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The 40 Most Iconic Characters of ‘Parks and Recreation,’ Ranked

The 40 Most Iconic Characters of 'Parks and Recreation,' Ranked

40. Jeremy Jamm

Genuinely one of the worst people on the planet, we’ll never forgive him for ruining Leslie’s first attempt at a perfect wedding. A diverse range of interests aside, Jamm’s primary role on this show seemed to be serving as a contrast to the genuinely decent, well-rounded characters of Pawnee. That’s right, Jamm. You just got Jammed.

39. Greg Pikitis

The teenage Moriarty to Leslie’s Sherlock, armed with toilet paper, shaving cream and a peach pit. Always one step ahead. Just look at his stupid face.

38. Mark Brendanawicz

This isn’t really Mark’s fault (or actor Paul Schneider’s fault, for that matter). Mark Brendanawicz (or Mark Brendana-quits, more like) just never grew beyond the role of “straight white potential love interest” for either Leslie or Ann. Getting rid of Mark — and replacing him with Adam Scott and Rob Lowe, playing two characters with actual personality — was one of the best moves the show ever made. Schneider found himself out of work, but “Parks” likely lasted seasons longer than it might have.


37. Dr. Saperstein

Just because you’re a good baby doctor doesn’t make you a good person. Love Henry Winkler, but as long as Saperstein is enabling his demon twins, he’s not beating out…

36. Kim Terlando

Joke thieves are maybe the worst kind of thieves; thus, Pawnee Sun reporter Kim Terlando is the worst sort of person.

35. Wendy Haverford

Tom’s super-hot doctor wife seemed cool when we met her. Then we found out that she basically manipulated Tom into the ruse of a green card marriage, and as soon as she had her documentation, she divorced Tom and started dating Ron. The immigration system is a bitch, no lie, but what Wendy did wasn’t particularly kind, and Pawnee is a town that thrives on kindness. It’s probably for the best that Wendy eventually ended up in Canada.

34. “Sewage” Joe Fantringham

The art-averse city employee only just barely beat out Wendy for this slot. Which I suppose means that sending your co-workers a dick pic is morally better than abusing someone’s love for U.S. citizenship? It’s an ethical quandry, for sure.

33. Bill Dexhart

Dexhart’s always been a thorn in Leslie’s side, but you have to respect his blunt honesty about his carnal appetites. And the man knows how to say he’s sorry. “And to my wife: I apologize. All I can say is, I wasn’t just having sex. I was making love to a beautiful woman. And her boyfriend. And a third person whose name I never learned. Furthermore, it was wrong of me to say I was building houses for the underprivileged when I was actually having four-way sex in a cave in Brazil.”

32. Marcia and Marshall Langman

The sight of Marcia Langman used to drive me into a rage. Then we met her husband Marshall.

And for some reason, I started feeling bad for her. Who can say why?

31. Crazy Ira

Stop enabling the Douche, Crazy Ira. It only makes you more of a douche.

30. Tamara Swanson (Tammy Zero)

The woman who brought Ron Swanson unto the world might have ranked higher had she made more than one appearance on the show. But we’ll never forget her dedication to personal liberty, or her ability to pound moonshine.

29. Brandi Maxxxx

Brandi’s a hard worker, dedicated to her craft and a passionate speaker… and doer. Maybe she’ll never achieve political office, but she’ll never lack for exposure.

28. Ron Dunn

If Ron Dunn started a cult, it’d at least be worth checking out for a weekend.

27. Shauna Malwae-Tweep

She’s not just a professional journalist with a lot of patience for Leslie’s control freak tendencies; she’s a romantic at heart. Or, at the very least, a woman willing to take a chance on love. Over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

26. Jessica Wicks

A pageant queen-turned-business mogul is just the sort of inspiring rags-to-riches tale that would make for excellent Oscar bait. But it’ll probably skate around the part where she had to marry a million-year-old candy mogul to wind up where she did. “Inauthentic!” critics will claim, and despite six nominations, all it will ultimately win is Best Adapted Screenplay.

25. Douglass Howser

You know what? Councilman Howser is the most level-headed person in Pawnee. Maybe he should be mayor.

24. Ken Hotate

Ken won the hearts of “Parks” fans forever during the Harvest Festival: A man unafraid to stick to his guns when it came to respecting his culture, but also a man unafraid to totally mess around with white folk and their fears. Thanks to Ken Hotate, the Wamapoke tribe may not be properly avenged for the atrocities they suffered over the course of history — but they will be remembered.

23. Bobby Newport

Everything you need to know about Bobby Newport can be found in his conversation with Leslie on the day his father dies, which is also on the eve of their campaign ending. Bobby invites Leslie to join him in a round of Wii bowling… in a room in his house that contains an actual bowling alley. Then Leslie tells him a personal story that he appropriates later. Soulless but sad, Bobby is too charming to be any lower on this list.

22. Diane Lewis

Damn right Xena: Warrior Princess isn’t afraid of the Tammys. (I mean, she probably should be, because the Tammys are terrifying. But at the very least, she can hold her own.)

21. Lucy

Natalie Morales is the best, but Lucy is a character in search of more definition than “girl who Tom should ultimately end up with,” and that keeps her much lower than personally I’d like in these rankings. Again, Morales is the best. She just deserves just a little extra. Fingers crossed, we get that tonight.

20. Mona-Lisa Saperstein

Look, Mona-Lisa GOES FOR IT. She is a mountain you cannot climb. She is a force that cannot be opposed. She is the worst of humanity. But in some ways, also the best.

19. The Douche

Oh, let’s just be honest here. Nick Kroll? Can get it.

18. Jennifer Barkley

There’s a strong chance that Jennifer Barkley is the smartest person who’s ever appeared on “Parks and Recreation.” (And that includes Michelle Obama.) Unwavering, always focused, Jennifer Barkley is the kind of person who would decide to become President of the United States if she wanted to. But because Jennifer Barkley is the smartest person ever, she has decided not to bother with the inconvenience.

17. Tammy Swanson (Tammy I)

“She’s the cold distant mother I never had. I love her.”


16. Tammy Swanson (Tammy II)

It’s hard not to love Tammy II, just on the basis of Megan Mullally’s performance. Tammy knows what she wants, and Tammy will do what it takes to get it. We might all be a little happier, if we lived by her example. We’d be sex-crazed sociopaths. But a little bit happier.

15. Joan Callamezzo

Fearless and shameless, Joan Callamezzo has lost her dignity on screen, but she’s never lost Pawnee’s attention. Good luck with those allergies, Joan. Sleep it off.

14A. Ethel Beavers

Andy and April once asked Ethel to be their grandmother, a smart move. Ethel should be everyone’s grandmother, teaching us how to have it all.

14B. Craig Middlebrooks

This is a post-publication addition, because HOW DID I FORGET CRAIG? HOW WAS THAT POSSIBLE? HE’S BEEN SCREAMING IN OUR FACES IN THE MOST DELIGHTFUL WAY FOR TWO SEASONS NOW. WE LOVE YOU CRAIG, IN ALL YOUR ALL-CAPS GLORY. WE’RE SORRY. 

13. Jean-Ralphio Saperstein

My brain says, no, what a terrible idea. My heart?

12. Perd Hapley

The story of this ranking is, I love how a man so pure and literal can be one of the show’s most reliably funny characters. “Lights, Camera, Perd” reviews are the only reviews I trust.

11. Li’l Sebastian

I mean…

10. Ann Perkins

Yeah, this is a pretty low ranking for one of the most important characters of “Parks.” But while Leslie’s beautiful starfish best friend was a key anchor of this show and a wonderful source of comedy for six seasons, so much of her identity was tied up in the men she dated — a fact acknowledged by the show, for sure, but a trait that nonetheless often left her feeling like a cypher. Rashida Jones is such a charismatic and compelling actress, and Ann’s time on screen never felt wasted. But she remains largely defined by those around her and not the person she actually is.

9. Tom Haverford

Tom could be crass. Tom could be self-centered. Tom could be shallow. But Tom’s big heart and big ambition made him a genuine inspiration for anyone worried about getting stuck in one place, because Tom took chances with his career and his heart. We learned a lot more from Tom than Kanye West facts and male fashion; we learned what it meant to be a real entrepreneur. Or, in Tom’s words, dope and baller.

8. Chris Traeger

No regular on “Parks and Recreation” was as open and honest about his ups and downs as one-time city manager Chris Traeger, a pure and optimistic spirit laid low by his own uncertainty and depression. It’d be fascinating to study how many people saw Chris confront his own unhappy mental state and then seek help themselves, because Chris Traeger took on his demons and survived.

Oh, also… Chris Traeger gave us this:

Thank you, Chris Traeger.

[Editor’s Note: To read what is really an ode to Chris Traeger (and Rob Lowe) from Indiewire’s TV Critic, click here.]

7. Donna Meagle

She taught us the value of live-tweeting. Of having your own life outside of work. Of treating. Yo. Self. As embodied by Retta, Donna Meagle was never anything but 150 percent her own being. Having half of Donna’s confidence and strength would make you more than a full person.

6. Jerry Gergich

The worst at his job, the best at being alive. The great secret joke of Jerry/Larry/Terry/Gary/Barry is that he’s easily the most lucky and talented of anyone here: Gifted artist, beloved family man, generous soul and blessed with the largest penis ever seen by doctors. Jerry may be a human disaster area in the office. But we should all be so lucky, to have anything close to his life.

5. Andy Dwyer

Andy Dwyer, in the long run, might not be considered an exceptional human being. He’s done a lot of things, a few of them with some skill, but his most valuable qualities have had more to do with what he’s willing to do for others — especially his wife April.

Of course, we’re just talking about Andy Dwyer right now. We’re not talking about Johnny Karate, or Burt Macklin, that son of a bitch. Who knows what they’re capable of. Who knows what they might achieve.


4. April Ludgate

What’s so fascinating about April as a character is how she’s always remained so true to herself, while slowly but surely changing over the years. The disaffected and unengaged intern of Season 1 has become a passionate public servant… Well, maybe passionate is the wrong word. But April has discovered that she cares about things, and that she wants to work towards achieving them; for a show that’s all about the power of public service and public works, April might be its most important lynchpin. “Parks and Recreation” taught us that if someone like April could learn to care, then we all should.

3. Ben Wyatt

Ben loves “Game of Thrones.” Ben loves calculator jokes. Ben is the coolest guy at the accounting firm of Tilton & Radomski Accounting, and the least-cool guy anywhere else. Ben loves his wife, and loves doing the right thing, and loves writing “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fan fiction. Ben is yet another example of the kind of person “Parks and Recreation” treats as a hero: the person who totally owns his loves and likes, and is stronger for it.

2. Ron Swanson

So much has been written about Ron Swanson, Libertarian ideal and the manliest man who ever manned. Even Nick Offerman, the man who plays Ron, considers himself to be less of a man than Ron. But what’s so important about Ron isn’t his strong political beliefs or his ability to consume gallons of meat products. It’s the fact he’s able to do all of that while also respecting the people around him. For Ron, being one of history’s most amazing men doesn’t come from making others less amazing. Also, he can make one hell of a canoe.

1. Leslie Knope

In its first season, “Parks and Recreation” struggled because the show was trying to adapt its success with “The Office” into a new series, with Amy Poehler playing a role akin to female Michael Scott. Then, in Season 2, things shifted, because in at least one interview the creators of the show acknowledged that Leslie wasn’t Michael Scott. Leslie Knope was a superhero. And with that realization came a transformation that made the show essential television.

For seven seasons, Leslie Knope believed, more than anything, that hard work and positive energy would get the job done. For seven years, she taught us to want more, to believe in more, to try for more. She took chances and she made mistakes and it didn’t matter, because she was the most human superhero we’ve seen yet on television. And that made it so much easier to follow her example.

SPECIAL MENTION: Harris.

You saw 308 Phish shows, Harris. We’re so, so sorry that it’s not 309.

READ MORE: ‘Parks and Recreation’: Will Its Greatest Legacy Be the Cones of Dunshire?

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