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The lying schemer and the arrogant braggart are two tried-and-true sitcom archetypes that have been around since the early days of TV. Watching someone bury themselves in a string of fabrications or demonstrate their own pomposity is always good for a laugh. Here are 10 of the biggest braggarts and liars in sitcom history, including a certain guy who lied about being marine biologist to impress a date and the biggest know-it-all in the 1980s Boston bar scene.
Tom Haverford – Parks and Recreation
Tom Haverford portrays himself as the Diddy of Pawnee, a ladies’ man with impressive swagger and entrepreneurial skills, but in reality, he’s just a guy working in local government in the Midwest. Try as Tom might to raise his status, his entrepreneurial efforts (Entertainment 720, Snakehole Lounge) blow up in his face more often than not. Even Tom’s marriage was a lie, having been an arrangement just so his Canadian lady friend would get U.S. citizenship. Despite the massive gap between who Tom Haverford is and who Tom Haverford wants to be, he continues to constantly toot his own horn, showing off his inflated sense of self with nonstop bragging. According to Tom, people see him as “a brown Superman with a beard.”
Cliff Clavin – Cheers
The biggest know-it-all in the sitcom Cheers’ titular bar, Cliff Clavin was always looking for any opportunity to show off his breadth of knowledge. The bar braggart’s arrogance didn’t stop there, though. Cliff was constantly boasting about how great he was as a mailman. Perhaps the most memorable display of Cliff’s ego was in an episode win which he competed on the game show Jeopardy!, easily besting the other contestants in a situation that actually calls for him to show off his knowledge. Cliff’s cockiness causes him trouble here too, though, as he wagers all of his winnings in the final round and loses. While Cliff’s a smart guy, he thinks he’s way more intelligent than he actually is.
Jeff Winger – Community
A lawyer isn’t exactly the most honest profession, and it takes an especially dishonest one to get disbarred. Jeff Winger’s journey throughout Community’s run is about learning to love and respect others and moving away from the rut he was in as a selfish, manipulative narcissist. Jeff has a line in the show’s very first episode that sums up his relationship with the truth superbly. Jeff tells the group, “I discovered at a very early age that if I talk long enough, I can make anything right or wrong. So either I’m God or truth is relative.” It’s a better justification for gravitating towards dishonesty than most of the other liars on this list have.
Lucy McGillicuddy Ricardo – I Love Lucy
Lucy Ricardo is the queen of the zany sitcom scheme, creating unnecessarily elaborate ruses to fool her husband Ricky before this kind of scheming became a sitcom staple through the work of Ralph Kramden, Cosmo Kramer, and the Always Sunny gang. Most of Lucy’s wacky plans are done with the intention that she’ll get to appear in Ricky’s act, but she’s also rather fond of fibbing in general. Take the classic episode “Lucy Tells the Truth,” in which Ricky bets Lucy she can’t go a full day without lying, resulting in her being brutally honest with everyone in her life. It’s the exact plot of Liar Liar 40 years earlier, and it’s also a fine demonstration of one of the first-ever sitcom liars.
Bill McNeal – NewsRadio
The egos of media personalities often balloon up at a greater rate than those of regular people, and radio news anchor Bill McNeal is no exception. Like Mary Tyler Moore’s Ted Baxter before him, McNeal is the center of his workplace due to his talents, but he feels he’s the center of the entire universe. Phil Hartman excels at portraying these kinds of blustery windbags, but Bill McNeal is one of his finest creations. Whether he’s tormenting underling Matthew or demonstrating how important he thinks he is, Bill McNeal is one of the most arrogant but somehow loveable characters in comedy history.
Creed Bratton – The Office
While most of the other employees at Dunder Mifflin don’t seem to notice or care, Creed Bratton is a twisted deviant who’s living one hell of a double life. Unbeknownst to the rest of the office, Creed once faked his own death and also alludes to having been a leader and follower in multiple religious cults. He’s also a kleptomaniac, stealing his fellow employees’ possessions every chance he gets, even selling office equipment when he thought the branch was closing. Throughout The Office’s long run, Creed’s moral compass is nonexistent, but he and the audience seem to be the only ones aware of this.
George Costanza – Seinfeld
One of the all-time greatest sitcom characters, George Costanza is equally driven by selfishness and neuroses, and he often uses elaborate lies to get his way. Take, for instance, the classic episode “The Marine Biologist,” in which George pretends to be a marine biologist with the woman he’s dating, only to have his luck run up when he’s forced to tend to a beached whale while he’s with her. Sure, it was Jerry’s lie originally, but George glommed onto the marine biologist story so naturally and immediately, and it’s the perfect example of his dishonesty at its peak. Other classic dishonest Costanza behavior includes having Elaine take an IQ test for him, lying about being an architect, and quitting his job but returning like nothing happened after he changes his mind.
The Gang – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Easily the pettiest group of sociopaths in TV history, the central five characters in Always Sunny – or “The Gang,” as they’re often called – are frighteningly amoral individuals who you wouldn’t want to run into in real life. They’re constantly stabbing others – and each other – in the back to reach their own shallow goals, and throughout the show’s 7 season run, they’ve racked up an impressive repertoire of over-the-top, degenerate schemes. In the Always Sunny world, dishonesty is a virtue, and manipulation is a daily habit. While the Gang’s actions are morally bankrupt each week, stand-out moments include Dennis’s deceitful method of seducing women, everyone faking disabilities to get people to pity and pay attention to them, and the gang attempting to seduce and bribe Dennis’s competition in a local election.