Never have so many of the best characters across all genres and mediums been gathered into one list. But, when we hear “never” we think “Okay, I guess let’s try?” So, anyway, welcome!
These characters are not ranked, per say, but they have been listed in an order with numbers. SO, take that as you will! Without further ado: The 21 best fictional characters of 2021 are…
1. Ted Cruz as portrayed by Aidy Bryant on SNL (Sketch)
There’s nothing funny about IRL sad-man, Ted Cruz. Buuuuut, put Aidy Bryant in a Hawaiian shirt and now you’re on to something. Aidy as Ted is one of the best choices SNL has made in years. It shouldn’t be overlooked despite the several years of funny Kate-casting. Here are some of the countless great things about this character: Aidy’s voice, Aidy’s hands, Aidy’s hair, the way Aidy makes Ted seem so pathetic, and that I laugh every time I think about him, now. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
2. Shuli Kucerac as portrayed by Wanda Sykes in The Other Two (TV)
Wanda Sykes is so effortlessly cool. Shuli is one of the funniest characters of the year. She is all business and does not care about your feelings. But, in season 3, she takes Brooke under her wing and ushers her into the upper echelon of showbiz. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
3. Qelsi, the Influencer as portrayed by Erika Priscilla on TikTok (Internet)
One of the best characters to come out of 2021 has to be Qelsi The Influencer. Comedian and Tiktok sensation, Erika Priscilla (@erikaxpriscilla), pokes fun at influencer culture in a series of hilarious videos playing the persona, Qelsi.
This character is cringe comedy at its finest. These videos are so fun to watch because Erika really leans into the ridiculous things influencers do and say online. From starting every video with “hey guys!” to saying things like, “I just wanted to jump on here really quickly” Erika doesn’t skip a beat!
Whenever I really wanna laugh, I watch her videos. Her face and constant nervous giggle crack me up every time. Because why are influencers so damn giggly?! If you haven’t seen these videos, you need to keep up with Qelsi on Tiktok and Instagram. Whether she’s wine tasting or making avocado toast, she’s probably on the verge of a nervous breakdown and it’s hilarious. Erika! If you’re reading this, HI! Let’s be friends, you’re so funny.- Kristina Feliciano, @kristinaiscomedy
4. Carrie as portrayed by Rosie O’Donnell on The L Word: Generation Q (TV)
I would lay down my life for Rosie O’Donnell. This I would like to make abundantly clear. I was born to follow her footsteps–to be Harriet’s nanny and other clearly gay characters in beloved family films (that do stuff like kiss Madona). Rosie is everything to me in the new L Word reboot.
Have I always been a Bette-gal? Yes!!!! Obviously! She’s extremely hot! But, Carrie is the anti-Bette. She’s real, she’s sad, and she’s not WeHo-hot like the other women–all the other women. It’s hard to describe what came over me when I first met Carrie. She’s funny, awkward, babbling, a bit embarrassing.
I felt so seen. TOO seen. She’s who I would be if I had grown up several years before I did. She’s the me that the world was slightly less ready for. So, I guess I’d lay down my life for Carrie too. And not JUST to be horizontal in front of Bette. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
5. Luisa Madrigal as voiced by Jessica Darrow in Encanto (Film)
Get the memo, folks: Luisa is very strong. Emotionally strong, I guess…But I’m talking about muscles-strong. Hell yeah! But this isn’t a lame girl boss moment. This is MORE. Luisa is cool; her physical strength is enviable. She made me want to lift and I am not muscles-strong. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
6. NPCs as portrayed by actual people online (Internet)
BIG year for NPCs, or non-player characters. We memed them. We pretended to be them. We imagined their lives.
There’s someone on TikTok who walks up to people in grocery stores and says NPC stuff like “The flour is on a high shelf,” or “some items require advanced cooking skills to purchase.”
There were TikTok trends that invited thousands (millions?) of people to do the classic NPC bob, saying “I really should plant my seeds.” This is the year of the NPC! Huzzah! – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
7. Deborah Vance as portrayed by Jean Smart on Hacks (TV)
Deborah Vance picks up where Midge Maisel leaves off. In many ways, Deborah is the anti-Midge…or maybe she’s the person Midge is destined to become. Deborah is what’s left, in 2021, of the women that we left behind. There’s something cancel-able about Deborah, which is what immediately endears you to her. She’s broken, but won’t let a damn person see that. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
8. The Abortion Clown as portrayed by Cecily Strong on SNL (Sketch)
SNL is best when it hits the pulse of what we’re all thinking. Why have a live show if they aren’t going to comment, and be the best comment, on what’s going down? Cecily’s Abortion Clown does just that. It harkens back to Kate’s “Are you okay?” bit from last year.
But, Cecily hits it harder. She’s sort of in, sort of out of character, telling us the story of her own abortion. It’s manic, funny, and also–if possible–humorless. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
9. Kayla as portrayed by Megan Stalter on Hacks (TV)
Meg Stalter’s character in Hacks, Kayla, is the funniest rendition of a useless office employee the world has ever seen. Her humor is like being a ball in one of those machines with a bunch of metal pegs. You’re not sure which slot you’ll end up in because the pegs change the angle of the ball so often. She isn’t the main character but she very clearly stole the show. I frankly only watched it to see her. (Also because some people told me I reminded them of the actual main character. Big brag.) – Tessa Abedon, @abedon_tessa
10. Phoebe as portrayed by Mckenna Grace in Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Film)
Guys, I wanted to be cool. I wanted to have a big problem with the Ghost Busters remake so I could be haughty and cool. Unfortunately, it is really good.
I saw it on Thanksgiving and halfway through, I leaned over to my partner and whispered “I’m loving this.” 99% of that is thanks to Mckenna Grace delivering a performance far beyond her years. I don’t think I’m taking a risk by saying she artfully and gracefully plays a character with neurodivergent traits. She’s not like other girls. But she’s on a mission to prove something about herself, her family, and to figure out why she feels so alone in the world.
Phoebe is as tough as she is serious about most everything she does. I fell for her, and in doing so, sort of fell for my own weird-girl younger self. I didn’t hunt for ghosts, but I did believe in fairies. And sometimes us weird girls need movies too!
Not just popular, funny guys should get to hunt ghosts.– Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
11. Woman Whose Job is “Tables” as portrayed by Patti Harrison on I Think You Should Leave (Sketch)
“Do you understand? The tables are my corn!” All I have to do is think about this sketch and I’m laughing. I Think You Should Leave isn’t a sketch show that relies on characters the way SNL does. This is part of its charm!
It’s mostly about terrible situations that make me stay up at night dreading what may happen tomorrow. (But fun!) However, in this sketch, Patti Harrison is playing a character so ridiculously hilarious that every comedian who watches will think “I wish I wrote this.”
It’s stupid. It’s insane. And she’s so pissed about her tables. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
12. Janine as portrayed by Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary (TV)
Maybe it’s the mockumentary style, but Janine reminds me of a more grounded Leslie Knope.
She knows her situation (being an elementary teacher at an under-funded public school run by a self-absorbed principal) is a shit show, but Janine will stop at nothing to make Abbott Elementary a better place for her students.
Although the show has only come out with the pilot at my time of writing, I can already tell Janine will be both the understated, sarcastic relief poking fun at the holes in the school system, and the one bringing everyone together to patch them up. – Miranda Fayne, @mirmitthefrog
13. The Guide as portrayed by Kristen Schall in What We Do in the Shadows (TV)
I mean…when has Kristen Schaal ever missed? Every single show she’s ever been in has been made that much better by her presence, and What We Do in the Shadows is no exception. Jan, aka ‘The Guide,’ slips in the little scenes with the biggest comedy. My personal favorite is when she tries to pronounce ‘VCR’ in her Romanian (?) Kristen Schaal accent.
Her interactions with the gang paint her as the perfect mix of ‘humble servant’ with a condescending attitude – she clearly knows more about everything than all of them. But this doesn’t mean she is a ‘straight man’ comedian. This becomes even clearer in her amusing obsession with Guillermo, the familiar, “I’ve been standing behind you for half an hour…smelling your sweet musk.” – Tessa Abedon, @abedon_tessa
14. Belinda as portrayed by Natasha Rothwell in White Lotus (TV)
Natasha had no small job. In the Hulu counterpart to this hit HBO show, Rothwell’s doppelganger was played by a very spooky Nicole Kidman. But, the character Belinda picks it up and does a…dare I say…better job? She’s more trustworthy and heartfelt. She’s funnier and more caring. I want more! – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
15. Jake Gyllenhaal (Taylor’s Version) as portrayed by Dylan O’Brian and written by Taylor Swift. (Music)
He fell so fast. But, we knew it was coming.
Oh, Jake. Like Icarus, you flew too close to the sun. In this case, the sun is teenaged Taylor Swift: hot, bright, won’t burn out for another billion years. What were you thinking, my dude? Before I thought maybe you were okay. Now, I feel certain that at worst, you’re bad, and at best you’re pretty bad!!!
Just go to your next teen girlfriend’s BIRTHDAY, JAKE!!!! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING! THAT’S SO RUDE!
Once the guy that my roommate was dating skipped his birthday and that was the last straw. Later they lied and showed up at the same Men in Black (the remake) showing as me and my partner and we got into a big fight. This is the fault of you, Jake, and all men like you. The birthday skippers. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
16. Eileen + Alice as written by Sally Rooney in Beautiful World, Where Are You (Book)
Sally Rooney (Normal People, Conversations with Friends) is not new on the scene. For several years, she’s been writing characters that make me fall in love and never want to talk to anyone again. Her newest work, Beautiful World, Where Are You, features the classic literary meme, letter writing.
But, Eileen and Alice are far from Dickensian women. I can’t say too much because I think Sally does it all. But, there’s much to be said. So, I guess just dm me on Twitter once you’ve read and we can chat. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
17. Agatha Harkins/Agnes as portrayed by Katheryn Hahn in Wanda Vision (TV)
Wow! Kathryn Hahn can do no wrong. From next-door realness to full witch, she steals the show. (Literally!) It’s like we were all sitting at home READY for Agatha to go viral. Oh, boy DID she! It was Agatha all along, and I loved it. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
18. Giulia as voiced by Emma Berman in Luca (Film)
Giulia <3 what a cutie. She works hard, that gal!! – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
19. Emily Dickinson as portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld in Dickinson (TV)
My first intro to Dickinson was not watching the show (like normal people), but watching the lesbian supercuts on Youtube. Do straight people know about supercuts? Well, newsflash, you can look up “Emily and Sue all scenes” and really get to the thick of it. (Kissing!)
But, since then, I’ve watched the show (lame!) and really fallen for it. I think it’s Hailee’s best work so far. (Not to mention: Spot hilarious GOLDie Sophie Zucker!) But, what I’m really charmed by is Emily herself! Somehow the writers are able to let Emily grapple with past and present, legacy and livelihood, all at once. It’s a very compelling strategy that I hope becomes a trend in bio-pic projects. – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
20. Yelena as portrayed by Florence Pugh in Black Widow and Hawkeye (Film/TV)
Okay, hotties. Here’s the deal. Florence Pugh is IN A MARVEL SHOW. That’s right, you can watch this chick FIGHT people, all from the comfort of your own couch. Yelena is trying to right the wrongs that she was forced to commit as an assassin; she’s trying to avenge her sister’s death; and hopefully, she wins us all over in the meantime! – Maggie Scudder, @maggiescudder
21. Jessica Stanley from Edward’s POV as written by Stephanie Meyer in Midnight Sun (Book)
Listen, Midnight Sun came out this year, so this counts. Jessica Stanley is the only teen in a book about teens.
Jessica is somehow always mean, always funny, and still has time to become valedictorian. She sucks and that’s what is so great about her. Jessica KNOWS it’s weird that the hot, adopted siblings at her school date each other. But also Jessica is sort of against adoption generally? This is confusing and I am starting a letter-writing campaign to Stephanie Meyer about it.
Phew! Those are some steamed takes! Do you agree? Do you hate us now? Tweet at us to let us know: @GOLDcomedy.