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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.

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Holiday Extra Special

Make The Holidays ’80s Again

Enjoy the holiday cheer Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Whatever happened to the kind of crazy-yet-cozy holiday specials that blanketed the early winter airwaves of the 1980s? Unceremoniously killed by infectious ’90s jadedness? Slow fade out at the hands of early-onset millennial ennui? Whatever the reason, nixing the tradition was a huge mistake.

A huge mistake that we’re about to fix.

Announcing IFC’s Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special, starring Tony Hale. It’s a celeb-studded extravaganza in the glorious tradition of yesteryear featuring Bridget Everett, Jo Firestone, Nick Thune, Jen Kirkman, house band The Dap-Kings, and many more. And it’s at Joe’s Pub, everyone’s favorite home away from home in the Big Apple.

The yuletide cheer explodes Wednesday December 21 at 10P. But if you were born after 1989 and have no idea what void this spectacular special is going to fill, sample from this vintage selection of holiday hits:

Andy Williams and The NBC Kids Search For Santa

The quintessential holiday special. Get snuggly and turn off your brain. You won’t need it.

A Muppet Family Christmas

The Fraggles. The Muppets. The Sesame Street gang. Fate. The Jim Henson multiverse merges in this warm and fuzzy Holiday gathering.

Julie Andrews: The Sound Of Christmas

To this day a foolproof antidote to holiday cynicism. It’s cheesy, but a good cheese. In this case an Alpine Gruyère.

Star Wars Holiday Special

Okay, busted. This one was released in 1978. Still totally ’80s though. And yes that’s Bea Arthur.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

Pass the eggnog, and make sure it’s loaded. This special is everything you’d expect it to be and much, much more.

Joe’s Pub Presents: A Holiday Special premieres Wednesday December 21 at 10P on IFC.

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It Ain't Over Yet

A Guide to Coping with the End of Comedy Bang! Bang!

Watch the final episodes tonight at 11 and 11:30P on IFC.

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After five seasons and 110 halved-hour episodes, Scott Aukerman’s hipster comedy opus, Comedy Bang! Bang!, has come to an end. Fridays at 11 and 11:30P will never be the same. We know it can be hard for fans to adjust after the series finale of their favorite TV show. That’s why we’ve prepared this step-by-step guide to managing your grief.

Step One: Cry it out

It’s just natural. We’re sad too.
Scott crying GIF

Step Two: Read the CB!B! IMDB Trivia Page

The show is over and it feels like you’ve lost a friend. But how well did you really know this friend? Head over to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s IMDB page to find out some things you may not have known…like that it’s “based on a Civil War battle of the same name” or that “Reggie Watts was actually born with the name Theodore Leopold The Third.”

Step Three: Listen to the podcast

One fascinating piece of CB!B! trivia that you might not learn from IMDB is that there’s a podcast that shares the same name as the TV show. It’s even hosted by Scott Aukerman! It’s not exactly like watching the TV show on a Friday night, but that’s only because each episode is released Monday morning. If you close your eyes, the podcast is just like watching the show with your eyes closed!

Step Four: Watch brand new CB!B! clips?!

The best way to cope with the end of Comedy Bang! Bang! is to completely ignore that it’s over — because it’s not. In an unprecedented move, IFC is opening up the bonus CB!B! content vault. There are four brand new, never-before-seen sketches featuring Scott Aukerman, Kid Cudi, and “Weird Al” Yankovic ready for you to view on the IFC App. There’s also one right here, below this paragraph! Watch all four b-b-bonus clips and feel better.

Binge the entire final season, plus exclusive sketches, right now on the IFC app.

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Everybody Sweats Now

The Four-Day Sweatsgiving Weekend On IFC

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This long holiday weekend is your time to gobble gobble gobble and give heartfelt thanks—thanks for the comfort and forgiveness of sweatpants. Because when it comes right down to it, there’s nothing more wholesome and American than stuffing yourself stupid and spending endless hours in front of the TV in your softest of softests.

So get the sweats, grab the remote and join IFC for four perfect days of entertainment.

sweatsgiving
It all starts with a 24-hour T-day marathon of Rocky Horror Picture Show, then continues Friday with an all-day binge of Stan Against Evil.

By Saturday, the couch will have molded to your shape. Which is good, because you’ll be nestled in for back-to-back Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Finally, come Sunday it’s time to put the sweat back in your sweatpants with The Shining, The Exorcist, The Chronicles of Riddick, Terminator 2, and Blade: Trinity. They totally count as cardio.

As if you need more convincing, here’s Martha Wash and the IFC&C Music Factory to hammer the point home.

The Sweatsgiving Weekend starts Thursday on IFC

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