Tears Of A Clown: Comedic Characters Who Had Sad Backstories

September 8, 2015  |  
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I don’t want to be a kill-joy, but in the midst of laughing, have you ever sat back and listened to some of the back stories of some of your favorite characters?

Sometimes the writers allude to it and slightly reference it; however, when you really digest the background of some of these characters, it can make you really sad, especially since they’re in comedy shows.

Let’s take a look at some of these down, but not out, characters, and add your favorites (or any that I missed) in the comment section (and maybe there will be a part 2).


Steve Urkel in “Family Matters”

Did anyone else wonder why Steve was constantly over at the Winslow’s house?  He would always give a quick quip about his family trying to get away from him while the recorded laughter would ensue, and then he would begin to torment the Winslows.

But it’s not until you actually pay attention to those little quips Steve would say that you realized that his parents didn’t really like him that much.  They would leave and go on vacation without him, lock him in the house, during a moment of being hypnotized Steve recalled his father trying to push him back in after he was born, and the list goes on and on.

So maybe that’s why he was so needy with the Winslows?

Tasha Mack in “The Game”

There’s not a lot a person can do when they feel as though they’ve become a statistic, except by beating one.

Tasha Mack grew up in a rough environment in Richmond, California and became a single, teenaged mother, raising her son on her own.  However, she was able to turn that around by making her son one of the highest paid athletes in his field.   But still, having your water break at your prom is so unfortunate.


Cole Brown in “Martin”

Though Cole had a leg up on Tommy (who may or may not have had a job), Cole seemed to be struggling in every other area of his life.  He lived with his mother and was it just me, but did some of his descriptions of his relationship with Big Shirley seem like she was abusing him?


Phoebe Buffay in “Friends”

For someone who seemed to be in their own, enlightened world, Phoebe definitely spent a lot of her early life in the dark.

After her father left her, her mother committed suicide, her twin sister not wanting anything to do with her, being homeless, finding out her real mother was alive in her late twenties, and a host of other things, Phoebe came off pretty well adjusted.


William Dent in “Girlfriends”

William seemed so level-headed for most of the episodes of “Girlfriends,” but when we went back into his relationship with his father, we see how strained it was.  After all those years, William was still, emotionally, trying to gain his father’s approval, but coming up short.


Schmuley “Snot” Lonstein in “American Dad”

If you ever want to feel better about your adolescence, just pay attention to this tragic character’s life.  According to him, his mother is an alcoholic, his wrestling coach was inappropriate while giving him brandy at his condo, and he was planning on using the police tape that was used when his uncle was murdered as decoration for his bar mitzvah celebration.

Can you give a cartoon character a hug?


Dr. Cox in “Scrubs”

There was a reason why Dr. Cox kept JD at arms’ length, and it was due to his poor background.  In many episodes, he alluded to his father’s abusive and drunken antics, and even admitted to his sister that whenever he sees her, he’s reminded of their disastrous childhood.


Will Smith in “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”

Before being shipped off to Bel-Air, Will’s life in West Philadelphia wasn’t so gay.  Getting involved in troublesome activities, and feeling abandoned by his father were some of the demons he had to struggle with.  Seriously, can anyone keep a dry eye when Will was talking about his father and asked Uncle Phil:  “Why don’t he love me, man?!”


Penny in “Good Times”

Now “Good Times” never made any allusions that the show was going to be a “feel good.”  Just listening to the theme song can make you feel a little down in the dumps, but when Penny arrived on the show… sigh…  Poor, poor, Penny.

Penny’s mother was incredibly abusive to her, even burning her with an iron.


Toni Childs-Garrett in “Girlfriends”

Though Toni was incredibly self-centered, she probably grew up that way due to her  alcoholic mother and her impoverished family.

Michael Collins in “The Proud Family”

On “The Proud Family” Penny had a friend named Michael.  Michael was eccentric, and kind of effeminate.  It didn’t seem to bother Penny that much, but it was enough for Michael’s own father to ask him not to let people know he was his father, but to call him “Coach” in public.

Cold world.

Byron Douglass III in “A Different World”

I know that Byron was just a minor character on “A Different World,” and this wasn’t really his backstory, but I can never get over the fact of all the money, time planning, and the embarrassment he experienced when his ENTIRE family was there to see him get married. And not only does his fiancée leave him at the altar, but she marries someone else at the SAME time, on the same day?!

“Baby please!”  Baby, NO!

Gina Deveaux in “A Different World”

Speaking of “A Different World” characters, but Gina’s abusive relationship with her boyfriend, and how he kept on coming back was the stuff of nightmares.

Ray Campbell in “Sister Sister”

There was always a tragic appeal to Ray’s character (just more proof to how brilliant Tim Reid played him).

Ray was a widower, and though he still dated, I can’t imagine how that felt.  He still mourned his love, as seen on an episode when he was delivering flowers to his wife’s grave.


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