Doctor John A. Zoidberg, also known simply as Zoidberg, is a fictional character in the television series Futurama. He is a Decapodian, a lobster-esque alien who works as the staff doctor for Planet Express, despite his woeful understanding of human physiology and allusions to his questionable credentials. His character parodies both doctors – for example, his woeful incompetence at human medicine makes him extremely poor despite his profession, and he’s implied to be frequently homeless when not at work – and immigrant Yiddish culture.
Zoidberg is named after an Apple II game that David X. Cohen created in high school called Zoid, similar to the game Qix. The game was rejected by Brøderbund. One of Cohen’s inspirations for the character of Dr. Zoidberg was the fact that Star Trek character Leonard McCoy, the ship’s doctor, frequently administered medical treatment to aliens such as Spock, so Cohen wished human characters in Futurama to be in the uneasy situation of being treated by an alien doctor. During the first season, jokes surrounding Zoidberg usually focused on his incompetence as a doctor, his poor understanding of human anatomy, and the fact that all of his co-workers hate him. His incompetence is aggravated by the fact that he believes himself to be an expert on human anatomy, and will blithely attempt to treat human patients as he would his own species. One of his running traits is his pronunciation of the word “robot”, lengthening the “ro-” so it sounds like “row-but”, an inflection typical among Ashkenazi Jews. His use of English grammar and idioms, in fact, closely resembles the stereotypical speech of Jews living in the northeastern United States. As the series progressed, writers gradually introduced the themes that Zoidberg is also poor, homeless, friendless, smelly, undignified and repulsive. Regardless of these traits, Zoidberg is very sweet-natured, and will help the crew out when the situation calls for it. Zoidberg also generally attempts to make himself look refined, successful and important in front of others, though this illusion is quickly dashed when pointed out.