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Straight Man / Live-Action TV

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Examples of the Straight Man on live-action TV.

  • On The Big Bang Theory, Johnny Galecki's character Leonard plays this role, largely for Sheldon's comic lines, and sometimes for funny lines from other characters as well. In Galecki's much smaller recurring character role on Roseanne, his character David tended to play this role for Darlene and others, as well.
  • The calm, introspective Sergeant Wilson was straight man to the bombastic Captain Mainwearing on Dad's Army, an English sitcom about the Home Guard during WWII.
  • On The Daily Show:
    • Jon Stewart plays the straight man to the various fake correspondents, who themselves tend to conduct interviews where they make their subjects unwitting straight men. Stewart also uses footage (sometimes out of context) and reports of various politicians, newsmakers and media whores as straight men for his own punchlines, but it could be argued that sometimes what they are doing is so outrageous that he can only react as an incredulous straight man even for them.
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    • Stewart also plays the straight man to Stephen Colbert whenever he does tosses over to Colbert's show.
  • Deborah on Everybody Loves Raymond acts as the comic foil to Raymond and his quirky family. Patricia Heaton can sometimes steal the scene by just standing there and saying nothing. Body language conveys it all.
  • Friends. Although Chandler was more of a Deadpan Snarker, he was definitely the straight man to Joey. In one case, he was able to pull it off without even saying anything, as the group prepared to head to London:
    Chandler: You got your passport?
    Joey: Yeah, in the third drawer of my dresser. Wouldn't want to lose that.
    Chandler: (just stares at him)
    Joey: ...oh! (runs back to his room)
  • Al Borland (Richard Karn) would play the straight man to Tim Taylor (Tim Allen) in ''Home Improvement' particularly during the Show Within a Show, "Tool Time" where Tim was terribly accident prone. Often, when Tim would ask Al to do something dangerous, he replied with the line "I don't think so Tim," which became his Catchphrase.
  • In Kenan & Kel, Kenan was this to Kel's funny man. Interestingly enough, All That shows that Kenan could also be the funny man, even before he got onto Saturday Night Live.
  • Everyone at the 4077th can fill this role for Hawkeye when needed, but the classics were Major Burns and Col. Flagg.
  • The comedic duo Mitchell and Web generally have Mitchell as the straight man.
  • During his time on Monday Night Football; Frank Gifford filled this role in his commentary, particularly in the early years alongside Howard Cosell and Don Meredith but this continued later on with Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus All of the members took turns being the straight man, if the sketch used one at all, and many of the sketches didn't A recurring character called The Colonel often served this role, shutting down a sketch partway through because he felt that he hadn't delivered a single funny line.
    • John Cleese is the straight man in the Parrot Sketch
    • Graham Chapman, generally, played the role straight, although he had a more active role in the humor than most straight men.
    • Terry Jones, as in "Nudge, Nudge" and "Buying A Bed".
    • Eric Idle has also fulfilled parts like these, for example in the "Kilimanjaro Expedition" sketch.
    • Carol Cleveland probably played straight parts the most. In many sketches, she is either the voice of reason or the only sane woman amidst all the madness. Examples are the "Dennis Moore" sketch and "The Visitors", for instance.
    • In the Motor Insurance sketch, there are subtitles that say "Straight Man" and "Another Straight Man" referring to the sketch's... well, straight men. And even there, it's subverted to hell and back.
      "Excuse me... do I have any more lines?
  • A casual glance at Morecambe and Wise often leads people to conclude Ernie is the Straight Man, but in fact, the two of them often exchanged and transcended the role, as in this exchange:
    Eric: How are we going to play the Three Musketeers when there's only two of us?
    Ernie: Easy, I'll play one, and you can play the other two.
    Eric: Can I really? That's very good of you, Ern!
  • Pam Dawber as Mindy on Mork & Mindy. Dawber had that vital charm and intelligence to play the only human who can deal with Mork's silliness without feeling threatened by it.
  • Bob Odenkirk is usually the straight man in comparison to David Cross' Large Ham on Mr. Show. This is often a great source for comedy on Bob's part, as in one sketch where he passes a lie detector test despite saying all sorts of outrageous things (in a completely deadpan monotone), up to and including derailing a train with his penis.
  • Joel, and later Mike would play this role to both the Mads and the Bots on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: One of Ned's purposes is to be this to everyone else, with the sole probable exception of Moze, with whom he has a "Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone" dynamic.
  • Oscar is usually the Straight Man to Felix on The Odd Couple, except when the joke is based on Oscar's messy habits; then the roles are reversed.
  • Parks and Recreation:
    • The show starts with Mark and Ann in this role; they generally act as saner, more rational foils to the zaniness of everyone leaves.
    • After Mark leaves, the dynamic changes. Ann is still the general comic foil, but as April's apathetic snark gets softer she moves in to become the foil to Andy, and Leslie herself ends up acting as the straight woman to the whole office when they get too wacky. Also, Donna has her moments.
    • And later Ben comes in to be the straight man to practically everyone, but mostly to Leslie, Chris and Tom.
  • Larry on Perfect Strangers, although the dynamic changed after the first season or so, as Larry's wacky schemes ended up driving the plots more and more often. By the time the show ended, both characters were getting an equal number of gags. Still, Larry's original job as straight man got lampshaded near the end of the series in an Imagine Spot where Balki and he play Laurel and Hardy, respectively.
  • In the Sarah Palin-Katie Couric sketch in Saturday Night Live, Amy Poehler's Katie Couric works as the quintessential Straight (Wo)Man to Tina Fey's Cloud Cuckoo Lander Palin.
  • On Seinfeld, the central premise was originally "Where does a comedian get his jokes," so Jerry typically plays the straight man who reacts the wacky hijinks his friends get into.
  • Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. Essentially, Hacker and Humphrey are both playing the Straight Man role to Bernard. The actor who played Bernard has even gone so far as to say in an interview that, though his role was technically the most minor of the three main roles, he feels that he got the best job, because Hacker and Humphrey would often have extremely long sections of memorized, straight dialogue (which, given Humphrey's penchant for Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, is all the more impressive) before he jumped in with a punchline.
  • George Fenneman, The Announcer on You Bet Your Life, was called "the male Margaret Dumont", by Groucho Marx. As she was the comedian's greatest comedic foil, Fenneman was deeply flattered by the comparison.
  • The Young Ones has Mike, who is the least involved in the slapstick (and receives by far the least physical blows) and most of his humour comes from making lame jokes, his "cool" attitude, and his many shady business practices. However, he is also the closest the lads have to a "leader" and facilitates several of the jokes, despite being considered bland.


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