"The creators of South Park, the satirical cartoon, are no strangers to controversy... but now they seem to have taken the taboo-busting to a place even hardened South Park watchers have found hard to go."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.
— Catherine Elsworth, on "The China Problem"
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- In Violine, when lying in crocodile-infested water, a man offers Kombo money to save him. Just when Kombo accepts, a crocodile bites his hand with the money off, which lands in the boat. Kombo quickly puts the severed hand (with the money still in it) behind his back while the man is devoured by crocodiles. The hand keeps fighting him throughout the night over the money. This, and the death of the man, is all Played for Laughs, in contrast to other times when people are attacked and killed by crocodiles.
- Our Miss Brooks: In The Movie, Miss Brooks sardonically remarks she's up for a game of Russian roulette.
- Frozen: Kristoff's family, the trolls, lightly suggest offing Anna's fiancé while trying to get Kristoff and Anna together... in the middle of a cheery Crowd Song no less! And while Anna was slowly dying of her frozen heart... not that anyone mentioned it until afterwards.
- Trolls: In the flashback showing Branch's paranoia over Bergens, he runs through a birthday party and tips the cake over whilst screaming about them. Next he runs through a wedding, and tips the cake over, continuing to scream about Bergens. Finally he runs through a funeral... and tips the coffin over, causing the corpse to tip out onto the floor... whilst still screaming about Bergens.
- In Men in Black 3 during Jay's time jump from the top of the Empire State Building he briefly passes through The Great Depression and locks eyes with a stock broker in the process of falling to his death. The franchise generally doesn't shy away from dark comedy, but this scene still stands out.
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.
- 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.
- 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 show's humour. One was an elderly clown at a party having a heart attack and dying, with the rest of the cast treating it casually.
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show has the 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.
- The Only Fools and Horses episode "A Royal Flush" has largely been disowned by the fandom. It involves Rodney falling for an upper class girl, only for Del to sabotage the relationship with his boorish, obnoxious behaviour, which is played up even more than usual. Afterwards, Del is completely unsympathetic and even mocks Rodney for calling him out on it. The show creator John Sullivan and David Jason have both shown regret that the episode was made.
- Despite being a cop sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine manages to be a light-hearted and fun show without going into Black Comedy. However, there are two episodes that fall into Black Comedy. The first episode involves the main character, Jake, getting kidnapped and being held hostage by a stoned ex-lawyer seeking revenge. The second episode had Jake suffering through multiple injuries (three cracked ribs, three broken toes, a hairline fracture, etc...) within one week.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Where There's a Will, There's a Way", where Hilary's boyfriend dies on live television when he proposes to her while bungee-jumping. The Laugh Track plays, and if that wasn't jarring enough, the scene becomes a Running Gag in a show that would normally treat the death of a character and the psychological effect it has on their widow very seriously.
- 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...?
- 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 child-friendly (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".
- RWBY Chibi usually consists of harmless, comedy antics and is much more lighthearted than it's source material, but occasionally has much darker humour crop up.
- "Cape Troubles": Ruby almost hangs herself when she tries to jump from the top bunk only to have her cape get caught by accident. Her face even starts to turn blue from lack of oxygen as she gasps "Not like this! Not like this!".
- "Neptune's Phobia": Neptune stands in for Sun as the swimming pool's life-guard. When Jaune slips and falls into the pool right beside Neptune's chair, Jaune struggles for air and desperately calls for help. However, Neptune looks the opposite way and ignores what's happening. Eventually, Jaune sinks below the water and releases one final bubble that pops into the word "dead".
- Animaniacs wasn't afraid to have sketches with dark humor:
- "The Ballad of Magellan" ends with Ferdinand Magellan's death at the hands of angry natives in the Philippines, and plays it for laughs:
Yakko: They sailed due west to the Philippine Islands
Magellan was pleased as the natives drew near
But then someone shouted "I think they're attacking!"
Magellan said "What?", and got hit by a spear!
- "The Ballad of Magellan" ends with Ferdinand Magellan's death at the hands of angry natives in the Philippines, and plays it for laughs:
- The Simpsons:
- The series, 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.
- Subverted in one episode when the family are watching an action movie and a bad guy gets his neck snapped by the hero; Marge makes a joke about "Breakneck Speed" and laughs about it, and Bart flatly responds, "Mom, a man just died."
- South Park is usually more gross than grim. But then there's these three episodes:
- "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.
- "The China Problem", specifically the B-plot dealing with the boys' reaction to Indiana Jones being raped (metaphorically and literally) by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The rape scenes are surprisingly graphic, the witnesses are shown to be traumatized, and the whole situation is played seriously, all of which emphasize how ridiculous the metaphor is.
- "Stanley's Cup" is particularly infamous for this. The episode is a mercilless Deconstruction of Sports Story Tropes, where at the end a pee-wee hockey team coached by Stan gets beaten into a bloody pulp by a team of adults, one of the children says to Stan that he hates him, Stan's father's dream is destroyed, and a child who was rooting for the team dies of cancer. The point is that children trained by Stan were just an Opposing Sports Team in another team's story. Seems like this was too much even for the South Park's usual target audiences.
- 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 "Make New Friends, but Keep Discord," the courier who travels into Discord's dimension to deliver him his invitation then gets snatched up by some winged monster in the background and lifted offscreen. He is never seen again.
- 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. 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.
- Apple Bloom's Imagine Spot shows an apocalyptic famine-stricken Ponyville with Lily Valley emaciated like a someone on the brink of starvation.
- "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?
- "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 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.
- Steven Universe:
Amethyst: And there's a prize inside!
- In the episode "Joking Victim", Sadie tells Steven that they don't make their own donuts at Big Donut ever since "the Incident", and it pans over to show a scorched section of wall with a human silhouette outlined. It then abruptly cuts to Sadie getting ready to show Steven the Big Donut training video.
- Amethyst hoards huge piles of miscellaneous junk in her room, and in the episode "Reformed", amongst the junk she finds a gas mask with a human skull in it.
"It was an endless crushing darkness, WET and BLEAK and SUFFOCATING, water was the tomb that I live in for those months."
- After Peridot tried to give Lapis a pool as a peace offering in "Barn Mates", Lapis explains to her the anguish of being trapped underwater in a creepy serious monotone.
Steven: They'll say: "Hey where's Steven? We saved a donut for him." But they won't see me, because I'm in the sky. And then, they'll feed my donut to a dog. And then I'll die.Steven's bones falls on the ground. Sadie picks up his skull (that still has hair):
- In "Steven Floats", when Steven is stuck in the sky, having an Imagine Spot about not having the first new donut:
Mr. Smiley: I guess you could say we're a little fun-derstaffed.
- A sleep-deprived Mr. Smiley, trying to man every location in Funland, in "Too Short To Ride".
Steven: Hah, I get the pun.
Mr. Smiley: I'm glad you see the humour in it, Steven. I haven't seen a bed in six days.
- In the Rugrats episode "Special Delivery" the pit full of dead letters that Tommy almost falls in has the skeleton of a postal worker in it.
- The infamous Baby Pizza sequence from The Amazing World of Gumball's episode "The Job". Gumball and Darwin are delivering their dad's pizzas, and one house has a pair of pizza people who think the pizzas delivered are children rather than food, which Darwin and Gumball play along with. Seconds later, Gumball accidentally drops the pizza on the floor with a splat, tomato sauce flying everywhere and mortifying the pizza parents.
- The House of Mouse short "How to Haunt a House". The Narrator arranges for Goofy to be killed off-screen by a car crash, which turns him into a ghost, and then orders Goofy to haunt a house and scare the living. At the end, when the ghostly Goofy finally succeeds at scaring his target Donald Duck, a terrified Donald runs outside, but only to also get killed off-screen by a car crash. Cue a ghostly Donald angrily chasing Goofy into the distance.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In "Chimps Ahoy", SpongeBob uses one of Sandy's inventions, a helmet that lets you talk to nuts, to talk to a peanut. Sandy then uses another invention to turn the nut into coffee, its agonized screaming now being audible. SpongeBob is mortified as Taps plays.
- In "No Hat for Pat", Mr. Krabs gives Patrick a job holding a sign directing people to the Krusty Krab, but Patrick directs a guy to the Chum Bucket instead. Shortly after, it's implied that the guy died from eating Plankton's food because four more fish come onscreen carrying a coffin.
- In "Bubble Buddy", the titular character, Bubble Buddy, is left by SpongeBob to dig a fish out of the sand. He doesn't, and the fish is killed by high tide. What suddenly makes it more horrifying is that it turns out that Bubble Buddy was, in fact, alive and sentient all along. What suddenly makes it less horrifying is that 1) the said fish's ghost seems to be happy that he "experienced high tide", 2) the fish is alive in later episodes.
- Then, of course, there's the infamous "One Coarse Meal", the episode that played Plankton's attempted suicide for laughs.
- In the early Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Seeing Red", before Terrence gets the idea to conjure an imaginary friend to distract Bloo so he can bully Mac, he conjures a talking slice of pizza, whom he promptly eats as it screams in agony.