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Black Comedy Burst

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The Great Depression is considered one of the worst chapters in America's history. The economy was obliterated, and unemployment was at an all time high. It was an era of sorrow with no... OOH, LOOK AT THE PRETTY COLORS!
"The creators of South Park, the satirical cartoon, are no strangers to controversy... but now they seem to have taken the taboo-busting to a place even hardened South Park watchers have found hard to go."

Black Comedy can show up in the most unexpected places. A series might be the most generic and inoffensive Dom Com around; the darkest subject matter it normally handles might be teens drinking alcohol or married people being tempted by another man/woman. And even then, the subject matter is likely to be treated seriously rather than played for laughs; it might even be the subject of a Very Special Episode.

But then along comes a moment when the series brings in a topic it would normally never touch with a ten-meter pole (abortion, suicide, rape, Nazis, what-have-you) and treats it with just as much casual, lighthearted humor as it does recipes gone wrong or a Two-Timer Date. For that one moment, that one joke, the series becomes a Black Comedy... then it goes right back to being nice and innocuous again.

Note that, if a series already is a Black Comedy, it's still possible to fit this trope, but the burst of black comedy has to be really extreme. For example, Seinfeld usually didn't shy away from dealing with plenty of dark subject matter, but it's usually just the characters discussing it. If they had done an episode where the Main Characters actually raped or killed someone, and they still played it as much for laughs as ever, then it would still qualify as a Black Comedy Burst.

A subtrope to both Genre Shift and Mood Whiplash since they include all possible ways to change the main emotional reactions that are invoked and the type of the story. Contrast Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon, the introduction of the Ghost Pokémon Mimikyu introduced a Running Gag where Meowth appears to almost die and get Dragged Off to Hell. This is in all likeliness the darkest joke the series has ever done by a wide margin, and it sometimes (though not consistently) gets edited in the English dub (particularly an instance where Meowth is shown face-down in the water).
  • While the Lyrical Nanoha franchise has never shied away from dark subject matters, its humor tends to be on the lighthearted side. And then there's ViVid Life, which has a gag where Nanoha comes home to find Rio hanging up a noose for a New Year's party because she doesn't know what a wreath is.

    Comic Books 
  • In Violine, when lying in crocodile-infested water, a man offers Kombo money to save him. Just when Kombo accepts, a crocodile bites his hand with the money off, which lands in the boat. Kombo quickly puts the severed hand (with the money still in it) behind his back while the man is devoured by crocodiles. The hand keeps fighting him throughout the night over the money. This, and the death of the man, is all Played for Laughs, in contrast to other times when people are attacked and killed by crocodiles.

    Fan Works 
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, a Script Fic that imitates a children's show, has a brief one-liner about suicide.
  • OSMU: Fanfiction Friction:
    • In Chapter 6, the Odd Squad Mobile Unit goes to visit Todd at his Home For Villains. Oswald hears screaming and asks Todd about it, only for him to state that he's currently attempting to phase out electro-shock treatments. And then Omar takes it a step further by asking if electro-shock treatments is how his hair is styled.
    • In Chapter 16, the Mobile Unit and Octavius go to The Nutcracker, and while looking at the menu, Orla remarks that the restaurant doesn't have roast cat as part of its "old-fashioned" cuisine. Octavius chokes on his water in response, and all Oswald says is that they refuse to let Orla cook anymore.

    Film — Animated  
  • Frozen: Kristoff's family, the trolls, lightly suggest offing Anna's fiancé while trying to get Kristoff and Anna together... in the middle of a cheery Crowd Song, no less! And while Anna was slowly dying of her frozen heart... not that anyone mentioned it until afterwards.
  • Trolls: In the flashback showing Branch's paranoia over Bergens, he runs through a birthday party and tips the cake over whilst screaming about them. Next he runs through a wedding, and tips the cake over, continuing to scream about Bergens. Finally he runs through a funeral... and tips the coffin over, causing the corpse to tip out onto the floor... whilst still screaming about Bergens.
    • Bonus points because closer examination reveals that the corpse and his widow are the bride and groom from the previous marriage.
  • Wreck-It Ralph has a brief gag where Kano gets a bit too excited and performs his most famous Fatality on a zombie at the Bad-Anon support group meeting. Yes, that one. The blood and organs are gooey and purplish rather than red, but it's still quite likely the most violent joke in any Disney-produced movie.
    • The end of the movie has a downplayed example where Vanellope engages in this. When it's revealed that she's a princess, the other racers who had bullied her prior to this knowledge beg for forgiveness. Instead, she says she'll sentence them all to execution. As the racers expectedly freak out, she assures them that she's just pulling their leg and gladly accepts their apologies. It becomes downplayed when you remember Death Is Cheap in a character's native game and they'll just resurrect good as new like nothing happened.
  • When Moana and Maui reach the entrance to Tamatoa's lair, Moana says that she doesn't see anything to indicate an entrance.
    Maui: That's because it only appears after a human sacrifice. (Beat) Kidding!
  • ParaNorman is a fairly audacious movie to begin with, and the main character's abilities lend themselves to a fair amount of ghost-related humor but about half an hour in there's a scene where Norman has to pry a book out of a corpse's hands, and it's entirely Played for Laughs.
  • In the Disney version of Peter Pan, Captain Hook nonchalantly shoots one of his own men — for singing badly. Then later, he tosses another of his pirates overboard, for speculating about "no splash?!" after Wendy walks the plank.
  • Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe:
    • The alien guards that Perry beats up land in a pool. One of them declares that they're okay, until a monster rises from the water and swallows them. As the monster slowly resubmerges, the guard is heard remarking in a deadpan voice that they're definitely not okay. Particularly notable for being one of the few times in Phineas and Ferb that death is strongly implied onscreen.
    • Later as the Doofenshmirtzes are trying to use Heinz's Replace-With-A-Chicken-Inator to switch places with the nearest chicken and return to Earth, their attempt backfires because the nearest chicken is on Feebla-Oot instead of Earth. As Heinz tries to come up with a solution, he holds up an axe labeled "Axe-Inator" while looking at the chicken and ominously saying that "accidents can happen...". Vanessa hastily convinces her father to find another solution (which ends up being switching the Inator's setting to switch with the furthest chicken instead of the nearest one).
  • The first movie was already rife with adult jokes, but one of the darkest jokes in any Dreamworks film comes early in Shrek 2 when, in the middle of a fairly sweet romantic montage, Shrek and Fiona are making out under beach waves and Shrek accidentally finds himself making out with pseudo-Ariel. Fiona then grabs her by the fish tail and hurls her back into the sea, where she gets eaten by sharks. Neither Shrek nor Fiona shows much concern about this.
  • There's a throwaway gag in The Sponge Bob Movie Sponge Out Of Water where SpongeBob and Plankton have to disconnect Karen's monitor from her robotic body. Since she's a computer, it doesn't harm her, but SpongeBob is still freaked out, saying "I've never carried a head around before." Plankton calmly responds, "Don't worry, you get used to it," the implication being that Plankton has actually decapitated people before.
  • Near the end of Hotel Transylvania when the monsters are racing to the airport to stop Jonathon from leaving, the road is blocked by a herd of sheep. Without missing a beat, Wayne (a werewolf) immediately races out and gobbles all of them up at lightning speed while the other monsters watch in horror. Then he gets back into the car with a satisfied expression and burps up some clumps of wool. His friends are not amused.
    Wayne: What? Now there's no sheep in the road! Let's go!
    Murray: That was pretty sick, man.
  • Madagascar: When Skipper and the penguins return to Madagascar on a ship they took over, Gloria asks where all the people are, and Skipper gives a surprisingly dark answer for a family film.
    Gloria: Where are the people?
    Skipper: We killed 'em and ate their livers. (Gloria looks horrified. Skipper just grins) Gotcha, didn't I?
  • Turning Red: Ming confronting Devon and demanding to know how old he was, believing he was thirty. The tired kid replies he's seventeen.
    Ming: Oh, see, see? This is what happens when you don't wear sunblock and do drugs all day!

    Film — Live-Action  
  • Our Miss Brooks: In The Movie, Miss Brooks sardonically remarks she's up for a game of Russian roulette.
  • In Men in Black 3 during Jay's time jump from the top of the Empire State Building he briefly passes through The Great Depression and locks eyes with a stock broker in the process of falling to his death. The franchise generally doesn't shy away from dark comedy, but this scene still stands out.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Muppet Treasure Island: The "Sailing To Adventure" musical number has several moments of dark comedy inserted: the singers belting out "AND PEOPLE DIE BY FALLING OVERBOARD!", for example, or having three of the pirates discussing their preferred forms of murder before dismissing it as "just kidding".
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Tom hides Sonic in a bag and smuggling him into a building. When someone besides him hears Sonic making noise within the bag, this exchange alluding to child abduction ensues:
    Sonic: How much longer? I can't breathe in here! ...Hellooooo? Anybody there?
    Bystander: Do you have your child in that bag?
    Tom: No. I mean, yes, it's a child, but it's not mine.
    Bystander 2: [disturbed] That's not your child?
    Tom: Relax, I'm a cop, okay? Plus he likes it in there, don't cha, buddy?
    Sonic: Why would I like it in here? This is worse than the dog cage you had me in earlier!
    [The bystanders stare at the bag in horror]
    Tom: He's such a kidder.
    [Maddie hastily closes the zip]
    Sonic: [muffled] No, I'm scared of the dark! Is anybody there?!
    [The bystanders start nervously edging away as Sonic is saying this]

    Live-Action TV 
  • On a Boy Meets World Halloween Episode, everything's going along like a typical episode for the first act, nothing that might be objectionable for family viewing. Then a guy named Kenny is suddenly murdered. In the past, this series has treated sex, alcoholism, juvenile delinquency, and religious cults with deadly seriousness in Very Special Episodes. When another human being is killed, however, the only response it gets is, "Oh my god! They killed Kenny!" After that, the episode kills off a lot more people, including most of the Main Characters, and it's mostly played for laughs. Of course, it's All Just a Dream, but there was no way the audience could have known that before the first murder occurred.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • One episode has Ted trying to get a job designing a guy's house. As Ted talks to the guy, though, it becomes clear he's a Serial Killer who wants Ted to build him a sound-proof "murder house." While all the characters are appropriately freaked out by this, Ted's run in with a serial killer is never played for anything but laughs. And it's usually such a sweet Romantic Comedy.
    • The time when Barney, the resident Licensed Sexist, casually mentions that, on one occasion, he's pretty sure he sold a woman.
      Barney: I didn't speak the language, but I shook a guy's hand, he gave me the keys to a Mercedes, and I left her there.
  • Not that Mad Men was ever known for being light, but a guy randomly getting his foot sawed off by a lawn mower certainly qualifies, especially with the lashings of Bloody Hilarious and all the dark jokes that came in the incident's wake.
    Harry: He's going to lose the foot.
    Roger: Right when he got it in the door.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia may be one of the darkest sitcoms on television, but Frank blowing up a guy's head with a musket shot was a bit above par.
  • Victorious:
    • The episode "Beggin' on Your Knees" features Cat accidentally getting phone calls from people who just had car accidents. One of these people dies on the line. Everyone seems a bit shocked and bewildered by this but don't really say too much about it.
    • "Ice Cream for Ke$ha" features Tori trying to drown her sister Trina.
    • "Tori Gets Stuck" has a vial of blood explode on Tori and Robbie.
    • A relatively tame one compared to the three above it, but "Sleepover at Sikowitz's" features a sub-plot where Tori's parents are celebrating their anniversary by watching Terms of Endearment, and after the students at Sikowitz's break character and get banished, they come to visit their house, and find the movie hilarious for unknown reasons.
  • There are a few moments on iCarly that don't really fit with the rest of the show's humour. One was an elderly clown at a party having a heart attack and dying, with the rest of the cast treating it casually.
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show has the episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust", in which the staff of WJM-TV has humorous reactions to the absurd death of Chuckles the Clown. It's widely considered one of the show's best episodes.
  • The King of Queens had an episode with an uncharacteristically dark parody of Duel where Doug buys an ice cream truck and is later stalked and suffers repeated murder attempts by an unseen driver in another truck.
  • It was perhaps more of an escalating trend than a burst, but the third season of Wizards of Waverly Place had Alex killing another wizard, Justin's girlfriend being abducted and Max inadvertently bringing about a genocide that claimed the life of every monster hunting wizard except Justin.
  • The Only Fools and Horses episode "A Royal Flush" has largely been disowned by the fandom. It involves Rodney falling for an upper class girl, only for Del to sabotage the relationship with his boorish, obnoxious behaviour, which is played up even more than usual. Afterwards, Del is completely unsympathetic and even mocks Rodney for calling him out on it. The show creator John Sullivan and David Jason have both shown regret that the episode was made.
  • Despite being a cop sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine manages to be a light-hearted and fun show without going into Black Comedy. However, there are three episodes that fall into Black Comedy. The first episode involves the main character, Jake, getting kidnapped and being held hostage by a stoned ex-lawyer seeking revenge. The second episode had Jake suffering through multiple injuries (three cracked ribs, three broken toes, a hairline fracture, etc...) within one week. The third has the squad nonchalantly investigating a horrific crime scene where the floor and walls are practically painted with blood...and then a deliveryman comes in, immediately starts screaming and retching, and runs away in horror, leading Jake to wonder aloud if maybe they're starting to get a little desensitized to gruesome violence.
    • After several seasons of mostly lighthearted cop comedy, Season 4 opens with several episodes of Rosa and Jake in prison, where the comedy stems from such light and airy topics as guard corruption, prison politics, and Jake's cellmate's child cannibalism.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Where There's a Will, There's a Way", where Hilary's boyfriend dies on live television when he proposes to her while bungee-jumping. The Laugh Track plays, and if that wasn't jarring enough, the scene becomes a Running Gag in a show that would normally treat the death of a character and the psychological effect it has on their widow very seriously.
  • Seinfeld, as mentioned in the trope description, had frequent overtones of Black Comedy. Then George's fiancee abruptly drops dead, poisoned by licking the glue on the cheap envelopes George picked out. George tells his friends what happened, there's a Beat, and they just go on with the rest of their conversation like nothing happened.
  • The Office (US) accounted for the departure of their main character, Michael Scott, by bringing in a replacement boss played by Will Ferrell named Deangelo Vickers, who is a huge prick and a passive-aggresive sexist to boot. However, the show needed to get rid of him after one episode, so they write him off by having him fuck up a basketball dunk (on a dare from Jim) and receive a massive brain injury that hospitalizes him and leaves him as a babbling vegetable, with a later episode confirming the effect to be permanent. This presumably orphans his four children as well. It served as the vanguard of the mean-spirited humor and annoying cartoonishness present in every episode afterwards.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim: The crossover with Ressha Sentai ToQger is mostly Lighter and Softer fare - in a Gen Urobuchi series with the Central Theme of Growing Up Sucks, a team of comedy superheroes who turn their childhood imagination into a source of power feel almost like Tom Bombadil. One gag, however, is surprisingly dark - the ToQgers engage in a Humongous Mecha battle outside Takatora's window, who receives reports of the destruction from his underlings but ignores them because ToQ-Oh is always gone when he turns around. Takatora is a tragic antagonist - a highly idealistic man being crushed by the monstrously evil actions he has to take in order to save the world... but shortly before the crossover it was revealed that he's suffering from Good Cannot Comprehend Evil - he's so trusting that he's completely blind to how his lieutenants have gone mad with power and seized control of the plan for their own goals. In addition, the ToQgers' trains are invisible to people who can't think like a child, implying that the real reason Takatora can't see them is because he's dead on the inside.
  • Star Trek: Discovery overall has a fairly serious tone, especially in the first season with a plotline involving the Federation in a pitched war with the Klingon Empire. Once Discovery travels to the Mirror Universe, where things are even bleaker than they were before, the mood tends to get lightened with punctuated bursts of Black Comedy, like when Burnham ends up stabbing Captain Connor to death in self-defense, only for his senior officers to respond with a Slow Clap.
  • Scrubs usually played death for drama, even if some of the medical humor got pretty dark. The one exception, a conversation between Dr. Kelso and Dr. Reid about a psychiatrist not showing up to a lecture on fear of public speaking:
    Reid: Why, because he's afraid of speaking in public?
    Kelso: (audibly upset) No, because his depression finally got the best of him and he hung himself.
  • On Friends, when Rachel's Bloomingdale's boss Joanna was killed off-screen by getting hit by a cab, right after agreeing to give Rachel a promotion, Rachel was shocked when she first heard the news, but then quickly started asking if Joanna had said anything or left any paperwork about a promotion. She hadn't, and Rachel was clearly more upset about the loss of her promotion than Joanna's sudden death. Then Joanna's other (former) assistant Sophie walked in looking very happy and Rachel asked if she heard what happened. She gleefully answered, "I sure did!" Joanna had been horrible to her.
  • In Full House, this trope is the result of having a Friday the 13th-themed wedding in a kid-friendly sitcom, courtesy of Kimmy.
  • A Sesame Street sketch parodying Game of Thrones has jokes about some of the deaths on the latter show. All likely to go over the heads of kids too young to watch Game of Thrones, but older viewers are likely to be stunned that Sesame Street made a joke about the Red Wedding.
  • In a 1996 episode of The Red Green Show one person writes to the experts complaining about a string of bad luck, culminating with stating that he worked as a travel agent for ValuJet.
    • In the 2002 episode "Snowed In," Mike makes frequent comments about killing and eating Harold. Keep in mind this is a G-rated show.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic songs tend to have a fair bit of dark humor, but it's rarely anything that could actually offend anyone. Which makes this line from "Another One Rides The Bus" all the more jarring. Given that it was one of his earliest songs, it could be Early-Installment Weirdness:
    I haven't been in a crowd like this
    Since I went to see The Who!
    • A more protracted but less famous example would be his early song "Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung".
    • A particularly magnificent example is the song "Foil". At first, it appears to be a simple song about preserving leftover food in aluminum foil (which would be right up Weird Al's alley). But then halfway through the song, it suddenly veers into conspiracy theories and alien mind-control rays... before revealing this was just the buildup to a Tinfoil Hat joke. What makes it particularly noteworthy is that it comes completely out of nowhere, with absolutely no build-up whatsoever, and the ending implies that everything he was saying was true.

    Video Games 
  • Stardew Valley has a cheery and relaxed atmosphere where it's impossible to kill your animals (but if you don't feed them and pet them they won't produce food), but in the intro at the soul-crushing Joja Corp. there's both one employee who appears to be chugging prescription pills and the skeleton of another employee lying in a cubicle.
    • The lowest possible score on the Fall Festival strength game is "George's knee". George is paraplegic.
  • Scrutinizing or Inquiring one particular guard in Octopath Traveler gives the player this:
    "This guard who spends all day staring at the night sky might seem to be neglecting his duties, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, in gazing at the clouds drifting overhead and contemplating the banality of existence, he has awakened to the reality that he is the figment of a dead god's imagination."

    Visual Novels 
  • Saya's route in Little Busters! opens with her attempting to murder Riki multiple times, and getting very close to managing it. None of the other characters seem to consider this any more than a tasteless prank. He won't actually die permanently, since this is in the dream world, but he doesn't know that and everyone else is keeping up the masquerade. What makes this especially out of place is that the whole game is based around how difficult it is to deal with the death of a loved one - in fact, the whole reason anything in the game happened at all is because Kyousuke knew Riki and Rin would be completely devastated by his, Masato's, and Kengo's death, and the whole game revolves around helping them to accept that their friends' death doesn't have to ruin their lives forever. Though apparently when it's Riki, it's not that important...?

    Web Original 
  • Carmilla the Series episode 20 has Laura interrupt Carmilla's telling of her Dark and Troubled Past with a puppet show ("This is flashback material!"). She stops however when the story gets really bleak.
  • Homestar Runner is a fairly light-hearted series, (for a web-cartoon standards at least) but every once in a while will crack a dark joke. For example, in one Strong Bad Email, while Strong Bad is listing off Cereals named after sound effects, the last one is "Gunshots in a Crowded Mall".
  • RWBY is a fairly lighthearted show (for the first two seasons, anyway), but it dabbles in a little of this. For example, at one point Jaune is having trouble keeping up in a World of Badass, and upset over a few other things as well. His partner Pyrrha takes him up to the roof of their school; her intention is (ostensibly) just to have someplace private to talk things over, but he reassures her that he's "not that depressed." Her horrified reaction is what sells it.
  • ''hololive's official material usually has an upbeat and wacky tone, though that certainly hasn't stopped the staff and talents from inserting a few of these:
    • A-chan frequently makes jokes about being in a Soul-Crushing Desk Job or hololive being a black companynote , with all the depressing conditions that that implies.
    • Sakamata Chloe, the resident Perky Female Minion of Secret Society HoloX, has two: In a segment featuring her, Marine, Pekora and Luna doing a guillotine quiz, Chloe introduces herself as normal before making an offhanded remark about how the world would be incensed if you killed an orca (which Chloe is) with a guillotine. Then, in her debut episode of Holo no Graffiti, she suddenly drops this line while daydreaming about going on a tropical retreat:
    Chloe: I wish the waves would wash away all the blood on my hands.
    Marine: Down, cleaner, down!

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs wasn't afraid to have sketches with dark humor. For example, "The Ballad of Magellan" ends with Ferdinand Magellan's death at the hands of angry natives in the Philippines, and plays it for laughs:
    Yakko: They sailed due west to the Philippine Islands
    Magellan was pleased as the natives drew near
    But then someone shouted "I think they're attacking!"
    Magellan said "What?", and got hit by a spear!
  • The Simpsons:
    • The series, despite being a Black Comedy in concept, is too idealistic to actually be considered one. The episode "Homer's Enemy," however, gives a good idea of what the series would be like if it carried through on that conception. A Deconstruction based on a "real" character floundering in — and eventually getting killed by — the show's inherent silliness, it's considered one of the darkest episodes in the show's history. It culminates in Homer falling asleep at the man's funeral, talking in his sleep, and causing everyone attending the funeral to laugh.
    • The trope is subverted in one episode when the family are watching an action movie and a bad guy gets his neck snapped by the hero; Marge makes a joke about "breakneck speed" and laughs about it, and Bart flatly responds, "Mom, a man just died."
    • One instance of a very black moment in an otherwise pretty family-friendly episode is in the Lady and the Tramp parody episode, which includes a gag in which Goofy is led into the gas chamber at a dog pound, all the while struggling and protesting that he can walk on two legs, talk and wear clothes.
    • "Homer vs. Dignity" is this in its entirety, but special mention goes to the infamous sequence of Homer getting molested by a panda.
  • South Park is usually more gross than grim. But then there's these three episodes:
    • "Scott Tenorman Must Die" (And viewers can't even pretend it didn't happen, because Cartman likes bringing it up). It starts out normally enough, with the teenager Scott scamming Cartman out of money by convincing Cartman to buy Scott's pubic hair. Cartman soon tries getting a refund, but Scott either tricks him again or outright refuses. It continues to escalate until Cartman is intent on publicly humiliating Scott with absurd ploys, like training a pony to bite off Scott's penis. Scott keeps outsmarting Cartman at every turn, until the climax, where Cartman reveals the cartoonish plot he told his friends about (that they told Scott about) was actually a misdirection, and Cartman's actual ploy, which he only reveals after it succeeds, was to kill Scott's parents, mix their flesh into chili, and feed it to Scott. To take this to 11, in "Episode 201", it turns out Scott's father was also Cartman's father, meaning Cartman killed his own dad and fed him to his half-brother.
    • "The China Problem", specifically the B-plot dealing with the boys' reaction to Indiana Jones being raped (metaphorically and literally) by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The rape scenes are surprisingly graphic, the witnesses are shown to be traumatized, and the whole situation is played seriously, all of which emphasize how ridiculous the metaphor is.
    • "Stanley's Cup" is particularly infamous for this. The episode is a merciless Deconstruction of Sports Story Tropes, where at the end a pee-wee hockey team coached by Stan gets beaten into a bloody pulp by a team of adults, one of the children says to Stan that he hates him, Stan's father's dream is destroyed, and a child who was rooting for the team dies of cancer. The point is that children trained by Stan were just an Opposing Sports Team in another team's story. Seems like this was too much even for the South Park's usual target audiences.
  • Bursts happen in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, of all shows:
    • Whenever a character undergoes Sanity Slippage, most notably Pinkie Pie in "Party of One", Fluttershy in "The Best Night Ever", and Twilight Sparkle in "Lesson Zero", the ensuing psychotic breaks from reality are often quite terrifying, yet they are all played for comedy.
    • Discord seems to specialize in doing horrible things like plunging Equestria into an insane, chaotic Sugar Apocalypse and being Actually Pretty Funny at the same time.
      • He returns to this in "Keep Calm and Flutter On", wherein Fluttershy lets him stay at her house in the hope that she can reform him. When she leaves him alone with her pet bunny, Angel (who hasn't been buying any of his claims that he's turning good), Discord mocks Angel and confirms that he's been playing Fluttershy for a fool — all while wearing a pair of bunny slippers that look like they're made from actual dead rabbits.
      • in "Make New Friends, but Keep Discord," the courier who travels into Discord's dimension to deliver him his invitation then gets snatched up by some winged monster in the background and lifted off screen. He is never seen again.
    • In "Lesson Zero", Twilight walks in on what looks like Fluttershy snapping a bear's neck, only for it to turn out to be a massage.
    • In "Read it and Weep", the pony who accuses Rainbow Dash of stealing his slippers appears to be a cancer patient, and what Rainbow Dash thinks is an Angry Guard Dog chasing her while barking loudly is really a mentally ill mare who thinks she's a dog.
    • "Hearts and Hooves Day" has two different moments of this: In the first instance, Sweetie Belle crashes a funeral, jumps on the back of the eulogizer (who is wearing a clerical collar), noogies him while singing that he's "too old" to be a suitable romantic candidate for Cheerilee, then jumps away. With a great big smile. While cheerful upbeat music plays. That the coffin is almost entirely off-screen and that the shot only lasts for two seconds is probably the only reason the show got away with it. Later in the episode, Apple Bloom's over-the-top Imagine Spot about what might go wrong if Cheerilee and Big Mac were to stop doing their jobs shows an apocalyptic famine-stricken Ponyville with Lily Valley emaciated like someone on the brink of starvation.
    • "Castle Mane-ia", in the scene where the ponies are panicking, Fluttershy sees what she thinks is Angel getting crushed by a falling pillar when it's clearly just a couple of rocks and leaves, and hastily tries lifting the pillar before Applejack jumps on top of it and flattens "Angel" some more.
    • In "Pinkie Apple Pie," Goldie Delicious clears some cats to get at a book. She blows at the last cat... and it falls apart into dust.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Whenever Dr. Doofenshmirtz's Hilariously Abusive Childhood comes up.
    • When the Flynn-Fletcher family went to the museum in "It's About Time", there was a dog skeleton on display with a collar that says "Bucky." Phineas says that they had a dog named Bucky who got sick and went to live on kindly Old Man Simmons's farm. Their dad hurries them along to the next display, which is kindly Old Man Simmons.
    • In "Traffic Cam Caper", Carl claims that O.W.C.A. lost Agent T the previous November, the implication being that Agent T was a turkey and was eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. Later in "The Remains of the Platypus", Major Monogram brings up Agent T again when he draws a hand turkey, which horrifies Perry, causing Monogram to ask if it was too soon.
    • In "Swiss Family Phineas", during Doofenshmirtz's explanation of how he wants to start a chain of "Institutes of Evilology", one of his student's lab tables has what is clearly the smoldering skeleton of an infant on it.
  • American Dad!:
    • The episode where Roger, working as a limo driver, spends a night chauffeuring around a group of drunk frat guys who run off without paying his fee (twenty dollars). He responds to this by systematically stalking and murdering them. The entire thing is Played for Laughs.
    • "Love, A.D. Style" starts off innocently enough with Roger developing a crush on Hayley, but reaches nightmarish territory when Roger knocks her out and holds her prisoner in an ice factory, where he ties her arms and legs to an old mattress and tells her that he plans on cutting her flesh off and wearing it. The ending has Roger cut off Jeff's skin and grafts it onto his own, which is played for laughs. You know, a lot of Roger moments can come off this way.
    • In "Roger's Baby", Francine tells Hayley that she's been pregnant four times. Hayley counts that she, Steve, and the baby that Francine was a surrogate for are her only kids, the implication being that the other pregnancy was a miscarriage, an abortion, or was put up for adoption.
  • Adventure Time:
    • "It Came From the Nightosphere" is littered with this, like Abadeer singing a little jingle as he stomps on ants to suck their souls, or Lumpy Space Princess voluntarily getting inside Abadeer's soul pouch because everyone else was doing it.
    • At the end of the Christmas Episode of all places, when they reach the final of the Ice King's tapes, which is an Apocalyptic Log detailing the slow descent of Simon Petrikov into madness as he becomes the Ice King. It's a massive tearjerker/horror moment, yet the first reaction to it?
      Jake: (Valley Girl tone) Drama bomb!
    • "Betty" has Ice King (or rather, a temporarily restored Simon) describe his And I Must Scream existence as "living with eternal diaperbutt".
  • The Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated gang visits a monster's victim in the hospital, resulting in a comedically stressful interview. After they leave we hear him flatline in the background, but the gang just exchange looks and leave.
  • Popeye:
    • The 1943 cartoon "Happy Birthdaze" ended with Popeye apparently murdering his Navy buddy Shorty (which is usually cut from modern TV prints).
    • "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap" has the final scene where the Japanese admiral commits suicide by consuming gasoline and lit firecrackers.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In "So Many Birthdays", the gems' attempts to make Steven feel younger border between hilarious and devastatingly sad, specially Pearl desperately crying while doing a Pie in the Face act, dressed as a clown.
    • In the episode "Joking Victim", Sadie tells Steven that they don't make their own donuts at Big Donut ever since "the Incident", and it pans over to show a scorched section of wall with a human silhouette outlined. It then abruptly cuts to Sadie getting ready to show Steven the Big Donut training video.
    • The episode "Steven and the Stevens" veers into this: Steven ends up creating a bunch of time-displaced clones of himself in order to staff his musical band, but there's eventually a dispute between them and they all create more clones and fight each other until he breaks the device he'd been using to time travel, causing all his clones to rather graphically dematerialize... after which we then cut to Steven and the Crystal Gems singing the chipper song he was practicing with his band earlier in the episode, with very different lyrics.
      Steven: Steven and the Crystal Gems, come on now, don't be shy / I learned to stay true to myself by watching myself die
    • Amethyst hoards huge piles of miscellaneous junk in her room, and in the episode "Reformed", she finds a gas mask among her assorted stuff. She cheerily uses said gas mask to pretend to be an elephant... then removes a human skull from inside it, while declaring that "there's a prize inside!"
    • After Peridot tries to give Lapis a pool as a peace offering in "Barn Mates", Lapis explains to her the anguish of her time spent trapped underwater in a creepy serious monotone.
      "It was an endless crushing darkness, WET and BLEAK and SUFFOCATING, water was the tomb I lived in for those months."
    • In "Steven Floats", when Steven is stuck floating in the sky, having an Imagine Spot about not being able to get back down in time to get the first new donut of the day:
      Steven: They'll say: "Hey where's Steven? We saved a donut for him." But they won't see me, because I'm in the sky. And then, they'll feed my donut to a dog. And then I'll die.
      Steven's bones falls on the ground. Sadie picks up his skull (that still has hair):
      Imagine Spot!Sadie: Alas, poor Steven! I knew him well.
    • In the episode "Gem Harvest", Steven uses his powers to turn an ordinary pumpkin into a doglike creature which is loyal to him. Afterwards, he shows off an alternate, more mundane method of giving a pumpkin a face: namely, turning it into a jack-o-lantern. The newly-animate Pumpkin watches, horrified, as Steven carves one of its kin with a knife and removes the normal pumpkin's innards; Steven is completely oblivious to how disturbing this otherwise-normal action is in context, and his obliviousness is played for humor the entire time, even as Pumpkin flees from him in terror and opts to stay with Peridot and Lapis instead.
    • A sleep-deprived Mr. Smiley, trying to man every location in Funland, in "Too Short To Ride".
      Mr. Smiley: I guess you could say we're a little fun-derstaffed.
      Steven: Hah, I get the pun.
      Mr. Smiley: I'm glad you see the humor in it, Steven. 'Cause I haven't seen a bed in six days.
  • Rugrats:
    • In the episode "Special Delivery" the pit full of dead letters that Tommy almost falls in has the skeleton of a postal worker in it.
    • This conversation from the episode "Incident in Aisle Seven" when Lou and Tommy go to the grocery store:
      Didi: I hope they come back with something besides forty boxes of Fudgy Ding-a-Ling Bars.
      Stu: I hope they come back.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
  • The House of Mouse short "How to Haunt a House". The Narrator arranges for Goofy to be killed off-screen by a car crash, which turns him into a ghost, and then orders Goofy to haunt a house and scare the living. At the end, when the ghostly Goofy finally succeeds at scaring his target Donald Duck, a terrified Donald runs outside, but only to also get killed off-screen by a car crash. Cue a ghostly Donald angrily chasing Goofy into the distance.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Sandy's Rocket", Sandy initially refuses to let SpongeBob ride with her on her rocket trip to the moon after he apparently caused a mishap with her helicopter that led to the deaths of many civilians, evidenced by a large graveyard outside her treedome.
    • In "Bubble Buddy", the titular character, Bubble Buddy, is left by SpongeBob to dig a fish out of the sand. He doesn't, and the fish drowns when high tide comes in. What suddenly makes it more horrifying is that it turns out that Bubble Buddy was, in fact, alive and sentient all along. What suddenly makes it less horrifying is that 1) the said fish's ghost seems to be happy that he "experienced high tide", 2) the fish is alive in later episodes.
    • In "Band Geeks", Squidward is leading his band on a march through town and demands that the two flag twirlers spin their flags even faster. They spin hard enough to turn their flags into propellers and propel themselves into a blimp, which explodes. One of the members of the band plays Taps on a trumpet while Squidward lays on the ground and everyone else mourns.
    • In "The Fry Cook Games", Patrick botches an attempt to pole vault over a giant deep-fryer and accidentally throws the oil onto a portion of the audience, turning them into fish sticks. A vendor then begins selling them for a dollar each.
    • In "Rock-A-Bye-Bivalve", SpongeBob feeds a sentient, talking worm to a scallop as it begs for its life.
      Talking Worm: Hello sea creatures, I bring you greetings from Apple World! [gets grabbed and lowered into scallop's mouth] Huh? Wait! We will bury you! [gets eaten]
    • In "Chimps Ahoy", SpongeBob uses one of Sandy's inventions, a helmet that lets you talk to nuts, to talk to a peanut. Sandy then uses another invention to turn the nut into coffee, its agonized screaming now being audible. SpongeBob is mortified as Taps plays again.
    • In "No Hat for Pat", Mr. Krabs gives Patrick a job holding a sign directing people to the Krusty Krab, but Patrick directs a guy to the Chum Bucket instead. Shortly after, it's implied that the guy died from eating Plankton's food because four more fish come onscreen carrying a coffin.
    • "Nasty Patty" features SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs believing they've accidentally killed a health inspector with a tainted Krabby Patty, before spending the rest of the episode trying to hide the body. What increases the comedic aspect is the fact that the health inspector is actually still alive and just keeps getting knocked unconscious by SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs' antics, with the latter two none the wiser.
    • In "Are You Happy Now?", Squidward realizes he has never had a happy moment and sinks into depression. As SpongeBob frantically tries to call his friend, Squidward sticks his head in the get a batch of brownies out, but baking didn't work to cheer him up. He muses "I just can't seem to get happy. Maybe this will help..." and he hangs a rope from the put up a bird cage.
    • In "Out of the Picture", the art expert mimes hanging himself when explaining that Squidward's paintings would be worth more if he was dead, which is pretty dark for a kid's cartoon.
    • "Krusty Kleaners" managed to get away with a suicide joke in the form of SpongeBob committing seppuku by using his spatula about halfway through the episode.
  • In the early Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Seeing Red", before Terrence gets the idea to conjure an imaginary friend to bully Bloo while he bullies Mac, he decides that he needs pizza and accidentally conjures a talking slice, whom he promptly eats as it screams in agony.
  • Milo Murphy's Law has "The Island of Lost Dakotas" reveals that Cavendish regularly dies during missions and Dakota has to repeatedly travel back in time prevent these accidents from occurring. A montage of Cavendish's deaths is Played for Laughs, including him being skeletonized after falling into lava and his head blowing up after neglecting to put on a space helmet.
  • Archer:
    • Although the show runs on Black Comedy, one scene in the Dreamland season is worth mentioning. It depicts the origin story of the Dreamland version of Kreiger, where it reveals that he was a Jew in World War II who faked his death and came back as a Nazi Scientist. He hindered the Nazis by sabotaging programmes to make cyborgs by killing his patients and wasting as much of their money as possible. He and his nurse had also fallen in love. Then Kreiger is confronted by Nazi scientists, and he sends cyborg dogs to maul them to death. This scene is three minutes long, and in contrast to the show's usual style, it's played completely seriously...until the nurse says that she hates Kreiger for being a Jew, and Kreiger casually has the dogs maul her to death.
    • The very next episode has a one-liner about Domestic Abuse.
      Kreiger: [Explaining his black eye] I...walked into a door? Repeatedly?
      Charlotte (Cheryl): Oh mother used to do that.
  • Thomas & Friends: In one episode the viaduct is under repair, making main line trains late to the junction. Henry criticizes Thomas for complaining, and Thomas leaves with a fairly dark zinger.
    Henry: If we hurried across the viaduct it might collapse, and then you'd have no passengers at all. What would you do then?
    Thomas: Run my train on time, for one thing!
  • In the first episode of Trolls: The Beat Goes On!, the Bergens bring the Trolls a Troll-shaped piñata for their party, which horrifies them. Not helping their case is that instead of candy, the piñata is full of sausage, which when pulled out of its stomach resembles intestines.
  • Bojack Horseman has never shied away from playing any dark subject for laughs, but some jokes are jet-black enough even by their standards.
    • Cordovia's situation, with armless citizens getting their arms badly reattached, kids hungry enough to try to eat someone and daily bombings killing millions, is as far removed from the usual Hollywoo(d) shenanigans and should be depressing; yet it's hilarious by the over-the-top way it's presented and Sebastian St. Clair's uncaring, narcissistic handling of the disaster. Of course, following the series's tradition, this is eventually Played for Drama when Diane arrives.
    • In "That's Too Much, Man!", BoJack, drunk, talks to a kid he thinks is Todd, which the kid's parents confuse as an attempt to kidnap their son. Then, they remember BoJack's a rich celebrity and they try pimping out the little boy.
  • In a grander sense, the Christmas episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot. What starts out as a normal Christmas special takes a turn for the dark when Jenny is knocked out, wakes up and has to escape captivity in the middle of nowhere. When she escapes back to Tremorton, every single person she ever knew and loved runs away in absolute terror, and even her own creator is drafting plans for her replacement. The one person who does still see her as a friend then reveals almost an entire year had passed in the time she was knocked out, and her captor took her over to terrorize the town. What makes it this trope is that it finishes with an "Everybody Laughs" Ending and then instantly snaps back to normal by the next episode like nothing ever happened.
  • Gravity Falls
    • The page image comes from the short Mabel's Guide to Color, Mabel claims everything was black and white until a wizard invented color. To illustrate, she takes a picture from the Great Depression and draws said wizard, which she named Crandalf the Fabulous, on top of it, covering all the unemployed and miserable men in the picture with rainbows.
    • In another short, Lefty, Dipper and Mabel are trying to solve the mystery of a man in Gravity Falls who is always facing from the left side, even when doing this makes his life difficult. At the end of the short, Dipper spins him around to reveal that "Lefty" is a bunch of mouse-sized aliens piloting a robot. The burst comes in when the Aliens, their cover blow, proceed to commit mass suicide with a glowing green capsule heavily implied to be some kind of alien cyanide. One of them even chickens out, only to be force-fed the pill by another alien. After witnessing this and the robot breaking and catching fire in a crowded bowling alley, Dipper makes a note to burn the tape and forget it happened.
  • In one episode of Cow and Chicken, the Red Guy lures almost everyone in the world into a trailer that he claimed he was giving away for free. One woman who hears him abandons her baby in the park, whose stroller then rolls down the pavement.
  • Jellystone!: The occasional moment, as Jellystone is really a very dysfunctional town.
    Wally Gator: (in a courthouse) I swear the body was already dead when I found it!
  • The Cuphead Show!:
    • In "Sweater of Dead", the Devil gets so elated, he throws a party for himself and his henchmen. Why? Because the world is plunged in famine, overeating, and three new wars with massive casualties on both sides. Even better/worse, one of these wars (or potentially all three of them) is heavily hinted at being none other than World War II itself!
    • Basically all of "Dirt Nap" is a combination between this and Unexpectedly Dark Episode, with the normally grandfatherly Elder Kettle being accidentally gaslit by Cuphead and Mugman, suspecting that they're planning on killing him (they were talking about burying their pet worm), attempting to kill them (essentially his own grandchildren) in response, and then accidentally falling victim to his own traps, with the episode ending ambiguously as to whether he even survives (not that it matters, given that he's alive and well in the next episode).
  • DC Super Hero Girls (2019): In "#SoulSister," Katana is stripping criminals' souls from their bodies, leaving them comatose. Babs's response is a casual, "So we have to hide a body? Big deal! I'm from Gotham!"

  • One would never expect to find Black Comedy in Boy Scout skits (well, current and former Boy Scouts definitely would expect it, but others probably would not), which is why "Fire" and "Bridge," among several others, stand out among the others.
  • Pokéthulhu is a goofy game that mashes up Pokémon with the Cthulhu Mythos, with things like the Team Rocket analogues being named Derleth and Bloch, Scooby-Doo references, and entries about episodes of the Pokethulhu anime with names like "The Yutz from Yukky" and "In the Future, Everyone Will Be Squamous For Fifteen Minutes"; it's not without dark comedy, such as the Shaggy Rogers parody Robbing the Dead, but it's mostly not too heavy. Then you get to the Chaos Cards, which can be used in play to do things like summon rains of fish or cause a Potty Emergency. The triggers for these are all references to one version or another of the anime, requiring you to quote note  various scenes: the Kadath Belch-A-Riffic anthem, for example, or performing the Mister Sweetslush jingle, or Randy's way of talking Derleth out of killing herself at Waite's point—wait what?


Video Example(s):


"That's not your child?"

In an attempt to sneak Sonic into the TransAmerica building, a police officer and his wife smuggle the hedgehog in a bag. Unfortunately, the bystanders mistake this for a child abduction.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / BlackComedyBurst

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