Nice Guys of Comedy
Nice guys finish last?? Hardly! In a macho world, there’s just something about nice guys … and you can find plenty of genuinely nice guys in comedy right now!
The ‘nice guy’ trope is most often part of the ‘EveryMan (aka ‘every person’)’ archetype, which is characterised by belonging, love and enjoyment.
These characters love a good time, but they are just as eager to help out and support their friends or family. This is why comedy frequently has such characters, even in the age of the antihero right now.
Here’s some of B2W’s favourites. Ready? Let’s go …
1) Jonah, Superstore
If you’re looking for a nice guy in comedy, look no further than Jonah from Superstore. He always means well and is willing to go the extra mile.
Though he can be a little performative, he is also willing to take on feedback and change his ways. My favourite parts are always when Garret and Amy take the mickey out of him!
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN: Jonah is nearly always super-calm, especially in a crisis. How would YOUR calm character react when something bad happens? How will your other characters relate to him in that crisis?
2) Guy, Free Guy
Free Guy stars Ryan Reynolds as a bank teller who discovers he’s actually a non-player character in a video game world. As he comes to grips with his new reality, he sets out to be the hero of his own story and ends up becoming the unlikely saviour of the game itself. It’s a fun, action-packed romp with plenty of laughs, and Reynolds is at his charming best.
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN: Heroes don’t have to wear capes. What endears us to Guy is how naive he is. In addition, though he is in love with the female lead, he never gets creepy or toxic.
3) Stede Bonnet, Our Flag Means Death
Many viewers of the TV show don’t realise Stede Bonnet was a REAL man (though whether he was actually in love with Blackbeard is up for debate). Known as ‘The Gentleman Pirate’, Bonnet was best known for flying a pirate flag that read “Our Flag Means Death” during his short-lived career as a pirate. The TV show was a big hit not only for its LGBTQ inclusion, but its diverse cast. Blackbeard fans – of which B2W is one – also confirm it is also surprisingly historically accurate for a comedy show!
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN: Like Guy in Free Guy, Stede is naive and easily taken advantage of. However, because he wants the best for everyone, we don’t want him to fall by the wayside. We’re rooting for him!
4) Steve (aka ‘Donut Lord’), Sonic The Hedgehog
Steve is a cop in a small town dubbed ‘Donut Lord’ by Sonic because he ‘helps lots of people and eats lots of donuts’. Steve dreams of being a cop in a big city, but that doesn’t mean he finds small-town life pointless. He’s committed and always ready to help out. This is why he shelters Sonic The Hedgehog from Doctor Robotnik. Steve will never stand for injustice!
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN: In the post-BLM era, audiences don’t like to see police characters breaking the rules (even for supposedly ‘good’ reasons). We want cop characters with pure motives, like Steve.
5) Joel, Santa Clarita Diet
Joel’s suburban world turns upside down when his wife, Sheila dies and is resurrected as one of The Undead. It does have its benefits – Sheila’s sex appeal goes WILD – but he discovers he is soon in over his head trying to keep her fed with human meat. Worse, he has to make sure teen daughter Abbie doesn’t go off the rails … oh, and that their police officer neighbour doesn’t bust them all for murder. Yikes!
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN: Nice guy characters can be sexual like Joel and can even do BAD things (like murder) … as long as it’s for a GOOD reason (really!). Just remember the victim has to be the ABSOLUTE WORST!!
6) Ted, Ted Lasso
Ted Lasso has to be the most prominent nice guy in comedy on this list. He is always cheerful and upbeat, even when things are tough. He’s always there for his friends, and he never hesitates to lend a helping hand. He’s always quick with a joke, and he never takes himself too seriously.
Ted is the kind of guy that everyone wants to be friends with because he always makes everyone feel welcome. That’s why it’s so sad he is villain Nate’s Origin Story, proving even good guys can make enemies by accident.
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN: Ted proves niceness can be his whole personality, which is refreshing when nice characters are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. However it’s his personal tragedies – such as his marriage breakdown and sorrow at being parted from son Henry – that gives Ted layers and nuance.
7) Phil Dunphy, Modern Family
Phil Dunphy is one of the most lovable characters on Modern Family. I absolutely love how he thinks he is a ‘bad boy’. The reality is he’s a supportive husband to Claire and a doting father to their three children. Phil is always trying his best, even if his efforts sometimes fall short. But his good intentions and charming personality make him impossible not to like.
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN: Phil is no ordinary Dad … he was a cheerleader in college and super-athletic. He’s his family’s cheerleader too, proving a character can be defined by unusual talents.
Jake, Brooklyn 99
Jake Peralta is a lovable goofball with a heart of gold, plus he’s always looking out for his friends and colleagues. He’s brilliant at his job and (in his words) has a ‘big ass moral compass’.
He finds it difficult to focus on some things – such as emotions, thanks to a childhood blighted by benign neglect – but is a solid ally to his loved ones. He is always willing to admit when he is wrong, too.
WHAT WRITERS CAN LEARN: Jake is a subverted version of the ‘Maverick Cop’ trope (the original version is frequently considered inappropriate and dated in the 2020s). You may also be interested to know Brooklyn 99 and a variety of other cop shows including Castle, The Mentalist and Line of Duty are all-new case studies in my updated Thriller book, details below.
Which is YOUR favourite on this list? Share in the comments!
Shockingly, all the nice guys in comedy B2W could think of are … you guessed it … white, able-bodied and cisgendered (aka NOT transgender)! (The only remotely UNstraight male character here is Steve Bonnet).
It’s great there’s more variety for marginalised characters generally these days … BUT why the lack of genuinely positively portrayals for BIPOC, LGBTQ or disabled male characters?? Something to think about.
Did you know … B2W’s book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays is TEN YEARS OLD in 2023!
I’ve added a whopping extra 100 pages!! This includes new case studies, plus information on television pilots as well as movie screenplays. Here’s the blurb:
Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays has the lowdown on how to get your thriller feature script on to the page, and how to get it in front of producers and investors.
“First published in 2013, this new edition offers an all-new resources section and a host of new case studies that map the considerable changes of the past decade.
With marketplace disruptors such as Netflix and the first phases of The Marvel Cinematic Universe leaving their mark, new opportunities have been created for screenwriters and filmmakers who are keen to get their stories in front of industry professionals.
This time around, Lucy V Hay doesn’t just guide you through the writing of movies, but spec TV pilots too. Putting iconic, mixed-genre projects under the microscope – such as Stranger Things (horror thriller), Brooklyn 99 (comedy thriller) and Lost (sci fi thriller) – she considers what writers can learn from these shows.
She also argues that the lone protagonist in a thriller has had its day and looks at how the genre is moving into a space beyond ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Case studies to support this include The Hunger Games, Captain Marvel, Iron Man and many more.
Finally, the book considers how the screenplay might be sold to investors, exploring high concept ideas, pitching, packaging and the realities of film finance – all updated for the 2020s – and lays out alternative routes to sales and production, including transmedia such as novels and adaptation, and immersive storytelling online.” BUY IT HERE.