PEN15 brings audiences back to the days of the early 2000s. The show presents the awkward and sometimes hellish world of middle school in the United States through the lens of protagonists Maya Ishii-Peters and Anna Kone. Throughout the series, they meet other personalities at school and in their home lives.
Anna and Maya hilariously drive PEN15 and make it what fans call one of the best comedy TV series. However, there are several other characters who challenge their innate funniness. The girls clash with their parents and schoolmates. However in these moments, some of the hysterical characters in PEN15 surface and shine.
Fred is Maya's dad, played by Richard Karn who is known for his comedic endeavors as Al Borland in ABC's Home Improvement. However, Fred is not the funniest character in PEN15. Like Maya's mother Yuki, he is often serious and highlights Maya's irreverent behavior.
Fred is a traveling musician, and as such, there are several episodes in which audiences only hear about him while he is away on tour. Fred, although cheerful, doesn't have as many funny moments as some of the other main players in PEN15.
Curtis, played by Taylor Nichols, is Anna's dad. Like her mom Kathy, Anna interacts with Curtis in dramatic scenes having to do with their divorce. Their separation allows for some of PEN15's most difficult dramatic moments.
However, his character development makes for some humor. After Kathy and Curtis separate, he can't help himself from transparently trying to sway Anna to live with him instead of his mother. It's dark comedy, but watching Curtis try to conceal his obvious ploys to Anna is funny to watch.
Maya's mom Yuki is played by show co-creator Maya Ishii-Peters' real mother Mutsuko Erskine. Yuki plays the "straight man" to Maya's wacky antics. However, she spouts a few funny lines throughout PEN15. Yuki makes for good humor in her interactions with Maya.
When Maya claims she is going to run away and live on her own, Yuki is unphased and hilariously responds with "Okay." When Maya inquires about her lack of concern, Yuki returns with her laundry and says she can't even use the bathroom properly, so she probably won't last long on the streets. The unexpected chide makes for one of Yuki's funniest moments.
Sam, played by Taj Cross, is one of Maya and Anna's friends from school. Some fans say he is one of the most likable characters in PEN15. Eventually, he develops a crush on Maya. However, like many middle schoolers experience, Sam shows his affection by spouting insults at Maya. These remarks make for some funny moments on the show.
Whether Sam is calling Maya "bowl cut" or challenging her Jim Carrey impressions, he often shows off his comedic timing. His relationship with Maya showcases PEN15's sweet side, but it also proves Sam can keep up with her and Anna's goofy escapades.
Shuji is Maya's brother, played by Dallas Liu. In the fashion of a typical older brother in middle school, he often teases his younger sister Maya and her best friend Anna. When he's introduced in season 1, his car ride with Anna and Maya makes for one of the weirdest PEN15 scenes.
Shuji gives PEN15 some of its funniest lines thanks to his snarky comments and sarcastic jokes. However, Shuji's ribbing is good-natured, and he shows his care for Maya when she needs help with bullies at school. He gives her advice on how to insult them. His enthusiastic rant of disparaging comments is hilarious and helps underscore his position as one of the show's funniest characters.
Anna is played by show co-creator Anna Konkle and is one of the most prominently featured characters in PEN15. As such, she has several moments where her funny antics are on display. Some of Anna's hysterical moments come from the pre-teen awkwardness that makes her deny what is clearly shown on screen.
When Anna and Maya run away, Anna denies her urge to go home, despite her lack of plan. When Anna helps Maya take pictures for an anonymous admirer online, she takes a picture of only her hand, saying "it's beautiful." When they send it and he responds, the two both freak out. Anna's tantrums aren't as explosive as Maya's, but they are almost as funny.
It's hard to argue that Maya isn't the funniest character in the series. Her bowl cut alone makes for laughs, coming from one of PEN15's most cringey moments. Played by show co-creator Maya Erskine, Maya has several outrageous moments in the series. Her physical comedy appears to know no bounds. When she is unprepared for a school recital, she appears to perform a one-girl show for a solo, hilariously slamming on the drums like she is possessed.
Maya's tantrums make her much funnier than her peers, like when she screams to her mother Yuki that she is going to "die on the street" after she plans to run away. When she tries to join in with her father and Anna's scatting at dinner, she gives PEN15 one of its funniest scenes with her impromptu jazz performance.