"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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- Izumi of Martian Successor Nadesico has her character based entirely around this trope, until you find out her backstory.
- King Kai from Dragon Ball Z IS this trope. Not one of his jokes is legitimately funny, and that's the joke. One joke in the English dub of Kai, however ("They should call him SLOW-KU!") is VERY funny if you read it as a dig at the original DBZ's notoriously slow pace.
Films — Animated
- 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:
Pumbaa: What's eating you, kid?
Timon: Nothing, he's at the top of the food chain! Hahaha!!! The food chain! Ha ha ha ha... (realizes that his joke has failed)
- Later, in the same scene:
Simba: What's a motto?
Timon: Nothing. What's a motto with you?
- 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.
- 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.
Films — Live-Action
- Most of Michael Caesar's jokes in The Boondocks comic fit this trope.
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 earned this reputation during The Roast of Bob Saget. In reaction to the other hosts, many of whom relied on sheer vulgarity to stand apart, Norm's bit consisted of nothing but squeaky-clean, outdated jokes. The audience didn't like it, but all the comedians there were dying.
There are times when Bob has something on his mind...when he wears a hat! No thoughts, just a hat
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).
- Similarly, in the James Franco roast Andy Samberg did unfunny jokes that were either lame or wound up attacking himself more than the target, complimenting the dais while claiming he was brutally roasting them. The audience laughed, but the comedians were nearly passing out.
- 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 & 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.
- Eddie Izzard's famous "Death Star canteen" routine derives a lot of its humor from Izzard's intentionally terrible Darth Vader impression, and from him acting like he's never seen a Star Wars movie in his life. It could have been a mildly amusing bit about Darth Vader arguing with a cafeteria worker, but it's made into a hilarious piece of absurdist comedy by Izzard making Vader sound like a mildly irate British man, and making the Death Star look like a boring British office building.
- His take on the Four Yorkshiremen skit probably counts as well, deriving some of its humour value from how the three comedians (Izzard, Vic Reeves and Harry Enfield) have clearly seen the skit a million times and can quote it verbatim, and therefore improvise and/or ham up every line to spice things up a bit, plus having a straight man (Alan Rickman) who had never seen it before and was simply pushed on-stage with a script.
- Bill Bailey would begin stand up shows with a selection of non-jokes, delivered in a rambling can't-be-bothered fashion:
Three men walk into a bar. One of them was a little bit stupid. And the whole scene unfolded with a tedious inevitability.
Three blokes go into a pub. Something happens. The outcome was hilarious!
- 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.
- Les Luthiers invoke this in the intro to their chacarera El Explicado: "Folklore composer Cantalicio Luna saw the light of day in the Buenos Aires province... when he was 18 years old. The morning he came from Santiago where he was born. Saw the light of day, do you unders... tand?"
- 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 and 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 in "Abe Lincoln Must Die!". 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.
- In "The Tomb of Sammun-Mak", all the punchlines to the comics in the Egyptian newspaper turn out to involve committing the grievous faux pas of cutting cucumbers 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.'
- Animal Crossing has Dr. Shrunk, whose entire shtick is that he's a pyschiatrist/stand-up comedian who's not very funny. In a few of his jokes in City Folk and New Leaf, he acknowledges that folks tend not to laugh at his jokes.
- 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.
- Constantly invoked in Third Rate Gamer. In the Yoshi's Island "review", he suggested that Shy Guys should've been called "Crap Guys". He even put a picture of a turd on the Shy Guy and added a fart noise.
- The Simpsons:
- Krusty the Clown was attempting to be the living embodiment of this trope. One of the writers said that it was a really hard balancing act of making the jokes unfunny yet still making the character a source of comedy.
- From the same show, Rainer Wolfcastle's attempt at stand-up comedy, where he cracks unfunny jokes and carries enough firepower to violently put down hecklers.
- Homer's attempts at roasting Mr. Burns during the episode "Rosebud" fail in hilarious fashion. Of course, the dead puppy in the parking lot didn't help.
- The "Spinoff Showcase" episode used this for two-thirds of its spinoffs. The sitcom parody mixed canned laughter at stupid jokes with very Black Comedy. The Variety Show parody just used very, very bad humour with subtler indications that it was entirely on purpose.
- Characters telling jokes to a live audience regularly have their unfunny jokes met with a completely silent room except for a man coughing in the back.
- Marge, of all people. Whenever she actually tries to crack a joke, she's always very pleased with herself, but nobody else is because her sense of humor is so incredibly bland. Even when she tries not to be bland it usually fails in some hilarious way.
(On the TV an action movie is playing and McBain snaps someone's neck)
Marge: Now that's what I call break-neck speed.
Bart: (very sternly) Mom, a man just died.
- The character Darph Bobo in Tripping the Rift is, according to its creator, Chris Moeller, supposed to be funny because he doesn't think clowns are funny at all.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender :
- Many of Sokka's weird nicknames and jokes are this. (And apparently so are his father's, according to a comment from Bato when Sokka makes one in Bato's presence.) Apparently the unfunny-is-funny effect holds true for the rest of the gAang as well as the audience, because by season 3, they have gotten so used to Sokka's particular sense of humor that they actually miss his jokes when he's off training with his masteróand the replacement jokes they try to make are even more unfunny-funny (but only to the audience, not them).
- Even resident Dark Action Girl villain Azula gets into the mix in Breather Episode "The Beach," in which she attempts to socialize with normal Fire Nation teens but can't quite keep her sociopathic nature and lust for power hidden, leading her to come across as something of a creepy Stepford Smiler.
"That's a sharp outfit, Chan. Careful, you could puncture the hull of an Empire class Fire Nation battleship, leaving thousands to drown at sea... because... it's so sharp."
- Codename: Kids Next Door has Pungeon Master Numbuh 2, who is hilarious, to the viewer at least, because he delivers his jokes with so much hammy enthusiasm it's hard not to laugh. (Ironically, his Evil Counterpart in "Operation P.O.O.L." is actually genuinely funny, given that the two are polar opposites.)
- Pinky and the Brain: The Brain tries to be stand up comedian in yet another Zany Scheme to Take Over the World. All he has are really complicated scientific and mathematical jokes, which bores the audience to tears. But it gets funny when he gets angry at them, wishing for their deaths using overly complicated, Rube Goldberg-esque situations.
- He also tried this in one issue of the comics, where he did tell a pretty funny joke, but it went right over the heads of his provincial audience: "What did Euripides say when he tore his trousers?... 'Where's Eumenides when I need him?'... Don't you understand?! 'You-rip-a-these'... 'You-mend-a-these'?!"
- And of course, no one can ever forget "Obey me, for I am the [hilariously violent epileptic fit] Overlord!"
- Stanley's corny jokes on The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan are clearly meant to be this. Though in his case the humor doesn't just come from the corniness, but from Henry's less than amused reactions.
- SpongeBob often has this, especially in the earlier episodes. The real king is this gem:
"Why couldn't the 11-year old go to the pirate movie? It was rated Aaaarrrrrgh
- One episode of The Proud Family had Penny throw a party that was woefully under attended, thanks to Lasieniga also throwing a party that very night. Only the rejected guests from Lasieniga's ended up at Penny's house (with even Penny's friends abandoning her). So Trudy, wanting to cheer up Penny and entertain her guests, delivers this priceless gem:
"Why did the monkey fall off the tree?" (kids ask why)
"Because he was dead!" (Penny was NOT amused)
- On Gravity Falls, Mabel's attempt at a Visual Pun in the first episode, made worse by how there weren't even any beans in the can to spill.
- When Stan is taking a fishing trip alone and trying to socialize with the other fishers he tells this joke to a couple as the man is proposing, made all the funnier by his delivery and how inappropriate it is.
My ex wife still misses me... but her aim is getting better! (beat)
But her aim is getting better! (beat)
You see, it's funny because marriage is terrible.
- This exchange from American Dad!, when Mama lectures Francine on not appreciating Stan.
Mama: You know how often Baba do the "Pull my finger" joke? Five times a week! And it never been funny. There was that time it was a little funny cause it had been unfunny for so long, but that was only for like a couple days.
- Texas' one-liners in "The Duke of Detroit Presents" episode of Motorcity.