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Adaptational Comic Relief

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Fred in the comic and in the movie.

This is when a character is turned into Fun Personified or a Plucky Comic Relief in an adaptation. May be a sign of Flanderization or Character Exaggeration.

This trope is often found in Derivative Works that are Lighter and Softer or Denser and Wackier than their source.

Sometimes this new characterization becomes more popular and is later adapted into the original work.

Sub-Trope of Adaptation Personality Change. Contrast Adaptational Angst Upgrade. Compare Demoted to Comic Relief.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Grelle Sutcliffe of Black Butler is a truly menacing villain in the manga and also has only appeared twice over the course of eighty chapters. In the anime, her flirtation and flamboyance are Played for Laughs and she's a more major character, resulting in both an Ascended Extra and severe Villain Decay.
    • Much the same thing happened to the Viscount of Druitt. He was a menacing villain in his first anime appearance, but was reduced to comic relief in all subsequent appearances, even though he, ya know, sold girls on the black market. While he doesn't appear much in the manga, he's consistently portrayed as menacing.
  • Inverted in Bokurano. Aiko "Anko" Tokosumi is significantly more ditzy in the manga than in the anime, although she is capable of being serious and even angsting at times. In the anime, most of Anko's comedic moments, such as losing her temper when Koyemshi vaguely alludes that she'd been having A Date with Rosie Palms before being teleported to Zearth, are cut (in the anime, she's in the middle of drying her hair) and she's shown to be somewhat more emotionally vulnerable.
  • In the Fruits Basket manga and 2019 anime, Shigure often provides comic relief in the beginning, but he also has a darker side that's evident even early on and it's eventually made clear that he's actually very manipulative. In the 2001 anime, the darker aspects of his personality are left out and he's pure comic relief.
  • Pokémon:
    • Bianca is portrayed as a less competent trainer in the anime and is more of a Plucky Girl, while her game counterpart from Pokémon Black and White is more subdued and shy.
    • While Ash received Adaptational Intelligence, Team Rocket received this in the Alternate Universe film Pokémon: I Choose You!. They're not as serious or competent as their Kanto incarnations and are not even on par with the then-airing Sun and Moon arc versions of them. They're more akin to their Diamond and Pearl incarnations, and then some. They don't talk to Ash at all and instead exist in the background, stalking him and making goofy quips.
    • Downplayed example with Olivia: while still quite powerful as the Island Kahuna of Akala Island, her anime counterpart has many humorous eccentricities and emotional comedic moments that weren't present in the games.
  • Sailor Moon: Everybody had their comic relief moments in the anime due to it being Lighter and Softer and Denser and Wackier than the manga, which was more of a dramedy with a noticeable dash of horror. Some notable mentions:
    • In the manga, while Chibiusa/Sailor Chibimoon does become a source of a few humorous moments, she is a legitimate semi-powerful Guardian with an attack capable of destroying low-level enemies which can also be combined with Sailor Moon's or Tuxedo Mask's powers for more damage. In the first anime, especially the third season, she is turned into a borderline Joke Character with powers that are only strong enough to annoy monsters and are prone to failing altogether. Part of the reason for this was the anime deliberately sticking to a certain episode structure, so Chibimoon's antics quickly became a regular occurrence. (This led to her ongoing Character Development from the manga barely happening in that version, so when the next season abruptly promoted her to protagonist status due to her being a Kid-Appeal Character, the results were not pretty).
    • All the villains from seasons 2-5, barring the Big Bads like Death Phantom, Nehellenia, and Sailor Galaxia. By contrast, the Dark Kingdom was Played for Drama, though there were still silly moments, particularly Zoisite in the Rainbow Crystals mini-arc.
  • Rhi'a becomes incredibly childish and silly in the manga adaptation of Sands of Destruction. In the game and anime, she was more serious. While she did show a sense of humor in the game at times, it wasn't a constant thing and she never seemed particularly naive.
  • School-Live!:
    • The dog Taromaru in the anime is presented this way. Taromaru was a Oneshot Character in the manga who didn't do much besides look cute for a few panels before becoming a zombie. In the anime, he is the frequent source of comic relief.
    • Yuki's competence as a character was toned down to add more moments where she acts either adorably peppy or adorably oblivious.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • While Jonouchi was used for comedy in the manga, he nevertheless was pretty damn competent as well being a damn good fighter. While Jonouchi's anime counterpart still has much of this behavior, he's also made butt of many more jokes, with his friends even making some about him at his expense.
    • Bobassa, a serious and intelligent character in the manga who guides Yugi and his friends through the Pharaoh's memories in the Millennium World arc, becomes a goofy, simple-minded character who spends most of his time thinking of his appetite. This is due to him being a Decomposite Character in the anime.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Secret of NIMH, Jeremy was a comical, clumsy character while his counterpart in the original book had more of a "young and inexperienced" role. The film made several characters darker, which may have influenced this change. Jeremy is also an example of Ret-Canon since his more whimsical characterization was adapted into the book's sequels.
  • Ralph Bakshi's animated film of The Lord of the Rings turned Samwise into a goofy, incompetent oddball of a hobbit, but in the books, he is brave and loyal. He was meant to become more serious in the second film, which was never made.
  • Both Captain Hook and the Crocodile that chases him in Peter Pan, with Mr. Smee also made into an even more comedic character than he already was in the original play and book.
  • The Jungle Book (1967) is intentionally Lighter and Softer than the book it was based on, so this happens to a number of characters who are as much In Name Only similar to the book's as the script is.
    • Baloo in the books is a serious law teacher. In the Disney film he became the exact opposite, a lazy, fun-loving character who loves to sing silly songs, including a scatting duel with an orangutan.
    • Kaa combines this with Adaptational Villainy. Whereas in the book he's an old, wise snake who is respected and feared by everyone in the jungle, in the film he's a sniveling literal Smug Snake who attempts to eat Mowgli multiple times, but always ends up suffering Amusing Injuries.
    • Hathi in the books is a mighty elephant respected by every animal in the jungle. In the Disney film he's a bumbling, absent-minded military commander.
    • Downplayed with Bagheera, who remains a serious character but often ends up becoming The Comically Serious and the Straight Man to Baloo.
    • Zigzagged with Shere Khan, who becomes much more menacing than his book counterpart, but also gains some Faux Affably Evil mannerisms.
  • Big Hero 6 has three examples:
  • Stonecrumbler in Son of the White Horse is a lazy, bumbling, easily frightened oaf. While he was not much better in the original folk tales, which variably depicted him as either a villain or a hero, he was still a serious character.
  • Matau from BIONICLE 2: Legends of Metru Nui. Though already a comical character, his funny moments mainly involved having a giant ego and a sarcastic wit to match. The movie exaggerated him to a childish thrill seeker with numerous over-the-top slapstick moments, slamming into things in cartoony fashion and getting "tamed" by and slobbered over by an animal companion. The following film, Web of Shadows gave him a more dramatic role and reduced the physical comedy, but in exchange cranked up his verbal antics and cynical over-reactions.
  • Genie in Aladdin is a standout example; in the original, the lamp and ring genies were helpful to Aladdin, but not funny or interesting (and the lamp genie is so frightful in appearance that Aladdin’s mother faints upon seeing him). In the Disney version, Genie is a friendly, zany character who makes pop culture gags. Though he’s not all comic; his own wish, to be free, is played seriously.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings:
    • Merry and Pippin are given funnier moments than the books, particularly in Pippin's case, such as getting into Gandalf's fireworks. After the Fellowship splits up, one character breaks out into comic relief for each group. For instance, Gimli provides physical comedy and gruff one-liners in contrast to Straight Man and Elf Aragorn and Legolas. Some of his funny moments in the films did come from the books, such as his Orc-slaying competition with Legolas (which in the book, Gimli uncontestedly won). Word of God confirms that they heightened this role for Gimli, a Dwarf (stereotyped as being crude), to accommodate Merry and Pippin's Coming of Age.
    • Of all the characters, Gollum becomes quite funny compared to his book counterpart (only his Smeagol personality, however). See his over-the-top misery and occasional moments of Ugly Cute.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien described Radagast as a down-to-earth character, but never wrote very much about his personality. In Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, he is an eccentric Cloud Cuckoolander. Similarly, the dwarf Bofur was one of the least-described characters in the book and only had a few lines, but was given the role of a cheerful, wisecracking dwarf in the film.
  • Whatney Smith in Outlaw of Gor is roughly equivalent to Harrison Smith in the book of the same name, but Harrison doesn't go to Gor and isn't a comic relief character. Whatney is supposed to be funny — opinion varies as to whether he is or not.
  • Scotty in the recent Star Trek (2009) reboot movies.
  • Harry Potter
    • In the films, Ron suffered some Character Exaggeration into outright comic relief. While Ron is a big source of comic relief in the books, it's usually thanks to his snarky one-liners. The movies tended to make Ron the butt of jokes, specifically his incompetence and Rupert Grint's astonishing array of terrified faces.
    • Caretaker Filch in the first few movies is as menacing as his book counterpart, but later movies would turn him into a comic relief character.
    • Inverted with Harry himself, whose Deadpan Snarker tendencies from the books are heavily toned down.
  • Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a Deadpan Snarker who provides most of the laughs. In the novel, he mainly serves the role of explaining chaos theory and is a relatively serious character, although he still has some funny moments. An especially prominent one is found in the second book, which was written to hold some similarities with the original film.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes films:
    • Nigel Bruce as John Watson, who is a bumbling oaf compared to the original books where he was dignified and professional.
    • Reversed by Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, who was very witty and showy in the stories but became increasingly a straightlaced hero-type throughout the films (although he did have some moments of hilarity, like impersonating a music hall performer singing "I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside.")
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • While he's the main character in most of the movies he appears in, the film version of Iron Man is much funnier than the comic version who tended to be a little more grim (although after the movies, writers have been giving him a little snark lately).
    • Thor is presented a lot more comedically than he usually is in the comics, especially after Thor: Ragnarok.
  • Inverted with The Last Airbender—Sokka hardly makes a single joke, despite being both Plucky Comic Relief and The Snark Knight in the original show.
  • In Karl May's novels Old Surhehand I and III, Old Wabble is a tragic figure and one of May's most three-dimensional characters: a former ally of Old Shatterhand and Winnetou who became evil and eventually dies at age 90. In the movies Unter Geiern, Der Ölprinz and Old Surehand he is given an Age Lift and is merely Old Surehand's Bumbling Sidekick.
  • The film version of Diamonds Are Forever is known for having a definite campier, more comical tone overall than the source material, and is sometimes seen a turning point in the James Bond film franchise. Two or three distinct characters are worth noting:
    • The novel version of "Shady Tree", a middleman in the diamond-smuggling ring, is a hunchback who Bond feels the need to think to himself was, whatever he may be, "not funny". In the movie, he's literally a stand-up comic as his daylight job.
    • The film version of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd go from a comparatively straightforward pair of hired killers to a now-iconic pair of assassins who drop one-liners (and sometimes finish the other's sentences) in a Creepy Monotone.
  • Cats:
    • In the original theatrical version of Cats, the emphasis of Jennyanydots is that she's a Cool Old Lady and a snooty Maiden Aunt. In the 2019 film, she's age lifted to middle-aged at most. She's more energetic, being Big Fun and prone to comedic antics.
    • The film puts more emphasis on Mr. Mistoffelees being a dorky Shrinking Violet.
    • The film version of Bustopher Jones has more slapstick scenes and Self-Deprecation about his weight than his more regal counterpart in the play.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Samwell Tarly is characterized by his extremely low self-esteem due to abusive treatment by his father and continual cruel mockery for his weight, and this never really improves, even after he makes some friendships. In the show, once he makes some friendships early on, Samwell plays the role of Plucky Comic Relief and even responds in kind to (good natured) mockery by his friends. However, after some of them abandon him during the second season's Bolivian Army Cliffhanger, he is more like his book counterpart during the third season.
    • While Olenna's sharp tongue can be amusing in the novels, Diana Rigg tinges it all with a mischievous bemusement where the novels portray her as genuinely caustic and spiteful. Instances where this is not possible, such as unprovokedly calling Ellaria Sand "the serpent's whore", are adapted out and the show crafts new entirely-comedic scenes for her such as her "You can smell the shit from here!" arrival in Season 5.
    • Mace Tyrell is a bit of an oaf in the books as well, but in the form of a haughty and tactless lord rather than the show's complete buffoon.
  • Inverted in the 1980s Casablanca TV series. In the original film, Sascha is pure Plucky Comic Relief; in the series, he has a much more reserved demeanor and is never used for comedy at all.
  • Gasha Dokuro of Ninja Sentai Kakuranger was a sadistic Omnicidal Maniac who enjoys the chainsaw way too much and even murders the Kakaranger's mentor. His Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers counterpart Rito Repulso, on the other hand, is an Affably Evil Butt-Monkey who at one point loses his memories and ends up working for Bulk and Skull.
  • While the Victor Zsasz of Gotham is a case of Adaptational Badass, he's also this as unlike the fairly humorless character of the comics, this Zsasz is prone to being sassy and making quips.

  • The Thénardiers in Les Misérables, while still villains, were made into the main comic relief because the play was already very dramatic.
  • In the opera Boris Godunov, the second act (as revised) has several lighthearted songs for Feodor and the Nurse to sing, adding comic relief to an otherwise almost entirely serious dramatic work based off real life.
  • Shrek: The Musical makes Big Bad Lord Farquaad a much more over-the-top and comical character, to the point where he has a big, show stopping musical number about how great he and his kingdom are (which replaces the tournament in the film). He even uses the "Welcome to Duloc" dolls as backup dancers!
  • An adaptation of His Dark Materials turned the Gallivespian Lord Roke into this. In the books, Lord Roke (like all his kind) was a completely serious character; his tiny size was played for drama in terms of the dangers to him, but also the danger his venomous stingers posed to humans, and was a proud, competent and courageous man afforded all the respect that would be given to a human of similar personality and skills. In the play he becomes a comedic buffoon who exhausts himself at an inconvenient time running across a room at a snail's pace and is implied to be something of a peeping tom.
  • The deadly, cold-blooded Hisoka is portrayed as a hammier, more comical villain in the Hunter × Hunter stage musicals. He still acts as a threat, but in a more mischievous sense rather than a serious one.
  • In the National Theatre's 2014 production of Treasure Island, all the pirates are made hammy and somewhat comic figures, though they do have their menacing moments as well. Israel Hands is an extreme case; a significant antagonist in the novel, in the stage version he's an entirely comic figure (played by a professional clown) whose most notable achievement is blowing himself up in a gunpowder accident.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in a Show Within a Show on Homestar Runner when the band Limozeen becomes the subject of a cartoon show featuring the musicians Recycled In Space. Within the cartoon, Mary Palaroncini asks why he is drawn as a fat redhead when in real life he is neither of those things, only to be told, "You're the comic relief!"
  • RWBY Chibi: The show is designed to be a cute, light-hearted Slice of Life comic. As a result, all of the characters in the show are much more frivolous, quirky and silly than they are in the main series. The characters who are serious and practical in the main show are especially light-hearted and comedically petty.
    • The normally quiet, stoic Ren has become The Comically Serious. A lot of humor involving him is derived from his calm, serious, and focused demeanor being applied to such silly things as playing tag, pillow-fighting, or playing the role of a harsh-tempered dance instructor.
    • In the main show, Ozpin is a calm, empathetic, and enigmatic headmaster who commands respect. His chibi form is a laid-back analog of a school director who is cheerfully oblivious to genuine danger and happily self-absorbed about sending the kids on 'training quests' that are nothing more than personal errands, such as retrieving his missing possessions after some kind of embarrassing work party.
    • Taiyang's caring, serious paternal instincts in the main show are downplayed to over-emphasise his terrible pun-based "dad jokes", making him an embarrassing, goof-prone father. He's also got an inferiority complex about Qrow's edgy coolness factor, and therefore is obsessed with trying to prove he's worthy and cool.
    • On the villains' side, Cinder's quiet, calculating menace and competence have been changed to grandiose, evil plotting that is conducted out in the open complete with cartoon lists and diagrams, lame excuses when caught engaging in suspicious behaviour, and melodramatic self-inflicted errors of judgement. Likewise, Roman's scheming persistently failing due to over-cleverness or comedic stupidity (and in one case, being actively sabotaged by Zwei). Emerald and Neo are likewise reduced to making sarcastic commentary from the sidelines about their respective bosses' idiocy, while Mercury has become a bit of a Manchild who's been shown laughing at Cinder falling down a flight of stairs and has a rocket launcher specifically for killing kittens.
    • The threat of the Grimm has been reduced to comedy fodder. Ruby drags around a beowolf that is clinging to her cape by its teeth and Nora terrifies a few while using them in hare-brained schemes to get Ren to rescue her; when successful, she hugs one so hard its arm breaks. Cinder walks puppy beowolves and Zwei can intimidate beowolves, which submit like dogs. A skit in Season 2 has two particular Beowolves, Mike and Marty, feel that they're doomed by Cinder's melodramatic evil plans, spending one of her planning sessions discussing over coffee the death of their mate, Larry, and being harassed by an effeminate, lisping Geist called Floyd. They decide to cheer themselves up by killing innocent humans... and once they go to town a season later, they fail miserably. In a third appearance, they're just used to demonstrate the Grimm are too savage and dumb to become pets, no matter how Penny wants it.

    Web Comics 
  • In-Universe example in Girl Genius, where the Heterodyne Boys books portray Punch as The Klutz and Dumb Muscle and Klaus Wulfenbach as a Cowardly Sidekick and The Comically Serious. ("Klaus keeps his dignity, or tries to. That's what makes him funny!") The real Genius Bruiser Punch doesn't like the stories much; the real Anti-Villain Baron Wulfenbach sometimes seems to feel the same way, although he's also been known to say they're Actually Pretty Funny. (The general public don't really seem to make much of a connection between the comedy character they laugh at in the stories and the Baron who rules the continent with an iron fist, although it's implied to be a bit of catharsis on their part.)

    Western Animation 
  • Spider-Man: The New Animated Series: Inverted. Peter Parker in this series is one of the least jokey incarnations of Spider-Man, though he's still pretty quippy and snarky (it is Spider-Man, after all).
  • Ultimate Spider-Man
    • Peter Parker/Spider-Man is usually funny to begin with as a Deadpan Snarker, but the cartoon makes him a Deadpool-style fourth-wall breaker and foregoes some darker elements, like how he is usually constantly haunted by the death of his uncle, as well as his massive guilt complex/martyr syndrome, in favor of jokes.
    • Another figure of note is Deadpool himself. Though he was always considered a comic relief, this adaptation makes him a great deal Denser and Wackier than his grimmer and occasionally more homicidal self, even though this version is no stranger to killing. In fact, his defeat practically comes about in the Chibi imaginary sequences when Spidey forces Deadpool to face some degree of responsibility for his actions as opposed to avoiding it with humor (which was mentioned in a way in his newer, S.H.I.E.L.D.-related backstory).
  • In the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, there was nothing remotely interesting about Fred Jones. Various derivative works remedy this in various ways, where he is generally less intelligent and more of a Cloudcuckoolander. Some give him more specific quirks; in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated he's obsessed with traps, in What's New, Scooby-Doo? he constantly fanboys over celebrities, and in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo he's quick to blame the latest mystery either on Red Herring or something ridiculous he read in the National Exaggerator. Often zigzagged since these variations of Fred also tend to be more proactive to the story.
  • The Super Hero Squad Show does this for most of the Marvel Universe (mostly as a result of being both Lighter and Softer and Denser and Wackier than the comics). Of the bunch, the Silver Surfer probably gets it the worst. He goes from a reflective, serious intergalactic figure to a Totally Radical stereotype of a California Surfer Dude.
  • In Teen Titans Go! just about every character from the original Teen Titans cartoon is turned into a more comedic version of themselves.
  • Due to it's more sitcom-ish nature, Sonic Boom makes a lot of the Sonic the Hedgehog cast more comical, though some exceptional cases include:
    • While Knuckles the Echidna often tends to drift into comedic territory in the games series, he is often first and foremost the powerful guardian of the Master Emerald and a competent ally of Sonic. The show turns Knuckles into a completely buffoonish Dumb Muscle as pivotal to the show's humour than it's action scenes.
    • There's rarely a version of Dr Eggman that isn't Laughably Evil, and the games version is certainly no exception. Boom however makes Eggman more primarily a bungling, insecure Sitcom Arch-Nemesis for Sonic than a real threat for the large part, similarly providing a good chunk of the show's laughs.
  • My Little Pony:
  • In the Golden Films adaptation of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1994 (which was an unofficial sequel), Mopsy, Flopsy and Cottontail are portrayed as ditzy sisters while in the original Peter Rabbit stories they were more smart and serious.
  • In the Lego projects for DC Super Hero Girls , Supergirl is hit with this. Through her kind side is still intact, she's less intelligent and more prone to cracking jokes.
  • In Voltron, Coran was a strict, elderly man who was very serious. To contrast, in Voltron: Legendary Defender, his personality changed to become quirkier and goofier, making him more of an Eccentric Mentor.


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