Created By: Floria on October 21, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on August 31, 2015
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Black Comedy Cannibalism

People eating people as a source of dark humor

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Cannibalism is often played for dark comedy. Cannibalism is gross, disturbing, and strongly taboo in many cultures, but less likely to get a Dude, Not Funny! reaction than more common forms of violence. Because cannibalism is both taboo and outlandish, it's common Crosses the Line Twice fodder. And food is funny. Compare Eat the Dog.

Black Comedy Cannibalism does not need to explicitly depict the act of eating people, and in fact, often it doesn't. It can be just as funny when the actual cannibalism is implied or offstage, and the humor comes from the incongruity of juxtaposing the horrors of cannibalism and murder with the mundanity of cooking and menu planning. Groan-worthy cannibalism puns are also a distinct possibility. Meat-O-Vision may occur if a character considers cannibalism because they're starving.

Black Comedy Cannibalism can also provide uncomfortable comic relief in a work with a Faux Affably Evil cannibal villain.


Examples:

Comics
  • The French series Les Crannibales is all about this, with the titular family's cannibalism being a pretext for atrocious food-related puns. The victims themselves don't even seem that disturbed by it.

Film

Literature
  • Several references in Monstrous Regiment, concerning the desperate state of supplies in the Borogravian army, and confirmed by a Captain 'Hopalong'. We also learn that while they do accept having to eat people's legs for food, they're shocked at the idea of eating their own legs.
  • In The Mockery Bird, Kingy, the native king of a tropical island, occasionally suggests that they should reintroduce cannibalism to the island, just to make his advisors cringe from the idea.
  • Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal calls for poor Irish to sell their young children as food for wealthy English gentlemen, so they are no longer a burden to society. He was satirizing some prevailing attitudes toward the poor and the Irish in contemporary (1700s) English society. He goes into some detail in suggestions for the preparation and cooking of such children, and the economic "benefits" of such an arrangement for all involved (who are still living of course).
  • Kurt Vonnegut jokes in his novel Hocus Pocus that "people that can eat people are the luckiest people I know" while referring to the Donner Party. The band Andrew Jackson Jihad named their most popular album after this quote.

Live Action TV
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus
    • The "Lifeboat" sketch, about cannibalism among shipwrecked sailors. It degenerates into an argument about the culinary merits of the various sailors, and then a navy spokesman appears on the screen to object to the portrayal of cannibalism in the British navy. (After all, the real cannibalism problem is in the RAF.)
    • One sketch had a restaurant that served human beings as meals, including one man who is voluntarily allowing himself to be eaten and a vicar who no one wanted to eat.
    • In another Monty Python sketch a man talks to an undertaker about burying his mother and the undertaker suggests eating her instead.
  • The gorgeously-shot gourmet cooking in Hannibal is all made by a Supreme Chef cannibal, which gives the Food Porn scenes an uncomfortable subtext. The show sometimes plays this for dark humor.
    Hannibal (hosting a dinner party featuring beautifully prepared human organs): Before we begin eating, you must all be warned: Nothing here... is vegetarian. Bon appétit.
  • A recurring threat on Gilligan's Island are cannibal tribes from nearby islands. Although that might have solved all their problems.
  • An infamous sketch on Fridays was "Diner of the Living Dead" where a human couple happen upon a diner for zombies.
  • Bones:
    • Series 3 finale (BonesS3E15)
    Cam: A toothless cannibal just can't cut it in today's competitive serial killer climate.
    -
    Cam: [describing a bone to Caroline Julian] Gormogon went after this like Henry VIII after a chicken leg.
    • BonesS6E16 -
    Angela Montenegro: Mmm, what is that smell?
    Wendall Bray: Oh, I cant use the exhaust system without electricity, so i thought it'd be better to clean the bones out here where there's more airflow.
    Angela Montenegro: Oh my God! You're boiling body parts.
    Wendell Bray: This is how it's done. You know that.
    Angela Montenegro: No. No. I was getting kind of hungry and I thought that you were - Oh my God!
    Wendell Bray: You're pregnant. The smell of boiling flesh makes you want a sandwich.

Music
  • In the song "Timothy" by The Buoys the singer is lamenting the loss of his friend Timothy, who it's very strongly implied was eaten by the singer and another man while they were all stuck in a caved-in mine.
  • The song "Actual Cannibal Shia LaBeouf" by Rob Cantor is a mock horror about being stalked by Shia LaBeouf as a serial killer and cannibal.
  • Voltaire's "Cannibal Buffet" is a Hurricane of Puns about the singer becoming shipwrecked and kidnapped and eaten by a tribe of cannibals.
  • "Comin' Back for More" by CW McCall, very loosely based on the case of Alfred Packer, the only person ever to be prosecuted for cannibalism in the US. note 
  • In "Petrov, Yeleyena, and Me" by Flight of the Conchords, the narrator describes being lost at sea with two others. He is gradually eaten by his companions, waking up every morning to find a new body part missing. They deny it, but look "suspiciously well fed". In the end, he takes arsenic to poison his meat.
  • In "The Reluctant Cannibal" a teen cannibal rebels by not eating people.
    Father: But people have always eaten people, what else is there to eat? If the juju had meant us not to eat people, he wouldn't have made us of meat.

Theatre

Video Games
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the entire side quest taking place in the White Glove Society relates to cannibalism and involves a bit of innuendo and occasional humor. And then there is the character "Cannibal Johnson" who isn't actually a cannibal but enjoys the effect of the reputation.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • South Park: During a blackout the adults of town, trapped in a small shack, resort to cannibalism of Eric Roberts after a short time being trapped without power. "It's only been like, four hours. Aren't you resorting to cannibalism a little quickly?"
    • In "Scott Tenorman Must Die," Cartman tricks a teenage bully into eating his own parents. Unfortunately for him, it was later revealed that both boys shared a father.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Marge's fear of flying resurfaces, Homer tries buying movies of planes to help calm her. Of course he chooses Alive on the basis of its title.
    Passenger: (eating sounds) Pass another hunk of Copilot.
    • In the segment 'Nightmare Cafeteria' of Halloween special episode "Treehouse of Horror V", the teachers of Springfield Elementary solve both the underfunding of the school cafeteria and the overcrowding of the detention room by serving misbehaving students in the cafeteria.
    • In the Treehouse of Horror segment 'Survival of the Fattest', Mr. Burns is hunting down the male population of Springfield for sport on a safari. After running for only a few hours, Homer already resorts to cannibalism by eating Professor Frink. When Carl points out the edible fruits on a nearby tree, Homer protests that they look a little green.
  • A Lighter and Softer version of this trope occurs in Stroker and Hoop, when the guys encounter a creepy club of cannibals who eat nonessential parts like tonsils and appendices.
  • American Dad!: The Smiths were taking a cruise ship vacation, things went wrong and they along with a girl from the ship that Steve was attracted to ended up stranded on a remote island where some rich guys declared that they'd hunt them. After hiding in a cave a cave-in killed the girl and trapped the Smiths there. Starving the Smiths decided to eat the body. Then they found out the hunters had paintball guns and they'd stumbled across a themed resort.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Into Fat Air," the Griffin family attempt to climb Mt. Everest and wind up eating the frozen corpse of a boy, which Peter tactlessly reveals to the boy's parents.
  • The Belcher family in Bob's Burgers were originally intended to be cannibals who made their restaurant's hamburgers out of human meat.
  • One Robot Chicken skit reveals that Krabby Patties are made out of crab meat in a parody of Soylent Green.

Real Life
Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • October 21, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    Cannibal the Musical is a Zero Context Example. Expand to include "an off color musical comedy about cannibalism by the creators of South Park" or something.
  • October 21, 2013
    zarpaulus
  • October 21, 2013
    nitrokitty
    This is the plot of Eating Raoul.
  • October 21, 2013
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Monty Pythons Flying Circus
      • <Lifeboat sketch example in OP>
      • One sketch had a restaurant that served human beings as meals, including one man who is voluntarily allowing himself to be eaten and a vicar who no one wanted to eat.
  • October 21, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    • In another Monty Python sketch a man talks to an undertaker about burying his mother and the undertaker suggests eating her instead.

    • In the song "Timothy" by The Buoys the singer is lamenting the loss of his friend Timothy, who it's very strongly implied was eaten by the singer and another man while they were all stuck in a caved-in mine.
    • South Park: During a blackout the adults of town, trapped in a small shack, resort to cannibalism of Eric Roberts after a short time being trapped without power. "It's only been like, four hours. Aren't you resorting to cannibalism a little quickly?"
  • October 22, 2013
    MonaNaito
  • October 22, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Several references in Monstrous Regiment, concerning the desperate state of supplies in the Borogravian army, and confirmed by a Captain 'Hopalong'. We also learn that while they do accept having to eat people's legs for food, they're shocked at the idea of eating their own legs.
    • The French series Les Crannibales is all about this, with the titular family's cannibalism being a pretext for atrocious food-related puns. The victims themselves don't even seem that disturbed by it.

  • October 23, 2013
    Arivne
    Meat O Vision may occur if a character considers cannibalism because they're starving.
  • October 23, 2013
    Generality
    The song "Actual Cannibal Shia LaBeouf" by Rob Cantor is a mock horror about being stalked by Shia La Beouf as a serial killer and cannibal.
  • October 23, 2013
    Surenity
    • Voltaire's "Cannibal Buffet" is a Hurricane Of Puns about the singer becoming shipwrecked and kidnapped and eaten by a tribe of cannibals.
  • October 24, 2013
    Euan2000
    • When Marge's fear of flying resurfaces in The Simpsons Homer tries buying movies of planes to help calm her. Of course he chooses Alive on the basis of it's title.
      Passenger: (eating sounds) Pass another hunk of Copilot.
  • October 27, 2013
    randomsurfer
    "Comin' Back for More" by CW Mc Call, very loosely based on the case of Alfred Packer, the only person ever to be prosecuted for cannibalism in the US.
  • October 28, 2013
    TwoGunAngel
    This is the core of the hilarity of the song "A Little Priest" from Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. A lot of the humor of the second half of the musical, actually.
  • October 28, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^^ Note: Prosecuted but not actually convicted, Packer insisted that it was another in the group who attempted to eat people. And there's a rumor that he became a vegetarian before he died.
  • November 13, 2013
    Snicka
    • In The Mockery Bird, Kingy, the native king of a tropical island, occasionally suggests that they should reintroduce cannibalism to the island, just to make his advisors cringe from the idea.
  • November 13, 2013
    LordGro
    Also from The Simpsons:
    • In the segment 'Nightmare Cafeteria' of Halloween special episode "Treehouse of Horror V", the teachers of Springfield Elementary solve both the underfunding of the school cafeteria and the overcrowding of the detention room by serving misbehaving students in the cafeteria.
  • November 13, 2013
    randomsurfer
    A recurring threat on Gilligans Island are cannibal tribes from nearby islands. Although that might have solved all their problems.
  • November 13, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ... okay. This YKTTW has been around for weeks. I've seen it almost every day.

    Yet for some reason, when I looked at it today, I thought it was about black comedians eating each other. I just pictured Uncle Phil eating Urkel.

    Not criticizing the name just... what the hell, brain?
  • November 13, 2013
    hevendor717
    A Lighter And Softer version of this trope occurs in Stroker And Hoop, when the guys encounter a creepy club of cannibals who eat nonessential parts like tonsils and appendices.
  • November 13, 2013
    DAN004
    Compare Eat The Dog.
  • November 14, 2013
    zwolfp
    An episode of Family Guy The whole family is stuck in a cave and end up eating someone. In the end they find out it was all a game.
  • November 14, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^ Actually that was in an American Dad episode. The Smiths were taking a cruise ship vacation, things went wrong and they along with a girl from the ship that Steve was attracted to ended up stranded on a remote island where some rich guys declared that they'd hunt them. After hiding in a cave a cave-in killed the girl and trapped the Smiths there. Starving the Smiths decided to eat the body. Then they found out the hunters had paintball guns and they'd stumbled across a themed resort.
  • November 23, 2013
    Morgenthaler
    Another The Simpsons example:

    • In the Treehouse Of Horror segment 'Survival of the Fattest', Mr. Burns is hunting down the male population of Springfield for sport on a safari. After running for only a few hours, Homer already resorts to cannibalism by eating Professor Frink. When Carl points out the edible fruits on a nearby tree, Homer protests that they look a little green.
  • November 23, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Possibly the ur-example:

    Literature

    • Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal calls for poor Irish to sell their young children as food for wealthy English gentlemen, so they are no longer a burden to society. He was satirizing some prevailing attitudes toward the poor and the Irish in contemporary (1700s) English society. He goes into some detail in suggestions for the preparation and cooking of such children, and the economic "benefits" of such an arrangement for all involved (who are still living of course).
  • November 23, 2013
    gallium
    Real Life
  • November 23, 2013
    gtother
    In "Petrov, Yeleyena, and Me" by Flight Of The Conchords, the narrator describes being lost at sea with two others. He is gradually eaten by his companions, waking up every morning to find a new body part missing. They deny it, but look "suspiciously well fed". In the end, he takes arsenic to poison his meat.
  • November 25, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    An infamous sketch on Fridays was "Diner of the Living Dead" where a human couple happen upon a diner for zombies.
  • November 28, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Lucky Stiff. In this horror/comedy, a beautiful woman invites a man to Christmas dinner with her family, He finds out that he is intended to be the main course.
  • December 2, 2013
    Floria
    • Delicatessen is a very dark French comedy set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanitarianism has become a popular response to food shortages.
  • December 2, 2013
    abateman
    I can't give you the specific episodes right now, but there are lots to be found throughout the show "Bones". Cannibalism is encountered frequently and the characters make light of it on occasion, partially to cope, but also sometimes by accident, like when Angela is pregnant and experiences increased appetite due to the smell of cooked human flesh.
  • December 2, 2013
    abateman
    Also, for the video games category: In Fallout: New Vegas, the entire side quest taking place in the White Glove Society relates to cannibalism and involves a bit of innuendo and occasional humor. And then there is the character "Cannibal Johnson" who isn't actually a cannibal but enjoys the effect of the reputation.
  • December 2, 2013
    abateman
    Music/Comedy: In "The Reluctant Cannibal" a teen cannibal rebels by not eating people.
    Father: But people have always eaten people, what else is there to eat? If the juju had meant us not to eat people, he wouldn't have made us of meat.
  • December 4, 2013
    Floria
    Anyone have any specific examples from "Bones"?
  • December 5, 2013
    abateman
    Series 3 finale (Bones S 3 E 15)
    Cam: A toothless cannibal just can't cut it in today's competitive serial killer climate.
    -
    Cam: [describing a bone to Caroline Julian] Gormogon went after this like Henry VIII after a chicken leg.

  • December 5, 2013
    abateman
    Bones S 6 E 16 -
    Angela Montenegro: Mmm, what is that smell?
    Wendall Bray: Oh, I cant use the exhaust system without electricity, so i thought it'd be better to clean the bones out here where there's more airflow.
    Angela Montenegro: Oh my God! You're boiling body parts.
    Wendell Bray: This is how it's done. You know that.
    Angela Montenegro: No. No. I was getting kind of hungry and I thought that you were - Oh my God!
    Wendell Bray: You're pregnant. The smell of boiling flesh makes you want a sandwich.
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