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Shoo Out the Clowns

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"No one else gonna say it? Fine! I fucking will! I wish Alucard was here! Yeah!...Yes really, because when he was around shit wasn't so scary! If anything it was fuckin' hilarious! But ever since he left everything's so goddamn serious! Like there's something missing!"

Some stories manage a nice balance of silly and serious. But one of the most foreboding aspects of any series about to go a dramatic route for a Story Arc is the sudden ignoring of the 'sillier elements', Comic Relief and other humorous elements of a show — which, if done too obviously, can come across as rather awkward and forced. Sometimes the funnier characters are sent off, leave of their own accord, or are even killed... Occasionally, the writers simply stop talking about the comical characters and focus on the dramatically relevant ones.

Alternatively, the characters may still appear in the story, but without making their usual jokes... In extreme cases, that's the whole idea of the story. In less extreme cases, the characters may receive a "Dude, Not Funny!" rebuke, or simply stay cool because of the ongoing drama.

From an objective writer's standpoint this can seem logical, if you're the type of writer who feels squicky about needlessly endangering characters. In any case, it can be a big affront to fans of comedies in general. Part of a TV show's attempt to follow the First Law of Tragicomedies. Compare Cerebus Syndrome, This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself. Contrast Fun Personified. Usage of this may lead to the show Jumping the Shark if the comedic element was more enjoyable, or Growing the Beard if the comedy was unfunny in the first place. If the characters in question are scrubbed out with no hope of return, it's Kill the Cutie you want. If the henchmen or hero's friends are funny and they both run off, this shades into Screw This, I'm Outta Here. Contrast the Knight of Cerebus, whose arrival is foreboding.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Audio Play 
  • Mid-way through the fourth season of We're Alive the soldiers from Irwin: Puck, Robbins, Muldoon and Carl, mostly known for their back and forth bickering, are attacked by Behemoths inside the jailhouse where Ink was storing them. Robbins, Muldoon and Carl are killed and Puck spends much of the remainder on the series bed-ridden in The Colony's hospital.
  • In Big Finish Doctor Who's "The Davros Mission", the Holmesian Double Act-pastiche characters mostly serve as comic relief although their own agenda is taken seriously, though their role is diminished after the first act while the plot focuses on tense scenes of Lareen psychoanalysing Davros. They then, after being virtually forgotten, suddenly show up immediately after the most powerful emotional scene in the plot, in a brief, serious scene in which they get exterminated within less than a minute. Their death kicks off the collapse of Lareen's plan, Davros finally getting the upper hand against the Daleks and the very nasty Downer Ending.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman comics have done this several times over the years:
    • In 1964, Bat-Mite, Ace the Bat-Hound, Batwoman, and the original Bat Girl were swept under the rug when the "New Look" Batman was launched. The often-silly sci-fi adventures of the previous era also took a back seat to more straightforward detective stories. Believe it or not, the 1966 TV show was actually less silly than most of the Batman stories of the late '50s and early '60s.
    • After the 1966 Batman show went off the air, there was a considerable and sustained backlash against anything resembling its tone in the comic books. Batman returned to his roots as a "grim avenger of the night" in the '70s. Batman started working alone much more often, with Robin and Batgirl relegated to the sidelines and backup stories.
    • This trope exists for Batman in-universe as well — it's stated on more than one occasion that Batman gets meaner and angrier when he doesn't have a Robin with him, which is actually how Tim Drake became Robin to begin with (although he originally was trying to convince Dick Grayson to become Robin again).
    • The story "Urban Renewal" from Batman: Black and White has an in-universe occurrence of this trope as its plot. Gotham's particularly bizarre-looking buildings such as a huge globe at the top of a travel bureau, or a building shaped like a giant cash register, are being taken down. One man is waxing nostalgic for these old kitschy locales, and decides to publish a coffee table book dedicated to them—and the one publisher who accepts it is Bruce Wayne, who is himself nostalgic about fighting crime atop these ridiculous buildings back in the day.
    • Neil Gaiman's story in 1989, Secret Origins Special, features a retired Riddler amidst the same giant novelty objects, musing on the new Darker and Edgier world.
    • However, very little in comics ever goes completely away. All of the above-mentioned "silly" elements of Batman have been revisited over the years, albeit usually in a "modernized" way.
  • As with Batman, both Superman and Wonder Woman got the sillies cleared out of their titles in the late sixties and early seventies. In Superman's case, this meant Krypto, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the Bizarro World, Lori the mermaid, the Superman robots, etc., while for Wonder Woman it meant Bird Boy, Merboy, the Glop, the Holliday Girls, even Steve Trevor! In Superman's case, however, the housecleaning didn't "take". Fans really liked Krypto and the Bizarros and all, so most were brought back after only a few years, and Superman's adventures stayed pretty lighthearted right up until the Crisis on Infinite Earths, after which they became Darker and Edgier. In Wonder Woman's case, though, shooing the clowns kind of crippled the title, because virtually her entire supporting cast had been deemed silly and eliminated (Steve Trevor and Etta Candy kept popping in and out, but the rest were just gone). In all the years since, she has never really been able to settle on a single, stable supporting cast or even setting.
    • This is a good example that "silly" is contextual, too. Mxyzptlk is certainly out-of-place in a more serious tone, but the robot duplicates of Superman, given Kryptonian tech, could have a legitimate place in a more serious story. (As would be proved in 1999's Beware the Superman story Superman Rex.)
  • One of the three-panel comics of Dirkjan, a Dutch comic, is a literal version of this trope. It goes something like this: Captain Dirkjan to his men: "Men, we're pirates. It's time we get serious. From now on, no more sickbay, you just keep fighting and working. Whoever is too sick to fight is thrown overboard. Any questions?" A clown (who has been offpanel until now) asks: "What about the clini-clowns?" (= clowns that entertain sick kids in the hospital). Of course it's much funnier in comic-form.
  • When Judge Dredd started getting darker and more serious in the late '80s, Maria and Walter the Wobot were written out. Walter eventually came back to lead a new robot rebellion, and had to be killed by Dredd.
  • At around the same time, Strontium Dog started upping the stakes with vicious villains with personal grudges against Johnny and Wulf, and main characters started dying. When this happened, the Gronk just kind of disappeared. He was finally brought back for the Grand Finale of the classic series, but his personality was almost completely inverted.
  • The Blue Harvest story arc of Star Wars: Dark Times featured H2, a droid with dark humor, whose role in the plot was generally limited to hilarious sarcastic one-liners. As with all Dark Times stories, things continuously got worse and worse for the characters, but when we learned that the beloved Deadpan Snarker got shot and damaged beyond repair, we realized that things went really serious.
  • Spider-Man stops joking when the Moral Event Horizon gets crossed. In fact, he stops talking at all, leaving you to fight a faceless, voiceless being with spider powers who wants to beat you to death. It's notable that the guy who can joke about anything wasn't laughing when Wolverine made some less-than-appropriate comments about Mary Jane. And then punched Logan through unbreakable glass.
  • X-Men; during the Mutant Massacre arc in the late '80s, Nightcrawler (a swashbuckling practical joker), Colossus and Kitty Pryde were Put on a Bus due to injuries sustained against the Marauders. Colossus returned to the team just in time for the Fall of the Mutants arc, which ended with the world thinking the X-Men were dead, and precipitated one of the teams Darkest and Edgiest periods. Nightcrawler and Kitty went on to co-found Excalibur, the Lighter and Softer X-team at that time.
  • The core of Flash's comparatively irreverent and small-time Rogues Gallery dies horribly in the first pages of Underworld Unleashed. The Trickster — perhaps the most outwardly ridiculous one of all prior to this — survives and reflects bitterly on the days when he "[rigged] bombs up the butts of rubber chickens. What was I thinking all those years?" He doesn't entirely give up the rubber chickens, though.
  • After they were introduced into the comic book universe of The Smurfs, the Smurflings are hardly heard from again, mostly appearing as guest stars and cameos, while the stories mainly focus on the adult Smurfs.
  • In the Asterix story Asterix and Obelix All at Sea, Obelix is turned to stone, and Asterix is openly weeping next to his petrified body. Asterix stories use various standard joke templates, one of which is of three characters who escalate with three increasingly complex puns about the bad situation; and the villagers looking at Obelix all do this with "stone" puns. Asterix cuts them off, telling them to shut up because this is serious and his best friend is dead, and the villagers agree to stop making jokes in poor taste. After this, there aren't any jokes beyond one bit of Laser-Guided Karma at the expense of the Romans who are partially responsible for Obelix's death (they accidentally set their ship on fire when trying to send a signal), one Dark Comedy gag (Getafix thinking the other villagers are smashing Obelix's petrified body to pieces) and one piece of intentionally forced slapstick with Vitalstatistix falling over for no reason. Obelix's prospects of recovery are almost non-existent, Asterix is too busy mourning him to care about his duties as a village warrior, and the Romans are plotting to trap and kill the escaped slaves in the B-plot. The jokes don't start up again until one of the potions they're trying to revive him with finally works, bringing him back (albeit in child form).
  • Invoked in the MAD parody of Roseanne. When the kids are pondering running away from home, "D.D.T.", whose unintelligible mumbling is almost a guaranteed laugh, starts to speak, but his sister tells him this is no laughing matter.
  • Ultimate X-Men: The Sentinels are attacking Washington DC and killing people. Marvel Girl told Storm that this is not the moment for quipping.
  • The heavily expanded manhua adaptation of The King of Fighters XII makes it quite clear that things are about to take a turn for the worse when Hyena, the smarmy, comically funny-looking referee, gets casually swatted away like a fly by Magaki. This is immediately followed up by the climax, in which everyone physically capable of fighting tries desperately to overwhelm Magaki through sheer numbers, with most of them failing.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) pulls a harsh one of these during its Zombie Apocalypse story arc. Among those infected with Dr. Eggman's Metal Virus bioweapon and turned into Zombots is Sonic's new friend Tangle the Lemur, the comic's resident Plucky Comic Relief. The storyline was already one of the darkest in the entire franchise, but it adopts an even more serious tone upon Tangle's elimination since so much of the series' comedy eminates from her.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In The Movie Grand Finale, Miss Brooks relationship with Mr. Boynton finally takes centre-stage.
    • The established teenage characters are pushed out of the limelight. High-School Hustler Walter Denton is around for several jokes, but doesn't have much affect on the main plot and isn't in the second half of the film. Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold Harriet Conklin is unfortunately all but Demoted to Extra. Recurring character Dumb Jock Stretch Snodgrass is around early in the film, but isn't around once the plot picks up steam.
    • Canon Foreigner Gary Nolan and his father Lawrence give Miss Brooks a chance to place her considerable teaching ability and intelligence in general to work; versus the usual Pirates Who Don't Do Anything approach the show usually takes to Connie's English classes.
    • Principal Osgood Conklin remains his blustery, dictatorial self. He's given a subplot where he's in a struggle to keep his job while Head of the Board of Education Mr. Stone wants to have him dismissed. This leads to Mr. Conklin trying to be elected for the new position of "Coordinator of Education" against Mr. Stone.
    • Mr. Boynton finally wants to propose to Miss Brooks . . . once he gets enough money to support her.
    • Miss Brook's landlady, friend and confidante, Granny Classic and Cloud Cuckoolander Mrs. Davis is up to some of her usual hijinx. However, she puts those aside when she determines the time is ripe to finally get Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton married. she succeeds, and Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton marry and live Happily Ever After
  • Star Wars:
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke and R2-D2 go to Cloud City to rescue the others. When Luke enters a room to have a dramatic confrontation with Darth Vader, R2 gets locked out. Even earlier than that, Han Solo getting frozen in carbonite, and being taken away to Jabba the Hutt might be an example of this trope, as the film does get more intense and dramatic from then on out.
    • Jar Jar Binks getting his role greatly reduced throughout the Star Wars prequels is half this trope, half the response to him being The Scrappy. He goes from a major player in The Phantom Menace to a side character in Attack of the Clones to only appearing in three scenes with one line in Revenge of the Sith.
    • In Revenge of the Sith Anakin orders R2 to stay with the ship as he makes his way to slaughter the Separatist leaders, later C-3PO remains in Padmé's ship and doesn't even come out when Anakin mortally injures her and during Obi-Wan and Anakin's duel; he only has an off-screen moment for carrying the dying Padmé back to the ship, and utters just one more funny comment just before the movie ends.
    • In The Force Awakens's third act, when Han, Chewie, and Finn leave the Resistance base and head off to Starkiller Base to rescue Rey and then assist the rebels in destroying it, the Kid-Appeal Character BB-8 stays behind with Poe and only partakes in the action safely tucked in Poe's X-Wing.
    • In Rogue One the droid K-2SO, who served as a comedic relief for most of the film, is the first one of the group to get killed.
  • Happens in, of all things, a world war movie, specifically Hitler's SS. When the flamboyant comedian and friend of Rohm, Putzi, gets taken off by the gestapo and winds up beaten to death, you know the Soviet's about to hit the fan. His death not only marks the turning point in the movie, but the turning point in the war, and the scramble by the two brothers to preserve everything they're going to lose no matter who wins the war.
  • The comic relief in both of The Boondock Saints movies can be hit-or-miss, but to his credit, the writer/director definitely knew when to knock it off. Both have a point in the story (taking out the "sick fuck" hitman and the Saints' subsequent showdown with Il Duce in the first, Greenly's murder in the second) where the the tone gets much darker, the stakes get much higher, and the all the joking around stops cold for the rest of the film.
  • This is coupled with This Is Something She's Got to Do Herself in Labyrinth, just before Sarah faces the Goblin King, when she tells the quirky friends who helped her make it that far that she has to go on alone.
  • Enter the Eagles: The film's resident Plucky Comic Relief fellow, Tommy, dies in a shootout that climaxes the film's second act, just as the film is reaching its more serious climatic final scene.
  • In Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, Little Godzilla becomes imprisoned in a crystal cage by SpaceGodzilla, and the film becomes more dramatic until SpaceGodzilla is disposed of, and Little Godzilla is freed from his prison.
  • In Fight Club, when Tyler leaves the narrator in the house alone with Project Mayhem, it marks the turning point in the story when he realizes that things are going too far. Also with Tyler out of the picture, the comedic moments in the film all but dry up.
  • In the George of the Jungle direct-to-video sequel, Ursula (while not the comic relief of the film) is put to sleep while the big fight at the end happens, regaining consciousness just when it ends. This proves to be odd, as in the previous film, Ursula was actually able to contribute to the ending battle.
  • Richie provides a lot of comic relief in It (2017) and It: Chapter Two through his banter with Eddie and antics, and then Eddie dies in Chapter 2 climax and Richie, having been in love with him since childhood, understandably takes his death the hardest and loses a lot of his spark until the credit rolls.
  • In Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man, the Flounes who accompany The Everyman literally vanish into thin air after the aerial cube sequence, representing the beginning of the now-adolescent protagonist leaving his youthful ideals behind. They return after he recovers said ideals, when he is The Old Man.
  • In A Little Princess (1995), the comical Amelia runs away with the milkman mere seconds before Miss Michin bursts into the attic room, accusing Sara of stealing her locket and segueing into the dramatic climax.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, every mutant introduced in X-Men: First Class except Havok was killed off at some point between films. First Class is easily the most lighthearted of the X-Men movies and the characters killed—Emma Frost, Angel Salvatore, Banshee, and Azazel—represent its more colorful tone.
    • Quicksilver is sent home before the climactic White House battle despite the film showing how mindbogglingly useful his powers would be in that situation.
  • In Gravity, crew member Shariff has a funny accent and loves space bungee jumping. He's the first to be removed from the main plotline, courtesy of a high speed piece of space debris to the face.
  • Big Daddy. Nazo. Oh, how funny he is, acting as a composite of the Butt-Monkey and the Cloudcuckoolander. Things can never be truly bleak when he's around - can they? We get our answer when Arthur Brooks shows up at Sonny Koufax's apartment and reveals that he has found out about Sonny's defrauding of social services, and that Sonny is now under arrest. Cut to Nazo, who supposedly is too dumb to do anything but make a joke about this - but instead he says to Sonny, sincerely and sympathetically: "I'd like to help you, but my status in this country is not exactly legal." (The character being played by Rob Schneider only makes it all the more cool.)
  • Although Tim Burton's Batman (1989) is pretty dark throughout, it gets darker still toward the end. Comic-relief character Alexander Knox, having just appeared in a slapstick scene, gets legitimately knocked out and doesn't appear again until the finale. Meanwhile, the Joker's bumbling henchmen run off as the Batplane approaches, the Joker stops being funny for a moment and utters a Precision F-Strike ("Come on, you gruesome son of a bitch - come to me!")...and the Batplane is shot down, crashes, and explodes - apparently killing Batman before girlfriend Vicki Vale's eyes. While frantically trying to clear away the rubble from the crash, Vicki is taken hostage by the Joker and the two go into a church. Batman survives, but he is bleeding and barely able to walk; only his determination to kill the Joker enables him to continue. Once Batman (painfully) reaches the top of the church tower, the "Waltz to the Death" sequence begins and the movie assumes a "lighter", tragicomic tone until the end.
  • In the third act of Mary Poppins, after Bert the chimney-sweep leaves the Banks house after duetting with George for "A Man Has Dreams", George is summoned to his bank for a formal dismissal, and we get a somber scene of George walking to the bank with no dialogue or songs; even the "Bird Woman" is absent from the steps of the cathedral, although her vaguely hopeful theme music plays. When George reaches the bank, the sound goes totally silent except for dialogue, followed by a rather distressing Insignia Rip-Off Ritual. But once he figures out the meaning of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", it lightens up again.
  • Babe: While Ferdinand leaving the farm isn't an immediate sign of things getting darker, it's telling that he doesn't return until the most dramatic part of the movie is over.
  • In Predator 2: Jerry Lambert is murdered by the Predator before the climax.
  • The Third Man: Sergeant Paine is shot by the Big Bad when he stumbles out in front of the latter. This occurs right before the hero Holly Martins mercy kills his close friend.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: Civil War:
      • After the big fight at the airport, Tony tells Spider-Man to go back home for his own safety and even threatens to tell Aunt May if he doesn't. This itself happens before the dramatic final act. It's justified given his several brushes with death or serious injury during the battle.
      • Likewise, most of the other usual suspects for quips (Hawkeye, Ant-Man, sometimes Falcon) are on the Anti-Accords side and therefore in jail during the finale. Of the characters still in play, the only one who jokes around a lot is Tony, and he goes very, very quiet once he sees the security tape.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Groot, Drax, Mantis and Rocket are absent from the scene in which Yondu sacrifices himself to save Peter Quill.
    • Black Panther: The first half of the movie is rather light-hearted, with a Laughably Evil villain, a lot of good-natured teasing among the heroes, and a couple of humorously awkward situations. Then Killmonger kills Klaue and (apparently) T'Challa, and aside from a bit of trolling by M'Baku the second half becomes deadly serious.
    • Avengers: Infinity War:
      • The opening of the film picks up right where Thor: Ragnarok left off, but Korg, one of Ragnarok's major comic relief characters, is nowhere to be seen. Turns out, he managed to evacuate the ship with Valkyrie and the other survivors.
      • Of the heroes that Thanos disintegrates with the Infinity Gauntlet or personally kills, five of the twelve are members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, leaving only Nebula and Rocket (neither of whom were the most comical of the group) left out of them. In addition, the notably wisecracking Spider-Man is among the casualties, causing Tony to become very cynical and unlikely to joke for most of Avengers: Endgame.
    • Inverted in Avengers: Endgame: The film starts off on a sombre note, but once Ant-Man returns from the Quantum Realm thanks to a Rat and rejoins the Avengers, the film lightens up.
    • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Trevor Slattery, the fake Mandarin from Iron Man 3, and Morris, the animal guide of the group, spends most of the final battle pretending to be dead on the battlefield.
    • In Eternals, after Ikaris is revealed to have killed Ajak and leaves with Sprite to ensure Tiamut awakens, Kingo and his valet (the comic relief characters) leave the rest of the Eternals, with Kingo saying he thinks the Emergence should come to pass, and he wouldn't be much help if he tried to stop the Emergence anyway. He isn't present for the final confrontation.
    • Due to the darker nature of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Mr Harrington and Mr Dell are out of the story before the first act ends. Moments of levity from Ned and MJ are significantly diminished as well, especially after Aunt May is murdered by the Green Goblin and Peter is at his lowest point.
  • At the beginning of the final act of Mr. Nice Guy, where Jackie, Miki, and Lakeisha are captured by Big Bad Giancarlo, Diana is punched out by one of his cronies, and Tara/Sandy, having been badly beaten at the construction site, similarly drops out of focus. The uncut version has a scene of Romeo visiting the two in a hospital ward, while the New Line Cinema cut leaves their fate more ambiguous.
  • Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later puts John and Molly on a bus (which does not return in the sequel) prior to Laurie's final confrontation with Michael.
  • In Disney's Maleficent, the three fairies disappear before the climax in which Maleficent and Diaval confront King Stefan, with Aurora helping them.
  • The 1954 Toho movie, Seven Samurai features Yohei, the comical villager getting killed before the dramatic final battle.
  • Friday the 13th Part 2 has Ted, a good-natured practical jokester. When the main characters go to check up on the camp near the end, Ted stays behind at a bar, missing the entire climactic battle. In fact, Ted never crosses paths with Jason Voorhees even once!
  • Wes Craven's New Nightmare does this on a meta level with regards to the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise as a whole. The fact that, by 1994, the Nightmare films had long since jumped the shark and inflicted severe Villain Decay upon Freddy Krueger is heavily commented on and a major theme of the story. A key scene that sets the tone in the first act involves Robert Englund appearing in costume as Freddy on a talk show and getting a huge pop from the crowd, which includes a large number of kids who know him not as a sadistic supernatural Serial Killer who targets children but as a wisecracking, Creepy Awesome pop culture personality. This film's version of Freddy, by contrast, jettisons all of the camp that he had built up in later sequels, with nastier-looking burn scars and none of the Black Comedy that he brought before. Most of the Hollywood meta-humor, meanwhile, falls away in the second half of the film, while the plot comes to be about Freddy kidnapping Heather Langenkamp's son.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): The jovial Etta Candy almost completely disappears in the final act of the movie, only showing up again when she, Diana, and Steve's friends visit the memorial wall during the peace celebration, as well as The Stinger in the home-video release.
  • The Steve Martin / Carl Reiner film All of Me plays with this trope. Like the previous collaborations between the two, it is still a comedy and never seriously tries to be anything but. However, previous Martin/Reiner films like The Jerk and The Man with Two Brains tended to be rather zany, madcap and off-the-wall, relying heavily on fast-paced surrealism and absurdism, a loose relationship with the fourth wall and Martin himself playing a rather deranged and dimwitted buffoon. All of Me, however, is more naturalistic and plot-based, Martin's character is basically a down-to-earth nice guy with a few quirks, and the humour mainly comes from the absurd situation that Martin's character finds himself in and his interplay with the woman responsible for it (played by Lily Tomlin).
  • We Are the Night: The film becomes more dark and dramatic after Perky Goth Nora dies.
  • Dead Poets Society: Charlie, the society's most outspoken member, gets expelled after Neil's death for refusing to sell out Mr. Keating and punching Cameron after discovering he was the first one to turn against Keating.
  • Jumanji: Judy, the snarkiest of the main characters, gets hit by the poisonous barbs from one of the purple flowers, and with Peter trying to comfort her, this leaves Alan and Sarah to face Van Pelt themselves. Thankfully, when Alan wins the game, time is reset to 1969, and Alan and Sarah take the opportunity to save Judy and Peter's parents and the kids themselves.

  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the death of Jehan, who had provided nearly all of the comic relief in an otherwise serious story, acts as a giant "Bad End Incoming" flag.
  • Harry Potter:
    • How did J. K. Rowling show that the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was Serious Business? By killing off Fred, one half of the series' biggest Ensemble Dark Horse and Plucky Comic Relief duo.
    • Also, initially "funny" characters like Ron and Luna get Character Development which causes them to act more serious as the series winds down. Even Dobby becomes kind of serious before he's killed. Professor Trelawney, however, doesn't become more serious. During the Battle of Hogwarts, she is seen comically hitting Death Eaters with crystal balls, although she's still absent from the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort (or at least if she's there, it's not mentioned).
  • In Lloyd Alexander's The High King, the well-meaning but comically inept Prince Rhun is the first character to die, signalling the start of a substantially darker climax to The Chronicles of Prydain.
  • The mass death of the comic relief Wild Turkeys in The Book of the Dun Cow shows how serious the battle against Cockatrice will be and darkens the mood of the book considerably.
  • While Gaunt's Ghosts is naturally quite grimdark from the very beginning, things don't go into full-despair, Anyone Can Die mode until after the death of Gentle Giant "Try Again" Bragg.
  • One of the darkest villains in The Dresden Files, Shagnasty the skinwalker, proved its status as such by striking down Toot-toot, a previously nigh-invincible comic relief character.
  • Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror: The servant Frycollin, who's given the burden of supplying most of the comic relief, is notably absent during the two most dramatic moments in the book. The first time, his absence is itself Played for Drama and ends up being a minor Chekhov's Gun; the second time, it's just explained that he's tired of all the hullaballoo and decided to stay home.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, this happens over the course of the first book, where Ned Stark's Captain of Guard, Jory Cassel who is quite a light-hearted figure, is killed in a fight with Jaime Lannister's men. Later his replacement, "Fat Tom", is also killed by Lannister men.
    • A rather tragic example during the Red Wedding, in which Robb Stark and most of his army are killed. His mother Catelyn Stark threatens to kill Aegon "Jinglebell" Frey, a disabled grandson of Walder Frey who is used as a fool by the Freys, unless he lets Robb go, under the mistaken assumption that he's Walder's son and that Walder cared for him. Walder simply says that Jinglebell's his grandson, and was never much use anyway. After Robb is murdered, Catelyn cuts Jinglebell's throat and is then killed herself. Played with in that the way Jinglebell is treated before that by his family really isn't funny.
    • When Lord Beric Dondarrion and the Red Priest Thoros of Myr appear in the first books Beric is a flamboyant young knight and Thoros a fat and jolly drunk. After Beric's multiple deaths and resurrections by Thoros he becomes a more somber character while leading the Brotherhood without Banners, while Thoros slims out and shapes up due to his fighting. Beric even gives a speech about how he keeps losing himself with each resurrection, he can't remember where his castle was or about the woman he was pledged to marry. The tone with the Brotherhood still has its light-hearted moments, considering they are Just Like Robin Hood, especially before Beric appears. After Beric's final death when he resurrects Catelyn as Lady Stoneheart, her control of the Brotherhood makes the tone in their appearances even darker, with some of the lighter characters such as Anguy the Archer and Edric Dayne leaving, and Thoros going back to drinking, but in a more depressing manner.
  • In Robin Jarvis' The Oaken Throne, Wendel Maculatum the jester naturally ceases to be a funny character when it's revealed that he is the murderous High Priest of Hobb.
  • Throughout the first Survivor Dogs book, the adolescent Alfie is a plucky young bulldog that alleviates tension with his fun attitude and Leeroy Jenkins antics. In the very first chapter of the second book, A Hidden Enemy, Alfie gets slapped by Alpha to show that Alpha is a major threat. It was such a serious blow that Alfie was wounded and ended up bleeding out two chapters later. He's the first major death in the series.
  • In Oliver Twist, the Artful Dodger is arrested and shipped off to Australia just before the string of events that result in the murder of Nancy and the deaths of Sikes and Fagin.
  • The third book of the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse trilogy has a markedly different tone. It still has comedic moments, but the erractic Wolf was Put on a Bus at the end of the last book (and when she comes Back for the Finale she's undergone enough Character Development that her belligerance is actually proportional and appropriate to a given situation) and the Clippy-like AI for the ship barely appears and is never named - possibly because everyone's taken a few months to get trained and doesn't have to stop to consult tutorials mid-battle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • Lovable optimistic snarker Tripp's death heralded a much darker chapter in Skye's life and the show. Lampshaded by Skye:
      Skye: We're gonna laugh a lot less, that's for sure.
  • Andromeda, when Trance stopped being purple.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Poor Spike is left to rot in a wheelchair while the significantly less cuddly Angelus steals the spotlight in the second season.
    • Season 6: Jonathan and Andrew are sent to jail, and Warren faces off with Dark Willow, who takes over as the Final Boss, seeking vengeance for Tara's demise.
  • When Plucky Comic Relief characters Cal and Chloe die in episode 11 of 13 in murder mystery Harper's Island, it's the final sign that there will be no more funny bits.
  • BattleBots was always a serious competition, but the original run on Comedy Central decided to frame it as being a parody of televised sports in post-production, shoehorning in comedy sketches and other silliness with the contestants between fights, and Fanservice co-hosts. The current seasons, which began on ABC and moved to Discovery Channel in 2018, are much more serious in tone.
  • A good indicator of whether or not Breaking Bad is about to get incredibly serious or dark is whenever Saul Goodman, the sleazy lawyer behind Walter White’s criminal business, leaves the scene in an incredibly tense situation. Fittingly, he does not even appear in the incredibly dramatic and tear jerking finale.
    • However, some of this becomes a bit of Cerebus Retcon once his spin-off prequel, Better Call Saul reveals that most of his sleazy personality is a front, and he’s a very broken man man beneath his public persona.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Power Rangers Wild Force: Comic-relief villains Toxica and Jindrax go through a Heel–Face Turn and ride off into the sunset to "find themselves" before the two-part season finale, which is pretty bleak until the last few minutes. Their Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger counterparts, by contrast, neither reformed nor survived.
    • For the final two episodes of Power Rangers Turbo, which are the most sombre the franchise had seen at that point, and have a severe Downer Ending, Bulk and Skull don't make a single appearance.
    • Also Bulk and Skull during Power Rangers in Space. As the series got darker, they had a reduction of screen time, but their actions in the last episode make up for it.
    • Power Rangers Samurai removed Bulk and Spike from the final five episodes (save for one scene) in order to emphasise that things were coming to a climax.
  • In Young Dracula, Wolfie (Vlad and Ingrid's younger half-brother) seems to disappear after Erin becomes a vampire and things get much darker.
  • Doctor Who:
    • An unusual example: Jon Pertwee did this to himself after his first few stories. He was cast with many of his comedic talents, such as magic tricks and skill with doing different voices, in mind, but Jon ultimately decided to play it straight for the remainder of his five years.
    • At the beginning of Season 18 the Doctor hangs up his shabby rainbow boho ensemble in favour of a much classier dark red outfit, sets his Quirky Curls into a smoother mane, and suddenly starts acting detached and moody. A few stories later, Romana, the witty Meta Guy and pseudo-Distaff Counterpart, is Put on a Bus along with the funny little Robot Dog. Then we get the "Return of the Master" Arc, which is extremely sad and dramatic and involves everyone on a companion's planet and the Doctor dying.
    • In their initial appearance, the Slitheen exhibit uncontrollable farting, supposedly owing to the compression caused by having to wear human suits. (This circumstance even spurs in the Ninth Doctor's most notorious line of dialog from his entire tenure: "Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I'm saving the world?") Then the most interesting member of the Slitheen returns and is given a more serious storyline... and not-so-coincidentally is suddenly able to perfectly suppress all of her comedy flatulence from about half-way through the episode on.
    • The Tenth Doctor's funniest companion was Donna Noble—while she wasn't exclusively Plucky Comic Relief, she and he formed a comic double-act for much of their companionship. Just before the Doctor's death storyline begins, she's written out in an extremely unfunny way. Two breather specials later, Ten's recurring streak of hubris hits its peak and he basically signs his own death warrant.
    • Towards the climax of the episode "The End of Time", the Vinvocci — who have mainly been light relief up until this point — leave the Doctor and Wilf on Earth to confront the Master and the Time Lords, after which they decide the Doctor's incoming regeneration is Somebody Else's Problem and fly off in their spaceship to never return.
    • The Series 9 prequel short "The Doctor's Meditation" and the first half of "The Magician's Apprentice" have the Doctor confiding in the kindly but slow-witted Bors in medieval Essex while the former is having The Last Dance; Bors believes the Doctor to be a magician and owes him his life over almost choking to death on a marble. During the Doctor's "farewell concert" and his reunion with Clara and Missy, Bors begins to choke again...and coughs up a snake that's part of Davros's just-arrived henchman Colony Sarff, who rounds up the other three. From there, it's revealed that Bors is now a Dalek puppet, meaning he died at some point, and the episode goes downhill from there emotionally.
    • "The Girl Who Died" is a mostly-lighthearted story, with the Large Ham villains are sent packing with their tails between their legs via the Doctor and Clara threatening to reveal their cowardice to the universe via a viral video! Then it turns out that sweet Ashildr died in the course of their undoing, and the episode takes a heartbreaking turn as the Doctor decides to revive her, even though it will also make her immortal, which paves the way for further tragedies down the line.
    • In the end Series 9 had no Breather Episodes, climaxing with an extremely dark three-part story that temporarily turned the Doctor into a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. To counteract this grimness, the follow-up Christmas Episode "The Husbands of River Song" is a colorful romp with comical villains who embody Evil Is Hammy to varying degrees, and other secondary characters are mostly Played for Laughs. The climax sees all of the villains destroyed or neutralized before pulling the very serious plot twist that the Doctor and River crash-land on the planet he knows is where they spend their final night together, and the denouement is bittersweetly romantic save for a quietly humorous interlude that reveals the fate of the remaining characters.
  • In Game of Thrones, Plucky Comic Relief and Lovable Coward Hot Pie is shuffled off to a safe place midway through the third season. Following his departure, not only does any hope of a happy ending in Arya's arc (of which he was a part) become extremely unlikely, but the events after he leaves also give little hope of a happy ending for the series as a whole. Fortunately, Arya meets up with him again in the final season, and he still works at the bakery he was left at. He is also the one who informs her that the Starks had retaken Winterfell, leading to Arya reuniting with her remaining family.
    • In general, the jesters and fools of the novels have either been dropped altogether (Moon Boy, Butterbumps, Patchface) or found their roles severely cut (Ser Dontos Holland), even the disturbing ones (Shagwell, Jinglebell).
  • For the season two finale of Person of Interest when The Machine is about to go offline Bear disappears. It's explained he was with Leon.
  • In Inspector Rex, Giandomenico Morini, a funny, childlike character, transfers to Milan and is replaced by Alberto Monterosso, a more serious character, before Fabbri is killed.
  • In Justified, Boyd's murder of Dewey Crowe in season 6 takes the show in a darker direction.
  • The shift from comedy to drama on M*A*S*H was expedited by the departures of such mostly-comedic characters as Henry Blake (at the end of season 3), Trapper John (season 4), Frank Burns (season 6), and Radar (season 8).
    • After Radar's departure, Klinger's character became far less wacky and comedic when he was made company clerk, which required him to abandon his cross-dressing.
  • In Teen Wolf, while Stiles is the comedic relief of the show and responsible for a lot of the show's most hilarious moments, his overall role has become significantly less funny as the seasons have progressed. In season 1, he's the straight comic relief. In season 2, he remains comic for most of the season, but the last few episodes have him hallucinating his father blaming him for his mother's death and then he's kidnapped and viciously beaten by the villain to teach Scott a lesson. In 3a he's still the funniest character on the show, but has matured somewhat and near the end goes into Heroic BSoD when his father is taken as a sacrifice and Stiles spends 16 hours dead in ice water to get him back. This trope really kicks in 3b, the darkest season of the show to date, as Stiles spends the first few episodes of 3b basically losing his mind, then thinks he's dying of the same disease that killed his mother, only to discover he's possessed by the Big Bad, spends multiple episodes being mentally tortured and forced to hurt his friends, and ultimately the arc culminates with him trying to commit suicide to save everyone.
  • Rex the Coelurosauravus from Primeval acted as the adorable and comedic Team Pet of the group, and as such he had a growing tendency to vanish from an episode whenever things got serious until eventually he barely appeared or was mentioned at all, save for a couple quick cameos to remind us that he's still around/alive. In one episode, he's nearly killed by Connor Temple's herpetophobic Romantic False Lead when she locks him in a fridge, but fortunately Abbey finds him and saves him.
  • This trope is the most likely explanation for the Superman Stays Out of Gotham situation between the mainstream MCU heroes and the MCU Netflix shows. Even at their darkest, most MCU movies are a thousand times Lighter and Softer than any of the Netflix shows, so keeping the movie heroes out of New York ensures that the dark, gritty, mature tone of the Netflix shows remains no matter what.
    • Also why there hasn't been a Stan Lee Cameo, since these tend to be comedic Big-Lipped Alligator Moment's in the films. Instead the shows have his face being used on campaign posters from the NYPD, shown throughout the shows.
  • Enforced by Babylon 5, which operated under a standing order from J. Michael Straczynski that any animal sidekicks, funny robots, cute kids, or hotshot pilots were to be brutally killed off as soon as physically possible, if they appeared at all. This was not a bluff; the one time executives tried to add a snarky pilot to the cast, he was immediately and horribly killed in his first episode, while a cutesy kid appeared in another episode almost solely to die a tragically avoidable death.
  • Someday or One Day: After Xie Zhong Ru's appearance, Huang Yu Xuan's colleagues steadily make fewer appearances and eventually stop appearing in the plot altogether, as the average tone of the episodes grows to the darker side and the threats to the main characters increases.
  • A minor version happens in Glee during one of the darkest storylines in the entire series, Karofsky's suicide attempt. When New Directions learned about it, the four queer members of the club—Kurt, Blaine, Brittany, and Santana—confront rival glee club the Warblers and their antagonistic leader Sebastian. Brittany is the only named character to remain silent for the entire scene. She's a Brainless Beauty best known for her nonsensical one-liners, which would've been completely out of place for a such a somber scene.

  • Eminem's first five major-label albums all contain at least one goofy, comedic, radio-friendly single filled with punchlines and (usually) celebrity references: "My Name Is", "The Real Slim Shady", "Without Me", "Ass Like That"/"Just Lose It", and "We Made You". Recovery, a serious album in which Eminem speaks confessionally about his addiction problems and reaction to the murder of his best friend Proof, does not have one of these. The following album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, returned to it with "Berzerk".


    Puppet Shows 
  • Upon the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in The Muppet Christmas Carol, Rizzo decides that events have gotten too scary and Gonzo agrees, so the Interactive Narrators leave with Gonzo saying to the audience, "You're on your own folks, we'll meet you at the finale."
  • In Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird all of the muppets sans the obvious exception of Big Bird are absent from the dramatic car chase towards the end.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech does this during the later days of the Fedcom Civil War and all throughout the Jihad. Units and characters whose main purpose was to give a slightly humorous, referential, or colorful flavor to the world are almost all killed off or disbanded, ostensibly to demonstrate that the setting was fully embracing the bleakness of its storyline. This includes units such as the Fighting Uruk-hai, Team Banzai, and Ace Darwin's Whipits among others.

  • Older Than Steam: William Shakespeare knew the value of this trope.
    • Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet is the Ur-Example: his Act III death sets the rest of the play's tragic events in motion.
    • The Fool in King Lear vanishes without explanation before Lear's mad scene and the death-filled Act V, though one theory is that this is merely because The Fool and Cordelia were played by the same actor in Shakespeare's own production. Another theory is that The Fool was killed off offstage: one production opened with a tableau of The Fool and Cordelia hanging side by side on a hangman's noose. A few productions have had him silent but on stage during the mad scene, and Lear killing him during his mania. Of course, one interpretation is that Lear is the fool for much of the play, the Fool is acting much wiser than him. About the time the Fool disappears from the Play, Lear has become wiser.
    • In Julius Caesar, after Brutus and Cassius have reconciled from an argument, the poet barges into their tent, and tries to lighten the mood, only for Brutus and Cassius to send him on his way:
      Cassius: How now! What's the matter?
      Poet: For shame, you generals! what do you mean?
      Love and be friends, as two such men should be,
      For I have seen more years, I'm sure, than ye.
      Cassius: Ha, ha! How vilely doth this cynic rhyme!
      Brutus: Get you hence, sirrah! Saucy fellow, hence!
      Cassius: Bear with him, Brutus. 'Tis his fashion.
      Brutus: I'll know his humor when he knows his time.
      What should the wars do with these jigging fools? Companion, hence!
      Cassius: Away, away, begone!
    • In Henry V, Falstaff's offscreen death puts the audience on notice: the former Prince Hal is now King Henry, and can afford no more cheap laughs.
    • In Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are gotten rid of by the end of Act IV, where Hamlet changes the execution order they're delivering from himself to them. The death of Polonius, meanwhile, sets the act in motion.
  • The disciples in Godspell are played as literal clowns and wear clown makeup to mark them out as followers of Jesus. He finally calls them together and removes their makeup in the scene immediately preceding his crucifixion and death. Making this more a case of Erase The Clowns.
  • In Street Scene, the comic Narrative Filigree in the second act abruptly ceases when Mr. Maurrant shoots his wife and her lover to death, only to ironically resume in the last minute of the play when the plot has already reached its Downer Ending.
  • In 25 Saints, Tuck and Sasha are shooed out shortly before the Killer Finale.
  • In Les Misérables, shortly after all the students, save Marius, are killed on the barricade, who should appear but comic relief Thenardier! Only to sing a song about how God is dead, steal a ring off of Marius's (supposed) corpse, and exit, robbing more dead people of their valuables including his own dead son and daughter. Instead of shooing out the clowns, they chose to make the clown exactly as serious and horrifying as the surrounding action.
  • Hamilton:
    • Lafayette, Laurens, and Mulligan, who are responsible for many lighthearted moments in the show, are all gone by the end of Act I, right before Hamilton's life snowballs into a shitshow. Their actors are double-cast as Jefferson, Philip Hamilton and Madison respectively.
    • King George appears sporadically through the musical providing humorous/cynical commentary on events through reprises of his song. But his last appearance is in "The Reynolds Pamphlet" where he has no lines but is one of the politicians dancing and taunting Hamilton for blowing his chance at becoming president due to his affair. The rest of the musical is much more somber, as it covers the death of Hamilton's son Phillip and the events leading up to the famous duel and Hamilton's own death, and as a result, an appearance from George would have been inappropriate in tone.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The Musical, Quasimodo shoos away his imaginary gargoyle friends upon crossing the Despair Event Horizon during The Eleven O'Clock Number, "Made of Stone".
  • In Feathers and Teeth, Chris's comedic German neighbor Hugo Schmidt is the first victim of the eponymous feathered-and-toothed creatures.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, Henry doesn’t take part in either the final confrontation with Dennis or the escape from Barbarossa.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Taiga Fujimura. Whenever she suddenly stops coming over for some reason, things are going to get worse.
    • Also note that Sakura Matou gets the Unlucky Childhood Friend treatment and disappears around the same time as Taiga in the first two arcs, which is more Shoo Out the Cute than the Clowns. Then comes the Heaven's Feel scenario.
  • Arihiko in Tsukihime has a funny tendency to simply stop showing up after about the third day. In Ciel and Akiha's routes he stays slightly more important as they involve the school more.
  • This happens with a character's mask in DRAMAtical Murder. Clear initially comes across as a pure Cloud Cuckoolander comic relief character who wears a bizarre-looking gas mask all the time. His route starts out as more of the same, with Aoba being continually driven up the wall by his wacky antics. Then Aoba persuades Clear to remove his mask and his route and character do a sudden 180 into What Measure Is a Non-Human? territory and there is literally not a single humorous or light-hearted scene after that.
  • You can tell a route in Katawa Shoujo is about to get more serious when Hisao's crazy neighbor Kenji stops showing up. In Lilly's route, he shows up after Lilly tells Hisao that she's going to Scotland (albeit while not quite acting like he usually does). Interestingly enough, Shizune's route, he appears in the scene immediately before the bad ending, of all times.
  • This tends to happen in Danganronpa around Chapter 3 or 4:
    • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Ibuki Mioda, one lighthearted, cheerful and fairly humorous student, is murdered in the third chapter, as a sign that the game is getting significantly darker. This is even an Enforced Trope, as her killer lampshades that it's precisely because of her carefree, quirky personality that made her so well liked and her death was intended to plunge everyone into despair. It then happens again almost immediately in Chapter 4, which sees the deaths of both Nekomaru Nidai and Gundham Tanaka — who, while not as peppy in-universe as Ibuki, were basically the last two sources of comic relief for the audience thanks to their Large Ham personalities. The final two chapters are much darker, with all the remaining characters being relatively serious by nature and understandably traumatised given the circumstances.
    • In the third game, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony we have Miu Iruma, the loud, perverted source of a lot of humour in the story, particularly the trials. Her death and its fallout instantly cause a significant change in tone, and the remaining students are drastically shaken by the Awful Truth behind her death.
    • Also from Danganronpa V3: the Monokubs, the "children" of Monokuma, gradually die off over the course of the game, with one dying each time a student is executed. The fourth execution, the same chapter in which Miu Iruma dies and the group is forced to convict an amnesiac Gonta, who'd been manipulated into killing her, kills off the remaining two Monokubs as a sign of how much darker things have become. Replacements for the Monokubs are brought back in the final trial, but Monokuma has them blown up each time they fail to hinder the remaining protagonists, and all of them are destroyed by the time the identity of the mastermind is revealed.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The final cases generally tend to be the most serious due to all the high stakes in the trials. While there can be some comedic or at least chuckle worthy moments, they are exceedingly rare and the courtroom dramas are played very seriously.
    • The final trial with the final witness in Trials and Tribulations has all the comedy and laughs completely thrown out the window. The cross-examinations has the witness, Maya, heartbreakingly scared and cornered, almost begging to Phoenix to not make her talk about what happened. There's sorrow on both sides of the courtroom when the discussion of why the murder took place comes up. Even at the very end when the defendant is cleared of murder charges, the usual applause from the gallery is absent, and no confetti is thrown.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice in Case 5. Things get so serious and dramatic, with the stakes so high for Apollo, Phoenix and their client, that Athena is completely left out of the action and just watches the trial from the gallery. This is because, if the defense is not able to prove their client innocent and Athena participates, she will get executed along with the guys. So they tell her to stay away.
    • In the same case, Trucy is told to stay home when the rest of the cast travel to Khura'in. She reappears at the end of the case, having stowed away in Edgeworth's suitcase.
    • The Great Ace Attorney features a six-member jury in most of the trials that take place in British courts- the latter three chapters of the first game, and the second and third chapters of the second game. Each of the members qualifies as comic relief to varying extents, usually having their own quirks and bizarre reasons for thinking the defendant's guilty. In the last trial of the second game, which spans the final two chapters, the jury is not present, partly because of the mood of the trial- Inspector Gregson, a significant recurring character, has been killed, and Prosecutor van Zieks is charged with his murder- and partly because the trial is a closed court attended only by members of the judiciary.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, any given arc generally gets serious (and scary) after the shrine festival. Until then it's usually a chance to show the characters at their cutest.

    Web Animation 
  • Discussed in Terrible Writing Advice. The episode "Comic Relief Characters" suggests getting rid of the comic relief for the final act, even if it results in Mood Whiplash and the story taking itself too seriously.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • In episodes focused on the Freelancer project, despite O'Malley, Wyoming, and Gary being prominent villains in the first five seasons, and all having origins lying in the project, their screentime has been greatly limited, with only Wyoming getting a few brief lines. This is due to how their goofier personalities would clash with the more serious tone of the Freelancer segments.
    • O'Malley/Omega got a minor form of this in the opening of Reconstruction. In Blood Gulch Chronicles, he manifested as a parody Omnicidal Maniac Split Personality of whoever he was infecting. In the opening of season six, we hear the account of a shell-shocked soldier who had dealt with O'Malley arriving in his vicinity... and it's not played for laughs.
      • It's implied this is because O'Malley had only infected idiots, resistant pacifists, or Texas before. Once in some semi-competent soldiers with some actual aggression to use and no experience restraining an AI...
  • SMG4: A running gag throughout the YouTube Arc arc has the CEO of YouTube's surname, Susan Wojcicki, to be randomized every time her name shows up. In Mario VS YouTube, her name is displayed properly. Although still funny at some points, from that point on, the arc takes a very dark turn with SMG3 deciding to erase SMG4 and his gang via the YouTube Remote. In the next episode, Deleted, he does that. Those deaths are played seriously for some of the characters, namely Tari and Meggy.
  • Super Mario Bros. Z: This happens with Wario and Waluigi twice:
    • In Episode 1, they’re sent flying out of the stadium by a Bob-omb when Bowser arrives to challenge Mario.
    • In Episode 2, Metallix's missiles catapult them away from Luigi and Yoshi. The following sequence consists of Yoshi falling off a cliff and getting into a brutal fight with Metallix.

  • El Goonish Shive has, for example, phased out the "anime martial arts instructor" (a character who exists almost solely for comedy, e.g. trying to go "super saiyan" in his first appearance), in favor of Nanase's mother (a character who exists solely to cause drama, e.g. criticizing Nanase for not spending every single waking hour devoted to schoolwork and then punishing her for objecting to this).
  • Happens in Questionable Content; the heavier the plotline, the less you'll see of Pintsize and Winslow.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • The "Fire and Rain" Story Arc (a large peak in seriousness in the first five years of the comic) occurred in Nebraska, thousands of miles away from the usual setting, with no Talking Animals, Mad Scientists, or any of the strip's other wacky attributes. Just an insane assassin and a terrified coed. Okay, one person gets turned into a camel, but even that was treated pretty seriously by the comic's standards.
    • Years later, Kiki is similarly absent for the entirety of the "bROKEN" Story Arc. She appears sleeping in the background at some point and then isn't seen until after the funerals.
  • Early in Dresden Codak's "Hob" Arc, Tiny Carl Jung is invited by the Tokamak's to accompany them in seeing Kimiko's newest discovery. He declines.
  • Homestuck:
    • The author has pointed out that some of the trolls receive more focus in the comic due to being more important to the plot, with the less important ones generally staying in the background. With the storyline becoming more serious and the stakes becoming higher, it seems somewhat telling that among these Demoted to Extra trolls are Nepeta and Gamzee, while Vriska not only is counted as an important character, but the one responsible for setting the events of the entire arc in motion. Gamzee has since come roaring back into the plot, or at least the trolls' segment of it, but surprise surprise: he's shed the comic relief mantle. Though he's still hilarious in a dark sort of way.
    • Earlier, Jade's dreambot was a silly little source of Plucky Comic Relief and general cuteness. At the end of act four, however, it malfunctions and explodes after Jade's dreamself dies, marking the beginning of Homestuck becoming a much more serious story.
    • The Homestuck Epilogues has a much heavier emphasis on the hardships of growing up/adulthood than the comic proper and is darker in tone. The Carapace race had been free of at least the teen angst of the humans and trolls, so it's not that surprising that they are Demoted to Extra in the Epilogues, with an offhand comment in Meat revealing that WV/The Mayor had died at some point. Presumably from old age, being in the past to help create Earth C, while the Game players had time-travelled to where civilization had been made.
  • Obadai seems to disappear whenever things get serious in Rumors of War. He isn't above instigating some drama himself, as a semi-Genre Savvy Trickster Mentor of sorts, but he plays a small role in the action of the story — which may be for another reason entirely. (He does display signs of Genre Savvy, after all.)
  • Bricky (a talking brick) will often disappear from The Life of Nob T. Mouse when a more serious storyline is running. The exception was when Knight of Cerebus Grandfather Time first arrived however, as Bricky played a key role in defeating the Grandfather's minions.
  • Tom Siddell typically has some humorous blurb under the strips of Gunnerkrigg Court. He always shuts up when the plot dips into genuinely somber material, especially if it involves backstory concerning Annie's late mother.
    Tom: Page notes will return when the chapter stops being about dead people. Come on.
  • Throughout the darkest Penny and Aggie arc, "Missing Person," involving the investigation of a kidnapping and climaxing in attempted murder turned attempted suicide, Cloudcuckoolander Genki Girl Lisa Winklemeyer is absent with the exception of a silent and understated two-panel appearance early on.
  • Cucumber Quest has a similar situation as Gunnerkrigg. Each page has a funny or sarcastic little aside underneath, but when the situation starts getting dire—such as when Noisemaster goes into the final stage of his plan to wipe out the Melody Kingdom—it vanishes. (There's a difference between merely perilous and this sort of deathly serious, because The Rant is still there when they almost get chunked into the sun.)
  • The Order of the Stick, throughout the current book and the previous one, has been wrapping up the more light-hearted subplots with extreme haste. Within the scope of two books, the resistance in Azure City is completely crushed, Tsukiko is casually killed by Redcloak, most of the Linear Guild (Zz'dtri, Thog, and Nale himself) are killed, the administration of Goblintopia is pushed to the side, and Bozzok and Crystal are killed very permanently. The only characters with side-plots still standing are Elan, Durkon, and Vaarsuvius, two of whose plots began within the aforementioned books and one of whose (V's) plots is unlikely to fully resolve til the end of the series and is decidedly not light-hearted.
  • The early years of Schlock Mercenary had the Partnership Collective: a Borg-like hivemind of lawyers whose drones took the form of goofy-looking snakes in ties. They were silly, weak and largely non-threatening, as well as laughably unsympathetic. As the main storyline grew more complex and the protagonists dealt with far more severe situations, and antagonists willing to commit atrocities to get their way, the silly lawyer-snakes just didn't cut it anymore and were phased out. (Justified in-story; the Toughs have a bounty contract on them and will gleefully kill any drones they see, so the Collective is avoiding them. They ultimately sell the contract to Sanctum Adroit, though not without a little regret.)
  • Most pages of Sleepless Domain have witty little Alt Texts. They tend to be absent, however, when the story's tone gets dark. Lampshaded on one occasion by the author herself.
    Alt Text: ...Is that weirdo gone? Phew, I can talk again.

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation amassed quite a lot of quirky/humorous elements since its beginnings, and currently it seems most silly elements are being Retconned (as with "Chowderclef", which states that Dr. Clef was never the cool dude he was presented as.) See this forum thread for further explanation.
  • Survival of the Fittest, once the game is more than half-finished. At the start, there seem to be some comic relief characters, and some other stuff that seems a bit odd and out of place in such a grim situation, mostly Narmish or just good humoured. This is fixed by the second half. Once the characters remaining are dawned upon with the fact that they are the only ones left alive out of 200+ classmates, even more noticeable towards the end, the comedy evaporates, and the shit does down.
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, Linkara's conflict with "The Entity" is preceded by its slowly absorbing everyone else on earth, thus eliminating the quirky, humorous supporting characters (Ninja-Style Dancer, Harvey Finevoice, Pollo, Iron Liz) and leaving Linkara to face it alone. Interestingly, the biggest "clown" in the cast, 90s Kid, is instead possessed by the Entity, so he is still at least physically present (as much as he usually is anyway; Linkara plays him), but behaving in a far from humorous manner.
  • The Dorkly article, “These Eight Characters are Definitely Going to Die”, includes in the list, "The Wisecracking Pilot," and uses this logic to explain his (less likely to be "her") death.
    How They’re Going to Die: With a quip.
    Why: Because killing comedy creates drama, that’s the rule.
  • Epic Rap Battles of History has this for its three presidential election rap battles. For 2012 (Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney), it's light-hearted and most of the lyrics are based off exaggeration. For 2016 (Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton) however, it's noticeably Darker and Edgier, with the lyrics being based off what both candidates actually said. Abe Lincoln does appear in both rap battles but he's more serious in the second battle than the first one. For 2020 (Donald Trump vs Joe Biden), the rap battle's tone is ever darker and edgier than 2016's, with Lincoln not even being present at all, to reflect how serious the 2020 elections are.
  • Escape the Night starts out as rather comedic, largely thanks to GloZell and her Large Ham acting. As soon as the guests begin to die, she’s heavily toned down and begins to fall Out of Focus. She briefly returns to the spotlight but is much less comedic and more unpleasant(her hamminess is now Played for Drama instead of being Played for Laughs). After her death, the show takes a MUCH darker turn.
    • The same thing happens with Liza, who dies about half way through and marks a turning point in the season.

Alternative Title(s): Not Now Comic Relief, Comic Reliefs Always Die