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Laughing Mad

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"Laughter is a good medicine but if you laugh for no reason you need medicine"
rose mary, Higurashi Laugh Collection

Trauma and tragedy tend to follow characters like plagues, and they often break them down, turning them into insane, jaded shadows of their former selves. This can often happen in various ways, but the best way to tell if a character just can't take it anymore is if they break down and start laughing for no reason at all, or for all the wrong reasons. When this happens, they will usually just continue sitting there and laughing uncontrollably, as if in a trance, until someone breaks them out of it, often by a slap in the face.

Expect the laughing character to either gain control of themselves and apologize for losing it (while still emotionally fragile, of course), or, alternatively, simply stop caring about life. This may lead to them becoming distant, or become more harsh than before.

More often extreme cases occur, causing a character to turn to complete madness, going into an insane asylum.

On the flip side, villains are also prone to this. It is often shown as being fundamentally different from an Evil Laugh, usually as them either laughing a lot longer than normal, having the laugh sound more deranged than cold and boastful, or a combination of the two. This is normally used if the writer wants to characterize the villain in a much more psychotic light and have a more frightening nature than normal. Expect it to also be used for a Villainous Breakdown in some cases.

Like Insane Equals Violent, this phenomenon is rare in real-life instances of severe mental illness. In fact, a common characteristic of schizophrenia is the absence of laughter, or indeed of other indicators of emotion ("flatness of affect"). Of course, the Truth in Television here might come from Bipolar Disorder, where mania causes inappropriate laughter on a euphoric scale — or Schizoaffective Disorder, which is the two in a blender. Then there's the simple fact that inappropriate laughter can accompany intense grief, anger or other forms of distress, without actual mental illness needing to be involved — a related phenomenon is "hysterical laughter", where an intense bout of Inelegant Blubbering starts to resemble a laughing fit. Yet another related if rare phenomenon is Pseudobulbar Affect, which can cause laughter or sobbing at inappropriate times usually in response to stress — like Tourette's syndrome, this is not something the person can control; unlike Tourette's, it usually is the result of severe head trauma and not mental illness.

Not necessarily related to Evil Laugh, but definitely a type of Freak Out. Also see Put the "Laughter" in "Slaughter" for maniacs who engage in this regularly, and Giggling Villain for a constant if contained laugh. Sometimes overlaps into Die Laughing, especially if it is the result of a Villainous Breakdown. May be the cause of Ominous Adversarial Amusement. Compare Corpsing, involving laughter at inappropriate times (probably because repressing is maddening). Contrast Mirthless Laughter, which similarly involves someone bursting into laughter at an inappropriate/stressful situation but without the extreme of being driven insane.

Example subpages

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • This is generally how Batman's Arch-Enemy the Joker is portrayed as going insane. Upon seeing his new, ghastly appearance, he laughs uncontrollably while clutching his hair in anguish. The Joker is also frequently shown laughing excessively long after he's gone mad.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy:
    • When Major Vance Astro reached Alpha Centauri after a thousand year long journey at sub-light speed, he found mankind had managed to beat him there thanks to advancements in space travel technology, thus rendering everything he'd done completely pointless (for added tragedy, he was now stuck in the very suit meant to keep him alive, since no-one in the 31st century knew how to get him out without causing him to instantly age to death). He then had a manic breakdown.
    • Later on, in "Marvel Presents Guardians of the Galaxy", he gets into an argument with the others and storms off to his quarters, where he starts having another manic fit.
  • Played very tragically in Chapter 11 of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, where Scrooge drives away his family out of greed. He is about to try to make amends... Only to notice that he's now the richest man in the world, and break out in triumphant laughter. The laugh reads more like a mad cackle.
  • A flashback in The Sandman (1989) shows this happening to Delight during her transformation into Delirium.
  • Spider-Man:
    • In a flashback to the future, Hobgoblin 2211, after having her brain warped by a computer virus, cackles psychotically and goes on a rampage.
    • The Green Goblin has shades of this.
    • Hobgoblin — the Phil Urich version — has a weaponized laugh.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): After Circe's rather violent and unhinged reaction to her time spent as Donna Milton and her defeat by Wonder Woman she reacts to Diana and Lyta accusing her of trying to get Diana to kill her by laughing herself sick without even bothering to try to get up.

    Comic Strips 
  • In an early Garfield arc when both Garfield and Odie run away, Jon calls out for them, thinking they're playing a joke. Then, he starts laughing. Cue his neighbor's reaction:
    Hubert: Call the wagon, Reba! That's not a natural laugh!
  • A post-Valentine's Day Peanuts strip has Charlie Brown reacting in this manner after he's asked how many valentines he got.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction Abraxas (Hrodvitnon), Vivienne Graham, who endures one hell of a Trauma Conga Line over the story's first several chapters, is reduced to mirthless, insane giggles and guffaws several times when the mental strain becomes too much. Sergeant Travis, when deep into his painful Sanity Slippage, ends up giggling when he recalls his friend's insanity-induced suicide.
  • In the Neon Genesis Evangelion Dark Fic Aoi, Misato, her mental health already severely tested by a chain of events beginning with Shinji's untimely death and getting worse from there, finally and permanently loses her mind when she sees Ritsuko's failed attempt to clone Shinji as she had done with Rei.
    Misato laughed, high and mad, as the last bastion of her sanity – the one centered on her belief in the sanctity of human life – exploded like a watermelon hit with a mortar shell. She laughed, and laughed, and laughed, until tears streamed down her cheeks, passing her insanely gaping mouth to patter onto her boots. The vision of the thing in the tube (she refused to think of it as him) filled her eyes, making it impossible to see anything else… so when her mind shut down, dropping her face-first onto the hard floor, she never saw it coming.
  • In The Butcher Bird, Captain Grigori Vinci has an episode of this after the members of the pirate alliance he started, The Wild Hunt, swear fealty to him, as the notion of pirate captains giving up their pride nearly leads to a Villainous Breakdown.
  • In Child of the Storm, this is a symptom of a truly too-far-gone Dark Phoenix.
  • In Code Geass Megiddo has Suzaku give out a chilling one that both informs Lelouch and the readers just how insane he is at this point, but the real reason that Suzaku killed Genbu all those years ago.
  • Doing It Right This Time: Shinji has this reaction when he finds out what Rei said to his father, and again when she snarks (accurately) about how them being time travellers and being completely mad is not at all mutually exclusive. Asuka is more than a little creeped out.
  • Experimenting Fear: After being tortured with high-pitched sound frequencies, having them turned off and realizing he can still hear, Nando lets out an insane, hysterical laugh.
  • Fractured Sunlight: When Sunset explains she's a magical unicorn from another dimension, and there's a Twilight who is an alicorn princess, Twilight falls over laughing helplessly for thirty minutes. When human Sunset died, she and Twilight were in the middle of playing a game where they were magical ponies, so the whole thing seems like a cruel joke for Twilight.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fic I Do?, this is one of several reactions from Adrien/Chat Noir after he finally realises that his (until recently) fiance Marinette and his crime-fighting partner Ladybug who he once had an unrequited crush on are the same person.
    He didn't even know he was laughing until he was doubled over and falling to his knees. The crack that was sent through his body as he collided with the roof hardly registered, his stomach still wanting to throw itself up as his laughter grew manic.
    But perhaps laughter wasn't the right word to use. He wasn't sure there was a word for it. Insane cackling, maybe, accented by sobs and tears that tore him in the same moments. Two conflicting actions that felt as though they were ripping his body apart.
    A mental breakdown. That was what it was. He was having a mental breakdown.
    Because the two women he'd loved were the same person, and she'd rejected him twice for himself and he'd fallen in love with her twice and now they were standing on a rooftop after she'd abandoned him at the altar for himself!
  • In Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily, Specter gets struck by lightning via Death Eye taunting him and saying what he fears the most is change. When the lightning dies down, Specter starts gasping and wheezing for breath...before he unleashes a loud, maniacal, wild laugh that reveals that his Split Personality Easter is coming out to play.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures and W.I.T.C.H. crossover fanfic Kage (part of Project Dark Jade), Drago does this during his Villainous Breakdown, starting when he casts the spell to cast Jade from her reality (as part of his being a Sore Loser, he wanted to taint her victory, as he considered her his Arch-Enemy), and continuing even as he and and his father are dragged into their prison.
  • In the Harry Potter Dark Fic The Jaded Eyes Series Harry does this on a couple of occasions. The most notable one is his Villainous Breakdown when he snaps during the Yule ball:
    He stood in the middle of it all in a puddle of blood as more poured down his front and it was almost ironic that a few heartbeats later Harry was hit by another stray curse. Clark had joined the fray with his mother and luckily his jinx was almost harmless. It only banished the top part of his clothes away and that was when Harry started shaking. In the end it wasn't the teachers that stopped the chaos building inside the ballroom... it was the sound of sharp cold laughter.
    It pulled everyone's attention as they turned their eyes to Harry who stood bleeding with a star burst wound on his chest blood flowing from him steadily as he laughed. Harry laughed harshly with no humor as he raised a shaking hand to his face inspecting the blood painted on it before he fisted his hair with both hands and cackled brokenly. Blood was smeared across his face; he was covered in spatters of blood giving him a ghastly image. The cool rush of the air reminded him that now most of his worst scars were on display and made him cackle harder.
  • Johanna Mason: They Will Never See Me Cry: Johanna launches into terrified, angry laughter in the middle of the town square for several seconds after watching the broadcast condemning her to the 3rd Quarter Quell arena.
  • Mr and Mrs Gold: Unicorns have a hallucinative bite. When one manages to bite Belle, she devolves into a giggling mess.
  • My Dream Is Yours: Precinct 13579's resident Cute and Psycho Scientist, Oona, goes through a short bout of wild laughter as a result of Sleep Deprivation when Olympia asks her if she's been having any strange dreams lately.
  • In the One Piece fanfic New Game Plus, when Dadan sees Luffy’s record-breaking bounty poster, she falls into a laughing fit that lasts at least 10 minutes.
  • The Night Unfurls: Chapter 5 of the original has Olga giggling uncontrollably when she and Celestine are reading the contents of Kyril's journal, an Apocalyptic Log that doubles as an Artifact of Doom. Luckily subverted later as she managed to stop rocking back and forth to pull herself together.
  • Twilight Sparkle in Pages Of Harmony does this several times, one of the more notable ones from Chapter 11 when she's bleeding from wounds caused by an Ax-Crazy Fluttershy after Kindness has been taken.
    "Ha, I'm no masochist, my friend!" Twilight was shaking her head in response to the other pony's inquiry, gasping for breath from her half-shrieks. "Heheh, haven't you heard that, hahaha, laughter a way to trick your body into, haha, not feeling pain?!" Her smile widened as she managed to dodge Fluttershy's frenzied attacks, angling herself to more easily control the blood flow from her wound. "Heheheh, that's why I laugh, Fluttershy! It enhances me! I sill feel pain, but, heheheh, it's not enough to kill me!" Her eyes were bright despite the obvious pain in her body, practically drunk with the imagined extent of her plan and the laughter which accompanied it. "Imagining helps too, just as I'm doing now, ha, thinking of just how existence will be when I've helped purify it under my guidance as a good friend and teacher! HahahahaHA!"
  • In the beginning of The Power of the Equinox, Twilight Sparkle starts laughing madly when the Entity enters her body, with her thoughts about what kind of revenge she'll exact upon the false Princess Cadance (Queen Chrysalis) growing increasingly morbid. She doesn't even notice the dissolving of her body as she continues laughing, stopping only when her throat has melted away.
  • Draco Malfoy's greatest fear in The Rigel Black Chronicles, shown to him by a boggart, is that his mind will break under the strain of his uncontrolled emotion sense and that he'll be reduced to this permanently. He's able to overcome the fear through confidence that Rigel will be there for him and help him through it.
  • Sunset of Time, in a flashback we see the Start of Darkness of the Big Bad, Vesper Radiance. At the sight of Twilight's coronation, she breaks down first into giggles, then into hysterical laughter, declaring her intent to commit genocide all the while.
  • After slaughtering an entire family in Rise from Darkness, Samus starts laughing.
  • Kirito falls into this a few times in Sword Art Online Abridged, first when Rosalia gives him a Breaking Speech that slams several of his Berserk Buttons, and later when he says "hi" to Gary, an NPC whose Artificial Stupidity got Kirito's first real friend killed.
  • This Bites!: Self-Inserted character Jeremiah Cross becomes this whenever things get dangerous; that is, when his adrenaline junkie tendencies kick in.
  • In The Villainess Quits, Malty breaks down in drunken insane laughter at Naofumi still being framed for rape despite her doing all she could to prevent it. This naturally convinces both Naofumi and his alleged victim that she planned the whole thing.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • The Lion King (1994) has The Hyena, Ed, who communicates entirely with obnoxious laughter. Banzai and Shenzi also qualify, but to a far lesser extent. Cancelled storyboards indicated that Scar would have undergone a heavy dose of Laughing Mad shortly after throwing Simba off Pride Rock before being consumed in the flames that destroy Pride Rock.
    • It was also originally intended that Gaston from Beauty and the Beast would have undergone similar reactions to the Joker from The Dark Knight when falling to his doom upon stabbing the Beast (i.e., proceed to laugh maniacally while falling).
    • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney), Frollo laughs evilly as he goes to stab Esmeralda with his sword. Given that his next line suggests he thinks he's doing God's will ("And He shall smite the wicked, and plunge them into the fiery pit!"), it's pretty likely he'd also gone mad with power.
    • Aladdin: Subverted when Jafar starts laughing for seemingly no reason while he's being searched for by the guards, causing Iago to think he's gone insane, but then he stops and explains that he's just realized the genie lamp he thought was lost forever was in the hands of "Prince Ali". Played straight in the climax, as Jafar is constantly laughing in a psychotic fashion.
  • In Firing Range, a general start laughing madly after realizing he can't stop the tank from killing him.
  • Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story does this after realizing he's just a toy. ("You see this hat? I am Mrs. Nesbitt!") He stops after Woody slaps him with his own detached arm.
  • Ben Gunn from Filmation‘s adaptation of Treasure Island is depicted this way from years of isolation after being marooned, to the point where he ends most of his sentences with insane laughter, he even sings a song about it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: Adam/Felicia is running for his life, in heels and a dress, from a pack of enraged Australian rednecks... and he's laughing his ass off until they catch him.
  • Alive: When the survivors of the plane crash are trying to get the radio working, they ask the plane's mechanic if he can fix it. The mechanic goes into throes of laughter as he explains that it needs batteries, and the batteries are in the plane's tail that broke off a couple miles back of the crash.
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): Callum giggles deliriously as he's dragged to his second trip in the Animus while also singing Patsy Cline's "Crazy", because he's going through Sanity Slippage thanks to the Bleeding Effect.
  • Asylum (1972 Horror): At the end of "Lucy Comes to Stay", when Barbara asks Dr. Martin if he can see Lucy in her mirror, she starts cackling in a clearly unhinged matter. After Starr strangles Dr. Martin to death with a stethoscope, he uses it to listen for a heartbeat; after confirming that Martin is dead, he begins to giggle madly, which slowly turns into full-blown maniacal laughter.
  • Austin Powers in Goldmember has Dr. Evil dunking the Japanese Corrupt Corporate Executive Mr. Roboto into his "sharks with lasers on their head", which were gifts from his son Scott Evil. Although Dr. Evil and his followers do a simple Evil Laugh, Scott Evil's laughter, as well as Dr. Evil's horrified reaction to Scott Evil's amount of laughter, is more similar to Laughing Mad.
  • In Batman (1989), the Joker laughs a lot during the film, with him going way off the deep end near the climax when he is taunting Batman and Vicki while they are hanging for dear life. Joker even lampshades it in the same climax, where he goes into a fit of laughter, turns to a gargoyle behind him and yells "What're you laughing at?!" and then resumes laughing.
  • Beyond Re-Animator: After Philip's girlfriend is murdered, Dr. Herbert West brings her back to life by infusing her with the lifeforce of the corrupt warden who killed her along with his previously developed reagent so she can retain her memories, skills, and motor functions as a zombie. Unfortunately she comes back as a kinky crazed and dangerous zombie and Philip is forced to incapacitate by cutting off her head. When the guards find Philip weeping over her headless corpse, they drag him away as he tries to convince them that she is still alive by urging her and her headless body to speak to them. When she doesn't respond, he goes into a fit of insane laughter and then when he and the guards are out of sight, her head starts laughing and thus the movie ends.
  • Circus of Horrors: When Evelyn sees the botched job Rossiter has made of her face, she goes mad and starts laughing hysterically.
  • Conjoined: Alisa sometimes starts cackling madly when she is committing murder.
  • Richard Vickers in Creepshow as he is given his Laser-Guided Karma by the zombie corpses of his victims.
  • The Joker from The Dark Knight embodies this trope. Heck, he was even laughing when about to face certain doom before Batman saved him from hitting the ground.
  • Bartleby of Dogma is a disgraced angel who ended up Crossing the Line Twice in his attempt to get back into heaven. He starts laughing hysterically after his wings are shot off by Jay.
  • In Donnie Darko, Donnie laughs hysterically when he finally comes to terms with the fact that he's going to die and is waiting to be crushed by the airplane turbine.
  • Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Dune (1984) definitely qualifies, given how the film basically made him even more deranged in it than in the book or the TV miniseries.
  • In 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, one of the main character's best friends goes exactly this kind of crazy after having been tortured by a Mafia hitman, repeatedly told he's going to be killed, and forced to cut off the heads of cryogenically frozen people as replacements for the missing ones, among various other extremely stressful events. The final straw was when the aforementioned hit man started talking about using his head as one of the replacements. He spends the rest of the movie getting worse.
  • The Evil Dead 2 has Ash doing it after everything in the cabin comes to life and starts laughing at Ash, shortly after he cut his own possessed hand off. "Who's laughing now" indeed.
  • The Field Guide to Evil: After being driven mad by what he saw in "The Palace of Horrors", Henry wakes up in a hospital in Calcutta, compulsively singing a hymn and laughing uncontrollably at those times when he cannot sing.
  • Richard Attenborough's character in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) when he discovers that the man building the plane to take them out of the desert, and save them from slow and painful death, only has experience designing model airplanes.
  • The bad guy in the third Flodder movie completely loses it when an attempt to destroy the Flodders and their party by crashing a tanker truck into their house instead causes the entire rest of the neighbourhood to burn down, including his own home. He bursts into manic laughter as he's watching his own fireworks go off.
  • In many Hamlet adaptations Ophelia's madness is like that: she switches between sadness (tears) and moments of happiness (insane laughter).
  • Sirius Black, when convicted of killing Pettigrew in the movie of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, President Snow laughs uproariously to the point of coughing up blood right before he is killed by an angry mob.
  • In the movie adaption of I Miss You, I Miss You, Tina goes for a short walk with her friend Frida to calm herself down shortly after her twin sister Cilla died in an accident. They pass the school's theater and Tina remembers how Cilla, who was director of the school's theater group, predicted that everyone will cry at her theater performance. Tina begins to laugh hysterically at this memory until Frida slaps her several times.
  • James Bond in Casino Royale (2006), while he is being tortured by Le Chiffre.
    "Now the whole world's gonna know that you died scratching my balls!"
  • Arthur Fleck already laughed due to mental illness even before he snapped out to become the Joker.
  • In A Jolly Bad Fellow, Villain Protagonist Bowles-Ottery lights a cigarette while talking to the police. He suddenly starts laughing at nothing at all. Knowing that euphoria is one of the first symptoms of his Perfect Poison, he realises that is smoking one his own poisoned cigarettes. At this his mind seems to snap and he starts laughing insanely and continues to do so until her perishes in a car crash while fleeing the police.
  • In The Last Winter, Dawn goes insane and murders Motor, the station mechanic. When Abby finds her shortly afterwards, Dawn starts laughing insanely and attacks her.
  • Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III: After a week of living in constant fear of a brutal death, Sara occasionally breaks out giggling at odd points.
  • Lizzie Borden's Revenge: Amanda's flashback explaining why Vanessa is screwed up shows her finding her parents' murdered bodies. She is briefly shocked and then starts laughing and is unable to stop.
  • After a long and miserable afternoon watching his dream home go to pieces on him, Walter and his fiancée Anna in The Money Pit try to prepare a relaxing bath, only to have the tub sink through the floor and shatter into smithereens in the foyer below. Walter's reaction is both a sterling example of this trope, and one of the funniest parts in the movie.
  • Insurance fraud investigator John Trent punctuates his snapping mind with laughter at the end of In the Mouth of Madness, due to surviving a Lovecraftian apocalypse, only to witness the entirety of his ordeal play out as a movie adaptation of Sutter Cane's novel of the same name, which turns out to be the very film we were watching the whole time.
  • In The Mummy (1932), after Ralph Norton sees the eponymous creature rise from its tomb and walk off, he is reduced to a cackling lunatic, gibbering "he went for a little walk!". Soon, we later learn that the experience has left Ralph so mentally damaged that he had to be institutionalized, where he would later die, still laughing, in a straitjacket.
  • In Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley, Stan Carlisle snaps and breaks down laughing upon realizing his ultimate fate of working as a carnival geek after losing everything to Dr. Lilith Ritter.
  • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, (former) Chief Inspector Dreyfus has a small bit of this after being "saved" by Clouseau on the day of his sanity hearing, triggering his escape from the asylum and sending him on a course to try to Take Over the World.
  • Norman Bates occasionally laughs at inappropriate points during his dinner with Marion in Psycho. He also lurches from laughter to complete seriousness a couple of times, which is equally scary. Downplayed in that it's a nervous chuckle rather than a full-lunged hysterical laugh.
  • The Rawhide Terror: After his parents are murdered by the renegades, the older son's mind snaps, and he starts laughing uncontrollably and wanders off into the desert.
  • In A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die!, Sgt. Brent snaps and starts laughing insanely while machine-gunning enemy soldiers who are attempting to surrender.
  • In Riot on Sunset Strip, Andy laughs hysterically after she's gang raped.
  • In the Scrooge (1951), when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning and can't stop laughing out of joy, his housekeeper thinks, justifiably, that he's gone quite mad.
  • The Shadow:
    • Farley Claymore, in spades. By the time the Shadow finishes with him, Claymore doesn't have a shred of sanity left, and pretty much all he can do is laugh and drool.
    • Subverted with the Shadow himself: his laughter is just as mad-sounding as Claymore's, but as with his radio counterpart, it's just an act intended to fool and frighten his opponents.
  • In Shocking Dark, Paul Drake, the deranged, partially mutated Tubular Corporation scientist living in the tunnels underneath the cordoned-off near-future Venice, is constantly breaking into fits of insane laughter in-between his hammy ravings.
  • Data in Star Trek: Generations briefly goes laughing mad while attempting to investigate with Geordi the space station that Dr. Soren was working on, due to a combination of both the dampening field in place as well as Data's emotion chip going beyond his control.
  • In The Truman Show, Truman bursts into laughter several times when he tries to call out his "wife" on the fact that the world he's in is fake.
  • V/H/S/2: At the end of the "Safe Haven" segment, when Adam barely survives a car crash while trying to flee the rampant demon and then hears it call him "Papa" (which confirms to him that the demon was made from the unborn fetus he fathered), he breaks down into sobbing, hysterical laughter at the revelation. The facts that he watched a mass suicide followed by reanimation as hostile zombies, and that all his friends have died brutally, are likely additional contributing factors.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit has the weasel Psycho, who giggles and laughs a lot.
  • In the film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West frequently bursts into hysterical, exhilarated laughter whenever pain and suffering caused by her is happening.

  • All for the Game: Andrew Minyard is on medication that forces him into a manic state against his will, and typically his only reaction to anything is to smile or laugh. After being raped by Drake, and witnessing his brother's subsequent murder of Drake in his defence, Andrew is too traumatised to move, but still laughing.
  • Vera Claythorne does this in And Then There Were None when she realizes U. N. Owen is enacting the bedtime rhyme and they're all gonna die.
  • William Faulkner's Darl from As I Lay Dying. Near the end, he goes insane and when he's not reciting a Madness Mantra of "yes, yes, yes, yes...", he's laughing his head off.
  • Carrie: After the only happy moment in her life ends in humiliation, the telekinetic titular character undergoes a Sanity Slippage so severe that she is described as losing all conscious thought and uses her powers to carry a murder rampage across her town. The giggle she emits after the first round is described as "an insane sound: triumphant, lost, victorious, and terrified.".
  • The Thorn of Istra from Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.
    "The Thorn of Istra, the mad vampire. [Tana] thought of the grainy video of him she had seen, head tipped back, so covered in blood that she hadn't remembered his features, hadn't remembered him as looking like anything but a monster, laughing, endlessly laughing. Mad as a dog. Mad as a god. Gavriel."
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Pool of the Black One", while Conan the Barbarian and Sancha are watching the inhuman giants who have captured their comrades, he has to slap his hand over her mouth to prevent her hysterical giggle.
  • Mr. Joyful in the Diogenes Club tale "You Don't Have To Be Mad..." is a literal case, having been brainwashed to enjoy tasks that any sane person would hate. It works too well and he dies laughing while carrying out an assassination.
  • Discworld: In Making Money, Mr. Bent, who normally has No Sense of Humor, cracks up laughing (mirthlessly at first, then manically) when his Sanity Slippage reaches its peak.
  • Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez. The eponymous Brain turns out to be an Ancient Conspiracy of preserved brains of the great minds of human history except Albert Einstein who turned down the offer of becoming a Brain in a Jar, claiming the process had turned them into delusional megalomaniacs. The Council thinks this idea is so ridiculous they spend a good deal of time laughing maniacally over it.
  • In Frankenstein the titular doctor starts losing it more and more after he first creates his creature. He starts laughing so hysterically that his friend Henry gets worried, right before he collapses into hallucinations and his first fit of Brain Fever.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, the emotional stress of his Secret Legacy coming to light causes this in Freckles.
    A laugh burst from him. The terrified Angel caught him in her arms and tried to stifle the sound. She implored and commanded. When he was too worn to utter another sound, his eyes laughed silently.
  • Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter. All the freaking time.
    • Sirius Black - after his best friend James Potter and his wife Lily Potter died, started laughing as he was arrested although he was in fact innocent. The laughter was probably a combination of all the emotions piled up on him, like betrayal, grief, and hatred.
    • During the big fight at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Ron gets hit by an "Intoxication Ensues" spell and becomes uncontrollably giggly despite still being in mortal danger.
    • In the same book Harry starts laughing at Bellatrix after she kills Sirius and realizes he sounds like her when she frantically tries to get him to give her the prophecy, which has been destroyed.
    • Voldemort himself sometimes indulges in a laugh that narrator-Harry describes as "humorless and insane" - usually just before or after killing someone.
  • In the book The Hunchback of Notre Dame Frollo lets loose with a deranged laugh when he completely loses it in the finale. It is described as "the laugh of a demon, a laugh which one can only give vent to when one is no longer human."
  • The men with no pain from the Inheritance Cycle giggle madly in battle.
  • Tabaqui from the The Jungle Book is most likely rabid, psychotically insane, and prone to hysterical fits of laughter (so much that he is infamous throughout the Jungle, and feared possibly more than Shere Khan himself).
  • At one point in The Long Walk, a Deadly Game involving the sometimes-gory deaths of teenage boys involved in the Walk, Garraty (the protagonist) loses it and momentarily goes Laughing Mad. It's only because McVries takes the time to get him to snap out of it that Garraty's fit of Laughing Madness doesn't slow him down to the point where he "buys his ticket".
  • In H. P. Lovecraft's short stories:
    • In "Dagon", the narrator begins giggling insanely after seeing the eponymous god.
    • In "The Call of Cthulhu", one of the two people who survives after seeing Cthulhu goes insane and laughs himself to death before they make it back to safety.
  • Two examples from Michael Moorcock's Elric stories:
    • The Weird of the White Wolf. Elric wounded Yyrkoon while fighting him. Yyrkoon starts laughing, indicating his sanity had broken.
    • The Stealer of Souls. When Elric finally catches up to him, Theleb K'aarna has lost his mind and is tittering to himself.
  • In a variant, there's a really nightmarish scene in The Odyssey where a character prophesizes the slaughter of Penelope's suitors by seeing them all racked with painful, hysterical laughter and choking up blood. And still continuing to laugh as they're slaughtered.
  • In Pharaoh Sarah breaks down laughing when she learns that Lykon murdered her baby.
  • In Reaper's Gale, the seventh book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, High Mage Quick Ben has a moment where he starts laughing hysterically right after he has to confront three bloodthirsty dragons head-on and all hell breaks lose. Having been reminded of all the friends he's lost over time, seeing Hedge, one of his last friends left, knocked out by a flying dragon vertebra pushes Quick Ben over the edge for the moment.
  • In Second Apocalypse, Sarl of the mercenary Skin Eaters company suffers a psychological break during a particularly brutal campaign. He becomes prone to cackling and shouting, "The slog of slogs, boys!" over the following weeks.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Catelyn Stark starts laughing hysterically after Summer, Bran's direwolf, unexpectedly breaks into her son's room and tears the throat of an assassin who was about to kill both mother and child. And she does again in the third book, A Storm of Swords, after she witnesses her only remaining (she thinks) child Robb get stabbed through the chest.
    • Tyrion Lannister has one in A Storm of Swords, after seeing Oberyn Martell, his last hope getting out of execution, being brutally killed by Gregor Clegane, handing the latter victory and condemning Tyrion to death. He has a nervous breakdown and starts laughing uncontrollably.
  • The Stormlight Archive book 2, Words of Radiance: More like Grinning Mad. Dalinar calls Szeth's combination of horrified, haunted eyes and gleeful grin to be the most evil thing he's ever seen.
  • In Ben Mikaelsen's Touching Spirit Bear, Cole starts laughing manically after burning Garvey's shelter. He's not insane; this is probably because of his anger, and his Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Tortall Universe: In Lioness Rampant, book 4 of Song of the Lioness, Duke Roger dies for real this way. He tried to use magic to pull Alanna towards him by summoning her sword, which was partially made of an Evil Weapon he created, but she lets go of it and it impales him in the chest. Roger, in his deranged mind, finds this so funny that he goes out laughing.
  • In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, when Jenny definitively realizes she's in Fairyland and Jack tells her that no one will believe her, Jenny starts this. She doesn't realize it's her own for a moment after the first laugh, and it lasts a good long time. Since her brother had been swallowed up by the woods before her, she knows she won't be believed, quite thoroughly.
  • The Wandering Inn: Tom, after being summoned with dozens of people to another world, realized that he can't fight against the demons he was supposed to fight, decided to dress up as a clown, hoping to bring others to laugh, when they all feel misery from being taken from their homes, though without much success. When the village he lives in is attacked by demons, and sees that a little boy, who he regularly interacted with, is heavily wounded,resulting in seeing him slowly dying, something snapped inside him, driving him to insanity. He starts to laugh crazily, and changes from the rather unfunny clown to a clown one is used to see in horror movies, making even the demons fear him.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, after they kill a Chaos stalker, Gaunt laughs and taunts the darkness with his still being alive. Ludd finds it more frightening than the stalker.
  • Rand Al'Thor in The Wheel of Time occasionally breaks down into 'mirthless laughter' when something really terrible happens. As the series goes on, these episodes become more frequent.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: Luban Chan, a rookie witch at an evil Wizarding School, laughs maniacally as she tries to kill off the protagonist and a couple other witches who are competing against her in a race.
  • In "You Don't Have to Be Mad...", a short story from the Diogenes Club series by Kim Newman, Richard Jeperson investigates a clinic run by Dr. I. M. Ballance which is turning people into functioning psychopaths (some of whom are implied to be infamous politicians and entrepreneurs of The '80s). The story opens with a government bureaucrat laughing as he does things like chopping down a preserved tree for a highway or firing employees. Finally he tries to assassinate a troublesome journalist, only to fail because he's laughing so much, he gives himself a seizure.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 turns a bleak scene — two mortal enemies about to die together — into an inappropriately hilarious one through this trope. In "Convictions", a bombing leaves Londo trapped in a burning elevator with G'Kar, right after he orchestrated the total defeat and violent subjugation of G'Kar's people, which has driven G'Kar to desperation and despair. He points out that they are likely to die if they don't work together to escape, and that, whatever their differences, G'Kar wants to live just as badly as he does. Cue An Aesop, right? WRONG! G'Kar refuses to help, and tells Londo that he doesn't want to live nearly as much as he wants to see Londo die, and this way he doesn't even have to do anything that would prompt retaliationall while giggling so hard he can barely speak.
    Londo: You are insane!
    G'Kar: And that is why we'll win!
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Fisk, XO of the Pegasus, has a disturbing laugh that he gives after relating how Admiral Cain executed his predecessor. Fisk gives another such outburst in "Resurrection Ship", earning himself a puzzled look from everyone in CIC, who are unaware that Cain had just cancelled her orders to terminate them all.
  • Blackadder: In "The Black Seal", Edmund Blackadder is trapped in a dungeon with an insane old man who laughs maniacally after Edmund asks if there's a way out. We are shown a cue card reading "Twelve Months Later". And the man is still laughing.
  • Avon from Blake's 7. In the season 4 episode "Gold", upon realizing that he and his crew had not only accomplished nothing in the episode itself despite risking their lives repeatedly, but had actually benefited the villainess, he begins to laugh hysterically under the frightened stares of the crew.
  • Breaking Bad: In "Crawl Space", Walt's reaction when Skyler tells him she gave Ted the $600,000 they needed to escape Gus, who said he would kill them all if Walt interfered by tipping off the DEA about the hit on Hank... which Saul had done on Walt's orders mere minutes before.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Prophecy Girl", Buffy has a mild episode of very unsettling laughter after she overhears Giles talking about her upcoming prophesied death. Played straight with characters who are insane: Masie the invisible girl, Mad Oracle vampire Drusilla, and Spike at the beginning of Season 7.
  • Victor, in Burn Notice, had a tendency to grin or giggle disturbingly when contemplating violence. He laughed the same way when he described why he was that way: "And then the punch line, the really, really funny part was, it was Carla. She had my family killed as part of my recruitment."
  • Colonel March of Scotland Yard: When the murderer is revealed in "The Sorcerer", his facade of sanity breaks and he starts laughing crazily as Ames leads him off.
  • Columbo has some murderers do this after Columbo figures them out. The most notable cases are Roger Stanford who cracked after Columbo tells him that he doesn't have the real cigar box, and Nicholas Frame who giggles and mutters a piece of monologue from Macbeth.
  • Chang on Community. The study group refuses to let him join even after he dances for five hours representing them in the pop and lock contest. He ends up collapsing to the floor laughing maniacally.
  • The Devil Judge: Young-choon bursts out laughing when he realises Yo-han replaced his money with blank pieces of paper.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: In "Three Letters from One Wife", Rob descends into hysterical laughter when he learns that Millie had sent fourteen fake letters to Alan Brady praising him and Rob for a high-risk appearance on a cultural program (which hadn't aired yet):
    Millie: Rob, what can I do?
    Rob: [still laughing] Take advantage of my temporary insanity and get out of here!
  • Doctor Who
    • The Sixth Doctor goes a little bit nutty after his regeneration in "The Twin Dilemma". This was meant as a return to the character's dangerous unpredictability.
    • "Dalek": The Ninth Doctor indulges in a bit of this when he sees that the Dalek's gunstick is broken and thus, as it's chained up, it can't actually kill him.
    • "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End": After his venture into the Time Vortex, Dalek Caan becomes the first "pure" Dalek to giggle.
    • And reused over in "The End of Time" regarding the Master. All six billion of them.
    • The Twelfth Doctor maniacally laughs when he smashes a massive tanker into a dock in "The Lie of the Land".
    • The Master ends up laughing hysterically once again in "The Doctor Falls". After finally dropping her internal trauma and embracing her Heel–Face Turn, taking out her homicidal past self and heading back to stand with the Doctor, only for that past self to shoot her in the back, therefore condemning her to die alone, with the Doctor never knowing what she did, because the Master will never allow himself to change… well, it's no wonder Missy snapped again right before the end. Bonus points for the Saxon Master guffawing at the realization he's finally killed himself permanently (well... not really).
  • Happens to John a bunch in Farscape as a result of all the mindscrewing. His tendency to inappropriate laughter is a big part of what clues his shipmates in on his Sanity Slippage throughout season 2.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In Season 4 Sandor Clegane and Arya Stark arrive at the Eyrie after traveling across the war-ravaged Riverlands and seeing the massacre of Robb Stark and his army just as Arya was about to be returned to her family, only to be told that the aunt Sandor hoped to ransom her to - Arya's last confirmed living relative and her only hope of being reunited with family - has also died only three days before. Arya's response (after a few seconds of stunned silence) is to break down in peals of laughter at the Hound for not getting his reward as everyone stares at her in disbelief. Like several other incidents over the past couple of seasons, it hints at Arya's increasing Sanity Slippage as she turns from heroic Tomboy Princess to cold-blooded killer.
    • When the "Battle of the Bastards" finally comes down to a one-on-one between Ramsay and Jon, Jon ends up straddling Ramsay's chest, pummeling him to a bloody pulp with his fists for all the hell Ramsay has done to his family and the devastation Ramsay has wreaked. After the first couple of punches, Ramsay starts laughing deliriously. After a few more punches, he suddenly stops laughing when it becomes clear that Jon is going to kill him then and there — but Jon stops when he sees his sister Sansa, who puts Ramsay awake (and smiling the best he can) in the dungeons. Then Sansa feeds Ramsay to Ramsay's own starving dogs.
    • Euron cackles maniacally as he cuts people down on the battlefield.
  • Get Smart: Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 are captured by a Mad Scientist.
    99: You're mad!
    Dr. Zharko (Tom Poston): Mad, am I? MAAAD, AM I?! MWAHAHAHAAA!
    99: [anxiously] Don't do that!
    Dr. Zharko: [utterly straightfaced] Don't do what?
  • The Goes Wrong Show: In "The Lodge," Robert has a scene where his character is supposed to do an Evil Laugh and exit, still laughing. The problem? This show being what it is, the door he was supposed to exit out of is locked. So he keeps laughing and tries to find another door... which leads to a brick wall. So he keeps laughing and tries to find another door... and it leads to a ten-foot drop. This goes on for almost two minutes, Robert's laughter devolving into exasperated, desperate screaming, before he finally manages to squeeze out of a cupboard door, still cackling.
  • In the season one finale of The Good Place, Eleanor is so stunned and horrified by the realization that she and the others have actually been in the Bad Place from the very beginning that all she can do for a good few seconds is laugh and say, "Wow!" She recovers pretty quickly, though.
  • In Gotham, several of the villains have mental breakdowns that involve mad laughter, and then there's Jerome Valeska, who laughs excessively about everything, even his horrifically abusive childhood, and even laughs while he is falling to his death because he decided to commit suicide by throwing himself off a building. He also creates Joker gas with the help of the Scarecrow, causing several other people to go mad with laughter, most importantly, his brother, Jeremiah Valeska.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • In the movie Kamen Rider Double Returns: Kamen Rider Eternal, the villain of the movie tries to emotionally break Katsumi Daido, the eponymous rider. It worked a little bit too well, as Katsumi breaks down in insane laughter, followed by a Curb-Stomp Battle with the villain on the receiving end.
    • Professor Banno in his incarnation as Gold Drive of Kamen Rider Drive has an Evil Laugh that veers sharply into this territory on a regular basis, as he chuckles in a somewhat subdued yet decidedly eerie manner, his head lolling at odd angles.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Kuroto Dan devolves into this over the span of the story's second arc as he slowly discards his Mask of Sanity in favor of being a memetic Card-Carrying Villain.
      • The otherwise well-adjusted Emu Hojo tends to chuckle a little in an unhinged manner when pushed dangerously close to Heroic RRoD.
    • Kamen Rider Saber: Bahat, the Phoenix swordsman, has been driven insane by the murder of his family and languished in his grief for thousand years. As an Omnicidal Maniac, he tends to react to stuff with either inappropiate, derranged laughter or violence.
  • Lampshaded in M*A*S*H episode "The Light That Failed". The characters spend the entire episode arguing over who committed the murder in a mystery novel with the last page missing. In the end Hawkeye pretends to go mad and confesses to the whole thing. He gives a mad laugh that's interrupted when he has to sign for some supplies, then takes up where he left off.
  • Adrian Monk in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike" briefly went laughing mad after deciding to dump garbage trucks overflowing with garbage into the San Francisco Bay one at a time, and coming up with an insane theory about who murdered the Garbage Union Leader (it being the rock star Alice Cooper over envy over a chair) that was more or less done due to the piling garbage driving Monk completely insane, in addition to his previous theory being wrong (and for the record, the debunked theory was actually a lot closer to being correct compared to the second theory).
  • Inverted in the Odd Squad episode "The Jackies". When Oprah, confident that she and her precinct will win the eponymous awards, explains that the winner of the awards the previous year has to announce the winner of the current year's awards, she begins to laugh in a stiff but rather hysterical manner. Olive and Otto watch her with smiles on their faces before their expressions turn into concern, and they begin Backing Away Slowly out of the office before running away (at Olive's insistence). Oprah then abruptly stops her laughing to demand that Oscar make her dress "very sparkly" before resuming.
    • Also inverted in another example from the same episode. Orville, Ms. O's rival, calls her as part of her Tempting Fate, as she believes he is calling her to tell her how worried he is. After the number of cases for his precinct grows substantially so it's 150-100, he taunts her by saying that he hasn't felt this victorious since he and his agents won the very first Jackie Awards, before hanging up and delving into maniacal laughter as he strokes one of his previously-won awards.
    • Played straight in "Show Me the Money" where Oona delves into a short bit of hysterical laughter when she finds out that Olympia and Otis released an unlucky coin of hers and Oscar's into the town and chews them out accordingly.
  • Although any number of inmates in Oz (such as Tobias Beecher) would qualify, probably the best example would be former prison guard Clayton Hughes after he goes insane and murders an inmate. Particularly disturbing when it happens in front of Warden Glynn, who regards him as a surrogate son.
  • Psychopath Diary: In-woo has a very unhinged half-laugh half-grin that he uses when planning to kill someone.
  • Queen for Seven Days: Lee Yung bursts out laughing after he's deposed.
  • In Sister, Sister, Lisa Landry was breaking out into a fit of laughter during a funeral. It's justified, however, as just beforehand, she went to the dentist, and was exposed to a large, almost lethal dose of Laughing Gas due to the dentist ranting about the person the funeral was for.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series finale "What You Leave Behind", the Cardassian resistance is trying to storm Dominion headquarters, but they can't break down the door. At that point Garak, who has just seen his mother murdered and his childhood home destroyed, and is witnessing the genocide of his people literally happening all around them, cracks up. Then the others start following suit, before the Jem'Hadar open the doors to execute the puppet Cardassian leader, and the resistance takes advantage.
  • In Superstore, it's noted that Cheyanne has a habit of laughing out of nervousness. However, when a tornado tears through the store at the end of season 2, she's seen rocking side to side in hysterics, uttering "We're all gonna die..." as she does.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Need to Know", Jack Henries begins to laugh hysterically when Wiley Whitlow tells him the meaning of life, which causes insanity in anyone who hears it. Jack then breaks into tears just as quickly as he started to laugh.
  • The Untamed: Jin Guangyao starts laughing as he explains how Jin Guangshan mistreated him until Jin Guangyao finally killed him.

  • "It's time for your medication, Mister Brown..." "BUHUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!"
  • The end of "Master of Puppets" by Metallica.
  • Just before the first guitar solo in the Thin Lizzy track "Chinatown".
  • Disturbed:
    • "Inside the Fire" combines it with the Evil Laugh; the character in which the song is being described to is most definitely going insane, but the main narrative is being told by his dead girlfriend whispering over his shoulder (who may or may not be The Devil). In other words, it sounds both crazed and demonic.
    • "Perfect Insanity" features a deranged laughter, naturally.
  • "Afterlife" by Avenged Sevenfold features this in the bridge.
  • Twilightning's "Rolling Heads" from the Bedlam EP ends with mad laughter.
  • Heard in the end of Running Wild's "Diamonds of the Black Chest" when after a lifetime of searching, the song's protagonist finds the eponymous chest. And it's empty.
  • Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" It's right there in the title.
  • The Bonzo Dog Band did a cover of "Monster Mash" that was pretty faithful to the original, until the ending, where vocalist Vivian Stanshall goes into an Evil Laugh that grows more and more manic through the fade-out.
  • "Departure", the Graeme Edge poem that opens The Moody Blues' "Ride My See-Saw", has Edge dissolving into mad laughter as it crossfades into the latter track.
  • Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" from The Dark Side of the Moon. (The lunatic is in my head... (laughter))
  • The Police's "Mother," about a man whose overprotective, constantly-phoning mother has driven him mad, ends with manic cries that turn into laughter.
  • Doctor Steel can be heard engaging in a mad laugh near the end of his self-titled song, "Dr. Steel."
  • The end of Black Sabbath's "Am I Going Insane? (Radio)" has Ozzy Osbourne breaking into a series of distorted, crazed laughter. Ozzy is quite notorious for this, to the point where many a song of his features it. It's practically his trademark.
  • Arthur Brown does this a bit near the end of "Fire" as he's shouting "Burn!" over and over at the top of his lungs.
  • In one version of "Beginning to look a lot like Christmas", the second chorus of 'and mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again' is immediately followed by the female backup singers doing a not quite sane laugh just like the parents finally snapping due to holiday stress.
  • Eben Brooks engages in one of these at the end of his filk "Hey There Cthulhu" as the narrator finally succumbs to madness. It ends with a bloodcurdling scream as he apparently succumbs to something far worse.
  • The singer of Poets of the Fall's "Psychosis" opens and punctuates his bitter ranting with nasty chuckling.
  • "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" by Set It Off, The Insomniac / Sanity Slippage Song features a deranged laughter.
  • Grobschnitt "Schweine im Weltall" (Pigs In Space). Excusable, since selfsame pigs just stole a rocket to escape a most sausageous fate.
  • "Song for Ancestors" by Juno Reactor features Dorona Alberti cackling wildly.

  • In the 41st episode of Well There's Your Problem Justin pulls off a truly terrifying one lasting nearly a full minute upon being informed that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died mere months before the 2020 election and paved the way for a far-right majority on the US Supreme Court.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Terry Funk in his famous 1981 "Florida Cracker" promo.
  • Buzz Sawyer was prone to fits of it; particularly remembered is a bit during a Kevin Sullivan promo where he just starts laughing for no discernible reason and just won't stop.
  • Dan Spivey tended to degenerate into maniacal laughter when applying his sleeper hold.
  • By definition, almost every time Psycho Sid burst into laughter was a case of this.
  • Hugh Morrus' whole gimmick was based on this, starting with his Punny Name. His Red Baron was "The Laughing Man." In the Dungeon of Doom vignette where "The Taskmaster" Kevin Sullivan introduced him to the Master, Sullivan said that he was giving him "the greatest gift of all, laughter."
  • Willow The Wisp in the Omega Promotion, he is but a product of Jeff Hardy's imagination, "Raaahahahaha!" He tended to laugh even when being beat up.
  • During Delirious matches where he is allowed to idle or otherwise given breathing room, he tends to talk to himself and laugh.
  • Tyler Bateman tends to stare off into the distance silently. When something gets his attention or he's asked to speak he'll usually let out a prolonged wheeze before degenerating into laughter.
  • Mikey Whipwreck after joining the Sinister Minister in Major League Wrestling.
  • Boogeyman was often laughing, particularly after singing to his hosts, spouting off poetry or squeezing the heart on his necklace.
  • After Mickie James attacked Trish Stratus for suggesting they should spend some time apart, she was later found cackling over a Trish Stratus shrine.
  • Sting frequently during his "Joker" phase, as opposed to his previous and more famous stoic "Crow" phase.
  • Cody Rhodes during his "un-dashing phase", where his recollection of events was clearly off base. (He believed himself disfigured and thus un-dashing, having to hide behind a mask, except his mask was see-through so everyone could see he looked exactly the same.)
  • Leva Bates as the Joker during the final stages of her SHINE feud with Kimberly, going into the "Arkham Asylum match".
  • Bayley full stop during her feud with Bianca Belair with the latter as Smackdown Women's Champion. She essentially got a title match with the champion doing nothing but laughing at her!

  • In the Danganronpa/Rabbit Doubt hybrid Doubt Academy, Akari Kagome, the Super High School Level Hockey Player, has one of these when she realizes she's going to be executed for a murder she didn't commit.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Invoked in-universe with the spell "Hideous Laughter" (also known as "Tasha's Hideous Laughter") from Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder; it's an Enchantment school spell that compels the victim to laugh like a maniac for the duration of the spell, effectively paralyzing them with the most intense, histrionic laughing fit they are physically capable of. In most versions of the game, this is its only effect, but in the 4th edition of the game, victims actually took damage from the spell, and could literally laugh themselves to death.
  • In Exalted, Adorjan the Silent Wind is considered the Yozi patron of Ax-Crazy. As a result, her chosen Infernals tend to get access to Charms that reflect this, such as Broken Silence Laughter Defense (which allows the Infernal to throw off attempts to influence them by laughing inappropriately) and Eloquence in Unspoken Words (which gives the Infernal telepathic communication, at the price that they can only vocalize laughter).
  • Numerous followers of Chaos in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 alternate between this and Evil Laugh, sometimes combining the two for extra madness. Sort of inevitable when one allows The Legions of Hell to use one's skull as their metaphorical playground.

  • Electricidad, Luís Alfaro's modern retelling of Electra ends with Orestes doing this after killing Clamencia as he stumbles away from Nino, and collapses on top of the charred, rotting remains of his father's body. It's chilling.
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Hysterium does this after one verse of his song "I'm Calm".
    I'm calm, controlled
    So cool that I'm cold
    Aloofer than any giraffe
    When something's the matter
    Where others would shatter, I laugh!

    (bursts into hysterical laughter)
  • Little Shop of Horrors has the song “Now (It’s Just The Gas),” in which a dentist goes laughing mad due to an overdose on Laughing Gas, before he eventually suffocates on it
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street:
    • The song "Epiphany" details his Despair Event Horizon and the whole song has a lot of anguished laughter, especially the end where he declares he's "full of joy". Then comes the Mood Dissonance of the next song "Little Priest", where he is really upbeat, but completely over the edge of sanity.
    • Also his wife Lucy when she enters Sweeney Todd's parlor. She lapses into a disturbing giggle before she imagines herself sitting with infant Johanna in her arms.
  • William Shakespeare uses this one in Titus Andronicus: Titus' daughter has been raped and mutilated, his sons have been accused of the crime, and he's been told they'll be pardoned if he just chops off his hand, so he does, and when he's given his hand back along with their severed heads, he begins to laugh. And plot tasty, tasty revenge.
  • In Wicked depending on the actress playing her (as well as the one playing Glinda), Elphaba can have shades of this when she cackles after Glinda slaps her during the cat fight scene. Bonus points if it's the exact same cackle from the film.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the Ace Attorney series, Luke Atmey and Kristoph Gavin laugh disturbingly upon defeat, possibly to indicate madness (they're both pretty crazy). Damon Gant gets the most epic one, however: he claps as he laughs, and as the laugh revs up, his hands slam together so quickly they throw off sparks!
    • The tradition continues in Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, where the killer of case four, Calisto Yew, ends up doubled over laughing by the time he/she is done... and then shows just how sane she is by pointing out Edgeworth just accused her of murder... in a case where one of the pistols is still missing. And then case five happens and holy hell is Shih-na's breakdown some quality horror.
    • A non-villainous example is Lotta Hart from Justice For All. She thinks that the crime scene will be her one big break and starts laughing crazily as she runs to it. Even Phoenix got scared when that happened.
  • Danganronpa:
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Genocide Jack is usually this when they're not fawning over Byakuya. And at the climax of the game, Junko Enoshima has several bouts of mad laughter, especially as she prepares to execute herself.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair gives us Nagito Komaeda, with no less than three instances of this: their Villainous Breakdown in Chapter 1, their discovery of the Funhouse's secret weapon in Chapter 4, and after blowing up the hotel to weed out the traitor in Chapter 5.
  • In Doki Doki Literature Club!, the final scene with Yuri during her Sanity Slippage has sounds of giggling in the background, and she specifically laughs as she happily stabs herself to death.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
    • Ace/Hongou is revealed to have done this when he locked Akane in the furnace to force her to use morphogenic fields to survive.
    • He does the same thing when confronted as the villain in the Safe ending.
  • In the good ending of Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, Kamen erupts in a fit of mirthless and crazed laughter after relating the events that led to the murders.
  • Beatrice in Umineko: When They Cry does this intentionally to unnerve opponents (which is probably where Maria learned her own creepy laugh,) and is quite at ease when laughing mad. This is in contrast to Erika, who laughs more madly when under more pressure, up to and including full Villainous Breakdown.

    Web Animation 
  • Dreamscape: Ethan and Curien, as part of their insanity act, this is a given.
  • Flippy of Happy Tree Friends whenever he goes into Ax-Crazy mode. Also, the hyperactive squirrel, Nutty.
  • Helluva Boss: In "Seeing Stars", Blitzo is mistaken for a human comedian and gets to perform on a stage where the audience laughs because they are told to. He gets way carried away with it and apparently makes a long performance that is anything but funny, to the point that the only person who still manages to laugh does so in a crazy fit before passing out (or knowing this show, quite possibly dying).
  • Homestar Runner: Strong Bad goes into a rather creepy mad laughing fit in the Sbemail "isp" after discovering that Strong Mad has screwed up his Internet connection by literally sucking up bandwidth.
  • Murder Drones: The titular androids are programmed to kill worker drones and consume their oil. Whenever hunting them, they gain a face-wide smile, X’s for eyes and often start to giggle maniacally out of bloodlust.
    • This also happens to Uzi, when her body is corrupted by the Absolute Solver, which basically turns her into a robot zombie prone to fits of hysterical laughter.
  • RWBY: Tyrian Callows absolutely loves this trope, giving the Joker from DC's universe a very good run for his happy-go-lucky money, without question.
    • After reaching a low point of near-despair upon learning he has lost all his options for obtaining Penny so that he can save Atlas with the Relic of Creation, Ironwood learns that the SDC is using cargo ships to rescue the Mantle citizens. He laughs in a mixture of relief and madness, as he realises that he can hold Mantle hostage to force Penny to be delivered to him. It's another sign of his increasingly unstable mental state.


    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In Amphibia, the ending of the episode Anne Theft Auto shows Anne laughing crazily after finding out that she needs to repeat the whole ordeal again. This laughter easily disturbs Hop Pop.
    Hop Pop: I don’t feel safe.

  • In Adventure Time, we have Lemongrab's utterly disturbing laughing fit in Too Young. He doesn't even SMILE- his head just flails around and bounces with weird squishy noises, and his eyes are wide.
    Lemongrab: "...Prank? F-for laughs? Yes, of course; just a harmless prank... F..for laughs... Ha..a.a? HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH-OH! HAHHAHOAHAOHAOAHOAHAOAHAHAOAOAAHAOAHAOAHAOA-" *immediately returns to normal* "Twelve years dungeon! All of you- DUNGEON! Seven years, no trials! C'mon... LET'S MOVE IT!!!"
    • He comes by it honestly; his mother Princess Bubblegum reacted similarly to the prospect of Finn bringing the Duke of Nuts to justice. "The justice... of a COLD DUNGEON! MWAHAHAHA-AHAHAHAHAAHAAA!!!" Jake Lampshades the moment by saying with an awkward laugh, "She's completely bonkers."
  • Azula in the series finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, during a schizo Freak Out.
  • In The Batman's Harley Quinn episode, the way the viewer can tell that Harley's returned sanity is fleeting is when she starts laughing maniacally.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The Demon's Quest, when Ra's al Ghul comes out of the Lazarus Pit.
  • At the end of Batman Beyond's first episode, when Corrupt Corporate Executive Derek Powers sees that he has transformed into a glow-in-the-dark radioactive skeleton man, his immediate reaction is to begin laughing maniacally. The doctors are appropriately freaked out.
  • Averting this in Batman: The Brave and the Bold is central to Earth-23's Red Hood. When Owlman pushed Jack Napier into the Ace Chemical Plant vat, Napier's skin was bleached, his hair turned green, and his lips became bright red. When Napier returned home, he sat in front of a mirror, looked at himself, and began to laugh... before smashing the mirror. It was at this point he began his vengeful crusade with other hero as Justice Underground against the tyrant Owlman and his Injustice Syndicate of Amerika.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Mind Pollution", Verminous Skumm starts peddling a designer drug called "Bliss." Among other symptoms, Bliss causes fits of hysterical laughter, even when the person has injured themselves or suffered some other setback. It's probably related to the pain numbing.
  • In one episode of Adventures in Care-a-Lot, a sleep-deprived Bedtime is portrayed this way.
  • The Courage the Cowardly Dog pilot short The Chicken from Outer Space has Eustace break into insane laughter when he starts turning into a chicken.
  • In The Crumpets episode "Acne Dents Happen", the Crumpet children's adoptive cousin Cordless does this after snatching back his radioactive acne cream from Li'l-One.
  • Darkwing Duck: In "Stressed to Kill", a super-stressed Darkwing cackles as he tries to blow up a fly.
  • In an episode of Duck Dodgers, Marvin removes Dodgers' brain and attempts to link his own brain to it to learn Dodgers' secrets. The machinations of Dodgers' subconscious drives Marvin to madness, resulting in this.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "The Duck Knight Returns", Jim Starling descends into this after his Sanity Slippage caused him to become this series' Negaduck.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Eddy does this in "Little Ed Blue" after realizing why Ed was angry and antisocial all day. There was a pebble in his shoe.
    • In "Cleanliness is Next to Edness", Edd goes insane after failing to find a place to bathe and getting dirtier with every attempt. He snaps out of it, eventually.
  • In Family Guy Meg is sometimes portrayed as deranged or disturbed out of a desperation for love and attention. In one scene Chris asks her what kind of gifts boys have gotten for her and she describes imaginary gifts given to her by her imaginary boyfriend prince William before laughing crazily and running out of the room in tears.
  • In the Flintstones episode "A Haunted House is Not a Home", Fred is set to inherit his recently-deceased kooky uncle's fortune if he spends the night in his uncle's creepy estate, and if anything happens to Fred, his uncle's staff will receive the inheritance instead. The staff tries to kill Fred (and by extension, Barney, who spends the night with Fred). It turns out, however, that his uncle is not dead, but had faked his own death as a prank, which apparently his staff was in on the whole time. In retaliation, Fred, smiling sadistically, takes out a HUGE cleaver and chases after his uncle and staff with it, cackling crazily as he does so.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) "The Price of Deceit", a flashback shows Keldor's transformation into Skeletor. Upon seeing his new face in a reflection, Skeletor bursts into a fit of maniacal laughter signifying his transition from charismatic Evil Overlord to insane superpowered monster.
  • Infinity Train: When Simon thinks he's killed Grace, he has a total mental breakdown, Cry Laughing maniacally as his passenger number rapidly climbs up far enough to completely cover his face. The laughter stops really fast when he realizes Grace survived.
  • Invader Zim, being rather Ax-Crazy, has moments like this.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Lucius suffers a Villainous Breakdown, he begins laughing wildly before completely cracking.
  • Looney TunesDaffy Duck.
  • Fluttershy in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "The Best Night Ever".
    • Twilight Sparkle as well, in "Lesson Zero".
    • Nightmare Moon, arguably.
    • Spike's turn: "Owl's Well That Ends Well".
    • The Mane-iac, who is essentially a pony version of the Joker. Pretty much every single line is either just her laughing or punctuated by her laughing. When she gets tangled up in her mane, it makes it appear as if she's in a straitjacket.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Detective Mindy", Jet looks for a black hole in the trash can. He puts it over his head and starts laughing like a madman.
  • Hexadecimal from ReBoot enjoys her evil laughter, but, being pretty crazy, she tends towards Laughing Mad on more than one occasion. Then she becomes outright insane in season 3, due to a combination of being nearly destroyed in an explosion and subsequently rebuilt, her mask becoming cracked, and being tortured and used as a weapon by Megabyte. After this, pretty much every time she laughs is an example of Laughing Mad. (At least, until Bob defragments her head.)
  • Ren of The Ren & Stimpy Show is often portrayed as this.
    • Most extreme cases include when he was under the effects of the happy helmet (complete with a full set of grimaces), and when he was beating George Liquor up with an oar in a banned episode, "Man's Best Friend".
  • Stu of Rugrats does this during his Sanity Slippage moment in the episode "Angelica Breaks A Leg."
  • Lisa Simpson briefly went Laughing Mad when seeing her new braces in the episode Last Exit To Springfield, of which it was a direct homage to Jack Napier's reaction to his new appearance due to botched reconstructive surgery and falling into the vat of chemicals.
    Kent Brockman: And look how happy he is!
    Homer: Alright, alright, you win for now. But someday you'll RUST! RUST, I TELL YOU! [Descends into deranged, maniacal laughter]
    • Also one of the show's Halloween episodes, which features a certain painting, the mere glimpse of which drives people mad:
    Homer: They're dogs, and they're playing poker! [Screams, more deranged laughter.]
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, when Harry Osborn thinks that he was blacking out and becoming the Green Goblin, one of his many reactions, besides depression and anger, is semi-maniacal chuckling.
  • Another Spider-Man Example. In fact, another Harry Osborn example. In the 90's Spider-Man show, when Harry finds out that The Green Goblin was his father, he goes into a laughing fit (his mind wasn't too stable at the moment, he was talking to his father's ethereal head from another dimension and all that... long story...) and then decides to "fulfill his destiny" and become the second Goblin.
  • Spongebob Squarepants during the season 4 episode Bummer Vacation. "I've been WAITING for you Patrick!"
    • Squidward during the episode "Squid's Day Off" after he goes crazy from paranoia as he's nailing his door shut.
  • Steven Universe: In "Log Date 7 15 2", having just committed treason against Homeworld by disobeying and insulting Yellow Diamond, Peridot is having the Freak Out of a lifetime, alternating between fits of horror and fits of manic giggling while replaying the phrase "traitorous clod" over and over again on her tape recorder. When Steven asks if she'll be okay, she turns around with a manic grin and delivers an equally deranged "No!"
    • In "Say Uncle", after a sequence in which everyone's heads float around the Earth and return to their necks, Pearl responds by laughing insanely, then falling over.
    • In "Fragments", a Drunk with Power Steven does this in his Curb-Stomp Battle with Jasper.
  • In Teen Titans "Nevermore" when Robin and Starfire go onto the roof of Titans Tower to tell Raven about her door being broken down, she breaks out into hysterical laughter which sounds just like something out of Higurashi: When They Cry, then she just abruptly stops and goes inside.
  • In Wakfu Season 2 Episode 20, Qilby goes completely nuts after merging with the Eliacube and laughs maniacally during his Teleport Spam at the tail-end of his fight with Adamai.
  • The animated adaptation of Wyrd Sisters has Felmet going more and more insane, and as he slips further off the slippery slope he sure lets out a lot of maniacal laughing.

    Real Life 
  • In the famous Milgram Experiment, which was meant to test how far normal people would go when obeying the orders of someone in a position of authority,note  one of the subjects, an encyclopedia salesman, went into fits of hysterical laughter when he heard the screams of pain from his supposed victims, to the point where the session had to be discontinued. He wasn't a sadist, or insane; the laughter was just an indicator of the extreme emotional stress he was under.
  • There's a condition called Pseudobulbar Affect, in which the patient loses the ability to regulate emotional expression. They may collapse into a sobbing heap at the sight of a kitten, show absolute terror at their loved ones or laugh hysterically and uncontrollably at the loss of something dear to them. This is involuntary.
  • Inappropriate and/or involuntary emotional expressions (including laughter) are a common feature of schizophrenia. It is considered a key symptom of the disorganized subtype, where it often alternates with a complete lack of emotional expression.
  • According to legend, Nero was laughing while watching Rome burn, though we only have his enemies' word on this. It's unclear whether he was even in the city at the time.
  • According to Suetonius,note  Caligula once broke into a laughing fit at a banquet. When two of the guests asked him what he was laughing about, the emperor said, "What do you suppose, except that at a single nod of mine both of you could have your throats cut on the spot?"
  • John Lennon broke down into hysterical laughter upon hearing that his friend Stu Sutcliffe had died. He did the same thing after his mother had passed away.
  • Many people use laughter as a defense mechanism, in order to deal with some terrible thing.
    • A minor variation common in real life is to chuckle or smile when nervous, upset, or unsure.
  • Shellshocked veterans after World War I happened to laugh madly in some cases. One soldier discharged from the US army broke down laughing for most of his remaining life after being ordered to drive his tank over soldiers who were Not Quite Dead.
  • There are some cultures that use laughter as a means of dealing with emotionally heavy moments, e.g. Australia and the UK, which can seem like this trope to those unfamiliar with this.
  • This trope is one of the things that led to the Heinous Hyena stereotype. Hyenas make a sound very similar to human laughter when stressed, which made humans assume they were evil, eerily human-sounding creatures laughing maniacally as they ripped prey apart.

Alternative Title(s): Maniacal Laugh, Insane Laugh, Laughs Like Crazy, Mad Laugh


Barnabas Tharmr

Having spent decades unmatched since becoming the King of Waloed, when Clive Rosfield proves he can rival him in combat, Barnabas' usual stoic melancholy gives way to maniacal jubilation.

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