Too Funny to Be Evil

"Cruelty is shameful—unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke."
The Screwtape Letters, chapter 11

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:

The Hero: We have uncovered evidence that the villain has been torturing enemy soldiers with whips and spiked collars!
Villain: That's What She Said!

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, Refuge in Audacity, and "Just Joking" Justification. 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.

Often involves Appeal to Ridicule. Compare Actually Pretty Funny.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • An example of this aimed at the real life audience (rather than the in-universe public) in D.Gray-Man: Komui is one of the good guys. When he tries to murder innocent people, he does so with incompetent killer robots, so it's clearly just a joke - despite the damage he causes and the sociopathy he exhibits while doing it. The audience isn't expected to hold it against him in the more serious episodes.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fic 
  • 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 amazingly quirky and charismatic leader and manages to pass himself off as Plucky Comic Relief.

    Film 

    Literature 

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Another meta example in Azure Striker Gunvolt. Merak is the embodiment of sass and generally agreed to be one of the funniest characters in his own game. In the first translation of the game, they made no mention of his Moral Event Horizon, (namely drowning an entire subaquatic base just so he wouldn't have to fight you), so he comes across as something of an Anti-Villain. This is especially true when most of the other villains' Pet the Dog moments are confined to audio dramas and supplementary materials. Now, the game has been retranslated and what's said is done, but the character is still pretty popular. It doesn't help that he's a Lazy Bum who makes it clear he doesn't really have anything out for the hero.
  • Handsome Jack seems like this at the start of the game, but as you become more and more of a threat to him he starts showing his true colors, and when you finally press his Berserk Button he shows you just how much of a threat he really is when he has nothing left to lose.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • Comedic Sociopathy is the Bastard Operator from Hell's entire purpose. Anyone who can use Refuge in Audacity to get away with what the BOFH does and make you laugh at it must be all about this.

    Western Animation 
  • 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:
  • Dick Dastardly. He's Wile E. Coyote in human drag.
  • Varrick from The Legend of Korra has many of the traits of a Corrupt Corporate Executive (or at least an amoral one). He manipulates and elevates conflicts between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes to engage in War Profiteering, sabotages his competitor Asami's products in order to force her to sign her company over to him and frames Mako for his crimes. However, many of the characters (and the fanbase) are willing to give him a free pass because he's also the resident Cloudcuckoolander. Fortunately he gets better later on.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TooFunnyToBeEvil