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For every bumbling investigator, overly idealistic hero, or short-sighted mastermind, there's an assistant, that one guy who has to do all (or most) of the work, deal with the consequences of his boss' antics, and generally play clean up. As a result of having to deal with his boss' foolishness, this character is continually exasperated, and would probably rather be doing something else. On the bright side they singlehandedly keep their side relevant.

Expect this kind of character to be a Deadpan Snarker and/or a master of the Face Palm. Related to the Sassy Secretary. Not the same as a Hypercompetent Sidekick, who, despite the fact that they work their butt off for little pay and no credit, is generally pretty happy with the way things are. The Beleaguered Assistant is not, and would probably have called it quits a long time ago, but stays around either out of a sense of duty, having been assigned to his post by the military or another authority, or because they owe their boss, or someone else, a fairly big favor, or simply out of fear for the repercussions (being labeled a deserter or being jobless).

Some Beleaguered Assistants treat their boss with contempt and rudeness, yet the boss simply ignores them because they are either too stupid to notice or don't care. Alternately, they act as if they are delighted to help, and hate themselves for it.

Note that the more incompetent the boss is, the more likely this type of character will show up, though less incompetent (and more hyperactive) characters can have these as well.

Often the Only Sane Man and The Reliable One. Only Sane Employee is when this character has far more to deal with than just his incompetent boss. A good character to use when determining whether other characters are Nice to the Waiter. See also Conservation of Competence, Hypercompetent Sidekick, and Success Symbiosis. Contrast Professional Butt-Kisser. If they are male and their employer is female they may be half of Mistress and Servant Boy relationship.

Examples of Beleaguered Assistant include:

Anime and Manga


  • Dilbert to the Pointy-Haired Boss.
  • In Peanuts, Woodstock is occasionally one of these to Snoopy.
  • Henchmen in Nodwick have this as their stock in life: They're stuck hauling implausibly large amounts of loot and being used as monster bait for various adventurers, but are contractually obliged to stick to their employers to the degree that they're not allowed to pass on to the afterlife as long as there's any chance of them being brought back to life.
    • Nodwick himself skirts between this trope and Hypercompetent Sidekick because he does care for his employers—at least somewhat.
  • Major Domo from the various x-books, beleaguered by his psycho-megalomaniac boss Mojo and his junior, Minor Domo.

Fan Fiction

  • They Just Don't Care Anymore: Jazz for the Autobots, Cyclonus for the Decepticons.
  • One strange d20 crossover game included the Goa'uld Hermes, whose First Prime Autolycus was a Beleaguered Assistant charged with ensuring that his boss' insane antics didn't get either of them killed.


  • Number 2. To wit, in the intervening years between when Dr. Evil was frozen and thawed, Number 2 had managed to turn his company into a legitimate business easily worth many times more than what Dr. Evil could manage.
  • To a lesser extent, Semmi in Coming to America. He likes Prince Akeem, but wishes he wasn't his servant.
  • Andy Sachs to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.
  • Sir Hiss in Disney's Robin Hood.
  • Hercule Lajoy is one of these to Clouseau in the second Pink Panther film, A Shot in the Dark.
  • Igor (2008) is about an Igor who hopes to rise about his station as Beleaguered Assistant and become a Mad Scientist himself. Has his own beleaguered assistants in the form of dim-witted Brain and Deadpan Snarker Scamper.
  • Lawrence to Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog, so much so that he ends up scheming with Dr. Facilier to get rid of him.
  • The Secretary Bird in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
  • Planchet, as portrayed by Roy Kinnear, in The Three Musketeers and its two sequels. Became a bit Harsher in Hindsight when he died after being thrown from a horse during the filming of the third one.


  • Sancho Panza to Don Quixote.
  • Ponder Stibbons among the faculty of Unseen University in the Discworld. Described as "the one person in the organisation who knows what's going on and why it's happening and who's doing it, although he often wishes he didn't"
  • Abner Dowling, General Custer's adjutant in the first few novels of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series. His relationship with Custer is almost identical to that of Kif and Zapp, to the point where he's frequently having to explain to an oblivious Custer that sending wave after wave of your own men charging across an open field at machine gun nests is probably not a good idea. Also, like Zapp, Custer's career survives by being politically savvy, plus one enormously lucky victory that finally breaks the stalemate and wins the Great War.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Ivan often finds himself cast in this role to Miles, though Miles is by no means incompetent:

 Gregor: As you know, an Imperial Auditor may request anything he pleases. The first thing he requested was an assistant. Congratulations.

Ivan: He wanted a donkey to carry his luggage, and the first ass he thought of was me.

    • Even worse, After Gregor gets engaged, Ivan gets seconded to act as his mother's assistant in the wedding planning.
  • Fisk to Michael, in the first book of the Knight and Rogue Series, where they put more emphasis on their 'knight and squire' relation. Fisk eventually develops into more of a perpetually exasperated friend

Live Action TV

  • Beaker to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew on The Muppet Show.
  • Ryan sometimes played this role to Michael in the early seasons of The Office. He would eventually become Michael's boss.
    • Ryan? Who never made a sale? He might've had more knowledge of the business world than Michael, but he certainly never did Michael's job (or much of anything else that we could see).
    • And because Characterization Marches On, he's now a Dandy Jerkass with an inflated ego.
  • The lead character in Blackadder The Third is a perfect example of this trope.
    • Also Captain Darling to General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth.
  • The title character in Merlin embodies this trope. He runs around doing Arthur's chores, including extremely demeaning ones, while Arthur insults him and throws things at him. When Arthur wants to shirk his royal duties, it's Merlin's job to cover for him—which has more than once landed him in the stocks. And of course he spends most of the series repeatedly saving Arthur's life. Using his very illegal magic that he could be killed for having. Possibly on the orders of Arthur himself. And he gets no credit for any of this. It Makes Sense in Context why Merlin puts up with all this. Mostly.
  • Leo from Fairly Legal. Not that Kate is incompetent, she just does not stick to schedules very well (she is always late, or haring off to do some other task), leaving him to juggle the various conflicts till some resolution can be reached.
  • The Taiwanese Series Fated to Love You. Xi Yi never says no, so ends up handling all the menial tasks in her office, plus fetching coffee and lunch, and working into the late night hours doing the work of her other coworkers.
  • Lee Yeon Jae from the Korean Series Scent Of A Woman pretty much is dumped on by the entire staff of the travel agency she works at, as well as being sexually harassed by her boss.
  • John from BBC Sherlock is definitely this.

Video Games

Western Animation

  • Kif Kroker in Futurama is the poster boy for this trope, as pictured above. His job as Zap Brannigan's assistant is recognized as so terrible that Brannigan once punished (then-soldier) Fry by making him Kif's assistant. Needless to say, Kif proceeded to unload years of frustration on his new inferior.
    • Kif has it so bad that an exasperated sigh is pretty much his Catch Phrase.
  • Disney's Aladdin television series had the the incredibly incompetent "bandit king" Abis Mal paired with his constantly annoyed advisor Haroud, who constantly made sure plans went the way they were supposed to and who, unfortunately for the heroes, happened to be Dangerously Genre Savvy.
    • In the Fisher King episode "Bad Mood Rising," the king is a moody brat and the Wazir is a Beleaguered Assistant. He doesn't seem to be any less beleaguered once the king cheers up, because the king has awful proposals for improving the kingdom, like "We'll make EVERYONE a Wazir!"
  • Arthur. Honestly, he fits this like a guy in a moth suit wearing a glove.
  • Brain in Inspector Gadget, who is constantly facing personal injury in order to keep Gadget safe, and to a much lesser extent Chief Quimby, who is actually Gadget's boss. His niece Penny, who is possibly in the biggest position to be an example, seems not to mind solving the cases as much. Occasionally subverted when Gadget saves Brain from falling to his death, usually because he thinks Brain is a MAD agent who's trying to escape.
  • Gromit in the Wallace and Gromit series.
  • Woodhouse in Archer, who crosses into Woobie territory because of how much of a colossal Jerkass Archer is to him.
  • Charles Foster Ofdensen of Metalocalypse, who's a one-man trope machine.
  • Cornfed to Duckman.
  • Shego to Dr Drakken in Kim Possible.
  • Luxor the cat to Tutenstein
  • Steve to Dr. Weird in Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
    • It's also sort of implied that Emory is this to Oglethorpe. Emory is usually the one who comes up with plausible ideas or points out Oglethorpe's lack of logic, but is often overruled.
  • In Duck Dodgers, Eager Young Space Cadet always has to tag along with whatever dangerous missions his narcissistic, selfish and considerably less competent higher-up, Duck Dodgers, gets himself into.
    • Porky served as one of these to Daffy in several of the classic Looney Tunes shorts, as well.
  • While Montgomery Burns is a competent businessman, he also lacks the skills for dealing with people, is out of touch with any cultural development that has taken place since the end of World War II, and is extremely physically weak. Naturally it falls to Smithers to make up for these defects and make sure Burns remains as successful as he is. Subverted when it's made clear that Smithers actually enjoys this, and has an almost psychological need to serve Burns.
  • Schnitzel in Chowder, who gets more and more comically unappreciated as the series goes on.
  • Sheep in The Big City has Private Public trying to keep up with General Specific's less-than-sound schemes.
  • Samy Garvin on Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • Slinkman in Camp Lazlo.
  • The pageant in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic "Hearth's Warming Eve" features three such characters: Clover the Clever (played by Twilight Sparkle) is the Beleaguered Assistant to the unicorn ruler Princess Platinum (played by Rarity), Smart Cookie (played by Applejack) is the Beleaguered Assistant to the earth pony ruler Chancellor Puddinghead (played by Pinkie Pie), and Private Pansy (played by Fluttershy) is the Beleaguered Assistant to the pegasus ruler Commander Hurricane (played by Rainbow Dash).
    • More generally, Angel Bunny sometimes feels like this when taking care of Fluttershy.
  • Robotnik's assistant Snively in Sonic Sat AM. Robotnik isn't exactly incompetant, but he is prone to great outbursts of rage with Snively as the only target. Snively hates his job and dispises Robotnik.

Web Animation

  • The series Blockhead has the Conscience serving this role, who takes form as a snarky fat guy on a couch whose duty as a voice within his head is to constantly shout at at the titular main character to stop whatever maniacal wackiness he's doing to no effect.
  • Wayne the Goblin in One Ring to Rule Them All.
  • Johnson Johnson in Dark Maze Studio's Press Start Adventures.

Web Comics

  • Redcloak from The Order of the Stick is somewhere between Beleaguered Assistant and Hypercompetent Sidekick. On one hand, he constantly expresses frustration with the haphazard way Xykon runs the show (or doesn't, as the case may be). On the other hand, he continues to work with him out of choice, seeing Xykon as a powerful ally for furthering his own agenda.
  • Dr. Wily of Captain SNES was originally the Hypercompetent Sidekick of potential president Hagar, but between Hagar's incompetence and Blues blackmailing him, he quickly degenerated into this.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Dan's uryuom minion, Minion is this for Dan.
  • Left-Hand Man Gary to King Steve in Eight Bit Theater. He has to keep tabs on King Steve while he drills for mana, orders assassins to Kill the Messenger, wages war on a whim in the name of pacifism, builds robot duplicates of himself that explode at random, and loses the kingdom in a poker game. To a length of string. Also, Gary is the "left-hand man" because the king's right-hand man is Rodney. Rodney is a coffee stain.

Web Original

Real Life

  • Admit it; you've probably been in this spot before.