, one of the Robot Masters from Mega Man 8.
  • The last boss and main villain of Mystic Riders is a gigantic, red-faced demon clad in a harlequin outfit.
  • Reala and Jackle from Ni GHTS Into Dreams. Turns out NiGHTS itself was originally planned to be that, but a Heel–Face Turn turned it into the hero.
  • Overlord has the Minion Jesters, whose duties are to give their Evil Overlord Masters amusing names (or, in Overlord II, make little limericks) while also serving as their Training Dummies at times.
  • Junkrat from Overwatch has two Legendary skins that make him this.
  • Played with in regards of the Royal Jester in Princess Maker 2. Everyone thinks he's a bad guy and going talk to him actually drops your daughter's social reputation each time, but he's actually a rather good-hearted fellow... if a bit of a Trickster Mentor to the heroine. Who can choose being a Jester as her main work in the end, if some requirements are met (specifically, having him give her his Royal Harp after several visits, as well as possessing a strong Constitution and very high Art and Conversation skills).
  • Loki from Smite has two skins that makes him one of these, named "Last Laugh," and "Joki."
  • Tira from Soulcalibur.
  • Motley Bossblob from Super Mario 3D World is a Koopa jester who summons sentient blobs to create a larger clown form around him.
  • Also, Bowyer, a Boss from Super Mario RPG, is like this.
  • Dimentio, from Super Paper Mario, fits this trope perfectly, but while his slightly hammy antics and overall Friendly Enemy demeanor is played for laughs, he definitely proves to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain by the end of the game.
  • The Dark Wings from Tales of the Abyss subvert this troupe. Initially they seem to be a trio of annoying (if relatively harmless) thieves disguised as circus clowns, but they're actually in league with Asch, putting them at least slightly on the side of good.
  • Goremand in Trials of Mana is a soul-eating monster with a jester-like appearance. He lapses into Monster Clown at times.

  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: One of the Doctor's lesser opponents is Donald McBonald, the unscrupulous clown (and mime) who owns the McBonald's burger chain. (Reportedly he was originally just Ronald McDonald, before that detail got retconned and changed in the old comics to avoid copyright infringement.)
  • The Riddler's Gammon comics by MS Paint Adventures' Andrew Hussie feature a harlequin who menaces people with nonsensical puzzles and complicated rhyming schemes. He tends to get arrested, or shoved into garbage.
    • In Homestuck every enemy gets decorated in harlequin garb near the beginning of the story. And of course there's Gamzee Makara, who when first introduced is a fairly mellow, perpetually stoned, Faygo-swilling Juggalo who's trying to troll Dave but is laughably bad at it. When he sobers up he goes directly into Monster Clown territory and things get ugly fast. Gamzee's ancestor the Grand Highblood is an extremely dark example. His office/throne room is decorated with brightly splashes of color all over the walls, which turns downright creepy once you notice that the colors exactly match the possible colors of troll blood.
  • Jokerella from The Non-Adventures of Wonderella would probably fit in here, but she's kinda bad on the 'villainous' part. Her mother Pirouette was a much straighter example when she was alive.
  • In the KITTEN II storyline of Sluggy Freelance, the commander of a paramilitary group devoted to battling the forces of evil is inexplicably dressed as a clown, which terrifies the normally-stoic Riff. It turns out he isn't really a clown, it's just a disguise to divert attention away from them. Somehow. But then it turns out that he's gone insane and believes himself to be chosen by God to control The Evil, which involves killing a lot of the other characters. And then it turns out that he was a clown all along.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series. Though it's worth pointing out that her Nightmare Face and insane cackling as she lowers Batman into a vat of piranhas thinking she can finally have the relationship she dreams of with the Joker pushes her this close to Monster Clown levels.
  • The Joker goes back to his Silver Age Harlequin feel in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. That being said, however, he's still a very competent villain and a genuine threat.
  • Challenge of the Superfriends had Superman villain Toyman wear a jester-like costume, being based on the Jack Nimball version from the comics.
  • Jack-In-The-Box from Cool McCool.
  • Quackerjack from Darkwing Duck, a comedy-themed villain with many toys and gadgets, dressed in a jester outfit, who regularly gets outsmarted by Darkwing Duck.
  • The Jester in the "Court Musician" segment in Garfield: His 9 Lives. He keeps taunting "Freddie," the titular court musician, that if he doesn't please the king with his concerto, he faces the guillotine.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes has the recurring Rodeo Clowns, who although literal Monster Clowns, were generally more of asshole bikers who pull nasty pranks on the people of Miseryville, including Jimmy and Lucius.
  • Luan Loud of The Loud House can sometimes veer into this territory, especially during the April Fools episodes.
  • Metalocalypse: I'm Dr. Rockso, the rock-and-roll clown! I do cocaine!
  • Reflekta, the akumatized form of Juleka Couffaine, from Miraculous Ladybug, who wants people to notice her by converting people into clones of herself. Her colorful appearance making a huge contrast compared to her normal self, a shy goth-looking girl wearing dark colors to her Reflekta persona who is extroverted and confident, resembling a female pierrot with bright colors on her.
  • Hexadecimal from ReBoot, an Ax-Crazy virus whose main motivation is It Amused Me, has an appearance inspired by a traditional Harlequin costume. She tends to be played more as a Humanoid Abomination with a dash of harlequin and a Villainous Crush on Bob to highlight her otherness, and she eventually becomes a Heroic Harlequin by giving her life to save the entire Net from an apocalyptic viral infection all for Bob.
  • In a Squidbillies episode, Rusty and Early become Clowny Freaks (a parody of Juggalos). To advance up the Ziggurat of the Clownies towards full ninjahood, aspiring clowny freaks must smash stuff while playing "that evil-ass calliope". Clowny Daggers, baby!
  • Jester-themed villain Madkat in SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is like this, though he can be scary at times.
  • SuperMansion: The Groaner, whose ghastly appearance would make him a Monster Clown were he not a villainous prop comic who doesn't seem to be out to actually (intentionally) hurt anyone. He has actually accompanied the heroes on a number of missions, but still does things like set a house on fire with a brush so he can make a joke about "brushfires" and actually came closest to beating the league by stealing one of their expense cards and using it to cause them to go over budget.
  • Bozette Slapstick from Totally Spies! started out as a Non-Ironic Clown, but because she feels people no longer appreciate clowns, she planned to use a Clownification makeup to turn everyone into clowns. Unfortunately for Clover, she ends up getting blasted pointblank with the makeup.
  • Wander over Yonder gives us the mischievous Dr. Screwball Jones, a deviously daffy prankster who, ironically enough, is the only villain that Wander takes seriously. He even gets a whole Villain Song!
  • An actual royal court jester was a villain in one Woody Woodpecker cartoon; he wasn't really evil, but he was a pretty bad jester, and when the king threatened to fire him after thinking Woody was much funnier, the guy went after Woody in an attempt to keep his job. (The cartoon ended with Woody getting the job with the guy being punished by being part of Woody's act - getting pies thrown in his face.)



Reala is a First Level Nightmaren and an agent of Wizeman the Wicked.

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