Succession is one of the best shows on television for many reasons. It’s a timely unpacking of capitalism and how power corrupts. The performances give its characters and their family drama more dimension, all with a healthy mix of comedy and tragedy.
But one of the main reasons we love to watch Succession? It’s satisfying to watch terrible people be terrible to each other. The insults on Succession are fired off every few seconds, like jokes on 30 Rock. Some are said behind the subject’s back. But in most cases, a Succession insult is told directly to you. Or, even worse, said right in front of you, but to someone else.
Characters on Succession go lower than anyone ever should. Shiv refers to her husband as a meat puppet. Roman repeatedly calls both of his brothers useless, in much crueler ways than that. Logan constantly tells people to fuck off, and knows how to get inside someone’s soul to hurt them as much as possible, particularly his children. The creatively explicit language of the show, from Shakespearean fucks to poop jokes, established by creator Jesse Armstrong — who also had a poetic way of writing similarly vulgar insults on Peep Show — makes Succession unique and keeps us watching. And, unfortunately, meme-ing.
Succession would not be Succession without these imaginative insults, and they deserve their own ranking. To rank the insults, I took a very scientific approach: During a rewatch of the series, I collected the best insults from the show and ranked them from cruel to cruelest. Once I had all of the insults listed, I tallied two categories: First, who said the most insults. And second, the most insulted. Stay tuned after the ranking for those results.
Now fuck off and read this, please!
38. “You little Machiavellian fuck.” Kendall to Greg, season one, episode ten, “Nobody Is Ever Missing”
At Shiv’s wedding reception, Kendall sees right through his long and lanky cousin when Greg tells him that he made copies of the documents from cruises he was asked to destroy, following that up with “anyone would be wise to keep me in a good role.” Greg might seem like a bumbling idiot, but in this moment Kendall discovers that Greg has strategized to get himself ahead just like everyone else.
37. “No, it isn’t, Greg.” Tom to Greg, season one, episode six, “Which Side Are You On?”
On paper, this sentence is not particularly unique. But Matthew Macfayen works his mouth magic by making this basic line — a response to Greg referring to California Pizza Kitchen as “delicious” — a rhythmic delivery deserving of not only an Emmy but a bus full of Oscars, even though they don’t do those for television.
36. “You bust in here, guns in hand, and now you find they’ve turned to sausages.” Logan to Kendall, Shiv, and Roman, Season three, episode nine, “All the Bells Say”
Like the best Succession insults, it’s a stunning visual, but this one is particularly special because Logan Roy screams it at his children, who have banded together to betray him. Here, Logan is insulting his children’s intelligence (yet again), but he’s angrier than usual.
35. “The dance of the sugar-plum failure.” Roman about Shiv, season three, episode seven, “Too Much Birthday”
At Kendall’s 40th birthday party, Shiv furiously dances by herself as if nobody’s watching. Unfortunately, everyone she knows is watching. Anyone can dance whenever they want, but that does not mean that anyone should dance in public. Shiv is clearly more comfortable in a fitted gray suit in a boardroom in the Financial District than she is in a dark club in Hudson Yards, so she looks a little out of place here and Roman calls her out behind her back. Maybe Shiv frequented 1 Oak back in it’s heyday and was trying to recreate a feeling? Go girlboss, give us nothing!
34. “Someone send a telegram to Illona telling her she’s no longer required and my best to her cancer.” Logan about a Waystar board member, season one, episode six, “Which Side Are You On?”
Logan Roy is perhaps the only human being — living or dead, real or fictional — to ever wish well to cancer. Here’s an extremely relevant, short, and true story: When I did a spelling and grammar check on Google docs for this ranking, it tried to correct “my best to her cancer” to “cure her cancer.”
33. “You went for three jobs, you didn’t get any of them. Your vineyard was a write-off. And now your trophy girlfriend is sucking some waiter’s dick in Palermo. So now you’ve come crawling back, like a fucking worm.” Logan to Frank, season two, episode three, “Hunting”
This insult accomplishes a few things at once: First, it gives sweet old Frank, who may be the only character on Succession who has any sliver of good morals in his body, a sinking feeling in his stomach. Second, it also provides some eloquent exposition on the backstory of a tertiary character. Third, it establishes why he’s back in Logan’s circle after betraying him alongside Kendall in the season-one bear hug attempt. Who knew sweet old Frank had a trophy girlfriend? Who is she? What is she like? I want to know all of her secrets. Also, where was Frank’s vineyard? I’m thinking the North Fork. But if it was in Napa, we would need a Nancy Meyers film about Frank’s vineyard, his girlfriend, and the waiter from Palermo immediately. I will happily executive-produce.
32. “Fuck you, plastic Jesus.” Shiv to Kendall, season three, episode two, “Mass in a Time of War”
When Kendall invites his feuding sibs over to Rava’s apartment in a sad attempt to work things out in his daughter’s bedroom, Shiv makes this jab that cuts Kendall the deepest. He betrayed his dad, his family, and the company on behalf of being a better person, so Shiv gets right to his savior complex and at the same time, mocks its authenticity.
31. “But he is tremendous fun. I mean, look at him. Fizzing away over there like a bottle of cheap prosecco.” Caroline to Roman about her husband to be, Peter Munion, season three, episode eight, “Chiantishire”
Like mother, like daughter. Lady Caroline isn’t even married yet, and she’s already making little jabs at her husband-to-be. For Caroline, this is honestly a compliment. Is this where Shiv learned how to manipulate and humiliate Tom?
30. “Oh, a chapel. Do you think dad will be able to cross the threshold, or will he spontaneously combust?” Shiv about Logan, season one, episode seven, “Austerlitz.”
This line, which Shiv says on the Roy family therapy trip to Connor’s ranch in New Mexico, demonstrates how much Shiv has changed since the first season of Succession. In season one, Shiv sparred with her father. She stood against — or told herself she stood against — everything her father represented. She pushed back against him and Waystar’s values, and insulted him whenever she had the chance. Now, in season three, Shiv is quite the opposite. She’ll do anything her father says, unless it’s bad for her. Season-three Shiv Roy would never say this about Logan, but she might say it about her brother, Kendall.
29. “We hire people who want to work here. And we serve a demographic of highly, highly intelligent viewers, who are really tired of being patronized elsewhere by latte-sipping douchebags with hundred-dollar haircuts.” Cyd to Tom, season two, episode two, “Vaulter”
The Peach is not so sweet. Among a deep cast of memorable minor characters, Cyd Peach is the star (in addition to having one of the best names). The way Jeannie Berlin’s raspy voice fires Cyd’s insults like darts makes her all the better. In this moment in particular, Cyd simply describes Tom to Tom, who is drinking a latte while having a hundred-dollar haircut. Her insult is so specific and her delivery so scathing that her hypocrisy doesn’t really matter.
28. “Logan is gonna fire a million poisonous spiders down your dickie.” Tom to Greg, season three, episode two, “Mass in Time of War”
It does not matter if a spider can go down a dick. What matters is Tom’s sing-song-y delivery, and if Matthew Macfadyen gets an Emmy for his performance in season three. If he doesn’t? A million poisonous spiders down every Emmy voter’s dickie.
27. “Have you ever had a fucking grapefruit without an agenda?” Shiv to Marcia, season one, episode nine, “Pre-Nuptial”
Shiv fires this line at Marcia, Logan’s wife. Even into season three, we don’t know much about Marcia except that she usually gets what she wants and she’ll fight for herself. This line provides more insight into the Roy siblings’ perspectives on Marcia. Shiv in particular sees Marcia as someone who has ulterior motives in her marriage to Logan.
26. “At least I’m only getting fucked by one member of this family.” Willa to Tom, season one, episode five, “I Went to Market”
In one of Willa’s best moments, she sharply reads Tom for filth as if she’s a Real Housewife of New York City. Willa observes more than anyone in the Roy family realizes, and she can see more than Tom can from his limited perspective: the Roy family manipulates him and takes advantage of him just as Shiv does. Unfortunately, Tom did not take Willa super seriously in this moment, because he’s only starting to develop a backbone and self-awareness in season three after the family shamelessly and quite happily uses him as a scapegoat for the crimes in cruises.
25. “They call Gil meth-head Santa because he so rarely delivers.” Hugo about Shiv’s former boss, season two, episode nine, “D.C.”
Hugo’s on-the-spot suggestion for a negative spin on Senator Gil Eavis for ATN is what one might call a “sick burn” as well as a stunning visual. Hugo might be nastier than any Roy. Maybe years of working for Waystar has trained Hugo to have enough biting insults prepared in his brain at all times, ensuring he never runs out.
24. “Thought I heard a clown car pulling up.” Roman about Connor, season three, episode two, “Mass in a Time of War”
In one of Roman’s most subtle insults ever, he suggests his older brother Connor is a clown. If this were season one or season two, it would be so easy to be on Roman’s side here. Unfortunately in season three, Roman’s clown college diploma is slowly but surely falling out of his butt. Look at your life, Roman. You’re all a bunch of clowns!
22. “St. Francis of Assisi! You’ve brought me animals!” Nan Pierce to Frank, season two, episode five, “Tern Haven”
Like all of the best Succession insults, this one from Nan Pierce, played by lesbian legend Cherry Jones, has depth. In front of the Roy family when they arrive at her home, Nan establishes her affection for Frank by referring to him as a saint and then immediately makes her feelings about the Roys known by calling them animals. If you’re not familiar with Catholic saints, congrats on escaping a life of guilt. As the patron saint of animals and the environment, St. Francis of Assisi was a big animal guy. The insult comes across as bubbly and fun, but it gets meaner the longer you think about it.
23. “The message would be, on behalf of the Pierce family, and the media organization it’s privately owned for 150 years, the message would be a typically balanced, nuanced, and objective, ‘fuck off.’” Rhea to Logan and Kendall, season two, episode four, “Safe Room”
We will forever be grateful to Succession creator Jesse Armstrong and the show’s writing team for giving Hollywood icon Holly Hunter one of the best fuck-offs the show, which is full of fuck-offs, will ever see.
21. “My worry is that Kendall may come across as too cool and likable.” Roman about Kendall, season two, episode five, “Tern Haven”
The best thing about a Roman Roy insult is that he often says them to someone else in front of the person he’s insulting. In this case, he proclaims Kendall to be uncool and unlikable (unfortunately accurate, but that’s why we love Kendall) in front of nearly everyone on the show. This moment also propels Roman’s resentment toward Kendall, which takes a very dark direction in season three.
20. “You can’t have a Tomelette without breaking some Greggs.” Tom to Greg in many emails, mentioned in season two, episode nine, “D.C.”
Tom follows his wife with another unmannerly breakfast analogy (maybe they truly are meant for each other lol just kidding please get divorced) directed at Cousin Greg. Is a Tomelette served with his majesty, the spinach?
19. “What I think he meant to say was that he wished mom gave birth to a can opener because at least then it would be useful.” Roman to Kendall, season one, episode two, “Shit Show at the Fuck Factory”
Roman’s insults are about as tactless as his father’s, starting in the series’s second episode when he suggests that a can opener is more useful than his brother, Kendall. Roman is awful, and will get even worse, but we have to respect this creativity.
18. “Kendall Roy is not a hero, fam. He’s a bootleg Ross with a daddy complex.” Anon twitter user, season three, episode three, “The Disruption”
Bad tweet! All respect to Jeremy Strong, but he does share some resemblance to David Schwimmer, who is the best actor from Friends, so maybe it’s an accidental compliment. Anonymous Twitter user is right about the daddy issues, though.
17. “You tell yourself you’re a good person, but you’re not a good person.” Kendall to Shiv, season three, episode two, “Mass in Time of War”
Mumbly, bumbly, fumbly Kendall (did I just describe Winnie the Pooh?) is not, typically, successful at delivering insults, or speaking. He doesn’t have the quick wit of Shiv and Roman but he often tries to have it, to comedic, cringe-y results. But when Kendall is right, he’s right. This is the most right he’s ever been, and he knew this would hurt his sister more than anything.
16. “Just text on your phone, ya bendy fuck.” Logan to Roman, season one, episode eight, “Prague”
It’s mean, but it’s funny because “bendy fuck” is the most accurate way to describe Roman Roy. It also quickly establishes Logan’s disdain for millennials and technology, which is constantly making his company’s status decline.
15. “Is Greg necessary?” Hugo, to the Roys (with Greg in the room) season three, episode six, “What it Takes”
Hugo lowkey might be the nastiest, most underappreciated character on Succession. Greg is, of course, necessary to the show, but Hugo does have a point: Why is he always around? While Nicholas Braun gives us plenty to enjoy in his performance as the Adam Driver-size conniving oaf, he is kind of pointless when it comes to the whole Waystar Royco operation.
14. “Uh … Oh, hello? Is this the replicant department? Yeah, my meat puppet has stopped working. ” Shiv to Tom, season two, episode three, “Hunting”
Shiv plays off this vicious line as a joke when Tom is taken aback. But deep down, Shiv and Tom recognize what the audience knows, too: This is exactly how Shiv feels about Tom. Shiv looks down on Tom and, generally, doesn’t even want to be married to him, or anyone for that matter. She just wants someone to do her bidding so she can get the power she feels entitled to have.
13. “Ken did great. It was Tom who farted in his shit.” Roman, season two, episode ten, “This Is Not for Tears”
There is no other person who could say this than Roman Roy, who somehow makes poop humor sound Shakespearean. Roman says this about Kendall and Tom’s performances at the congressional hearing: Kendall’s performance went surprisingly well while Tom, well, farted in his shit.
12. “Tom, it’s tough to have to tell you this, but I’m in a sexual relationship with your mother. She talks in her sleep.” Gerri to Tom, season one, episode four, “Sad Sack Wasp Trap”
Your mother jokes are so 2006, a.k.a. when the television program Yo Momma was airing on MTV. Wow, We really have been through so much. Geri elevates the “I’m fucking your mom” joke with a biting, precise twist that accomplishes several things: it’s cruel enough to hurt Tom, and it’s funny.
11. “Actually, it’s quite good, your being the second-most important person at your wedding. Takes the pressure off.” Caroline to Shiv, season one, episode nine, “Pre-Nuptial”
After only seconds of seeing Lady Caroline Collingwood on screen for the first time, it makes sense that she was once married to Logan Roy. They’re both cruel people who use horrible insults to establish and keep their power over people, particularly their children. Caroline says this to Shiv after Logan arrives, surprisingly, at her wedding, which she wasn’t expecting him to attend after a falling out.
10. Tom kissing Shiv after betraying her to Logan. Season three, episode nine, “All the Bells Say”
In the season-three finale, Tom pulls one of the best Logan-esque moves of all time by betraying Shiv to her dad, then completely insulting her (although without her knowledge) by giving her an intimate little kiss. The move against Shiv and her siblings puts Tom in a better position than anyone on the show. Because of Tom, Logan was aware of the move his kids were about to make against him with enough time to come up with a plan to make sure Shiv, Kendall, and Roman were, once again, powerless. And the kiss both establishes Tom’s new power and, in its own special way, Tom is giving Shiv what she deserves: a bullshit marriage built on lies, hunger for power, and indecency.
9. “Romulus. When you’re laughing, please do it at the same volume as everyone else. We didn’t get you from a hyena farm.” Logan to Roman, season two, episode five, “Tern Haven”
While this line could theoretically come from any dad who is opposed to loud noises, Logan’s delivery, starting with Brian Cox’s piercing delivery of Roman’s full name (which he does not appear to like), makes it so much more cutthroat than the words suggest.
8. “Fucking King Kong come out to dance for me.” Josh to Logan, season three, episode four, “Lion in the Meadow”
Like Adrien Brody’s outfit, this line has many layers. By comparing Logan to King Kong, Josh is acknowledging Logan’s power and influence. But by comparing Logan to King Kong who is taken away from his home to entertain people as a captive, Josh is implying that he’s the one in control. And Josh is played by Adrien Brody, who starred in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake. Layers!
7. “What’s it like being married to a man with two assholes?” Hugo to Shiv, season two, episode nine, “D.C.”
Hugo with another jab at not only poor Tom, but Shiv for being married to a man who could fumble so hard in front of Congress and, essentially, the entire country. This is where I want to have a teaching moment: Fisher Stevens, the actor who plays Hugo, dated Michelle Pfeiffer for three years in the ’90s.
6. “Fuck you, too, you pusillanimous piece of fucking fool’s gold. Fucking silver-spoon asshole.” Stewy to Kendall, season two, episode one, “The Summer Palace”
Stewy crafts his insults as delicately as he smells lavender. In the season-two premiere, Stewie fires this insult — which is just a mean way of telling a spoiled rich kid the truth — when he faces his former friend for the first time after finding out Kendall screwed him over by backing out of their deal to take Waystar from Logan in a bear hug.
5. “Well, this is why you don’t hatch a plan with Connor, the first fucking pancake.” Shiv, season two, episode eight, “Dundee”
Every time you make pancakes, you hope for the best. Every single pancake will be perfect. But despite your best efforts, the first pancake is a little burnt, its shape resembling a melted Europe more than a golden circle. Here, Shiv suggests that her half-brother Connor is exactly that.
4. “What are you waiting for? A kiss? Fuck off!” -Logan to Roman, season two, episode two, “Vaulter”
Logan shouts this as Roman, who won’t leave his office. I won’t ruin this one with any more of my own words.
3. Tom eating Logan’s chicken. Season two, episode ten, “This Is Not for Tears”
No dialogue. Just Tom Wambsgans eating chicken. The next time someone pisses you off and they happen to be eating chicken, just eat their chicken and walk away.
2. “I’m going to grind his fucking bones to make my bread.” Logan about Kendall, season three, episode one, “Secession”
Somebody fetch the bone grinder! As if Logan Roy has ever made bread. This is a horrible thing to say about someone, especially your number-one boy. Even though this is an awful thing to say about anyone, even enemies, I am keeping it stored in my brain in case I need it one day.
1.“You little slime puppy.” Gerri to Roman, season two, episode four, “Safe Room”
What’s a slime puppy? Other than a puppy made of slime, I don’t know, but Roman Roy is definitely one of them. Maybe the only one, even. Gerri knows how to make Roman feel his worst, which is, for Roman, synonymous with getting hard. It’s fascinating that Gerri had this surprisingly accurate, very weird, and disturbingly specific jab stored in her brain, ready to come out of her mouth at the perfect moment on a phone call with Roman. What makes this one even better is the knowledge that J. Smith-Cameron improvised the line.
The results for most insults are kind of boring, because it’s exactly who you’d expect at the top. Logan comes in at the highest with seven insults. Shiv and Roman came close behind with five each, with Tom at four and Hugo at three. It probably comes at no surprise that of all the main characters on Succession, Cousin Greg and Connor are the only ones who did not have one insult appear on the list.
Most insulted is a little more of an adventure. Even though I curated this list, I shocked myself with the final tallies of most insulted Succession characters. I fully expected the most insulted character to be Cousin Greg, and I didn’t expect any character to come close. I was so wrong. Although Cousin Greg is the subject of five insults in the ranking, he’s beaten by his two best friends: Tom, Kendall, and Shiv lead the pack with seven insults apiece, leaving Roman with five and Connor with three. Any insults Logan made at his children generally counted as one point toward each individual. (e.g., If Logan was insulting all his children at once, it counts as one insult for each child.)
The moral of this ranking is: Hugo and Tom need to team up to fire more insults in Logan and Shiv’s direction, and Hugo needs to speak more because every time he does, someone gets hurt but it’s extremely funny and, generally, correct.