Comedic Characters Who Were Secretly F-Yous
Creating Hollywood movies and TV shows obviously comes with lot of advantages (the money’s good, free donuts, etc.) but it also occasionally allows for the sweetest of all pursuits: petty revenge. Throughout the history of pop-culture comedy, some creatives have used their positions behind the camera to create characters that mainly exist to satiate the painfully relatable human urge to stick it to one's enemy.
Back To The Future’s Biff Tannen Was Named After A Famous Studio Executive
Lest the eighties’ most beloved family comedy go without any sexual assault or attempted murder, Back to the Future gave us the character of Biff Tannen, the repulsive bully/physical manifestation of Marty’s pent-up Oedipal repression and arch-nemesis of manure.
Where did this famous movie jerk get his name? Well, the Biff part seems like a no-brainer – is there anyone named Biff who wouldn’t steal a sports almanac to bankroll a sketchy alternate universe casino business? But as for his surname, that came from a fairly conspicuous source. You might remember the name “Ned Tanen” from the credits of movies like Sixteen Candles, and before that, he was the vice president of production at Universal during the making of movies like Jaws and American Graffiti.
Reportedly, Back to the Future screenwriters Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis clashed with Tanen back when they were shopping around the film I Wanna Hold Your Hand, with the executive claiming that the script was anti-semitic. Using his barely-modified last name to label a meathead rapist may have been a tad over the line, in retrospect.
Reality Bites – Ethan Hawke’s Flaky Slacker Was Named After The Screenwriter’s Uptight Conservative Classmate
In what is perhaps the most ‘90s movie imaginable, Reality Bites stars Winona Ryder as an aspiring documentarian torn between her new relationship with a successful TV executive, played by Ben Stiller, and her friendship with a handsome Gen X d-bag slacker played by Ethan Hawke. Some would argue that she ultimately made the wrong choice and probably ruined her life – but hey, at least we got to hear “My Sharona” in the process.
Screenwriter Helen Childress chose to name this bathing-averse, anti-authoritarian hero after one of her former USC film school classmates: Troy Dyer. Not because he was a goateed amateur philosopher but because he was precisely the opposite. It was reportedly an “inside joke” since the real Dyer was: “straight-laced, mature, conservative” – pretty much everything Hawke’s character wasn’t.
Apparently, having his name applied to his Bizarro self in a major motion picture rubbed Dyer the wrong way, as he ended up suing for defamation, claiming that his newfound association with a famous “rebellious slacker" had “negatively affected his work as a financial consultant in Wisconsin.” And, to be fair, who would want financial advice from this dude –
And speaking of bad financial advice …
Seinfeld – The “Sniffing Accountant” Was Payback For A Real-Life Scam
In the fifth season of Seinfeld, Jerry becomes concerned that his accountant won’t stop sniffing. Giant narc that he is, Jerry won’t let go of the issue and even enlists Kramer to entrap the guy – which doesn’t work. After briefly believing that the accountant’s persistent nostril irritation was really just an allergic reaction to a mohair sweater, Jerry eventually learns that the guy in charge of his finances was indeed a coke fiend who stole a bunch of his money in order to bankroll the habit.
Seinfeld claimed in the show’s DVD extras that this storyline was inspired by his actual accountant – or rather, his former accountant – who allegedly stole around $50,000 from the comedian and “snorted it up his nose.”
According to Seinfeld, he just gave the unnamed guy ”an envelope of cash, and never saw it again.” Seinfeld was so obsessed with the incident and how much he “hated” the accountant that he turned it into an episode of the show as “some measure of revenge.” No word on whether or not Seinfeld was ever terrorized by a real-life doorman, though.
Community – A Character Was Created Purely To Annoy A Network Executive
Community is obviously a show packed full of hidden gags and obscure references, but one meta joke virtually no one stood a chance of picking up on, save for the production staff of Community, came in the third season episode “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” – perhaps best remembered as the episode in which “Subway” the new “corpro-humanoid” student shows up.
But there’s a whole other storyline in which Jeff Winger finds out that he has a Greendale locker he never knew about for some reason, and it’s full of angry notes from someone named “Kim” – who turns out to be a resentful dude that Jeff never took “seriously” because “he had a girl’s name.”
According to Dan Harmon, this entire B-story was concocted purely to “get under the skin of Kim Rozenfeld,” Sony’s head of programming at the time, who would frequently send notes to the writers. And this is why there’s a mostly pointless plotline about how, as Harmon succinctly put it in an interview, “Kim's a girl's name and who cares about his notes.”
Filmmakers Love Naming Villains After Film Critics, Apparently
As anyone who’s ever attended a Thanksgiving dinner with their family can attest, being subjected to relentless criticism can be tough – so much so that some filmmakers have responded to the words of movie critics, not with growth and emotional maturation, but by naming some fictional dickhole in their next project after the offending critic.
This happened with 1994’s The Ref, the Christmas movie where Dennis Leary plays a burglar who inexplicably sounds like a stand-up comedian – in retrospect, this guy should have quit burgling houses and popped by some open mic nights.
As for the film’s philandering military school instructor who’s being blackmailed by a student, his name just happened to be Col. Siskel. Reportedly, the character was named as revenge for comments” made by Gene Siskel, who gave a thumbs-down to The Ref co-writer Richard LaGravenese’s earlier film The Fisher King. Siskel claimed that he wasn’t mad, only disappointed that “Jack Nicholson didn’t play my character.” Similarly, the grotesque alien villain of Galaxy Quest –
– was named “Sarris,” presumably because of critic Andrew Sarris, who had previously called Galaxy Quest producer Mark Johnson’s film The Natural “a pathetic strike-out.” When reached for comment back in 1999, the human Sarris remarked: “It probably won’t make enough money for me to sue for $10 million,” adding. “As long as they spelled my name right, I’m okay.”
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