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 the 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 would be like in real life.
Almost Always Male. In cases that the Butt Monkey is female, is regularly used for slapstick and it is Played for Laughs, she is probably also a case of Slapstick Knows No Gender. 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. On the other hand, 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.
See also: Bumbling Sidekick, The Un-Favourite, Guilt by Association Gag, Humiliation Conga, 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.
Do note that the Butt Monkey is often not meant to be hated by the audience. For characters completely intended to be dislikable, contrast Hate Sink.
In real life, everyone single one of us runs into bad luck now and then, so said examples are not possible.
Examples go in subpages:
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- Live-Action TV
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- 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, "Youve never made me laugh!"
- 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.
- 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, as well as "Make Art!", where Uma sticks a paper circle onto his face, and Kako inadvertently covers him in paint.