Laughter is as important for good health as exercise. And if you laugh hard enough, you can count it as an ab workout. After my divorce, I watched Whose Line is it Anyway as much as I could right before bed, which allowed me to guffaw instead of cry myself to sleep. I did this while I was on the phone with a friend who was watching with me. Her laughter and my laughter combined on a molecular level to help send me off the sleep in a state of comic euphoria. Oh the Wayne Brady-flavored dreams I had....

Even if you're not reading or watching a full-blown comedy, many stories offer a comic relief character to give readers or watchers a break from the building tension. Not every story has a comic relief character, but when it does, and when it's done well, the character can help move the story along, showcase and/or challenge the main character and sometimes they even steal the show. But good comic relief is hard to come by. My favorite comic relief characters in books, movies and TV shows are not the stumbling bumbling idiots who fart, fall down and/or hit people in the nuts.(Yes, I realize I've already used up my and/or quota for the week.) They are usually more clever than that. A shining example is Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who starts out as the antagonist/comic relief:

Merry and Pippin
Merry and Pippin
"I know I'm not the first choice for heroics, and Buffy's tried to kill me more than once. And I don't fancy a single one of you at all. But... Actually, all that sounds pretty convincing. I wonder if Asian House is open..."

moved to being the love interest/comic relief

"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy! Everywhere I turn, she's there. That nasty little face, that bouncing, shampoo-commercial hair."
and then to being the sidekick/comic relief in Angel, even after he double-died

"Say no more. Evil is still afoot. And I'm almost out of that nancy-boy hair-gel I like so much. Quickly, to the Angel-mobile, away!"

I chose to showcase Spike because he's got some of the best lines, but it's the delivery that really seals it. On the page, this delivery has to be illustrated by the character's mannerisms and the reactions of the characters around him or her. How do I know how to do that? Well,  I watch clever TV shows and movies as research and I have real-life comic relief friends, so I just observe their delivery and my reactions to them. They not only see the humor in almost anything, but they help awaken my slumbering comedian and contribute to some of the most enjoyable ab workouts I've ever experienced.
Walter Bishop
Walter Bishop

Truly, it's hard to choose my favorites in this category, not because there aren't a lot of funny characters, because being funny doesn't necessarily make you comic relief. I've already deleted several names off my list for not falling into the category correctly, but I've wracked my brain for long enough. I'm sure I'm missing some great comic relief characters. Feel free to add any of your own suggestions.

Dr. McCoy
Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy
Some of my favorite comic relief characters are:
  • Sir John Falstaff
    • “Hal, if I tell thee a lie, spit in my face, call me horse.” 
  • Spike from Buffy/Angel
    • "Aren't you a throw-himself-to-the-lions sort of sap these days. Well, the lions are on to you, baby."
  • Flip in Bellwether by Connie Willis
    • "You don't know what swarb means? No hots. No cutes. Cyber-ugg. Swarb."
  • Walter Bishop from Fringe:
    • "The turbulence over Ohio was like being in the belly of a seizing whale. I screamed like a little girl."
  • Merry and Pippin from The Lord of the Rings
    • Merry: "Don't know why he's so upset. It was only a couple o' carrots."
    • Pippin: "And some cabbages. And those three bags of potatoes that we lifted last week. And - and then the mushrooms the week before!"
    • Merry: "Yes Pippin! My point is, he's clearly over reactin'!"
    • Pippin: "Run!"
  • Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy from Star Trek
    • "I've found that evil usually triumphs...unless good is very, very careful."
  • Keanu Reeves in most movies he's in, but not on purpose
    • "Whoa."
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