"Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke."Bathos is a story-telling technique that follows serious ideas with the commonplace or ludicrous. The juxtaposition of these ideas creates humor. It has its origins in poetry, where lofty prose would be followed with an anticlimax of sorts. It later evolved to cover any instance where the serious is mixed with the surreal or commonplace in order to provide humor. The trope name comes from Alexander Pope, who wrote Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry in 1727, in which he mocks the abuse of tropes and figures of speech by bad writers. In it, he notes that juxtaposing the serious and the trivial creates unintentional humor, which sinks serious poetry. Bathos can be both intentionally invoked or unintentionally present. It most often appears intentionally in comedic works or those with a comedic undertone, although not always. Unintentional bathos is Narm. Subtropes include:
- Casual Danger Dialog
- The Comically Serious
- Expospeak Gag
- Failed Attempt at Drama
- Ignored Enemy
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others
- Mundane Made Awesome
- Sophisticated as Hell
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- The song "Without You", especially the Harry Nilsson version, might well be unintentional Bathos. Using it as the soundtrack of dachshunds in hot dog costumes running towards people dressed as Heinz condiments, though...! (See it here.)
Anime and Manga
- Berserk absolutely thrives on contrasting the awful and tragic events of its Crapsack World with sudden moments of hilarity. A good example happens after the Eclipse, a demonic ritual in which Guts' best friend betrayed him, his companions were all eaten, his lover lost her sanity, and he lost his own right eye and left hand. In the chapter immediately following this horror, he wakes up in a cave and the first thing he sees is Godo's daughter Erica comically trip down the stairs when she comes to bring him food. In general the series has a lot of Mood Whiplash and rides a roller coaster up and down the Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness.
- NEEDLESS is full of this. It can best be described as sort of a Fist of the North Star parody stuffed with Postmodernism. There is a story arc called the Bloody Rain Arc, which is changed to the Mustache Arc after several characters notice how many characters with mustaches there are. Said arc is filled with Lampshade Hanging and mustache jokes. Then one of the said mustachioed characters proceeds to kill enough people to make it rain blood.
- One Piece is made of equal parts dark, violent drama and light-hearted goofiness, to the point that some fight sequences manage to include both at the same time.
- For example: Enies Lobby is about Robin's past catching up with her, causing her to succumb to guilt and lose her will to live, while the rest of the Straw Hats has to deal with her captors, a secret government black ops cell powerful enough that everyone needs to learn new techniques just to fight on even ground. Also revealed are the lengths the World Government are willing to go to to protect the secrets of the Void Century, including wiping out entire islands to a man. On the other hand, the members of said black ops cell include an overdramatic kabuki actor who keeps trying to commit seppuku, a huge blob of a man with a a voice that doesn't fit his stature at all and a zipper mouth, a women with the power to create soap bubbles and a giraffe man. Also included is a cola-powered cyborg Ace Ventura look-a-like who at one point tries to escape capture by inflating his ass while talking in a dead serious manner, and Chopper's Monster Point, which transforms him into a gigantic, dead-eyed, berserk monster...with a pink top hat.
- The works of Junji Ito are full of this. They take genuinely horrifying horror plots and give them ridiculously silly elements such as haunted balloons that hang people. The result is a story that is downright hilarious... as well as terrifying at the same time.
- Senyuu has more and more of this as the series goes on, culminating in a dead-serious confrontation with the Big Bad being resolved by Alba falling out of the sky onto one opponent, a knight-tank-princess randomly colliding with the other, and a ridiculously blatant semi-literal Deus ex Machina.
- Discussed in Bakuman。: Hattori advises Mashiro and Takagi that their works needs humor, but the kind that fits within their generally serious storytelling. The best example they could think up was Otter #11, in particular a scene where the titular character rams a truck into a building: it's played dead-serious, but undermined by the fact that said character is a human but with a photorealistic otter for a head.
- In Naruto the story became increasingly serious during the Fourth Ninja War, but at various points the tension was shattered by comedic moments. Notable is during the show-down with Kaguya when Naruto uses his gag Harem Jutsu as an actual attack and it works. For those not familiar with the series: he distracts a god with yaoi.
- Code Geass has a surprising amount of this, as a work of entertainment where the creators knowingly combined tragedy and comedy. In fact, audience reactions range between realizing this and not (see Narm plus Narm Charm). Lelouch is very serious towards life and his quest, but sometimes his own misfortune was an intentional source of amusement for creators and viewers alike. His utter lack of physical skills was highlighted for comedic effect, not only while chasing a cat at school but also when he failed to land a punch on Mao during a dramatic moment. The staff came up with the term "Lulu quality" to describe how much they enjoyed teasing and bullying him. Another example would be Emperor Charles, as director Goro Taniguchi approved his larger than life character design because of its potential for hilarity, leading to the scene where he flies off like a rocket just before dying in a climatic confrontation, whose comedy value even the staff points out. The mad scientist Lloyd, whose voice actor was given total freedom to play the part, makes amusing remarks even during serious battle sequences, while Jeremiah "Orange" Gottwald goes from villain to audience-pleaser. Last but not least, the staff played around with Pizza Hut appearances more often than what the sponsor was asking for, even having the delivery bike show up.
- The Korean short Doggy Poo is a poignantly touching story about the ephemeral nature of life and delivers a wonderfully heartwarming Aesop about how everyone and everything has its own special place and purpose in God's creation. The title is not some sort of Dadaist abstraction, either; the main character is a sentient lump of dog shit.
- Yatterman Night tends to use this a lot. A Happy Dance gets used as a completely serious Police State salute, clownishly dressed robots serve as nation police, people are being kept in a prison camp on "Cape Of-Course-It's-So-Ya", Our main characters are learning how to be better rebels from a children's picture book, the protagonists and antagonists ride into battle on completely ridiculous Humongous Mecha... the list goes on from there.
- Hellsing generally cues a bout of this with a cartoony Art Shift, which can get dropped in at practically any time.
- One-Punch Man thrives on this, usually by contrasting the Monster of the Week's Motive Rant with Saitama telling them to speed it up.
- Overlord, somewhat comparable to the above due to the sheer overpoweredness of its main character, also gets a lot of this, although it's not a straight-up comedy. You can get a scene in which our protagonist utterly humiliates an entire army of powerful magic users, sucking a giant angel into a black hole◊, and overall being a utterly terrifying Bad Ass... then in the very next scene you see his Dragon all but squeeing over how awesome he is◊.
- Oyasumi Punpun never lets up on the surreal, slapstick, and anatomical humour that characterises it, even as Punpun grows into an ever more miserable and twisted person. Even when the story takes its darkest turn, around the eleventh volume, you still have Aiko and God essentially cracking jokes. The story by and large conforms to the First Law of Tragicomedies though, and as the tension ramps up the humour takes a darker slant.
- The makers of Kill la Kill knew exactly what they were doing when they made a world out of ham and Serious Business. A student is brutally-yet-comically killed for stealing a school uniform, and Mako yells at the top of her lungs about how Ryuko will fail to navigate a gauntlet of deadly traps in time and will have a tardy on her permanent record! There's no Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness here, because the most ridiculous things are taken completely seriously and the most serious things are full of Black Comedy.
- Neil Gaiman makes liberal use of this in The Sandman, juxtaposing otherwise poetic and mythic language with common turns-of-phrase.
- Bone makes pretty good use of this. The biggest example is probably The Reveal of why the Hooded One is trying to get their hands on Phoney Bone: the stray parade balloon from Phoney's ill-fated attempt at running for Mayor of Boneville, the stunt that got him and his cousins kicked out of Boneville in the first place. The banner around it reading "Phoncible P. Bone Will Get Your Vote" was even damaged to read "Phoncible P. Bone Will Get You".
- This exchange from Runaways, when 12-year-old Klara Prast is discussing life with her abusive, much older husband to Karolina Dean and Molly Hayes, both of whom are from the present, and the latter of whom is Klara's age:
Klara Prast: It is not so bad. It is just, when I come home so tired, and then he... I do not enjoy it... My... my marital duties.Molly Hayes: Oh my God... He makes you do chores?!?
- A grandiose example from a fanpage inside the Perry Rhodan pulps. The comic tells the life story of a balloon-like alien life form in the typical SF style known from the novels. In the next-to-last panel, the now geriatric alien ascends into the upper atmosphere, asking himself last questions like: "What's the meaning of life? Is there a God? Will everything be revealed now?" In the last panel: POOF! note Just...poof. Never has overinflated bathos been popped more literally...
Film - Animated
- This trope is common source of humor in The Incredibles, juxtaposing larger-than-life superheroes with mundane family life. For example:
Dash: Are we there yet?Mr Incredible: We'll get there when we get there!
- In the memorable "Where's my supersuit!?" scene, Frozone spots a giant robot rampaging through the city and frantically begins rummaging around his house and arguing with his wife over the whereabouts of his missing supersuit.
- As the superfamily rushes to save Metroville from said rampaging robot, they do what every family does on a long car trip: start bickering.
- Frozen does this a lot as well. For example, there's a scene that takes place after The Reveal. Anna is current in the midst of a Heroic BSOD while Olaf comforts her and does his best to get her back up and going. Serious, but since it's Olaf who's comforting her...
- ParaNorman does the same thing as The Incredibles example above. On the way to the grand finale, you get the awkward family car trip of doom. Though theirs includes a zombie.
- In The LEGO Movie, when Bad Cop storms the saloon in the Old West, it's played as a tense scene, except for the fact that the horse he rides in on has no points of articulation, meaning the horse just sort of... hops. And it has a huge flashing police siren on its head.
Film - Live Action
- The Host revels in this. The main characters rolling around on the floor and crying together at a funeral is either the saddest scene in the movie, or the funniest, or both. Another dramatic and climactic scene is "ruined" when it turns out that the gun they were going to use to kill the monster is empty.
- The "death" of Wilson in Cast Away. You can't help laughing at Chuck bawling over the loss of his volleyball friend, but at the same time you fully empathize with him bawling at the loss of his volleyball friend.
- A particularly funny example in Blazing Saddles has former gunslinger "Waco Kid" Jim telling the woeful story of his career and how he reached a point where he nearly gunned down a six-year old who challenged him. He threw down his gun to end his career, at which point the "little bastard shot me in the ass!"
- In Ghostbusters, Gozer needs a Destructor form and compels our heroes to choose one. They figure out the trick and blank their minds out... except Ray didn't. So now the giant monster that is attacking New York is... the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
- Life is Beautiful: A running theme of both the movie itself and the In-Universe philosophy of the protagonist is the ability to laugh even in the most tragic of circumstances.
- Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much runs on this. For example, one of the characters is a hardass criminal working as a Bounty Hunter, with 22 prison escapes to his name, love for and proficency in use of big guns, and a backstory of being created through immoral experimentation. His name? Rocket Raccoon.
- In The Sixth Sense the scene where Cole confesses to his mother than he can see dead people. Particularly the part where he says "Grandma says hi" and we get a brilliantly hilarious Double Take from Toni Collette. And yet it doesn't ruin the part where Cole gives her a message from Grandma which makes the scene a Heartwarming Moment.
- The Wicker Man has a scene when Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and Miss Rose (Diane Cilento), both in evening dress and him at the Grand Piano duetting the absolutely filthy song The Tinker of Rye about a tinker fixing a woman's kettle.
- The Legend of Billie Jean plays Putter getting her first period both for drama and comedy.
Putter: So when can I get a diaphragm?
- Oldboy thrives on this due to the nature of its story: ordinary people in mundane settings committing extraordinary acts of violence.
- The Martian
Mark Watney: [after trying to make water by burning hydrogen, still smoldering] So... I blew myself up.
- The film tells a harrowing tale of an astronaut left on mars to survive by himself. That doesn't stop the film from being very funny at points, mostly due to lighthearted dialogue.
- When he writes a curse word in the message, he's informed that he's being broadcast live in front of NASA and the President. We don't see what words he types in response but it's a hilarious scene. What's he responding to? The revelation that none of his friends have been told he's still alive.
- Schindler's List is about the Holocaust, yet also includes a number of humorous moments and scenes, often under very dark pretenses. One example is a family of Jews being moved to shabby quarters muttering that it can't get any worse than this, only to learn that they have to share the place with several other families. Another involves Schindler threatening a hostile German soldier standing between him and his Jewish work force. After a Gilligan Cut, the soldier is frantically helping Schindler find the Jews.
- In The Village Kitty wants to marry Lucius and gives him an Anguished Declaration of Love. A Gilligan Cut to her crying her eyes out in her sister's arms tells us how well that went. You're both inclined to laugh at what a spectacle she made of herself, but the sequence of Ivy singing softly to comfort her still makes you feel sorry for the poor girl who just got her heart broken.
- In the film of Carrie the gym teacher tells the girls they did "a really shitty thing". The Precision F-Strike causes a couple of the girls to giggle, but it doesn't break the tense mood - or negate the teacher's "Reason You Suck" Speech.
- An example of the trope that predates Pope's coining of the term comes from John Dryden in Albion and Albanius, where he writes:
"The cave of Proteus rises out of the sea, it consists of several arches of rock work, adorned with mother of pearl, coral, and abundance of shells of various kinds. Through the arches is seen the sea, and parts of Dover pier."
- Pope himself used this trope deliberately in the mock-heroic poem The Rape of the Lock:
Not louder Shrieks to pitying Heav'n are cast,When Husbands or when Lap-dogs breath their last,
- The Latin poet Horace jokingly warned poets to avoid starting out a poem in the grand old epic style, lest 'parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus' - "The mountains will labour and bring to birth a comical mouse." Of course, Pope was particularly influenced by Horace, as were most poets of his day. If there had been a 'Poetry Tropes' website in those days, 'ridiculus mus' may well have been the Trope Namer.
- Douglas Adams was quite fond of this trope. From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Why are people born? Why do they die? And why do they spend much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?
- Stand-up comedian and author Lewis Grizzard uses this trope extensively in his routines and writing. From his memorial column for his dog Catfish:
I don't know why I named him what I named him. He was all curled up in a blanket on my back seat. And I looked at him and it just came out. I called him, "Catfish." I swear he raised up from the blanket and acknowledged. Then he severely fouled the blanket and my back seat.
- Harry Potter notes at Dumbledore's funeral at the end of the sixth book that, when reminiscing, he's not sure whether or not he wants to laugh.
- Common throughout The Dresden Files. Top prize probably goes to asking a faerie hit-thing for a donut.
Eldest Brother Gruff: Likest thou jelly within thy donut?Harry: Nay, but with sprinkles 'pon it, and frosting of white.
- Found throughout P. G. Wodehouse's work. A spectacular example is present in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, with a florid poem describing a sunset that ends with "I say / Doesn't that sunset remind you / Of a slice / Of underdone roast beef?"
- Woody Allen often used this. For example: "Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage." or "The universe is merely a fleeting idea in God's mind - a pretty uncomfortable thought, particularly if you've just made a down payment on a house."
- Lord of the Flies invokes this intentionally at the end when the British Navy comes to rescue the children, in order to draw a comparison between learned civilised behaviour and the children's natural amorality.
- Rick Riordan often uses this technique in his works, especially when Percy Jackson is narrating.
- When he sat forward in his throne, shadowy faces appeared in the folds of his black robes, faces of torment, as if the garment were stitched of trapped souls from the Field of Punishment. The ADHD part of me wondered, off-task, whether the rest of his clothes were made the same way. What horrible things would you have to do in your life to be woven into Hades' underwear?
- Casey at the Bat. A minor league baseball game is described with all the pomp and portent of an epic poem, ending with one of the most memorable Anti Climaxes in all of literature.
- Similar to the aforementioned Douglas Adams series in tone (in that it's about a Very Normal person going through ridiculous things), the light novel series Haruhi Suzumiya has a lot of Bathos in its narration. For example, in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya:
I nearly bumped into Nagato who was coming out from the kitchen. In Nagato's hands was a stack of small plates, with chopsticks and a tube of ground mustard on top."I am leaving. Sorry for intruding. See you."I was about to walk off, when I sensed a tug as soft as a feather on my arm."..."Nagato was pulling my sleeve with her fingers. The tug was very soft, just like how much force one might use to pick up a newborn baby hamster.
- This is used frequently in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot, starting with comparing a sunset to "a patient etherised upon a table".
- The central point of the "Jake Strugell" poems by Wendy Cope, in which Strugnell falls under the influence of various poets ("Strugnell's Bargain" after Sir Phillip Sidney, "Strugnell's Rubaiyat" after Omar Khayyám and so on) but has no real grasp of poetic metaphor and sets everything in Tulse Hill, the London suburb where he lives.
Awake! for Morning on the Pitch of Night
Has whistled and has put the Stars to Flight.
The incandescent football in the East
Has brought the splendour of Tulse Hill to Light.
Live Action TV
- One Foot in the Grave: Nearly every episode, a serious conversation was interrupted with something completely ludicrous, such as finding a wig in a loaf of bread, or Victor discovering that a workman planted a Yucca plant actually in the downstairs toilet.
- Firefly delved into this from time to time. In "War Stories," Mal and Wash have a very domestic argument while being tortured, much to the bemusement of the torturer. In this particular example, Mal was deliberately antagonizing Wash to keep him from breaking.
- In Community, Abed gives a breathtaking monologue about appearing on an episode of Cougar Town, note in which he questions his entire identity and the point of being interested in popular culture. The entire speech culminates with him "pooping" himself.
- Look Around You is a parody of 1970s BBC educational videos, using Bathos for most of its humor.
- Wilfred, in both the Australian original and American remake.
Ryan: You've lost your mind. It's like you've got some kind of...God complex.
Wilfred: I'll let you in on a little secret, Ryan. I don't have a God complex. I am God! Thunder!
Ryan: How did you do that?
Wilfred: ...Lucky coincidence!
- Classic Doctor Who did this well, especially in the Hartnell era. In "Marco Polo," for example, Kublai Khan is built up as this mysterious, terrible, almost godlike being... and then, he and the first Doctor become friends as they commiserate in the aches and pains of advanced age. "The Myth Makers", one of Hartnell's wittiest, derives a lot of its humour from how mundane the semi-mythical Trojan figures are in personality, especially Paris - his attempts to talk Steven down from attacking him are almost Pythonesque in how anticlimactic they are.
Steven: (in Shakespearian tones, pretending to be a Greek soldier) And must my Lord Achilles be roused to undertake your death, adulterer?Paris: Yes, well, I'm prepared to overlook that for the moment. I assure you I have no quarrel with you.Steven: I'm Greek, you're Trojan. Is not that quarrel enough?Paris: Yes, well - personally, I think this whole business has been carried just a little bit too far? I mean, that Helen thing was just a misunderstanding....Paris: (having won the fight) Now, die, Greek, and tell them in Hades that Paris sent you thither!Steven: I yield.Paris: I beg your pardon?Steven: I yield. I'm your prisoner.Paris: Well, I say, this sort of thing is just not done.
Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold.
- The Fourth Doctor pretty much functions entirely on this. He's a dramatic, imposing, Byronic, swashbuckling alien with a gothic Victoriana motif, who wonders up to whatever unspeakable squirming Omnicidal Maniac horror he's pitted against this week, gives it a big grin and offers it a jelly baby.
- The final words of the Seventh Doctor to Ace in "Survival", the final story of the Classic series before the show was cancelled:
- The portrayal of the Nethersphere in "Dark Water". It's all very much like a soulless corporate city.
- This is sometimes used in Supernatural, such as in the episode "Wishful Thinking" when a young girl wishes for her teddy bear to come alive and ends up with a suicidal cynical giant stuffed bear.
Teddy bear: It is a terrible world! Why am I here?Audrey: For tea parties!
- The Charmed episode "Just Harried" has Prue inadvertently wrecking Piper's wedding. While it's still presented as a sad event, the scene itself still has a comedic edge to it. Holly Marie Combs gives Piper a semi-panic attack that is most definitely meant to be funny, along with her delivery of "the wedding is off!" - plus another small gag when Phoebe accidentally steps on her train.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- "Entropy" has the gang discovering a hidden camera planted by the Trio in the Magic Box. As they do this, Spike and Anya are having sex. The Trio are in the middle of shutting down their cameras when they spot this and get Distracted by the Sexy. Dawn also walks into the house and catches sight of it, Willow covering her eyes comically. Of course this doesn't change the fact that Xander and Buffy have just seen their respective love interests going at it - and it's still presented as a tragic scene.
- "Help" Cassie's speech about what she'd love to do in life - but can't because she knows she's about to die - is heart breaking. But there's also a funny line in there where she says she'd like to see her cousins grow up "because they're really mean and I think they're going to be fat". Even Buffy smiles at this.
- Band of Brothers:
- In the second episode, Malarkey decides to run out in the middle of gunfire to raid a dead German soldier looking for a Luger - and doesn't get shot at because the Germans assume he's a medic. The way it's presented makes you both feel terror that he'll be killed and also laugh at the ridiculousness of it.
- In the third episode, a stray bullet catches Winters on the leg. Although it's in the middle of a serious scene, he gives a look that says "oh for crying out loud."
- When Nixon receives news of his wife divorcing him, it's played both for drama and for comedy. This is a man who's being dumped while fighting a war, but he's fuming over the assets conflict - where he notes that she's even taking their dog. "It's not even her dog!"
- Happens often in Brooklyn Nine-Nine due to Jake's massive abandonment issues. In the Thanksgiving episode from the first season, Jake says all he wants to do is sit at home, watch the football game, and eat "mayo nuts" (peanuts mixed with mayonaise), as he usually does on Thanksgiving, prompting a disgusted response from Captain Holt. It's then revealed that he does this because his dad was gone and his mom always had to work on Thanksgiving, and six-year-olds aren't very good at cooking...
- The whole comedic point of Drunk History. The narrators are retelling dramatic historical stories while completely shitfaced. The slurring and drunken accounts are re-enacted word for word by well-known actors acting the shit out of the drunken dialogue.
- The Attack on Titan filk "Don't Kill Us" involves the singers promising pie if the audience lets them live.
- In his 1997 book The Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll, Chuck Eddy introduced his "Gladys Knight & The Pips Rule": good songs should mix seriousness and frivolity. It was based on "Midnight Train to Georgia", where Knight's earnest, poignant lead vocal is juxtaposed with The Pips' rather silly-sounding backing vocal interjections.
- At one point during Triple H and The Undertaker's match at Wrestlemania 27, they send themselves flying through Michael Cole's little cubicle that he calls the "Cole Mine". Despite the serious tone that a match involving Undertaker would usually have, seeing Cole's property go to pieces makes you laugh just a little.
- Causing Bathos is a favorite of many wrestling fanbases, especially WWE fans. The crowd is as much a part of the show as anything in Wrestling.
- Joey Daddiego's post match assault on Donovan Dijak at the first night of Supercard Of Honor X was not funny. Prince Nana running in fear from Taeler Hendrix while it went on did bring a little humor to what was otherwise a serious attempt to avenge Truth Martini's broken neck though.
- Lisa is equal parts grim apocalyptic nightmare, and absurd comedy. And it's a good thing too, because if it was played with even slightly less humor, the game would be an unbearable march into the dark. The game is cruel, but for every Player Punch you endure, you'll find a huge laugh elsewhere.
- In Ōkami during the second (of three) battle with Orochi. Nagi tries to look awesome, but it's hard to take him seriously when he's dressed in women's clothing... and even harder when he falls flat on his face jumping into battle. Never the less, he cleaves a satisfying victory.
- The player can intentionally create Bathos in Resonance of Fate. Thanks to its Virtual Paper Doll-like clothing and accessories, you can have your characters wearing almost clown-like attire during the most serious of scenes. The weapon customization can also lead to some interesting results.
- There's also some built into the game's setting to help set the world's tone. An early example is the Arena, known for making spectacles of bloodbaths for profit... and the delicious soft-serve from the concessions stand.
- You can extend that to any game where you can put on joke costumes, and the costumes show during cutscenes.
- Most of Dragon Age II can be played this way if the player picks all the silly dialogue options. Sarcastic!Hawke doesn't really know when to shut up and gets called on it by the party (most frequently by Aveline and Carver).
- Similarly, there are a lot of dialogue options◊ in Devil Survivor 2 that turn the player character into a flat-out Cloudcuckoolander.
- Because The Secret of Monkey Island was originally planned as a serious game, all of the artwork is highly realistic and gritty. When the devs decided instead to go for comedy, providing both hilarious dialogue and absurd situations (such as the famous case of crossing a chasm by means of a rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle, lovingly drawn in the highest style 8 bit graphics had to offer), this contrasted with the game's appearance to heighten the humour potential. The sequel continued in this style, but then creator Ron Gilbert left the company, and the games since have used a more overtly cartoony style, which the Video Game Remakes of the first two games switched to. Fans are hotly divided over which is best.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Naughty Nightwear item boosts your Speech skill by ten points, leading to cases where you're trying to defuse a hostage situation, talk your way into a restricted area, or decide the fate of the entire Mojave Wasteland... while wearing a set of cheesy leopard-print pajamas or a skimpy negligee, depending on your gender.
- Much of Fallout in general can be this, simply because Fallout likes to tell a gritty post-apocalyptic story while at the same time making fun of 50's culture and B-movies. This means that the main character can grab a very goofy Alien Blaster and use it to fight off very serious and very terrifying threats such as the Legion or Ghost People.
- Metal Gear is in love with this trope. With the amount of surreal easter eggs and fourth wall breaking, this series may be the all-time champ. A great example would be choosing to wear kabuki facepaint and an orange jumpsuit covered in happy faces that makes goofy noises while wielding a cigar that sprays knockout gas...while fighting the tragic Anti-Villain final boss in one of the most heartwrenching moments in the video game medium.
- Especially the case in any of the games that allow rewatching the cutscenes but with the ability to switch the characters/models used. Old ladies with assault rifles and handbags storming the freighter at the beginning of MGS2? Priceless.
- Unfortunately, due to some inconsistencies with the localization and English voice acting, it can be hard to tell which of the serious scenes are meant to be funny and which aren't. It's best not to ask the fans about this.
- Silent Hill, another Konami series, was once the darkest Survival Horror game on the market, but has always had a silly side through Easter eggs and old save bonuses. In the first three games, the tragic-to-bittersweet endings could be replaced with joke endings involving alien abduction, another ending in the second game revealing The Dog Was the Mastermind, a Magical Girl costume for the protagonist in the third, as well as alien karaoke, and, most absurdly, Pyramid Head cutting Murphy's birthday cake in Silent Hill: Downpour.
- In Poker Night at the Inventory, many of the interactions between your fellow players invoke this, mostly through the shocked reactions of the others. Examples include Tycho waxing lyrical about giraffes, or Heavy Weapons Guy's Engineer story.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 has a bit of this. You can pick "funny'" dialogue options in even the most serious scenes, which tend to make Serah look like a ditz.
- You can give your monsters absurd accessories, resulting in things like a massive, intimidating Behemoth wearing an Idea Bulb over its head.
- The "Milkman Conspiracy" level of Psychonauts is loaded with this. Almost everyone you meet is a trenchcoat-clad secret agent in some sort of Paper-Thin Disguise (actually, no disguise; they're simply holding different objects: stop signs for a "road crew worker," hedge trimmers for a gardening husband/father, etc.) and most of the things they say to maintain the facade are Played for Laughs. Every once in a while, however, you'll hear them spout a line that would be pretty pathetic, even devastating, in other circumstances. "Over time, my husband will desire me less, sexually," says the rolling pin-toting "housewife." "Why, God? Why?" says the "grieving widow." It all stays relatively light, given the amusing context, but the tragedy subtext is there and it's fairly difficult to miss.
- Both Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends have Awesome Music that is deliberately made funny rather than epic, thanks to some of the...unusual instrument choices. Origins has a kazoo during the track "Shooter" as well as "Lums of the Water", a genuinely catchy jazz song...sung by the Lums (who sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks). In addition to including the aforementioned tracks, Legends has someone whistling along with the melody on almost every song.
- Perfect Dark. Aside from using cheat codes to, for example, give everyone big heads in this spy thriller, there's also the fact that every level has a hidden noncollectable wedge of cheese.
- Both Dangan Ronpa and Super Dangan Ronpa 2 like to pack the series' executions with as much ridiculous and Black Comedy-ridden imagery as possible. None of this detracts from the fact that one of the major characters just died, often in a very horrible manner.
- You can invoke this in Fallout 4 with the outfits your characters wear. You can have a serious, heartwarming conversation of finding your long-lost son while dressed in a bathrobe, or as Grognak the Barbarian. Paladin Danse removes his power armor when you go to confront him about being a synth and, if you removed his jumpsuit, he'll have this heartwarming and serious conversation in nothing but his boxers.
- Undertale is mostly silly, but can be this depending on how you play it. A No Mercy/Genocide run, for instance, is a straight-up tragic borderline Cosmic Horror Story (and you are the Eldritch Abomination). A Pacifist Run is mostly lighthearted, but it has its own Tear Jerkers and one extremely dark and horrifying section with the True Lab. A Neutral run is ridden with this if you do decide to kill some monsters. Maybe you laughed at Papyrus' antics and spared him, but then battled Undyne and decided to kill her in self-defense... and then had to bear witness to this.
- The Legend of Zelda always had some sort of bathos involved, ever since Link's Awakening. It's most evident in cutscenes:
- For example, in Majora's Mask, there's a scene where you encounter a dying zora just off the coast of the beach. You push him to shore where he tells you how pirates had stolen his girlfriend's eggs and he tried to get them back but he was mortally wounded and is close to death. However, the way he tells his story is to get up and Rock out on his electric guitar. After he's done, he promptly keels over and dies.
- Another one is in Wind Waker: Here, Link places the last of the goddess pearls he's collected up to that point in an ancient statue. At first it seems like it's about to explode but then it stops for a moment. Just as Link thinks it's okay to get close, it promptly explodes and launches him off the island. However, the statue also causes the Tower of The Gods to emerge from the waves. It's as majestic as it sounds... Until Link splats himself against the side of the rising structure.
- Twilight Princess: at one point, you find yourself in an abandoned village, having been tasked to kill 20 Bulblins (orc-like creatures) in a western-style shoot-out in order to save the last resident (an elderly lady). This particular scene is also accompanied by a western soundtrack. Later on, you're given a similar task that's accompanied by the same music piece. This time however, you're tasked with talking to and befriending 20 of the old lady's cats.
- Homestuck uses this very frequently, often in conjunction with Mood Whiplash. John makes a dramatic and somewhat Mind Screw-y discovery about his and his best friends' parentage—and then he uses the event to reenact the ending scene of one of his favorite movies. Scenes of well-loved characters dying are accompanied by shots of the dead body landing on a pile of bike horns, or references to an intentionally-bad comic-within-the-comic, or simply a blunt Unsound Effect "DEAD".
- An big part of the hero's personality in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is that he responds this way to almost everything. A robot lion chases Bob around his yard, and his only complaint is it kicked over the pile of leaves he'd just raked. Spaceships keep crashing into his roof, and he wonders if other people put up screens to avoid this. He calms paranormal beings by sitting them down to eat some cheesecake or microwave pizza. He shows an alien conqueror that his whole motivation is flawed, and suggests he find a new hobby, like sudoku. And many other examples.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has quite a bit of this, as one ludicrous situation after another is played dead serious, complete with lingering consequences.
- In Paradox Space (a Spin-Off of Homestuck), the story "Indemnity Double Reacharound" features an extremely dark and gritty art style, a story involving a murder... and all the characters are brightly colored dragons with names like "Pumpkinsniffle" and "Berrybreath", odd Alternian words used in a serious way, and one of the characters speaks using slang that feels completely out of place in the Film Noir setting.
- Digger runs on Bathos. The most heart-rending and hilarious example being just after Ed's death, Digger is rescued by two lizards lighting their way with a bug on a stick.
- Daywalt Horror likes to employ this as a way to change up their usual thing.
- In "Meat", two rural men are driving a truck and talking about what to do with the thing they just hit and had loaded into the back, revealing halfway through that said thing was actually a Magical Talking Unicorn.
- In "Vergel Geroth", it features a necromancer reading a spell from The Necronomicon, with a monster rising up in the background as he reads it, eagerly waiting to pounce... only for the summoner to pause and try to puzzle out the pronunciation of the last section. With the monster looking on in exasperation.
- Romeo And Julieta makes use of this, particularly the original film.
- Cancer? Not funny. Clown with cancer? Hilarious.
- The Thwomps: When the thwomps was going to finish Bowser off, the movie suddenly turned into a parody of Tetris
- Bathos is the engine upon which The Onion runs. Mundane events made to sound newsworthy describes a great deal of the content. It's also frequently used by its sister site, ClickHole.
- The Jerry Seinfeld Program is a Deconstructive Parody of Seinfeld that gets progressively more bizarre, horrible, and absurdist...but the victims of this cruel universe are Jerry and George from Seinfeld.
- This trope is what drives most of The Venture Bros..
- The infamous pea scene from The Powerpuff Girls. It Makes Sense in Context.
- There's also one of the pilot episodes, where Fuzzy Lumpkins accidentally pushes Bubbles' Berserk Button by hitting her hair with his transformative meat gun. What comes next is Bubbles delivering a vicious, prolonged beat-down on Fuzzy Lumpkins, while one of her pigtails is a chicken drumstick.
- The Farnsworth Parabox in Futurama has Farnsworth warning near the end: "Everything that ever was, is, and will be is contained in this box, and the actual box is probably worth something as well."
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", Twilight Sparkle is pushed over the Despair Event Horizon by the failure of the Elements of Harmony, and sadly trudges back to the library in defeat... while thanks to Discord's influence, various ridiculous things happen around her, like pies falling upwards and ballet-dancing buffalo prancing by. It manages to be both funny and tragic at the same time.
- "Luna Eclipsed" sees the Mayor of Ponyville using a spooky voice... only for her clown costume to utterly kill the effect. Lampshaded by Spike.
- In "It's About Time," Twilight Sparkle's dead-serious proclamation of incoming doom comes close to being ignored due to the Groucho Marx glasses she's wearing due to a collision with a metric ton of party-supplies.
- This supplies one of Avatar: The Last Airbender's most memorable jokes:
Zuko: That's rough, buddy.
- The Simpsons has always displayed a mastery of playing this trope for comedy:
- In episode "Homer Loves Flanders" Bart tricks Homer into buying what he thinks are tickets to a highly-anticipated football game, only to find that he had actually bought a wig store coupon. He wildly careens from elated, to furious, to contemplative, to giddy, before finally settling on possibly aroused. This takes place over the course of about ten seconds.
- In the DVD Commentary, the show's staff discuss Homer's wild mood swings, coming to the conclusion that the character's ability to immediately return to a default-jolly state from any other emotional state is one of his most endearing qualities. They also observe that Homer, more than any other male main character in probably all of fiction, will burst into tears at the drop of a hat.
- Several jokes over the years have taken a short break from a silly situation to mine Lisa's developing major depressive disorder for comedy. Usually, it's quickly acknowledged and followed by an awkward beat, after which immediately returns to business-as-usual.
- In "Radio Bart", Bart is stuck down a well, but nobody wants to help him out on account of a dirty trick he played on them, and tearfully laments about the stuff he'll never do, like smoking a cigarette, having a fake ID and shaving a swear word onto the back of his head.
- In episode "Homer Loves Flanders" Bart tricks Homer into buying what he thinks are tickets to a highly-anticipated football game, only to find that he had actually bought a wig store coupon. He wildly careens from elated, to furious, to contemplative, to giddy, before finally settling on possibly aroused. This takes place over the course of about ten seconds.