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Break the Comedian

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It's comparatively rare for a story not to feature a comic relief character of some kind, as all but the darkest and most depressing tales need at least some kind of comedic element to add a little levity — regardless of whether it's a low-key Deadpan Snarker, a classic case of Plucky Comic Relief, or a Sad Clown.

Unfortunately, narratives across fiction are not always known for treating their comic characters in a fair and equitable fashion: in much the same way that some stories go out of their way to torment their most likable characters, some stories may end up inflicting as much pain as humanly possible on the comic relief.

One potential end result of this is that the character eventually has nothing to laugh about anymore. Unlike the Sad Clown, who is still capable of comedy despite the many sorrows they have suffered, characters who have undergone this much trauma have no means of deflecting their misery, terror, or pain. An extreme form of O.O.C. Is Serious Business, so much suffering has been inflicted on this character that they have lost their sense of humour, leaving them as demoralized, joyless shadows of their former selves.

In especially cynical stories, this breakdown may very well be permanent; in more idealistic tales — or ones in which Status Quo Is God — it may be undone, allowing the comic relief an opportunity to be funny again.

May cross over with Break the Cutie or even Break the Badass. Compare Shoo Out the Clowns, Heroic BSoD, Sarcasm Failure, and Stepford Smiler.


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    Audio Plays 
  • Frobisher of the Big Finish Doctor Who canon commonly serves as a comic relief foil to the Doctor, thanks to his sarcasm, his klutziness, and the fact that he's a shapeshifter trapped in the body of a penguin. However, the episode "The Holy Terror", he starts getting serious for a change when he finds himself being crowned the God-Emperor of the Castle, even doing his best to introduce the people to the concept of free will... only for it all to go horribly wrong when the Child appears and begins massacring the population. The Child is eventually stopped with Eugene's Heroic Sacrifice, but by then, Frobisher's subjects are all dead — and died knowing that their god couldn't save them. Frobisher is deeply shell-shocked by the event and can't muster up a single joke in the epilogue.
  • Alien Abduction Role Play: Kyra is described by her ex-girlfriend Acktreal Domma as being a fun person who doesn't take everything seriously. However, the audience never hears her voice until things take a turn for the worst, and she never cracks a joke or tries to lighten the mood, implying this trope.

  • Lenny Bruce was so worn down by the traumatic struggles involved in fighting for his right to perform and fighting lawsuits for things like obscenity, blasphemy, and so forth, that he lost his way completely and ended up Driven to Suicide. The film biopic has his later comic performances being not so much stand-up comedy as embittered rants and discourses on the multiple legal cases he was fighting; the film has disappointed fans leaving the gig in droves when the performance disintegrated this way.
  • Stand-up comedian Les Dawson inverted this by making it the basis of his humour; the lugubrious Les would recite every last exaggerated horror (real or invented, generally exaggerated) of his miserable existence, provoking gales of laughter, whilst getting mock-indignant that people were so heartless as to laugh at his plight.
  • British comedy star Tony Hancock allowed his insecurity and shaky self-image to get on top of him, to the point where he genuinely believed he'd lost his ability to create good comedy and had nothing more to offer — at this point he committed suicide.

    Comic Books 
  • This trope is what kicks off Marvel's Civil War (2006): Speedball is the goofy, fun-loving leader of the New Warriors, and agrees to film a reality show about their exploits. The first episode ends in complete horror, as the villain Nitro explodes when the Warriors try to apprehend him (in the process killing the entire team except for Speedball, plus 612 civilians). Following this traumatic event, a trial determined to hold him responsible, an attempt on his life, his own mother disowning him, and anti-superhero sentiment ushering in the Superhuman Registration Act, Speedball loses all traces of his humor and becomes the tortured antihero Penance. After a long period spent in Penance's iron maiden-like suit, he finally recovers by forcing Nitro into the agonizing costume and arrests him, then adopts the cheerful persona of Speedball again.
  • Morph of Exiles is normally a Fun Personified Manchild, constantly issuing wisecracks and using his powers to transform into the silliest, funniest, and generally least serious shapes possible; even in combat, he comes across as deliberately ridiculous. However, during a particularly harrowing two-part issue, Mojo captures Morph in order to use him as his next big star, holding Nocturne hostage so he'll cooperate. After a whole issue of being a slave to the network, Morph loses his temper and attacks Mojo in a frenzy of deadly-serious shapes; if the Timebroker hadn't intervened, he'd have ended up killing the supervillain in cold blood. The end of this two-parter reveals that Morph has been left traumatized by the ordeal, blaming himself for getting Nocturne tortured. Suffice to say he requires a massive Cooldown Hug from Nocturne before they can leave, and even after that, he can't bring himself to be funny until the next issue.
  • Spider-Man: One of the main traits of Spider-Man is that he often jokes a lot when in combat, both as a way to trip up his opponents and try to show civilians he means no harm. But likewise as a coping mechanism to keep himself focused in any situation he gets into. Needless to say, if he's really affected by something personal or horrific, he loses the jokes instantly. A few of his opponents have noted if he isn't joking, then he's taking things very seriously and likely isn't going to hold back in a fight.
  • The Comedian of Watchmen was broken twice. Early in his career, he took up The Gadfly persona with his garish costume and wisecracking personality, trying to make humanity face its own dark side. But nobody got the joke, so he dropped that and settled for being a much darker and less joking Troll. The second, proper breakage happens when he discovers Ozymandias' Evil Plan and finds himself too horrified to laugh it off.
    • Rorschach's Inner Monologue while recounting The Comedian's death has this bit:
      Rorschach: Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor...I am Pagliacci. Good Joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.
  • As a general rule, The Joker is a Laughing Mad Monster Clown who commits crimes because, thanks to his truly warped mind, he thinks they're funny. As such, any time that he stops giggling or becomes serious, the entire world gets very nervous very quickly. It's so reliable that in one story, the announcement "The Joker has stopped laughing" is rightfully treated as a sign that reality itself is starting to break apart.
    • In Batman: No Man's Land, after shooting and killing Sarah Essen-Gordon, the Joker walks away with a frown on his face, suggesting that even he didn't find this particular "joke" amusing.
    • In The Killing Joke, Batman thwarts the Joker's latest horrible scheme, which involved shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon, photographing her nude, and then kidnapping her father James to try to torture him into insanity using the pictures. After apprehending him, the Dark Knight realizes that the Clown Prince of Crime is getting closer and closer to Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and extends an offer of rehabilitation and teamwork to cure him. For a few brief moments, the Joker loses all trace of his trademark smile and seems to seriously consider the idea, but he ultimately — and tearfully — rejects it: "No. I'm sorry, but... no..."
    • In "Deadly Knights", a crossover with The Punisher, Joker is unable to smile as Frank points a pistol at him, showing the seriousness of the situation.
    • In Batman & Captain America, the Joker assists the Red Skull with his latest evil plan, thinking that the villain's Nazi affiliations are an elaborate prank. But when the Skull reveals that he actually is a Nazi, the Clown Prince of Crime immediately drops his cheerful demeanor and gets royally angry:
      Joker: That mask must be cutting off the oxygen to your brain. I may be a criminal lunatic, but I'm an AMERICAN criminal lunatic! Keep back, boys — this creep is MINE!
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin: The titular Last Ronin is haunted by the deaths of his brothers to the point that he attempts to commit seppuku as atonement for failing to avenge them. Once upon a time, he was Michelangelo, their cheerful Plucky Comic Relief iconically described as a "party dude".

    Fan Works 
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, Godfree usually speaks only in hammy Shakespearean English. The only time the audience sees him break character is while he's begging for his life when Kuradeel brutally murders him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Afflicted, Derek and Clif are pretty light-hearted guys and can usually be found trading jokes and being smartasses. However, when Derek begins transforming into a vampire, their ability to make light of the situation is soon pushed to the absolute limit by the effort of dealing with his growing appetites and chronic aversion to sunlight; in particular, Derek's jokes start to sound really tortured around the time he has to start committing serious crimes in pursuit of his goals. By the end, both men have been completely broken by their ordeal: Derek has found that he cannot be cured and is now forced to live out his days feeding on criminals, while Clif is reborn as a frenzied vampire who may not even be able to think, much less speak.
  • Balibo: The wisecracking José is left emotionally broken after discovering the village slaughtered and crosses the Despair Event Horizon. While he recovers, he remains much more serious than he was prior.
  • Richie spends most of It: Chapter Two joking in spite of his fear, but after Eddie's death, Bill tries to prompt him to join in with the group's joking and reminiscing, and Richie is so devastated that he can only sob.
  • Marty of The Cabin in the Woods is characterized by the Organization as "The Fool," and fits the role through a mixture of whimsical rambling and dedicated pot-smoking. Being preyed upon by the zombie family gradually eats away at his humour, until he's too traumatized to even employ it as self-defence mechanism. For good measure, the ending destroys what little idealism he possesses, leaving him in a position in which he could be able to save the world — but thanks to everything he and Dana have suffered, he doesn't think it's worth saving anymore.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord is by far the most deliberately funny of the Guardians of the Galaxy, usually by making references to human pop culture that nobody around him understands, dropping smart-ass remarks at every opportunity, and generally being incredibly immature. However, Avengers: Infinity War officially pushes him beyond the limits of his humour when Thanos captures Gamora in order to learn the location of the Soul Stone. After discovering that Gamora has been sacrificed in order to obtain the Stone, Quill drops all attempts at comedy and tries to beat Thanos to death — unwittingly giving him a chance to escape his bonds and costing them the entire battle. In the aftermath, he's left completely dispirited, and can only wearily remark "Aw, man..." as Thanos disintegrates him along with half of all life in the universe.
    • Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man is one of the more lighthearted of the Avengers and can usually keep up the razor-sharp wit even in the face of all the trauma thrown at him. However, the ending of Infinity War leaves Tony a physical, mental and emotional wreck, incapable of humour and grieving for Peter Parker; when he's finally brought back to Earth in Avengers: Endgame, he remains completely dispirited until Captain America tries encouraging him to participate in the search for Thanos — whereupon Tony drops a furious "The Reason You Suck" Speech in Cap's face and leaves the Avengers in disgust. His sense of humour returns following a time-skip of several years, eventually leading to him reconciling with Cap and rejoining the Avengers.
  • Trainspotting:
    • Throughout the film, Daniel "Spud" Murphy is the endearingly silly Butt-Monkey of the group, still bouncing back and telling jokes despite constant misfortune. However, going to prison for shoplifting, ending up homeless, and losing his friend Tommy does a number on poor Spud: he can barely bring himself to speak up when brought in to help with the skag deal, and generally appears totally dispirited. He looks to be cheering up a bit when the deal works out... only for Begbie to slice his hand open in a fit of rage.
    • By T2 Trainspotting, Spud has gotten even worse: having lost his job, unemployment benefits, and access to his son due to a colossal misunderstanding of British Summertime, he's started using heroin again. By his second scene, he's lost all hope and all humour, deciding to kill himself to spare his family any further shame — only to be unexpectedly rescued by Renton. What follows is a slow journey towards recovery that sees Spud channelling his addiction into various productive hobbies, allowing him to gradually return to happily goofing around as he did back in the first film.

  • Throughout The Magicians, Eliot provides much-needed levity to the gruelling classwork at Brakebills with his trademarked snark and razor-sharp wit. Even his graduation-induced descent into alcoholism doesn't completely dampen his sense of humour. However, when Quentin and Penny take the team on a journey to Fillory, everything goes horribly wrong: the Beast successfully tricks them into giving him the Crown of Fillory, Penny gets his hands bitten off, Quentin is horribly mauled, and Alice is forced to sacrifice herself in order to stop the Beast once and for all. Eliot's response to all this is to throw the Crown away with a howl of grief, eventually joining the others in splitting up the Physical Kids. Some months later, he appears on Quentin's doorstep with a renewed sense of humour and an offer to bring him back into the magical lifestyle — which Quentin accepts.
  • In Perdido Street Station, minor character Teafortwo is usually an eminently silly figure, serving as a whimsical contrast to the dark and cynical goings-on throughout the city. However, when the mysterious cocoon that Isaac's been tending to finally hatches, Lublumai and Teafortwo end up being cornered by the monster that emerges from it; Teafortwo manages to escape alive, but not before the Slake Moth eats Lublumai's psyche. When questioned on what happened, Teafortwo promptly suffers a complete meltdown, sobbing like a child.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The Weasley twins are easygoing sources of jokes and pranks throughout the first six books, but George loses an ear early in the seventh. When Fred desperately asks a barely-conscious George how he feels in the immediate aftermath, George replies, "Saintlike." Because he's holey. He keeps his upbeat attitude throughout the rest of the book and often makes jokes about his missing ear. Then Double Subverted in the finale when George gets broken for real by Fred's death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • John Crichton of Farscape provides most of the humour in the series, making up for being completely adrift in an unfamiliar galaxy by constantly spouting pop-culture references, coming up with crazy plans, and occasionally going full-blown Cloud Cuckoo Lander. However, as time goes on, the comedy begins to bleed out of his performance as the stress of being hunted, tortured, assaulted, experimented on and generally abused begins to wear on him; the hallucinations of his greatest enemy haunting him does not help. This finally comes to a head in "Die Me Dichotomy," when the Scorpius neural clone in his brain takes over his body and kills Aeryn; the incident destroys Crichton's sense of humour, and the finale breaks his spirit seemingly for good. In the next episode, he's all but suicidal, even encouraging Zhaan to kill him once it becomes clear that his situation isn't going to improve. Thankfully, his defeat of the neural clone and Aeryn's return from the dead sets him on the path to recovery, and while he has a few major breakdowns in the future, none of them are anywhere near as brutal as this.
  • Joey went through this in an episode of Full House after he thought his big break was thwarted when Phyllis Diller upstaged him. He gives up comedy, tries to become a serious adult, and starts going by "Joe". It's only when he sees what affect his decision has on D.J. (she quit guitar lessons and justified it using his words against him) and when Jesse takes his stand-up act and mangles it on stage that Joey decides to give it another shot.
  • Home Improvement: In "This Joke's For You", Tim overhears Randy calling him a "Goofball" to his friends while trying to install an intercom for the house. He confronts him about it which leads into an argument with Randy, somewhat rightly offended Tim was eavesdropping on him, hurtfully stating he couldn't take him seriously with all the accidents he causes. Tim grounds him in a knee-jerk reaction and loses his jokey demeanor for most of the episode, even on Tool Time, which even Al finds off-putting. Eventually after talking with Wilson that Randy's just going through adolescence and entering his rebellious phases. He hashes things out with Randy and manages to regain his spark.
  • Nathan of Misfits can always be relied upon to be an abrasive smartass come rain or shine: no matter what misfortunes befall him, he somehow always manages to bounce back to his usual mean-but-funny-self. However, in the fourth episode of the first season, Curtis uses his powers to undo the crime that led to his sporting career being totalled — meaning that Curtis was never assigned to community service with the rest of the team... but unfortunately, it also means that he was never there to save the team from Tony the probation worker when the Storm drove him Ax-Crazy. In this timeline, Nathan was the only survivor of the massacre that followed, and he's been so shell-shocked by his ordeal that he's unable to even pretend to be funny.
  • In Night Court, the normally wacky Judge Harry Stone loses a bit of his comedic streak when a fellow judge he was joking around with abruptly dies of a heart attack. Afterwards, Harry is much more serious... up until a new judge shows up, prompting him to become even wackier than he used to be.
  • The vampire Cassidy of Preacher (2016) is normally the funniest man on the scene, prone to heavy drug use, witty one-liners and rambling monologues about The Big Lebowski. However, his humour starts to fray when his now-elderly mortal son Denis admits that he's suffering from a terminal heart condition and wants to be made into a vampire: Cassidy is dead against this, not wanting to make anyone else immortal for fear of cursing them with the same sense of purposelessness he's been struggling with. After a long spell of depression, he agrees to make Denis into a vampire in the hopes of reconnecting with him... only for Denis to turn into a ravening psychopath that Cassidy has to put down. This leaves Cassidy even more miserable in the long run; this, combined with his falling-out with Jesse in the second season finale, eventually leads him to leave the team seemingly for good.
  • David Rose of Schitt's Creek is the Tall, Dark, and Snarky member of the Rose family who is always quick with a cynical joke or barb, especially at the expense of his family. Yet, in the Season 2 Finale, when his mother and father crash a party and tell their adult children that they love them, there's a change. His sister responds with "I love you" immediately, but David resists at first before finally relenting. As he and his family dance to James Morrison's Precious Love, David cracks a genuine smile, the first time he looks truly happy. In subsequent episodes, David is still cynical and snarky but always sticks up for his family and friends.
  • Klaus Hargreeves, a.k.a. Number Four of The Umbrella Academy is easily one of the most lighthearted members of the team: while the rest of the family, angst and struggle to save the world, Klaus can often be found clowning around, usually while getting shitfaced on whatever he can find. Not even getting captured by Hazel and Cha-Cha can stop him from mouthing off. However, shortly after escaping, he makes the mistake of fiddling with Hazel's briefcase and ends up being flung backwards through time: he returns wearing dog-tags, a shell-shocked expression, and blood on his knuckles, and barely manages to take three steps before breaking down in tears. Turns out he'd spent a year in The Vietnam War, fell in love and saw his lover die in battle before being returned to 2019. He's clearly grappling with PTSD from here on, and spends much of the episode in a very quiet mood— even assaulting someone in a fit of rage when they interrupt his period of mourning. It's not until he finally manages to completely detoxify himself that he recovers his trademarked wit.

    Video Games 
  • Though never met in person, Dr Casper Darling of Control is almost incongruously cheerful, especially by the standards of Bureau personnel: his videos on the numerous Objects of Power throughout the game feature him excitedly ranting about the weirdness of the setting while making silly jokes and cheekily tossing pencils at the camera. Unfortunately, as the videos continue, Darling grows increasingly nervous while charting the events of his dealings with Dylan Faden and Hedron Resonance, appearing unusually haggard and scruffy while discussing the HRA. In his final video, he's almost too shell-shocked to speak and definitely too traumatized to be funny anymore: he's not only discovered the source of the Hiss, but he's also been exposed to a massive dose of Hedron Resonance that may be causing him to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. It's assumed that if he's still alive, he's no longer capable of humour... and then he remote guides Jesse out of Hiss territory and into the Oceanview Motel, where he spurs her on to victory with the single most gloriously cheesy rendition of "Dynamite" ever.
  • A Discussed Trope in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. In the "Missing Link" chapter, Adam Jensen is found stowing away on a military cargo ship and is brutally interrogated by the lieutenant. During the conversation, the player, as usual, can choose Adam's responses. If Adam chooses to make wisecracks, the lieutenant will state that in her experience, it's the jokers who always break first. When Adam confronts her later in the chapter, if he cracks a joke, she'll remark with a sort of annoyed admiration that he kept his sense of humor regardless.
  • Mordin Solus of Mass Effect 2 is easily the most deliberately funny member of the team: despite being a brutally-efficient Mad Scientist with a long history of shooting the dog, he's also an excitable light-hearted chatterbox with a thing for Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, whacky technobabble, and hilarious sex advice. However, Mordin's loyalty mission quickly drives all humour out of the equation: having been responsible for improving the Genophage, he encounters the bodies of Krogan females who volunteered as test subjects in attempts to cure it, forcing him confront his long-buried guilt — and the question of whether his work on the Genophage was really worth it. He also discovers that his apprentice Maelon was behind the latest attempt at a cure, killing several Krogan through brutal experimentation. Mordin is so enraged by this he actually puts a gun to Maelon's head and will shoot him unless Shepard talks him out of it. Though downcast, Mordin appears to have recovered by the time he gets back to the Normandy, claiming that his faster lifespan results in his emotions being processed far quicker. He's lying: the next game sees him rescue one of Maelon's surviving test subjects, aiming to help her cure the Genophage.
  • Trevor of Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh. The main character's Gay Best Friend, he's a Deadpan Snarker extraordinaire and enjoys things like comical puppets, trading cheeky emails with Curtis, and telling spectacularly ridiculous stories. However, as the story goes on and the bodies start piling up, Trevor's witticisms start seeming like deliberate attempts to keep him and Curtis from going insane from stress as they delve deeper into the mystery. Once Trevor realizes how much danger they're in, though, all jokes are off: his last email to Curtis is a horror-stricken "FORGET WYNTECH AND GET OUT OF THERE NOW!" In the leadup to the climax, a deeply-shaken Trevor decides to go to the cops and blow the whistle, soberly warning Curtis to stay as far away from the action as possible so he doesn't get hurt, even adding an Anguished Declaration of Love. And then the Hecatomb murders him.
  • Ricky Pagan of The Secret World can easily be identified as one of the more overtly comedic NPCs in Kaidan; a quirky environmentalist Elvis Impersonator, his hammy mannerisms make anything he says hilarious — up until the events of the mission "The Pagans." Grieving for the missing members of the eponymous gang, he breaks down and temporarily reverts to his former identity — Ruichi Sagawa; worse still, the Black Signal takes this opportunity to speak to him through his boom box, trying to convince him that his powers are imaginary and taunting him with the knowledge of how his friends died in agony. Though Ricky is eventually able to fight back with an epic Shut Up, Hannibal!, he's uncharacteristically somber for the rest of the scene, and doesn't recover his spirits until you recover the jackets of his dead companions and unite them in a ghostly dance-off.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line, Sgt Lugo is the joker of the team, firing off smartass remarks and making light of the situation from the very beginning. As time goes on, however, he becomes increasingly bitter about the sacrifices Walker makes in pursuit of his goal, ultimately suffering a complete and total Freak Out when he realizes that they just dropped a white phosphorous bomb on a camp sheltering rescued civilians. From then on, Lugo doesn't even try to be funny anymore; worse still, his humanity eventually goes the same way as his humour, to the point of gunning down the unarmed Radioman in cold blood.
  • As with his comic book counterpart, the title character of Spider-Man (PS4) is a light-hearted kind of superhero, prone to jokes, puns and witty banter, exasperating his allies and infuriating his enemies in equal measure. However, as the situation across New York City gets progressively worse, his sense of humor is slowly eroded until he has almost nothing to joke about, especially when his mentor Dr Otto Octavius becomes Doc Ock, unleashing both the Sinister Six and a deadly bioweapon on New York. In the final battle, Spidey has zero jokes on offer, only desperate pleas for his opponent to give up and increasingly enraged Reason You Suck Speeches. Aunt May's death from the bioweapon during the finale leaves him a complete and total wreck, but with Mary Jane's help, he's eventually able to recover his old, funny self.
  • The Narrator of The Stanley Parable provides a good deal of the humour in the game, responding to the players' attempts at rebellion with passive-aggressive sarcasm, barely-restrained irritation, acerbic wit, growing bewilderment, deeply inappropriate slideshows, and over-the-top music. However, a few endings deliberately set out to remove the humour from the equation, either by turning the Narrator into a more overtly villainous figure or by gradually turning him into as much of a pawn as Stanley. In the Real Person ending, after losing his temper at the player for refusing to obey his commands, the Narrator apparently manages to sever your control over Stanley and banish you to a spot outside the office... only to realize that without a player at the controls, Stanley can't do anything. Throughout the credits, the Narrator is pleading for Stanley to do something, anything to make the story progress, until he sounds on the verge of tears; in the end, he despairingly opts to give Stanley time to decide and falls completely silent.
  • Until Dawn:
    • Chris quickly establishes himself as one of the two pranksters of the group, even donning a costume as part of a cheeky prank on Sam during an early chapter of the game. Though increasingly shaken by the events of the night, he still manages to drop the odd sarcastic remark in the face of the more disturbing things he encounters. However, Chapter 8 leaves him badly traumatized: quite apart from nearly being killed by the Wendigo, he witnessed the Stranger being brutally murdered while protecting him and was unable to save Josh from being captured. From then on, Chris can barely bring himself to speak, much less say anything funny. Assuming he survives the night, he's nurturing a massive case of Survivor Guilt (especially if he's the Sole Survivor) and can be seen struggling not to cry if told that Josh has not been found.
    • Josh is the other prankster of the group, trading banter with Chris, playing practical jokes on his friends, and firing off wiseass remarks at the drop of a hat. Even his long history of depression and the discovery of his burgeoning Sanity Slippage doesn't put a dampener on his ability to play the fool, though it does take on a bit of a mean streak as the game continues. However, meeting the Big Bad completely crushes his sense of humour, leaving him a gibbering, hallucinating wreck that has to be helped to safety; even if he survives the game, he ends up being captured alive by the Wendigo and forces to help himself to the Cannibal Larder, transforming him into a mute, ravening monster.
  • Your Turn to Die's Joe Tazuna starts off as a wisecracking goofball who brags about his love life and makes a joke about Easy Amnesia even when it turns out that he's been thrown into a Deadly Game alongside his best friend Sara. Then he watches a man die right in front of him, gets the Sacrifice card (meaning that he either has to condemn 9 potentially innocent people to death or be killed himself), forced into making a desperate plan to get him and Sara out alive, and then once it blows up in his face, is subjected to a Cruel and Unusual Death.

    Web Videos 
  • Kim Richards can usually be relied upon to supply some much-needed humour and sarcasm in her Let's Plays, especially in the horror games, where the joking clearly serves as a coping mechanism. However, Outlast: Whistleblower proved to be too much for her — more specifically, the moment when Eddie Gluskin transforms male inmates into his brides via a saw table, then tries to do the same to the protagonist. As soon as this segment was over, she promptly collapsed onto her desk and refused to continue playing, forcing Hannah Rutherford to take over just so they could read the latest dossier. Kim could be heard audibly sobbing throughout the final minutes of the video, and a brief hiatus was required before she could continue the game or even attempt to joke about anything — and even after this, her jokes sound really strained.

    Western Animation 
  • In Arthur, "Buster Bombs" has Buster telling a joke to the point that it isn't funny anymore. He goes too over-the-top with being funny again, but people find it boring and dislike it. Finally, he decides to give up on humor altogether; at least until he gets advice from both a famous comedian and the school lunch lady, when he learns that humor happens naturally and can't be forced.
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker:
    • The Joker has an epic Villainous Breakdown when Terry insultingly tells him that his jokes are lame, and for being a successful supervillain, he's nothing but a pathetic comedian who failed to make Batman laugh (i.e. corrupt or break him). This is something of an Ironic Echo from Joker's own disappointment upon learning Batman's identity. Joker always wanted to make the original Batman laugh, but when the new Batman does laugh, he's laughing at how pathetic the clown really is. After all, a comedian's worst nightmare is The Heckler. This turns out to be a Batman Gambit from Batman himself: Terry deliberately drives Joker into a rage to get him to lower his guard and thus create an opening for the Dark Knight to destroy the microchip that made Tim Drake a Brainwashed and Crazy copy of the villain with with his own lethal joy buzzer, putting an end to Joker's reign of terror forever.
    • Earlier in the same film, Barbara Gordon refuses to believe that the Joker is back because she saw him die, and explains the circumstances, which also fall into this trope. The Clown Prince of Crime and Harley Quinn kidnapped Tim Drake and drove him insane with Cold-Blooded Torture and drugs in the name of making him their "son." When Joker commands Tim to shoot and kill Batman with a lethal prop gun, the former Robin is able to cling to just enough sanity to fire at the clown instead. As the Joker looks down at the fatal wound, he stops smiling and gasps out his last words: "That's not funny. That's...not..."
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "The Man Who Killed Batman," it seems as though low-level mob goon Sid "The Squid" has defeated the Caped Crusader in a duel to the death. The Joker thinks it's a trick and stages a jewelry store robbery to lure him out, laughing hysterically as he plans for Batman to attack...but when the Dark Knight fails to show up, the Clown Prince of Crime stops smiling and becomes downright tearful at the prospect of a world without his archenemy: "Without Batman, crime has no punchline." Batman turns out to be OK, of course, but it's still a surprisingly tender moment for the Joker.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Soos is usually the amiably goofy, kind-hearted Cloud Cuckoo Lander of the Mystery Shack. However, in "Blendin's Game," he finds himself uncharacteristically depressed on his birthday and unable to join in any of the party games. It turns out that his dad continuously promises to return and spend time with him on his birthday, only to remain a no-show except for a postcard. Thankfully, Dipper and Mabel are able to cheer him up at the end of the episode by using the wish they won in Globnar to give him a happy birthday.
    • Throughout the series, Mabel is by far the funniest and most exuberant member of the Pines family, delighting in bad jokes, madcap schemes, and luridly colourful art projects. Though a few episodes hit her with a Heroic BSoD, she always manages to bounce back. However, in the episode "Dipper And Mabel vs The Future," she finds herself facing a few too many misfortunes at once: summer is almost over, high school is just around the corner, her friends admit that they won't be able to make it to her birthday party, and she's out of contact with Dipper all day, leaving her deeply depressed. Then she finds out that Grunkle Ford has offered to take Dipper on as an apprentice — meaning that Mabel will be at home without her twin brother for the first time. This discovery sends her running out of the Mystery Shack in tears. Worse still, Bill Cipher is able to exploit her depression by tricking her into giving him the Rift in exchange for "just a little more summer" — allowing him to break free of the Nightmare Realm and begin Weirdmageddon. When Dipper sees Mabel again, she's in much better spirits, but she's retreated into the Lotus-Eater Machine Bill has built for her and needs to be given a lot of coaxing before she's willing to leave and regain her old sense of exuberance.
  • In The Loud House episode "No Laughing Matter", Luan, who's The Prankster and a wannabe-comedian, tries to give up comedy after being offended to the point of tears by her siblings calling her annoying. She usually has a thicker skin than that, as evidenced by "Head Poet's Anxiety", but this time perhaps it was the straw that broke the camel's back.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the final season, we see a return of Cheese Sandwich for the first time since his first appearance in Season 4, where he was introduced as a party pony just as manic and silly as Pinkie Pie. In this appearance, he's lost his sense of humor entirely after leading a company that specializes in manufacturing gag items due to the monotony of seeing the same joke over and over again, and Pinkie is tasked with helping him get it back. She succeeds.
    • Pinkie herself is subjected to this in "Party of One," a first-season episode. After her friends mysteriously refuse to attend one of her famous parties, Pinkie begins to think that they all secretly hate her. Eventually, she becomes utterly depressed—which is signified by her mane changing from its normal poofy look to a drab, straightened cascade—and goes utterly nuts, hallucinating "new" friends in the form of inanimate objects and swearing that she'll never invite the others to a party again. As it turns out, her friends were simply planning a surprise birthday party for her, and didn't want to spoil the secret; once this is discovered, Pinkie gets her sense of humor (and poofy mane!) back. We're then treated to An Aesop about how trusting your friends and not assuming the worst about them is crucial to any relationship.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled" has Krusty getting fired from his job when a new show becomes more popular. He sits around depressed for a while, but Homer, Bart, Lisa, and some of his celebrity friends manage to get his job back with a television comeback special.
    • This happens again, also with Krusty, in "The Last Temptation of Krust". Upon joining a bunch of comedians for a charity show, Krusty discovers that all of his acts are either outdated, racist, or both. Then, when he announces his retirement from comedy, he is so successful in his rant against other comedians, he becomes a George Carlin-esque insult comic.
  • Steven Universe: The Movie does this with Spinel, the film's Big Bad. She initially has a Monster Clown aesthetic and combines her abnormally-stretchy limbs with a scythe-like weapon called a Rejuvenator that can cause instant and complete amnesia on any Gem it hits, in addition to "resetting" the Gem to their initial form. When she herself is struck by the Rejuvenator, she reforms and reveals herself to be a cheerful, perky, and eternally loving Gem who served as a jester and playmate to Pink Diamond. So how did Spinel go from a genuinely happy individual who was literally born to make people laugh to an Omnicidal Maniac? Well, Pink eventually grew tired of Spinel and started demanding her own colony from her older "sisters," the other Diamonds. When they finally relented and gave her the Earth to rule over, Pink decided she didn't want to bring Spinel with her—but rather than tell her best friend the truth, she instead pretended that they were just playing a game which required Spinel to stand completely still until Pink got back. And so Spinel did...for six thousand years. When she finally discovers that Pink Diamond is gone, that she made new friends, and essentially left her to rot without ever telling anyone about her, Spinel completely, utterly snaps and decides to try to kill all life on Earth in an effort to destroy the things Pink loved best.
  • South Park: In "How To Eat With Your Butt", Eric Cartman (who loves telling mean jokes and poking fun at everything and everybody) loses his sense of humor when one of his pranks, namely submitting a photograph of Kenny's butt to a milk company and reporting it as a missing person, makes a couple with actual butt-like faces believe that their missing child was seen recently. Cartman is so devastated over this that he no longer feels like he'll laugh or do pranks any more. He finally recovers when the couple reunites with their missing "child" (now a grown adult: Ben Affleck). Cartman even laughs at Kenny's death at the end of the episode.
  • In the What's with Andy? episode "Gnome for the Holidays", Andy, who is a prankster, is very lonely because the town's entire populace, save for him and his parents and sister, all went on vacation to the same beach. He puts garden gnomes everywhere to pretend the town is still populated and can't think of a prank; but when the townies return, they assume he put the gnomes everywhere as a prank.

    Real Life 
  • Emmet Kelly, a world-famous archetypal Sad Clown, was working for the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1944 when their tent caught on fire. Kelly helped put out the fire and escort audience members to safety, but despite the best efforts of him and several other circus employees, 168 people died in the fire. A photograph of the event features a distraught-looking Kelly — in full costume — carrying a bucket of water, and according to eyewitnesses, Kelly was actually crying throughout this event. Though he eventually returned to work and remained a clown until his death in 1979, the incident left him deeply shaken, and he reportedly never spoke of it with anyone outside his family.


Video Example(s):


Klaus Hargreeves

Despite his traumatizing powers, Klaus remains a witty, funny, deliberately ludicrous Sad Clown, even in the face of further trauma. However, accidentally travelling through time leaves him suffering from an extended case of PTSD and in no fit state to joke - or do anything but cry.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BreakTheComedian

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