Home STREAMING AND TV GUIDE 22 Funniest TV Characters of the '90s

22 Funniest TV Characters of the ’90s

The ’90s conjure up flashbacks of flannel shirts, crimped hair, vibrant electronic dance music, rebellious grunge bands, girl power, and dial-up internet. It was also the decade that spawned a plethora of widely successful movies and series; comedies such as Clueless, Mrs. Doubtfire, Friends, and Everybody Loves Raymond, and dramas like Silence of the Lambs, Titanic, Law & Order, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine come to mind, and they’ll forever be etched in the tapestry of the rise of pop culture.

Whether on the small or big screen, as leads or supporting cast, many fictional characters made a lasting impression and are still quoted by their fans. Some were inspirational or endearing, while others had a special kind of charisma and managed to lighten up the mood of those struggling with life’s countless trials and tribulations.

Here are 22 hilarious characters from ’90s TV shows spanning not only sitcoms, but also space operas and supernatural, medical, and fantasy dramas.

22 Eric Matthews (Boy Meets World)

Eric Matthews in Boy Meets World

Boy Meets World was a coming-of-age sitcom that debuted in 1993. The main character’s older brother, Eric Matthews, played by Will Friedly, is handsome and popular, but then he becomes hilariously scatterbrained after he’s knocked unconscious.

Eric: I don’t know how to say this, so I’m going to choose my words very carefully. I think you’re a psycho. I want to get as far away from you as I possibly can.

Corinna: You don’t wanna see me anymore, do you?

Eric: Oh, see, it’s not just that. I wanna put you on a rocket ship and send you to planet Fla-Flu-Ga!

Related: 10 Raunchiest Comedy Movies of the ’80s and ’90s

21 Daniel Osbourne (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Oz in Buffy The Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox Television

The supernatural drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which aired between 1997 and 2003, features a strong and intuitive teenage girl (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who hunts monsters with her friends. But not all monsters are evil, as evident by Daniel “Oz” Osbourne, portrayed by Seth Green. Oz is a high-school student, the guitarist of the band Dingoes Ate My Baby, and a werewolf who learns to keep his lycanthropy under control. His calm demeanor, wit, and dry sense of humor are make him particularly appealing.

Oz: We should figure out what kind of deal this is. I mean, is it a gathering, a shindig, or a hootenanny?

Cordelia: What’s the difference?

Oz: Well, a gathering is brie, mellow song stylings; shindig, dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage; and a hootenanny, well, it’s chock-full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny.”

20 Jerry Markovic (ER)

Jerry Markovic in ER

Created by Michael Crichton, the medical drama ER aired from 1994 to 2009 and catapulted George Clooney’s career. Played by Abraham Benrubi, Jerry Markovic is the hospital’s kind and goofy desk clerk for the first five seasons; he doesn’t reappear again until season 8. Jerry provides a decent dose of comfort and laughter with his thoughtful celebrations, practical jokes, and side-profit schemes, amid all the personal drama and health complications. Who else would accidentally blow up an ambulance with a grenade launcher?

19 Geoffrey Butler (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

Geoffrey Butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Airing from 1990 to 1996, NBC’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air centers on Will (Will Smith), a rebellious and street-smart teenager from Philadelphia who is sent to live with his upper-class uncle, Philip Banks, in Los Angeles, and the inevitable clashes that ensue. Philip’s butler, Geoffrey Butler (yes, that’s his last name), played by Joseph Marcell, is ceremonial, snarky, and always speaks his mind without losing his cool.

Will: Yo, are we having a party? We’re gonna get stupid, right?

Geoffrey: For some of us, that will require very little effort, indeed.

18 Kimmy Gibbler (Full House)

A scene from Full House
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Starring Bob Saget as Danny Tanner, Candace Cameron, Jodie Sweetin, and the Olsen twins as his daughters, and John Stamos as Uncle Jesse, Full House was one of the most popular family sitcoms from 1987 to 1995. Andrea Barber played Kimberly Gibbler, the intrusive, quirky, spontaneous, but well-meaning next-door neighbor with a flamboyant wardrobe. She would go on to reprise this beloved role as an adult in the modern Netflix sequel, Fuller House.

17 Quark (DS9)

Quark in Star Trek: DS9
Paramount Domestic Television

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine tackles the themes of war, politics, racism, and religious fundamentalism. In the midst of all the drama and complications, the character of Quark, played by Armin Shimerman, provides much-needed comedic relief. As the proprietor of the only bar on the DS9 space station and a solid representative of the profit-oriented and greedy Ferengi species, Quark is cynical, practical, sly, and manipulative, and constantly quotes the Rules of Acquisition, which include “A deal is a deal… until a better one comes along,” “Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies,” and “Never have sex with the boss’ sister.”

16 Steve Urkel (Family Matters)

Jaleel White as Steve Urkel

Centering on the Winslows, an African-American family from Chicago, Family Matters ran from 1989 to 1998 and won seven awards, including Outstanding Youth Actor for Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel. Urkel is the nerdy, clumsy, socially awkward, and annoying teen neighbor with a high-pitched voice and a predilection for saddle shoes and Capri pants held by suspenders. His catchphrases include, “Did I do that?” and “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”. He also popularized the Urkel Dance, and the character’s merchandise (fruit-flavored cereal, T-shirts, and a pull string doll) quickly sold out.

15 Tim Taylor (Home Improvement)

Home Improvement
Buena Vista Television

ABC’s Home Improvement, which aired from 1991 to 1999, was one of the decade’s highest-rated sitcoms. Stand-up comedian Tim Allen plays the grunting and witty Tim Taylor, who lives in Detroit with his wife and three sons and hosts a TV show called Tool Time. One of the series’ highlights is Tim’s constant banter with his assistant Al Borland (Richard Karn).

14 Niles Crane (Frasier)

Niles Crane drinking coffee at Nervosa

Paramount Network Television

NBC’s critically acclaimed sitcom Frasier premiered in 1993 and lasted for 11 seasons. The show follows psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), who has returned to his hometown and has become a renowned radio show host. His competitive younger brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), also a psychiatrist, is an intellectual with refined taste, severe mysophobia, and many amusing quirks.

“I’d like a petit filet mignon, very lean; not so lean that it lacks flavor, but not so fat that it leaves drippings on the plate. And I don’t want it cooked; just lightly seared on either side, pink in the middle; not true pink, but not a mauve either, something in between; bearing in mind, the slightest error either way, and it’s ruined.”

13 Carlton Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

Carlton in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
NBCUniversal via GettyImages

Will Smith may have been the lead of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but his preppy, conservative, and high-maintenance cousin, Carlton Banks, played by Alfonso Ribeiro, was a hilarious scene-stealer. His signature solo “white-man” dance, later dubbed The Carlton, involves him smoothly swinging his arms, moving his knees back and forth, and snapping his fingers to Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual.

12 Roseanne Conner (Roseanne)

Roseanne Conner in Roseanne

ABC’s realistic blue-collar family sitcom Roseanne, which premiered in 1988 and concluded in 1997, is set in a small Illinois town and centers on the Conners. The titular lead, played by Roseanne Barr, is the outspoken, bossy, sassy, loud, and overweight matriarch who is fiercely protective of her little clan.

“What happened was that 400 people showed up for six jobs. So, I’m standing there for three hours drinking coffee, just so some punk kid can ask me if I have any special skills; I told him, “Yeah. Bladder control.””

11 Autolycus (Xena: Warrior Princess)

Autolycus in Xena Warrior Princess
Universal Television

Fantasy, sci-fi, and supernatural series were all the rage in the 1990s and early 2000s, and Xena: Warrior Princess, set in Ancient Greece, generated a huge cult following that is still active in conventions. Besides the titular warrior princess and her sidekick, the bard Gabrielle, the show features a plethora of fascinating secondary characters, namely Autolycus, the self-appointed king of thieves. Played by the Evil Dead franchise’s star Bruce Campbell, he is a conniving trickster and a womanizer with a high sense of self-preservation… and a heart of gold.

10 George Costanza (Seinfeld)

George Costanza in Seinfeld

Seinfeld aired from 1989 to 1998 and is considered one of the wittiest sitcoms “about nothing” of all time. Jason Alexander portrays George Costanza, Jerry Seinfeld’s cynical, self-deprecating, neurotic, bitter, insecure, stingy, and balding close friend. Audiences are highly amused by the unfortunate incidents he is often plagued with, not to mention his loud interactions with his controlling parents.

9 Frank Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond)

Frank Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond

“I tried nice once. Didn’t care for it.”

The ’90s had their share of outrageous TV characters who would shock and appall Gen Zers today, and Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Frank Barone (Peter Boyle), the Italian-American patriarch and war veteran, is rude, sexist, intrusive, and homophobic, and his tough-love one-liners are unforgettable. He only cares about good food and sports game, and he openly criticizes his wife and sons, preferably with his pants unbuttoned.

8 Karen Walker (Will & Grace)

Karen Walker in Will & Grace

When the award-winning Will & Grace premiered in 1998, audiences were pleasantly surprised with the main characters: Will, a gay corporate lawyer; his co-dependent best friend and roommate Grace, an interior decorator; Jack, a confident and fickle gay actor; and Karen Walker, Grace’s nonchalant assistant, a wealthy socialite with a squeaky voice and a penchant for all types of liquor. The latter, portrayed by Megan Mullally, is charismatic, albeit tone-deaf, and is considered one of the most hilarious supporting characters in an adult sitcom. Some of her best lines include, “If you ever need someone to drink with, I’ll drink with you. If you ever need a shoulder to cry on, I’ll drink with you,” “Sorry, I’m late, but I got here as soon as I wanted to,” and “I can’t believe I’m at a public pool. Why doesn’t someone just directly pee on me?”

7 Fran Fine (The Nanny)

Maxwell, Fran, and Niles in The Nanny

Fran Drescher, the current president of SAG-AFTRA, achieved instant stardom when she took on the role of the loud, practical, relatable, and outspoken Jewish nanny, Fran Fine, on the CBS sitcom The Nanny. Her extravagant outfits, nasal voice, and warmth stood out in the luxurious Sheffield mansion, where she cared for three troubled children, flirted with their handsome British father, and gossiped with the butler. Good thing she was there to impart her wisdom on others, like, “Did you really think you were gonna hide a hickey from me with a little pressed powder? You need oil-based concealer!” or “You can always get your money back. Mom once got a refund on a chicken carcass that she claimed the meat fell off on the way home.”

6 Phoebe Buffay (Friends)

Pregnant Phoebe Buffay in Friends
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

NBC’s hit sitcom Friends debuted in 1994 and soon became a pop-culture phenomenon; it may have concluded in 2004, but fans constantly revisit its funniest episodes for comfort and can quote any of the six main characters to this day. No wonder the show earned a total of 65 awards. Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow), the quirky, eccentric, free-spirited blonde sporting Bohemian outfits, had a difficult childhood, learned survival on the street, and became a peace-loving vegetarian, massage therapist, and guitar performer; she is one of the most beloved TV characters of all time. Some of her most memorable lines include, “If you want to receive emails about my upcoming shows, then please give me money, so I can buy a computer,” “Something is wrong with the left phalange,” and “Ross can!”

5 The Doctor (Star Trek: Voyager)

Robert Picardo in Star Trek: Voyager
Paramount Network Television

“You heard the man. Run along. I’ll reattach any severed limbs; just don’t misplace them.”

The Star Trek universe abounds with bizarre aliens, space anomalies, and holographic characters, and Voyager, which aired from 1995 to 2001, featured a widely entertaining, sentient Emergency Medical Hologram, played by Robert Picardo, one of the most underrated character actors. The Doctor was quite proud of his medical expertise and eclectic memory bank, as he constantly added human emotions, hobbies, and artistic and literary skills to his software.

“I had a history of playing characters that you initially don’t like, but grow to like anyway. Characters who are still amusing when they are unhappy or angry. The Doctor was cranky, and I didn’t know why he was cranky. I faked my way through the audition. My last scripted line was roughly, “I believe someone has failed to terminate my program.” I added, “I’m a doctor, not a nightlight.” I ad libbed that line, which you shouldn’t do in an audition, but it got a big laugh, and I was hired the next day. Then I had to figure out what the role was.”

– Picardo to StarTrek.com

The Doctor’s dry sense of humor and unexpected bouts of emotional rendered him one of the franchise’s most memorable characters.

4 Al Bundy (Married…with Children)

Peggy Bundy and Al Bundy

“Let’s face it. Even if you were beautiful, like that girl on TV, I’d still ignore you. Cause you’re my wife!”

Fox’s family sitcom Married… with Childrenaired from 1987 till 1997, and audiences got to see the outrageous and atypical Bundy family members grow: there is Peggy, the perpetually coiffed wife, whose interests involve fashion, beauty, and sitting on the couch all day; Kelly, her ditzy, sexy teenage daughter; Bud, her witty and constantly horny son; and Al, her husband, a shoe salesman who can barely make ends meet.

Played by Ed O’Neill, Al’s character and lines wouldn’t fly with today’s so-called “political correctness,” but he is considered one of the most hilarious dads and husbands on TV. He is misogynistic, sexist, and has questionable hygiene. He also fat-shames his clients and is often mocked by his family and neighbors for not being a better provider. And yet, despite his grouchiness and rudeness, he cares for his little clan, and is constantly quoted and featured in GIFs and memes.

Woman: Excuse me, but am I invisible?

Al: Possibly from Pluto.

3 Dorothy Zbornak (The Golden Girls)

Bea Arthur as Dorothy on The Golden Girls
Buena Vista Television

The multi-award-winning NBC sitcom The Golden Girls may have premiered in 1985, but it lasted till May 1992, and its most iconic scenes are constantly shared on social media platforms. Starring Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, the story focuses on four older women who live together in Miami. Arthur portrays the compassionate, level-headed, and outspoken Dorothy Zbornak, whose cynical, sarcastic, and savage comebacks are unequaled on the show. Case in point, when she recalls the circumstances that led to her divorce with dark humor, saying, “He left me 38 years later for a stewardess that he met on a business trip to Hawaii. It was her first flight. They said, “On arrival, give the passengers a lei.” She got confused, he got lucky, and they now live on Maui.”

Dorothy can’t resist teasing her roommates, especially the promiscuous and vain Blanche and the dim-witted, naive Rose.

Rose: You flirted with him!

Blanche: I’m from the South! Flirting is part of my heritage.

Rose: What do you mean?

Dorothy: Her mother was a slut, too.


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