The people pay, and they want to laugh.
And if Harlequin shall steal your Columbina,
laugh, clown, so the crowd will cheer!
Turn your distress and tears into jest,
your pain and sobbing into a funny face Ah!
At your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!"
Often found among troops and superhero teams, the Sad Clown is the wisecracking funnyman who copes with his hopeless position with humor — usually of the groan-inducing kind. He is totally insecure at heart and keeps on running his mouth to fool himself into thinking he's confident or to get people to like him.
In the most tragic cases though, people do actually find them genuinely charming and likeable because of their humor and like being around them. This is usually of little comfort to the Sad Clown, who's insecurities causes them to fear that people only really like the "Clown" part of them, and so they do their damnest to always be the "Clown" in public, but bury and suppress the "Sad" side of them as deeply as possible, because they are afraid that people would like them less if they were to find out about it.
This character tends to make Dude, Not Funny! jokes at inappropriate times to cope.
Often put in more serious series to add some comic relief, while at the same time secretly revealing to the audience that the character is a simmering pot of hidden insecurities and angst, just like everyone else in the cast.
Contrast Non-Ironic Clown. See also Gallows Humor which is often used about a grim subject whenever someone wants to lighten up the mood, Hurting Hero with heroes who suffer and deal with it in various ways, Broken Hero, Inferiority Superiority Complex about people who mask their insecurities by acting self-assured in order to gain confidence, Stepford Smiler who pretend that they are happy with their lives often to themselves first and foremost and don't necessarily use humour, Stepford Snarker who has a lot of similarities but is more usually bitter at others and his remarks are generally more cutting and The Unwitting Comedian.
- An older, calmer, more mentor-like version is Doctor Abel Geiger from Ashita no Nadja. Complete with one of the saddest back stories in the series.
- Bleach has Rangiku Matsumoto. Despite having a funny, care-free nature, she's actually deeply troubled, at least by Gin's behavior. You wouldn't know about her sad past from her attitude today.
- GB (a.k.a. 007) from Cyborg 009. His backstory changes in every animated continuity, and yet none of them are pretty.
- Ebisu from Dorohedoro shows signs of this after getting Chota's hairclip stuck in her brain. In the aftermath of Kai's attack on the En household, Fujita notes that while Ebisu laughed as usual, she actually looked very sad.
- Duo Maxwell from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing tries to be the moodmaker for the Gundam pilots, and is certainly the cheeriest and goofiest of the group. He's also got a particularly tragic past (orphan, lost his best friend to disease because only the rich people got the vaccine, bounced between foster homes before settling in a church with a caring priest and sister, only to lose them to a pointless battle) and refers to himself as "Shinigami", not boasting about his ability to kill enemy pilots but because the specter of Death seems to hover around him at all times.
- A more literal example is Trowa Barton Triton Bloom, who works in a circus as a clown, but is as far from goofy as one can get.
- There's a female one in Hana no Ko Lunlun. Sophia the Norwegian Circus Brat is embarrassed about working as a clown in her family's circus (despite having the talent to do so) and lies to Lunlun about actually being a Cute Monster Girl instead. With Lunlun's help she discovers that it's actually fun to make people laugh.
- Kano from Kagerou Project cracks jokes all the time, laughs at the most inappropriate times, and loves teasing others. Underneath it all is a rather broken and solemn teenager.
- Kaleido Star:
- Rare female example: Anna Heart, a Bifauxnen artist from the Kaleido Stage who wants to be a comedian, but hides how deeply hurt she's been after her father Jack (a.k.a. "Baron Jack") left her and her mother Julia.
- Jack was one of these too. The reason why he left is that he was swindled by his manager, and left home because he couldn't face Julia and Anna as well as the crash of his dreams. And he was getting worse, evolving into a very embittered Stepford Snarker who told cruel jokes that mocked everyone (something he had never done in the past) until Anna got to confront him. Thankfully, they got better.
- Izumi from Martian Successor Nadesico is a one-woman Hurricane of Puns. We never get the full story, but one episode reveals she only became like this after her fiance died in an accident. When she's forced to relive it she nearly turns suicidal. It wasn't even the only boyfriend she'd lost!
- The eponymous character of Naruto is partially this along with being a Trickster. Having grown up as something of a pariah for having the Nine-Tails Fox, he grows up to hate the harsh looks the villagers give him. He turns to being a brash prankster as it's still much less harsh than being viewed as something not meant to exist. He more or less grows out of it, though sometimes it's more that the reasons change.
- Iruka is implied to have been like this, having lost both his parents to the Nine-Tailed Fox. Unlike Naruto, he did not have to deal with being hated, but he acted the way he did to ease his loneliness. He reaches out to Naruto when he realizes they have this in common and becomes Naruto's first father figure.
- One Piece:
- Possibly Luffy, considering the things we've learned about his past in the last few years. After his complete and utter breakdown after Ace's death, it becomes devastatingly clear that underneath his cool, strong Idiot Hero exterior, there's a scared little boy who's terrified that he's too weak to protect his loved ones, and that he's generally nowhere near as innocent, carefree or stupid as he might want you to believe.
- Brook practically runs on this trope, being a walking pun factory on the subject of his supernatural disfigurement. At inappropriate times? You bet. He is also quite the pervert. We discover that he and his crew died in the most dangerous sea before being able to fulfill their promise to return to the friend they left behind. Only Brook's Devil Fruit which allowed him to come back from death just once offered the slightest chance of fulfilling their promise and even then he had to wait 50 years alone before the Strawhats came. After a major loss for the crew leading to a separation arc, he was put on display in a freak show cage for crowds to scream at in disgust. Then he met the "get people to like him" criteria in truly epic fashion. It's good to be the Soul King.
- Luffy's brother Ace is a pretty jovial guy, much like Luffy. And just like Luffy, he's got a lot of hidden insecurities. He spent his entire life thinking that he didn't deserve to be born.
- Break from Pandora Hearts teases everyone merciless, smiles constantly and has a ventriloquist (probably) act going with a doll he keeps on his shoulder. And is as utterly broken as if not more so than anyone else in the main cast.
- Sasame flirts (heh) with this trope in the manga version of Prétear. He's constantly flirting with the main character and teasing the other knights, and at first it seems like he takes NOTHING seriously... but several scenes hint that he's not quite as much of a jokester as it seems. This particularly comes into play when he reveals he was in love with the Big Bad in the past, and you consider what happened to the anime version because of that...
- Beast Boy/Changeling from Teen Titans, in both the comic and the animated series. An Emergency Transformation turned him into a green shapeshifter. He watched his biological parents die in a boating accident. An Evil Uncle got custody and abused him. He ran away and found the Doom Patrol, who were more than happy to show the Evil Uncle why he ought to pick on someone his own size. Rita Farr adopted him, but she was (apparently) killed with the rest of the original Patrol, which made Mento (Gar's adopted father) even more mentally unstable. And his first serious girlfriend turns out to be Terra. He fully admits that his options are "laugh or cry" and he's choosing the former.
- Iceman. He has had a difficult life, starting out in his origin story. He first used his powers to save his girlfriend Judy Harmon from a would-be rapist. She was scared of him and ended their relationship. His status as a mutant became public knowledge and he was targeted by a mutant-hating mob. He has had a difficult relationship with his father William Drake, who does not trust mutants. He has had many love interests but his love tends to be unrequited. Even his most successful relationships have ended in sad notes. He feels insecure about his position in the X-Men, since the once tight-knit is more recently filled with people he barely knows. He still faces life and dangers with a series of wisecracks.
- And from X-Factor we have Guido (a.k.a. Strong Guy). Cracking dumb jokes helps ease the physical pain from his mutant powers. To say nothing of the problems that come from just being a mutant.
- Nightcrawler. Despite being the Class Clown, he suffers from being a mutant even more than most as a result of his demonic appearance, and has a depressing backstory. Where he falls on the Fun Personified to Sad Clown scale depends on the writer.
- Spider-Man himself is a rare example of a main character being the Sad Clown. At his healthiest, his notorious mid-fight quips are still as much about coping with how scary his life is as distracting his enemy.
Iron Man: Have you noticed the closer we get to uncomfortable truths, the more jokes per minute you make?
- In Marvel Zombies, Spidey drives the other zombies crazy with the constant, irritating jokes he keeps making. When told to cut it out, he informs them that he makes jokes to help himself forget that he's become a flesh-eating evil lunatic.
- Mary Jane Watson was one of these in her backstory - she kept up a constant Fun Personified party-animal persona to cover up for how miserable her home life was.
- Iron Man himself verges on this at times, especially when Matt Fraction writes him.
- Nova AKA Richard Rider, seventeen year old, definitely fits the bill here. Similarly to Spider-Man, he makes various quips with his enemies, but he is far more insecure, with failing school grades and his family's financial issues, and the fact that just about everyone in his family is some sort of punctual, successful go-getter except him. If not for his girlfriend, Ginger, who knows how mentally worse off he'd be?
- Mentioned in Watchmen throughout flashbacks of Eddie Blake (a.k.a. The Comedian). "But Doctor...I am Pagliacci!"
- Which is a quote from the poem "Reír llorando" ("To laugh while crying") by Juan de Dios Peza. The poem follows the same line in more detail, and the sad man is not "Pagliacci" (which means just "clown" in Italian) but David Garrick, a very famous English actor who really existed. I am Garrick... change my prescription!
- Plastic Man from DC Comics is often accused of this, denying it every time. Whether he is lying or not depends on your interpretation.
- Dick Grayson has been retconned into this in his youth. He was the first Robin, and his history is largely unchanged: he was the same person cracking jokes and facing down villains and making terrible, terrible puns. However, his parents were killed in front of him, and his adoptive father figure has been transformed into always having been a brooding creature of darkness, so he was covering for something. As Nightwing, he's less of this, being relatively well-adjusted, all things considered.
- If the memories of The Joker in The Killing Joke (wherein "Jack" loses his wife, the baby inside her and his face in one day) are to be believed, he plays this trope straight. The heartbreaking finale wherein both the Monster Clown and Batman hysterically laugh at the cruelty of their lives drives in just how deeply both these men have been hurt; Joker in particular must substitute laughter for tears, or the ponderous weight of his sadness would crush what little will to live there is left inside.
- If you feel a bit uncomfortable feeling that much sympathy for him, the comic allows you to play the Multiple-Choice Past card and go on hating him. Honestly, that's clever.
- Toward the end of Batman: Arkham Knight, it is played straight in the credits scene that features the Joker trapped in an Ironic Hell in Batman's subconscious. Being the literal Sad Clown that Joker is, his sad singing and sobbing tells that his final defeat, along with the knowledge that he will be forgotten after he has died, has utterly broken him. It is utterly painful to hear him cry while he sings.
- In Death of the Family, Harley Quinn shows indications of this. She has tears marking her face, and she cracks jokes as she tries to survive being around Joker. Joker, once again, himself implies this about him.
- Although he is a genuinely happy-go-lucky person, Morph has instances of this in both his Age of Apocalypse and Exiles incarnations, which results in teammates telling him to shut up and be serious for once. When he does, it tends to be heartbreaking.
- His original incarnation in the X-Men TV series was like this too, and it was just as sad to see his real psyche.
- In the Gargoyles spin-off Bad Guys, Fang is revealed to be a Sad Clown. He's just as shocked and horrified as everyone else to find out Tasha hung herself. He just dealt with it by making an inappropriate light bulb joke.
- The zombie-like Ghoul of The Ultraverse, who does it to cope with being The Grotesque.
- Deadpool is often written like this. It is frequently implied that all of his Motor Mouth and Deadpan Snarker tendencies and constant Casual Danger Dialog are really all a massive coping mechanism for not only his borderline Body Horror condition of having cancer in, well, his entire body, which causes him near constant pain, but also the existential terror he feels from being aware of the fact that he is a fictional character.
- In the first arc of Cable & Deadpool, Cable asks why he's helping the villain's Assimilation Plot — it could be the first step to world peace, but falling in line and giving up his right to be different isn't Deadpool's style. Deadpool replies that all his crazy opinions just cover up the fact that he doesn't have anything.
- He actually lampshades this trope in his arc in X-Men Origins, when he is telling a screenwriter about his less-than-ideal home life.
Deadpool: When you're confronted with a horrible situation, there are only two reactions that make sense: laughter or tears. And laughter, after all, is nature's anesthesia. Tears hurt too much.
- Yorick from Y: The Last Man continues to crack lame jokes despite being the only male survivor of the Gendercide, to the frustration of his traveling companions.
- In Red Hood and the Outlaws Arsenal tries to chat and make jokes whenever he can, but it's fairly obvious that he's practically dead on the inside. He admits this in Issue 5 to Starfire, saying he believes that as a team the three of them could help each other.
- Christ, the entire team is dead on the inside and trying to cover it up.
- Metroid: Kamen Rider Generations:
- Gou Shijima (aka, Kamen Rider Mach), just like in the Kamen Rider Drive canon (listed below), is often written to be this with shades of an Iron Woobie. Especially that it has anything to do with Chase. He got better when Chase is Back from the Dead for real.
- Mitsuzane is played with this realistically plus with the Jerkass and Troll variety. His sarcastic and Nice Guy personality is merely a front to fit into people around him; and constantly cracks jokes mostly at the expense of anyone around him. His tendency to joke around to serves as the purpose to cope with bad situations, the traumatic experiences of Kouta and Mai's supposed deaths, as well as his own failures as a person.
Samus: Mitsuzane likes to screw around and mock his enemies' misfortunes with biting one-liners when he feels so miserable.
- Ghor considers himself to be this when he is brought back to life. But, when he joins with Samus and the party, we also found out behind his gentle and kind exterior, he also has a well hidden guilt and regret because of the gruesome fate that he, Gandrayda, and Rundas fell during the Phazon skirmish. His personality alteration in his armor also does count, to which Ghor needs to accept one day as a part of himself.
- The OC Monster of the Week, Clown Ganma becomes a more literal example within its character arc. Considering himself as an Ax-Crazy Monster Clown, he becomes completely broken when Igor punishes him for his failure to the point of Villainous BSoD. It gets even worse to the point of deconstruction when he gets Bound and Gagged by Gandrayda. He ends his suffering upon making an Heroic Sacrifice to protect Kanon from Igor.
- In Requiem for a Loud, Luan Loud is revealed to be one. Beneath her constant pranks, bad puns and quirky personality, she's actually a depressed and lonely girl who is considered a freak by her classmates.
- In Karma In Retrograde, Touya Todoroki tends to default to bad jokes and beating around the bush when there's something on his mind. When they were younger, Touya would also wear smiles on his face and goof off to cheer up his younger siblings even as they all suffered under Endeavor's abuse.
- Aladdin has Genie as a very likely example, who humors himself and his friends to cope with the fact that he has just been imprisoned within a magic lamp for 10,000 years and will most likely be there for another 10,000 once Aladdin's done with him, as with every master he's had before him. He is proven wrong about this at the end, and his happiness becomes far more genuine after Aladdin frees him for his final wish.
Genie: PHENOMONAL COSMIC POWERS! Itty bitty living space.
- Hades of Disney's Hercules is a villainous example of this trope, except unlike most villain examples, his humor is mostly to cope with the grim atmosphere of the underworld he is forced to rule over rather than sadism.
- The title character of The Adventures of Mark Twain makes various humorous quips to Tom, Becky, and Huck through their journey to Halley's Comet. However, deep down, Twain suffers from a profound sense of loneliness from his wife's passing, and thus, chases the comet so he could finally be with her once more.
- Davey Stone of Eight Crazy Nights is known for his drunken, destructive antics in the community, especially during the holidays. When he was a child, his parents were killed in a car crash during Hanukkah, so his cynical, mean-spirited mischief became an integral coping mechanism.
- Vanellope Von Schweetz in Wreck-It Ralph teases Ralph with childish copycatting and crude humor constantly throughout the movie, much to his chagrin. However, deep down, she is tormented by the bullying she receives from the other racers. The most emotionally intense scene in the movie is when Ralph, tricked by King Candy into thinking Vanellope was a potentially fatal glitch in Sugar Rush's code, reluctantly wrecks her go-kart into little fragments right in front of her, and the immense pain emanates from her true psyche.
- In the sequel, this trope is averted with the resolution of the previous film.
- The Brave Little Toaster has Air Conditioner, who basically taunts the protagonists for their ongoing faith in the Master's return until Kirby reminds him he's stuck in the wall. Also, the mangled up appliances from Elmo's parts shop with their Gallows Humor could qualify.
- Kung Fu Panda had Po, a giant panda who initially had a well hidden self-loathing so profound that it made his heroes' initial disdain for him feel positively kind.
- In Bee Movie, Barry B. Benson's entire hive, including himself, apparently falls under this, judging by his first conversation with Vanessa. The bees's comedic underreactions when they hear about one of their co-workers dying on the job definitely shows signs of desensitization to psychological trauma as well.
Barry: Bees are funny. If we didn't laugh, we'd cry with what we have to deal with.
- Toy Story 2 has Jessie as this. When she's not fun and boisterous, her mind recedes back to the cold dark place she spent much of her life in after being abandoned by Emily and discovered by Al, only for her, the Prospector, and Bullseye to be left in storage until Al brought Woody. As a result, she has a lot of anxiety and sadness deep down. Her writers even called her a character with "high highs" and "low lows". She's none of the clown and double the sad in the first act of Toy Story 3. Having experienced abandonment from Emily and negligence from the greedy toy collector of the second film have her very convinced that Andy intended to have the toys thrown out when he had them placed in a garbage bag he was trying to bring to the attic before his Mom mistook it for trash, even ignoring Woody's equally insistent reassurances.
- Bing Bong in Inside Out. He is loud-mouthed and jolly, but we later learn that he is deeply saddened by the fact that his creator Riley doesn't remember him, despite spending many years of her childhood with him. In fact he has been spending all his time wandering around in her memory bank to look at their memories together.
- In The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger is a hyperactive Cloud Cuckoo Lander and forever jolly and unflappable. When the others finally succeed in unbouncing him however, the result is such a depressed broken shell, they are left heartbroken and completely go back on it.
- Jack Frost in Rise of the Guardians. On the outside, he's a carefree prankster who wants everyone around him to enjoy themselves. On the inside, being Invisible to Normals and ignored or rejected by all abnormals has taken it's toll on him, leaving him depressed and convinced that no one will ever care that he exists, if they notice him at all.
- Downplayed with Nick Wilde, the snarky, cynical con-fox of Zootopia. His smug mannerisms and snarky comments masks a childhood trauma that turned his youthful idealism into cynicism. Throughout the film are indications that his kindness and idealism wasn't completely destroyed, just buried, and his adventure with Judy helps it re-emerge by the end of the film.
- Hector from Coco seems like a carefree, charming con-artist who just wants to go to the Land of the Living like everyone else on the holiday. Then it's revealed that he is a deeply tragic character who has been unjustly hated and separated from his family for decades, and all that energetic silliness was a front to cover up a lot of sadness and shame.
- My Dinner with Andre: Andre seems chipper, but one of the running themes of the film is about wearing a mask. When Wally first greets Andre, "You look great!", Andre cheerfully replies, "I feel terrible!" Andre then shows a picture of himself during his experiences in Poland, and he looks desperately unhappy, despite being "reborn" there. He then notes that a picture he had of Chiquita which he thought looked sexy now looked, with his more experienced eyes, as very sad. Later, Andre notes that he's more open with his emotions - when he's annoyed by his family, he tells them they're annoying him (to their shock).
- Scientist Paul Beaumont in He Who Gets Slapped became a clown after his patron stole his work and wife. As a clown, Beaumont falls in love with another performer who is in love with someone else.
- Jerry Lewis made The Day the Clown Cried, about a depressed, formerly great German circus clown during the Holocaust. Shooting on the film was completed, but it was never finished or released, due to behind-the-scenes disputes. It was locked in the vault, and has since become a Hollywood legend. Lewis eventually came [[youtu.be/xD-B Yt 8 Kiw A out]] and said he will never release it, not because of financial problems, but because he's simply that ashamed of it.
- The 1930 German film The Blue Angel uses this trope for dramatic effect, as the main character's loss of dignity, fall in society and descent into madness are punctuated by his donning of a clown costume. His first performance in full clown make-up, where he is continuously debased and forced to crow like a cock, is the climax of the movie and shows just how pathetic the once proud man has become.
- Buttons the Clown from The Greatest Show on Earth certainly qualifies: he's a former doctor on the run from the law for mercy-killing his wife. The fact that Buttons is played by Jimmy Stewart makes it awesome.
- This is pretty much the entire plot of Vulgar, the Back Story of the View Askew clown.
- Gelsomina from Federico Fellini's La Strada. So very much.
- Played for Laughs in Quick Change by Grimm (played by Bill Murray), who plays a bank robber dressed as a clown, with dynamite strapped to his chest.
Security guard: (when Grimm shows him the dynamite) What the hell kinda clown are you?!
Grimm: The crying on the inside kind, I guess.
- The protagonist of The Last Circus is one.
- The clown in The Illusionist who drinks and listens to happy circus music. He did try to kill himself at one point, but Alice unknowingly stopped him.
- Suggested as the In-Character motivation of Giacomo the Jester (Well... Hubert Hawkins' interpretation of Giacomo anyway) in The Court Jester, via the song The Maladjusted Jester. In brief, he was a morose child who didn't laugh much, to the concern and frustration of his parents. They consulted a witch who foresaw his talent for performance and comedy, much to the bafflement of everyone.
- A Hard Day's Night had a praised sequence in which Ringo Starr had an affecting performance as a sad clown, but Ringo was not so much acting as he was hung over and so his miserable air was real.
- The World's End: Gary, and how. He puts on a thin facade of party guy fun and pep, but he's in reality a clinically depressed Disco Dan who hates where his life ended up. The entire pub crawl is hinted to be one final night of fun before he kills himself.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Tony Stark has solemn moments of his own due to his massive Guilt Complex as well as personal issues and tends to hide it by being the smartass snarker as he is.
- Peter Quill (aka "Star-Lord") from Guardians of the Galaxy had a rough youth. His father was never in his life, his mother died in his presence when he was just a child—and just moments after that, he was abducted by a brutal gang of pirates who apparently wanted to eat him note , and never got to see his family or his home planet again. Still, despite his unpleasant youth, he grew up to be a relatively well-adjusted Handsome Lech Loveable Rogue who loves pop music from The '70s (the memoir mixtape his mother gave him) and all around is a jokey, easygoing guy, even though he still lives with the pain of his mother's death.
- Loki becomes this in Thor: Ragnarok after all the painful lessons in humility he suffered throughout the MCU, plus having to deal with being the least favorite in the household, on top of knowing he was adopted. In Ragnarok, he's a comic relief with some very serious moments. Thor thankfully convinces him to make a HeelFace Turn with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech after Loki's failed attempt at betraying Thor right before the climax.
- Avengers: Infinity War: Much of the humor in the film has a dark undertone to it as the characters realize how much trouble they are in, but no one gets hit worse than Thor. Following the events of Ragnarok, he lost his father (his mother died a few years ago), his planet, nearly all of his friends, and most of his people. This movie starts with most of the rest of his people, his brother and one of his last friends killed by Thanos. He keeps trying to make jokes, but they keep becoming more and more strained. Rocket confronts him about it, and Thor admits that his life is at its worst right now, but insists that Thanos is going to end up dead just like every other enemy he has fought in the past fifteen hundred years. It's clear that he's trying to convince himself more than Rocket.
- There is a scene with a humorous tone when Thor meets the aforementioned Peter Quill for the first time and the two Sad Clowns converse on their respective grievances like they were talking about their kid throwing a tantrum at the supermarket the other day. Not that life gets any better for Quill, when Gamora gets captured by Thanos and hurled over a cliff in Vamora. You can bet that revelation from Thanos created a saddening fit of rage that melted Quill's proverbial clown makeup.
- Baptiste Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault) in Marcel Carné's Le Enfants du Paradis, based on the 19th-century clown and mime.
- Tae-goo from The Good, the Bad, the Weird comes off as all happy-go-lucky, but Song Kang-ho stated in an interview that for whatever reason, he's the most miserable of the trio.
- The 2000 live action Jim Carrey version of the Grinch is this. He may be goofier in this adaptation, but he may, in fact, be angrier and sadder than in the original book and animated short. His aura of misery and rage toward the Whos and Christmas deriving from the torment he received from them as a child.
- The Pagliaccio joke:
A man goes to a doctor, claiming he's depressed. He feels as if the world doesn't care about his problems, as if he's the pole the universe pisses on. The doctor ponders the man's problems, unsure of what to do, until suddenly he remembers: "The circus is in town, and Pagliaccio the clown is there! Why don't you go see his show, I'm sure that'll cheer you up." The man breaks down crying and sobs "But doctor... I am Pagliaccio the clown!!"
- This joke is also told as an anecdote about some real-life clowns, notably Joe Grimaldi and Gaspard-Baptiste Debureau.
- Ephraim Kishon uses the joke in a different context. His joke starts the same way, but at the end the patient says instead: "Doctor, I've been at the circus, I've seen Pagliaccio. He wasn't funny at all. He was the unfunniest clown I've ever seen." The doctor breaks down: "But mister... I'm Pagliaccio!"
- Marco from Animorphs. It's stated many times that joking is the only way he can deal with the difficult and dangerous situations he's constantly put in, and the fact that his mother is Visser One's host. What really kills about this one is that it clearly doesn't work; over the course of the series he goes from being incredibly emo and depressed to losing his humanity to the point that even Rachel was occasionally horrified by his actions.
- Another great example is Gwynplaine, the title character of Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs. The film version, starring Conrad Veidt, invented the Slasher Smile. Gwynplaine is a disfigured man, and the only way he can make a living is by showing off his disfigurments to an audience. This always spread laugh among them, but Gwynplaine himself always feel mocked.
- You hear how they laugh? Nothing but a clown.
- Stephen King examples: Richie Tozier from It, Eddie Dean and (especially) Cuthbert Allgood from The Dark Tower.
- Silk from the Belgariad openly admits at one point that he makes jokes because the alternative is to break down crying.
- In a rare moment of honesty, he stated that one of the reasons for his sadness was that, being perhaps the greatest spy ever, he had so many multilayered cover-identities that he had lost himself somewhere under them.
- The Dresden Files's Harry Dresden, who "follow[s] the tao of Peter Parker"; see the page quote. Everyone and everything in the universe appears to have it in for him because Being Good Sucks; he responds by making terrible jokes, even when this is not strictly in the interests of self-preservation.
- Star Wars:
- Expanded Universe: Clone commando R C- 8015, 'Fi', starts out merely with wisecracks. Over time, however, his mood darkens, but he continued to amuse his squad mates with jokes. His tend to be a touch morbid, but very funny.
- His Deadpan Snarker contrast is his replacement, Corr, who copes with bad situations with acid sarcasm.
- In the X-Wing Series, we get Ton Phanan, though we don't really see the "sad" part until we get to Iron Fist.
- The Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures' Fitz Kreiner. Hardly ever stops cracking jokes, to the point people get mildly annoyed on principle. He was born in London four years prior to the beginning of World War II and is half-German, for which he was severely bullied. By the time he turned eighteen, his father was dead and his mum was insane. In the first novel he appears in, he's told a joke he makes about his own angsty backstory is Dude, Not Funny! He also tends to make jokes when he's nervous about things like aliens that want to eat his face. The more nervous he gets, the worse the jokes.
- Bryan Stark, the main character in the teen series DRAMA!, is a mild example of this.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Martian-raised Mike has difficulty understanding humor, until he draws the conclusion that all humor serves basically this purpose: "They laugh because they hurt so much. Because it's the only thing that will make them stop hurting."
- Members of the Fools' Guild in Discworld often lapse into this, sometimes forgetting if they're supposed to be "happy on the outside and crying on the inside, or the other way 'round." This is understandable, since the Fools generally don't lead pleasant lives. Indeed, it is common knowledge on the Disc that Fools simply cannot be funny ("if it was funny, a clown wouldn't be doing it"), and clowns are regarded as inherently pitiful or scary, rather than comedic. Exemplifying this is the fact that the guildhall is often mistaken for that of the Assassins, which is actually the light, airy building next door. According to Word of God, it began as a monastery for a particularly sombre group of monks, and the founder of the Fools' Guild was shaped in his philosophy towards comedy by the fact that A: he was honestly nowhere near as funny as he believed himself to be, B: a mindset that convinced him that jokes and humor were Serious Business and should be treated with great dignity and respect, and C: the very pronounced trait of Discwolders, especially those in Ankh-Morpork, to be realistic and literal-minded to the point of being deliberately obtuse, which doesn't make joking an easy matter. The result is that generations of Fools have had their emotions crushed and any actual knack for humor (not to mention desire to make people laugh) stamped out of them.
The head of the Fool's Guild is Dr. Whiteface, whose makeup has a big painted smile... while his actual expression is "as cold and proud as a prince of Hell". And to top it off, we find out in Making Money that the clowns are still very much Monks when we see a former clown who ran away from the lifestyle as a boy, still retaining only the basics of the skills he'd been taught with. Eventually he demonstrates EXACTLY why Ankh-Morporkians are right to feel nervous and creeped out by clowns, in a demonstration of Battle Clowning that would make the Joker green with envy."You think the ringmaster runs the circus, do you? Only by the consent of the clowns, Mr Lipwig! Only by the consent of the clowns!"
- Leo from The Heroes of Olympus. He jokes to deal with the loss of his mom. And they're actually funny, unlike most Sad Clowns. Even worse, Leo has been pushed from foster home to foster home, due to people seeing him as a "demon child" (he is the first son of Hephaestus who can control fire in over 300 years. And the one before him started The Great Fire of London.)
- Nick Sagan's Idlewild has Mercutio, who describes his coping methods as "Humor? That's my lizard tail. You can look at that while I run away."
- In The Wide Window, the characters patronize a rather miserably awful restaurant called The Anxious Clown. Guess what all the waiters are dressed up as.
- Grantaire in Les Misérables plays this role in the Amis; his cynical wisecracking and ridiculous verbal antics mask his grim knowledge that he and his friends are about to give their lives for a cause he thinks is pointless and that his idol Enjolras despises him.
- This is basically the premise of You Don't Know Me. The protagonist is a First-Person Smartass who's constantly describing his miserable situation in the most bizarrely humorous ways he can.
- Odd Thomas, in the series of novels of the same name by Dean Koontz, a First-Person Smartass who notes early on that he will be keeping the tone of the books light, otherwise what he has to say would be too painful to tell, and in-story (in other words, in the actual situations) he covers up his sadness, fears, etc. with a healthy dose of snarking or silliness.
- Albert Campion, Gentleman Detective and Gentleman Adventurer created by Margery Allingham, constantly and compulsively makes jokes and does things For the Funnyz simply because that's part of his personality, but he also uses it to keep people away from what's really going on inside of him.
- Kindling Ashes: Frang is constantly making jokes to cope with the fact that he could go up in flames at any moment and a family tragedy in his past.
- The Moviegoer has Kate, an Ill Girl who has psuedo-religious experiences one after another to stave of the mundanity of her boring life.
- Doc Webster of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is an archetypal example. The funniest man in the entire bar, who could recite his Social Security Number, deadpan, and have the audience in stitches, he found his way to Callahan's after a particularly traumatic night: his wife had broken up with him, simply saying that she couldn't stand him anymore. He'd tried for years on end to be the laughing, joking type, building up that wall between himself and everyone else — and he eventually learned better from a patient who was terminally ill, bedridden, and in constant care. That patient was the one who sent him to the eponymous saloon.
- Mistborn: The Original Trilogy: Kelsier has this down to a philosophy: he smiles and cracks jokes as a way to rebel in a Crapsack World.
- The Shel Silverstein poem "Cloony The Clown" is about a circus clown who's act gets every possible reaction from audiences except laughter. Fed up, he stands center-ring during his performance and gives a monologue about how miserable it is to be an unfunny clown. Everybody laughs.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has Dolorous Edd, a member of the Night's Watch prone to making morbid quips. He adopts a persona of The Eeyore, but his Deadpan Snarker observations and anecdotes make him one of the funniest characters in the series.
- American Horror Story: Freak Show'': Twisty. For the first episodes you would probably only refer to him as the evil clown. But once his backstory is revealed, he truly becomes the sad clown. Perhaps the saddest clown ever.
- 21 Jump Street: Doug Penhall is revealed to be this in the second season.
- Angel: Lorne's perpetual comic persona starts turning into this in Season Five, mostly after Fred dies. He even gets a whole scene talking about this in "Underneath."
- Babylon 5: Londo Mollari in the first season, where he uses cheer and wisecracking to cover up his bitterness over his current career and the failing nature of the Centauri Republic.
- Other wise-cracking characters with tragic backstories include Michael Garibaldi (Shellshocked Veteran, alcoholic, and at least once contemplating suicide), Susan Ivanova (brother died in combat, mother committed suicide, and secretly a telepath), Marcus Cole (brother died fighting the Shadows), and Alfred Bester (revealed in the novels to have had his life generally screwed up by the numbers thanks to humanity's attitude towards telepaths and the Psi-Corps' response). Although as often as not, Bester seems to just be cracking jokes because he knows it annoys the Mundanes.
- Band of Brothers: George Luz has shades of this after the company goes through the hell that is the Battle of the Bulge (during which Luz had to witness Muck and Penkala get blown to bits by a shell that landed in their foxhole). His jokes and wise cracks become more bitter and weary than before.
- The Biggest Loser: It's pretty much a guarantee that male contestants who have boisterous, jokey personalities are hiding major self-esteem issues caused by their weight.
- The Big Bang Theory: Most of the main characters can be called a sad clown.
- Leonard makes jokes but he sometimes breaks down when his emotionally-detached mother is talked about or shown.
- Howard often makes the most jokes and insults towards his friends but he became upset when he saw an Alf toy and mentions that when his father abandoned him, his mother gave him the toy and told him that Alf took his father to his home planet and then cries after asking where his father is.
- Stuart is the depressed comic book store owner who often makes jokes about himself or others. this is even lampshaded by Sheldon who calls him a sad clown.
- Hank on Breaking Bad is introduced as a loudmouth, boisterous, almost oafish DEA agent. Starting around season two, he starts suffering PTSD and panic attacks from the stress of his job, but keeps up the same old persona in front of almost everyone.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander is generally the group's wise-cracker, and while it's mostly genuine, it's also how he copes with being The Team Normal in a world of terrifying monsters (and that's not going into his dysfunctional home life).
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor themself, in some incarnations more than others. This is especially true in the revived series, which added a traumatising war to their backstory to represent the years the show was off-air.
- Directly addressed in "Robot" where one of the outfits the recently regenerated Fourth Doctor attempts to wear is a fancy clown suit with 'teardrops' painted on his cheeks.
- In the words of Eleventh Doctor actor Matt Smith:
"That's what interests me about the Doctor because, actually, look at the blood on the mans hands. 900 years, countless very selfish choices, and he's literally blown planets up. His own race, you know, that's all on his hands. Which is why I think he has to make silly jokes and wear a fez. Because if he didn't, he'd hang himself."
- Friends: Chandler is a rare example from a comedy series. This was lampshaded quite early on, when Phoebe's psychiatrist boyfriend, as part of his schtick of alienating everyone by pointing out uncomfortable truths, said, "I wouldn't want to be there when the laughter stops." Chandler himself says later that he's using humor as a defense mechanism. He's actually scarred from his thoughtless parents and neglected upbringing when it was implied he was used as a pawn in their divorce. He has serious self-esteem issues because of it and it's only through his relationship with the other friends (particularly his girlfriend Monica), that he gains confidence.
- Game of Thrones: Tyrion's joking, fun loving nature masks the Trauma Conga Line of abuse he suffers from both his father and society. This becomes apparent in his trial, where he's not at all funny, but deadly serious and frightening.
- Generation Kill: Ray Person, although his insecurity isn't the only thing fueling his hilarious, uber-offensive humor—it's also the fact that he's generally on almost no sleep and on a near-permanent caffeine high thanks to his ever-present bottle of Ripped Fuel. Averted in the finale (and, after the war, in real life) when extra interviews show the real Ray as a generally quiet, yet outspoken man.
- How I Met Your Mother: Barney Stinson, whose constant self-aggrandizing wisecracking, over-the-top stunts (everything from magic tricks to kidnapping his friends), and ridiculous womanizing antics are a mask to hide how utterly insecure and self-loathing he is inside, and how desperately dependent on his friends he is, by trying to make himself look like a loose cannon who is too awesome and confident to need anyone.
- Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger features Bandora as the main antagonist, who is one of the more humorous Sentai villains, who develops stress headaches whenever the Zyurangers beat a monster of the week, goes on a comedic crash diet, and even has her own comical theme song she performs when things go her way. However, she is an evil witch who became that way after she went mad with grief when her son was killed by a T-Rex 170 million years ago for smashing its eggs, causing her to sell her soul to Satan and drive dinosaurs on the brink of extinction. This is what drives her burning hatred for children in present day 1992.
- Kamen Rider
- Kamen Rider Drive has a downplayed example in the form of Gou Shijima. Gou is jovial and goofy on the outside, but deep down, that exterior hides his innate hatred towards Roidmudes, and worse; after learning his father is revealed to be the Big Bad.
- Ryoma Sengoku of Kamen Rider Gaim inverts this trope with sociopathic spades. Whatever childish and Black Comedy antics he'll throw at you can give you a bad day. Just ask Kouta, then Micchy in episode #43, with him snarking at the latter after killing Kouta was the last straw for Micchy to break down like a hysterical child.
- Kamen Rider Fourze: Gentaro occasionally verges into this. Played straight in Movie War Mega Max.
- The titular hero of Kamen Rider OOO, Eiji Hino is considered to be this, with Stepford Smiler in spades. Though he is rather optimistic as a whole, and is always travelling around the world in an outlandish fashion, and a Butt-Monkey in some occasions. In actuality, Eiji is haunted by the traumatic experiences that resulted as civil war in a nation where his father was a political leader.
- Keen Eddie: Throughout most of the show, Monty makes several ill-timed and insensitive jokes, warranting Eddie to suggest that he has no soul, but after getting snapped at for joking in the face of Eddie's life-or-death situation, Monty admits that he uses humor to cope with situations that worry or frighten him, siting how he laughed all through his uncle's funeral.
- Lost: Hugo is usually seen as a jovial, Plucky Comic Relief kind of a character, especially in the first season. In his flashbacks, however, he is portrayed in a much more serious manner and develops into one of the most solution-oriented survivors.
- Mad Men: Roger Sterling uses humor to deflect or cope with many unpleasant aspects of his unbalanced life. Underneath the jokes and playboy exterior he is a deeply unhappy man.
- M*A*S*H: Hawkeye Pierce was once accused of this. He was quite offended, and spent the rest of the episode refusing to joke.
- The Mentalist: Patrick Jane fits perfectly. He hardly ever STOPS smiling no matter what, but the man is ridiculously full of self-loathing and guilt for his role in the death of his family. He can't sleep at night, he still wears his wedding ring eight years after the death of his wife, and his only home besides the CBI headquarters is his broken down old house where his mattress is right up next to the smiley face on the wall that is Red John's signature.
- NCIS: Depending on the Writer, Tony can fit this to a T or seem more genuinely clownish.
- Lampshaded by Gibbs when he was talking with Tony's father.
- Not Going Out: Lee in this Britcom has been accused of being one of these by other characters, to the point of being cajoled into seeing a therapist.
- Psych: Shawn. He admits that he relies on jokes and inappropriate humor to defuse tough situations, and when his funny breaks in "An Evening With Mr. Yang", Gus takes up his Sad Clown mantle to help him stay calm.
- Revolution: Aaron Pittman, played by Zak Orth, is the comic relief of the show. He was once the Google CEO, he had a beautiful wife, lots of money, and simply had it all...until the blackout. Then he pretty much got left with nothing, and while his wife didn't leave him, he ended their marriage and struck off on his own because he realized that he wasn't going to be able to protect her ("Sex and Drugs"). He has a lot to be sad about. The episode "No Quarter" had him say rather bitterly, "And the punchline was the Blackout. When the world went back to being one giant schoolyard, and the Billy Underwoods are in charge and I am weak and afraid."
- Motor Mouth paramedic Denise, who keeps telling jokes and funny anecdotes as a way to cope with her son's death.
- Bob Kelso is similar. He's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who deliberately makes himself the one everyone hates so that they can put up with the fact that medicine is difficult. He's a Deadpan Snarker who pretends not to give a crap, but it's really hard for him to be the object of hate and make the painful money vs. life decisions.
- The Sopranos: While talking to his therapist, Tony Soprano describes himself as a "Sad Clown": putting on a happy, joking face to his family and friends while keeping his pain locked away. His claims come across more as self-pitying than anything else, given his behavior throughout the series.
- Stargate SG-1: Jack O'Neill, a rare commanding officer example.
- Star Trek: Voyager: Neelix is one of these when he's at the top of his game.
- As season one progressed, Dean went from pure comic relief to being a sad, lost little boy who really just wanted his family back together and who wise-cracks only to mask that nasty pain.
- The Trickster/Gabriel. He ran away from Heaven to escape the fight and spent a very long time teaching people the error of their ways through deadly pranks only for it to be discovered that, behind all the black humor, he was really just scared to get involved. All in all, he's just a heartbroken kid who invested too much of himself in his family to watch them destroy themselves. He spends much of his time onscreen trying to use the Winchesters to prove to himself that he was right to run.
- The Thick of It: Malcolm started out simply as highly-strung and terrifyingly funny, but his characterization eventually developed into this as the series progressed. It soon becomes apparent that jokes come out of him constantly in all situations, he doesn't care whether or not they make people laugh, and it's entirely a cover for a yawning pit of stress and existential horror.
- The Twilight Zone: The episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" featured a memorable clown played by Murray Matheson with a healthy dollop of Mood Whiplash.
Clown: I'm a clown. It's neither here, there, nor anyplace...I could be a certified public accountant, a financier, a left-handed pitcher who throws only curves...what difference does it make?
- Luke Cage (2016): Rafael Scarfe is described by Misty Knight as a guy who "cracks a lot of jokes, but he rarely smiles", and it's implied to be the result of his son Earl, who accidentally shot himself with his dad's gun.
- Smokey Robinson and the Miracles have two songs which fit this trope:
- "Tears of a Clown" ("Just like Pagliacci did/I got to keep my sadness hid/Smiling in the public eye/But in my lonely room I cry/The tears of a clown")
- "Tracks of My Tears" ("Take a good look at my face/You'll see my smile looks out of place/Just look closer, it's easy to trace/The tracks of my tears")
- Eminem describes himself as this in "Beautiful".
- "See the Funny Little Clown" by Bobby Goldsboro is literally about this, with the same "I am Pagliacci!" twist at the end.
- James Darren's "Goodbye Cruel World" finds its narrator "off to join the circus" to "be a broken-hearted clown" after a breakup.
- While German Medieval Metal Band Schandmaul often uses a funny Jester-style, their Song Der Clown is exactly the opposite of this and tells about a clown with a sad face (Der Clown mit den taurigen Augen)
- Gary Lewis and the Playboys: "Everybody Loves a Clown" (so why don't you?)
- Lou Christie's "Two Faces Have I" (one to laugh and one to cry).
- Neil Sedaka's "King of Clowns"
- "I'm a Loser" by The Beatles from Beatles for Sale. ("Although I laugh and I act like a clown / Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown")
- "Sad Clown" by Jars of Clay.
- The Diddy-Dirty Money song "Coming Home" invokes this in the first verse, namechecking "Tears of a Clown" and saying "it always sounds like it's talking to me when it comes on."
- Vocaloid offers us [[youtu.be/U_C321Z7ziM Pierrot]] by Hatsune Miku
- A few songs from Insane Clown Posse's "Hell's Pit", particularly "Manic Depressive".
- Voltaire's "You Married a Fool".
- Split Enz's "Dirty Creature" was written about singer Tim Finn's struggles with depression, and his efforts to laugh off his demons.
- Dion's "The Wanderer" ("I'm as happy as a clown...but I'm going nowhere").
- Marillion's "Script for a Jester's Tear" is self-explanatory. It gets a callback in "The Web":
I only laugh I only laughed away your tearsBut even jesters cry
- The Jester character is featured on the band's early album covers. Apparently he's based on their then lead singer/lyricist Fish.
- Arena give us [[youtu.be/Va Ag Ed L_MWQ "Tears in the Rain"]], with influences including Marillion and Pink Floyd, and a dash of anger to go with the clown's tears.
- The Moody Blues: "Painted Smile" ("Laughter is free, but it's so hard to be a jester all the time / No one believing when I say that I'm bleeding and I hurt all the time deep inside")
- Cabaret artist and adultswim writer Michael Geier has the persona, Puddles The Sad Clown With The Golden Voice. He dresses as Pagliotti and often sings pop songs in an operatic manner. He also goes by the name "Puddles Pity Party" and has recorded with Postmodern Jukebox as well as performed in America's Got Talent.
- The protagonist of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" "heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley."
- The Charles Mingus song "The Clown" is about a clown who becomes this by trying to be a Non-Ironic Clown, but finds that people only laugh when he hurts himself.
And all he wanted to do was to make that crowd laugh, thats all he wanted to do...
- Mingus himself has said that his original vision for the song ended with the clown killing himself
- Moe Bandy's Country hit "Bandy The Rodeo Clown" is about a former rodeo champ reduced to being an alcoholic rodeo clown after a failed romance.
- The Queen song "The Show Must Go On" features the line Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking, but my smile still stays on.
- Another Queen song, "It's A Hard Life", makes a nod to the opera Pagliacci in the opening notes.
- Iron Maiden's "Tears of a Clown", about Robin Williams. It even wonders if his suicide "maybe its all just for the best, lay his weary head to rest".
- The video for Poets of the Fall's "Carnival of Rust" Deconstructs this with singer Zoltar, a ragged fortunetelling automaton with peeling paint and a Pierrot's black and white makeup. He's become so warped by playing his role at the frightening Carnival where he works that all that's left of his clownishness is his decaying façade. In desperation, he sings an Obsession Song pleading with his latest customer to love him so he can be free, but its sentiment is so Love Hungry that it frightens her off, and he weeps a Single Tear as she leaves.
- "The Laugh Man" by Harry Chapin just screams this at the end.
- My ego is a bubble that I realize just broke, and alone without a microphone, my whole life's a jokeI am the laugh man, half clown and half man, half out and half in, Mister can't you see? I'm supposed to leave you laughing, so why don't you laugh at me?
- Inverted in "I Started a Joke" by The Bee Gees, where the clown's joke causes people to cry.
- Discussed in Stevie Nicks' "Mabel Normand", which compares herself to the silent movie star Mabel Normand:
No comedienne has not been the clownShe did her workBut her heart was quietly cryingI guess she even felt guilty 'bout even dyingSad Mabel Normand
- "The Clown Is Dead" by Axel Rudi Pell is about one.
Behind his maskHe was only humanA person who feelsJust like you and me
- Billy Joel writes about this in his Cold War song "Leningrad". Viktor was born in '44, grew up without a father, and served out his mandatory time in the Army. It's filled with soul crushing lyrics like "The greatest happines he never found was making Russian children glad".
- The titular Puddles from Puddles Pity Party is a sad clown that specializes in doing sad, yet soulful renditions of popular songs.
- In the Susan Calman is Convicted episode "Depression", Susan talks about her battle with depression and how she realised comedy was the career for her. Not because it made her happier, but because she realised all comedians were as depressed as she was.
- Canio, from the opera Pagliacci, is without a doubt the sad clown. Literally. In fact, he's so sad that he gets violent and turns into a Monster Clown - the quote at the top is when he's just found out about his wife's infidelity, but still has to get ready because The Show Must Go On.
- While we're in the opera world, there's also Rigoletto from Verdi's Rigoletto. Violence included, too. Costing him the life of his dear daughter Gilda.
- Jack Point from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard. He is a literal jester, which helps. The whole show is full of Commedia dell'Arte character types.
- Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet makes Incredibly Lame Puns even as he lies dying, along with a Dying Curse. Comedy dies with him; the rest of the play is an inexorable spiral into tragedy.
- Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, a sad and lonely clown exiled on the Moon embarking on an eerie and symbolic journey. This character, from Belgian poet Albert Giraud, has been a fascination of early 20th century composers: Karol Rathaus composed a ballet about him.
- Launcelot in The Merchant of Venice. His angst about wanting to leave his master vs. wanting to do the right thing gets Played for Laughs, as does his resentment of his father (who apparently cheated on his mother) and his sorrow at having to say goodbye to his only friend, Shylock's daughter Jessica. Alternate Character Interpretation has led to many a production implying that he's in love with Jessica, and he masks his sorrow that she chose Lorenzo over him by making some particularly cutting jokes about her parentage (as well as repeatedly trying to one-up Lorenzo in battles of wits).
- Turns up pretty often with Cirque du Soleil, which has a habit of blurring the lines in traditional circus roles. The clown at the center of the "Snowstorm" act in Alegría, who makes and loses a friend that manifests him/herself in his hung-up hat and coat, comes to mind.
- The Trope Codifier would be Emmett Kelly. His character Wearie Willie, was known for sweeping up the spotlight after the other performers and he won the hearts of audiences at a time when they expected clowns to make them laugh. He was an staple of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus for a good chunk of the Twentieth Century before going freelance.
- In the 1914 play He Who Gets Slapped by Leonid Andreyev, Baron Regnard plagiarizes the title character's work and steals his wife. To hide from the pain of this experience, "He" runs away to France and joins the circus as a clown. In his act, he plays a great philosopher who is slapped by the rest of the troupe.
- Feste from Twelfth Night is very often played this way, although there's no real evidence for it in the text. It's particularly common for his final song ("For the rain, it raineth every day...") to take on a melancholy slant.
- Inverted in the one-act play Goodbye To The Clown. The titular clown is the Imaginary Friend of a troublesome girl, later revealed to be a coping mechanism to deal with the death of her father.
- Season 2 of Batman: The Telltale Series has John Doe as this, and he only becomes worse when he becomes Joker. The main source of his anguish depends on whether you pick the Vigilante or Villain route. Harley is also this because of her father who "ate a shotgun lunch" when she was younger.
- In Episode 5, on the Vigilante path, Alfred of all people qualifies for this trope, welcoming Bruce with a joke about a man with shaky hands when Bruce comes to after having fallen several stories down a building and being impaled on a piece of debris, having been lifted off and carried to the Batmobile by Catwoman/Agent Avesta (whoever helps Batman depends on the path taken) right before losing consciousness. It is during this part of the story that Alfred is slightly more upbeat and funny than usual, but it's not hard to tell that it's a mere coping mechanism for being visibly fed up with the anxiety he gets from Bruce's stubborn crusade as Batman.
- As mentioned above and below, the eponymous Spider-Man from the Insomniac title of the same name is this, and it even seeps through the mask and into Peter Parker. When Dr. Otto Octavius loses his temper during a failed experiment and starts cursing out Mayor Osbourne, Peter is quick to burst out a joke about said mayor, to which he admits in the ensuing awkward silence afterward that he has a habit of joking in tense situations. Otto calmly commends him for the joke he told, averting how one would normally respond to this trope.
Otto: DAMMIT! This is all your fault, Norman, you son of a—Peter: Well, I know who YOU'RE not voting for in the next election.(Otto looks at Peter)Peter: Sorry. I, uh, have a habit of making bad jokes in tense situations.(brief silence)Otto: (laughs) It was a good joke, Parker.
- Averted for MJ in this, who is a lot calmer than she is in the comics, again as mentioned above.
- In the Plague of Shadows DLC for Shovel Knight, Plague Knight is implied to be this by Specter Knight in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech during their confrontation. Plague Knight's silence indicates Specter may have a point. While Specter never mentions the trope, he does interpret this.
Specter Knight: So, reaper meets reaper. But you are no kindred spirit. What have you come to harvest, foolish alchemist?Plague Knight: Hahaha! If only you could see me yawning under this mask! Ooooooh, SPOOKY GHOST! Whee hee haa haaaa!Specter Knight: HSS.... A mask indeed. As befits a hollow, blustering fool. You hide only from yourself!Plague Knight: ...
- The Radioman from Spec Ops: The Line is a wise-cracking, sarcastic asshole who gives Delta Squad no shortage of trouble. His audiotapes heavily imply that it's all an act; a coping mechanism to help him deal with the horrors of Dubai.
- Zelos from Tales of Symphonia - seems the most cheerful and confident, but he's probably the most messed-up of the lot. And that's saying something.
- Ace Attorney:
- Moe is definitely a good guy at heart, but his jokes are bad and everybody ends up hating him. The problem was that he was so stressed in court he veered wildly between trying to turn his testimony into a comedy act and behaving like a put-upon child. Outside of court he's at least tolerable and there are flashes of maturity there. The events of the case affect him, and he decides to take on the responsibility of being the ringmaster.
- Luke Atmey in the third game describes himself as this. He may actually fit the definition, though not in the sense that he intends. It's all in the name.
- Godot, the primary prosecutor of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations. Drinks 17 cups of coffee in one trial session with increasingly nonsensical metaphors for each cup, and at a few points throws his mug at Phoenix making for one of the most amusing sprite animations in the game...and has a past of being poisoned and left in a coma for five years, waking up at the smell of coffee with severe colorblindness only to discover that his apprentice and Implied Love Interest is dead, which he promptly blames Phoenix for despite having no logical claim...as a cover-up for the belief that he blames himself for it even though that also has no logical reasoning for it.
- In Dual Destinies, the DLC Case, "Turnabout Reclaimed" introduces Marlon Rimes, who bursts into some random, rather entertaining bouts of rap on some occasions. It's revealed late in the case that Marlon is struggling hardest of all to cope with the death of his girlfriend, Azura Summers, Orla's previous trainer, and only joined the aquarium in an attempt to have Orla killed, deeming her responsible, only to end up causing the Captain's death, bringing about the Orca Whale's framing.
- Junpei from Persona 3 makes terrible jokes, has all the sex appeal of a snail, and sometimes displays extremely poor judgment when fighting Shadows. However, all of this is simply an off-shoot of his personal insecurity, as he is fully aware of his own limitations and believes that he will never make anything out of himself in life. Similar to Yukari, he also comes from a one-parent household, and lives in the dormitories just so he can get away from his alcoholic father.
- Yosuke, from Persona 4, is similar in many ways to Junpei from the previous game, having a bad sense of humor and being an absolute lady-killer. This is to compensate for the fact that people in the town of Inaba don't care for him and his family, his father being the manager of the local Junes store which is blamed for killing off local businesses.
- Dragon Age:
- Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins fits this trope perfectly (apparently, his personality was based on Xander from Buffy). He is arguably the biggest Woobie in the game, but tries to compensate for his deep-seated insecurities and painful childhood through sarcasm and witty but misplaced one-liners. Zevran is somewhere between this and a Stepford Smiler — he acts like The Gadfly to cope with having hardly any agency in his entire life thus far. The Player Character can even lampshade it through a dialogue choice:
The Warden: Is this the part where you deflect questions with humor?
Alistair: I'd use my shield, but I think you'd actually see me hiding behind it.
- Anders from the Awakening DLC expansion puts up a pretty glib front, but doesn't exactly appreciate having been taken from his parents and locked in a Mage Tower (as evidenced by at least seven escape attempts). If you suggest mages should just accept the system, he reacts very angrily, and if you befriend him he half-seriously admits part of him wants to "rain fireballs on every Templar in creation". When he returns in the sequel, he makes good on this.
- In Dragon Age II when you play Hawke in a humorous and sarcastic style, s/he may very well come off as this, especially after his/her mother's murder. Aveline explicitly invokes this trope when she calls them out on this, telling them to stop pretending to be okay.
- Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins fits this trope perfectly (apparently, his personality was based on Xander from Buffy). He is arguably the biggest Woobie in the game, but tries to compensate for his deep-seated insecurities and painful childhood through sarcasm and witty but misplaced one-liners. Zevran is somewhere between this and a Stepford Smiler — he acts like The Gadfly to cope with having hardly any agency in his entire life thus far. The Player Character can even lampshade it through a dialogue choice:
- This type of archetype is present in Final Fantasy, usually on the party members' side.
- What do Barret Wallace, Irvine Kinneas, Wakka, Balthier, and Sazh Katzroy have in common? They all use silly theatrics in one form or another in order to cover their personal tragedy—mainly losing loved ones to a devastating attack.
- Prompto from Final Fantasy XV spends a lot of time cracking jokes and being the Plucky Comic Relief, covering up his insecurities and his origins as a clone created for military purposes by the Nilfheim Empire.
- Then there's the villain Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy VI, who is given this as an Alternative Character Interpretation in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. He's trying to kill everyone and destroy everything while laughing maniacally because he can no longer see the point in anything else, and his last laugh (after he dies) is a sobbing, sad one.
Firion [pre-match, if facing Kefka]: I've never heard a sadder laugh.
- Commander Shepard of Mass Effect can be played like this. S/He'll even be called on it occasionally.
- Sometimes s/he'll do this whether you choose to or not. S/he may be a badass but s/he goes through a lot of crap.
- Seemingly made canon in the third game. Shepard is clearly not fine and under a ridiculous amount of stress. Even Anderson, who's back on Earth moving from fox-hole to fox-hole whilst fighting the Reaper invasion, seems more concerned about getting people to look after Shepard.
- Joker is also confirmed to be this in the third game, where a particularly inappropriate joke after the destruction of Thessia gets a Dude, Not Funny! What the Hell, Hero? from Shepard. He then finally lets us know what he's really thinking, and it's not nice. He also reveals that he's not just being the Sad Clown for himself but also for Shepard.
- Pretty much any teammate who makes jokes can be considered this, due to the fact that they all have issues of their own, and the entire galaxy's going to hell. Kasumi Goto is possibly the only joker who is an exception to this, as even though she does have problems in her past, she genuinely seems to have moved past them (unless she's just really good at covering them up).
- It's implied that deep down, Kasumi isn't over the death of her lover, Keiji. Depending on how her loyalty mission ends and if Keiji's greybox was saved, Shepard will repeatedly express concern in 2 and 3 that Kasumi is spending too much time watching his memories and not enough making her own. One possible ending in 3 heavily implies that if she survived, she will spend the rest of her life in seclusion hopelessly reliving her old memories with the greybox.
- Sometimes s/he'll do this whether you choose to or not. S/he may be a badass but s/he goes through a lot of crap.
- The Sole Survivor in Fallout 4 can be played like this. The sarcastic dialogue choices very often stem from how pissed off, disappointed, or done with the world they've become.
Sole Survivor: My favorite ballpark's become a shanty town. Today's been great.
- A clown in Fantasy Quest turns out to be sad indeed, mostly from his lack of a nose.
- Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica: She's not in any way insecure (the contrary, in fact), but the combination of absolutely bad jokes and absolutely tragic backstory puts the Big Bad Infel straight in this territory.
- In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Clown Lee (who shows up at Jubilife TV Station or at Pokemon Centers depending on the weekday) can have this line (paraphrased) upon defeat:
A clown's face is a mask that smiles while it's crying. It defines what we do!
- Implied to be the case with Sans in Undertale and explicitly stated in the Genocide Route. Sans is one of the few characters who is aware of the player's ability to load and save. As a result, he's become lazy and nihilistic - after all, why should he bother doing anything when it could all be reset on a whim? He eventually snaps out of this On a Genocide Run, where you threaten the entirety of existence with your murderous intent. He even goes as far as saying that "[he] can't afford not to care anymore" and does literally EVERYTHING in his power to stop you.
- In The Sims 1, if a Sim has a clown painting on their lot, and becomes depressed, the painting will summon Tragic Clown to cheer them up. Unfortunately, as the name would suggest, Tragic Clown is also very depressed and any attempt he makes to cheer your Sim up only makes things worse, that is when he isn't off on his own sobbing.
- Grand Theft Auto V: Trevor has an obvious reason to make a fool of himself, setting aside from his homicidal tendencies, and being highly strung. It serves the purpose that Trevor underneath is a self-deprecating individual with mommy issues, as well his insanity were one of the factors to his current behavior. Ironically enough, Trevor is scared of clowns!
- Michael himself also qualifies, especially first half of the game, he admits how he's messed up as a whole — his issues with his family, his return into the criminal world, and Trevor himself. His sarcasm is the only thing that locks him away from bad situations. He finally got better when he and his family got together. However, in the Kill Trevor ending, Michael relapses into this post-game, in reverence of his regret of killing his once best friend.
Trevor: Is that sarcasm?Michael: Oh, you're fucking A-right it's sarcasm! You fuck! A few weeks ago, I was happily retired, sulking by my swimming pool, and my psychotic best friend shows up out of nowhere to torture me over mistakes I made, honest mistakes I made over a decade ago! We, our little posse, are flat fucking broke, but hey, let's go out and spend two million dollars on a tandem rotor fucking chopper, so I can go steal nerve gas from fucking terrorists! Forgive me, you ignorant fuck, but sarcasm is all I've fucking got! SARCASM! And a room full of you cunts!
- Michael himself also qualifies, especially first half of the game, he admits how he's messed up as a whole — his issues with his family, his return into the criminal world, and Trevor himself. His sarcasm is the only thing that locks him away from bad situations. He finally got better when he and his family got together. However, in the Kill Trevor ending, Michael relapses into this post-game, in reverence of his regret of killing his once best friend.
- 707/Luciel from Mystic Messenger is a Playful Hacker with a zany sense of humor who regularly trolls the other RFA members with practical jokes and appears to take nothing seriously. Underneath that silly exterior, however, is a man who had to give up his identity and birth name to escape his abusive mother, unknowingly abandoning his twin brother to a Brainwashed and Crazy fate in the process, and lives with the constant threat of being made to "disappear" by the intelligence agency he works for if he slips up which has left him reluctant to get truly close to anyone in case he might have to disappear from their lives one day. He only shows the fun side of himself to the RFA because there is no other place for him to find fun in his life.
- Don't Starve has Wes the Mime, who is a helpless Joke Character in a Death World. His special power is blowing balloons that can be used to distract hostiles... but each balloon eats into Wes's Sanity Meter, presumably because he's so depressed.
- Magilou from Tales of Berseria. She spends a lot of her time making sarcastic remarks and being The Gadfly to the rest of the party. There are multiple moments, however, where this facade slips and she becomes dead serious. Notably, when the party encounters a Lotus-Eater Machine illusion, she doesn't make a single wisecrack or goofy comment for the entire ordeal.
- Suffering can be withstood, but all are powerless before happiness.
- The World Ends with You has Shiki, who is the first person Neku partners with in the UG. She seems to be energetic and playful but later on, she reveals that her personality was all an act, and her physical appearance in the UG is not that of her own because it was used as her entry fee in the Reaper's Game, but of her friend, Eri, a talented seamstress who she finds herself very jealous of. Shiki's angst is resolved when they overhear Eri talk about how greatly she looked up to Shiki before the day of her tragic accident, and Neku and Shiki become far more motivated to win the game.
- Axel in Kingdom Hearts II can definitely qualify. He seems the most laidback among the other Organization members and even makes jokes during meetings that can have other members tossing weapons at him. Nevermind the fact that, like the other Nobodies, he can't have feelings, what truly causes Axel's sadness is his best and only friend, Roxas's departure from the Organization and forgetting who Axel is. Deep down, Axel hates the other members and would join Roxas if it were up to him. Despite not having any feelings, Axel legitimately cries before both him and Roxas disappear from Twilight Town after Sora defeats Roxas in the Final Mix version.
- He was less of this in his debut in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and gets softer in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days.
- In Kingdom Hearts III, Axel makes quite a few jokes among the rest of the seven guardians of light that seem to poke fun of the franchise as a whole and his funny persona comes back with a fiery vengeance. However, the same goes for his sadness when he finds himself remembering Xion during his time with Kairi. Finally, when he successfully reunites with Roxas and a tearful Xion, he jokes that he should've brought ice cream, right before he himself emotionally breaks down and hugs both of his best friends as the trio have the cry of their lives.
- The end product of Goro Majima's Character Development in the Yakuza series, going from "unhinged in a disturbing way" in the original game, to "unhinged in a goofy way" in subsequent games, with Yakuza 5 and Yakuza 0 revealing more and more of the tragic past that made him adopt the Ax-Crazy Mad Dog of Shimano persona as both a coping mechanism and an act of rebellion.
- Grisaia no Kajitsu: Michiru does a very convincing clown act. However it is revealed on her route that there is a rather depressing reason why she acts like this. Basicly acting like a clown is the only thing she feels she is not completely useless at, making people laugh, and making them at least that much happier.
- Doki Doki Literature Club! has Sayori, the protagonist's best friend since childhood, who is a fun, lazy, and somewhat clumsy Genki Girl at heart. Later during the game's first act, she reveals her energetic spirits to be a mask she had worn in front of him for years, as it turns out she's been suffering from depression for her entire life. Whether you confess your love to her or put her in the friend zone doesn't matter, since in the end, she is very displeased in both you and herself and has more than enough guilt to, soon after, be found having hanged herself on the day of the festival.
- The Poz in You Damn Kid, goofs off because he loves the attention...due to the fact that his father beats him and his mother is an alcoholic.
- Carl from Soul Symphony constantly cracks jokes and makes fun of others, but gets a little more serious when discussing the near-extinction of his race of creature.
- Girl Genius: Othar Trygvassen (Gentleman Adventurer), a Mad Scientist who wants to kill off all other mad scientists (and then himself) in order to eliminate the threat they pose forever. He spends most of his time as a goofy hero who gets by due to an annoying amount of Plot Armor, but on the rare occasions he gets a chance to explain his mission, it becomes clear that he is filled with self-loathing and knows that he'll most likely never succeed in his quest. The novels, especially, emphasize a few times that the cheerful facade is exactly that, an act to make himself feel better. He's especially disturbed whenever he realizes he's made friends with someone he is going to have to kill.
- Mela of We Are The Wyrecats is the most outwardly perky and cheerful member of the team, but sometimes she uses that bright demeanor to hide her feelings of sadness, worry, and resentment.
- Raimi Matthews from Broken Saints does not have a happy past, and probably turned into a Deadpan Snarker to dull the pain of reality.
- Sean O'Cann of Survival of the Fittest, to which the above quote applies almost perfectly. Prior to the point in the game (Day 3) that he found out his best friend, boy friend, and cousin died (three different people, before anyone says anything) he still cracked a joke every now and then. Afterward though, Sean begins making all sorts of remarks, not all of which are in the best taste, and sometimes are just plain offensive.
- Evan in Everyman HYBRID is the most affected by the Sanity Slippage caused by the group's dealings with the Slender Man and other assorted problems; he also tries to lighten pretty much every situation, cracking jokes while exploring creepy abandoned buildings or even while dealing with a monster literally hiding in a closet at a friend's house. The latter is likely the best example of his humor backfiring for those around him, as he pulled this after said monster violently assaulted his friend's brother.
- Related to the example below, a lot of the comedy (the character-based, at least) in The Nostalgia Critic is based on how unhappy he is with his life.
- The Nostalgia Chick is also deeply depressed and tries to hide it with Black Comedy and cynical sarcasm.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Cracking awkward, horribly inappropriate jokes seems to be how Krillin deals with all the crap he's put through.
- Phase of the Whateley Universe. Since he narrates his own novels, the reader gets to see just how emotionally damaged he really is, even though he refuses to admit it to anyone (except the school shrink).
- Teen superhero Clockblocker of Worm is this, as revealed to his therapist.
- In the SuperMarioLogan plush toy series, the eponymous Doofy the Dragon of the Show Within a Show of the same name that Bowser Jr. loves, is pretty much coated in this trope. Almost every episode of the show features Doofy coping through a nasty divorce, eviction, or legal problems through suicide attempts, right after he sings the audience a song about it in the style of public domain, unless he's committing murder or violently beating his ex-wife with a bottle of Jack Daniels.
- The Van Beuren Studios Mickey Mouse clone, Milton Mouse, briefly becomes his during the end of "Circus Capers" when his girlfriend has an affair with the ringmaster. He even addresses himself as a sad clown in his brief song number, only for his girlfriend to have second thoughts and come back to him.
- Weasel in The Animals of Farthing Wood is constantly making insulting wisecracks, more frequently when they are more inappropriate.
- Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender. His cheerful exterior and fun-loving personality is a way to cope and ignore the guilt he feels for running away from his home and people and getting frozen, allowing the Fire Nation to wage war for a century, wiping out his people. He finally faces his guilt later on when he's mentored by Guru Pathik.
- Iroh counts as well. Underneath his goofy facade, he's just a father grieving the loss of his son. He's also done plenty of things in the past that he's not proud of.
- Sokka shows signs of this, as well. While usually a complete goofball in groups or around Katara, when confiding in friends or by himself, he shows that he's actually very insecure and sad; his mother died when he was a child, his father left to fight a war shortly thereafter, he's (initially) the only muggle in a group of superpowered warriors, and even he believes that he might be too goofy to be of any real help. As he gains more confidence during the series, his jokester tendencies become slightly less-pronounced and he becomes more easy-going than lazy.
- Toph, when all is said and done, has more baggage than a cargo ship: she was always treated as a fragile thing by her parents, ran away from home after they said they'd be even more strict about protecting her (even after she showed first-hand that she was already one of the best earthbenders in the world at TWELVE), is legitimately torn over how she must have broken her parents hearts & makes them worry as a result, feels responsible for Appa having been kidnapped, and is actually terribly insecure about her blindness (despite acting like it's a non-issue normally). Outwardly, she seems like a total snark-bender who doesn't really care about anything, save for her friends.
- Rocko's Modern Life references the trope, as Rocko had always wanted a portrait of "A Sad Crying Clown in an Iron Lung◊", but could never afford it - until he got a credit card.
- Beast Boy from the Teen Titans animated series is an insecure and vulnerable kid who constantly uses humour as a defense mechanism.
- Similarly, his appearance in Young Justice, he's usually seen as very cheerful, cracking jokes, and keeping Kid Flash's tradition of collecting souvenirs from their mission, but we learn that he's deeply haunted by the death of his mother, and upon coming across a location that looks identical to spot where she died, he's reduced to tears.
- X-Men: Evolution has Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, who may as well be the poster-boy for this trope. He's possibly the most sensitive, emotionally vulnerable character on the show (next to Rogue, his adopted sister), and spends a good deal of his time angsting over his appearance (in early episodes) and his mother, Mystique (in later episodes). Nevertheless he is the resident "goof-ball", trying his best to appear the carefree joker when deep down, he's anything but carefree.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold Plastic Man admits to this himself in the episode "Cry Freedom Fighters!" after Batman expresses his skepticism about him joining the eponymous team.
Plastic Man: C'mon, Bats. No one's ever wanted me to be a part of their team. Even the League threw me out. Give me a chance to be a part of something—to prove to myself that I'm not a three-time loser.
- Notably not the Flash on Justice League, as illustrated nicely in the episode Flash and Substance. Some people just don't seem to get it.
Orion: I understand now. You play the clown to hide a warrior's pain.
Flash: Dude...the bad guys went down, and nobody got hurt. You know what I call that? A really good day.
- It is possible that the high-energy lifestyle and constant peppiness could be a result of him being aware of how dangerous his powers actually are to himself and the people around him, but it's less about masking angst and more about thoroughly enjoying every moment he gets.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Appleoosa's Most Wanted" Trouble Shoes is this played as straight as they come. He's constantly getting into accidents through either his terrible clumsiness or just plain bad luck, and bemoans his fate just as often, even when he's not at fault!
- Some fans have pegged Pinkie Pie as one of these. In "Party of One", the constantly-cheerful party pony is quick to fall into a funk when she thinks her friends don't want to come to her parties or be friends with her anymore.
- In a more literal example, we have Krusty the Klown from The Simpsons
Homer: Let's tell Krusty! That guy's hilarious!
Marge: I keep telling you, off-camera he's a desperately unhappy man.
Bart: So the substitute teacher comes in and says her name is Mrs. Doody, and everyone's looking at me like, "Take it, Bart. Run with it." Then it hits me. I've become a clown. A class clown. And it sickens me.
- This was also brought up in the episode "Tellow Subterfuge" when Krusty's supervisor asks him why he had become a clown. He simply responded with that he was meant to be one of the sad ones.
- Homer is a pretty good example of this trope. Though he's usually fairly exuberant, he's attempted suicide at least three times in the series, and during the early seasons, was often shown to be insecure about the way he looks, not to mention the stress related to his job. In the modern episodes, [[youtu.be/eW2ddqZdkPI Homer's childhood was explored]], as his parents were constantly fighting and his father would take a lot of his frustration out on him, [[youtu.be/XWN Ip OUELLM bringing about Homer's constant eating habits]].
- Bart can also be viewed as a sad clown. In "Lisa's Sax", when he was in kindergarten, he was verbally abused by the teacher that told him he would always fail in life when he simply struggled with naming the alphabet, causing him to get depressed and draw a picture of him being dead. However, he cheered up when he started making jokes; this can be further proven given that Bart is constantly abused by Homer and is bullied on a regular basis. At one point he was bullied by the town and attempted suicide in "The Boys of Bummer" as an attempt for forgiveness for failing to catch a baseball that caused the team to lose the match, but still makes jokes and pranks every episode.
- In the episode "Jaws Wired Shut", Bart tells Homer that he realized he had become a Class Clown when he was pressured to make a joke about the fact that their substitute teacher that day was named Mrs. Doody, and he has gone on since then, ruing that fact.
- Randy Marsh of South Park admits in the episode "You're Getting Old" that the reason for his crazy antics was because he was deeply unsatisfied with his mundane life, and was the first to overreact to different fads out of hope that it would give his life a little more meaning.
- Ultimate Spider-Man: Spider-Man's wacky jokes and quirky personality are what he uses to shield him from a relentlessly unkind world.
- The hedonistic and womanizing behavior of Glenn Quagmire on Family Guy is largely a way to cope with his failed relationship with Cheryl Tiegs.
- Peter Griffin may definitely fit the bill. He's had a father and a stepdad, neither one whom he'd formed a healthy, long-term relationship with. His Irish dad dumped his mother while he was in conception, and his stepdad was a religious fanatic who despised him until the day of his passing.
- In the episode, "Peter's Sister", it is revealed that Peter's bullying antics toward his daughter, Meg, is due to the humiliating abuse he got from his older sister.
- Black Dynamite explored this with when Dynamite had to help Richard Pryor. At one point going into a very scary in-depth look into the comedian's psyche. This was based on Pryor's real life stint with cocaine (though oddly that took place in the 80s. The series is set in the 70s).
- Amethyst of Steven Universe is extremely flippant and laid-back compared to Garnet or Pearl, but hides a lot of insecurity that only becomes apparent on episodes that focus on her.
- The titular character, Steven also has hints of this as he is a joyful fun loving kid but also as a great deal of insecurity about not living up to his mother's legacy and others' expectations.
- And then there is Smoky Quartz, a combination of Amethyst and Steven who shares both of their fun-loving natures and is almost always smiling, but also shares both of their insecurities. When Smoky fails, the self-deprecating jokes are noticeably harsh.
- Wander from Wander over Yonder is a guy that is always there to cheer and help everybody that he comes across, but in season 2's "The Wanders" we find out that he does this because he knows what it's like to be afraid, sad and hopeless himself.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: Zig-zagged in "The One", [[youtu.be/Ghf_tKR_bkI where the layers of Gumball's personality are dissected]]. Beneath the surface is Humor, a clown who makes a self-deprecating joke about himself the moment he surfaces, but reveals himself to just be Anxiety wearing a flimsy disguise. The layer beneath him is Fear, who is the way he is to hide his hilariously massive and monstrous Ego.
- Real-world crime-scene clean-up crews absolutely must treat their gruesome jobs with a crass sense of humour, otherwise the job's nearly impossible.
- Most ambulance crews are the same way for similar reasons as crime-scene clean-up crews, and due to the nature of their services, they are always dealing with people who are having bad days.
- The Trope Codifier is Weary Willie the sad hobo clown (pictures on the right), the alter ego of Emmet Kelly Sr. and Jr.
- It's startlingly common for comedians to suffer from major depression. Lenny Bruce, Owen Wilson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, most of the Pythons (John Cleese even wrote a book about it), Groucho Marx, Bill Oddie...
- Peter Sellers is a particularly famous example, so much so that a book and film (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) was devoted to this.
- Chris Farley. It killed him.
- To wit: Conan O'Brien paid tribute to Farley by playing a clip from a past appearance in which he sang "I'm a Clown, But I Cry".
- John Belushi started doing drugs because being as funny as he was got exhausting.
- Christopher Titus. Stories of his horrific upbringing with an incredibly dysfunctional family and his disastrous love life fuel the majority of his work, and no; he didn't make any of that stuff up.
"This right here is the difference between paycheck and nightly bed check."
- Jim Carrey has depression stemming from his traumatic, poverty-laden childhood. His father lost his job at age 51, and so him and his siblings were forced to drop out of school and work as janitors and security guards. He used to take Prozac before deciding to cease taking all medications and stimulants, including coffee.
- Russell Brand. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had bulimia as a child. He also used to have terrible cutting incidents and numerous addictions. As he himself puts it, "My biggest problem is that I have lived an autobiography rather than a life."
- John Lennon used his reputation as "the witty Beatle" as a mask to cover up his massive insecurity, to which he even confessed in "I'm A Loser" and "Nowhere Man"—they came to him after five frustrating hours of writer's block.
- Chilean lawyer and reality show star Juan Cristobal Foxley, nicknamed "Dandy Chileno" ("Chilean Dandy"). Article in Spanish is here.
- Richard Lewis. As if it wasn't obvious before he publicly admitted his problems with depression and began making an effort to help others with the same problem.
- A similar thing was done by New Zealand comedian Mike King — who previously experienced substance abuse and depression — in the form of the Nutters' Club radio show, where listeners call in to explain their mental health issues.
- Gene Wilder. Incredibly so. One can even sense a profound sadness in his hammiest performances.
- The Great Zucchini. Wildly successful children's entertainer for people like Sasha and Malia Obama on the one hand; deeply indebted gambling addict desperately trying to hold his life together on the other hand. Thankfully, he got better.
- P. G. Wodehouse parodied this in the foreword for The Clicking of Cuthbert, an anthology of golf-related stories, where he wrote that he didn't fit this trope before, but now he does, because he started playing golf.
- Most people on Channel Awesome are like this. They've gone through depression, abusive relationships and illnesses, but use comedy to tear those taboo subjects down.
- Most notable was Jew Wario, who, until revelations of sexual misconduct posthumously sprung up, had one of the cheeriest public personas out of all of them, and wound up committing suicide in early 2014.
- Steve-O is one who suffers from depression, mood swings, and drug addiction. He dropped out of University due to poor grades and disobedience, was rejected from Ringling Bros. Circus after graduating clown college, and his mother passed away in 2003 after an aneurysm. His crazy stunts help him to escape.
- Soviet 1920s1930s satire writer Mikhail Zoshchenko suffered from severe depression. His semi-autobiographical book Before Sunrise was initially banned by the Soviet censors, as its themes of depression ran against the triumphalism and optimism of Socialist Realism.
- Dave Chappelle, who disappeared from the public eye mostly after his show ended over becoming disinterested in his own material.
- When he was in Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne was considered the "clown" of the group, constantly playing pranks on the other members and performing outrageous stunts and parties to get attention. Once he went solo he became famous for his debauched personal life and shocking onstage antics. His public persona is mostly an act, and in his personal life he has often struggled with depression, anxiety, and alcoholism.
- Stephen Chow is best known for his comedic roles, but away from the camera he's known for being surprisingly humorless and lethargic. A troubled and impoverished childhood might be the cause.
- Shane Dawson's Draw My Life episode is self explanatory.
- Onision has a whole channel dedicated to his troubles.
- Darrell Hammond of Saturday Night Live is famed for his wide variety of impressions and being on SNL for fourteen years (longer than anyone else). His backstory reveals a long history of extreme parental abuse; his mother has been mentioned as slamming his fingers in car doors as a child and cutting his tongue. In fact, he started doing impressions to please his mother to avoid the abuse. Alcoholism, cocaine addiction, and mental illness (he suffers from bipolar disorder, had a long history of self-harm and has sought treatment for schizophrenia) are also part of his backstory. Remarkably, he has still spoken very openly about it and is far more well-adjusted than anyone in his position should be expected to be.
- Kevin MacDonald and Dave Foley of The Kids in the Hall are both this to varying extents. MacDonald was struggling with depression and a divorce while making the film Brain Candy (ironically about a drug that makes people happy). Foley has been like this since his marriage collapsed, his career declined and he started owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support.
- John Cheese of Cracked has long been like this due to his struggles with alcoholism, poverty, parental abuse and depression. Despite this, his writing often reflects on such things in an extremely funny light and he has repeatedly claimed that he doesn't blame others for his problems and uses his writing to let people in similar situations know that they are not alone and things can get better.
- Tom Baker is perhaps best known for playing the Fourth Doctor, a kind, lovable, and oftentimes very witty character that's become a cultural icon in the UK. At the same time however, he suffered from severe mental health issues, particularly undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and lived a very rocky life before, during, and after his time as the Doctor (including, but not limited to, losing his faith after a life in an emotionally abusive monastery, going through several failed marriages, and spending his entire tenure as the Doctor attempting to stay in-character both on and off the set).
- Charles Hawtrey suffered from alcoholism, which increased drastically after the death of his mother. He was also insufferable to work with, according to many Carry On actors, and was briefly fired from a film project for being a diva.
- Marc Maron due to his struggles with Mental illness.
- Sarah Silverman, who has suffered from clinical depression and had a Xanax addiction in her teens.
- Richard Jeni, who committed suicide.
- Seemingly Glover, at least going by his recent work (Because The Internet).
- Patton Oswalt, best explained here and here.
- Don't call him a sad clown to his face, though.
- David Lange, the Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1984 to 1989, attributed his acerbic wit to the need to defend himself from being bullied about his weight.
- Matthew Perry, much like his character Chandler Bing, who is listed in the TV section. While he played pranks and cracked up the audience on the show, at home he battled a horrible drug addiction and alcoholism which became in his words "a matter of life and death". Even his notoriously close cast-members were unaware of how unhappy he was. He eventually admitted his problems, checked himself into rehab and since then has been a public figure in raising awareness for drug addictions.
- Drew Carey has struggled with bipolar disorder for years and has attempted suicide twice due to the severity.
- Rodney Dangerfield. Good lord, the man just made you want to hug him and tell him "It will all be okay." His memoir "It Ain't Easy Bein' Me" is unbearably sad, detailing his emotionally abusive parents, his initial failure to break into show business, his lifelong struggle with depression, and his genuine self-hatred which he turned into self-deprecating one-liners.
- In a literal example, a fire at the Hartford circus in 1944 killed 167 people. The tragedy is often called "The Day The Clown Cried" (not to be confused with the infamous movie).
- Mexican actor and comedian Mario Moreno, aka "Cantinflas".
- Robin Williams struggled with severe bipolar disorder and alcoholism. He eventually committed suicide at age 63 (albeit due to an onset of dementia rather than anything directly related to depression).
- Cracked took the opportunity to reflect on Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves.
- YouTube gamer CinnamonToastKen released a video explaining his battle with depression and the pressures he and other players face. Ken is known to his fans for his upbeat sense of humor.
- Youtuber Ray William Johnson's [[youtu.be/3hHStJT7g6w blog]] about his childhood revealed that he isn't as much of a comedian but a man haunted by past. It also changed fans views about Rays jokes about family in his videos.
- Artie Lange of Mad Tv and The Howard Stern Show has had a well noted drug and alcohol problem and has attempted suicide.
- Wayne Brady revealed that he had struggled with depression for a while in 2014. He kept it secret for a while (and honestly, if you saw him on screen, you probably wouldn't be able to tell), but reached rock bottom after the suicide of Robin Williams, and at that point decided to come out with it. Fortunately, doing that seems to have helped him start to get better.
- Youtuber LittleKuriboh, known for his Abridged Series, revealed in 2014 to have been diagnosed with depression, which destroyed his creative output for a while. Since then, he has released a series of vlogs called "We're Still Here," chronicling his struggle while also giving positive life experiences, which is meant to help both him and others who have gone through the same thing. Doing that seems to have helped him get better.
- He modified the format of "We're Still Here" to have some people he knows tell their stories of struggling with depression when he doesn't have anything to say. His first guest was voice actor/parody writer/singer Jessi Nowack, who revealed to have depression possibly caused by holding herself to extremely high standards due to having a military man for a stepfather. Therapy sessions, coming out of the closet, and getting a tattoo of a fainting goat have helped her start to get better.
- Actor Paul Lynde, known for years as a funny man, frequently appearing as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, the center square on the gameshow, The Hollywood Squares and as Templeton the rat in the animated version of Charlotte's Web, also battled with alcoholism for most of his life, which ultimately killed him. Friends noted that despite his jovial persona on screen, in real life, he was not a happy person, and at times, could be extremely volatile. Having to stay in the closet throughout his acting career probably didn't help.
- Paul Winchell, probably best known to modern audiences as the voice of Tigger and Gargamel, kept most of his demons to himself. However, his autobiography detailed an abusive childhood, a troubled marriage (which eventually ended in divorce), and a long struggle with depression (which resulted in a mental breakdown and a brief stay in a mental hospital). He had strained relationships with his family, to the point where his own children were not notified of his death in 2005.
- John Kennedy Toole was a renowned comedic stage performer for most of his life, winning much admiration from his fellow academics for his quick wit and skill at mimicry. He also suffered from serious depression, and was continually haunted by his failure to get any of his novels published. His despair ultimately got the better of him, and he committed suicide at the age of 31. 11 years later, though, his mother successfully got his last novel published posthumously; that novel was A Confederacy of Dunces, which is widely considered one of the funniest novels ever written. It's also notable for breaking out of the Comedy Ghetto, being one of the few purely comedic novels ever to win the Pulitzer Prize.
- More than a few members of the Yogscast have opened up about suffering from mental health issues:
- Zoey Proasheck has openly admitted to being depressed at various points in her life despite her supposedly being The Pollyanna.
- Simon Lane is best known for being one half of the main channel and the main goofball of the group. However, he appeared to suffer from a Creator Breakdown in early 2015, which culminated in him insulting former friend TotalBiscuit and then mocking the Yogscast subreddit when they thought his behaviour was out of line. His declining health (both mentally and physically) forced him to take time out from March until September of 2015, and while he's on the mend his appearances on the main channel aren't as frequent as before.
- Lewis Brindley openly admitted that he was suffering from depression during a charity livestream in 2015.
- In The Little Wood is known by his fans for generally being upbeat and a good sport, but suffered from a breakdown in late 2014 which required him to take time out and drop out of a livestream he was meant to be hosting. He claimed that he had been depressed for some time and in denial about it.
- Comedian Kenneth Williams (known for his appearances in Hancock's Half Hour and the Carry On movies) was depressed for most of his adult life, and wrote about it, as well as suicidal thoughts, in his diaries. This was mostly due to his homosexuality and beliefs of being the only one suffering from Gayngst (he frequently wrote that other gay men seemed to be dealing with it better than he was). He died in 1988 after overdosing on antidepressants, making many debate whether it was an accident or not.
- Abraham Lincoln was a famous teller of humorous stories, and a notorious Pungeon Master. However, it was partly a way for him to deal with the deep sense of melancholy that followed him through life, which began in 1835, with his (debatable) lover, Ann Rutledge succumbing to the pandemic known as "bilious fever" when he was 26, and was only made worse by tragedies such as the loss of his young son Willie in 1862.
- Cloudcuckoolander comedian Maria Bamford has been open about being diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. Her struggles with the illness form the basis of her Netflix series Lady Dynamite.
- Carlo Moss, one of the creators and writers for The Most Popular Girls in School and Dr. Havoc's Diary, suffers from anxiety.
- Ben Croshaw is known for his fast-paced Rant Comedy on the Zero Punctuation series and for his comedic novels. He's admitted to suffering from anxiety disorder, and is known to be much more quiet and withdrawn in person than one might expect.
- Allie Brosh, creator of the comedic webcomic Hyperbole and a Half, suffers from depression, which has resulted in several long absences from the webcomic. She wrote a two-part entry in the series about her struggles with the condition (which actually manages to be very funny in spite of the subject matter).
- Silent film star Roscoe Arbuckle struggled with obesity his whole life and hated being called "Fatty". He later turned to alcohol, and also became addicted to morphine while recovering from a leg infection that threatened to take that leg entirely, which made his health even worse. All that combined with the Virginia Rappe scandal and it's a miracle he was able to stay positive during shootings.
- Joe Biden's noted for being snarky/wisecracking, despite enduring so much tragedy in his life. In December 1972, only a month after he was first elected Senator of Delaware, his wife Nielle and their infant daughter Naomi were killed in an auto accident, with their sons Beau and Hunter hospitalized too. And then, in May 2015, Beau died battling cancer, which many believe was why Joe decided not to seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
- John Matuszak, who you may know as Sloth from the Goonies, was also a football player who was infamous for the heavy amount of drugs and alcohol he had consumed during his career, especially during said career's beginning, where he was traded constantly from one team to another for his habits despite his great talent. He didn't stop there. After his two Super Bowl wins with the Oakland Raiders, Matuszak was bringing women into his locker room and was incarcerated for public stunts such as firing a gun at street signs and bringing his team out dancing and drinking on Bourbon Street, racking in fines from $1,000-$15,000. In his childhood, John lost his two brothers to cystic fibrosis, and his sister also had the disease long after childhood. When his family moved from Wisconsin to Oak Creek, his new classmates began ridiculing him and calling him a gawky beanpole. By the time his career ended, Matsuzak passed away from a painkiller addiction at 38.
- Jeff Dunham is an example of this, especially when he and his first wife got divorced. His stand-up following said proceeding was bittersweet at best. While his puppet, Walter, is excited and asks him what it's like, Jeff tells him it's not a good feeling. Jeff got better after he met his second wife. Whether or not his sadness is long-term is to be considered.
- John Goodman suffered from some intense drinking problems toward the end of Rosanne's original run. Thankfully, he recuperated. Discussed here.
- Andy Richter, who for years, served as the right-hand man to Conan O'Brien on several of his shows, publicly came out on Twitter as suffering from clinical depression.
- Dudley Moore was deeply insecure from childhood onward due to physical disabilities and short stature, and despite years of therapy and huge success as an actor and pianist was never quite able to move past this. There were many other personal problems that came up during his career — his fraught relationship with Peter Cook in their legendary comic double act, three failed marriages and a distant relationship with the son the second one produced, and a fourth wife who was abusive and manipulative but whom he struggled to leave nonetheless. Acquaintances often described him as melancholy and willing to give up on his problems instead of truly dealing with them in his bleaker moods. And although he managed to leave his final wife, it was around that time that he began to slowly succumb to progressive supranuclear palsy, leading to his premature death at the age of 66. It's not for nothing that Barbara Paskin's authorized biography of him sometimes bears the subtitle The Melancholy Clown.
- Richard Pryor struggled with drug addiction, culminating in a 1980 freebasing accident in which he suffered second- and third-degree burns, which his daughter Rain theorized was actually a suicide attempt.
- Writer and movie critic Mikey Neumann, of Movies with Mikey fame, is famous for his outgoing personality and his surreal sense of humor, and generally maintains the public persona of a lovably weird goofball. He's also been battling Multiple Sclerosis for most of his career, and ultimately left his job at Gearbox Software as a result of complications from the disease; among other things, he was hospitalized for over a week in 2011 after collapsing from a sudden stroke. He occasionally lampshades this in his video essays, noting that he enjoys approaching difficult subjects in a humorous manner.
- Bo Burnham. He even wrote a song about it; the song contains the line, "Come and watch the skinny kid with a steadily declining mental health, and laugh as he attempts to give you what he cannot give himself."
- Harrison Laine of The Music Video Show made a video that reveals that he is this, where he explains a suicide attempt.
- As seen above, it's very common for people afflicted with mental illnesses (especially bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, and OCD) to actually have a great sense of humor. It sounds contradictory, but mental illness isn't all sadness and darkness. One thing that is common to many mental illnesses is severe self doubt about your value as a person. Cracking jokes and making people laugh can temporarily ease some of those feelings. Not to mention that humor is a very effective coping mechanism; if one were to observe interactions between patients in a mental hospital, one would hear a lot of Gallows Humor that Crosses the Line Twice, leavened with a surprising amount of Sophisticated as Hell.