A deadly tactic often used by a Villain with Good Publicity
. The heroes, after much strife and turmoil, have finally managed to uncover proof of the villain's evil plans and are able to go public with it. When the villain gets wind of this, they discredit the proof in the place they best know how: the court of public opinion. In a nutshell:
Yes, that's right. The all-encompassing evil that embodies the spirit of Kick the Dog
? It's a joke now. If you're lucky, it might show up on a late night talk show. But no one, ever, is going to take it the slightest bit seriously now. After all, how can something so hilarious possibly be a crime against humanity?
However, this trope can backfire against the villain if their ultimate goal relies on things like being able to convincingly intimidate an enemy. A villain who comes off as amusing (and not in an Affably Evil
manner) will often be viewed as a practical joker, and subsequently be ignored. Alternatively, this trope is what causes most Narm
under the "failed Crowning Moment Of Awesome" heading, since a Crowning Moment Of Awesome
is badly undercut when the character in question engages in accidental comedy.
This is the logical in-universe extension of Laughably Evil
. See also Sarcastic Confession
and Refuge in Audacity
. Contrast with Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor
. Often a causing factor of Draco in Leather Pants
— if the villain makes you laugh, how can he be bad? But no matter how amusing they are, never forget to Beware the Silly Ones
Has nothing to do with being Too Evil To Be Funny
. Often involves Appeal To Ridicule
. Compare Actually Pretty Funny
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- Mukrezar is a soulless, murderous bastard who completely wiped out all life on an entire continent, apparently for kicks. He is also an unrepentant torturer who apparently finds screams of the tormented 'soothing'. He is also a terrible cook. Despite this, he is an amazeingly quirky and charismatic leader and manages to pass himself off as Plucky Comic Relief.
- A variation is used against villains in Dean Ing's story "Very Proper Charlies" (and later his novel Soft Targets), in which a media policy of portraying terrorists as pathetic laughingstocks undercuts their ability to terrorize people.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Shagwell, a former jester who is part of the monstrous mercenary group The Brave Companions, tries to claim that he's this when he's cornered by Brienne. Considering all the things that both the audience and the characters have seen him do, (and that mere moments ago, Shagwell first crushed the knee and then the head of a man with a mace) nobody in universe or out is buying it.
Shagwell: I yield, I yield. You mustn't hurt sweet Shagwell, I'm too droll to die.
Brienne: You are no better than the rest of them. You have robbed and raped and murdered.
Shagwell: Oh, I have, I have. I shan't deny it... but I'm amusing with all my japes and capers. I make men laugh.
Brienne: And women weep.
- In C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood that his patient can get away with many sins as long as he passes them off as jokes to his fellows.
- He also advises using the Big Red Devil image to his advantage, because with that in his head the patient won't be able to take the Devil or demons seriously.
- A meta-example with the Orks of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. These guys embody Stupid Evil, Chaotic Stupid, and Crazy Awesome. In the actual 'verse though, they are interstellar butchers and murderers who would have already conquered the whole setting, if not for the fact they spend half their time stabbing each other in the back, and the other half stabbing each other in the front.
- Kefka comes across as an unusually silly character. He dresses like a clown, seems to have a few screws loose, and is just all around goofy. At first.
- Black Mage of 8-Bit Theater. His utter incompetence and his Cosmic Plaything status prevents anyone from taking him seriously even though he would very quickly destroy all life if given the opportunity.
- Redcloak of The Order of the Stick warns Jirix not to think this of Xykon. He may be funny and charming when he wants to be, but underneath the facade he is a monster, and quite possibly the most powerful spellcaster alive (sort of).
- Dragon Ball Abridged: Nappa is made to appear almost as if all of the things he does are because of being stupid instead of malicious.
- Vegeta is such a long-suffering and sardonic Only Sane Man (whose evil plans are always thwarted anyway) that he becomes the most sympathetic character.
- In one episode of Pinky and the Brain, Brain's plan was to take over the world by overwhelming everyone with the Tear Jerker "Brain's Song", then take advantage of their weakened mental state to assert dominance over them. Unfortunately, his last scene on a vibrating food field caused him to shake in spasms while stating his demands, and everyone falls out of their depressed crying state laughing uproariously at Brain's absurd remonstrations of "I'm the o-o-o-o-o-o-o-overlord!"
- A similar thing happened in the episode when Brain tried to imitate Orson Welles' infamous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast; instead of frightening the populace, he only amused them.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Return of Harmony, pt 1", Discord has escaped from his can and signs of his return are everywhere. Even the God Empress is terrified, and she immediately sets the ponies on a mission to use the Elements of Harmony to save Equestria again... while Pinkie Pie is too busy being ecstatic that eternal chaos comes with chocolate rain and seems to think the local God of Evil is a big party animal. She quickly changes her mind however after falling subject to his Mind-Control Eyes.