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Self-Deprecation
And there's more where that came from!

"He had the kind of face only a mother could love, if that mother was blind in one eye and had that kind of milky film over the other... but still, he was my identical twin."
Colin Mochrie speaking about Ryan Stiles, during a game of "Narrate" on Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Sure we all have egos to some degree, save for severe psychological problems, but sometimes you just may not feel like being self-centered, or ethnocentric or nationalistic. Sometimes you may just feel like cracking a joke that says, "Ha! Take That, Me/Us!" This is the essence of self-deprecation.

This doesn't always work, though. Make these jokes in front of those actually feeling in those aforementioned moods, and they won't see the joke. You may get accused of being "self hating" or even a "traitor". This, of course, means that oppressive regimes are right out, unless those jokes are too ingrained in the culture, like in the Eastern Bloc states (particularly since the major liberalizing of civil society that followed the Second World War). See also Some of My Best Friends Are X, which can also be invoked by members of group X, but rarely works better there than it does in other settings.

The reasoning behind using humor in this way varies between media but will most of the time be used to relax the audience and let them know that your comedy isn't laser targeted towards one group (unless Self-Deprecation is a staple of your comedy).

Note that this isn't about whether other people are allowed to make fun of you. Those would be different tropes (related to N-Word Privileges). Nor is it Heroic Self-Deprecation, which is actually putting yourself down for real.

Self-Deprecation can devolve into Compliment Fishing. Remember that the dividing line between the two is up to the listener, not the speaker.

A Super Trope to Our Product Sucks

Compare Adam Westing, Biting-the-Hand Humor, Self-Parody, Who Writes This Crap?!, Who Would Want to Watch Us?, Take That, Audience!, Offending the Creator's Own, and Creator Career Self Deprecation (including Writers Suck). Contrast These Tropes Love To Brag.


Examples


Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Audiobooks 
  • In the audiobook version of Jon Stewart's America (The Book), there are these gems: "Stephen Colbert is the Arthur Schlesinger Professor of American Studies at Harvard University. He is personally unpleasant." and "Stephen Colbert has received the Werner Heisenberg Prize for Excellence in Theoretical Mathematics seven consecutive years, yet can barely feed himself." Guess who narrates these parts.

    Fan Works 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In-Universe in this Garfield strip: A TV show's host loves hosting it because it means not having to watch it. Garfield wished to be the host.
  • Pearls Before Swine
    • The occasional Sunday strips featuring puns so awful that the final panel then shows Rat threatening the strip's creator Stephan Pastis with death.
    • Pastis has many cameos, where he's either portrayed as a pathetic loser, a Ted Baxter or both (one strip even had Rat beat him up with a baseball bat after Pastis had made a blatant plug of one of his strip compilations).
    • Pastis goes so far as to draw himself smoking cigarettes despite the fact that he never smokes, not because it looks cool, but because he thinks it makes him look like a loser.
    • During a brief arc of Get Fuzzy where Darby Conly was somehow getting his hands on advance copies of the next day's Pearls Before Swine and crudely taping in cutouts of his own characters, Darby did it too. The strip where Stephan called him to ask Darby to cease and desist depicted Stephan as neat, polite, and professional, while Darby himself was a rude, remorseless slob who couldn't even be bothered to remember Stephan's name.
    • A later arc was built around the premise that the comic strip was so offensive that the American government ordered the comic to be transformed into something akin to The Family Circus. Stephan Pastis fails and gets put on trial, with Rat as his lawyer. Rat actively sabotages Stephen's case.
  • One series of Dilbert strips had Dilbert go on a date under Dogbert's coaching — which means Dilbert spends the whole date grunting and agreeing. When his date compliments him, he uses another coached response — "Gosh, I'm not good at anything."
    • Another run of strips had Dogbert as the charismatic leader of the vegetarian lobby. Since this was clearly a bit of an Author Tract by the vegetarian Adams, he started off by establishing that the reason the vegetarians need a charismatic leader is that they're all "scrawny weaklings".
  • In one Bloom County strip, minor character Yaz Pistachio asks Opus to give her just one name worse than her own.
    Opus: (thinks for a moment) Berkeley Breathed.
    Yaz: Okay, name two.
    • There was also the strip where Opus pitched the idea for Bloom County for a comic strip for his local paper. The editor's response?
      Milo: Needs work.

    Print Media 
  • MAD is infamous for this, regularly referring to its writers and artists as "The Usual Gang Of Idiots" and insulting its readership by claiming that only Too Dumb to Live schmucks would be caught reading their magazine. It's all meant in jest though.
  • Nintendo Power, for its 100th volume, listed 100 things that were equal to 100. One of the entries was the approximate running time of Super Mario Bros.. The next entry was "Number of people who went to see the Super Mario Bros. movie." Finally, in response to a fan letter, a columnist wrote that 100 was also the number of speed bumps they had to add to keep people from leaving the movie.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Funday Pawpet Show used filmed opening segments of people saying "Hi, I'm ________, and you're wasting your time watching the Funday Pawpet Show!".
  • The Muppet Show often engaged in this. For example in one Veterinatian's Hospital sketch, when discussing the things that might happen to herald the end of the world, such as "Dr Bob actually curing a patient", Nurse Piggy suggests "One honest laugh". And then there's Statler and Waldorf.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Rodney Dangerfield pretty much made a career out of this. It's the whole idea of his routines.
  • Stewart Lee is very fond of this, mostly about his weight. One of his routines is about when he reappeared on TV after a couple of years' hiatus; with people not even knowing who he is yet still taking pot shots at how he looks.
    "Look itís that bloke off the telly, what’s his name, Terry Christian, but heís let himself go. No, not Terry Christian that other one, Mark Lamarr, but heís really fucking let himself go. No, sorry, not Mark Lamarr that other guy, the singer. You know, thatís it, Edwyn CollinsÖ but heís let himself go. No, not that man, but a 1930s newspaper cartoon of Tarzanís face, which has let itself go."
  • Nearly all of Last Comic Standing's Jay London's act was doing this. He would frequently say, "It's almost over," as if the audience was suffering through his routine.
  • Eddie Izzard will sometimes criticize himself, especially during his lapses when he forgets where he was going with a joke.
  • The Scottish comedian Arnold Brown tells his audiences that he likes to do self-deprecating humour, even though he's not very good at it.
  • A number of Mike Birbiglia's stand-up routines center around how he's geeky, weird, and not a very good comedian. One routine in particular tells how he was brought in as one of the celebrities for a celebrity golf fundraiser. He was assigned to a group of golfers, who innocently wondered who their celebrity would be. It took Mike a minute to realize that he was the celebrity, and promptly began apologizing because he felt like a letdown.
  • From Norwegian comedian Daniel Simonsen:
    "In Norway, there's only one comedy club in the whole country - that nobody goes to - and the best Norwegian comedian he's really shit. He's dressed as a cat on the stage. [badly impersonates cat] Meow. Me-me-me-meow. And that guy is me."
  • Robin Williams spends much of his stand-up routine (and appearances on talk shows) mocking his drug and alcohol issues, excessive body hair and/or acting career (especially Popeye and Mork and Mindy).
  • Daniel Tosh has this in one of his stand-up specials.
    "Do you like how I start jokes with mass appeal and continue 'til only six people have a clue what I'm talking about? That's not a good style. That doesn't make you famous."

    Tabletop Games 
  • It's tradition in game rulebooks to include a page or so showing how the game is played. In the "Obligatory Example of Play" (yep, that's what they called it) in "Lucha Libre Hero" one of the players, "Steve", is clearly not getting the point of the game. His character, El Heraldo de Justicia, is described as a "dark-clad avenger of the night", and "Steve" spends most of his actions trying to get his hands on a gun despite the fact that a luchador can do more damage in this game with his wrestling moves. Steve Long, part-owner of Hero Games, and incidentally the guy who edited "Lucha Libre Hero", got his start as a game designer with the book "Dark Champions", which focused on gritty Punisher-style vigilante action. The flagship character for "Dark Champions" and Steve's very own player character is the Harbinger of Justice. (The section wraps up with "Editor's Note: I do so have a gun.")
  • The Werewolf: The Apocalypse supplement Subsidiaries: A Guide To Pentex describes some of the companies under the umbrella of the titular evil Mega Corp.. The last one listed is "Black Dog Game Factory", a fictionalized version of the real Black Dog Game Factory — an actual subsidiary of Werewolf's own publisher White Wolf (which published their mature-themed gamebooks). The company's fictional games all feature White Wolf's signature traits (Darker and Edgier settings, etc.) taken Up to Eleven, and the employees are all unflattering parodies of real White Wolf writers, including the writers of the supplement itself.
    • In the Apocalypse book that ended the series a sidebar details the horrific fates of the aforementioned writers. Cannibalism is involved.
    • The 20th anniversary edition of Werewolf updates Black Dog to the present day, with the company under the influence of a group of unknown horrors from beneath the Scandinavian ice (spoofing White Wolf's partnership with Icelandic company CCP).
    • One Vampire: The Masquerade supplement was discussing how to apply difficulties to skill rolls. One of the examples was robbing a Role-Playing Game designer (difficulty 9 just to find anything worth stealing).
  • Ho L - Human Occupied Landfill is in general a parody of hack-and-slash powergaming. In the "Obligatory Example of Play" section, the example game quickly degenerates into the Jerkass players insulting and then beating the crap out of each other.
  • When the Shadowrun Verse's metaplot called for a nuke to be set off to destroy a massive bug-spirit infestation, then-publishers FASA situated both the spirit-hive and ground zero for the nuclear blast in their own Chicago office.
  • Cards Against Humanity has the white card "A bunch of idiots playing a card game instead of interacting like normal humans."

    Theater 
  • In The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan deprecated their previous hit by having the Major-General boast in his List Song that he can "whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore."
    • For very good reason — HMS Pinafore was a satire of the British upper crust, which Queen Victoria is said to have particularly disliked. Penzance was an attempt to get back on the Queen's good side by mocking their earlier work, and by sucking up shamelessly at the end. (The pirates immediately surrender when ordered in the name of Queen Victoria, because they're good English boys despite being pirates and all.)
    • The character of King Gama in Princess Ida is said to be Gilbert's lampoon of himself.
    • As sung in the operetta Ruddigore, "This particularly rapid, unintelligible patter isn't generally heard and if it is, it doesn't matter!"
  • In God by Woody Allen, the characters make several not-so-flattering comments on Woody's abilities as a playwright.
    Hepatitis: It's terrible being fictional. We're all so limited.
    Lorenzo Miller: Only by the limits of the playwright. Unfortunately you have been written by Woody Allen. Think If you had been written by Shakespeare.
  • William Shakespeare himself: every mention of love poems in his many plays implies them to be cynical wooing devices, or a sign of a mind driven to madness by frustrated love. This is much funnier when you're aware that the man himself wrote what is almost the longest sequence of love sonnets in history.
    • In Much Ado About Nothing, when Benedick is tricked into thinking that Beatrice is in love with him:
      "They say the lady is fair; 'tis a truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous; 'tis so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly, for I will be horribly in love with her."
    • The epilogue to As You Like It
      "If it be true that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue. Yet to good wine they do use good bushes; and good plays prove the better by the help of good epilogues. What a case am I in, then, that am neither a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with you in the behalf of a good play!"
  • Elphaba does this sarcastically in act 1 of Wicked where in response to her invalid sister being called tragically beautiful calls herself beautifully tragic. However she does it much more honestly at the end of act 2 when she convinces Glinda in song that Elphaba has limitations she cannot overcome.
  • "It sucks to be me" from Avenue Q.
  • In Thirteen Patrice happily does this to her hometown:
    Patrice: The inbreeding takes up all of our time!
  • Stephen Sondheim loves doing this to himself; to wit (from "Parabasis: It's Only A Play" from "The Frogs"):
    Chorus: It's only so much natter that somebody wrote/it's only a play...
  • Urinetown continually lampshades this, often breaking the fourth wall:
    Lockstock: Nothing can kill a show like too much exposition.
    Little Sally: How about bad subject matter? Or a bad title even, that could kill a show pretty good!
  • Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark spoofed its own Troubled Production with Green Goblin singing "I'm a Sixty-Five Million Dollar note  Circus Tragedy" in his Villain Song "A Freak Like Me Needs Company."

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations features Miles Edgeworth as protagonist instead of Phoenix Wright. This is used to make fun of some of the weirder things that happened in previous games. For example, upon examining a fire extinguisher Edgeworth muses how silly it would be to get hit on the head with it and lose your memory. This is the framing device for the first case tutorial of Justice For All.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney constantly makes fun of the series' cliches. For example, Apollo gets told off for shouting out "HOLD IT!" too loud in court. Phoenix also reminisces on the times when he used to present evidence to people through the present button and how he would shout out "hold it" for no apparent reason just to scare people.
    • Investigations was full of these. At one point Edgeworth is battering Larry Butz with reasons why his act of dressing as Santa, in the middle of summer, was idiotic, throwing in a couple of "objections!". This leads to Larry lampshading the game's court style arguments that happen at crime scenes.
    Larry: "Wait a second, This isn't court."
    • Also in Investigations, upon finding Gumshoe's name written in bloody lettering, Edgeworth doesn't seem to even take any notice, and almost immediately assumes the message to be fake. While this could be seen as the fact that he trusts Gumshoe would never kill, it could also be a reference to the series' reputation of fake dying messages.
      • During the first case of Investigations 2, Gumshoe goes to get a gun dusted for prints, only for him to arrive back around 10 seconds later with the results, much to Edgeworth's shock. This is likely a joke at how swift the forensic testing in the Ace Attorney world seems to be, compared to how long such things would normally take in real life.
    Gumshoe: "Mr. Edgeworth, I've got the results!"
    Edgeworth [shocked]: "A-Already?!"
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, Sakazaki Yuuya spends much of the first game being mysterious and sketchy, having to run off and disappear a lot, being seen rummaging through trash, and often being insulted for all this. Since he's actually a Teen Super Spy it's necessary, and he responds with his usual careless cheer to all insults. There are a few times when it's visible that this does get to him, though, like in Holiday Star, where he admits that his lifestyle is seedy. Hiyoko doesn't like this.
    "Sometimes he says stuff in that self-deriding, or maybe even despairing way. He's usually so cheerful, so whenever he does it I don't know how to respond!"


Man, the people who created and edited this page are a bunch of losers, aren't they? Pretty much sums up my life.
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alternative title(s): Take That Me; Take That Us; Self Deprecating Humor; Self Deprecating Humour; Self-Deprecation; Self Deprecating; I Suck
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