Hilariously Abusive Childhood
It all began on the day of my actual birth. Both of my parents failed to show up. And on my fifth birthday, I had to throw myself my own surprise party.
—Dr. Doofenshmirtz, Phineas and Ferb
In the real world, abuse is a traumatic evil that can warp a child's psyche, causing them extensive physical and psychological problems as they develop into adults. Sometimes, abused children will go on to abuse children themselves. It's a horror that takes years of intensive therapy and anger management to recover from, if it ever is actually recovered from.
In the media, on the other hand, a fair amount of Black Comedy can come from a character's horrible childhood. Notably, such comedy seldom includes sexual abuse, which tends to take things into Dude, Not Funny territory. It's usually Parental Neglect or seriously bizarre methods of parenting exaggerated to the point of comedy.
This can be played for laughs and seriousness alternately, especially the characters are comically screwed up already and their parents are shown to be equally or (often) more messed up.
Anime and Manga
- In the case of Anime and Manga, there's very heavy Values Dissonance in these regards. A smack to the head does not get the same reaction in Japanese culture as it would in American culture.
- Kafuka Fuura in Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei. Though she doesn't seem like she notices it...
- Nozomu as well, albeit in a different way. The audience doesn't see his upbringing, but given (as part of family tradition), his family tries to force him to marry the first person he locks eyes with during a ceremony, it's unlikely to have been that normal. Whatever it involved, Nozomu turned out to be a hilariously neurotic guy. And then there's Nozumu's nephew Majiru, whose Parental Abandonment is somewhat Played for Laughs, as is Nozomu's Hands-Off Parenting of him after taking him in.
- Monkey D. Luffy's childhood in One Piece is clearly this.
Luffy: Yeah! So don't attack him!!! He'll kill you...!!! Grandpa's nearly killed me, often enough!
- Hayate the Combat Butler is a prime example of this. Even the fact that his parents sold him to the "very nice people" for organ harvesting is played for laughs. In-Universe, when he talks about his childhood, most of the listeners burst into tears.
- Kogoro Mouri from Detective Conan yet often punches Conan (in front of authority, nonetheless), throws him across the room, and screams at him. Things from "getting in the way" of his work, to accidentally cutting his foot, to laughing at his stupidity. Seriously. Are there any social workers in the Beika district?
- Most of Ranma Saotome's life spent training with his dad in Ranma ½, most infamously when his dad "taught" him the Cat Fist technique by wrapping him in fish sausage and throwing him in a pit of hungry cats.
- Not to mention the flashbacks we see of Mousse being stomped all over by Shampoo when he tried to woo her as a little kid.
- Penny's abusive father in the Gag Dub of Crayon Shin-chan. Her mom even hatched a plan to escape and become a BDSM prostitute. "At least they pay for ouchie-sex."
- A scene cut from the English dub of Sailor Moon had Usagi have an Imagine Spot where her mother strangled her for having bad grades.
- Allen Walker's childhood from D.Gray-man. His abuse and psychological trauma at the hands of his master General Cross is played entirely for laughs. Whenever he hears the word "debt," it's shown as a thousand-pound rock is crushing his chest, and he gets very depressed. This was caused by Cross being an alcoholic gambler that left young Allen with all his debt... along with hitting Allen, all done in a funny (Or sometimes Dude, Not Funny) light, of course. The other parts of his horribly traumatizing childhood are played brutally straight.
- Played with: Ed and Al's training with Izumi in Fullmetal Alchemist is shown like this, to the point that hearing her name is enough to turn them into pathetic wrecks. But then they asked her to train them. They even insisted, because they were desperate for power, and Izumi actually went easy on them and what they were put through was child's play compared to the training Izumi went through herself. Of course, her idea of going easy on them during their training was to strand them on a deserted island, then get her store assistant to dress up as a monster, beat the ever loving crap out of the boys every day and steal their food. At least he was around to make sure they didn't die, which was more than she got.
- In Keroro Gunsou, Dororo was not only quite sickly as a lad, but suffered all sorts of cartoony pain and abuse during the games he would play with Keroro and Giroro.
- Kenshin's actual childhood in Rurouni Kenshin isn't funny at all, and is rather tragic. But the days he spent with Seijuro Hiko consisted of him learning sword techniques... which were always learned by Kenshin being hit with the move first, and depicted in chibi form.
- Kinjiro's childhood in Mayo Chiki was being the Chew Toy for his wrestling mother and sister.
- Sorcerer Hunters: Marron's Dad is shown being creepily affectionate to him because he looks just like his absent mother. The disturbing implications of this, and Marron's obvious discomfort are played for laughs.
- Nextwave's Elsa Bloodstone was trained from birth to hunt monsters. "Trained" here equals "thrown into a monster's pit as a
toddlerinfant armed with her feeding spoon." Then told to do it again when she emerged victorious. And then there's the flash-card training robot that uses its built-in iron maiden when she gets an answer wrong...You have to laugh.
- The Prehistory of The Far Side features a hysterical extended sequence where the author, Gary Larson, "explains" the bizarre and often extremely dark nature of his humor with a series of supposed drawings from his childhood, where it's revealed, among other things, that his mother tried to murder him by hiding his cookies in the middle of the highway, his father liked to amuse other children by holding him over an alligator pit, his brother once tied him to a tree and set it on fire, and that he was forced to ride in the trunk of the car. A substantial part of the humor comes from the fact that while the reader realizes how grotesque this is, the author himself does not, and reminisces fondly of his family life as a kid.
- In many Donald Duck comics (OK, Depending on the Writer), his nephews have this. Donald beats them with the carpet beater, forces them to do all the housework, robs their piggy banks...
- From, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee. When it has Johnny himself being the closest thing to a big brother the kid has and Squee saying "I am full of guilt" when his parents are abducted by aliens, you know it is this trope.
- Deconstructed Trope in Natural Born Killers with the flashbacks to Mallory's childhood. They consist of scenes of Mallory's father being deeply abusive, both physically and sexually, to his wife and daughter... on a Sitcom set, complete with a highly uncomfortable Laugh Track that pushes it into the Dead Baby Comedy/Dude, Not Funny zone. It really doesn't help that the father was played by Rodney Dangerfield. The dissonance between character and actor is staggering.
- Austin Powers: One of Dr. Evil's best moments is during a group therapy session, casually dismissing his deranged childhood as "typical."
Dr. Evil: The details of my life are quite inconsequential. Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with a low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen-year-old French prostitute named Chloë with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds--pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Wilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum. It's breathtaking--I suggest you try it."
"I think they hit me once, actually, in my whole childhood. They, they, uh, started beating me on the 23rd of December in 1942, and stopped beating me in the late Spring of '44."
- Allen used similar jokes in his stand-up acts: "When I was kidnapped, my parents snapped into action. They rented out my room."
- And similarly in his film Zelig:
"My brother beat me. My sister beat my brother. My father beat my sister and my brother and me. My mother beat my father and my sister and me and my brother. The neighbors beat our family. The people down the block beat the neighbors and our family."
- John Cusack's character in Better Off Dead had a somewhat off home-life coupled with bizarre neighbors and general lucklessness, spurring him into several bungled suicide attempts played for laughs.
- Cusack's film Grosse Pointe Blank seems to reference the earlier film in the backstory of protagonist Martin Blank, which appears to have been similarly hilariously abusive. By the time of the movie, Martin's mother has gone completely over the bend and is in an asylum and doesn't recognize him, and his father is implied to have been an abusive drunk (Martin does a Libation for the Dead at his grave and ultimately dumps the entire bottle out and leaves it there). In Martin's case, this unhinged him enough to become a professional assassin.
- Hinted at with Charlie in Mystery Team. Two throwaway gags imply that his dad is abusive/pedophilic, and an alcoholic.
- In Blades of Glory, Jimmy McElroy's "pretty normal childhood" consisted of constant training and various injections to make him a superb skater.
- In the first Gremlins film, Phoebe Cates's character, who hates Christmas, tells the sad story of her dad dying on Christmas Day, whilst climbing down the chimney to surprise for her and her mum. In the sequel, she starts going on about some other awful thing that happened to her on Lincoln's Day, at which point her husband says something like 'Not now, honey'.
- Banjo and Medium Dave from Hogfather. They fondly remember their mother as "tough but fair." By the end, the comedy is cut away and the real effect of Mama Lilywhite on Dave in particular is shown... and it's not funny any more.
- The Dursleys from Harry Potter. The Cupboard Under The Stairs may seem funny in concept, but it's hard to imagine actually living in one. However, a lot of the comedy from the Dursleys comes from their social climbing and shallowness and their extreme reactions to magic, not from their treatment of Harry, which is still mostly Played for Drama.
- The first book has a very different tone from the sequels, and starts out as both an homage to, and a send-up, of Victorian stories of orphans raised in wealthy homes, where they were told they would be one of the family, but then ended up as the lowest of the servants, and unpaid to boot, while constantly reminded of the family's kindness for taking them off the streets. They often slept in tiny rooms, or even in the scullery, and while it's true that servants' quarters were usually barely adequate, they usually weren't inhumane. JK Rowling takes what is already an exaggeration for literary purposes, and further exaggerates it for purposes of satire. Harry can't turn around without one more slap in the face reminder than he is less than his cousin. Then the book takes a hard left when Hagrid shows up, and Harry finds out that he is rich, had loving parents who left him a legacy, he is famous among his own people—he was an ugly duckling, after all—and on top of that, can do magic. It plays out the fantasies that the poor orphans in the rich houses often entertained, before they either died in obscurity, or worked hard every day, saved each penny, and some day made good, depending on the author's message.
- Used in spoof self-help book Oh the Humanity. The narrator's father started carving height notches at six feet to convince the kid he was shrinking, and coming second in a spelling bee led to several years of his mother working the word "psittacosis" into every sentence. Then came school, where his main encounter with "empathy" was when a bully smashed his science fair project and said "That must suck for you, dorkhole."
- Arguably, Great Expectations. Pip is treated horribly by the sister who "brought him up by hand" and her series of friends, all of whom treat him as a burden and give him a terrible time, especially on Christmas. The narration treats the whole scenario very comically, probably because Pip's the one narrating the story and hindsight has given him a sense of humor.
- Sunny McCreary from My Godawful Life, a parody of Misery Lit. He was kept in a pigeon coop, bullied by the pigeons, had to spend his days moving his paraplegic mother's limbs for the benefit of her "clients" (she was a prostitute), all the family's money was spent on nails for his stepfather to hammer into Sunny's flesh, and he was then pimped out to truckers when it cost too much for his mother and stepfather to keep him.
Live Action TV
- Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock could be the page quote:
"It's all coming back to me. Oh my God! I slept on an old dog bed stuffed with wigs! I watched a prostitute stab a clown! Our basketball hoop was a rib cage – a rib cage! Why did you bring me here? I blocked all this stuff out for a reason! Oh, Lord, some guy with dreads electrocuted my fish! [Later] All my life I've tried to forget the things I've seen — a crackhead breastfeeding a rat, a homeless man licking a Hot Pocket off the third rail of the G train! [Still later] I've seen a blind guy bite a police horse! A puppy committed suicide after he saw our bathroom! I once bit into a burrito and there was a child's shoe in it! I've seen a hooker eat a tire! A pack of wild dogs took over and successfully ran a Wendy's! The sewer people stole my skateboard! The projects I lived in were named after Zachary Taylor, generally considered to be one of the worst presidents of all time! I once saw a baby give another baby a tattoo! They were very drunk!"
- In Coupling, Jeff frequently alludes to his upbringing, which was obviously pretty bizarre and had a big influence on his personality.
You're shaking the caravan, Jeffrey!
- His mother also apparently started making enormous sculptures of erections and filling the house with them. She would keep the ones that went wrong in a box under Jeff's bed. She also apparently told him if he told lies he would be punished by some magical being sneaking into his room at night and removing a 'segment' of his penis.
- Monk has a fair number of references to his childhood, which was also highly dysfunctional. Although it's played a bit more seriously than usual for this trope, there is an explanation for his off-putting behavior.
- Most of the characters from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
- Dennis and Dee's mother Barbara tricked Frank into raising her children from Bruce as his. Frank would routinely humiliate them as children even giving them Christmas present boxes with nothing inside. He canceled their insurance when they were 9. Barbara slept around behind Frank's back and routinely lavished attention on Dennis while going out of her way to humiliate and criticize Dee. Dee's childhood was all the more traumatic due to her back brace and the nickname the Aluminum Monster.
- Charlie's mother Bonnie tried to abort him but he survived. His mother was also implied to be a prostitute. Bonnie had extreme OCD which resulted in her fear that Charlie would die if she didn't do everything in 3's (like turning on a light 3 times).
- Mac's mother is extremely apathetic and just sits in front of her television all day drinking and smoking. His father was sent to jail for drugs.
- Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf, his father vented his frustration at being rejected by the space corp for being an inch too short on him and his brothers by, among other things, using a medieval torture device to make them taller, and withholding food if they couldn't answer questions about astronomy.
Rimmer: "Every morning he'd measure us to see if we had grown, if not it was back on the rack."
- Titus: Christopher Titus's father actually thinks emotionally damaging kids is better for them than physical violence (which Erin's dad, Merritt, does to her brother, Michael, which Ken thinks makes him a "drunken Irish loser.")
- Christopher Titus really did have a messed-up childhood in Real Life, and mentions it often in his stand-up comedy routines and on the sitcom. Both of his parents were alcoholics (though his dad, Ken, was a Functional Addict), his mom, Juanita, was a violent, manic-depressive schizophrenic who murdered her second husband after he beat the shit out of her for not having dinner done and she eventually killed herself after realizing that her mental illness ruined her life, his dad married and divorced five times (with his ex-wives cleaning him out to the point that the only thing they had in their house was a rubber raft, a box, and a black-and-white TV), and Titus's extended family includes members who were either mentally ill, verbally abusive, addicted to drugs, and a Mormon uncle.
- Chandler Bing from Friends.
Chandler: Come on, by age seven kids have already seen orgies. [Beat] Was it just me?
- Phoebe Buffay often comes out with tales of a horrendous early life, and the humour comes from her blase or sunny demeanor when recounting them.
- Not to mention Monica; her parents used the term "pulled a Monica" to mean "screwed up". Monica once points out that they promised her and her psychiatrist that they would stop.
- In Seinfeld, it is hinted that George's childhood was less than salutary.
George Costanza: As damaging as purely psychological and verbal abuse could be...
Frank Costanza: Blow out the candles! Blow out the damn candles!
- Not to mention Festivus.
Frank Costanza on old tape: Time for the feats of strength!
- Dr Cox from Scrubs falls in and out of this. Sometimes his abusive childhood is treated jokingly, and then in other episodes they'll focus on how messed up he is as a result.
"I don't necessarily buy into all that New Age-y crap. I once saw my mom knock my dad unconscious with a frying pan. You know what I did? Kept right on going with my birthday party!"
- Daphne in Frasier has a habit of recounting traumatic or downright abusive stories from her past in a cheery, fond tone.
- Two and A Half Men often displays the poisonous behavior of Charlie and Alan's mother, both in the show's timeframe and in Backstory presented by "who-did-Mom-scar-more" arguments. There was also an episode where she keeps pushing Charlie to find out why he doesn't like her and why he has issues with commitment. He finally opens up with a rant:
Charlie: I'm not saying I hate you, but if I did, it might have something to do with the fact that you're a narcissistic bloodsucker who drove my father into an early grave, after which you married a succession of men who couldn't care less about Alan and me, which was just fine with you 'cause you... looked at us like a couple of dancing monkeys you could just haul out whenever it suited you! And when it didn't, you sent us off to boarding school or camp or that kibbutz in Israel, where we got beat up 'cause we weren't even Jewish! And now... now you show up here every chance you get to lay a guilt trip on me for not appreciating my cold, lonely, loveless childhood!
- Apparently George Lopez's childhood in The George Lopez Show. (His mother let a rat live in his bedroom, telling him it was a South American gerbil.) In real life Lopez was raised by his grandmother, who was incredibly hard to live with. It still fit into this Trope when he wound up putting his horror stories about her into his stand-up routine. One of his shows was even called "Why You Cryin'?" which was her typical response to him getting upset.
- iCarly Sam is a hilariously abusive childhood in progress. It's probably more on the Jeff from Coupling side of things, but it isn't hard to imagine how bad it could be, with a father who has apparently abandoned them, a mother who is most likely an alcoholic who sleeps around and is often in and out of jail, just like most of the rest of her family. All played for laughs on the show, though.
- Ray and his brother Robert in Everybody Loves Raymond. Their mother Marie overbearingly smothered Ray and utterly neglected Robert. One episode ended with Ray realizing his parents followed him to school when he was a child, hiding behind bushes and the like.
Ray: You mean, Mom was the crazy tree lady from my dreams?
- Robert can also be a case of this, though a lot of times it's not funny.
- Bill McNeal from News Radio would often fondly recall childhood events that would charitably be described as child neglect. Good times, good times...
- In one episode, Bill recalls one of his father's pieces of advice: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child and acted as a child. But when I grew up, I took that child out back and had him shot." Dave then asks if his father was in the Khmer Rouge.
Bill: Another time I was cut from the high school football team and my mother said, "Central's lost a fullback but the McNeal's have gained a daughter" and in front of the other players too... priceless! Good times... good times...
Bill: I remember one time my father came home from a night on the town which of course had turned into a week and my mother said, "John, is there anything you won't drink?" and my father shot back, "Poison... I'm saving it for you." (Laughing) And I and my brother, who is now an alcoholic himself, just about died laughing...
- Interestingly, Malcolm in the Middle borders on this for the younger boys, who simply gripe about their mom lightly, but with Francis it's almost always averted and he has deep-seated hatred for her, acknowledging that psychological abuse is serious and long-term. Possibly because for them, this is the norm, while Francis has already flown the nest and seen just how horrible the things Lois did really are, and how much it has messed him up (though there are also indications that Francis was disturbed in the first place, so it's not entirely certain how much of it was Lois' fault). The closest any of the younger boys has gotten to realizing how unhealthy Lois treats them is Malcolm, the genius.
- In one episode Dewey begins to stop taking part in his brothers' antics and begins acting more responsible and mature, being pleasant to his mother and no longer causing trouble, which causes Lois to stop harassing him. Malcolm and Reese corner him to find out why she isn't harassing him any more like she does them, but when he tries to explain - that the only reason she acts that way towards them is because they keep misbehaving - they either don't understand, or refuse to accept it, and vow to find out how he does it.
- Lois herself had a genuinely abusive childhood, which may have affected how she treats her kids; her mother is a cruel, racist, domineering, Ax Crazy lunatic from the "old country". Even Francis, who loves nothing more than tormenting his mother, fully acknowledges that his grandmother is completely insane, especially when she finds out that she has been buying Christmas presents for the family each year- exactly what they wanted- but refusing to send them because of inconsequential slights. Her episodes usually result in a truce within the family who will band together to get rid of her.
- Hal can also be like this. He tends to ignore the well being of the family for his own happiness and comfort, such as not working Fridays for years while his wife sacrificed a lot. He also forbid Malcolm from going to an exclusive, all expenses paid prep school because Hal relies on Malcolm to solve his problems (Even though Malcolm said that him not being a major factor of the finances would benefit the family). Hal also had a bad childhood of his own, albeit of a totally different sort. His father is an eccentric millionaire, but was too busy wrapped up in his own fantasies and games to do any actual parenting. Not that he didn't care about Hal, of course; but he barely noticed how miserable he was.
- This also ties in to the Series Finale, where Lois refuses Malcolm a high-paying job out of high school since their plan for him is to work his way up from the bottom of society to become President of the United States, and in fact had been planning his whole life.
- It's possible that Hilariously Abusive Childhood is the backstory for every single character in (and the explanation for the title of) Arrested Development.
"His arm's come off!"
- On The Colbert Report, many jokes revolve around the character of Stephen Colbert's upbringing, which led him to be an outwardly confident, blustery man trying to ignore the frightened child inside by adhering unerringly to his own version of reality (in which, of course, there's nothing wrong with the way his parents raised him). It's summed up nicely in this line from his book I Am America (And So Can You!):
I often think back fondly on the memories I haven't repressed.
- Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother often alludes to his "hilarious" childhood, involving being left alone by his mother for weeks at a time and being told that his father is Bob Barker, former host of The Price Is Right. They did, however, get a moment of legitimate pathos out of it in the episode where the Bob Barker thing was revealed. Barney goes on The Price Is Right with the intent of telling Bob Barker that he's his son, but can't bring himself to do it. The implication is that deep down he knows Barker isn't his father but won't admit it to himself, and a later episode revealed that many of his mother's lies were due to her actually being overprotective of Barney. She did not want him to feel humiliated or unloved so she would make up outrageous stories that seemed believable to a young child. However, this seems to have caused Barney to have a massive ego and an inability to deal with disappointment as an adult. And the icing on the cake is that his mother was apparently the female version of what he is today. Or worse.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander Harris had some sort of abuse happening in his home (especially in the episode "Restless"). This trope is played with in the episode "Amends", where Xander appears to make a joke about his "holiday tradition" of sleeping outside to avoid his family's drunken holiday fights-but when he is actually shown sleeping outside and being woken up by the (very rare) Christmas snowfall, it's actually quite poignant.
- The Four Yorkshiremen. Right! I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work 29 hours a day down t'mill and pay t'mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our dad would kill us and dance about on our graves, singin' Hallelujah!
- And a small variant on that.
- In Wizards of Waverly Place, Harper always says something about her horrible life at home almost every episode and a laugh track follows. Although that makes it fall into Dude, Not Funny territory, though this explains why she has been adopted by the family. The parents even seem to favor her over their biological children, and when talking about their plans for the future say "Harper will be the one to take care of us when we are older."
- The Daddy Drank sketch from Kids in The Hall.
- The Whitest Kids U' Know did a similar version involving a Christmas gift... The dad wanted the kid to bury the pony because they had to clean up after it.
- In The Big Bang Theory, Leonard recounts the cold and emotionless way his mother treated him, which led him to become a shy, self-hating neurotic. As a child, he was so starved for affection that he actually built a simple hugging machine... and his father used to borrow it.
- Sheldon is revealed to have been so traumatized by his parents' constant fighting when he was a child that he is unable to be around people arguing. He goes so far as to run away from his apartment when roommate Leonard won't stop arguing with his girlfriend.
- Sarah and Laura Silverman from The Sarah Silverman Program. Sarah's father screamed in her face for buying the wrong brand of cigarettes when she was 9 years old, beat her imaginary friend with a baseball bat and faked his death to avoid taking care of his children.
- Happens very often in Still Standing. One particular instance is where Judy commented that Brian was the only one of the children who'd be successful, not knowing that Lauren and Tina had just come into the room.
- What makes it worse was that she didn't try to put any effort into making it up to them.
- The Saturday Night Live skits about Simon, who sat in a bathtub and showed 'drawrings' of his neglected existence.
- Curtis from Todd and the Book of Pure Evil seems to be in the teenage years of a Hilariously Abusive Childhood. He mentions in one episode that his parents are constantly trying to get rid of him. In another episode, when his friend Hannah questions how he learned to pick locks, he mentions that his parents lock him out of the house a lot.
- Nathan from Misfits borders on this. Although part of it to used to show why Nathan is the way he is, the fact that the stories are delivered in typical Nathan style makes them hard not to laugh at.
Nathan: He's suppose to take me out for the day, so he takes me to IKEA. He buys so much flat-pack furniture there's no room for me in the car, so he leaves me there for 3 hours. Then some guy with a beard sees me hanging around and buys me lunch. I spent my 8th birthday eating swedish meatballs with a known pedophile.
- And later, the story of Nathan's first sexual experience involves a family camping holiday...and his mother's friend badtouching him.
- The entire show Married... with Children is pretty much built around this trope.
- The protagonist's Hilariously Abusive Childhood was used as a Running Gag in the Danish Christmas show Jul på Vesterbro. The main character would frequently wax nostalgically about something his papa used to say, followed by a black-and-white flashback to the father sprouting some words of wisdom, before trashing him with various blunt instruments. Watch a collection of the clips with subtitles here.
Junior, all humans have the right to privacy. And this is a metal ruler. Bend over. (WHACK)
- Your Mileage May Vary in the case of Sammy from Yes, Dear. He's raised in a family where he is loved genuinely, but the many bad things befalling him are so over-the-top (the fact that said events all occur BY ACCIDENT adds to the humor factor) make his childhood life appear like this (for instance, in one episode, he's shown in flashback to have accidentally bumped his head on some hard surface 5 times).
- In the second episode of Homeland, Carrie visits her sister and remarks on how well-behaved and obedient her sister's children are; her sister nonchalantly replies "I beat them. Don't tell the neighbors."
- "Weird Al" Yankovic has a song called "When I Was Your Age" which features horrible incidents from the narrator's childhood. However, given how outrageously over the top (i.e. physically impossible) all of them are, it's not likely there's any truth in them: "Then he'd chop me into pieces and play Frisbee with my brain/ And let me tell you, Junior, you never heard me complain!"
- Or the lines before that "Our dad would whup us every night 'til a quarter after twelve/ When he'd get too tired, then he'd make us whup ourselves."
- "Albuquerque" fits, too, given the bizarre conditions of the narrator's childhood, though that's not the only subject of the song. His mother made him live in a box under the stairs in the basement, and force-fed him nothing but sauerkraut until he was 26. (And a half.) He didn't get out of there until he won a plane ticket to the eponymous city in a radio contest. It kind of explains why he's so messed up.
- Speaking of Weird Al, he did guest accordion for a Barnes & Barnes track called "Gumbyjaws Lament". While the jokes are less obvious than many of their songs, hearing Art discuss his mentally ill mother in a croaky monotone while the accordion saws jauntily away in the background is morbidly humorous.
- "The world's only conjoined twin singer-songwriter duo," Evelyn Evelyn, have this. See their self-titled album for the absurdly awful details.
- The narrator of Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue".
- In The Onion, this article: "Abusive Father Can't Wait To See The Art He's Inspiring His Kids To Create", is this trope embodied, and taken Up to Eleven:
"The 37-year-old father said he could only imagine how his son and daughter's unstable upbringing might manifest itself in future writings, paintings, or music, given the way he routinely ridicules their achievements, yells at their mother in drunken fits of rage, and threatens the family with physical violence."
- Dave, a guy you meet during Fallout 2, had a fun childhood.
"When I was one, I was dropped on the porch. When I was two, I had pneumonia. When I was three, I got the chicken pox. When I was four, I fell down the stairs and broke six ribs. When I was five, my uncle was decapitated by a watermelon. When I was six, my parents hit me in the head with a shovel. When I was seven, I lost my index finger to me pet rat. When I was eight, my dog Spike got hit by a tractor. When I was nine, my mother lost her arm to a rabid Brahmin. When I was ten, my sister was torn to bits by a pack of dogs. When I was eleven, my grandfather killed himself because I was ugly. When I was twelve, my grandmother killed herself because I was ugly. When I was thirteen, my father poked out his eyes with a pitchfork in a drunken stupor. When I was fourteen, my brother lost his hand to a wallaby. When I was fifteen, my aunt choked to death on a chicken bone. When I was sixteen, I lost my cousin to a badger. When I was seventeen, I cut off my left big toe with a hoe. When I was eighteen, my father lost his right leg to the same tractor that killed my dog. When I was nineteen..."
- Given the brutal nature of the game, the many potential ways to die, and the hilarious stupidity of its title characters, it should be no surprise that these pop up occasionally in Dwarf Fortress.
- The Demoman was given up for adoption at birth, accidentally killed his adoptive parents, sent to an orphanage, and only contacted by his real parents when his bitterness and lack of depth perception had honed his demolition skills. If similar things aren't confirmed for at least half of the cast of Team Fortress 2, I'll eat my shirt.
- The Binding of Isaac is all about surviving one of said childhoods, with Religious Horror tropes and some Dungeon Crawling thrown in.
- Ernie Eaglebeak is still enduring his at the beginning of The Spellcasting Series, although he escapes soon after.
- Onion Kid in 8-Bit Theater
- Subverted in that he grows up to become Sarda. His whole raison d'etre is to screw over the Light Warriors that made his life horrible, by cutting them down in their most awesome state to signify their insignificance to what he's become, instead of just killing them all before they could repeatedly destroy his parents, his foster parents and the orphanages that have adopted him. When you take a good look past his creativity, omnipotence and amazing capacity for spite, you see a godlike entity whose only purpose is to horribly abuse a handful of people and will screw over countless innocents to do so.
- Not to mention what he did to Ranger, oh, poor ranger and Ranger's Wife...
- Tycho from Penny Arcade, shown here, here, here, and here. Yikes. And here.
- It's GOOFY TIME!
- The central theme of the Metal Gear Solid alternate universe fancomic "Les Enfants Terribles" is Big Boss's absolutely dreadful parenting of his clone children, and of Liquid Snake in particular.
- Monette of Something*Positive, discussing her Disappeared Dad: "He spent the first six months of my life battling my mother for custody of all of us, and when he got it, he took my sisters and dumped me on my grandma's doorstep. And she wasn't even there! She was on vacation. And she raised pitbulls at her house [...] He had tied raw, bloody steaks to my head." Her grandmother wasn't much better, as we see in her recounting of childhood Christmases. Meanwhile, Jason's father is a psychiatrist who "used his field of study to bully children" and abandoned the family when he got bored with them. Before that, he was emotionally abusive towards them in a number of ways, including "giving me invoices for how much love I owed him per week. That wasn't so bad, but man did the audits suck."
- Inverted with Ollie, whose implied history of sexually servicing his psychopathic uncle Avogadro was apparently an improvement over life with his own violent, two-faced father.
- Achewood's Roast Beef, who "comes from circumstances".
- Friendly Hostility's Padma Maharassa was inflicted with a Gender Blender Name in memory of his deceased mother, and describes his father as too busy to pay much attention to him.
"When my father finds out I'm using my trust fund to become a comedian instead of a doctor, he will fly out here to disown me forever. Which would bring the total number of times he has spoken to me up to... four. But I think he mistook me for a delivery boy once."
- Beyond the Canopy. Greliz asks Glenn how he got to be such an agile, scrappy fighter. Glenn explains that his grandpa throws things at him a lot.
- Dave Strider from Homestuck was raised by his brother, generally referred to solely as "Bro," who decorates their apartment with puppet porn and kicks Dave's ass regularly (with a puppet) for no particular reason. If there was any question of how much this has messed up Dave, Bro's favorite puppet, Lil' Cal, is, through a Stable Time Loop, a manifestation of Dave's nightmares from living with Lil' Cal.
- The Nostalgia Critic once showed a drawing he drew as a kid, featuring his parents as two dinosaurs ripping him apart, played for Black Comedy. What makes it more tangible, however, is that the character has become something of a Papa Wolf who can't stand it when non-bratty children get abused.
- The Nostalgia Chick too, perhaps fittingly. Her mother made her feel inadequate, her dad never loved her, and her uncle was sexually abusive. In her case this is also a Freudian Excuse, as she herself abuses Nella, doesn't like to show weak emotion, and makes a lot of off-color sex jokes.
- Ask That Guy With The Glasses also apparently had a pretty crappy childhood, what with being raped by a doctor and his parents saying he ought to "go back to the dumpster where they found him". Of course, this refers to the characters, not Doug Walker and Lindsay Ellis.
- Another Doug character, Chester A. Bum, has a vaguer past than Critic or Ask That Guy due to his brain being scattered by drugs, but has also made references to family abuse. Even logically, something had to happen to make him homeless and keep him that way for so long.
- A Very Potter Sequel has both Harry and Draco.
"I was in the car with my parents when we crashed. Into a crocodile. My parents got eaten but then the crocodile took out a knife and gave me this scar."
- Friendship Is Witchcraft has Fluttershy. Her father was kind of a douche.
- Spike also counts, with everything from having his legs broken to HOLDING UP A LIGHTNING ROD DURING A STORM.
- Pinkie Pie didn't have one by her own admission.
Didn't you already have a childhood?
- From Yukari Is Free, Tardboy was apparently locked in a cage by his mother and led around on a leash.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series has turned Kaiba's childhood into an example of this.
"Whip him until his name is Toby!"
- American Dad: To some degree, Stan (mostly over-the-top Booby Traps to shut up Haylee's protests). Stan's father Jack was neglectful to a similar extreme.
Jeff: Were you close to your dad?
- And in "Joint Custody", Jeff's dad frames him for a drug run and then tries to collect the bounty.
- This is a huge part of the humor of Moral Orel, for the first two seasons. After that, it quickly stops being funny.
- Daria: According to "The Daria Hunter," Mr. DeMartino had one of these. He had a single mother who sent him to live with his neighbors (who were "strange, twisted" people and most likely subjected him to all kinds of horrors that turned him into the man he is today) because she didn't want her dates to know she had a son. He also was sent to military school (just like Daria's father, Jake, who also had a hilariously abusive childhood of his own at the hands of his dad, Mad Dog Morgendorffer), and one of his buddies married his mom.
- In South Park, Butters. His parents ground, beat and berate him constantly, his mother went crazy and attempted to drown him in a lake, his parents attempt to sell him to Paris Hilton, Cartman convinces him the world is ending and he lives in a bunker and a junkyard for several weeks, he gets committed to a mental asylum and anally probed by a machine for eight straight hours... the creators ended up having to put a moratorium on torturing Butters because it was just becoming too much.
"Butters... why there is Hamburger Helper in my glass of milk?"
- Ironically, "Jared has Aides," an episode whose entire plot is about what is and isn't too offensive to joke about, is rarely shown in reruns because people found the ending (where Butters is physically beaten offscreen) to be horrifying.
- Butters has also been sexually abused by his Uncle Bud. When an investigator shows the things that pedophiles do to children, he licks the doll's crotch and Butters tells him that his Uncle Bud does that to him.
- The abuse of other children is implied as well. Cartman, for example, wakes from a dream shouting "No, Uncle Jesse, no!" (though that could have been a reference to Full House). However, Father Maxi is the only priest shown in the South Park universe who doesn't molest children, preferring carnal relations with temptresses his age.
- Shelley's abuse of Stan is also played for laughs, as is the fact that his parents refuse to believe him, regardless of how many bruises he has or how much he asks for help. Only once did they attempt to defend him ("Over-Logging"), but Shelley went right back to abusing Stan halfway through the episode without Randy, Sharon, or their grandfather caring.
- Kyle is also subjected to emotional abuse at the hands of his controlling mother.
- "Noo.. don't kick da baby..." "Kick the baby!" "Don't kick da goddamn baby" "Kick the baby!"
- Ironically, one of the few major characters who never suffers child abuse (except maybe neglect) at home is Kenny McCormick, whose parents are abusive alcoholic rednecks. Which is just as well, because the poor kid gets into a whole heap of predicaments just the same.
- Mr. Garrison feels that he had a traumatic childhood because his father didn't sexually abuse him, and to Garrison, this meant that his father didn't love him. Mr. Mackey, the guidance counselor, says that the only way to save his son's life is for the elder Garrison to have sex with him, and he finally hires Kenny G to pretend to be him and sleep with the younger Garrison.
- The Simpsons: Whenever Homer thinks back to his childhood it always is to his father putting him down.
Homer Simpson: Now son, on your first day of school, I'd like to pass on the words of advice my father gave me...
- Another Homer flashback, when his mother encourages 7-year old Homer's impersonation of JFK after seeing him on the news.
Flashback Abe: You, President? This is the greatest country in the world. We've got a whole system set up to prevent people like you from ever becoming president. Quit your daydreaming, melonhead!
- Homer repeatedly strangles Bart for humour. In one instance, while standing in front of a billboard saying "Report Child Abuse."
- Lampshaded in the fake making-of episode Behind the Laughter, where the "real" Homer tells how he strangled the "real" Bart for the first time and everyone in the room thought it was funny. "[T]hat horrible act of child abuse became one of our most beloved running gags." Possibly a Shout-Out to the Three Stooges, who came up with the eye-poke gag when one of them did it to a cheater in a card game.
- Subverted in the recent "Holidays of Future Passed" episode in a conversation between Lisa and Marge where it's revealed "Homer's Law" makes it illegal to strangle any child for any reason.
- Lisa can also feel the effects of Homer's parenting, even though she seems to be the favourite over Bart.
- In Phineas and Ferb, Dr. Doofenshmirtz frequently uses his ludicrously traumatic childhood as a Freudian Excuse for his evil scheme of the day.
- His mother liked his brother better, his father preferred the dog, he had to wear dresses for a year because his parents were expecting a girl when his younger brother was born, he wasn't allowed to go swimming in public pools, he had to pretend to be a lawn gnome after theirs was repossessed -- "you remember that backstory"—at one point his family disowned him and he was being raised by ocelots...
- The page quote references an early episode when Doofenshmirtz says that neither of his parents even bothered to be there when he was born, taking the abusive, neglectful childhood to Beyond the Impossible levels.
- Carl's continued adult life as a Butt Monkey to his Aqua Teen Hunger Force neighbors is shown to have been bred in him quite early, as the few glimpses we are given into his childhood include his father making him eat carpet squares ("That's berber!") and putting him to work as a child in a dangerous chemical factory for days at a time. Of course, Aqua Teen plays everything for comedy, and this wouldn't even make the top FIFTY most disturbing things they've joked about on that show.
- Metalocalypse: any time Toki's childhood is shown in flashback, it involves his getting struck, whipped, and otherwise abused by his frighteningly somber parents.
- Other band members don't fare much better. Pickles was always overlooked in favour of his loser brother, and his father even told him that he "belongs in a trash can". Skwisgaar was messed up by a promiscuous and neglectful mother and a lack of a father figure. Murderface's father killed his mother and himself with a chainsaw in front of baby Murderface.
- In utter contrast to his bandmates, Nathan has a fantastic relation with his dad, and is shown fishing, go-karting and playing scrabble with him.
- Other band members don't fare much better. Pickles was always overlooked in favour of his loser brother, and his father even told him that he "belongs in a trash can". Skwisgaar was messed up by a promiscuous and neglectful mother and a lack of a father figure. Murderface's father killed his mother and himself with a chainsaw in front of baby Murderface.
Nathan: I f***ing love my dad!
- Gorillaz bassist Murdoc was, according to Rise of the Ogre, forced by his father to participate in talent contests for money. The incident portrayed in the book involved him in costume as Pinocchio, complete with fake nose, singing "I've Got No Strings." "The prize? £2.50." Murdoc also claims to have hit puberty at age eight and lost his virginity to a dinner lady at age nine "And I've been in a bad mood ever since," though given that this is Murdoc it's not unlikely that he's making that up.
- Helga's home life in Hey Arnold!! was alternately Played for Laughs (as in this trope) and Played for Drama (especially in "Helga on the Couch"). Her father is controlling and uncaring, and her mother is scatterbrained, lazy, seems to have the will to live sucked out of her, and is most likely an alcoholic due to her love of "smoothies" that contain ingredients commonly found in alcoholic cocktails (such as tabasco sauce and celery sticks). Anytime her beautiful and successful sister (who may have problems of her own, but is so much of a Stepford Smiler, she represses them) shows up, she's overlooked for her.
- Rusty Venture's boyhood on The Venture Brothers manages to teeter on the edge of being serious and morbidly funny. He was constantly being kidnapped and his father used him as little more then a prop to make himself look good, plus the issues this left him with are what made him the morally-bankrupt mad scientist he is today. But given the laughs we get from the show already, seeing Jonas Venture drunkenly fall on top of Rusty while trying to score with this woman he just met is darkly hilarious. Likely this had something to do with his relationship with twin brother Jonas Jr., who did not go through any of this (having been swallowed as a fetus by Rusty and made his way out as an adult) and is every bit the Smug Super that Jonas Sr. was.
- But of course Rusty's traumatic childhood is just the Freudian Excuse he has for treating his own sons so poorly and placing them in many of the same life-threatening situations he himself experienced. Apart from the constant danger and kidnappings they experience, the boys also have a very impoverished home life and no friends thanks mostly to being homeschooled in a box their pop made (and it sometimes gets very hot in the box that pop made). The most telling peice of evidence comes from the episode Powerless in the Face of Death when Rusty and Brock jovially recount all of the ways the boys have died. The hilarity of child abuse gets a wonderful 'metaphoric' representation midway through this montage when we see Dr. Venture as a werewolf kill his own kids and we all laugh.
- Every Maori or Pacific Islander in Bro Town basically. The cops don't even care.
- Chuck Jones' Looney Tunes "Three Bears" series basically consists of the short, perpetually furious father smacking his giant half-wit son - who, to be fair, unintentionally inflicts plenty of pain on his dad. At one point, dad lies unconscious and Junior takes hold of his lifeless fist and punches himself with it.
- Whenever we get a flashback to Fry's parents in Futurama, they are usually shown being ludicrously neglectful towards their son. In "The Cryonic Woman", we even learn that when Fry went missing due to being frozen, his parents didn't even want the police investigating the case due to them believing it would be a waste of taxpayers' money. However, in "Bender's Big Score", Fry went back in time and reunited with his parents, in whose perspective he didn't stay absent long enough to justify calling the authorities.
- They apparently kept him out of school for the same reason.
Leela: Now, bees communicate by dancing.
- Similarly, Leela on her time at the Orphanage of Fear:
Leela: Just like old times. Gosh. The bars on the windows seemed so much thicker back then. Mr. Vogel? Remember me?
- Every single child from the Cookieville Minimum-Security Orphanarium gets one.
- Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks was abused both physically and verbally for most of his childhood; according to him when his parents found him as a doorstep baby his father stepped on him, he beat him almost every single day for even the silliest reasons, and he threw him out of the house at a young age to fend for himself along the way he plowed his face through a fence, made him step in a bear trap, and smashed his face into a pole, deforming him.
Huey: That's, like... Academy Award-nominated sad.
- The entire childhood of Timmy Turner can to be considered to this way. Especially as that is why children get Fairy Godparent assigned to them in the first place.
- According to Pinkie Pie of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, she grew up on a rock farm. A rock farm, where she and her family worked all day moving rocks around for no particular reason — some of which were about the same size as Pinkie herself at the time. Abuse didn't seem to be the intention, but the effect was about as soul-crushing as you'd expect.
- Archer definitely received one of these from Malory. It's always played for laughs... but since this is a show that plays miscarriages and cancer for laughs, that's not really surprising.
- So why is he holding a flail?