Over the last twenty years, the creators of Family Guy have created an enormous ensemble of supporting characters for the shamelessly un-PC cartoon sitcom. Some have made occasional cameos here and there during the series’ run to date, others have taken centre-stage in numerous episodes and one even got his own (not so successful) spin-off series. However, as any television series with an ensemble of supporting characters proves, some are bound to stand out from the crowd for one reason or another. They may be more well rounded than others, they may be at the centre of running gags, or they may have simply been featured more prominently. Whatever the reason, these are the ten supporting characters who’ve stood out the most in the past two decades.
One of the earliest examples of a genuinely absurd supporting character in the series, Death is literally the Grim Reaper himself, first appearing in Season 2 when Peter declares himself dead to get out of paying a hospital bill. All manner of absurd humour ensues when Death knacks his ankle while chasing Peter, meaning that nobody can die anymore. Death’s subsequent reappearances have been few and somewhat far between, but regularly lead to a variety of gags, while his acquaintanceship with Peter has served as a catalyst for several episodes, with the Reaper giving the Griffin patriarch some sincere, important life lessons in both ‘Meet the Quagmires’ and ‘Friends of Peter G’.
9. Evil Monkey
While initially making occasional cameos in Seasons 2-3, the Evil Monkey lived in Chris’s closet, regularly leaving the middle Griffin child terrified, and the audience assuming that he was a figment of Chris’s imagination that represented the teen’s emotional immaturity.
However, subsequent cameos in Seasons 4-5 strongly indicated that there was more to this animal than a figment of Chris’s imagination, a fact that was confirmed in Season 8 when the teen captured and confronted him. Although the Evil Monkey gag ended after the animal helped Chris and Peter repair their relationship, his signature menacing pose has made him one of the more memorable and iconic supporting characters, featured prominently on merchandise such as posters and t-shirts, while the character himself is one of the few running gags to ever take a noticeable shift in direction.
8. Jillian Russell-Wilcox
A stereotypical dumb blonde voiced with real ditzy charm by Drew Barrymore, recurring character Jillian served as Brian’s love interest in Season 5. Highly unintelligent, it becomes clear early on that the Griffin family dog is dating her based on her physical attractiveness. However, after the pair split up Brian realises that he genuinely loves her, a fact that is revisited on several occasions in later seasons. Jillian stands out from other supporting characters not just because of various gags revolving around her lack of intelligence, but because of how innocent, warm and sincere a person she is (a marked contrast to most other Quahog residents), and because the fact that Brian has never truly moved on from her reveals that, deep down, he is not completely shallow after all.
7. Tom Tucker
Anchor of Quahog Channel 5 News, when on air Tom Tucker comes across as cynical, even pessimistic at times, while also trading regular insults with the female co-anchors whom he bitterly dislikes. These have been the subject of some excellent verbal gags over the years, which make for a far more enjoyable news programme than is generally found in real-life. While his appearances outside of work are infrequent, they have served to make him a more rounded character, such as his protectiveness towards his son Jake (commonly known as “Upside-down Face”) and the father figure that he briefly becomes to Peter Griffin in Mother Tucker. However, most notable is the lack of direction and meaning that Tom feels upon briefly losing his job in Season 4, revealing that, despite his outward attitude, he genuinely loves his job.
6. Ernie the Giant Chicken
One of the earliest and finest examples of just how absurd the humour of Family Guy is, Ernie the Giant Chicken serves as Peter’s arch-enemy, a rivalry which started in Season 2 when he gave Peter an expired coupon. Whenever the two characters bump into each other they engage in an almighty fist fight which leaves all manner of mass destruction in its wake throughout the city of Quahog .
With each Chicken Fight bigger and more destructive than the one before, these occasional segments have resulted in Ernie becoming one of the series’ most instantly recognisable characters and the heart of one of the finest running gags as each of his appearances leads to at least three minutes of solid, brilliantly animated slapstick.
While she is undeniably the stereotypical Hispanic maid, Consuela has certainly become one of the most endearing Family Guy supporting characters in her own right. Having initially appeared in a cutaway, she is notably one of the only characters to transition from cutaway gags to the ensemble of regular supporting characters. More often than not depicted with a bottle of spray cleaner and a cloth, Consuela serves as a frequent frustration to other characters by declining their requests with her trademark “no, no, no…”, either due to the language barrier or because she does not have her present employer’s permission. As such, she has become the central figure of one of the series’ longest running jokes and a fan-favourite supporting character.
4. John Herbert
An elderly neighbour of the Griffins, John Herbert is more commonly known to fans as “Herbert the Pervert”, thanks to his being a paedophile with a long-standing crush on the teenage Chris Griffin, who seems oblivious to the fact that Herbert is obsessed with him and just assumes he is a very friendly old chap. A notable example of how the Family Guy writers are unafraid to shock the censors, Herbert became a memorable character for this very reason, as his introduction in Season 3 made us realise that nothing was off-limits where Family Guy humour was concerned. However, he is nevertheless a likeable character – he loves his dog Jessie, is a World War II veteran, and proves himself to still be brave in Season 9 when he saves Chris from a former Nazi who had taken him hostage. Furthermore, Mike Henry’s voice performance is brilliant as he gives Herbert a high-pitched, effeminate voice with a slight whistle lisp, crafting the most unique voice in the entire series.
3. Mort Goldman
A pharmacy owner and friend of the Griffins, Mort is the Goldman patriarch, married to Muriel and father to awkwardly nerdy teenager Neil. Mort is depicted as a Jewish stereotype – he is incredibly stingy, whiny, a neurotic hypochondriac, has multiple health problems and is very socially inept. The fact that Mort has become a prominent character highlights that all manner of jokes (both clever and cringy) can be coined at the expense of stereotypes and that there will always be an audience for them (especially within a sitcom where nothing is off-limits), and that really is the case with Mort. However, while jokes at the expense of his medical conditions served as a plot device for the excellent Season 7 episode Road to Germany, he has also gone through life-changing events that most notably include being widowed in Season 9, which would serve as a catalyst in later episodes, proving that there is more to Mort than being a stereotype.
2. Carter Pewterschmidt
Lois’s father, Carter is a conservative billionaire with an enormous superiority complex and a hatred for son-in-law Peter, whom he belittles at every opportunity, has assaulted on several occasions and has even tried to have killed. However, the fact that Carter is a total miser has led to some well-written gags over the years, as have his dynamic with his family and the fact that he is essentially a dinosaur with a mindset that would not be out of place in the 1930s. Furthermore, Carter has come a long way from the stereotypical father-in-law from Hell that he was initially depicted as in Season 2, with more recent seasons depicting him as unable to cope without his neglected wife Barbara, saddened at having to face up to his old age and willing to admit that he needs help from Peter, who he more frequently starts to show leniency towards. As such, he has gradually developed from a one-dimensional stereotype to a well-rounded, multi-layered character.
1. Mayor Adam West
A fictionalised version of Adam West voiced brilliantly by the iconic Batman actor himself, Mayor West represents everything most ingenious about the Family Guy writing. A recurring character from Seasons 2-17, Quahog’s Mayor is nothing short of a crackpot, a delusional man-child, whose shenanigans have included spending $100,000 in tax money to investigate who was “stealing his water”, engaging Quahog in a shouting match and jumping into a toxic waste dump to gain superpowers, making him an absurdly hilarious satire of actors entering into the world of politics.
The character’s absurdity, however, is best exemplified in the Season 8 episode Road to the Multiverse when he floats away after revealing that he is “95% helium”. A social comment on actors entering into politics, the absurd writing at its best, scenes with Mayor West provided some of the series’ best laughs to date and his presence is sorely missed following the death of Adam West.
Any supporting characters you think we should have included? Let us know in the comments!
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