So Unfunny It's Funny

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I can't tell if this is the world's worst joke or the world's best riddle.
—From this article from

There's nothing like a good joke. And the humor these folks are known for is nothing like a good joke.

This sort of character or show has jokes that are so bad, and whose sense of humor is so trite, corny, and childish that - paradoxically - you can't help but laugh at it. Usually includes some examples of Don't Explain the Joke.

Often, this will be Played for Laughs when a show includes a wisecracking character whose jokes always fit this trope, or a horrible comedy as a Show Within a Show. In these cases, it's a form of Stylistic Suck.

However, when an entire show fits this trope, it's probably unintentional. Note that this is rare; it's said that while most genres, badly done, become comedies; bad drama, bad sci-fi, bad horror, etc can all become Snark Bait, but a bad comedy by definition fails at being funny. Failing so hard you succeed is a rare gift. A common variety is to have something overloaded with so many bad funnies at the end you are laughing for some reason.

Closely related to (and often a component of) So Bad It's Good. Often related to Cannot Tell a Joke. Not to be confused with The Comically Serious (formerly known as "The Unfunny"). Sort of like Crosses the Line Twice, only with (lack of) humor instead of offensiveness.

No real life examples, please; this is an Audience Reaction trope, and as far as we know, Real Life does not have an audience.

Examples of So Unfunny It's Funny include:

Anime and Manga

  • King Kai from Dragon Ball Z IS this trope. Not one of his jokes is legitimately funny, and that's the joke. One joke in the English dub of Kai, however ("They should call him SLOW-KU!") is VERY funny if you read it as a dig at the original DBZ's notoriously slow pace.

Fan Works


  • A famous case is The Lion King, where this is the main appeal of Timon's character. His jokes are so lame you can't help but chuckle- this was intentional of course. Hakuna Matata has this:

"What's eating you, kid?" "Nothing, he's at the top of the food chain! Hahaha!!! The food chain, ha ha ha ha... (realizes his joke has failed)"

    • Later in the same scene

"What's a motto?" "Nothing, what's a motto with you?"


"I didn't know the Salvation Army was having a sale *laughs* am I right? Am I right? Look at these guys."
"Hey, where would you get those clothes... at the toilet... store?"


Dug: Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says "I forgot to store acorns for winter and now I am dead." Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead.


Game Show


  • Jack Aubrey in the Master and Commander series makes a lot of terrible puns, and often gets them wrong since he's an inveterate Malaproper, but he delights so much in his own jokes that it's hard not to laugh with him.
  • "Jokes that have never produced laughter" from The Areas of My Expertise. It's even better on the audiobook, where you hear Paul Rudd read them.
  • Granny Weatherwax's attempts to tell jokes in the Discworld series.

"So he said 'Get me an alligator sandwich -- and make it quick!'"


Live-Action TV

  • Sarah Silverman on The Sarah Silverman Program. She puts a crying baby on a branch outside during her baby shower so she can deliver the punchline to her joke about how she lost a pair of chopsticks: "I'm like, 'Silver-WHERE?'"
  • Fozzie Bear from The Muppet Show is a Reconstruction of this trope. According to the First Season Muppet Show commentary, Fozzie was originally just a bad comedian, and they switched to the use of this trope midseason. A comedian whose material is invariably unfunny: kinda sad. A comedian who, without realizing it, dissects how to be invariably unfunny: hysterical.
  • On How I Met Your Mother Ted seems to enjoy Incredibly Lame Puns, explaining that it's because they're so bad that they're funny. Much of the group's "wit" is this, as well.
  • An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation had Data trying to figure out the whole "sense of humor" thing. Watching him wandering around spouting canned jokes at the crew and their awkward reactions is funny in its own right.
  • Garth Marenghi's Darkplace turns this, and They Plotted a Perfectly Good Waste in general, into an art form.
  • Mad TV had the recurring character of Luann Lockhart, the worst stand up comedian in the world. Cannot Tell a Joke taken Up to Eleven.
  • Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update also has Nicholas Fehn, a topical comedian whose jokes basically consist of him not being able to finish a sentence, which results in the jokes sounding (intentionally) long-winded and convoluted.
  • The Sopranos has at least two episodes where a terrible, terrible stand up comedian shows up and performs one of the worst routines in the world. No one in the show finds him amusing at all, but the overall scene usually ends up being pretty hilarious.
  • Most of Michael Scott's jokes in the U.S version of The Office are either this, Cringe Comedy, or both.
  • Armando Iannucci in The Armando Iannucci Show. One episode has him tell a joke - "What's big and small at the same time? A really big egg." He then makes a Power Point presentation version of the joke about the dog having no nose.
  • A great deal of this appears on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, tying into the general Anti-Humor theme of the show.
  • A sketch from A Bit of Fry and Laurie has a "blooper reel" of an Open University broadcast where a professor says .567359 when he meant .567395 - he, his camera man, and the presenter of the clip all treat this as both screamingly funny and horrendously embarrassing.
  • Britta on Community gets the biggest laughs when she is being accidentally Adorkable.
  • Robbie Ray's puns on Hannah Montana, a fact which is usually lampshaded by Miley or Jackson.
  • This is what Doctor Blake Down does on Childrens Hospital. Despite being a Patch Adams expy, he is completely unfunny, cannot tell a joke and his entrance is often accompanied to the screams of terrified children. And it's hilarious.

(tries to cure a young girl with a limerick)
Blake Downs: There once was a man from Nantucket, whose penis was so abnormally large he could hold it in his mouth. (pause) Wow, nothing.


"You might know my older brother... Steve."


New Media

Newspaper Comics

  • Most of Micheal Caesar's jokes in The Boondocks comic fit this trope.


  • Deadpan Snarker radio satirists Bob and Ray often pursued aggressively unfunny material to its logical limit and beyond, as a way of "seeing what [they] could get away with." Notable examples include the fifteen-minute, multi-show "Bulgarian Cream Pie" bit and an instance of a grouchy Bob Elliott playing intentionally annoying music because he had to broadcast alone on Christmas Day.

Stand Up Comedy

  • Neil Hamburger has spent his career pretending to be what may be the world's worst comedian.
  • The comedian Edward Aczel pretty much does a show in character as a terrible comedian.
  • Chris Rock has made fun of Dead Horse Tropes in black comedy by taking on stereotypical "terrible black comedian" characters in his shows and books.
  • Andy Kaufman had this as his primary shtick. First he would do a bunch of terrible impressions ("And now, my impression of American President Jimmy Carter. I am American President Jimmy Carter. Thank you.") until people got so upset that they started walking out, and then he would launch into what was considered one of the best Elvis Presley impressions of all time (when he was alive, Elvis himself stated that it was his favorite).
  • Norm MacDonald's bit on the roast of Bob Saget consisted of nothing but terrible, terrible jokes. The audience didn't like it, but all the comedians there were dying.

Norm: There are times when Bob has something on his mind...when he wears a hat! No thoughts, just a hat.
Norm: Bob, you have lot of well-wishers here tonight, and a lot of them would like to throw you down one...a well. They wanna murder a well. Which seems a bit harsh. But that's what it says here on this cue card.

    • For some of the audience, at least, the deliberately-terrible jokes didn't get funny until Norm started explaining them, as in the above examples (the ones from the first half of the act were simply read off the cue cards, followed by an awkward pause, followed by the next joke).
  • The Smothers Brothers attempt to be the most dysfunctional folk singers ever.
  • Jay London (who competed on Last Comic Standing) has an act of half horrible one-liners; half apologizing. ("I work at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'm in the "Beyond" department. I'm sorry. It's almost over.")
  • From the Philippines, good ol' fashioned Andrew E. His movies are laugh-inducing, yes. But the jokes used, no, the more you think about them.
    • For an example, in his movie Rubberman, he, as the titular "super-hero", sees a girl crying over a cat stuck on a tree (pretty standard fare for your average hero). When he does save the cat, upon giving it to the girl, we get this very illogical exchange (translated for your convenience):

Girl: Rubberman, I'm sorry, but I do not own this cat.
Rubberman: If that is not your cat, then why are you crying?
Girl: I was crying because I feel pity over it.

  • This has been parodied on the aftermath of Pretzel Guy's seemingly disturbing entrance into the orange M&M on the M&M's Pretzel minisite, where he is a stand-up comedian who is sick of being inside a chocolate candy, and his jokes are intentionally unfunny, yet they can be jeered or cheered.

Pretzel Guy: You people laugh at anything.

  • This is arguably Tom Green's schtick. Well, at least for "The Bum Bum Song". It's so incredibly stupid it's hilarious.
  • Mitch Hedberg was a notoriously casual performer, mixing in half-finished and unfunny jokes right beside legitimately brilliant and hilarious one-liners. The juxtaposition made the bad ones even funnier.

"I have a sweet tooth *scattered laughter* I think I messed something up with that last joke. I apologize."

    • Mitch invoked this trope in one of his CDs. After telling a terrible joke, he informed the audience that he was going to take a sound clip of them laughing at one of his better jokes and insert it at the end of the bad joke, so that people would be wondering what was wrong with the audience.
  • A German comedian on Evening At The Improv once started his act this way (before moving on to a more earnest performance):

(paraphrasing): We Germans have a reputation for being too strict and orderly to be funny. Tonight, I hope to prove that wrong. *beat* Joke number one: ...

  • Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric takes this Up to Eleven to the point that most audiences don't know whether they should laugh. He purposefully messes up his jokes and reads from notecards.

"And the woman behind- the bitch behind the counter says, 'No, is Pepsi okay?' and I say, 'No! If I had wanted Coke- if I had wanted Coke- I mean, Pepsi, I would have ordered one! Thank you.'"



  • Harry in The Time of Your Life wants to be a great comedian, but nobody laughs at his comic monologues.

Video Games

  • Ernie Steele of Backyard Sports. Uses many examples of Don't Explain the Joke. Somehow, he seems to realize his jokes are unfunny, unlike Joey.
  • In Ace Attorney, Moe the clown encourages Phoenix to tell a joke. Clearly put on the spot, Phoenix says "Why am I, Phoenix Wright, such a great lawyer? Because I'm Wright all the time!" Cue awkward silence.

Maya: At least his expectations are low.
Moe: I wouldn't let him quit his day job.

    • A lot of Moe's jokes fall into this as well.
  • In Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Alyx notices Combine soldiers infected by headcrabs and quips "Hmmm. A Combine zombie. That's, that's like a...ah...a Zombine! Right? Heh... Zombine, get it?" however, she quickly realizes the joke isn't funny. (Still, the name stuck, so a point in her favor.)
  • Fallout 2 has the abysmal standup comic in the Shark Lounge.

Comic: So... uh... why did the radscorpion cross the road? Cause the radscorpion... uh, it wanted to get away from the radioactive fallout particles...uh, the joke, see, since it was already a mutant, it didn't need to cross the road, so... uh...
Man in the audience: You suck!


Web Animation

  • A lot of jokes in Jerry Jackson series are like this. For an example:

(deliberate misspelling corrected) Why does Mario go in the pipes? Is it because he likes the music down there or is it so that he can trump and it will make a really funny echo sound? And then he can blow the smell out and poison all the turtles at the top. And the answer is: not there because it is a metaphorical question. Lol.




Waluigi: The third panel is the funny one. (Beat Panel)

  • Ray Smuckles of Achewood qualifies in this strip and this one.
  • Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff pretty much runs on this.
  • Steve from Daisy Owl routinely have nightmares where he is a bad stand-up comic who starts a regular observation, then draws a sensible and unfunny conclusion, and then he wakes up in fright. Many of the other strips also derives their humor from having the punchline derail or just turn into an awkward silence.

Web Original

  • The Riff Trax for the X-Men movie, around the middle, had Mike start randomly adding "o" to the end of phrases, and it culminated with him and Bill muttering "Cerebro" and "Magneto" to each other repeatedly in their best Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart impressions. It really wasn't a joke at all, but somehow ended up being the most hilarious thing of the whole Rifftrax.
  • Really Bad Jokes runs on this trope.
  • Homestar Runner: In "Halloween Fairstival", Bub's stand-up comedy routine consists of stock jokes boiled down to their absolute most generic form, and occasionally mashed up in ways that make no sense. Strong Mad is the only person who finds it funny.

Bubs: Aww, that's rich. You know something else that bears a striking resemblance to something else? Women can't drive!
Bubs: And remember, like, ten years ago? People's clothes looked funny! [Strong Mad laughs] And the music sounded terrible! [Strong Mad laughs]

- A lawyer, an IRS auditor and a venture capitalist are lost at sea in a lifeboat in the dangerous waters off the Australian coast. The boat springs a leak. They drown.
—Yo momma's so fat she has to wear large clothes.
  • The Monkeys You Ordered, a website dedicated to re-captioning New Yorker cartoons with completely literal punchlines.

Western Animation

  • Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons was attempting to be the living embodiment of this trope. One of the writers said that it was a really hard balancing act of making the jokes unfunny yet still making the character a source of comedy.
    • From the same show, Reiner Wolfcastle's attempt at stand-up comedy, where he cracks unfunny jokes and carries enough firepower to violently put down hecklers.
    • Homer's attempts at roasting Mr. Burns during the episode "Rosebud" fail in hilarious fashion. Of course, the dead puppy in the parking lot didn't help.
    • The "Spinoff Showcase" episode used this for two-thirds of its spinoffs. The sitcom parody mixed canned laughter at stupid jokes with very Black Comedy. The Variety Show parody just used very, very bad humour with subtler indications that it was entirely on purpose.
    • Characters telling jokes to a live audience regularly have their unfunny jokes met with a completely silent room except for a man coughing in the back.
    • Marge, of all people. Whenever she actually tries to crack a joke, she's always very pleased with herself, but nobody else is because her sense of humor is so incredibly bland.
  • The character Darph Bobo in Tripping the Rift is, according to its creator, Chris Moeller, supposed to be funny because he doesn't think clowns are funny at all.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, many of Sokka's weird nicknames and jokes are this. (And apparently so are his father's, according to a comment from Bato when Sokka makes one in Bato's presence.) Apparently the unfunny-is-funny effect holds true for the rest of the gAang as well as the audience, because by season 3, they have gotten so used to Sokka's particular sense of humor that they actually miss his jokes when he's off training with his master—and the replacement jokes they try to make are even more unfunny-funny (but only to the audience, not them).
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has Pungeon Master Numbuh 2, who is hilarious, to the viewer at least, because he delivers his jokes with so much hammy enthusiasm it's hard not to laugh.
  • The Brain tries to be stand up comedian in yet another Zany Scheme to Take Over the World. All he has are really complicated scientific and mathematical jokes, which bores the audience to tears. But it gets funny when he gets angry at them, wishing for their deaths using overly complicated, Rube Goldberg-esque situations.
    • He also tried this in one issue of the comics, where he did tell a pretty funny joke, but it went right over the heads of his provincial audience: "What did Euripides say when he tore his trousers?....'Where's Eumenides when I need him?'....Don't you understand?! 'You-rip-a-these'....'You-mend-a-these'?!"
    • And of course, no one can ever forget "Obey me, for I am the [hilariously violent epileptic fit] Overlord!"
    • Repugnant!
  • Stanley's corny jokes on The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan are clearly meant to be this. Though in his case the humor doesn't just come from the corniness, but from Henry's less than amused reactions.
  • SpongeBob often has this, especially in the earlier episodes. The real king is this gem:

"Why couldn't the 11-year old go to the pirate movie? It was rated Aaaarrrrrgh.

  • One episode of The Proud Family had Penny throw a party that was woefully under attended, thanks to Lasieniga also throwing a party that very night. Only the rejected guests from Lasieniga's ended up at Penny's house (with even Penny's friends abandoning her). So Trudy, wanting to cheer up Penny and entertain her guests, delivers this priceless gem: "Why did the monkey fall off the tree?" (kids ask why) "Because he was dead!" (Penny was NOT amused)


  • This is the entire premise behind Cannot Tell a Joke.
  • The most top-rated Urban Dictionary entry for anal sex.
  • Young children often don't quite get humor and try to make jokes out of random and nonsensical bits of other jokes. Hilarity Ensues.
    • There's a kid's joke going roughly "Two tomatoes cross a road, when one gets run over. The other says, 'Come on, ketchup!'". The joke works extremely well in any language because very few kids understand it's supposed to be a pun on "catch up" - they just like it because the tomato gets crushed. It actually wasn't until I heard it in English that I realized there was supposed to be a pun to begin with, not to mention having heard a dozen "variations" with other things getting run over, obviously without any possible pun or punchline. It's funny because... someone gets killed and the other is unfazed about it?
    • Sometimes, a kid tries a tried-and-proven formula for a joke, but doesn't understand how to make them funny. This troper once tried to tell a knock-knock joke as a toddler where the punchline ("pizza", apparently) had nothing to do with the rest of the joke.
    • Q: What did the guy say when he lost his tractor? A: "Where's my tractor?"
    • Q: What's brown and sticky? A: A stick.
      • That one, although butchered, meets all the technical requirements of a real joke, because it still uses the wrong meaning of the word 'sticky', i.e., like a stick. The problem is that the setup is screwed up, as that sort of joke is supposed to make you think of an 'offensive' answer and then swap out a different one, like the classic joke 'What's long and hard and full of seamen?' 'A submarine.' Without that setup, just saying 'brown and sticky', it isn't very funny at all. (And with the setup, those sort of jokes stop being funny about the time kids start telling actual dirty jokes.)
    • Swedish kids had a trend during the nineties with jokes that ended with a completely pointless and irrelevant observation as the punchline. Example: "Two moose were out flying. Suddenly one says, 'Wait, we can't fly!' The other replies, 'Don't worry, my uncle works as an accountant in Texas.'"
  • Barbershop humor just about runs on this, with comedic quartets/choruses generally deliberately using buckets of Incredibly Lame Puns and feghoots, and more corn than a farmer's field. The audience groaning loudly and laughing at the same time is often considered a successful response.
  • The entire premise of Literal Music Videos.