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Kafka Komedy

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"Now let's explore the improbable chain of events that led to this amusing yet tragic farce."

A story in which no matter how well-meaning, reasonable and cautious a character is, everything they do has awful repercussions for them and makes them look like a horrible person. Attempts to set things right just blow up in their face and aggravate the situation further, and generally the story ends when things are at their worst.

The afflicted characters are held to be entirely to blame for their own misfortune. Despite this, they are otherwise decent, nice and perfectly pleasant people who would be well-liked and respected... if they didn't have the misfortune to be living in a Kafka Komedy. Here, the universe punishes even the whitest lie or mildest of indiscretions with completely out-of-proportion ruthlessness.

It doesn't help that in a lot of these comedies the people around the protagonist seem incapable of feeling any kind of sympathy or empathy for them at all, despite how blindingly obvious it should be that this person isn't (entirely) responsible for the hideous chain of misfortunes crashing down around them, and would never be responsible for the horrible things they've been mistakenly accused of.

The trope is named after Franz Kafka, whose characters are well-meaning, reasonable, and cautious, but horrible things happen to them not only despite but usually because of their perfectly-nice actions. Whether or not Kafka's work qualifies as funny, on the other hand, is a matter of taste and serious academic debate. Kafka himself read chapters of his books to his close friends, and the comedy aspect was a big part of the readings.

Of course, this trope doesn't necessarily have to be used for comedic purposes. It can also be used to turn the recipient of the abuse into The Woobie. At the same time, it can also be used to turn the audience against the character who blames the recipient of the abuse for problems, turning them into The Scrappy. Sometimes, the character is a good-hearted fellow, but is mostly Made Out to Be a Jerkass by everyone around him. Needless to say, this is a type of comedy that is bound to summon "Dude, Not Funny!" in some members of the audience, especially if they feel that the Disproportionate Retribution is way too cruel in comparison to the alleged "comedy" of the situation.

The subtrope of Black Comedy least likely to involve death. Contrast with Plague of Good Fortune, where good things keep inexplicably happening to the character's chagrin, and Springtime for Hitler, where a character deliberately does something bad but is met with greatness for it, Karma Houdini where the villain gets off scot-free, Karmic Misfire where not only does the villain get off scot-free but an innocent party gets punished in his or her place, or Karmic Butt-Monkey when someone does deserve their misfortune. May occasionally overlap with Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond and definitely Butt-Monkey, No-Respect Guy, and Sadist Show. See also Can't Get Away with Nuthin'. A Reformed, but Rejected character living in one of these stories is a Villain Ball Magnet.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • To Love Ru most certainly applies as Rito is often accused of being an infamous pervert despite evidence to the contrary. Usually, Yami beats him up, threatens to kill him, or both. Hell, this applies to any show that plays the Unprovoked Pervert Payback trope straight.
  • In Ranma ½, Ranma's problems frequently happen because of the machinations of other people (his father engaged him to multiple women before he was old enough to know what was going on, and VIOLENT women at that, he's frequently blamed for panty thefts committed by Happōsai, etc.), but all the responsibility for solving the mess gets shoved on Ranma. All of this is because of the creator's sense of humor. If you're not watching the show or reading the manga with an extremely big sense of humor, it's very easy to write off almost everyone in the cast as an unsympathetic jerkass. A lot of the darkest fanfiction for this series came from fans who didn't realize this was supposed to be a comedy and therefore not taken seriously. The only other meliorating factor that's meant to make the series funny is that Ranma himself can be insulting and rude, and can't make up his mind about his "fiancée problem". Whether Ranma's jerkass behavior justifies everyone else's or not, Kafka Komedy still applies.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei - An interesting... Variation, of sorts, of this trope can be found in the anime, where eternally pessimistic teacher Itoshiki Nozomu's attempts at, in the most dramatic way possible, explaining what is currently driving him to commit suicide, as well as explaining why it is doing so, usually goes rather well for him... That is, until impossibly optimistic, or whatever it is she really is, Fuura Kafuka, (notice anything about that name?) decides to explain her point of view and/or put her spin on things, at which point reality becomes unhinged, and comes tumbling down in a chaotic mess with the accuracy of a precision strike upon one single target: Itoshiki Nozomu.
  • A theme in the anime Love Hina is that Keitaro, assumed by Naru and Motoko to be a lecherous pervert, is, in fact, simply catastrophically unlucky; if he trips, almost inevitably his hand accidentally gropes a breast, pulls down clothing, or lands him on top of the nearest girl. If he enters the area of the hot springs, one or more girls are present, most often Naru. Should Keitaro give an innocent hug, they assume molestation. Despite his frantic protestations of innocence, these lead to their violent retribution, often in the form of a Megaton Punch.
    • The above is also an example of just how horribly, horribly socially broken the majority of these young women are. By the end of the series, they're not as broken, and it shows.
    • Broken or not, it still wouldn't be as funny if their genders were the other way around.
  • Girls Bravo uses this for some of its humor.
  • Detroit Metal City. The main character lives a double life as an aspiring pop musician (which he loves, but sucks at) and being the songwriter, lead guitarist and front man for a Death Metal band under a false name and identity (a role he hates, but is extremely good at). However much he wants to quit doing the latter, he is unable to do so because he's too good at being said Death Metal frontman. The metal persona also ends up surfacing at the most inopportune at times in his normal life as well.
  • No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!. Poor poor Tomoko.
    • Actually, the whole series revolves around the fact that Tomoko is socially awkward and just convinces herself that she is not responsible for anything. While she tries to be more sociable, she never really gets punished for the effort and just gives up too soon.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: A less positive example is Yuya Sakaki, in which his dreams and desires just anger everyone around him for his naivete or ignorance to the problems at hand. While some duels are there to help improve Yuya's dueling (like against Jack) or his mindset (like against Reiji), the world(s) all seem set on kicking Yuya in the mouth. It can potentially lead to Too Bleak, Stopped Caring because it can really get uncomfortable watching a kid get dragged through the mud for just wanting people to enjoy a card game.

    Comic Books 
  • It could be convincingly argued that some writers and editors at Marvel have done this to Spider-Man. He was intended to be a more realistic contrast to stereotypical highly idealized superheroes who seemed to have it all, instead facing the kind of problems, setbacks, dreams denied, worries and challenges that average readers could relate to and empathize with. Sometimes, though, this has been taken to such an extreme that it becomes this trope. Regular people have ups and downs, and can't get everything they want even if they deserve it. For Spidey, when this trope is active he has no ups just downs and downer downs and he can't get -anything- he wants no matter how much he deserves it or is realistically capable of earning it. Something has to go wrong, always, to ruin any good thing he might have. Really, the only other hero in Marvel to be so consistently treated so sadistically is Daredevil.
  • Many of the mishaps of Donald Duck places him squarely in this category.

    Comic Strips 
  • Much of Peanuts was one big Kafka Komedy devoted to tormenting Charlie Brown, but even more so in the TV specials. R. Sikoryak ran with this and made the parody strip Good ol’ Gregor Brown, a retelling of The Metamorphosis with Peanuts characters.
  • Garfield: Poor Jon Arbuckle. The only good thing that's ever happened to him is hooking up with Liz after years of rejection, but other than that, he's an extreme Chew Toy.
  • FoxTrot: Just like Jon Arbuckle, Peter Fox is a Butt-Monkey taken to the extreme. A notable example is an arc where Peter punches a guy at school for making a joke about his relationship with Denise. Although Peter was provoked into punching him, he is given 2 weeks of detention, clean-up detail and 3 months of probation as punishment. He then accidentally spills the beans to Andy when he gets home, and then the story ends. Even better is when he tells his girlfriend that he got into a fight, and she thinks he was childish. Once he reveals that the guy made fun of her, suddenly it's "And you JUST punched him?!"
  • Dilbert and several other sources of office humor have been described as Kafkaesque.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Buster Keaton's 1922 two-reeler Cops — the protagonist's attempt to earn an honest buck ultimately leads to his being chased by what appears to be the entire LAPD.
  • In the film The Graduate the entire plot is a Kafka Komedy since any and all actions he makes are against authority figures but he never intends to do anything bad. He begins the movie loved by those around him and by the end of the movie he's despised by almost everyone who once liked him.
  • In the Scorsese comedy After Hours, the protagonist already pursued by an angry mob that thinks he's a burglar, looks through a window and sees someone get shot. "I'll probably get blamed for that," he says.
  • The protagonist of The Tenant (in both the Roland Topor novel and the Roman Polanski film) is mercilessly tormented by his neighbors to comedic effect.
  • A Serious Man. Poor Larry Gopnik just wants to find some spiritual satisfaction in life when everything in his life is going to hell.
  • Bill Murray's character in Quick Change spends the entire film dealing with this sort of thing. Of course, he did commit a bank robbery - but he's a decent enough guy despite this.
  • Practically all the jokes in films such as Father of the Bride (1991), Just Married, Meet the Parents and Duplex are based on everything going wrong for the protagonists and schadenfreude.
  • National Lampoon's Vacation and sequels are all about things going wrong for Bumbling Dad Clark Griswold. The 2015 Vacation in particular raises the Cringe Comedy that Clark's son Rusty endures to mean-spirited levels.
  • Brazil has a lot of Kafkaesque elements, many of which are presented as comedy - even if they end up Played for Drama.
  • The Machinist is pretty much one part Kafka Komedy, two parts Fyodor Dostoevsky drama.
  • The 1962 film of The Trial is, according to director Orson Welles, a literal example. He found it to be extremely funny, and considered it one of his best works. Certainly Josef K.'s ineffectual blundering, as he continually tries and fails to salvage his situation, unable to even get the authorities to tell him what he's charged with, can be seen as darkly comic.
  • The beginning of the film Anger Management is a prime example of this; the more Adam tries to apologize for his mistakes the more everyone gets upset. Deconstructed in the end, since nearly all of these circumstances are revealed to be an act to test his character, except the guy with a taser, who was just in a bad mood.
  • Freddy Krueger's kills in A Nightmare on Elm Street took this tone starting from the third film. Whether you're interested in acting, comic books, tabletop games, or are suffering from asthma, bulimia, or substance abuse withdrawal, there's nothing Freddy won't turn into an elaborate, mocking death sequence while the adults in your life are deaf to your cries for help. Fittingly for Kafka, he even transforms a girl into a cockroach at one point.
  • Lampshaded in Congo. The members of an expedition to return an ape to the wild have been arrested on suspicion of being spies (justified as one of them is an ex-CIA agent working for a Mega-Corp). Richard, one of the few members of the group who doesn't have a hidden agenda, is being interrogated by a government thug and moans, "This is pure Kafka!" The thug then gets right in his face demanding to know who this Kafka person is.
  • In Meet the Parents, Greg constantly finds himself in terrible situations through sheer bad luck or exaggerated consequences of his poor decisions, when all he really wanted was to make a good impression on his future in-laws.
  • In Beau Is Afraid, the titular protagonist is a meek and extremelly neurotic man that, on the way to visiting his mother, ends up having his luggage and keys stolen, has his apartment invaded and thrased by hobos, is run over on the street and then stabbed multiple times by a naked maniac... and things only get worse from there. The movie is basically what would happen if every fear of a person with an anxiety disorder would end up being realized.

  • The works of Franz Kafka are maddening, nightmarish, and deeply depressing. Kafka's friends recorded that he used to roar with laughter when he read them his writings.
  • Cloud Atlas has The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish which involves a book publisher being tormented by a bunch of east end thugs, his older brother and an evil nurse. This is also the lightest segment of the book, thanks to its playful narration and its absurdity.
  • Harry Dresden is an odd example. In general, the pain and humiliation Dresden goes through is definitely Played for Drama and even horror. However, since Harry is trying to keep himself sane, he will try to make light of these situations and turn it into this.
    • There are straighter examples however. In one book, Harry and Michael have just saved a nursery from a ghost, but broke the speed limit and brought a sword into the hospital to do it. Harry is told to keep quiet while Michael does the talking at the end of one chapter and in the very beginning of the next one, they are already in jail.
  • Catch-22 is this to a T, right down to the nightmarish bureaucracy. Every character is the butt of a loony, cosmic joke, and even those who think they’re above it inevitably have it loop right back around to them.
  • Discworld:
    • The character of Bouncy Normo, the Funniest Clown in the Discworld, a man who could make people die of laughter even whilst shaving in the morning. He was confined to the Guild of Clowns on orders of the Patrician, after eight people died laughing whilst he was only walking down the street to the tobacconists. A man who in himself had no discernable sense of humour, he left a suicide note plaintively asking "Why does everybody keep laughing at me?" His suicide became an unintended work of physical comedy, involving bathtubs, a blow-up bouncy castle, a trampoline and buckets of custard. He didn't intend it to, but that's how it worked out. Another fifteen people who witnessed his suicide were themselves laid to eternal rest shortly afterwards.
    • Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork chief cashier Mavolio Bent — a man who ran away from the circus to join a bank — is explicitly described as another of this type, a giftedly funny clown with no sense of humour whatsoever.
  • Existential Terror and Breakfast: Follows the misery of Malcolm Steadman as he experinces one existential crisis after another.
  • Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts - The boys (mostly Akihisa and Yuuji) will usually become victims of the girls' wrath on a daily basis, either due to a misunderstanding, lack of communication, a bad day, jealousy, or a deceptively delicious-looking meal made by Mizuki. Despite being Played for Laughs and times where it's deserved, it can get uncomfortable, especially when most of the problems will stem from the girls' actions instead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Everybody Hates Chris is arguably the most popular example of this trope in television history. Inspired by the childhood of comedian Chris Rock, the titular protagonist never fails to get the short end of the stick in every aspect of his life. Whether it’s bullies, girls, school, or his family - the poor kid can’t seem to catch a break.
  • 30 Rock:
    • Inverted with Tracy Jordan after he earns respect from his peers for making a really artistic film but doesn't want it. He tries to act like a Jerkass in order to go back to being in comedy TV but everyone mistakes his awfulness for humility, clever artistic commentary, and bravery.
    • Often played straight in Liz's storylines, however. Whenever Liz tries to do something nice, someone will inevitably take issue with some part of it and everyone will act like she's the worst person in the world.
  • The episode Nosedive from the Third Season of Black Mirror has some elements of this during Lacie's journey to a friend's wedding. An argument with the airport attendent lowers her social score to the point she is unable to get a flight in that episode's dystopic society. She rents an eletric car to get to the wedding, which runs out of juice halfway through... and things only gets more and more humilating from there, until she's a complete wreck once she arrives, to the point said "friend" refuses her presence.
  • The standard for this type of plot is Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which everything Larry David does costs him money, destroys his aspirations and generally makes people revile him. While Larry is sometimes an awful person, he's often hated for his acts that are intended to be benevolent, like placing an obituary or indulging a little girl playing with her doll. Two of the most egregious cases occur in the same episode. Larry buys an effeminate young boy a gift and, after asking the kid what he wants, buys him a sewing machine. The mother reacts badly and Larry gets chewed out by his friends for buying the kid something that he clearly wanted. Later in the episode, Larry is explaining to his manager the replacement gift he bought the kid. Michael J. Fox is delivering a speech at the time and Larry, unable to be heard, mimes playing a violin. Due to his earlier confrontations with Fox, this is misconstrued as belittling his condition and leads to an entire crowds turning on Larry and the Mayor of New York kicking him out of the city. Most episodes usually make Larry's downfall a product of his own behaviour but this episode seemed unusually, and unfairly, mean to him.
  • In Father Ted, after Ted offends the Chinese community of Craggy Island, his attempts to prove to them that he is not a racist meet with increasingly more extravagant failure.
  • Doug and Carrie of The King of Queens, especially Carrie, are cynical and often uncaring of their surrounding (IE, typical New Yorkers). As a result, whenever they try to go out of their way to help someone, it only makes things worse. In one episode, Doug and Carrie have the feeling of not being very popular at their respective workplaces, and they both go to hilarious extremes to rectify the situation. At the episode's end, it's revealed that said hilarious extremes were "rewarded" with restraining orders. Their attempts to overcome their insecurities and anxieties are examples of such well-meaning ineptitude that they invariably make the perceived problem ten times worse.
  • An entire character relationship is founded on this in Scrubs, between J.D. and the psychotic janitor who takes everything JD says or does as a taunt or insult. For a period of time, it expanded to everything J.D. did. Because J.D. is the show's Butt-Monkey, this is Played for Laughs. And when JD (justifiably) complains about how bad his life has become, the show treats him as a whiny loser who needs to learn how to stand on his own two feet.
  • A recurring character played by Colin Mochrie on The Drew Carey Show took this to the extreme, as everything he said offended whoever he was talking to — even "Hello". In one episode, he remained silent, everyone thought he was great, he even got promoted without speaking a word. However, upon promotion, he said "Thanks!" which was somehow taken the wrong way by Mr. Wick and he fired him.
  • Every episode of The Worst Week of My Life is like this for hapless protagonist Howard Steel; he can't even get away with things that he didn't do because people automatically assume the worst of him, and his attempts to explain matters and clear the air only end up making things seem worse. With some people — like his father-in-law, who detests him immensely anyway — this is understandable, but even people (such as his wife) who should know better seem primed to automatically think the worst of him at times.
  • Green Acres is often mentioned to have Kafka-esque elements. One of the most frequent plotlines has Oliver trying to improve life for the people of Hooterville, only to have it backfire at every single step until he is driven to near-insanity. The townspeople generally react with anything from hostility to lukewarm sympathy of the "gee, that's too bad" variety. Despite it all, Oliver never learns to stop doing this.
  • It's common in Monty Python's Flying Circus; probably the best example would be poor Mr. Horton, who makes people laugh uncontrollably despite his attempts at being serious and miserable plight.
  • This often happens to Fish out of Water Lacey in Corner Gas, to the point that during one entire episode she refuses to get involved - and everyone else involves her anyway, either by misinterpreting what she says when she declares that she doesn't want to be involved, or by simply assigning her a position because she's from Toronto.
  • Victor Meldrew of One Foot in the Grave is usually seen as an irrationally angry man, but series creator David Renwick always said he was a perfectly ordinary person, in a universe that seemed specifically designed to make his life as difficult and unpleasant as possible.
  • The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is an interesting variation of the trope. While Todd is a pretty unpleasant person, and a lot of his problems stem from his poor decisions, he still doesn't deserve most of what the show puts him through, like being sentenced to be drawn and quartered for crimes against humanity. The second season gradually reveals that most of the misfortune was actually planned as a part of an elaborate revenge-scheme.
  • Similarly, Peep Show puts its Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists through much worse than they actually deserve (most of the time).
  • Arrested Development, mostly situations surrounding Michael. He's always trying to do what's best for the family, and he's pretty much the only person working to keep everything from falling apart. But every time he tries to get cooperation from his family members he's met with more irresponsible behaviour, animosity, and sometimes outright hostility. They constantly mock him for being the 'good' brother, and they spend all their time either ignoring him, walking all over him, or leaving him to deal with the fallout of their bad behaviour.
  • Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation; she loves her town but often misses the mark on what they want. For instance, she nixes a new fast food restaurant, only to find out later in the season that many citizens of Pawnee were upset by this move.
  • Anthony Murray in Brookside. Anthony is a generally kind, polite, well-meaning boy who's sent to a new school where he instantly becomes a target for bullying. No matter what he does, he always ends up getting hurt worse and/or being made to look like he is the bully. When he tries to tell adults what's going on, they either don't believe him or deliberately ignore it. Eventually, he tries to stand up to one of the bullies (who has been violent towards him, publicly humiliated him, stolen from him, threatened him with sexual assault, and almost caused him to get hit by a car) - and she accidentally drowns because he pushed her just once. Being acquitted of murder was the only time the show ever gave him a break - but not before he'd suffered endless trauma because of her death and been blamed for the police initially arresting his father over it.
  • One episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is all about this. Indy, as a spy for the Allies in WWI, is sent to Prague, where he must await a phone call, only to find the phone in his hotel room has been confiscated. He's sent from one office to another, encountering problem after problem, trying to get a new phone installed, only to find the phone call he was waiting for instructs him to go to Berlin and get a phone installed. As an homage, the episode features Tim McInnerny as a young Franz Kafka.
  • Kabaret Hrabi sketch Sprawiedliwość bliżej człowieka is a Lighter and Softer version of Kafka's The Trial. It still makes no sense to the protagonist, but he gets out unscatched.

  • Its Been A Bad Week... was a BBC comedy show using real-life stories of people's woes and tribulations for comic effect; a staple of the show involved people whose well-meaning attempts to do good, or whose attempts to get out of trivial problems, made the situation a thousand times worse. The most outstanding hard-luck tale received the The Worst Week of the Week Award, Awarded Weekly on a week-by-Week Basis

  • The play and subsequent film versions of Easy Virtue.
  • Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party has been described by many critics as 'Kafkaesque'. Though whether any character can truly be seen as 'good and reasonable' varies depending on the reader's interpretation, due to the play's overriding themes of ambiguity and intentional decay of language.

    Video Games 
  • In Darkwood, much of the game’s bleak idea of comedy comes from the Protagonist helping someone. For instance, if you choose to help Piotrek build his rocket by find the tractor parts he requests of you — all so he can fly to outer space — it will actually fly for a short while in the sky, but then it crash lands in the Swamp’s junkyard where he dies in a fiery explosion. A rocket made from scrap metal could only do so much, even in a world where the supernatural exists, thus leading to the hard lesson that sometimes you shouldn’t help people fulfill an unrealistic dream.
  • Phantasy Star II pretty much runs on this. Try to rescue the daughter of a man robbing people to pay her ransom and reunite them? He kills her because he can't recognize her and won't pay him. Try to stop an outbreak of monsters? The girl who's practically your sister gets killed for it and the world floods. Thinking about stopping those floods? Off to a prison in space, that gets hurled into, and destroys, another planet because you were there. Try to kill off the people who did all this to you? Well...
  • John Marston, the main character in Red Dead Redemption is often the butt of this. He stops to help a distressed bystander? They steal his horse. He frees an indentured servant so he can reunite with his fiancee in his home country? He never makes it back because of his opium addiction. He saves a woman from an abusive relationship? She quickly goes back to her abuser, only to be murdered for leaving him in the first place. He tries to help an eccentric inventor build the world's first flying machine? The inventor is killed in the first test flight. The list goes on.
  • The Indy Game "The Visit" by exotworking is a trolling epitome of this. A man is trying to visit his girlfriend, and his trip is plagued by crabs that all have death wishes, scrambling around, getting underfoot. It's nearly impossible to avoid stepping on one. And when you do, suddenly the police surround you, and you find yourself on trial and convicted of murder, treated as a monster, and rotting away in jail.
  • Yukkuri. While they are given some nasty traits, most of the time people abuse them for the sake of doing so. To make it worse, most victims are actually quite nice.
  • Much of the prologue of Epiphany City revolves around Lily's misfortunes, such as a montage of not being picked for job interviews, being kicked out of her apartment, hurting her wrist to the point of her hand comically falling off, and having her mom candidly talk about dying. It's all played for dark humor.

    Web Comics 
  • Prequel. Katia Managan leaves her homeland hoping to reinvent herself after a lifetime of everything going wrong, but things don't improve in Cyrodiil. Her heart's in the right place, but she suffers from a laundry list of personality flaws that are out of her control, including an extreme weakness to alcohol, a slew of voices in her head suggesting terrible ideas, and a lifetime of royalty-oriented nightmares preventing her from ever getting a good night's sleep. Not to mention everyone she meets (including herself) expects her to be a colossal fuckup because she's a Khajiit.
  • Ronnie, main character and artist of Whomp! is a fat, depressed slob who is constantly opressed by his severe social anxiety and his Enemy Without, the Jerkass manifestation of his motivation to get out of bed and do stuff. Ronnie going insane from self-loathing and becoming a rambling homeless guy still manages to be funny, somehow.

    Web Videos 
  • You Suck At Photoshop. Donny is not a very nice person at all, though it's clear a lot of his unpleasantness is an act for his web show, but his attempts to be decent usually create much more pain for him than his dreadful behaviour. By the end of the series, due to misunderstandings and bad coincidences, everyone he knows has vowed to kill him, including his online friend sn4tchbucl3r and his girlfriend, who until that point were the only people who cared for him at all.
  • Dr. Jekyll in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The Game - The Movie is portrayed as nothing but a Nice Guy, but everyone seems to take his politeness as a personal insult to the point of absurdity. Over the course of the video, Jekyll is beaten-down by everyone and everything as he is slowly driven to the brink. It gets so bad, he takes obscene pleasure when he manages to kill a bee that tried stinging him with his Classy Cane.
    Bartender: Dr. Jekyll's getting married? Like he thinks he's better than the rest of us. Does he really think he's better than the rest of us?
    Angry Drunk Man: Fuck Jekyll!
    Bartender: He came to me, he said, "Good morning!"
    Angry Drunk Man: The nerve.
    Bartender: "I hope you have a great day!"
    Angry Drunk Man: The nerve!
    Bartender: And I was like, "WHO ARE YOU TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO?!"
    [Everyone cheers]
  • In the Vinesauce subseries Meme House, the character of Johnny Zest is a pretty nice, ordinary person whose life has gone to hell due to the insane, murderous psychopaths in his neighbourhood deciding to make his life a Trauma Conga Line for no other reason than he's there and they can.

    Western Animation 
  • The segments of Animaniacs featuring Buttons the dog chasing Mindy, the little daughter of his owner, always feature Buttons busting his butt trying to save Mindy from a different hazard every two seconds, and succeeding, but in the end he tends to be blamed for whatever Mindy was doing or otherwise punished. Thankfully, he finally earns his happy ending in Wakko's Wish.
  • Several episodes of Bob's Burgers revolve around Bob suffering a ton of abuse through no fault of his own, with the entire world (whether they're rivals like Jimmy or Hugo, random one-time characters or even his own family - particularly Louise during her worst moments) ranging from actively making his life hell to being completely unsympathetic towards him.
  • CatDog: This is the closest Nickelodeon ever came to "Schadenfreude: The Animated Show" arguably until Invader Zim. Much of the humor is based around the misery and utterly awful life of the main characters, juxtaposing Dog's blissful, optimistic ignorance with Cat's anguished, cynical resignation.
  • Inverted on Dan Vs., where the title character thinks that everything that happens to him is the fault of some obscure thing, when in reality he's just a Jerkass (most of the time). Oddly enough, 90% of the time, he's right. The first episode alone has him chasing down a real live werewolf, after roughly half the episode his friend understandably tries to convince him that a werewolf didn't scratch his car.
  • Doug fell victim to this trope when he and the rest of his class were doing volunteer work at a local nursing home. He tried to be nice to the lady he was working with, Mrs. Whackhammer, but she chewed him out on his first day there. The next day, at his mother's suggestion, he brought her milk and oatmeal cookies. She ended up chewing him out again. As it turned out, she couldn't have dairy and oatmeal made her queasy.
  • Frizz and Nug lean somewhat as victims of this in The Dreamstone. While they are villains, they are incredibly unwilling and docile ones, and spend almost every episode trying to get out of another nasty mission, which usually involves abuse from Zordrak, slave dragging from Sgt Blob and Urpgor, merciless punishments from the heroes (who for the large part are convinced they are genuinely nasty pieces of work) and pretty much everything else they interact with, living or not, causing them pain or scaring them silly somehow.
  • This also happens a lot in Duckman. Granted, most of the misery that befalls Duckman is the result of his being an ignorant, self-righteous prick, but even when he tries to do good he's still treated as if he kicked someone's dog.
  • The titular trio in Ed, Edd n Eddy suffer this constantly. While it is understandable why the kids dislike the Eds, what with what most of their scams have done to them (as well as Eddy being a complete Jerkass just for the heck of it, as shown in episodes like "If It Smells Like an Ed"), there are also moments where the Eds do nothing wrong and just simply want to join them in their friendly shindigs, yet the kids still exclude them from their hangout, and when they do invite them, it's mostly to get a good humiliation out of them, as shown in "Ed-N-Seek" and "Stiff Upper Ed". The one who takes this the worst, however, is Double D, who ends up on the short end of the stick whenever he tries to help the other kids (and even his friends), and his attempts often backfire on him, as seen in "Dim Lit Ed" and "My Fair Ed". It wasn't until the movie finale, Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show where the Eds finally gained the kids' respect.
  • Eek! The Cat: Eek is an optimistic, well-meaning feline that tries to help others, only to often run into trouble because he gave a helping hand.
  • The infamous "It's A Wishful Life" episode of The Fairly OddParents! begins with Timmy doing various difficult good deeds for the people in his life, like fixing up his parents lawn and painting a backdrop for his teacher. Regardless of how good a job he does, the person he did the deed for picks one thing they don't like about it and immediately start whining about it (his teacher claims that everything is ruined because the shade of blue he used for the sea was off). Things don't improve when he angrily wishes that he was never born - it turns out that EVERYONE is better off without him. Really, it's no wonder he immediately returns to Jerkass mode the next episode.
  • This seems to be Meg's only role on Family Guy to the point that Charlie Brown would have to feel pity for her. When most of the cast feel a need for a reason to hate her anyway. Brian is also a victim to this trope at it's most extreme, constantly managing to get caught in the events of the story by inadvertently offending or provoking another (usually more obnoxious) being around him. A recurring gag in Season Eight involves him managing to inadvertently offend Quagmire in particular (outside the one point he called out Brian in "Jerome is the New Black"), though in a rare case of the show developing on this trope, a term of disproportionate tirades from Quagmire evolved Brian into a squabbling rival who intentionally tries to rile him up.
  • Attempted in certain episodes of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, such as "Imposter's Home For Um... Make 'Em Up Pals" and the notorious "Everyone Knows It's Bendy."
  • No matter how much Zoidberg from Futurama tries to help someone, it always blows up in both his and their face somehow. Especially if he's trying to save their life.
  • Every episode of Grizzy & the Lemmings has Grizzy just minding his own business when the Lemmings come along and ruin his day with their stupidity.
  • Dib from Invader Zim is like a magnet for these stories, since he's basically the only person on Earth with no Weirdness Censor. Frequently falls victim to Selective Enforcement, Cassandra Truth, Properly Paranoid, and You Have to Believe Me!. His dad thinks he's crazy, his sister doesn't but still hates him, and he's frequently made a fool of in front of the few people who would believe him.
  • Kaeloo: In the rare event that Mr. Cat is actually being nice, he gets horribly punished for no reason.
  • This is every episode of The Life & Times of Tim, though Tim sometimes brings it on himself to some degree.
  • The main protagonist of The Loud House, 11-year-old Lincoln Loud who is the middle child and only male child of a house and family of ten girls, sometimes (but not always) falls into this trope as he gets blamed by his family (even his parents took their daughters' side) and other characters for their actions and whenever something went wrong, even when he's trying to help, and suffers both physical and emotional abuse as a result. Examples of this include "Making the Grade", "Brawl in the Family", the infamous "No Such Luck", "The Taunting Hour", "Sleuth or Consequences", "Save the Date", etc. However, this can sometimes be justified as Lincoln can sometimes be selfish.
  • Some (actually, most) episodes of Rocko's Modern Life exemplify this. Rocko is a kind-hearted, well-meaning individual who constantly gets beat-up, screwed over, and cheated. Of course, even his temper has its limits. The majority of the first season drives this home.
  • The entire plot of The Simpsons episodes "Homer Badman" and "Bart-Mangled Banner" revolve around Homer and Bart (later the whole family) respectively being publicly demonized for something they really didn't do. Thanks to any form of media assuming their guilt to keep with the public favor and maintain ratings, anything they say or do is twisted to be as incriminating as possible and accepted as gospel truth by a credulous public even if it's obviously fake, like Homer's interview on "Rock Bottom" having sound-bites edited into a confession (even though you can see the clock and scenery in the background keeps jumping around).
    • Of course, both these episodes rely upon some pretty insane circumstances that sound silly to begin with. In the former, Homer is accused of grabbing the babysitter's butt, when in reality he was trying to retrieve a piece of candy that was stuck to her pants. In the latter, Bart accidentally ends up mooning the American flag during the national anthem (a goat ate his shorts and he was temporarily deaf so he didn't know the anthem was playing), leading people to think he hates America. Things get exacerbated when the family goes on a Fox News parody to explain their case and the loudmouthed host annoys Marge so much that she sarcastically says she hates America.
      • This also occurs in the season 8 Simpsons episode "Homer's Enemy" involving Frank Grimes: "the man who had to struggle for everything he got in life."
    • Bart in the infamous episode "The Boys Of Bummer". He drops a fly ball costing the Springfield the Little League Championship and what follows is a Kick the Dog Humiliation Conga by everyone with a nearly fatal end. Even Meg Griffin never got this much abuse.
    • According to Krusty the Clown's backstory, he was often met with terrible punishments for silly reasons, such as being fired for 22 years because a pair of stage shutters wouldn't open or getting his bus pass revoked for drinking a soda. Of course, Krusty himself is a corrupt Mean Boss who once abused one of his co-stars to the point where they framed him for armed robbery.
  • Usually Spliced is a karma-based show, but it tends to turn into one of these whenever Fuzzy shows up.
  • Plankton and Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants have been unintentional examples of this from The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie to The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, where it started to die down.
  • Stressed Eric takes this to an EXTREME LEVEL, with the protagonist dying after having a mental breakdown in almost every episode.
  • Tom Goes to the Mayor: Tom comes up with ideas, and the Mayor's incompetence ruins them.
  • Fudêncio e Seus Amigos: Everything always goes wrong for Conrado, usually because of Fudêncio (which, in contrast, is very lucky). Since the character was partly inspired by Charlie Brown, it's understandable.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Kafka Comedy


Krabby Land

SpongeBob manages to entertain a group of children with humorous injuries.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / ComedicSociopathy

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