Shoo Out the Clowns

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"You're not going to shoot me, are you? If you do, I'll die, you know!"

"Momo, time for you to go."

Some stories manage a nice balance of silly and serious. But one of the most foreboding aspects of a series about to go a serious route for a Story Arc is the sudden ignoring of 'silly elements', comic relief and other lighter elements of a show. Sometimes they are sent off, leave of their own accord, or are even killed. Occasionally the biggest insult occurs: The writers simply stop talking about the comical elements and focus on the dramatically relevant ones.

From an objective writer's standpoint this can seem logical, if you're the sort of writer who feels squicky about needlessly endangering characters. In any case, it can be a big affront to the fans of these elements.

Part of a show's attempt to follow the First Law of Tragicomedies. Compare Cerebus Syndrome, This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself.

Examples of Shoo Out the Clowns include:

Anime and Manga

  • Cowboy Bebop‍'‍s plot sends away its playful kid and cute dog just before the show starts its dramatic swan dive in the final two episodes. Faye also spots the male host of the now-cancelled bounty hunter show out of his hammy character. This also acts as a bit of Character Development for Faye, while being rather sweet as well, as he gets nostalgic about the show.
  • Digimon Adventure introduced a lot of one-shot comic relief characters early on in the story. Then in the Dark Masters arc, many of them are brought back only to be outright killed to show that things had gotten bad in the Digital World.
    • In Digimon Xros Wars, Akari and Zenjirou are left behind in the real world while Taiki and Shoutmon return to the Digital World in episode 30.
  • Defied in One Piece: according to Word of God, he gave Luffy Rubber Man powers specifically so that, no matter how serious things got, at least one "silly" element (the rubber band snapping sound that happens when Luffy uses those powers) would be guaranteed to be in effect at pretty much all times.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's full dourness was foreshadowed by the removal of Hikari (an upbeat schoolmate), who also apparently got custody of Misato's cute mascot penguin and subsequently literally Put on a Bus. Shinji's schoolmates also are not seen again, despite one of them being in—and surprisingly, surviving (but who died in the Darker and Edgier manga) -- a fairly important episode.
  • The sudden end of the previously happy, hopeful first episode of Soukou no Strain fits this. Colin, Mary, even Sedi? Their names only lived on to be screamed out by Sara against the injustice of the world.
  • Sort of a reverse occurred in Sailor Moon. The Outer Senshi, serious characters who represent the pragmatic side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, introduced in the "dark" S season, were completely forgotten in the "goofy" and "childish" SuperS season, only to return when the series again took a darker turn in the Stars season. On the other hand, Chibi-Usa, the star of the SuperS season and one of the main sources of its childishness and goofiness, was Put on a Bus in the Stars season and was not seen again.
    • This didn't happen in the manga. They did go away but returned in time for the arc's climax. To make up for this in the anime, a mini-arc featuring the 4th arc's main villain was added to the start of Stars to give the full team of Senshi a chance to fight her. Chibi-Usa also returned for the 5th arc's climax in the manga.
  • In the fastest Shoo-out ever, the general feel of Elfen Lied is realized when the cute Dojikko gets her head cut off in the first five minutes of the first episode.
    • Like-wise with the manga, although the manga is slightly more tragic in that the Dojikko gets to have her last words in tears before getting decapitated.
    • A true shoo-out and not just a quick action start, as both the manga and anime start out lightheartedly, "Awww, she's so clumsy cute! Look at how devoted she is to her boss. Although it's a little cliche that they are being set up to become an Official Couple." Before quickly moving to "Now he's going to rush in and save her from the Big Bad and then he wi... OH! MY! GOD!"
  • The movies of Mobile Suit Gundam remove the more "Super Robot" elements of the series, such as the G-Armor.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, when Kamina dies in a blaze of glory, much of the humor is gone from the series. Kittan takes up most of the humor left, then HE dies in a blaze of glory. Nia takes some humor, but it's more because she can be pretty ditzy. Then SHE dies after marrying Simon.
  • The Cupid Day episode of Code Geass seems to be the last of the show's predominantly-comedic episodes; it ends with Shirley regaining all of her old, traumatic memories, and in the very next episode, Shirley is killed pointlessly, setting both Lelouch and Suzaku on severe revenge paths...the former blaming the Geass, the latter (falsely) blaming Lelouch.
    • It is. Lelouch abandons his student identity for good the very next episode and Ashford itself is never shown again for longer than a two minute scene or so. As for the characters that were connected with Ashford, Lelouch never physically interacts with them again and they make only small token appearances afterwards, mainly to show that they no longer have anything to do with the main plot anymore. Not quite Shooing out the Clowns but making it quite clear that the Clown's roles in the story are over. The remaining 12 episodes have little to no cheer in them.
    • A similar process occurs in Nightmare of Nunnally and Suzaku of the Counterattack, where the Ashford Academy tends to fade around halfway through the series, typically getting only a mere mention at best, and the student council members hardly appear at all.
  • Busou Renkin. The LXE arc is over, Victor is awake, Kazuki will become like him in six weeks, and a team of Alchemist Warriors lead by Captain Bravo is sent out to kill him before it happens. Time to leave behind Kazuki's school friends for the rest of the series!
  • In Excel Saga this trope is invoked deliberately, with two episodes that start with the announcement that there will be no gags and things will be a lot more serious. And boy, do they ever. This gets fully compensated though with all kinds of out-of-bounds silliness in the last episode.
  • Rideback does this in episode 10, when the mostly comedic Suzuri is killed by an act of police brutality.
  • Kiddy Grade: There is notably less fanservice as the plot becomes far more serious starting at around episode 8.
  • Index's general condition in A Certain Magical Index is usually a mood indicator. If she's on screen and unharmed, things are probably going to be okay for a while, at least until the scene shifts elsewhere. If she gets hurts or knocked out, however... An example of this is that the series gets serious immediately when Touma returns home at the end of the first episode to find her wounded, when up until then it had been mostly humorous stuff.
  • Lin's pet dog Pel from the Fist of the North Star anime vanished completely after the Souther story arc, although he was an anime-only character.
  • Gundam ZZ: The first half of the series was infamous amongst Gundam fans for being incredibly lighthearted and silly, especially when compared to the dark finale of it's previous series Zeta Gundam. However, after a certain point midway through the series, it once again picked up it's Tomino style gritty atmosphere. Fun characters Mashymre and Chara are left behind in space, then when they return late in the series, their heads have been messed with.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Tachikomas, spider tanks with the personalities of cheerful children, get sent back to the lab halfway through the season. (The In-Universe reason is that the humans of Section 9 are worried that the Tachis' emerging self-awareness will negatively impact their performance in battle.) Shortly afterwards, the hunt for the Laughing Man heats up, with several characters nearly dying. Interestingly, the Tachikomas return for the final three episodes, yet this makes the story even more grim: we find out that while they were away, all but three of the Tachikomas died. And the remaining three pull off a very touching Heroic Sacrifice to save Batou.
    • Brutaly subverted during the finale of Season 2 when the shit really hits the fan, one of the Tachikoma shyly asks Ichikawa if it could be excused for a while, because it has "something important to do with the other guys". They then hijack the server that holds their AIs and then use it to destroy a nuclear missile before it hits an urban area, killing themselves in the process. While singing childrens songs.
      • It's later strongly indicated that the Major, or even the Tachikoma themselves, were good server administrators, and kept backups at a different location.
  • In the beginning of the first episode in Prétear's two-part finale, the show's two biggest comic relief (Yayoi, Himeno's friend at school, and the long-suffering bald butler Tanaka) are shown caught up in a crowd of desperately fleeing townspeople. Tanaka even tries to get back to the family but is unable to do so. Neither are seen again until the happy ending, where all of the Running Gags in the show are given one final hurrah.
  • Trigun did this without even changing cast; though Meryl and Millie are left behind at times, that didn't necessarily foreshadow drama, which occurred as often with them present. The change was wholly in Vash's character. In the lighthearted episodes his hamminess and spastic reactions reinterpreted what might have been heroic acts into lucky buffoonery. The episodes where scariness shines off his glasses or eyes glow, Anyone Can Die. Later in the series, even when he attempts to play the fool, he's quickly overtaken by Wangst.
  • In Monster, Otto Heckel—the irreverent small-time crook who spend his days planning to profit off of Tenma's surgical skills in the black market—disappears when the series' focus on child abuse becomes too serious for Plucky Comic Relief.
  • Most characters from Gintama (even especially the main characters) seem to have the default reaction to flee before danger, leaving their comrades behind (often followed by a Taking You with Me moment), all played for the lulz of course. However, when there's a serious arc going on, that behaviour is forgotten and they strive to protect one another in battle.
  • In Bleach Ichigo's cute and funny retainer, Kon, and the other retainers convieniently disappear at the end of the 6th season when the Hueco Mundo arc begins, which not only is more serious than most of the other arcs, but also does not take place in the human world.
  • Gate Keepers recklessly crashed back and forth in between "cheerful" and "dark", finally settling on "dark" for the sequel series.
  • The Dragon Ball series has been known to switch this trope on and off like a lightswitch. Specifically, most battles from the Red Ribbon Army Saga until the end of series in Dragon Ball and most battles in Dragon Ball Z get very serious, especially after anyone that Goku has befriended or fought alongside has been killed.
  • The first few episodes of Naruto were punctuated by several silly Running Gags, including Gender Bending-induced Nose Bleeds and gastrointenstinal malfunction. These stopped getting used very quickly, and haven't shown up in years (save for one guest appearance at the beginning of Part II as a humorous callback to the early days of the series). Fillers, however, have taken those one-off gags from nearly a decade ago and are still running with them whenever some Padding is called for- making for a rather weird inter-franchise example of Never Live It Down.
  • The final episodes of Angel Beats! feature a battle with shadowy creatures which is preceded by one of the series more comical characters leaves.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does one for Force, the series' Darker and Edgier and Bloodier and Gorier season. One of the scenes shown in its preview manga is Nanoha going off to help in the latest Incident and saying goodbye to her Cheerful Child of a daughter, Vivio, who is the star of the Lighter and Softer Spin Offspring, ViVid.
  • In Afro Samurai: Resurrection, Ninja-Ninja gets completely fed up with Afro's insistence that his father has been resurrected, and storms out just before the final battle:

Ninja-Ninja: "That's IT! You an IDIOT! And this is far as I go! See ya!"

  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn anime uses this trope almost literally, having Lambo, who provides most of the humor being asleep or unconsious during the more serious battles.
    • Also, the running gags appear each time more rarely or simply stop appearing when things get serious.
    • One of the more notable examples: the most common running gag was Tsuna's uselessness, which disappears progresievely as he takes various levels in badass throughout the series
    • There is one special subversion right before the final battle. After a whole arc of drama and horrible things, there is a scene where Tsuna's box weapon is bullied by Gokudera's, hilarity ensues. Gamma then lampshades it complaining how it looks more like a school trip than the planning of a war. Reborn replies it is because of that easygoing attitude that they've been able to make it so far.
  • Sasa from Wandering Son is the ditz of the series, and was one of the recurring main characters. While she still appeared often, she appeared less once the manga hit middle school. The series did however introduce some new, and rather goofy, characters.
  • In Future GPX Cyber Formula, Kaga becomes more serious after he Took a Level in Badass in ZERO and his funny guy traits disappeared from that.
  • While the Penguins from Mawaru Penguindrum haven't disappeared, their presence is less and less noticed as the series goes into Mind Screw territory.
  • Starting in the Black and White season of Pokémon, lifetime comedy relief Team Rocket Took a Level in Badass, becoming significantly more competent and foregoing most of the puns and gloating they're known for. They also shift to more espionage and behind the scenes villainy versus ridiculous traps and grand schemes, and even give up on chasing Pikachu, making their run ins with Ash and company purely coincidental.
    • They also got rid of all of their old Pokemon, by leaving them behind at the headquarters.

Comic Books

  • The Batman comics have done this several times over the years:
    • In 1964, Bat-Mite, Ace the Bat-Hound Batwoman and the original Bat-Girl were swept under the rug when the "New Look" Batman was launched. The often-silly sci-fi adventures of the previous era also took a back seat to more straightforward detective stories. Believe it or not, the 1966 TV show was actually less silly than most of the Batman stories of the late '50s and early '60s.
    • After the 1966 Batman show went off the air, there was a considerable and sustained backlash against anything resembling its tone in the comic books. Batman returned to his roots as a "grim avenger of the night" in the '70s. Notably, Batman started working alone much more often, with Robin and Batgirl relegated to the sidelines and backup stories.
    • This trope exists for Batman in-universe as well—it's stated on more than one occasion that Batman gets meaner and angrier when he doesn't have a Robin with him, which is actually how Tim Drake became Robin to begin with (although he originally was trying to convince Dick Grayson to become Robin again).
    • The story "Urban Renewal" from Batman Black & White: Volume Three has an in-universe occurrence of this trope as its plot. Gotham's particularly bizarre-looking buildings such as a huge globe at the top of a travel bureau, or a building shaped like a giant cash register, are being taken down. One man is waxing nostalgic for these old kitschy locales, and decides to publish a coffee table book dedicated to them—and the one publisher who accepts it is Bruce Wayne, who is himself nostalgic about fighting crime atop these ridiculous buildings back in the day.
    • Neil Gaiman's story in 1989 Secret Origins Special features a retired Riddler amidst the same giant novelty objects, musing on the new Darker and Edgier world.
    • Note, however, that very little in comics ever goes completely away. All of the above-mentioned "silly" elements of Batman have been revisited over the years, albeit usually in a "modernized" way.
  • As with Batman, both Superman and Wonder Woman got the sillies cleared out of their titles in the late sixties and early seventies. In Superman's case, this meant Krypto, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the Bizarro World, Lori the mermaid, the Superman robots, etc., while for Wonder Woman it meant Bird Boy, Merboy, the Glop, the Holiday Girls, even Steve Trevor! In Superman's case, however, the housecleaning didn't "take". Fans really liked Krypto and the Bizarros, so they were brought back after only a few years, and Superman's adventures stayed pretty lighthearted right up until the Crisis on Infinite Earths, after which they became Darker and Edgier. In Wonder Woman's case, though, shooing the clowns kind of crippled the title, because virtually her entire supporting cast had been deemed silly and eliminated (Steve Trevor kept popping in and out, but the rest were just gone). In all the years since, she has never really been able to settle on a single, stable supporting cast or even setting.
    • This is a good example that 'silly' is contextual, too. Mxyzotlk is certainly out-of-place in a more serious tone, but the robot duplicates of Superman, given Kryptonian tech, could have a legitimate place in a serious tone.
  • One of the first signs of DC Comics' current Dark Age was precisely how most of their humorous characters (including some popular ones) were either killed off in horrible ways (Sue Dibney, Blue Beetle) or reinvented in Darker and Edgier forms (Fire, Martian Manhunter).
  • One of the three-panel comics of Dirkjan, a Dutch comic, is a literal version of this trope. It goes something like this: Captain Dirkjan to his men: "Men, we're pirates. It's time we get serious. From now on, no more sickbay, you just keep fighting and working. Whoever is too sick to fight is thrown overboard. Any questions?" A clown (who has been offpanel untill now) asks: "What about the clini-clowns?" (= clowns that entertain sick kids in the hospital) Of course it's much funnier in comic-form.
  • When Judge Dredd started getting darker and more serious in the late 80s, Maria and Walter the Wobot were written out. Walter eventually came back to lead a new robot rebellion, and had to be killed by Dredd.
  • At around the same time, Strontium Dog started upping the stakes with vicious villains with personal grudges against Johnny and Wulf, and main characters started dying. When this happened, the Gronk just kind of disappeared. He was finally brought back for the Grand Finale of the classic series, but his personality was almost completely inverted.
  • The Blue Harvest story arc of Star Wars: Dark Times featured H2, a droid with dark humor, whose role in the plot was generally limited to hilarious sarcastic one-liners. As with all Dark Times stories, things continuously got worse and worse for the characters, but when we learned that beloved Deadpan Snarker got shot and damaged beyond repair, we realized that things went really serious.
  • Spider-Man stops joking when the Moral Event Horizon gets crossed. In fact, he stops talking at all, leaving you to fight a faceless, voiceless being with spider powers who wants to beat you to death.
    • It's notable that the guy who can joke about anything wasn't laughing when Wolverine made some less than appropriate comments about Mary Jane. And then punched Logan through unbreakable glass.
  • X-Men; during the Mutant Massacre arc in the late 80s, Nightcrawler(a swashbuckling practical joker), Colossus(the Gentle Giant) and Kitty Pryde(The Chick) were Put on a Bus due to injuries sustained against the Marauders. Colossus returned to the team just in time for the Fall Of The Mutants arc, which ended with the world thinking the X-Men were dead, and precipitated one of the teams Darkest and Edgiest periods. Nightcrawler and Kitty went on to co-found Excalibur, the Lighter and Fluffier X-team at that time.
  • The core of Flash's comparatively irreverent and small-time Rogues Gallery dies horribly in the first pages of Underworld Unleashed. The Trickster—perhaps the most outwardly ridiculous one of all prior to this—survives and reflects bitterly on the days when he "[rigged] bombs up the butts of rubber chickens. What was I thinking all those years?" He doesn't entirely give up the rubber chickens, though.
  • Invoked in the Mad Magazine parody of Roseanne. When the kids are discussing running away, "DDT," whose unintelligible speech turns any scene into a laugh riot, tries to speak up, his sister cuts him off, telling him that this is no laughing matter.

Films -- Animation

  • The Prince of Egypt: The last time we see Those Two Bad Guys, Hotep and Huy, Ramses chases them out of the palace during "The Plagues."
  • Just before the climax of Anastasia, Rasputin's Morality Pet Bartok opts out, telling him, "You're on your own, sir! This can only end in tears!" He doesn't appear again until the happy ending. And due to good Sexual Karma, this gets him laid.
  • Kung Fu Panda inverts this for its Final Battle. What looks like the movie's climactic battle, a dark and dangerous duel in the rain that ends with a major Tear Jerker as Tai Lung crosses the Moral Event Horizon... is suddenly interrupted by Po, who appears at the top of the temple steps, doubled over and gasping for air. The sun is shining behind him, signifying that the darkness has passed and now it's time for the real final battle to begin. What follows is one of the greatest examples of how a story's climax can be both hilarious and awesome at the same time.
  • In Fern Gully, Batty gets hit with a rock during the climax, leaving Zack to have to try and stop Hexxus alone without the aid of a Plucky Comic Relief.
  • In |Toy Story 3, when the toys are about to be dumped in the garbage truck, Barbie is kept behind by Ken. Later, once they arrive at the landfill, the Little Green Men are apparently killed off by a compactor truck, though they are revealed to be alive and even save the others from certain, firey death.
  • Disney does this a lot:
    • In Aladdin, the Genie is pretty much kept to the side as Jafar and Aladdin have their final battle, due to Jafar being the Genie's master at the time.
      • Abu and Carpet and taken out of the action by Jafar's magic as well.
    • The Little Mermaid: Sebastian and Flounder are seen cowering in fear upon watching Ursula's One-Winged Angel transformation, they are not seen again until the final scene.
      • Earlier in the movie, during the storm, they are seen dragged beneath the waves and Scuttle the seagull is blown away by the wind.
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the gargoyles leave Quasimodo alone when he is mourning the apparent death of Esmeralda and are not seen again until after the battle with Frollo.
      • Earlier in the film, all of the Gypsies disappear when Quasimodo is tied to a torture wheel and splattered with fruit. Esmeralda is seen panicking inside her dressing room, and only comes out to comfort Quasimodo.
    • The Lion King does this loosely. After the scene in the cave of Pride Rock during the final battle where Pumbaa farts to save Timon and Zazu from the hyenas, these characters disappear until Scar is eaten by the hyenas and when they do come back they have no more lines for the rest of the movie.
      • Inverted in The Lion King 1 1/2, however, where the exact same scene is now seen from Timon and Pumbaa's point of view.
    • Pocahontas, Flit, Meeko and Percy stay with Grandmother Willow when Pocahontas makes up her mind and goes to confront her father and the settlers.
      • Earlier, Mother Willow separates the same characters from John Smith and Pocahontas as they share their First Kiss, only to be immediately attacked by a jealous Kocoum.
    • Beauty and the Beast, the servants stay out of the fight between Beast and Gaston, previously they were seen having their comic battles with the villagers.
    • The Jungle Book zigzags this, Baloo is knocked unconscious by Shere Khan. The vultures bug Shere Khan which buys Mowgli time to tie the burning branch to his tail.
    • Mulan actually averts it, Mushu and Cri-Kee play a decisive role in the outcome of the fight between Mulan and Shan Yu
    • During the climax of Tangled, Pascal the chameleon actually runs away and hides when Rapunzel starts to have a conflict with Gothel, and Gothel's murder of Flynn shortly afterward. He eventually comes back to kick Gothel out of the tower just right when Flynn sacrifices himself by cutting off Rapunzel's hair, but he actually doesn't do anything until after Flynn's Disney Death.
      • Actually, Pascal does try to fight Gothel, when she is dragging Rapunzel away in chains. Being a tiny chameleon, however, he can't do much, and Gothel kicks him away.
    • Near the end of Dinosaur, Eema, Baylene, Url, Plio, Suri, Yar, and Zini are all forced to stay behind in the Nesting Grounds (which they all entered via a secret passageway they accidentally discovered while they were still trapped in the cave) while Aladar immediately runs back outside to warn the rest of the Herd about Kron's idea for them to scale the ravine, and shortly afterward, the final confrontation with the Carnotaurus.
    • The Princess and the Frog had a disturbing variation of this: Toward the end of the film, Ray the firefly is crushed to death by Doctor "The Shadow Man" Facilier while trying to smash his talisman in order to turn both Tiana and Naveen back into humans.
    • Both Terk and Tantor are completely absent during the climax of Tarzan, especially when Tarzan fights Clayton and later, Kerchak's death.
    • The two moose are completely absent during the last part of Brother Bear, where Kenai's vengeful brother Denahi has him cornered due to him seeing Kenai as the bear that killed their oldest brother, Sitka. However, the moose start to reappear again when Sitka's ghost comes back to save Kenai by turning him back into a human so that both his brothers can accept their guilt, but do not do anything at all until Kenai decides to remain a bear for the rest of his life.
    • The floating bubble from The Black Cauldron actually vanishes during the scene where the Horned King unleashes the dark powers of the titular Cauldron. It does not return until the three witches use their magic to take back said Cauldron and bring Gurgi back to life.
      • This is also true with Hen-Wen the pig. The movie actually starts to get darker after she runs away from the Horned King's castle.
    • The Emperors New Groove first plays this straight when Narrator Kuzco actually stops narrating the film once we see Llama Kuzco stranded in the the middle of the South American jungle (the film's opening shot) once more, but inverts this during the climax.
    • During the scene where Bambi's mother dies, both Thumper and Flower are completely absent.
    • In Robin Hood, Little John, the Sheriff, and the villagers do play a part in the jail escape, but they are nowhere to be seen when Robin Hood escapes from Prince John's castle as it burns.
    • At the end of Sleeping Beauty, Samson the horse is actually scared off after seeing Maleficent as a dragon, and does not show up again until after she is defeated.
    • In The Sword in the Stone, Merlin is literally blown to Bermuda before the jousting tournament. He does come back when Arthur is crowned king complaining about the modern years.
  • At the end of A Bugs Life, just right before the final battle between the ants and the grasshoppers, Molt (Hopper's cowardly second-in-command and younger brother) actually tears off his exoskeleton and runs off like a coward as the opposing insects begin to fight each other. He doesn't come back until after Hopper is killed by the birds.

Films -- Live Action

  • In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke and R2-D2 go to Cloud City to rescue the others. When Luke enters a room to have a dramatic confrontation with Darth Vader, R2 gets locked out.
    • Jar Jar Binks getting his role greatly reduced throughout the Star Wars prequels is half this trope, half the response to him being The Scrappy.
  • Happens in, of all things, a world war movie, specifically Hitler's SS. When the flamboyant comedian and friend of Rohm, Putzi, gets taken off by the gestapo and winds up beaten to death, you know the Soviet's about to hit the fan. His death not only marks the turning point in the movie, but the turning point in the war, and the scramble by the two brothers to preserve everything they're going to lose no matter who wins the war.
  • This is coupled with This Is Something She's Got To Do Herself in Labyrinth, just before Sarah faces the Goblin King, when she tells the quirky friends who helped her make it that far that she has to go on alone.
  • In The Muppet Christmas Carol, Gonzo and Rizzo's comedy narrators disappear when The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows up. They even Lampshade it.
  • In Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla, Little Godzilla becomes imprisoned in a crystal cage by Spacegodzilla, and the film becomes more dramatic until Spacegodzilla is disposed of, and Little Godzilla is freed from his prison.
  • In Fight Club, Bob (who had bitch tits) was a goofy guy who came into his own in Fight Club and later Project Mayhem. When he is killed on one of their pranks, the Narrator tries to get the rest of the group to acknowledge his death - but they all completely misinterpret what he means, demonstrating that the Narrator has completely lost the group.


  • The Discworld books seem to have done this with Rincewind. He was the main character of several early books (three of the first five in fact, with a cameo in a fourth) when the series was more of a Affectionate Parody of fantasy, but as the series has moved into humorous satire of contemporary issues, he appears much less frequently. Interesting Times is a good illustration of the change in the series: while Rincewind is still the protagonist and it is still very funny, it is much darker than the early books, a fact well-represented by having Rincewind's Wide-Eyed Idealist friend from the first book, Twoflower, having his wife killed and ending up imprisoned by his country's oppressive government.
    • The last truly prominent Rincewind role was in The Last Hero. Since then, while he has had several appearances in other books, it has been strictly as a supporting character in the Wizard stories rather than a protagonist, culminating in Unseen Academicals where he has a handful of lines and no influence whatsoever on the plot. Which is arguably the way he wants it, and even then when things got out of hand, he was preparing for battle the same way he did the last time wizards fought.
      • After the epic run of Sourcery-Eric-Interesting Times-The Last Continent, his journey was essentially complete. The Last Hero was his real swansong, along with that of the Silver Horde; everything's neatly wrapped up by the end. To do anything more to the poor bugger would be brutally cruel.
      • The series has also moved on to focusing on characters that are equally silly - even Death isn't serious all the time. It's not so much ignoring the silly characters as introducing new silly characters with some different personalities to appeal to everyone.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame the death of Jehan, who had provided nearly all the comic relief in an otherwise serious story, acts as a giant 'Bad End Incoming' flag.
  • How did JK Rowling show that the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was Serious Business? By killing off Fred, one half of the series biggest Ensemble Darkhorse and Plucky Comic Relief duo.
    • Also, initially "funny" characters like Ron and Luna get Character Development which causes them to act more serious as the series winds down. Even Dobby becomes kind of serious before he's killed. Professor Trelawney, however, doesn't become more serious. During the Battle of Hogwarts, she is seen comically hitting Death Eaters with crystal balls, although she's still absent from the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort (or at least if she's there, it's not mentioned).
  • In Lloyd Alexander's The High King, the well-meaning but comically inept Prince Rhun is the first character to die, signalling the start of a substantially darker climax to the Chronicles of Prydain.

Live-Action TV

  • When Plucky Comic Relief characters Cal and Chloe die in episode 11 of 13 in murder mystery Harper's Island, it's the final sign that there will be no more funny bits.
  • Babylon 5 has Londo Mollari, a rather clownish fop at the start who becomes more and more darker and conflicted as he comes under influence of the Shadows.
  • Andromeda, when Trance stopped being purple.


Tell me why all the clowns have gone
Tell me where did they run


  • Older Than Steam: William Shakespeare knew the value of this trope.
    • Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet is the Ur-example: his Act III death sets the rest of the play's tragic events in motion.
    • The Fool in King Lear vanishes without explanation before Lear's mad scene and the death-filled Act V, though one theory is that this is merely because The Fool and Cordelia were played by the same actor in Shakespeare's own production. Another theory is that The Fool was killed off offstage: one production opened with a tableau of The Fool and Cordelia hanging side by side on a hangman's noose.
    • In Henry V, Falstaff's offscreen death puts the audience on notice: the former Prince Hal is now King Henry, and can afford no more cheap laughs.

Video Games

  • Lampshaded in Disgaea DS: During New Game+, the Prinny commentary stops during really emotional scenes, usually prefaced with something to the tune of "I'll shut up for awhile." It's back as soon as the dialogue turns goofy again.
    • Also spoofed in the second to last chapter of Disgaea 2, when Those Two Guys Hanako and Taro (who are, for the most part, just coming along because they're fangirling/fanboying the more plot-important characters) realize that they're going to need real motives if they want to stay relevant (which they, of course, fashion out of complete bullshit on the spot).
  • When Samurai Shodown III came around, SNK decided they wanted a "darker" atmosphere. This resulted in drastic redesigns for most of the characters (Large Ham Kabuki actor Senryo Kyoshiro apparently Took a Level in Badass), and the removal of the more light-hearted characters, including Gen-an, Cham Cham and her brother Tam Tam, Caffeine Nicotine, Jubei Yagyu (?!) and Charlotte. Samurai Shodown IV came around and added some of them back in, and by Samurai Shodown VI, the entire cast has been reunited.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, once you're eligible to enter the final level, you can speak to the Toad Brigade leader, who at first expresses willingness to go to the final confrontation with Bowser, but then gets a headache and says the Toad Brigade can't come after all.
    • Similarly, at the end of Super Mario Galaxy 2, the final Bowser level was actually designed in a way so that you have to get off Yoshi's (who is included in the level)'s back before the final confrontation with Bowser. It is, however, possible to fight Bowser with Yoshi, but the game just wouldn't allow you.
  • You know that Fire Emblem 7 is about to get dark when Chivalrous Pervert Sain, the closest to a comic relief, shows up less and less in-story (aside of his supports, that is).
    • This could just be explained by how the Fire Emblem series handles storytelling. Since one of the main premises of the series' gameplay is Anyone Can Die, it becomes impossible to have anyone but the main lord(s), enemy characters or NPC's take an active role in the story because those characters may or may not be alive.
    • Which is why latest games (Starting with 7, coincidentally) have realized how limiting is this and have around a half-dozen characters or more only "retreat" when defeated and stay on the baselines, injured but alive, so they can talk on plot events.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, when playing as Sonic with Tails tagging along (the default play mode), the opening scene of Wing Fortress Zone involves the biplane getting shot down, with Tails inside. Sonic has to tackle this level and Death Egg Zone all by himself. Tails reappears to pull off a Big Damn Heroes moment when it's all through.
    • Sonic 3 & Knuckles uses this to a lesser extent. Tails follows Sonic all the way through Death Egg Zone, but if you you have all the Chaos Emeralds, then Tails is left behind without any explanation at all after the final boss is defeated and we abruptly cut to The Doomsday Zone, with Super Sonic fighting Robotnik's final mecha one-on-one.
  • In the Final Fantasy VII prequel Crisis Core, the humorous Chocobo Summons will never appear in the DMV during certain dramatic boss battles (e.g., the fights with Sephiroth, Angeal, etc.)
    • Final Fantasy VII itself pulls this off to a very small extent. True, she wasn't exactly comic relief, but her demeanor often served to lighten the mood.
  • Bonus points to Final Fantasy VI for pulling this off when the former comic relief character becomes the main antagonist and final boss.
  • Final Fantasy XIII forces the party to leave the Idiot Hero Big Guy behind just before a massive government-conducted manhunt catches up with them. A few levels later, the remaining party splits in two: the serious half goes on a Suicide Mission, while both comic reliefs try to get as far away from them as possible.
    • And then one of said comic reliefs Reveals his Hidden Depths, leading to some surprisingly dramatic and Tear Jerker moments in their path.
  • Cave Story: Balrog, the humorous half of the Quirky Miniboss Squad, makes himself scarce about two-thirds into the game, just before the Climax Boss shows up. In the normal ending, the fight in the Labyrinth is the last time you ever see him; in the Golden Ending, he shows up after the defeat of the True Final Boss to pull off a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Ace Combat 5 features the Wham Level where the resident Plucky Comic Relief and Big Guy Chopper gracefully leaves the stage by performing a Heroic Sacrifice and is eventually replaced by the Captain Snow. If that isn't a clue that shit is about to get worse, nothing is.
  • Several boss fights in Kingdom Hearts II had Sora separated from Donald and Goofy. Occasionally they'd flat out disappear for no good reason whatsoever. In the original game, this was played straight at one point (when Sora fights Riku who is possesed by Ansem), but subverted later on in the final battle with Ansem, where Ansem seperates Sora from them in the first stage of the battle, but by the last stage they're back and helping out.
  • To show how much more serious Halo: Reach is than the other games, the Covenant all speak in an indecipherable language, even the formerly Comic Relief grunts, effectively making them all much scarier.
    • Not just that, but also a Continuity Nod. The Covenant forces in the very first game only had a few repeating speech sounds, with only 2 or 3 (between ALL the units) being decipherable English.
  • The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker has Tingle who via GBA link lets players make use of his help in finding extra rupees, fighting enemies with bombs, healing, and finding the Tingle Statues in dungeons, peppered with his silly sense of humor. However, come boss fight time, Tingle quickly excuses himself (with reasons such as embarrassment at meeting Aryll, or a twisted ankle) and Link is left to face the boss alone. Besides the cheapness of being able to Tingle Bomb bosses to death, Tingle would hardly fit in with scenes featuring Link slaying titanic creatures of darkness and reuniting with his sister.
    • It's the same with Hyrule, where most of the dramatic, plot-relevant things happen. However, the technical reason that the Tingle Tuner doesn't work in these areas is because it only works when the area in question has a map, which neither boss arenas nor the entirety of Hyrule have. Cleverly, it phases pretty damn well into the story justification.
  • The first trailer of Street Fighter X Tekken features Kazuya breaking into Ryu's dojo, having just gave No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to Street Fighter's Joke Character, Dan Hibiki. According to Word of God, Dan didn't survive.

Visual Novels

  • Taiga Fujimura in Fate/stay night. Whenever she suddenly stops coming over for some reason, things are going to get worse.
    • Also note that Sakura Matou gets the Unlucky Childhood Friend treatment and disappears around the same time as Taiga in the first two arcs, which is more Shoo Out The Cute than the Clowns. Then comes the Heaven's Feel scenario.
  • Arihiko in Tsukihime has a funny tendency to simply stop showing up after about the third day. In Ciel and Akiha's routes he stays slightly more important as they involve the school more.

Web Animation

  • Any season or mini-series of Red vs. Blue without Donut is going to be much more dramatic than the others.

Web Comics

  • El Goonish Shive has, for example, phased out the "anime martial arts instructor" (a character who exists almost solely for comedy, e.g. trying to go "super saiyan" in his first appearance), in favor of Nanase's mother (a character who exists solely to cause drama, e.g. criticizing Nanase for not spending every single waking hour devoted to schoolwork and then punishing her for objecting to this).
  • Happens in Questionable Content; the heavier the plotline, the less you'll see of Pintsize and Winslow.
  • The "Fire And Rain" Story Arc from Sluggy Freelance (a large peak in seriousness in the first five years of the comic) occurred in Nebraska, thousands of miles away from the usual setting, with no Talking Animals, Mad Scientists, or any of the strip's other wacky attributes. Just an insane assassin and a terrified coed. Okay, one person gets turned into a camel, but even that was treated pretty seriously by the comic's standards.
    • Years later, Kiki is similarly absent for the entirety of the bROKEN Story Arc. She appears sleeping in the background at some point and then isn't seen until after the funerals.
  • Early in Dresden Codak's "Hob" Arc, Tiny Carl Jung is invited by the Tokamak's to accompany them in seeing Kimiko's newest discovery. He declines.
  • Homestuck's author has pointed out that some of the trolls recieve more focus in the comic due to being more important to the plot, with the less important ones generally staying in the background. With the storyline becoming more serious and the stakes becoming higher, it seems somewhat telling that among these Demoted to Extra trolls are Nepeta and Gamzee, while Vriska not only is counted as an important character, but the one responsible for setting the events of the entire arc in motion.
    • Gamzee has since come roaring back into the plot, or at least the trolls' segment of it, but surprise surprise: he's shed the comic relief mantle. Though he's still hilarious in a dark sort of way.
  • Obadai seems to disappear whenever things get serious in Rumors of War. He isn't above instigating some drama himself, as a semi-Genre Savvy Trickster Mentor of sorts, but he plays a small role in the action of the story—which may be for another reason entirely. (He does display signs of Genre Savvy, after all.)
  • Bricky (a talking brick) will often disappear from The Life of Nob T. Mouse when a more serious storyline is running. The exception was when Knight of Cerebus Grandfather Time first arrived however, as Bricky played a key role in defeating the Grandfather's minions.
  • Tom Siddell typically has some humorous blurb under the strips of Gunnerkrigg Court. He always shuts up when the plot dips into genuinely somber material, especially if it involves backstory concerning Annie's late mother.

Tom: Page notes will return when the chapter stops being about dead people. Come on.

  • Throughout the darkest Penny and Aggie arc, "Missing Person," involving the investigation of a kidnapping and climaxing in attempted murder turned attempted suicide, Cloudcuckoolander Genki Girl Lisa Winklemeyer is absent with the exception of a silent and understated two-panel appearance early on.

Web Original

  • The SCP Foundation amassed quite a lot of quirky/humorous elements since its beginnings, and currently it seems most silly elements are being Retconned (as with "Chowderclef", which states that Dr. Clef was never the Crazy Awesome dude he was presented as.) See this forum thread for further explanation.
  • Survival of the Fittest, once the game is more than half-finished. At the start, there seem to be some comic relief characters, and some other stuff that seems a bit odd and out of place in such a grim situation, mostly Narmish or just good humoured. This is fixed by the second half. Once the characters remaining are dawned upon with the fact that they are the only ones left alive out of 200+ classmates, even more noticable towards the end, the comedy evaporates, and the shit does down.
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, Linkara's Conflict with "The Entity" is preceded by its slowly absorbing everyone else on earth, thus eliminating the quirky, humorous supporting characters (Ninja-Style Dancer, Harvey Finevoice, Pollo, Iron Liz) and leaving Linkara to face it alone. Interestingly, the biggest "clown" in the cast, 90s Kid, is instead possessed by the entity, so he is still at least physically present (as much as he usually is anyway; Linkara plays him), but behaving in a far from humorous manner.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has a recurring non-permanent version, as the presence of Momo is often a mood indicator, and he has a tendency to disappear when things are getting serious.
    • Subverted in "Lake Laogai", when at the start of a battle Momo flies off... only to return a few seconds later with Appa.
    • Lampshaded in the Grand Finale: before Aang fights Ozai, he says, "Momo, time for you to go." Momo coming back is a sign that it's all over.
  • Unintentionally executed in Transformers Animated by means of Executive Meddling. The first two seasons used human supervillains with various gimmicks to spread out the Decepticon appearances. Hasbro asked the staff to drop them for the third season, which was somewhat Darker and Edgier; the only one to appear is the Headmaster, who was beaten and arrested in the premiere after escaping in both his previous appearances. Even Meltdown, who had actually been a threat and was still on the loose the last time we saw him, was never heard from again.
    • This also happens on and off with the humans in Transformers Prime, and by and large the humans are back shortly afterwards. So far, they've been absent from the episodes "Partners", "Loose Cannons" with the exception of Agent Fowler (who was in serious overdrive), and "Crossfire".
  • Done in Wakfu for the climactic three final episodes of season 1. Grufon the Map Shushu is unaccounted for after episode 18, maybe sold by Ruel as he promised. Az the tofu is entrusted to Canar's care in episode 24 before Yugo join back his friends for the finale battle. The same could be argued for Sadlygrove's death in episode 25, though things were already quite serious by then.
  • When ReBoot went Darker and Edgier Megabyte didn't just shoo the goofy Hack & Slash, he tried to kill them by sending the two to the front lines and certain destruction.
  • Done in a way in Total Drama World Tour. Every single elimination in the first half of the season, barring Izzy, was from Team Victory, lighthearted and easygoing characters. Once they were gone, all that remained to get rid of was Noah. With every funny character gone (except Owen and Tyler), that made room for drama with the love triangle that took up about three episodes. Things lightened up a little after Gwen, Courtney, and Duncan were voted off though.
  • In Plankton's Army, SpongeBob SquarePants is absent from the scene where Plankton has Mr Krabs and Squidward trapped in the toilet. He reappears after Plankton and his bretheren find out about the Krabby Patty formula. This is an odd case, as the proceedings that go on without him are just as clownish.
    • Spongebob is mostly absent during "One Coarse Meal", which is considered the darkest episodes of the series.
    • And you don't know Squidward is even in the toilet until after Mr. Krabs climbs out.
  • The quirky Channel 6 staff (Burne, Irma, and Vernon) was Put on a Bus sometime during the Darker and Edgier "Red Sky" seasons of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", both Perry the Platypus and Dr. Doofenschmirtz are completely absent... until they show up at the climax for a Deus Ex Machina, where Perry shows up fighting Doof while at the same time saving the boys and Candace from the Segreant.
  • In American Dad episode "Jack's Back", both Roger and Klaus are absent when Stan argues with his father Jack and his son Steve. This is Lampshaded by Francine.