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The 10 Best Butlers From Pop Culture

Catch back-to-back episodes of the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Paramount

When you need tea, you ring for the butler. When the doorbell rings, the butler answers the door. When you’re a billionaire playboy moonlighting as a caped vigilante superhero, the butler makes you a fabulous costume. And when you need life advice delivered in the form of sassy one-liners, the butler is there to dish it out alongside your perfectly prepared dinner. In honor of Benson, the loyal butler from the classic sitcom Soap (now airing on IFC!), we’ve compiled a list of loyal and hilarious pop culture butlers to give them the praise they justly deserve.

1. Alfred Pennyworth, Batman

If you ask anyone to name one butler, they will most likely choose Bruce Wayne’s faithful right-hand man, Alfred Pennyworth. Following the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Alfred not only became Bruce’s sole caretaker, he became his surrogate parent. Since first appearing in the comics in Batman #16 way back in 1943, Alfred has had Bruce’s best interests at heart whether it’s in business, romance, or fighting crime. On the big and small screen, Alfred has been played by everyone from Alan Napier on the 1960s TV series to Jeremy Irons in the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Girlfriends and archenemies may come and go, but Alfred is truly forever.

2. Carson, Downton Abbey

No one exemplifies the “stiff upper lip” quality of British butlers quite like Downton Abbey‘s noble Charles Carson, played by four-time Best Supporting Actor Emmy nominee Jim Carter. He is, other than dear housekeeper Mrs. Hughes, the most respected and trusted of all of Downton’s staff and is very serious about not only his job but also the well-being of the Crawley family. Carson is especially sweet on eldest daughter Lady Mary, offering her advice and comfort in times of trouble. He doesn’t take particularly well to change but he does his best (the way he practices answering the telephone is particularly humorous) to please the family. And he has eyebrows even Cara Delevingne would covet.

3. Niles, The Nanny

The Sheffields’ snooty English butler, Niles (Daniel Davis), couldn’t be more different than the family’s streetwise, Queens-bred nanny, Fran, but they quickly became inseparable best friends, gossiping, snooping around, and hatching schemes to hook Fran up with Maxwell (Charles Shaughnessy). Known for his sardonic one-liners, Niles became a fan favorite during The Nanny‘s six-season run, prompting many a nasal laugh around the country. (Davis also does an impeccable British accent, despite being from Arkansas.)

4. Agador Spartacus, The Birdcage

Initially, Hank Azaria’s gay-houseboy-turned-butler was only going to be in one scene of The Birdcage, but the producers of the film decided to expand his role after cutting another character. Agador, who works for gay couple Armand (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) in their Miami home, has a penchant for cutoff shorts and melodramatic outbursts, and harbors an aversion to shoes (“I never wear shoes, because they make me fall down!”) and any kind of actual housework. However, he has a heart of gold; just make sure you don’t ask him to prepare the food for your next dinner party.

5. Riff Raff, The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Technically, Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) is more of an alien masquerading as an Igor-esque assistant to Dr. Frank-N-Furter than a proper butler, but he IS the one responsible for answering the door when Brad and Janet arrive not to mention performing various menial household tasks (and likely most of the work on creating Rocky). Riff Raff and his kooky sister Magenta (Patricia Quinn) are also responsible for launching thousands of dance parties to “The Time Warp” in midnight movie theaters around the country. Not bad for two visiting aliens from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania.

6. Lurch, The Addams Family and Addams Family Values

He’s sort of the strong and silent type, but nevertheless, the Addams family loves their faithful butler, Lurch (played in the films by sci-fi favorite Carel Struycken). At seven-feet-tall with a serious expression on his face, he’s a fairly imposing presence, often scaring away trick-or-treaters or houseguests with just a well-timed grunt. However, we hear he’s a pretty impressive organist. We’d ask him about it, but all he says is “ughhhhhh.”

7. Edmund, Blackadder the Third

Created by Love Actually director Richard Curtis and comedy icon Rowan Atkinson for BBC One in the 1980s, the Blackadder series follows the scheming Blackadder line at various points throughout British history. The excellent, BAFTA-winning third season has Edmund Blackadder (Atkinson) in the unfortunate position of butler to the idiotic, foppish Prince Regent, George (a hysterical Hugh Laurie). However, he often finds ways of using his superior intelligence to his own advantage, and by the end of the season, Edmund Blackadder has assumed the Prince Regent’s identity after the Prince is shot and killed whilst posing in disguise as Blackadder.

8. Geoffrey Butler, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

There’s no denying that Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell), the Banks family’s perfectly deadpan butler, secretly ruled the roost. He epitomized the bourgeois world with his elegant accent and disapproving looks, which is probably why he clashed so frequently with the charming, working-class Will. Geoffrey had a smart answer for everything, and occasionally came off as resentful of the Banks children. However he also knew how to let loose from time to time and was something of a ladies-man. He has much in common with Niles from The Nanny as they both attended Oxford and throw out snide remarks faster than you can say “In West Philadelphia born and raised…”

9. Wadsworth, Clue

Depending on which ending of Clue you watch, Tim Curry’s butler character, Wadsworth, is either the film’s hero or blackmailing villain. No matter the ending, however, Wadsworth is never short on highly quotable, snippy comebacks as he and his fellow dinner party guests try to solve Mr. Boddy’s murder without being murdered themselves. Though it was a commercial box office bomb at the time, Clue gained a cult following through home-viewing and became one of Tim Curry’s signature films. Interestingly, Tim Curry was the third choice to play Wadsworth after Leonard Rossiter (who passed away before pre-production started) and Blackadder‘s Rowan Atkinson (whom producers felt was too unknown in America at the time). Director Jonathan Lynn personally asked Curry, who he had known since they were teenagers, to step in, and to make a long story short…”TOO LATE!”

10. Benson Dubois, Soap and Benson

Celebrated character actor Robert Guillaume won two Primetime Emmys for his role as sardonic butler Benson on Soap and its spin-off series centered around his character. Much like Geoffrey on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (on which Guillaume once guest-starred), Benson is never short on deadpanned wisecracks as he lives with and works for the melodramatic and kooky Connecticut-based Tate family. Benson is the only butler on this list to score his own TV series, where he served as the head of household affairs for a widowed Governor for seven seasons on ABC. (Fun fact: Guillaume is also the voice of Rafiki in the Disney classic, The Lion King.)

Click here to see all airings of Soap on IFC.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…