There was a time when the Ferengi were meant to be mean and vicious, not greedy and silly.
Armin Shimerman originally played a Ferengi in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Last Outpost where the Ferengi were supposed to be very different than what they ended up being on The Next Generation and subsequent Star Trek series. “The producers were very specific about what they wanted,” he explained. “There was no mention of comedy whatsoever, rather, they said that they were like old turn-of-the-century Chinese clipper captains. They were vicious competitors, and were even capable of eating their enemies. They were envisioned as the new Klingons and of course it never happened that way. They were supposed to be evil, not comic people.”