It is said that laughing and crying are very close actions, despite usually expressing opposite emotions. So close that in fiction, a character faced with a dreadful situation may start laughing out loud, before that laugh progressively melts into sobs. When this happens, the initial laughter is usually just there to mask the distress and isn't genuine. It's sort of a way to say "I would like to laugh at that, but I just can't."
It can also be done as a form of Mood Whiplash
, where the character is in a middle of a laugh and learns bad news, immediately making them switch to tears. It has nothing to do with laughing so hard that you have tears in your eyes
This trope is surprisingly prevalent in Real Life
with some often resorting to laughing when faced with any depressing or traumatic moments, before starting to express their true grief in tears.
A subtrope of Mirthless Laughter
. Also compare Ha Ha Ha No
and Laughing Mad
. Related to Made Myself Sad
Anime & Manga
- Nico Robin from One Piece went through this as a little girl. After being sent away from her Doomed Home Town, she tries to laugh away the pain like her friend Saul had taught her before breaking down into sobs like any child would.
- A happier and inverted example happens when Usopp is accepted back into the crew. Nami was crying Tears of Joy while laughing and pointing out how ridiculous Usopp and Luffy looked, bawling out like idiots.
- In one X-Men Annual, Mystique goes on a cruise to scatter Destiny's ashes at sea, recalling the exact instructions that she was given for disposing of the ashes (including precise date and time), their long relationship, and the time that Destiny swore that she would make Mystique laugh if it was the last thing she ever did. After reminiscing, she throws the ashes out onto the water... only to have them blown back in her face. She starts crying over having failed to carry out Irene's last wishes, until she realizes that Destiny planned the whole thing, knowing the wind would send the ashes back in her face. She then starts laughing.
- In Thessaly Witch For Hire, after Thessaly finds out that her Stalker with a Crush has managed to get her contracted to kill a Tharmic Null - a beast that nothing and nobody can kill - she starts laughing and crying simultaneously, because he's finally given her a death sentence from which she can't escape.
- In Strangers in Paradise, after one of their (many) fights, Katchoo goes to David's apartment only to realize he's already moved away. She finds a funny picture he drew of them and Francine and starts to laugh, which then turn into tears after she realizes she's pushed away the only man who stuck by her side.
- In Inner Demons, the Queen of Darkness Twilight Sparkle's Villainous Breakdown after Trixie dies protecting her starts with her begging her friend not to die and sobbing over her body. Then she starts laughing...
- At the end of In the Mouth of Madness, when John Trent finally watches the movie adaptation of Cane's book In the Mouth of Madness and realizes that it was just a novelisation of everything he did in the last few days an that he may just be a fictional character, he breaks down laughing for a minute before crying.
- Brilliantly done by Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element when he opens the chest that he thought contained the alien elemental stones and it's empty.
- In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Toht bursts out laughing when the Nazis open the Ark of the Covenant and there's nothing in it but sand. Seconds later, he's screaming because murderous angels have come out of the ark and are killing everyone there.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "Acts of Sacrifice", G'Kar is reduced to begging for aid from other races. After a negotiation where he ends up getting only a small portion of what he asked for, he breaks down like this.
- At the end of the Breaking Bad series finale, Jesse Pinkman drives away from the neo-Nazi compound, laughing hysterically with tears in his eyes, since while his life is in shambles, he's finally free of Walt and the meth business.
- The December 5, 1986 telecast of The $25,000 Pyramid had host Dick Clark playful pressuring Vicki Lawrence into selecting the category with the Mystery 7 as a car was up for grabs. Vicki just glared at Clark and called him a bleeped-out name. We can only guess what was bleeped as Vicki selected the category "Loosen Up," and Clark read what the subject matter was: Things that are stiff. The studio broke down laughing; Dick and Vicki were both crying laughing.
- In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Tsumihoroboshi-hen, Rena spends a long monologue insisting that she had no other choice than killing Teppei and Rina who were swindling her father, and that telling her friends would have been useless. Then she mocks them and starts laughing out loudů before bursting into tears, as she understands fully well that this may not have been the right choice.
- In Homestuck, Dave visits his old room and spends some time looking at all of his stuff. He starts laughing as he remembers all of the silly things he used to do before he learned about Sburb. He starts crying at the same time as he mourns the life he lost.
- In chapter six of Gunnerkrigg Court, Annie is laughing at her own joke when she starts to cry. The reason? She misses her mother after she died a long, slow death in the hospital.
- In the Bugs Bunny short "Knighty Knight Bugs", Bugs does this after the king tells him to retrieve the Singing Sword from the Black Knight (Yosemite Sam) or else Bugs will be "put to the rack, burned at the stake, and beheaded".
- Zig Zagged in the Public Domain Looney Tunes short Porky's Bear Facts. When the bear loses the only food in the house to a mouse, he starts crying, which turns into maniacal laughter, before going back to crying.
- Done by Tom at the end of the Tom and Jerry short "Is There a Doctor in the Mouse?" when he faces a giant Jerry.
- In the Merrie Melodies short "Rocket Bye Baby", a lecturer laughs about people believing in Little Green Men, but when one flies by on a Flying Saucer, his laughs turn to tears.
- Meg from Family Guy has done this at least once or twice.
- Lois did this in a cutaway flashback to when she was pregnant.
- Happens to the second Robin, Tim Drake, in a flashback in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. The Joker applied ample amounts of Cold-Blooded Torture to Tim, leaving him Brainwashed and Crazy. When ordered to kill Batman, after The Joker has him in a position he wouldn't be able to protect himself, Tim breaks through the brainwashing and murders The Joker instead, laughing like a maniac the whole time. Once The Joker succumbs to his injuries, Tim's laughing abruptly turns into uncontrollable sobbing, as the weight of everything that transpired suddenly sets in. The flashback ends with Barbara/Batgirl trying to console him.
- In The Simpsons, Krusty switches between laughing and crying after he reveals he's bipolar.
- In the second episode of Futurama, Bender taunts a park mascot who says that he still has his self respect, tries to laugh it off and falls into this trope.
Mascot: Hello, sir! I'm Craterface! I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to confiscate that alcohol!
Bender: Better mascots have tried. [drinks beer and shoves bottle into mascot's eye]
Mascot: At least I still have my self-respect! Hahahah...[breaks into sobbing]
- Huckleberry Hound does this at the end of "Huck's Hack", when he realizes the consequences of leaving his taxi meter running.