|“||Alright you two, believe it or not time's arrow neither stands still nor reverses. It merely marches forward.||”|
—Joseph Sugarman, The Old Sugarman Place
Joseph was a male buckskin horse with dark yellow fur, a short combed dark brown mane, pale brown spots on his eyes, ears, and muzzle, black eyebrows, and a white diamond-shaped mark between his eyes.
He wore a white suit with a light blue shirt, a dark blue bow-tie, and black, blue, and white shoes.
In the 1960s, when he is shown at an older age, there are wrinkles under his eyes and the hairline on his mane has receded. He also appears to have gained a bit of weight.
When he is seen deceased, he has more wrinkles, white stubble on his mouth, and a white mane with a bald spot on top. His corpse wears a black suit with a white shirt and grey and green striped tie.
Despite his cheery demeanor, Joseph had a weak conscience, almost to the point of sociopathy. He invariably prioritized the success of his business, over the welfare of his family, and would do anything but provide emotional support for them.
Joseph was deeply misogynistic even by 1940s standards; he was averse to the idea of women doing anything that was not conducive to domestic tasks such as baby-making or home-keeping.
He frequently berated both Beatrice and Honey for falling prey to what he called their "womanly emotions." He said that as a "modern American man" he was not prepared to deal with a woman's emotions, and would never learn how to do so.
Overwhelmed by grief over the traumatic loss of their eldest son Crackerjack, Honey had a severe meltdown at a party which was likely triggered on her hearing the tune I Will Always Think of You—which Crackerjack and her used to sing together.
In The Old Sugarman Place, a flashback shows things dramatically escalated, with an apparently inebriated Honey ordering young Beatrice to drive them home. Honey tells Beatrice to dive faster, because she wanted to feel alive again.
Though mother and daughter both made it out alive, Joseph got very upset with his wife over her reckless (albeit desperate) conduct, and took the drastic decision to have her lobotomized.
Though lobotomy was a relatively common surgery in the 40s, and Honey begged on her knees for her husband to “fix” her however, Joseph showed astounding coldness and selfishness. He angrily tells Honey he could not possibly run his company, or properly flirt with his secretary, if his wife kept having fits of hysteria.
He even would hang this over young Beatrice's head, as an example of what would happen to her if she, a woman, would act out and let her emotions consume her.
On one hand, Joseph was upset with Honey for putting Beatrice in danger. He stated if he had known Honey would become in her current state after the lobotomy, he would have never had it done in the first place—perhaps a tiny possible ounce of regret in him.
He appeared sad when telling Beatrice that Honey was healed after her lobotomy, and tried to comfort Honey when she started crying over Crackerjack's death upon returning to their summer home.
He was horrified by Beatrice's scarlet fever to the point of taking her to the doctor.
On the other hand, Joseph did not pay attention to Beatrice's symptoms until she collapsed, and then blamed Honey for not noticing the illness in spite of his own mistakes.
Also the fact that Honey was practically brain-dead from her lobotomy, and made no attempt to console Beatrice when she was visibly unhappy and traumatized at seeing her own possessions burnt.
Additionally, Joseph pressured Beatrice to be skinny, even criticizing her weight as a little girl. He even cheerfully tells her that her throat being almost swollen shut from her scarlet fever can help her lose weight. He also openly admitted to not caring about her personal preferences, or what she thought she wanted for herself in life.
Joseph disapproved of Beatrice's interests in education and social issues such as poverty and civil rights—only sending her to Barnard to find a husband. He was disappointed that she returned with a bachelor's degree, and her "snarky attitude and smart mouth."
He wanted to marry her off to Corbin Creamerman mainly for profit, as Corbin's father was the owner of a creamery—which is ironic as Joseph forbid Beatrice from having ice cream, as it was "a boys food" and because of his obsession over keeping her thin. Hence, his motives for trying to keep Beatrice alive and healthy are questionable.
Therefore, it is difficult to tell whether or not Joseph truly cared for his family, particularly the female members.
These actions all contributed to how Beatrice became as an adult, which led her to make her own choices that further sabotaged her life and made her more bitter and abusive, a similar fate that happens to her son, BoJack.
Upon realizing that Honey could not react to his yelling and shaking, Joseph said that he would not have bothered to "fix" her, if he knew she would become unresponsive. This implies that he was unaware of the lobotomy's potential consequences, choosing that option, most likely because it was the quickest way to stop her from behaving recklessly. This demonstrates that Joseph was impulsive.
All of these factors combined, alongside the fact that next to nothing is known of the generations preceding Joseph, easily make Joseph one of if not the most toxic and despicable member of BoJack's family. He may quite possibly the source reason for why BoJack became the way he is. Joseph groomed Beatrice, into being what she is, and said actions bled into how Beatrice brought up BoJack.
Joseph Sugarman was the owner of the Sugarman Sugar Cube Company. He was married to Honey Sugarman, and they had two children; the eldest son Crackerjack and younger daughter Beatrice. They all lived in Michigan and would stay at a lakefront cabin in Harper's Landing during the summer.
He, Honey, and Crackerjack first appeared in flashbacks to 1944-1945 in The Old Sugarman Place. He wonders where Crackerjack is—as they are going to take a family portrait, and he has to go back to Indianapolis for work. Honey says he should be able to cut back on work due to the government rationing sugar, and it is summer. Joseph wishes he could, but no one else but him will make sure "the numbers add up and compliment his secretary on her tight sweaters." Honey admits they do appreciate the sacrifices he makes for them.
After Crackerjack arrives he and his mother begin playing their special song, I Will Always Think of You—but Joseph has to cut them off and says, "time's arrow neither stays still or reverses, it merely marches forward." Honey then makes a joke about arrows having legs, Joseph then kisses her after she says she has "half a mind to kiss him with her smart mouth," to which he replies that half she can keep.
After Crackerjack was shot and killed in World War II, Honey fell into a depression. They go to the summer home in the winter with Honey frantically looking for Crackerjack's baby blanket, and Joseph sadly says even that couldn't have stopped the Nazi's bullet—that's just war. Honey thinks she's failed him, but Joseph assures her that if anyone's to blame it's the "Jews for peeving off Hitler so bad."
Months later they return to their summer home for their yearly tradition. Joseph tries to cheer her up by mentioning her time's arrow joke, but Honey begins crying after she plays a few notes on the piano. Joseph then says he'd love to stay, but he must be going, as a "modern American man" he's "woefully unprepared to manage a woman's emotions." He was never taught—and he will not learn. He then runs out the door and drives off.
On the night of the end of the war, Honey and Beatrice go to a celebration at a local barn, where she ends up having a meltdown after seeing a piano and singing I Will Always Think of You by herself as Eddie sings and plays the piano in 2017 and the two have a "duet." She gets drunk and kisses one of Crackerjack's War friends, and acts hysterically. She has young Beatrice drive the car, they end up crashing into a gas station shed, and getting hurt.
Back at the cabin, Joseph is furious Honey acted that way and put Beatrice in danger, and says he can't run his company and keep his secretary's self-esteem afloat—when she's having fits of hysteria. Honey admits she can't stop thinking about Crackerjack, and she doesn't know how to be better, she tearfully begs her husband to fix her.
The next morning, Joseph, appearing a little sad, goes outside to the back porch where Beatrice is. When she asks if her mother is OK, he says “she is now.” He says that Honey just let her "womanly emotions" get the better of her, which could be fixed with a little operation. He says that a broken heart can never be "fixed," but that there is a lot of scientific information that can help "fix" the brain. Joseph tells his daughter that her mother is a "brand-new woman" and would like to meet her. To Beatrice's horror, Honey was lobotomized, and she is now a dazed and empty shell of her former self.
Joseph appears again in Time's Arrow. The episode revolves around a now elderly dementia-stricken Beatrice remembering her life—with some scenes and details affected by her dementia. It is revealed Beatrice was bullied by Clemelia Bloodsworth as a child, there is one incident where Clemilia and her "gaggle" of two Asian twin human girls call her fat. Beatrice protests to this by saying her father says she is just growing. Then Clemeila pushes her off of a tall slide with her beak.
The next morning Beatrice is seen reading which her father demands her to stop doing and to put on her uniform for school. She tries to tell him that she doesn't feel good and that her throat hurts. During the slide scene she was her coughing, but Joseph believes she is just making it up to avoid Clemeila. He tells her she has to go to school. He also tells her to stop asking books her friends, because books build the brain which takes away resources from a woman's breasts and hips.
As Beatrice starts to get ready she faints and Joseph catches her and realizes she feels hot. He pulls down a bit of her nightgown to find a red rash on her chest, to which he replies "Dear Lord!," and he quickly picks her up and rushes her to the doctor.
Later, Beatrice wakes up to see a silhouette of her father yelling at a silhouette of her mother in another room. Joseph is telling her that it is a mother's job to keep her children alive and she is constantly failing. He questions how she didn't notice Beatrice had scarlet fever. However, due to her lobotomy—Honey appears to have gone catatonic as she does not respond at all, even when Joseph violently shakes her.
Joseph then says if he had known she would act like this after they severed the connections to her prefrontal cortex, he wouldn't have bothered. He then goes to check on Beatrice after she calls him.
She asks if she's going to die, to which her father replies that one day she will, but for now she is fine. He even says since her throat is swollen shut, she could lose some weight (comments like this lead her to take weight loss pills to stay skinny and pretty when she is an adult).
Towards the end of the episode, Beatrice wakes up and cannot find her "baby," her horse doll, which is her prized possession. She finds it, but to her horror, the maids and servants are burning her belongings in her fireplace. Beatrice begins crying and begging them to stop. Joseph then comes up to her and says "Beatrice remember what we say about crying...crying is stupid!"
Joseph calmly explains to her that her sickness has infected everything and it all must be destroyed for her own good, especially her baby. He then picks up her doll and throws it into the fireplace. This traumatizes Beatrice, as she screams and cries for her baby.
There is a cut to the year 2000, and then back to this, although there is now fire everywhere—due to Beatrice's dementia affected memory. Joseph tells her she must be strong and not let her womanly emotions consume her, or she'll end up like her mother. A shadow of Honey with her lobotomy scar highlighted appears behind him as his ears somewhat resemble devil horns. Joseph then assures Beatrice that one day this will "all be a pleasant memory."
He later sent Beatrice to Barnard so that she could get an MRS and a husband, but instead, she got a bachelor's degree, much to his disappointment.
When Beatrice is a young adult, he throws her a debutante ball in June 1963, as he hopes he can marry her off to her chaperone, Corbin Creamerman—an awkward, dull goat. His father, Mort Creamerman, is the owner of Creamerman's Creamy Cream-Based Commodities. Joseph hopes to create an alliance with him and expand both their products into ice cream—which ironically he forbids Beatrice from having.
Beatrice now rolls her eyes and scoffs at her father's outdated views on women, even for the time period, and openly expresses this to him. Joseph in return expresses frustration and disappointment in her attitude and the fact he sent her to Barnard College to find a husband but she returned "with a bachelors degree and a mouth full of sass." Also, that she worries about social issues like poverty and the civil rights movement.
This pressure, combined with Beatrice's resentment toward her father after years of his emotional abuse, and the fact her date Corbin was boring to her—ultimately causing her to run away with Butterscotch Horseman, a rebellious young horse who crashed her party. Butterscotch is presented as an aspiring author who admired the beatniks. After the two spend time talking to each other at the bar, and when Butterscotch tells her to leave with him on a dare because "Daddy wouldn’t like that—would he?" Beatrice leaves her own party to have sex with Butterscotch.
Two weeks later, her father comes into her room and announces that Corbin Creamerman is here to take her on a Sunday stroll. An annoyed Beatrice affirms that she is not interested in Corbin.
Joseph angrily slams the door and admits to not caring about what she wants, and that after her ditching her own party, she is lucky he doesn't put jellied beans in a jar and marry her off to the man who can provide the most accurate estimate of the number. He tells her Corbin is waiting and that she will be civil to him.
Beatrice is forced to agree, and she does actually find a connection with him, but she ruins the date by throwing up on him due to morning sickness. She is pregnant with BoJack and finds Butterscotch to tell him. Butterscotch tells her to get an abortion, but she can not due to the trauma from the childhood of her baby doll being burned.
The two agree to move to San Francisco where Butterscotch can finish his novel. Butterscotch finds work at a fish cannery, despite Joseph giving him multiple offers to work for his company for high pay and benefits. Butterscotch compares it to slavery, and thinks his book will be bad if he can't live in the struggles of working-class. However, in the year 1970, he agrees to work for Joseph's company after an argument with Beatrice to make more money.
Joseph passed away in 1999, leaving Beatrice a painting which she later passed down to BoJack, but it is unknown exactly how he passed. He most likely died of old age, as he was either in his nineties or hundreds when he passed.
- He is very similar in terms of misogynistic personality and voice to Wilbur Nelson of Duckman fame.
- Beatrice has a painting of him that can be seen in the openings from Stupid Piece of Sh*t to Lovin that cali lifestyle!!.
- Similar to Butterscotch, it is hinted that he flirted with his secretary.
- He was also apparently antisemitic like Butterscotch, as he blamed World War II on the Jewish people for (in his words) "peeving off Hitler so badly."
- Joseph is something of a foil to BoJack. Both are incredibly destructive people—but whereas Joseph is nearly psychopathic in how chipper and positive he remains despite doing so, on the other hand BoJack is constantly grief-stricken and crushed by self-hatred as he realizes his actions harm others.