"Now if you haven't been through it yourself, you may not be aware that coming out story is something of a competitive sport amongst gay people. It's like a Top Trumps of Who's Had the Worst Time. 'Oh, you got shot in the head? You win!'"Every now and then, life sucks. Sometimes getting out of bed in the morning can seem a feat of Herculean strength, and dragging yourself into school or work is all but impossible. Often, the one thing that can sustain us as we limp into the office/classroom after a relationship break up, family row or disastrous guinea pig incident is the reassurance that our friends will lend an ear to sympathize in our hour of need... Er, we hope. As long as someone else isn't entitled to more angst than we. In many stories — and often in real life too — there's only so much sympathy to go around. So if you arrive to your workplace bemoaning the frankly humiliating first meeting with your in-laws, or the parking ticket you got as a result of an over-talkative cashier and a downright malevolent traffic warden, better take a note of the gripes of your co-workers before you launch into that pent-up tirade. Chances are that if someone has an angst that "trumps" yours, your worries — no matter how valid — become instantly trivial. And the rest of the episode will probably be devoted to you "getting over" yourself in order to be there for your pal. Even you yourself will eventually give a monologue on the importance of not dwelling on your worries because there are people worse off than yourself, and you should count your blessings. There is a certain validity to this way of thinking; it's usually better to be positive after all. However, human nature being what it is, we're allowed to feel sad or grumpy from time to time without being criminalized for it. Occasionally, a show or book will acknowledge this and subvert this trope, revealing that the character who was being told off for being such a drama queen by friends with "bigger issues" is actually in pretty serious trouble. On the other extreme, this can be used for comedy... such as, for example, a character loudly complaining about their bad manicure as if it's the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone ever while someone else in the background is being chased by enraged rhinos. In such cases, it's clear that the viewer is supposed to see their worries as trivial, and usually we will — unless Fridge Logic kicks in. Sometimes this is a pretty logical trope — a parking ticket isn't nice, but a bereavement is on a totally different level of grief altogether. At other times, though, the viewer might note that the character with the "lesser" gripe has every right to be downhearted — for example, a character whose illness is serious, but not as serious as someone else's — and may accuse the supporting cast of having No Sympathy when they fail to acknowledge this. Falsely setting up problems in competition seems to imply that only the biggest problem can be dealt with, whatever the feasibility issues or nature of the lesser one. At its worst, a character who consistently has severe problems but is always one-upped by different people who once or a few times have a worse problem, leaving their problems totally ignored, could suddenly explode in rage over time from being subjected to this far too often. Even an Iron Butt Monkey has their limits. This is also often used by oppressors to pit different marginalized groups against each other to compete for a single scrap of compassion to prevent them from noticing who the original source of their woes is, thus doing the oppressor's dirty work for them and letting that oppressor keep their hands looking clean and making the victims look as if they deserved at least some of their misery. May show up on internet debates, especially as Flame War fuel. If this happens on your message board, it might be a good idea not to post until it's all over — your will to live will be drained one way or another, either in sympathy or in despair at so much angsting. If it gets out of hand, you may need to lock the thread and in extreme cases make the topic Gannon-banned. Also sometimes known as Misery Dicks (i.e., my misery dick is bigger than yours) and Woe-Offs — as well as Oppression Olympics, when it occurs in debates concerning social justice issues. Compare When I Was Your Age... and Angst Dissonance. Contrast If You Thought That Was Bad.... See also Appeal to Worse Problems.
— Susan Calman, Susan Calman is Convicted
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Anime and Manga
- In Gravitation, Shuichi is constantly chided for his whining - even when his woes involve his boyfriend vanishing without a word, Shuichi getting kicked out of their shared home every time Yuki has a temper tantrum, and Tohma's various unpleasant schemes to "protect" Yuki at Shuichi's expense. Everyone, down to best friend Hiro, points out how much tougher Yuki's life has been, and Shuichi himself trivializes all of his angst, even the fact that he was gang raped.
- In Elfen Lied, Yuka constantly angsts and treats Kouta badly because Kouta is rejecting her sexual advances and forgot a promise - that he made to her ten years ago, in extremely promise-inducing circumstances, barely half an hour before he saw his father and sister brutally ripped to shreds by someone he saw as his closest friend. This in a house that has taken in girls that have, in no particular order: lost her arms, legs and was abandoned by her family and foster father figure; got beaten so hard by her own father that she became incontinent and has to wear diapers just because she wanted to become a singer like her mother, who committed suicide when she was a child; sexually abused by her stepfather and is a runaway; and Lucy, who is just really messed up.
- Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei takes this across the line several times, as is its habit. Nami tried to elicit sympathy from her classmates by coming in with a bandaged arm - then Abiru came in with bandages around half her head, her arm in a sling, and her leg in a cast. Then Nami tried to complain about being so poor she had to live in a small apartment and share a room with her parents - then in came Maria, an illegal immigrant who lives with 20 others in a single room, carrying a big bag of garbage and waxing lyrical about Japan's incredible bounty and how much better it was than her home country, where people knowingly eat poisonous mushrooms because there's nothing else. Then Nami tries to get attention by threatening to jump out a window -at which point Nozomu flies down from the roof in a noose and crashes into the wall (he gets better).
- In WeiŖ Kreuz, after Tomoe Sakura has one of her kidneys stolen by a Mad Scientist and becomes the subject of a great deal of prying media attention, she laments what's happened to her and that the surgery has left her unable to run track like she could before. Aya, whose little sister and only living family has been in a coma for two years and shows no signs of ever waking, delivers a verbal slap to Sakura in which he roughly points out to her that at least she's still alive and conscious and capable of moving under her own power.
- In Cross Ange, both Ange and Hilda had this moment on who had the worse reunion between Ange with her sister, and Hilda with her mother. Ange was whipped, publicly humiliated, thrown eggs at her and was nearly hanged at the gallows while Hilda was beaten up by fifty guards though she does claim that she did beat them up. In the end for the both of them, it was a tie.
- The official rules for picking out who starts a game of Gloom is to have a game of Misery Poker covering the current day. Makes for amusing contrivances if played the first thing in the morning, and for the bizarre situation where your pals might hold "grudges" against you for having such a miserable life.
- This post from the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.fandom sums up the trope. Note: everything written about the Huntress' origin story here actually happened in the comic.
"So, what's your origin story, Huntress?"
"My entire family was gunned down before my very eyes."
"Big deal. Join the club."
"But it turns out they weren't my real family."
"Well, my mother was really my mother, but I was actually illegitimate."
"So was your real father?"
"The guy who arranged for the hit on my family."
"Well, at least you weren't killed by your own father."
"No, but I was supposed to be."
"The hitman was supposed to kill me and her husband, but spare my mother so she could marry my real father and they could start a family."
"So what happened?"
"The hitman got his Helenas confused."
(There is a stunned silence for a moment. Then the Punisher, the Executioner, and several other vigilante heroes look at one another for a moment before all throwing their money on the table in front of the Huntress.)
"Okay, you win."
"You've got me beat."
"And I thought my origin story sucked."
- Batgirls Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown (then Spoiler) compare sucky childhoods:
Steph: Nobody ever talks about your family, what was your dad like?
Cass: Assassin. David Cain.
Steph: Are you serious?
Steph: [laughs] You've been listening to me whine about having the Cluemaster for a dad, when your dad's like the scariest killer on the planet?
Steph: When my dad was mad at me he'd lock me in the closet - what did yours do?
Cass: Shot me.
Steph: Oh man, I can't beat you at anything.
- Very nicely averted in Fantastic Four. After a particularly brutal encounter with Dr. Doom, Reed is left with a painful burn scar covering half his face. After a short while living with it, and acting increasingly irrationally, Ben calls him out on his behavior. During the speech, he tells him that he's noticed that even though he's clearly bothered by it, Reed hasn't complained about the scar once since getting it, at least not in front of Ben. While he has it much worse, as a giant rock-monster, Ben was quick to acknowledge his friend was suffering.
- In All Fall Down, the Pantheon get together for a game and this is the result. Phylum wins.
- The Miraculous Ladybug:
Adrien: And I thought I had it bad. I donít get to spend a lot of time with my dad and when I do, heís pretty distant, so I get it. But I guess I donít really have any room to complain.Juleka: What?Adrien: You have it worse than I do.Juleka: How?Adrien: My parent is usually in the same city as me.Juleka: Yeah, but werenít you, like, forbidden to go to school until this year?Adrien: Sure, but that means my dadís protective. Your parents literally donít tell you where they are.Juleka: Absent parents means I can basically do what I want. Overprotective ice sculpture pretending to be a parent is way worse.Adrien: But at least I know he cares. And even if I have to spend Christmas at a dumb company schmooze party, at least I know Iíll be spending it in the same room as my dad.Juleka: But even if my parents arenít home, I still have to go to a schmooze party with my motherís family. (realises that she's now arguing against her point)Adrien: See? You have it worse than I do.Juleka: Adrien, this isnít the Crappy Life Olympics.Adrien: Oh. Right. Sorry.Juleka: Besides, even if you donít win the gold in Crappy Parents, which Iím not convinced you donít, everyone has the right to complain. Our lives both suck and we both get to complain about it.
- The fic Powers of Invisibility has an inversion (mostly) when Adrien finds out about Juleka's appallingly neglectful parents, who spend most of the year out of the country doing archaeology work leaving her alone in an apartment in Paris, at the age of 15, and have been doing this for some time.
Chloe: How do you do it?Juleka: Do what?Chloe: You know.Juleka: I donít.Chloe: How do you get them to let you near them?Juleka: Who?Chloe: Everyone. Your parents, my mother, everyone at school, Adrien. How do you do it? Youíre not pretty, youíre not rich, youíre not interesting, not like me. So how do you get them to like you? How?Juleka: Our parents donít like me.Chloe: Oh, really? Then why do they let you stay?Juleka: They canít make you leave if they donít notice youíre there. If I stay quiet and still, they tolerate me. Doesnít mean they like me. Doesnít mean they actually talk to me more than they talk to you.Chloe: Boo hoo. Poor Juleka doesnít get as much attention as she wants.Juleka: I wouldnít call standing within five feet of them attention.Chloe: Oh, please. Itís a hell of a lot more than I get.Juleka: What you get? You mean a parent that actually pays attention to you?Chloe: When he isnít busy paying attention to all of Paris.Juleka: At least heís in Paris.Chloe: My motherís in Paris and you talk to her more than I do.Juleka: No, I donít. I nod and stand there and hope they wonít send me away.Chloe: Yeah, just like they do to me every year.
- Played straight in a later chapter, during the aforementioned "schmooze party". It comes shortly after Juleka's parents have come home and stated that they want to take Juleka back to China with them next year, though less out of any apparent love for her than thinking that she'll finally be of use to their work. Juleka refuses, storms out of the party and runs into her cousin Chloe.
- In Fantastic Four (2005), The Thing is sitting next to a suicidal person and tells him, "You think you've got problems? Take a good look, pal."
- In Notting Hill there's a scene where the main characters intentionally engage in a game of misery poker with a concrete reward: the last brownie. The movie star character wins, using "the higher you are, the deeper you fall" argument.
- A large part of The Breakfast Club consists of the five students declaring what's shitty about their lives, particularly their relationships with their parents.
- Lampshaded in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Lena reflects on how she feels awful falling in love with a guy whose family hates hers. She also mentions how two of her friends, who've gone through divorce and a death of one's mother, are so happy, while she's so miserable over this (which she sees as trivial in comparison). This manages to depress her more. However, the two friends have other problems which are depressing them.
- In An Extremely Goofy Movie, Max is behaving eagerly because he gets to leave home and get away from his father who loves him but is annoying. PJ, who generally does not engage in this although he usually has the right to, lets Max know that his father is callously tossing him aside for his own selfish agenda.
- In 42, Pee Wee Reese asks to be excused from an upcoming baseball game after he receives a threatening letter for associating with Jackie Robinson. In response, Mr. Rickey opens a filing cabinet and produces three bulging folders full of death threats Robinson received.
- In The New Guy, there's a very brief one when Dizzy arrives in prison.
Luther: You know high school is alot like prison; bad food, high fences, sex you want you ain't getting, sex you getting, you don't want. I've seen terrible things...
Dizzy: Yesterday, an 80 year old librarian broke my penis.
- Wade and Vanessa actually use this as a form of flirting in Deadpool.
- One of the main problems Sandry has in the Circle of Magic series is getting people to see her as a person, not a noble - the assumption being that her status makes her immune to the woes of the common people. Even her adopted siblings initially regard her with an attitude of "what do you know about suffering? You're rich!" Her upbeat and friendly attitude only serves to aggravate this. However, when she reveals that her parents died in a smallpox epidemic, then she was trapped in a hidden room in pitch darkness while an angry mob killed her last remaining caretaker, people tend to be more sympathetic. (It's a hell of a way to make friends, but it works.) Her friends start giving her this attitude again in Will of the Empress because they've all been traumatized by their travels (not knowing this, she felt abandoned because her uncle had a heart attack and she had to basically become his co-regent) and now Sandry is being singled out by the Empress of Namorn, so they dismiss her concerns over a broken friendship and noble life (as Sandry prefers to be casual). They ease up, to a degree, after she suffers multiple kidnapping attempts and reveals that she had some rather gory experiences just staying in Emelan while they were dealing with murderers abroad.
- In Flour Babies by Anne Fine, the protagonist is told at the end of the story that hundreds of children go through the same trauma and worse that he went through...and none of them made as much fuss about it as he did. Possibly a Lampshade Hanging - the author makes it clear that the teacher's being an unsympathetic Jerkass.
- Referenced and then defied in Bruce Coville's My Teacher Flunked the Planet: When Peter hears Susan say "Boy, I miss my family" (as they're traveling with aliens and can't see their families, and she can only have occasional phone calls with them) he thinks "At least you have family to miss" (due to him thinking that his father couldn't care less about his disappearance) but keeps silent because he doesn't want to get in a game of "Who's the most miserable".
- One story by Ephraim Kishon satirized this.
- In the third book of the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon and Roran compare bruises, complete with buckets of incestuous Ho Yay, mocking each other's for not looking painful enough. Eragon appears to win by removing his trousers to show Roran the massive groinal bruising from bareback dragon-riding, but Roran is able to top that by revealing that an Elite Mook more-or-less tore off his arm. This is a rather rare example of this trope being straight up useful as Eragon is suitably horrified by the injury and proceeds to heal it. This is particularly useful since they're going into battle against said mook in a few hours.
- Toward the end of The Man Who Was Thursday, Syme tries to instigate this with God (or at any rate, the novel's Christ-figure). He loses, badly.
Syme: ...have you ever suffered?
Sunday: Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?
- Invoked to great effect by Tyrion Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire. When Jon Snow bemoans his lot in life, living in more-or-less voluntary exile at the Wall and unable to inherit due to being illegitimate, Tyrion points out how privileged his life has been compared to his fellow soldiers, all of whom have had it much worse.
- Blake and Rose Thorburn, a pair of Distaff Counterparts in Pact, argue about this occasionally due to their divergent backstories. Where Blake ran away to escape their toxic family tearing itself apart, became homeless, and briefly joined a cult, Rose stayed, helping her parents spy on her cousins and enduring death threats and worse. They both acknowledge that they're pretty screwed up, but which of them is more screwed up depends on who is arguing and what point they're trying to make.
- During the Animorphs book "The Sickness", everyone except Cassie is temporarily benched due to an alien disease. In the last chapter, they engage in some one-upping over who had it worse.
Rachel: My mom didn't let me eat any solid food until today. And it's been four days since I got sick.
Tobias: (a hawk) That's the worst thing that happened to you while you were sick? I'm not even sure Cassie's dad is a real vet. He tried to shove a pill up my-
Marco: Yeah, well, my dad brought me baby aspirin from the store. Baby aspirin! Like for a baby.
- Forms rather large (but unspoken) part of the Cancer Support Group experience in The Fault in Our Stars. People with more serious cancers tend to get more respect automatically, and people with "lesser" forms of cancer (like appendicial cancer) are somewhat looked down upon.
Live Action TV
- JD of Scrubs is the poster child of this trope. The catalogue of disasters that befall him are listed under No Sympathy. In the same episode, Dr. Cox objects to being asked for help in dragging J.D. out of his misery, and when Turk, Carla and Elliot point out that J.D. rescued him from severe depression, he justifies himself with "I accidentally killed three patients...he passes out when he poops!"
- A rather better-handled example also came up in the episode that introduced Michael J. Fox's character Dr. Casey - sure, Dr. Cox may not be the best doctor, Turk may never be the best surgeon, and JD may need a bit more mentoring than most people, but Dr. Casey has severe OCD, and he deals with it gracefully - most of the time.
- Dr. Cox and one of his patients had a game where they would complain about their fathers and argue over which one was worse. Cox said the other guy always won since his father was still alive.
- In one episode, when the other couples complain about the problems they're having, JD snaps at them and says they should feel lucky and that he envies them, since they are arguing for petty reasons while he is angsting about being single and lonely.
- Played for Laughs when J.D. is shot down by Molly because he's "too normal", invoking this to prove that he's her type.
J.D.: My emotional journey began at five years old when I walked in on my parents having sex in a position my father would later playfully describe as "the jackhammer." I have a mentor that verbally abuses me every chance he gets, and no matter how much I try, I can't stop constantly narrating my own life... Molly, I'm narcissistic, I'm pessimistic, I'm obsessive, I'm insecure. And I'm so afraid of intimacy that every one of my relationships are a journey of self sabotage that inevitably ends in a black vacuum of shattered expectations and despair.
- Played for laughs when J.D.'s dad dies and Turk is diagnosed with diabetes in the same episode. Being friends, they're able to casually joke about the timing and stealing each others' "thunder".
- This trope was a big part of choosing the winner on Queen for a Day; the contestant would get on the TV (originally radio) show and talk about how miserable their life was.
- From House:
(Hannah refuses to sit still for the tests and House is called in.)
House: I'm sure I can say this without being condescending, but then you'd get the false impression that I respect you so: You're a kid, you're scared, you're stalling. Grow up.
Hannah: I'm not scared. I'm never scared.
House: See? How juvenile was that? You can't feel pain. Nothing left but pleasure. Why don't you tell me how wonderful that is?
Hannah: It sucks.
House: Better than being in pain all the time...
Hannah: Every morning I have to check my eyes to make sure I didn't scratch a cornea in my sleep.
House: Oh God, stop. I'm in a pool of tears here.
Hannah: I can't cry.
House: Neither can I. Every morning I check my eyes for jaundice. In case the Vicodin's finally shot my liver.
Hannah: I can't run anywhere without examining my toes for swelling.
House: I can't run.
Hannah: Boys can't hold me for too long because I can overheat.
House: Girls can't hold me for too long because I only pay for an hour.
Hannah: I need an alarm on my watch to remind me to go to the bathroom. You know how many humiliating experiences before I thought of that.
House: The bathroom's 50 feet from my office. Every drink of water I weigh the pros and cons.
Hannah: After everything I do, I self-check: Mouth, tongue, gums for cuts. Count teeth, check temperature. Fingers, toes and joints for swelling, skin for bruises.
House: I got shot.
Hannah: ...I sat on the stove when I was three. Want to see the coil marks?
Hannah: You think I'm lying?
House: You think I just wanna check out your tuchus, as your people would say?
(When she shows him, he gives her a sedative injection.)
- The Seinfeld episode "The Andrea Doria." The owners of a desirable apartment have decided to rent it to someone who survived the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria, because of his sad past — until George comes along and entertains the panel with a recap of all the banally depressing or humiliating things that have happened to him since the show began, from being Chained to a Bed and robbed to having a woman see his penis post-cold-water-shrinkage.
George: [speaking to an obviously deeply moved panel] In closing, these stories have not been embellished, because they need no embellishment. They are simply, horrifyingly, the story of my life as a short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man. Thank you. [He goes to leave, then turns around.] Oh — and my fiancee died from licking toxic envelopes that I picked out. [The panel bursts into tears.] Thanks again. [Exit.]
- The "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch from At Last The 1948 Show, popularized by Monty Python. The Four Yorkshiremen reminisce about their childhoods, each man describing his as more terrible than the man before - and promptly amending their previous tale of woe when it was their turn to speak again.
- One of The Daily Show's essential pieces is the "Bootstrap Story" segment mocking the candidates' milking of their humble origins at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (the one at which Barack Obama upped the stakes forever by relating that his father was once a goatherd). Stephen Colbert, in turn, tells Jon how hard his father worked mining turds in the Appalachians and how grateful he was not to have to lick goats' balls like his father used to back in the old country.
Jon: ...How is that a job?
Stephen: You have to understand, Jon, in the old country the most important thing was to keep the goats happy. Now, as it turns out, the easiest way to do that... [makes a helpful illustrative gesture] ...was to work the balls.
Jon: You know, I had never realized that about your family.
Stephen: It's true, Jon. It's all true. [speaking to the camera] That's why I believe in the promise of America — that I, the son of a turd miner, the grandson of a goat-ball licker, could one day leave those worthless hicks behind while still using their story to enhance my own credibility!
- Saturday Night Live in the 1980s had a recurring skit about two buddies (Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest) topping each other in claiming to have suffered absurd, painful injuries, many of which were self-inflicted.
- Done in an episode of Monk after the title character gets hit in the eyes by acid and goes blind.
Monk: I'm blind.
Homeless Guy: I'm homeless.
Monk: My wife is dead.
Homeless Guy: So's mine.
Monk: Car bomb?
Homeless Guy: Pneumonia.
- The Big Bang Theory featured a scene in which Penny expresses disbelief that Leonard, Howard, and Raj haven't gone fishing with their fathers before. Leonard and Raj both express misery that their fathers were always busy with their scientific jobs, and then Howard mentions that his "father son bonding" was spent waiting for his dad to come home. Leonard even says, "Okay, Howard wins." And that's not the only time Howard has pulled the "My dad left" card to trump someone else's complaints.
- My Name Is Earl has this exchange:
Celeste: I used to live in a storm drain. Rain washed my doll heads away.
Earl: That sounds horrible. I once lived in my car for two months.
Celeste: Did you ever have to move because a pack of stray dogs kicked you out of your house?
Earl: ...Let's not make this a contest.
- ER had Dr. Mark Greene get in a good one on his last day of work, when a nasty old lady from the pilot returned:
Mrs. Raskin: How much longer do I have to sit here?!
Mark: Mrs. Raskin. It's been a long time.
Mrs. Raskin: Well the service isn't what it used to be.
Mark: What's the trouble?
Mrs. Raskin: I have this hangnail and it is very painful!
Mark: I have a brain tumor, and it's inoperable.
Mrs. Raskin: What?
Mark: I win.
- Friends has this exchange (for context, Chandler's worrying about his commitment issues).
Rachel: Hey, Chandler. Monica just broke my seashell lamp.
Chandler: Neat. I'm gonna die alone.
Rachel:...OK, you win.
- How I Met Your Mother: When Robin complains about the jealous behavior that comes with being in a relationship with Ted, Lily, who had recently broken up with Marshall at the time despite still being in love with him, says being single is worse.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Scientific Method", Chakotay and Neelix get afflicted with a condition that screws with their DNA in different ways—Chakotay starts hyper-aging while Neelix starts turning into another humanoid species (Mylean, which his great-grandfather was). While in Sickbay, they start a lighthearted game of misery poker, with Chakotay in the lead before more patients come in.
Chakotay: Do you smell something strange?
Neelix: Oh, I'm...afraid that's me. I seem to be developing Mylean sweat glands.
Chakotay: It's not so bad.
Neelix: Well, whatever happens, I try to remember things could always be worse. I still have my home here on Voyager...my friends...
Chakotay: Your hair.
Neelix: True, but I would gladly lose it if I could have my taste buds back.
Chakotay: At least you're not losing your eyesight. (points to nearby display) See that display over there? It's nothing but a blur.
Neelix: You think that's bad? The Doctor tells me my pupils have dilated sixty percent. I can't even look at that display, it's so bright.
Chakotay: Yeah? Well, I've got chronic arthritis in my fingers. (holds up a glass of water) I can barely keep this glass steady.
Neelix: That's nothing. My spinal column is fusing together. In a couple of days, I won't even be able to walk.
Chakotay: Got you beat—I can barely walk now.
- The entire point of MADtv 's Depressed Persian Tow Truck Man. It's even lampshaded in the opening jingle.
- Happens often in For Better or for Worse, especially to April - every time she griped about a not-so-good situation, someone would happen by who was in far worse shape.
- In the book Build A Better Life By Stealing Office Supplies, Dogbert advises office drones that, if you run late, make sure your excuse trumps the one before you; otherwise, you're the weak link and ripe for discipline.
Ted: Sorry I was late. There was an accident and traffic was backed up for miles.
Wally: I was the accident. I hit some kind of large animal.
Dilbert: Somebody ran over my mother.
- This also tends to be Topper's standard MO: wait til someone complains and then top their complaint. With the twist that he'll also do this with anything positive they say.
- In the book Build A Better Life By Stealing Office Supplies, Dogbert advises office drones that, if you run late, make sure your excuse trumps the one before you; otherwise, you're the weak link and ripe for discipline.
- Invoked in Richard Jeni's Card Table Dating routine - on a first date, the two people write down their problems on cards and then take turns playing one card at a time and showing their issues.
Man: I'm neurotic - I need to see other people.Woman: I'm schizophrenic - I AM OTHER PEOPLE!
- Nick Swardson highlights why young people should never engage in this with the elderly.
I'm like, "How was your day?" And she's like "Well I...woke up again. And my heart hurts when I breathe. And another one of my friends died."
- Chris Titus as a line in Norman Rockwell is Bleeding
I bet a guy I was more screwed up than he was,then he raped me. So I Tipped him.
- "It Sucks To Be Me" from Avenue Q as well as serving as an introduction to most of the cast also has them trying to outdo each other regarding whose life sucks the most. In the end they all agree Gary Coleman outsucks them all.
All: Is there anybody here it doesn't suck to be?
- In The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), the Angel of the Lord announces an auction in which God's favors will be awarded to the one who suffers the most. The winner, of course, is some modern-day experience so mind-numbingly awful that it beats the fiery furnace.
- "I Think I Got You Beat" from Shrek The Musical has Shrek and Fiona doing this. They even sing in unison about how bad their lives have been.
Fiona: Okay top this. I missed my prom.Shrek: My dad and mom sent me away, it was my birthday.Fiona: I was sent away on Christmas Eve. Haha!
- Touya and Calvina get into this in Super Robot Wars OG: The Moon Dwellers. Calvina had the facility she was employed with destroyed, with all of the friends she made and students she taught dying in the process and, worse, she discovers that one of her students and her boyfriend are still alive, only to find that both of them are members of the FURY, with the former going Ax-Crazy, and the latter being believed to be the one responsible for the attack on the earlier mentioned facilitynote . Meanwhile, after years of living in isolation due to his mother's death and father's absence, Touya finally meets his dad again, only to see him just getting out of a sticky situation piloting the Granteed and trying to protect two girls, learn that he's a high ranking soldier of the FURY, reluctantly join him to survive the ongoing attacks of the FURY, and then see him die right in front of his eyes, leaving Touya only his father's legacy as a Knight of the FURY to try to carry on. Though the both of them do have legitimate reasons to be upset, they tend to argue over who has it worse throughout the game.
- BJ Blazkowicz and Caroline get into an argument over whose war injuries are worse. Unlike many other examples on this page, the entire thing is done as completely good-natured ribbing between old war buddies, the two of them catching up after many years.
- One Diesel Sweeties strip had this exchange by several superheroes:
Spiderman: My uncle is dead!
Punisher: My family is dead!
Green Lantern: My city is dead!
Superman: My PLANET is dead.
Superman: (to Wonder Woman) Wanna help rebuild the species?
Wonder Woman: Chivalry is dead.
- Planet B has this:
RZ: I hate my job.
Gungu: Try taking 16 school hours and working two jobs just to pay for it all.
RZ: Thanks. Now I hate my job, and I feel like a jerk.
Furato: Hey, RZ! Have you heard of the millions of starving people on Planet S?
- Also, some literal misery poker.
- Friendly Hostility: Collin trumped Nadine's record of "time not spoken to parents," but was beaten by Leslie Rudd in the "who had the most negligent/abusive" parents stakes. In the last few months of the comic, some Fox vs. Collin Misery Poker went on, particularly amongst the fandom, with Fox's past injuries to Collin being weighed against Collin's increasingly passive-aggressive, taciturn behaviour.
- Davan from Something*Positive trumps Kestrel from Queen of Wands at a game during one of their crossovers when they compare their jobs.
- A pair of Akril's King's Quest comic strips feature misery poker. In the first, Cassima and Rosella are comparing "battle scars;" but Rosella conceded when Cassima starts talking clean-up detail. In the second, Alexander and Edgar are comparing notes. Taken from their families at infancy? Check. Almost caused the destruction of their homelands? Check. Went to the underworld and came back? Check.
- Selkie's school secretary tried (sort of) to comfort Selkie after her shirt was stolen.
- When Robin's sister Roz first appears, she and Leslie play "Who's Got The Worst Daddy", which Roz admits is all about one-upmanship (Roz's dad was a womanizer, while Leslie's disowned her for being gay). Robin, not feeling well-disposed towards her sister, suggests she play that with Amber - whose father was emotionally and physically abusive. Roz is smart enough to ask Ethan for details first.
- There's a general understanding that Amber's dad is about as awful as it gets (Robin later measures her own father's dismalness in ADUs - Amber's Dad Units).
- Parodied in Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal #2314, where a chain of "Stop being unhappy! There are people who have it worse than you!" goes through everybody or so until it reaches the least fortunate man on Earth, who has no arms, is inside a barrel marked for nuclear waste, has one eye and a pipe sticking out his head, and is on fire. He's delighted to find he'll "automatically win every pissing contest."
- It's an odd way of bonding, but Mercy and Cirr of Ice masochistically compete over who's hurt Sarah more.
- Strong Female Protagonist: This shows itself as an early hurdle for a support group for dynamorphics (people who, in the world's Mass Empowering Event, had their body structure mutated and transformed). One woman in the group confesses about her employer using her so he could seem progressive, but another in the group gets angry and demands to hear about "real problems", since the first woman looks mostly normal aside from her green skin while the latter has grown massive scales and thus can't afford fitting clothing or be easily employed.
- The point of http://first-world-problems.com/ — the joke being that only "First World Problems", i.e. minor annoyances of priviledged citizens of wealthy countries/cities are allowed in contrast to "big problems" such as bone-dry poverty, universal food shortage, or being caught in a raging civil war.
- A meme going around Tumblr takes a form similar to the Diesel Sweeties comic above, but much more extended; starting with Batman's dead parents, going through Superman's dead planet, and making a final stop at Homestuck's TWO dead universes.
- In one Naruto fan comic, Sasuke complains about losing his parents, prompting Lee to bring up the time he was almost permanently crippled and forced into retirement, Neji to bring up his low status in his clan and Gaara to bring up his social isolation and multiple attempts on his life. Sasuke, Lee and Neji conclude Gaara is worst off.
- Discussed in two Cracked articles which note that people who do this forget a basic fact of life: everyone deals with problems differently and this is simply blowing off someone's very real problems because We don't want to deal with it and that tells people that They and Their issues don't matter.
- Ultra Fast Pony: In "The Longest Episode" all of the main cast are having a bad night at the Gala. As everyone sums up their problems, Applejack chimes in: "No, seriously, screw their minor problems! Why isn't anyone buying from me? This is my livelihood we're talking about!"
- This forum post all the way, in which the posters find new ways to feel oppressed. No, it's not a joke.
- Can be a problem for people with depression or other mood or social disorders, if the people around them are young or don't understand the nature of the problem. A seeming disparity between their emotional state and whatever is going on immediately around them can lead to a lot of frustration for others and alienation for the sufferer. Furthermore, if the people a depressed person approaches turn their attempts for support or sympathy into joking games of Misery Poker, that person's depressed mind can easily draw the conclusion that they have it so good that they aren't "allowed" to feel bad. And that, dear children, is one destructive thought.
- Some people love Misery Poker so much that they'll do it even when someone obviously isn't fishing for sympathy. For instance, mention that you didn't get much rest last night when someone asks why your eyes are bloodshot, and suddenly everyone in the vicinity will start trying to one-up each other with hyperbole-laden tales of how little sleep they're running on. If STFU, Parents is any indication, parents looooove doing this to non-parents. Of course, sleep deprivation sucks for everyone, and it doesn't matter why you only got 3 hours of sleep the night before, it affects you the same way.
- Complaining about the weather tends to turn into this if you're doing so on the Internet.
- Very common among military personnel. Trying to out-misery each other on how terrible your previous assignment, deployment, commanding officer, first sergeant, barracks, or whatever is practically a tradition. Get the hell out of the way if veterans from two different wars start on each other. "Let me tell you about Vietman. We had claymore mines, napalm, agent orange, Bouncing Betty's, left-over C rations from Korea, shit-covered punji sticks, terrible pay, rifles that jammed, and no Goddamn cell phones and no internet. Okay, your turn."
- Some experts on communication between the sexes believe that this is a cause of tension in couples. Generally speaking, men tend to cheer people up by suggesting concrete solutions, while women tend to cheer people up by creating a sense of solidarity by pointing out that they have a similar problem. To men, this approach comes across as a challenge to a game of misery poker, which causes friction if they were looking for advice and get what looks to them like unsympathetic oneupsmanship.
- A very common game on the Internet. (Tumblr and Reddit are memetically famous for this.) Complain about how hard of a day you had, and then someone will respond that you have far more privilege than they do and they have it worse, only to get another person with less privilege saying that they have it worse, then it keeps going on and on until Poe's Law kicks in.