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Best Parks And Rec Characters Who Only Appeared In A Single Episode

From Ethel Beavers to Perd Hapley, the hit NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" is full of characters with names and personalities just on the other side of zany. The creator, Mike Schur, has admitted his affinity for wacky names and that "Parks and Rec" probably boasted the goofiest monikers of any of his TV projects. He revealed that this comes from a place of consideration for even the most minor characters and the actors who play them.

As Schur told Slate, he made it his mission to give every single character in the show a name — usually a first and last name — so that no one would ever have to tell their friends excitedly that they'd been in an episode of "Parks" and then follow it up with a generic, "Yeah, I played Nurse No. 2." That's kind of underwhelming as an actor, Schur remarks from experience. "But if you say, 'I was on this TV show and I played a woman named Susan Gretzky-Lerpiss,'" he explains, "then people think, 'Wow, that's a real character, and it's a hyphenated last name, that must've been significant and important.'"

Making even the smallest background players "significant and important" is the name of the game for this television creator. That's why "Parks" is so full of memorable side characters — even those who only appeared in a single episode.

Keef Slertner

You'd never guess that a guy whose name is Keef Slertner, which sounds like three euphemisms in a trench coat made of silly straws, would be the key to cutting through the bureaucratic red tape that's been stalling Leslie Knope's plans to fill in the Pit for over a year. But that's exactly what happens.

Played by comedian Paul Scheer, Keef is the energetic, enthusiastic leader of the KaBOOM! charity, which spearheads a community effort in Eagleton to build a playground in a single day. Keef's philosophy of "KaBOOMing" things basically means ignoring rules and taking matters into one's own hands. This attitude inspires Leslie to hire a backhoe driver to finally fill in the Pit — without getting any of the necessary permits.

Chaos ensues when it's revealed that Andy Dwyer is still living in the Pit, and he attempts to sue the city for dropping a backhoe full of dirt on his head. All that gets straightened out in the end, but by this time, Keef is nowhere to be found, as he's fled the scene of his "crime." As it turns out, he goes around to different communities and "pranks" them by orchestrating local improvement projects without permission. Hey, if you must make mischief, do so for the common good.

Raul Alejandro Bastilla Pedro de Veloso de Morana

While it can't ever seem to achieve any internal harmony, Pawnee has nonetheless made an effort to promote unity and engagement across entire continents through its titular program in the episode "Sister City." When the delegates from Pawnee's sister city – Boraqua, Venezuela — arrive at City Hall, Leslie cautions her coworkers to expect them to be simple and impoverished, not accustomed to the wealthy trappings of even a small Midwestern town like Pawnee.

Leslie is immediately forced to eat her words, however, when the Venezuelan delegates — led by Raul Alejandro Bastilla Pedro de Veloso de Morana – arrive and immediately begin deriding the town, claiming they live like kings in Venezuela. After Raul (played by "SNL" star Fred Armisen) sees how the public behaves toward Leslie at the public forum, he asks when the armed guards will arrive to take the dissenters to jail, explaining that Venezuela has the most amenable citizens in the world "because of jail," where you can be sent for undercooking fish, overcooking chicken, or being a journalist.

Raul's bemused disgust in the face of small-town American life makes the episode — even if it's the only one in which he appears.


When Leslie asks Ann Perkins to find her a date in "The Set Up," Ann somehow picks the worst person imaginable (which amounts to peak cringeworthy amusement for us). Chris, played by Amy Poehler's then-husband Will Arnett, is an abrasive MRI technician of few social skills. After learning that Leslie isn't a fan of his college's sports teams and, later, that she's a director of regular parks rather than amusement parks, he mutters aloud, "Strike two." He repeatedly fails to get Leslie's jokes and judges her harshly for arbitrary things.

At the end of their frustrating dinner, when Leslie reveals she's never had an MRI, he's incredulous (hasn't everyone had this $2,000 medical procedure?). He "spoils" Leslie by taking her for a scan, during which he awkwardly tells her she has "a great oven" and could have triplets if she wanted. Though she calls off the date (and ends up with a full MRI bill), it's an incredible bit of foreshadowing. Later in the series, Leslie does have triplets!

Tamara 'Tammy' Swanson

Ron Swanson has three very important Tammys in his life. There's his first ex-wife, his second ex-wife ... and his mother.

Played by Paula Pell, Tamara "Tammy" Swanson is an antisocial, militant libertarian just like her son. When Ron has fallen into the clutches of Tammy I and become an ineffectual, docile, white-bread pencil-pusher, even the unhinged Tammy II is too intimidated to help break the spell (Tammy I once threw acid on her foot, so we can't blame her). So the Parks Department enlists the help of the most fearsome Tammy of all. Ron's mother has an entire room full of just guns, and when asked why, she responds curtly, "This is America, isn't it? Then I don't have to answer stupid questions while standing on my own property."

The climax of "Ron and Tammys" comes when the Tammys compete for Ron in a drink-off featuring Swanson family mash liquor — a liquid that can only legally be used to strip varnish off speedboats.

Frank Beckerson

Every "Galentine's Day" on February 13, Leslie gets all of her lady friends together to celebrate each other. And every February 13, she insists her mother, Marlene, regale the guests with the same story of the strong, sexy man named Frank who saved her from drowning when she was 18 and with whom she shared a whirlwind romance.

Leslie's boyfriend, Justin, is enchanted by the story and insists they find Frank and drive him to a Valentine's Day function to reunite with Marlene. Leslie wants to call it off, as Frank is crying and hyperventilating in the back of the car, but Justin insists they surge ahead. It becomes more and more apparent that the immature Frank is no longer a good match for Marlene, but John Larroquette's performance — where he gets up on stage at an old folks' home and tearfully chews out Marlene for rejecting him — is one for the books. 

Kelly Larson

When Kelly Larson first arrives in Leslie's office in the episode "Time Capsule," she's taken aback when he eagerly holds up a copy of a "Twilight" novel in each hand. "So you are the person that's been emailing me about 'Twilight,'" she greets him. "I thought you would be younger. And a girl."

With the memorable line, "Well, I'm not. I'm older and a boy," the late-30s-ish Kelly Larson launches on a crusade to include "Twilight" in the town's time capsule. Leslie explains that the books aren't really specific to Pawnee — so Kelly whips out a pair of handcuffs and chains himself to a pipe in protest.

We later learn that Kelly's quest is an effort to grow closer to his young daughter, an avid "Twilight" fan who's been having a hard time with her parents' divorce. It's both absurd and sweet that Kelly would memorize every single shot of the "Twilight" films — and chain himself to a pipe in a government building — just to make his daughter happy.

Derek from the focus group

Overseeing a focus group where the subject is yourself would be daunting for even the most stoic and self-assured among us — even without a member like Derek in "Bowling for Votes."

Derek disapproves of Leslie as a city council candidate because she seems pretentious. So, naturally, she stages an entire bowling night just to prove to this one guy that she's "chill." In probably the least-chill move ever, she sends a special invitation to Derek's house and puts together a thick binder full of information on him (like his affinity for chicken wings and "Ice Road Truckers"). As the icing on the cake, she lets him beat her in bowling — even though she's an incredibly good bowler (ask Ron!).

The night ends with Derek calling Leslie a b**** and her boyfriend, Ben Wyatt, punching him in the face. Derek taught Leslie the important lesson that not everyone will like you, but the people that matter will literally fight for you.

Chipp McCapp

"I'll bring the girls, you bring the beer ... and the troops will bring the freedom." So sings Indiana's sweetheart, Chipp McCapp, in the episode "Flu Season 2."

Chipp is the quintessential American country music singer. He's 17 years old and in high demand, which makes it a big deal when Andy secures him as the headliner for the Pawnee-Eagleton Unity Concert. The self-absorbed and capricious teen quickly bails on his commitment, though, so Leslie and Andy travel to his home to attempt to change his mind.

While he projects a sugary-sweet public image, Chipp is actually a spoiled, sociopathic jerk who treats his dad like his servant and forces him to ask permission to speak. After Chipp reveals that he canceled his Unity Concert appearance to get a haircut, throws a plate of Lunchables at his dad, and finally makes a joke about how no one in Pawnee uses toothpaste, Leslie's had enough.

We, however, wish we could've had more of this fun-to-hate nuisance played by a deliciously petulant Bo Burnham (who's no stranger to uncomfortable musical comedy).

Lauren Burkiss

When a group of schoolchildren tour City Hall in "Road Trip," a young girl walks into Ron's office and starts asking him questions. Played by Alyssa Shafer, Lauren Burkiss is supposed to find a public official to interview for her paper on why the government matters. Ron, initially very resistant to the interaction, perks up at this opportunity to instill libertarian ideology in the next generation.

During the reductionist but comical interaction, he eats half of her sandwich as a metaphor for taxes, teaches her to hate the government, and finally, he gifts his new protege a Claymore land mine. Of course, Lauren's mother is irate when she finds out, and she storms into Ron's office demanding to know what he was thinking. She slaps Lauren's paper on his desk, and under the header "Why Government Matters," it reads, "It doesn't." At Mrs. Burkiss' request, Ron talks Lauren into writing a new paper — but not before having her autograph her old one for him.

LaVondrius Meagle

One of the first times we hear Donna Meagle's estranged brother mentioned is when Ron gets back together with Tammy II and Donna admonishes him, "You need to get your house in order. I love you like a brother, but right now, I hate you, like my actual brother, LaVondrius. Who I hate."

The Meagle family loves drama, a fact that becomes apparent throughout the series. In fact, when April Ludgate, Donna's maid of honor, successfully pulls the ceremony off without a hitch in "Donna & Joe," Donna confesses that she's actually a bit disappointed and misses the family spectacle. And who should appear at this point but LaVondrious himself, who utters a "sup, girl?" before smashing a microwave on the reception floor.

Donna actually thanks April for inviting him and giving her that little taste of drama she was missing — a feat of understated hysterics pulled off brilliantly by Questlove (yep, the drummer for The Roots).

Herb Scaifer

If you only get to do one thing on a popular sitcom, predicting the apocalypse is one of the coolest options. When we meet Herb Scaifer in the aptly titled "End of the World," he's in Leslie's office reserving a park for his cult's all-night vigil, at the end of which the lizard god Zorp the Surveyor will exterminate all of humanity with his volcano mouth.

Played by Robert Pine, the leader of the Reasonablists is responsible for a number of feel-good moments throughout the episode. How so? Well, although they don't really take his threats seriously, the main characters are nonetheless driven to contemplate what they'd do if the world were really ending.

Herb speaks encouragingly with Chris Traeger, who's been confronting his mortality, about reincarnation. He commissions wooden flutes from Ron for the cult's performance of "Symphony for the Righteous Destruction of Humanity in E minor." His teachings prompt Andy and April to do as many things on Andy's bucket list as possible, including shooting a film and driving to the Grand Canyon. And the ordeal prompts Leslie to think about what's really important, ultimately planting the seeds for her and Ben to get together for good. Not bad for one episode of TV in the final hours of humanity.

Ben's parents and Ulani

You might wonder why we put these three in the same list item when they're clearly incapable of even being in the same room. Well, there's your answer. For the single episode in which these three characters appear, they wreak such havoc on Ben and Leslie's engagement party that we can't help but be grateful they ultimately didn't attend the wedding — and the mayhem they cause is precisely due to their icky but explosive group dynamic.

Ben has warned Leslie not to invite his parents, Steve (Jonathan Banks) and Julia (Glenne Headly), but she's convinced in the ability of her "Unity Quilt" to mend even the most broken fences. It appears to be going better than expected at first — until Ben's dad arrives with his much younger girlfriend, Ulani (Kulap Vilaysack). The party, and the quilt, unravel from there, with Steve demanding to know why Ulani doesn't have a quilt square and Julia — after Leslie scribbles Ulani's name on the "waffles" square — taking a pair of scissors to it.

When Ulani turns down alcohol because she's pregnant, it's clear the party is doomed — but the episode "Ben's Parents" is all the more memorable for it.

Carl Lorthner

If you don't remember Carl Lorthner, it can only be because the volume of his voice knocked you unconscious and you woke up with no recollection of the single episode in which he appeared. The Park Security officer with no concept of an "indoor voice" is played by Andy Samberg in the episode "Park Safety." Not only does he speak loudly, he also talks constantly about any and every topic that crosses his mind — often the movie "Avatar," which he hasn't seen because he wanted to read the book first, only to find out there is no book.

After Jerry claims to have injured his arm while being mugged in the park, Leslie campaigns for more Parks Department funding, inadvertently casting a demeaning light on the Parks Security force in the process. Offended, Carl locates a video that shows Jerry was never mugged — he fell into a creek reaching for a burrito.

In order to prevent him from dropping this bombshell on "Pawnee Today," Leslie promises him a brand new security cart (the others have been stolen or peed in by raccoons). Carl then improvises a new "bombshell" on TV: He finally saw "Avatar" and thought it lived up to the hype.


Tynnyfer (June Diane Raphael) is April's counterpart when Eagleton and Pawnee merge in "Doppelgängers." She is, in April's words, "The worst person I've ever met." Her name used to be Jennifer, but then she decided to rebrand herself — a revelation she follows by staring off into space, then announcing, "Oh, wait, hang on. It's Xanax o'clock," and reaching for a glittery pink container labeled "My Pills."

Tynnyfer also provides a great opportunity for us to witness April being April. At first, she wants to travel the world with Tynnyfer and begins to sarcastically emulate her mannerisms. How craze-mazing is that? Ultimately, though, April grows tired of her counterpart and sends Tynny off to her "house in Miami." It totally works out because Tynnyfer has been thinking of going somewhere warm while her husband is in jail. April tells Tynnyfer to just let herself in and jump the gate if necessary because it "kinda jams sometimes." In a talking head, April reveals she actually gave Tynnyfer Dwyane Wade's address, which she got off the internet.

Mayor Walter Gunderson

You might be surprised to know that this character only appeared in a single episode because we hear him mentioned so many times. But for the longest time, "Parks and Recreation" didn't cast Mayor Walter Gunderson. There was even a plan for his character to remain faceless and mystical forever. That is, until, after years of begging, Bill Murray finally agreed to take the part.

Throughout the series, we've heard various things about this public figure. He has a crazy dog named Rufus. He wants to kill the possum terrorizing the golf course and have it stuffed and hung above his urinal so that tiny flecks of pee will get on its face forever. And when Raul attempts to get Leslie to say "Viva Chavez" on camera, she instead shouts, "Viva Mayor Walter Gunderson!"

When we first see him in the second-to-last episode of the entire series, "Two Funerals," the mayor is lying in a casket. The fabled Walter Gunderson has finally passed away (which ultimately allows for Jerry to become mayor), but he's left a video message to his surviving citizens. And during his funeral service, we find out in graphic fashion that he and court stenographer Ethel Beavers had been lovers for 46 years. He may have only appeared in one episode, but his true presence in Pawnee, and "Parks and Rec" itself, was clearly far greater.