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Sadist Show

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You should see when they try the swings.
"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)

Schadenfreude is a German word that 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 Brothers). 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 Brothers, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the 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 NHK, 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 tasteless.
  • 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 the 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.
  • Monica's Gang used to be this trope, but thanks to years of fans (and Moral Guardians, since the comic is for children AND starred by children) complaining about how the characters suffer ungodly amounts of name-calling and slapstick for no justifiable reason(specially amongst themselves), all their efforts to accomplish a goal be in vain, as well as their abusers constantly getting away scot-free, it resulted in the franchise becoming Lighter and Softer. Thought it still ventures to its sadist roots from time to time, and they are more karmic than just unnecessarily cruel.

    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. 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 — 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 humor in The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard comes from two main sources: Sonia (the titular wife) being Crazy is Cool (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.



    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 Object 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 (often 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 else when they don't deserve it at all, 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.
  • Mari-Kari: It’s like the paranormal Beetlejuice meets the vulgar, blood and guts & mayhem of South Park.
    "MARI, MARI! Sweeter than a cherry. Head is kinda airy. SHE LOVES YOU!!! KARI, KARI! Horrible and Scary! If you mess with Mari; SHE'LL KILL YOU!!"
    — The Theme Song of Mari-Kari.
  • Much of the humor in Sonic for Hire comes from the characters being total assholes to each other and getting screwed over repeatedly. The only reason death usually happens to the villains and one-shot characters is because watching the constant misfortunes of the main characters is significantly more funnier.

  • 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 depends 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 percentages 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 that 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 


Oggy and the Cockroaches

Sadist Show is an understatement.

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