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Humor Dissonance

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— "The funniest joke in the universe", as told by Morn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

So a fictional setting has, as a plot point, something that is supposed to be very funny. The other characters treat this joke or Show Within a Show as the funniest thing they have ever heard. The problem is, according to Sturgeon's Law, few writers can actually write a joke that funny, and even a competent writer will have difficulty living up to the hype the characters give it. As a result, the joke just isn't that funny and can become cringeworthy much more easily because the show is presenting it as the pinnacle of humor. This is one of the cases where Take Our Word for It would have been a better way to present the story element.

Of course, this can be done deliberately, for example to make the audience think "My God, what kind of twisted world is it where this guy is considered funny?" Or, could also be either played for laughs or to present everyone as sadistic if laughter would actually be considered a downright inappropriate response to something.


Please keep in mind that this applies only to things the show explicitly labels as funny; this isn't a place to complain about normal jokes you didn't find funny or about the overuse of the Laugh Track. If we don't see the actual joke that is supposedly funny, it's Take Our Word for It. For the inverse, when genuinely funny jokes are ignored in-universe, see Tough Room. Also contrast Narm, where the audience finds something funny that wasn't supposed to be.

See also Everybody Laughs Ending and Cannot Tell a Joke. May be a result of Trailer Joke Decay. Often an example of Stylistic Suck.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Played with in 20th Century Boys with a manzai comedy duo who tell bad jokes, but when they perform for an audience, they have the entire crowd in hysterics except for Only Sane Man Kenji. In fact, the entire show the comedians perform on is like this, complete with a rock band that the entire audience loves and sings along to, but Kenji finds horrible. It's heavily implied that everyone in the audience except him has been brainwashed by Friend.
  • Yuya's Entertainment Duel in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V is seen by other characters as so spectacular and entertaining that it was a source of their Heel–Face Turn or Defeat Means Friendship instance. Fans of the series, especially as Seasonal Rot kicked in, increasingly disagreed, finding the performances twee, childish, or condescending. It became the source of the Fan Nickname "The EGAO Messiah", referring to the idea that the only way Yuya's performances could be treated as so superlatively entertaining was if he were somehow brainwashing the audience with the power of smiles.
  • Played with in My Hero Academia with Ms. Joke, a comedy-themed superhero. The actual quality of her material is more or less irrelevant because her Quirk allows her to force people into incapacitating fits of laughter.

    Comic Books 
  • Chester Gould could offer truly funny stuff in Dick Tracy. However, too often, he fell into having a character pushed as "hilarious" when in fact he wasn't.
    • A clear case is a would-be bumbling detective who makes bad jokes and goofy gags. Characters are seen in the background howling at his antics which just come off annoying.
    • Gould took a shot at "experimental" comic strips in the 1960s with a lame strip that everyone was howling as genius.
  • In an issue of DC's Countdown, Donna Troy calls Jason Todd "Re-Todd", a pun on "retard". Kyle Rayner tells her "good one", with a goofy expression as if it was an expert burn. Not only is it a bad joke, but it's also entirely out of character for Donna and Kyle, neither of whom would be the sort to use "retard" as a casual insult.
  • Apparently a common deal with the Harvey Comics' character Jackie Jokers. Some examples are further down this page.
    One thing Jackie does provide is an example of how to live for aspiring young comedians. For example, Jackie teaches us the number one way to stay focused and confident is: surround yourself with people who are REALLY EASILY AMUSED.
  • X-Factor (2006): In one issue late in the run, Polaris and Siryn crack jokes about the time Rahne followed Havok around in the government X-Factor days. The reason she did so was because she'd been subject to Mind Rape by the Genoshan government, and genetically conditioned to be loyal to Havok, who was working for them at the time (amnesia was involved), and unable to turn back to human without losing her sense of self. So rather than a light-hearted crack, it makes them look like insensitive assholes making fun of one of the worst periods of Rahne's life (of which there are many).

    Fan Fiction 
  • The writer of Eiga Sentai Scanranger really seems to want his audience to like the comic relief team member and other characters constantly praise his sense of humor. Even though he tells jokes like this:
    Imperiled Friend of the Week: "Your friends are all that, and a bag of chips.."
    B.C.: "No..Nacho Cheese tortillas, actually.."
  • In the My Hero Academia Accusation Fic Coyote, Riley Coyote's antics can fall under this. They tend to boil down to Riley doing bad impressions, getting into other people's personal space, or just flat out showing that he doesn't take the current situation seriously (not helping is that these moments tend to come out of nowhere). Riley ends up looking completely immature and trying way too hard to make people laugh. It just seems that he is more likely to embarrass himself (and the rest of his class or the entire school) when he acts out in public.
    • One specific example is how he handles the reporters at UA: he scares them off by acting like "a living bundle of ADHD" much to the amusement of his classmates and even Principal Nezu finds it funny. Except Riley's behavior is not how people with ADHD act and nothing the press does is grounds for Riley physically assaulting them so his behavior comes across more as unsettling than amusing. Riley also chases squirrels at one point which just feels incredibly tacked on.
    • While the characters are not aware of this, Riley insulting the hands on Shigaraki's costume and even beating him with them all while childishly taunting him "Stop Hitting Yourself" to the amusement of his classmates is really undermined by the fact that the canon material revealed that those hands are all that's left of Shigaraki's family after he accidentally killed them all when his Quirk manifested. What's more, is that considering Riley's extreme aversion to someone being seriously hurt to the point that he subconsciously weakens his "Oobleck", one can't help but wonder how badly this would have ended for him if Shigaraki had informed Riley about that detail from his past.
    • Another moment is when he hijacks the starting ceremony at the Sports Festival. Riley brings the entire festival to a grinding halt for what basically amounts to shilling Hatsume and Izuku's equipment and a joke at Endeavor's expense. While Riley tries to justify it that the UA students are kids trying to have fun, that's not what the students are here for, they're here to concentrate on moving forward in their careers as heroes by trying to obtain an internship at Hero Agencies through how well they perform in the Sports Festival.

    Film — Animation 
  • Averted in the commentary for Monsters, Inc., where it's mentioned that they refused to have Boo laugh at anything that didn't make them laugh too. In general, the film gets away with this because most of the things Mike does to make Boo laugh are slapstick, which has a pretty universal appeal, while his actual attempts to tell jokes usually don't land with her and are usually played more for So Unfunny, It's Funny (and she's a small child, who don't tend to have a very refined palate when it comes to humor).
  • In-universe example: In The LEGO Movie, the most popular (and as far as we can see, only) television program in Bricksburg is a sitcom called Where Are My Pants?, which appears to consist only of a pantsless man asking the titular question to his wife in a broad, affected tone. Main character Emmett finds this hilarious, but the rest of the characters see this as just one more example of how incredibly bland he is.
  • Rover Dangerfield. Oh so so much. Apparently he has the Informed Ability for making jokes and one-liners funny enough that his dog friends constantly laugh and compliment him on his humor.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • This is a problem in the Biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers — the attempts by the film's writers and actors to distill Peter's work in The Goon Show, The Millionairess, The Pink Panther series and Dr. Strangelove aren't as funny as the real thing (no actual film clips of Sellers are used, unlike in Chaplin below), despite the in-film reactions to them. The Goon Show sequence especially suffers for this if you're unfamiliar with the show — and most non-U.K. viewers are. Most of the rest of the movie relies on Take Our Word for It, which is also problematic for viewers who don't know his early films up through 1959's The Mouse That Roared. This might actually be a reason the film wasn't released to theaters in the U.S., since if you can't fill in the blanks with regards to his talent, the downbeat portrayal of the Real Life Sellers (which takes up much of the film) makes it hard to understand why anybody liked him, much less loved him, at all.
  • Lampshaded in Austin Powers where Dr. Evil and company's Evil Laugh goes on for so long as if they are laughing at something genuinely hilarious, that it becomes a bit of an Overly Long Gag.
    • Mike Myers comedies often play this straight, with any jokes from the main character that are not specifically singled out as awkward being treated as adorable and charming. This tendency can get troublesome when said main character is not at least somewhat sweet and charming (like Austin or Wayne Campbell), but self-evidently obnoxious or even repellent (The Cat, Guru Pitka).
  • Used intentionally in RoboCop, where everyone seems to watch the same crappy The Benny Hill Show-like sitcom and burst into laughter at the Catch Phrase "I'd buy that for a dollar!" The show looks completely brainless and we only ever hear the catchphrase devoid of context, so it's never funny to the viewer. All of the television segments in the show are satirical social commentary. In the midst of economic collapse and political strife, the population is distracting itself with lowbrow escapism, even the crooks.
  • In Showgirls, there is an overweight performer at the strip club who makes a string of self-deprecating jokes. While the patrons of the club are in stitches, the jokes themselves are painfully flat.
  • Star Trek: Generations has an example of this during a holodeck program of an actual sailing ship during Worf's promotion ceremony. Riker causing Worf to fall into the ocean was supposedly hilarious, but Data throwing Dr. Crusher in the water was so awful and not funny that Data had to install his emotion chip before he could be forgiven. To the audience, however, Riker comes off as a bit of a Jerkass (if you assume that he meant to make Worf fall and it wasn't just an accident) while Data's actions, coming in response to Dr. Crusher's explanation of how throwing people in the water was all in good fun, were Actually Pretty Funny. There are at least a couple episodes in the show like this too, where Data doesn't understand a joke that is only nominally funny but treated as hilarious, and quests to figure it out since no one on board is able to break it down for him. See under Live-action TV for examples.
  • Used deliberately in Wet Hot American Summer: the host for the talent show tells extremely corny jokes that should only get an eye-roll from an audience but have the characters roaring in laughter. This is far from the most surreal thing to happen in that movie though.
  • In Twilight on Bella's first day of school, Mike and Jessica talk to her about why she's so pale if she's from Arizona. Bella says "maybe that's why they kicked me out?" - which is worthy of maybe a chuckle or two. Mike reacts as if she told the best joke ever and Jessica vapidly says "you're so funny".
  • Arthur (the 1981 version) is a triumphant inversion of the trope — when the title character is cracking jokes trying to get a positive rise out of people he's the only one laughing at said jokes most of the time...but that's because most of these people are terminally humorless. And he finds more joke fodder in the Tough Rooms he deals with. His quips are funny, the constant stream of them makes them funnier, and his laugh becomes almost a gag in itself. The result was a huge box-office hit that netted Dudley Moore a Best Actor Academy Award nomination.
  • An amusing inversion with Joker (2019). Towards the end of the movie, we get a frightfully dark "Knock Knock" Joke from Arthur, and the reactions of Murray Franklin and his guests suggests it's supposed to be a sign of Arthur's growing insanity. Thing is, a lot of viewers openly admit to finding the joke hilarious, noting that the timing, delivery, and subversion of expectations makes it a great bit of Anti-Humor.
    Knock knock.
    Who's there?
    Its the police, ma'am. Your son's been hit by a drunk driver. He's dead.
  • The Room: The supposedly All-Loving Hero Johnny bursts out laughing at a story his friend Mark tells him, about a two-timing girl who got hospitalized after being beat up by one of her boyfriends once he found out about her cheating. Even odder, this was apparently Corpsing.
    What a story, Mark!
  • Going Overboard features two comedians; Schecky Moskowitz (played by a pre-fame Adam Sandler) and Dickie Diamond, the former of whom we're repeatedly told is able to tell good jokes but just needs to work on his delivery and how to play to an audience, while the latter of whom is made out to be an extremely vulgar and unfunny Motor Mouth comedian. In practise however Dickie's jokes, while certainly not funny by any stretch of the imagination, are often so ridiculously over-the-top vulgar that they cross the line twice and can't help but get the occasional laugh from the audience. By contrast, Schecky's jokes are simply atrociously unfunny from start to end, even when we're told that he's improved.

  • This is used to create humor at someone else's expense. What you do is let people know what the "punchline" of the fake joke is so they know to laugh then. Everyone laughs - the people not in the know will chuckle like it's funny, their expressions are usually pretty funny. Usually after a person ends up as the victim they are then filled so they can be in on it next time. Example:
    Two frogs were sitting in a bathtub. One frog says "pass the soap". The other frog says "What do you think I am, a typewriter? The first frog replies, "No, you just need a GREEN RADIO." cue laughter"

  • Inheritance Cycle:
    • Book 3, Brisingr, has an In-Universe example where Eragon and Arya witness a group of spirit orbs turning a lily into a gem. Eragon points out that they literally gilded a lily like the phrase "gilding a lily" and thinks it's the funniest thing ever. Arya is only vaguely amused.
    • Happens again in Book 4, when Saphira kills a bunch of giant mutant snails for them to eat. Eragon finds the idea of eating snails absolutely hilarious, to Saphira and Glaedr's bewilderment.
  • Sometimes done deliberately in Discworld; most of the narration is absolutely laugh-out-loud, split-your-sides, pee-your-pants hilarious, but what characters point out as a joke is often just an Incredibly Lame Pun, Or Play on Words.
  • Harry Potter
    • An in-universe example occurs in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. After Ron makes a lame quip about Goyle's ugliness, everyone laughs, but recently-introduced Cloudcuckoolander Luna keeps laughing on and on, prompting him to ask if she's taking the mickey. Apparently, nope, that's just Luna.
    • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Ginny Weasley invents the nickname "Phlegm" for her prissy sister-in-law to be, Fleur. Maybe mildly funny only once, if you're being generous, but everyone acts like it's the most hilarious, witty thing ever every time she uses it.
    • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys are all seated at the dinner table the night before all the kids are going back to Hogwarts. Percy, the oldest Weasley student, asks his dad the good question, why the Ministry is supplying them with cars to escort them all to the railway station. His brothers Fred and George interject that it's all in honor of Percy being Head Boy and that the cars will even have insignias with "HB" on them to stand for "Humongous Bighead". Everyone at the table except Percy and his mom snorts with amusement. The audience is supposed to find the twins' behavior towards Percy to be hilarious, while Percy should be regarded as the humorless jerk who needs to lighten up. But not only is both the setup and punchline for this joke excruciatingly obvious and unfunny, but it's also a mean-spirited jibe at a brother who, at that particular moment, wasn't doing anything to deserve it.
    • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry's on the train to Hogwarts when he sees that Cho Chang's friend Marietta still has Hermione's jinx on her face from six months ago, and he smirks at the sight of it. Rowling herself has commented that she loathed Marietta for her "betrayal" so we are evidently supposed to be just as amused as Harry is to see the jinx still on her. For some readers, it even has the opposite effect of making Marietta Unintentionally Sympathetic, since it implies she was permanently disfigured.
  • Inverted in one Animorphs book. Tobias asks Ax, "What's up?" to which Ax replies, "Up is the opposite of down. However, these terms are meaningless outside of a localized gravity field." Despite this being a fairly good joke, it's played as yet another example of Ax's utter inability to grasp human humor.
  • In the Twilight series, the Cullens, in particular Emmett, occasionally joke about Bella having trouble controlling herself when she becomes a vampire. They all find it quite amusing...except they're joking about the very real possibility of Bella inadvertantly killing innocent people. It gets even worse when one recalls that Emmett actually has done exactly this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 had the comedy team of Rebo and Zooty, supposedly the most popular performers of their kind on Earth. Not that the audience could tell from the short samples we got. (Apparently, broad humor is popular again in the future.) Lampshaded by the alien ambassadors not getting many of the jokes either, not being intimately familiar with human cultural references and mores. Heck, even some of the human characters (Lockley, most prominently) displayed only annoyance at their antics. You could tell the two actually did know their jobs since they told a joke to Ambassador Delenn, who thought it was the funniest thing she ever heard, while Sheridan had the confused look. It turns out to be based on a multi-layered pun involving several Minbari dialects, greeting rituals, and attaining enlightenment, which doesn't remotely translate.
  • Played for Laughs on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xander is constantly wisecracking, some hilarious, some awful, but all are ignored by the other characters. Then he makes an Incredibly Lame Pun about moon pies, and Giles just can't stop giggling. The other characters shoot him weird glances.
  • Usually averted in Irish show Custer's Last Stand Up, where a teenager is trying to succeed as a comedian. In one episode where he was disguised as a grown-up to perform at an adults-only gig, he attempted to write what he thought grown-ups would laugh at. When it fell flat he started tearing off his disguise and telling silly humor about being a spy instead and was far funnier. There was actually quite a bit of deconstruction of the effect of humor. Another episode had a veteran comedian trying to coach him into being a better comedian, telling him all the time that his material isn't funny enough. It turns out at the end of the episode that he was just trying to steal his jokes so he could tell them himself. The "funny" stand-up segment segments were absolutely the funniest part of the show.
  • ALL of Joey's routines on Full House.
  • Played with in How I Met Your Mother:
    • Barney sets up an anecdote as the funniest thing you will ever ever encounter ever. The real joke is that causing Marshall to have to attend an important meeting sans trousers is not nearly as funny as he thinks it is.
      • Made even less funny when it's revealed that Barney manufactured the entire situation by taking a pair of scissors to Marshall's pants when Lily entrusted them to him.
    • Then there's the joke that's "the funniest joke ever", but only if you're a guy. "What's the difference between peanut butter and jam?" Barney tells it to Lily, who is so disgusted that she refuses to see or speak to Barney for a month. The guys, while upset that the group has been divided, still think it's the best joke ever. The punchline of the joke is never uttered out loud on the show, but if you look it up on the web, it definitely fails to live up to the hype: "I can't peanut-butter my dick up your ass." Lily's reaction is enforced, however, as the writers needed some excuse for Lily to be gone for several episodes while Alyson Hannigan had her baby.
  • iCarly uses this in regards to most of what goes on the web show, although the incident that inspired the show had some fairly funny insults towards the Sadist Teacher. One episode two characters saying "Mom..." "No!" 10 times in a row on their Web show was presented as an example of their humor surpassing everything on TV.
  • The entire premise of the MADtv sketch "Coffee Twins" revolves around this. A woman at an office setting cracks an incredibly lame joke, and then she and her another female co-worker break out in laughter as if it was the funniest thing they've ever heard. Everyone else at the office doesn't see the humor, so when the original worker futilely tries to explain the joke, she gets angry and throws a fit.
  • Played with in M*A*S*H: Hawkeye tells BJ his favorite joke, "the funniest joke I've ever heard," but BJ is unimpressed by it. Later, Hawkeye learns BJ has been telling the joke to the rest of the unit, who (with the exception of Margaret) all think it's the funniest joke they've ever heard. It's clearly pretty lame as almost all jokes of its type are.
  • Another intentional example: A Mr. Show sketch features a hack-comic Kedzie Matthews who does a lot of . . . observational fast-paced jokes. David and the audience thinks he's hilarious but Bob doesn't, but that also has to do with him being possibly jealous.
  • Used rather well in NewsRadio: Everyone keeps telling Dave that Lisa's ex-boyfriend Stewart is one of the funniest people they've ever met. When Dave and Lisa go out to lunch with Stewart, he gets her rolling with a number of inside jokes and references to things Dave (and the audience) has never heard of.
  • In The O.C., Summer dates a guy who almost everyone finds uproariously funny, much to the bewilderment of Seth (her jealous ex) and Sandy. His style is described as "big", and not in a good way.
  • In the final episode of Police Squad!!, Frank Drebin goes undercover as a stand-up comedian for a nightclub. His jokes are pretty basic (and nowhere near as good as the material Zucker, Abrams, and Zucker wrote for the rest of the show) yet the audience is falling out of their seats with laughter, and the management of the nightclub tells him that it was the best performance he'd ever seen.
    • Most (all?) of what you see is Frank delivering punchlines, and most of those punchlines come from infamously filthy jokes — the implication being that Frank works dirty, and he's really good at it. One can assume that it's really just a case of ZAZ Getting Crap Past the Radar; The Goon Show used the same trick.
  • Early episodes of Seinfeld would open and close with samples of Jerry's stand-up that typically weren't even close to the caliber of humor in the actual show, yet still had the audience in stitches. It's a well-known refrain that the standup in Seinfeld was the least funny part of the show.
  • Deliberately used on Shooting Stars. A Running Gag was that during the Dove from Above round, Vic would tell a joke ending in an Incredibly Lame Pun. These jokes would generally elicit the kind of response they deserved - except on the rare occasions when another of the regulars told them, whereupon they would receive gales of laughter, applause, and praise for the joke-teller.
  • There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Data was trying to learn what humor was. Some of the jokes in that episode were meant to be funny, some of them were not. Any correlation between whether or not a joke was supposed to be funny and whether or not it actually was funny is entirely coincidental. (No wonder Data has so much trouble understanding what humor is.) Of particular note, this joke which Guinan absolutely insisted was absolutely hilarious, and the only reason Data wasn't in stitches was that he's a robot:
    Guinan: You're a droid and I'm a 'noid (pronounced to sound like "Annoyed")
    • It's even worse. As SF Debris pointed out in his review of the episode (The Outrageous Okona) the joke that appears is actually a rewrite, the original joke (which he actually reads out) is even worse: My job here places me under some obligations, like a vow of secrecy. I can't repeat anything I hear or see. Now the obligation of the patron is to tell the truth otherwise I'm being placed under a commitment to keep a secret about nothing. That's not fair, it's called wasted honor. Do you understand? Yeah really, that's the joke, check it [1]. It's around the 10:40 minutes mark.
      • Even worse that "The Comedian" is played by Joe Piscopo. They had two quality comedians in the room (three to some who know Brent Spiner) and there's barely a funny joke between them...
      • On the other hand, as someone on the series' Funny Moments page points out, it's entirely possible that Brent Spiner, knowing the material was crap, was deliberately waffling it to make fun of Joe Piscopo, which might be enough to make it funny again.
      • It's even worse when you learn that the jokes the Comedian gave during the episode were actually Joe's own ad-libs, meaning that either the jokes in the script were of such bad quality that Joe felt his were better, or he wanted to do his own material anyway, and they still failed. It's worse when you realize that they could've hired any number of actually funny comedians at the time before they shot the episode, like, say, George Carlin, to do the role with their ad-libs and they would've turned out much better, especially in comparison.
    • On the other hand, Data's failed jokes, which are supposed to be unfunny to demonstrate his failure to understand humor, are, if not actually good, at least capable of eliciting a smile, and at any rate are better than the jokes that the audience is supposed to laugh at.
    • And of course, leave it to Data to pull off an inversion come the TNG cast's first big-screen outing; the weird hazing/promotion ceremony on the Holodeck culminates in Riker causing Worf to fall in the sea, possibly by accident. Data fails to comprehend exactly why this is funny and decides to improve his understanding of the confusing phenomenon that is humor by pushing Dr. Crusher in as well. Geordi promptly responds with an almost word for word use of Dude, Not Funny!. The audience disagreed.
    • Similar to the Babylon Five example above of different species having different standards for humor, in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Kira (a Bajoran) finds the idea of an away team being shrunk by a space anomaly hysterically funny, doubling over in laughter. Worf is unamused, and Nog (a Ferengi and therefore short) finds her laughter mildly offensive. Sisko gets a little chuckle out of it, but probably just because Kira's laughter is contagious.
    • A TNG novelization has Riker not getting the punchline of Morn's joke posted above.
  • One of the causes of the downfall of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: the fact that characters constantly refer to the sketches in the Show Within a Show as hilarious, when more often than not, they fall flatter than Kansas to the people at home. This may be one reason 30 Rock is more successful. The in-show sketches are portrayed as mindless dreck that appeals only to the lowest common denominator. They do not disappoint.
  • Ultimately subverted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dee's stand-up career ends up taking off after she decides to channel her depression into some fairly decent material that goes over pretty well. As she gets more successful, her act degrades into a trite, annoying shtick consisting of little more than a bunch of stupid voices and sound effects, but the audience still goes nuts for it and it leads to a network rep offering her a guest shot on Conan O'Brien's show. The subversion comes when Charlie, Mac, and Frank reveal that it's all a prank they were playing on Dee so she would stop bumming them out with her depression. The agent she slept with, the network talent scout, and every single fan of her comedy was just an actor hired by Frank.
  • In a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode, the aliens struggle to understand the concept of humor after seeing a stand-up comedian. The episode is funny throughout... except for the comedian's routine. It's apparently supposed to be funny since it garners laughs within the episode (but not on the Laugh Track) and Dick has a Late to the Punchline moment in the end.
  • Played for laughs in a scene in Titus. Chris and other mechanics laugh at completely random sentences. Erin wonders why and Chris mentions they've been up for two days working on a car and will laugh at anything.
  • The West Wing is normally one of those shows where everyone is super witty and spends all day firing hilarious remarks back and forth, and hardly anyone ever cracks a smile. The teaser of the episode "He Shall, from Time to Time..." calls for the senior staff to be standing around laughing so that the mood can be shattered by the sound of the president collapsing with a crash in the other room. The joke that causes them to lose their poker faces for one of the only times in the series? Sam lamenting, "I'll never live it down!" in reference to a typo the president caught while rehearsing his State of the Union address. Ho, ho, ho.
  • Set up in Stacked. Katrina wants a guy to think she's funny so she asks Harold and Skyler to laugh as if she's just told a joke. Harold goes overboard and says it was the funniest thing he's ever heard. Katrina avoids having to tell a joke by saying it was actually incredibly racist.
  • Played straight and later subverted in Raising Dad. Sarah develops a dislike of her nose. Her father and sister rattle off a series of jokes about her nose being huge - which they have a good giggle over. Emily's in particular just come across as really mean-spirited. Sarah, of course, ends up considering a nose job. Emily is then horrified that Sarah wants to do that to herself and realizes her mistake.
  • In vintage adventure or dramatic series, a common way to end an episode was to have entire cast laughing at someone's joke, which was never really funny. This is often parodied these days.
  • Invoked on Family Tree, which features spot-on imitations of crappy '70s British sitcoms, one about a police station and one about an Indian woman dealing with culture clashes.
  • Invoked in a Spitting Image U.S. election special. Johnny Carson mentions on The Tonight Show that Sylvester Stallone is the Republican nominee for president. His sidekick, Ed McMahon, laughs uproariously. When Carson says that wasn't a joke, McMachon says, "Oh, there's a joke, too?" and laughs so hard paramedics end up carrying him out on a stretcher.
  • Averted in the Monty Python "Killer Joke" sketch with the funniest joke ever written, which causes people to die laughing. We never hear the joke in English, which is just as well, since a translator who had heard two words from the joke landed in intensive care. The viewers get to hear the joke in German several times, but it's mostly German-sounding nonsense rather than an actual joke.
    • There's also the office worker whose very syllables no matter how serious or ordinary brings everyone around him down in howls of hysterical laughter.
  • A plot point in The Muppets 2015 has Fozzie finding unexpected success with a new stand-up routine poking fun at his girlfriend Becky's foibles. It is funnier than his normal stand-up routine, which is portrayed as even more terrible than usual, but that's only relative; the audience reacts as though it's hilarious when it is, at best, passable.
  • In the Power Rangers Megaforce episode "Last Laugh", Noah is criticized for over-analyzing jokes rather than simply relaxing and laughing at them. The problem is, the jokes in question are legitimately awful (unless you're, say, a seven-year-old), and he comes off more like the Only Sane Man in some sort of world gone mad, where people will break into laughter at the slightest provocation. Especially the monster's last resort: a good old-fashioned fart. It gets Troy, but not Noah.
  • Stargate SG-1: In-Universe example when O'Neill, upon hearing that Jaffa do in fact tell jokes, prompts Teal'c to tell one. Teal'c does so and laughs uproariously afterward, but the Earth-born characters all just stare blankly and then change the subject.
    Teal'c: A Serpent Guard, a Horus Guard, and a Setesh Guard all meet on a neutral planet. It is a tense moment. The Serpent Guard's eyes glow. The Horus Guard's beak glistens. The Setesh Guard's... nose drips.
  • Saturday Night Live invokes this with the "America's Funniest Pets" sketches. Each one begins with the show's host delivering a Gag Dub of a pet's home movie. Then he/she invites the hosts of the French spin-off, Joelle LaRue (Cecily Strong) and Noelle LeSoup (Kate McKinnon), onto the stage. They perform Gag Dubs that sound rather macabre by American standards, even after they try following the American host's suggestions for levity.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "Enlightenment", one of the sailors on Captain Striker's space yacht tells his mates a joke. The joke is "Here, know why a pig can never become a sailor? 'Cos he can't look aloft!" The crew all find this hilarious. Admittedly, they're all Edwardian seamen who've been drugged into accepting they're on a space yacht, so they aren't exactly thinking straight, but still.
  • Parks and Recreation does the deliberate version as a running gag. Ben's accounting jokes are all Incredibly Lame Puns (for example, "Calc you later"), but other accountants find them uproariously funny.
  • Sonny in Sonny with a Chance is stated to be hilarious, but the times we see her comedy sketch ideas they range from mediocre to plain bad.
  • Done deliberately in The Eric Andre Show, where the unseen studio audience laughs almost exclusively at the absolute worst and least funny jokes Eric and Hannibal tell...and occasionally at totally innocuous comments the guests make that aren't even intended as humorous. It really adds to the bizarre, unsettling "talk show from hell" atmosphere of the interviews.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is widely heralded as a very impressive subversion, with all the funny jokes actually being funny and vice versa. Especially amazing is a montage showing Midge's jokes evolving, for which the writing process was basically "Come up with three different punchlines for a certain setup, which get funnier as they go, but none of them are bad."

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Nuwisha (werecoyotes) are depicted as hilarious tricksters, but your mileage may vary as to whether they're funny or just annoying.
    • This also hold true in-universe. The Nuwisha think that they're teaching hilarious lessons to other through their snarking and practical jokes, but if the other tribebooks are any indication, the Garou and Fera find them confusing or annoying.

    Video Games 
  • Played with in Advance Wars - Days of Ruin. Dr. Morris is full of himself and his horrible jokes. Sometimes others groan at him, and other times they tell him to be serious when he's not joking.
    Dr. Morris: "I used to be a resident, but now I'm the PRESIDENT! Ho ho! Did you hear me? I said - "
    Brenner: "I heard you."

    Dr. Morris: "...not so good. In fact, our supplies are lower than a snake in a wheel rut!"
    Brenner: "This is no time for jokes."
    Dr. Morris: "I was joking?"
  • Also played with with Yukiko from Persona 4, who will laugh hysterically at anything that could subjectively be considered funny. The only time she doesn't is to drive the point home of just just how bad one of Teddie's puns was.
    • Her completely undiscriminating sense of humor is even a plot point - Chie realizes Yukiko's gotten stronger from her experience inside the television world when she starts laughing her head off around other people; before her kidnapping, that was something she'd never do around anyone but Chie.
  • Punny Bones from Quest for Glory IV is a gnome jester who tells really bad jokes and puns because his humor was stolen by Baba Yaga. After you restore his humor...his jokes don't really get any funnier, he just tells more of them (if anything, his humor gets even worse. The trio of hecklers in the audience with ad-libbed dialogue consistently manage to be funnier than him.) Mercifully averted with the Ultimate Joke he teaches you (guaranteed to make anyone break out in laughter when they hear it,) since the player never hears it in full, leaving more to the imagination. Considering the person who does hear it in full doesn't think it's funny but laughs anyway, there's likely some magic behind it.
  • When Destroyman from No More Heroes tricks Travis into shaking hands so he can electrocute him with his Destroy Spark, he breaks out into an extended fit of laughter over his own trick, even declaring that he feels like he's going to die of laughter. The scene certainly wasn't that funny, but it serves to paint Destroyman as obnoxious and egotistical.

    Web Original 
  • The Editing Room lampshades this whenever it happens by including "this is very funny" or a variation after describing a scene.
  • LoadingReadyRun has a sub-series where the actors play exaggerated versions of themselves. While the episodes are the same kind of humor as the rest of the series, the Show Within a Show they're making is just a bunch of bodily function humor which is treated as hilarious.
  • Inverted with the Ctrl+Alt+Del strip "Loss". It was meant to be crushingly sad and dramatic, but was formatted exactly like every strip (intro, setup, expectation, gag) and appeared in an already lighthearted and funny comic, leaving readers expecting it to end in a joke. Fans were so amused by this they memed the hell out of it with the "Loss Edits".
  • According to Seanbaby, the reason so many episodes of Superfriends had an uproarious Everyone Laughs Ending at some lame gag involving Gleek was that the laughing was Stock Footage (the Stock Footage being from an unseen episode where Wonder Woman got her lasso around Aquaman and he started taking out pictures of all the fish he'd humped).

    Western Animation 
  • Played with in an episode of Arthur. Buster invents a lame joke for his report (King Tut saying "I want my mummy") which he tells to Binky, who later tells it to the class before Buster can use it for his report. Though only a select few students chuckled at the joke, Buster's imaginations concluded it was the only reason Binky got a higher grade from their teacher, while he got a bad one. It's revealed at the end that Buster studied the wrong topic for his report.
  • An episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius had Jimmy alter his father's brain to make him "500% funnier." An example of one of the jokes he told under said influence: "I can smell the learning, oh wait, that's Butch. Do you ever shower?" Well, 500% of 0.000001 still isn't much.
  • An episode of Recess has a lot of this for a movie everyone except Vince has seen. Possibly justified in that Vince not knowing the context of the quotes is the driving force of the plot.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures
    • The episode "Fields of Honey" had this in spades. The cartoon shown at the episode's climax is, at best, very slightly amusing, but the audience present react as if it's the funniest thing they've ever seen. A fat guy laughs so much that he explodes. The whole sequence had a very forced, weird atmosphere about it. Particularly if one had seen the "real" Honey in the Bosko cartoons, who basically just prances around going "La, la, la!"
    • This trope also happens in the episode "Stand Up and Deliver" with some of the jokes told by the Robin Williams Expy. The audience finds him hilarious and Babs is terrified to go on after him (i.e. she can't follow that). Some of the other (terrible, in context) comedians fall under So Unfunny, It's Funny though.
  • Satirized in Animaniacs in a segment in which Boo the giant chicken is mistaken for a TV executive, and when asked for the punchline for various gags on TV, keeps saying "B'gawk!" All of the other execs are in hysterics except for one other who doesn't understand why it's supposed to be funny, yet when she suggests the same punchline, no one gets it. Well of course not. Her delivery was awful.
  • The Simpsons
    • There's The Itchy & Scratchy Show, where the Simpsons are always shown to be guffawing and laughing until their sides split watching Itchy violently kill Scratchy. Of course, the unfunny nature of the over-the-top gore was initially the point — I&S was supposed to be a parody of traditional cartoon violence.
    • The Krusty the Clown Show in general has a lot of this - deliberately, of course. It's a mega-franchise in-universe and Bart basically worships Krusty, but the only things we see are painfully awkward skits, stolen, hackneyed gags, clunky, painful-looking slapstick, and routines straight out of a 40s sideshow. One article described him as "somebody who grew up watching classic comedians, but could never figure out why they were supposed to be funny." It's been implied quite frequently that Krusty only gets by on the Lowest Common Denominator and the Fleeting Demographic; one episode has him bomb out of a comedy club after trying a flapping dickey routine.
    • Parodied in "Last Exit to Springfield". At the dentist, Lisa ends the episode by making a ridiculously cringeworthy "tooth/truth" pun. The rest of the family and the dentist burst out laughing as though it's the greatest joke ever told... at which point the dentist realises he's accidentally left the laughing gas on.
    • In "Bart the Genius", Bart defrauds his way into a school for the gifted. The teacher writes the equation y = (r^3)/3 on the board and asks the students to calculate the derivative. Everyone except Bart does and finds it hilarious. The solution is given as "RDRR" or "har de har har". Even though that's not the proper way to write the solution (it should be dy/dr = r^2), apparently gifted children find it funny? (Then again, anyone familiar with engineering jokes can tell you that for "smart people", humor value is often secondary to getting the joke.)
    • Intentionally done in "The Last Temptation of Krust" where the Springfielders go to a comedy club. The first comic utters a pretty weak one ("I got around to reading the dictionary. The zebra did it") but the entire audience laughs like it's the funniest thing ever, with the exception of Homer. Lisa then has to explain things to him and when that fails just states it was supposed to be a joke, to which Homer then goes "Oh, I get jokes!" and starts laughing anyway.
      • Unfortunately, played straight later on in the episode, when Krusty reforms his material - plenty of reviewers thought he just came off as a George Carlin knockoff and found his attempts to eke observational humor from the yellow pages to be the real treat of the episode.
      • Arguably played straight by all the comics in the episode, even the real-life guest stars. When Janeane Garofalo talks about getting her period, Marge does a Spit Take. While this is probably meant to play on Marge being a stuffy Wet Blanket, there are just as many viewers who would probably agree with her reaction.
  • Family Guy. Invoked intentionally in "Spies Reminiscent of Us" when Peter tried to impress Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase with a flat joke. The two comedians and Lois recognized it as unfunny, but absolutely everybody else in the show's universe thought it was the most hilarious joke ever.
    Here's John Wayne at the first Thanksgiving! "I'm John Wayne, pilgrims! Happy Thanksgiving, Pilgrims!"
    • Later on, Quagmire tries to get Peter and Joe to do improv with him, but Peter keeps forcing this joke (and other slight variations). Glenn doesn't think it's funny either, but for him improv is Serious Business.
  • South Park plays the dissonance for comedy.
    • Jimmy is supposed to be a very funny stand-up comedian that all the other characters find hilarious. He has yet to tell a single joke that is funny, though he has had several funny lines (none of which were in his comedy routine). In the episode "Fishsticks," Jimmy coming up with (and Cartman taking all the credit for) what is supposed to be the funniest joke ever. It goes thus: "Do you like fishsticks (fish dicks) ?" "Yes." "Do you like putting them in your mouth?" "Yes." "What are you, a gay fish?" The joke makes the rounds in all the talk shows and becomes a nationwide phenomenon. The only person not to get it is rapper Kanye West, who is so self-centered that he takes it as a personal insult and starts looking for the originator of the "rumors", only to eventually come to the conclusion that the joke means he must actually be a gay fish and everyone was just trying to help him realize it.
    • The "Funnybot" episode features a robot that is programmed to be the perfect comedian, but it tells lame cut-and-paste tabloid jokes, mostly ending with the punchline "Awkward!" It sells out amphitheaters across the world. The Funnybot is so successful that the world's most famous comedians are rendered unemployed and destitute, and an angry mob consisting of Conan O'Brien, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, and dozens of other famous but now-unemployed comedians storm South Park Elementary.
    • Veronica Crabtree's standup career was justified as it was All Just a Dream.
    • Native American stand-ups consist of the performer more or less flatly stating that white-skins are stupid, and then the audience laughs. In unison.
  • The Joker played with this in Batman: The Animated Series with an episode where he took a studio audience hostage and hooked Batman up to an electric chair. The chair was directly connected to a "laugh meter" and since he knew he would never get the audience to laugh legitimately, he got the audience so high on laughing gas that Harley reading the phone book had them rolling in the aisles.
  • This is mostly averted in The Fairly OddParents where Timmy wishes he was the funniest person on Earth: His dialogue doesn't change at all and everyone is simply magically forced to laugh at it. This trope shows up briefly with the jokes the supposedly funny kids tell at the start of the episode, though.
    • Parodied and exaggerated to the max with Cosmo, who will laugh at absolutely anything.
    Wanda: Just watch. (flies up to Cosmo) Pudding.
    Cosmo: (bursts into laughter) You said "Pud" and then "Ding"!
    • Played straight with The April Fool: A famous stand-up comedian in Fairy World and the spirit of April Fool's Day. A lot of people in the show find him funny despite his routine being mostly made up of lame and predictable jokes and puns and adding rim shots and his catchphrase: "What's up with that?"
  • Every single episode of Widget the World Watcher (not to be confused with a Widget Series) ended with everyone laughing at some "cute" thing someone said that was distinctly not even remotely funny.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack has an entire episode of this trope, beginning with Peppermint Larry telling some jokes consisting of truly awful puns and continuing into a joke-telling contest between Larry and another character. Eventually said other character speaks entire sentences in nothing but puns, soon after which it curves in on itself, implodes, then becomes genuinely funny.
  • Phineas and Ferb has Ferb going up on stage and saying "So, how about that airline food?" This prompts everyone in the audience to burst out laughing, pound their fists, and even overturn a table because they find it so funny. Not only that but then Stacy — who was laughing along with everyone else — says she doesn't even know what airline food is.
  • The Tom Goes to the Mayor Christmas episode has Tom trying to sell t-shirts that have a sketchy drawing of a rat tipping a top hat with the caption "Rats Off To Ya!" - the Mayor finds it unbearably funny, and it becomes a massive cultural phenomenon. In the spirit of the show, it's all snatched away from Tom, who doesn't see a cent from it.
  • During an episode of Spongebob Squarepants in which SpongeBob unwittingly one-ups everything Squidward tries to do with a used gum wrapper, SpongeBob makes an incredibly lame joke, after which several dozen fish appear out of nowhere and start laughing hysterically, though this is more to Yank the Dog's Chain and reinforce Squidward's status as the Butt-Monkey than anything.
  • Used deliberately in an episode of Dave the Barbarian, where the extraordinary unfunny Ned Frischman, a man from the future, travels back in time to The Middle Ages in order to tell his jokes before they have turned old. He manages to become the funniest man in recorded history by using simple "Why did the chicken cross the road"-class jokes (recorded history having begun two weeks earlier).
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy is described as being able to cheer up anyone and make them laugh, even in Miseryville. Yet the things he does seem like stereotypical grade-school stuff. It's lampshaded at the end of "The Mysterious Mr. Ten" when Lucius can't believe Jimmy is funny.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: In "The City Of Frownsville," the ep's villain, Lou Gubrious, sets a crying ray on Townsville, making everyone cry tears heavy enough that it threatens to flood the city. The girls—crying their eyes out as well—attempt to make the people laugh. Approaching mic:
    Blossom: (taps the mic) (sob) Is this thing on? We just flew in from Las Vegas...
    Bubbles: (sob) Because we can!
  • Played with in Duckman, where Duckman (and the audience) can recognize comedian Iggy Catalpa is painfully unfunny but no one in-universe can. Catalpa is cheating using Applied Phlebotinum supplied by King Chicken; Duckman had unknowingly taken an antidote.
  • The Al Brodax Popeye cartoon "It Only Hurts When They Laugh" has Olive making Popeye and Brutus laugh while she's doing the dishes so she'll know they're not fighting. But while Olive is busy, Popeye and Brutus are beating the hell out of each other while they're laughing. Made even more dissonant with Winston Sharples' music which is the stock serious action leitmotif.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The character Pinkie Pie is representative of the Element of Laughter, though her ostensibly funny gags can fall flat with the audience. This is especially apparent in Pinkie-centric episodes where her ability to make others laugh is relevant to the story making any plot points that rely on it feel forced.
    • In the episode "What About Discord?" Twilight's friends apparently started up an inside joke with Discord while she was away. Twilight (along with the viewer) never sees the event that started the joke and fails to see what's so amusing about it. Most of the conflict of the episode revolves around Twilight's frustration at being left out.
  • Despite all its very legitimate ability to generate laughs, there were a couple of times in Beetlejuice when BJ would do standup as "Shecky Juice" and come out with a series of truly painful jokes that are nonetheless received as brilliant comedy. In "Ship of Ghouls" this is so bad that the audience bursts out laughing just from him greeting them, even though the only thing indicating he told a joke at all was Lydia doing a rimshot.
  • It was once invoked In-Universe on an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987). The Mad Scientist villain of the week had an invention that made unfunny jokes funny; so funny that people who hear the joke will lose all self-control as they burst out laughing. Raphael was forced to provide the jokes, and even the worst jokes he could think of would still produce a very extreme laughing reaction.
  • Played for Laughs in OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes, where Rad and KO inexplicably find Joe Cuppa and his terrible, repetitive coffee puns uproariously funny. They're pretty much the only people who like his jokes and Enid spends a great deal of time trying to figure out why they think he's so funny, to no avail.
  • Chowder: In "Gazpacho Stands Up", Chowder helps Gazpacho with material for his upcoming stand-up comedy gig. After failing twice to improve his handwriting, he tries finding a book with jokes at the last minute, but only finds cookery books and picks one of them. During Gazpacho's performance, he simply recites some recipes, yet the audience, particularly Mung-Daal, finds him funny. Lampshaded by Truffles, who says she didn't get it.

Alternative Title(s): Humour Dissonance, Informed Humor


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