Black Comedy
"That is wicked..."

"Always look on the bright side of death,
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life's a piece of shit,
When you look at it.
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show—
Keep 'em laughing as you go,
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!"
Monty Python's Life of Brian, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"

Black comedy, also known as black humor or dark comedy, is a sub-genre of comedy and satire where topics and events that are usually treated seriously are treated in a satirical manner while still being portrayed as the negative events that they are. Typical targets are death, (mass) murder, suicide, blackmail, (domestic) violence, disease, insanity, handicaps, environmental disasters, famine, fear, child pornography/abuse, drug abuse, rape, castration, cannibalism, war, terrorism, racism, sexism, homophobia, bestiality and line-cutting.

It is not quite Toilet Humour, which is just gross, neither is it quite Vulgar Humor, since it can be delivered quite easily without swearing. It often times takes the form of Refuge in Audacity, while incorporating elements of the above mentioned forms of humor. What makes it different though, is that the theme of the comedy would tend to gravitate towards topics that are considered to be "dark" and/or taboo (such as depression, death, atrocities, racism, poverty, etc.) This form of humor will usually go beyond the mere act of telling jokes, some works focusing instead on situational comedy, Dr. Strangelove being one example. Movies that alternate between comedy and tragedy, like Full Metal Jacket, are not black comedy, since by definition Black Comedy draws humor from the tragic parts. To sum it up, black humor is a type of comedy that deals with negative aspects of life, deriving humour due to it being shocking and unexpected, Family Guy having dead babies singing for example, being shockingly cruel (and thus unexpected,) and in part because it many time reflects a truth that might be too grim to state seriously, something quite common for example in Soviet Russia, and quite abundant in political humor.

A joke might revolve around, for example, a homeless man committing a string of murders so that he will get sentenced to death, a state that, properly tied up in appeals, is better than his former life expectancy and quality. Delivered correctly, it can be very funny, yet at the same time more than a little disturbing. If done wrong, however, the audience may be extremely offended.

Black Comedy doesn't necessarily have to involve death — anything tragic can be fodder for Black Comedy. A Kafka Komedy is a subtrope of Black Comedy in which the object of humor is abject failure.

Crosses the Line Twice may apply. Often set in a Crapsack World. Subtropes include Gallows Humor (which affects the joke maker personally) and Kafka Komedy (in which anything the protagonist does is guaranteed to fail). As the perfect storm of fatalism and dry humor, it often overlaps with British Humour and Russian Humour. This can be Refuge in Audacity. Can be prone to creating a Surprise Creepy vibe. Especially if whatever is invoking the trope starts out cheery (or if someone fragile witnesses it.)

If Black Comedy shows up in a series that doesn't ordinarily deal with grim subject matter so cavalierly, it's a Black Comedy Burst. Black Comedy Rape is a trope in and of itself.

Black Comedy might even be as old as comedy itself.

Not to be confused with Uncle Tomfoolery. Compare Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror.

Has very little to do with people such as Jack Black, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, or Chris Rock, although they may occasionally engage in it.

Since this is an occasional Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.



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    Pro Wrestling 
  • Not long after Chris Benoit had strangled his wife and son to death, then hanged himself, a picture of him crying (taken from the Eddie Guerrero tribute episode of RAW) made its way around the Internet, with the questionable caption "They were supposed to tap out!" You can see it here.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fur TV is the king of this category, yes, along with shows like South Park or Family Guy, but a puppet version. Sometimes reaching disturbing levels.
  • On the 11/14/10 episode of The Funday Pawpet Show everyone was watching a reporter show footage of an angry man in a Rascal scooter ram an elevator door three times, the third time disappearing down the shaft to his real-life death. As the reporter showed the footage again, out of nowhere cast member Blitz said "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" completely catching everyone off guard.
  • The Ferals: Even overlooking the levels of violence and cruelty, which is not easy, the rabbit character is named Mixy...after myxomatosis.
  • Sesame Street, of all things, engages in a bit of black comedy with the Game of Thrones parody.

  • Big Finish Doctor Who has its moments, particularly in the episode "Max Warp". The entire episode is a gleeful Take That! to Top Gear. The Richard Hammond character appears to die violently in a space ship crash. In Real Life, Hammond was in a serious car crash two years before the episode aired.

    Tabletop Games 
  • When it was released at the height of the Cold War, the Nuclear War card game was seen as an example of this.
  • Paranoia, particularly the Straight and Classic play styles (the Zap style is too busy committing more cartoonish violence).
  • The orcs and goblins in Warhammer Fantasy. These are creatures that live for killing things - goblins even commit suicide just to kill enemies. These are the most humorous in the setting. And da Orkz in its sci-fi counterpart Warhammer 40,000. These are creatures who can get anything to work by simply believing it will work, and with the Grots, the local flavour of the goblins, being the ultimate kind of Butt-Monkey to the Orks in the setting - and not caring. Where any other army is based on a major civilization or a well-known historical army, the Orks are based on British soccer hooligans, clearly cementing them as comic relief. The 40K setting is so dark, grim, and cynical that it is almost taken to levels of self-parody, something many fanfiction writers embrace to a strong degree, and even some official book series, such as Deff Skwadron and the Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) series.
  • In Nomine has Kobal, Demon Prince of Dark Humor, and his servitors, who work to turn existence into black comedy.
  • Planescape, full stop. The dark humor in the setting is a huge deconstruction of the typical D&D heroic fantasy.
  • Rule of thumb in Cards Against Humanity: If you aren't putting together horrible jokes with your cards, you're doing it wrong. Possible question/answer combinations include "I got 99 problems, but being on fire ain't one" or "Why do I hurt all over? Scalping".
  • This is mostly the point of Fiasco, inspired as it is by The Coen Brothers. Everything up to the characters' inevitable deaths, arrests, and/or visits to a living hell is expected to be played for pitch-dark comedy.

    Theme Parks 

    Visual Novels 
  • Dangan Ronpa has this trope in spades. Despite it being a story about a Deadly Game where high-schoolers kill each other, much of the tragedy ends up being played for laughs.
  • There are many ways for Elonie to die in Long Live the Queen and all of them are depicted with a cutesy, super-deformed depiction of her demise.
  • Ace Attorney typically manages to get quite a bit of a comedy from it's murder cases.
    • Played with in Dual Destinies, with Simon Blackquill, who often times makes morbid jokes about the murder on trial. Such as when he says that the spirit of a spear stabbing victim "might find that the hole in his stomach makes eating a challenge". It's lampshaded at one point:
      Blackquill: I shall tie your lips together, lest you further embarrass yourself.
      Athena: Now isn't the time for black comedy....
  • Katawa Shoujo:
    • The game can fall into this, if you go into it with the right sort of mindset. There's something about the image of Rin trying to paint with no arms that's hilarious.
    • One unintentional example was one of the Relax-o-Vision screens that can pop up if you disable the sex scenes. During Hanako's route (the girl who has suffered third degree burns on half her body), an image of fried shrimp can randomly appear as the filler image for her sex scene.
  • In Kanon, Nayuki's mom Akiko, in one occasion, got hit by a car and was nearly killed, while her daughter blamed herself for that. She only managed to survive thanks to a mircale worked by Ayu.

    But where's the Black Comedy in that? This event is referenced in the doujin Fighting Game Eternal Fighter Zero: Akiko has a super move that starts with a car (At level 3 it's a lorry) speeding towards her; at first you might think "Oh, no, not again", but suddenly, Akiko notices just in time to catch it with one hand, and throws it into her opponent for good damage. The name of this move? "Planning For The Worst". Yeah, she has a strange sense of humor.
  • Zero Time Dilemma has a doozy. One of the Q endings has Mira killing her boyfriend Eric and then cutting his heart out, identifying her as the Heart Ripper, an on-the-loose serial killer... who is now trapped with Q, a small boy. Not only is this scene Nightmare Fuel but it's also one of the most horrifying and goriest scenes in the franchise. Until you get the achievement which is called, What is Love? Baby Don't Hurt Me, and start giggling like a maniac.

    Web Animation 
  • The Nekci Menij Show, which asks you to laugh at women angling to kill each other over album sales and awards.
  • Film Cow is an animation studio (of Charlie the Unicorn fame) that focuses mostly on... interesting characters, who either end up dead or do the killing themselves. As you can imagine, it is bloody hilarious.
  • Death Battle is a web video series about two characters fighting to the death. Would have had a hard time avoiding this one. Co-host Boomstick is a notable fountain of this, no matter how the fight ends, he always has a bad pun for the fallen. Or one for the victor or how the fight ended.
  • Japanese flash animator Rareko is known for this in his works. One example includes Push Puku Chan, which is about an android who was trying to make friends using her trumpet, but often ends up killing people, whom fear her.
  • Tomorrows Nobodies regularly plays violence, death, and child abuse for laughs.
  • Many of the Dorkly Originals videos often play violence and death for laughs.
  • The Pokémon Rusty spin-off also features this. Rusty tries to teach a Zubat Surf and rides on top of it, shoves multiple Bidoofs into one Pokeball, and washes a Grimer down the drain. And that's not even half of all the horrid things Rusty has done at the hands of his complete and utter stupidity.
  • Prostitute Mickey, a flash-animated series of short films where Mickey Mouse has been forced to become a prostitute to make ends meet and is subjected to many horrifically embarrassing events.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School, as well as Dr. Havoc's Diary. The former regularly pokes fun at abortion, sexual harassment, and drug usage (for starters); the latter is a satiric take on some of the more sensitive topics in modern society such as white cops shooting a black man for no reason!

Alternative Title(s): Black Humor, Black Humour, Dark Comedy, Dead Baby Humor, Dead Baby Comedy, Dark Humor, Dark Humour