Four on the Floor #18: Wry, Sarcastic Butlers

The Situation: You’re a rich dude.  No, I mean like insanely rich.  So, odds are you’ve probably got at least one pretty big domicile of some kind that needs tending to.  Plus, let’s be honest, most really wealthy people tend to be a bit dim (it might be all of that blue-blooded inbreeding), so you might need someone around who can, say, keep your busy schedules straight or remind you when you’re about to leave the house without pants.

The Criteria: The trope of the servant who is smarter than his master has been around forever.  But, there is smart and there’s smart-ass.  I’m a sucker for that kind of droll, acid-tongued servant who knows that he’s really in charge of the situation.  Also, I know that, while all butlers are servants, not all servants are butlers.  For that reason, I’m sticking solely to ones who buttle–and, apparently, to those who valet, as well (sorry, I was never fully educated in the whole Upstairs/Downstairs hierarchy).  Therefore, that also means that the four names on this list also happen to be men–sassy housekeepers are a completely different list (Alice, Florence: I’m looking at you!).

1. Alfred Pennyworth

Unlike the other names on this list, Alfred does not work for a moron.  Actually, Alfred’s employer is probably one of the smartest men in the world.  But, that doesn’t mean that Bruce Wayne doesn’t need to be put in his place from time to time.  And, Alfred is one of the few people on the planet who can do that and live.  The reason: loyalty.  Whether he’s consoling a newly-orphaned 8 year old or stitching up the Dark Knight, Alfred’s been Wayne’s surrogate father and confidant since Day (or Year) One.

2. Reginald Jeeves

I wonder if P. G. Wodehouse new what he was doing when he created Jeeves?  Now, while technically a valet and not a butler, Jeeves embodies the very qualities that inspired this list.  He is not only the consummate gentleman’s gentleman, but there isn’t a soul on the planet who can get the dim-witted Bertie Wooster out of the ridiculous predicaments he manages to get himself into.

3. Hobson

While I’m no big fan of Arthur, you can’t ignore the brilliance of Sir John Gielgud’s Hobson (also, technically a valet).  Dudley Moore might have been the “star”, but Hobson walked away with the movie (and Gielgud walked away with an Oscar).  It should come as no surprise that Hobson is the perfect “Jeeves”, since the movie was pretty much an updated version of a Jeeves and Wooster plot.

4. Benson DuBois

Soap might be known for tackling subject matter that would have made Archie Bunker run and hide under the bed, but for me, it’s the show that gave me Benson.  In addition to having to deal with the usual assortment of wealthy dimwits, Benson frequently found himself surrounded by every kind of freak, maniac, and whack-job under the sun.  And, how did he deal with it?  He’d roll his eyes, shake his head, and mutter something caustic.

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