The mockumentary sitcom that follows the day-to-day life of a group of teachers working at a public elementary school in Philadelphia, quickly catapulted into an overnight hit thanks to its A-grade writing and electric ensemble made of some of the funniest people in the industry right now. But who has us laughing the most? While it feels impossible to rank and pit the characters of Abbott against each other, we tried our best to weigh Abbott’s ensemble from the funny to the laugh-out-loud.
Who knows? Maybe Season 3 will have us rethinking this list entirely.
Portrayed by: Larry Owens
“Black?!” “It’s actually pronounced Zach. You must be Ava.” Larry Owens deserves to be on this list for that line alone. Joining Abbott as a recurring character, Zach is Jacob’s sneakerhead, loving boyfriend, and while he may not appear in episodes as much as we’d like, his introduction in Episode 11 of Season 1 remains one of the show’s best moments. The episode, “Desking,” is arguably one of Abbott’s best episodes in general, but it’s made funnier with Jacob introducing his partner and his colleagues’ reaction to the whole bit.
13. Ayesha Teagues
Played by: Ayo Edebiri
Ayo Edebiri and Quinta Brunson have one of the most endearing friendships offscreen, so when it was announced that Ayo would be playing Quinta’s sister on Abbott, we all knew we were in for a treat. As Ayesha, Ayo works as an antithesis to Quinta’s Janine, choosing the awkward pessimist route to rebut Janine’s bubbly optimism. The two actors have made magic together throughout their careers, but it perhaps shines the brightest in their scenes together on Abbott where we get the luxury of watching two of the best current comedians in the game absolutely riff off each other. Ayesha’s comedy is subtle, sarcastic, and tastefully sardonic, regularly relying on breaking the fourth wall to let the audience know that she, too, thinks her sister does the most and proudly reps a “Buscemi’s Baby” shirt all while doing it. While Ayo’s appearance on Abbott was brief, it was nothing short of mighty, and we’re praying she makes a return in Season 3.
12. Vanetta Teagues
Played by: Taraji P. Henson
At long last we finally met Janine’s mother in Season 2, and who better to play her than thee Taraji P. Henson. While Vanetta is objectively a bad parent and her guest appearance in the show was by no means lighthearted, Henson still managed to craft a hilariously personable mom in between all the tension. She put Ava in her place with one glare. She whipped through the teacher’s lounge and managed to smuggle a whole bunch of napkins. And she even pushed Barbara to “square up.” Taraji was the perfect casting choice for this role for an amplitude of reasons, but it’s her ability to still make you laugh despite the nature of her character that really sells this performance. “I hope y’all know y’all got the greatest teacher in the world. You wanna know how I know? ‘Cause she learned from the best…me.”
11. Courtney Pierce
Played by: Lela Hoffmeister
Amidst Abbott’s bubbling, bright pool of students, there’s none other than Courtney, who shines as the school’s sassiest, scene-stealing little diva, proudly wearing her Ava pin of approval and relishing in being Janine’s worst nightmare. As far as Abbott’s student cast goes, Lela Hoffmeister is perhaps the most recurring, with Courtney frequently popping up for scenes of her own that serve as hilarious additions to each episode. Whether she’s joining Ava for a makeshift rendezvous of Shark Tank, or ending Janine with a single comeback, Courtney is the standout from the show’s younger cast of characters, and we’re hoping her untapped potential reaches newer (and meaner) heights in Season 3.
10. Gregory Eddie
Played by: Tyler James Williams
Perhaps the only voice of reason on this show, Gregory often mirrors the audience’s thoughts, reassuring us in our second-hand embarrassment, disbelief, or even exasperation with one subtle look at the camera. Comedically, that’s where Gregory finds his strong suit. It’s the moments where he perfectly breaks the fourth wall that have us hollering. And it’s Tyler James Williams’ embodiment of side-eye personified that gives it the extra punch. While Gregory may not be walking through Abbott’s halls saying the wildest things (like a certain principal), Williams doesn’t really need the benefit of a well-written joke to get his humor across. He shines through his deft, reactionary physical comedy that has “This shit again?” written all over it, and it’s all we need.
9. Jacob Hill
Played by: Chris Perfetti
Abbott’s resident silly guy, Jacob enlightens each episode with his optimism, childlike wonder, and white guilt, often serving as the show’s punching bag without ever letting the bit get too tired. Whether he’s monologuing about some esoteric practice of high school theater, or trying to meddle in everyone’s (mainly Janine’s) business, Jacob is the epitome of that Steve Buscemi “How do you do, fellow kids?” meme, always trying to stay up to date with the gossip and failing miserably at proving he’s worthy of it. “I believe that gluten intolerance is just internalized white guilt.” No other character could land this line as well as he does.
Played by: Vince Staples
“I”m here to surprise Janine with lunch. Hopefully she likes surprises…and lunch.” A small but mighty addition to Abbott’s second season, Maurice came in as a red herring to Janine’s love life, distracting her from who she should be with (Gregory) and yet blessing us with Vince Staples’ effortless comedy. While most scenes Maurice was in worked to position him against Gregory, he still was a hilarious addition to the show, an effort made solid thanks to his pointedly awkward quips and his specific way with words—“Why so macabre, bro? They got jalapeño poppers on deck.” What should have been a painfully awkward breakup scene at a ribs joint (dually named “Bone Town”) found lighthearted brevity thanks to this single line from Maurice: “Look, man, you can have my baby, but not my baby backs.” And it’s that exact ennui, nonchalance, a man that knows exactly what he wants-core, that made Maurice such a fun character to get behind. While it seems that Maurice has no reason to return for Season 3 of Abbott, we’re really hoping that changes—give us the Vince Staples cameo we deserve!
7. Ashley Garcia
Played by: Keyla Monterroso Mejia
“Ashley Garcia, Frankford, Philly. Old enough to know better, young enough to sheesh. And I’m here at Abbott as an aide ‘cause I’m helpful as hell. That’s why I’ve been at four schools in four months, ‘cause everybody wants a piece.” One of the most stunning additions to Season 2 of Abbott, Ashley came in as a breath of fresh, Twitter-personified, air, quickly becoming Ava’s ally and Melissa’s worst nightmare. From incorporating Megan Thee Stallion into the lesson plan (“I’m here to teach you about the human body-ody-ody-ody,” stays one of Season 2’s most quoted scenes), to taking every opportunity to hilariously hype up her coworkers or herself (“Not me being so good at my job they always tell me I don’t have to come back”—exactly, girl), Ashley is Abbott’s Gen Z-tailored comedic relief. And her performance is elevated tenfold by Keyla Monterroso Mejia’s criminally underrated stage presence. While Season 2 may have signaled the end of Ashley’s run in Abbott, we’re hoping she makes a well-needed comeback in Season 3.
6. Janine Teagues
Played by: Quinta Brunson
It goes without saying that Abbott wouldn’t be Abbott without Janine. Apart from Quinta Brunson serving as the show’s mastermind, she also manages to somehow hold her own ground as Abbott’s leading lady, quite literally carrying the show both onscreen and off. As Janine, Quinta gives us a protagonist to fall in love with on a slew of levels, from her heart to her hilarity. Whether she’s fighting for healthier juice options at the school’s cafeteria or awkwardly trying to get her game on before going to a club for the first time (“How would they know we’re thirsty? Like should we just pant?”), Janine is the heart and soul of the show, and no episode would be complete without her awkward, reactionary comedy that blesses us with one too many memes. Barbara’s self-proclaimed work daughter, it’s no surprise that Brunson nabbed the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series this year, grounding Abbott’s orbit with her golden, hilarious, and sometimes tear-jerking core.
5. Melissa Schemmenti
Played by: Lisa Ann Walter
Lisa Ann Walter stole all of our hearts in The Parent Trap some 20 years ago, and through Abbott Elementary she finds a career renaissance with yet another iconic character to firmly get behind. Melissa is the show’s loud-mouthed, no-nonsense baddie, or as Ava would put it, “one of those spicy whites,” whose quick quips almost certainly cold-open every episode and have us laughing without fail. From her not-so subtle connections with a mafia (which one? We don’t know), to her ruthlessly repping everything Philly, to her hilariously wholesome friendship with Barbara that has fans (and Janine) wishing to be part of the team, Melissa serves as the show’s sarcastic edge, keeping things real with each biting one-liner. Abbott wouldn’t be Abbott without her many digs, and to top it all off she's also going through her own little love story that we hope we get to see more of in the next season.
4. Barbara Howard
Played by: Sheryl Lee Ralph
There’s a reason Sheryl Lee Ralph’s performance as Barbara Howard has earned her numerous accolades and a whole Emmy. Apart from Ralph being one of the most stunning performers ever, through Barbara she builds the very heart and soul of Abbott as a whole. Not only does she lead some of the show’s more heartfelt and inspiring moments on motherhood and education, but she also can have you cracking up right after any of those scenes. Whether it’s the running gag of Barbara thinking a set of white celebrities are actually Black, or one of her many Barbara-isms (ahem, “Sweet baby Jesus and the grown one too!”), Barbara is a joy of light on this show in one too many ways. And what makes her particularly hilarious is how earnest Ralph is in her line delivery, infusing genuinity to Barbara’s hottest takes and building the perfect cadence to make any line Barbara says land well beyond the page.
3. Mr. Johnson
Played by: William Stanford Davis
Every sitcom needs a zany character who says the most absurd things that you realize are pretty true after thinking about it for a while, and Mr. Johnson perfectly fills in that role for Abbott. It’s hard to believe that Mr. Johnson was once planned to only be a recurring character on Abbott, because no episode is complete without his lessons on the illuminati, life insight that honestly sometimes tracks, and hilarious heckling that even has Ava’s respect. William Stanford Davis is a master of timing, perfectly bouncing off his cast mates in each episode to make every line of his count. Everything Mr. Johnson says is gold, and Davis manages to make magic out of a few lines, proving that there is no such thing as a small role.
2. Tariq Temple
Played by: Zack Fox
How could we not? Sure, Tariq was never a great boyfriend to Janine, but when it comes to being funny, practically every scene Tariq is in is gold. From his impromptu raps, to his handshake with Janine, to his out of pocket one-liners like, “You know I’m a feminist—that’s why I let you pay for all my stuff,” everything Tariq says is so hilariously dumb, and Zack Fox is a master of line delivery. He manages to remind us that Tariq isn’t necessarily a character we should be rooting for when it comes to Janine’s love life, but he sure is a character we can get behind when it comes to being funny. Tariq is just out here, doing his thing, vibing through life, and anyone would be so lucky to have him on their Spotify Wrapped. “If you smokin’ tree, don’t come next to me ‘cause I’m high off life.” “Abbott on Abbott on Abbott, that booty big so I’mma grab it.” Shakespeare couldn’t write this poetry.
1. Ava Coleman
Played by: Janelle James
Whenever I’m laughing through an episode of Abbott, there’s a guarantee that 95% of the time it’s because of Ava. Janelle James is such a beast of a comedian in her role as Ava, absolutely bodying the necessary line delivery and physical comedy to bring out the most unqualified, lovable, self-centered, and brilliantly hilarious principal in TV history. From her one-sided flirting with Gregory (“Young Idris” stays one of the show’s most iconic lines), to her obsession with the end times, to her sprawling influencer career that honestly just might save the school, Ava is the show’s unsung gem, and we can’t wait to see what hilarity she’ll bring in Season 3. “Well, he’s been dating me for five years, but I’ve only been dating him for two.” Ava, you will always be that girl.