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Sadist Show

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"...for some of us."

"What I see here is a dozen people, all trying to make each other miserable. You disgust me, but it's also faintly amusing. Carry on."
Quote from an attorney in a Dutch court (translated)

There's a German word, Schadenfreude. It means "the joy you get at seeing other people's misfortune" (Schaden = "damage", Freude = "joy"). (This phrase is commonly mistranslated as "shameful joy.") In other words, the "point-and-laugh" school of comedy. The Sadist Show is built on it. In this kind of show, there are no sympathetic characters whatsoever, and nobody will ever Pet the Dog. Everybody is both obnoxious and incompetent, beyond even the Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. The audience can't really root for them, so the fun is in seeing the characters suffer more than they deserve, more than Job, more than possibly everybody in the history of the human race combined. In short, it's a comedy, but not in the Shakespearean sense.

And not just any old misfortune like getting an Anvil on Head. The agony in a Sadist Show is a very sharp kind, the one that reminds you how totally unfair life is. It isn't a Sadist Show unless the characters suffer the very opposite of poetic justice. For instance, if our Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist has been mugged, that's not enough. If the poor dope runs to report the mugging, and is arrested for jaywalking, and has to sit in jail while the mugger walks past their cell every day, that's the Sadist Show.


Sometimes, there will be a character who the audience kind of sort of roots for, but not really. One form is the No Respect Guy (like Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force) who tries to act decent but fails. However, the audience doesn't exactly root for them, because they're so ineffective, and they're usually a bit of a stick in the mud too. Another form is a Heroic Sociopath, who is as vile as the rest of the cast but is at least competent (like Brock Sampson from The Venture Bros.). But they're too evil to really cheer for, and how sympathetic can they be if they're stuck with the rest of these losers? The Venture Bros., with its emphasis on failure, reminds us that Brock may be competent, but he's in a pointless dead-end gig, and one that he is so over-qualified for that it's humiliating.


Note that this can be somewhat subjective, depending on how sympathetic and/or interesting one finds a character, a cast, or a situation.

This kind of show almost always has Negative Continuity, so the writers can inflict any kind of torment they like (including killing them off over and over again) without affecting future episodes.

Often overlaps with the Grossout Show. An Immoral Reality Show will usually be this in-universe. Maybe the result, cause, or overlap with a Crapsack World. Essentially the basic premise of a Dark Fic or Comedic Sociopathy. Compare Kafka Komedy. Compare and contrast Point-and-Laugh Show (Real Life Jerkasses, but dispensing with the torture in favor of just laughing at their existence) and Cringe Comedy (where we feel at least some sympathy for the victims, but that sympathy is outweighed by our voyeurism). The natural habitat of the Lethal Klutz. Also compare Black Comedy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A common complaint about the second season of Osomatsu-san is that the humor is far more mean-spirited than the first.
  • Daily Lives of High School Boys: Almost all of the women in this comedy are violent bullies— except Yassan, who is merely a crazy threatening stalker.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: It's like Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi meets South Park meets The Powerpuff Girls, Anime Style.
  • Pick a harem series. Any. You'll be lucky if it isn't this trope.
    • Love Hina, featuring the classic and pioneering example of an endlessly comedically tormented harem protagonist.
    • Girls Bravo does this with a protagonist who's literally allergic to women. Heck, the show opens up with him getting beaten up by his friend after walking in on her taking a bath. Typical anime cliche right? Well, the thing is it was his own house which she broke into and used without his permission. Oh the hilarity.
    • The anime of School Days is a more full-fledged example; all the main characters are total jackasses, especially the male lead, and most of the appeal of the series comes from the multi-horrific-murder ending, because by that point you want everyone to die.
    • Nyan Koi!: The main character, Junpei Kousaka, is deathly allergic to cats and does everything he can to keep away from them, but both his mother and sister love cats so much that they keep one around the house constantly, even letting the cat on the dining table, and treat his cat allergies as petty whining. Junpei also suffers abuse from everyone else around him, is surrounded by people who love cats, is mocked by his own classmates, occasionally gets treated like a pervert and beaten up for it, and not helping the accusations are smarter than average cats who seem to enjoy making his life hell. That's not even mentioning the Guardian Deity of Cats who cursed Junpei into doing 100 good deeds for cats, or he will be turned into one himself and possibly die from the full-body allergic reaction.
  • Ultimate Girls. UFO Man has revived three girls by sacrificing much of his own life force, so now they're in charge of protecting Tokyo. Oh, but growing 50 feet tall is only half of this show. While most fellow fanservice shows just feature embarrassment as a natural emotion of being seen naked, this show actively goes out of its way to utterly humiliate the protagonists. It's not enough that embarrassment becomes the girls' power source as their magical spandex wears out (very quickly). Oh no. When they revert back to their normal size, they don't even get their clothes back, even though said embarrassment has already served its purpose.
  • Alien Nine. Yuri got chosen for the Alien Party completely against her will. And there is no way out of it for her (except maybe killing herself).
  • Grrl Power! One half-hour OAV which focuses on convincing this one guy to go to school. How do the girls do it? Set him up for all kinds of miserable tasks, and when he asks for payment, explain that it's not a part-time job. The girls are saving up to set up a new country on some island. Oh, and there's also this one man who the girls refuse to do a damn thing for, for no explained reason, even though they make a point of helping everyone else who can pay up.
  • Blood-C chances are if you're not an ally of the Big Bad or Saya prepare to die horribly.
  • All characters in the movie version of X1999 die either in the first 5 minutes after they're introduced or at least before the end of the movie.
  • Excel Saga. Everything Il Palazzo assigns to his henchgirls ends up in failure, Hyatt is so ill that she continually dies and comes back to life, all of Menchi's attempts to escape Excel's ownership end in failure, Mr. Pedro lost ties with his family to Gomez, Nabeshin is prone to lose loved ones only moments after he reunites with them, and Excel's neighbors are led by one hell of an iron-fisted bitch.
  • Amazing Nurse Nanako. One of the few shows starring a female Butt-Monkey. And it's played for laughs, too.
  • No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, about a socially inept Otaku girl whose attempts to be popular usually backfire on her.
  • Sgt. Frog. Being a space frog with an inferiority complex, while trying to take over Earth, only to be at the mercy of the pink-haired Natsumi Hinata, who you live under and forces you to do chores can suck big time.
  • Paranoia Agent. This applies to the lives of nearly every main character that is featured in each episode, up until Lil' Slugger comes by and puts them out of their misery.
  • D.Gray-Man: Allen Walker is the universe's chew toy whose rather depressing life is played off for laughs.
  • Ranma ½. The main characters frequently fight and/or scheme against each other (largely in the name of love), and Ranma is constantly smacked around by his fiance for things that aren't his fault. This is all mostly played for laughs, especially in the anime.
  • Super Cruel and Terrible Tales of Mangaka. It's a semi-documentary manga about the lives of typical down-on-their-luck mangaka, and it's darkly hilarious: between dysfunctional workplace, overbearing editor, and general sad state of the manga industry in Japan, it comes out as something that is genuinely funny. For example, one of the mangaka just lost his position in a prestigious magazine and is forced to draw for no-name hentai publication for a shitty amount of money. To avoid unwanted children he can't afford to raise, he forces his wife to only do oral. This in turn makes the wife sick of him, and she abandoned her. The mangaka is now jobless and gets no sex at all. Hahaha.
  • Welcome to the N.H.K., with a This Loser Is You protagonist, his loser otaku friend who tries to help him but unwittingly makes his life even worse, and the girl who also tries to help him (surprise surprise, she's just as much of a socially inept dork as he is, and suicidal to boot). Played half for comedy, half for drama.
  • Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan, which is about an Ordinary High-School Student and the insane Magical Girl who kills him repeatedly. Removing her halo causes massive bouts of diarrhea. Another angel shows up and tries to kill protagonist-boy with a cattle prod because he's going to invent immortality in the future...but only for women, and it makes them all look twelve, so everyone decides he's a pedophile. Very much a Crosses the Line Twice sort of show.
  • A common complaint about Eureka Seven was how mean-spirited it was towards the protagonist. The first half of the series had Renton being humiliated and abused by the rest of the Gekkostate (especially from Holland and Eureka's children). Most of the time, it was Played for Laughs, but many saw it as Dude, Not Funny!.
  • Crayon Shin-chan. Think about it: Shin spends most of the episodes during weird antics, his mother Misae mostly whacks his son's head whenever he misbehaves and of course, his father Hiroshi gets beaten up by his wife after wandering into random ladies or over small things. However, most of it is played for laughs.
  • The main plot of Samon the Summoner involves the titular character harassing Teshigawara with demons because he finds her kind attitude annoying. Many chapters involve humor at the expense of other characters as well, Samon himself is actually a frequent victim as well.
  • Cool Devices, about various women who get raped and killed for the viewers' sexual pleasure.
  • The original Aggretsuko shorts were like this. Good things almost never happen to Retsuko and most of the other characters are either jerks or just annoying to Retsuko and never face any consequences for their behavior. The Netflix series is much less sadistic, as although good things still rarely happen to her, the series shows her learning and maturing from her experiences. Although the first season ends with her continuing to take abuse from her coworkers and bosses, she is a lot more positive about it than at the beginning of the series.
  • Wonder Egg Priority is a Reconstruction of this trope in regards to Magical Girl anime: the heroines all have emotional baggage and deep feelings of guilt over the suicides of their friends, the Victims of the Week are all women who have committed suicide, and their trauma is Played for Drama rather than comedy as the show deals with dark subject matter, including (but not limited to) suicide, self-harm, and sexual abuse. As the series progresses, however, the heroines gradually overcome their traumas and strive to Earn Their Happy Ending.
  • Doraemon: The Loser Protagonist fails at everything and gets a humiliating Downer Ending in most episodes (and it's usually his own fault), bullying and violence are regularly played for laughs, since three of the five main characters are usually jerks who cruelly bully each other and other people. One of these kids also gets beaten up by his mother, which is supposed to be funny Laser-Guided Karma because the kid is a bully. Averted in the movies where the characters described here suddenly turn into good-natured True Companions who go on adventures together.

    Comic Books 
  • Empowered is another example. Poor Emp is stuck with a suit that is only good at full power and when she's at her most confident...of which she rarely is and the suit is very fragile to boot. What's more, she can't wear any clothing under it, so she often finds herself humiliated because of it. Add to the fact that her so called teammates are largely jerkasses to her and you'll start wondering exactly how these people can even be considered superheroes.
  • A big part of the Disney Ducks Comic Universe exists to make Donald Duck suffer. Some merely highlight his Born Unlucky problem, others like "Drie Konigen" harass him to the end... to the point that the comics where he does win feel like Throw the Dog a Bone.

    Comic Strips 
  • The comics in MAD Magazine featuring Monroe, a whiny, ugly teenage loser. His stories often end with something nasty and painful being done to him.
  • Also Mad's Spy vs. Spy, originally by Antonio Prohias. Unlike in the golden age cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, one or the other of the two spies suffers a gruesome and usually fatal injury.
  • Ziggy, the eponymous character is always getting the short end of the stick, and the other human characters he comes across are sarcastic and indifferent towards him at best, and cruel to him at worst. No wonder he only has animals as friends— but then again his pet parrot Josh isn't all that nice to him either.
  • Funky Winkerbean started as a standard humor comic strip, and eventually morphed into a treatise on existential despair and the futility of life.
  • Life in Hell. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Garfield, which provides the page image. Lots of the humor revolves around Garfield, Jon, and Odie (usually the latter two) being injured. In one strip, Garfield kicks Odie off the table, then drops a freaking vase on him. Even worse was the time he smooshed a spider with his thumb...then, after remembering that the spider had dropped a contact lens, reached over and smooshed that too.
  • Hägar the Horrible, particularly when the eponymous character deals with his wife Helga.
  • Baby Blues, mainly for the parents.
  • Peanuts. Everything that happens to Charlie Brown. Linus is not much better off, having such a big sister as Lucy.
  • The Lockhorns. Their last name says it all: They argue and berate each other about everything.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Final Destination film series pits normal humans against an immortal, undefeatable, omnipresent force explicitly identified as The Grim Reaper. The humans escaped their original deaths due to unexplained premonitions of their demises. Death wants to balance his books, and he goes about it in a spectacularly sadistic way. As a result, the series mostly revolves around figuring out in what horrific ways the protagonists end up dying.
  • Big Bully. So, if you've tattled on your childhood bully, he gets sent away to reform school, and you get to move away and live a happy life where you can be a successful novelist, right? Nope. People are more interested in the new Stephen King book, you're divorced, your son hates you because of that, and that childhood bully is back, and he can get away with messing with your life again, as good things happen to him.
  • Meet the Parents and its sequels have one thing after another going wrong for Ben Stiller's character. Even after his happy ending in the first movie, he is embarrassed once more during the credits.
  • Drive (2011) is the story of an amiable getaway driver who finds love with his pretty neighbor and her young son... and then has that love cruelly snatched away when the neighbor's ex-con husband comes back from jail, and he decides to do what he thinks is right by helping the husband get out of a jam. Naturally, his attempt to do the right thing goes horribly wrong...
  • Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom arguably takes this trope literally, considering that the fascists are all sadistic nutjobs who brutally torture young teens for their own pleasure.
  • The humor of MouseHunt primarily comes from everything going wrong for the Smuntz brothers, to their string magnate father's body being lost at his funeral over a petty argument, Lars' Gold Digger wife kicking him out when he refuses to sell the string company as he promised his dad, and Ernie's culinary career being destroyed when the Mayor dies of a cockroach in his soup, to say nothing of the titular mouse getting in the way of the brothers' plan to renovate their old man's old house to sell it.
  • The humour in The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard comes from two main sources: Sonia (the titular wife) being Crazy Awesome (with an emphasis on crazy) and Bryce (the titular bodyguard) enduring all kinds of physical and psychological abuse (half of them because of Sonia's antics). He starts the film with a Happy Ending Override from the previous film, receives zero respect from anyone (including his father), gets run over by cars and boats, drugged, stuffed in the trunk of a car, mistaken for dead, and that only covers half of the movie. The film ends with him jumping out of a small boat where he had been stuck for a month in the company of the Kincaids, now his adoptive parents, who spend their time having loud sex.

  • Daniel Pinkwater's story Young Adult Novel has the Story Within a Story "Kevin Shapiro, Boy Orphan," the lugubriously sad tale of a thirteen-year-old boy straight out of Dysfunction Junction, whose problems have included everything from orphanhood to drug addiction to homosexuality to becoming pregnant. Kevin fails so completely to fix his messed-up life that he often gets killed off in frustration; of course, Negative Continuity lets him always come back to life in the next chapter.
  • In the first few pages of Decline And Fall by Evelyn Waugh, Paul Pennyfeather gets debagged, expelled from Oxford, fined five and sixpence for two cigarette burns in his room, cheated out of his inheritance by his guardian, and sent to work in the worst school in England. No wonder he's upset. ('God damn and blast them all to hell,' said Paul meekly to himself as he drove to the station, and then he felt rather ashamed because he rarely swore.')
  • When Philip K. Dick was going through his darkest days of depression and insanity, he wrote some very painful stories, most of which consist of him bashing down his protagonists so that even suicide seems like a happy option.
  • The Gap Cycle. Hooooo, boy, and HOW. It's even represented by an actual sadist show in which a large-breasted woman cuts off her breasts with a rusty knife, then guts herself. On a nightly basis, thanks to future technology - but she still feels everything.
  • Justine by the Marquis de Sade is nothing but a Sadist Show (written by the guy who gave rise to the very word "sadism", no less!) punctuated by philosophical monologues. The world is not just indifferent, but actively malevolent. Justine is consistently punished for her decent behavior while her persecutors experience nothing but boons for their cruelty and selfishness.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid is all about an Attention Whore Loser Protagonist having an Hilariously Abusive Childhood. The movies do try to make him more sympathetic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Extremely common in British sitcoms, especially those which follow a "Fawlty Towers" Plot format. Fawlty Towers itself features an incredibly unpleasant hotel owner who is astonishingly rude to his staff and guests. Whilst Basil himself is a deeply unpleasant man, and he deserves everything he gets, the cruel ways in which his lies fall apart can be particularly indulgent to watch. Additionally, his wife and several of his guests are portrayed as almost as unpleasant as he is, and even more sadistic. Basil and Sybil's marriage could be a Sadist Show all on its own.
  • Queen for a Day is a show in which five female contestants describe in excruciating detail their horrible Real Life problems (such as deaths in the family, cancer, job loss, poverty, homelessness, even mental illness) in order to win prizes, the host often doing some jokes to avoid things from getting sour, with the only result often being that the audience had no chance but laugh at their predicaments. When the winner was announced, the other contestants were ushered off the stage and given nothing, not even bus fare home.note  This passed for family entertainment for twenty years on American TV.
  • Strike It Rich was even worse, as unlike in Queen for a Day, the contestants that did not win were given nothing, often having to rely on charities (although viewers were urged to call a hotline if they desired to help them). An issue of TV Guide called it "a despicable travesty on the very nature of charity.", which came out as very strong criticism at the time. The late 1950s game show It Could Be You, in which women were prized for embarrassing situations and were given comically useless gifts, was basically a jab at the show.
  • Teen soaps are prone to this half of the time, apparently to show you that some Teens Are Monsters. However, Nickelodeon's sitcoms usually leads this trope, especially Dan Schneider-created shows that employ Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male. Drake & Josh and iCarly are poster-children for Comedic Sociopathy, both having a massive Karma Houdini in the form of Megan and Sam, with their targets Drake & Josh, and Freddie respectively.
  • The series Arrested Development finds its characters, particularly Michael Bluth, constantly having brief opportunities at success yanked away from them. Often times, it will be the culmination of the decisions of everyone in the house working against each other to completely void any progress they may have made. The mildly likable Michael Bluth often finds that as soon as he himself is willing to be the slightest bit lax in his principles he is karmically punished, as when he condemns his family for spending their shares of company stock only to have it immediately revealed that he has used his shares to buy a new car (though, in all fairness, a car is way more useful than a boat and gaybar in a terrifying neighborhood).
  • The humor in the BBC TV series The Office (UK) and Extras comes from the continual humiliation of the main characters, especially the second series of Extras. The US adaptation will occasionally flirt with this, but seldom rely on it. The same goes for The IT Crowd, often in a big way.
  • The Brit Com Bottom (as well as its spiritual predecessor The Young Ones) exists entirely so the audience can watch two only-slightly-sympathetic Loser Protagonists sharing an apartment, arguing, dreaming up Zany Schemes that inevitably fail, beating the hell out of each other, and suffering fatal injuries at least once every three episodes. Edmondson, Mayall, and Planer also joined forces for Filthy Rich & Catflap. This sort of show is really Edmondson and Mayall's specialty.
  • Peep Show is another Brit Com to fit this trope, a cringingly awkward black comedy following, once again, two only-slightly-sympathetic Loser Protagonists as they ruin their own chances in life and love.
  • Married... with Children. What redeeming moments the characters had were very few and far between, and such moments were almost always the exclusive purview of Al and to a lesser extent Bud.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond, to some extent. There are no more than token efforts to solve the Dysfunction Junction situation. Ray is a wuss when it comes to standing up to his wife and mother, although he does get better at this in the later seasons; Frank is an insensitive Jerkass; Deborah is a mean, overly angry housewife; Robert is a self-loathing whiner who expresses Wangst despite the fact that he's in his forties; and Marie is simply the personification of the devil who uses guilt to get what she wants in addition to being meddlesome.
  • Dinner: Impossible could be fairly accurately summarized as "Food Network tries to kill Robert Irvine." Restaurant: Impossible allows him to spread the suffering around a bit more. That said, he enjoys the sadism a bit as he doesn't perform so well in other shows.
    • From the same network, a lot of the "Food Network Specials" basically consist of the audience waiting for the cake to fall over.
    • Or shows like Chopped and Cupcake Wars which is a stage by stage elimination show where 3 out of 4 chefs dreams gets crushed one chef at a time.
    • Hell's Kitchen, getting eliminated early there is practically suicide for your career in the culinary field, you will be stuck working for slave wages after this at a low-quality dining place if you were eliminated early.
    • And then there's Cutthroat Kitchen, which is a show about a cooking competition where chefs strategically screw each other over.
      ... where sabotage is not only encouraged, it's for sale!
  • All the fans watch Supernatural to see the Winchesters suffer and see how Dean will fall apart this week (except for the portion of the fandom that thinks Dean is a saint). And everyone loves to watch Sam and Dean cry. Lampshaded by an In-Universe fan of the Supernatural books, who points out that the best moments are when the boys cry. Dean is very annoyed.
  • Everybody Hates Chris. The name speaks for itself.
  • Seinfeld was practically built around this idea. "No hugging, no learning" was the mantra in the show's formative years.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is this trope in spades. The main cast of five has virtually no redeeming qualities and their attempts to improve anything always makes it worse. Sweet Dee was originally conceived as the voice of reason, but very quickly lost that aspect of her character and is now just as horrible as the rest of them.
  • Lexx is another World Half Empty example. The characters are less than sympathetic, and while you'd kinda root for them at first, by the third season you'd wish they died in the pilot, for the entire Universe's sake. The third season tries to redeem them, but some even consider blowing up Heaven and Hell planets to deserve them the fate above. Fourth season goes to Earth, which doesn't have that much luck or sympathy either, and is destroyed chunk by chunk until it is blown up and between the survivors manage to wind up President Buffoon, the Mad Scientist partly responsible for Earth's destruction (and his Fangirls), and of course, the devil himself.
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • The series is wall-to-wall power struggles and emotional warfare. The rule on that show is that whatever makes the characters (especially Malcolm) the most miserable is what will happen. Just two examples: the episode that ends with Francis dragged naked behind a Zamboni on a skating rink (after trying to stop getting deeper in debt to his evil employer), and the episode that ends with Malcolm being insulted, a lot, by a girl, having a crying jag and drying his tears with poison oak.
    • There was an in-universe example of this as well... In one episode, Francis babysits his brothers and sets up a "contest" to see which brother loves him most by doing random tasks for him. This quickly devolves into a brawl, and Francis briefly cuts in, saying something to the effect of "Whoa, whoa. This was supposed to be about love, and you've turned it into something ugly! ...Carry on." He then sits down with a drink and watches his brothers fighting, saying "This, too, pleases me."
  • The Thick of It is a relentlessly cynical, sadistic show about dirty cowards and a near Villain Protagonist. The characters who aren't self-serving and malicious are hideously incompetent, and they all inhabit a realm where idealism goes to die.
  • Cheaters. The show's purpose is to be a private investigator service for people who think their significant other is being unfaithful. Except without the "private" portion. If the SO is indeed cheating, you don't have to pay any fees for hiring the show, but you are expected to confront them and the Other (Wo)Man in public with the host and camera crew trailing behind like Ambulance Chasers, getting in the broken-hearted peoples' faces and asking "How do you feel?" Never once have they shown an investigation that exonerated the SO or had a happy ending. Is it any wonder the host was once stabbed on-camera by an enraged man?
  • Naeturvaktin/Dagvaktin/Fangavaktin/Bjarnfredarson are about a Dysfunction Junction Comic Trio unintentionally (and occasionally intentionally) making each others's lives worse in a Crapsack World. Dagvaktin is the most extreme, dealing with the cast committing or enduring rape, murder, and child abuse, as well as embarking upon a Mushroom Samba and breaking the index finger of a Jerkass surgeon with million-dollar hand insurance.
  • Ooh La La Couple, a 2012 Korean Drama, constantly has its characters in awkwardly funny situations that should generally be serious and heartbreaking, but are juxtaposed to hilarious reactions.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Not only do wizards have to give up their powers and fight their siblings to be the only one in the family to keep them forever, but even Alex, Justin and Max Russo, the main trio of siblings in the show, have been shown to be sadists themselves who will joke about killing someone for holding a revolution to make sure no wizard ever has to give up their powers and consider them "evil" for doing it.note 
  • A.N.T. Farm. While the main character isn't too bad, everyone else is either an inconsiderate jerk or a complete idiot.
  • Black Books is nothing more than an embittered Irish drunk taking out his anger and frustration on the world, usually in the form of Manny. It's good.
  • Much of the appeal of Dirty Jobs is seeing Mike Rowe get absolutely filthy and try (and mostly fail) to perform tasks that would make most people cringe while his hosts (who do this for a living) look on with amusement. One of the most popular episodes involves Mike getting bitten by snakes. Multiple times.
  • The Sketch Comedy series Caméra Café is this Up to Eleven. The two main characters are Anti Role Models Villain Protagonists with no redeeming qualities. Everyone else is a jerk, a Chew Toy, an idiot or all three of them. It's a show where Domestic Abuse is Played for Laughs and everybody believes Violence Is the Only Option.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia:
    • The game has one of the most consistently and gleefully sadistic rule sets imaginable, as everything and everyone is stacked against the players, including each other. The backup clones each player receives does less to mitigate the cruel dooms than it does to encourage the GM and players to heap even more on each other. Players participate with the guarantee that they will get to spread their share of sadism around and enjoy the suffering of their friends.
    • The second rule for the GM is "Kill the bastards". An extended part of the rules the players are allowed to see (yes, most of the rules are technically illegal for players to seenote ) discusses how to make the other bastards kill one another.

    Video Games 
  • Whacked! No matter what the specifics are for any given round, it will always involve slaughtering your opponents with baseball bats, meat cleavers, exploding rubber duckies, oversized shish kabobs, cacti, missiles, and plenty more! Again, and again, and again!
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day is about the title character going through several situations that involve very dark humor, and occasionally very dark trauma. The only non-indicative word of the title is "fur" since very little has anything to do with his fur so much as his acid-trippy trials and tribulations, which are ultimately topped off with his life being ruined.
  • The Doomsday Crisis Line: The purpose of the game is to watch just how bad things go and how much damage your choices do. You are encouraged to pick the bad choices, and if you pick the "good choices" too many times, you are forced to pick the bad ones. It doesn't matter anyway, as the good choices are just as horrible.
  • Randal's Monday isn't entirely like this, but there are a good bunch of jerks who get what they deserve at Randal's hands.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series runs on this trope. The games are all set in a warped parody of America as filtered through its very cynical British developers, with everything from the political system to pop culture to the criminal underworld to the very fabric of society portrayed as utterly, irredeemably broken. All the better to make you want to fully embrace the Video Game Cruelty Potential that is a series trademark.
  • Hatred makes you the sadist, shooting up innocent civilians for no good reason and eventually blowing up a power plant and destroying everything around it.

    Web Animation 
  • Battle for Dream Island may look like a lighthearted show, but can be quite mean-spirited as each contestant gets eliminated one by one (until the final 3), you get to see them get locked in a metal box FOR MONTHS! This is also justified due to the fact that when a character dies, they don't just die, but are perfectly fine in the next shot, but actually dead, and need to be revived.
  • Many of the GoAnimate "Grounded" videos are this. Most of them involve one or more troublesome kids (especially ones from preschool shows, particularly Caillou and Dora the Explorer) getting grounded (said word being usually repeated over and over) for absurdly long periods of time for the slightest offenses. Many of these videos are just so over-the-top that they're funny, but when the video maker decides to get cruel with the characters' punishments, hoo boy does it get cruel. The parent characters become utterly sociopathic (if not outright Ax-Crazy) compared to their kids and often come out on top even when they clearly don't deserve it, the kids don't do enough to warrant the long groundings, and the preschool show characters are hated and frequently humiliated/grounded/arrested/killed by everyone in the universe when they don't even deserve it, or even just for being from preschool shows.
  • All of the main characters in Happy Tree Friends are relentlessly abused chew toys, sometimes getting to the level of Cosmic Plaything. At least one of them gets killed horribly in nearly every episode, and if it isn't, injuries of any kind are still to be expected.

  • Something*Positive is a form of Sadist Webcomic that is more about characters surviving their lives while the world continues to spit at them. (Of course, how sympathetic you think the characters are does depend on how you view the passive-aggressiveness and sadism they react with.)
  • 8-Bit Theater has an entire cast of idiots, sadists, and idiotic sadists. The main characters are Fighter, a nimrod who manages to be Too Dumb to Live and too stupid to die at the same time (or maybe not); Black Mage, a psychotic murderer who kills any- and everyone that gets in his way (and a few others just for the hell of it); Red Mage, a Munchkin powergamer blissfully unaware of his own idiocy with no regard for anyone else's well-being; and Thief, a duplicitous, greedy elf supremacist with no conscience. All their opponents are of matching idiocy, and the king of the local kingdom wears the literal interpretation of Black Comedy for shoes. In fact, the most sympathetic main character other than White Mage, the voice of reason, is Black Mage, as he's at least tried to change. Well, before it was revealed that in order to obtain his doomsday attack, he sacrificed orphans to a dark god. Said doomsday attack is also powered by love; i.e. it siphons love out of the universe, and the divorce rate goes up by a few percents every time he uses it. Even White Mage is becoming more of a Jerkass, with her refusing to heal Black Mage when he has a spear through his head. Also, to add insult to injury, Thief almost never gets his comeuppance, whereas Black Belt (an actually slightly sympathetic character) is the only character yet to have been Killed Off for Real (even the Big Bads turn up in Hell occasionally).
  • The webcomic Ansem Retort, which tells the tale of a sadistic FOX reality show.
  • Garfield minus Garfield forces this trope into being, but that's somewhat the point.
  • Nana's Everyday Life is basically about how long you can keep a character alive without putting her out of her misery...
  • Every protagonist in Contemplating Reiko is a sadistic demon girl.
  • The Snail Factory features characters which eat each other on a fairly regular basis.
  • Prequel takes extreme pleasure in torturing its main character, Katia. Its subtitle is "Making a Cat Cry: The Adventure".
  • Two Guys and Guy is mostly based around Wayne, a more ordinary loser jerk, being tormented by his two sociopathic "friends": Frank, who's largely indifferent in his attitude (though he's repeatedly implied to be a serial killer off-screen) but uses him as a guinea pig in his experiments, and Guy, who's actively malicious towards him and everybody else and hurts him both for fun and out of anger.
  • Pretty much anything by Gisèle Lagacé: Ménage à 3, Sticky Dilly Buns, Eerie Cuties, Magick Chicks, Dangerously Chloe. If there's a decent character in the story, expect them to get short changed and humiliated by the more Jerkass characters.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts: Donald Duck. In his own words: "You can't win. You just can't win."
  • Several shows like Tom and Jerry, the Tex Avery shorts and Looney Tunes have their source of humor based on this trope, complete with violence that is over-the-top but still family-friendly (no blood or gore involved).
    • A notable example was 'The Ducksters', featuring a Show Within a Show 'Truth or AAAAAAAAH!'. The penalties for missing answers on that show were ... probably not going to make it past the FCC these days. Winning wasn't much better— the prizes had a tendency to be dropped on you.
    • Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner is probably the biggest example. The show consists of making Wile E. suffer every scene in every way possible.
  • The Venture Bros. is all about heroes and villains who are failures.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force, as well as other Adult Swim shows, are very liberal in regards of characters suffering disgrace and misfortune for the sake of it.
  • Kaeloo: All the characters are put through terrible physical and/or emotional torment just for the audience's amusement. Due to the Reset Button, some of them have even died and been fine in the next episode.
  • Invader Zim: A megalomaniac alien, a deranged hedonistic robot, a paranormal-obsessed lunatic and his self-centered, sociopath sister and negligent father in an ignorant, cybergothic Crapsack World, wherein everyone within it is destined to fail at everything they try almost all the time. The only ones who usually come out okay are the ones who don't care about anything or are too dumb to know any better. Dib tries to foil Zim's latest plan to destroy Earth? Best case scenario is that Dib probably succeeds and Zim's plan fails, but Zim has learnt nothing, Gir has destroyed half the lab (again), Dib's forced to take the blame for whatever damage Zim wrought on the world, and Gaz walks by to rub salt into his wounds by calling him a kook that cares too much. Pyrrhic victories and downer endings all around, nobody grows, and the world is worse off. Some variant of this happens in nearly every other episode.
  • Family Guy starts to become this after its second revival, and it only gets worse with each season.
  • American Dad!: While not quite as prominent an example as Seth's other shows, there's some frequent Black Comedy and the majority of the cast are less than morally sound to say the least.
    • An in-universe example is shown in "Morning Mimosa" with the titular Show Within a Show. The entire show is dedicated to humiliating its guests on live TV, with the hosts even going so far as to get their entire audience drunk on mimosas and provoke them into physically attacking said guests. Francine outright describes it as the "most hostile audience in television," and Steve finds this out the hard way when he becomes a YouTube cooking celebrity and is invited onto the show.
    • An in-universe example is shown in "Trophy Wife, Trophy Life". The Smiths learn that a Korean TV studio is filming their neighbor Tuttle for a show. The audience seems to enjoy the fact that Tuttle is a depressed sad sack. Notably, the show's ratings drop when the Smiths (hoping to get on the show) start hanging out with Tuttle and his mood improves.
  • The Simpsons:
  • Moral Orel - Especially in the third season, when it stopped pretending to be a comedy.
  • Pick one of the Looney Tunes derived series from WB in the 90s and tell yourself it isn't sadistic, you won't be able to.
  • The series Dan Vs. revolves around the titular character getting vengeance on anyone over minor accidents...and most of it is played for comedy too. It also becomes justified at times since most of the folks Dan tries to take vindictive action on coincidentally do end up being worse.
  • When Drawn Together isn't about taking the piss out of Reality TV (the original premise which it dropped in the second season) or cartoons, it's about heaping abuse on the dysfunctional housemates. Fortunately, they all retain strong Jerkass tendencies, so there's little room for sympathy save for Captain Hero, who was originally the biggest of the Jerkasses but developed into the most sympathetic character.
  • Stressed Eric: The entire point of this show was to have every single thing in the protagonist's life goes horribly wrong. At the end of every episode, he collapses of a heart attack or some other such stress-related malady.
  • CatDog is a cynical Black Comedy set in a Crapsack World where a lot of the humour comes from how miserable the eponymous brothers' lives are and how they rarely succeed at anything.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants, particularly after the first movie. It's a rare occasion that jerks like Squidward did something positive toward SpongeBob. Although Squidward and Plankton usually take the most abuse, the other characters also receive a fair amount of Amusing Injuries, SpongeBob included at times. The show (namely in the Paul Tibbitt episodes, and even in the episodes before or after) pretty much revolves around pain.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy. It's a rare occasion that the neighborhood kids did something positive toward the Eds. It changed by the end of the movie—the neighborhood kids actually start liking the Eds at that point. Although, the Eds usually take the most abuse, the other characters also receive a fair amount of Amusing Injuries. The show pretty much revolves around pain.
  • South Park - the moral of the show appears to be "Life sucks, then you die. Then life continues to suck, and you die again." And if you are a reasonable child Surrounded by Idiots or a Nice Guy in a World of Jerkass, you're going to get the short end of the stick quite often.
  • The Buzz on Maggie is an interesting example where the protagonist isn't quite a saint, but nearly everyone else isn't much better, if at all. While Maggie tends to be self-centered, her older brother Aldrin is a Jerk Jock who would one-up his sister, their parents can be wet blankets (especially their dad), Maggie's best friend Rayna can be just as petty and throw her under the bus, and Dawn is an Alpha Bitch who rarely gets her comeuppance. One of the only nice characters is Maggie's kid brother Pupert, but even he would occasionally dip into this.
  • The Drinky Crow Show, a series about a crow who drinks to escape the rigors of reality and tries to commit suicide regularly. What do you think?
  • Superjail!: It has a sadist Willy Wonka looking character for a prison warden.
  • The Life & Times of Tim: When Tim isn't the victim of his own social ineptitude, he's suffering for being too meek and unassertive to turn down his friends and coworkers' terrible ideas.
  • MAD does this to its character and the celebrities they mock within their sketches.
  • From its third season and onward, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends often wound up being this. Characters going through hell for little reason, many of the ones who cause trouble get away Scot free, while more well-meaning characters often wound up in trouble.
  • The Fairly Oddparents. Most episodes revolve around ways to just to torture Timmy in the cruelest ways possible. Heck, even his parents get in on the act more often than not. In addition, Timmy is rarely heroic and most of his exploits are usually for selfish reasons.
  • Dexter's Laboratory certainly qualifies. Dexter is rarely heroic and most of his exploits are usually for selfish reasons. And if that's not the case, he'll end up being the victim of Deedee's shenanigans.
  • Time Squad. Almost all of the humour comes from the main characters being complete dicks to each other. Tuddrussel abuses Larry, Larry tries to kill Otto, Otto attacks Tuddrussel, etc. The most vicious cases of this are when the writers had decided to make entire episodes dedicated to making sure that Otto is completely miserable, like have him abandoned on islands only inhabited by blood-thirsty baboons. If it's not the main guys, you can bet that some of the jokes come from ether Tuddrussel beating people up for stuff they didn't even do or historical figures being stupid or jerks and their inventions or ideas cause mayhem.
  • Fraidy Cat. The premise alone is cosmically sadistic; A cat is on his last life, and he has to avoid calling out numbers 1-9, or else his previous lives will come and make things worse for him.
  • Archer. When the main character getting an erection at the idea of his mother's death and the Running Gag of Lana trying to kill him is not to be taken seriously, you know you have one of these.
  • Sidekick. The show takes place in a city which is such a hive of villainy that there is an entire section where being a good person is literally forbidden. There are superheroes to fight the villains, but every single one we see is completely useless, and the only one we ever actually see doing something is only slightly more moral than the villains he fights. It's widely accepted in this universe that it's the job of the sidekicks, the real focus of the show (hence the name), to do all the real work while the superhero takes all the credit. Unfortunately, all the sidekicks we see are either completely incompetent, Jerkasses with little to no concern for those around them, or both. The only two characters who get a relatively sympathetic portrayal are Eric and Kitty, both of whom are subjected to a constant stream of mockery and humiliation by everyone including each other.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. What else can you call a show where the Grim Reaper is the Only Sane Man of the main characters?
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes thrives on this, being rife with cruel and often violent slapstick and other forms of humiliation directed towards everyone, from Jimmy himself to random background characters. It's pretty much how the show does its Black Comedy. But what else did you expect from a cartoon that's set in a place that is pretty much just Hell by another name known as Miseryville?
  • Teen Titans Go! is prone to this, due to the main characters being jerks to each other. It's one of the reasons why the show is unfavorably compared to the 2003 series. The worst offenders are "Staff Meeting", "Money Grandma", and "Boys vs Girls".
  • Total Drama, as a parody of the shamelessly sleazy and exploitative nature of actual reality TV, goes as far as being hosted by a sadist who pretty much personifies the show's love of hurting and humiliating its characters and making them as miserable as much as possible. By the time of the fourth season, the original cast is so sick of all the hellacious torture they've gone through that many have sworn to never be on the show again in any capacity, only coming back when called for because of their legally binding contracts. DJ freaked when he found himself back at Camp Wawanakwa in the fourth season for a challenge, and he was there as a judge.
    • Generally averted by Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race, which is the only entry in the franchise not to be hosted by a sadist. While there are definitely moments every now where the comedy comes from the torment the more immoral challenges inflicts on the contestants, the characters are generally treated with a great deal of more dignity compared to the parent series.
  • Phineas and Ferb expressly and shamelessly averts this, as explained by the creators in this article.
  • My Gym Partner's a Monkey: Ordinary kid Adam Lyon tries to survive in a Sucky School where everyone is a Jerkass, The Ditz, or both. He fails constantly. Sometimes he wins... only for his life to go back to being crap for him.
  • Johnny Test: It's easier to list the characters who aren't selfish jerks who'd take advantage of one another. Though this is a lighter example then most since some most resolution end up for the better.
  • Robotomy takes place on a planet known as Insanus, mostly at Harry S. Apocalypse, which is filled with extremely violent robots who mutilate each other at any possible moment. Almost every scene has some mutilation going on.
  • Robot Chicken: Basically taking pop culture icons from the '80s and '90s and throwing them into Black Comedy situations which more often than not result in trauma or death (or both).
  • The Cramp Twins: Pretty much similar to Johnny Test where the majority of the characters are major jerks that often cause trouble for others. One of the main characters is the show's biggest Butt-Monkey that constantly suffers abuse from his brother. Said brother (named Wayne Cramp) cannot go a single episode without torturing his brother or even other kids. The twins' mother, in fact, is such a Neat Freak she is even willing to test dangerous products on her own family and said products are even deadlier than acid!
  • Rabbids Invasion is prone to this, especially in the earlier seasons. The endless mischief caused by the Rabbids has led to more than a few human characters suffering to varying degrees, while the Rabbids themselves regularly get into fights and treat each other like dirt. And that's not even getting into all the Amusing Injuries that the Rabbids bring upon themselves.


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