Bathos is a story-telling technique that follows serious ideas with the commonplace or ludicrous. The juxtaposition of these ideas creates humor.
It has its origins in poetry, where lofty prose would be followed with an anticlimax of sorts. It later evolved to cover any instance where the serious is mixed with the surreal or commonplace in order to provide humor.
The trope name comes from Alexander Pope, who wrote Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry in 1727, in which he mocks the abuse of tropes and figures of speech by bad writers. In it, he notes that juxtaposing the serious and the trivial creates unintentional humor, which sinks serious poetry. As such, unintentional bathos is considered Narm.
Bathos most often appears in intentionally comedic works or those with a comedic undertone, like that of Surreal Humor, although not always. On the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness, works of bathos either sit firmly in the middle or wildly slide up and down. Bathos may cause Mood Whiplash when it does not appear in an otherwise comedic segment of the work.
Compare Gallows Humor, where the comedy is used by characters within the story as a tension breaker, and Mood Dissonance. See also the First Law of Tragicomedies, a method of averting this. Also compare Failed Attempt at Drama when a characters tries to be dramatic but fails hilariously.
Please do not place examples that better belong on Narm here or on any main page. Likewise, do not confuse with Narm Charm, where a dramatic moment still works, in spite of being unintentionally silly. In other words, only intentional Bathos belongs on this page.
- Black Comedy
- British Humour
- Casual Danger Dialog
- The Comically Serious
- Crosses the Line Twice
- Expospeak Gag
- Failed Attempt at Drama
- Ignored Enemy
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others
- The Mel Brooks Number
- Mundane Made Awesome
- Murder, Arson, and Jaywalking
- Sophisticated as Hell
- Berserk absolutely thrives on contrasting the awful and tragic events of its Crapsack World with sudden moments of hilarity. A good example happens after the Eclipse, a demonic ritual in which Guts' best friend betrayed him, his companions were all eaten, his lover lost her sanity, and he lost his own right eye and left hand. In the chapter immediately following this horror, he wakes up in a cave and the first thing he sees is Godo's daughter Erica comically trip down the stairs when she comes to bring him food. In general the series has a lot of Mood Whiplash and rides a roller coaster up and down the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness.
- The works of Junji Ito are full of this. They take genuinely horrifying horror plots and give them ridiculously silly elements such as haunted balloons that hang people. The result is a story that is downright hilarious... as well as terrifying at the same time.
- Senyuu. has more and more of this as the series goes on, culminating in a dead-serious confrontation with the Big Bad being resolved by Alba falling out of the sky onto one opponent, a knight-tank-princess randomly colliding with the other, and a ridiculously blatant semi-literal Deus ex Machina.
- Discussed in Bakuman。: Hattori advises Mashiro and Takagi that their works needs humor, but the kind that fits within their generally serious storytelling. The best example they could think up was Otter #11, in particular a scene where the titular character rams a truck into a building: it's played dead-serious, but undermined by the fact that said character is a human but with a photorealistic otter for a head.
- Code Geass has a surprising amount of this, as a work of entertainment where the creators knowingly combined tragedy and comedy. In fact, audience reactions range between realizing this and not (see Narm plus Narm Charm). Lelouch is very serious towards life and his quest, but sometimes his own misfortune was an intentional source of amusement for creators and viewers alike. His utter lack of physical skills was highlighted for comedic effect, not only while chasing a cat at school but also when he failed to land a punch on Mao during a dramatic moment. The staff came up with the term "Lulu quality" to describe how much they enjoyed teasing and bullying him. Another example would be Emperor Charles, as director Goro Taniguchi approved his larger than life character design because of its potential for hilarity, leading to the scene where he flies off like a rocket just before dying in a climatic confrontation, whose comedy value even the staff points out. The mad scientist Lloyd, whose voice actor was given total freedom to play the part, makes amusing remarks even during serious battle sequences, while Jeremiah "Orange" Gottwald goes from villain to audience-pleaser. Last but not least, the staff played around with Pizza Hut appearances more often than what the sponsor was asking for, even having the delivery bike show up.
- The Korean short Doggy Poo is a poignantly touching story about the ephemeral nature of life and delivers a wonderfully heartwarming Aesop about how everyone and everything has its own special place and purpose in God's creation. The title is not some sort of Dadaist abstraction, either; the main character is a sentient lump of dog shit.
- Fairy Tail: Lucy hung a lampshade on this at the end of episode 48.
Lucy: Jeez, we finally have a touching ending and you had to go and ruin it!
- Goodnight Punpun never lets up on the surreal, slapstick, and anatomical humour that characterises it, even as Punpun grows into an ever more miserable and twisted person. Even when the story takes its darkest turn, around the eleventh volume, you still have Aiko and God essentially cracking jokes. The story by and large conforms to the First Law of Tragicomedies though, and as the tension ramps up the humour takes a darker slant.
- Hellsing generally cues a bout of this with a cartoony Art Shift, which can get dropped in at practically any time.
- The makers of Kill la Kill knew exactly what they were doing when they made a world out of ham and Serious Business. A student is brutally-yet-comically killed for stealing a school uniform, and Mako yells at the top of her lungs about how Ryuko will fail to navigate a gauntlet of deadly traps in time and will have a tardy on her permanent record! There's no Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness here, because the most ridiculous things are taken completely seriously and the most serious things are full of Black Comedy.
- My Monster Secret tends to runs on a mixture of this and Mood Whiplash. Either it oscillates between legit drama and absurdity, or it mixes them together by having the series' more ridiculous elements present while dramatic things are happening. A good example occurs in chapter 183 when Shirou gives Asahi an extremely heartfelt message from Youko... while wearing Shiho's Playboy Bunny costume.
- While not much of a Bathos-themed series in general, in Naruto the story became increasingly serious during the Fourth Ninja War Arc, but at various points the tension was shattered by comedic moments. Notable is during the show-down with Kaguya when Naruto uses his gag Harem Jutsu as an actual attack and it works. For those not familiar with the series: he distracts a god with yaoi.
- NEEDLESS is full of this. It can best be described as sort of a Fist of the North Star parody stuffed with Postmodernism. There is a story arc called the Bloody Rain Arc, which is changed to the Mustache Arc after several characters notice how many characters with mustaches there are. Said arc is filled with Lampshade Hanging and mustache jokes. Then one of the said mustachioed characters proceeds to kill enough people to make it rain blood.
- One Piece:
- The series as a whole is made of equal parts dark, violent drama and light-hearted goofiness, to the point that some fight sequences manage to include both at the same time. The author admitted himself that this is part of the reason why he gave Luffy Rubber Man powers; so that even serious moments could retain a touch of silliness and lightheartedness. This is especially apparent with Luffy's Gear Fourth form, which looks equal parts silly and badass.
- For another example: Enies Lobby is about Robin's past catching up with her, causing her to succumb to guilt and lose her will to live, while the rest of the Straw Hats has to deal with her captors, a secret government black ops cell powerful enough that everyone needs to learn new techniques just to fight on even ground. Also revealed are the lengths the World Government are willing to go to to protect the secrets of the Void Century, including wiping out entire islands to a man. On the other hand, the members of said black ops cell include an overdramatic kabuki actor who keeps trying to commit seppuku, a huge blob of a man with a zipper mouth and a a voice that doesn't fit his stature at all, a woman with the power to create soap bubbles and a giraffe man. Also included is a cola-powered cyborg Ace Ventura look-a-like who at one point tries to escape capture by inflating his ass, and Chopper's Monster Point, which transforms him into a gigantic, dead-eyed, berserk monster...with a pink top hat.
- One-Punch Man thrives on this, usually by contrasting the Monster of the Week's Motive Rant with Saitama telling them to speed it up.
- Overlord, somewhat comparable to the above due to the sheer overpoweredness of its main character, also gets a lot of this, although it's not a straight-up comedy. You can get a scene in which our protagonist utterly humiliates an entire army of powerful magic users, sucking a giant angel into a black hole,◊ and overall being a utterly terrifying badass... then in the very next scene you see his Dragon all but squeeing over how awesome he is.◊
- Yatterman Night tends to use this a lot. A Happy Dance gets used as a completely serious Police State salute, clownishly dressed robots serve as nation police, people are being kept in a prison camp on "Cape Of-Course-It's-So-Ya", Our main characters are learning how to be better rebels from a children's picture book, the protagonists and antagonists ride into battle on completely ridiculous Humongous Mecha... the list goes on from there.
- Zombie Land Saga is a Horror Comedy about a group of young Idol Singers, celebrities, and entertainers (aspiring or otherwise) who died before they could hit 20, and are given a second chance at stardom when they're brought back as the living dead. That premise alone runs on bathos, but what stand out are the deaths of the girls themselves, which are rooted in Black Comedy, yet played completely seriously in how they affected the girls and their loved ones. This is fully intentional, as the creators didn't want such a heavy subject matter to clash with the comedy:
- Sakura gets an introductory sequence that wouldn't be out of place in a Slice of Life high school comedy anime, which is abruptly cut short when a speeding truck smashes into her and sends her body flying while death metal plays in the background.
- Saki dies in a fiery blaze after she flies off a cliff on her motorcycle as if it were some kind of tanker.
- Ai is tragically struck by lightning in front of a crowd of adoring fans during a thunderstorm. The incident left her with a fear of lightning and a desperate need to prove that there's more to her life than how she died...but it also left her body blackened in soot like something out of a Looney Tunes production.
- Junko is killed when her plane randomly falls out of the sky for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
- Lily died at 12 years old after getting overworked by her father during her television career, leading him to wallow in grief for years, but the straw that broke the camel's back is so ridiculous that Saki bursts out laughing over how stupid it is: the shock of discovering a single strand of hair growing on her face, on account of her being biologically male, which also adds an extra layer of tragedy.
- Neil Gaiman makes liberal use of this in The Sandman, juxtaposing otherwise poetic and mythic language with common turns-of-phrase.
- Bone makes pretty good use of this. The biggest example is probably The Reveal of why the Hooded One is trying to get their hands on Phoney Bone: the stray parade balloon from Phoney's ill-fated attempt at running for Mayor of Boneville, the stunt that got him and his cousins kicked out of Boneville in the first place. The banner around it reading "Phoncible P. Bone Will Get Your Vote" was even damaged to read "Phoncible P. Bone Will Get You". Phoney is tied to a rock and is about to be sacrificed by the Hooded One when this reveal happens. Phoney's dialog just makes this horror hysterical.
- Phoney: Boy, Fone's gonna be sore when he finds out about this....
- The Transformers (IDW) does this a lot, especially under the pen of James Roberts. One of the best examples comes in Dark Cybertron when Megatron makes a dramatic entrance in front of Prowl and Soundwave in the midst of their Darkest Hour. It's a legitimately epic moment, but at the same time, it's rendered hilarious because 1) Megatron has been bisected and is being carried by Bumblebee in a rather undignified fashion, and 2) Bee mentions that Megatron had him standing there for twenty seconds just to make sure his dramatic entrance was appropriately timed.
Klara Prast: It is not so bad. It is just, when I come home so tired, and then he... I do not enjoy it... My... my marital duties.
- This exchange, when 12-year-old Klara Prast is discussing life with her abusive, much older husband to Karolina Dean and Molly Hayes, both of whom are from the present, and the latter of whom is Klara's age:
Molly Hayes: Oh my God... He makes you do chores?!?
- A grandiose example from a fanpage inside the Perry Rhodan pulps. The comic tells the life story of a balloon-like alien life form in the typical SF style known from the novels. In the next-to-last panel, the now geriatric alien ascends into the upper atmosphere, asking himself last questions like: "What's the meaning of life? Is there a God? Will everything be revealed now?" In the last panel: POOF! note Just...poof. Never has overinflated bathos been popped more literally...
- Watchmen has a rather severe In-Universe example. In the original Nite Owl's memoirs he writes of an old employer of his named Moe Vernon, who discovers that his wife has been committing adultery and has just withdrawn all his savings and fled with her lover. He walks out of his office and announces this to his employees... unfortunately, Vernon was also an eccentric prankster and was so distraught that he didn't realize that he was doing this while wearing a comically oversized pair of novelty breasts. His employees can't help but laugh at him.
- Stan Lee commented that he was rather proud of the scene in the original Galactus trilogy in Fantastic Four where, during a brief lull in the course of the entire Earth being threatened with annihilation by a vastly powerful space demigod, Reed and Johnny take a moment to shave, because they've been dealing with the threat for days and haven't had a chance until now.
- Calvin and Hobbes does a pretty good job of summing up Bathos in one strip:
Calvin: Isn't it strange that evolution would give us a sense of humor? When you think about it, it's weird that we have a physiological response to absurdity. We LAUGH at nonsense. We LIKE it. We think it's funny. Don't you think it's odd that we appreciate absurdity? Why would we develop that way? How does it benefit us?
Hobbes: I suppose if we couldn't laugh at things that don't make sense, we couldn't react to a lot of life.
Calvin: I can't tell if that's funny or really scary.
- Blazen, The Abridged Series of Blazblue Alter Memory, plays out the beginnings of the scene where Nu-13 first appears very seriously, but quickly allows it to descend (still entirely in robotic monotone):
Nu-13: Subject, your existence is redundant. Recommending immediate self-termination.
Mu-12: Recommendation rejected. Continued existence will be given top priority.
Nu-13: Searching for response. Please self-terminate.
Mu-12: Sincerity reading as false. Subject is being sarcastic.
Nu-13: I am evidently the better unit. Your presence will only impair my image.
Mu-12: At least I have peripheral vision.
Nu-13: At least I have bigger breasts.
Mu-12: (Internal) Bitch. (Spoken) I have a sweet hat.
Nu-13: I can summon swords. How many swords can you summon?
Mu-12: Fuck you. That's how many.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged often does this with more dark or serious scenes, at times veering into full-on Black Comedy. One example is Cell's introduction, starting with him appearing dragging a man while singing a creepy song, then having a tense staredown with Piccolo. Piccolo demands to know what Cell is, and Cell responds with "Let me answer your question, with another question... WANNA SEE ME DRINK THIS GUY!?", stabbing the man he's holding, and then cutting to the cheery episode intro music.
- Pixar movies are known to deal with serious issues and handle them well, but in the end, they are still children's movies that need some comedy in addition to the serious stuff.
- In Finding Nemo, there's a very stressful scene of Marlin, having just lost his son, calling Nemo's name and looking all around, seeing nothing but open water in every direction. The intense moment is briefly interrupted by Marlin diving under the water to take a quick breath, before surfacing again and resuming his frantic calls, a momentary reminder that our hero is a fish.
- This trope is common source of humor in The Incredibles, juxtaposing larger-than-life superheroes with mundane family life. For example:
- In the memorable "Where's my supersuit!?" scene, Frozone spots a giant robot rampaging through the city and frantically begins rummaging around his house and arguing with his wife over the whereabouts of his missing supersuit.
- As the superfamily rushes to save Metroville from said rampaging robot, they do what every family does on a long car trip: start bickering.
Dash: Are we there yet?
Mr Incredible: We'll get there when we get there!
- Inside Out: Zig-Zagged. Riley's depression is a legitimate concern and is played as serious as expected and a result of being them being totally out of their element. But much of the humor comes from them being so over-the-top that it's funny. To whit, news of no dessert is treated as front page headline news and Riley's father's decision to put his foot down with regards to her attitude is treated as if they were launching nuclear missiles complete with simultaneously turning two keys to initiate the response.
- Frozen does this a lot as well.
- For example, there's a scene that takes place after The Reveal. Anna is current in the midst of a Heroic BSoD while Olaf comforts her and does his best to get her back up and going. Serious, but since it's Olaf who's comforting her...
Anna: Olaf, you're melting!
Olaf: Some people are worth melting for... [face begins to lose shape and he rushes to hold it together, muffling his voice] just maybe not this second.
- Another example happens early on during the "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" sequence/song which sets up the relationship between Anna and Elsa. Very sad and serious, but with Anna being adorably hilarious at the same time... until the final part, that is.
- For example, there's a scene that takes place after The Reveal. Anna is current in the midst of a Heroic BSoD while Olaf comforts her and does his best to get her back up and going. Serious, but since it's Olaf who's comforting her...
- ParaNorman does the same thing as The Incredibles example above. On the way to the grand finale, you get the awkward family car trip of doom. Though theirs includes a zombie.
- This is common in The LEGO Movie and also The LEGO Batman Movie, mostly due to all the LEGO movies so far following the theme of being played out like a real child playing with LEGO would. When Bad Cop storms the saloon in the Old West, it's played as a tense scene, except for the fact that the horse he rides in on has no points of articulation, meaning the horse just... hops. And it has a huge flashing police siren on its head. Other examples include the top of Lord Business's tower coming off to fly to Bricksburg and begin Kragling it, accompanied by a break in the dramatic music and someone's voice making a soft propeller/flying-like sound from the first movie, or the fact that all gunfire is accompanied by "pew pew" sounds in the the LEGO Batman movie.
- Sing: Buster Moon's at the absolute lowest point of his life, forced to do "The only other job [he] know[s]," washing cars on the street. It's absolutely depressing seeing him so dead inside. It's absolutely hilarious that the manner in which he washes cars is getting dunked in soapy water and swimming across the surface of the car. Complete with dramatic opera music.
- The Host revels in this. The main characters rolling around on the floor and crying together at a funeral is either the saddest scene in the movie, or the funniest, or both. Another dramatic and climactic scene is "ruined" when it turns out that the gun they were going to use to kill the monster is empty.
- The "death" of Wilson in Cast Away. You can't help laughing at Chuck bawling over the loss of his volleyball friend, but at the same time you fully empathize with him bawling at the loss of his volleyball friend.
- A particularly funny example in Blazing Saddles has former gunslinger "Waco Kid" Jim telling the woeful story of his career and how he reached a point where he nearly gunned down a six-year old who challenged him. He threw down his gun to end his career, at which point the "little bastard shot me in the ass!"
- Tim Burton loves to juxtapose the camp and creepy with the heartfelt and humorous throughout his career. One of the best examples comes in Batman Returns, where following an exceptionally goofy fight scene between Batman and the Penguin, we get the deformed villain's death scene. On paper, the scene in question ( Danny Devito, in long johns, using his dying words to ask for a glass of ice water, and then being given a viking funeral by penguins) sounds like a total joke, but it's actually rather moving.
- In Ghostbusters (1984), Gozer needs a Destructor form and compels our heroes to choose one. They figure out the trick and blank their minds out... except Ray didn't. So now the giant monster that is attacking New York is... the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
- Life Is Beautiful: A running theme of both the movie itself and the In-Universe philosophy of the protagonist is the ability to laugh even in the most tragic of circumstances.
- Saving Private Ryan, despite its absolutely horrific subject matter, has this at least twice during the famously intense Omaha beach landing. One time is when you see a soldier with with his arm blown off walking across the battlefield, locating his severed arm, then picking it up and walking back with it like he's shopping at the supermarket. It should be horrific, but the way he's so utterly calm about the whole thing makes it oddly comical and Pythonesque. In another moment from the same battle, a soldier gets shot in the head...and survives, thanks to his helmet protecting him. He takes it off to stare at the huge dent, like he can't believe that it actually stopped the bullet, and immediately gets shot in the unprotected head. It shouldn't be nearly as funny as it is.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much runs on this. For example, one of the characters is a hardass criminal working as a Bounty Hunter, with 22 prison escapes to his name, love for and proficency in use of big guns, and a backstory of being created through immoral experimentation. His name? Rocket Raccoon.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 uses this during its shocking reveal. Peter has just discovered that Ego murdered his mother, and without a moment's hesitation, whips out his guns and shoots Ego to pieces. Ego instantly reforms himself and begins yelling at Peter for wanting to ruin his evil plan. It's both tragic and scary... except for the fact that for the first few seconds after Ego regenerates, he's played by David Hasselhoff. And you'd never believe how a character comparing someone to Hasselhoff would be totally heartbreaking.
- Much of the humor in Thor: Ragnarok is of the Bathos variety.
- Thor gives Surtur a Pre-Asskicking One-Liner right before summoning Mjölnir, though he mistimed it and it takes a couple seconds for it to reach him. Thor asks Surtur to give him a moment.
- As he was leaving Dr. Strange's manor, he summons Mjölnir (in the form of an umbrella), and it again takes several seconds for it to reach his hand. This time, things are getting knocked down and glass is breaking as it travels through Strange's manor. Thor awkwardly apologizes as he's waiting for it to get to him.
- In Valkyrie's introduction, she has a typical badass's introduction, taking a long slug from the liquor bottle in her hands before strutting down the ramp of her spaceship, but she drunkenly stumbles and falls off the side instead.
- Hela introduces herself to Hogun and the armies of Asgard with a grandiose speech about her origins and her intent to bring Asgard back to its former state as a Multiversal Conqueror civilization and offers them the chance to join her. Hogun rebuffs her and tells her that whoever she is, she should leave Asgard be.
Hela: "Whoever I am?" Did you listen to a word I said!?
- Thor is about to make his escape from Sakaar, telling Valkyrie that he's going to get back to Asgard and save his people, complete with the phrase "Because that's what heroes do," but he's interrupted when the object he threw at the window bounces back and knocks him to the ground.
- Bruce Banner realizes the only way to defeat Fenris is to become the Hulk again. He leaps out of the spacecraft in a death defying leap of faith, assuming he'll change into the Hulk before he lands. He doesn't.
- Avengers: Infinity War:
- Thanos's applications of the Reality Stone are uncharacteristically whimsical; he turns weapons into harmless bubbles, comes up with cartoonish ways to non-lethally incapacitate the Guardians, and conjures an illusion of The Collector who behaves just as flamboyantly as the real thing — all of this alongside the genuine horror Thanos tends to unleash.
- When Gamora is in Thanos's clutches, pleading with Quill to kill her before Thanos can use her, Quill can't help but harp on a bit about how she didn't follow his plan properly, to which she replies "Really? Now?" This characteristic Guardians-esque exchange of comedy serves to heighten the horror of the moment, as Quill is clearly hysterical.
- The post-credits scene is quite frightening, showing the effects of the Snap on regular civilians, as people are dying and panicking, in horror and confusion. So it's the perfect time for Nick Fury to almost deliver one of Sam Jackson's trademark F-bombs.
- The last seconds of Ant-Man and the Wasp make use of this, as the Emergency Broadcast on TV, with all the Hell Is That Noise it's usually accompanied by, is contrasted with an image of a giant ant playing on the drum kit.
- Avengers: Endgame: Double subverted when Thor calls for Mjölnir while in the past. It follows from the reunion with his mother, but repeats the joke from the earlier films about Mjölnir needing time to arrive. When it does arrive, however, Thor is elated to discover he is still worthy and the tone turns back to genuine.
- In The Sixth Sense the scene where Cole confesses to his mother that he can see dead people. Particularly the part where he says "Grandma says hi" and we get a brilliantly hilarious Double Take from Toni Collette. And yet it doesn't ruin the part where Cole gives her a message from Grandma which makes the scene a Heartwarming Moment.
- Toni Collette's own later horror film, Hereditary manages to use a Smash Cut to turn a mother's screams of anguish over discovering the decapitated body of her daughter into something like an Overly Long Gag, as if she were screaming non-stop from the discovery until the funeral.
- Later in the story, she goes to a group grief counselling session and when asked to talk about herself, she is initially slow to reveal anything, but then she starts talking about her troubled past with her mother and brother. And she keeps going...and going...and going, and the whole thing is horrible yet almost funny in how terrible it all is and how much she is revealing to a bunch of strangers. Then it settles on funny when she stops and we get a reaction of everyone else who just stare, clearly not knowing how to respond to all that.
- The entire plot of Steps Trodden Black. A troubled teenager tries to accept himself and deal with the constant feeling of isolation and overwhelming anxiety when interacting with others, while his friends are picked off by a violent force and they try to hold the group together and keep it from falling apart into arguing while at the same time dealing with the shock and grief over the deaths of their friends. Its also a comedy with laser guns, aliens and a space ship.
- The Wicker Man (1973) has a scene when Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and Miss Rose (Diane Cilento), both in evening dress and him at the Grand Piano duetting the absolutely filthy song "The Tinker of Rye" about a tinker fixing a woman's kettle.
- The Legend of Billie Jean plays Putter getting her first period both for drama and comedy.
Putter: So when can I get a diaphragm?
- Oldboy thrives on this due to the nature of its story: ordinary people in mundane settings committing extraordinary acts of violence.
- The new Star Wars films have fallen into this on occasion:
- In the opening scene of The Force Awakens, the menacing dark side warrior Kylo Ren burns down an innocent village, kills an old man in cold blood, and captures the heroic Resistance pilot Poe Dameron. All things appropriately sinister and dramatic, at least until Poe asks him "So who talks first? You talk first? I talk first?" and tells Ren that his heavy, face-obscuring mask makes it difficult to understand his speech. Annoyed at Poe's remarks, Ren orders the Stormtroopers to slaughter all the villagers (complete with screams for mercy) and takes him along for questioning.
- Han Solo and General Leia are reunited for the first time in 30 years... then C-3PO literally leans into the shot and gasps "Goodness! Han Solo!" Han, of course, has an appropriate look of resigned annoyance.
- Darth Vader returns to cinema screens in all his terrifying glory and reminds the viewers why he's so feared by casually brushing off the deaths of thousands of people killed by the Death Star, Force-Choking Krennic when he gets too uppity, and making a hilariously bad pun as he sends Krennic on his way.
- The Last Jedi does this a bunch:
- A dramatic, intense confrontation between Kylo Ren and Rey through the Force is made funnier by the fact that Ren is shirtless and Rey's trying not to stare.
- Kylo Ren murders his master Supreme Leader Snoke in one of the most jaw-dropping and unexpected scenes of the whole saga, but the entire epic battle with the Praetorian Guard that follows is rendered hilarious by the fact that the separate pieces of the body are lying there, with a goofily wall-eyed expression the entire time.
- The Martian:
- The film tells a harrowing tale of an astronaut left on mars to survive by himself. That doesn't stop the film from being very funny at points, mostly due to lighthearted dialogue.
Mark Watney: [after trying to make water by burning hydrogen, still smoldering] So... I blew myself up.
- When he writes a curse word in the message, he's informed that he's being broadcast live in front of NASA and the President. We don't see what words he types in response but it's a hilarious scene. What's he responding to? The revelation that none of his friends have been told he's still alive.
- And of course, this classic pair of lines:
Kapoor: Can you even imagine what he's going through up there? He thinks he's totally alone, he thinks we gave up on him. What does that do to a man, psychologically? What the hell is he thinking right now?
[cut to Watney stepping out of the shower with Lewis's music playing in the background]
Watney: I am definitely gonna die up here... if I have to listen to any more god awful disco music.
- The film tells a harrowing tale of an astronaut left on mars to survive by himself. That doesn't stop the film from being very funny at points, mostly due to lighthearted dialogue.
- The Dark Knight: Only The Joker could be completely terrifying while dressed in a Naughty Nurse Outfit.
- Schindler's List is about the Holocaust, yet also includes a number of humorous moments and scenes, often under very dark pretenses. One example is a family of Jews being moved to shabby quarters muttering that it can't get any worse than this, only to learn that they have to share the place with several other families. Another involves Schindler threatening a hostile German soldier standing between him and his Jewish work force. After a cut, the soldier is frantically helping Schindler find the Jews.
- In the middle of the horrifying, heartbreaking ship-sinking sequence in Titanic comes a split-second moment where some poor bastard falls off the side, hits a propeller and bounces off in cartoonish fashion. It's awful and horrible and yet still completely hilarious.
- In The Village Kitty wants to marry Lucius and gives him an Anguished Declaration of Love. A cut to her crying her eyes out in her sister's arms tells us how well that went. You're both inclined to laugh at what a spectacle she made of herself, but the sequence of Ivy singing softly to comfort her still makes you feel sorry for the poor girl who just got her heart broken.
- In the film of Carrie the gym teacher tells the girls they did "a really shitty thing". The Precision F-Strike causes a couple of the girls to giggle, but it doesn't break the tense mood — or negate the teacher's "Reason You Suck" Speech.
- Fitting the page quote, Joss Whedon's film Serenity does this nicely, as exemplified by this round of dialog, as the crew is starting to question what they are doing in the face of a much greater threat than normal:
Mal: You wanna run this ship?!
Mal: [flustered] Well... you can't!
- A lot of the comedy in The Big Lebowski comes from the fact that a deadbeat stoner and Vietnam vet with anger issues are stuck in the middle of a serious Film Noir plot.
- The Indiana Jones movies have something of a tradition of this, most famously in Raiders of the Lost Ark where an epic sword versus whip duel doesn't quite go as anticipated.
Walter Donovan: Brody sticks out like a sore thumb. We'll find him.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has a scene where Indy has been captured but has already given the all important grail Diary to Marcus Brody, who has yet to fall into the hands of the Nazis:
Indiana Jones: The hell you will! He's got a two-day head start on you, which is more than he needs. Brody's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan. He speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom. He'll blend in disappear you'll never see him again. With any luck... he's got the Grail already.
[Cut to a very flustered Marcus walking through an Arab town]
Marcus Brody: Does anyone here speak English? Or even Ancient Greek?
- Joker (2019), being a film about the Laughably Evil villain's Start of Darkness inevitably pairs its depressing and nihilistic story with a few periodic gags to lighten the tone.
- Arthur is at the hospital where his mother is being cared for after a stroke, and a pair of detectives come to question him about the subway murders. After a tense back and forth, Arthur tells them off and walks away to go tend to his mother. As he tries to get into the hospital, he slams into the automatic door, spends a moment trying to get the motion sensor to work while one of the detectives tells him that it's an exit door, and he goes through when an employee is leaving for the night.
- Even after Arthur was fired from his job with them, Gary and Randall come to deliver a cake to Arthur in sympathy for his mother's passing. Almost immediately, Randall nervously brings up the gun he gave to Arthur, and gets brutally murdered with a pair of scissors for betraying Arthur, leaving Gary terrified of making any move. Arthur politely encourages him to leave, and when tip-toeing past Arthur does a fake-out lunge to scare him. Gary tries to flee, but being a dwarf, he can't actually reach the chain-lock and has to ask Arthur to open it for him. Before letting him go, Arthur kisses him on the head saying he appreciated his kindness. This is all exaggerated because Arthur is in his white face paint make-up.
- Arthur (now completely embracing his Joker persona) brutally guns down talkshow host Murray Franklin on live television, he grabs the camera, apes Murray's catchphrase "And always remember, that's life!" before being cut off at "life" by the network and replaced by a technical difficulties screen with "Spanish Flea" playing.
- An example of the trope that predates Pope's coining of the term comes from John Dryden in Albion and Albanius, where he writes:
"The cave of Proteus rises out of the sea, it consists of several arches of rock work, adorned with mother of pearl, coral, and abundance of shells of various kinds. Through the arches is seen the sea, and parts of Dover pier."
- Pope himself used this trope deliberately in the mock-heroic poem The Rape of the Lock:
Not louder Shrieks to pitying Heav'n are cast,
When Husbands or when Lap-dogs breath their last,
- The Latin poet Horace jokingly warned poets to avoid starting out a poem in the grand old epic style, lest 'parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus' - "The mountains will labour and bring to birth a comical mouse." Of course, Pope was particularly influenced by Horace, as were most poets of his day. If there had been a 'Poetry Tropes' website in those days, 'ridiculus mus' may well have been the Trope Namer.
- Douglas Adams was quite fond of this trope. From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Why are people born? Why do they die? And why do they spend much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?
- Stand-up comedian and author Lewis Grizzard uses this trope extensively in his routines and writing. From his memorial column for his dog Catfish:
I don't know why I named him what I named him. He was all curled up in a blanket on my back seat. And I looked at him and it just came out. I called him, "Catfish." I swear he raised up from the blanket and acknowledged. Then he severely fouled the blanket and my back seat.
- Harry Potter notes at Dumbledore's funeral at the end of the sixth book that, when reminiscing, he's not sure whether or not he wants to laugh.
- Common throughout The Dresden Files. Top prize probably goes to asking a faerie hit-thing for a donut.
Eldest Brother Gruff: Likest thou jelly within thy donut?
Harry: Nay, but with sprinkles 'pon it, and frosting of white.
- Found throughout P. G. Wodehouse's work. A spectacular example is present in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, with a florid poem describing a sunset that ends with "I say / Doesn't that sunset remind you / Of a slice / Of underdone roast beef?"
- Woody Allen often used this. For example: "Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage." or "The universe is merely a fleeting idea in God's mind - a pretty uncomfortable thought, particularly if you've just made a down payment on a house."
- Lord of the Flies invokes this intentionally at the end when the British Navy comes to rescue the children, in order to draw a comparison between learned civilised behaviour and the children's natural amorality.
- Rick Riordan often uses this technique in his works, especially when Percy Jackson is narrating.
- When he sat forward in his throne, shadowy faces appeared in the folds of his black robes, faces of torment, as if the garment were stitched of trapped souls from the Field of Punishment. The ADHD part of me wondered, off-task, whether the rest of his clothes were made the same way. What horrible things would you have to do in your life to be woven into Hades' underwear?
- Casey at the Bat. A minor league baseball game is described with all the pomp and portent of an epic poem, ending with one of the most memorable Anti Climaxes in all of literature.
- Similar to the aforementioned Douglas Adams series in tone (in that it's about a Very Normal person going through ridiculous things), the light novel series Haruhi Suzumiya has a lot of Bathos in its narration. For example, in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya:
I nearly bumped into Nagato who was coming out from the kitchen. In Nagato's hands was a stack of small plates, with chopsticks and a tube of ground mustard on top.
"I am leaving. Sorry for intruding. See you."
I was about to walk off, when I sensed a tug as soft as a feather on my arm.
Nagato was pulling my sleeve with her fingers. The tug was very soft, just like how much force one might use to pick up a newborn baby hamster.
- This is used frequently in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot, starting with comparing a sunset to "a patient etherised upon a table".
- The central point of the "Jake Strugell" poems by Wendy Cope, in which Strugnell falls under the influence of various poets ("Strugnell's Bargain" after Sir Phillip Sidney, "Strugnell's Rubaiyat" after Omar Khayyám and so on) but has no real grasp of poetic metaphor and sets everything in Tulse Hill, the London suburb where he lives.
Awake! for Morning on the Pitch of Night
Has whistled and has put the Stars to Flight.
The incandescent football in the East
Has brought the splendour of Tulse Hill to Light.
- In Toll the Hounds the very next scene, right after Anomander Rake's tragic death is the absurd mule-battle between Kruppe and Iskaral Pust.
- Bored of the Rings:
In the eastern sky, Velveeta, beloved morning star of the elves and handmaid of the dawn, rose and greeted Noxzema, bringer of the flannel tongue, and clanging on her golden garbage pail, bade him make ready the winged rickshaw of Novocaine, herald of the day. Thence came rosy-eyeballed Ovaltine, she of the fluffy mouth, and lightly kissed the land east of the Seas. In other words, it was morning.
- Spike Milligan's parody poem Casabazonka does this deliberately; it starts with the dramatic first two lines of Casabianca, only to completely flip the mood with the final word.
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: The show's entire tone has this, as it is a musical with a lot of comedic songs, but at the same time is a deconstruction of romantic comedies through the eyes of a woman with severe mental issues. Examples include a song sung by an Adam Westing Josh Groban about how Rebecca's most recent actions have just completely messed up her life intercut with sad moments of her friends, a Whitney Houston-style ballad about how much Rebecca hates herself and her depression and Paula, Heather and Valencia over the top attempt to tear down Rebecca's bathroom door because they think she might try to kill herself again.
- One Foot in the Grave: Nearly every episode, a serious conversation was interrupted with something completely ludicrous, such as finding a wig in a loaf of bread, or Victor discovering that a workman planted a Yucca plant actually in the downstairs toilet.
- Firefly delved into this from time to time. In "War Stories," Mal and Wash have a very domestic argument while being tortured, much to the bemusement of the torturer. In this particular example, Mal was deliberately antagonizing Wash to keep him from breaking.
- In Community, Abed gives a breathtaking monologue about appearing on an episode of Cougar Town, note in which he questions his entire identity and the point of being interested in popular culture. The entire speech culminates with him "pooping" himself.
- Look Around You is a parody of 1970s BBC educational videos, using Bathos for most of its humor.
- Wilfred, in both the Australian original and American remake.
Ryan: You've lost your mind. It's like you've got some kind of...God complex.
Wilfred: I'll let you in on a little secret, Ryan. I don't have a God complex. I am God! Thunder!
Ryan: How did you do that?
Wilfred: ...Lucky coincidence!
- Farscape excelled at this trope throughout its run. One of the best examples comes right before John has to get frozen in stone for eighty years. John's anguish at having to say goodbye to everything he's ever known and wake up in a totally unfamiliar world is heartbreaking, and yet you can't help but laugh at his over-the-top delivery and severely Skewed Priorities.
Crichton: Eighty... Cycles. M-my college loans will be delinquent. I'll miss the strippers on my 100th birthday. I-I'll get a utility bill... for three trillion dollars for a single porch light that I left on AND EVERYBODY I KNOW WILL BE DEAD! [...] Humans do not live as long as Sebaceans, or Hynerians, or Delvians. When I get back, everyone, my Dad, DK, my sisters, Cameron Diaz, Buffy the Vampire Slayer will be dead!
- Classic Doctor Who did this well, especially in the Hartnell era.
- In "Marco Polo", for example, Kublai Khan is built up as this mysterious, terrible, almost godlike being... and then, he and the first Doctor become friends as they commiserate over the aches and pains of advanced age.
- "The Myth Makers", one of Hartnell's wittiest, derives a lot of its humour from how mundane the semi-mythical Trojan figures are in personality, especially Paris — his attempts to talk Steven down from attacking him are almost Pythonesque in how anticlimactic they are.
Steven: [in Shakespearian tones, pretending to be a Greek soldier] And must my Lord Achilles be roused to undertake your death, adulterer?
Paris: Yes, well, I'm prepared to overlook that for the moment. I assure you I have no quarrel with you.
Steven: I'm Greek, you're Trojan. Is not that quarrel enough?
Paris: Yes, well — personally, I think this whole business has been carried just a little bit too far? I mean, that Helen thing was just a misunderstanding.
Paris: [having won the fight] Now, die, Greek, and tell them in Hades that Paris sent you thither!
Steven: I yield.
Paris: I beg your pardon?
Steven: I yield. I'm your prisoner.
Paris: Well, I say, this sort of thing is just not done.
- The Fourth Doctor pretty much functions entirely on this. He's a dramatic, imposing, Byronic, swashbuckling alien with a gothic Victoriana motif, who wanders up to whatever unspeakable squirming Omnicidal Maniac horror he's pitted against this week, gives it a big grin and offers it a jelly baby.
- The final words of the Seventh Doctor to Ace in "Survival", the final story of the Classic series before the show was cancelled:
The Doctor: Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold.
- The portrayal of the Nethersphere in "Dark Water". It's all very much like a soulless corporate city.
- This is sometimes used in Supernatural, such as in the episode "Wishful Thinking" when a young girl wishes for her teddy bear to come alive and ends up with a suicidal cynical giant stuffed bear.
Teddy bear: It is a terrible world! Why am I here?
Audrey: For tea parties!
- The Charmed episode "Just Harried" has Prue inadvertently wrecking Piper's wedding. While it's still presented as a sad event, the scene itself still has a comedic edge to it. Holly Marie Combs gives Piper a semi-panic attack that is most definitely meant to be funny, along with her delivery of "the wedding is off!" — plus another small gag when Phoebe accidentally steps on her train.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- "Entropy" has the gang discovering a hidden camera planted by the Trio in the Magic Box. As they do this, Spike and Anya are having sex. The Trio are in the middle of shutting down their cameras when they spot this and get Distracted by the Sexy. Dawn also walks into the house and catches sight of it, Willow covering her eyes comically. Of course this doesn't change the fact that Xander and Buffy have just seen their respective love interests going at it - and it's still presented as a tragic scene.
- In "Help", Cassie's speech about what she'd love to do in life - but can't because she knows she's about to die - is heart breaking. But there's also a funny line in there where she says she'd like to see her cousins grow up "because they're really mean and I think they're going to be fat". Even Buffy smiles at this.
- The 3rd Season Big Bad, Mayor Richard Wilkins III is an immortal dark sorcerer with an ultimate goal of becoming a powerful ancient demon. And he approaches all of this with the demeanor of a 1950s sitcom dad, lists dark rituals on his todo list followed by PTA meetings, thinks minigolf is a cure all for assassins who failed to hit their target, is a germaphobe and will wipe his hands after killing someone, and engages his minions in conversations about their favorite newspaper comics (he prefers Family Circus, his vampire henchman loves Marmaduke, and both look at the assistant mayor with mild disgust when they learn his goto funny is Cathy... keep in mind the scene starts with the mayor casually pulling a Kleenex out of a cabinet that is filled with dark magic paraphernalia and wiping his hands and none of the three bat an eye. One of the few times he actually gets upset, it's when a new minion inadvertently kills a demon that the mayor has to sacrifice a human baby to on a recurring buisness. The minion thinks he'll be happy to be out of the deal only to discover the Mayor is livid: while he doesn't like to make the payment, he ran a campaign on being an honest politician and he hates even the appearance that he's breaking a promise.
- Band of Brothers:
- In the second episode, Malarkey decides to run out in the middle of gunfire to raid a dead German soldier looking for a Luger - and doesn't get shot at because the Germans assume he's a medic. The way it's presented makes you both feel terror that he'll be killed and also laugh at the ridiculousness of it.
- In the third episode, a stray bullet catches Winters on the leg. Although it's in the middle of a serious scene, he gives a look that says "oh for crying out loud."
- When Nixon receives news of his wife divorcing him, it's played both for drama and for comedy. This is a man who's being dumped while fighting a war, but he's fuming over the assets conflict - where he notes that she's even taking their dog. "It's not even her dog!"
- Happens often in Brooklyn Nine-Nine due to Jake's massive abandonment issues. In the Thanksgiving episode from the first season, Jake says all he wants to do is sit at home, watch the football game, and eat "mayo nuts" (peanuts mixed with mayonaise), as he usually does on Thanksgiving, prompting a disgusted response from Captain Holt. It's then revealed that he does this because his dad was gone and his mom always had to work on Thanksgiving, and six-year-olds aren't very good at cooking...
- The whole comedic point of Drunk History. The narrators are retelling dramatic historical stories while completely shitfaced. The slurring and drunken accounts are re-enacted word for word by well-known actors acting the shit out of the drunken dialogue.
- Twin Peaks loved to juxtapose serious (even horrifying) drama with parodies of Soap Opera, non sequitur humour and even outright farce:
Albert Rosenfield: Fruitcake, anyone?
- Laura Palmer's funeral is a powerfully tragic scene as the town reverend delivers an affecting, deeply personal eulogy - until the mentally retarded Johnny Horne interjects in the eulogy, a fight breaks out between two of Laura's boyfriends, and Laura's father dives onto her coffin, which continually rises up then lowers down with him on top of it.
- Ronette Pulaski, who was nearly murdered alongside Laura, finally comes out of her coma. Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman come to interrogate her, hoping to find new leads on Laura's killer - and spend five minutes trying to adjust the height of the hospital seats.
- Agent Cooper is a preternaturally skilled detective with an unwavering commitment to bringing criminals to justice: his investigative technique consists of throwing rocks at glass bottles to guide him to the next lead. None of the other law enforcement officers question this.
- In the Season 2 Premiere, Cooper bleeding out on the floor from two bullet wounds in the chest is a legitimately suspenseful scene, but it's both undercut and amplified by him spending an agonizingly long time trying to get the extremely senile, elderly waiter in his room to call the hospital.
- In "The Return", the interrogation of Bill Hastings starts out horrifying, as a traumatized man has to recount the gruesome murder of his mistress by monsters from another dimension, and then spirals out of control as he wails about he never got the chance to go scuba diving with her and "SOAK UP THE SUUUUUUUUUN!" Made either funnier or more disturbing by the fact that Hastings is played by Matthew Lillard, AKA Shaggy.
- The Wire, as part of its ruthless deconstruction of the Criminal Procedural and Police Procedural genres, would occasionally interrupt its moments of cynical crime drama or violent main character deaths with goofy or absurdist comedy, which creator David Simon deliberately inserted because otherwise the series would be unbearable to watch. Particularly good is the moment where Wee Bey all but orders D'Angelo into his house at gunpoint with the lights off, and both D'Angelo and the audience are tensed up waiting for him to get whacked...only for Wee Bey to turn the lights on and explain that he brought D'Angelo in to show him how to feed his fish while he's out of town.
- iZombie has an early moment where Liv exists her ex-fiance only to discover he's with another woman, who is sat in the living room cheerfully playing Dying Light. Liv had only very recently become a Revenant Zombie. Why yes, the show is very big on Black Comedy, how did you guess?
- The Attack on Titan filk "Don't Kill Us" involves the singers promising pie if the audience lets them live.
- In his 1997 book The Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll, Chuck Eddy introduced his "Gladys Knight and The Pips Rule": good songs should mix seriousness and frivolity. It was based on "Midnight Train to Georgia", where Knight's earnest, poignant lead vocal is juxtaposed with The Pips' rather silly-sounding backing vocal interjections.
- "Thor". Almost wholly. "Lighting strikes" especially.
- Hobo Johnson's music frequently juxtaposes very sad lines with mundane ones, lending humor to both. From "Subaru Crosstrek XV":
"Nothing like crying in a Subaru Crosstrek. Life is a despair pit filled with sadness.My ex-girl's grandpa invented pinball. He had a lot of time on his hands."
- At one point during Triple H and The Undertaker's match at Wrestlemania 27, they send themselves flying through Michael Cole's little cubicle that he calls the "Cole Mine". Despite the serious tone that a match involving Undertaker would usually have, seeing Cole's property go to pieces makes you laugh just a little.
- Causing Bathos is a favorite of many wrestling fanbases, especially WWE fans. The crowd is as much a part of the show as anything in Wrestling.
- Joey Daddiego's post match assault on Donovan Dijak at the first night of Supercard Of Honor X was not funny. Prince Nana running in fear from Taeler Hendrix while it went on did bring a little humor to what was otherwise a serious attempt to avenge Truth Martini's broken neck though(even if it was Hendrix who supplied to the weapon, as she had spent the past ten-twenty minutes chasing Nana or The Boys).
- In the Vernon Sylvaine comedy, As Long as They're Happy, the Funny Foreigner psychiatrist Dr. Schneider explains thusly; when a man shoots himself, it is a tragedy. If he shoots himself in the pants, it becomes this trope.
- LISA is equal parts grim apocalyptic nightmare, and absurd comedy. And it's a good thing too, because if it was played with even slightly less humor, the game would be an unbearable march into the dark. The game is cruel, but for every Player Punch you endure, you'll find a huge laugh elsewhere.
- In Ōkami during the second (of three) battle with Orochi. Nagi tries to look awesome, but it's hard to take him seriously when he's dressed in women's clothing... and even harder when he falls flat on his face jumping into battle. Never the less, he cleaves a satisfying victory.
- The player can intentionally create Bathos in Resonance of Fate. Thanks to its Virtual Paper Doll-like clothing and accessories, you can have your characters wearing almost clown-like attire during the most serious of scenes. The weapon customization can also lead to some interesting results.
- There's also some built into the game's setting to help set the world's tone. An early example is the Arena, known for making spectacles of bloodbaths for profit... and the delicious soft-serve from the concessions stand.
- You can extend that to any game where you can put on joke costumes, and the costumes show during cutscenes.
- Most of Dragon Age II can be played this way if the player picks all the silly dialogue options. Sarcastic!Hawke doesn't really know when to shut up and gets called on it by the party (most frequently by Aveline and Carver).
- Similarly, there are a lot of dialogue options◊ in Devil Survivor 2 that turn the player character into a flat-out Cloudcuckoolander.
- Because The Secret of Monkey Island was originally planned as a serious game, all of the artwork is highly realistic and gritty. When the devs decided instead to go for comedy, providing both hilarious dialogue and absurd situations (such as the famous case of crossing a chasm by means of a rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle, lovingly drawn in the highest style 8 bit graphics had to offer), this contrasted with the game's appearance to heighten the humour potential. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge continued in this style, but then creator Ron Gilbert left the company, and the games since have used a more overtly cartoony style, which the Video Game Remakes of the first two games switched to. Fans are hotly divided over which is best.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, the Naughty Nightwear item boosts your Speech skill by ten points, leading to cases where you're trying to defuse a hostage situation, talk your way into a restricted area, or decide the fate of the entire Mojave Wasteland... while wearing a set of cheesy leopard-print pajamas or a skimpy negligee, depending on your gender.
- You can invoke this in Fallout 4 with the outfits your characters wear. You can have a serious, heartwarming conversation of finding your long-lost son while dressed in a bathrobe, or as Grognak the Barbarian. Paladin Danse removes his power armor when you go to confront him about being a synth and, if you removed his jumpsuit, he'll have this heartwarming and serious conversation in nothing but his boxers.
- Metal Gear:
- With the amount of surreal easter eggs and fourth wall breaking, this series may be the all-time champ. A great example would be choosing to wear kabuki facepaint and an orange jumpsuit covered in happy faces that makes goofy noises while wielding a cigar that sprays knockout gas...while fighting the tragic Anti-Villain final boss in one of the most heartwrenching moments in the video game medium.
- Especially the case in any of the games that allow rewatching the cutscenes but with the ability to switch the characters/models used. Old ladies with assault rifles and handbags storming the freighter at the beginning of MGS2? Priceless.
- Silent Hill, another Konami series, was once the darkest Survival Horror game on the market, but has always had a silly side through Easter eggs and old save bonuses. In the first three games, the tragic-to-bittersweet endings could be replaced with joke endings involving alien abduction, another ending in the second game revealing The Dog Was the Mastermind, a Magical Girl costume for the protagonist in the third, as well as alien karaoke, and, most absurdly, Pyramid Head cutting Murphy's birthday cake in Silent Hill: Downpour.
- In Poker Night at the Inventory, many of the interactions between your fellow players invoke this, mostly through the shocked reactions of the others. Examples include Tycho waxing lyrical about giraffes, or Heavy Weapons Guy's Engineer story.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 has a bit of this.
- You can pick "funny'" dialogue options in even the most serious scenes, which tend to make Serah look like a ditz.
- You can give your monsters absurd accessories, resulting in things like a massive, intimidating Behemoth wearing an Idea Bulb over its head.
- Final Fantasy XIV allows for a lot of this as well. Even if you ignore the possibility of wearing silly and mood-breaking outfits into cutscenes, even in the most grim of circumstances regarding the story, the objective markers and descriptions for items will never drop their tendency to snark and poke holes in things. Standout instances include the fate of Minfillia's father - mentioned almost in passing on the description of a journal from one quest as having been trampled to death in a "tragic" accident involving a goobbue breaking loose from a circus, only for later story developments to, with more seriousness, admit that's actually how he died - and the quest "Bring Out Your Dead" where, shortly after you've returned to the Scions' headquarters being ransacked and everyone appearing to have been captured or killed, the game has this to say about the corpses you're asked to drag out to take to a graveyard:
(Noraxia's corpse) The sylph's peaceful expression belies the fact she no longer lives.
(the other seven corpses) How you are able to fit this stiff Scion of the Seventh Dawn corpse into your bag is a mystery best left unsolved.
- The "Milkman Conspiracy" level of Psychonauts is loaded with this. Almost everyone you meet is a trenchcoat-clad secret agent in some sort of Paper-Thin Disguise (actually, no disguise; they're simply holding different objects: stop signs for a "road crew worker," hedge trimmers for a gardening husband/father, etc.) and most of the things they say to maintain the facade are Played for Laughs. Every once in a while, however, you'll hear them spout a line that would be pretty pathetic, even devastating, in other circumstances. "Over time, my husband will desire me less, sexually," says the rolling pin-toting "housewife." "Why, God? Why?" says the "grieving widow." It all stays relatively light, given the amusing context, but the tragedy subtext is there and it's fairly difficult to miss.
- Both Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends have music that is deliberately made funny rather than epic, thanks to some of the...unusual instrument choices. Origins has a kazoo during the track "Shooter" as well as "Lums of the Water", a genuinely catchy jazz song...sung by the Lums (who sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks). In addition to including the aforementioned tracks, Legends has someone whistling along with the melody on almost every song.
- Perfect Dark. Aside from using cheat codes to, for example, give everyone big heads in this spy thriller, there's also the fact that every level has a hidden noncollectable wedge of cheese, even at the bottom of the ocean floor and on an alien planet.
- Both Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair like to pack the series' executions with as much ridiculous and Black Comedy-ridden imagery as possible. None of this detracts from the fact that one of the major characters just died, often in a very horrible manner.
- Undertale is mostly silly, but can be this depending on how you play it.
- A Genocide run, for instance, is a straight-up tragic borderline Cosmic Horror Story (and you are the Eldritch Abomination). A Pacifist Run is mostly lighthearted, but it has its own Tear Jerkers and one extremely dark and horrifying section with the True Lab. A Neutral run is ridden with this if you do decide to kill some monsters. Maybe you laughed at Papyrus' antics and spared him, but then battled Undyne and decided to kill her in self-defense... and then had to bear witness to this.
- Even the Genocide run has its own darkly humorous moments, such as your conversation with Burgerpants, or the fact that after killing almost everyone in horrific ways, the Fallen Child wants some chocolate.
- The Legend of Zelda has always had some sort of bathos involved, ever since Link's Awakening. It's most evident in cutscenes:
- In Majora's Mask, there's a scene where you encounter a dying Zora just off the coast of the beach. You push him to shore where he tells you how pirates had stolen his girlfriend's eggs and he tried to get them back but he was mortally wounded and is close to death. However, the way he tells his story is to get up and rock out on his electric guitar. After he's done, he promptly keels over and dies.
- Another one is in The Wind Waker: Here, Link places the last of the goddess pearls he's collected up to that point in an ancient statue. At first it seems like it's about to explode but then it stops for a moment. Just as Link thinks it's okay to get close, it promptly explodes and launches him off the island. However, the statue also causes the Tower of The Gods to emerge from the waves. It's as majestic as it sounds... Until Link splats himself against the side of the rising structure.
- Twilight Princess: at one point, you find yourself in an abandoned village, having been tasked to kill 20 Bulblins (orc-like creatures) in a western-style shoot-out in order to save the last resident (an elderly lady). This particular scene is also accompanied by a western soundtrack. Later on, you're given a similar task that's accompanied by the same music piece. This time however, you're tasked with talking to and befriending 20 of the old lady's cats.
- Susume! Bakabons, a Falling Blocks Licensed Game with Tensai Bakabon characters, has a creepy cutscene to introduce the first opponent, with pen-and-ink images of a creepy-looking woodland cottage and ominous music gradually quickening and building to a scream as the camera brings into focus... the street-sweeping screwball Lelele no Ojisan. The Gratuitous English intertitles, despite spoiling the twist early by including the character's Catchphrase, capture the sequence's spirit:
Scream from the DARK FOREST
Walking in the BLOODY NIGHT
This cottage is .... MYSTERIOUS
Are you going out? LeLeLe NOLE!
- Star Stealing Prince has a sad if not outright tragic story, with terrifying bosses... who you can fight while wearing a beautiful red bow in your hair. Yes, even the guys. Bonus points for making serious and solemn Hiante wear it.
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a grim horror game that only gets darker once you discover your character has been torturing innocent people at Alexander's urging. But then there's the diary entry when he describes the actual torture and mocks his victims' pleas for mercy, complete with a (probably-anachronistic) sing-songy "Myeh myeh myeh". It's kind of hard to keep a straight face through that.
- In Persona 5, there is something so funny about the most responsible member of the Phantom Thief crew scolding the Playful Hacker member like she's her mom for breaking into the network of a foreign military base.
Oracle, what have I said about hacking government networks?
- Resonance of Fate is absolutely masterful at this, given that the characters wear customizable outfits. You can have serious scenes about the nature of luck, God, and the meaning of life while your lead male has bright pink hair, your lead female has a giant hair bow with a huge smiling bee on it, and both in kitschy Halloween-themed T-shirts.
- A trailer for Marvel Strike Force has a voice-over by a SHIELD combat medic, who is riding in a quinjet with Captain America, Elektra, Thor, and Drax, while Cap is performing maneuvers to evade enemy missiles. The voice-over makes the unnamed medic sound like a Badass Normal, who prepares to go into a hot zone alongside the others, despite lacking in special weapons or godlike powers. Then the ramp is lowers, he takes a step... and gets shot. Cue Drax laughing and pointing.
Medic: I didn't go to medical school to be a hero, and I didn't enlist in SHIELD to save the world. I'm not like my teammates: no magic hammer, no ninja sai, no special shield. But we do have one thing in common: we made a choice, a choice to fight for what's right, to answer when humanity calls. Am I a hero? No. But today, I choose to (shot and falls down the ramp comically)Drax: (points) Hah! He should not have gone first!
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown: The Enemy Within expansion, you can give a cyborg soldier who had his limbs chopped off to fit in a Mini-Mecha battle suit a fedora straight from The '50s. It looks pretty hilarious.
- Graveyard Keeper has the Holy Inquisitor and his witch burnings. While his hunting down, torturing, and executing women who may or may not be innocent is treated as seriously and as grimly as it should be, his asking you to make flyers to advertise, and burgers and beer to sell during it is played for some EXTREMELY dark laughs. Bonus points if you made the meat using flesh from corpses.
- The Binding of Isaac is a very, very, oppressively grim and bleak game wherein a naked, terrified child delves deeper and deeper into his basement while being persued by his homocidal mother and battled grotesque, mutated monsters, collecting power-ups that slowly mutilate and warp your character, and depending on the playthrough even breaking through into Hell itself, while there's not a single happy ending in the entire game, only increasing more tragic ones the further you go. The game's also chock full of memes, Toilet Humor, and some of the abominations you have to fight are oddly adorable.
- Some humour in GEOWeasel is derived from the combination of Weas's goal of world domination and the zany antics of his crew, such as when he carries weapons and a copy of Nickelodeon Magazine in the same bag.
- In The Movie for The Thwomps, the two characters from the titular Mario species are able to defeat Bowser. Just before finishing him off...the movie parodies Tetris, using the Thwomps as Tetris blocks.
- Homestuck uses this very frequently, often in conjunction with Mood Whiplash. John makes a dramatic and somewhat Mind Screw-y discovery about his and his best friends' parentage—and then he uses the event to reenact the ending scene of one of his favorite movies. Scenes of well-loved characters dying are accompanied by shots of the dead body landing on a pile of bike horns, or references to an intentionally-bad comic-within-the-comic, or simply a blunt Unsound Effect "DEAD".
- In Paradox Space (a Spin-Off of Homestuck), the story "Indemnity Double Reacharound" features an extremely dark and gritty art style, a story involving a murder... and all the characters are brightly colored dragons with names like "Pumpkinsniffle" and "Berrybreath", odd Alternian words used in a serious way, and one of the characters speaks using slang that feels completely out of place in the Film Noir setting.
- An big part of the hero's personality in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is that he responds this way to almost everything. A robot lion chases Bob around his yard, and his only complaint is it kicked over the pile of leaves he'd just raked. Spaceships keep crashing into his roof, and he wonders if other people put up screens to avoid this. He calms paranormal beings by sitting them down to eat some cheesecake or microwave pizza. He shows an alien conqueror that his whole motivation is flawed, and suggests he find a new hobby, like sudoku. And many other examples.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has quite a bit of this, as one ludicrous situation after another is played dead serious, complete with lingering consequences. The author expressed how continually amused he was by the fact that the ninja hero would go always chasing after the fantastic menace of the week in his car... a very dull-looking Honda Accord.
- Digger runs on Bathos. The most heart-rending and hilarious example being just after Ed's death, Digger is rescued by two lizards lighting their way with a bug on a stick.
- Used often in El Goonish Shive, especially during the Painted Black storyline.
- Questionable Content often adds comedic interludes to serious plotlines about the characters' lives, aided by the World of Snark cast. Lampshaded when Faye deals with The "I Love You" Stigma by getting sloppily drunk, is accidentally punched in the face, and is stuck stanching a nosebleed while she talks things out.
Marten: [snrk] Sorry, sorry, it's really hard to have a serious conversation when you're all stuffy-sounding.
Faye: I do lag a cerdain grabitas ad the mobent.
- Daywalt Horror likes to employ this as a way to change up their usual thing.
- In "Meat", two rural men are driving a truck and talking about what to do with the thing they just hit and had loaded into the back, revealing halfway through that said thing was actually a Magical Talking Unicorn.
- In "Vergel Geroth", it features a necromancer reading a spell from The Necronomicon, with a monster rising up in the background as he reads it, eagerly waiting to pounce... only for the summoner to pause and try to puzzle out the pronunciation of the last section. With the monster looking on in exasperation.
- Cancer? Not funny. Clown with cancer? Hilarious.
- Bathos is the engine upon which The Onion runs. Mundane events made to sound newsworthy describes a great deal of the content. It's also frequently used by its sister site, ClickHole.
- Romeo And Julieta makes use of this, particularly the original film.
- The Jerry Seinfeld Program is a Deconstructive Parody of Seinfeld that gets progressively more bizarre, horrible, and absurdist...but the victims of this cruel universe are Jerry and George from Seinfeld.
- In episode 7 of Meme House, Bulk Bogan is suddenly murdered by his friend. Due to the nature of the series, everything leading up to, surrounding, and following the event is this.
- This trope is what drives most of The Venture Bros..
- The infamous pea scene from The Powerpuff Girls. It Makes Sense in Context.
- In The Cleveland Show episode "Gone with the Wind", Cleveland is informed of the sudden death of his ex-wife Loretta. His sad sigh is immediately followed by a very similar sounding fart, the result of a high-fiber diet that has left him gassy all episode.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog played this trope like a maestro conducting a symphony. While it could easily be both tragic and terrifying at times, one of its most weirdly haunting scenes comes in the climax of "Human Habitrail" where a wacky, cartoonish chase scene on boats is scored by a heartbreakingly beautiful One-Woman Wail. It really must be seen to be believed.
- The Farnsworth Parabox in Futurama has Farnsworth warning near the end: "Everything that ever was, is, and will be is contained in this box, and the actual box is probably worth something as well."
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", Twilight Sparkle is pushed over the Despair Event Horizon by the failure of the Elements of Harmony, and sadly trudges back to the library in defeat... while thanks to Discord's influence, various ridiculous things happen around her, like pies falling upwards and ballet-dancing buffalo prancing by. It manages to be both funny and tragic at the same time.
- "Luna Eclipsed" sees the Mayor of Ponyville using a spooky voice... only for her clown costume to utterly kill the effect. Lampshaded by Spike.
- In "It's About Time", Twilight Sparkle's dead-serious proclamation of incoming doom comes close to being ignored due to the Groucho Marx glasses she's wearing due to a collision with a metric ton of party-supplies.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender'
- This supplies one of the series' most memorable jokes:
Zuko: How could you forgive me so easily? I thought you'd be furious with me.
- And caps off one of it's most touching scenes:
Iroh: I was never angry with you, Zuko. I was sad, because I was afraid you had lost your way.
Zuko: I did lose my way.
Iroh: But you found it again. And you did it by yourself. And I am so happy you found your way here.
Zuko: It wasn't that hard, Uncle. You have a pretty strong scent.
- The Simpsons has always displayed a mastery of playing this trope for comedy:
- In episode "Homer Loves Flanders" Bart tricks Homer into buying what he thinks are tickets to a highly-anticipated football game, only to find that he had actually bought a wig store coupon. He wildly careens from elated, to furious, to contemplative, to giddy, before finally settling on possibly aroused. This takes place over the course of about ten seconds. In the DVD Commentary, the show's staff discuss Homer's wild mood swings, coming to the conclusion that the character's ability to immediately return to a default-jolly state from any other emotional state is one of his most endearing qualities. They also observe that Homer, more than any other male main character in probably all of fiction, will burst into tears at the drop of a hat.
- Several jokes over the years have taken a short break from a silly situation to mine Lisa's developing major depressive disorder for comedy. Usually, it's quickly acknowledged and followed by an awkward beat, after which immediately returns to business-as-usual.
An example from "Simpson and Delilah":
Homer: And what does my little girl want?
Lisa: An absence of mood swings and some stability in my life.
Homer: G'uih, I... How about a pony?
Lisa: (cheerfully) Okay!
- In "Radio Bart", Bart is stuck down a well, but nobody wants to help him out on account of a dirty trick he played on them, and tearfully laments about the stuff he'll never do, like smoking a cigarette, having a fake ID and shaving a swear word onto the back of his head.
- Gravity Falls:
- It is heavily implied that Pacifica was reared under some Pavlov conditioning and seemingly obeys everything her father says at the ring of a bell. Cut to the hilarious complaint of her father when due to Character Development the bell doesn't work anymore.
Preston Northwest: Dingly Dingly. Is this bell broken?
- The epic and tragic Heroic Sacrifice of Big Henry in "The Golf War" is played for as much heartbreaking drama as humanly possible, even though it's the death of a golf ball gnome sacrificing himself so Mabel can get a hole-in-one.
- It is heavily implied that Pacifica was reared under some Pavlov conditioning and seemingly obeys everything her father says at the ring of a bell. Cut to the hilarious complaint of her father when due to Character Development the bell doesn't work anymore.
- "Son of Stimpy" in The Ren & Stimpy Show revolves around Stimpy farting, then trying to prove to Ren that "Stinky" (the fart) "is not a fantasy! He IS real!" note , only to find that the fart is gone, and he gets depressed over it.note While still primarily a comedy, the entire premise of this episode is Played for Drama. John Kricfalusi did this on purpose, to demonstrate how "fake pathos" could substitute for real emotional development in any kind of worknote , live-action or animated.
- The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack is pretty much fueled by this trope. To quote the creator himself:
Thurop van Orman: Comedy, or at least the kind of comedy I like, are the ones that make you feel a bit uncomfortable and then hit you with a great joke.
- BoJack Horseman is a famously tragic exploration of depression, repentance, and the perils of fame, among other heavy subjects. The cast is also halfway made of Funny Animals and filled to the brim with sight gags and puns related to that. Characters will often have deep discussions of their darkest feelings and complex relationships while in the middle of some ridiculous project or heist.