By royal decree, all citizens of the realm must make their clothing out of taffy and stand on their heads three times a day! Mondays have been outlawed! The color puce is an abomination!
In other words, this is when the lawmakers have gone insane. The usual result of your more literal cases of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. Might have been written by The Caligula, or put up by the Hanging Judge in a Kangaroo Court. Often Played for Laughs — and is usually Black Comedy even in more serious examples.
Sometimes the law may not have been Loony in and of itself in the beginning (a law that prevents animal cruelty, for example), but the fact that Society Marches On and Technology Marches On makes any attempt at continuing to enforce the law seem insane (the animal the law was supposed to protect is long extinct, but the law has not been repealed or changed to account for it).
- In Archie Comics, there was once a segment called, "Jughead's Loony Laws", which describes somewhat inane rules in different parts of the world, with the accompanying illustration either showing a Loophole Abuse or parodying how the law is enforced. For example, one law states that a household cannot have more than five cats. The picture shows a man with five mountain lions in his den, telling a cop, "So I've got five cats. What of it?"
- Judge Dredd: Judge Cal passes a number of ridiculous laws during his insane term as Chief Judge, such as outlawing happiness. Sometimes he gets more creative:
Cal: I have today passed a law to maintain public order! Deputy Chief Judge Fish will announce it!
Cal: You have heard the law. The penalty for disobedience is death!
- In Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #9, Dormammu reveals that the Ancient One forced him to sign a contract upon his first defeat that stipulated, among other things, that he was only allowed to summon his Mindless Ones if he was standing next to a red convertible. Dormammu uses Loophole Abuse by converting most of the cars in the street to red convertibles, but cannot transform a green truck, because it is parked next to a mailbox, and the contract also forbids him from affecting any object ten feet from a mailbox.note
- For the Glory of Irk: The Irkens have a lot of weird laws, mostly due to Therron's childishness and Voel's aggravated reactions to it. These include outlawing wearing anything green, outlawing eating anything other than tacos on Taco Tuesday, declaring that the Massive can only fly in straight lines, and requiring a password to change any laws (with the password only being known to the Massive's Employee of the Month).
Esposito: From this day on, the official language of San Marcos [in Latin America] will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!
Fielding Mellish: What's the Spanish word for straitjacket? note
- In Monstrous Regiment, much of Nugganite religion is the very substantive list of Abominations, which now includes babies ("I take it people still make them here?" "Yes, but they feel very guilty about it."), garlic, blue ("The sky is blue!" "Devout Nugganites try not to look at it these days."), rocks, ears, and accordion players, although Vimes for one agrees with him on that last one. Nuggan has actually died because of this. People stopped believing in him as a god, only believing in his Abominations (when people actually wanted something, they pray to the Duchess, who is now a Deity of Human Origin because of it). Since the Disc runs on Clap Your Hands If You Believe, Nuggan withered away until now he's no longer a sapient being; all he can do is Abominate random things, which is the reason most recent Abominations are so ridiculous.
- Ankh-Morpork has a law against metaphors, once memorably phrased as "if you say someone has a face that can launch a thousand ships, you had better have the passenger manifests." Lord Vetinari is even said to enforce this law from time to time, most noticeably by requiring the creation of the Pork Futures Warehouse, a place to store pork that doesn't exist yet.
- Books devoted to this subject include You May Not Tie an Alligator to a Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws and Donkeys Can't Sleep in Bathtubs and Other Crazy Laws.
- Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast has so many strange laws and rituals that by the time someone has become its Earl they are probably quite insane themselves. So the laws and rituals become more insane. Gormenghast is the Crapsack World logical extreme of this trope.
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: The Queen of Hearts is defined by being a woman that has to be obeyed on every single little whimsical law she makes on the spot, even the ones that make no sense, and every single crime, no matter how small, all have the same sentence: beheading (thankfully the King pardons everyone when her back is turned, a fact omitted from the Disney version). When Alice first arrives to her kingdom, she meets a group of guards that are rushing to paint every rose on the garden red (they were white), because she just woke up in the morning hating them being white (and made them illegal). During Alice's judgement later on the book, the Queen kept on making things Alice did while defending herself illegal on the spot (and, again, kept calling for her beheading for each transgression).
- The Goblins of Labyrinth establishes that, presumably at some point before its takeover by David Bowie in tight pants, the goblin legislature within the Labyrinth underwent what is known as the "Great Collapse of Good Governance", a period of escalating political inanity that culminated in the appointment of a Prime Minister whose chief qualification for the job is that he is inhabited by the World's Largest Flea (its name is Betsy). The Great Collapse of Good Governance saw the passing of such enlightened legislation as The Law Against Holding Up Any Kind of Lunch Box, the Prevention of Benevolence Act (1451), the Anti-Smirking Laws, the Prevention of Thoughtful Pauses Act, and the Abolition of Death (1896) Act. Reproduction was also outlawed during this period, to no effect.
- Downplayed in H. P. Lovecraft's short story "The Cats of Ulthar". The story begins by telling us that in Ulthar, no man may kill a cat - a law that is pretty unobjectionable, but still unusually specific. The rest of the story tells us why the people of Ulthar decided to pass this law.
- On Americas Dumbest Criminals; these would be called "Dumb Laws".
- One case from the sitcom Night Court involves a Yugoslavian husband and wife facing trial for unlawful detonation of poultry.
- In El Chapulín Colorado, a retelling of The Brave Little Tailor portrays the King in said story as always making a bunch of ridiculous royal decrees, such as "Rain on Saturdays is forbidden" so he can go hiking.
- In the Blackadder the Third episode "Dish and Dishonesty", a number of political parties are running for a certain parliamentary seat in Regency England, including a joke party called the Standing-At-The-Back-Dressed-Stupidly-And-Looking-Stupid Party, along the lines of real-life troll candidates like the Rhino Party or Vermin Supreme. Their candidate, Ivor Biggun, outlines his policy thus:
Candidate: We're for the compulsory serving of asparagus at breakfast, free corsets for the under-fives, and the abolition of slavery.
Journalist: I'm sure many moderate people would respect your stand on asparagus, but what about all this extremist nonsense about abolishing slavery?
Candidate: Oh, that! We just put that in for a joke!
- Horrible Histories has a sketch about loony "sumptuary laws," which were common in England and Europe historically and dictated clothing you could or couldn't wear based on your station. In this sketch, a man has come to petition Queen Elizabeth I, and keeps receiving lectures that his clothing is illegal before he can actually get his business before the Queen. He has to take his cape off (because it could conceal a sword), remove his shirt (because it's of the wrong material), and put a woolen hat on (to boost the business of the wool merchants.) In the end, Elizabeth asks if there's a law about having "a naked man in my throne room"; apparently, there isn't.
- The song "King of Spain" by Moxy Früvous has a mild (and relatively benevolent) example:
I don't even give a care;
Let's make Friday part of the weekend
And give every new baby a chocolate éclair
- Tom Waits likes to discuss these between songs at his live shows. One of his live albums, Glitter and Doom, comes with an entire bonus disc of audience banter collected from various venues he played during the tour, and he really gets into the strange local laws of America. Then again, it's entirely possible he's pulling our leg.
Tom Waits: But I travel with an attorney, so...
- A popular source of convincing-sounding falsehoods and ridiculous-sounding truths in The Unbelievable Truth. Lampshaded by John Finnemore in Series 12, Episode 6, on the subject of guinea pigs (the second one was true):
John: In Germany, it is illegal to own more than one guinea pig unless you work in a brewery. In Switzerland, it is illegal to own only one guinea pig. And in France, it is illegal to use any of these endless weird law facts in their version of this show, La Vérité Incroyable.
- Patton Oswalt's routine "You Are Only Allowed Twenty Birthdays" proposes - among other things - that anyone who lives to the age of 120 be automatically made President of the United States. He gives examples of the sort of laws such a person, presumably senile, would pass ("Starting today, everybody has to put four cans of ravioli in their pants! Starting today, everybody has to marry a pelican!"), but ultimately argues that this would still be preferable to things under then-president George W. Bush.
You heard the president, son. At least you're not in the desert, dying on a fuckin' lie. God bless our president. Give your new mom a fish, and let's go to the White House and give thanks.
- Dungeons & Dragons: In the adventure X3 Curse of Xanathon, the title curse causes the Duke of Rhoona to proclaim several odd laws, such as "All taxes must be paid in beer", "All riders must sit backwards on their horses" and "Horses can only be fed meat".
- Planescape: In Mechanus, the natives are so obsessed with laws that you can be arrested for things like singing in a place where it isn't allowed — at a specific time of day. Regulus, the home of the Modrons, is the worst. An introductory adventure involves the Player Characters being arrested for wearing the wrong color and sentenced to a community service task that will clearly take ten years to do. (If they successfully help the supervisor fight off some invading chaos imps, they can get the sentence reduced to time served.)
- Pathfinder: Mayor Barzillai Thrune's decrees at the start of Hell's Rebels include edicts to control rats and stray dogs, mandatory display of the queen's portrait, restrictions on the wear of embroidered clothing, a ban on drinking tea after sunset, and a ban on mint.
- Part of what marks Bretonnia as more generally backwards than their neighbors in Warhammer Fantasy is that nobles have absolute control over their domains. Given the sheer power that Bretonnian aristocracy enjoys, combined with the propensity to be exposed to sanity-crushingly horrible monsters and head injuries (and perhaps more than a touch of inbreeding), that has led to a vast number of bizarre laws unique to specific domains which only the King of Bretonnia can repeal. For example, in one domain, every male over a certain age is legally required to salute the rising full moon whilst shouting "Griffon fingers!" In a rare subversion of the trope, it's noted that unless somebody is actively enforcing the laws, Bretonnians generally don't bother — this means that as soon as whichever Upper-Class Twit passed the law is no longer ruling, then everybody stops bothering to pay attention to it.
- The Old Laws of the Underworld in Geist: The Sin-Eaters often fall into this, with laws that make no sense, and often contradictory. But you better abide by it, unless you want to run afoul of the Kerberos in charge of the domain...
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. In a case of Gameplay and Story Integration, Judges oversee every battle to ensure that you don't break some arbitrary law that changes every other battle. As the game goes on, the Prince of the Realm suffers something of a Villainous Breakdown and starts decreeing more and more laws.
- In the Feelies for Zork Zero, it is revealed that King Dimwit Flathead made every Thursday into "Birthday," on which everyone had to give him presents.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: There are two acts punishable by death in The Shivering Isles, attacking its ruler, Sheogorath, and attempting to grow a beard.
- Played for Drama in Plague Inc.. Insanity is a possible symptom, and evolving it while a large enough portion of a country's population is infected leads to predictable results...
- Nier: The inhabitants of Facade, the People of the Mask, have this as their societal hat. They have over 120,000 rules for seemingly everything, and follow them religiously. Some of the rules are reasonable ("Always repay your debts"), but most of them are incredibly silly and arbitrary ("Never build on level ground", "No one may buy from shops until they have taken a tour of the city", and so on). Still, the People of the Mask hold these rules in deep reverence, so the protagonists generally try to respect them, however exasperating they get.
- In the strip "Don't" (pictured above), the town magistrate has to explain to the townsfolk that all the new signs forbidding things like "sex during thunderstorms" and "trimming your beard" aren't loony laws, but loony curses. The community spectre they're stuck with is a spiteful sort. (Interestingly "no trimming your beard" and "no mixing fabrics" are (simplifications of) actual commandments in Judaism.note )
- The strip "Assorted Fruits of Wrath" has a crusading army get blown away by its own god for violating a scriptural law about not opening the wrong end of a banana (no mention of which end that is). (Also, as their enemy's commander notes, their religion also prohibits wearing mixed fabrics.)
- The post-apocalyptic New Quahog in Family Guy was briefly ruled by Peter, who, among other things, randomly assigned duties from a "job hat" and not based on expertise.
Peter: Oooh, village idiot! That's a good one! On Tuesdays you get to wave your penis at traffic!
- The Simpsons:
- In "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment", the punishment for disobeying Springfield's prohibition law is to be launched out of the city by catapult.
- In "The Seven Beer Snitch", Mr. Burns opens a for-profit prison, and conspires with Chief Wiggum to fill it by enforcing bizarre laws. Homer is arrested for kicking an old can in the street five times... because he wasn't accepted for a guard job at the prison he is to serve his sentence in. Another law that makes it unlawful to be in public without hats is also mentioned, and they are all printed in a compendium of silly laws.
- Gravity Falls: The titular town was founded by (ex-) President Quentin Trembley, and his lunacy was reflected with such things as a law that allowed humans to marry woodpeckers. In the first season finale, Gideon steals the deed to the Mystery Shack, and is instantly recognized as its legal owner. The show's creator jokingly suggested Gravity Falls has a "Finders Keepers" Law where physically possessing an object immediately makes you its rightful owner, even if it was obviously stolen.note
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Chancellor Puddinghead may have been responsible for a few; according to the Equestria Girls special Forgotten Friendship, she tried to pass a law mandating earth ponies to drink carrot juice at every meal.
- In "The Parent Map", while trying to find the source of the friendship problem, Firelight mentions an old law that forbids the citizens of Sire's Hollow to prance or canter after dinnertime.
- The conflict of Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town starts when Burgermeister Meisterburger proclaims a ban on toys after tripping on one and hurting himself. Upon hearing of it, Kris Kringle immediately comments on what a silly law it is. At the end of the special, the narrator explains that once the Meisterburger line died off and fell out of power, the people realized how ridiculous the toy-ban was and repealed it.
- Truth in Television: a quick Google search for "crazy laws" will inform you that it is illegal to forget your wife's birthday in Samoa, among other things. Many of these are urban legends, however: in Britain the Law Commission has published a list of which of the commonly-quoted ones are real.
- In Denmark, one law says that you are required to check that all important features in your car are working properly before driving. That means checking lights, brakes, steering wheel and honking your horn. Another law says that it's illegal to use your horn under any circumstances, and using it results in a 2000DKK fine.
- As Terry Pratchett once put it, when magazines and websites say things like "In Speedtrap, Nebraska, it is illegal to shoot giraffes on a Sunday" what they probably mean is "Speedtrap has no local rule about shooting giraffes but probably does have some perfectly ordinary public order laws, under which some drunken circus owner was once prosecuted."
- When Oliver Cromwell came into power after the English Civil War, he introduced laws (amongst others) that banned eating mince pies on the 25th of December and several other Christmas traditions, due to the Puritan desire to purge Christian religious festivals of "pagan" and "Catholic" elements.
- The Mosaic Code itself has a few laws that could technically qualify: no eating lobster or shrimp, no mixing fabrics, no trimming your beard, and even crossbreeding animals or using mixed seed on a field. It also has some that make sense in context, but sound ridiculous to people who don't live in the ancient Levant. For instance, there are two ways that the ban on pork could make sense. Some have suggested it was a precaution against disease (since pork tends to harbor more parasites than other meats, especially in hot climates). Others point to economics: Unlike cows, sheep, and goats, which eat plants humans can't digest, the plants pigs can digest are all edible by humans, if not necessarily palatably. While this doesn't matter in places where human food is sufficiently abundant that the pigs can eat scraps and garbage, or in places that have lots of food that people could eat but have the choice of not eating,note people in dry climates with little water need to be more careful, and can't spare the necessary scraps to feed pigs. On the other hand, all of these prohibitions (no pork, no trimming beards, no wearing mixed fabrics, etc.), would have served to distinguish the Israelites from at least some of their neighbors, which would have been reason enough for a conquering tribe to hold to them.
- As it was superstition in Tsarist Russia (and Latin American countries like Argentina) that the seventh subsequent son or daughter of a family would be a werewolf/witch, a law was passed that would make the tsar the godparent of these children so that they wouldn't be abandoned.