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Insult Comic

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My whole career's a stroke of sheer genius, smoke and mirrors, tactical practical jokes, yeah: "You motherfuckin' — insert insult here."
Eminem, "Brainless"

Ever since the dawn of humor, people have clung to one simple truth: Other peoples' pain or discomfort is hilarious. Of course, people in a polite society will generally be hesitant to crowd around someone with a horrible, disfiguring physical condition or a debilitating social disorder... at least, not without help.

Enter the Insult Comic. When someone needs to be humiliated on a large scale, and it would require too much suspension of disbelief to get them to wind up on television or the front page, the Insult Comic can take a large room of people and get them to laugh at the unfortunate target.

However, most writers are not stand-up comedians, and this trope is more about highlighting the insecurities of a character than providing legitimate jokes. As a result, the Insult Comic will often have the inexplicable ability to make a crowd of people laugh, even when the 'jokes' are delivered in pure insult form and devoid of legitimate humor.

Compare The Heckler and The Roast. See also Actually Pretty Funny and Too Funny to Be Evil, for more ways insulting remarks can be made amusing. Contrast Dude, Not Funny!, where the insult isn't seen as comical.


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    Comic Books 

  • The remake of The Nutty Professor has Dave Chappelle's character, insult comedian Reggie Warrington, laying into his audience after an obligatory round of "Women be shoppin'!" to fluff the crowd. The obese Professor Klump notices the comic's insults starting to make their way toward his table and tries to sneak out, but Reggie gets to him first and unleashes a string of humiliating fat jokes that completely ruins Klump's night. One of the first things he does upon becoming the svelte Buddy Love is going back to the club and showing up Reggie in before kicking his ass and tossing him into a grand piano.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: The Victim of the Week of the "Last Laugh" episode was a reviled insult comic played by the Real Life comedian, Jeffrey Ross. The killer turns out to be a rival comedian who hated the victim's brand of gutter comedy.
  • In the second-season 2 Broke Girls episode "And the Pre-Approved Credit Card," Earl's son Darius is trying to break into standup. Initially his jokes are hilariously lame, but then he switches to insult humor and gets the laughs.
  • Deconstructed by a scenario on What Would You Do?. An actual comic (can't remember who) made repeated jokes at the expense of a man with a younger Asian wife (actually actors themselves) in a Manhattan comedy club in front of an audience mostly composed of tourists to see whether anyone would react. Some did, mostly in disgust; however one young group, mostly black or Hispanic, found it hysterically funny and were unapologetic about it, beyond not giving their names and letting the show blur their faces.
  • In Modern Family's first-season Valentine's Day Episode, "My Funky Valentine," Jay and Gloria go out to see David Brenner, playing himself, but leave when Brenner keeps cracking jokes about Jay's age.
  • In an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob and Sally hire insult comic Jackie Brewster to replace Buddy, who has resigned for a job offer that didn't pan out. The plan is for Brewster to roast Mel badly enough to make him say We Want Our Jerk Back!.
  • In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge's main shtick is more observational humor, particularly focusing on her life and family. However as shown when she rips into a group of male comics who have been giving her a hard time all night on one gig, she can veer into this with aplomb.
  • In a Key & Peele sketch, an Insult Comic finally meets his match in the form of a gay paraplegic burn victim who speaks with an electrolarynx that asks to be insulted, stating that he can take it. The comedian is naturally uncomfortable with making any hard digs, but after the audience speaks up about how he's been making cracks at everyone else's expense he relents and compares him to Freddy Krueger, which causes the victim to burst into tears and the audience to riot.

  • A major part of Eminem's appeal (particularly in the 1999-2009 phase of his career, and on his Diss Track album Kamikaze) is his habit of obliterating his friends and family and pop culture figures who annoy him with vicious insults. He's cited Lisa Lampanelli as an inspiration on his rapping style, particularly the way she blends her vicious comments with moments of mature reflection and Self-Deprecation.
    • Eminem was beefing with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog for a while after drunkenly assaulting him at the 2002 MTV VMAs. After they squashed the beef, Triumph appeared with Slim in the music video for his Encore single "Ass Like That", which apologetically points out that they're both insult comedians who use Alter-Ego Acting to get away with it:
      Britney Spears has shoulders like a man, and I can say that and you laugh 'cause there's a puppet on my hand!
    • Eminem toned down this aspect of his act starting from 2010 as he felt he'd grown out of it, which is used for a bittersweet Antagonist in Mourning moment on The Marshall Mathers LP 2 when Slim realises he's out of boybands to attack. He entertains the idea of going after Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, but loses interest. (However, one track on the album contains some undeserved insults directed at Asher Roth, just for old times' sake.)

    Video Games 
  • Hadrian, a Ghoul in Fallout: New Vegas is explicitly named the insult comic. As a ghoul, he developed this talent dealing with the inevitable hecklers who'd rather make rude comments about his appearance than listen to his act. He also has specific insults for the Courier based on their SPECIAL stat.
  • In Thimbleweed Park, one of the playable characters is Ransome the Clown, whose act revolved around insulting everybody in the room. This went wrong when a peeved audience member cursed him to make his makeup permanent, ruining his life. In the ending, he goes back in time to his original act, and redoes it by making his comedy complementary and constructive instead.

  • Freefall: The AI Edge falls into this role by accident. He's a Heroic Comedic Sociopath who spent his formative years without any sapient company and grew up with a sense of contempt for everything that isn't him... which humans find hilarious. His insult-laden rant at the audience of an AI rights debate lands him a job offer from a nightclub owner who wants him to mock her clientele. Even during the debate, the humans were delighted to see "a robot that isn't obsequious" and some made requests for tirades on specific topics.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Recess, Randall tries to gain popularity by becoming a stand-up comedian. He very quickly resorts to making Mikey the butt of his jokes.
  • In one episode of Baby Looney Tunes, Melissa decides to become an insult comic after watching one on TV. True to the trope, her inspiration is incredibly unfunny.
  • One episode of The Simpsons had Springfield trying to win the right to host the next Olympic Games. They pretty much had it in the bag until Bart played Insult Comic to the members of the IOC, costing them the games and getting Bart in a lot of hot water.
  • In the Pinky and the Brain episode "TV or No TV", Brain's latest world takeover scheme involves wearing a set of hypnosis-inducing dentures and using his smile to get people to bend to his will. To this end, he decides to become a stand-up comedian. When his first set of jokes (cribbed from other comedians) gets him nothing but boos, he resorts to insulting the audience ("You're repugnant!" became his catchphrase for that episode), and they eat it up.
  • The Spongebob Squarepants episode "Squirrel Jokes" has SpongeBob becoming a stand-up comedian. His initial jokes fall flat until he starts making cracks about squirrels. His squirrel friend, Sandy, is understandably offended until SpongeBob convinces her to take it with humor. But when the rest of Bikini Bottom begins to treat Sandy like a slow-witted idiot, she has to teach SpongeBob a lesson about his insult comedy. Afterwards, SpongeBob keeps up his insult act, but targets every creature — starting with sponges.
  • Life with Louie: Louie once became acquainted with an immensely popular stand-up comedian (who used to be friends with Louie's mother) whose whole routine revolved around selecting people in the audience to insult for humor. When Louie himself became a target of mockery for his weight, he decided that he didn't want to become known as a comedian who made fun of other people's misery. The end of the episode shows the comedian Lonely at the Top.
  • An early episode of Littlest Pet Shop (2012) had the comedian-wannabe skunk Pepper be this. Her friends at first enjoy this, but she soon takes it too far and completely offends the hyper-sensitive Penny Ling.


Video Example(s):



When Squidward snubs a customer during ChefBob's act, this causes the puppet to become self-aware and insult the customers for comedy, all without SpongeBob assisting.

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