Cringe Comedy

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A big trend in modern TV comedy: shows where the humour mostly comes from placing characters in the most embarrassing situations possible, or having them say the most awkward or offensive thing possible at all times. Often uses documentary feel to heighten the naturalism and increase the cringe, or has actors in character interacting with an unsuspecting public. Comedy you have to watch through the gaps between your fingers.

Often this is mollified by the characters being oblivious to the embarrassment they should be feeling. Sometimes though, all the characters are acutely aware of their humiliation, which can make it so much worse. Or worse yet, there's a single Audience Surrogate character who realizes how humiliated everyone should be feeling, while everyone else remains oblivious.

Some shows specialize in this sort of humor. Others include a scene of it here or there, largely avoiding it. Still others make this sort of thing a sort of Running Gag, as with taking a character who can't act and requiring them to play a part for the good of the team—repeatedly.

German, the language that brought you "Schadenfreude", has recently developed the term "Fremdschämen" ("vicarious shame/embarrassment") to cover this phenomenon.

See also Crosses the Line Twice, where the same basic material is used, but more to make people laugh than to make them uncomfortable.

Examples of Cringe Comedy include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

Comedians[edit | hide]

  • Ben Stiller is married to this trope; look at every role he's played dating back to his own show, both as host and in every one of his skits.
  • In the late '60s and the '70s, German comedian Loriot basically created his entire career completely on sketches about uptight middle class people who get into awkward situations and make everything worse by being completely oblivious about it. It becomes much more bearable by the fact, that usually nobody seems to be aware that the situations should be akward and everyone continues as if everything would be fine. As a parody of how people of those decades refused to allow any loss of face to the point where it got painful, his show got massively popular. As an example, "German for Foreigners", or known to most people as "This is my briefcase", or "People on a plane".
  • Louis CK is made of this. Don't even try to watch any of his shows if you are even slightly sensitive to this kind of thing. On second thought go ahead. There can not be anyone who can finish an episode without pausing at least 5 times. At least not while sober.

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Bridget Jones newspaper columns (see above for the films) and subsequent book compilations.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]


Music[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Asperchu becomes this once you realize that CWC becomes a rampaging self-parody when he's turned into a fictional drawing, with literally no exaggeration whatsoever.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Life and Times of Tim
  • Older South Park episodes, and some newer ones rely on this heavily. Lampshaded in "Funnybot", where the title character even uses "Awkward!" as his catchphrase. The boys have to stop him from telling the "Last Joke Ever," in which he destroys the entire human race becaues it's the most awkward thing possible. Appropriately enough, Funnybot was designed by the gallows-humor-obsessed Germans.
  • The Cleveland Show
  • The Venture Brothers utilizes this several times a season, mostly with the main character Rusty Venture though other characters are also occasionally guilty of this trope.
  • Family Guy, though whether or not it's funny or just plain offensive is based entirely around one's point of view. A good example is the Cutaway Gag "Horton Hears Domestic Violence In The Next Apartment And Doesn't Call 911."
  • SpongeBob SquarePants in its later seasons.
  • Most of Don Hertzfeldt's works are dark comedies, or surreal dramedies. One film, however, is "Lily and Jim", telling the story of a blind date from the perspective of both people. It is complete Cringe Comedy.
  • The Ren and Stimpy Show often goes into this territory.
  • Adventure Time often goes here- most notably in Too Young, with Finn and Princess Bubblegum's more painful (literally causing physical pain) ways of pranking Lemongrab.
  • The outrageously funny scene where Principal Skinner treats Superintendent Chalmers to dinner in The Simpsons episode "22 Short Films About Springfield".


Other[edit | hide]

  • This may be the main point of all those "Tell Your Most Embarrassing Moment" sections in every teenage girl's magazine ever.
  • YMMV may vary on whether this is actually the case (and don't tell us eother way), but it was referenced in relation to Sarah Palin 's Katie Couric interview in the book Going Rogue.