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Played for Laughs

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If something is played for laughs, it means it is being used with the intention to be comedic. It is often a parody of the instances where said device or trope is used seriously. Sometimes involves Lampshade Hanging on a particular trope.

Contrast Played for Drama and Played for Horror; sometimes, the only difference between one trope and another is that one is played for laughs, while the other is played for drama.

Can sometimes result in it becoming Harsher in Hindsight down the line. And of course, can result more immediately in Dude, Not Funny!. Also compare Black Comedy. Not to be confused with Parodied Trope (when that trope isn't played straight).

Important: A Complete Monster's heinous actions can never be played for laughs, since one of the requirements for the character to qualify is their crimes must be taken seriously by the narrative. Even if the character does realistically dark things, if they are still treated as jokes in the narrative, then they can't be taken seriously by the audience. A Laughably Evil villain can still be one, but their actions must be Played for Horror and taken seriously.


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  • Ballroom Blitz is turned humorous in a Super Bowl Special ad celebrating 100 years of the National Football League. It starts with a stodgy, dignified celebration with tuxedo-wearing players listening to the commissioner's speech while a huge cake, topped with a golden football, is wheeled in. The cake comes just out of reach of Marshawn Lynch, a (now retired) running back known for his Sweet Tooth. Lynch makes a grab for the cake, causing the football to tumble to the floor. This sets off a Pavlovian reaction among the current and former players who immediately make a dive for it. A crazed and very messy pick up game of football follows with Shout Outs to everything from Tom Brady's collection of Super Bowl rings to Peyton Manning's tendency for injuries to an improbable catch known as the "Immaculate reception." Meanwhile the three old men from the 1972 Dolphins (the only undefeated team in Super Bowl history) are sipping champagne and laughing at the show.

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Training from Hell is played for humor in Volume 2 of Scott Pilgrim. Before Scott goes to fight Lucas Lee, he studies up on his moves by watching his movies, and Wallace orders him to do push-ups on the floor, all while Wallace himself sits in an armchair playing video games.
  • X-Men:
    Mercenary A: I hate this! I'm a trained mercenary! I know 64 ways to kill a guy with a spoon and I'm stuck guarding an electric generator.
    Mercenary B: D'you mean you can kill a guy who has a spoon — or that you can kill a guy with your own personal spoon?
    [Three pages later, after Iceman has dropped a huge slab of ice on them...]
    Mercenary A: Must... reach... spoon.

    Fan Works 
  • In Curse of the DualShock, most examples of Breaking the Fourth Wall are this trope.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the entire concept of the fic is played for laughs, as a parody of the professionalism expected from a historical essay.
    • Most of the Lemony Narrator's logic and pride are played for laughs. However, as the story continues, it seems as though even certain elements of Equestrian history are naturally funny as well, and as such, invoke this trope too.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Germany and Japan hysterically bowing and begging for forgiveness after repeatedly tugging and yanking on Italy's curl is this.
  • The MLP Loops plays more than one Superpowered Evil Side for humor. In canon, Luna went Drunk on the Dark Side, rebelled against her sister Celestia, and was banished to the moon for a thousand years. Whenever a Looper ascends to alicorn for the first time, soon after there will be a "sisters loop" where the new alicorn takes the place of Luna, with Twilight taking the place of Celestia. No matter how hard they try, the first time they experience such a loop the new alicorn will go Drunk with Power and have to be banished to the moon. Of course, this being Equestria, a lot of these dark sides are more than a little silly. Examples include "Hard Truth" (Applejack becomes obsessed with the entire country growing apples), "Danger Dash" (Rainbow Dash performs more and more pranks), "Party Pink" (Pinkie Pie won't stop throwing parties), "Flying Hatred" (Fluttershy suffers dangerous mood swings due to a curse), and "The Fashionista" (Rarity invades griffin lands in an attempt to open up more markets for her dresses).
    Twilight: Congratulations on joining the alicorn club, it helps if you've thought of your evil self beforehand.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Beware of Chicken is a light-hearted, comedic Deconstruction of Wuxia and Xianxia novels, Isekai Power Fantasies, and Slow Life Fantasies. What if someone transported into a fantastic world with incredible powers decided they'd rather not get involved, and instead tried to find the most remote, isolated place possible to start a farm? And what if the farm animals start treating things as seriously as the normal protagonists of this kind of story?
  • Discworld novels are often heavy on these in general and sometimes entirely based on this trope. Or umm, these tropes.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy plays a Crapsack World for laughs but mostly glosses over it.
  • An Unreliable Voiceover is used comically in Tricky Business. The news station is trying to make out the storm hitting Miami as the Big One, but fail miserably, like when the reporter is telling the camera that people should stay out of the water as two dude jog up behind her, wave at the camera, and then go for a swim. The storm did cause a few deaths, however... but they were all from the news station.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Addams Family plays a Nightmarish Nursery for humor with Wednesday and Pugsley's play room, which features torture racks, guillotines, an electric chair, and other gruesome decorations. This being the Addamses, this is all seen as quite normal and the children have great fun with their macabre toys. Other people visiting the house not so much...
  • Angie Tribeca, as a parody of police procedurals, lives on this trope.
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie
    • Privately Owned Society is used for comedy in the sketch "The Privatization of the Police Force". They won't do anything about your stolen car unless you purchase a plan.
    • Disappeared Dad is played for laughs in one sketch. The duo play two very dense, inept detectives who break into the wrong house looking for a man. After confronting the woman who lives there they demand to see her husband, but she's not married. It transpires the only male there is her infant son (played by Hugh Laurie's real son). They are comically unable to grasp the idea that you can have a child without a husband, while the woman explains the father was "a sailor", and apparently is not around.
  • Blackadder, particularly Blackadder Goes Forth, likewise (except in the finale).
  • Community:
    • The Black Widow trope gets played for comedy. During the absurdly serious paintball game in "Modern Warfare," Jeff and Britta have sex. She immediately turns on him (though they get interrupted before she can "kill" him) so that she can win the game. She insists that she didn't sleep with him to kill him, she slept with him, and now, unrelated, she is going to kill him. He notes that it's suspicious how skilled she is at putting on her panties with one hand while holding a gun in the other.
  • A Season 1 episode of How I Met Your Mother which detailed Barney's Start of Darkness. All played for laughs, ending with an Ignored Epiphany for the cherry on top.
  • Ambiguous Syntax is used for a joke in an episode of The Mentalist. Rigsby, whose girlfriend is pregnant with his child at the time, ends up in an elevator with a crying baby.
    Van Pelt: That'll be you soon.
    Rigsby: No, no. I can cry much louder than that.
  • Forgetful Jones from Sesame Street is played purely for comedic value (and has a trope named for him). He hasn't been seen in new episodes that much since the 90s, likely because of research about Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease (and some of those kids being taken care of by grandparents with those afflictions) coming in. His puppeteer's death in 1992 probably also factored into his disappearance.
  • Much of the humor in Victorious comes from jokes that imply mental instability, death, parental abandonment, etc.

  • The Ninja Sex Party's song "Welcome to my Parents' House" is a comedic take on the Basement Dweller trope. A still-at-home Danny tries to make his parents' house sound like the sickest crash pad ever to his date. (Free pizza rolls! Can you believe it?) Interestingly, in the music video, his date is only briefly surprised, then just rolls with it.

    Video Games 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Games Workshop once released a list via White Dwarf depicting the Movie Marines, or essentially allowing you to play Space Marines at fluff power levels. The fact that you could buy every Marine in the list a Stunt Double makes it pretty clear the thing was written with tongue firmly in cheek (the Movie Marines were Purposefully Overpowered, and explicitly only to be used in friendly games).

  • Little Shop of Horrors does this with man-eating Plant Aliens and sadistic dentists.
  • The Mikado does this with all manner of bloodthirstiness, despite being a light romantic comedy, including, for example, a song ("The Criminal Cried as He Dropped Him Down") in which the chorus goes:
    As the sabre true
    Cut cleanly through
    His cervical vertebrae
    His vertebrae!
  • Depending on your interpretation (not to mention the director's), Titus Andronicus might be played this way, with murder, genocide, rape, infidelity and cannibalism Played for Laughs.

  • Cthulhu Slippers does this with the end of the world, horrible deaths, Black Magic and pretty much the entire Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Penny Arcade plays both Tycho and Gabe's psychotic moments for laughs, even if death and destruction follows.
  • Sexy Losers: Ashes to Crashes is used as part of a (very NSFW) joke. The nymphomaniac mother kills her son's girlfriend via sexual exhaustion. She attends the funeral. The urn the girlfriend's ashes are in is vaguely phallic. The mother tries using it as a dildo, and it breaks... She complains about that being the second time that's happened...

    Web Original 

    Web Video 
  • Danny Gonzalez
    • Suspiciously Specific Denial is played for humor in "The Weird Side of Amazon 2". Danny comes across a hoodie that repeatedly reminds the customer that the hoodie is made of cotton. He responds to it with an exaggerated portrayal of the manufacturer getting more and more nervous and insistent about what the hoodie is made of and that they know what cotton is, accompanied with a slow zoom-in on his face. Then he says:
    It's made of cotton, alright? And not my own hair. I did not use my own hair to make these hoodies, it's made of breathable cotton.
  • The Guild
    • Zaboo's Stalker with a Crush behavior would be horrifically creepy in Real Life, but on the show it's over-the-top funny (to everyone except Codex, the target of his affections, but even she stops being creeped out and is instead mostly just annoyed by it).
    • Likewise, Clara's extreme Parental Neglect is portrayed as an amusing part of her wacky personality.
  • Bad "Bad Acting" is played for laughs all the time in Third Rate Gamer. His idea of "looking irate" equals puffing his cheeks full of air.
    Well fine! I don't need you, I'll just do this review by my... *looks at script* self!
  • The infamous "Yelling At Cats" video is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

    Western Animation 
  • Invader Zim does this to the old chestnut of an alien coming to infiltrate society. Even the Nightmare Fueled "Dark Harvest" gets some Black Comedy out of Organ Theft by having Zim replace the other students' organs with increasingly bizarre random objects.
  • In the season 1 finale of The Owl House, Luz and King get themselves purposefully arrested for stepping on "Don't step on the grass" grass.
  • The infamous Lucy-pulling-the-football-away-from-Charlie-Brown gag in the Peanuts series.
  • KaBlam!: Billy from "The Off-Beats", The Running Gag in the series usually involved Billy saying something that would get Tina mad, and then the Populars would throw him out of the group, causing Billy to crash into something.
  • A Robot Chicken Alien sketch entails an individual Xenomorph's acid melting through multiple floors, resulting in it fallling through several stories before hitting the pavment, exaggerating Hollywood Acid.
  • Solar Opposites plays Narrator All Along for laughs in the intro. As if it wasn't obvious by the time the intro happens Korvo is the one narrating. He even lampshades it just before the Couch Gag.
    Korvo: We crashed on Earth, stranding us, on an already overpopulated planet. That's right, I've been talking this whole time! I'm the one holding the Pupa. My name's Korvo. This is-this is my show. I just dropped the Pupa. Do you see me?
  • Sonic Boom:
    • Wish Upon a Shooting Star is played for humor when a meteor shower falls in the town and destroys everything, and Amy remembers a particular fun fact about meteors.
    Amy: Meteors are shooting stars! We shouldn't be running, we should be making wishes! I wish for a pony.
    Sonic: And I wish you'd take cover. (grabs her by the wrist and runs for cover)
    Amy: How come your wish came true?
  • Teen Titans in the episode "Fear Itself". Beast Boy, being an aficionado of horror movies, spends most of the episode (until he's caught) telling everyone not to split up as the monster always gets his targets easier that way, and that he, the funny guy, will inevitably be taken first. He ends up being right. Of course he does; the monster chasing them is being conjured by Raven's unconscious overflowing powers, and her subconscious is working off the ideas Beast Boy is feeding it

Alternative Title(s): Hilarity Ensued, Played For Comedy, Hijinx Ensue, Hilarity Ensues