It is said that laughing and crying are very close actions, despite usually expressing opposite emotions. So close that in fiction, a character faced with a dreadful situation may start laughing out loud, before that laugh progressively melts into sobs. When this happens, the initial laughter is usually just there to mask the distress and isn't genuine. It's sort of a way to say "I would like to laugh at that, but I just can't".
It can also be done as a form of Mood Whiplash
, where the character is in a middle of a laugh and learns bad news, immediately making them switch to tears.
This trope is surprisingly prevalent in Real Life
with some often resorting to laughing when faced with any depressing or traumatic moments, before starting to express their true grief in tears.
A subtrope of Mirthless Laughter
. Also compare Hahaha No
and Laughing Mad
. Related to Made Myself Sad
- At the end of In the Mouth of Madness, when John Trent finally watches the movie adaptation of Cane's book In the Mouth of Madness and realizes that it was just a novelisation of everything he did in the last few days an that he may just be a fictional character, he breaks down laughing for a minute before crying.
- Brilliantly done by Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element when he opens the chest that he thought contained the alien elemental stones and it's empty.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Tsumihoroboshi-hen, Rena spends a long monologue insisting that she had no other choice than killing Teppei and Rina who were swindling her father, and that telling her friends would have been useless. Then she mocks them and starts laughing out loudů before bursting into tears, as she understands fully well that this may not have been the right choice.
- In the Bugs Bunny short "Knighty Knight Bugs", Bugs does this after the king tells him to retrieve the singing sword from Sam or else he'll have to cut off his head.
- Zig Zagged in the Public Domain Looney Tunes short Porky's Bear Facts. When the bear loses the only food in the house to a mouse, he starts crying, which turns into maniacal laughter, before going back to crying.
- Done by Tom at the end of the Tom and Jerry short "Is There a Doctor in the Mouse?" when he faces a giant Jerry.
- In the Merrie Melodies short "Rocket Bye Baby", a lecturer laughs about people believing in Little Green Men, but when one flies by on a Flying Saucer, his laughs turn to tears.
- Meg from Family Guy has done this at least once or twice.
- Happens to the second Robin, Tim Drake, in a flashback in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. The Joker applied ample amounts of Cold-Blooded Torture to Tim, leaving him Brainwashed and Crazy. When ordered to kill Batman, after The Joker has him in a position he wouldn't be able to protect himself, Tim breaks through the brainwashing and murders The Joker instead, laughing like a maniac the whole time. Once The Joker succumbs to his injuries, Tim's laughing abruptly turns into uncontrollable sobbing, as the weight of everything that transpired suddenly sets in. The flashback ends with Barbara/Batgirl trying to console him.
- In The Simpsons, Krusty switches between laughing and crying after he reveals he's bipolar.
- In the second episode of Futurama, Bender taunts a park mascot who says that he still has his self respect, tries to laugh it off and falls into this trope.
Mascot: Hello, sir! I'm Craterface! I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to confiscate that alcohol!
Bender: Better mascots have tried. [drinks beer and shoves bottle into mascot's eye]
Mascot: At least I still have my self respect! Hahahah...[breaks into sobbing]