Refuge in Vulgarity

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Steve: "We don't work blue, that's the lazy man's comedy."

This is the belief that being vulgar is automatically funny. Of course, vulgarity can be funny to some people if it's played right, but even some of those people don't find it intrinsically funny. This trope seems to have originated from writers trying to imitate successful vulgar comedies without understanding what made them funny. In other words, it's a form of humor where saying "Buttsex peeing wanker poopie" is considered to be a typical joke.

Tropes that often, but not always, fall under this:

The difference between Refuge in Vulgarity and Crosses the Line Twice is in the 'punchline', so to speak. In Crossing the Line Twice, a man farts, which in turn flares up a candle and burns down the building. In Refuge in Vulgarity, a man farts, and then soils himself on top of that.

If there's something that involves all Seven Dirty Words, and even some that aren't on that list, it's a safe bet that the results tend to be this trope.

One way to "overcome" the lack of laughs is to use this trope as an "excuse" for Fan Service. Then no one will care if it's funny, though the film will be basically big-screen porn. This technique seems to have been particularly popular in the teen films of The Eighties.

Note to writers: a Double Entendre is usually funnier when you don't go and explain the dirty meaning.

Obviously, identifying when this trope is in play can get very subjective.

Examples of Refuge in Vulgarity include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books


  • This is the whole point of Pink Flamingos, a movie that is still untoppable in its offensiveness a half-century after it was made.
  • Problem Child 2 had a lot of crude humor compared to the first.
  • The Scary Movie films are often criticized for relying far too heavily on this (the least vulgar is the third, which even tries to do so by focusing more on nonsense and slapstick). Date Movie (starting Seltzer and Friedberg's directorial "careers") is said to be even worse. And then there's Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans, and Disaster Movie...
    • As The Agony Booth recap of Epic Movie read: "It's disgusting. Just because you have a length of tubing, a pump, and 15 gallons of Quaker Oats doesn't mean you have to create a scene around it."
  • Your Highness takes this trope to the extreme. It's a so-called comedy film that doesn't have any actual jokes, just endless vulgarity.
  • The WCW movie Ready To Rumble.
  • The entire point of John Roecker's 2006 stop-motion animated Live Freaky! Die Freaky!. For the fortunate unaware, Roecker, inspired by the prolific number of copies of Charles Manson's Helter Skelter, crafted a hilarious but utterly, utterly tasteless stop-motion animated musical comedy about the misadventures of the "Hanson cult," as read by a 31st-century post-apocalyptic nomad who believes his discovered copy of Helter Skelter is The Bible. Relevant examples include multiple ludicrously long scenes of puppet sex, a very pregnant Sharon "Hate" singing a profanity-laden song about how much she hates the environment, and more puppet sex. The Washington Post said that it was like the aforementioned Pink Flamingos, only more surreal and for an even smaller audience.
  • Several critics have described Semi-Pro as falling victim to this trope, with some of the funniest moments in the movie also being the ones that could just as easily have gotten by in a PG-13 comedy.
  • The Transformers live action movie has been accused of this, to the detriment of the story. Three words: "Sam's Happy Time." "Were you...masturbating?" (Though that particular line may have been more along the lines of Cringe Comedy.)
  • Me, Myself & Irene trots this trope out in the guise of Charlie's three "sons"—geniuses who seemingly can't speak a sentence without "muthafuckin'" showing up somewhere in it. Subverted in that the humor comes from watching them discuss particle physics or how to hotwire a helicopter while swearing a blue streak a mile wide.
    • A further example would be Jim Carrey shitting on his neighbour's lawn, or urinating all over the shower curtains due to morning glory.
    • Some of the other Farrelly Bros films can qualify, such as There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber.
  • The entirety of The Underground Comedy Movie directed by Vince Offer.
  • Much of the fun in The Rocky Horror Picture Show Audience Participation routines seems to be in shouting obscene call lines at the screen (and sometimes at other audience members).
    • Generally, though, these remarks are clever at the same time as being gratuitous. Audience lines that fall under this trope are often the mark of an inexperienced "participator".
  • The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, and how.
  • Italian tropers have the dubious luck to witness an example of this every year. The famous comedians Cristian DeSica and Massimo Boldi's "Christmas holidays" series is probably one of the grossest examples of this trope, featuring mainly naked women, explicit sex, bad words, farts and belches, and it counts dozens of movies (considered 'family movies'. God knows why). Lately, the duo split. With the result that each one of them makes a movie like this every Christmas, doubling the rate of production.
    • This could be applied to three-quarters of Italian television actually. Vulgarity is so widespread on the mainstream channels that even certain shows or cartoons that aren't particularly vulgar where they were produced (most notably the Simpsons) have numerous sexual innuendos and foul words.
  • Freddy Got Fingered. The movie's very name should tell you enough.
  • The Movie of the Saturday Night Live sketch MacGruber practically lives and breaths this trope.
  • The 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor took quite a bit of refuge in rather crude humor. One example was the constant use of the word "ass" throughout the move, most of it being used during the dinner with the Klumps, as well as Papa Klump loudly farting at the table in response to Mama Klump's suggestion of getting a colonic, and doing it up to six times (with Ernie Jr, their grandson, even managing to mimic his grandpa's farting once), with the sixth time having him leave the table apparently due to soiling his pants.
  • The Hangover had some... while the sequel is basically fueled by vulgar content (hermaphrodite prostitutes, drug dealing/smoking monkeys, cut fingers).
  • The gentlemen's club scene in Mystery Team, as well as the one immediately following it, qualifies for this.
  • The menstruation joke in Superbad.
  • Anything by spoof-director Craig Moss.


  • Lesser known Spanish book for kids / teens Los Lagartijos LOVES this. While the first one is quite vulgar, it's still readable and it eventually stops doing it. The sequel, in the other hand, cranked the vulgarity Up to Eleven and is outright Nausea Fuel Unleaded.
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies insists on making a double entendre out of the word "balls" every time it's used. This obviously gets a little wearing after the third or fourth time it occurs.

Live Action TV


  • Anti-Nowhere League's "So What?".
  • Every single holiday, a dick in a box.
    • Just about every song by The Lonely Island fits this trope. The punchline of most of the songs is that the first line or title is vulgar: "I just had sex," "Dick in a box," "Jizz in my pants," "I'm on shrooms," or every line of "Natalie's Rap".
  • Two Brazilian bands were experts in this, Raimundos (their first hit was a man expressing desire to become the seat of a bicycle; another one, achieved through "found poetry", is named "I Ejaculated On a Lever") and Mamonas Assassinas (who also had a "found poetry" song about what soap does to your pubic hair, and had one song consisting on just dirty "facts" about animals).
    • Mamonas Assassinas above-mentioned "Sabao cra cra" basically sings the praises of soap. The lyrics say that (spoilered for, ya know, explicit lyrics) soap does not do any of the following things to the hair on your balls: it does not make it roll up, it does not make it stand up, it does not make it fall out, it does not make it knot together, and most importantly, it does not make it get tangled up with the hair on your asshole.
  • Passenger of Shit, and anything associated with him, probably because it's funny.
  • Flanders and Swann lampooned this tendency back in the 50s in "P** P* B**** B** D****** "
  • Anal Cunt.
  • Wesley Willis was particularly fond of this, interestingly not only for humorous intent, but also to deal with his "mean schizophrenic demons". He basically knew he was schizophrenic and wanted to tell his demons to engage in beastiality in hopes that would make them leave him alone.
  • The only singles Eminem has released that don't have the word "fuck" in them are "Just Lose It" and "We Made You". He justifies this in "The Real Slim Shady":

"Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell his records; well I do, so fuck him and fuck you too!"

  • The entirety of Blaze Ya Dead Homie's "Nasty". Among the things referenced in the lyrics include reusing Anybody Killa's condoms, sex with chickens, swimming in a portable toilet and things that are too graphic to describe here.
  • Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.
  • GWAR has everything under the sun; gratuitous swearing, toilet humor, blasphemy and obscene violence. They also bring dead politicians and celebrities back to life to kill them again, just to keep up with the bad taste.
  • Mindless Self Indulgence. Songs like "I'm Your Problem Now," "Backmask," and "Panty Shot" are prime examples.
  • Maximum the Hormone. Have a look at their album covers and song titles some time.

Professional Wrestling

  • Virtually anything involving WWE's Attitude Era. DX's "sophomoric" antics of sexually-charged humor and foul mouths; the Rock's Ass Shove Catch Phrase ("... and stick it straight up your candy ass!"); Stone Cold Steve Austin's infamous "Vince 3:16" bit with Urine Trouble; the Divas and their "object-of-choice" on a pole and Bra and Panties matches... On the one hand, the Attitude Era had the highest ratings in WWE's existence showing Tropes Are Not Bad. On the other hand, it was this sort of attitude that lead to the simulated necrophilia of the Katie Vick angle, almost universally considered the low point of the company's writing.
  • Bastion Booger (real name Mike Shaw), who wrestled in WWE in the early 90's was meant to be this; a fat, disgusting, unwashed, smelly slob. However, he generally came across as pathetic rather than disgusting.

Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

  • To see this trope in action, go to your local comedy club. Watch stand-up comedians trying to cover up a lack of jokes with vulgarity. Get annoyed by the guy next to you laughing hysterically at every four-letter word used.
    • Reality show Beauty and the Geek featured this when the geeks were challenged to create a stand-up comedy routine. One of them try to pull this off. And failed. Miserably.
    • In France, there is exactly one comedian that does it right.[context?] Others either stay as far from vulgarity as possible, or try to imitate him and fail.
  • Eddie Murphy mentioned on Raw how offended he was that Bill Cosby, relating to Eddie how his son saw his act, basically thought that this was his whole act. See here.
  • The infamous joke known as "The Aristocrats". A classic tradition with stand-up comedians is how inhumanly disgusting you can make the joke before ending it. This of course includes the movie about it.
  • Bob Saget's stand-up career is Refuge in Vulgarity. In this case, it's also refuge from the squeaky-clean image he got doing Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos.
  • Sarah Silverman's entire schtick consists of this trope and Refuge in Audacity.
  • Dane Cook is very big on this. He'll tell maybe seven or eight jokes through an entire routine, filling in the spaces with energetic swearing.
  • Averting this trope is one of the things Brian Regan is known for, along with being clean in general. He does swear occasionally, but it's never very strong, and always for a Precision F-Strike.
  • George Carlin.
  • Andrew Dice Clay combined this with Refuge in Audacity.

Tabletop Games

  • FATAL. Even the infamous review of FATAL qualifies, and it doesn't even compare to the game. Although in the case of the review, it could be argued that it succeeds.


Web Comics

  • Almost all of Neurotically Yours, although he has a number of truly funny ones, too.
  • Penny Arcade used to do this occasionally, but it's gotten a lot less like this for the past few years.
    • Shredded Moose most certainly does. Seriously, how else do you explain the borderline porn and blatant misogyny that's even worse than Cerebus?
  • VG Cats does this a lot as well. Apparently the creator, when he can't figure out a good punchline, figures throwing bodily fluids around is the next best thing.
  • Obscure web comics on a little nothing forum you've never heard of, Garphuck and Oakfable, are built on a firm foundation of this, Refuge in Audacity, and Stylistic Suck. One could say it's a deconstruction of playing vulgarity and audacity for laughs...but it's probably not.
  • Sexy Losers. To quote the article "It was the highest scoring entry on the List Of Potentially Offensive Webcomics, having been awarded six "toilets" out of a possible five (not a typo)."
  • Oglaf first shoves Author Appeal in the readers' faces and then leaves those faces glazed with its vulgarity.

Western Animation

  • Family Guy.
  • Drawn Together sometimes falters due to this. In one episode, they meet the queen of Mexico, and she complains she is the only queen who has to go to the bathroom outside the palace. That joke was fine on its own. We didn't need to see her actually doing this. It looks as though some of the writers think Viewers are Morons when it comes to jokes appealing to five-year-olds.
    • Drawn Together loved the scatological "humour". Two words: "...with sausage!"
  • South Park does it a hell of a lot because the main characters are small children at exactly the age when small children become obsessed with vulgarity. Even if watching the children act really childish (contrasted with the TV-childish we all expect) wasn't funny, it would still be far more realistic than any other portrayal of children on TV.
    • One could say it revels in vulgarity, than takes refuge in it.
      • Also a little different from most examples on this page, as it's generally not criticised for its vulgarity, since it tends to use it to prove a point (especially these days, being a mouthpiece for its two creators to comment on current events)
  • The Ren and Stimpy Show and Rocko's Modern Life are often stereotyped as being this, even though they both are actually extremely well-written and satirical.
  • Kapitan Bomba, the Polish series with South Park-esque graphics, tells a story of a space crew defending the galaxy from aliens - many of which are genital shaped. Or like sniffing crap to the point that its used as currency. And all the planets have vulgar names. And the only tactic the heroes seem to use is a combination of Cluster F-Bomb and More Dakka. And somehow it still manages to be funny for quite a number of people (the others hate it with a passion).
    • Another Polish South Park ripoff production, Włatcy Móch, relies on very similar humor, though stronger on the Cluster F-Bomb aspect.
  • When the writers of Popetown got bored with taking Refuge in Audacity or Crossing The Line Twice, they headed straight for this trope. "I made my own paint!"
  • Robot Chicken delves into this in occasion.
  • The revived Futurama has brought this trope into play.
  • The Simpsons' has as well, to a lesser extent, but it should be noted that it was considered this back in their early days, when the Animation Age Ghetto was much stronger. To be seeing a television cartoon with "so many" jokes about swearing, sex and drugs was shocking for the audiences back then.
  • Lupo the Butcher, a short that helped launch the career of Danny "Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy" Antonucci.

Web Original

Real Life

  • Similar to stand up comedy, poetry slams. Bonus point for combining it with incredibly simplistic feminism or misogyny (or a combination of the two, not as hard as you'd think) or political opinions that'd flunk a sixth-grade civics class.
  • Ask a twelve-year-old, any twelve-year-old. The only thing a twelve-year-old finds funnier than swearing is someone getting the shit beat out of them with a lot of swearing all around.
    • And boobs. Big bouncy boobs.