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Wisdom From the Best Characters in TV Comedy

One of the enduring maxims of comedy is that it has to be true; that’s why the foremost guide to improvisation is called Truth in Comedy. From Mary Tyler Moore to Tina Fey, creators of television comedies have always used their shows to tell stories that were bigger than just jokes. Sitcoms provide us with unintended wisdom all the time — the jokes are just a way to grab the viewer’s attention before a character says something deeply insightful and resonant, and the best jokes have a core of relatability that makes us laugh and makes us think.

When our favorite characters in comedy are going through tough times, they’re able to express themselves in a way that’s both emotional and funny. They process difficult moments with laughter, and some of the best characters cut to a core truth through their jokes. At some point, the antics stop and we take a step back to survey what we’ve learned from all the wackiness. Time and again we find that humor is a great teacher, as shown by these 22 quotes from some of the best characters in TV comedy.

Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) in "Parks and Recreation"

We need to remember what's important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn't matter, but work is third.
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) in "Parks and Recreation"

Rejection from society is what created the X-Men!
Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) in "30 Rock"

When one of us shines, all of us shine. That is the meaning of ensemble.
Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara) in "Schitt’s Creek"

Society teaches us that having feelings and crying is bad and wrong. Well, that’s baloney, because grief isn’t wrong. There’s such a thing as good grief. Just ask Charlie Brown.
Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) in "The Office"

I need to show that I’m a lone, fierce she-wolf.
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in "Veep"

There are still some people in this world that we care about, so I say we try and help them become good people. Why not try? It’s better than not trying, right?
Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) in "The Good Place"

My mother always used to say: "The older you get, the better you get, unless you're a banana."
Rose Nylund (Betty White) in "Golden Girls"

I like the wine, and not the label.
David Rose (Dan Levy) in "Schitt’s Creek"

I have spent a lot of time, and I have eaten a lot of crap to get to where I am today. And I am not throwing it all away now.
Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in "Seinfeld"

One person's annoying is another's inspiring and heroic.
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) in "Parks and Recreation"

There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?
Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) in "The Office"

Here I am with all this talent bottled up inside of me and you're always sitting on the cork.
Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) in "I Love Lucy"

That's how I felt when I came to Bel-Air, like everybody had two skates and I was trying to keep up with one. Thanks for my other skate, Uncle Phil.
Will Smith (Will Smith) in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"

I'm sort of like Costco. I'm big, I'm not fancy, and I dare you to not like me.
Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet) in "Modern Family"

I don’t skate through life, David. I walk through life, in really nice shoes.
Alexis Rose (Annie Murphy) in "Schitt’s Creek"

It’s like all of my life everyone has always told me, "You’re a shoe, you’re a shoe, you’re a shoe, you’re a shoe." And then today I just stopped and I said, "What if I don’t want to be a shoe? What if I want to be a purse, you know? Or, a hat?"
Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) in "Friends"

You said that every human is a little bit sad all the time, because you know you’re going to die. But that knowledge is what gives life meaning.
Michael (Ted Danson) in "The Good Place"

The need to find another human being to share one's life with has always puzzled me. Maybe because I'm so interesting all by myself. With that being said, may you find as much happiness with each other as I find on my own.
Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) in "Big Bang Theory"

Here’s an idea. What if we don’t worry about whatever comes next?
Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) in "The Good Place"


Photo credit: Lucas George Wendt/ Unsplash

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About the Author
Julia Rittenberg
Julia is a writer, theater and comics lover, and lifelong nerd in Brooklyn, NY.
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