Rarely has a character felt so strange and outrageous while being so familiar and identifiable. I don’t know about you, but I can relate to Sheldon Cooper’s odd obsessions and anal way of conducting himself (and the things/people around him). On the other hand, he is the most peculiar and unworldly person I have ever seen depicted on television, and this fascinates me. This is just one reason why I find his character on The Big Bang Theory to be among the best comedy sitcom characters ever created—and perfectly portrayed by a mesmerizing Jim Parsons. Realizing the importance of that character on an already intelligently written and hilariously conceived show, I’ve decided to make a short list of the best comedic characters currently on television. Here they are.
Ten great and current television comedic characters
1. Sheldon Cooper
Played by Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
If you’ve seen The Big Bang Theory, you know why Sheldon is on the list; if you love The Big Bang Theory, you know why he’s at the top. There is no other character like him out there. He makes his show succeed, perfectly complementing every one of its elements and fellow talented cast members.
2. Leslie Knope
Played by Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
#2 is a hard one to assign, but I’ve given it to Ms. Poehler for her always-funny embodiment of the endearingly oblivious, selflessly ambitious, admiringly optimistic, and often wildly inappropriate government employee Leslie Knope. Surrounded by a great cast, she brings out the best in everyone else while intelligently working off their individual comedic talents.
3. Jack Donaghy
Played by Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Deep-voiced, strangely self-composed, and inappropriately haughty Jack Donaghy graces 30 Rock with hilariously placed right wing politics and executive-level employee criticism. Nothing, however, beats the laughs produced from his amazing chemistry with 30 Rock other half Liz Lemon (#5 on this list).
4. Sue Sylvester
Played by Jane Lynch, Glee
The best part of the otherwise dumbed-down Glee, Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester steals every scene with laugh-out-loud sharply critical remarks directed at the heart of the show’s almost painfully upbeat attitude. She is the out right funny to the otherwise lukewarm satirical comedy. Ms. Lynch (and many of the over-the-top music/dance numbers) makes Glee worth watching.
5. Liz Lemon
Played by Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Tina Fey never fails to come up with the quirkiest but funniest references to her embarrassing personal habits and weaknesses, pushing TMI further than any other network comedy and setting up some fantastic comedic situations. Skillfully working off funny people Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, and, of course, Alec Baldwin, as well as some great guests like Jon Hamm and Matt Damon, Ms. Fey makes a lovably clueless and straightforward Liz Lemon.
6. George Christopher
Played by Ted Danson, Bored to Death
A pothead magazine writer/editor isn’t an easy character to come by, but he’s here in the shape of George Christopher in a fantastically funny turn by veteran television actor Ted Danson. You can expect him to lighten up the mood and put things in “high” perspective whenever things go enjoyably wrong for protagonist Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) and lovably downbeat friend Ray (Zach Galifianakis).
7. Michael Scott
Played by Steve Carrell, The Office
Michael has greatly changed over the years, but remains – throughout all his outrageous ideas, selfish obsessions, naïve enterprises, and inappropriate behavior – the entertaining heart of The Office. Whether a hilarious episode or a dud, we can always count on at least a few laughs from Mr. Carrell.
8. Gloria Delgado
Played by Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Modern Family has a great, funny cast—including Eric Stonestreet as Cameron and Ed O’Neill as Jay—but Ms. Vergara takes the cake with her consistently hilarious depiction of the clever, aggressive, and overly-sensitive Colombian “housewife” and proud mother Gloria Delgado. Her stunning looks don’t stop her from being one of the most entertaining people on television.
9. Dwight Schrute
Played by Rainn Wilson, The Office
A strange creature, Mr. Wilson employs every inch of himself to create the oddity and persistently funny character that is Dwight Schrute. From day one, he has been at the forefront of The Office’s offbeat, subtle—and not so subtle–, discomforting yet familiar, idiosyncratic, character-based comedy.
10. Howard Walowitz
Played by Simon Helberg, The Big Bang Theory
While Mr. Parsons gets most of the recognition for elevating TBBT to greatness, Mr. Helberg delivers consistent laughs from his spot-on portrayal of 6% body-fat funny man Howard Walowitz. He gives us, for example, one of the best (Jewish) mother-son relationships, where the mother is either an invisible screeching and nagging voice or the other end of an annoying phone conversation.
Ron Swanson, played by Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation
Cameron Tucker, played by Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
* Many of these characters can be seen on the television series that made my Best of 2010 list.