The character who is always the butt of the demeaning joke or the "put them through hell" plotline. For whatever reason, the Butt-Monkey seems to walk through life with a permanent "Kick Me" sign attached to their backs, invisible to them, but all too visible to the rest of the world. Nothing ever goes right for this character, and if something bad is going to happen to someone, chances are it's going to happen to them. Long story short, it sucks to be a Butt-Monkey.
Simply having a character go through hell once or twice (no matter how severely) is not enough to be the Butt-Monkey. With primary and secondary characters, it must be a regular occurrence. With tertiary characters, it must be their sole purpose to exist. It's not necessarily karma. They don't have to deserve what they go through, but they're an easy target. Sometimes it's all the writers can think of to do with the character.
The direct opposite of a Karma Houdini (although technically the definition applies to those who escape from karma regardless of whether it's good or bad). If carried too far, may result in Deus Angst Machina. This can be counteracted if you occasionally Throw the Dog a Bone, though many writers just can't resist Yanking The Dog's Chain. The Butt-Monkey is occasionally dangerous if they're pushed too far.
If the audience sympathizes with them, they become a Woobie. Furthermore, if the audience begins to resent the "unfair" treatment of the character, they can become the Designated Monkey. The joke can also be dragged too far in other ways — to make a character a Butt-Monkey of fate is one thing; to have them constantly taking the punishment for the misdeeds of an unsympathetic cast is another. However, if the audience relishes the character's misfortune and looks forward to seeing them suffer, congratulations; your Butt-Monkey has devolved into The Chew Toy.
While the trope is often played for laughs and we are encouraged to find the misery at least somewhat amusing, some portrayals go for a much darker presentation, deconstructing the idea and showing what an emotional and psychological wreck such a person may very well be in Real Life.
More commonly male, but female examples are not unheard of. If every conceivable misfortune happens to the Butt-Monkey, regardless of its logic or lack thereof, you've got yourself a Cosmic Plaything.
If someone is Giving the Sword to a Noob, nine times out of ten this person is the noob. When a plan needs to be executed and others won't touch it, chances are they'll get the dirty job. If a plan requires someone to be The Bait, if the other members of the team don't volunteer, they'll usually get volunteered to do it. However, if someone in the cast other than The Hero is going to Take a Level in Badass, it's almost invariably the Butt-Monkey who does it. If the Butt-Monkey is fat, they may or may not be a Fat Comic Relief, which often are Butt-Monkeys. May be the subject of Speaking Up for Another.
See also: Bumbling Sidekick, The Un-Favourite, Guilt by Association Gag, Humiliation Conga, Misplaced Retribution, Iron Butt Monkey. Is nearly always on the receiving end of Comedic Sociopathy. When a character isn't a Butt-Monkey in the work itself, but gets treated as one in Fanon, that's Memetic Loser. If the Butt-Monkey is a Nice Guy, they're the No-Respect Guy and Kafka Komedy. If the Butt-Monkey's suffering is a result of their bad deeds coming back to bite them, then they're a Karmic Butt-Monkey, which is also a Sub-Trope. See Bare-Bottomed Monkey for actual moments about monkey butts.
Do note that the Butt-Monkey is often not meant to be hated by the audience. For characters completely intended to be dislikable, see Hate Sink.
Examples with subpages:
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Film – Animated
- Film – Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Print Media
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Animation
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Bert and I...: Harry Whitfield, a recurring character who goes through several horrible stories, typically while traveling to (or returning from) visiting his niece Winona, who lives in Oyster Bay on Long Island.
- Israeli comedian Adir Miller once said that he finds humbling experiences funny. He gave an example of a man who stopped at a red light next to him and gestured at him to lower his window; when Miller complied, expecting a friendly compliment, the man said, "You’ve never made me laugh!"
- Jar-Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode I (as in many other works). Most notable in the "Jar Jar Juggling" mode, where the player is rewarded for tripping the Gungam while he's trying to juggle various objects.
- Bigfoot in White Water. Particularly during the "Bigfoot Hotfoot" mode, where you can distract him and get into his cave for rewards.
- The Pinball itself in every pinball game ever. You smack the poor thing around. What if your whole existence was to be smacked around painfully for a higher being's entertainment?!
- In Humpty Dumpty, the titular character is mistreated by all of the other characters to fall off a wall for their amusement.
- Caiden from Sequinox gets the short end of the stick all over the place, either being mistreated by his classmates, disregarded as a loser by Hannah, getting his stuff wrecked or destroyed, or being mocked by his little sister. This also carries over to him as Vivaldi, because the Sequinox girls rarely take his advice and will go off on minutes-long tangents whenever he tries to help them.
- Constable Wiggs from On the Threshold is repeatedly confounded and publicly embarrassed over the course of less than a week. Adaman evades his arrest in front of a crowd, and later wrestles him into unconsciousness in front of the town's children. He's later tricked by Alexandra into letting the Traveler family go with legal nonsense, has his prisoner jail broken and money from his personal vault stolen, and finally is brutally burned to death after he attempts to arrest Adaman.
- Jason of Podcast: The Ride is constantly teased by his friends/co-hosts for everything from his short stature to his love of sweets, which usually serve to make him seem like even more of a child in a man's body than his other hosts. Co-host Mike has stated multiple times that he has "never forgotten a single thing about Jason" that could be used for the purpose of mocking him, though Jason is usually fully in on the joke.
- Steve Carlsberg from Welcome to Night Vale is constantly berated by radio host Cecil Palmer for petty or nonexistent reasons.
- Keith Vigna from Pretending to Be People tends to bungle even basic tasks, due partially to his Lack of Empathy, partially due to his general ineptitude, and partially due to his extremely poor luck. The roles each of the three play are up for grabs.
- Mission to Zyxx: As the frail and incompetent Token Human, Pleck is the target of abuse from his nonhuman coworkers, weird alien guest stars, and planetary environmental hazards.
- Most recurring guests on Ethan Van Sciver's YouTube show (and ComicsGate in general) are this. It's effectively stipulated that everyone on the show can take a joke, however.
- Ethan himself is frequently mocked by his own audience for his physical appearance, particularly his impending baldness, his weight, and his "addiction" to pies. Fans often pay good money to send him derisive super-chats mentioning those things (which he is guaranteed to read out-loud during the show).
- Doug TenNapel deliberately turned himself into a Heel by antagonizing various other ComicsGate artists and competing with them over money totals raised for their respective projects. After revealing on a livestream that he avoids washing his hands in public places, Ethan, the other guests and the audience have started shaming him for having filthy hands and calling him "Dirtworm Doug".
- The audience often calls for Nasser Rabadi to be kicked off the livestreams, and jokes at his expense are common. He is also pitied as a hopeless virgin by Ethan and the others. On several occasions, Ethan has asked female guests to give Nasser dating advice while he's present.
- Cecil is mocked for his alcohol abuse and bizarre living conditions (living in his sister's family's basement). It is yet unclear whether either of those things are part of his real life or his on-line persona (most likely both).
- Mike S. Miller revealed on the show that his wife (a model and dancer) is often on the road participating in dancing competitions, where she dances with various male partners. From that point on he has become the frequent target of particularly mean cuckoldry jokes, to the point where one audience member permanently renamed his YouTube account to "My Wife Is Dancing With Another Man".
- Shane Davis is knee deep in this trope. After he told the others that he had never finished watching Schindler's List, Cecil started a Running Gag where Shane is an anti-Semite. That gag has been running for more than a year, with no sign of stopping. As time went on, more and more Running Gags about Shane have been created, including that all of his stories are depressing and humiliating; that his wife (artist Yanzi Lin) controls their marriage with an iron fist; that his name is an anagram of "Shaved Anis"; that he has the facial expressions of a young child; that he lives in regret after failing to get in bed with porn star Riley Reid (whom he met at a convention); and that he clumsily destroys all of his expensive toys (after having dropped a $500 Soundwave statue). When Yanzi became pregnant, the Running Gag was that Shane is the one who's pregnant with the child. Though he reacts negatively to these jokes, Shane actively plays into them once in a while.
- "That Star Wars Girl" Anna turns herself into this simply by constantly revealing multiple bizarre facts about herself and her life. She is often referred to as "Lesbianna" (despite having a long-time boyfriend and protesting that she has no interest in women), mocked for her short stature and many genetic deficiencies, and ridiculed for her obsessions for Star Wars, Star Trek, and Henry Cavill. Most importantly, her boyfriend Peaches is permanently Shipped with Cecil by the entire audience.
- Between the Lions: The Fun With Chicken Jane segments have the titular Chicken Jane, who is the only one aware of the danger of whatever antagonist is after Scot and Dot. The two children always get away just in time due to her warning them, but she's always the one who ends up taking beatings from the antagonist.
- The Muppet Show has Beaker, the long-suffering lab assistant and guinea pig to Bunsen Honeydew.
- Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons: Usually it's Chin Chia-hsien, but Chin Shao-yeh takes the brunt of it. He's the target of assassins, trapped in an unbreakable net, kidnapped by his Stalker with a Crush, shrunk and imprisoned in a bottle, and then tied to a palanquin to pull Chi Lu-jen around.
- Yeh Hsiao-chai qualifies by virtue of his incredibly traumatic life. He goes prematurely white haired, cuts out his own tongue to master the martial art of Nothing, and at one point has both his legs cut off in a duel (he gets better though).
- Grampu from Oobi. This is most obvious in the "Make Pizza!" episode, where the kids accidentally cover him in pizza dough, and "Make Art!", where Uma sticks a paper circle onto his face, and Kako inadvertently covers him in paint.