troperville

tools

toys

Wiki Headlines
It's time for the second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest, theme: cute monsters! Details and voting here.

main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Cannot Convey Sarcasm
Bloo: I want a cooookie.
Mac: {beat} Wait. Are you being sarcastic?
Bloo: I'm being huuuungry.

The inversion of Sarcasm-Blind. Due to some characters' demeanor, it is hard for others to distinguish if they are being sarcastic. In this case it isn't that someone doesn't understand the concept of sarcasm — it's that someone doesn't understand how to properly use it, despite knowing exactly what sarcasm is. Often they have to alert others that they are in Sarcasm Mode. May overlap with Insult Backfire.

Likely perpetrators are The Comically Serious and those with No Social Skills or No Sense of Humor. Compare Cannot Tell a Joke.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Inversion: There was an old commercial for Starburst where a man asked a woman if she wanted a Starburst and she sarcastically replied something like "Yeah, sure I would." He asked her why she had to be so flippant and she sarcastically told him that she has a speech disorder which makes everything she says sounds sarcastic. He got annoyed and walked away, after which she maintained the sarcastic tone and lamented to herself how this speech disorder sucks. [1]

    Comedy 
  • Comedian Arj Barker had a joke suggesting we all use the made-up font Sarcastica when typing sarcastic comments.
  • Comedian Rob Newman created a character called Ray who was almost a 100% inversion of the trope: Ray was incapable of saying almost anything without sounding sarcastic. Even when he suffered life-threatening injuries nobody tried to help him because they thought his cries for help were meant ironically. He did play the trope straight occasionally though: Ray sounded completely sincere on the rare occasions when he meant to be sarcastic.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Every so often, Sheldon from the The Big Bang Theory says something sarcastic but does it without much inflection. In one episode, Penny wants Sheldon to apologize to Leonard. When Sheldon refuses, Penny invokes this trope by telling Sheldon to apologize sarcastically. Sheldon agrees, and Leonard never realizes Sheldon is trying to be sarcastic.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Anya Jenkins, maybe. She is very inept handling human relationships and behaviour, so it is hard to tell for the Scoobies whether she is being sarcastic, just unknowing — or plain insulting.
    • Oz, the extremely-Deadpan Snarker.
      Oz: I can see why you'd be upset. Oh, that was my sarcastic voice.
      Xander: You know, it sounds a lot like your regular voice.
      Oz: I've been told that.
  • Abed from Community (possibly) subverts this twice: Once where he goes out of his way to use sarcastic inflection when being sincere about the importance of inflection, and again where he lets the group know he's about to begin a sarcastic diatribe before doing so, and closes with "Sarcasm over".
  • Every so often Brennan and (at one point anyway) Zack from Bones (on the off chance that they'd actually use sarcasm).
  • Robin and her date have a misunderstanding in How I Met Your Mother in which he turns up in a Halloween costume while she doesn't, as her sarcasm didn't come across in their online conversations.
  • The Saturday Night Live sketch "Sarcasm 101 with Matthew Perry." They know what sarcasm is but they don't all quite get how to do it.
  • One sketch on So Random! features "Possibly Sarcastic Skip", who was born with a disease that makes him sound sarcastic all the time. The sketch is spent trying to determine when he is and isn't being sincere.
  • Inverted in a Kids in the Hall sketch in which Dave Foley’s character inadvertently insults people due to his speech impediment which causes it to sound as though he’s perpetually being sarcastic. Check it out.

    New Media 
  • The Internet comes standard with sarcasm filters built into HTML protocol, rendering it highly possible that offhand flippant comment you thought was the height of clever Lampshade Hanging insulted everyone who read it. Detecting sarcasm in text requires the reader to rely on wording and context alone, and a conversation between strangers provides a lot less context than one between friends. It might be related to the rampant overuse of italics to make something seem more outstanding or ALL CAPS SPEAK TO SUGGEST YELLING.
  • Sarcasm is nearly impossible to convey in text in general. The Internet is more noticeable in that sarcasm is more abundant, but when it appears in text, it can be hard to tell how genuine they're being.
    • It should be noted that the above is pretty much Poe's Law restated.
    • Absolutely. On This Very Wiki, one can never, ever, ever tell when a troper is being sarcastic or snarky. Such is the monumentally difficult task of communicating sarcasm through text alone.
      • That being said, there are tricks to make the sarcasm (somewhat) more apparent. Using deliberately archaic or unusual language ("Oh yeah, Bob, what a stupendous chap, what would us peons do without his radiance?"), extreme (but still readable) misspellings within an otherwise regular body of text ("People hear me say 'Bob is teh beztezt!!shift+1' quite often, I assure you."), the usage of italics (Bob is so cool. I wouldn't call him a sack of crap at all."), and other abnormal ways of communicating textually are often good indicators of sarcasm. However, because these methods are by no means universal, it is still very difficult to convey sarcasm, doubly so with a stranger who may not use the above methods at all or use methods the readers are unfamiliar with.

    Video Games 
  • Maybe GLaDOS from Portal. Her being a robot doesn't help. She might not have the intonation, but given that most of her sarcasm is the variety you would expect from a bratty six-year-old it isn't exactly difficult to make out. At least in the sequel she is promoted to teenager-level bitchiness.
  • Bowser's reaction to Mario and friends forgetting to invite him in Mario Party 7.
  • Sten from Dragon Age: Origins. He's extremely stoic and does not seem to make jokes. However you can, at one point, tell him you recognize his jokes and you think he's funny, and he'll become much friendlier towards you as a result.
  • EDI from Mass Effect 2. She slowly becomes increasingly capable at humor, although her capability to convey sarcasm through tone of voice takes a bit more work. In between the six months that seperate the second and third games, she seems to have refined her technique, although she tends to a void sarcasm in favor of messing with her Organic crew members minds.
    • Joker has just finished crawling through one access tunnel and is about to crawl through another, complains to EDI about it.
      EDI: I enjoy the sight of humans on their knees.
      Joker: Stunned silence
      EDI: That was a joke.
    • Even better in Mass Effect 3, as she gets the same reaction from resident badass, Commander Shepard.
      EDI: Do not worry, Shepard. I only forget to recycle the Normandy's oxygen when I find something truly interesting.
      Shepard: *Stunned Silence*
      EDI: That was a joke.
  • Shizune in Katawa Shoujo occasionally has this problem. Being deaf and mute, her sign language is interpreted by Misha, who tends to speak in a cheerful, bubbly tone regardless of Shizune's intent.
  • In Borderlands 2, Zer0 has this as a taunt when he manages to kill someone with a critical hit. Being Zer0, he does it in Haiku.
    "Sorry, did that hurt? / That "sorry" was sarcasm / I am not sorry."

    Web Comics 
  • Discussed in this strip of Dinosaur Comics, in which T-Rex worries that people can't tell when he's being sarcastic. (And then repeats that worry in a sarcastic tone.)

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons
    • Inverted in the episode "Bart of Darkness":
    Homer: There's still the little matter of the whereabouts of your wife.
    Maude Flanders: Uh, I'm right here.
    Homer: Oh, I see! Then I guess everything's wrapped up in a neat little package!
    (after a pause)
    Homer: Really, I mean that. Sorry if it SOUNDED sarcastic.
    Homer: And maybe I'm talking like this because I can't stop! Help me, Lisa! I have serious mental problems!
    • In the episode "Homerpalooza" two unnamed teens/young adults engage in a form of this:
    Teen 1: Here comes that cannon ball guy. He's cool.
    Teen 2: Are you being sarcastic, dude?
    Teen 1: I don't even know anymore.
  • South Park had an inversion in "Sarcastiball": After Randy Marsh accidentally invents a sport by sarcastically suggesting it, he adopts a habit of speaking sarcastically all the time. At one point Sharon asks him if he's stuck speaking sarcastically. He angrily replies with things like "Yes! I'm stuck speaking like this! I need help!" She still can't tell if he's sincere or not.

Backhanded ApologyOh Great, a Snark IndexCats Are Snarkers
Call to AgricultureCharacterization TropesCan't Hold His Liquor
Bystander SyndromeCharacter Flaw IndexCannot Keep a Secret

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
21370
24