What is a butt monkey? He (or she) is that character in so many television shows — particularly comedies, but not always — that’s the butt of every joke, that is mistreated and crapped upon, but whom we take a particular delight is seeing humiliated. Television’s best butt monkeys never get a reprieve from the humiliation, they never get a victory, and they never get our sympathy, and yet somehow, often come away as fan favorites.
Let me explain by way of illustration with television’s ten biggest butt monkeys.
10. E.B. Farnum, Deadwood — There’s an entire 7-part series of videos on YouTube devoted to E.B. Farnum, and of the 75 minutes or so, it’s largely Farnum taking abuse — verbal and physical — from others, mostly from George Hearst, culminating in one of the most humiliating and emasculating scenes in Deadwood’s run: Hearst spits in Farnum’s face not once, but twice, and tells Farnum that if he wipes it off, Hearst will kill him. This of course leads to Farnum walking around with spit hanging from his facial hair all day, in fear of reprisal. That poor f**king sod.
9. Chuckie Marstein, Sons of Anarchy — The great irony about Chuckie is that he’s as loyal and faithful to SAMCRO as anyone else, and has always proven to be helpful in the club’s endeavors. He kind of has to be because even as reliable as he is, he’s dismissed by most of SAMCRO, mistreated, and insulted in part thanks, originally, to a masturbation disorder that led Lin to cut off his index fingers. He’s just one of those easy targets that’s so tolerant of verbal abuse (“I accept that”) and takes it with such good humor that it’s impossible not to give him sh*t.
8. Ted Buckland, Scrubs — For nine seasons, Ted Buckland was basically everyone’s punching bag, but mostly it was Dr. Kelso who verbally whipped every ounce of self-esteem and self-respect out of him, so much so that he couldn’t even muster the courage to kill himself. He lost his wife, his hair, and his ability to sustain an erection thanks to the demeaning treatment of Kelso, and yet, it never stopped being funny.
7. Sweet Dee, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — Though Charlie is the butt of many of the sitcom’s, it’s Sweet Dee that’s more likely to be dismissed, ignored, overlooked, mistreated, belittled or criticized by the rest of the gang. They once convinced her that her ancestors cracked the Liberty Bell. She was once ignored while having a heart attack, and in one particularly cruel incident, the Gang set up an elaborate rouse to convince her that she’d become a hugely successful stand-up comic only to reveal that it was all a joke they’d perpetrated upon her for making light of her own suicide.
6. Toby Flenderson, The Office — “Why are you the way that you are? Every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way. I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.” — Michael Scott, on Toby. I don’t even fully understand why Michael Scott hates and humiliates Toby, but I love that he does. Toby is a soft exception to the rule that butt monkeys get no sympathy, although as sorry as I often felt for Toby, Michael’s disdain for him never stopped being amusing.
5. Dr. Andre Nowzick, The League — Andre is an easy target and the brunt of most of his friends’ jokes, mostly because he’s a terrible dresser and has an embarrassing habit of trying to act cool and relevant when he most decidedly is not. He is constantly humiliated and never allowed any victories, e.g., even his engagement ended in disaster when his fiance went blind due to an allergy to his semen. To be fair, he is the worst and deserves all the humiliation he receives.
4. Pete Campbell, Mad Men — Few people deserve to be mistreated as much as the weaselly, philandering butt monkey Pete Campbell, who somehow manages to be humiliated even as he moves upwards. He’s a complaining, judgemental jerk, so when he slips down a staircase, runs into a wall, or into Lane Pryce’s fist, or gets set up by Bob Benson to wreck a car, we take immense satisfaction in his humiliation.
This never gets old.
Nor does this:
3. Theon Greyjoy, Game of Thrones — Physically, no one on this list has suffered more than Theon Greyjoy, who is absolutely immune to personal victories. He’s suffered a long, long litany of humiliations. He is held hostage by the Starks, he inadvertently gropes his sister; he is snubbed by his father; disrespected by his crew; botched an execution in the worst way imaginable; and he is tortured, castrated, and brain-washed. He’s really only being kept alive at this point to suffer even more humiliations.
2. Jerry/Larry/Terry Gergich, Parks and Recreation — Incredibly incompetent, his co-workers never pass up an opportunity to ignore his opinions, as they should because his opinions are always wrong. He is the butt of numerous jokes, constantly spills things on himself, and frequently brings that humiliation upon himself. Hell, he had to find out from a co-worker that he was adopted, and it says something about Jerry that one of the funniest scenes in the entire series was when Jerry had a heart attack. On the bright side, he has a huge penis and a hot wife.
1. Jonah Ryan, Veep — Jonah is an insufferable moron, a delusional, loathsome single-cell organism who is so awful that there is a supercut devoted to other people insulting him. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, we often feel a tiny inkling of pity for the poor bastard, who is knocked further and further off his perch each week. Still, he always comes back for more, as delusionally confident as ever, always game for further humiliation. Jonads is a force of nature, able to withstand enough insults to drive weaker men to multiple suicide attempts, and that’s why we love him.