Power Ranking The 10 Funniest Sitcom Second Banana Characters
What’s so funny about bananas anyway? In vaudeville, slipping on a peel was high hilarity, but we’re past that now. Going Bananas was the title of both TV and movie comedies, both dreadful, both co-starring tiresome chimps. Steve Harvey once told a young comic to open with his banana joke since it was his strongest. Seriously? Unless the comedian was in second grade, he probably needs to find a new line of work.
Ah, but second bananas? That’s another story entirely. The supporting sitcom cast member is often funnier than the lead player, their secondary status giving them free rein to wreak comic havoc. Who does it best? Let’s strap on our power-ranking goggles and identify the number one #2. (FYI, we’re limiting this to 21st-century sitcoms, so George Costanza, Barney Gumble, and friends need not apply.)
Lillian Kaushtupper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
It’s not like Kimmy Schmidt needs another agent of chaos in her life, but derelict landlord Lillian fills the bill. As a surrogate parental figure, Lillian brings the added benefits of being a part-time drug dealer and probable member of the hue-challenged street gang, the Banana Boys. (Hey, maybe bananas are funny after all.)
Say what you will about Lillian, but she’s passionate about her neighborhood and young, muscled men.
Morty, Rick and Morty
While Rick and Morty are technically co-stars, Morty is clearly the sidekick. He’s also the show’s ethical center, wrenching Rick’s moral compass back in a direction that isn’t 100%, completely, totally horrific. Could be boring but Morty, loosely based on Michael J. Fox’s Back to the Future character Marty, brings a delightful array of anxious tics, second guesses, and pungent flop sweat to the party.
And it’s not like the guy can’t fire a photon blaster if he absolutely has to.
Roland Schitt, Schitt’s Creek
In case you haven’t heard, Roland, a fourth-generation Schitt, is the Mayor of Schitt’s Creek. He’s also what passes for the law around here, so if you’re looking for an ass to kiss, it’s his. Pucker up, friends.
Charles Boyle, Brooklyn 99
Rarely is a character as eager to be a second banana as Boyle is to best buddy Jake Peralta. Boyle is the Tinkerbell to Jake’s Peter Pan. And don't think Tink isn't tough – “Tinker Bell is a loyal lieutenant and a real thorn in the side to Captain Hook.” Boyle is NYPD blue through and through, the only regular member of the Nine-Nine (besides Hitchock and Scully) not to leave the force by the end of the series. Now he’s Senior Detective Boyle to you.
He is also the proud recipient of the NYPD Medal for Valor, earned by saving Diaz and taking a bullet to the buttock. Way to take one for the team, Boyle.
Gob, Arrested Development
(Cue Europe’s “The Final Countdown”) The oldest Bluth child clearly plays second banana in the family hierarchy, except when it comes to the magical arts. Curiously, he is also the creator of Mr. Bananagrabber, a Hamburgler ripoff who will do anything for that delicious yellow fruit. He eventually gives the Mr. Bananagrabber animation rights to Michael in exchange for a free Bluth Banana.
… we may have to rethink this funny banana business.
Rebecca, Ted Lasso
How do you counter the unrelentingly cheerful optimism of Ted Lasso? You give him a boss who’s a vengeful, out-for-blood schemer. But Rebecca Welton is a villain we can (sort of) root for -- who doesn’t want to see her stick it to her disgusting ex, Rupert?
Rebecca is a powerful, impressive woman, but hardly infallible. After all, she believes the meme that says she made Michael Jordan cry. Give that lady a redemption arc and an Emmy! (They did.)
Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation
Now we’re getting into the rarified air. Like Ted Lasso and Rebecca, Ron Swanson is the bitter hunk of salt pork that pairs perfectly with Leslie Knope’s sweet waffle of a civic wonk.
Ronald Ulysses Swanson is a man’s man, a maker of fine wooden furniture and (secretly) a virtuoso smooth-jazz saxophonist. Heck, his sturdy mustache alone would have made this list. Ron’s only Achilles heel? A quivering weakness for women named Tammy.
Principal Ava, Abbott Elementary
The newest second banana on the list, Principal Ava is a scream and a scammer. In a sea of goodhearted educators trying to make a better life for children, Ava is the only one who might push a second grader out of her way during a fire drill. But she is capable of considering others -- who knows what she might steal for her students?
When she’s not laying down the law as principal, Avia is also a social media influencer par excellence: “TikTok is my art. I write, I edit, I direct, I do the music, I lip-sync.”
You might think show creator Dan Harmon was more of a Jeff type. He thought so too, at first, as both Jeff and Dan use their motormouths to get nearly anything they want. But while researching Asperger’s for the show, Harmon discovered a lot of elements that felt surprisingly familiar, including both inappropriate emotional reactions and deep empathy. So while Harmon originally wrote Jeff as his doppelganger, he ultimately identified most with Abed.
Abed himself is one of the all-time great supporting characters, with an uncanny ability to relate pop culture to reality that is, well, relatable. Was the show’s point of view ultimately filtered through Abed’s eyes? Does that just make us characters in Abed’s meta-verse, watching him when, secretly, he’s watching us? It was Abed himself who noted that he was Michael Rider while Jeff was actually K.I.T.T. the talking car. Who’s really the second banana here anyway?
Erg, this is making our heads hurt. Let’s go watch Kickpuncher.
Dwight K. Shrute, The Office
The assistant to the regional manager is the ultimate number two, a lieutenant who aspires to be nothing less than the ultimate second in command. In fact, Dwight’s Number Two-ness is the essence of his character. Yes, yes, Dwight says he wants to run the place but in his heart of hearts, he knows he’s best cut out to be a deputy. Literally, he’s a volunteer sheriff deputy. He’s also the senpai at his dojo -- second banana once again.
But being second doesn’t mean Dwight doesn’t have skillz. He’s a top-performing salesman, an entrepreneur, a beet mogul, and a bed-and-breakfast baron, though surely it’s an Airbnb at this point.
While other characters took weird turns over the course of The Office’s too many seasons, Dwight was the North Star, a consistently awkward beacon of weirdness for subordinates everywhere. Congratulations, Mr. Schrute -- you just won the Dundie for Best Second Banana.
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Top image: Sony Pictures Television