The comedy villain is one of the trickiest characters to pull off. Too often, the villain's scenes are there simply to further the "plot," which, in a lot of comedies, is pretty inconsequential. If a comedy even has a true villain, and many don't, scenes focusing on him or her usually drain the movie of life and make the audience eager to get back to the laughs. But a smart comedy creates a villain every bit as funny as the hero(es). Below are my favorite movie slimeballs, in order of release date. I'd love to hear some of yours.
John Vernon as Dean Vernon Wormer in National Lampoon's Animal House
One of the best traits for a comedy villain to have is that he or she is an "Enemy of Fun." You've met people like this. They hate fun. They hate people who have fun. Dean Wormer is a perfect example. In fact, unlike the other bad guys on this list, you can't imagine Wormer ever having had fun at any point in his life. Smileless, humorless, joyless...but hilarious. The crusty, bitter dean is almost a requirement for college movies, and you can feel Wormer's influence in every flick of its type released since. You certainly wouldn't have Dean Pritchard in Old School without Wormer. Animal House is a movie brimming over with jerks, Doug Neidermeyer would have made a perfectly good choice here, too -- frat guys always make great villains. But you've got to have some sympathy for that dude-- he got killed in Vietnam by his own troops.
Best Line: "The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me."
Ted Knight as Judge Smails in Caddyshack
Stopping just short of actually chewing on pieces of scenery, Knight's work in Caddyshack is a masterpiece of taking it over the top. A master of the slow burn, the man is made of simmering anger and rage. Knight more than holds his own against three incredible comedians: Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, and Chevy Chase in his prime. In a lesser movie, Judge Smails would be a generic authority figure, enabling the three comedy stars to do their riffs around him and act out against him. But Knight's Judge is a worthy opponent, and manages to grab just as many laughs as the goofballs. Every bit as influential as Dean Wormer, you can draw a straight line from Judge Smails to say, Shooter McGavin.
Best Line: "I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them."