Surreal Humor

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Commence the jigglin'!

"This guy has walked out of a venue and collapsed in the middle of a public bar. His best mate who's the only doctor in the building has been picked up and carried away by security. His girlfriend has stepped over his prone body to ask me for an autograph. And now Bart Simpson is telling him to come away from the light! THAT IS SURREAL!"

Something that's so bizarre and inexplicable that it's funny. This is a strange version of Crossing the Line Twice: It takes talent (or luck) to make something so mind screwy and WTF-inducing that it makes you laugh.

Almost every comedy in history has used this at least a few times. It's usually mixed in with other Comedy Tropes, and an undercurrent of it can be felt througout many shows. However, some take it above and beyond any sense of normalcy.

There are several genres dedicated to this trope. It's the main selling point of Gag Series, surreal comedy and Dada Comics, and a main feature of Post Modern comedy. This type of humor has exploded in all forms with the rise of the internet; many memes take this form.

This trope often overlaps with So Bad It's Good, especially when a work falls into this by accident.

Sub Tropes:

Surreal Humor can be created using Bathos.

Compare Widget Series and So Bad It's Good. Contrast Surreal Horror.

Examples of Surreal Humor include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • There once was a Disney Comics series Goofy as [insert historical person here] (from Italy, I think). Mainly it was the life story of a famous man, retold as The Theme Park Version, with Goofy as Leonardo da Vinci / Marco Polo / Casanova / whomever, Mickey as his sidekick, Pete as an antagonistic character and occasionally other Disney characters too. But in between, this series often brought sheer absurd gags which weren't commented or lampshaded: A royal guard driving a unicycle, a woman wearing a fried egg on her hat, a spaghetti salesman making his noodles dance, just like a snake charmer... lots of it.


  • Cabin Fever's infamous "pancakes" scene combines this with a dash of So Bad It's Good.
    • That kid actually comes back later in the film when seen by the main character who is dying in a hospital. The kid is with a man in a bunny costume who is holding a plate full of... PANCAKES. And he has syrup in the other hand! According to the end credits, said bunnyman is played by "We'll Never Tell".
    • It's not unexpected that the fevered protagonist might be hallucinating, but it's still jarring that it's presented as such a surreal alligator moment. No visual artifacts, no other hallucinations, just a giant, quickly-glimpsed rabbit.


Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Fish

    • Of course you could put in your own surreal item. A longer punchline to the same joke is:

Q: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three. One to hold the giraffe and the other two to fill the bathtub with brightly colored power tools.

    • Or forget the lightbulb

Q: How many surrealists can you fit in a dishwasher?
A: None, doghouses don't fly. (Duh.)

    • Or a non-surrealist related one:

Q: How many ducks does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: The defense rests.


Live Action TV

  • In That Mitchell and Webb Look the "Numberwang" sketches rely on this. A gameshow that adheres to no comprehensible rules, but which appears to mostly consist of saying random numbers. And everything not related to the game itself is equally bizarre.

Host: Joining me tonight are Julie, who's from Yorkshire, and Simon, who's from a factory and made of a special metal. So, Julie, ever killed a man?
Julie: No.
Host: Simon?
Simon: Yes.
Host: Great! Let's play Wordwang!


  • The video for The Avalanches' "Frontier Psychiatrist". A geriatric hip-hop group lip-syncs to old movie clips while the lyrics are illustrated by almost everything imaginable? Oh hell yes.
  • Some works by The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band ("Doo Dah" was originally "Dada"), who appeared in the pre-Python show Do Not Adjust your Set and were cited by Eric Idle as a major influence on Python's surrealism.
    • Founder Bonzo Vivian Stanshall went on to record solo songs and comic monologues which were, if anything, even weirder.
    • Another singer/raconteur in similar vein was Scotland's Ivor Cutler.
  • Frank Zappa, when he isn't being just plain surreal.
  • Radiohead released a DVD called "The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth of All Time," which, among other things, features hilariously surreal interviews with the band members.
  • Jon Lajoie song F**k Everything gives us:

I don't even give a fuck about "not giving a fuck"
So I do give a fuck
Wait, what?
I don't give a fuck.

New Media

Stand Up Comedy

  • Swedish comedian Henrik Elmér is all about this.
  • Much of Steven Wright's classic material edges into, and sometimes stands firmly, in this territory, such as the joke about accidentally putting his car key in his house door lock, and starting it up.

Video Games

  • robotfindskitten, while allegedly being "zen", is arguably all about the bizarre, meta-referencing "non-kitten objects" you can find. Some are just plain Pythonesque. Samples include: "A livery stable! Get your livery!", "It's the horizon. Now THAT's weird.", and "Look, it's Fanny the Irishman!".

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force by its very nature (a rambling, nonsensically-titled show in which the three main characters are animated fast-food items) is built on this trope. Specific examples include the deranged Dr. Weird and his "experiments" that include demanding that his assistant chop off his head so hard that the High-Pressure Blood propels his body to Phoenix, and one episode which featured bacteria that infect Master Shake for the purpose of performing bad theater productions in his brain.
    • Most Adult Swim original programs exhibit this in varying degrees, from "wacky" to "What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?".
    • The spiritual father of these shows, Space Ghost Coast to Coast started out as campy parody but especially in the latter half of the series tilted heavily into this camp. Often, Space Ghost seems barely interested in doing his job as a talk show host and if it makes him look bad in the process, Zorak and Moltar are there to help him.
  • Adventure Time, a show about a thirteen year old boy and his best friend who is also a dog with elasticity powers fighting multiple threats to their kingdom, comprised almost entirely of talking candy, at the behest of a princess made of bubblegum, makes a living off of this kind of humor.
  • God of Chaos Discord, from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic of all things, thrives off this trope whenever he's not falling into Surreal Horror. Notable moment: he conjures a glass out of thin air, summons a cotton candy cloud raining chocolate milk, and the glass fills... from top to bottom. Then he drinks the glass. Without the milk. He tosses the chocolate milk behind him, and it explodes for no fathomable reason. See for yourself.

Real Life/Other