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American Dad! The Many Personas of Roger Smith

Roger Smith from American Dad! is one of my favorite cartoon characters. He is a grey, pear-shaped alien who was originally sent to Earth as a crash-test dummy for a spaceship manufacturer. Roger is campy, cultured, and hypercritical. He loves alcohol, drugs, and sex, and has an unquenchable thirst for revenge; slighting Roger in any way typically results in utter devastation: character assassination, arson, homicide, you name it, he’s done it.

Roger Smith, who is voiced by American Dad! creator Seth MacFarlane, is also quite supportive of the members of the Smith family. Clearly, he loves them all, it’s just that his genetic predisposition for bitchiness, booze, and revenge often results in hilarious amounts of absurdity and destruction.

Throughout the many seasons of American Dad! Roger Smith has taken on hundreds of personas to disguise his alien identity from anyone outside of the Smith family. But he also just loves to pretend. Some of these personas appear momentarily for the sake of a single joke, while others are reoccurring characters, like the psychiatrist Dr. Penguin, the sociopath Ricky Spanish, or the wedding planner and mother of two, Jeanie Gold.

In creating this list, I chose only five of my favorite Roger Smith personas, otherwise it would’ve gone on forever. I laughed a lot as wrote this list (especially when typing out the quotes), and I hope you laugh as you read it.

Pete Pendelman, Recovering Alcoholic & Diabetic

A grey bulbous-headed alien wears tinted pink reading glasses and a suit and tie; he stands in front of a serving table covered in fruits and vegetables (Roger Smith as Pete Pendelman in American Dad!)
Pete Pendelman introduces himself and kills the mood.

In “Fartbreak Hotel” (S6E9), the Smiths are exiled from their home after Roger’s okra-induced toxic farts pollute the house and force them to stay at a hotel for a week. A concrete convention is taking place at the hotel, and Francine assumes the identity of Sarah Blanch, a woman who died on her way to speak at the convention. In order to watch over Francine and make sure she doesn’t make a total fool of herself, Pete Pendelman springs into existence. Pete might have good intentions but in mixed company he is the ultimate buzzkill.

When Pete and Francine are having drinks with other attendees of the convention, someone asks Pete if he’s married. Pete says,

Pete Pendelman: Two years ago, my wife was killed by a plastic surgeon in Ecuador. I found him on Yelp. I gave him two stars. Her breasts looked amazing during the open casket. So, I was married.

Near the end of this episode, Pete creates a persona for himself. After Francine throws away her signature pink dress, Pete wears it as a cape and dubs himself “The Tender Vigilante.” Sadly, his stint as a superhero is short lived: he leaps off of the hotel in an attempt to fly and smashes into a car several stories below. As he is wheeled away on a stretcher, he half-consciously murmurs another one of my favorite lines from this episode: “The Tender Vigilante…doesn’t have…insurance.”

A grey bulbous-headed alien in a suit wears a pink dress as a cape and stands perched on the edge of a railing in a dark city (Roger Smith as Pete Pendelman in American dad!)
Roger/Pete Pendelman: “This city needs my tender justice.”

Sweeps McCullough, Talent Manager

A bulbous-headed balding grey alien wears a blue suit and offers a business card to a blonde woman in a pink dress (Roger Smith as Sweeps McCullough and Francine Smith in American Dad!)
Sweeps offers a business card to Francine.

In “White Rice” (S6E5), Roger Smith creates Sweeps McCullough to help revive Francine’s career as a standup comedian. Sweeps (supposedly) represented a handful of sidekick characters from several 1980s sitcoms. He also loves cocaine (he does so much of it his eye pops out), and he has a penchant for both murder and kidnapping.

Upon offering his services to Francine, she asks him,

Francine Smith: Are you sure about all this?

Sweeps McCullough: Remember when Rudy from The Cosby Show got old and stopped being cute? I brought them Raven-Symone! Saw her on a Philadelphia playground and knew she was a star. Snatched her right up. Six months later, her parents saw her on TV and realized she was still alive. Did some time for that. So, you ask, am I sure about this? I don’t know.

At the inevitable failure of Francine’s incredibly racist sitcom, Sweeps “hangs himself” and is quickly disposed of. As ridiculous as he is, Sweeps’s managerial enthusiasm is infectious, and his unwavering support for Francine is quite endearing.

Mr. Stan-Dan Deliver, Teacher & Former Dancer

A bulbous-headed grey alien in a balding wig wears a brown jacket, blue striped tie, and lavender shirt; he stands in front of a graffiti-covered wall and chalkboard covered in knives (Roger Smith as Mr. Stan-Dan Deliver in American Dad!)
Mr. Stan-Dan Deliver attempts to relate to his students.

In “Stan-Dan Deliver” (S11E8), Principal Lewis punishes Steve by sending him to a remedial class full of violent, illiterate teenagers. On Steve’s first day, Mr. Stan-Dan Deliver takes over as teacher of the class, in part to prove to Steve he is capable about caring for others. But, as always, he ends up manipulating all of the students for personal gain. This character and his name are lifted from the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, which was also parodied on an episode of South Park (S12E5, “Eek, a Penis!”).

Mr. Deliver’s attempts to relate to the kids are all hilarious: sitting backwards in a rolling chair that keeps rolling out of the room, his brief-but-memorable Romeo and Juliet rap (“A sexy teen! A sexy teen!”), and of course, his “veteran” status, which is revealed after he demonstrates some flashy tricks with his switchblade (which cuts off his tie and slices open part of his chest).

Student: Whoa, what were you, teach? Army? Marines?

Roger: Army? I wish. I was in the sh*t: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation tour.

Several cartoon teenagers and a grey alien dance in a triangule-shaped formation in a high school class room (Roger Smith as Mr. Deliver and his students in American Dad)
Mr. Deliver and his class perform a Janet Jackson-inspired dance routine.

Mr. Stan-Dan Deliver’s dance number indirectly teaches the kids to count down from four, leaving them in a state of awe and wonder.

Ruby Zeldastein, Medium & Aspiring Entrepreneur

A bulbous-headed grey alien dressed as a woman in a blue dress wears tinted aviator glasses, a pearl necklace, and a poofy grey wig; she stands in the doorway of a suburban house (Roger as Ruby Zeldastein in American Dad!)
Ruby Zeldastein arrives right on time.

In “Poltergasm” (S9E2), Roger Smith invokes the presence of Ruby Zeldastein (a wonderfully obvious rip-off of Zelda Rubinstein’s character from Poltergeist) at the outset of a strange haunting. “Poltergasm” steals several bits from Poltergeist, but the story takes a decisively different turn as the episode progresses.

My favorite jokes involving Ruby revolve around her attempts to (unsuccessfully) trademark the phrases she coins as the episode goes along.

Ruby Zeldastein: The entity in this house was born specifically out of Francine’s sexual frustration. I like to call it a “Poltergasm.” [Ruby traces a shape in the air with her finger]

Steve Smith: What are you doing?

Ruby Zeldastein: I just drew a trademark sign with my finger, child, because I’ve registered the word “poltergasm.” Any movie scripts you write based on your experiences here, Ruby gets a slice.

Later in the episode, Ruby coins yet another sexual-supernatural term to define her plan of action: “I call tonight the Sexorcism. Now, that’s really trademarked, because I found out that somebody else already had “poltergasm” trademarked and now I’m in hot water.”

Ruby essentially makes up everything as she goes along: her trademarked terminology, her explanations as to why the haunting occurs, and her strategies to rid the house of the climax-deprived Francine-ghoul. From beginning to end, Ruby remains crass, helpful, and vaguely psychic.

Julia Rogerts, Seller of Dried Flowers

A bulbous-headed grey alien in a large wig rides a bycicle past a tree-filled park people with several onlookers (Roger as Julia Rogerts in American Dad!)
Julia Rogerts bikes through the idyllic town of Townsville.

“Julia Rogerts” (S12E14) is undoubtedly my favorite Roger Smith-centric episode of American Dad! It’s sort of like a cross between a Lifetime movie, Eat, Pray, Love, and The Wicker Man. Julia Rogerts (an obvious play on “Julia Roberts”) is created after Stan admits that he wouldn’t put in nearly the same amount of effort to help Roger as Roger has put in to help Stan. This conversation happens as a tornado rages nearby, and after Stan’s admission, Roger says, “You’ve hurt me terribly” and lets himself get sucked into the tornado. After a time lapse, Roger reappears in the guise of an auburn-haired lass riding a bicycle through a town called “Townsville,” whose slogan is “A Place To Start Over.”

Julia runs a small shop that sells dried flowers, and her only companion is a rather disgruntled service rooster named Percy. As the story progresses, Julia is romantically pursued by a handsome farmer named Jesse. It all seems so perfect until the entire town shows up on her lawn wearing crow masks. It turns out Jesse was only vetting Julia to see if she was a suitable sacrifice for the town’s Crow God. She almost has her head chopped off, but Stan rescues her just in time.

I don’t even know that I can choose a favorite joke from this episode. The laughs are almost constant, which is another reason why this episode is one of my all-time favorites. That being said, my favorite jokes all seem to revolve around fudge.

During Jesse and Julia’s “fudge date” at the dried flower store, they have the following exchange.

Jesse: Wow. You really like that fudge.

[Julia cackles with an open mouth full of gooey wet fudge]

Jesse: So, why dried flowers?

Julia: I think it’s inspiring that something once so vibrant and full of life can still be delicately beautiful even after so many terrible things have happened to me.

Jesse: Sounds like dried flowers are a little like you.

Julia: [scoffs] That seems like a stretch.

A little later in the conversation, Jesse offers Julia some of his farmland to plant her dying grape vine in.

Julia: How much is that gonna set me back?

Jesse: I wasn’t gonna charge you.

Julia: Oh, well, that’s really generous of you! Your half of the fudge is six bucks.

Jesse: I…brought you that fudge.

Julia: [cackles with an open mouth full of wet fudge] Oh, Jesse.

A bulbous-headed grey alien in an auburn wig wears a blue dress, brown boots, and flower crown; several large pumpkins and circus tents are in the background (Roger as Julia Rogerts in American Dad!)
The beautiful Julia Rogerts waits for her beau at the Harvest Festival.

At the end of the episode, when Stan and Julia are trapped in the dried flower shop by the town mob, Julia realizes she’s out of fudge (which she intends to pair with her gasoline-infused wine). She opens a door in the floor and says,

Julia: I’ll just nip on over to the fudge shop.

Stan: [motioning to the floor] Hold up, what’s this?

Julia: It’s my secret tunnel to the fudge shop.

Stan: I can’t believe you didn’t mention this.

Julia: Hey, I’m not particularly proud of stealing fudge, Stan. But I am proud of my tunnel. Doesn’t feel like a tunnel, more like a lovely hallway.

Stan and Roger make a clean getaway through the hallway and set the Crow God worshipers on fire (via Julia’s gasoline-infused wine). Stan and Roger eat fudge and watch as the town and its burning occupants flail about and scream. It’s an absurd and sweet ending to a story about a deep, enduring friendship.

For Matt & Scottie

Written by Daniel Siuba

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