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Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness

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"Now, I've noticed a tendency for this programme to get rather silly. Now I do my best to keep things moving along, but I'm not having things getting silly!"

How does the work present itself? Do the characters appear to treat their current situation with the utmost seriousness and urgency or do the actors seem to be having way too much fun with their roles?

The answer depends on where the series falls on the Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness.

  • A largely silly series relies heavily on the Rule of Cool, the Rule of Funny, and the Rule of Fun. Much of the dialogue is made up of cheesy one-liners, and emotions and reactions are often exaggerated or otherwise played for laughs. No Fourth Wall and Negative Continuity may also be present, though not required, and it is possible to use both tropes in serious works as well. Expect World of Ham series to often fall squarely on this end of the scale.
  • A mostly serious series relies more on the Rule of Drama, and the writers at least try to make the dialogue and emotional responses as realistic as possible, though if written or delivered poorly it can still result in Narm. It is possible that there may be moments of comic relief, but in general the series will retain its serious tone throughout.

It should be noted that when a creator creates a piece of media, they often take their work very seriously and want it to be good. But that doesn't mean that the work in question has to take itself seriously.

It should be also noted that this scale is completely independent of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. It is entirely possible to have a work be idealistic but retain the same level of seriousness throughout, such as in The Dark Knight. Likewise, it is equally possible to have a very silly and campy work be downright cynical throughout, such as Family Guy.

Careful fact-checking might be a good indication of where the show lies on the scale. If the person clearly did do the research and the situation presented on the show at least closely resembles how it would happen in Real Life, then most likely the show takes itself seriously. However, it should be noted that just because they didn't check their facts, doesn't mean that the show was supposed to fall on the silly side. It could just as easily have been the result of carelessness or ignorance as to how things actually work on the part of the writers, thus leaving the series still serious, but filled with plot holes and factual errors. On the other hand, if the presentation is clearly done as a parody, or presented in such an outlandish and over-the-top manner, then the show itself probably doesn't take itself too seriously.

This is also not a measure of quality. Many works are silly, but highly acclaimed, and many works are serious, but panned. Conversely, many works on the serious end are highly acclaimed, while many silly works are awful. Many works that are on the serious side but are considered bad have been criticized for taking themselves TOO seriously, thus becoming humourless, po-faced and pompous on top of their other faults, and many people believe that such works would have been more enjoyable had they been more camp, sometimes leading the creator to attempt a Parody Retcon. Conversely (although relatively rarer), it is possible for a show to not take itself seriously enough, which can affect the audience's ability to immerse themselves in the drama; if the writers and characters obviously don't take what's happening seriously, why should the audience? True to form, works that are So Okay, It's Average can fall on either side of the scale, with slight silliness being moderately prevalent.

Many fan bases tend to take the object of their fandom more seriously than the casual viewer and often vocally demand that the show reflect this; see Maturity Is Serious Business for more on fans of this mindset. Pandering to the Base can pose a problem, however, if as a result of this a show initially quite 'silly' begins to take itself too seriously, with the result of turning off casual viewers. If silly scenes and serious scenes are back-to-back to each other, beware of Mood Whiplash. Cerebus Syndrome can occur if the work starts out on the silly side, and eventually ends up on the serious side over time. Some concepts can confuse the scale, such as Black Comedy — comedy is generally more silly, but the subject matter of Black Comedy is dark and serious.

Compare and contrast Bathos when the story zigzags between silly and serious and/or when the story can be both silly and serious. See also Silliness Switch, which is designed to slide a work towards the silly end. For shifts towards silly or serious, see Lighter and Softer, Denser and Wackier, and Darker and Edgier.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You can best be described as a Gag Series with sincere heart. On the one hand, the creators' response to the absurdity of the concept is to lean into it by piling the absurdity on. On the other hand, Rentarou's romances need to be sincere and heartfelt to make the concept work. Which means the series needs to be able to switch between modes when needed.
  • Assassination Classroom goes from one side to the other whenever it feels like it. At times it occupies both sides of the scale simultaneously. And it works.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler is definitely on the silly side of things. No Fourth Wall, Negative Continuity, an Unreliable Narrator who interacts with the characters, Mask the Money... and that's all without the Parody Stu main character who is both a Marty Stu AND The Chew Toy at the same time. The picture for this ought to just be Hayate talking about the "Very Nice People." This doesn't stop the series from doing serious, or semi-serious, story arcs, as with The End of the World or Golden Week. This happens more in the manga than the anime, though even then there is only one truly serious story arc and it still keeps the comedy.
  • Some people consider Fullmetal Alchemist too silly because even when the story gets serious, visual gags abound and the characters manage to crack jokes in the middle of the most adverse of situations, causing immense Mood Whiplash. Possibly the only two parts that does without any measure of humor is the lengthy flashback about the war in Ishval and Shou Tucker. And halfway through an episode of Brotherhood (its direct anime adaptation), a very excited and cheerful announcer will sometimes yell "FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST" in the midst of a gory battle. Mood Whiplash twice within 15 seconds. The 2003 anime version, on the other hand, while often mixing deadly serious and completely farcical elements just like the source material, took itself much more seriously and included allusions to very adult themes (most infamously, gang rape). Given this, it seems strange that Brotherhood received a higher rating of R-17, whereas the 2003 anime was a PG-13.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann starts off on the far side of silly, but winds up somehow mixing hyper-reliance on Rule of Cool with Tear Jerkers and dog-shooting.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry can go from one length to the other without any warning, but when the going gets serious, it usually stays serious until the end of the arc. This creates a good effect of Mood Whiplash. On the other hand, there is Kira, which is so full of Fanservice and ridiculousness that most fans disown it.
  • Elfen Lied also has some extremely radical shifts from silliness to seriousness and back again and gives off plenty of Mood Whiplash of its own. Overall it probably doesn't take itself too seriously.
  • MD Geist takes itself very seriously and many have criticized it for doing so, given how poorly made and ridiculous it was. The fact that it manages to keep a straight face while talking about an evil called DEATH FORCE stored in an impenetrable fortress called BRAIN PALACE is part of the reason why it's So Bad, It's Good.
  • SHUFFLE!! is another one that goes from one end to the other. The first half of the series is full of fun, fanservice and harem jokes. The second? It got worse. Most people find this an example of Growing the Beard, but a few think it's Jumping the Shark.
  • Kill Me Baby is at the extreme of the silly side, being chock full of Amusing Injuries. Only during the 13th episode of the anime is when the series manages to get serious, and even then it's only for a few moments.
  • Trigun starts off very far on the silly side and although it gradually becomes more serious as the series progresses, it never completely loses its sense of humor.
  • The Berserk manga for the most part takes itself pretty seriously. The main exceptions are the scenes involving either Puck or Isidro, who both tend to be extremely silly and have even broken the fourth wall a few times. Puck and Isidro are not present in the anime due to the anime mainly taking place during the Golden Age arc of the manga, which has the Band of the Hawk bringing their occasional moments of humor to the series — right up until they die horribly when the Eclipse goes down.
  • Gintama owns this trope. It's mostly a gag comedy but it can seesaw into dark and sentimental territory.
    • Serious fight scenes are interspersed throughout but there is always witty dialogue to accompany them. Characters are really good at ruining serious moods.
    • This series often serves to deconstruct various (and more serious) genres in a humorous way.
  • One Piece is a series that can be shockingly violent and dark at times, while being ridiculously silly near-simultaneously:
    • The universe of the series is set in a world where the two major powers are 1) a corrupt government that overtaxes all its citizens to support the lavish lifestyle of a few wealthy aristocrats, and 2) a handful of bloodthirsty psychopaths who kill anyone they don't like and could overthrow the government if they didn't hate each other so much. In a manga where the main character is friends with a talking reindeer and a singing skeleton.
    • The fight scene in the Alabasta arc where Usopp, the lovable comic relief, gets his skull cracked and nose broken by a 4-ton bat (among other painful things), features a gun-dog hybrid who sneezes exploding baseballs.
    • Another example of One Piece's ambiguousness in this is the Arlong Arc. During the flashback to the death of Bellemere, her fall to the ground following being shot is cut through a few times with other brief flashbacks of giggle-inducing footage of young Nami and Bellemere's relationship. Very hard to cry and giggle at the same time.
    • The Dressrosa arc has a scene where Franky (a half-naked cola-powered cyborg with light-up nipples) fights a middle-aged man dressed as a baby, who then gets a heart-wrenching backstory about dressing in his dead son's baby clothes because it's the only way he can connect with his catatonic wife when she's injured in an accident after learning of his secret double life as a criminal.
  • Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo falls so far on the silly side that it breaks the scale.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is a complicated case: in its lightest moments it could almost be categorized as comedy, but its dark climax is... rather grave.
  • Comparatively, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei takes very serious subjects, such as suicide, domestic violence and rape, and makes them *funny* .
  • FLCL and Rahxephon: both music-themed mecha shows, both very clever, both on opposite ends of the scale. For one thing, FLCL uses modern rock and Rahxephon uses classical music.
  • Princess Mononoke is decidedly serious. It has comic-relief moments, but only one real laugh line ("No, it's still broken.").
  • Fist of the North Star is extremely serious, with the exception of some short goofy moments, and keeps the more over-the top villains for short moments while giving most of the time dedicated to serious and tridimensional villains.
  • Death Note is very serious. Most of the humour is subtle and the kind that makes you chuckle, not laugh out loud. It doesn't cross over into narm too often in the anime...and almost never in the manga.
    • Most notably, Ryuk's hijinks, especially when apples are involved, Misa's shenanigans, and almost everything about L, and Mello's chocolate-eating habits.
  • Excel♡Saga spends exactly 2 episodes being serious. When you have a living Reset Button as part of the cast, it comes with the territory. By contrast, the manga features a sliding scale that is all over the place: with hectic silliness interlaced with looming seriousness. It tends to hit the serious end when dealing with Il Palazzo and Kabapu's origins, motivations and encounters. Also worth noting the fact that Excel's past and first encounter with Il Palazzo is hinted to be a dark one. Last but not least, the daily life of Excel and other ACROSS operatives are presented to be dire - dirt-poor and always near-starved, at some points imprisoned and/or homeless (to the point where Excel considers imprisonment to have the advantages of 'three hot meals a day and a cot'
  • Blame! begins as Serious Business and ends as Serious Business, though an almost complete lack of drama prevents any narm from showing up. There are a few darkly humorous scenes though, near the beginning... If you squint.
    • "My arm should be around you. Should you come across it, please take it with you."
  • In Kyo Kara Maoh!, Ordinary Highschool Student Yuuri is flushed down a toilet into an alternate universe where he is seemingly arbitrarily crowned king of demonkind. Then they hit you with the Fantastic Racism and Sealed Evil in a Can. It slides on down the scale toward serious through the series, with a few (mostly) filler-induced fluctuations.
  • Reborn! (2004) started out deeply steeped in Refuge in Audacity with its Butt-Monkey protagonist and gun-toting baby tutor...then the Kokuyou arc happened. Now its a largely serious piece with perhaps a bit more comic relief than usual thrown in as a reminder of its roots.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms is very far on the serious side. It's realistic in that a few characters can see the humorous parts of life as well, though.
  • Full Metal Panic! swings between both ends of the scale, which results in a fair bit of Mood Whiplash - especially if you're having an Archive Binge and watching Fumoffu and The Second Raid back to back. Given the way later installments in the light novels are going, expect more of the same.
  • Naruto seems light-hearted at first, but after the Land of Waves arc Starts, it can get very serious even by Shōnen standards, especially after the time skip. Dear god where to begin there.
    • Naruto the titular character himself also exhibits this trope. In Serious mode, he has the "I want to be stronger than all Hokages", "I will never give up", "I have to catch up to Sasuke and bring him back", Sennin mode, kyuubi mode, and now the Rikudo mode. In Silliness mode, he has the sexy technique, farting humour, stupidity, ramen obsession, pervert. This was nearly lampshaded once, when Naruto went into Kyuubi mode and started a rampage, and Sakura sees a flashback of Naruto smiling with his hand on the back of his head, and remarks, "Is he really that Naruto?"
    • He often does both at the same time (and make it effective). In the introduction arc, Kakashi sticks his finger in Naruto's ass with so much strengh it sends him flying, several arcs later, when Naruto is fighting against his (until that point) stronger enemy he decides to use the same technique, except that instead of a finger he sticked an explosive, Gaara states that his sand armor was the weakest in that part.
    • In terms of other characters, any fight focusing on the Hot-Blooded Rock Lee or Might Guy, or the jive talking Killer B will mix comedy and drama throughout.
  • Record of Lodoss War is pretty serious. The second part, on the other hand, is very silly.
  • Eyeshield 21 is a series that's very aware it's a sports manga and has no problem poking fun at itself; whether it's lampshading particular cliches, cracking jokes during moments that would be played as tense in any other series, or having characters so over-the-top and fun that any flatness they may have is forgiven.
  • Gundam:
    • The franchise has usually placed itself far at the serious end of the scale, with Gundam 00, Gundam SEED, and Gundam Unicorn, the most cinematic Gundam shows thus far, probably at the farthest end of the serious side of all of the series. The ones that go closest to the silly side include Gundam ZZ and G Gundam.
    • Gundam Build Fighters is for the most part a very silly and fun show. It does, however, tend to dip into the serious side of things, namely when it involves the Cyber-Newtype expy, Aila. Especially episodes 20 and 21.
  • Dragon Ball is a popular case. In the beginning, the first Dragon Ball series was pretty silly but starts getting more and more serious over time. By Dragon Ball Z, it's mostly serious but still has quite a few humorous aspects to it such as the Ginyu Force, Mr. Satan and a lot of things in the Majin Buu arc. Then came Dragon Ball Super where silliness increases over time and little serious situations comes after (such as Goku Black and Jiren).
  • Battle Angel Alita is an often very serious manga, with gory deaths and no character being safe from getting killed; however this doesn't stop it from constantly adding jokes or over the top elements. Even the normally very serious main character Gally/Alita has moments in which she cracks jokes, does silly things or accidently reveals that she is not as smart as she pretends. Last Order drives the point home when one character got heavily injured and the distraction to get him away results in a super sonic thumb fight between two martial arts fighters.
  • Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is, as a rule, on the silly end of the scale - even though it tries to be a bit more serious in its continuity, plot and characterization than your standard comedy fare, it still has silly humor as its main forte. A couple of the arcs do come closer to a middleground, however - for example, the first memory wipe arc which revolves around a fairly serious concept (feeling the pain of loneliness when others have forgotten about your existence) but still has way too many comedic moments to be on the serious end of the scale. The series generally suffers from Mood Whiplash, and the comedic and serious moments tend to replace each other when you least expect it.
  • Attack on Titan manages to have two distinct tones for each medium; the anime is notably more serious in atmosphere than the manga—of which teeters between stomach-churning gore and campy discussion about secret butt-wiping techniques.
  • Ghost in the Shell is notable in that the manga and anime are on somewhat different points on this scale, notably with respect to the horror of ghost hacking, in which a person's entire identity can be ripped away. In particular they treat the garbage man who was manipulated by the puppet master in very different ways. The manga treats it for laughs, in which he returns to work the next day and is promptly made fun of by his coworker. The anime explores the horror in which he realizes that the picture that he believed to be him with his daughter was of him alone and that he could not remember her name or how long he had been married to his wife.
  • Little Witch Academia (2017) starts off relatively silly with it mostly being a Slice of Life comedy. That deeply changes after Episode 11 where the plot kicks in and gets more serious. It gets even more serious in Episode 15 when Croix shows up and Episode 22 gets the character to go into the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Re:CREATORS: Serious, and increasingly so as the series goes on. At first, Re:CREATORS was willing to treat the idea of fictional characters coming to the real world with some degree of levity, then Mamika dies and it all goes to hell afterwards. Really, did anyone expect anything else from the creator of Black Lagoon and the director of Aldnoah.Zero?
  • PandoraHearts is an interesting case. It starts out tilted towards the silly end of the spectrum because, although its story was fairly serious, there were also plenty of moments dedicated entirely to comic relief. However, the series steadily got more and more serious until, a little after the middle of the series, it became absolutely dead serious. The comic relief moments didn't go away completely, but there were far less of them, and the series became much more likely to make you cry than laugh.
    • Alternatively, the anime version of PandoraHearts sits pretty far on the silly scale, as the anime changed several aspects of the manga and was cancelled before things got too serious.
  • Sailor Moon mixes both ends of the scale throughout, as the majority of the episodic, Monster of the Week episodes are very silly in tone, while the more plot-driven episodes are much more serious in nature.

    Comic Books 
  • Tank Girl is set in the Australian outback in a dystopian future. The main character is a girl who drives a tank. And drinks beer. And snogs kangaroos. On the silly side, most plots are very thin and resolved in some ridiculous way.
  • Bone creates a perfect balance here. The heroes could be walking through the dark forest, right into a very serious and threatening ambush of two rat creatures. The next thing you get is the two arguing about whether they should capture them alive or make them into a quiche.
  • Sin City, as dark as it is, is so over the top and insane that it often ventures into Black Comedy with a dash of Rule of Cool.
    • Perfect case in point: Marv. Any action he takes could apply, but possibly the most wildly ludicrous: Marv flat-out torturing a series of seemingly random, shady people in his search for information. This culminates with an image of him in a car, holding an unfortunate face-down in the asphalt, driving at a speed fast enough for the unfortunate's legs to be up in the air. In essence, he is using the street as a grindstone and holding a dude's face into it. Marv's line, also captured in The Movie, is "I don't know about you, but I'm having a ball." This sequence captures this trope masterfully, as not only is the situation extraordinarily insane, not only would this guy have not survived through the first two seconds of this abuse, not only could Marv never hope to actually get information out of this guy afterwards, but Marv is one of the good guys. With zero irony, Marv is a sympathetic hero searching for truth and justice AND ALSO a psychotic madman who murders and tortures freely in this horrible Crapsack World. The seriousness and silliness is completely interwoven throughout all of the Sin City stories, with varying degrees of success.
  • Every run of Deadpool before the Daniel Way relaunch was a balancing act of serious plot and character development, and wacky humor, black comedy, and comedic "caper"-esque scenarios. Gail Simone's Agent X, being an extension of her Deadpool run, was identical in tone to these, while her similarly-approached Secret Six was a seedier, more depraved version of that. The comics launched in 2008 with Daniel Way's run are almost exclusively focused on setting up scenarios for the purpose of laughs, making Deadpool more of a Looney Tunes cartoon that interacts with the more straight-faced Marvel Universe. An exception to that is Deadpool as he appears in Uncanny X-Force, where for comedic purposes he's batshit insane, but for drama purposes he displays more poignant humanity (such as a sequence where he calls out the other members of the team for killing a child, an issue that happens to parallel a moment in Frank Tieri's Deadpool run). Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan's 2013 run, however, marks a return to the pre-Way approach, balancing serious and silly.
  • The Disney Ducks Comic Universe has had both dramatic and comedic subplots in many stories since the early 1940s. But the contrast between comedic and relatively serious stories is sometimes greater than expected. In some stories, the featured characters are fighting for their lives against ruthless foes, harsh weather conditions, or supernatural forces. Danger seems omnipresent, and death seems near. In other stories, these same characters engage in silly arguments, obsess over trivial matters, or antagonize each other because they had nothing better to do at the time.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Moulin Rouge! could be considered the perfect representation of this scale because it begins serious, goes silly for a long time and then, at the second act, smashes onto seriousness. Resulting in serious Mood Whiplash. The opening scene is Christian James at his typewriter, obviously quite depressed and a little teary at Satine's death and having to write their story, which was her last request, as he writes about how a narcoleptic Argentinean man crashes through his ceiling, followed soon by a midget dressed as a nun. It's followed by Zidler dressed as a bride singing Madonna's "Like a Virgin" done as a Gilbert and Sullivan number, complete with Busby Berkeley choreography. But before that, we learn Satine has tuberculosis and hasn't told anyone, a sure sign that's she's going to die, probably in the final act.
  • Given its extremely bizarre plot, the creators decided to make Snakes on a Plane as campy and silly as possible, and they even reshot certain scenes to make them sillier.
  • Despite their differing feel, each of the Alien movies have maintained a consistently serious tone throughout. That was until Alien: Resurrection, which many fans are all too happy to disown.
  • The Predator movies, on the other hand, take themselves slightly less seriously, with a high level of machismo throughout the first movie, along with one-liners peppering the dialogue throughout both films. Though the first movie does start out more silly and makes a big turn to seriousness once the title character makes his first appearance.
  • An ongoing debate over the Star Wars series is how silly or serious the three trilogies are in comparison to each other. Many long-time Star Wars fans were outraged by the silliness and slapstick in the prequels. Other fans, including Lucas himself, insisted that the original trilogy was quite silly as well. The age at which you originally watch each trilogy may be a factor in how you perceive them on the scale. One could say that the original Star Wars trilogy was an example of Cerebus Syndrome, depending on how much you buy the theory that the more dramatic, character-driven sequel The Empire Strikes Back was largely the doing of director Irvin Kirshner and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan rather than George Lucas. Disney's sequel trilogy and spinoffs fall mostly on the serious side.
  • Shaun of the Dead lost a lot of viewers who were not expecting the slapsticky horror film parody to play the horror and drama of the Zombie Apocalypse so straight at times in the second half. The filmmakers insisted that the film was not intended to be a parody, but a real zombie movie that also had a lot of humor.
  • The Batman films could go toward either end of the scale, depending on the director.
  • The DC Extended Universe, comparatively, has among other points of contention frequently been criticized for going too far along the "serious" end of the scale, ending up being rather po-faced and humorless. The main outlier is SHAZAM! (2019), which is the most lighthearted and goofy DCEU movie.
  • James Bond has an inconsistent track record with this. Films like Dr. No and Licence to Kill take themselves very seriously, but others like Live and Let Die or Die Another Day remove the brakes on sanity. Bonus points to Octopussy for being a serious Clancy-style thriller one moment and a ride through Mystical India land the next. Both worlds collide when Bond deactivates a nuclear bomb...while wearing a clown suit. It seems to vary more from actor to actor.
    • Sean Connery's Bond was generally on the more serious side, although not afraid to have fun, go on grand adventures, and crack jokes. As his era went on, things slid more into super spy camp.
    • George Lazenby's Bond had one fairly serious film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Despite everything else, it ended on a very serious, sad, note.
    • Sir Roger Moore's Bond was frequently the silliest and campiest of them all, with films like The Man with the Golden Gun and Moonraker being considered the silliest in the series. They stepped down the silliness somewhat, but Moore's gift for comedy, as well as campy writing, stopped him from ever having films that were ever more than briefly serious.
    • Timothy Dalton's Bond had no silly films. This version of James Bond was dark and remorseless. While never really silly or campy, he wasn't quite the most serious one.
    • Pierce Brosnan's Bond started out fairly seriously in GoldenEye, but did often retain some camp elements and comedic bits. However, his films got sillier and stupider as they went along. Unfortunately, it wasn't the like the sort of fun, goofy, warm, affectionate camp that came to embody the Roger Moore era. They did try to keep the serious tone from GoldenEye, despite the plots becoming more convoluted and ridiculous. Really, it was just plain bad writing, which often tried to awkwardly marry together silly plots with the insistence that it was all Serious Business.
    • Daniel Craig's Bond is by far the most absolutely serious one of them all, to the extent where one could reasonably argue that he is a deconstruction. Craig plays Bond decidedly Darker and Edgier than any of his predecessors. This incarnation of James Bond doesn't joke, rely on gadgets, or save the world; he's a government-employed contract killer, and he absolutely is comfortable with it. Casino Royale (2006) was, in many ways, the absolutely most gritty, realistic film in the entire series. Skyfall was dead serious, too, and apart from the somewhat improbably machinations of the villain, is pretty damn grounded. A frequent criticism of Quantum of Solace, however, is that it's too serious, and in its determination to be gritty and realistic strips away almost everything that makes James Bond movies unique and fun in the first place. It's notable that while still aiming for a Darker and Edgier tone, both movies that came after (Skyfall and Spectre) nevertheless begin to re-incorporate some of the more traditionally 'goofy' elements of the Bond franchise as well.
  • Contrast The Rocky Horror Picture Show with the film often cited as its Spiritual Successor in audience participation, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Both are musical comedies with queer overtones and an obsession with glam rock, but Rocky is absolutely devoted to the Rule of Funny, with no character really possible to "read" except as a pastiche of other archetypes, the events not bound by logic so much as what would make the best song or Shout-Out, and frequent theatrical musical numbers; Hedwig, on the other hand, takes itself generally seriously (with a bit of Bellisario's Maxim), being heavily a character study with musical numbers that come without exception from the titular band's playlist (although not always being played by them), and a sense of humor that comes mostly from Deadpan Snarker Hedwig. It may tell of the difference in times that Meatloaf nearly quit Rocky upon realizing just what he was getting into until being assured everything was Played for Laughs, and is now a noted influence on the music in Hedwig.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn goes all the way from the serious end, as it starts out with two thieving brothers on the run from the law (along with the family they kidnap), but halfway through it switches into an extremely campy vampire movie set in a debased Mexican bar.
  • Airplane! took its entire plot and much of its dialog from a completely serious movie called Zero Hour!, then turned the silly knob up. Airplane is serious. And don't call it Shirley.
  • The Evil Dead films go from serious (The Evil Dead) to silly (Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness) and back to serious (Evil Dead remake) as the films go on.
  • The screenwriters of Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen stated that when they knew the sequel called for larger-scale and more intense violence and death, they decided to try and balance it out with more outrageous humor. In other words, they tried to go down both sides of this scale at once. Needless to say, fans were not pleased.
  • The Room (2003): Every time Johnny is on screen, whatever seriousness the movie might have built up with the other characters is lost and his scenes quickly become hilarious.
  • Shane Black tends to play with the scale a lot, sometimes making a Cerebus Rollercoaster within a film.
  • Flash Gordon is definitely very silly in concept but the characters in universe, the performance of the actors and the theme/sense of despotism is very serious. Somehow this doesn't clash with the ridiculous premise and goes beyond narm or narm charm into something glorious. No doubt helped by a sound track from Queen.
  • Godzilla, as the longest running film franchise in history, has consistently bounced back and forth.
    • The original Godzilla (1954) is an extremely serious and bleak film that depicts Godzilla's rampage of destruction as the horrific occurrence it would be in real life as an allegory to nuclear weapons. Even Godzilla himself is depicted as a Tragic Monster, as much a victim of nuclear weaponry as humans.
    • The "Showa" era (1954-1975), particularly after the second film, moved to the silliness side more and more as time went on, especially after Godzilla began becoming more of a hero. While the last two films of the era moved a little closer to the serious side, they still had none of the bleak tone of the original.
    • The "Heisei" era (1984-1995) moved closer to the serious tone of the original (though never matching it). Godzilla went back to being portrayed as a force of destruction, though one that could occasionally be a lesser evil to the monsters he was fighting. While the films bounced back and forth a bit, with the first and last films of the era being the most serious, every one was far closer to the tone of the first film than anything in the "Showa" era.
    • The "Millennium" era (1999-2004) went a little back and forth for its entire run, as all but one of the films was a reboot taking place in its own continuity. It does contain arguably the most serious film since the original, or at least the 1984 film.
    • Godzilla (2014) was meant to hark back to the original tone. In terms of seriousness, it comes close to some of the darker films of the "Heisei" era, putting a serious focus on Godzilla's penchant for destruction, but also portraying him as one who could be a benefit.
    • Shin Godzilla presents one of the serious depictions of Godzilla since the 1954 film. Godzilla is portrayed as a Tragic Monster again, but also one who is extremely malicious, and there is the danger of the United Nations allowing a nuke to Japan to stop him.
  • The Coen Brothers' solo outings have been on the exact opposite of this scale: Joel's solo directorial debut, The Tragedy of Macbeth is a serious drama that's an adaptation of one of the most famous tragedies ever written, while Ethan's solo directorial debut, Drive-Away Dolls, is a silly and campy road trip comedy that not only doesn't take itself seriously, but outright actively refuses to. With that in mind, it's now very clear which of the brothers is the serious one and the fun one in their dynamic.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy has to be among the silliest works in print.
    • And pretty damn campy in every other format it's been done in, too.
    • It also lambasts the serious end of this trope with the Roary, a small silver award given for the most gratuitous use of the word "fuck"note  in a serious screen play.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events is another example of a work which is cynical but not "serious". It's set in a Crapsack World full of bizarre conspiracies and senseless tragedy, but the style of Lemony Narrator (himself a tragic figure) lends everything a lighthearted and over-the-top tone. Besides, many of the actual details, like the costumes adopted by the villains, can be accurately described as "cartoony".
  • The Princess Bride. Its setting, which is "before Europe" but "after America", is a good indicator how seriously it takes itself. And "after Paris", which is lampshaded by both the editor and Goldman in one of the asides.
  • Catch-22: often shifts suddenly from absurdist humor to depressing realism. A good example of this is the chapter following Doc Daneeka, which first describes a series of events that happen to the doctor in such a way as to make them seem hilarious, only to then describe how they essentially ruined his life, leaving him a shadow of his former self.
  • The Discworld books are an interesting case; they started out mostly being silly, but while they have shifted to being more "realistic," they haven't actually stopped being funny.
    • The books slide internally as well. The Fifth Elephant, for example, begins with the fool's guild trying to put out a fire via slapstick, and ends with Carrot promising Angua that he'll kill her if necessary. Beginning silly and ending serious is the most common pattern.
    • In his acceptance speech for an award for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, Pratchett points out that, contrary to popular belief, funny is not the opposite of serious.
    • Discworld's place on the scale can be summed up as "silly, but not from the characters' point of view".
  • This funny-serious thing is also very prevalent in Good Omens. Case in point: Crowley. Wears sunglasses, drives a Bentley, Deadpan Snarker, terrorises his houseplants, questions God's grand plan and speculates on the paradoxical good and evil within humanity...
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant takes itself very seriously. Silly moments are few and far between, although not completely absent. Tragedy is far more common. This is writer Stephen R. Donaldson's trademark. Fantasy is Serious Business (though he does it rather well, and improves over time).
  • Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is mostly dark and serious, even tragic, but the mood is lightened by a number of comic relief characters, such as Kruppe and Tehol Beddict and even some of the immortal demi-gods having a surprisingly silly sense of humour. For example, in Deadhouse Gates, the High Priest of Shadow sends Icarium Lifestealer and his companion Mappo Runt on a quest to find and recover his broom amids a continent-spanning rebellion and hundreds of shapeshifters trying to achieve godhood.
  • Most Kurt Vonnegut novels seem to work by piling absurdity and silliness upon absurdity and silliness until somehow you're left with something quite serious and profound.
  • J. Robert King's Mad Merlin trilogy completely fudges this. It's supposed to be an epic adventure but contains scenes too bizarre to be taken seriously. This in fact plagues nearly everything that King writes, both tie-ins and original fiction. No matter how hard he tries to write it a serious fantasy epic, it will be filled with bizarre, nonsensical and inexplicable events, sometimes going into downright silly and ridiculous and coming dangerously close to a Random Events Plot strung together from Big Lipped Alligator Moments.
  • T.H. White's The Once and Future King starts off silly and gets more and more serious as it reaches its Anvilicious conclusion.
  • Kids' book Jennifer-the-Jerk Is Missing starts out as a suspenseful tale of a kidnapped 8-year-old and the desperate attempts of a tall tale-telling boy to get his babysitter to believe him, then turns into the exciting attempt to rescue the girl but, once they get there, the mood swings over into silly territory. The kidnappers are ridiculous, one of them pointing his hand through his jeans so as to fake having a gun. Jennifer herself is so over-the-top bratty that it's hard to feel sorry for her being Bound and Gagged, especially when she lets a disdainful "ha ha" under her gag. If not for the suspenseful elements of the plot still continuing during the silly phase, it would easily be Mood Whiplash.
  • Starfighers Of Adumar is an interesting case. Aaron Allston was in top form in this one; this book is said to be the funniest novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and certainly there are the most jokes and snarky irreverent remarks per chapter. Most of them coming from Wes Janson. At the same time, beneath the humor it's a very solid story about duty versus personal responsibility, with Wedge eventually deciding, in essence, "Screw being in the New Republic military for my entire adult life, I will not kill people who are not my enemies."
  • The Harry Potter series as a whole demonstrates a gradual shift from silly to serious. For example, in only the first book do the characters sing the extremely silly school song, which would feel rather out of place by Book 5.
  • The Dresden Files features some very serious situations, ranging from magical drug trafficking/murder to destroying the world, but our hero inserts quite a bit of silliness into these situations. He does become more serious as the series progresses, but the silliness does show through every now and again.
  • It's interesting to chart P. G. Wodehouse's progression from serious to silly over his career. He was never seriously serious, of course, but his early works are more-or-less realistic school stories about chaps playing cricket and foiling burglars. Then he stirred things up by inventing the flamboyant Psmith, with his monocle and tendency to 'jaw', and as Evelyn Waugh said, that was the moment that the 'divine spark' struck Wodehouse. Yet he continued writing realistic novels, including numerous romantic comedies in the 1920s. It was only when he was in his fifties that he dedicated himself entirely to silliness, concentrating on the Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle novels and the various other farces that represent his best work.
  • Stella Gibbons began at the silly end of the scale with Cold Comfort Farm. Her subsequent novels tended to be much more serious, and not nearly so successful, a fact that depressed her.
  • Some works of the Strugatsky Brothers, namely those not part of the Noon Universe continuity, while still quite serious in intent, fall on the silliness side in execution, notably Monday Begins on Saturday, a very lighthearted fantasy parody with a hard science spin on it (the core idea is: magic obeys scientific principles and can be studied), with lots of stuff added for Rule of Funny and Rule of Cool, lots of witty banter and snarky one-liners and the occassional campy character or two. Tale of the Troika is much more cynical in both versions (censored and non-censored), being a covert satire of Soviet bureaucracy, and is much more weird than silly, but Rule of Funny and camp are still present. The same can't be said for the Noon Universe cycle - it started out serious and stayed that way throughout. While the first novels did contain humorous elements (the Strugatsky style, especially their humour, are something of a trademark among Russian SF fandom), they could hardly be classified as silly. All of this disappeared almost completely as Cerebus Syndrome kicked in in full gear, with the later novels being on the utterly serious (and fairly dark) side of the scale, and their last novels, a few of which had no connection to the Noon Universe anymore, being utterly depressing barrages of Grimdark.
  • The works of Mikhail Zoshchenko, the flagship of Soviet satire, come off as extremely cynical, while at the same time being utterly silly. The characters and the situations described are so absurd that the reader can't help but laugh nearly constantly. All the while, like with most good satire, it should actually NOT be funny - Zoshchenko, who lived and wrote his stories during the Bolshevik revolution and the early Soviet era in the post-revolutionary period, stressed several times that he did not understand why people were laughing like mad when reading his stories, since the appropriate reaction would be to break down in tears - because, according to him, almost all of the stories were based on real events he witnessed in early Soviet society, the absurdity thus being shockingly real.
  • John Dies at the End (if the title didn't give it away) is rife with silliness, though it becomes less frequent towards the end when it starts getting more grim and scary. For example: during the prologue, Dave and John become trapped in a haunted house's cellar that is flooding with feces — the reason they can't escape being the door-handle has transformed into a lifelike human penis.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The X-Files has gone to both ends of the scale throughout its run. During Seasons 1-5 it generally took itself very seriously, except for the Darin Morgan episodes, which had a very surreal comedic feel to them. While Seasons 6 and 7 had their share of serious episodes, they also had quite a few episodes that went even further with the surreal humor to the point of making the episodes downright campy, such as the two-part "Dreamland" episode from Season 6 and "Hollywood AD" from Season 7. Season 8 returned the series to the more serious end of the scale, while season 9 once more had a mixture of serious episodes as well as lighthearted and really campy episodes as well.
  • Millennium (1996), also created by Chris Carter, was serious throughout its first season but as with The X-Files, fluctuated between seriousness and camp during seasons 2 and 3.
  • Tales from the Crypt usually fell very far on the silly side of the scale, with intentionally hammy acting and very over-the-top characterization and often plots that present a sort of grotesque parody to sitcom plot conventions and other very outlandish stories.
  • Many Hispanic Soap Opera take themselves very seriously, no matter how silly the "tragedies" appear after being subjected to Fridge Logic. Because of that, doing comedic (or at least Dramedy) soaps, such as Yo soy Betty, la fea and its Mexican spinoff La Fea Mas Bella, is tricky and difficult. There have been interesting experiments where the producers follow the conventions, but present them with a slight farcical tone, where the main love story is treated seriously but the rest... not that much.
  • The Batman TV series of the 1960s not only rests at the "silly" end of the scale, it jumps off that end and keeps swimming. Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.
  • Supernatural fluctuates between the two extremes so much it could you give whiplash. It's certainly done the homework for the Urban Legends, the psychology and what crappy (long-term) consequences could come from the characters' actions but not so much for the seriousness of wounds or how long it takes to get from one place to the other. And just when you think it's getting far too grim and bleak and disheartening for its own good, along comes a gimmicky episode like "Tall Tales" where Sam and Dean are raging bitches to each other and all their quirks and flaws are heightened to the point of absurdity. It started around the third season (with "A Very Supernatural Christmas" and "Mystery Spot", some of the season 4 episodes focused a lot on comedy (blended with angst), and season 5 took it to the extreme, since it was basically an alternation between very serious episodes, like "The End", "Abandon All Hope" and extremely silly episodes, like the one with Paris Hilton, or "Changing Channels", the latter of course being an example of this sliding scale all on its own, much like "Mystery Spot." Most of the Gabriel episodes tend to be like this.
  • Doctor Who jumps between the two so much that the entire series is one long example of Mood Whiplash. An example is Seasons Seventeen and Eighteen of the classic series. Seventeen is often criticised as being an example of a show not taking itself seriously enough; an increased emphasis on humour (thanks in part to script-editor Douglas Adams, best known for his work on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), a low budget mixed with some truly mad ideas and the production team's willingness to let series star and Large Ham Tom Baker off the leash entirely lead to a great deal of camp, which many fans felt ruined the drama a bit (of course, for other fans, this was all part of the charm). Conversely, Eighteen saw a new production team take over, and they promptly dialed back on the comedy, put Baker on a tighter leash and tried to introduce more gravity, seriousness and scientific earnestness into the show. However, it could be argued that they went too far the other way; fans began criticising the show for being po-faced and taking all the fun out of it. Then again, the Doctor Who fan base is notoriously unpleasable.
  • One of the goals in Scrubs was to create a show that combines comedy and drama without looking stupid.
  • Seinfeld is cynical but generally very silly. The only events treated with any real seriousness are Susan's death (possibly not even that) and the series finale. The series finale was a Deconstruction, showing how terrible all the characters' behavior within the confines of a comedy series would actually seem in Real Life. The episode never became particularly serious, though. Comparably, Spiritual Successor series Curb Your Enthusiasm veers a bit more on the serious side. Unlike in Seinfeld, there are often consequences to Larry David's actions. The humor is also subtler and less slapsticky, the situations and how they play out are a bit more realistic, etc.
  • Friends is usually a very silly show. However, it does have its moments where it breaks away from the silliness and becomes quite serious. Mostly notably when Ross and Rachel break up in Season Three.
  • Strangers with Candy, as a parody of after-school specials, naturally handles very serious issues such as drug abuse, prostitution and racism - but is about as silly as is humanly possible. When one character is hit by a car, his face is torn off and sticks in the car's radiator grill. The hit-and-run driver is later seen washing the car with it. Crossing the Line Twice doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • Desperate Housewives is considered to be a comedy series, but unexpectedly switches between being silly and being serious several times in a single episode. The fact that (at least) each housewife has their own storylines allows the show to have silly and serious plotlines in the same episode.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • The series started off being pretty serious and gradually slid down the silliness scale over its run, nearly becoming a self-parody by the eighth season. The producers tried to push it back up the serious scale by introducing a new Big Bad for the final two seasons. Jack O'Neill, the leader of the SG-1 team, was a frequent source of silliness for the first eight seasons. He often provided moments of comedic relief and Mood Whiplash. At the same time, he was a very competent, pragmatic, and sometimes tragic leader. He was one of the reasons the show could often seamlessly switch from one end of the Silliness Scale to the other, and back again, to great effect.
    • There's an episode where Jack gets stick in a Ground Hog Day Loop and which features half an hour of comedy as he complains and makes use of his situation in various different ways. The last ten minutes however has him very seriously empathising with a man who lost his wife by referencing the death of his own son. Something he holds a lot of guilt and grief over, his somewhat silly persona being the there as an attempt to forget about it as he knows he'll never forgive himself.
  • Stargate Universe took itself very seriously with only little bits of comic relief.
  • The Fast Show is constantly silly, apart from one or two quite notable exceptions.
    • Rowley Birkin QC's sketches are almost always entirely silly, as he drunkenly recalls episodes his lifetime of Noodle Incidents, always ending with the catchphrase "I'm afraid I was very, very drunk!". However, in one sketch he recalls losing his true love, and Paul Whitehouse's delivery is, well... impossible to watch and be left with a dry eye. See for yourself.
    • There's also the Ted & Ralph sketch where Ralph has to give Ted some rather terrible sad news... via a drinking game.
  • Power Rangers is somewhere in the middle. The stories are sometimes pretty serious, but rarely allowed to go far into the dark side, and sprinkled with lots of one-liners and the like. Super Sentai is at the same time far more serious and far more silly than Power Rangers, sometimes causing tons of Mood Whiplash. Juken Sentai Gekiranger switches back and forth between Rio and Mele's dark background story... and Jan wrestling pandas in the jungle.
  • Kamen Rider is generally more on the serious side than Sentai (except things like Den-O, but let's not get into that). Some series, though, especially Kabuto, have Mood Whiplash-inducing moments of stupid humour.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus was constructed entirely from silliness. While some of their more satirical sketches were no doubt intended seriously on some level, having a large flashing sign reading "SATIRE" appear over it neatly drained away anything serious whatsoever. They lampshaded the ludicrous nature of their humour with a certain Graham Chapman character, who would stop a sketch by pointing out that it's getting extremely silly, at which point it would move on to something just as ridiculous. There's also the election night sketch, where the results of various elections were announced, mostly between the Silly Party and the Sensible Party, with a few third party candidates from the Slightly Silly Party and the Very Silly Party, taking the title of this page quite literally.
  • Psych seems pretty tame in the silliness department compared to something like 30 Rock or Family Guy, but consider that the show's format is (ostensibly) an hour long crime-drama.
    • It gets pretty strange when the happy-go-lucky characters (especially Shawn) have to investigate what are increasingly horrifyingly violent murders. The characters themselves have even pointed out the weird contrast on occasion.
    • Specifically lampshaded when chasing a serial killer, when Shawn tells Gus that he has to be silly or he won't be able to deal with what he's facing. Truth in Television, to an extent, as morbid humor is often a coping mechanism.
  • Pushing Daisies works like this: you try to pour as much silliness as possible in a single episode and try to treat it with seriousness. The strangest part? It works. Just not well enough to have stayed on the air . . .
  • Miami Vice started out in the first two seasons by being a fairly serious cop show but with 80's glamor and pastel colors. Then it got darker around the third season and had some pretty ridiculous plots during the fourth and fifth season but eventually tried to get back to how it was at the beginning in the fifth season.
  • The various Star Trek series. While Star Trek: The Next Generation was pretty serious overall (with of course a few good jokes and comedic episodes here and there), the two following series were a mixed bag of dead-serious episodes and pure comedy examples (some being Breather Episodes), such as Quark and family on Deep Space Nine and The Doctor on Voyager episodes.
  • Bones has become distinctly less intense as the seasons progressed.
  • Castle started out pretty silly (comparable to Psych), but has taken a turn in a more serious direction towards the end of season three. This development got a mixed reception from the fans.
  • How I Met Your Mother, while always keeping some measure of comedy, fluctuates all over the place with this trope. Pretty understandable, as it's a guy telling stories about a section of his life to his kids, and the events of peoples' lives have a tendency to fluctuate between serious and silly, without much regard for how appropriate the preceding context is. So we get stuff like Marshall and Lily's reproductive health specialist looking exactly like Barney, Lily refusing to be examined unless Barney is in the same room in case it really is Barney, Marshall being too neurotic to produce a sperm sample at the doctor's office and trying to do it at home while his oblivious visiting parents loudly inundate him with Fetish Retardant, getting conned by Barney pretending to be his doctor, and ending with Lily informing him out of the blue that his dad just died.
  • JAG kept a balance between the serious and the silly.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer mainly kept the serious switch on at least medium, but the basic structure would be a silly or lighthearted episode would be followed by a serious or Wham Episode, and vice versa. Angel also did this. While being generally more serious than Buffy, it had some sillier episodes like "Smile Time" and "The Girl In Question.". The latter manages to do this in the same episodes, flipping between the (incredibly silly) adventures of Spike and Angel in Italy and a much, much darker plot about Illyria assuming Fred's form and interacting with her parents, who had no idea that she had died.
  • Over the years, Medical Drama Grey's Anatomy has been losing more of its comic elements.
  • In Leverage, critical plot points being played for laughs takes away from the sophistication of some of the cons they pull. This is made worse in the final season.
  • The titular character in The Tick (2016) is merrily dancing on silly end of the scale, being a complete loon, but the setting for the show goes for serious most of the time (with occasional funny moments like the Big Bad stealing an ice cream cone from a kid), which is where the humor of the show comes from.
  • The Orville: Generally on the silly side of things, but more serious than you might suspect. There are some jokes here and there, but the pressure of commanding a starship and the moral conflicts the characters get into is played largely straight. Seth McFarlane could have easily gone for pure farce, but he treats the material pretty earnestly, making it more of a Star Trek homage than a parody.
  • Wonder Woman: The show always presented the plotlines as serious matters despite - and perhaps in spite of - the subject matter being inherently silly. The only previous major Superhero shows were The Adventures of Superman in The '50s and Batman (1966) in The '60s. The former handled the cape and tights aspect by presenting as a children's show complete with the dumb kid - Jimmy Olsen - to allow others to explain the plot. The latter handled it by being over the top Batusi levels of silly. Neither of those avenues were compatible with Wonder Woman. Both being too silly and too childish risked turning away women from watching the show and that was a demographic they could not afford to lose. This was one of the reasons why the concept took a failed TV Movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby, retooling into another TV movie starring Lynda Carter, and two more specials before getting an 11 episode order from ABC for the 1976 season. There were serious questions about whether they could thread this particular needle. Lynda Carter has received significant praise for her treatment of the role. She played the character with seriousness and earnestness. She never displayed any concern or embarrassment about performing heroic feats in a satin bathing suit and as a result, neither did the audience. This was Wonder Woman's normal reality as an amazon from Paradise Island and the fact that no one else did the same was simply because they weren't from her homeland. The show's presentation in-universe always stayed on the serious end of the scale. The audience may know that Wonder Woman will always arrive in the nick of time to save Steve Trevor from getting shot and killed by the Nazis, but the characters did not. When Wonder Woman was told that Steve had been killed by a bomb ("The Last of the Two Dollar Bills"), she was genuinely scared. There were no nods or winks to the audience, just rushing to the scene and relief that he was still alive.
  • Sesame Street is by definition a silly show, using colorful puppets and jokes to help children learn. But whenever there's a serious topic discussed in the series (such as death, 9/11, hurricanes, incarceration, etc), the topics are treated with the tact and seriousness that they deserve.
  • The fantasy series Highlander toyed with both ends of the spectrum during its run. The basic premise of the series requires all Immortals (good and evil) being locked in a centuries-long battle for survival, and nearly every episode featured some violent deaths. But some episodes were rather bleak explorations of how accumulated mental traumas changed some characters for the worse, such as a pacifist becoming a vigilante killer. While some episodes had comic plots, including at least two romantic comedy-themed episodes, a spoof of classic Whodunnits, and one featuring an immortal wannabe-Robin Hood whose past adventures included a satirical view of an Outlaw Couple.
  • Soap is, for the most part, a wacky, outlandish, and very funny Affectionate Parody of soap operas, but occasionally features moments of poignant, emotionally-moving drama that could put many actual soaps to shame, and is particularly skilled in making those dramatic moments feel natural and extremely effective even alongside the show's usual silly antics.

  • Pink Floyd's The Wall, believe it or not, does this from time to time. The message of the album—shutting yourself off from society is not a good idea—is quite serious, but moments of pure silliness shine through. "In the Flesh," for example, plays the hero as an Evil Overlord type, which is outright cartoonish in and of itself, and the lyrics are so over-the-top that they sound like the ravings of a frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic. And then there's "The Trial," which plays Pink's moment of clarity as a vaudeville show, complete with a judge that resembles an enormous, disembodied human backside that wears a judge's wig. And yet it only enhances the message: "Shutting yourself off from society is not only a bad idea, it is also a very silly and ultimately pointless one."
  • Captain Beefheart's work frequently goes from surreal and often sexual imagery to his rather serious environmental concerns. The best example of this is on the album Trout Mask Replica, where the rather serious (albeit cryptic) "Well" is sandwiched between the bizarre "Pena" and the hilarious "When Big Joan Sets Up". Another example is on the album The Spotlight Kid which features the song "Blabber N' Smoke". The lyrics of the song go from him making fun of his wife telling him not to smoke to insisting that we "clean up the air and treat the animals fair".
  • Iron Maiden have recorded serious songs as singles and released joke songs as B Sides for quite a while now.
  • Microdisney's "Money for the Trams" seems like serious commentary on yuppie culture... until Cathal yells "Take your stupid clothes off!"
    • Horse Overboard. In the past when a ship was carrying too much cargo they would have to put something overboard to stop it from sinking, and the horses would be the first to go. With that in mind the line "My wife is a horse" makes sense (it's about leaving your wife). Out of context however, it is a hilarious line, made funnier by the fact "horse" is of course a derogatory thing to call a woman.
  • Die Ärzte usually occupy the silly side, not only in their song lyrics, but also in their stage antics and in interviews, where almost every answer could as well have been irony or them messing with their interviewer. However, they do have some very serious songs, though never more than a handful per album. They are also not above making fun of the serious points in their serious songs or making serious points in a silly song.
  • Type O Negative is all over the place with this trope ranging from "Christian Woman" and their Self-Deprecation songs on one end, to "White Slavery" and "Everything Dies" on the other. And those are just some of the more extreme examples.
  • Nirvana is deep down on the "serious" end of the scale, although not quite as deep down as one might expect - although most of their music was dead serious and laden with depressing and often horrific imagery, they showed a sharp sense of humor during interviews and concerts. For instance, after rumors started swirling regarding his health, Kurt Cobain opened the famous 1992 Reading concert by getting pushed onto the stage in a wheelchair while wearing a hospital gown, pretending to collapse, before getting up and playing with the rest of the band.
  • TomWaits likes to explore both sides of the scale. Some of his songs are so silly they might as well be novelty songs that you'd hear on the Dr. Demento show. Then he'll turn around and sing an absolute heartbreaker about the horrors of war and PTSD.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Looked at from an out-of-universe perspective Warhammer 40,000 has the tongue so firmly planted in cheek its punching through, in-universe it is so serious and depressing it's rather surprising you have productive people at all considering how depressing it must be to be in charge of anything in 40k. It also depends on which perspective it's coming from. For example: a battle between the Imperial Guard and the Orks. If the story is from the Ork's perspective, the dialogue and descriptions take an amusing and humourous tone, talking about "takin' da biggest, baddest shootas and choppas ya can get 'old of, and spendin' da rest of da havin' a bit 'o' fun, krumpin' 'umie gitz with da boyz and tryin' not ta get zogged yaself". Take the point of view of an Imperial Guardsman, and the same battle is a terrifying fight for survival with your woefully inadequate lasgun and body armour, against hordes of hulking tough-as-nails green-skinned horrors brandishing monstrous cleavers and improbably-sized machine guns and flamethrowers.
    • Mainly this comes due to the age of the property. When 40k started in 1987 as Rogue Trader, it was pure parody of Space Opera and just about anything scifi, with characters that were solely mash-ups of various popular scifi characters, as well being simply Warhammer in space (notably, there was a Tech Priest based on Scotty from Star Trek). Until the mid 1990s, it became a little more serious, then over-the-top serious during its 3rd Edition to the point of simply trying too hard. Since then, it has tried to find a balance between being slightly goofy, mostly grim and notably also being a heavy Deconstruction of science-fiction and even itself. The aforementioned Orks for example are the comedy faction of the setting, and them being humourous is kind of the point (where every other faction is semi-based on a historical army or myths, Orks are based on British football hooligans and Chavs), while Chaos might employ evil accountants as soldiers. On the other hand, things such as the creation process of Space Marines, Imperial Guard (average human soldiers) fighting against galactic horrors like the Tyranids, Necrons, Orks etc are intentionally depicted as grim and often hopeless endevours in the long run, but other works such as the Ciaphas Cain series show a more humanist, light-hearted side, how not everything is needlessly dark all the time, and that evil people not always get away with their cruelty (Commisars may be authorised to execute cowards freely, but push the troops too hard and the Commisar her/himself might have a rude awakening via Unfriendly Fire), contrary to what it might appear like. It's mostly related to being such a vast setting, spanning the entire galaxy and a core timeline of 10,000 years, so there is enough room for everything and anything.
  • The Illuminati University setting for GURPS actually makes the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness adjustable, from "Silly" through "Weird" to the (more or less) serious, paradoxically named "Darkly Illuminated". The current edition of Paranoia does much the same thing, with Straight, Classic, and Zap.
  • Most editions of Gamma World are pure slapstick. However, 3rd and 6th Edition both rein in the madness and look at the setting from a more serious perspective (though even so, many of the monsters are still just plain weird).
  • Space 1889: Victorian times and Victorian literature, in particular Victorian science fiction, which is the basis of the game, often seem rather silly to the modern mind. The game, however, takes itself seriously, with there being very little humor. The adventure Canal Priests of Mars has a rather silly person as one of the passengers, but that’s about it. Generally speaking, historical Victorians took themselves seriously.
  • Rocket Age is somewhere in the middle, with tendencies towards the sillier, which works given it's based on pulp and retro sci-fi. You can walk around on islands in the skies of Jupiter for example, without being pulled deeper and crushed like a bug, though you'd better be wearing a space suit.
  • Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine bounces all over the place, to the point where two of its core Arcs boil down to "fuss and meddle and get involved" (Storyteller) and "deal with really heavy shit" (Emptiness). As an example, let's consider two pregen characters from the Glass-Maker's Dragon campaign. Natalia Koutolika, the Prodigy, is a traumatised Broken Ace who endured hellish training to master her skills, believes Hope Is Scary, and desperately needs a hug. Rinley Yatskaya, the Troublemaker, is a Plucky Girl trickster and The Heart who binds the other characters together, dedicated to the wishing power of the human heart and also telling odd stories and making bad puns, who does things like steal the fruit out of still-life paintings and eat it. These two are not mutually exclusive for a campaign, and indeed a three-character run on GMD could consist of just those two and Principal Entropy, the Angel of Fortitude (who forms a sort of "middle ground" by being at once the otherworldly heir to the King of Evil's throne, and a guy who can always find the most convenient light source for posing dramatically).
  • The Dungeon Master's Guide for the main Dungeons & Dragons setting discusses this directly under "style considerations".
    ...if you design adventures that are lighthearted, create NPCs that are slightly silly, or introduce embarrassing or humorous situations into the game, realize that it changes the tenor of the game. If the king of the land is a talking dog named Muffy or if the PCs have to find a brassiere of elemental summoning rather than a brazier of elemental summoning, don't expect anyone to take the game too seriously. ...Related to how serious or humorous the game is, character names should be fairly uniform in style throughout the group. Although any character name is fine in and of itself, a group that includes characters named Bob the Fighter, Aldorius Killraven of Thistledown, and Runtboy lacks the consistency to be credible.

  • Of Thee I Sing was the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize; for a satire on politics, it's quite idealistic. It's also gleefully silly, with the nine Supreme Court judges appearing to rule on such Serious Business as:
    "Which is more important: corn muffins or justice?" (The answer is corn muffins, because Feminine Women Can Cook.)
    "Will it be a boy or a girl?" (The Supreme Court decides the sex of Presidential infants by a strict party-line vote.)
  • Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You In The Closet And I'm Feelin' So Sad is both cynical and silly.
  • Shakespeare's plays always run back and forth over this line. The comedies have serious undertones (The Taming of the Shrew and spousal abuse, Much Ado About Nothing and the damaging effects of rumors, The Merchant of Venice and racial prejudice) and the tragedies always have comedic asides (The Porter in Macbeth, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Polonius in Hamlet).
  • Jason Robert Brown has written on the more serious side of the spectrum, but 13 is on the sillier side.
  • Cirque du Soleil shows are idealistic but all over this spectrum — ranging from whimsically comic (KOOZA, OVO) to bittersweet and melancholy (Quidam) or grand and stately ("O", KA), with such shows as Mystere, Alegria, Varekai, and Corteo occupying a middle ground. A good indicator of where a show falls on the line is its clown acts — how much time they get, how important the characters are to the rest of the show, the style of their humor, etc.
  • Wicked is much lighter than the novel it was based upon, especially with songs like "What Is This Feeling?" and "Popular" in Act 1. They also aren't above silly verbal puns that reference The Wizard of Oz (such as "Melons, and lemons, and pears." "Oh my!") That said, their internal politics and character development are taken very seriously - so they strike a balance between Wizard of Oz camp and Gregory Maguire gloom.
  • The comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan are, of course, firmly planted on the silly end of the scale.

    Video Games 
  • The Pokémon video games have gone up and down like a yo-yo. The main series Pokémon games play the plot straight, but have a lighthearted tone overall, with most NPCs the player runs into (even the regional villainous team's members) being on the silly side. Serious moments are usually limited to encounters with the Big Bad and the current legendary version mascot.
    • Pokémon Colosseum and XD relies on seriousness with some silly spots.
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon starts off as a silly series, but have gone serious in subsequent games in series. The initial Rescue Team games mixed both to a great effect, but Explorers are getting very serious with storyline progressing. Adventure Squad games play very big silly, while Gates To Infinity returns to the balanced scale with some lighter shade of seriousness.
    • Pokémon Ranger plays a big silly albeit with a few serious tone, while other games, such as Hey You, Pikachu! and PokéPark Wii, are on the silly end of the scale. But Pokémon Conquest is more serious and dark.
  • Metal Gear Solid is full of lampshades and has completely abolished the fourth wall very early on, but usually stays dead serious.
  • The Legend of Zelda series is typically a serious series, even if the cel-shaded visual style of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and other iterations may make you think otherwise, sometimes sliding to the middle of the scale at the very most when it comes to silliness for the comic relief that slightly lightens the series' somewhat-known melancholy. The Wind Waker itself, for example, has a contrast in tone between the comical situations seen in the sidequests and the more serious events and backstory narrated through the main story. Even The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, which stays on the serious side of the scale, has its moments of extreme silliness, such as the dialogues with Tingle, the Beaver Brothers and the minions of Igos du Ikana. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, another game, deals with deep philosophical questions about the nature of reality, but has instances where you trade with talking animals, rescue a Chain Chomp from evil pigs, and rescue a giant flying whale called the "Wind Fish".
  • Dragon Age: Origins is generally a very grim sort of game revolving around weighty issues, possible child-killing, a forced Heroic Sacrifice, demonic possession, and The Corruption. Some of the inter-party banter, however, is just hysterical; of particular note are Sten's fondness for cookies, Leliana's pet nug, and all of Morrigan and Alistair's back-and-forth snarking.
  • The early Tomb Raiders didn't take themselves seriously at all, with a heavy dose of Rule of Fun and Rule of Cool, even Breaking the Fourth Wall at the end of Tomb Raider II as Lara shoots the player for trying to watch her in the shower. Last Revelation onwards, the series has become more and more sensible and mature.
  • This trope wouldn't be complete without Serious Sam. Despite constantly claiming to be serious, the games are always far on the silly side of the scale. To show just how serious the game is, this quote from the man himself: "Now I'm seriously serious!"
    Sam: (on picking up the atomic powered chainsaw): LOOK MA! I'M A LUMBERJACK!
  • Doom: The original game, which was one of the pioneers of the First-Person Shooter genre, has a mostly dark and serious mood, with the unnamed Player Character running down the dark and gloomy corridors of Hell while blowing away the evil demons and never so much as cracking a joke (or saying anything at all). However, it and its sequel still have a few bouts of goofiness and black humor, such as the plot of "Thy Flesh Consumed" being Doomguy getting revenge for his dead rabbit. Doom 64 amped up the seriousness, with its oppressive dark atmosphere and ambient soundtrack, something which was largely maintained by the horror-focused Doom³ (outside of some humorous PDA entries and early game NPC interactions). But Doom (2016) and its sequel Doom Eternal take a more tongue-in-cheek approach; the main story and atmosphere are still relatively grim, but there's a lot more Black Comedy (with 2016 in particular taking the piss out of corporate greed and tonedeafness), a more slapstick tone to the violence, a lot of goofy easter eggs, and a protagonist whose attitude and antics are often mined for humor (such as his interactions with certain collectable figurines and his palpable glee in doing the exact opposite of whatever Samuel Hayden requests of him).
  • Contrast to Duke Nukem 3D, which doesn't take itself seriously at all. Duke constantly spouts off one-liners and making homages to movies and other video games as he explores each new brightly-lit level, saving naked babes and blowing away the alien scum.
  • While Mortal Kombat is almost entirely serious (especially with the Bloodier and Gorier fatalities and brutualities), that doesn't mean the franchise can't go into the scale of being silly like the Rule of Funny based Friendships.
  • Sly Cooper is generally silly, but with a definite tinge of seriousness. Toon Physics are in full effect, and The Caper may involve things like dropping disco balls to trigger earthquakes or "windmill throwing stars" without anyone batting an eye, but the characters themselves treat their world and each other (more or less) completely seriously. That the games touch upon themes ranging from drug abuse to legacy and loss and guilt, while still largely being Funny Animal caper films, occasionally featuring pirates or size-enlarging evil spirits, does not make categorization any easier.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, with its unbelievably hard science and its completely consistent stories about the survival of Mankind in a Death World is one of the most serious videogames ever created by man. Despite this, there's a good number of jokes scattered throughout the Encyclopedia Exposita. Especially the Morganite quotes. On the subject of black holes: "Yes, yes, we've all heard the philosophers babble about 'oneness' being 'beautiful' and 'holy'. But let me tell you that this kind of oneness certainly isn't pretty and if you're not careful it will scare the bejeezus out of you."
  • The Metro series (Metro 2033 & Metro: Last Light) are decidedly on the serious side of the scale. Things are bleak.
  • StarCraft falls somewhere in between. The Terran footsoldiers and commanders are fond of cracking jokes, throwing one-liners and being portrayed in a Duke Nukem-esque style (the Confederacy is even the Deep South Recycled IN SPACE! IN SPACE!); the Zerg, however, are portrayed as a Chaotic Evil force of destruction and assimilation, while the Protoss are portrayed as strict but virtuous and disciplined heroes, who occasionally crack a really good joke. This is a game where if you click often enough on a Protoss observer, it'll replay lines from other units, as well as "One small step for man", and the sequel's Viking unit is a Transforming Mecha that's slated to say "Transform and roll out!". It also has cutscenes in which people get claws shoved through their faces.
  • Kingdom Hearts whips up and down the scale. The plot is generally serious (albeit impenetrable), but on occasion the series does have to lighten up... because, after all, it's impossible to be fully serious when most of your cast comes from Walt Disney Studios.
  • The villains in the Rayman series have been steadily going from serious to silly as time goes by: The first game featured Mr. Dark, a more serious character (as serious as Rayman 1 could be) with no funny bits at all. Rayman 2: The Great Escape featured the Robo-Pirates, genuinely scary-looking monstrosities but with their own funny moments. Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc had the Hoodlums, about as scary as the Robo-Pirates but much more cartoony, with lots of slapstick humor throughout the game. Finally there's the Raving Rabbids party game series, featuring the psychotic but overall stupid Rabbids, who seem somewhat creepy at first until... "BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series lies in the middle. The plot and the universe's lore are played straight, but the games run on Rule of Cool. The tone and characters also tend to be fun and lighthearted overall, but they get more serious when the situation calls for it. This is probably best exemplified by Big Bad Dr. Eggman, being a comical and silly villain who is nevertheless treated as a real, competent threat. When the stories fall too far in either extreme they tend to prove unpopular with fans, as exemplified by the more serious Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), and the Denser and Wackier Sonic Colors and Sonic Lost World. This likewise applies to the characters — on one hand there is the base breaking serious and edgy Shadow; on the other hand we have unpopular zany characters like Chip and the Zeti.
  • The first game in the Donkey Kong Country series was definitely on the "silliness" side of the scale, featuring a wide variety of cartoony enemies and bright, colorful locales. The second game took a few steps towards the "seriousness" side, with more realistic colors and settings and more ominous music, but took an equal amount of steps backwards for the third game.
  • In La-Mulana, Elder Xelpud starts off as a cheery, screwy old man who rambles about MSX games. Also, in the village, Lemeza's cheerful theme music will play. Then when you beat the eight Guardians, he stops saying them for the rest of the game, the village music gets changed to the dark title screen music, his theme music no longer plays when you enter his tent (instead continuing to play the title music), and his random lines all get changed to the following:
    The wind is restless... / The wind sure is howling today...
Of course, you can turn the silly back on if you manage to make it though the Bonus Level of Hell in the remake.
Lemeza: (enters wearing the Provocative Bathing Suit)
Xelpud: The wind sure is howling (recoils back) to.... daaaayyy...
  • Mother 3 manages to exist on both sides of the scale at the same time. It isn't subtitled "Strange, funny, and heartrending" for nothing.
  • Nippon Ichi are renown for making games mostly on the 'silly' end of the spectrum. Disgaea and Disgaea 3 are very silly (although not lacking in a few Drama Bombs), as is Makai Kingdom and La Pucelle. Disgaea 2 still manages to be quite silly while still being the most 'serious' of the Disgaea games. Soul Nomad & the World Eaters can actually be quite serious (and quite cynical), and would probably be even moreso if Gig hadn't been a main character. Phantom Brave, Nippon Ichi's most serious game, is about on the level of a Final Fantasy or Tales Series game, even though it's also Nippon Ichi's most idealistic game. Disgaea 4 almost inverts it. Its silly moments are played as serious and its serious moments are more often than not played as silly. Previous titles tend to be aware of when they're being silly or serious, but D4 doesn't seem to be aware. The result is more enjoyable for some than for others, thought reception has generally been very positive.
  • The Wario Land series is the most extreme representation of the silly end of the scale. You've got WarioWare which is rule of silly and fun defined, which is in turn random character stories with even more random microgames which deliberately make as little sense as possible, and Wario Land which does away with a story so to speak and has Wario exploring extreme Theme Park Versions of places and fighting some extremely weird bosses (Evil cuckoo clock, basketball playing rabbit, what looks like a French duck chef riding a frying pan and randomly attacking the character from the ceiling or the side of the screen, etc), and collecting treasure that includes literal metaphors and random items with punny names.
  • Splatoon is comfortably at home on the silly side of the scale, but is no stranger to taking brief visits to the serious side of things, such as in its second game's Octo Expansion]] campaign, before swimming back home.
  • The concept of the Super Smash Bros. series - Nintendo characters fighting each other on a variety of quirky stages for no discernible reason beyond it being cool - is fundamentally silly, and the games revel in this goofiness. The "Subspace Emissary" mode in Brawl takes itself a little bit more seriously than the rest of the game, but only just enough that the sheer ridiculousness of the story loops around to become legitimately awesome at points. On the other hand, the beginning of the World of Light mode in Ultimate can be easily compared to the climax of Avengers: Infinity War and two of the Multiple Endings are straight Cosmic Horror Story endings resulting from Pyrrhic Victories.
  • The Sims and its sequel are planted firmly on the silly side, with such things as giant half-cow Venus flytraps that eat people (luring them in with a fake piece of cake in a transparently obvious trap) and a method of snatching freshly-dead loved ones from The Grim Reaper's clutches by winning a contest of either rock-paper-scissors or 'which hand is their soul in?', depending on the game.
  • Up until Days of Ruin, Nintendo Wars lived happily way down the silly end of this scale. Days of Ruin has suddenly shifted the series right to the serious end. The transfer is handled reasonably well, but it's easy to miss the goofiness (saying that, the American version still has plenty of goofy moments, even in the post-apocalyptic setting). Also, one of the complaints leveled against the Battalion Wars games is that while the character and unit designs lean towards the silly side, the action and carnage are played entirely straight.
  • Banjo-Kazooie uses the scale like Banjo and Kazooie would a slide rule. And then came Nuts & Bolts...
  • Outside of a few Joke Characters, Samurai Warriors is fairly far towards the serious side in its storytelling, while Sengoku Basara is fairly far towards the silly end. Both are pretty far out-there on the "historical accuracy" scale, though.
  • There seems to be two realities conflicting with each other in Melty Blood. One is the full-borne sequel to Tsukihime with vampires, vampire-killers, and half-demons trying to struggle with themselves and the horrors their world throws at them; and the other is filled with chibi-cat girls and catboys, mecha-maids, a Dark Magical Girl/Witch/Mad Scientist, and a Giant Tsundere. The same goes for the fangame Battle Moon Wars. On one side, you get a sequel to Tsukihime and Fate/stay night, with vampires, monsters, bloody fights and at least two Cosmic Horrors. On the other hand, there is an open war between Magical Girls, The Heartless are anime shout outs, the two Big Bads from Tsukihime merge to become a stupid-looking ninja, and two of your characters can use the Love Love Projection Fist. And let's not get started on the Tohno Family Takeover Plan...
  • Shadow Hearts:
    • The first game is quite serious, but is quite willing to get silly at frequent intervals, sometimes blending dead seriousness and hammy silliness into the same moment, i.e. the Dehuai arc. Dehuai is quite the large ham, but his plots have deadly consequences and he is a seriously difficult boss to beat when the time comes. The events following this skew towards the serious, what with Yuri being in an internal battle trying to dominate the soul of a Demi-God called Seraphic Radiance, but still manages to find breaths of comedy. The endings of the game also reflect both ends of the spectrum.
    • Shadow Hearts: Covenant. Despite starting off by establishing the first game's bad end as canon, once the initial characters are introduced, things are quite clearly presented in a lighter and softer tone. Silly villains are sillier (but still deadly), hamminess is hammier, and combat is more bombastic and over the top. Even so, the scale of conflict and dark dangers presented here are much larger than those presented in the first game, and throughout the game Yuri must deal with the loss of his love, Alice Elliot, who exchanged her soul for his in a tragically unsubverted Deal with the Devil, and a curse that will eventually either steal his soul or his memories. However, once again, the possible endings reflect the Sliding Scale in that one ending has Yuri losing his memories to the curse, dying and possibly lost in Limbo, while the other establishes him being time-travelling to shortly before the events of the first game, memories intact. As there is no direct sequel to this game, neither ending is officially canonical, but fanon has it that the continuity flows as such: Shadow Hearts bad ending -> Covenant good ending -> Shadow Hearts good ending.
    • Shadow Hearts: From the New World. This game does not share direct continuity with the previous two games, and as such is viewed as a Gaiden Game within the series. This game lies FAR closer to the silly side of the scale then either of the previous two games. In fact, roughly half the characters who join your party are fairly comical in and of themselves. These include a super patriotic geriatric ninja loyal to the USA, a Mega Neko with dreams of Hollywood stardom, and a Mexican musician with an instrument that doubles as heavy armament.
  • Command & Conquer is an interesting example of two series, both of which are traveling along the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness - however, in different directions. The Tiberium series started out fairly seriously although with a fair bit of camp. Tiberium Sun moves the series into Darker and Edgier territories and Tiberium War is downright Black-and-Grey Morality depending on your mileage. Red Alert on the other hand started out serious with the premise of the Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act. Red Alert 2 on the other hand had psychics, telepathically controlled squids and dolphins and female assassins in latex as well as an overall notching up of the camp in the cutscenes. Red Alert 3 is downright silly: Armored bears shot out of cannons, mechas, Magical Girl assassins, an overall plot that doesn't make sense whatsoever and of course Tim Curry.
  • Jumpstart, the pre-school series until Jumpstart 2nd Grade were sillier whereas Jumpstart 3rd - 6th Grade were more serious.
  • The Mega Man (Classic) series starts off as silly, with Mega Man stopping Wily and his bunch of googly-eyed robots. It gets more serious with Mega Man X, where reploids are trying to destroy humanity with moderate success but there are bits of robot cartoonishness here and there. Mega Man Zero is even more serious, set After the End and trying to stop villains from making it even worse. Mega Man ZX seems to have lightened the series back up again though. The two spin-off series, Mega Man Legends and Mega Man Battle Network are definitely on the sillier side. And then you have Mega Man Star Force which the serious factor in the game is evident by looking at Mega Man Geo-Omega's expression on the box cover
  • The Soul Series has always displayed both at the same time. For instance, the first game, Soul Blade. On one hand you have Li Long, whose story is utterly tragic, yet believable. Then, on the other hand, you have Voldo, who is ridiculous. Sophitia has a move where she kicks her opponent in the balls and says "Oops". As the series goes on, it reveals more fantasy elements, which mean that the story is a lot harder to follow seriously. The fourth game features Darth Vader and Yoda as playable characters, their inclusion in a historical game being extremely silly.
  • Tekken has always taken itself far less seriously than many games in the genre. Its long running nature means that characters will develop over time, sometimes getting sillier as they go along. The best example is Paul, who started off as a serious fighter before descending into joke character mode. Part of the reason for this is because of the game's makers noticing how much he looks like a combination of Ken and Guile from Street Fighter, which meant he would have to do something unique or parody them not to be seen as a ripoff. So naturally, his gimmick is that he is an arrogant American fighter who enters the tournament every year only to lose it nearly every time, has a special move that is a fire punch, and that his rival is a bear, Kuma. Despite this he has always been one of the best fighters in the game and simply doesn't have much bearing on the main story.
  • The Grand Theft Auto games have some elements that can go either way. The world around the protagonists seems gritty and corrupt, but the radio stations seem reluctant to take themselves seriously, suggesting a somewhat more frivolous world.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
  • The Zork games vary widely: on the silly side, there's the Large Ham Grand Inquisitor, magic words like "Hello, sailor," and everything being manufactured by a company called Frobozz (tm). On the serious side, there's also some moments of genuine Nightmare Fuel, such as an Eldritch Abomination in a maze, topiary stalkers, and a dark ur-grue that can possess the unwary player.
  • Invoked by Sakura Wars 2, which tracks the player character's position on this scale (based mostly on dialogue choices).
  • Metroid is almost always very serious. However, some of the Space Pirates' logs in the Metroid Prime Trilogy games are notable comic relief.
    "Attempts to duplicate Samus Aran's Morph Ball ability were halted after the prototype crippled and killed an unacceptable number of test subjects."
  • Minecraft lives all the way down the silly end of the scale, and loves every second of it.
  • Konami's two popular shoot 'em up franchises, Gradius and Twinbee, lie far at opposite ends of the scale, with the cinematic Gradius at the serious end and the cartoonish Twinbee far at the silly end. And then came Parodius where Konami cranked up the silly and tore off the knob. Otomedius leans on the silly side, but it has its own plot that is on the lighter shade of seriousness.
  • Metal Wolf Chaos is way at the silly end of scale, being an affectionate parody over both the Japanese mecha anime and the American blockbuster action movies!!! Practically an Americanized, manly version of Parodius.
  • Bug- Definitely at the end of the silly side. You know that when the "hit an enemy" sound is a wacky cartoon sound effect. Also, Bug's silly humorous quotes when he kills an enemy or when he takes damage show it too.
  • Dead Rising manages to cover the entire scale gameplay-wise while keeping its serious story elements. At one point, you can dress yourself as a fat old lady with beard, and at another point, costumes homaging the Mega Man franchise spawn up to goof up the zombie massacre (Frank as Mega Man; Chuck as Dr. Wily).
  • The Mass Effect series, which loves to hammer home the fact that War Is Hell, stays extremely serious most of the time, but is willing to get silly from time to time, especially when it comes to Joker and Garrus. A special mention goes to the "Citadel" DLC for Mass Effect 3, the first half of which is a rather grim story involving terrorism, hijacking of the Normandy, Shepard's clone, and An Aesop about the Power of Friendship driven in with iron nails, while the second half is basically most of the (surviving) characters of the series bumping into each other for massive hilarity, ranging from Grunt's drunk antics, to Zaeed hitting on Samara, to Shepard and Javik participating in the shooting of a Blasto movie as themselves. The first half of Citadel was pretty hilarious in its own right, it basically slid whichever way it wanted, but it was pretty silly, especially with regards to the numerous jokes once they find out Shepard has a clone.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising is for the most part, an enormous farce, but it occasionally dips into serious drama: Every character's a chatterbox comedian, the game's filled to the brim with Mythology Gags and Nintendo-centric Shout Outs, and the art style and character designs are bright and cartoony. Yet the plot twists are entirely serious and set up in advance, the major villains are genuinely menacing, and there are parts where characters are in realistic peril, sometimes more than you might expect in a E-10 + rated game. It's probably comparable to the Zelda series in that extent.
  • Paper Mario (especially the second and third games) is very similar to Uprising in this respect.
  • Half-Life is a more or less serious first-person shooter about aliens invading and enslaving all of humanity and driving them to near extinction, and the player character's battle to liberate humanity is played pretty straight. At the same time, there are still undertones of wry silliness throughout. A few specific examples:
    • The many scientists in the first game are exaggeratedly nerdy eggheads, and many of them are shown dying in morbidly hilarious ways.
    • One of the major supporting characters of the second gamenote  keeps a de-fanged pet headcrab affectionately named LaMarr, which he feeds watermelons as a substitute for violently latching onto human heads.
    • Possibly one of the most cartoonish elements of the second game is Father Grigori, a shotgun-wielding religious madman who escorts you through his zombie-infested town while fanatically uttering Biblical references.
  • Portal is a darkly humorous puzzle game with more prominently overt silliness involving a cheerfully insane A.I. forcing you to solve deadly puzzles with the promises of cake and grief counseling, all while cute robots and a Companion Cube keep you company. Some elements of it are just plainly dark, like the depressing back-story of both the player character and the main villain, but it's otherwise all Black Comedy.
  • The Saints Row series began fairly seriously as a GTA competitor and drifted further into silliness as each game is released. In the first game you played as a member of what was essentially a vigilante gang. Pretty gritty. In the second game you tried to remake that gang into a criminal powerhouse while also engaging in some nonsensical antics, like spraying shit from a septic truck. In the third game you turned that gang into a multi-media empire and are essentially a criminal pop-culture icon and one of the weapons you can have is a giant purple dildo. In the fourth game, you are the president of the United States when Earth gets attacked by aliens who trap you in a virtual reality simulator that gives you superpowers. At that point it's pretty clear the series didn't just go off the rails, it gleefully jumped off the rails just before nuking them and didn't even look back at the explosion.
  • Kingdom of Loathing is firmly on the silly end of the scale; it abounds with gratuitous pop-culture references, Self-Referential Humor, Double Entendres and crude MS Paint artwork. However, the depth of its gameplay means that its player community takes it very seriously.
  • Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters somehow manages to still be quite serious despite being very silly. The scale setting could generally be determined based on what alien race you were talking to at the moment. Talking to [[Cloudcuckoolander the Pkunk]]? Expect a very silly conversation. Talking to the Ur-Quan, expect things to be very, very serious. And for all the silliness, even the silly parts were often important to helping you complete the game.
  • Compare After Burner to Ace Combat. The former takes air combat to the silly, arcady extreme, while the latter takes it much more seriously - even with its relatively lighter-hearted first two installments.
  • The Talos Principle, taking place in a computer simulation humans set up Just Before the End and still running After the End prefers to remain serious almost all the time, yet occasionally (if you look) descends into silliness with gleeful abandon, mostly in the various text logs you can find, though occasionally elsewhere.
  • Monster Hunter. On one hand, you have the huge monstrosities that you hunt for, including Giant Spiders that wear the corpses of slain monsters, a T. rex lookalike that systematically destroys ecosystems, black and purple eyeless wyverns that infect living creatures with an aggression-inducing virus, and massive dragons that have control over the very elements themselves. On the other hand, you have villagers with consistent senses of humor, such as cute biped kitties as chefs and housekeepers, a pointy-eared elf-like trader who peppers his speech with Gratuitous Japanese, a Quest Giver who develops crushes on the monsters she sends you to hunt, and a seasoned hunter who can't go a single sentence without making puns off of monster names.
  • Individual Contra games run the gamut from grim, post-apocalyptic atmospheres (Contra III: The Alien Wars, Contra: Shattered Soldier) to over-the-top Summer Blockbuster-esque antics (Contra: Hard Corps, Neo Contra).
    • Also note that in Contra Rebirth we have a helicopter which can fly in space.]] (totally silly)
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day is an interesting example, in that, through the majority of the game, it's incredibly silly, but starting with the Spooky chapter, it gets progressively darker and more serious, with some silly moments throughout. By the game's end, however, it heads towards the silly side of the scale when the game locks up, but then goes back to the serious side for a surprising Downer Ending.
  • Reader Rabbit and The Cluefinders, the former is sillier whereas the latter is more serious.
  • Carmen Sandiego, the games where you are under Chase Devineaux are downright sillier compared to the games where you are under Lynne Thigpen which are more serious as the former two have no risk of failing whereas you can lose a game in the latter two.
  • The main plot for Them's Fightin' Herds is that the peaceful world of the herbivorous ungulates is being threatened be the return of The Predators, who have found a way to escape from their prison and are coming back to Fœnum. And if that's not enough, most of the species have broken off from eachother for years. If a Champion is not chosen, the world's inhabitants face being eaten. Out of context, the game almost sounds like the basis for a Mature Animal Story, but the game can get very tongue-and-cheek every now and then. Situations are mostly light-hearted with a usually comedic tone to the game's world. The accessories can also get pretty silly, with loads of shout outs for their descriptions or the items themselves.
  • Undertale goes into both camps like a roller coaster where some parts can be silly and then it's followed up by something a bit more serious. But the end of the game dives right into a more serious side. If you're going for the Genocide run, then the entire game is nothing but serious business.
  • PAYDAY 2 started out as something a bit serious in the grand scheme of things (robbing banks, breaking into the FBI offices, using a variety of weapons, etc), but after several updates and DLC releases later, the game shifted more towards the silly side with things like stealing goats, using over the top weapons (rocket launchers, katanas, etc), and trailers that don't take themselves seriously. This in stark contrast with the previous game where the heists and the weapons used looked something out of a Hollywood action thriller that took said action seriously. However, the final few major updates to PAYDAY 2 throws the game square in the serious side where Bain gets kidnapped and the crew have to pull a series of heists to find him, only to discover that he's slowly dying from a man made virus.
  • Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden specializes in taking ridiculous scenarios and playing them dead straight (which more often then not makes them even funnier). The intro shows us a "postcyberpocaliptic" world where basketball has been outlawed and many players dying in a purge because Charles Barkley performed a dunk that accidentally caused a Fantastic Nuke (because b-ball energy gives basketball players superhuman powers). But his grief over these events is clearly shown.
  • Kerbal Space Program is kind of all over the place, with goofy green Fun Size aliens piloting rockets slapped together with parts that were "found on the side of the road" or made by a questionable company, yet the physics and orbital mechanics is more realistic and unforgiving than in almost any other game. The silly stuff is mainly Comic Relief, to distract from the game's difficulty and entice non-science-nerds to try it. Realism Overhaul aims to make the game as realistic as possible, but it keeps the Kerbal astronauts, making them feel somewhat out of place.
  • Hitman is all over the place, having a very serious story and presentation while also letting you kill targets in the most absurd and cartoonish ways possible.
  • Fallout hews primarily towards the serious end of the scale, as one might expect from a post-apocalyptic wasteland described at one point as "a war-ravaged quagmire of violence and despair". The first game and the third both present a grim, broken-down world where the inhabitants struggle just to eke out a living, with humour and levity generally being an exception to an overall tragic atmosphere. The second game, on the other hand, not only shows us a world that's pulling itself back from the brink, but is also much more light-hearted and full of jokes, frequently breaking the fourth wall and referencing popular culture.
  • On the surface, Warframe seems to be deadly serious, being about space ninjas taking on a genocidal army of degenerating clones, a highly immoral mega corp, and a plague that transforms those it infects into twisted abominations, and a lot of the time it lives up to that reputation. However, it's far from unwilling to descend into silliness from time to time. Examples of said silliness include everything with Clem, Ordis's more sociopathic outbursts, and a lot of what the worm queen says in Kuva missions.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI has some seriousness in the first half of the game, but it's mostly filled with more silly scenes like Kefka's famous "There's sand on my boots!" scene and pretty much any scene involving Ultros, the out of nowhere octopus with a chip on his shoulder. In the later half of the game where Kefka destroys the world, almost all the laughs are gone as the tone is set in the deadly serious.
    • Final Fantasy IX seems to have an equal balance of silly and seriousness. For the humorous side, we get scenes like Zidane touching Dagger's ass, every scene involving Steiner making an ass of himself, Eiko trying to flirt with Zidane, and other scenes. For the serious scenes, there's the destruction of several nations, mass genocide abound, and the total destruction of another world.
    • Final Fantasy XIV has silly and seriousness almost completely segregated from each other. The main story quests do have a few silly moments here and there, but the entire story is played completely seriously. The silly scenes are reserved for the Hildibrand side quests where the player has to help out a bumbling detective whose antics look like they come straight out of an anime.
  • Fate/Grand Order is all over the place in the silliness and seriousness scale. For the storyline, the story is mostly a mix of silliness and seriousness up until the Camelot chapter where the storyline is taken more seriously. On the other hand, there are various events that shift more towards the silly end (especially the Gudaguda events, where it's an Affectionate Parody of the Fate franchise and even the game itself), and some seasonal versions of popular servants have Noble Phantasms and attack animations that can crack some laughs and chuckles to the player.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Most storylines in the Fire Emblem games shift more towards the serious side. Many of the recurring themes involve villains who are either irredeemably evil, tyrants that Kick the Dog a lot, or a Tragic Villain and Anti-Villain with a code of honor at best. Many of the protagonists have to deal with betrayal, death of their beloved ones, Fantastic Racism, and an Evil Empire that threatens the peace and stability of their own kingdom. Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War is not only the darkest of the series, but the most serious of them, as the storyline involves having the main character, Sigurd, being branded as a traitor and have him and his friends executed on the spot. It gets worse when it also explores an evil cult that performs Human Sacrifice on children and explores parental and domestic abuse (with Tine's suffering from her adaptive mother is considered to be the most depressing storyline writing in Fire Emblem history). On the other hand, some support conversations and several gameplay features in the later games tend to shift more towards the silly end.
    • Fire Emblem Heroes, on the other hand, is a strong mix of both. The storyline is Lighter and Softer when compared to other Fire Emblem games, as it can go into the serious end at times (especially after Book III that features an undead kingdom killing everyone in Askr). On the other hand, it also has a lot of silliness as well, particularly when the player bonds with the characters and especially during seasonal events.
  • The Yakuza series' most memorable trait is that it's able to constantly bounce between being serious and silly. The main storyline plays out like a serious crime drama, covering the struggles of the main characters as they caught in-between ruthless criminal and their tangled mess of schemes. Everything outside of the main story is largely silly, with substories featuring humorous and ridiculous characters and situations, and tons of minigames full of Mundane Made Awesome moments. Even the Heat moves can be seriously or comedically brutal, from forcibly dislocating a man's shoulders to force-feeding them scalding hot oden skewers.
  • The Neptunia series happily sticks to the silly end of the scale for the most part. It gets even more silly in the many spinoffs. Though, some games still have some serious moments, namely mk2, VII and Sisters vs Sisters.
  • In spite of the name, Serious Sam is silly as can be, with a Clou Cuckoolander Deadpan Snarker protagonist mowing down vast hordes of demons while taking things not at all seriously.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue was born out of the idea of using the standard 'bottom rung employees bitching about work' theme and applying it to the military of the future. While The Blood Gulch Chronicles are all out silly, the two miniseries are played completely seriously. The following series Reconstruction splits the difference. In general, it seems that the simulation troopers are silly, and the Freelancers and A.I.s are (mostly) serious. Those involved with both shift on the scale depending on who they're interacting with.
  • DEATH BATTLE! quite often pits two characters from opposite sides of this scale in a fight to the death: one funny, light-hearted character, and a Darker and Edgier counterpart. As was the case with "Batman (serious) vs. Spider-Man (silly)", Deadpool (silly) vs. Deathstroke (serious)", "Yang Xiao Long (silly) vs. Tifa Lockhart (serious)", "Kirby (silly) vs. Majin Buu (serious)", "Rainbow Dash (silly) vs. Starscream (serious)", "Raven (serious) vs. Twilight Sparkle (silly)", "Leon S. Kennedy (serious) vs. Frank West (silly)", "Ghost Rider (serious) vs. Lobo (silly)", "Goro (serious) vs. Machamp (silly)", "Cable (serious) vs. Booster Gold (silly)", "Iron Fist (serious) vs. Po (silly)", "Saitama (serious) vs. Popeye (silly)", "Hercules (serious) vs. Sun Wukong (silly)", and "Stitch (silly) vs Rocket Raccoon" (serious). With the exceptions of "Raven vs Twilight Sparkle", "Leon S. Kennedy vs Frank West", and "Ghost Rider vs Lobo" the silly character won in all those examples just listed. Never once have Beware the Nice Ones and Beware the Silly Ones been so relevant. Directly acknowledged in the aftermath of "Cable vs Booster Gold" where Boomstick expresses disdain and disbelief that a grizzled soldier of a Bad Future like Cable lost to the much goofier Booster Gold, but Wiz takes the time to note that reputations of "silly vs. serious" only matter in the context of their stories, while Death Battle is meant to take an objective look at what those characters can do when they clash head-to-head and who would more likely win based on abilities, not reputations.
    • And when two silly characters faced each other in the form of Deadpool (serious/silly) vs. Pinkie Pie (pure silly), they tied because they broke the fourth wall, ran out of the actual fight, complained at the creators of the series, and had a party.
    • "Rick Sanchez vs. The Doctor" zigzags this. While Rick and Morty is a Black Comedy and Rick's arsenal is quite outlandish, in the battle, he's the serious combatant with a more intense demeanor. Similarly, Doctor Who is a straight-up Science Fiction that takes itself more seriously and The Doctor has more straightforward tools and powers, yet The Doctor is the silly combatant, making jokes and not actively trying to kill Rick. So it's a case of a serious combatant from a silly work vs. a silly combatant from a serious work. And the silly combatant wins, due to Rick hitting himself with the killing blow thanks to The Doctor redirecting the attack using Rick's own portal gun.

  • The Ciem Webcomic Series tries very hard to be all serious and that. But...]it's made with The Sims, so a little narm is inevitable.
  • Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes started as a light-hearted parody poking at D&D rules. Then all hell broke loose.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: A mostly serious story-telling comic, but with entire chapters with non-stop funny, like Chapter 24.
  • Homestuck: The webcomic is on both ends of the scale so frequently and rapidly, it must have broken it by now. Can overlap with Mood Whiplash at times.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is generally quite silly (e.g., one of the main characters is a Muppet-like furry monster spontaneously generated from a jar of peanut butter), but that doesn't stop the characters from having emotional depth and experiencing some quite moving moments of pain, love, regret, and redemption amidst all the absurdity of the storylines.
  • The Insecticomics has never really taken itself seriously, to the point where the fourth wall has a hinge on it, but there have been a few dramatic storylines to add an element of seriousness to the business—the current Unicron-related one being the most dramatic yet.
  • Despite being known for a solid and serious storyline, Girl Genius hits the silliness switch every second we step out of canon (even inside canon, sometimes). Case in point: the Ferretina arc.
  • To quote the Narbonic main page: "Narbonic skates over some surprisingly serious territory, but with such a light touch you will probably be too busy laughing to notice."
  • The Order of the Stick began on the silly side, slid slowly but surely towards the serious side, reached some major extremes during the Azure City battles and the split party arc, and has slid back noticeably since that story wrapped up, going back to self-aware joke-a-day strips, though still remaining within the story.
  • In Rascals, it is ususally towards the silly end, but some chapters have been known to be extermely serious in drama and real life situations.
  • Schlock Mercenary, despite being one of the more cynical works out there, is quite silly, looking mostly like a normal gag a day strip at first glance.
  • Sluggy Freelance is on the silly end of the spectrum roughly 95% of the time, but every so often something like "Fire And Rain'' comes along and the series dives head first into seriousness. This seriousness is usually mocked later on. And yet, one of the reasons why Ian McDonald's guest Saturdays gained some hatedom seems to have been that he went over some invisible line in making the Dimension of Pain a bit more silly than usual.

    Web Original 
  • Channel Awesome is way, way on the silly side of things. Rule of Funny is God, and Rule of Fun, Rule of Cool and Rule Of Fanservice abound. If you ever see things start to edge up the scale towards serious, expect immediate Mood Whiplash back to silliness. And if it does get and stay serious, like the end of Suburban Knights, The Nostalgia Critic's commercial special, or Linkara broken after losing a big fight, expect to cry.
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog doesn't so much slide on this scale as run a shuttle race, often going from absolutely funny to dead serious within a single scene and occasionally within a single song. Mood Whiplash doesn't even begin to cover it. (It still works, thanks to heavy invoking of both Rule of Cool and Rule of Funny, with maybe just a dash of Refuge in Audacity.)
    It's Dr. Horrible's turn
    You people all have to learn
    This world is going to burn!
    (Yeah it's two Rs, H-O-R-R, right...)
  • Dream SMP: This vastly depends on the time period and the perspective you're watching.
    • In terms of time periods, Season 1 is mostly more silly with a serious undercurrent, whereas in Season 2, it leans towards the serious end due to Cerebus Syndrome, albeit with the occasional silly moment interspersed in between — one of the most serious arcs, Tommy's Exile arc, takes place in Season 2 and contains some of the heaviest lore in the entire history of the roleplay. As lore slows down in Season 3, it becomes more light-hearted, but there remain dedicated lore streams which are definitely on the serious side, most prominently Quackity's "Las Nevadas" series, the culmination of a seasons-long Trauma Conga Line.
    • In terms of perspectives, even during Season 2 and onward, Technoblade's perspective as a reputation for being more silly, even during events like the Doomsday War where he's constantly cracking jokes at L'Manburg's behest. On the other hand, the perspectives from people like Tommy tend to be more serious, while Quackity's perspective made a drastic switch from silly to halfway-inbetween (silly with a serious undercurrent and occasional serious scenes) starting from the Manburg arc, to mostly dead-serious in the "Las Nevadas" series.
  • Freddie Wong's videos are also often very silly. Who knew firefights and mowing down mooks could be so hilarious?
  • New Life SMP: It depends on the perspective: most of the characters tend to be on the silly side and don't take things very seriously, but Owen's perspective as Sparrow is particularly lore-heavy — he's one of the few characters who have a pre-series backstory from the get-go, covering a researcher with an I Just Want to Be Special mentality, who eventually finds out just how much being a hybrid sucks.
  • Shadowhunter Peril likes to sled back and forth between the two extremes, sometimes to the point of mild Mood Whiplash.
  • Stupid Mario Brothers starts off silly and then serious and swaps around a bit.
  • The Transformers Wiki usually has the facts you need to know, but it does so with a sense of humor. It has to be so, really: it's a big cross-linked, meticulously collated encyclopaedia covering the details of a universe that doesn't exist and was created to sell toys and entertain kids. Being too serious about their work would be fairly ridiculous. Tropers might see something a little familiar there. (This clearly occurred to editor David Willis: in his webcomic Shortpacked!! one of the characters gets into Edit Wars with him on the TF Wiki.)
  • The Whateley Universe is usually nearer the Silly Side, but it really varies by author. The Phase novels are Serious Side but funny too. The Jade stories are likely to be hysterically funny and silly, with occasional ventures into brutal seriousness (which don't stick long for this protagonist). The Chaka stories are on the silly side, with a character who never angsts (and seldom looks before leaping into trouble). The Carmilla stories are definitely serious, and set in Lovecraft Country with a protagonist who is a Cosmic Horror.
  • The Tone of the Wikis, from serious to silly. Wikipedia, Conservapedia, SCP Foundation, Rational Wiki, TV Tropes, Encyclopedia Dramatica, Uncyclopedia. The SCP Wiki takes itself very seriously with Eldritch Abominations abound, but it also contains Dr. Jack Bright, as well as Dr. Crow. It's often rather dark humor though. The Joke SCPs are Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is already such a silly show in itself, with lampshades being hung all over the place, and deliberate violations of disbelief being made in favor of coolness, funniness; etc. When characters like Pinkie Pie enter the scene, however, the show drops any sense of seriousness and shoots off the silly end of the scale. Earlier in the show, even the "serious" moments are still done in tongue-in-cheek and propped up by gags and silliness by the characters themselves to keep things from getting too heavy and dramatic, including Discord. This slowly shifted as the show went on, with season opener and finale villains more often than not being treated completely straight as vile monsters or tragic and misguided, and gags in such episodes more often being relegated to between the serious moments instead of during them. Most of the slice of life episodes still held a significant level of silliness, but there were some situations and characters that were treated fully seriously, unlike earlier in the show.
  • Contrast to Todd McFarlane's Spawn, which ran from 1997 to 1999. It remains dark and gritty throughout, everything is taken seriously, and about the only thing one might find laughable is some of the random nudity in the first season as well as the barrage of profanity constantly spewed from everyone's mouths.
  • The DC Animated Universe takes itself seriously, especially whenever Darkseid shows up, but when the spotlight is on The Flash then it usually crosses over to the silly side. It's the same in the comics and their respective influences on mood are used very deliberately by authors. Santa delivering coal to Darkseid? Hysterical. Horrific things happening to the various Flashes (Heroic Sacrifice, children murdered, wife murdered)? Utterly tragic.
  • Two Batman shows spanning the scale: Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The Batman falls squarely in the middle, and has a seesaw between light-hearted and deadly serious too. The episode where Batman finally tracks down Joe Chill - the man who killed his parents, springs to mind. He's every bit as dark and terrifying as his Batman: The Animated Series counterpart was, even edging close to The Dark Knight Returns territory. Another example is a shockingly dark Batman Cold Open involving the Spectre, who's entire gimmick is dealing out poetic justice, in this case turning an obcure Batman villain into cheese, only for him to be eaten by rats.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender fluctuates wildly between the two sides of the scale depending on the episode. The extent to which each side of the scale is travelled is equally extreme; the silly moments are incredibly silly (for example, a hammy play based on the characters' exploits) and the serious moments are incredibly serious (for example, revealing that Zuko obtained his scar from his own father who shot him in the face).
  • BoJack Horseman LIVES on this trope. The show will often poke fun at the TV and film industry with incredibly silly visual puns and extra wacky storylines, then suddenly start focusing on topics like suicide, drug addiction, depression and Abusive Parents, and play these moments completely straight. Often, the show will hit both ends of the scale within the same episode, sometimes within the same SCENE. Somehow, the drama never feels forced.
  • There have been four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series so far and they each represent different takes on the material. The first, made in 1987, was everything the original comics were not - hammy, Totally Radical, entirely light hearted and harmless, family friendly fun with an eye on selling The Merch. The second one, made in 2003, took the serious plots of the comic (often literally), and replaced its somewhat dry characterizations with the more realized turtles from the previous show and live action films to deliver something very comparable to Avatar: The Last Airbender. There were campy superhero stories, and alternate universe tales where everyone dies. There was even an episode that was a straight-up H. P. Lovecraft send-up. When Executive Meddling retooled the show, it become a lot more like the first cartoon and stayed that way until the Turtles Forever crossover movie, which plays up the differences between the two shows for laughs. The 2007 CGI movie was in line with the 2003 series' tone. The 2012 series so far has been the most serious. 2018 series is the sillier again.
  • Much like Avatar above, Danny Phantom is all over this scale. It goes from various degrees of complete silliness (the Box Ghost in general, Danny being split into two stereotypical and wacky Flanderizations of his personality) to incredibly serious (anything involving Danny's alternate future self for a start, Vlad's cloning, Danny becoming Public Enemy Number One). Many times, the scale fluctuates repeatedly in a single episode, where humor will be placed into an extremely serious episode.
  • Teen Titans (2003) has really serious and dark episodes like Slade's scary Mind Rape with a few episodes away from a funny Extreme Omnivore episode. Silly Bizarro Episodes always aired RIGHT BEFORE the Darker and Edgier Season Finales. In the later seasons, the opening theme song being done in Japanese instead of English was an indication that the episode would be on the very silly side.
    • Head Injury Theater even notes that seasons tend to go up and down the scale correspondingly. For example, Season 1 was relatively low on plot, and the episodes tended to mostly stay in the middle. Season 4 was heavy on a dark and apocalyptic plot, but the episodes not having to do with that plot were about Control Freak leading them through TV shows, Cyborg going back in time to fight with barbarians, the other members dressing like Robin while he trains with animals, tofu aliens, a redneck who can duplicate himself, and a bizarre re-enactment of Hansel and Gretal.
    • Dr. Light was an interesting case, as he was a complete doofus but he seemed to have been written with a wink and a nod toward the darker stories the modern DC comics have written about him, as evidenced with Raven mind-raping him and him kipnapping a teenage girl (Dr. Light of the comics was revamped as a rapist and mindwiped by the heroes in the Identity Crisis mini series).
    • Its spin-off Teen Titans Go!, however, shows almost no sense of seriousness whatsoever but a lot of silliness to go around instead, due to being a Denser and Wackier Slice of Life spinoff with Negative Continuity and Black Comedy all around. It occasionally performs a few jabs here and there at the criticism it gets whenever it can, usually on it lacking a lot of seriousness. It varies from short moments to full-on episodes, more often than you think. The closest thing we're going to get with the Titans acting serious that isn't a cheap riffing on it are on The Night Begins to Shine specials, and where they actually to try and save the world from Slade in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.
  • By contrast, Young Justice (2010) is almost uniformly serious, with most of the comic relief coming from snark rather than sillyness.
  • Invader Zim is an interesting case, basically being about ridiculously silly characters in a total Crapsack World. Episodes tend to lean on the side of silly, but it varies; often they mix the two, which can result in bizarre aspects of a very dark plot (such as in "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy," where Zim uses the titular toys to mercilessly maim and almost murder Dib as a small child).
  • During most of the first three seasons, Daria was firmly silly. Starting with the season three finale, the Daria/Tom/Jane Love Triangle brought the show closer to serious territory, although most elements not related to it remained silly.
  • Samurai Jack could jump genres as easily as it jumped degrees of silly: moving from a slapstick Alice in Wonderland parody in one episode to outright undead horror in others. Because the Status Quo Is God, most episodes are basically sealed in a hermetic bubble, and absurd fluffy episodes have exactly as much impact on the series as existentialist ones. Season Five, which isn't purely episodic and has an overall arc, bears much more heavily down on the serious end of the scale, but still has some light scenes.
  • The Boondocks is another "Silly yet Cynical" work. For example, "The Passion of Uncle Ruckus" is about a man with re-vitiligo note  who hates black people founding the "Church of White Jesus," who believe, among other things, that smacking black people is good for both the slapper and "slappee." He demonstrates this on people who come up to the altar. Meanwhile, Huey tries to break an innocent black man out of prison. Said innocent man had a ton of evidence that said he did not commit the murder, up to and including the gun license that had the full name and other identification of the real culprit, as well as a confession letter signed by the culprit himself.
  • Adventure Time in general lies on the silly end of the scale even later in the series after Cerebus Syndrome kicked in and gave it a more serious nature. However it can go all over the scale, sometimes shifting within an episode. It can be unbelievably silly (like "Slumber Party Panic") or go VERY serious (eg "I Remember You"), and ANYWHERE in between. You would expect a series like this to stick to the silly side exclusively due to its art style alone.
  • Hey Arnold! goes to both ends of the scale, often within the same episode. The more light-hearted episodes serve to balance out the more serious and emotional ones, like "Arnold's Christmas" and "Arnold's Thanksgiving". Special mention to the episode "The Journal", which starts off pretty sad, has a mix of action and comedy in the middle, and then suddenly takes a turn to the depressing at the end.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) are on opposite ends of the scale from each other. Sonic Underground is sort of a strange middle ground, being more serious than Adventures of but not as dramatic as SatAM.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja is best described as a comedy-action series. It has a cartoony art style (courtesy of Jhonen Vasquez) and while its Big Bad and Myth Arc are treated pretty seriously, most of that is secondary to the goofy bromance between the titular protagonist and his best friend Howard. The two 11-minute shorts format also drifts the show more towards comedy.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) is about as far towards the silly side as you can get. Its precursor, The Spectacular Spider-Man was fairly serious for a kid's show, but compared to Ultimate Spider-Man, it is almost as serious as The Dark Knight.
  • Phineas and Ferb’s plot lines are far, far on the silly side, while the emotions are surprisingly serious and tender.
  • Uncle Grandpa and Steven Universe were both announced on the same day, and are pretty much yin and yang in tone: the former is largely Played for Laughs and is heavily reliant on Surreal Humour and Rule of Fun, whereas the latter (whilst it can get quite goofy at times) is more laid-back and character-driven, frequently dealing with mature or sensitive topics which are rightfully Played for Drama.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door, specially after its Cerebus Syndrome, could just as much as take advantage of its Quirky Work status for various silliness moment, and at the same time have themes of betrayal, Nightmare Fuel, and the moral ambiguity in the Kids Versus Adults conflict that forms the show's concept.

Right, stop that! That's silly! And a bit suspect, I think...

Alternative Title(s): Sliding Scale Of Seriousness Versus Silliness, Sliding Scale Of Silliness Vs Seriousness