Follow TV Tropes

Following

Horror Comedy
aka: Comedy Horror

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/killer_tomatoes.jpg

"I'm a student of both horror and comedy because they're different sides of the same coin: Both are about using emotion to provoke an instinctual, physical response, and if you're lucky, spontaneous evacuation of bodily waste products."

When people think of Comedy, they rarely associate it with Horror and vice versa. However, both make great partners in crime together. And thinking about it, it really makes quite a lot of sense. Both genres are, at their cores, all about continually building up tension and then releasing it in one sudden burst. If they aren't Crossing The Line Twice, they're bringing about a Sugar Apocalypse and escaping to Auda City. The reason they work so well together is that viewers need "breathers" between nonstop screaming or nonstop laughing, and one can easily segue into the other.

For purposes of this trope, we'll divide Horror and Comedy hybrids into three categories, Horror dominant, Comedy dominant, and balanced.

Horror dominant works will use comedy as a mood lightener or "breather" from the tension or gore. Characters will crack wise while they're in a safe spot, and have the monster use a Barrier-Busting Blow just as they relax. The benefit of this is that just as viewers relax along with the characters, tension is restored along with the scare. Other ways to use comedy in a horror movie is to treat viewers to some funny situational irony the characters can appreciate on an intellectual level while cursing on an "I'm gonna die now" level. The benefit here is that momentum is maintained throughout the scene.

Comedy dominant works have more leeway here. They may be a straight up comedy or parody set in a typical horror setting or premise, or use Black Comedy along with splatter horror to maximum effect. Comedy dominant works often deconstruct horror tropes for laughs, other times playing them hilariously straight as an Affectionate Parody (with perhaps a Lampshade Hanging).

A balanced work is perhaps the most subjective to qualify, because while it has equal amounts of horror and comedy, the viewer may be so sensitive to horror it seems scarier, or so desensitized to horror it seems funnier.

Of course, these works have one big problem they have to fight: avoiding jumping the shark due to Mood Whiplash. Avoiding this requires that the comedy or horror not break the feel of the established setting. Slapstick in the middle of suspenseful horror, or remorselessly and humorlessly killing a character in a comedy would do this. However, deadpan snarking and Rasputinian Death respectively would not.

See also Narm and Nightmare Retardant, where something that's supposed to be horrible turns out to be funny, and Accidental Nightmare Fuel, where something that might have been intended to be funny is instead unsettling. Both of them are results of something landing on the wrong side of the scale. See also Lightmare Fuel, where a perfect balance is actually reached between the two.

Compare the First Law of Tragicomedies.


Some works that mix comedy and horror include:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Any commercial featuring The Burger King.
  • Wilkins Coffee commercials are comedy dominant, featuring the puppet Wilkins killing the puppet Wontkins for disliking the coffee in increasingly brutally horrific and absurd ways with Dissonant Serenity.

    Alternate Reality Games 
  • Omega Mart is a surrealist satire of a grocery store that has its fair share of both Surreal Humor and Surreal Horror elements to it since the products are more often than not weird yet benign parodies of real products, while also having enough creepy stuff both on the shelves and behind the scenes to feel like something's just off enough for normal people to notice.

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animated 
  • Ana and Bruno is primarily a really dark Psychological Horror with a few sprinkles of humor every so often.
  • The Curse of the Were-Rabbit revolves around Wallace & Gromit playing werewolf movie tropes for kid-friendly laughs. The filmmakers billed it as the first "vegetarian horror movie".
  • Hotel Transylvania
  • It's Such a Beautiful Day not quite a horror comedy but rather a dramedy. However, it still has really intense moments.
  • Mickey's House of Villains leans extremely heavily on the comedy side. The shorts however are balanced.
  • Monster House is more lighthearted with its cast of three kids and climactic final showdown with the bumbling Chowder using an excavator to fight the house. That being said the children are always in extreme danger and the vengeful ghost of Constance Nebbercracker is trying to kill the main trio and anyone who gets too close to the house.
  • For the most part, ParaNorman is a wacky horror comedy about a psychic kid and his companions trying to defend their town from zombies, unleashed by a centuries' old witch's curse. Things take on a more serious tone in the final act, due to the revelation the witch was an innocent little girl with psychic abilities, executed for 'witchcraft' by the superstitious town. There are still moments of humour in the ending, though.
  • Pastacolypse involves a human chef that gets turned into a man-pasta hybrid and creates many pasta monsters in retaliation over a worldwide ban on gluten. Many of the bloody and horrific deaths that happen in the film, alongside its general premise of a man who suffers a gruesome accident becoming hellbent on violent world domination, are played for Black Comedy.
  • Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island plays up the horror elements more compared to most entries, given that the monsters are actually real (which is Played for Horror, with monster encounters and chase scenes being more intense than usual), Mystery Inc are in genuine mortal danger and the villains aren't just thieves or conmen but full-blown serial killers. There's still plenty of comedy too, as well as some moments of Black Comedy.
  • Wendell & Wild entails a delinquent schoolgirl accidentally summoning the two eponymous demons, who are so ineffectual that her reanimated parents find them less scary than she was when she was three. The demons in turn want help to build their amusement park in Hell.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Addams Family is the other definitive horror parody. It intentionally clashes horror characters with a Nuclear Family sitcom, mostly just using the occasional jump scare from the carnivorous plants as a breather from the comedy.
  • American Horror Story, most notably in the third season Coven, frequently likes to dabble in the campier side of horror, which shouldn't be a surprise given that its creator Ryan Murphy also made Glee, Nip/Tuck, and Popular. By and large, though, the more horrific elements were played terrifyingly straight.
  • Angel: Although slightly more horror-focused than Buffy, Angel still follows the Joss Whedon blend of horror and comedy.
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead picks up where Army of Darkness left off by focusing on the action hijinks of Ash Williams, now thoroughly a blowhard loser who nevertheless fights horrifying monsters.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: One reason Joss Whedon wanted to do it as a series was that the movie had been more comedy-dominant than he hoped.
  • The Charmed (1998) episode 'Chick Flick' features psycho killers being released from Slasher Movies to attack the sisters. The attempts to kill them are played entirely for comedy - as the sisters can't use their powers on the killers, forcing the Action Girls to essentially behave like stereotypical Damsels in Distress. Piper also has a moment of Genre Blindness.
    "I get stalked by psycho killers and I hide in the shower?"
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is usually described as a darker and more serious take on the Sabrina the Teenage Witch franchise. It has a much deeper plot than the previous works in the franchise, and its antagonists are definitely a lot scarier than before. However, it is still very much tongue-in-cheek, and has lots of undeniably goofy moments.
  • Dead Set: Most of the laughs come from the dark absurdity of the premise and the dialogue of the cast, many of whom are Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist types or The Ditz (Justified by the reality show setting). However, the main character is mostly serious, the premise is Played for Drama and once people start dying most of the laughs are in the form of Satire, Black Comedy, and Refuge in Audacity (zombie Davina McCall!) rather than the witty dialogue and jokes.
  • Doctor Who has slid all over this spectrum as part of its general Genre Roulette nature with some individual seasons being rather unbalanced (Season 22 is heavy on the horror, Season 16 is rather heavy on the comedy) but belongs here overall - partly because of law of averages but mostly because the series is very good at being horrific and hilariously funny simultaneously when it's at its best.
  • Jam is a strange TV example of this, being a surrealist sketch horror-comedy, that leans HEAVILY to the horror side. It is designed to make you feel horribly, horribly uncomfortable.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker: Due to the idiosyncratic nature of its protagonist, who walked from the mostly comedic scenes of the newsroom and witness interviews to the mostly horror scenes of investigations and monsters without changing his style one bit.
  • The League of Gentlemen
  • Li'l Horrors, an Australian children's comedy puppetry television series about young monsters attending an All-Ghouls School.
  • Los Espookys
  • Pretty Freekin Scary, a Disney show about a teenager who dies and is resurrected by the Grim Reaper of the Underworld, and becomes her assistant.
  • Psychoville
  • Santa Clarita Diet combines gory zombie horror with screwball domestic comedy, and practically every single death is Played for Laughs.
  • Scream Queens (2015) is an extremely campy series that, while it can be suitably gory and violent to fill the needs of horror fans, has a shockingly low body count for an entry into the slasher genre, as it spends more time focusing on the snarky comebacks and utter ridiculousness of its characters rather than gore effects.
  • Shadow Chasers
  • Stan Against Evil follows much the same formula as Evil Dead; Horrid monsters and violence, with a ton of comedy.
  • Stranger Things
  • Supernatural. The entire character roster are a bunch of snarky bastards who can't resist making wise-ass comments all the time, and the humor is largely found in the absurdity of some deaths and the meta-fictional episodes. It still never manages to upstage the genuine horror and drama or eclipse it.
  • Tales from the Crypt: Mostly the TV series and its two theatrical movies, but the stories from EC Comics upon which they are based count too.
  • WandaVision pinballs between a loving, humorous sitcom homage and uneasy Psychological Horror without missing a beat.

    Music 

    Podcast 
  • The Alexandria Archives, while having a framing story that leans more to the comedic side, features a more or less self-contained horror story per episode. A few of these stories are quite lighthearted and harmless, but many of them are quite horrific and, on rare occasions, include truly disturbing elements.
  • Jar of Rebuke: a Midwestern gothic horror comedy mystery with a slight slice-of-life twist. The series gets darker over time, but the comedy remains even as it gets dryer. It follows immortal, amnesiac cryptozoologist Dr. Jred Hel as they work to remember their forgotten past.
  • The Last Podcast on the Left: A podcast that goes over true crime topics such as cults and serial killers and supernatural events like cryptids, hauntings, and UFOs, all the while cracking jokes and treating the horrible people involved with all of the respect they deserve: None.
  • Less is Morgue. This show has an overall light-hearted and silly tone, despite its main characters being a flesh-eating ghoul and a peppy dead person, who regularly encounter monsters, murderous maniacs, and Eldritch Abominations.
  • The Monster Hunters is an outright parody of vintage horror. Its genuinely frightening moments are few and far between.
  • Pretending to Be People: An Actual Play podcast that draws most of its humor from the interactions of the players, while having a horror-laden plot.
  • Welcome to Night Vale: The podcast's style of absurdism alternates frequently between comedy and horror in just about every episode, and the overall podcast doesn't really show a strong preference either way.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Baldi's Basics in Education and Learning is a Survival Horror game taking place in an intentionally terrible edutainment game from the 90s.
  • The Binding of Isaac has its disturbing moments, but it also has plenty of puns and fart and poop jokes as well.
  • The Coffin of Andy and Leyley tells the story of two emotionally unstable siblings who gaslight and manipulate each other into murder and cannibalism. It's played just as much for Black Comedy as it is for horror.
  • Cruelty Squad has many genuinely horrific Body Horror and Surreal Horror moments, but also derives a lot of humor from its satirical skewering of capitalism, its bizarre world and morality, and the Black Comedy comments of your employer.
  • Dead Rising. Outside of the earliest stages of the first game before Frank West levels up and gains new skills, the zombies are barely a threat despite their enormous numbers, especially once you discover or unlock the more powerful weapons that can dispatch dozens of them easily. If you're doing so while dressed as a toy robot or a ballerina, all the better. The human villains, on the other hand, are played straight. Even at their most comedic, they're often Tragic Monsters with very depressing backstories behind their outlandish behavior, and the central Myth Arc of the series is a viciously satirical one in which blame for the Zombie Apocalypse is laid directly at the feet of ravenous American consumers. Finding ways to create Mood Whiplash between the serious storyline and the ridiculous (and often optional) physical comedy is a key source of the games' humor.
  • Death Road to Canada is a Lighter and Softer take on a zombie story between quirky characters and traits, a jaunty soundtrack, and even amusing death quotes if a character is Devoured by the Horde. It has the occassional Mood Whiplash back into horror.
  • Deltarune leans more on the comedy side than Undertale in the surface level interactions but there's a dark intrigue and themes of existential horror running throughout. This is best exemplified by the character of Spamtom G. Spamton, a literally insane crazy salesman whose rantings pinball between hilarious and deeply unsettling.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
    • FNaF 1 and 2 are very much horror games, but they also have a good few Black Comedy and funny moments, from Phone Guy stumbling to convince you that the animatronics are harmless to booping Freddy’s nose. The absurdity of being hunted by fuzzy animal mascots also lends itself well to comedy, with players often giving them their own interpretations of the animatronics’ characters. Popular interpretations include Chica being a Big Eater, and Freddy being Super Gullible for believing your disguise of himself in FNaF 2.
    • FNaF 3 tones up the horror factor considerably, placing the player Alone with the Psycho behind the franchise’s murder spree, but the comedy remains intact if not amped up a bit, with a new Phone Dude who’s just a little too gung-ho about building an animatronic horror attraction, and the inherent goofiness of Springtrap’s Artificial Stupidity forcing him to chase childlike noises.
    • FNaF 4 is pure horror, plain and simple. The animatronics are a mishmash of wires, dirty torn fabric and More Teeth than the Osmond Family, gone are the phone calls, you have to listen very closely at all times to have any idea where the animatronics are, and even the minigames between each night tell a horrifyingly tragic story. The only moments of (debatable) levity are Nightmare Foxy becoming a Foxy plushie when you close the closet door, Nightmare Chica sending in the Cupcake to attack you if you don’t check the doors often enough, and Plushtrap being maybe a little goofy.
    • FNaF World is Lighter, Softer, Denser and Wackier than the rest of the franchise, but there are still strong undertones of a horror story underneath. Once you start peeling back the layers, it almost 180s to pure horror… but it’s still a cutesy monster-collecting RPG after all.
  • The House of the Dead: OVERKILL, being a Grindhouse film themed romp where a secret agent and a detective track down a crime lord through a mutant outbreak, wisecracking and cussing up a storm along the way.
  • Killer Frequency: Officially described as a horror-comedy by the developers, this game's tone is an ode to not only horror films of the 1980s, but its affectionate parodies like the Scream film series. The serial killer plot involving the Whistling Man is consistently taken very seriously, but some of the scenarios, avoidable deaths, and lively personalities of the callers range from cheeky running gags to Gallows Humor. The player can allow the game's protagonist, Forrest Nash, to engage in Bond One Liners if they fail to save one of their callers.
  • Compared to the original Kinder, Re:Kinder has the same dark premise of toddlers fighting to escape a town turned deadly and avoid gruesome deaths, but has a lot more emphasis on humor. In particular, Big Bad Yuuichi is now Laughably Evil, spouting references, non-sequitors, and wisecracks left and right.
  • Lethal Company has you play as employees sent out into different moons to gather scrap for the company they work for, with said moons being filled with all sorts of deadly and horrifying creatures that can easily kill you. It's also rife with many opportunities for comedy, with interactable objects such as rubber duckies, airhorns, and clown horns, and you can even buy a beatbox to play some tunes while you explore the creepy areas. It's pretty much a game where you're just as likely to laugh as much as you scream.
  • The Luigi's Mansion games tend to lean towards this. While the premise of Mario's timid younger brother fighting quirky ghosts with a flashlight and a vacuum cleaner lends itself to some inherent silliness, the games still manage to have a fairly spooky atmosphere, due to the nature of wandering through gloomy haunted buildings where ghosts could attack at any moment, and the sheer menace that comes from the main villain, King Boo.
  • Monster Party is a bizarre game that runs on equal parts Surreal Humor and Surreal Horror. Enemies include Nightmare Fuel-inducing human-faced dogs, The Grim Reaper and flying umbrellas and the bosses have creepy designs, yet goofy dialogue ("Oh, boy! Mark Soup!"). It's a game that's equally terrifying as it's hilarious.
  • Pizza Tower starts out as pure comedy, but shifts slightly towards horror with the boss of the fourth floor, Fake Peppino, with the fifth and final floor having a bit more of a horror focus than the rest of the game.
  • Plants vs. Zombies is where you fight off a Zombie Apocalypse Played for Laughs by planting anthropomorphic mutant plants on your lawn. The zombies, even when their desire is explicity to eat your brains, are far too comical to classify the game as horror.
  • Potato Thriller: A bizarre horror adventure game about a potato serial killer.
  • Resident Evil 4: Between Leon being a smartass, extremely goofy villains, and generally absurd enemy encounters, it's is easily the silliest game in the franchise. Still, it's got copious usage of Body Horror and Jump Scare, and there are some legitimately terrifying moments.
  • Shadow Hearts series is a sequel to a Survival Horror game Koudelka, that grows increasingly more light-hearted as the series goes on. Shadow Hearts: Covenant in particular almost perfectly balances horror and comedy, and constantly goes back and forth between dealing with the zaniest characters possible (wrestling superhero vampire, anyone?) and fighting demons and otherwordly horrors.
  • Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion is framed as an Affectionate Parody of cheap indie horror games reliant on Jump Scares, with a Cute Ghost Girl host and "scares" in the form of goofy haunted house-style wooden pop-outs... then quickly develops with actual scares of its own once it becomes clear that not all the presented threats are harmless, including a menagerie of monsters with graphic death scenes. Even past that point, however, there's still a mix of lightheartedness and deliberate absurdity to keep it from becoming a full-blown horror game, largely thanks to Spooky herself being a mix of adorably snarky and genuinely unsettling.
  • SPOOKWARE is an episodic Minigame Game that is a comedic adventure game with horror-themed minigames.
  • Undertale has a quirky sense of humour not unlike EarthBound (1994), and similarly gets increasingly terrifying as you progress. While the neutral and pacifist routes balance the two, the No Mercy route is very horror dominant.
  • The Upturned, a level-based Survival Horror game from the creator of Lethal Company above, has silly character designs and goofy humor not unlike Luigi's Mansion, but it also contains tons of Nothing Is Scarier of the "wait for it" variety, and frantic, creepy action. This results in a game that perfectly balances goofiness and genuine scariness.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa may be a story about high-schoolers stuck in a Deadly Game while dealing with the consequences of a bleak, apocalyptic world, but between the quirky bear mascot serving as the "host" of the killing game and the quirky nature of the characters, there's some laughs to be had too.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! is a Disguised Horror Story version of one. The game's first act is very lighthearted and practically a Slice of Life Romantic Comedy features the four main girls and the protagonist's enjoying their lives with lots of lighthearted comedy. Sure, there's some cracks like the Mood Whiplash of Sayori's chronic depression and Yuri cutting herself, but it's still relatively heartfelt... until Sayori kills herself due to Mind Rape Psychic-Assisted Suicide from the Big Bad, Monika. Things get really Off the Rails as a result as Monika becomes an outright malicious force and the setting devolves into Psychological Horror, Jump Scares, Yuri going full Yandere and the setting turning out to be a digital Cosmic Horror Story... while much of the nightmarish descent is regularly broken up into various moments of Bathos to offset the attention, such as Monika hacking in her own version of the poem minigame and the silliness of Act 1 being a fitting Mood Whiplash device for the far darker later acts.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry starts off each chapter as a lighthearted Slice of Life comedy, until someone dies mysteriously. From there, things quickly spiral out of control, usually culminating in the gruesome murder of several major characters.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • ClickHole is mostly comedic, but sometimes has very dark articles that get pretty close to the middle, which is impressive for a satire of Buzzfeed.
  • Feet In Smoke, an essay by John Jeremiah Sullivan, about an accident featured on Rescue 911. It starts out in the Horror territory and swiftly dives into Comedy after Jeremiah and his family learn his brother will live, which is where the episode in question ends. This is Lampshaded by the Author
    "The experience went from tragedy to tragicomedy to outright farce on a sliding continuum, so it's hard to pinpoint just when one let on to another."
  • My Property Isn't Normal
  • Most works found on the SCP Foundation wiki are horror-drama stories played straight, taking themselves very seriously for the most part. However, some stories may contain surprisingly tongue-in-cheek or even goofy humor; while the Joke articles are light-hearted parodies which spoof the SCP Wiki's more serious content for absurdist Black Comedy.

    Web Videos 
  • Board James, in Mr. Bucket and Dream Phone. Season 3 becomes Darker and Edgier and more horror dominant.
  • Boots to Reboots
  • Dad
  • Each installment of the Don't Hug Me I'm Scared series is mostly comedy with one scene of pure horror plus some mildly creepy imagery, with the exception of the last two, which are closer to the middle of the spectrum.
  • Generation Loss starts off more comedic and wacky, but still has a few creepy moments. The end of the second episode and the entire third episode becomes pure horror
  • Gilbert Garfield
  • Lasagna Cat is mostly comedy-dominant during the first phase but shifts closer to the middle in the second season before diving into full horror dominance with the only humorous parts being the premise during the finale.
  • Mushroom Land
  • Pizza Time Pizza starts mostly comedy and shifts more into horror.
  • Mario Party DS Anti Piracy, due to the final video.
  • RedLetterMedia. Yes, the Star Wars reviews. Mr. Plinkett's humorous deconstruction of the Star Wars prequels is occasionally broken up by sequences revealing that he's a serial killer with women locked in his cellar.
  • Sex House: It's from The Onion, so it's to be expected.
  • Shaye Saint John
  • Sponge Bob Conspiracy (also made by alex bale) starts normal (and comedy). but in newer videos it shifts to horror where we found that the muse is sercetly making spongebob theories and forces alex to read and narrate them.
  • SuperMarioLogan sometimes follows into this territory.
  • Uncle Samsonite
  • Unwanted Houseguest: Downplayed. There is some degree of humor and jokes, but for the most part the creepy atmosphere is played straight.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Comedy Horror, Sliding Scale Of Comedy And Horror

Top