When Abusive Parents are Played for Laughs.
In the real world, abuse is a traumatic evil that can warp a child's psyche, causing them extensive physical and psychological problems as they develop into adults. Sometimes, abused children will go on to abuse children themselves. It's a horror that takes years of intensive therapy and anger management to recover from — and, worst case scenario, it can stay with you for life.
In the media, on the other hand, a fair amount of Black Comedy can come from a character's horrible childhood. Notably, such comedy seldom includes sexual abuse (unless you're a writer for South Park or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), which tends to take things into Dude, Not Funny! territory if it's molestation or rape (if it's something like emasculating a boy by dressing him in drag or convincing him that he's biologically a girl, then it's a gray area, because it is considered sexual abuse, but it's not in the way viewers think it is. Sexual humiliation that's not consensual does count as abuse). It's usually Parental Neglect, physical abuse (though, due to changing values, that's falling a bit out of favor), exaggerated takes on Parental Favoritism and Sibling Rivalry, witnessing events and things that are Harmful to Minors, or bizarre methods of parenting exaggerated to the point of comedy.
This can be played for laughs and seriousness alternately, especially the characters are comically screwed up already and their parents are shown to be equally or (often) more messed up.
In the case of anime and manga, there's VERY heavy Values Dissonance in this regard. A smack to the head does not get the same reaction in Japanese culture as it would in America.
Related to Dysfunction Junction, Badly Battered Babysitter, and Babysitter from Hell.
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Anime And Manga
Kafuka Fuura in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. Though she doesn't seem like she notices it... To list some of the things that has happened to her: Her mother was possessed by the devil, and in order to cure her, she was forced to repeatedly strike her with a cross, her father became redundant, and repeatedly tried to kill himself, even if he was described as a caring and loving father, the the teacher who she's in love with is also trying to kill himself all the time. And to top it off, She died at a young age, and is really just a mirage or some kind of body hopper, that the main characters are seeing. And yet she's the class's genki, optimist, lovable idiot, and local alien enthusiast..
Nozomu as well, albeit in a different way. The audience doesn't see his upbringing, but given (as part of family tradition), his family tries to force him to marry the first person he locks eyes with during a ceremony, it's unlikely to have been that normal. Whatever it involved, Nozomu turned out to be a hilariously neurotic guy. And then there's Nozumu's nephew Majiru, whose Parental Abandonment is somewhat Played for Laughs, as is Nozomu's Hands-Off Parenting of him after taking him in.
Monkey D. Luffy's childhood in One Piece is clearly this.
Luffy: Yeah! So don't attack him!!! He'll kill you...!!! Grandpa's nearly killed me, often enough!
If Luffy's childhood was anything to go by, his older brother Portgas D. Ace likely had a similar childhood. Note that Ace is every bit as scared of Garp as Luffy is; he only went against him when defending his younger brother.
Kogoro Mouri from Detective Conan yet often punches Conan (in front of authority, nonetheless), throws him across the room, and screams at him. Things from "getting in the way" of his work, to accidentally cutting his foot, to laughing at his stupidity. Seriously. Are there any social workers in the Beika district?
Chaos Attack. After Doah Lee lost his parents at the age of ten, his overprotective, violent older sisters decided to take care of him, and he'd often wind up caught in the crossfire of his sisters' assaults on his bullies. To the point that he warns a pair of bullies taking his money and says to get away as soon as possible before she comes and beats the ever-loving daylights out of them. He was too late...
Most of Ranma Saotome's life spent training with his dad in Ranma Ĺ, most infamously when his dad "taught" him the Cat Fist technique by wrapping him in sausage and throwing him in a pit of hungry cats.
Penny's abusive father in the Gag Dub of Crayon Shin-chan. Her mom even hatched a plan to escape and become a BDSM prostitute. "At least they pay for ouchie-sex."
A scene cut from The Nineties English dub of Sailor Moon had Usagi have an Imagine Spot where her mother strangled her for having bad grades. It retained when she locked her out of her house when she saw her bad test score, though.
Allen Walker's childhood from D.Gray-Man. His abuse and psychological trauma at the hands of his master General Cross is played entirely for laughs. Whenever he hears the word "debt," it's shown as a thousand-pound rock is crushing his chest, and he gets very depressed. This was caused by Cross being an alcoholic gambler that left young Allen with all his debt... along with hitting Allen, all done in a funny (Or sometimes Dude, Not Funny!) light, of course. The other parts of his horribly traumatizing childhood are played straight.
Played with: Ed and Al's training with Izumi in Fullmetal Alchemist is shown like this, to the point that hearing her name is enough to turn them into pathetic wrecks. But then they asked her to train them. They even insisted, because they were desperate for power, and Izumi actually went easy on them and what they were put through was child's play compared to the training Izumi went through herself. Of course, her idea of going easy on them during their training was to strand them on a deserted island for a month, then get her store assistant to dress up as a monster, steal their food, and beat the crap out of them every day until they toughened up. At least he was around to make sure they didn't die, which was more than she got.
Kenshin's actual childhood in Rurouni Kenshin isn't funny at all, and is rather tragic. But the days he spent with Seijuro Hiko consisted of him learning sword techniques... which were always learned by Kenshin being hit with the move first, and depicted in chibi form.
Sorcerer Hunters. Marron's Dad is shown being creepily affectionate to him because he looks just like his absent mother. The disturbing implications of this, and Marron's obvious discomfort are played for laughs.
She tied me up and forced me to eat crayfish, She threw a beehive into my back. She rolled me up in a carpet and tossed me into a river.
Cyber Team in Akihabara Tsugumi has some way off parents, her dad is martial arts teacher and her mother is a pro wrestler who routinely tackle each other and their daughter! But they do at least love and care about her.
The Prehistory of The Far Side features a hysterical extended sequence where the author, Gary Larson, "explains" the bizarre and often extremely dark nature of his humor with a series of supposed drawings from his childhood, where it's revealed, among other things, that his mother tried to murder him by hiding his cookies in the middle of the highway, his father liked to amuse other children by holding him over an alligator pit, his brother once tied him to a tree and set it on fire, and that he was forced to ride in the trunk of the car. A substantial part of the humor comes from the fact that while the reader realizes how grotesque this is, the author himself does not, and reminisces fondly of his family life as a kid.
And more mildly (and truthful) is Gary's dedication to his brother, where he explains that it was due to his brother that he learned to appreciate "the wonder and beauty of a jellyfish. And it was he who taught me the wonder and beauty of smacking your sibling upside the head with said jellyfish". Followed by a strip of what he imagines The Far Side would be like without his brother's influence.
In many Donald Duck comics (OK, Depending on the Writer), his nephews have this. Donald beats them with the carpet beater, forces them to do all the housework, robs their piggy banks...
The physical discipline is mostly present in comics from the time it was considred normal in Real Life. Huey, Dewey and Louey were also far bigger brats at the time, often fully deserving Donald's ire. Characterization Marches On.
Stephanie Brown: When my dad was mad at me, he'd lock me in the closet — what did yours do? Cassandra Cain: Shot me. Stephanie Brown: Oh, man. I can't beat you at anything.
The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom seems to love inflicting this on Scootaloo. She is not-infrequently portrayed in fanon as an orphan, often a homeless orphan, who no one notices. Casual abuse of Scootaloo, particularly by Rainbow Dash (though occasionally by the other Cutie Mark Crusaders, or random townsfolk) is common enough that the term Scootabuse has been coined to describe it.
Austin Powers International Man of Mystery. One of Dr. Evil's best moments is during a group therapy session, casually dismissing his deranged childhood as "typical."
Dr. Evil: The details of my life are quite inconsequential. Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with a low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen-year-old French prostitute named ChloŽ with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds—pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Wilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum. It's breathtaking—I suggest you try it."
"My brother beat me. My sister beat my brother. My father beat my sister and my brother and me. My mother beat my father and my sister and me and my brother. The neighbors beat our family. The people down the block beat the neighbors and our family."
Cusack's film Grosse Pointe Blank seems to reference the earlier film in the backstory of protagonist Martin Blank, which appears to have been similarly hilariously abusive. By the time of the movie, Martin's mother has gone completely over the bend and is in an asylum and doesn't recognize him, and his father is implied to have been an abusive drunk (Martin does a Libation for the Dead at his grave and ultimately dumps the entire bottle out and leaves it there). In Martin's case, this unhinged him enough to become a professional assassin.
Hinted at with Charlie in Mystery Team. Two throwaway gags imply that his dad is abusive/pedophilic, and an alcoholic.
In Blades of Glory, Jimmy McElroy's "pretty normal childhood" consisted of constant training and various injections to make him a superb skater.
In the first Gremlins film, Phoebe Cates's character, who hates Christmas, tells the sad story of her dad dying on Christmas Day, whilst climbing down the chimney to surprise for her and her mom. In the sequel, she starts going on about some other awful thing that happened to her on Lincoln's Birthday, involving a guy dressed as Lincoln (the fact that a Gremlin wannabe flasher was her Berserk Button in the first movie may shed some light on that), at which point her husband says something like 'Not now, honey'.
Banjo and Medium Dave from Hogfather. They fondly remember their mother as "tough but fair." By the end, the comedy is cut away and the real effect of Mama Lilywhite on Dave in particular is shown... and it's not funny any more.
Members of the Fools' Guild have this collectively; the Guild school is a Boarding School of Horrors, and most of the Fools' fathers were Fools, so they know that and still decide to send their sons there. When you spent your childhood wishing you could be next door learning to be an Assassin (even if there were slightly fewer of them a the end of the year), it's hilariously abusive in a uniquely Discworld fashion.
Used in spoof self-help book Oh the Humanity. The narrator's father started carving height notches at six feet to convince the kid he was shrinking, and coming second in a spelling bee led to several years of his mother working the word "psittacosis" into every sentence. Then came school, where his main encounter with "empathy" was when a bully smashed his science fair project and said "That must suck for you, dorkhole."
Arguably, Great Expectations. Pip is treated horribly by the sister who "brought him up by hand" and her series of friends, all of whom treat him as a burden and give him a terrible time, especially on Christmas. The narration treats the whole scenario very comically, probably because Pip's the one narrating the story and hindsight has given him a sense of humor.
Sunny McCreary from My Godawful Life, a parody of Misery Lit. He was kept in a pigeon coop, bullied by the pigeons, had to spend his days moving his paraplegic mother's limbs for the benefit of her "clients" (she was a prostitute), all the family's money was spent on nails for his stepfather to hammer into Sunny's flesh, and he was then pimped out to truckers when it cost too much for his mother and stepfather to keep him.
Matilda. Her parents aren't physically abusive, but neglect her in favor of her brother and insult her. The school headmistress, however, is a Child Hater whose punishments take Refuge in Audacity. She once flung a girl across the schoolyard by her hair simply because that hair was in pigtails.
Subverted in the movie, which treats her parents' and Miss Trunchbull's abuse as much more disturbing than how it's portrayed in the book.
Live Action TV
Max Black from 2 Broke Girls often randomly brings up stories from her childhood being "raised" by her drug addicted, alcoholic mother.
Caroline Channing: "I got this; I am a brilliant event planner. My sweet 16 was off the chain. Penthouse parties, finger black theme, Alanis Morissette singed songs from 'Jagged Little Pill'"
Max Black: "On my 16th birthday, my Mom took too many jagged little pills, and I had to drive her to the emergency room to get her stomach pumped."
In Raising Hope, the main character fondly remembers being tied to a couch and left to stare at a picture of a deer while his parents went to work. He used to pretend the deer's parents had left it alone for hours to stare at a picture of a little boy.
Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock could be the page quote:
"It's all coming back to me. Oh my God! I slept on an old dog bed stuffed with wigs! I watched a prostitute stab a clown! Our basketball hoop was a rib cage Ė a rib cage! Why did you bring me here? I blocked all this stuff out for a reason! Oh, Lord, some guy with dreads electrocuted my fish! [Later] All my life I've tried to forget the things I've seen ó a crackhead breastfeeding a rat, a homeless man licking a Hot Pocket off the third rail of the G train! [Still later] I've seen a blind guy bite a police horse! A puppy committed suicide after he saw our bathroom! I once bit into a burrito and there was a child's shoe in it! I've seen a hooker eat a tire! A pack of wild dogs took over and successfully ran a Wendy's! The sewer people stole my skateboard! The projects I lived in were named after Zachary Taylor, generally considered to be one of the worst presidents of all time! I once saw a baby give another baby a tattoo! They were very drunk!"
Jeff frequently alludes to his upbringing, which was obviously pretty bizarre and had a big influence on his personality.
You're shaking the caravan, Jeffrey!
His mother also apparently started making enormous sculptures of erections and filling the house with them. She would keep the ones that went wrong in a box under Jeff's bed. She also apparently told him if he told lies he would be punished by some magical being sneaking into his room at night and removing a 'segment' of his penis.
Monk has a fair number of references to his childhood, which was also highly dysfunctional. Although it's played a bit more seriously than usual for this trope, there is an explanation for his off-putting behavior. His mother is controlling which is a factor to his OCD, and his father left him because he took an advice from a fortune cookie.
Dennis and Dee's mother Barbara tricked Frank into raising her children from Bruce as his. Frank would routinely humiliate them as children even giving them Christmas present boxes with nothing inside. He canceled their insurance when they were 9. Barbara slept around behind Frank's back and routinely lavished attention on Dennis while going out of her way to humiliate and criticize Dee. Dee's childhood was all the more traumatic due to her back brace and the nickname the Aluminum Monster.
Charlie's mother Bonnie tried to abort him but he survived. His mother was also implied to be a prostitute. Bonnie had extreme OCD which resulted in her fear that Charlie would die if she didn't do everything in 3's (like turning on a light 3 times).
It's also been implied that Charlie may have been molested by his uncle, which makes Charlie's musical Nightman more understandable - and more disturbing.
Mac's mother is extremely apathetic and just sits in front of her television all day drinking and smoking. His father was sent to jail for drugs.
Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf, his father vented his frustration at being rejected by the space corp for being an inch too short on him and his brothers by, among other things, using a medieval torture device to make them taller, and withholding food if they couldn't answer questions about astronomy.
Rimmer: "Every morning he'd measure us to see if we had grown, if not it was back on the rack."
Christopher Titus's father actually thinks emotionally damaging kids is better for them than physical violence (which Erin's dad, Merritt, does to her brother, Michael, which Ken thinks makes him a "drunken Irish loser.")
Christopher Titus really did have a messed-up childhood in Real Life, and mentions it often in his stand-up comedy routines and on the sitcom. Both of his parents were alcoholics (though his dad, Ken, was a Functional Addict), his mom, Juanita, was a violent, manic-depressive schizophrenic who murdered her second husband after he beat the shit out of her for not having dinner done and she eventually killed herself after realizing that her mental illness ruined her life, his dad married and divorced five times (with his ex-wives cleaning him out to the point that the only thing they had in their house was a rubber raft, a box, and a black-and-white TV), and Titus's extended family includes members who were either mentally ill, verbally abusive, addicted to drugs, and a Mormon uncle.
Dr. Cox falls in and out of this. Sometimes his abusive childhood is treated jokingly, and then in other episodes they'll focus on how messed up he is as a result.
"I don't necessarily buy into all that New Age-y crap. I once saw my mom knock my dad unconscious with a frying pan. You know what I did? Kept right on going with my birthday party!"
So does the Janitor. Once hinted at when he brings a cage to a baby shower(for the baby). When he gets weird looks he then plays it off like he was just joking and really brought it just in case the child gets a puppy later on. He also claims his mother made him eat off of the floor, hinting that was the reason he became a janitor. Another time, there was a flashback showing that his mother threw away his favorite doll, then claimed it was an accident because his room was too messy, leading him to be the sort of neat freak who makes a career out of keeping things clean.
Daphne in Frasier has a habit of recounting traumatic or downright abusive stories from her past in a cheery, fond tone.
The show often displays the poisonous behavior of Charlie and Alan's mother, both in the show's timeframe and in backstory presented by "who-did-Mom-scar-more" arguments. There was also an episode where she keeps pushing Charlie to find out why he doesn't like her and why he has issues with commitment. He finally opens up with a rant:
Charlie: I'm not saying I hate you, but if I did, it might have something to do with the fact that you're a narcissistic bloodsucker who drove my father into an early grave, after which you married a succession of men who couldn't care less about Alan and me, which was just fine with you 'cause you... looked at us like a couple of dancing monkeys you could just haul out whenever it suited you! And when it didn't, you sent us off to boarding school or camp or that kibbutz in Israel, where we got beat up 'cause we weren't even Jewish! And now... now you show up here every chance you get to lay a guilt trip on me for not appreciating my cold, lonely, loveless childhood!
Apparently George Lopez's childhood in The George Lopez Show. (His mother let a rat live in his bedroom, telling him it was a South American gerbil.) In real life Lopez was raised by his grandmother, who was incredibly hard to live with. It still fit into this trope when he wound up putting his horror stories about her into his stand-up routine. One of his shows was even called "Why You Cryin'?" which was her typical response to him getting upset.
Sam is a hilariously abusive childhood in progress. It's probably more on the Jeff from Coupling side of things, but it isn't hard to imagine how bad it could be, with a father who has apparently abandoned them, a mother who is most likely an alcoholic who sleeps around and is often in and out of jail, just like most of the rest of her family. All played for laughs on the show, though.
Ray and his brother Robert. Their mother Marie overbearingly smothered Ray and utterly neglected Robert. One episode ended with Ray realizing his parents followed him to school when he was a child, hiding behind bushes and the like.
Ray: You mean, Mom was the crazy tree lady from my dreams?
Ray: Then... the insane canoe guy was...
Ray: My God, that gave me nightmares.
Rob: For how long?
Ray: I had one just last week!
Rob: Wow, that is messed up.
Robert can also be a case of this, though a lot of times it's not funny. They lied to him about his own birthday rather than admit pregnancy out of wedlock.
Bill McNeal from NewsRadio would often fondly recall childhood events that would charitably be described as child neglect. Good times, good times...
In one episode, Bill recalls one of his father's pieces of advice: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child and acted as a child. But when I grew up, I took that child out back and had him shot." Dave then asks if his father was in the Khmer Rouge.
Bill: Another time I was cut from the high school football team and my mother said, "Central's lost a fullback but the McNeal's have gained a daughter" and in front of the other players too... priceless! Good times... good times...
Lisa: And this is a happy memory for you?
Bill: Why shouldn't it be?
Bill: I remember one time my father came home from a night on the town which of course had turned into a week and my mother said, "John, is there anything you won't drink?" and my father shot back, "Poison... I'm saving it for you." (Laughing) And I and my brother, who is now an alcoholic himself, just about died laughing...
Another episode reveals that Bill has loved eating stale sandwiches out of an antiquated vending machine in the office that no one else uses. The reason? They reminded him of the sandwiches his mother would make for him; she'd leave a week's supply in a tin box outside the house.
The show borders on this for the younger boys, who simply gripe about their mom lightly, but with Francis it's almost always averted and he has deep-seated hatred for her, acknowledging that psychological abuse is serious and long-term. Possibly because for them, this is the norm, while Francis has already flown the nest and seen just how horrible the things Lois did really are, and how much it has messed him up (though there are also indications that Francis was disturbed in the first place, so it's not entirely certain how much of it was Lois' fault). The closest any of the younger boys has gotten to realizing how unhealthy Lois treats them is Malcolm, the genius.
In one episode Dewey begins to stop taking part in his brothers' antics and begins acting more responsible and mature, being pleasant to his mother and no longer causing trouble, which causes Lois to stop harassing him. Malcolm and Reese corner him to find out why she isn't harassing him any more like she does them, but when he tries to explain - that the only reason she acts that way towards them is because they keep misbehaving - they either don't understand, or refuse to accept it, and vow to find out how he does it.
In the episode "Reese's Apartment", this trope is possibly lampshaded when Lois and Hal kick Reese out of the house, and he finds a way to get his own apartment. Francis attempts to convince the family that kicking out a teenager is abuse, but none of them believe him.
Lois herself had a genuinely abusive childhood, which may have affected how she treats her kids; her mother is a cruel, racist, domineering, Ax-Crazy lunatic from the "old country". Even Francis, who loves nothing more than tormenting his mother, fully acknowledges that his grandmother is completely insane, especially when she finds out that she has been buying Christmas presents for the family each year- exactly what they wanted- but refusing to send them because of inconsequential slights. Her episodes usually result in a truce within the family who will band together to get rid of her.
Hal can also be like this. He tends to ignore the well being of the family for his own happiness and comfort, such as not working Fridays for years while his wife sacrificed a lot. He also forbid Malcolm from going to an exclusive, all expenses paid prep school because Hal relies on Malcolm to solve his problems (Even though Malcolm said that him not being a major factor of the finances would benefit the family). Hal also had a bad childhood of his own, albeit of a totally different sort. His father is an eccentric millionaire, but was too busy wrapped up in his own fantasies and games to do any actual parenting. Not that he didn't care about Hal, of course; but he barely noticed how miserable he was.
This also ties in to the Series Finale, where Lois refuses Malcolm a high-paying job out of high school since their plan for him is to work his way up from the bottom of society to become President of the United States, and in fact had been planning his whole life.
It's possible that Hilariously Abusive Childhood is the backstory for every single character in (and the explanation for the title of) Arrested Development.
As an example, George Sr. would teach the kids lessons that involved them thinking their misbehaving lead to a stanger being seriously injured. Said injured man was a former Bluth Company employee who lost an arm, who George paid to teach his kids "lessons."
Many jokes revolve around the character of Stephen Colbert's upbringing, which led him to be an outwardly confident, blustery man trying to ignore the frightened child inside by adhering unerringly to his own version of reality (in which, of course, there's nothing wrong with the way his parents raised him). It's summed up nicely in this line from his book I Am America (And So Can You!):
I often think back fondly on the memories I haven't repressed.
Barney Stinson often alludes to his "hilarious" childhood, involving being left alone by his mother for weeks at a time and being told that his father is Bob Barker, former host of ''The Price Is Right''. They did, however, get a moment of legitimate pathos out of it in the episode where the Bob Barker thing was revealed. Barney goes on The Price Is Right with the intent of telling Bob Barker that he's his son, but can't bring himself to do it. The implication is that deep down he knows Barker isn't his father but won't admit it to himself, and a later episode revealed that many of his mother's lies were due to her actually being overprotective of Barney. She did not want him to feel humiliated or unloved so she would make up outrageous stories that seemed believable to a young child. However, this seems to have caused Barney to have a massive ego and an inability to deal with disappointment as an adult. And the icing on the cake is that his mother was apparently the female version of what he is today. Or worse.
She also sent his real father away and never told Barney he was his father.
Then there's Lily, who at first glance seems like a sweet, motherly type. But, as Marshall says, she has some serious Crazy Eyes. Then, we get the flashbacks to Lily's deadbeat dad, taking her to the racetrack with him so he could gamble. On her birthday. Which he had forgotten. And, later telling a sick young Lily the many ways she could die from tonsil surgery.
And last, but definitely not least, Robin, who grew up with a dad that didn't recognize she wasn't a boy until she was fourteen. And, when he found her kissing a boy, sent her packing to military camp where she was forced to burn her clothes. She has some daddy issues.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xander Harris had some sort of abuse happening in his home (especially in the episode "Restless"). This trope is played with in the episode "Amends", where Xander appears to make a joke about his "holiday tradition" of sleeping outside to avoid his family's drunken holiday fights-but when he is actually shown sleeping outside and being woken up by the (very rare) Christmas snowfall, it's actually quite poignant. Even more so when you consider that he would rather risk being eaten by vampires than sleep indoors with his family.
Right! I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work 29 hours a day down t'mill and pay t'mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our dad would kill us and dance about on our graves, singin' Hallelujah!
In Wizards of Waverly Place, Harper always says something about her horrible life at home almost every episode and a laugh track follows. Although that makes it fall into Dude, Not Funny! territory, though this explains why she has been adopted by the family. The parents even seem to favor her over their biological children, and when talking about their plans for the future say "Harper will be the one to take care of us when we are older."
Leonard recounts the cold and emotionless way his mother treated him, which led him to become a shy, self-hating neurotic. As a child, he was so starved for affection that he actually built a simple hugging machine... and his father used to borrow it.
Sheldon is revealed to have been so traumatized by his parents' constant fighting when he was a child that he is unable to be around people arguing. He goes so far as to run away from his apartment when roommate Leonard won't stop arguing with his girlfriend.
Sarah and Laura Silverman from The Sarah Silverman Program. Sarah's father screamed in her face for buying the wrong brand of cigarettes when she was 9 years old, beat her imaginary friend with a baseball bat and faked his death to avoid taking care of his children.
One particular instance is where Judy commented that Brian was the only one of the children who'd be successful, not knowing that Lauren and Tina had just come into the room.
What makes it worse was that she didn't try to put any effort into making it up to them.
The Saturday Night Live skits about Simon, who sat in a bathtub and showed 'drawrings' of his neglected existence.
Curtis from Todd and the Book of Pure Evil seems to be in the teenage years of a Hilariously Abusive Childhood. He mentions in one episode that his parents are constantly trying to get rid of him. In another episode, when his friend Hannah questions how he learned to pick locks, he mentions that his parents lock him out of the house a lot.
Nathan borders on this. Although part of it to used to show why Nathan is the way he is, the fact that the stories are delivered in typical Nathan style makes them hard not to laugh at.
Nathan: He's suppose to take me out for the day, so he takes me to IKEA. He buys so much flat-pack furniture there's no room for me in the car, so he leaves me there for three hours. Then some guy with a beard sees me hanging around and buys me lunch. I spent my eighth birthday eating Swedish meatballs with a known pedophile.
Jamie: Did he...
Nathan: No no. Dad got back when we were finishing our ice cream, but that sick pervert cared more about me than Dad ever did. He would've taken me to the zoo.
And later, the story of Nathan's first sexual experience involves a family camping holiday... and his mother's friend badtouching him.
Even later, when confronting Jesus with the rest of the group:
Nathan: When I was growing up in Ireland, if the priests werenít fiddling with ya', you were one of the ugly kids.
Peg: You know, I wouldn't have another baby if gold dust dripped out of its nose. I mean, sure, the money would be nice, but all that trouble. The screaming and the crying and changing those diapers three or four times a week.
Marcy: Well, at least that left your weekends free.
Peg: You'd think! I mean, you go away for the weekend, and when you come home they are never where you left them.
And later when she complains because she thinks she's pregnant:
Peg: Ooh, diapers and doody. Feed me! Wash me! Unlock my door!
Junior, all humans have the right to privacy. And this is a metal ruler. Bend over. (WHACK)
Junior, there are two kinds of women: Whores and your mother, who has retired. And there are many ways to knock out your teeth, but I think it will be most fun to use this pipe wrench. Bend over. (WHACK)
Junior, I once saw a circus artist get stomped on by an elephant. He got fewer bruises than you'll get now. Bend over. (WHACK)
Junior, it is never beneficial to run from the bill. Except in this case when you could have avoided circumcision with this pair of shears. Bend over. (ZHACK)
Sammy from Yes Dear. He's raised in a family where he is loved genuinely, but the many bad things befalling him are so over-the-top (the fact that said events all occur BY ACCIDENT adds to the humor factor) make his childhood life appear like this (for instance, in one episode, he's shown in flashback to have accidentally bumped his head on some hard surface 5 times).
In the second episode Carrie visits her sister and remarks on how well-behaved and obedient her sister's children are; her sister nonchalantly replies "I beat them. Don't tell the neighbors."
That is almost certainly a joke. One might make a case, however, that we are witnessing Chris's Hilariously Abusive Childhood throughout the show, with lots and lots of parental neglect.
On Justified this is initially invoked when Raylan's father, Arlo Givens is introduced. When Raylan's mother Francis died, Arlo got a good deal on some tombstones so he had some premade for himself and Raylan. He then had Francis buried in a plot in front of their house and had the extra tombstones placed there as well. So whenever Raylan wouls leave the house he would see his mother's grave and his own grave ready next to her. However, a few episodes later we are shown what Arlo is really like and the Black Comedy stops being funny. Arlo was and still is a horrible man and Raylan lives in constant fear that he might turn out just like his father.
Mr. Show features Bob and David both having one in "Operation: Hell on Earth." Bob's parents bet impossible sums of money against him over things they knew he couldn't win (not falling asleep before midnight) and David's parents accidentally(?) physically abused him as a baby. They're also putting their daughter Superstar through one as Stage Dads, despite claiming they wouldn't turn out like their parents. A fourth season episode also reveals that Bob's parents thought they could still abort Bob . . . when he was four years old.
Jess on Gilmore Girls is heavily implied to have one such childhood as he, like Rory, is also the result of a Teen Pregnancy. His mother Liz was also apparently quite flaky and unstable as a parent with a history of crappy boyfriends and marijuana use. It's really a surprise he isn't surlier than he should be when he first shows up in Star Hollow, having been shipped there by Liz against his will.
"Weird Al" Yankovic has a song called "When I Was Your Age" which features horrible incidents from the narrator's childhood. However, given how outrageously over the top (i.e. physically impossible) all of them are, it's not likely there's any truth in them: "Then he'd chop me into pieces and play Frisbee with my brain/ And let me tell you, Junior, you never heard me complain!"
Or the lines before that "Our dad would whup us every night 'til a quarter after twelve/ When he'd get too tired, then he'd make us whup ourselves."
"Albuquerque" fits, too, given the bizarre conditions of the narrator's childhood, though that's not the only subject of the song. His mother made him live in a box under the stairs in the basement, and force-fed him nothing but sauerkraut until he was 26. (And a half.) He didn't get out of there until he won a plane ticket to the eponymous city in a radio contest. It kind of explains why he's somessedup.
Speaking of Weird Al, he did guest accordion for a Barnes And Barnes track called "Gumbyjaws Lament". While the jokes are less obvious than many of their songs, hearing Art discuss his mentally ill mother in a croaky monotone while the accordion saws jauntily away in the background is morbidly humorous.
"The world's only conjoined twin singer-songwriter duo," Evelyn Evelyn, have this. See their self-titled album for the absurdly awful details.
"The 37-year-old father said he could only imagine how his son and daughter's unstable upbringing might manifest itself in future writings, paintings, or music, given the way he routinely ridicules their achievements, yells at their mother in drunken fits of rage, and threatens the family with physical violence."
GURPS Goblins casts its PCs as members of a race of hilariously sordid goblins, who are extremely malleable in childhood. It features a table of random abuses to be suffered by each character during their upbringing, each of which grants some mixture of advantages and disadvantages. (Being left out in a snowdrift grants white fur, being run through a mangle gives longer limbs, and so on.)
Dave, a guy you meet during Fallout 2, had a fun childhood.
"When I was one, I was dropped on the porch. When I was two, I had pneumonia. When I was three, I got the chicken pox. When I was four, I fell down the stairs and broke six ribs. When I was five, my uncle was decapitated by a watermelon. When I was six, my parents hit me in the head with a shovel. When I was seven, I lost my index finger to me pet rat. When I was eight, my dog Spike got hit by a tractor. When I was nine, my mother lost her arm to a rabid Brahmin. When I was ten, my sister was torn to bits by a pack of dogs. When I was eleven, my grandfather killed himself because I was ugly. When I was twelve, my grandmother killed herself because I was ugly. When I was thirteen, my father poked out his eyes with a pitchfork in a drunken stupor. When I was fourteen, my brother lost his hand to a wallaby. When I was fifteen, my aunt choked to death on a chicken bone. When I was sixteen, I lost my cousin to a badger. When I was seventeen, I cut off my left big toe with a hoe. When I was eighteen, my father lost his right leg to the same tractor that killed my dog. When I was nineteen..."
The Demoman was given up for adoption at birth, accidentally killed his adoptive parents, sent to an orphanage, and only contacted by his real parents when his bitterness and lack of depth perception had honed his demolition skills. If similar things aren't confirmed for at least half of the cast, I'll eat my shirt.
Apparently averted with the Sniper, who still speaks with his parents. The only hiccup seems to be his father's disapproval with his line of work.
The Heavy's father was a counter-revolutionary who was executed and left the young Heavy, his mother, and his sisters all to be sent to a Siberian Gulag. Four months later The Heavy had broken his family out, destroyed the facility, and tortured every single guard and soldier inside to death.
Also averted with The Engineer, whose father was the team Engineer in the original Team Fortress. Hints are dropped they were very close.
The Russian female voice in Saints Row: The Third reveals that when she was a child, her father would make her fight the dogs for food. It made her what she is today.
You can give one to a child you adopt in the second DLC of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. You cannot kill children in this game, but this makes beating them up with a daedric maul and shouting Fus Ro Dah at them even funnier.
Onion Kid turns out to become a lot more than just funny, though - he grows up to become Sarda. His whole raison d'etre is to screw over the Light Warriors that made his life horrible, by cutting them down in their most awesome state to signify their insignificance to what he's become, instead of just killing them all before they could repeatedly destroy his parents, his foster parents and the orphanages that have adopted him. When you take a good look past his creativity, omnipotence and amazing capacity for spite, you see a godlike entity whose only purpose is to horribly abuse a handful of people and will screw over countless innocents to do so, one of said innocents being himself during his childhood.
Monette discussing her Disappeared Dad: "He spent the first six months of my life battling my mother for custody of all of us, and when he got it, he took my sisters and dumped me on my grandma's doorstep. And she wasn't even there! She was on vacation. And she raised pitbulls at her house [...] He had tied raw, bloody steaks to my head." Her grandmother wasn't much better, as we see in her recounting of childhood Christmases. Meanwhile, Jason's father is a psychiatrist who "used his field of study to bully children" and abandoned the family when he got bored with them. Before that, he was emotionally abusive towards them in a number of ways, including "giving me invoices for how much love I owed him per week. That wasn't so bad, but man did the audits suck." Davan's father was usually fine, but had his interesting moments;
"You're such a sweetie! When Davan talked about you he always made you sound like this big scary ogre. He even said that when he was six you sat him down and tried to mathematically prove to him that the Vietnam War was his fault! Isn't that nuts?"
"Ahem. Yeah, that's just ... crazy talk. Yep. Hey, I've got an idea! Let's never bring that up around his mama."
Inverted with Ollie, whose implied history of sexually servicing his psychopathic uncle Avagadro was apparently an improvement over life with his own violent, two-faced father.
Achewood's Roast Beef, who "comes from circumstances".
"When my father finds out I'm using my trust fund to become a comedian instead of a doctor, he will fly out here to disown me forever. Which would bring the total number of times he has spoken to me up to... four. But I think he mistook me for a delivery boy once."
Beyond the Canopy. Greliz asks Glenn how he got to be such an agile, scrappy fighter. Glenn explains that his grandpa throws things at him a lot.
Yuki of Mťnage ŗ 3 wasn't deliberately abused, but her father was a manga artist working on tentacle porn who was prone to leaving his artwork lying around where the young Yuki could see it, later named one of his female characters after her, and took her on set during the shooting of a live-action version of one of his works. His wife divorced him to get Yuki away, but she still grew up with a severe phobia (she hallucinates tentacles whenever she sees a penis) and in denial about her attraction to men (she's a bisexual who thinks she's a lesbian) — all of which is used for comedy.
The Nostalgia Critic once showed a drawing he drew as a kid, featuring his parents as two dinosaurs ripping him apart, played for Black Comedy. What makes it more tangible, however, is that the character has become something of a Papa Wolf who can't stand it when non-bratty children get abused.
The Nostalgia Chick too, perhaps fittingly. Her mother made her feel inadequate, her dad never loved her, and her uncle was sexually abusive. In her case this is also a Freudian Excuse, as she herself abuses Nella, doesn't like to show weak emotion, and makes a lot of off-color sex jokes.
Ask That Guy with the Glasses also apparently had a pretty crappy childhood, what with being raped by a doctor and his parents saying he ought to "go back to the dumpster where they found him". Of course, this refers to the characters, not Doug Walker and Lindsay Ellis.
Another Doug character, Chester A. Bum, has a vaguer past than Critic or Ask That Guy due to his brain being scattered by drugs, but has also made references to family abuse. Even logically, something had to happen to make him homeless and keep him that way for so long.
Spike also counts, with everything from having his legs broken to HOLDING UP A LIGHTNING ROD DURING A STORM.
Pinkie Pie didn't have one by her own admission.
Didn't you already have a childhood?
In Ultra Fast Pony, Rainbow Dash is the one with the abusive past. Her parents died when she was a few hours old, and she's never stayed with a single foster family for longer than a week. In the present, when her parasprite pets turn violent, Dash's only reaction is "My new family's trying to kill me again!"
The Christmas 2007 event had users fostering adorable shabby orphans, who would hang out by the user's avatar. Their lives at the orphanage were a clear Dickens parody turned up to eleven— "imitation" gruel for food, whiskey to keep warm, scraps of carpet for toys... many users tried to keep their orphans, which led to a later Chance Item being adoption forms.
Brennevin's wizard father once turned him into a set of silverware for trying to celebrate Halloween.
Fred 's mother was an alcoholic prostitute who would often leave Fred alone, not feed him (sometimes as punishment, sometimes she would forget.) have him play in the parking lot of the bar while she was inside and even left him alone with the psychopath Claudio.
Janeway: This is where you, armed with a gun, hunt defenseless lil' ol' me down throughout the ship. Y'know what we called this growing up? Father's Day.
Strong Sad of Homestar Runner suffered all sorts of over-the-top abuse from Big Brother Bullies Strong Bad and Strong Mad over the years, like being stuck to the ceiling with Bubble Tape or getting locked in the bath-tub every Decemberween.
Chonny, from yourchonny portrays his childhood/home life this way in his videos.
Daria. According to "The Daria Hunter," Mr. DeMartino had one of these. He had a single mother who sent him to live with his neighbors (who were "strange, twisted" people and probably were people with a personality similar to that currently has) because she didn't want her dates to know she had a son, although not proven if he was actually serious in this line, because at that time he was drunk. He also was sent to military school (just like Daria's father, Jake, who also had a hilariously abusive childhood of his own at the hands of his dad, Mad Dog Morgendorffer), and one of his buddies married his mom.
His parents ground, beat and berate him constantly, his mother went crazy and attempted to drown him in a lake, his parents attempt to sell him to Paris Hilton, Cartman convinces him the world is ending and he lives in a bunker and a junkyard for several weeks, he gets committed to a mental asylum and anally probed by a machine for eight straight hours... the creators ended up having to put a moratorium on torturing Butters because it was just becoming too much.
"Butters... why there is Hamburger Helper in my glass of milk?"
Ironically, "Jared has Aides," an episode whose entire plot is about what is and isn't too offensive to joke about, is rarely shown in reruns because people found the ending (where Butters is physically beaten offscreen) to be horrifying. Yeah. They found it.
Butters has also been sexually abused by his Uncle Bud. When an investigator shows the things that pedophiles do to children, he licks the doll's crotch and Butters tells him that his Uncle Bud does that to him.
The abuse of other children is implied as well.
Cartman, for example, wakes from a dream shouting "No, Uncle Jesse, no!" (though that could have been a reference to Full House). However, Father Maxi is the only priest shown in the South Park universe who doesn't molest children, preferring carnal relations with temptresses his age.
Shelley's abuse of Stan is also played for laughs, as is the fact that his parents refuse to believe him, regardless of how many bruises he has or how much he asks for help. Only once did they attempt to defend him ("Over-Logging"), but Shelley went right back to abusing Stan halfway through the episode without Randy, Sharon, or their grandfather caring.
Kyle is also subjected to emotional abuse at the hands of his controlling mother.
"Noo.. don't kick da baby..." "Kick the baby!" "Don't kick da goddamn baby" "Kick the baby!"
Mr. Garrison feels that he had a traumatic childhood because his father didn't sexually abuse him, and to Garrison, this meant that his father didn't love him. Mr. Mackey, the guidance counselor, says that the only way to save his son's life is for the elder Garrison to have sex with him, and he finally hires Kenny G to pretend to be him and sleep with the younger Garrison.
Matt Groening has stated that the inspiration for Homer's over-the-top abuse is The Katzenjammer Kids, and that he originally insisted that the strangling always be impulsive on Homer's part, and that Bart always reciprocated in some way. These policies quickly fell by the wayside, however, and Rule of Funny took their place.
Subverted in the recent "Holidays of Future Passed" episode in a conversation between Lisa and Marge where it's revealed "Homer's Law" makes it illegal to strangle any child for any reason. What does it say about the Simpsons' world that that implies that it previously wasn't?
Lisa can also feel the effects of Homer's parenting, even though she seems to be the favourite over Bart.
In the episode "Children of a Lesser Clod", Homer starts a daycare business and treats the kids far better than his own. When he's given an award, Bart and Lisa take revenge by showing a video montage of his usual parenting, including the scene at the top of the page (which Homer claims was "completely taken out of context").
Milhouse has it even worse, his parents are divorced and aren't always supportive of him, plus he has the lion share of getting bullied by Nelson.
His mother liked his brother better, his father preferred the dog, he had to wear dresses for a year because his parents were expecting a girl when his younger brother was born, he wasn't allowed to go swimming in public pools, he had to pretend to be a lawn gnome after theirs was repossessed — "you rememberthat backstory" — at one point his family disowned him and he was being raised by ocelots...
The page quote references an early episode when Doofenshmirtz says that neither of his parents even bothered to be there when he was born.
His childhood was so abusive that it fills out a good chunk of a clip show based on his sad life. "This is Your Backstory".
Carl's continued adult life as a Butt Monkey to his Aqua Teen Hunger Force neighbors is shown to have been bred in him quite early, as the few glimpses we are given into his childhood include his father making him eat carpet squares ("That's berber!") and putting him to work as a child in a dangerous chemical factory for days at a time. Of course, Aqua Teen plays everything for comedy, and this wouldn't even make the top FIFTY most disturbing things they've joked about on that show.
Any time Toki's childhood is shown in flashback, it involves his getting struck, whipped, and otherwise abused by his frighteningly somber parents. Whenever they show up in the present, he's stuck in an Angst Coma until they leave, doing nothing more than staring straight ahead in utter silence.
Other band members don't fare much better. Pickles was always overlooked in favour of his loser brother, and his father even told him that he "belongs in a trash can". Skwisgaar was messed up by a promiscuous and neglectful mother and a lack of a father figure. Murderface's father killed his mother and himself with a chainsaw in front of baby Murderface.
In utter contrast to his bandmates, Nathan has a fantastic relation with his dad, and is shown fishing, go-karting and playing scrabble with him.
Nathan: I f***ing love my dad!
Gorillaz bassist Murdoc was, according to "Rise of the Ogre", forced by his father to participate in talent contests for money. The incident portrayed in the book involved him in costume as Pinocchio, complete with fake nose, singing "I've Got No Strings." "The prize? £2.50." Murdoc also claims to have hit puberty at age eight and lost his virginity to a dinner lady at age nine "And I've been in a bad mood ever since," though given that this is Murdoc it's not unlikely that he's making that up.
Rusty Venture's boyhood manages to teeter on the edge of being serious and morbidly funny. He was constantly being kidnapped and his father used him as little more then a prop to make himself look good, plus the issues this left him with are what made him the morally-bankrupt mad scientist he is today. But given the laughs we get from the show already, seeing Jonas Venture drunkenly fall on top of Rusty while trying to score with this woman he just met is darkly hilarious. Likely this had something to do with his relationship with twin brother Jonas Jr., who did not go through any of this (having been swallowed as a fetus by Rusty and made his way out as an adult) and is every bit the Smug Super that Jonas Sr. was.
But of course Rusty's traumatic childhood is just the Freudian Excuse he has for treating his own sons so poorly and placing them in many of the same life-threatening situations he himself experienced. Apart from the constant danger and kidnappings they experience, the boys also have a very impoverished home life and no friends thanks mostly to being homeschooled in a box their pop made (and it sometimes gets very hot in the box that pop made). The most telling piece of evidence comes from the episode Powerless in the Face of Death when Rusty and Brock jovially recount all of the ways the boys have died. The hilarity of child abuse gets a wonderful 'metaphoric' representation midway through this montage when we see Dr. Venture as a werewolf kill his own kids and we all laugh.
Every Maori or Pacific Islander in Bro Town basically. The cops don't even care.
Chuck Jones' Looney Tunes "Three Bears" series basically consists of the short, perpetually furious father smacking his giant half-wit son - who, to be fair, unintentionally inflicts plenty of pain on his dad. At one point, dad lies unconscious and Junior takes hold of his lifeless fist and punches himself with it.
Whenever we get a flashback to Fry's parents, they are usually shown being ludicrously neglectful towards their son (although they didn't exceptionally favour his brother either). In "The Cryonic Woman", we even learn that when Fry went missing due to being frozen, his parents didn't even want the police investigating the case due to them believing it would be a waste of taxpayers' money.However, in "Bender's Big Score", Fry went back in time and reunited with his parents, in whose perspective he didn't stay absent long enough to justify calling the authorities.
They apparently kept him out of school for the same reason.
Leela: Now, bees communicate by dancing.
Fry: Just like my parents! No wait, that was hitting.
Semi-justified by his father later on. He knew his son would go on to do great things, and knew he had to be hard on him so he could be prepared for anything that happened. Given he's still alive after all the things he's been through, it worked.
Uncle Ruckus was abused both physically and verbally for most of his childhood; according to him when his parents found him as a doorstep baby his father stepped on him, he beat him almost every single day for even the silliest reasons, and he threw him out of the house at a young age to fend for himself along the way he plowed his face through a fence, made him step in a bear trap, and smashed his face into a pole, deforming him.
Grandad Freeman is an outspoken proponent of beating misbehaving children with a belt buckle, often threatening his two grandsons with this. In one particularly polarising scene, Grandad encourages a nigh-hipppie-ish mother to whip her (tantrum-throwing, extremely loud) roughly 4-year-old old son in a grocery store. Though initially reluctant, she gives it a try with his belt while her fellow customers look on with approval.
The Fairly OddParents. The entire childhood of Timmy Turner can to be considered to this way. Especially as that is why children get Fairy Godparent assigned to them in the first place.
According to Pinkie Pie of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, she grew up on a rock farm. A rock farm, where she and her family worked all day moving rocks around for no particular reason — some of which were about the same size as Pinkie herself at the time. Abuse didn't seem to be the intention, but the effect was about as soul-crushing as you'd expect. Also, they are shown fully supporting her when she sets up a party for them though. It may have just been Fisher Kingdom effect of living on a rock farm.
Mallory once gave Sterling a brand new bike he'd always wanted, then when she saw he didn't chain it up properly after riding it, stole it to teach him how to take care of it. She not only neglected to give it back or reveal the deception, but when he was forced to explain why the bike was missing, spanked him for it. Decades later, an episode is kicked off when she begins to do the same thing with Sterling's dream car.
Lil' Rummy in Lil Bush constantly mentions being abused by his father. He sometimes tells his friends he'd like to talk about it, but they never will.
Condi:Does anyone have plans for Saturday?
Rummy:My dad said he's gonna chain me to the radiator and throw beer cans at me all weekend.
George: Thats what you do every weekend.
There are shades of this in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). Splinter isn't really abusive per se, but he is training his sons to be warriors while raising them and many of his lessons can be rather painful.
Dan from Dan Vs. is implied to have had one hell of a childhood. No surprise there, givenwhathe'slike, and it's all Played for Laughs. Whatever happened was bad enough to send a psychiatrist running and screaming.
Psychiatrist: Stooooooooop! STOP IT!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!! What is wrong in your brain?!
Dan : Hey pal, if you didn't want to know about my childhood you shouldn't have asked.
Otto's upbringing from Time Squad is outrageously horrible to the point of it being morbidly funny. He was raised in an orphanage where he was worked relentlessly by the sadistic nun Sister Thornly, bullied mercilessly by the other kids and forbidden from doing the only thing he enjoyed: reading about history. Were it not for the freak encounter with the Time Squad, who knows how miserable his life could have ended up as.
But that still doesn't mean the kid gets totally off, while it's obvious that Otto is perfectly happy living with Tuddrussel and Larry, he's still not safe from Tuddrussel's reckless(but well meaning big brother/bumbling dad kind of way) behavior, and Larry's software malfunctions have almost gotten the kid strangled. Also of point, the kid constantly takes on beatings from Historical Figures to other Time Cops, and almost everything about it is played for laughs.