Commence the jigglin'!
"This guy has walked out of a venue and collapsed in the middle of a public bar. His best mate who's the only doctor in the building has been picked up and carried away by security. His girlfriend has stepped over his prone body to ask me for an autograph. And now Bart Simpson is telling him to come away from the light! THAT IS SURREAL!
Something that's so bizarre and inexplicable that it's funny. This is a strange version of Crossing the Line Twice
: It takes talent (or luck)
to make something so mind screwy
and WTF-inducing that it makes you laugh.
Almost every comedy in history has used this at least a few times. It's usually mixed in with other Comedy Tropes
, and an undercurrent of it can be felt througout many shows. However, some take it above and beyond any sense of normalcy.
There are several genres dedicated to this trope. It's the main selling point of Gag Series
, surreal comedy and Dada Comics
, and a main feature of Post Modern
comedy. This type of humor has exploded in all forms with the rise of the internet; many memes
take this form.
This trope often overlaps with So Bad, It's Good
, especially when a work falls into this by accident.
Surreal Humor can be created using Bathos
Compare Widget Series
and So Bad, It's Good
. Contrast Surreal Horror
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Anime and Manga
- There once was a Disney Comics series Goofy as [insert historical person here] (from Italy, I think). Mainly it was the life story of a famous man, retold as The Theme Park Version, with Goofy as Leonardo da Vinci / Marco Polo / Casanova / whomever, Mickey as his sidekick, Pete as an antagonistic character and occasionally other Disney characters too. But inbetween, this series often brought sheer absurd gags which weren't commented or lampshaded: A royal guard driving a unicycle, a woman wearing a fried egg on her hat, a spaghetti salesman making his noodles dance, just like a snake charmer... lots of it.
- A popular Lightbulb Joke is:
Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
- Of course you could put in your own surreal item. A longer punchline to the same joke is:
Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three. One to hold the giraffe and the other two to fill the bathtub with brightly colored power tools.
Q: How many surrealists can you fit in a dishwasher?
A: None, doghouses don't fly. (Duh.)
- Or a non-surrealist related one:
Q: How many ducks does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The defense rests.
- Are you a human being or did you just make a bunch of Dada jokes?
- In That Mitchell and Webb Look the "Numberwang" sketches rely on this. A gameshow that adheres to no comprehensible rules, but which appears to mostly consist of saying random numbers. And everything not related to the game itself is equally bizarre.
Host: Joining me tonight are Julie, who's from Yorkshire, and Simon, who's from a factory and made of a special metal. So, Julie, ever killed a man?
- This is par for the course on Monty Python's Flying Circus. Some good examples include the "Science Fiction Sketch", which is about a race of blancmanges from the Andromeda Galaxy who come to Earth and turn nearly everybody in England into Scotsmen so they can become tennis champions, and are only thwarted by being eaten by a seemingly-insignificant couple introduced near the start of the episode who turned out to also be aliens, and the Running Gag of ending sketches by having a knight come out and hit people on the head with a rubber chicken.
- Green Wing has moments like this most noteably when Sue White manually takes Mac's sperm whilst he's in a coma so she can have his baby and gives birth to a baby lion. Most of the other scenes involving Sue White are also surreal.
- There is an episode where doctors create a human pyramid at different windows throughout the episode to show a picture of Jesus' face to confuse everybody.
- Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! is made entirely of this trope.
- This Is Jinsy seems to be another one.
- iCarly falls into this at times, such as that one instance where Spender somehow managed to play the drums so hard that one of the cymbals burst into flame.
- Danger 5 has a bit of this. For one thing, the team, upon returning to base, receive a dressing-down from their boss, who happens to have an eagle's head. They later get attacked by Nazi apes, and stumble across a rock band in tropical Antarctica composed of hipster Neanderthals.
- The Mighty Boosh. Noel Fielding gave the probably most accurate definition of the series: "If Dali made a show, hopefully it would look like this."
- Twin Peaks. Surreal, absurd, soapy, highly-original mystery show peppered with frequent, off-beat comedy.
- The video for The Avalanches' Frontier Psychiatrist. A geriatric hip-hop group lip-syncs to old movie clips while the lyrics are illustrated by almost everything imaginable? Oh hell yes.
- Some works by The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band ("Doo Dah" was originally "Dada"), who appeared in the pre-Python show Do Not Adjust your Set and were cited by Eric Idle as a major influence on Python's surrealism.
- Founder Bonzo Vivian Stanshall went on to record solo songs and comic monologues which were, if anything, even weirder.
- Another singer/raconteur in similar vein was Scotland's Ivor Cutler.
- Frank Zappa, when he isn't being just plain surreal.
- Bob Dylan has written a lot of songs like this
- Radiohead released a DVD called "The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth of All Time," which, among other things, features hilariously surreal interviews with the band members.
- The Goon Show. Where to begin? Exploding taxis, a jet-propelled NAAFI, pianos with diplomatic immunity, bent spoons in lieu of money... Monty Python may be better known, but the Goons got there more than a decade earlier.
- The Burkiss Way could get very strange at times. One sketch involves an office worker who is employed as a token Desmond Dekker and the Aces for contractual reasons, despite being an amoeba and annoying the other workers by constantly reproducing asexually by mitosis during office hours. And he can't even get the song right.
- Swedish comedian Henrik Elmér is all about this.
- robotfindskitten, while allegedly being "zen", is arguably all about the bizarre, meta-referencing "non-kitten objects" you can find. Some are just plain Pythonesque. Samples include: "A livery stable! Get your livery!", "It's the horizon. Now THAT's weird.", and "Look, it's Fanny the Irishman!".
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force by its very nature (a rambling, nonsensically-titled show in which the three main characters are animated fast-food items) is built on this trope. Specific examples include the deranged Dr. Weird and his "experiments" that include demanding that his assistant chop off his head so hard that the High Pressure Blood propels his body to Phoenix, and one episode which featured bacteria that infect Master Shake for the purpose of performing bad theater productions in his brain.
- Most [adult swim] original programs exhibit this in varying degrees, from "wacky" to "What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?".
- The spiritual father of these shows, Space Ghost Coast to Coast started out as campy parody but especially in the latter half of the series tilted heavily into this camp. Often, Space Ghost seems barely interested in doing his job as a talk show host and if it makes him look bad in the process, Zorak and Moltar are there to help him.
- Adventure Time, a show about a thirteen year old boy and his best friend who is also a dog with elasticity powers fighting multiple threats to their kingdom, comprised almost entirely of talking candy, at the behest of a princess made of bubblegum, makes a living off of this kind of humor.
- God of Chaos Discord, from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic of all things, thrives off this trope whenever he's not falling into Surreal Horror instead. Notable moment: he conjures a glass out of thin air, summons a cotton candy cloud raining chocolate milk, and the glass fills... from top to bottom. Then he drinks the glass. Without the milk. He tosses the chocolate milk behind him, and it explodes for no fathomable reason. See for yourself.
- Of course, even the God of Disorder himself has nothing on Pinkie Pie, who has this trope down to a science. Among her more notable feats are appearing in multiple places at once during a song, showing up in a mirror without being in the room, sprouting two additional limbs, walking on thin air, and morphing her own face into that of a G3 pony.