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Black Comedy Burst
The Great Depression is considered one of the worst chapters in America's history. Hundreds of thousands of hard-working Americans became homeless, the economy was obliterated, and unemployment was at an all time high. It was an era of sorrow and hopelessness, with no end in... OOH, LOOK AT THE PRETTY COLORS!
Black Comedy can show up in the most unexpected places. A series might be the most generic and inoffensive Dom Com around; the darkest subject matter it normally handles might be teens drinking alcohol or married people being tempted by another man/woman. And even then, the subject matter is likely to be treated seriously rather than played for laughs; it might even be the subject of a Very Special Episode.

But then along comes a moment when the series brings in a topic it would normally never touch with a ten meter pole (abortion, suicide, rape, Nazis, what-have-you) and treats it with just as much casual, lighthearted humor as it does recipes gone wrong or a Two-Timer Date. For that one moment, that one joke, the series becomes a Black Comedy... then it goes right back to being nice and innocuous again.

Note that, if a series already is a Black Comedy, it's still possible to fit this trope, but the burst of black comedy has to be really extreme. For example, Seinfeld usually didn't shy away from dealing with plenty of dark subject matter, but it's usually just the characters discussing it. If they had done an episode where the Main Characters actually raped or killed someone, and they still played it as much for laughs as ever, then it would still qualify as a Black Comedy Burst.

Related to Genre Shift and Mood Whiplash.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Fan Fic  

     Film 

     Live Action TV  

  • On a Boy Meets World Halloween Episode, everything's going along like a typical episode for the first act, nothing that might be objectionable for family viewing. Then a guy named Kenny is suddenly murdered. In the past, this series has treated sex, alcoholism, juvenile delinquency, and religious cults with deadly seriousness in Very Special Episodes. When another human being is killed, however, the only response it gets is, "Oh my god! They killed Kenny!" After that, the episode kills off a lot more people, including most of the Main Characters, and it's mostly played for laughs. Of course, it's All Just a Dream, but there was no way the audience could have known that before the first murder occurred.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • One episode has Ted trying to get a job designing a guy's house. As Ted talks to the guy, though, it becomes clear he's a Serial Killer who wants Ted to build him a sound-proof "murder house." While the all the characters are appropriately freaked out by this, Ted's run in with a serial killer is never played for anything but laughs. And it's usually such a sweet Romantic Comedy.
    • The time when Barney, the resident Licensed Sexist, casually mentions that, on one occasion, he's pretty sure he sold a woman.
      Barney: I didn't speak the language, but I shook a guy's hand, he gave me the keys to a Mercedes, and I left her there.
    • Ted is an unreliable narrator though, so he could have just been greatly exaggerating some creepy vibes he was getting off a client, and most of Barney's stories are seen as being made up by his friends.
  • Not that Mad Men was ever known for being light, but a guy randomly getting his foot sawed off by a lawn mower certainly qualifies, especially with the lashings of Bloody Hilarious and all the dark jokes that came in the incident's wake.
    Harry: He's going to lose the foot.
    Roger: Right when he got it in the door.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia may be one of the darkest sitcoms on television, but Frank blowing up a guy's head with a musket shot was a bit above par.
  • Victorious:
    • The episode "Beggin' on Your Knees" features Cat accidentally getting phone calls from people who just had car accidents. One of these people dies on the line. Everyone seems a bit shocked and bewildered by this but don't really say too much about it.
    • "Ice Cream for Ke$ha" features Tori trying to drown her sister Trina.
    • "Tori Gets Stuck" has a vial of blood explode on Tori and Robbie.
    • A relatively tame one compared to the three above it, but "Sleepover at Sikowitz's" features a sub-plot where Tori's parents are celebrating their anniversary by watching Terms Of Endearment, and after the students at Sikowitz's break character and get banished, they come to visit their house, and find the movie hilarious for unknown reasons.
  • There are a few moments on iCarly that don't really fit with the rest of the shows humour. One being an elderly clown at a party having a heart attack and dying, with it being treated casually by the cast.
  • Glee isn't as light-hearted as it initially appears anyway, but when it veers into really dark comedy it can be startling.
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show had the classic episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust" in which the staff of WJM-TV has humorous reactions to the absurd death of Chuckles the Clown.
  • The King of Queens had an episode with an uncharacteristically dark parody of Duel where Doug buys an ice cream truck and is later stalked and suffers repeated murder attempts by an unseen driver in another truck.
  • It was perhaps more of an escalating trend than a burst, but the third season of Wizards of Waverly Place had Alex killing another wizard, Justin's girlfriend being abducted and Max inadvertently bringing about a genocide that claimed the life of every monster hunting wizard except Justin.

     Visual Novels  
  • Saya's route in Little Busters! opens with her attempting to murder Riki multiple times, and getting very close to managing it. None of the other characters seem to consider this any more than a tasteless prank. He won't actually die permanently, since this is in the dream world, but he doesn't know that and everyone else is keeping up the masquerade. What makes this especially out of place is that the whole game is based around how difficult it is to deal with the death of a loved one - in fact, the whole reason anything in the game happened at all is because Kyousuke knew Riki and Rin would be completely devastated by his, Masato's, and Kengo's death, and the whole game revolves around helping them to accept that their friends' death doesn't have to ruin their lives forever. Though apparently when it's Riki, it's not that important...?

    Web Originals 
  • Carmilla The Series episode 20 has Laura interrupt Carmilla's telling of her Dark and Troubled Past with a puppet show ("This is flashback material!"). She stops however when the story gets really bleak.
  • Homestar Runner is a fairly clean show (for a web-toon at least) but in one Strong Bad email while Stong Bad is listing off Cereals named after Sound effects the last one is "Gunshots in a Crowded Mall".

     Western Animation  

  • The Simpsons, despite being a Black Comedy in concept, is too idealistic to actually be considered one. The episode "Homer's Enemy," however, gives a good idea of what the series would be like if it were one. A Deconstruction based on a "real" character floundering to—and eventually getting killed by—the show's inherent silliness, it's considered one of the darkest episodes in the show's history. It culminates in Homer falling asleep at the man's funeral, talking in his sleep, and getting everyone attending the funeral to laugh.
  • South Park is usually more gross than grim. But then there's "Scott Tenorman Must Die"... (And viewers can't even pretend it didn't happen, because Cartman likes bringing it up.) It starts out normally enough, with the teenager Scott scamming Cartman out of money by convincing Cartman to buy Scott's pubic hair. Cartman soon tries getting a refund, but Scott either tricks him again or outright refuses. It continues to escalate until Cartman is intent on publicly humiliating Scott with absurd ploys, like training a pony to bite off Scott's penis. Scott keeps outsmarting Cartman at every turn, until the climax, where Cartman reveals the cartoonish plot he told his friends about (that they told Scott about) was actually a misdirection, and Cartman's actual ploy, which he only reveals after it succeeds, was to kill Scott's parents, mix their flesh into chili, and feed it to Scott.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Whenever a character undergoes Sanity Slippage, most notably Pinkie Pie in "Party of One", Fluttershy in "The Best Night Ever", and Twilight Sparkle in "Lesson Zero", the ensuing psychotic breaks from reality are often quite terrifying, yet they are all played for comedy.
    • Discord seems to specialize in doing horrible things like plunging Equestria into an insane, chaotic Sugar Apocalypse and being Actually Pretty Funny at the same time. He returns to this in "Keep Calm and Flutter On", where Fluttershy lets him stay at her house with the hope that she can reform him. When she leaves him alone with her pet bunny, Angel (who hasn't been buying any of his claims that he's turning good), Discord mocks Angel and confirms that he's been playing Fluttershy for a fool - all while wearing a pair of bunny slippers that look like they're made from actual dead rabbits.
    • In "Read it and Weep", the pony who accuses Rainbow Dash of stealing his slippers appears to be a cancer patient, and what RD thinks is an Angry Guard Dog chasing her is really a mentally ill mare who thinks she's a dog.
    • In "Hearts and Hooves Day," Sweetie Belle crashes a funeral, jumps on the back of the eulogizer (who is wearing a clerical collar), noogies him while singing that he's "too old" to be a suitable romantic candidate for Cheerilee, then jumps away. With a great big smile. While cheerful upbeat music plays. The fact that the coffin is almost entirely off-screen and that the shot only lasts for two seconds is probably the only way in hell the show got away with it.
    • "Castle Mane-ia", in the scene where the ponies are panicking, Fluttershy sees what she thinks is Angel getting crushed by a falling pillar when it's clearly just a couple of rocks and leaves, and hastily tries lifting the pillar before Applejack jumps on top of it and flattens "Angel" some more.
    • In "Pinkie Apple Pie," Goldie Delicious clears some cats to get at a book. She blows at the last cat... and it falls apart into dust.
  • American Dad!:
    • The episode where Roger, working as a limo driver, spends a night chauffeuring around a group of drunk frat guys who run off without paying his fee (twenty dollars). He responds to this by systematically stalking and murdering them. The entire thing is Played for Laughs.
    • "Love, A.D. Style" starts off innocently enough with Roger developing a crush on Haley, but reaches nightmarish territory when Roger knocks her out and holds her prisoner in an ice factory, where he ties her arms and legs to an old mattress and tells her that he plans on cutting her flesh off and wearing it. The ending has Roger cut of Jeff's skin and grafts it onto his own, which is played for laughs. You know, a lot of Roger moments can come off as this.
  • The "Turkey Scene" from Rover Dangerfield.
  • In the Disney version of Peter Pan, Captain Hook nonchalantly shoots one of his own men — for singing badly. Then later, he tosses another of his pirates overboard, for speculating about "no splash?!" after Wendy walks the plank.
  • Adventure Time:
    • "It Came From the Nightosphere" is littered with this, like Abadeer singing a little jingle as he stomps on ants to suck their souls, or Lumpy Space Princess voluntarily getting inside Abadeer's soul pouch because everyone else was doing it.
    • At the end of the Christmas Episode of all places, when they reach the final of the Ice King's tapes, which is an Apocalyptic Log detailing the slow descent of Simon Petrikov into madness as he becomes the Ice King. It's a massive Tear Jerker/horror moment, yet the first reaction to it?
    Jake: (Valley Girl tone) Drama bomb!
    • "Betty" has Ice King (or rather, a temporarily restored Simon) describe his And I Must Scream existence as "living with eternal diaperbutt".
  • The Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated gang visits a monster's victim in the hospital, resulting in a comedically stressful interview. After they leave we hear him flatline in the background, but the gang just exchange looks and leave.
  • The 1943 Popeye cartoon "Happy Birthdaze" ended with Popeye apparently murdering his Navy buddy Shorty (which is usually cut from modern TV prints).
    • "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap" has the final scene where the Japanese admiral commits suicide by consuming gasoline and lit firecrackers.

    Other 
  • One would never expect to find Black Comedy in Boy Scout skits (well, current and former Boy Scouts definitely would expect it, but other probably would not), which is why "Fire" and "Bridge," among several others, stand out among the others.

Black ComedyComedy TropesBlack Comedy Cannibalism
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