"I can't tell if this is the world's worst joke or the world's best riddle."
A character or show whose jokes are so bad, and whose sense of humor is so trite, corny, and childish that - paradoxically - you can't help but laugh at it. Usually includes some examples of Don't Explain the Joke
Often, this will be Played for Laughs
when a show includes a wisecracking character whose jokes always fit this trope, or a horrible comedy as a Show Within a Show
. In these cases, it's a form of Stylistic Suck
However, when an entire show fits this trope, it's probably unintentional
. Note that this is rare; it's said that while most genres, badly done, become comedies; bad drama
, bad sci-fi
, bad horror
, etc can all become Snark Bait
, but a bad comedy by definition fails at being funny. Failing so hard you succeed is a rare gift. A common variety is to have something overloaded with so many bad funnies at the end you are laughing for some reason.
Closely related to (and often a component of) So Bad, It's Good
. Often related to Cannot Tell a Joke
. Not to be confused with The Comically Serious
(formerly known as "The Unfunny
"). Sort of like Crosses the Line Twice
, only with (lack of) humor instead of offensiveness
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Stand Up Comedy
- Neil Hamburger has spent his career pretending to be what may be the world's worst comedian.
- The comedian Edward Aczel pretty much does a show in character as a terrible comedian.
- Chris Rock has made fun of Dead Horse Tropes in black comedy by taking on stereotypical "terrible black comedian" characters in his shows and books.
- Andy Kaufman had this as his primary shtick. First he would do a bunch of terrible impressions ("And now, my impression of American President Jimmy Carter. I am American President Jimmy Carter. Thank you.") until people got so upset that they started walking out, and then he would launch into what was considered one of the best Elvis Presley impressions of all time (when he was alive, Elvis himself stated that it was his favorite).
- Norm MacDonald's bit on the roast of Bob Saget consisted of nothing but terrible, terrible jokes. The audience didn't like it, but all the comedians there were dying.
Norm: There are times when Bob has something on his mind...when he wears a hat! No thoughts, just a hat.
Norm: Bob, you have lot of well-wishers here tonight, and a lot of them would like to throw you down one...a well. They wanna murder you...in a well. Which seems a bit harsh. But that's what it says here on this cue card.
- The deliberately-terrible jokes didn't get funny until Norm started explaining them, as in the above examples (the ones from the first half of the act were simply read off the cue cards, followed by an awkward pause, followed by the next joke).
- The Smothers Brothers attempt to be the most dysfunctional folk singers ever.
- Jay London (who competed on Last Comic Standing) has an act of half horrible one-liners; half apologizing. ("I work at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'm in the "Beyond" department. I'm sorry. It's almost over.")
- From the Philippines, good ol' fashioned Andrew E. His movies are laugh-inducing, yes. But the jokes used, no, the more you think about them.
- For an example, in his movie Rubberman, he, as the titular "super-hero", sees a girl crying over a cat stuck on a tree (pretty standard fare for your average hero). When he does save the cat, upon giving it to the girl, we get this very illogical exchange (translated for your convenience):
Girl: Rubberman, I'm sorry, but I do not own this cat.
Rubberman: If that is not your cat, then why are you crying?
Girl: I was crying because I feel pity over it.
- Deadpan radio satirists Bob & Ray often pursued aggressively unfunny material to its logical limit and beyond, as a way of "seeing what [they] could get away with." Notable examples include the fifteen-minute, multi-show "Bulgarian Cream Pie" bit and an instance of a grouchy Bob Elliott playing intentionally annoying music because he had to broadcast alone on Christmas Day.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode The Creeping Terror includes a host segment featuring Mike Nelson testing for the "sweet spot" on his custom audio system by listening to one of the film's tedious songs. For a very long time.
- This has been parodied on the aftermath of Pretzel Guy's seemingly disturbing entrance into the orange M&M on the M&M's Pretzel minisite, where he is a stand-up comedian who is sick of being inside a chocolate candy, and his jokes are intentionally unfunny, yet they can be jeered or cheered.
Pretzel Guy: You people laugh at anything.
- This is arguably Tom Green's schtick. Well, at least for "The Bum Bum Song". It's so incredibly stupid it's hilarious.
- Mitch Hedberg was a notoriously casual performer, mixing in half-finished and unfunny jokes right beside legitimately brilliant and hilarious one-liners. The juxtaposition made the bad ones even funnier.
"I have a sweet tooth *scattered laughter* I think I messed something up with that last joke. I apologize."
- Mitch invoked this trope in one of his CDs. After telling a terrible joke, he informed the audience that he was going to take a sound clip of them laughing at one of his better jokes and insert it at the end of the bad joke, so that people would be wondering what was wrong with the audience.
- A German comedian on Evening At The Improv once started his act this way (before moving on to a more earnest performance):
(paraphrasing): We Germans have a reputation for being too strict and orderly to be funny. Tonight, I hope to prove that wrong. *beat* Joke number one: ...
- Tim Heidecker of Tim And Eric takes this Up to Eleven to the point that most audiences don't know whether they should laugh. He purposefully messes up his jokes and reads from notecards.
"And the woman behind- the bitch behind the counter says, 'No, is Pepsi okay?' and I say, 'No! If I had wanted Coke- if I had wanted Coke- I mean, Pepsi, I would have ordered one! Thank you.'"
- George Carlin was not above a little self-deprecation, and knew how to take a joke that either wasn't funny to start with or simply tried to milk the punchline too much and turn it around into something beautiful. For instance, after going into excessive detail about the process of picking scabs, a MAGAZINE and entire sub-culture devoted to it, with the audience having gone from gross-out laughter to scattered, nervous laughter, he pauses, and simply states "I sense I've gone too far," and that he'll just move on to the next joke. Everyone loses it again.
- Richard Herring does a (hilarious) routine about being jaded of making audiences laugh after twenty years on the comedy circuit and how he's trying to challenge himself by not being funny.
- A famous case is The Lion King, where this is the main appeal of Timon's character. His jokes are so lame you can't help but chuckle- this was intentional of course. Hakuna Matata has this:
"What's eating you, kid?" "Nothing, he's at the top of the food chain! Hahaha!!! The food chain, ha ha ha ha... (realizes his joke has failed)"
"What's a motto?" "Nothing, what's a motto with you?"
- Much of Borat's humor fits this trope, especially the "NOT!" jokes.
- From Anchorman:
"I didn't know the Salvation Army was having a sale *laughs* am I right? Am I right? Look at these guys."
"Hey, where would you get those clothes... at the toilet... store?"
- From Up:
Dug: Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says "I forgot to store acorns for winter and now I am dead." Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead.
- Iron Man 2: Justin Hammer: Well, the press is going to have a new problem... They're going to run out of '''ink!" *beat* "Introducing..."
- Seltzer and Friedberg. Not so much their humor, as the concept of their careers.
- Almost all of the humor in North is this (if it isn't Dude, Not Funny!), with Incredibly Lame Puns such as, "Your honor, the defense rests! (spoken when the defendants are literally in a coma)" or "The only barren spot on this island... is [my wife] Mrs. Ho."
- From Shaolin Soccer: the Kung Fu Hao Yeah song? So awful... yet so hilarious.
- Kung Pow! Enter the Fist: "What do you get when you cross an owl with a bungee cord? My ass."
- Rio: "I feel free as a bird!" "But you really are a bird."
- Much of Judd Apatow's material can be seen as this. Many of the more memorable scenes in the three movies he's directed so far are long, incredibly self-conscious and frequently juvenile monologues or conversations about movies, food and genitalia. However, he has said that he treats comedy as a deep form of expressive art, made clear in his book, "I Found This Funny: My Favorite Pieces of Humor and Some That May Not Be Funny At All".
- Marlin from Finding Nemo starts out at this, hideously butchering a joke he tries to tell to the other parents. The commentary track on the DVD has Albert Brooks explain how he went about to make this joke so unfunny, making it even more awesome.
- Halfway through The Sixth Sense Malcolm tries to get his patient Cole to ease up by performing a magic trick where he claims to move a coin from his hand to his shirt pocket, etc. Problem is, he never takes the coin out of either spot, he just taps the spot and claims the coin moved there. It actually works and convinces Cole that he has nothing to fear from Malcolm. Later Cole is seen doing the same trick to another kid, who just dismisses it as "stupid."
- Mr. Sir's story in The Film of the Book Holes.
Mr. Sir: Once upon a time there was a magical place where it never rained. The end.
- Most of Micheal Caesar's jokes in The Boondocks comic fit this trope.
- Harry in The Time of Your Life wants to be a great comedian, but nobody laughs at his comic monologues.
- Near the end of Cirque du Soleil's Mystere, Non-Ironic Clown Brian Le Petit finds himself faced with the challenge of calming down the extremely angry emcee. Since he can't defend himself with his Screwy Squirrel antics anymore, Brian resorts to harmless, hoary old gags: putting on a red clown nose, miming that he's trapped behind an invisible wall, etc. He only manages to amuse the audience.
- Ernie Steele of Backyard Sports. Uses many examples of Don't Explain the Joke. Somehow, he seems to realize his jokes are unfunny, unlike Joey.
- In Ace Attorney, Moe the clown encourages Phoenix to tell a joke. Clearly put on the spot, Phoenix says "Why am I, Phoenix Wright, such a great lawyer? Because I'm Wright all the time!" Cue awkward silence.
Maya: At least his expectations are low.
Moe: I wouldn't let him quit his day job.
- A lot of Moe's jokes fall into this as well.
- In Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Alyx notices Combine soldiers infected by headcrabs and quips "Hmmm. A Combine zombie. That's, that's like a...ah...a Zombine! Right? Heh... Zombine, get it?" however, she quickly realizes the joke isn't funny. (Still, the name stuck, so a point in her favor.)
- Fallout 2 has the abysmal standup comic in the Shark Lounge.
Comic: So... uh... why did the radscorpion cross the road? Cause the radscorpion... uh, it wanted to get away from the radioactive fallout particles...uh, the joke, see, since it was already a mutant, it didn't need to cross the road, so... uh...
Man in the audience: You suck!
- Max's jokes in the Sam & Max games are occasionally played for this, like a joke involving The Pope, Chester A. Arthur and a candiru fish that he made during his presidential campaign. His Psychic Ventriloquism gags in Season 3 are about half this trope, and half an excuse to make lowest-common-denominator fart jokes without having to feel bad about it.
- From Season 3 Episode 2: "Cut the cucumber lengthwise!"
- Margaret in Persona4 starts telling truly awful jokes completely seriously as you begin to progress down her Social Link. She seems disappointed that she can't make the protagonist laugh.
- Kotomi from CLANNAD's attempts at comedy invariably end up as this. At first we have Tomoya trying to train her into being a Tsukkomi when she is Boke right down to her very core, but even when she just tries to tell a normal joke it ends up very old at best and totally inexplicable at worst. Her idea of a knock-out gag? Pointing at her elbow and saying 'it bends here.'
- This Sluggy Freelance strip "cleverly disguised as an actual comic."
- A good portion of Cyanide and Happiness intentionally stems from this. This typically will entail having the last few panels contain little to no content aside from the joke sinking in.
- The Sphynx's inexplicable joke in Subnormality.
- That's also (intentional) Viewers Are Geniuses; the joke is really good if you're willing to do the research so you get the references in it. To elaborate, there's an annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany, but the German guy went to Beirut instead. This may actually be based on a Real Life incident, when a prop dragon got delivered to Beirut by mistake.
- The Order of the Stick: All of Elan's puns.
- When Waluigi takes over Brawl in the Family, his comics tend to rely on this, especially the No Fourth Wall ones.
The third panel is the funny one. (Beat Panel)
- Ray Smuckles of Achewood qualifies in this strip and this one.
- Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff pretty much runs on this.
- Steve from Daisy Owl routinely have nightmares where he is a bad stand-up comic who starts a regular observation, then draws a sensible and unfunny conclusion, and then he wakes up in fright. Many of the other strips also derives their humor from having the punchline derail or just turn into an awkward silence.
- Many, many Dolan comics are like this. The appeal of the comics is how intentionally terrible they are.
- Similarly, Powerup Comics is a Stealth Parody. The humor doesn't come from the punchlines, but from the way every strip provides further evidence of the (fictional) author's complete incompetence.
- The Rifftrax for the X-Men movie, around the middle, had Mike start randomly adding "o" to the end of phrases, and it culminated with him and Bill muttering "Cerebro" and "Magneto" to each other repeatedly in their best Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart impressions. It really wasn't a joke at all, but somehow ended up being the most hilarious thing of the whole Rifftrax.
- Really Bad Jokes runs on this trope.
- Homestar Runner: In "Halloween Fairstival", Bub's stand-up comedy routine consists of stock jokes boiled down to their absolute most generic form, and occasionally mashed up in ways that make no sense. Strong Mad is the only person who finds it funny.
Bubs: Aww, that's rich. You know something else that bears a striking resemblance to something else? Women can't drive!
Bubs: And remember, like, ten years ago? People's clothes looked funny! [Strong Mad laughs] And the music sounded terrible! [Strong Mad laughs]
- Retsupurae has Let's Play IMDB: slowbeef and Diabeetus mock a Let's Play of Apocalypse for the PlayStation, a mind-numbingly generic game apart from the fact that the protagonist is modeled after and voiced by Bruce Willis, which prompt them to make a Hurricane of Puns involving the titles of everything Willis has ever worked on. And once they run of those, they make puns with random film and television titles for the rest of the over-an-hour-long video. At one point they briefly pause and wonder who in their right mind is still watching.