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Ranked: Every Character on Community, From Least Funny to Funniest

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An ode to Greendale’s finest.

Tomorrow night, Community returns to TV. To celebrate, we gave ourselves an assignment: rank its amazingly funny cast of characters from least funny to funniest. Since almost every main character has a shot at the top spot, it wasn't going to be easy — you could check in with us hourly and our top rankings would probably change each time — but somehow, we did it.   

 

25. Pavel (Dominik Musiol)  

Troy and Abed's Polish dormmate, Pavel, is given little to do besides pop in on the pair and ask what's up. His accent gives him some color, but it doesn’t make him funny.

24. Magnitude (Luke Youngblood)

Magnitude's character has one signature joke. (He says “Pop pop,” for those of you who don't watch the show.) Unfortunately, that one joke is meaningless and overdone.

23. Quendra (Marcy McCusker)

Poor Quendra-with-a-Qu, you never really had a chance. If Jeff had liked you more, you might have had a longer stay on the show and had more of a shot. But still, points for your delivery of the phrase “I love footballs.”

22. Dean Spreck (Jordan Black)

The dean of Greendale’s rival City College, Dean Spreck is just as oddly sexual as Dean Pelton, but in a much more sinister way. His obvious hate/love/lust relationship with Dean Pelton is amusing, and so is the idea of community-college nemeses… but his actual character doesn’t really make us laugh.

21. Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner)

Much like Shirley, her reformed husband suffers in terms of his funniness because he has to be a good person. Luckily, that doesn't stop the show from putting former Cosby kid Malcolm-Jamal Warner in a crazy sweater — according to Andre, a gift from his dad. A meta-joke, but we’ll take it.

20. Leonard (Richard Erdman)

Sometimes, Leonard feels like the character to whom Community's writers give all the jokes that didn't quite work for Pierce. But sometimes he hits the spot; also, I don't think Pierce looks old enough to have been in The Little Rascals.

19. Male Nurse Jackie (Patton Oswalt)

Why hasn't Patton Oswalt returned to Community more? (What's that you say? Probably money?) His role is a bit thankless, but Oswalt is a good enough comedian to know that if you only get to say "herpes" once, you'd better make it count.

18. Vicki (Danielle Kaplowitz)

Mostly used as a punching bag for Pierce — but a pretty good punching bag! — Vicki didn't leave much of an impression until we saw her listless saloon girl dancing in “A Fistful of Paintballs."

17. Professor Michelle Slater (Lauren Stamile)

Professor Slater got some good lines in there — it's always fun to hear someone shut Jeff down, as she does repeatedly (before dating him) — but unfortunately, when she was up against the main cast, she just couldn't sell it all the way.

16. Professor Whitman (John Michael Higgins)

A parody of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, Professor Whitman is there mostly to annoy Jeff, who has no interest in seizing the day. The character doesn’t get to do much, but comedy vet John Michael Higgins brings just the right kind of desk-jumping verve.

15. Senor Chang (Ken Jeong)

I'm going to get hell for this, but Senor Chang's manic, grating character is the only main character the show just can't seem to get right. He's meant to be pathetic and off-putting, sure, but he needs to be those thing and also funny. There is something about the way Ken Jeong portrays Chang that is just one step too far out of the show's reality. (And this is a show that's already about four steps out.) I will say this, though: Chang is funny when he's breaking things, like when he's beating up a car with a keytar, breaking a lamp with nunchucks, or flipping over tables in the cafeteria.

14. Star-Burns (Dino Stamatopoulos)

While Star-Burns’ increasing attempts to stand out — adding a top hat to his ridiculous facial hair, etc. — are a nice background joke, they're not really laugh-out-loud funny. But the character does yeoman's work in smaller scenes. He lands this high on the list for one particularly glorious moment: when, as he slowly deteriorates from a horrifying zombie virus, he plaintively shouts out, “My name is Alex!” And no one cares.

13. Fat Neil (Charley Koontz)

Fat Neil is responsible for "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons," a truly hysterical episode of Community (though, in the show itself, he’s not so much funny as sad.) In previous episodes, he’s mostly used as a punching bag and a reaction-shot machine, but he places so high because his reaction shots are some of the best — pitiable, full of sadness, and still hilarious.

12. Garrett (Erik Charles Nielsen)

Garrett's sputtering, somehow-both-flat-and-excited manner could get annoying quickly, but the show knows to use him in small doses. His natural discomposure makes his big moments spot-on (like when he warns Jeff about the paintball game that's taken a turn for the serious), and his small moments wonderfully weird (like when he turns a three-word weather report for “Troy & Abed in the Morning” into a punchline).

11. Rich (Greg Cromer)

Also known as Doc Potterywood, Rich is the seemingly perfect guy who drives Jeff insane, and his unflinching earnestness is the perfect counterpoint to the group's moral failings. His good-boy routine is fun, but I like him best when he's dooming the group to death by zombie. (“I thought I was speeeeciaaaaal…”)

10. Vaughn (Eric Christian Olsen)   

"Hi. What's up?" "Hey, Vaughn." The perfect send-up of every pseudo-hippie, hacky-sack playing dude you ever met at college, Vaughn is the Rich before Rich — a polar opposite of Jeff, moving in on one of his ladies. He rambles about antioxidants. He says “lates” for “later.” He never wears a shirt. But best of all, he sings the classic Community songs "Getting Rid of Britta," and one I can only assume is called "Pierce You're a B."

9. Professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver)

What kind of psychologist do you have to be to end up at Greendale? A terrible, self-serving, alcoholic one, of course. Professor Duncan's open disregard for his job, the school, and many of its students — combined with, not going to lie, his British accent — make his appearances as caustic as they are welcome. His stand-out moment, though, is probably his terrible drunken rap at the Transfer Dance. You know what, I'll just go ahead and quote it: "My name's Ian Duncan and I'm here to say / I'm going to rap to the beat in a rapping way / I've got a real big penis and I drink lots of tea."

8. Shirley Bennet (Yvette Nicole Brown)

Shirley's comedic value may be hampered by her sweet, caring nature. But that sweetness just makes her darker side that much more fun — and I’m not just talking about her fits of rage. (Though watching her beat a man with a giant candy cane or threaten to "make a pie" with a pumpkin-costumed Leonard is great.) No, truly her best moments are the most passive-aggressive, when we can see her desperately trying to cling to her ultra-nice persona and failing. Her Christmas party is a study in barely contained outrage, but best of all is when she takes Annie's menorah and sweetly hides it in the bowels of her Christmas tree.

7. Dean Pelton (Jim Rash)

There is a lot I could write about Dean Pelton — about his ongoing crush on Jeff, for instance, or his fetish for people dressed as dalmatians — but honestly, the only thing you need in order to understand why he's one of the best characters is the montage of his ridiculous costumes in "Paradigms of Human Memory." You just can't beat a grown man in a Catwoman costume announcing "Feline AIDS Awareness Day." Go watch it. Now.

6. Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs)

Clearly created to be the Rachel to Jeff's Ross, Britta was really only able to come into her own as a character when the writers followed the natural rhythm of the show and eased off that relationship. It's the pull between the jaded activist Britta wants to be and the vulnerable phony she worries she is that makes her character great — just watch how quickly she goes from proudly announcing she hasn't done laundry in weeks to gloating about winning a contest "for being hot" in "Pascal's Triangle Revisited." And out of the whole group, no one can go toe-to-toe with Jeff in an insult-off like she can.

 

5. Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase)

In the second season, Pierce became a bit of a villain, as the show itself noted. He was mean (well, more than usual), he was sad (well, more than usual), and the lightness the character had in the first season was slowly stripped away. Some might say that made the character less funny, and I could see that. But there is one thing that will always, always save this character: pratfalls. Chevy Chase is a master at the physical comedy of falling down — over drum kits, into dumpsters, off tables… Truly, I could watch it forever.

4. Jeff Winger (Joel McHale)

The main character has a tough job, especially when he needs to strike a delicate balance between being a good guy and being a total dick. And while there's certainly no straight man on Community, Jeff is sometimes there for the other characters to bounce off of. He's still wildly funny of course: vain, too smart for his own good, and eternally over it, Jeff is so fun to watch because he's so eager to prove he doesn't care. (Spoiler: he does.) His funniest moments (that aren't zingers) are when he's at his weakest: when he admits to Abed that his mother dressed him in a girl's costume for Halloween or when he attacks a romantic rival and inadvertently reenacts a scene from Ghost.

3. Annie Edison (Alison Brie)

Is it because Alison Brie looks like a Disney princess that Annie caught us so off-guard? The good girl (and recovering pill addict) of the group, Annie is secretly competitive and conniving, despite her youth and deceptively sweet sweater sets. If she didn't look (and act, and sound…) like such a goodie-two-shoes, it would be nowhere near as hilarious when she violently chloroforms janitors or mimes deeply explicit sex acts in a game of Dungeons & Dragons.

2. Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi)

Many claim Abed is the breakout character of Community, and even though he's coming in second, I would agree. (Seldom has a character like this appeared on TV without being a robot of some kind.) Abed's stream of pop-culture references is so detailed and so long, it's impossible to think you've caught them all. His shifts in character — vampire, Don Draper, Jeff Winger — are as spot-on as they are surprising. Abed's generally hilarious, but one of his best moments contained very few laughs — the sustained, oddly serious monolog about his life-changing experience on the set of Cougar Town that built upon itself until you couldn't help but guffaw.

1. Troy Barnes (Donald Glover)

There are many different Troys: dumb Troy, cocky Troy, wide-eyed Troy, crying Troy… and all of them are funny. I wish I could just list off all the hilarious Troy moments that immediately come to my mind when I think of his character (singing that oddly conservative football chant, his "sexy Dracula" costume, his back and forth with Jeff about being racist and/or gay, "That's a fun-time snack!"), but I feel like we'd be here forever. Perhaps it's just because Donald Glover is such a gifted actor, but all of these different Troys make sense as one person. The truth is, when Troy's onscreen, I'm almost always laughing.