He's the joker of the group. She's the Emotionless Girl or perhaps the Tsundere, maybe both. He makes it his mission in life to make her let out one of the most powerful emotional responses. It's a matter of personal pride. If he can break through her shell, he can brag about it for years.
Said girl's friends will wonder why she puts up with it. Don't expect his jokes to actually be funny. The comedy really comes from her reaction, or lack thereof. Compare Straight Man and Wise Guy for a similar setup.
This is often played as romantic interest. After all, guys like girls that laugh at their jokes and girls like guys who can make them laugh. And even if she doesn't laugh, she does at least listen. If it's meant to become a romantic relationship, don't expect them to resolve it anytime soon.
Most of the time, what finally makes her laugh wasn't even intended to be funny.
Can result in a When She Smiles moment, where the guy falls even harder for her when he finally sees her radiant smile.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: In the manga, Shinji tries to see if Rei can laugh by doing something funny - in this case, shoving two fingers up Touji's nose, causing him to freak out. This makes all the other girls laugh, but not Rei, who merely turns away with the same blank expression after seeing what all the noise was about.
- The anime doesn't have a single instance of Rei laughing. Not even the High School A.U. in the final episode goes past grinning.
- Pokémon Adventures: Pearl may be doing this to Platinum, judging from his reaction to catching her laugh, but it could also be forcing her to admit she has her unladylike moments whenever she does something.
Pearl: "AHA! You just laughed, didn't you?!"
Platinum: "No I didn't."
Pearl: "You SO did too, I'm sure of it!"
Platinum: "No I didn't. Don't be a pest."
- Rurouni Kenshin: A gender inverted version occurs, where Misao swears that she'll make her crush Aoshi smile no matter what.
- Kyouno Gono Ni / Today In Class 5-2'' had this too.
- Galaxy Angel did a story like this, where this group of guys followed Vanilla around, trying to make her laugh. Apparently she finally did, but her laughter wasn't shown or heard in the actual anime, it was just implied that she finally did.
- Kodomo no Omocha: Gender inverted, Sana always tries to make Hayama laugh, or at the very least smile.
- Ranma ½
- This is subverted near the beginning when Akane is feeling down because of her unrequited feelings for Dr. Tofu. Because she's sad, she doesn't react violently to anything. You'd think Ranma would try to make her laugh, but he doesn't. Instead, he tries to make her angry again, since he's so used to her Tsundere side.
- Played straight in other instances.
Akane: Surely you don't expect me to believe that you came to cheer me up?
Ranma: And why shouldn't you believe it?
- Fujiwara mentions in chapter 27 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War that it's been a long-time dream of hers to make Kaguya roll on the floor laughing. When she finds a word that makes Kaguya roar with laughter, she proceeds to say it again... and again... and again.
- The Quintessential Quintuplets has a gender-flipped version between Fuutarou and Yotsuba (the fourth of the Nakano sisters). When she manages to force him into having a date with her (and surprisingly, she defies the Not a Date trope by explicitly calling it such), at the end she reveals (to the readers, but not to him) that the only thing she wanted was to see him smile. This casts a lot of her actions during the early chapters into this light, strongly implying that she tried to act childish and dumber than she actually was just because she was trying to snap him out of his Perpetual Frowner state.
- Tank Girl has a Les Yay example. Tank Girl and Jet Girl are in prison. Jet Girl has been very serious in Tank Girl's company up to now.
Jet Girl: You don't understand. The better you behave, the more they leave you alone. And the more they leave you alone, the better off you are.
Tank Girl: Well, that's a bore! There's nothin' to be scared of. You just gotta think about it like the first time you got laid. You just gotta go: "Daddy, are you sure this is right?"
Jet Girl: (giggles) You're sick.
- Non-romantic example in an Archie Comics comic — Reggie has taken up prop comedy but can't get as much as a smile from Jughead. He determinedly ups the game as his pride is at stake. When he falls hard on his butt Jughead smirks, and Reggie knows what he has to do - he kicks Big Moose in the butt and waits for the fireworks. At the end, he's toothless but happy as Jughead rolls in convulsive laughter.
- Gender-flipped variation, Jubilee has a habit of making this her mission in life, first towards the time-traveling X-Man Bishop and later towards X-23.
- A Thimble Theater comic had a guy falling on a vase and getting his nose stuck in it. A rich man laughs at the sight and takes him home to show his wife, whom he could never get to laugh. She doesn't see anything funny and the husband sadly breaks the vase off. She sees his nose and breaks up laughing.
- The Firefly Fan Fic Simply Perfectest suggests this happened between Wash and Zoe before they were Happily Married:
If he can't make her laugh, how will she know he can make her happy?
- The Petriculture Cycle: Pandelirium uses this as the basis for an Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Celestia and Luna agree to give Discord (who at the time is unreformed and unrepentant) complete, unrestricted freedom if he can make the dour Penumbra laugh. Secretly, it's supposed to be a crash-course in empathy for Discord. Penumbra has a very particular sense of humor, so the only way Discord will win the game is if he stops thinking about himself and considers what Penumbra likes.
- Get Out Your Handkerchiefs: Raoul takes the radical measure of finding his wife Solange another lover in an effort to cure her perpetual depression and listlessness. It doesn't really work until she begins another extremely inappropriate relationship with a teenaged boy.
- In the 1939 romantic comedy Ninotchka, the title character, a humourless Soviet official sent to sell the czar's jewels now in Paris, meets Count Leon, who's been dispatched to retrieve the jewels for their current owner. In one scene, he attempts to win her over in a restaurant by making her laugh but fails. Then he has an accidental pratfall and she cracks up for the first time in her life.
- A Norwegian folk tale involves a king who offers his daughter's hand to anyone who can make the all-too-serious girl laugh. A peasant boy is nice to one of those ubiquitous old ladies, and is rewarded with a goose that can trap anyone who touches it (or touches anything already trapped) if he says "Hang on if you want to come along!" He uses it to catch the entire palace staff, and the princess falls over laughing when she sees it.
- A similar plot device also shows up in the Grimm Brothers fairy tale The Golden Goose.
- A similar tale tells of a girl who would die if she didn't get to smile. The hero unwittingly helps remedy that, and the King tells him that he can marry her.
- In Aboriginal Australian Myths, a giant frog named Tiddalik drank up all the rivers and lakes. The other animals tried to get him to laugh and spill the water, unsuccessfully, until Tiddalik saw the eel desperately searching for water and laughed at him, releasing it.
- Star Trek: Voyager has an interesting take on this: (male) Neelix tries to make the (male) Vulcan, Tuvok, laugh.
- Zoey 101 One episode has Michael determined to get Quinn to laugh at one of his jokes. The only problem is, she doesn't find his jokes funny at all. In the end, she ends up laughing at a pun he makes just to shut him up.
- Faerie Tale Theatre has the episode "The Princess Who Had Never Laughed," based on a variation of the Norwegian folk tale above: Howie Mandell plays the peasant, who gets the princess to laugh by pointing out the sheer ridiculousness of the people she sees every day of her life, with the punchline, "And she says 'Bring me someone who can make me laugh.'"
- Saturday Night Live: Jon Lovitz plays Howie Mandell in a game show sketch, "Make Joan Baez Laugh." The setup is that Baez, as Nora Dunn portrays her, is so despondent over the world's injustices that the show has run for nine seasons without anyone succeeding at making her so much as smile. Until, that is, Mandell sticks a rubber glove over his face and inflates it with his nose. Baez does a Spit Take and finally laughs.
- In Today's Special, the cast devotes an entire episode to making Sam's friend Sourpuss Sal smile, since she hasn't smiled in 20 years.
- An episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine sees Boyle trying to coax a smile out of Rosa for a Christmas photo. He manages it in the end, but only by taking a bullet for her.
- She's not exactly the Emotionless Girl (at least, certainly not when compared to Diaz), but it's frequently made pretty clear that most of Peralta's immaturity around the very strait-laced Santiago is intended to provoke this kind of reaction from her.
- The whole premise behind the Game Show Make Me Laugh, which aired in the late-1950s, 1970s/80s, and 1990s. Stand-up comedians were given one minute to perform routines for a contestant to try and make them laugh; the contestant wins money for each second they make it through without laughing.
- A theoretically platonic example from Castlevania: Judgment: Grant occasionally makes it his goal to get an emotional reaction out of Alucard.
- Dragon Quest IV: A King will only give a special piece of equipment needed to defeat the Big Bad to someone who can make him laugh. ("For the good of the kingdom.") Your party hires a comedian and everything, only for the comedian to scold the king because your party is trying to save the world and nobody will ever laugh again if they don't. And it works!
- Elite Beat Agents: Leo's episode is about his efforts to get the Emotionless Girl Lisa to smile, and thus inspire artwork. In the good ending, the "special tunnel" finally does the trick.
- Valkyria Chronicles: Ted Ustinov tried to do this with Marina Wulfstan, but he failed at it even after the war. She's just really like that.
- Mass Effect: A variant of this occurs between Garrus and fem Shepard in the trilogy, and is amplified if you pursue his romance path. While some of his remarks stem from being genuinely socially awkward, a good deal of his dorky actions and dialogue with fem Shepard are made of this trope. There is also a more meaningful component to this: regardless of your relationship with him, he will do anything in his power to keep either Shepard happy, encouraged, and emotionally stable during the increasingly hopeless genocidal alien invasion.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses: In the A support between Raphael and Marianne, Raphael admits that he wishes he could figure out how to get Marianne to speak with him cheerfully and openly, the way she speaks to animals. He then tries making bird chirps to help and is surprised and delighted when this makes her laugh.
Raphael: What if I try this? Cheep cheep, chirree-chir-chidoo!Marianne: What the? Hahaha!Raphael: Whoa! I've never heard you laugh before! I should've talked to you in birdese sooner!
- Fate/stay night gender inverted. Tohsaka realizes that she never sees Shirou laugh and that he rarely smiles. It makes her mad because while he likes making others happy he never actually enjoys himself. Ayako also notes this early on. Tohsaka decides they'll take a day off to make him enjoy himself. With good reason, because as a person who never lives for himself, after he turns into Archer he becomes bitterly resentful of his life. She likes Archer, but doesn't want Shirou to become like him.
- In Kanon, Yuichi often does this to Mai, claiming that getting any kind of reaction from her at all is like winning a medal.
- In Voices from the Sea, the plot is that Maris is determined to make the lonely player character Cantus smile within the next seven days.
- The premise of Grrl Power is the utterly unsuited Sydney Scolville being admitted to a tight-knit group of superpowered humans despite her being unsuited for this in nearly every way possible - except for the fact she has stumbled upon superpowers practically by accident. The erratic, nerdish, and hypermanic Sydney is placed under Mildly Military discipline in an attempt to get her to conform to the norms of her new group and to get her to accept a degree of training and supervision. Her relationship with her superior, the austere and serious Colonel Maxima, appears to revolve around this trope. Maxima is outwardly disapproving but appears to be quite fond of her new recruit to the Archon force.
- Teen Titans has a platonic example with Beast Boy and Raven. It turns out in the prequel episode "Go!" that he got her to laugh during their first meeting, and he's been trying to replicate that ever since. He's succeeded three times: said prequel episode, an encounter with her "happy side" during a Journey to the Center of the Mind episode, and when he had a cold and lost control of his powers every time he sneezed. Notably, her happy side told Beast Boy that she always finds his jokes funny; her mildly irritated, Deadpan Snarker reactions to his jokes may be more about maintaining her emotional reserve than being genuinely annoyed.
- Beetlejuice: Lydia Deetz is asked why she likes Beetlejuice in the debut episode "Critter Sitters." Her answer: "He makes me laugh."
- Ancient China: One of the last emperors of Zhou had a concubine who didn't like to smile. He discovered, quite by accident, that Crying Wolf by sending fake Epic Hails so his troops would mobilize, caused her to laugh. So he kept doing it. Of course, by the time real barbarians decided to sweep in, the disgruntled troops told the emperor to go pound sand. Capital sacked, emperor killed, concubine carried off into captivity.
- In 1907, a New York theater offered a "performance" by Sober Sue, a woman who allegedly never laughed. A cash prize was offered to anyone who could get her to do so; many of the city's best comedians made the attempt but in vain. It's known that this was set up by her manager as a way to trick comedians into performing for free, and strongly suspected that Sue's facial muscles were paralyzed in a way that guaranteed she couldn't laugh or smile.