Follow TV Tropes


Played for Laughs
aka: Hilarity Ensued

Go To

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.


    open/close all folders 

    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.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 
  • Hercules: The film mostly makes fun of the mythology.
  • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo: What Raven and Beast Boy are doing reflects a type of comedy that Japan has called Manzai, where there is a serious straight and an irreverent idiot (Boke and Tsukkomi Routine), only it's in an American parody and mockery of the original Japanese Manzai.
  • Turning Red plays Informed Attractiveness for laughs. Devon seems incredibly ordinary, even burnt out and scruffy, but Mei's friends are obsessed with his supposed "hotness". Mei herself doesn't get what her friends see in him, until she finds herself fantasizing about him as well. Priya more or less admits that the reason they like him is because he's there, while legendary hotties like 4*Town are much harder to come by.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Casino Royale (1967) plays its "Everybody Dies" Ending for laughs, by immediately following it with a Fluffy Cloud Heaven Ending.
  • The most famous example is probably Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and how it plays The End of the World as We Know It as a farcical Black Comedy.
  • Back to the Future features a teenage boy meeting his young mother through Time Travel and her rather forwardly coming on to him, which it plays mostly for laughs. Thankfully, she sees him more like a brother before things go too far.
  • The Empire Strikes Back. Han and Chewie's attempts to repair the Falcon provide some comedy in an otherwise very serious movie. They may be great pilots, but they are mediocre mechanics at best. This includes an onscreen D.I.Y. Disaster where Han tells Chewie to power up a system that Han just repaired, and it proceeds to blow up in Han's face, causing him to frantically shout for Chewie to turn it off.
  • Four Lions, a farcical black comedy about five Muslim suicide bombers and their ultimately successful quest to blow themselves and other people up in the most pointless ways possible.
  • Pain & Gain is a film about one of the grisliest crime sprees in the history of the city of Miami. You wouldn't expect such a film to be a comedy until you realize that the main characters' incompetence at crime is what drives the film's plot.
  • To Be or Not to Be features Jack Benny and Carole Lombard in her last film. It's a comedy about Hitler's invasion of Poland.


    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.


    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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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?

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