"It's been one week since they had the fight
With the Siamese twins and the transvestite
Five days since that awful brawl
They still haven't gotten the blood off the wall
It's been three days since the bitter feud
between the KKK and that gay Jewish black dude..."
An unscripted show with real people, where the point is to point and laugh, "Gee, those people are stupid!" or "Gee, those people are jerks!"
Everybody in the cast is either a moron, a Jerkass
, insane, or all of the above. The audience sees these people humiliate themselves in public, and is comforted that no matter how messed up their own lives may be, at least there are people whose lives are more messed up still
Sometimes, the cast includes a No Respect Guy
, who is relatively decent
but kind of a stick in the mud. The audience winds up snickering at them just as much as at the rest of the cast.
With these shows, the single most important job is that of casting director. The host doesn't need to do much; just wait for the cast of losers to show up, sit back, and enjoy the comedy. The art of casting them reached its heights (or depths) in three genres: talk shows, Reality Television
, and Game Shows
. The final element is putting the cast under as much stress as possible (hostile audiences for the talk show, cramped conditions and hunger for Reality Television, and seizure-inducing sets for the Game Show) so they really
Since these are real people involved in unscripted pain, there are people who can't help but sympathize with them
. This is often rebutted with the claim that because they're "dumb enough" to have it filmed, they deserve to be laughed at, even though they are all essentially events that the victim could not have predicted
A variant of the Point and Laugh Show is found in books and the Internet. Instead of rounding up losers as the television shows do, the variant uses the far more efficient technique of listing anecdotes of losers who have yet to appear on TV.
These are almost always Guilty Pleasures
, and usually use Bigot vs. Bigot
. Compare Sadist Show
and Immoral Reality Show
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- The Trope Codifier of the Point and Laugh Show, and probably the best known example, is Jerry Springer. Bring on the cross-dressing dog fetishists. Bring on the albino midgets. Bring on the homicidal glue-sniffing trailer trash. Bring on the homicidal glue-sniffing cross-dressing albino midget dog fetishist trailer trash. It's an old-school circus sideshow freak attraction for the new millennium.
- The Steve Wilkos Show is a tad saner, replacing the sideshow freaks with drug addicts, deadbeat parents, and domestic abusers. It still fits well within this trope, of course.
- Springer goes the extra mile and has the audience mock the people on stage, in addition to his own Deadpan Snarker lines.
- Phil Donahue may be the Trope Maker. He started out more high-minded (for that matter, so did Jerry) but switched to a Point and Laugh Show with time.
- Morton Downey Junior pioneered the trash-talk format.
- Laura Bozzo in Peru, and now in Mexico, makes Jerry Springer look like a prude. Any of the reincarnations of his show is essentially this. Of special remembrance is his show "Laura en América".
- Sally Jesse Raphael.
- Montel Williams, although for years he was much more high-concept and focused more on helping people.
- Ricki Lake.
- Bill Cunningham
- Cristina Saralegui's show "El Show De Cristina", although it cooled down with time.
- Maury Povich (who also started out more high-minded, but chased the Lowest Common Denominator fast).
- Jenny Jones started off fairly normal like Jerry Springer was in the early days and had more or less the same format as Oprah for the first two seasons, but declining ratings led to the show getting a Hotter and Sexier Re-Tool, though nowadays it's mostly remembered as being the only Point and Laugh Show that led to one guest murdering another one later.
- Semi-averted with Oprah Winfrey, who also rounds up freaks and somehow manages to seem more classy than her rivals.
- Parodied in the South Park episode "Freak Strike", where the genetic freaks demand that talk shows display freaks who are actually true, genetic freaks, and not "just stupid trailer-trash from the South".
- Brits may be more familiar with Vanessa Feltz, Trisha Goddard and, most notoriously, Jeremy Kyle.
- Dr. Phil will frequently bring in guests who have no serious problems, just to gawk and criticize their lifestyle, like men who have many piercings and body modifications, or plural marriages.
- The French show C'est mon choix ("it's my choice") was the same kind of thing.
- The Trope Maker for the Game Show version is probably the original broadcast of The Gong Show. A horde of Hopeless Auditionees made fools of themselves until they were gonged out by has-been celebrities. It's hard to say whether the celebrities or the Hopeless Auditionees look worse. The more Genre Savvy auditionees did novelty acts instead of acts that required talent.
- A similar, more recent version was 30 Seconds to Fame, where the Hopeless Auditionees had to survive 30 seconds without getting voted off the stage by the audience.
- American Idol may be the Trope Codifier. The Hopeless Auditionees are often more popular than the ones with actual talent, and the early episodes that show pre-screenings are some of the biggest draws. The producers have long since realized that they get their best ratings by lying to the real hopeless cases, letting them think they're good, and sending them all the way to Simon Cowell. Among the fans, votefortheworst.com tries to get the Hopeless Auditionees as far as they can go.
- Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Generally, the answer's no, but considering how many people are going to remember gradeschool trivia (assuming the subject was even taught in their school), it's definitely to be expected. But then, the contestants know what they're getting into.
- The Blame Game (I've Got a Secret meets Judge Judy and Jerry Springer for coffee)
- The Chair
- Dog Eat Dog
- Estate of Panic
- Fear Factor
- Remote Control
- Strip Poker
- Although Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune are not strictly part of this genre, there is a large sub-fandom who enjoys the show because they can feel superior to the losers who punt the easiest questions. Dave Barry pointed out that while he knew the lights and noise distract you, he was sure he'd never mess up as badly...until he appeared on Wheel of Fortune himself, and found himself a deer in the (literal) headlights.
- There is also a sub-fandom who aren't really a fandom, so much as a Hatedom for particularly smart and smug contestants who always win. Ken Jennings, who had the biggest winning streak in Jeopardy! history, got the biggest Hatedom of them all.
- The recurring Saturday Night Live skit "Celebrity Jeopardy!" is essentially a fictional version of this.
- This is ninety percent of Repo Games raison d'etre. Perhaps a few people watch it for the trivia, but the real draw is seeing poor people in awful neighborhoods get the twenty-thousand dollar cars they haven't made a payment on towed away because they don't know basic trivia. Who the awful person is in this scenario is up to you.
- It doesn't help that the questions vary wildly, ranging from "What is the capital of Mexico?" to "Who was the billionaire 3rd-party candidate in the 1992 presidential election?"
- Wipeout2008. A mild example, as the humor is derived from slapstick and all the contestants know perfectly well that they can expect some pratfalls. So while the laughs are on them, it's quite good-natured.
- The 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said and its many sequels, by Ross Petras, were Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Petras' series and its many imitators lost much of their reason for being with the rise of the internet, when lists of dumb quotes became freely available to all.
- Similarly, there is a whole genre of pop gonzo history (found in such places as the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series and A Scandalous History of the Roman Emperors) that consists entirely of "look how stupid and/or obnoxious this historical figure was!" Like the dumb-quote books, the Internet has been a problem for them.
- This genre may be Older Than Feudalism, as some of the ancient Roman historians (especially Seutonius) delighted in reporting the most petty court gossip they could find and ignoring big policy questions.
- It's also worth noting that most of these books are crammed with fabrications, urban legends, and other lies. The worst are lists of Famous Last Words, which are about 90% fake.
- The book Non Campus Mentus is the most famous of several books that list bad answers on high school students' papers, featuring how Magellan "circumcised the globe" and the famous "Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin that he built with his own two hands."
- This, in turn, is a genre Older Than Radio, starting with the 19th-century English as She Is Taught, which had students who thought "aborigines" meant a mountain chain in North America. When Mark Twain reviewed it, he quoted the student who thought that "there are many fossils in theology departments" and added that sometimes they do get one right.
- The Darwin Awards series, although many of the lists circulating as "Darwin Award Winners" are false lists containing urban legends. The real lists are here.
- Any one of those circulating e-mail lists of "true stupid things people said" (many of which aren't actually true).
- Rinkworks.com's "things people say" section is the internet version of Ross Petras, with the exact same quotes.
- Something Awful, Encyclopedia Dramatica and their ilk feed on this sort of thing.
- Not Always Right
- Now has a spinoff, Not Always Working (focuses on bosses and co-workers, where the original focuses on customers).
- Etiquette Hell
- Cake Wrecks
- Funnily enough, one article actually acknowledges how bullshit most people's assumption that they would have done something differently are.
- The Ig Nobel Prizes are about silly or weird things deduced For Science!, with occasional forays into straight parody (such as the Ig Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the inventor of the Karaoke Box, "thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other"). In their defense, the awards are split about evenly between "Wow, that's stupid!" and "Huh... never thought about looking at it that way", and most of the award-winners are genuinely flattered (said inventor accepted the prize in person).
- PeopleOfWalmart.com used to be this. Now it's "how dare fat people go out in public!" most of the time.
- Fundies Say The Darndest Things, or FSTDT.
- What The Fuck Is Wrong With You
- MSTs are this for Fanfics.
- True Capitalist Radio. The only reason people listen in is to laugh at Ghost raging over the trolls that call him.
- This Troper, a satirical series of dramatic readings by YouTube user Crazy Goggs chronicling the saddest and most disturbing contributions to This Very Wiki, back when we had Troper Tales and Fetish Fuel. Its exposés served as a driving force in the eventual deletion of those sections.
Show Within A Show
- Ow! My Balls! in Idiocracy.
- "Town Talk With George" in UHF, a straight parody of Geraldo Rivera's old talk show, complete with an opening of Al Capone's glove box ("Aha! ROAD MAPS!!") and George taking a chair to the face during a brawl.