Tough Room

"Wow, what a terrific audience."
Jimmy, South Park

If a character in any given show is constantly cracking wise and making wry observations, no matter how clever and funny they are, they never elicit so much as a smirk from any of the other characters. While in real life genuinely funny and charming people are social darlings, in TV land they're more seen as annoying losers.

The prime examples would have to be Chandler Bing and Xander Harris, who — in their early seasons, at least — were funnier than just about anyone in real life, yet got nothing back but eye-rolling and sighs. You wonder why they hang out with these people.

Of course, it's all for the best. Constantly chuckling characters would drive viewers insane (a constantly chuckling audience does nothing of the sort, of course), especially if they're laughing at a joke the viewer doesn't find funny.

Contrast Corpsing, especially if it's left in the final cut, and Actually Pretty Funny.

Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • In an American Express commercial, Jerry Seinfeld performs in Britain and his stand up with American cultural idioms is met with stony silence. Fortunately, with his Amex card, he goes on a whirlwind cultural immersion and he creates a British savvy act that brings the house down.

    Comic Books 
  • Yorick from Y: The Last Man peppers his speech with pop culture references, to which 355 reacts with indifference and Dr Mann with snarkiness. This can be read as either an example or a subversion of the trope, depending on how funny you think he is.

    Film 
  • In the classic film, A Night at the Opera, Groucho Marx's character improvises an opening speech at an opera theatre that in real life would have brought the house down with laughter and inspire thunderous applause for making a normally boring formality so entertaining, but in the film, evoked only stony silence.
  • In the Marx's earlier film Monkey Business the director told the extras in the party scene to laugh when Harpo did something funny because he was afraid the movie's audience wouldn't laugh otherwise, thinking that there was something wrong with him.
  • Austin Powers in Goldmember: In response to the silence when Dr. Evil makes a surprisingly good joke;
    Dr. Evil: "Gentlemen, welcome to my Submarine Lair. *beat* It's long, hard and full of sea men!"
    *Stony silence*
    Dr. Evil: No? No? Not even a titter? Huh. Tough sub.

    Live Action TV 
  • Exception: Supporting characters on Raines frequently smile or chuckle at the title character's one-liners.
  • Sports Night subverts this quite nicely with most characters, especially Danny. Whenever anyone makes a joke, or just an amusing comment, the other characters actually laugh!
    • This was actually first introduced as a way to hide the canned laughter showrunner Aaron Sorkin had been stuck with in the early days of the series. He hated it, so for most of his funny lines, he tried to have a couple characters just off camera so viewers could at least pretend that the canned laughter came from somewhere. Later, when they were able to get rid of it, they kept the characters laughing at each others' jokes.
  • Justified with John Crichton from Farscape. He makes a lot of references to American pop culture... to aliens. And they definitely don't steal cable; none of them have any idea where Earth is. Even with Translator Microbes Crichton comes across as a lunatic constantly spouting nonsense.
    D'argo: Are you mocking me?
    John: D'argo, I mock all of us.
  • Like Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic, this is more likely to be averted in Mockumentary/Faux Documentary shows. Ricky Gervais interviewed Larry David, and this trope was one of the things they talked about.
    • And as you might expect, the trope is generally avoided in Curb Your Enthusiasm, and often in Seinfeld.
  • An example with something other than humour: in Criminal Minds, Reid is a walking encyclopedia who is always willing to share some kind of interesting fact with his teammates, but they never seem to want to hear it.
  • Despite what it says at the top of the page, in Friends a couple of episodes made something out of the fact that Chandler is "the funny one", so apparently the other characters do at least understand that he's being witty even if they can't bring themselves to laugh.
    • The in-universe justification for the other Friends not laughing at Chandler's jokes is because 1) they're often the targets of his barbs, and 2) he makes little jokes all the time.
      • Most likely the fact because he makes light of his friends' little crises, to the point where Rachel gets visibly annoyed with his snarkery at times.
    • In early episodes, the other friends were shown chuckling at Chandler's jokes once in a while. In fact, you can see the others laugh less and less at Chandler as the series goes on, and get more and more irritated with his quips.
  • Although House is almost always making sarcastic quips, none of the characters in-universe find them funny. Justified in that he's either mocking them or Crossing the Line Twice at a patient's expense.
    • They do occasionally avert this trope, but only when it's a plot point (as in the episode where Foreman contracted an infection which made him giddy).
  • Mash has a lot of witty one-liners, mostly done by Hawkeye, but there wasn't many times when people were laughing. Most probably because the situation they were in and Hawkeye was like an early Chandler.
  • This is noticably averted in How I Met Your Mother, where this trope is a pet peeve of the writers. Anytime a character on the show is intentionally telling a joke, only the actor playing the character telling the joke is told the joke beforehand. Thus, the other characters listening to the joke will laugh, or at least smirk, at the joke since this is the first time the other actors have heard it.
  • Castle's quips are largely ignored, especially in the earlier seasons. As the show went on and the cops became more acclimated to Castle's presence, they started to crack a smile now and then, and now Ryan and Esposito sometimes join in when Castle launches into his Incredibly Lame Puns.
  • MythBusters: Any room that has only Adam and Jamie will generally be this when Adam goes into his usual antics. Occasionally, though, Jamie will have trouble keeping his composure.
  • While The Thick of It does use Actually Pretty Funny quite a lot, too - it's set in a very aggressive environment where being funnier than everyone around you is both a survival strategy and proof of dominance - it's worth pointing out that even characters treated by everyone else as stupid (like Man Child Phil) or annoying (Beleaguered Bureaucrat Terri) are all far, far funnier, wittier and quicker than anyone could possibly be in real life. This comes under Acceptable Breaks from Reality in that these characterisations are expressed instead by the quality of their observations, rather than not having them make them (for instance, the other Coalition politicians disgustedly remark that all of Phil's clever references and comparisons are to fiction, usually fantasy fiction (The Lord of the Rings), fiction aimed at children (Doctor Who), or both (Harry Potter). It's also played with in that even though Malcolm is acknowledged in-universe as an incredibly funny person, most other characters are far too terrified of him to dare laugh at anything he does most of the time.
    • There's one scene where the name of Ollie's favourite film temporarily slips Malcolm's mind and so he describes it as "the one about the fucking hairdresser, the space hairdresser and the cowboy. He's got a tinfoil pal and a pedal bin. His father's a robot and he's fuckin' fucked his sister. LEGO, they're all made of fucking LEGO." Even after Ollie figures out what the film is ( Star Wars), he reacts with bewilderment and mild annoyance instead of the hysterical laughter this would more likely cause.
  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will attends the funeral of Uncle Phil's former mentor turned political rival, a cantankerous and perverted creep who died when Will shouted at him to drop dead. When it turns out that all the "mourners" there hated the man and are just there to make sure he's really dead, a guilty Will chews them out. One demands to know who he is; Will says "I'm the dude that killed him", causing the room to erupt with applause. Will drops this trope's name in response.
  • Nick Di Paolo encounters this in Louie when he attempts to lay one on the then-recently elected Barack Obama. He takes out his resentment at what he perceives as White Guilt on Louie himself.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • This is common in Calvin and Hobbes. There are times when you wonder if the title characters are the only people with imagination or a sense of humour in the entire town. One of the more obvious examples is Calvin's mom's comment on how people are moving out of the neighborhood because they find Calvin's snowmen disgusting. In real life, the sheer amount of creativity and work Calvin puts in them would net the area frequent visitors every winter.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Flash in Justice League is sometimes deliberately subject to this trope. He's surrounded by a number of Comically Serious characters, and he tends to have a Silver Age sense of humor. When he gets his Day in the Limelight, the audience finds out he's actually quite capable of being serious and practical.
  • Numbuh Two in Codename: Kids Next Door often finds his attempts at One Liners met with groans, complains, or outright assault from his fellow agents (especially Numbuh Five).
  • Krusty the Clown of The Simpsons might be an example of this. He tends to alternate between this trope and So Unfunny It's Funny.
    Krusty: Woah, tough crowd! They're booing Shakespeare!
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang tells Bumi that he comes from "Kangaroo Island". Bumi replies "Kangaroo Island? I hear that place is really hopping!" After a long Beat Sokka bursts out laughing.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Baby Cakes" Pinkie Pie attempts to cheer up the crying Cake Twins with a standup act. This elicits Chirping Crickets, and Pinkie dropping the trope name.
    • In "Make New Friends and Keep Discord", Discord attempts to hijack the Grand Galloping Gala with standup comedy. Similar to Pinkie, he references the trope when it doesn't get the response he wants. Even worse, it's Maud Pie's deadpan heckling of him that gets the laughs.
  • Bugs Bunny finds himself dealing with this in Hot Cross Bunny. Thinking that the operation theatre was a stage, he performs an impressive impression, dance, and magic act only to be met with the same stern silence from the audience of doctors.
    • "What a tough audience! It ain't like Saint Joe!"

    Real Life 
  • Comedian Rodney Dangerfield would often incorporate a "tough crowd" into his stand-up comedy, pulling at his necktie and sweating along with self-deprecating humor, as part of his signature style.