Family Guy has been around for a long time positively doing the things that make people laugh (though not cry). Over the show’s 13 seasons, creator Seth MacFarlane and his writing staff have introduced audiences to vast community of weirdoes, snobs, animal-suited men, faux intellectuals, and closeted criminals, with many of them becoming almost as important to the show as the severely dysfunctional family at its center. But for all the quirks one can bring up when discussing Quahog’s citizens, the only quality that matters to me is being funny.
The efficacy of Family Guy’s humor from season to season is worth its own argument-inciting ranking, but for now, we’re focused just on the show’s 10 funniest characters. Note that this isn’t a reflection on the character’s importance or any other trait that isn’t about producing chuckles. And also note that Meg would be dead last, no matter what list we went with.
10. Mr. HerbertThe only thing that’s more uncomfortable than the majority of Mr. Herbert’s perverse lines – such as “Whoever can swallow the most Tylenol PMs wins” – is how much they make me laugh without really offering up a joke. The nuance-free Mr. Herbert is fully preoccupied with fantasizing about having sex with much, much younger members of the male gender, and while any form of pedophilia should be regarded with disdain, his quest to seduce Chris Griffin is akin to Wile E. Coyote trying to catch and eat the Roadrunner. Knowing it’ll never happen somehow allows me to snigger (albeit shamefully) when he brings up his basement full of sugary sweets. He’s also one of the only characters whose mere silent presence in a location, such as an elementary school, is funnier than any line that he could whistle out.
9. LoisIt’s a shame that Lois is the only woman on this list, but it’s not that surprising, given Family Guy’s stereotype cubby-holing for its female characters. Still, Lois is one of the funniest moms that TV has ever known, maintaining a sense of responsibility while also being the series’ main source of general humor and genuine sexual energy. A lot of her best moments come when she’s treating her family members like shit, which happens quite often, and she’s also got a pitch black personality that leads to constant obsessive behavior. It’s almost like she’s the grounded surrogate character for the audience to connect with, only one that’s bisexual, into S&M and is the source of Quagmire’s most intense fantasies. We all get like that sometimes, am I right?
8. JoeIt’s no easy task to defend Family Guy characters and their avenues to humor, and paraplegic neighbor Joe Swanson is one of the bigger challenges. Sure, one can make a fair argument that voice actor Patrick “Let’s do this!!!” Warburton is the real strength behind Joe’s hilarity, but for every one joke centered on how loudly Joe can yell, there are seven that play on the fact that his legs don’t work. Whether it’s showing off just how Olympian his upper body strength is in comparison, or poking fun at Joe and Bonnie’s sex life, Family Guy uses Joe for just about every one of its physically-disabled jokes, and they’re usually spot on, despite their bad taste. So much so that when Joe inevitably got the episode when his legs worked again, he lost some of his wheeled-in charm.
7. ClevelandParty over hee-yurrr! The only character great enough to get his own spinoff series – the superior (to me) Cleveland Show – Cleveland Brown has one of the more unique personalities in Quahog, which serves to make him more interesting than just “the main black guy.” (Family Guy definitely took a hit when Cleveland left Quahog, and his return to the series has been most welcome.) His slowed-down approach to life makes him less likely to treat troublesome situations with just an “mm-hmm” or some ever-interrupted bathtime, and he’s also had one of the greatest crying moments in comedy history. That said, he’s not above threatening punches to the dick when he gets angry, and his rage is quite unique. And whether he’s with Loretta or Donna, Cleveland’s inabilities to be a pleasurable husband will never get old.
6. PeterWhile I generally think that comparing Family Guy to The Simpsons is like comparing fruits, the only lead TV character dumber than Homer Simpson is Peter Griffin – or is that Pea-Tear Griffin – and that bottomless ignorance has led to some of Family Guy’s most memorable gags, both in-scene and cutaways. (His obsession with Conway Twitty does not count here.) And while Peter’s prevalence in the show means he gets the lion’s share of killer jokes and Good Times references, he also get a huge chunk of the show’s flattest bits, balancing him out as a source of entertainment. For every quality rip at Meg’s expense, there’s yet another bad one, followed by him holding a wounded knee for three minutes.
5. Tom TuckerIf Tom Tucker was an actual news reporter, either local or on a 24-hour cable network, I would tune in every single night. And he’d be the one celebrity I’d legitimately yearn to see on terrible reality shows. While he shares many politically incorrect qualities that other Family Guy characters exhibit, he’s the most famous and narcissistic one, and he stands behind a rugged mustache. (Fake though it may be.) His hate-filled banter with co-anchors Diane and Joyce often made the news segments my favorite bits of the episodes, and he may be my favorite fictional TV newscaster behind Ted Baxter and Kent Brockman. Tucker’s occasional forays into vileness are the icing on the cake, with the sugar-made centerpiece being his upside-down-faced son Jake. It’s time for another spinoff, MacFarlane. This is your guy.
4. Mayor WestWhile Peter’s lack of intelligence leads to most of his best lines, Mayor West’s most hysterical bits come from his lack of mental capacity. That he’s able to stay the mayor is perfectly acceptable by all means in this town, and it gives him the ability to act out his delusions on a grander scale than any other side character. (Not that anybody else would ever even try to get a gold statue of the Dig ‘Em frog built.) Had the crazy mayor role have been taken on by MacFarlane or one of the show’s other voice actors, this might have been an amusing character, but actor Adam West is impeccable as Mayor Adam West, and I’m admittedly incapable of separating the two in my mind anymore. Except one of them is 95% helium.
3. QuagmireAs a character whose main character trait is “will stick his penis into anything,” Quagmire has successfully roused laughs with gross-out discomfort for an extremely long time. With his trademark catchphrase “Giggity” at the ready, Quagmire has yet to enter a conversation that he can’t spice up with a memory of an embarrassing sexual encounter (some much more rapey than others). His chauvinism is constant, even when his empathy is on hand – on hand, allllright – but the show very rarely paints him out to be anything resembling a good guy, so viewers can either be amused by his all-or-nothing distasteful irreverence or they can hate it. Either way, he totally had sex with Joe without realizing it, and is also capable of a solid Bill Clinton impression.
2. StewieI’m not going to stand here and say that Stewie isn’t the most iconic and dynamic character on Family Guy, because he definitely is. But he’s not qui-i-ite the funniest. Stewie is a character that entered the TV landscape as a precociously hyper-violent toddler hellbent on taking out his own mother, which was a good schtick for a while. But it’s when MacFarlane & Co. eased up on the youthful traits and just made him a little naïve adult in a child’s world that he really became a quotable treasure for me, able to replicate time travel whenever necessary, but never quite understanding sexuality or other emotionally mature concepts. Plus, his sadistic motivations never went away; they just got better incorporated into his bag of tricks. A bag that also contains rocket skis and a flamethrower.
1. BrianI know a lot of people are going to want to feed me to the dogs for choosing Brian over Stewie, but I think his sense of humor is allowed to be much more layered and detail-friendly than his younger buddy. As someone who enjoys appearing nonchalantly pompous, Brian gets to make references to a wealth of subjects in all areas of study, while conversely living the same sordid everyday life as everyone else on this show. Slightly more so, even, as he’s particularly fond of getting trashed and finding things to flirt with. (Anybody who dates Jillian has got to have a great sense of humor.) His death stunt was a fail on the show’s part, for me, as a plethora of Brian-specific instances were left by the wayside. Like barking ferociously at a baby, for instance.
Who do you guys think is Family Guy’s funniest character?