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The Unwitting Comedian

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"What is everyone laughing about?"
Bouncy Normo's Suicide Note, Discworld

The world is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible place. I mean, it is just awful. Wall Street is bleeding us all for all we have, my wife left me for her Brazilian boss, my kids are shut-in, coked-up and in prison, and don't get me started on my knees and the crunching noises they make. They're really...

...what? What are you laughing at? This isn't funny! STOP IT! STOP LAUGHING AT ME!!!


The Unwitting Comedian is the funniest person around. It's a shame that they don't think so. Maybe it is something they say or something they do. Whatever the case, the people around them seem to think it's funny. In more extreme cases, the things they say or do would not appear funny to the audience, but the people in-universe would not be able to help themselves as they Die Laughing.

As for the comedian, this usually makes them the Sad Clown of their stories, their inability to be taken seriously making their lives harder than it needs to be. Sometimes they would take advantage of this and go into stand-up, becoming incredibly popular. Depending on how it is handled, the story featuring such a character tends to shift around the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness.



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    Comic Books 
  • The French comic Les Profs has one teacher become so miserable that when he recounts his woes to the barman, everyone starts laughing at him. The last panel is the barman putting up a sign advertising the teacher as the bar's entertainment.

  • In the Shel Silverstein poem Cloony the Clown, a clown tries really hard to make people laugh, but to no avail. However, when he finally gets fed up and tells his audience how depressed he is, they finally start laughing.
    While Cloony stood in the circus tent
    With his head drooped low and his shoulders bent.
    And he said, "THAT IS NOT WHAT I MEANT —
    And while the world laughed outside,
    Cloony the Clown sat down and cried.
  • In Discworld, there was a man named Bouncy Normo, the funniest clown who ever lived. In reality, the man was The Bore and yet everything he did made people laugh. His story heads straight into Crosses the Line Twice territory when the narrator says that the despair of people laughing at him even as he begged them to stop eventually drew him to commit suicide. His hanging corpse was somehow considered an avant-garde comedy act by those who found him. It so funny in fact, that it stayed on the noose for weeks afterward.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Season 3, Episode 4 episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus "Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror" features the "Man Who Makes People Laugh" sketch. Mr. Holden is an average, middle-aged man who's words causes those that hear it to burst out in hysterical laughter, even though everything he says isn't humorous in the slightest. This eventually gets him fired by his boss, who is desperately holding in hysterical laughter as he speaks with him, because his laughter inducement is considered obstructive by his fellow employees.
  • Andy Kaufman's "Foreign Man" persona on Saturday Night Live tells a few So Unfunny, It's Funny jokes, and then just forgets the rest of his routine and freezes on stage. As Foreign Man desperately tries to cut the skit short, he gets more and more upset that the audience is still laughing at him.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted for laughs in Zeus: Master of Olympus: if a city neglects the Arts, its defeated actors return from the regular Pan-Hellenic games with the report that they "moved the audience to tears. Unfortunately, it was a comedy."
  • The protagonist of Disco Elysium is a pathetic alcoholic cop in a ridiculous disco outfit, which causes problems when he's trying to get people to take him seriously - people usually just jeer at him or call him a pig. When screwing up these attempts, he tends to have ineffectual meltdowns where he screams at people for no reason or threatens to kill himself to prove a point, which only tend to lead to others finding him even funnier.

    Web Original 

    Web Video 
  • In the Makemebad 3535 video Haunted by Laughs!, Damien is bothered by an offscreen laugh track, who is perpetually laughing at everything he does, no matter how mundane it is, like showering, petting his cat, drinking a glass of water, etc. He spends the whole time shouting angrily at them to shut up until he is in tears, pleading to them to stop laughing as they keep him from sleeping.

    Western Animation 
  • Richard Pryor from Black Dynamite is SO hilarious, that anyone that hears him speak will laugh hysterically (except Black Dynamite, who has No Sense of Humor). It gets SO bad however, he tries to seriously threaten someone in jail, only for them to laugh in his face, not taking him seriously.
  • In the The Fairly OddParents! episode "Class Clown", Timmy wishes that he was the funniest boy on Earth, hoping it would get Trixie to notice him. Because of this, everything he says will cause those that hear him to laugh hysterically. At first it works, but Timmy gets annoyed when literally everything he says is treated like he's telling a joke, even when he tries to reverse the wish. Luckily, he manages to get Cosmo and Wanda to take him to Fairy World. Because he wished to be the funniest man on Earth, he is no longer funny off planet, and is able to wish everything back to normal.
  • The Simpsons features Bob Dever on a stage complaining about people coming up to him and hitting him with their hats, which the crowd thinks is a hilarious joke even as he protests that it's not funny and it hurts.
  • The theme to The Road Runner Show lays this on the Coyote:
    That coyote is really a crazy clown,
    When will he learn that he never can mow him note  down?

    Real Life 
  • David Foster Wallace found himself in this position when writing Infinite Jest, as he admitted in an interview for the German television station ZDF.
  • There is a story that Mark Twain once had to cancel a speaking engagement at the last minute, and it was announced before the program that he would be replaced by a prominent temperance preacher. To the preacher's bewilderment, however, the audience laughed uproariously throughout his sermon— because they assumed the preacher was Mark Twain doing a very realistic impersonation as a gag. Imploring them not to laugh because it was a serious subject only got bigger laughs.