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8 of the Sassiest TV Waitresses to Ever Grace the Small Screen

Kaley Cuoco, Jennifer Aniston, Kat Dennings
Warner Bros. Television

These ladies are serving up food with a side of sarcasm.

In the world of television, a good waitress can actually be defined as a bad waitress. That is, part of what makes this character compelling is her boldness when dealing with customers. Whereas in the real world you may get fired for speaking your mind to the clientele, you get laughs on the boob tube when you put them in their place, even if they don’t deserve to be cut down to size. We’re told the customer is always right, but that’s just not true in TV.

Yes, cracking jokes, providing bad service and being generally rude are the prized qualities you need to keep a job waiting tables, whether it’s in a rundown diner or a bar where everybody knows your name (and could ostensibly report you to management).

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more memorable TV waitresses who prove that good customer service just isn’t that entertaining.

Penny, The Big Gang Theory

Played for nearly a decade now by Kaley Cuoco in a role that launched her to stardom, audiences were introduced to Penny as a struggling actress who worked at the Cheesecake Factory while she waited for her big break. Her biting remarks to Sheldon and threats about spitting in the food make for big laughs, antics that would have gotten her canned at the real Cheesecake Factory. It all worked out for Penny, though — she got a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep, leaving the world of food service far behind.

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Rachel, Friends

She was incompetent and not terribly interested in serving coffee, but Rachel, memorably played by Jennifer Aniston (who won an Emmy for the part), somehow kept getting a paycheck from Central Perk. She eventually left for a career in fashion, which was good because we can’t figure out how she managed to live in such a nice apartment on a meager waitress’ salary. Guess the tips from her friends, who came in at the same time everyday and sat in the same place, were really good.

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Sookie, True Blood

Anna Paquin played the telepathic waitress on the hit HBO show and even won a Golden Globe for work on the show during its seven-year run. Having had to adjust to hearing other people’s thoughts, Sookie is nice, and some would say, not very complex. Yet, she is not afraid to stand up for herself and can be sarcastic at times.

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Carla, Cheers

No one on this list may be meaner than Carla Tortelli, the pint-sized dynamo played by Rhea Perlman, always at the ready to give a tongue lashing. You’d think her insults would either get her fired or result in terrible tips, but she somehow supported a big family with just this one job. Her foil during the show was most often Cliff, the mailman with a penchant for useless trivia. Why he never complained to Sam or frequented another watering hole is a mystery.

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Max, 2 Broke Girls

For a girl with no money, Max sure has no problems mouthing off. Extremely quick-witted and often making crude jokes — many times at the expense of her customers — Max, played by Kat Dennings, makes ends meet working at a dump of a diner with Caroline, the more polished of the two, but also not above showing off her wit.

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Shirley, What’s Happenning!!

Like pretty much all of the waitresses on this list, Shirley, deftly portrayed by the late Shirley Hemphill, walked the line between rude and lovable. She was a pal to the kids who frequented Rob’s Place, yet she could also get away with belittling them or even eating their food when they had a question.

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Flo, Alice

In the late ’70s, actress Polly Holliday became a cultural phenomenon, thanks to three simple words: “Kiss my grits!” That was her go-to expression when she was angry while playing Flo, the waitress at Mel’s Diner, who was never afraid to speak her mind or flaunt her sexuality. She won a pair of Golden Globes for her work and earned another three Emmy nominations.

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Reggie, Becker

One of the many characters who wouldn’t put up with Becker’s attitude, Reggie, played by Terry Farrell, was not only a waitress, but the owner of the title character’s favorite diner. Like all the waitresses featured here, she could dish out the insults faster than she could  whip up a burger. It’s another trope we see over and over — customers continue to come back for more, even though they’re completely disrespected.

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