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Anti-Humor is the practice of removing the expected punchline or joke from a familiar humorous situation and replacing it with something non humorous and serious. The laugh is supposed to come from subverting the audience's expectation of a punchline or humorous twist. Often this is simply done by playing the normally humorous situation straight, being literal and truthful. For example, take the following, which sets up and then subverts a Bait and Switch Comparison:

 Q: What is the difference between Senator Smith and a hippo?

A: One is a large aggressive mammal dwelling in or near bodies of water. The other is a United States Senator.

Sometimes an Anti-Joke goes a step further and creates humor out of a Mood Whiplash. An example here from Jimmy Carr:

 Q: What is worse than finding a worm in your apple?

A: Being raped.

A third broader category of anti-humor is essentially a form of Surreal Humor where the punchline is completely unrelated to the set up. Not all Surreal Humor is Anti-Humor and not all Anti-Humor is Surreal Humor. Humor can be surreal while still following a formula or having a humorous internal consistency.

 Q: How many ducks does it take to change a light bulb?

A: The defense rests.

A Super-Trope is meta-humor, like the joke found in this Irregular Web Comic.

Obviously these work best when the audience is thoroughly familiar with the standard version of the joke/humorous situation or the formula the joke/humorous situation normally follows, though this is not always necessary. Any situation where the audience is expecting humor or something light-hearted and gets something straight, dry, and/or darker in tone instead can potentially work. Formats where a humorous twist is always expected, such as in stand-up, cartoons, sitcoms, and sketch comedy, have more latitude for this sort of humor.

Anti-Humor is about intentionally avoiding a punchline. Certainly not all Anti-Humor ends up being funny, but it should be clear that the writer is trying to create humor from avoiding a punchline or humorous twist. For example, when Biff Tannen says "that's as funny as a screen door on a battleship" he's not trying for Anti-Humor, he is simply screwing up the traditional punchline.

Compare/contrast Shaggy Dog Story where the humor comes from a tediously long story being used to set up a weak punchline. Both types of humor stand traditional wisdom about humor on its head. Could be the source of humor in a Shoot the Shaggy Dog scenario. Compare Bait and Switch. Contrast So Unfunny It's Funny where the humor is unintentionally bad but so bad it's funny. Compare The Comically Serious when it's a serious character put into a humorous context.

Examples of Anti-Humor include:


  • Perhaps the best-known joke in the English language is an example: "Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side!" Few people realize it now, but it was a subversion of older iterations of the joke. Most people hear it before they are old enough to have come to expect the typical conventions of a joke (like a punch line), so the joke is simply unfunny.
  • Bill Bailey is fond of these.

 Bill Bailey:Three blokes go into a pub. One of them is a little bit stupid, and the whole scene unfolds with a tedious inevitability.

  • Andy Kaufman loved to dance on the edge between comedian and avant-garde performance artist. Some of his more infamous "routines", such as reading at length from The Great Gatsby, are anti-humor. He often got audiences laughing because they couldn't tell whether it was supposed to be funny. Andy mined Humor Dissonance for all it was worth.
  • Comedian Brian Regan reports his son had one of these.

 Q: How come dinosaurs don't talk?

A: Because they're dead.

  • Gilbert Gottfried: "David Hasselhoff walks into a bar, around 9 am every day and stays there till closing time."
  • John Thomson used to do a character called Bernard Righton who as a Politically Correct stand-up comedian whose anxiousness to avoid offense resulted in this trope.

  A Jew, A Pakistani and a Black Fella went into a nightclub. What a fine example of an integrated society.

 Mr. Praline: [placing the parrot's cage on the counter] It's dead, that's what's wrong with it.

Shopkeeper: [looks at the parrot] So it is. 'Ere's your money back and a couple of holiday vouchers.

[(audience goes wild]

Mr. Praline: [looking completely flabbergasted] Well, you can't say Thatcher hasn't changed some things.

 Q: How can you tell if there's a blonde in a group of synchronized swimmers in a swimming pool and they're all wearing bathing caps?

A: You demand they get out of the pool and remove their caps.

  • One performance by Frank Conniff before a Cinematic Titanic show contained about half a dozen fat jokes about Chris Christie ("I don't want to say Chris Christie eats large portions of food, but all of his silverware was designed by Claes Oldenburg"), followed by this gem:

 No, but seriously folks, when Chris Christie sits around the house, he really passes laws that hurt working Americans.

  • An unattributed joke found on the Internet employs this:

 See, these two penguins walked into a bar, which was really stupid, 'cause the second one should have seen it.

  • And then there's:

 A priest, a rabbi, a duck, a blonde, a man with a 12" pianist, and a piece of string all walk into a bar together. The bartender looks up and says, "What is this? Some kind of joke?"

  • Eddie Izzard subverts a cliched expression, with this effect.

 Let's talk about language. Cause yeah, they do say that Britain and America are two countries separated by the Atlantic ocean. And it's true.

  • There's also this old joke:

 A: Knock, knock.

B: Who's there?

A: (silence)

  • The whole premise of Broken Jokes, as popularized by Richard Ford:

 "My dog has no nose."

"Your dog has no nose?"

"Nope, no nose."

"How does he smell?"

"He can't; he has no nose!"

    • And:

 "Waiter! What's this fly doing in my soup?"

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry, sir!"

    • Oh, just one more:

 So this policeman comes upon this guy on his hands and knees under a streetlight, fumbling around on the ground. "What's the matter?" says the policeman. "I'm looking for my keys," says the guy. "Is this where you dropped them?" asks the policeman, and the guy replies, "Yes".

  • Rowan Atkinson at The Secret Policeman's Ball did an entire skit posing as a schoolmaster taking the register, utterly stonefaced and serious. Despite not containing a single joke, it was riotously funny.
  • And there's always:

 What's green, has four legs and could kill you if it fell out of a tree?

A pool table.

Comic Books

  • Rorschach's hyperminimal recitation of an old groaner veers into this:

 I heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor... I am Pagliacci." Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.


  "What do you call a guy with cheese on his face? The cheese face!"


  • In his book The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman lists a couple cursed jokes. These are jokes with a setup, but a mundane punch line.

  A priest, a rabbi, and a nonreligious person are flying across the Atlantic Ocean, all for different reasons. There is engine trouble, and one of the wings catches on fire. The plane starts to go down. Luckily, there are enough parachutes for everyone. Evacuation is orderly. End of joke.

Live-Action TV

  • Occurs early on in the Father Ted Christmas special when Ted finds a baby left on the parish doorstep. Before Ted can bring the baby in the mother appears, takes the baby from his hands, and heads off to leave the infant with someone else. Ted muses on the hilarious hi-jinks the priests and the baby would have gotten up to, but stops when Dougal reminds him it wouldn't be funny.
  • Toward the end of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "The Hellcats", as the biker gang confronts the even-badder-guys on a pier, Joel subverts an old joke into a Stealth Pun in this way.

 Joel: You know guys, this kinda reminds me -- I've been on a seafood diet lately.

Servo: Eh, really?

Joel: Yeah, I'm eating a lot of fish and shrimp and stuff like that.

(The averted punchline is "I see food, I eat it.")

 Dr. Lola Spratt (prepping a little girl for a shot with needle, swab and everything): Okay, you're going to feel just a little pinch here ...(she pinches the little girl)

Little Girl: Ow!


  • One song of Italian band Elio e le Storie Tese was entirely based on this kind of humour. First of all, the jokes were more than deadpan, since they were told by a vocal synthesizer. Then, among the "normal" jokes, it featured gems such as: "An Englishman, a Frenchman and a German are on a plane. The plane crashes and they die".
  • In the "Talk Like a Pirate Day" song, there's an interlude

 Q: Did you hear about the new pirate movie?

A: No, what's it rated?

Q: PG 13. They want to appeal to younger audiences, and pirates are really popular with that age group.


 Q: How many dull people does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: One.

  • One episode of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue featured a round of Closed Quotes (the panellists get the start of a quote and have to finish it) where the quotes came from Christmas crackers.

 Humph: Why didn't the skeleton go to the disco?

Graeme: Because he was dead.

Web Animation

  • An episode of Smashtasm had the two villains speaking with each other. When one remarks that it's time to get serious, the other one says something along the lines of:

 Gront: Now I am serious. This is my serious voice. I'm so serious, even the jokes I tell are serious. How many blondes does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One, because jokes based on gender and hair color are sexist and wrong.


Web Original

 Yami: Wait a minute, did you just summon a bunch of monsters in one turn? That's against the rules, isn't it?

Kaiba: Actually, there are several situations in which summoning multiple monsters at once can be considered totally legal in this game.

Yami:...That...that wasn't very funny.

Kaiba: Why would it be funny? I'm just trying to explain how to play.

Yami: This is all kinds of wrong!

  • The Lazer Collection: The first skit of Part 2 is simply a guy eating a red pepper.
  • Asdfmovie: The "Pointless Button" skit.
  • Rage Quit is a weekly segment by Rooster Teeth where Michael, a gamer with a very short temper and vocal personality, expresses his... well, you can guess. When he played the game Rage he was serene and polite for the entire video.
  • Anti-Joke. This is the whole point of this site.

Western Animation

  • In one Simpsons episode, Homer throws Mr. Burns off a balcony into a crowd of people. Burns is promptly crowd surfed before being shoved into an idling taxi. Homer thinks this looks like fun, jumps off the balcony, and ... is crowd surfed as well, suffering no humorous injuries of any kind.
    • There are a lot of examples of this kind of thing in The Simpsons; for instance the scene where Homer says "A think tank, eh?", and we see into his imagination ... which shows a perfectly accurate portrayal of a think tank.

 Homer: What? I'm not allowed to get one right?

    • Another one: Homer squirts way too much lighter fluid onto a barbeque, to the point it becomes an Overly Long Gag. He sets it alight... and it works perfectly.
      • This is, of course, a throwback to an early episode where he does the same, which results in a huge mushroom cloud over the city.
  • Cartoon Planet thrived on this kind of humor.
  • Kevin Spencer once told a joke like this:

 Q: What's the difference between a hooker and a mop?

A: A mop never points at you and laughs and make you feel so dirty inside that you're sure your soul is crying. And then you lie awake at night in a sea of tears, praying for the blackness of your heart to wash over you and obliterate obliterate the cruel world around you, as you long for the welcome imbrace of death to release you from the undending torment of your meaningless and cruel existence.

  • In one episode of King of the Hill Bill began singing "Puff the Magic Dragon". Hank, embarrassed and annoyed says "Bill, do you know what that song is about? It's about a dragon. We're grown men." The anti-humor is a subversion of the expected punchline, where you expect Hank to repeat the urban legend that the song is about marijuana. Instead, Hank correctly identifies the subject of the song (it is literally about a little boy and a dragon).

Video Games

  • Kingdom of Loathing features this, on the description of the plush hamsterpus: "Why did the hamster cross with the octopus? Why, to serve as a sobering reminder of the consequences of hubris in the face of an uncaring universe, that's why!"

Two polar bears are sitting in a bathtub. The first one says, "Hey, pass the soap." And the other replies, "No soap, radio!" Ha ha ha ha ha!

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