There are many truly dreadful and unfunny comedies throughout the history of television.
Programmes where the jokes are weak, the situations contrived with the actors truly stilted and ungifted in the art of comic timing or delivery.
Plus you usually find that the characters in the show are complete airheads and dumb-bells because they are guaranteed to raise a chuckle.
However I find it interesting that even amongst the best comedies, shows that are genuine classics, there can still be at least one character who is portrayed as completely stupid.
Here are 10 examples neatly divided from both sides of the Atlantic.
They are deliberately arrayed in alphabetical order so not to give the impression that I am ranking them according to IQ level.
I leave it you to decide who is dumb, dumber or even the dumbest.
Colin Ball: 'Trigger'
(ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES)
A regular side character alongside Del Boy and Rodney played by Roger Lloyd-Pack.
Nicknamed 'Trigger' because he has a face like a horse he was a road-sweeper with the local council in Peckham.
With a deadpan delivery he could be relied upon for the most dense utterances around the table down at the pub and the slowest processing of information.
Throughout the 22 year run of the series he would continually refer to Rodney as 'Dave' for some unexplicable reason and despite evidence to the contrary. Writer John Sullivan found him the perfect vehicle to unearth the old joke about the road-sweeper
The one where the guy had kept the same broom throughout a long career in cleansing, only having to change the handle and the brush-head a few times each in the process. He also revealed that his father “died a couple of years before I was born” when asked about his background.
A country boy who came to the big city of Boston and worked at 'Cheers' to earn his living while pursuing a career in acting.
So in between attending auditions for commercials and bit-parts in TV shows he was serving drinks behind the bar.
Well-played by Woody Harrelson with natural comic-timing the character plumbed new depths in complete thickery and rustic naiveté.
He asked Bill Medley “How come you changed your name from Righteous?” when the singer appeared as himself in the show.
Portrayed as an unsophisticated hayseed from the backwoods of Indiana, Woody was the perfect foil to balance the sharp-witted and knowing humour of the city folk. Harrelson himself grew into the role superbly and became less of a foil for the rest of the cast as he developed the character.
Played by Emmy winning Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe.
The 'Dippy Hippy' from the hit TV series was always guaranteed to completely miss what was going on around her.
This included her dreadful singing and songwriting abilities.
These were a regular feature of the show in scenes at the Central Perk cafe. She composed songs such as ‘Ode to a Pubic Hair’ and ‘The Double-Double-Double-Jointed Boy’ and many more much worse.
This more than anything else showed her complete lack of self-awareness of people's reactions as she enjoyed an other-worldly existence detached from reality.
She would utter unintelligible sentences such as "They don't know that we know they know we know" or even worse words to that effect. But she had an endearing innocence and kindness of heart that sometimes transcended the infuriating density of the character.
Private Duane Doberman
(THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW)
Always the butt of Sergeant Bilko's most sardonic comments or money-making schemes.
Private Doberman, played by Maurice Gosfield could always be relied upon to get things wrong.
The childlike slob of an already ramshackle platoon of goldbrickers, wiseguys and losers all under the thrall of the scheming Sergeant.
His remarkable gullibility made him an easy target for his colleagues to take advantage of his easy nature.
He was continually being put upon for favours, duties or errands and rarely showed the gumption to raise a serious voice in protest. He was also at the prey of ruthless conmen or even worse, the manipulative cajoling of his sergeant.
At least he could take solace and refuge in his weekly meeting of the local 'Mouseketeers' every Wednesday.
Veteran actor Ballard Berkely was absolutely marvellous in this role.
He played the gin-soaked, ex-army officer permanently resident in the Hotel from Hell.
Obviously suffering from either mild senility or alcohol-related brain damage 'The Major' was a case study in confusion and decrepitude.
Completely scatter-brained and always liable to say the wrong thing at the wrong time he added to the chaos that could erupt in the hotel at any minute.
Enquiring about a lady guest's dog she informed him that it was "a little shih tzu" to which he replied "What breed?".
His conversations with Basil Fawtly were hilarious and much-underrated as the hapless waiter Manuel, played by Andrew Sachs, usually stole the limelight. Completely thick and ripe territory for a cheap laugh he nevertheless helped with the plot twist and turns of this glorious farce.
(MY NAME IS EARL)
Also known as 'Hispanic Randy' and played by Ethan Suplee.
Randy is the younger dopier brother of Earl Hickey.
He was Earl's partner in petty crime and mischief ever since childhood when he followed his elder brother around in fraternal devotion.
Described as being very dimwitted and simple he displays a childlike naiveté which makes him show kindness to others but also a lack of awareness of his actions sometimes.
Randy also has an extreme phobia of birds. So afraid is he of the winged fiends that he is scared of the Pope's mitre because he thinks there might be a chicken under it.
Among many of Randy's less than profound observations in life is his notion on the great question of the meaning of life
"Being dead is definitely worse than being alive. When you're dead you can't do all the cool stuff you can do when you're alive"
Reverend Jim Ignatowski
A scene-stealing portrayal by the brilliant Christopher Lloyd.
The 'Reverend' Jim was a drug-addled, spaced-out remnant of 1960s excess.
He screamed in his sleep, bought multiple TV's for his house as well as a racehorse which he kept in his living room.
A madly eccentric character with a shot memory and easily taken advantage of by his unscrupulous boss Louie dePalma played by Danny de Vito.
Preparing for a driving test he asks cab-driver Bobby, played by Jeff Conaway,"What does a yellow light mean?" Bobby replies "Slow down" so Jim says "Whaaat....doessss....aaa....yellowww....lighhhhht....meannnn?"
He was a true wild-eyed eccentric, a highly educated drop-out shuffling through life but gentle and vulnerable at the same. Lloyd brought depth and pathos to the part as he fleshed out the character but still remained a hilarious turn whenever he was on screen.
Lance-Corporal Jack Jones
A fondly remembered character from the classic 70's British comedy about a platoon of old soldiers of the Home Guard in World War 2.
He was memorably played by actor Clive Dunn who was actually about 20 years younger than the character and was made-up to look older.
Slowing down with age, Lance-Corporal Jones was always a second behind during military drill and a mile off during conversations.
He would perplex his commander Captain Mainwaring with his rambling reminiscences about serving in British imperial adventures.
He would also regale the platoon about fighting fierce natives and how “They don’t like it up ‘em” as he brandished his trusty bayonet. He often got himself into unnecessary scrapes through sheer incompetence or lapses in concentration.
The inevitable result was his famous "Don't Panic! Don't Panic!" catchphrase erupting from his lips as he lost his head whilst all around were keeping theirs. Jones was the archetypal doddering old fool in khaki but made more dangerous since he had access to loaded weapons.
A national treasure in British comedy.
Father Dougal McGuire
Another childlike character played by Ardal O'Hanlon.
He was one of three Catholic priests residing in the isolated parish of Craggy Island just off the Irish coast.
These clerical misfits succeeded in landing themselves in trouble with their misadventures both on the island and on the mainland.
Unfortunately Father Dougal's promise "Well, Ted, as I said last time, it won't happen again" proved to be totally non-prophetic.
He is arguably unsurpassed in the history of TV comedy as the thickest person to have walked God's Earth and with little real understanding of Christianity or its teachings.
Completely devoid of any intellectual capacity, common sense or insight he seemed destined to remain at the mental age of an 8 year old. The only saving grace is that he was cossetted by the head priest Father Ted Crilly who tried his best to keep him out of trouble from the outside world.
A not so golden girl as portrayed by Betty White.
The character of Rose was distinguished by the constant mistake of takings things quite literally.
Either through a natural born naiveté, simple-mindedness or the early onset of dementia, although never diagnosed.
Rose was usually working at one level below the rest of the girls causing frustration from Dorothy and Blanche or derision from the acid tongue of Sophia, the shrewish Sicilian grandmother.
She was especially exasperating when she entered into one of her nonsensical stories about St Olaf, her hometown. Reflecting back on schooldays she said "We weren't allowed to wear berets at my school, it was against the St. Olaf dress code. They did let me wear a paper cap, though. It was long and pointy".
However, she was mild-mannered and kind of heart, rarely disposed to anger or cruelty. A sweet geriatric version of the classic well-meaning bimbo with no brains.
:) on July 08, 2016:
I personally think Joey Tribbiani should replace Phoebe Buffay on that list
Mike on October 06, 2014:
What about Michael Kelso (That 70's show)
Dan on August 26, 2014:
How about Police Constable Penhale from Doc Martin? He's quite the dispstick.
SmoothG on February 22, 2014:
Cole on Martin
Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on April 19, 2013:
tun on April 18, 2013:
where is rees from malcolm?
LaZeric Freeman from Hammond on August 27, 2011:
How about "Buddy Lembeck" on Charles In Charge, who became dumber with each season? But the worst is "Potsie" from Happy Days, who went from cunning and clever to early altzheimer's by series end.
Craig Whyel from Charleroi, Pennsylvania on August 08, 2011:
Trigger was the best, Dave. Nice one. I wish more people in the US could know how wonderful a series Fools and Horses was. Great Hub.
Tom Koecke from Tacoma, Washington on May 11, 2011:
This is a fun Hub to read and see! I remember many of the characters from the America-side sitcoms, but you introduced me to many of the others! You could easily do a Part 2 and more on this topic to capture more clueless characters! I'll nominate Sgt. Wojo from Barney Miller, Kelso from That 70's Show, and almost the whole cast of 3rd Rock from the Sun!
attemptedhumour from Australia on May 11, 2011:
I was over here in Oz when Only fools and horses came out. I find the whole show too obvious and i can see the punch lines coming from a mile away. The Major is a Major character in Faulty Towers. As they all are. My favourite sit com ever. I loved Dad's army too. Very well written and performed by a stella cast. I've only seen bits of the other shows so i can't comment. Harold from Steptoe and son would fit the bill nicely. Cheers knobbly knees.
Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on January 24, 2010:
Thanks for dropping by Tammy, those songs were something else.
Tammy Lochmann on January 24, 2010:
My favorite was totally Phoebe Buffay. She was so sweet but so air heady...I laughed so hard when she sang that song,
what are they feeling you?
I enjoyed reading this. Tammy
Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on January 24, 2010:
Rev Jim was hilarious, it takes a great actor to make the part come alive.
Army Infantry Mom on January 24, 2010:
Reverend Jim Ignatowski was definitely my favorite dumbass for sure,.. This hub was a nice flashback, they just don't make good shows anymore, to many relatity shows now, High Five on the hub !!!
Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on January 18, 2010:
Great choices Jim. I thought about them but gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Manuel had the language problem, Exidor was plain crazy.
Baldrick I really considered and he could have been in there. I think I felt sorry for him :-)
Jim Bryan from Austin, TX on January 18, 2010:
I thought for sure Andrew Sachs as Manuel on "Fawlty Towers" would have made the list, or Robert Donner as Exidor from "Mork & Mindy," or Tony Robinson as Baldrick in "Black Adder."
Regardless, the list you generated (and the accompanying clips) were riotous.
Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on January 12, 2010:
I liked the way Woody Harrelson developed the role
daytripeer on January 12, 2010:
My favorite of this bunch has to be Woody on Cheers. I really enjoyed reading this. Good job.
Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on January 08, 2010:
I think Father Ted was the last classic comedy on UK TV. Still waiting for the next one.
jayjay40 from Bristol England on January 08, 2010:
Love this hub, my favourite dumbass is Father Dougal
McGuire, he cracks me up.
Shinkicker (author) from Scotland on January 08, 2010:
I remember first seeing him called in to marry a couple. He was hilarious. Great actor.
ralwus on January 08, 2010:
Reverend Jim Ignatowski, Christopher Lloyd was brilliant as this character. He is my all time favorite burn-out dumbass. I don't believe I've had the pleasure of seeing your first one as I am in America and I don't recall it. I also loved the little brunette who spit (she was a doll) while talking on Allo! Allo! Thanks for the memories. Boy Sgt. Bilko takes me back.