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Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)
"It is my dream to build a park that I one day visit with my White House staff on my birthday. And they say, 'President Knope, this park is awesome. Now we understand why you’re the first female president of the United States.' "
Leslie is a City Councillor-elect and the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department in Pawnee, Indiana. An Inversion of the Obstructive Bureaucrat trope, she is a cheerful bureaucrat full of can-do spirit. This makes her The Pollyanna on a show where almost everyone else is cynical and jaded to one degree or another. She is also a Determinator.
- Adult Child: Leslie is cheerful, hyperactive, and a little naïve. Not to mention her fondness for candy and dislike of vegetables. She is competent, however.
Ann (in a deleted scene): Leslie is incredible. She has the energy of a ten year-old. And the same taste in snacks.
- Afraid of Needles
- Ambition Is Evil: Averted! Leslie is extremely ambitious (just read the above quote), but she is also very moral. In some episodes, she is presented with an immoral way to achieve one of her goals and considers using it, but ultimately she ends up feeling guilty and doesn't go through with it.
- Bad Liar: Honest to a fault, Leslie's rare attempts at subterfuge invariably fall flat. In many cases, she ends up ratting herself out.
- Beleaguered Bureaucrat:
- This becomes especially apparent in "Christmas Scandal", where it's shown that her duties are so numerous that the combined efforts of all six of her coworkers can't get the job done.
- Her overextension is given attention again in "Sweet Sixteen", where Ron states that she's been pulling 100 hours a week trying to give equal attention to her job and her city council campaign. Throughout the episode she keeps making minor blunders due to neglecting something from either side of her professional life. At the end of the episode she decides to reduce her time at work to 10 hours a week.
- Big Eater
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: She's very good at her job, and probably should have Ron's. She is however, an extremely eccentric Adult Child.
- Catch Phrase:
Leslie: It's every girl's dream to [something incredibly wonky, obscure and/or overspecific].
- Character Development: Leslie had some Michael Scott-ish aspects to her personality in Season 1, but in Season 2 the character became much less obnoxious, and more of a hyper-competent, upbeat Pollyanna.
- Determinator: Best exemplified by her masterful oration of her speech intended to attract sponsors to Harvest Festival. All while she was near delirious with the flu, and quickly reverted to sickness-induced delirium during a short Q&A session.
- Distaff Counterpart: Back in the first season, critics tended to dismiss Leslie as "Michael Scott in a skirt", but it's generally agreed that she became more her own character after the series Grew the Beard, as unlike Michael Scott, she is not only good at her job, but totally deserved to have been promoted into it.
- Does Not Like Salad: Or other disgusting things.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Wears a small, very tight French braid in her hair curving around the top of her head in "Jerry's Painting", apparently because she takes very well to being compared to a Greek goddess.
- Fan Girl: When it comes to Harry Potter. She made best friend Ann watch all eight movies even though she doesn't like Harry Potter.
- Genre Savvy: A lot more than average government officials it seems. How many people do you picture fixing the controversy with Jerry's painting by making Jerry make a new one in which Tom is the bare chested centaur instead of a female bare chested centaur.?
- Glurge Addict: Mildly. She really likes cute things, but not to an annoying degree.
Leslie: Scientifically hummingbirds are the world’s cutest animals. I mean, they're so small, they have tiny beaks and they only eat sugar water. I mean what beats that? Come on. Baby monkeys in diapers? Yeah... they do. Baby monkeys in diapers are the cutest.
- Hair of Gold
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: A rare example of the lead character fitting this trope.
- The Messiah: Edging closer to this trope as her Determinator qualities make her more and more effective.
- Number Two: Officially, she is this to Ron, but she actually does all the work.
- Oblivious to Love: Initially, regarding Ben's interest in her.
- The Pollyanna
- Sweet Tooth: She puts sugar on pasta.
- Ted Baxter: Kind of. She's not full of herself, but she's convinced that her small government job is much more important than it really is. She also has no doubt that she will one day be president of the United States.
- Increasingly looks like this will be averted completely, as her work is getting her more attention - at least from local Pawnee politicians.
- Trademark Favorite Food: She piles whipped cream onto everything. She also loves Belgian waffles, specifically the ones from JJ's Diner.
- Weirdness Magnet: Somewhat. She's seldom had a "normal" date--something extremely outlandish happens, or the date himself is outlandish. Incidents include a blazing dress, an Ambien overdose, a date sticking his hand in her mouth as she slept, and a free MRI. As far as we've seen, Dave and Ben are the only men she's dated without some kind of off-putting quirk or glaring character flaw.
- A slightly off-putting quirk of Dave's came out when he briefly returns to Pawnee and confesses his love to Leslie, and then handcuffs Ben to a urinal.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist
- Workaholic: Hell, in "Citizen Knope" she attempts to steal some work from the office to do at home during her paid suspension.
Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones)
"The Parks Department has done so much for me, that if I can help them out in any way I will. Oh god. Maybe I should just give them all free flu shots."
Leslie's Heterosexual Life Partner. Despite being a nurse at the local hospital, Ann seems to spend all her time at City Hall, apparently helping her friends with their work for free. This is The Artifact from the first season in which she originally brought Lot 48 to Leslie's attention and became involved in the effort to turn it into a park. She is generally a Straight Woman.
- Ambiguously Brown: Obviously applies to any character played by Rashida Jones, who is black and Jewish.
Leslie: I’ve said this to you before and I know it makes you uncomfortable, but you’re thoughtful and you’re brilliant. And your ambiguous ethnic blend perfectly represents the dream of the American melting pot.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Colors a few locks of her hair bright red in an attempt to impress Chris in "Camping".
- Extreme Doormat: Definitely has elements of this. She's very passive compared to Leslie and is always pulled into Leslie's plans. Also, due to the Florence Nightingale Effect and Weakness Turns Her On, she's very inclined to allow boyfriends to take advantage of her.
- Florence Nightingale Effect: Ann is clearly shown to be attracted to vulnerable and sickly men. She waited on Andy hand and foot when his legs broke, and tries to coddle and protect him like a child, and kisses him when he ends up in the hospital again. She was also incredibly threatened and uncomfortable by Chris being almost completely perfect until he got a nasty case of the flu, which made her ecstatic.
- Hospital Hottie: Not that she actually spends much time working there.
- Mistaken for Gay: As a Running Gag, she and Leslie are repeatedly mistaken for a lesbian couple.
- One-Hour Work Week: Ann's nursing job. The show is a Work Com, it's just not dedicated to her work. Occasionally we see her at her work, usually whenever a main character ends up in the hospital. Ann getting a part time job at the city's health department as of the end of Season 3 is most likely an attempt to avert this trope.
- Of course since this is a Mockumentary, We can assume it is all done offscreen and has been edited out.
- Really Gets Around: She finally learns how to put her looks to good use in season three, and is shown with at least one new paramour every episode of that season.
- Shipper on Deck: Ann really, really wants Leslie and Ben to get together (and even sneaks an Al Green song onto their road trip mix, which is designed to be as un-sexy as possible.).
- So Beautiful It's a Curse: A mild case. Being so beautiful, she's never been dumped before. When Chris breaks up with her, his positive personality and strange wording plus her inexperience make her not realize it until a week later and she is blindsided by it. As Leslie put it in an earlier episode:
Leslie: Ann, I always forget you're so pretty you're not used to rejection!
- Straight Man
- Weakness Turns Her On: As indicated by her finding Chris more attractive when she was caring for him than when he was a perfect human specimen. This also explains her relationship with Andy and why it didn't work out with Mark.
- What Does She See in Him?: Ann goes through as many lame, unattractive boyfriends as attractive ones in season three. Leslie has to call her out on it in "The Fight" when her current guy happens to be the Douche.
Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari)
"I had to call in a few favors, but if you don't call in favors to look at women in bikinis and assign them numerical grades, what the hell do you call in favors for?"
Tom is Leslie's immediate subordinate and an aspiring career politician. Networking, hot women, expensive suits, hot women, slacking off, and hot women are just a few of his favorite things.
- Actor Shared Background: Like Aziz Ansari, Tom is an Indian-American from South Carolina.
- Always Second Best: He has a sort of inferiority complex for Ron, which came to a boiling point in the third season premiere.
- Camp Straight: Despite his Handsome Lech personality, he invests in a gay bar, wears pink shirts, and drinks stereotypically "gay" drinks.
- Can't Hold His Liquor
Detlef Schrempf: He had two beers. Light beers.
- Oddly, in what may be an Out-of-Character Moment, he isn't shown to be particularly affected by his invention Snakejuice, which has terrible after-effects for the rest of the cast.
- Casanova Wannabe: Sometimes to the point of real pathos.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Is actually the one to tell Ben they should make sure a drunken Joan Callomazzo gets safely home from lunch with them.
- Citizenship Marriage: His wife Wendy. Despite him being brown-skinned and her being white, she was the one who needed the green card. She's Canadian.
- The Dandy: He has a full-sized room for a closet and explicitly states that he wears pink for the sake of "peacocking".
- It's All About Me: Has a big, big problem with this. It's on full display in "Meet 'N' Greet", where he turns an event for Leslie to get to know local business owners into a investment pitch for his company Entertainment 720. While he did it because E720 was bankrupt and he was desperate for funds, it also wasn't particularly out of character.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As Leslie puts it, "Tom Haverford is a selfish, sleazy, self-promoting, good-hearted, secretly kind and wonderful tiny, little person."
- The Nicknamer
- Pet the Dog: After Leslie tears up the Venezuelans' check in "Sister City", Tom secretly takes all the tips he earned making himself the Venezuelans' errand-boy and donates it all toward the park fund.
- Pretty Fly For An Indian Guy: At one point, Tom mentions having carefully cultivating a Jay-Z vibe and once dressed up as the rapper T-Pain for Halloween. He's also fond of using the slang term "boo" to refer to a significant other.
- Schemer: He's always involved in some plan or invention to get fabulously wealthy, but none of them ever work.
- Self-Deprecation: Will not deny that he rides others' coattails.
Tom: Behind every successful man is me: smiling and taking partial credit.
- Ted Baxter: Full force.
- This Is My Name on Foreign: His birth name is Darwish Sabir Ismael Gani, but he changed it since he thought people with "funny-sounding Muslim names" didn't have a chance in politics. He admits this reason is Hilarious in Hindsight after Barack Obama.
Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)
"My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he’s allowed to decide is who to nuke. The man is chosen based on some kind of IQ test, and maybe also a physical tournament, like a decathlon. And women are brought to him, maybe... when he desires them."
Leslie's manly, mustachioed, unapologetically libertarian boss who, engaged in a continuous attempt to sabotage the Pawnee government, secretly (or not-so-secretly) tries to stop anything from getting done. Leslie basically does his job for him, allowing him to devote his time to being a Memetic Badass.
- Annoying Laugh: Despite his unabashed masculinity, he titters like a schoolgirl on the few occasions where he does laugh.
- Badass Mustache
- Big Eater: Especially in regards to breakfast meals, and all other foodstuffs are treated with suspicion, or outright derision. The only thing that interests him in a strip club is the breakfast buffet. He says that if he does not have at least three breakfast meals a day, he acts like a tired whiny child. He has an enormous picture of bacon and eggs framed in his office.
Ron: Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have... Wait, wait. I worry what you just heard was, "Give me a lot of bacon and eggs." What I said was, "Give me all the bacon and eggs you have." Do you understand?
- Birthday Hater: He hates birthdays so much that he has gone to great lengths to keep anyone from finding out, including having it redacted from all government documents.
"I don't like loud noises. And people making a fuss. And I especially don't like people celebrating because they know a piece of private information about me. Plus the whole thing is a scam - birthdays were invented by Hallmark to sell cards."
- The Cast Showoff: Nick Offerman actually is a woodworker. He also plays saxophone.
- Catch Phrase: "Bully."
- Crazy Prepared: Keeps a survival backpack hidden in a ventilation grate down the hall.
- Hates Being Touched
- Henpecked Husband: Around Tammy One.
- Hidden Depths: Ron moonlights as jazz saxophonist "Duke Silver" and plays in clubs outside Pawnee.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ron Fucking Swanson may act like he hates all his coworkers, but he's shown on more than one occasion that if any of them are seriously hurting or in trouble, he'll be there for them.
- Like Parent, Like Spouse: Has two ex-wives and a mother named Tammy.
- Manly Tears: He's only ever cried twice. The first time was when a bus ran into him as a child. The second time was when he first caught word of Li'l Sebastian's death. He very nearly cries a third time in "Citizen Knope" in reaction to Leslie's Christmas gift--remote-controlled closing doors for his office.
- Morality Pet: Andy has slowly been softening him up.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: He acts as one on purpose in a (thanks to Leslie's hypercompetence) questionably effective attempt to make the government as useless as possible.
- Only Sane Man: He doesn't get involved in his coworkers' hijinks.
- Professional Slacker: He basically lets Leslie run the department, which she is only too happy to do. Ron, as a fierce super-libertarian, is actually ideologically opposed to the government accomplishing things; the one time he is seen actually working with enthusiasm is when the city needs ideas on how to slash its budget.
- Real Life Relative: Megan Mullaly (Tammy Two) actually is Nick Offerman's wife.
- Real Men Eat Meat: To the point that he thinks fish are acceptable to catch, but not to eat since "fish meat is practically a vegetable".
- Ron is also the inventor of the "Turf and Turf." This is a 16-ounce T-bone steak lightly garnished with a 24-ounce porterhouse steak.
- Sliding Scale of Libertarianism and Authoritarianism: As indicated by the above quote, Ron's political philosophy falls quite far on the libertarian side. He has explicitly referred to himself as a libertarian a number of times and sees no value in government-run institutions to the point of wanting everything privatized. Unfortunately for him, Leslie always has ambitious plans to expand the Parks Department. Hilarity Ensues.
- Team Dad: Begrudgingly
April Ludgate-Dwyer (Aubrey Plaza)
"No, I didn't win, but at least I didn't make any new friendships."
April is The Snark Knight. Originally, she was an apathetic college intern who constantly slacked off and seemed like she would rather be anywhere else. In the second season, she was hired as Ron's assistant specifically to stonewall anyone wishing to meet with him. It's a symbiotic relationship.
- Actor Shared Background: Being of half-Puerto Rican descent. However, it's on the actress's father's side and the character's mother's side.
- Bi the Way: Potentially. She expresses interest in going to a strip club and thinks the topless painting of Leslie is hot.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Defrosting Ice Queen: April starts to open up in season two.
- Dismotivation: She and Ron get along well.
- Drives Like Crazy
- Embarrassing Middle Name: April Roberta Ludgate-Dwyer.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Her parents call her "Zuzu".
- Emotionless Girl: Up to 11.
- Fag Hag: Until midway into season two, she constantly hangs out with her "gay boyfriend" and his boyfriend.
April: Derek is gay but he's straight for me but he's gay for Ben and Ben's really gay for Derek. And I hate Ben.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Married Andy after dating a month.
- Growing Up Sucks: Firmly believes so, as demonstrated in "Jerry's Painting".
- If It's You It's Okay: Says she would hit Leslie-as-beautiful-topless-centaur-Greek-goddess in "Jerry's Painting".
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Large Ham: Whenever she acts in-show, like when she pretended to be a rich, vampish widow at a bar.
- The Matchmaker: April is the one who pairs up Tom and Ann, much to her regret as they annoy her later with their relationship problems. She also tries to set up Chris, still sad from breaking up with Jerry's daughter, with Andy's female studies professor. She ends up sleeping with Ron instead.
- Meganekko: On the rare occasions she wears her glasses.
- Morality Pet: Andy in a way has helped in her gradual defrosting. Notably her time with him leads her to reject her two gay boyfriends due to being annoyed by how artificial their hipster ways were.
- Nightmare Fetishist
- Pet the Dog: Guilty over successfully wishing misfortune upon Chris in "Bowling for Votes", she offers to take him to the movies with her and Andy with the tickets she won in the donation phone pool.
- Professional Slacker: About as literal as possible:
Ron: I don't care that you text all day and sleep at your desk. In fact, I encourage it.
- Sassy Secretary
- Put on a Bus: The possibility is toyed with in season three, where Chris offers to take her back to Indianapolis with him to be his assistant.
- Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: Similar to Ann's One-Hour Work Week. April is a college student, but this isn't mentioned very often and she never seems to have to be in class, which would seem to indicate that whatever college she's attending is close enough for her to be at the office so often during the day.
- In The manual Pawnee: The Greatest Town In America, April says she only takes one course a semester at Pawnee Community College.
- The Snark Knight
- Spicy Latina: She acknowledges the trope while averting it with extreme prejudice.
April: My mom's Puerto Rican. That's why I'm so lively and colorful.
- Trickster Archetype: Enjoys being pointlessly contradictory and playing pranks. Might have something to do with a particularly ruthless Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry.
- Why Did It Have to Be Spiders?: She has that arachnocornucopia thing?
- Will They or Won't They?: With Andy during the second season.
- Yaoi Fangirl:
April: I passed up a gay Halloween party to be here. Do you know how much fun gay Halloween parties are? Last year I saw three Jonas Brothers make out with three Robert Pattinsons. It was amazing.
Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt)
"I just wrote a new song, okay? Bottom line, it's called 'Sex Hair'. It's about how you can tell when someone just had sex 'cause of how their hair gets matted up in the back. It's awesome."
Andy was introduced as Ann's idiotic musician boyfriend in the first season and originally intended as a temporary character. He was kept on in the second season after Ann broke up with him and landed a job as a shoe-shiner at City Hall. He had a Will They or Won't They? relationship with April in the second season. They began dating in the third season and as of "Fancy Party" are now married.
- Adult Child: Even more so than Leslie.
- Author Catchphrase: He mentions that he uses the lines "spread your wings and fly" and "you deserve to be a champion" in all of his songs. The first lyric at least can actually be heard in the studio versions of most of his songs.
- Captain Obvious
- Character Development: Andy morphed from something of a jerk in Season 1 to a lovable doofus in Season 2.
- YMMV on that one, considering his completely unreasonable behaviour regarding Ann. After she broke him with him at the end of season 1, he spends much of season 2 stalking her and trying to sabotage her relationship with Mark.
- The Ditz:
Andy: Leslie, I typed your symptoms into the thing up here and it says that you might have...Network Connectivity Problems.
April: I'll go too.
Tom: Really? 'Cause an hour ago you told me you'd rather watch a sex tape of your grandparents.
April: Shut up! I don't have anything else to do. Do you want help or not?
Tom: All right, see you guys later. [leaves]
Andy: I think that that's really, really sweet that your grandparents still make love.
- In another episode, Andy and Tom are escorted to the archiving room by an extremely old woman. As soon as she leaves, Tom jokingly tells Andy to remind him to ask her where she was when Lincoln got shot. Andy makes sure to write it down.
- Fake Guest Star: In the first season, Chris Pratt was credited as a guest star despite appearing in every episode. They did shuffle back and forth on putting him in the opening titles during the first season, but nevertheless he was consistently referred to as a guest star. From the second season onwards, he was credited as a normal regular.
- Feigning Intelligence: Andy has tried to sound smart on several occasions, and it is hilarious each and every time.
- Global Ignorance:
- In the same episode, he says Venezuela is both "across the pond" and a city in Mexico.
- He thinks that the states that form the Four Corners are Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon.
- Jerkass: In season 1. He grows out of it.
- Literal Minded: Leslie commissions him to write a song for Li'l Sebastian's funeral that's "5000 times better than 'Candle in the Wind' ". Andy writes a song titled "5000 Candles in the Wind".
- Manic Pixie Dream Guy : Andy is one of these to April.
- Oblivious to Love: Towards the end of Season 2, it becomes clear that this is at least partially an act due to the age difference making Andy uncertain.
- Stalker with a Crush: In the first part of season two, Andy lives in a ravine near Ann's house to "protect" her.
- Took a Level In Kindness: His evolution into a more likable person during the second season. There was some of this in the first season too, particularly in one episode where he goes out of the way to clean the house (and himself!) as a surprise for Ann while impaired by his cast.
- Will They or Won't They?: With April during the second season.
Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott)
"Well, you have to be able to make decisions like this, Leslie. You have to be harsh, you know. No one's going to elect you to do anything if you don't show that you're a responsible grown-up."
A state auditor who comes to Pawnee with Chris to evaluate the town's funds at the end of the second season. Promoted to series regular in the third season. He is blunt and cynical, but has a Freudian Excuse.
- Adorkable: Makes occasional references to sci-fi movies and corrects Tom when he gets them wrong.
Ben: They would never cancel Game of Thrones. It's a crossover hit! It's not just for fantasy enthusiasts. They're telling human stories in a fantasy world. Fill out the forms, please.
- Aside Glance: Ben is the king of this.
- Bearer of Bad News: Chris often forces him into this position.
- Berserk Button: Any mention of him as a mayor when he was 18 years old is bound to set him off.
- Bishounen: Leslie starts thinking of Ben as this after they start dating:
"I should listen to you always, because you are a man genius with a taut, narrow frame like a sexy elf king!"
- Bi the Way: When going off on a talk show host, he can be heard saying, "Everyone has gay thoughts!" Although he may not completely fulfill the trope, since said talk show host was heckling and flustering him into saying several embarrassing things.
- Brutal Honesty
- Characterization Marches On: In the episode The Flu Ben makes a series of sports analogies about Leslie's speech, something that would be wildly out of character by season four.
- The Comically Serious
- The Cynic: Though he's getting better, thanks to Leslie and Pawnee in general.
- Face Palm: Ben's typical reaction to Pawnee, its citizens, and his own personal disasters.
- Hollywood Nerd: Definite Type II. Shauna Malwae-Tweep and Marlene Knope-Briggs certainly agree.
- Improbable Age: Was mayor of a town at 18. A caller to the Ira and the Douche radio show lampshades this in the most offensively unintelligent way possible:
Caller: Seems like 18 is pretty young for a mayor. What were you, like, 12?
- In-Series Nickname: Ben accumulates a lot of these in his short time in the series ("Mean Ben", "Turd Boy", "Human Disaster", "Calzone Boy", "Nerd", etc). In fandom, "Human Disaster" especially has grown to almost meme-ish proportions.
- I Resemble That Remark: A Running Gag with Tom is Tom will make some kind of geek insult about Ben, with Ben to respond indignantly at being called a geek with an even geekier answer. For example, Tom insulting that Ben wants to take a hobbit tour of New Zealand, and Ben responding that he did not care for Peter Jackson's adaptation.
- No Social Skills
- Odd Friendship: With Tom. They probably couldn't have been more dissimilar. Though this might apply to Ben and Chris as well.
- Old Shame: Bankrupting his hometown during his stint as teen mayor when he built an expensive winter sports center. When it's brought up by Ira and the Douche in "Media Blitz", it absolutely ruins his composure.
- One Steve Limit: Is an aversion. Ben was previously the name of one of April's gay boyfriends.
- Only Sane Employee
- Only Sane Man
- Opposites Attract: Teased with Leslie.
- Promotion to Opening Titles
- Sharp-Dressed Man: In a sleepy midwest town, he definitely stands out.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: He kind of replaces Mark. He doesn't have the same job, but he acts as a foil/possible love interest to Leslie in a similar way.
- By the end of the third season, however, Ben is definitely his own character. Also, according to creator Michael Schur, even though Ben was brought in with the idea that he might be a love interest/foil for Leslie, he was hesitant to label Ben that, reasoning that they hadn't shot a single scene with the two of them yet, and implying that, like Andy/April, there needed to be chemistry for it to work.
- He's undeniably replaced Mark as the show's "straight man" though.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: He's afraid of cops and in "Dave Returns" has to interact with a lot of them.
- Will They or Won't They?: With Leslie. Oh my God.
- The Woobie: Becomes this in-universe(and to some viewers) when Donna takes him on her and Tom's annual "Treat Yo'self Day" after seeing him outside at lunch:
Donna: Oh lord. Is he eating soup on a bench? Alone?
- His Woobieness increases later that day when he buys himself a Batman costume to wear as his version of treating himself and begins to weep, his sadness over the breakup of his secret relationship with Leslie finally coming out.
Donna: Uh oh. Batman's crying.
Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe)
"I take care of my body above all else; diet, exercise, supplements, positive thinking. Scientists believe that the first human being who will live a hundred and fifty years has already been born. I believe I am that human being."
Ben's partner and opposite. He is cheerful and optimistic, but, in an effort to be liked, he always forces Ben to be the messenger for any bad news. Chris is also a health nut. In season 3 the mayor of Pawnee asks him to fill in for the city manager who's recovering from a heart attack.
- The Ace: Donna even calls him the Bionic Man.
- Actor Allusion: Shown in "Campaign Ad" to be a Japanophile, much like his role in Thank You for Smoking.
- Bearer of Bad News: But as shown below, he usually leaves that to Ben.
- Catch Phrase: One of his strategies for making Ben seem like the bad guy instead of him involves variations of this:
[character complains about X]
Chris: Well, that's terrible! Is there anything we can do about that, Ben?
Ben: Uh, no.
Chris: Damn! [hastily leaves the scene]
- Cloudcuckoolander: To the point of using a far too opaque fengshui metaphor to break up with Ann.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Has a somewhat more disheveled hairdo in season four. As of season four's sixth episode, Chris's hair is back to normal (with the exception of some more length and volume) now that Rob Lowe's done playing wife-killer Drew Peterson for a Lifetime movie.
- Full-Name Basis: He greets everyone by pointing at them and saying "Hey, <full name>!"
- Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: It's part of his usual greeting, but it's also what he does when he meets someone for the first time. It can be off-putting.
Ron: Hello, gents! Ron Swanson. (reaches for a handshake)
Chris: (point) Ron...Swanson.
- Hollywood Tone Deaf: Revealed to be this in "Dave Returns". He doesn't know the words for "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" either.
- Hypochondria: An extension of being born with a blood disease.
- Lawful Stupid: Comes down with a case of this when he zealously prosecutes Leslie due to her romantic relationship with her superior, Ben, despite knowing that Ben would never give anyone any kickbacks and that Leslie would never ask for or take them. His apology after the end of the trial implies some inner turmoil over whether To Be Lawful or Good, at least.
- The Matchmaker: He expresses a fondness for this in 'Jerry's Painting' and endeavors to set Ben up with someone. Played for irony considered his new rules are actually keeping Ben from the one person he's interested in.
- Moment Killer: An indirect version in that his rules against relationships within the government are the only obstacle in Leslie and Ben's way, although he is unaware of this. There are straighter examples in "Road Trip" where (1) Ben confesses to Leslie at dinner; Leslie leaves for a moment to consult Ann and steels herself to go back and kiss Ben only to find that Chris has appeared and has seated himself at their table, and (2) Ben and Leslie get increasingly cute while watching TV together on the couch in Chris's hotel room and Chris keeps interrupting with his frequent bathroom trips.
- Older Than They Look: He's 44. The most common in-universe estimate is 25.
- The Pollyanna: So positive, he scares off Oren, the creepy and morbid Goth at April and Andy's wedding.
- When he was born with a deadly, rare blood disease. The doctors told his parents he would only live for a few months. That's why he is so positive!
- Promotion to Opening Titles
- Pure Is Not Good: His exceedingly healthy body, which he compares to a finely-tuned microchip, is more than once played as a weakness. When he catches the flu it hits him like a truck.
- Real Men Wear Pink: His pink shower cap (from a breast cancer awareness triathlon), and he even has a leg razor. Chris sees none of this anything to be ashamed of.
- He also doesn't see kissing Ron on his birthday as anything strange.
- Sarcasm Blind:
Chris: It is exactly because of that lewd photo that I am here. [...] If I could go back in time and cut your eyeballs out, I would.
April: Wow, that is so sweet.
Chris: Thank you.
- Although in a later episode he seems to understand that Ann is using sarcasm, but not that it's meant as a jab at him.
- Stepford Smiler: In "The Trial of Leslie Knope", he's so anxious and depressed about Leslie's trial that he loads up on herbal remedies to the point of, as Leslie puts it, "radiating happiness".
- Terrified of Germs: During flu season:
Chris: (increasingly frantically) I have to get out of here. I have 2.8% body fat. My body's like a microchip. A grain of sand could destroy it. My body's a microchip. (leaves)
Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider)
"I hit rock bottom that night. I mean I literally fell to the bottom of a pit and hit a rock. I remember laying there thinking, 'There's probably a good reason why I'm down here.' And then I remember thinking, 'I need morphine.' "
Straight Man caught in a Love Triangle between Leslie and Ann. He started off the series as a Handsome Lech, but this was quickly dropped and he spent most of his time on the show being a Ladykiller in Love. Put on a Bus when he joins a private company at the end of season two.
- But for Me It Was Tuesday: Non-villainous example. Some years prior to the first season, Mark and Leslie slept together once. This was a very important event in Leslie's life and she imagines their working relationship has been filled with UST since. Mark sleeps with so many women that he barely even remembers it.
- Casanova/Handsome Lech: In the first season.
- Character Development: In the second season, he began a steady relationship with Ann and remained faithful to her.
- The Generic Guy: For two seasons, he stood in the middle of a cast of more interesting characters and acted sane. Which is what a Straight Man is obviously supposed to do, but many would argue that he just ended up being boring and unmemorable.
- Ladykiller in Love: How his Character Development happened.
- Perma Stubble
- Put on a Bus: At the end of season two, Ann breaks up with him and he leaves the government to work for a construction company.
Gary "Jerry" Gergich (Jim O'Heir)
"Well, you know it's like I always say, 'It ain't government work if you don't have to do it twice.' "
A middle-aged Butt Monkey who has worked in the Parks Department since the 1970s. He's picked on by everyone, particularly "mean" characters like Tom and April, but also by "nice" characters like Leslie. He is regarded as a boring, out-of-touch loser, but actually seems to have his personal life squared away better than anyone else.
Dr. Harris: That man has the largest penis I have ever seen. I actually don't even know if he has mumps, forgot to look. I was distracted... by the largest penis I have ever seen.
- Butt Monkey
- Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Something Tom likes to make fun of him for.
- Happily Married: To his wife Gayle.
- Leap Day: His birthday, naturally
- My Name Is Not Durwood: In "The Trial of Leslie Knope", it's revealed that his name is actually Gary:
Jerry: On my first day here, the old director, he called me "Jerry" and I just didn't think I should correct him.
- Phrase Catcher: "Dammit, Jerry!"
- The Scapegoat: Everything is Jerry's fault
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: His daughter Millicent.
Donna Meagle (Retta Sirleaf)
"We're not big on hospitality. The Meagles are a cold people."
A Sassy Black Woman who works for the Parks Department. Donna has expensive tastes as she apparently comes from a wealthy family (Ginuwine is her cousin, as revealed in "Sweet Sixteen"). Her most prized possession is her Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV, which you better not mess with if you know what's good for you. She Really Gets Around and has had a variety of weird sexual exploits, which we mostly hear about in Noodle Incident format.
- Aerith and Bob: Her brothers LeVondrias and George.
- Berserk Button: Do not touch her Mercedes.
- Big Beautiful Woman
- The Fashionista: She and Tom get along well.
- Kavorka Woman
- The Precious Precious Car: Again, her Mercedes.
- Really Gets Around
- Sassy Black Woman
- The government:
- Marlene Griggs-Knope (Pamela Reed): Leslie's mother and "a big mucky-muck in the county school system". Has shades of Meddling Parent and Well Done Daughter Girl. Leslie's father is apparently dead, given a throwaway line which explains that "he lives in Florida, in a cemetery."
- Tammy Swanson "One" (Patricia Clarkson): Ron's first wife. Makes her first appearance as the back of a head in the season three finale, which is enough for Tammy Two and Ron to drop everything and head for the hills. She works for the IRS. Her influence can turn Ron into a soft-spoken Henpecked Husband with no will of his own.
- Tammy Swanson "Two" (Megan Mullally): The second of Ron's evil ex-wives. Not only is she also named Tammy, so is Ron's mother. This Tammy is a Vampy Manipulative Bitch and the deputy director of the Library Department, the Sitcom Arch Nemesis of the Parks Department. Her influence can turn Ron into a weird sex freak who obeys her.
- Ethel Beavers (Helen Slayton-Hughes): A Cool Old Lady who works in the dreaded fourth floor of City Hall and is also court stenographer.
- The media:
- Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins): The vapid (and oddly arrogant for a local media star) host of Pawnee Today, a talk show frequented by the main characters. She likes Tom due to his flattery, but seemingly has a vendetta against Leslie.
- Shauna Malwae-Tweep (Alison Becker): Intrepid Reporter for the local paper. Usually, the Parks Department gives her access in the hope that she'll report something positively for them, but hijinks ensue and her story ends up with a negative, sensationalistic slant. Also a bit of a romantic Butt Monkey.
- Perderick "Perd" Hapley (Jay Jackson): Host of Ya' Heard? with Perd. Tends to speak redundantly, in redundant sentences, that repeat themselves.
- Jean-Ralphio Saperstein (Ben Schwartz): Tom's partner-in-crime who is (even more) slimy and obnoxious. He's hilarious just from his hairstyle. Pretty much outright hated by Ron and Donna.
- The Newports: A rich family of candy moguls, who own half the town with their corporation Sweetums.
- Nick Newport, Sr. (Christopher Murray) - Retired former CEO of the company. Married to snobby Gold Digger Jessica Wicks (Susan Yeagley). Dies in Season 4 episode "Bus Trip".
- Nick Newport, Jr. (Gary Weeks) - Current CEO of the company. Father of Denver (Ryan Hartwig) and Dakota (Harley Graham).
- Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) - Leslie's opponent in the City Council race. An Adult Child and Upperclass Twit. He's considered the heir to the Sweetums empire, which doesn't make sense since he's the same age as the current CEO, Nick Newport, Jr.
- Marcia Langman (Darlene Hunt): A humorless right-wing Christian activist offended by everything. Often uses Insane Troll Logic.
- Li'l Sebastian: A miniature horse (more specifically, a Shetland pony) that did...something that has endeared him to the residents of Pawnee. Later dies and is given a city-funded hero's funeral.