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They Killed Kenny Again

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Stan: Oh my god, they killed Kenny!
Kyle: You bastards!
Almost every episode in the first five seasons of South Park.

A recurring Red Shirt.

Did your brain lock up for a second when you read that? This character is (and sometimes only exists to be) killed off repeatedly and inexplicably comes back to life by the next episode, as a Running Gag.

Usually found in shows with Negative Continuity, particularly Sadist Shows - in more realistic shows, the character may be a robot who can be rebuilt or replaced between episodes, or immortal in some way, unless there's a "Groundhog Day" Loop going on. The character does not need to die permanently as long as he appears to die in the narrative.

A ritualized form of Staying Alive. Could overlap with The Chew Toy and Cosmic Plaything. Often a by-product of Death Is Cheap. Chronically Crashed Car is a variant that refers to vehicles, and Chronically Killed Actor one that refers to actors whose characters usually die.

Although similar to Death Is Cheap, wherein a character may 'die' and come back to life at least once, this trope refers to when a character is killed many times and usually as a Running Gag.

As this is a Death Trope, Expect spoilers!


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • Louie the Fly in the Mortein insect spray commercials. For the character's 50th anniversary, Mortein had a public poll on whether to kill him off permanently. Luckily, he was spared. Despite being an obnoxious Talking Pest, Louie is quite popular with the public.
  • A common theme of commercials for Wilkins Coffee, created by Jim Henson, which involves a character named Wontkins who continuously keeps getting killed for refusing to drink the advertised product.
  • Pizza Hut's The Pizza Head Show campaign had the eponymous Pizza Head who, if not killed each time, was at least in critical condition, often at the hands of Pizza Cutter Steve.
  • The Trope Namer suffers yet another death in Paramount+' "Mountain of Entertainment" entry "Storm" as he's crushed by the bucket used for Flashdance's iconic dousing scene, prompting Tim McGraw to bemoan "Oh, no. They killed Kenny. Bastards."

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • It features a handful of cards whose Flavor Text references the various deaths of a hapless goblin named Furt. See several examples.
    • There's Squee, who eventually proved to be so popular he got his own card, complete with a returning-to-play mechanic.
      "He is Yawgmoth's reward to me. I shall kill him a hundred times a day."
    • The card Reassembling Skeleton lampshades a lesser-known rule regarding creature cards; if a non-token creature leaves play for any reason but returns at some point, the game state considers it a different creature. To sum up, same card does not equal same creature.
  • Chaotic has similar flavor text for some cards involving Bodal.

    Comic Strips 
  • Bill the Cat in Bloom County was a frequent example of this in his earlier days in the strip. Notably when he's electrocuted by his tongue being wired into an amplifier while rehearsing with Deathtongue...
    Steve Dallas: ...AW, FERCRISSAKES, he isn't dead AGAIN, is he?
    Portnoy: ...Naw, naw...I'll get the Bactine.
  • Brewster Rockit play this one for laughs with pretty much everyone, especially Winky, Dr. Mel's unfortunate assistant, who seems to be able to lose his spleen many, many times. The comic at least used to have an Ensign Kenny, but Winky basically fills in for him.
  • Show Within a Show version: In Pearls Before Swine, Rat's "Angry Bob" stories tend to have the titular character die in all sorts of absurd and gruesomely comic ways, only to be alive and well at the start of the next story with no explanation (though on a few occasions Rat did write that Bob "undied")
  • Generic Ted in Dilbert is fired frequently, and has actually died more than once. The cartoon suggested that the company has several identical looking guys named Ted.
  • Liō has been skeletonized from time to time, only to appear fine the next day. The comic has also included at least one explosion of Earth.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table: The "Deadly Trappings" segment in the magazine always features a character called "Joe Cocksure" as the victim of the various traps featured.

  • Every named character in the Old Master Q comics, including - especially the titular character. Sliced to half, eaten alive, buried alive, incinerated by rockets, you name it.
  • ezi: The namesake character and his friend Qiaokeli (in some cases) die from a gunshot or a falling tree among other means, yet they return to life to maintain the status quo.

  • Vocaloid's Len Kagamine has a reputation for getting killed off in many of his songs and music videos. Also overlaps with Chronically Killed Actor, as the Vocaloids are often interpreted as Animated Actors. Though some will come back with the claim that Rin Kagamine dies almost as much. Since they're the youngest Krypton Vocaloids, they're probably invoking Death of a Child.
  • "But the cat came back, the very next day. They thought he was a goner but the cat came back 'cause he wouldn't stay away!"
  • Devo's mascot, Booji Boy, has met many a gruesome end, getting stabbed at the end of the video that marked his first on-camera appearance, and then moving on to getting electrocuted, having his head crushed, and being beheaded by Osama Bin Laden.
  • Alice Cooper "dies" at the end of his concerts.
  • Most of Rammstein's videos end with keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz into some sort of death or harm.
  • As he was created by Eminem in the wake of a failed suicide attempt, Em's Slim Shady character is constantly dying or committing suicide (sometimes Murder-Suicide), but it never sticks. He hangs himself in the first verse and shoots himself in the head at the end of his Establishing Character Moment "I Am" Song ("My Name Is"), dies from an overdose and digs himself out of his grave in "Role Model", and commits a mass shooting of his audience at the end of the Encore album before killing himself. Lampshaded in "Cum On Everybody":
    I tried suicide once and I'll try it again
    That's why I write songs where I die at the end
    • Slim gets Killed Off for Real in "When I'm Gone", intended to retire the Slim Shady character as Eminem was withdrawing from rapping to focus on production and running his label. Eminem went on to have a Creator Breakdown, a Creator Recovery, and hinted in his autobiography The Way I Am that Slim Shady couldn't really die, as he's just a part of Eminem (and yells at him to shut up if he starts crying). Slim returned worse than ever in 2009's Relapse, with "My Darling" offering the explanation that Slim's real form is an evil spirit (later named "the Monster") and therefore he can't be killed.

  • Mission to Zyxx uses guest character Papa Derf in a few episodes. At the end of each he orchestrates his own death (apparently).
  • Jar of Rebuke: Main character Dr. Jared Hel is incapable of staying dead after a mysterious encounter from his past, something which their employers frequently take advantage of (to Jared's chagrin).

    Professional Wrestling 

  • Long before South Park, Bluebottle of The Goon Show was doing this in every episode, though sometimes inverted when all the other characters died except him. Of course, this show was made of Negative Continuity.
  • The later British radio comedy series The Burkiss Way featured the character of Eric Pode of Croydon, most of whose appearances ended with him getting shot by whoever he was talking to, usually the long-suffering Fred Harris. On one single occasion, Pode shot Harris, announcing 'I had to do that, he was getting on me nerves.'
  • The early "Guy Noir" sketches on A Prairie Home Companion (and its 80s substitute, Garrison Keillor's American Radio Company) were set up in this manner, with the title character and his then-sidekick, Jimmy, repeatedly accidentally killing each other. After the Moral Guardians protested these violent acts, Jimmy was Killed Off for Real and "Guy Noir" adapted its current format, with Noir getting by on his wits alone.
  • The MJ Morning Show has the character Milton Fludgecow, a Grumpy Old Man whose calls usually involve him having difficulties on modern day household objects or situations, calling up anybody who can try and help him, only for something to get in the way and make it an even bigger problem, leading him to violently die at the end of a couple of his calls.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A major part of Paranoia. Every player character has a set of auxiliary clones that are sent in to replace them when they die, meaning any player can find plenty of ways to die during a session without having to create a new character.
  • It's also possible in Eclipse Phase but resleeving is more often played seriously given the nature of the setting.
  • It's not uncommon for adaptations of Dungeons & Dragons to parody the relative ease in which dead PCs can be resurrected.

  • At the New York Renaissance Faire, Sheriff of Nottingham Philip De Marque has been killed off a number of times at the end of many years' story lines.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): They Killed Kenny


Putting Down Sam Repeatedly

DougDoug goes through a self-imposed challenge where he has ChatGPT try to beat a Pajama Sam game. Unfortunately, at a certain point, the program becomes buggy enough to where the chatbot starts talking about Mike Pence and he is forced to kill the code running it. However, because the code is roleplaying as the titular hero from the game, this is viewed as DougDoug putting down Pajama Sam, right down to having a gun shot sound effect. At a certain point, through a combination of Doug's mistakes and numerous errors, Doug kills six of these "Sams" in rapid succession, with one of his viewers even commenting how he's committing genocide.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (18 votes)

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Main / DeathAsComedy

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