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A character or show whose jokes are so bad, and whose sense of humor is so trite, corny, and childish that — paradoxically — you can't help but laugh at it. Usually includes some examples of Don't Explain the Joke.
Often, this will be Played for Laughs when a show includes a wisecracking character whose jokes always fit this trope, or a horrible comedy as a Show Within a Show. In these cases, it's a form of Stylistic Suck.
However, when an entire show fits this trope, it's probably unintentional. Note that this is rare; it's said that while most genres, badly done, become comedies; bad drama, bad sci-fi, bad horror, etc can all become Snark Bait, but a bad comedy by definition fails at being funny. Failing so hard you succeed is a rare gift. A common variety is to have something overloaded with so many bad funnies at the end you are laughing for some reason.
Closely related to (and often a component of) So Bad It's Good. Often related to Cannot Tell a Joke. Not to be confused with The Comically Serious (formerly known as "The Unfunny"). Sort of like Crosses the Line Twice, only with (lack of) humor instead of offensiveness.
Stand Up Comedy
- Neil Hamburger has spent his career pretending to be what may be the world's worst comedian.
- The comedian Edward Aczel pretty much does a show in character as a terrible comedian.
- Chris Rock has made fun of Dead Horse Tropes in black comedy by taking on stereotypical "terrible black comedian" characters in his shows and books.
- Andy Kaufman had this as his primary shtick. First he would do a bunch of terrible impressions ("And now, my impression of American President Jimmy Carter. I am American President Jimmy Carter. Thank you.") until people got so upset that they started walking out, and then he would launch into what was considered one of the best Elvis Presley impressions of all time (when he was alive, Elvis himself stated that it was his favorite).
- Norm MacDonald's bit on the roast of Bob Saget consisted of nothing but terrible, terrible jokes. The audience didn't like it, but all the comedians there were dying.
Norm: There are times when Bob has something on his mind...when he wears a hat! No thoughts, just a hat.
- The Smothers Brothers attempt to be the most dysfunctional folk singers ever.
- Jay London (who competed on Last Comic Standing) has an act of half horrible one-liners; half apologizing. ("I work at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'm in the "Beyond" department. I'm sorry. It's almost over.")
- From the Philippines, good ol' fashioned Andrew E. His movies are laugh-inducing, yes. But the jokes used, no, the more you think about them.
- For an example, in his movie Rubberman, he, as the titular "super-hero", sees a girl crying over a cat stuck on a tree (pretty standard fare for your average hero). When he does save the cat, upon giving it to the girl, we get this very illogical exchange (translated for your convenience):
Girl: Rubberman, I'm sorry, but I do not own this cat.
- Deadpan Snarker radio satirists Bob and Ray often pursued aggressively unfunny material to its logical limit and beyond, as a way of "seeing what [they] could get away with." Notable examples include the fifteen-minute, multi-show "Bulgarian Cream Pie" bit and an instance of a grouchy Bob Elliott playing intentionally annoying music because he had to broadcast alone on Christmas Day.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode The Creeping Terror includes a host segment featuring Mike Nelson testing for the "sweet spot" on his custom audio system by listening to one of the film's tedious songs. For a very long time.
- This has been parodied on the aftermath of Pretzel Guy's seemingly disturbing entrance into the orange M&M on the M&M's Pretzel minisite, where he is a stand-up comedian who is sick of being inside a chocolate candy, and his jokes are intentionally unfunny, yet they can be jeered or cheered.
Pretzel Guy: You people laugh at anything.
- This is arguably Tom Green's schtick. Well, at least for "The Bum Bum Song". It's so incredibly stupid it's hilarious.
- Mitch Hedberg was a notoriously casual performer, mixing in half-finished and unfunny jokes right beside legitimately brilliant and hilarious one-liners. The juxtaposition made the bad ones even funnier.
"I have a sweet tooth *scattered laughter* I think I messed something up with that last joke. I apologize."
- A German comedian on Evening At The Improv once started his act this way (before moving on to a more earnest performance):
(paraphrasing): We Germans have a reputation for being too strict and orderly to be funny. Tonight, I hope to prove that wrong. *beat* Joke number one: ...
- Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric takes this Up to Eleven to the point that most audiences don't know whether they should laugh. He purposefully messes up his jokes and reads from notecards.
"And the woman behind- the bitch behind the counter says, 'No, is Pepsi okay?' and I say, 'No! If I had wanted Coke- if I had wanted Coke- I mean, Pepsi, I would have ordered one! Thank you.'"
- A famous case is The Lion King, where this is the main appeal of Timon's character. His jokes are so lame you can't help but chuckle- this was intentional of course. Hakuna Matata has this:
"What's eating you, kid?" "Nothing, he's at the top of the food chain! Hahaha!!! The food chain, ha ha ha ha... (realizes his joke has failed)"
- Later in the same scene
"What's a motto?" "Nothing, what's a motto with you?"
"I didn't know the Salvation Army was having a sale *laughs* am I right? Am I right? Look at these guys."
- From Up:
Dug: Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says "I forgot to store acorns for winter and now I am dead." Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead.
- From Iron Man 2: Justin Hammer: Well, the press is going to have a new problem...They're going to run out of ink!" *Beat* "Introducing...
- Seltzer and Friedberg. Not so much their humor, as the concept of their careers.
- Almost all of the humor in North is this (if it isn't Dude, Not Funny), with Incredibly Lame Puns such as, "Your honor, the defense rests! (spoken when the defendants are literally in a coma)" or "The only barren spot on this island... is [my wife] Mrs. Ho."
- From Shaolin Soccer: the Kung Fu Hao Yeah song? So awful... yet so hilarious.
- Kung Pow! Enter the Fist: "What do you get when you cross an owl with a bungee cord? My ass."
- Rio: "I feel free as a bird!" "But you really are a bird."
- Much of Judd Apatow's material can be seen as this. Many of the more memorable scenes in the three movies he's directed so far are long, incredibly self-conscious and frequently juvenile monologues or conversations about movies, food and genitalia. However, he has said that he treats comedy as a deep form of expressive art, made clear in his book, "I Found This Funny: My Favorite Pieces of Humor and Some That May Not Be Funny At All".
- Marlin from Finding Nemo starts out at this, hideously butchering a joke he tries to tell to the other parents. The commentary track on the DVD has Albert Brooks explain how he went about to make this joke so unfunny, making it even more awesome.
- In Madagascar 3, Marty tries to prove his worth in the circus dancing in attire described in the lyrics to what goes down as "Circus Afro" and belting out a song consisting of "Circus", "Afro", "polkadot" and "da-da"s to the tune of "Entry of the Gladiators", in what must be stressed is a grating, obnoxious voice.
- The Unknown Comic on The Gong Show did this deliberately. Watch him here.
- Mr. Baggy Pants on Remote Control.
- Jack Aubrey in the Master and Commander series makes a lot of terrible puns, and often gets them wrong since he's an inveterate Malaproper, but he delights so much in his own jokes that it's hard not to laugh with him.
- "Jokes that have never produced laughter" from The Areas of My Expertise. It's even better on the audiobook, where you hear Paul Rudd read them.
- Granny Weatherwax's attempts to tell jokes in the Discworld series.
"So he said 'Get me an alligator sandwich — and make it quick!'"
- Sarah Silverman on The Sarah Silverman Program. She puts a crying baby on a branch outside during her baby shower so she can deliver the punchline to her joke about how she lost a pair of chopsticks: "I'm like, 'Silver-WHERE?'"
- Fozzie Bear from The Muppet Show is a Reconstruction of this trope. According to the First Season Muppet Show commentary, Fozzie was originally just a bad comedian, and they switched to the use of this trope midseason. A comedian whose material is invariably unfunny: kinda sad. A comedian who, without realizing it, dissects how to be invariably unfunny: hysterical.
- On How I Met Your Mother Ted seems to enjoy Incredibly Lame Puns, explaining that it's because they're so bad that they're funny. Much of the group's "wit" is this, as well.
- An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation had Data trying to figure out the whole "sense of humor" thing. Watching him wandering around spouting canned jokes at the crew and their awkward reactions is funny in its own right.
- Garth Marenghi's Darkplace turns this, and They Plotted a Perfectly Good Waste in general, into an art form.
- Brad Brenner’s show in ICarly episode Icarly Saves TV is considered by his own daughter of all people to be lame, but the audience watching the episode will probably get a chuckle from how lame the jokes are.
- Mad TV had the recurring character of Luann Lockhart, the worst stand up comedian in the world. Cannot Tell a Joke taken Up to Eleven.
- Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update also has Nicholas Fehn, a topical comedian whose jokes basically consist of him not being able to finish a sentence, which results in the jokes sounding (intentionally) long-winded and convoluted.
- The Sopranos has at least two episodes where a terrible, terrible stand up comedian shows up and performs one of the worst routines in the world. No one in the show finds him amusing at all, but the overall scene usually ends up being pretty hilarious.
- Most of Michael Scott's jokes in the U.S version of The Office are either this, Cringe Comedy, or both.
- Armando Iannucci in The Armando Iannucci Show. One episode has him tell a joke — "What's big and small at the same time? A really big egg." He then makes a Power Point presentation version of the joke about the dog having no nose.
- A great deal of this appears on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, tying into the general Anti-Humor theme of the show.
- A sketch from A Bit of Fry and Laurie has a "blooper reel" of an Open University broadcast where a professor says .567359 when he meant .567395 — he, his camera man, and the presenter of the clip all treat this as both screamingly funny and horrendously embarrassing.
- Britta on Community gets the biggest laughs when she is being accidentally Adorkable.
- Robbie Ray's puns on Hannah Montana, a fact which is usually lampshaded by Miley or Jackson.
- This is what Doctor Blake Down does on Childrens Hospital. Despite being a Patch Adams expy, he is completely unfunny, cannot tell a joke and his entrance is often accompanied to the screams of terrified children. And it's hilarious.
(tries to cure a young girl with a limerick)
- Piff The Magic Dragon on Fool Us.
"You might know my older brother... Steve."
- Little Strong Bad was one in the e-mail "stand-up."
- Similarly, Bubs did a standup routine during one of the Halloween cartoons. "And remember, like, ten years ago? People's clothes looked funny! And the music sounded terrible!"
- This bizarre attempt at a parody.
- Pretty much everywhere, it's gonna be hot. Their reaction to the anchor's "joke" is so inexplicable it's hilarious.
- Cracked popularized this example, and is probably responsible for most of its views.
- The Freelance Astronauts do this sometimes, most notably during their Wii Sports Resort review intermission.
- Most of Micheal Caesar's jokes in The Boondocks comic fit this trope.
- Harry in The Time of Your Life wants to be a great comedian, but nobody laughs at his comic monologues.
- Ernie Steele of Backyard Sports. Uses many examples of Don't Explain the Joke. Somehow, he seems to realize his jokes are unfunny, unlike Joey.
- In Ace Attorney, Moe the clown encourages Phoenix to tell a joke. Clearly put on the spot, Phoenix says "Why am I, Phoenix Wright, such a great lawyer? Because I'm Wright all the time!" Cue awkward silence.
Maya: At least his expectations are low.
- A lot of Moe's jokes fall into this as well.
- In Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Alyx notices Combine soldiers infected by headcrabs and quips "Hmmm. A Combine zombie. That's, that's like a...ah...a Zombine! Right? Heh... Zombine, get it?" however, she quickly realizes the joke isn't funny. (Still, the name stuck, so a point in her favor.)
- The exchange is made even funnier when you realize that Gordon Freeman met her joke with his characteristic silence, hence Alyx's awkwardness.
- Fallout 2 has the abysmal standup comic in the Shark Lounge.
Comic: So... uh... why did the radscorpion cross the road? Cause the radscorpion... uh, it wanted to get away from the radioactive fallout particles...uh, the joke, see, since it was already a mutant, it didn't need to cross the road, so... uh...
- Max's jokes in the Sam and Max games are occasionally played for this, like a joke involving The Pope, Chester A. Arthur and a candiru fish that he made during his presidential campaign. His Psychic Ventriloquism gags in Season 3 are about half this trope, and half an excuse to make lowest-common-denominator fart jokes without having to feel bad about it.
- Margaret in Persona 4 starts telling truly awful jokes completely seriously as you begin to progress down her Social Link. She seems disappointed that she can't make the protagonist laugh.
- Alois's jokes and puns in Fire Emblem: Three Houses are this to Prince Dimitri, leading to quite the adorable platonic chain. Fandom generally agrees, as Alois is known fondly as the guy who tells terrible Dad Jokes.
- A lot of jokes in Jerry Jackson series are like this. For an example:
(deliberate misspelling corrected) Why does Mario go in the pipes? Is it because he likes the music down there or is it so that he can trump and it will make a really funny echo sound? And then he can blow the smell out and poison all the turtles at the top. And the answer is: not there because it is a metaphorical question. Lol.
- This Sluggy Freelance strip "cleverly disguised as an actual comic."
- A good portion of Cyanide and Happiness intentionally stems from this. This typically will entail having the last few panels contain little to no content aside from the joke sinking in.
- The Sphynx's inexplicable joke in Subnormality.
- That's also (intentional) Viewers Are Geniuses; the joke is really good if you're willing to do the research so you get the references in it. To elaborate, there's an annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany, but the German guy went to Beirut instead. This may actually be based on a Real Life incident, when a prop dragon got delivered to Beirut by mistake.
- Order of the Stick: All of Elan's puns.
- When Waluigi takes over Brawl in the Family, his comics tend to rely on this, especially the No Fourth Wall ones.
Waluigi: The third panel is the funny one. (Beat Panel)
- Ray Smuckles of Achewood qualifies in this strip and this one.
- Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff pretty much runs on this.
- Steve from Daisy Owl routinely have nightmares where he is a bad stand-up comic who starts a regular observation, then draws a sensible and unfunny conclusion, and then he wakes up in fright. Many of the other strips also derives their humor from having the punchline derail or just turn into an awkward silence.
- The Riff Trax for the X-Men movie, around the middle, had Mike start randomly adding "o" to the end of phrases, and it culminated with him and Bill muttering "Cerebro" and "Magneto" to each other repeatedly in their best Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart impressions. It really wasn't a joke at all, but somehow ended up being the most hilarious thing of the whole Rifftrax.
- Really Bad Jokes runs on this trope.
- Homestar Runner: In "Halloween Fairstival", Bub's stand-up comedy routine consists of stock jokes boiled down to their absolute most generic form, and occasionally mashed up in ways that make no sense. Strong Mad is the only person who finds it funny.
Bubs: Aww, that's rich. You know something else that bears a striking resemblance to something else? Women can't drive!
- Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons was attempting to be the living embodiment of this trope. One of the writers said that it was a really hard balancing act of making the jokes unfunny yet still making the character a source of comedy.
- From the same show, Reiner Wolfcastle's attempt at stand-up comedy, where he cracks unfunny jokes and carries enough firepower to violently put down hecklers.
- Homer's attempts at roasting Mr. Burns during the episode "Rosebud" fail in hilarious fashion. Of course, the dead puppy in the parking lot didn't help.
- The "Spinoff Showcase" episode used this for two-thirds of its spinoffs. The sitcom parody mixed canned laughter at stupid jokes with very Black Comedy. The Variety Show parody just used very, very bad humour with subtler indications that it was entirely on purpose.
- Characters telling jokes to a live audience regularly have their unfunny jokes met with a completely silent room except for a man coughing in the back.
- Marge, of all people. Whenever she actually tries to crack a joke, she's always very pleased with herself, but nobody else is because her sense of humor is so incredibly bland.
- The character Darph Bobo in Tripping the Rift is, according to its creator, Chris Moeller, supposed to be funny because he doesn't think clowns are funny at all.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, many of Sokka's weird nicknames and jokes are this. (And apparently so are his father's, according to a comment from Bato when Sokka makes one in Bato's presence.) Apparently the unfunny-is-funny effect holds true for the rest of the gAang as well as the audience, because by season 3, they have gotten so used to Sokka's particular sense of humor that they actually miss his jokes when he's off training with his master—and the replacement jokes they try to make are even more unfunny-funny (but only to the audience, not them).
- Codename: Kids Next Door has Pungeon Master Numbuh 2, who is hilarious, to the viewer at least, because he delivers his jokes with so much hammy enthusiasm it's hard not to laugh.
- The Brain tries to be stand up comedian in yet another Zany Scheme to Take Over the World. All he has are really complicated scientific and mathematical jokes, which bores the audience to tears. But it gets funny when he gets angry at them, wishing for their deaths using overly complicated, Rube Goldberg-esque situations.
- He also tried this in one issue of the comics, where he did tell a pretty funny joke, but it went right over the heads of his provincial audience: "What did Euripides say when he tore his trousers?....'Where's Eumenides when I need him?'....Don't you understand?! 'You-rip-a-these'....'You-mend-a-these'?!"
- And of course, no one can ever forget "Obey me, for I am the [hilariously violent epileptic fit] Overlord!"
- Stanley's corny jokes on The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan are clearly meant to be this. Though in his case the humor doesn't just come from the corniness, but from Henry's less than amused reactions.
- SpongeBob often has this, especially in the earlier episodes. The real king is this gem:
"Why couldn't the 11-year old go to the pirate movie? It was rated Aaaarrrrrgh.
- One episode of The Proud Family had Penny throw a party that was woefully under attended, thanks to Lasieniga also throwing a party that very night. Only the rejected guests from Lasieniga's ended up at Penny's house (with even Penny's friends abandoning her). So Trudy, wanting to cheer up Penny and entertain her guests, delivers this priceless gem:
"Why did the monkey fall off the tree?" (kids ask why)
"Because he was dead!" (Penny was NOT amused)
- King Kai from Dragon Ball Z IS this trope. Not one of his jokes is legitimately funny, and that's the joke. One joke in the English dub of Kai, however ("They should call him SLOW-KU!") is VERY funny if you read it as a dig at the original DBZ's notoriously slow pace.
- Most Incredibly Lame Puns
- Quick Example: In Firefly, there is a scene where River dances. Riverdance?
- This is the entire premise behind Cannot Tell a Joke.
- The most top-rated Urban Dictionary entry for anal sex.
- From the Touhou Project fanworks, the ridiculously funny punchline of the song Cirno's Perfect Math Class ... There are no buses in Gensokyo!
- Young children often don't quite get humor and try to make jokes out of random and nonsensical bits of other jokes. Hilarity Ensues.
- There's a kid's joke going roughly "Two tomatoes cross a road, when one gets run over. The other says, 'Come on, ketchup!'". The joke works extremely well in any language because very few kids understand it's supposed to be a pun on "catch up" — they just like it because the tomato gets crushed. It actually wasn't until I heard it in English that I realized there was supposed to be a pun to begin with, not to mention having heard a dozen "variations" with other things getting run over, obviously without any possible pun or punchline. It's funny because... someone gets killed and the other is unfazed about it?
- Sometimes, a kid tries a tried-and-proven formula for a joke, but doesn't understand how to make them funny. This troper once tried to tell a knock-knock joke as a toddler where the punchline ("pizza", apparently) had nothing to do with the rest of the joke.
- Q: What did the guy say when he lost his tractor? A: "Where's my tractor?"
- Q: What's brown and sticky? A: A stick.
- That one, although butchered, meets all the technical requirements of a real joke, because it still uses the wrong meaning of the word 'sticky', i.e., like a stick. The problem is that the setup is screwed up, as that sort of joke is supposed to make you think of an 'offensive' answer and then swap out a different one, like the classic joke 'What's long and hard and full of seamen?' 'A submarine.' Without that setup, just saying 'brown and sticky', it isn't very funny at all. (And with the setup, those sort of jokes stop being funny about the time kids start telling actual dirty jokes.)
- Swedish kids had a trend during the nineties with jokes that ended with a completely pointless and irrelevant observation as the punchline. Example: "Two moose were out flying. Suddenly one says, 'Wait, we can't fly!' The other replies, 'Don't worry, my uncle works as an accountant in Texas.'"
- Broken Jokes takes familiar old jokes and makes them funny again by Comically Missing the Point:
- A lawyer, an IRS auditor and a venture capitalist are lost at sea in a lifeboat in the dangerous waters off the Australian coast. The boat springs a leak. They drown.
—Yo momma's so fat she has to wear large clothes.
- The Monkeys You Ordered, a website dedicated to re-captioning New Yorker cartoons with completely literal punchlines.
- Barbershop humor just about runs on this, with comedic quartets/choruses generally deliberately using buckets of Incredibly Lame Puns and feghoots, and more corn than a farmer's field. The audience groaning loudly and laughing at the same time is often considered a successful response.
- The entire premise of Literal Music Videos.