The Big Bang Theory is an American television sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, both of whom served as executive producers on the series, along with Steven Molaro. All three also served as head writers. The show premiered on CBS on September 24, 2007 and concluded on May 16, 2019, having broadcast a total of 279 episodes over 12 seasons.
The show originally centered on five characters living in Pasadena, California: Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, both physicists at Caltech, who share an apartment; Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall; and Leonard and Sheldon’s similarly geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers, aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali. Over time, supporting characters were promoted to starring roles, including neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski, physicist Leslie Winkle, and comic book store owner Stuart Bloom.
Take a look below for our list of the 10 funniest and coolest characters from the Big Bang Theory.
1. Sheldon Cooper
Dr. Sheldon Lee Cooper, B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., Sc.D., is a Caltech theoretical physicist. Along with his best friend, Leonard Hofstadter, he is the main protagonist.
Originally from East Texas, Sheldon started college at the age of 11, receiving his first Ph.D. at the age of 16. As a kid, Sheldon was involved in numerous experiments as a “wunderkind”, such as his plan to provide free electricity for his hometown by building a nuclear reactor – a plan stopped by government pen pushers claiming it’s illegal to store yellowcake uranium in a garden shed.
Proudly geeky, he has no qualms about speaking Klingon, wearing vintage t-shirts sporting superhero logos, or spouting various historical and cultural anecdotes (e.g., his account of the introduction of the fork into Thailand). While he might claim to be the perfect human specimen, Sheldon does have his faults. Sheldon is characterized by a strict adherence to routine and hygiene; an overly intellectual personality; a tenuous understanding of irony, sarcasm and humor; and a general lack of humility or empathy, the former of which is demonstrated in the fact that he has no problem voicing to his peers his admiration for his superior intellect.
These qualities, along with his penchant for pranks, are his character’s main source of humor. He is often considered to be the most iconic character of the show. Sheldon has developed a more human personality due to the influences of his friend Penny and his wife Amy, but some of it does not always show up. Although it is never stated, it is widely theorized that Sheldon has Asperger Syndrome.
2. Rajesh Koothrapali
Dr. Rajesh Ramayan “Raj” Koothrappali, Ph.D., is an astrophysicist and Howard Wolowitz’s best friend. He often hangs out at Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, though he has his own apartment in Pasadena. Raj fell in love with astronomy while attending Cambridge University.
Originally from New Delhi, Raj has an Indian English accent and, ironically, dislikes Indian food and culture. He frequently portrays himself as having come from humble origins and growing up in poverty in India, only for his friends to remind him that his father is a gynecologist, drives a Bentley, and has a house full of servants.
For the first six seasons, his principal characteristic was a case of selective mutism social anxiety disorder, which did not allow him to talk to women outside of his family. This condition could be suppressed through alcohol (or if he thought he was drinking alcohol) or experimental social anxiety medications; however, the former usually ended up changing his personality, making him more obnoxious and overbearing (and at times, bitter and jerkish), while the latter tended to have unpredictable side-effects.
3. Howard Wolowitz
Howard Joel Wolowitz, M.Eng., is a Jewish aerospace engineer and ex-astronaut Howard: “Technically, I am an astronaut.” (“The Russian Rocket Reaction”). He is the son of an overbearing mother, Debbie Wolowitz, who couldn’t care less about his scientific accomplishments and still talks to him as if he were a child. As the best friend of Rajesh Koothrappali, Howard often hangs out at Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment with him.
Although he’s the only member of the group lacking a doctoral degree, he defends himself by pointing out that he not only has a Master’s degree in Engineering from MIT, but also designs important devices like the “space toilet” and telescope used at the International Space Station and components for satellites and space probes.
Fancying himself a smooth ladies’ man, Howard is rather confident in trying to woo girls (unlike the other three), mostly through creepy overtures and sometimes with his knowledge of foreign languages, of which he knows seven (if you count Klingon). During the show, he dates and eventually marries Bernadette, with whom he bonded over their dislike towards their overbearing mothers and has been influenced to tone down his creepy behavior. Much later, the couple have a daughter named Halley Wolowitz and a son named Neil Michael Wolowitz.
4. Leonard Hofstadter
Dr. Leonard Leakey Hofstadter, Ph.D., is an experimental physicist at the California Institute of Technology who formerly roomed with Sheldon Cooper in Apartment 4A and now he and his wife Penny live in that apartment and they also formerly lived in Penny’s apartment Apartment 4B. Along with Sheldon, he is the main male protagonist.
Originally from New Jersey, Leonard attended Princeton University and was twenty-four years old when he received his doctorate with a Dissertation of the Year award for Particle Physics. Having lived with Sheldon for ten years as of Season 6, he and Leonard are best friends; however, Leonard can become very agitated by many of his eccentricities and often feels obligated to explain Sheldon’s behavior and serve as a mediator between him and other people in situations – he has been described as the straight man of the series.
While Leonard, along with his geek friends and fellow scientists, is somewhat socially inept, Leonard would like to be better accepted outside of his social group. Leonard is better-adjusted than his companions, being more willing to try different things. He appears to be best suited as a leader of the group, with Sheldon commenting how Leonard is the “Kirk” of their landing party. The romance between him and neighbor Penny, with their on-and-off relationship has been the major force for drama until Shamy started.
Penny (officially Penny Hofstadter by marriage) is a fictional character on the American CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, portrayed by actress Kaley Cuoco. She is the primary female character in the series. She lives in Apartment 4A with her husband Leonard Hofstadter across the hall from Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler who live in apartment 4B where Penny used to live.
Her full first name is possibly “Penelope” as implied by “The Barbarian Sublimation”, as her username was “Queen Penelope,” and her maiden name has never been revealed, but due to her marriage to Leonard, her last name is Hofstadter. She unknowingly married her ex-boyfriend Zack Johnson for three years, so her name could include “Johnson.” That marriage was finally annulled in “The Thanksgiving Decoupling”.
An aspiring, but mostly unsuccessful actress, she was born on a farm near Omaha, Nebraska, and worked at The Cheesecake Factory as a waitress until she quit in “The Occupation Recalibration” to take up acting full time. Penny was the original female lead in the show before being joined by Bernadette Rostenkowski and Amy Farrah Fowler and in season 8 started working at the same company as did Bernadette. She had her five minutes of fame in “Serial Ape-ist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill”.
She has always been Leonard’s love interest since the Pilot, with the two dating briefly in the over the first season/second season break, for most of the third season, and they rekindled their romance in “The Recombination Hypothesis”. As of “The Gorilla Dissolution”, she and Leonard became engaged and were married at the start of season 9 in “The Matrimonial Momentum”, followed by a vow renewal at the start of season 10 in “The Conjugal Conjecture”. As of the series finale “The Stockholm Syndrome”, they are currently expecting their first child.
Even though she is considered part of the guys’ group, she represents the “dumb blond|blonde” for viewer context in the series with a lot of street smarts and communication skills to compensate for her lack of academic knowledge. As the series progresses, her knowledge of geeky subjects such as Doctor Who even surprises her.
6. Amy Farrah Fowler
Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, Ph.D., is a neurobiologist. Amy is from Glendale, California. She also has a doctorate degree in neurobiology from Harvard University, inspired by actor Mayim Bialik’s own doctorate.
She initially was discovered by Raj and Howard as a possible match for Sheldon through an online dating service. By Sheldon’s own admission, she is most like him by any standard. Like him, she has previously avoided relationships (whether romantic or otherwise is entirely unclear). She has her own apartment. She also has a five-year plan to become Mrs. Cooper.
By the ninth season, Amy wants to take a breather from their relationship and naive Sheldon pushes her so she breaks-up with him. Later, the two reconcile and resume their relationship eventually moving in together. In the Season 10 finale, Sheldon asks her to marry him getting engaged in “The Proposal Proposal”. The wedding was on May 12, 2018.
7. Bernadette Rostenkowski
Dr. Bernadette Maryann Rostenkowski-Wolowitz, Ph.D., is a former waitress at the Cheesecake Factory and has earned her Ph.D in microbiology and has a lucrative job at the pharmaceutical company Zangen. She began dating Howard Wolowitz in “The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary” and eventually married him in “The Countdown Reflection”, Season 5 finale.
She had her own apartment in Pasadena which Howard eventually moved into finally leaving Debbie Wolowitz’s house. In Season 7, they start thinking about raising a family after Debbie has to convalesce. After his mother died in “The Comic Book Store Regeneration”, Howard and Bernadette moved back into Howard’s house. They since have renovated the house and began preparing for parenthood in “The Valentino Submergence”.
They have become parents to a little girl, Halley, as of the episode, “The Birthday Synchronicity”. They were expecting another baby as of the Season 11 premiere “The Proposal Proposal”. The baby was revealed to be a boy as of “The Explosion Implosion”. He was born in “The Neonatal Nomenclature” and was named Neil Michael Wolowitz.
8. Mrs. Wolowitz
Deborah “Debbie” Melvina Wolowitz (most often known and credited as Mrs. Wolowitz) was the mother of Howard Wolowitz and the mother-in-law of Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz. Howard always simply calls her “Ma” (usually while screaming). The name “Debbie” was revealed in the Season 7 finale “The Status Quo Combustion” by Stuart (and may or may not be a pet name); up until that point, she had only been referred to as “Mrs. Wolowitz”. Despite her over-controlling, loud, overprotective, sometime desperate ways, she is not only nice and caring, but is also a loving motherly figure to both her son and his friends.
The ongoing joke or running gag in the series is that the viewers never see her face; she made her presence known by her loud and obnoxious New Jersey-accented voice (provided by the late Carol Ann Susi). There have been quick glimpses of her; however, in Season 5’s “The Countdown Reflection”, the overhead view of the rooftop Wolowitz wedding ceremony shows her sitting off to the side in a pink dress.
In Season 6’s “The Spoiler Alert Segmentation”, she can be seen (from the neck down) walking past the open kitchen door while Rajesh Koothrappali sits at the dining room table, and the tag scene in that same episode shows her arms pulling Raj back into the house through an open window as he was trying to escape the house. Her dead body ala “Psycho” is seen in Howard’s tale in “The Cooper Extraction”.
9. Stuart Bloom
Stuart David Bloom is the owner of The Comic Center of Pasadena, which the guys regularly visit, and is their friend. He has a talent for drawing and is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. He also has an extensive knowledge on comic books and first appears in the season 2 episode “The Hofstadter Isotope”. He also acts as competition for the lead characters when he dated Penny and Amy (respectively) to help move the other’s relationships forward.
Stuart starts bonding with his similarly lonely counterpart Raj at the start of Season 6, substituting for Howard when Howard has gone to space. He often seeks approval from Sheldon and his group. His actor, Kevin Sussman, was added to the main cast in season 6 with his credit at the opening when he was present in the episode; however, he was demoted back to the recurring status in “The Tangible Affection Proof”, but had it restored at the start of season eight in “The Locomotion Interruption”. As of September 2015, Stuart has appeared on more episodes than Mrs. Wolowitz and is right behind series regular Amy.
He is helpful and kind-hearted, but due to his overworking schedule and underpaying job as comic book store owner, he isn’t able to get out much and often gets depressed and struggles with financial and health issues.
10. Barry Kripke
Barry Kripke, Ph.D. is a Caltech Plasma (physics), string-theorist, and he is a colleague of Leonard and Sheldon. He has a case of rhotacism, where he pronounces “r” and “l” as “w”, much like Elmer Fudd in Looney Tunes. With a knack for ribbing people, he is a friend to Leonard, Howard, Rajesh and Amy. He also has an on-and-off platonic relationship with Sheldon Cooper.
Despite being a stereotypical geek, Barry apparently tries to be fairly sporty, as shown in “The Friendship Algorithm”. In that episode, it was implied that he enjoys polo, water polo, and rock-climbing. “The Rothman Disintegration” reveals that Kripke and Sheldon are “equally bad” at sports. Unlike his colleague, Kripke is fully aware of his limitations and shortcomings, even admitting that he is “creepy, pathetic and can’t get girls”.
He has been known to make inappropriate comments to women, photograph his own genitals and upload the shots to the Internet (“The Beta Test Initiation”), and enjoys hanging out at a strip club near his apartment, which has a free buffet (“The Rothman Disintegration”). He also seems to enjoy strippers.
Kripke is often suggested to be coasting in his job—in one instance he even goes as far to say that “[he] says [he]’ll prove something that can’t be proved [string theory], then use the money for ‘wiquow and bwoads’ “liquor and broads”. In other instances he engages in robot fighting and makes numerous allusions to his promiscuity (though he appears mostly romantically unsuccessful).
On the other hand, in “The Cooper/Kripke Inversion”, Sheldon admits Kripke’s grant proposal for a fusion reactor for the university is “leaps and bounds” ahead of his [Sheldon’s] own. This suggests that Kripke is quite capable—despite Leonard not believing Kripke to be smarter than Sheldon, Kripke is apparently able to work at Sheldon’s level. This may be the reason for Kripke’s success in retaining his job despite his apparent predilection for coasting.