With the Siamese twins and the transvestite
Five days since that awful brawl
They still haven't gotten the blood off the wall
It's been three days since the bitter feud
between the KKK and that gay Jewish black dude..."
A partially or wholly unscripted show with real people, where the idea is to point, laugh, and say, "Damn, those people are stupid/crazy/losers/trashy/jerks!" Everybody in the cast is either a moron, a Jerkass, insane, ratchet, trailer-trash, or all of the above. The audience sees these people humiliate themselves in public, and is comforted that no matter how messed up their own lives may be, at least they have more sense than these fools.
With these shows, the single most important job is that of casting director. The host doesn't need to do much; just wait for the cast of losers to show up, sit back, and enjoy the comedy. The art of casting them reached its heights (or depths) in three genres: Talk Shows, Reality Television, and Game Shows. The final element is putting the cast under as much stress as possible (hostile studio audiences for the talk show, cramped conditions and hunger for Reality Television, and seizure-inducing sets for the Game Show) so they really crack up.
Since these are real people involved in unscripted pain, there are people who can't help but sympathize with them. This is often rebutted with the claim that because they're "dumb enough" to have it filmed, they deserve to be laughed at, even though they are all essentially events that the victim could not have predicted. At times it's not even a valid excuse. Some of these shows intentionally use false names when filming their subjects.
A variant of the Point and Laugh Show is found in books and the Internet. Instead of rounding up losers as the television shows do, the variant uses the far more efficient technique of listing anecdotes of losers who have yet to appear on TV.
These are almost always Guilty Pleasures, appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator, and usually use Bigot vs. Bigot. Compare Sadist Show and Immoral Reality Show, as well as Freak Show. See also The Freelance Shame Squad, when bystanders laugh at a character's misfortunes In-Universe.
- The Trope Codifier of the Point and Laugh Show, and probably the best known example, is Jerry Springer. While the show initially took a serious approach, with episodes that dealt with serious issues and politics (one notable episode seeing Jerry spend a night with a teenager who was living on the streets), it turned into this trope around the mid-1990s or so. Bring on the cross-dressing dog fetishists. Bring on the albino midgets. Bring on the homicidal glue-sniffing trailer trash. Bring on the homicidal glue-sniffing cross-dressing albino midget dog fetishist trailer trash. It's an old-school circus sideshow freak attraction for the new millennium.
- Springer goes the extra mile and has the audience mock the people on stage, in addition to Jerry's own Deadpan Snarker lines.
- The Steve Wilkos Show is a tad saner, replacing the sideshow freaks with drug addicts, deadbeat parents, and domestic abusers. It still fits well within this, of course. It's also a "point and watch while an intimidating bald guy tears jerks a new one show".
- Phil Donahue may be the Trope Maker. He started out more high-minded (for that matter, so did Jerry) but switched to a Point and Laugh Show with time.
- Morton Downey Jr. pioneered the trash-talk format. His show was famous for the shouting matches that Downey and his guests often got into with each other, and for Downey's trademark move of blowing cigarette smoke into the faces of guests he didn't like in order to shut them up.
- Laura Bozzo in Peru, and now in Mexico, makes Jerry Springer look like a prude. Any of the reincarnations of her show is essentially this. Of special mention is her show Laura en América.
- Subverted by Sally Jesse Raphael. While she did delve into some of the usual daytime talk show fodder, her Subculture of the Week episodes actually treated the guests in a respectful manner. For example, episodes that featured drag queens and transgender/intersex people actually had them talk about their lives, rather than the usual "Your girlfriend has a secret..." or "Is this a man or a woman?" storylines that other shows used. For this reason, Sally developed an LGBT Fanbase that many of these shows lacked.
- Montel Williams, although for years he was much more high concept and focused more on helping people.
- Ricki Lake. This even gets referenced in The Offspring song "Pretty Fly For a White Guy" in the chorus with "if you don't rate/just overcompensate/at least you know you can always go on Ricki Lake."
- Bill Cunningham
- Cristina Saralegui's show El Show de Cristina, although it cooled down with time.
- Maury Povich (who also started out more high-minded, but chased the Lowest Common Denominator fast).
- In Brazil, Carlos Massa, aka Ratinho. The best known feature of his show is even a DNA test like the above mentioned Maury, where if the result is positive the mother is prone to celebrate by going ballistic.
- Jenny Jones started off fairly normal like Jerry Springer was in the early days and had more or less the same format as Oprah for the first two seasons, but declining ratings led to the show getting a Hotter and Sexier Re-Tool, though nowadays it's mostly remembered as being the only Point and Laugh Show that led to one guest murdering another one later.
- Semi-averted with Oprah Winfrey, who also rounds up freaks and somehow manages to seem more classy than her rivals.
- Parodied in the South Park episode "Freak Strike", where the genetic freaks demand that talk shows display freaks who are actually true, genetic freaks, and not "just stupid trailer-trash from the South".
- Brits may be more familiar with Vanessa Feltz, Trisha Goddard and, most notoriously, The Jeremy Kyle Show.
- Dr. Phil will frequently bring in guests who have no serious problems, just to gawk and criticize their lifestyle, like men who have many piercings and body modifications, or plural marriages.
- The French show C'est mon choix ("It's my choice") was the same kind of thing.
- Britain's less than stellar version is the daytime The Jeremy Kyle Show, where people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are in no way Genre Savvy, and frequently intoxicated, get to play out their conflicts with the acerbic Jeremy refereeing. It was once memorably described by a judge as "human bear-baiting".
- The Doctor Who Big Finish audio Peri and the Piscon Paradox has an older version of Peri (the story features a younger Peri who is traveling with the Fifth Doctor and an older Peri who has long since left the TARDIS) hosting one of these shows, where celebrity couples talk about their relationship in front of a studio audience.
- The Real World is the Trope Maker for this sub-genre of the Point and Laugh Show. Cram Bigot Vs. Bigot into cramped space until they're ready to kill each other, and you're good to go. Curiously, in its early seasons The Real World was a much tamer and more optimistic show, based around placing several people of vastly differing cultural backgrounds into a space together and observing what sorts of conflicts emerge, with an underlying message of mutual respect and tolerance. MTV's Network Decay probably contributed to the show's Seasonal Rot.
- Survivor is the Trope Codifier, where the cast are always a group who would never last 10 minutes working in the same office, let alone a real survival situation. One of the keys to the show's success is that the contestants have a strong incentive to keep their most obnoxious teammates around and vote off the decent ones...you want to be up against a bigger jerk than yourself in the finals.
- The more Genre Savvy contestants, having realized what the producers want, send in audition videos that make themselves look bad. Season 3's Kelly claimed that her main hobby was "manipulating men", but she turned out to be a decent person (by Point and Laugh Show standards, anyway). She later explained that she wasn't a manipulative person, but knew that if she lied and said she was, it would get her on the show.
- Big Brother, especially the British version. One reason given for the first American season's failure in the ratings is that the audience, not other contestants, voted people off. As a result, the most obnoxious people were voted out early...and the whole point of the show was killed.
- I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!
- Jersey Shore
- Road Rules
- Any other Bunim-Murray Productions show.
- Chains of Love
- Married by America
- Parodied by the Sadist Show Drawn Together, where the characters frankly aren't much worse than the real people they're parodying.
- Hot or Not?
- The Bachelor
- The Bachelorette
- Joe Millionaire
- A variant is the live-courtroom show. The People's Court tried to be high-minded, but it was eclipsed by Judge Judy and its imitators, where you weren't sure whether the plaintiff or defendant deserved to lose more.
- Divorce Court.
- The truTV show Bait Car - the show's Exactly What It Says on the Tin and treats the audience to people stealing a car that the police deliberately leaves on the street. Once the car is a short distance away, the police turn off the car and arrest the thieves. Hilarity Ensues when said suspects lie or give a painfully straight answer about why they stole the car.
Police Officer: Why did you steal the car?Car Thief: I was gonna go get me some bitches, man.
- Also in the "not-quite entrapment" genre of true crime shows is To Catch a Predator, except here, we point and laugh at (and be morally outraged by) paedophiles.
Charlie Brooker: Despite the subject matter, I'm have little doubt that the whole thing is surreptitiously played for laughs.
- Wife Swap, though it went into some dark territory when Christopher Childs showed up.
- Supernanny has this sometimes, with parents who are Extreme Doormats and let their children hit and slap them, and parents who are the opposite and punish their children so much that it doesn't mean anything anymore.
- Inverted unexpectedly in The Joe Schmo Show's first season, when the Joe turned out to be such a genuinely nice guy that the producers decided that they would essentially turn the concept on its head two episodes into production. It had started out as a "How much can we humiliate this guy who thinks he's on a standard house-bound reality show" show, with all but one person being actors and pretty much every Reality trope ever being brought into play. It turned into "How many Housebound-Reality tropes can we throw at this guy before he becomes Genre Savvy?". The second season was more of a mixed bag. One of the schmoes caught on and had to be replaced, and in general, people felt that neither of the other two were as likeable as Matt. Despite this, the producers still tried to portray them in a positive light and succeeded to some degree, with Amanda noting in an interview that she wanted money, but not at the expense of hurting someone else, and Tim coming across as a happy-go-lucky guy who could be quite tender at times.
- Hell's Kitchen falls into this during the later seasons as many of the contestants seem to be either incredibly stupid, obnoxious, or a combination of both. Hell's Kitchen tends to be a point-and-laugh show right up until about halfway in or sometimes a bit longer depending on the number of chefs that are just about drama. Once those chefs are given the heave, things get down to serious business. Usually, this can be identified by when Chef Ramsay awards the black jackets and combines everybody together, making it a purely individual competition, instead of a team one. (Though they still have to work together as a team to run dinner service.)
- Most of TLC's current lineup seems to be this, which also spreads onto other channels like Discovery Life. My Strange Addiction and My Crazy Obsession are both shows on that channel, along with specials about extremely overweight people and extreme couponers. My Strange Addiction is especially controversial for lumping harmless quirks and (with their cosplay and lolita fashion episodes) perfectly ordinary people in with those who do stupid, unsanitary, or otherwise dangerous things, with little if any distinction between the two. When the show features harmless subcultures, the people being interviewed are never told exactly what kind of show they are going to be on. Despite being mostly reenactments, Sex Sent Me To The ER can be seen as falling into this category. While the show does have a real cautionary tale behind most stories, the main appeal of the show is the humor to be found in people landing themselves in painful and awkward situations during sex. Untold Stories of the E.R. is also a similar show based around reenactments that is more often laughable than educational or sympathetic.
- Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
- America's Funniest Home Videos, but since the videos are expressly submitted by the families who filmed them it's only in good fun (possibly the only optimistic take on this trope).
- Canada's Worst Driver does have serious intentions for trying to make bad drivers somewhat better, but most of the time it is played for laughs (especially when you see the infamous Water Tank Challenge). Considering all of the other X's Worst Driver shows are specifically point-and-laugh shows (America's Worst Driver, for example, took bad drivers, put them through time trial obstacle courses requiring extreme precision, and then blew up the worst driver's car), this one stands out for its educational angle.
- Cops shows, well, cops dealing with people so imbecilic that it's a wonder they haven't died in freak nail clipper accidents; and people whose emotional control is one step removed from "poo-flinging monkey".
- World's Wildest Police Chases and its brethren are what happens when the Cops subjects described above get hold of a multi-thousand-pound automobile.
- Penn & Teller: Bullshit! can often serve this purpose in its (sometimes questionably argued) deconstruction of... well, proponents and practitioners of Bullshit.
- My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, to the point where the producers were sued for libel by the Roma families appearing on it because they'd employed some rather selective editing to boost ratings.
- I Wanna Marry "Harry", a Bachelor-esque dating show in which twelve women are led to believe they're vying for the affections of Prince Harry. The truth is that he's just an average Joe who sort of looks like the prince, but most of the women fall for it hook, line, and sinker.
- The Spanish court room show Caso Cerrado with Ana Maria Polo often falls into this, though a difference is made between people with "alternative lifestyles" and people that the show considers Acceptable Targets (like people who are outright bad, neglectful, abusive, or criminal).
- Dragon's Den and its international variants can be this on occasion when somebody is allowed to present that obviously is never going to get a deal with the animals. It's fairly clear that there's a large amount of people who want to pitch and only certain ones are allowed on after a fairly strict screening process. However, sometimes they just allow on a pitch that obviously is never going to go through - i.e. ridiculous valuation asked for plus insane concept, simply so that viewers can get their giggles.
- Catfish: The TV Show has shades of this. It's split between feeling bad for the one being catfished, laughing at them missing obvious signs of catfishing, and either hating or laughing at the catfisher.
- Parking Wars is a show about American parking enforcement officers. Almost every encounter is some level of humorous, often times either making fun at people being angry for getting tickets or at their obvious violations.
- The Trope Maker here is probably The Gong Show, which debuted in 1976. A horde of Hopeless Auditionees made fools of themselves until they were gonged out by a panel of celebrities. It's hard to say whether the celebrities or the Hopeless Auditionees look worse. The more Genre Savvy auditionees did novelty acts instead of acts that required talent.
- A similar, more recent version was 30 Seconds to Fame, where the Hopeless Auditionees had to survive 30 seconds without getting voted off the stage by the audience.
- American Idol may be the Trope Codifier. The Hopeless Auditionees are often more popular than the ones with actual talent, and the early episodes that show pre-screenings are some of the biggest draws. The producers have long since realized that they get their best ratings by lying to the real hopeless cases, letting them think they're good, and sending them all the way to Simon Cowell. Among the fans, votefortheworst.com tries to get the Hopeless Auditionees as far as they can go. Or, at least, that's how it was. They eventually revamped the show entirely, cutting out most, if not all, of the hopeless audition stuff and Vote for the Worst was eventually discontinued entirely.
- Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Generally, the answer's no, but considering how many people are going to remember gradeschool trivia (assuming the subject was even taught in their school), it's definitely to be expected. But then, the contestants know what they're getting into. The idea of the show is "come for the point-and-laugh, stay for a not-Jeopardy-hard trivia show that avoids pop culture and news questions (and, yes, has the odd contestant that you can point and laugh at)." The lifelines also push the point-and-laugh concept, since they all involve the contestant being saved from walking home empty-handed by copying or peeking at a fifth-grader's answer.
- The Blame Game (I've Got a Secret meets Judge Judy and Jerry Springer for coffee)
- The Chair
- Dog Eat Dog
- Estate of Panic
- Fear Factor
- Remote Control
- Street Smarts
- Strip Poker
- Although Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune are not strictly part of this genre, there is a large sub-fandom who enjoys the show because they can feel superior to the losers who punt the easiest questions. Dave Barry pointed out that while he knew the lights and noise distract you, he was sure he'd never mess up as badly...until he appeared on Wheel of Fortune himself, and found himself a deer in the (literal) headlights.
- There is also a sub-fandom who aren't really a fandom, so much as a Hatedom for particularly smart and smug contestants who always win. Ken Jennings, who had the biggest winning streak in Jeopardy! history, got the biggest Hatedom of them all.
- The recurring Saturday Night Live skit "Celebrity Jeopardy!" is essentially a fictional version of this.
- Family Feud, especially the Steve Harvey era, would fall into this pseudo-category, as well. Many people on the show tend to say stupid or embarrassing things, and Steve doesn't hesitate to mock them for it. It's notable that the show has taken a strong turn towards questions with rather lowbrow and raunchy connotations while frequently picking religiously-affiliated contestants (preachers, youth ministers, etc.), presumably to set up awkward situations for cheap laughs and buzz on social media.
- This is 90% of Repo Games' raison d'etre. Perhaps a few people watch it for the trivia, but the real draw is seeing poor people in awful neighborhoods get the $20,000 cars they haven't made a payment on towed away because they don't know basic trivia. Who the awful person is in this scenario is up to you.
- It doesn't help that the questions vary wildly, ranging from "What is the capital of Mexico?" note to "Who was the billionaire 3rd-party candidate in the 1992 presidential election?" note
- Takeshi's Castle could be considered one as it is no stranger to flunking contestants out hilariously, but its American dub MXC is definitely one, adding two commentators who have no qualms about mocking people who fail at the show's challenges and giving contestants amusing dialogue.
- Wipeout. A mild example, as the humor is derived from slapstick and all the contestants know perfectly well that they can expect some pratfalls. So while the laughs are on them, it's quite good-natured. (And in fact, sometimes if you find an episode on YouTube, you may see the contestant on there saying how fun the course was or how funny their Pratfalls are.)
- Silent Library: A double example in that you get to laugh at both the poor schmuck who gets roped into doing humiliating stunts, and his friends who watch him as they try their darndest not to laugh at his plight (laugh too loud or too much and you get no money!)
- Russian Roulette, a game show on GSN in which contestants stood on a circular trapdoor on the floor and in which a wrong answer would force them to play Russian Roulette with a chance for it to open up and them to drop out of the game. Being liked wasn't enough to keep the studio audience from shouting "Drop, drop, drop, drop!" as watching this was in large part what they had come there for.
- Nailed It!: Another mostly good-natured example. The show deliberately chooses amateur bakers and challenges them to recreate professional-level confections, so Failure Is the Only Option. The contestants themselves aren't mocked, but the whole point is to laugh at their lack of baking skills.
- The 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said and its many sequels, by Ross Petras, were Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Petras' series and its many imitators lost much of their reason for being with the rise of the internet, when lists of dumb quotes became freely available to all.
- Similarly, there is a whole genre of pop gonzo history (found in such places as the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series, A Scandalous History of the Roman Emperors, and The Desktop Digest of Despots and Dictators) that consists entirely of "Look how stupid and/or obnoxious this historical figure was!" Like the dumb-quote books, the Internet has been a problem for them.
- This genre may be Older Than Feudalism, as some of the ancient Roman historians (especially Seutonius) delighted in reporting the most petty court gossip they could find and ignoring big policy questions.
- It's also worth noting that most of these books are crammed with fabrications, urban legends, and other lies. The worst are lists of Famous Last Words, which are about 90% fake.
- The book Non Campus Mentus is the most famous of several books that list bad answers on high school students' papers, featuring how Magellan "circumcised the globe" and the famous "Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin that he built with his own two hands."
- This, in turn, is a genre Older Than Radio, starting with the 19th-Century English as She Is Taught, which had students who thought "aborigines" meant a mountain chain in North America. When Mark Twain reviewed it, he quoted the student who thought that "there are many fossils in theology departments" and added that sometimes they do get one right.
- The F in Exams series is perhaps equally well known, with all manner of silly answers found on high school tests (some deliberate, some not) and typos from elementary school students' assignments.
- Whoogles compiles actual searches from Google users, like "Can a dog make a woman pregnant" and "I feel like a pig shat on my head". The book's name is a condensation of "Who googles that?"
- The Darwin Awards series, although many of the lists circulating as "Darwin Award Winners" are false lists containing urban legends. The real lists are here.
- Any one of those circulating e-mail lists of "true stupid things people said" (many of which aren't actually true).
- The polar opposite of these is "That Happened", a subreddit, which points and laughs at people making patently untrue claims of this nature while sarcastically pretending to believe them.
- Reddit is chock-full of these type of subreddits, even including counter-subreddits devoted to pointing and laughing at users from other point-and-laugh subreddits.
- Pretty much the idea behind "Cringe Compilations", along with Bile Fascination.
- Rinkworks.com's "things people say" section is the internet version of Ross Petras, with the exact same quotes.
- Something Awful, Encyclopedia Dramatica, Kiwi Farms, and their ilk feed on this sort of thing. Indeed, this is actually where the former gets its name, pointing and laughing at "something awful" a member finds on the Internet.
- Portal of Evil was a popular website that contained links to the worst sites on the Internet. It closed in 2012.
- Not Always Right
- Now has several spinoffs, most notably Not Always Working (focuses on bosses and co-workers, where the original focuses on customers).
- The developers have since expanded, adding Not Always Learning (focusing on school, college, teachers, and students), Not Always Romantic (focusing on relationships), Not Always Related (focusing on families), and finally Not Always Friendly (focusing on friends and random people you might see on the street). They have also started including many anecdotes about surprisingly nice, rational, and/or otherwise sane customers/coworkers/etc., but their focus is still mostly about stupidity and incompetence.
- Etiquette Hell
- Cake Wrecks
- Funnily enough, one article actually acknowledges how bullshit most people's assumption that they would have done something differently are.
- Deagle Nation was believed be be this for years, but it eventually came out that it was staged.
- The Ig Nobel Prizes are about silly or weird things deduced For Science!, with occasional forays into straight parody (such as the Ig Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the inventor of the Karaoke Box, "thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other"). In their defense, the awards are split about evenly between "Wow, that's stupid!" and "Huh... never thought about looking at it that way", and most of the award-winners are genuinely flattered (said inventor accepted the prize in person).
- PeopleOfWalmart.com used to be this. Now it's "how dare fat people go out in public!" most of the time.
- What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?, which airs live on Monday nights on Radio Dead Air.
- Also has special editions for Halloween ("Hookerween", a collection of allegedly "sexy" costumes that real stores actually sell) and New Year's ("That Doesn't Go There", which is pretty much what you'd expect).
- MSTs are this for Fanfics.
- In a similar vein, Retsupurae to the Sturgeon's Law of Lets Plays, Flash animations/games, Kickstarters, and so on. It should be noted that it doesn't generally get too scathing unless the LPer, Flash animator, or Kickstarter-er is really, really stupid, bad at their job, or a complete jerkass (or all three).
- True Capitalist Radio. The only reason people listen in is to laugh at Ghost raging over the trolls that call him.
- Texts From Last Night, depending on whether you want to look at "good night" or "bad night" texts, will either have you feeling envious that you never go out, or thoroughly, thoroughly relieved.
- White Whine: A Collection of First World Problems, a blog where readers submit screencaps of friends' Facebook or Twitter updates complaining about the most frivolous things that only really apply in the developed world. Examples include "I hate when the air conditioning makes my dinner cold before I finish eating," a multitude of Starbucks mishaps, and the week after Christmas will inevitably feature so many teenagers bitching that they didn't get the right color iPad, you may consider sterilizing yourself.
- The "Between the Lines" episode on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was a mostly sympathetic deconstruction of this trope, which Kyle refers to as "The perverse spectacle of seeing." His conclusion is that these types of shows are essentially the modern equivalent of a freak show.
- Palaeo Fail is basically the dinosaur-themed version of this about Artistic License Paleontology.
- "Ow! My Balls!" in Idiocracy.
- "Town Talk With George" in UHF, a straight parody of Geraldo Rivera's old talk show, complete with an opening of Al Capone's glove box ("Aha! ROAD MAPS!!") and George taking a chair to the face during a brawl.
- "Fame Or Shame" in Grand Theft Auto V is essentially America's Got Talent with an extra helping of this trope. In the main game, Tracey goes and auditions by dancing like a whore, is encouraged on by the host Lazlo, and makes a huge fool of herself. However, Michael and Trevor are there to... er... save the day?
- "Why You Ackin' So Cray-Cray?" from Gravity Falls seems to be this, what with being hosted by a Sassy Black Woman who shoots down dysfunctional guests with the eponymous catch-phrase.
- An episode of The Simpsons had a Show Within a Show called "People Who Look Like Things", in which the host talks to/makes fun of the guests, all of whom have heads shaped like inanimate objects.
Man with Pumpkin-Shaped Head: All we ask is to be treated with dignity and respect.
Host: And a new candle now and then?
Man with Pumpkin-Shaped Head: Yes, and a new ca-NO!