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Leonard: For God's sake, Sheldon, do I have to hold up a sarcasm sign every time I open my mouth?

Sheldon: You have a sarcasm sign?

A common trait among characters who have No Social Skills due to an offbeat background, also The Spock, and those who are just that Comically Serious. These characters do not understand sarcasm. Although characters like this are also often Literal Minded, some aren't. Sarcasm is tricky for someone to understand, because while "That's great," sometimes does mean that something is great, other times it doesn't. Everything depends on tone and gestures.

A Washington Post contest once named this the gap between a sarcastic speaker and the person who misses it as the "Sarchasm."

For the intermittent effect, see Sarcasm Failure. Also see No Sense of Humor, Cannot Convey Sarcasm, and Sarcasm Mode.

Examples of Sarcasm Blind include:


Anime & Manga

 Osaka: (eyes start wandering around)

Kaorin: Hey Osaka, what are you doing?

Osaka: Well, you know those little tiny spots you sometimes catch in your eyes? Well, I'm trackin' them down.

Kaorin: I see... well, good luck with that.

Osaka: Mmm, thank you.


Comedy

  • Nick Swardson talks about this after one joke. His cat had diarrhea, and when the doctor asked what he was feeding the cat, he said diarrhea. He said that an audience member actually stood up and was offended by that, and his rebuttal was that there's no way that that joke could be true.
  • Dave Barry writes about "humor-impaired" people who have this problem. He tries to remedy this issue by sprinkling the column with cues as to what's funny and what isn't, as humor-impaired people don't understand what is and isn't supposed to be a joke. He finishes the explanation with "Trust me, these people exist. They write to me all of the time."


Comics Books

  • In Battle Hymn, the King of the Sea doesn't understand ideas like figurative speech or metaphor; from what he says, they don't seem to have these underwater.
  • In Dylan Dog, Scotland Yard's agent Jenkins. Can't get humor, too.
  • In Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, when Gideon sarcastically says that Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers clearly have no problems with their relationship, a random guy points out that they were having a fight.

 Gideon: You two are adorable. I can see that your relationship is really working.

Random Guy #1: Really? Cause, I mean, it seems like they're fighting.

 Spider-Man: Don't mind me, I'm just here for the chicken wings.

Moon Knight confused: There... There are no chicken wings.


Fan Works

 Raditz: Now, disregarding the Namekian...

Goku: Nu-uh, the Yoshi.

Piccolo: I'm not a goddamn Yoshi!

Goku: But you said you were?

Piccolo: It's called Sarcasm!!

Goku: What's that taste like?

Piccolo: DAMMIT GOKU!!!

  • Death Note fanfic Xanatos gives us Linda[1], who, while not totally ignorant of it, at least needs to be told when someone is being facetious. Naturally, she interacts a lot with Matt.


Films -- Animation

 Lampy: I think he was laughing at us.

AC: You know something, you're a real bright little lamp.

Lampy: Oh thanks! (Beat) Heeeeeyy....

 Timon: Well, that worked like a dream.

Pumbaa: It did?

Timon: Sarcasm is a foreign language to you, isn't it?

 Maggie: I got it! Why don't we go nab that Alameda Slim and use the reward money to save the farm?

Mrs. Calloway: Oh, that is a sensible idea.

Maggie: I knew you'd love it!

Mrs. Calloway: Don't they have sarcasm where you come from?


Films -- Live-Action

  • A sketch in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life has an Army drill sergeant barking at his men that they're going to spend the day "marching up and down the square... that is, unless any of you got anything better to do." When the soldiers begin mentioning such things (being at home with the wife and kids, reading a book, practicing the piano), the nonplussed sergeant dismisses them.
  • Demolition Man
    • In the distant future of 2032, sarcasm apparently is a lost art. Spartan was trying to figure out a way to stop Simon Phoenix.

 Police Chief: We have figured out a plan. We are going to wait for another MurderDeathKill and then we will pounce on him.

Spartan: Good plan.

Police Chief: Thank you.

 Phoenix: Look at you, in your nice shiny uniforms... oooh, I'm SO scared... what, you people don't have sarcasm anymore?

Squad leader: Maniac has responded with a scornful remark.

  • In Roxanne, the title character accidentally locked herself out of the house, wearing only a bathrobe that got caught in the door. She goes to the fire department for help, and hides in the bushes. C.D. asks her if she'd like a coat, and she sarcastically remarks, "No, I'd really like to stand naked in this bush in the freezing cold." He goes to get his tools, and she's surprised when he returns without anything for her.

 Roxanne: Nobody had a coat?

C.D.: I thought you said you didn't want a coat.

Roxanne: Why would I not want a coat?

C.D.: You said you didn't want a coat.

Roxanne: I was being ironic.

C.D.: Oh! Irony! Oh, no, no, we don't get that here. See, people ski topless here while smoking dope, so irony's not really a high priority. We haven't had any irony here since about '83 when I was the only practitioner of it, and I stopped 'cause I was tired of being stared at.

  • C3PO from Star Wars is programmed with over 6 million forms of communication, but doesn't quite understand Han's sarcasm.

 C-3PO: Captain Solo, it would appear that this asteroid is not entirely stable.

Han: "Not entirely stable"? I'm glad you're here to tell us these things!

C-3PO: Sometimes I just don't understand human behaviors. After all, I'm only doing my job!


Literature

  • The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy
    • Ford Prefect doesn't understand sarcasm because he's an alien and they don't have it on his planet.
    • Leading to a moment in Mostly Harmless, when he responds to a huge rant about the Guide from Arthur ("I can hardly wait to find out which are the most interesting spaceports to get bored hanging around in!") with a genuinely perplexed "This is that thing you call sarcasm, isn't it?"
    • Character Development in And Another Thing:

 Arthur: I don't suppose you have a bomb-proof towel.

Ford: Sure, I have a bomb-proof towel and an antimatter pillowcase.

Arthur: Hey, sarcasm. Well done, mate, you're learning.

  • Discworld
    • Carrot Ironfoundersson, due to his upbringing by the Literal Minded dwarves. He gets better at recognizing it, even if he still doesn't really understand it. Though some wonder, in-story, if Carrot isn't as oblivious as he seems.
    • Interestingly, though Carrot has No Social Skills because he grew up at the bottom of a dwarven mine, most of the dwarfs seen in the books are a lot more savvy than himself. This is mainly because most of them are from Ankh-Morpork. Mountain dwarfs fall more definitely into this trope.
    • Sergeant Colon as well, who thinks "irony" means "sort of like iron." When he's made Captain in The Fifth Elephant, Vetinari's barbed comments just bounce straight off, no matter how blatant he tries to make them.
    • Cohen the Barbarian does understand sarcasm, in a vague sense, but he has a little more trouble with metaphor and hyperbole. Several Agatean nobles commit suicide in Interesting Times by telling him they'd rather die than see him on the throne.
  • In the X Wing Series, Runt is like this at first, being a non-human new to serving in the New Republic. He learns.
  • The Eighth Doctor, in the Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures books. He's more of a genuine Cloudcuckoolander than the Doctor usually is. Why he has one or two Deadpan Snarkers traveling with him basically at all times is something of a mystery.

 "Well. They could've been muggers, I suppose."

"I'm so, so sorry."

"Why, did you put them up to it?"

The Doctor looked at her strangely. "Of course not!"

  • Hephaestus in The Heroes of Olympus. As the god of the forge, he's not too smart dealing with organic life forms.

 Hephaestus: That was sarcasm, wasn't it? Machines don't have sarcasm, usually.

  • Bill Bryson notes this is a problem when conversing with some of his friends and neighbors, in an article in Notes From a Big Country:

 Bill: (sees his neighbor's car covered in tree branches the morning after a storm) Morning George! Camouflaging your car, I see!

George: ... No, the storm blew these branches onto my car last night and I need to clear them away.


Live-Action TV

  • On a Saturday Night Live hosted by Kevin Spacey he played the "inventor" of sarcasm. He said things like "I love this party" meaning he hated it, but no-one got it because no-one else knew of sarcasm. Until they all understood he was being ironic, became extremely hurt, and burned him at the stake.
  • The Big Bang Theory
    • Sheldon uses sarcasm himself sometimes. He doesn't always fail to understand it, but he often does.
    • Leonard even made a sarcasm sign in an early episode. And Sheldon keeps track of how many times he correctly understands sarcasm.
  • Supernatural
    • Castiel. Though as he hangs out with Dean more, he might get a handle on it.

 Castiel: [God] isn't in Heaven. He has to be somewhere.

Dean: Try New Mexico! I hear he's on a tortilla.

Castiel: (after seriously considering this) No, He's not on any flat bread.

    • Also:

 Jo: Hey, ever heard of door handles?

Castiel: (after teleporting himself out of the car) Of course I have.

    • Lately, he's become more sarcastic himself.

 Castiel: You're right. Pardon me for highlighting their crippling and dangerous empathetic response with "sarcasm."

  • A Mr. Show sketch has a man who expresses constant, venomous sarcasm... through letter writing. Given the obvious lack of cues towards his sarcasm as a result, everyone tends to take him at face value (including one poor woman who receives a "love" letter from him).
  • Dr. Temperance Brennan, title protagonist of Bones, often fails to understand sarcasm at first (if at all) and usually must use logical deduction (out loud) to detect it. Much to the bemusement of her partner.
  • Bennett Halverson, the programmer played by Summer Glau on Dollhouse, shows signs of this as part of a general Rainman vibe, as evidenced by an exchange with Adelle.

 Bennett: You used the company jet to abduct the programmer of a rival house?

Adelle: I'm certain I'll be kicking myself come holiday bonus time.

Bennett: I'm sure you'll be dead by then.

  • Virtually everyone in Blackadder except the title character takes turns at failing to understand his sarcasm, especially in the fourth series.
    • This is lampshaded once in the third series.

 Blackadder: Baldrick, do you have any idea what irony is?

Baldrick: Yeah. It's like goldey and bronzey, only it's made of iron.

  • The Brittas Empire: Mr. Gordon Brittas not only fails to understand sarcasm, but anything at all that's subtler than coming out and speaking your mind. Cue Cringe Comedy.

 Laura: You see, we were all standing outside the ambulance waving goodbye to Mr. Petrov, and Mr. Brittas was saying "Where are we going to find an internationally famous pianist in the next half hour?" and I said, "Hey kids, why don't we do the show ourselves?"

Helen: Oh, you didn't...

Laura: I just never thought.

 Cafe Proprietor: 35 p please.

Mr Pither: Ah... oh, I have only a fifty. You have change?

Cafe Proprietor: Well, I'll have a look, but I may have to go to the bank.

Mr Pither: I'm most awfully sorry.

  • In the House episode "Family Practice", the Patient of the Week is Cuddy's mother, played by Candice Bergen. After going through the usual incorrect diagnoses of what's wrong with her (her hypochondria didn't exactly help things much), House makes a blatantly sarcastic remark about how much he loves a certain famous baseball player, then asks her if he really meant what he just said. Her inability to detect his sarcasm confirms his suspicions, allowing him and his team to proceed finally in the right direction.
  • As of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Data's Day", Data can recognize sarcasm using logic, but can't quite grasp how to use it:

 Riker: (sarcastic) Charming woman.

Data's voice-over: The tone of Commander Riker's voice makes me suspect that he is not serious about finding Ambassador T'Pel charming. My experience suggests that, in fact, he may mean the exact opposite of what he says. Irony is a form of expression I have not yet been able to master.

  • In Community, Abed's inability to understand being "messed with" drives his and Troy's subplot for an episode. Lampshaded:

 Abed: Troy invented rap music, and he's related to Danny Glover, and President Obama.

Troy: Hey man, that stuff I said this morning wasn't true, I was just messing with you.

Abed: You were lying?

Troy: Yeah, as a joke. You've never had somebody mess with you before?

Abed: Yes, just kidding, no. Like that?... This isn't a table. (laughs) ... That's funny.

  • Leverage's Parker. Too many to count in every episode.
  • Subverted with Chris Trager on Parks and Recreation. Due to his extremely positive, upbeat personality, one would expect that he wouldn't understand sarcasm. He does understand and recognize sarcasm; he just ignores the sarcasm because he believes there is a kernel of truth in sarcasm.
  • The elderly Ernie "Coach" Pantusso, bartender at Cheers, made a lot of dimwit comments after taking sarcasm too literally. His future replacement Woody Boyd, a farmboy from Indiana, was probably even worse at it.
  • In an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike is put on trial for all those planets he blew up by an omnipotent alien judge. The judge offers Mike the chance to choose who he wants as the prosecutor and defense; both times he lists two famous historical figures plus one of the Mads ("Your choices are Thomas Jefferson, Clarence Darrow, and Professor Bobo.") When Mike snarks "Yeah sure, like I'd choose Bobo", the judge takes him seriously.


Music

  • In Weird Al Yankovic's 11-minute epic "Albuquerque," he mentions an incident where he saw a co-worker struggling with some heavy boxes and asked if he wanted help. The co-worker responded "No, I want you to cut off my arms and legs with a chainsaw." So he did.
    • But he's got that really cool nickname now: Torso Boy!


Newspaper Comics

  • Dilbert
    • The Pointy-Haired Boss. He's managed to recognize it maybe five times in 20 years.
    • Played with in a strip where Dilbert described his accomplishments, rattling off every management buzzword and ending with "I give you -- Dilbert -- the perfect employee."

 Boss: Was that sarcasm?

Dilbert: To be honest, I don't even know.


Video Games

  • In My Sims Kingdom, the first time you go to Cowboy Junction, Buddy asks what kind of people they'll find there. Lyndsay says that it's probably inhabited by a race of fishmen, which excites Buddy. She tells him that was sarcasm. He tells her that he's a fishman, prompting a "Really?" from her. He takes that to mean that he fooled her "with a sarcasm."
  • Mical the Disciple in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. When the player character receives a request to meet a shady character, alone, Atton Rand snarks, "Well, at least we know it isn't a trap," to which Mical earnestly replies, "No, Atton, I think it may be a trap!" Since her and Mical are an either/or pair, The Handmaiden fills this role for Male!Exile's party. "What are you talking about? It's obviously a trap."
  • In Touch Detective, when the player first converses with Daisy:

 Mackenzie: Um, I'm Detective Mackenzie.

Daisy: Oh, how cute. A detective.

Mackenzie: Thanks...

Daisy: Don't you understand sarcasm when you hear it?

Mackenzie: ...

Mackenzie's reaction showed that she didn't like it.
  • Master Ilen displays this when approached about Iron Bark by a particularly Snarky!Hawke in Dragon Age II:

 Hawke: (with a sarcastic tone) What could have happened to cause concern among such skilled warriors as the Dalish hunters?

Ilen: I'm surprised to see a shemlen with such respect for our hunters.

  • During the Climax of Portal 2 as the second core transfer starts. Justified as it's a machine:

 Computer: Corrupt Core, are you ready for core transfer?

Wheatley:: What do you think?

Computer: Interpreting vague answer as yes.

Wheatley: Nonononononono!! Didn't pick up on my sarcasm.

  • Ward the Jerkass from The Orion Conspiracy does not know sarcasm when he hears it. Devlin says sarcastically at one point, "Thank you for your compassion and understanding." Ward's response goes something like "What?"


Visual Novels

  • Maya Fey from the Ace Attorney games seems completely oblivious to Phoenix's sarcastic tone, taking his snarky comments seriously.
  • Rin Tezuka from Katawa Shoujo actually asks what sarcasm is when the topic is brought up. Hisao doesn't know what to say to this, because, knowing Rin, she's dead serious.


Web Animation


Web Comics

 EB: hey, can you hold on?

EB: i'm getting trolled again.

TG: oh man and if weve just concluded anything its that talking to those dbags should be priority number one so yeah go right ahead

EB: ok, brb.

    • Kanaya as well. Not even John's sarcasm. She finally catches on to Rose's sarcasm, but she still hasn't figured out that the other trolls use it all the time. She seems to be getting better at it, even referring to sarcasm as "An Enjoyable Exercise In Xenocultural Inculcation." When it is pointed out to her that the other trolls do it just as often, she responds, "Thats True But When We Do It Its Usually Just Because We Are Trying To Be Jerks Rather Than By Way Of A Mild Manner Perpetually Dispatching Little Puzzles Of Rhetoric Without Apparent Purpose."
  • Poor Tem Phica, of Schlock Mercenary, is so fearful that he takes even ridiculous threats on his life at face value.

 Col. Pranger: They could also have suborned your climate engineers. Better watch out for clear-sky lightning out here in the open.

Tem Phica: Good point. Everybody back inside!

Pranger: Your paranoia is a powerful defense against my sarcasm.


Web Original

  • The website Busy Street believes this to be true of internet communication in general.
  • Too good to leave off: Shortly after the developer went out of business, Yahtzee did an episode of Zero Punctuation where he "reviewed" Duke Nukem Forever, touting it as the greatest game ever, bar none; he briefly descends into a horrible fantasy where the game was never released because the developer spent twelve years jerking off and rightly got sued into oblivion, but he's so glad we don't live in a world like that! The next week, after his normal review, he posts a "Letter of the Week" which he received from a fan who was so excited that the game had finally come out, he'd been waiting for years, and asks Yahtzee where he got his copy because he can't seem to find it anywhere. (This was, of course, years before DNF's actual release.)
  • SCP-082 from the SCP Foundation, a giant cannibalistic mutant who, among other delusions, doesn't grasp sarcasm, parody, or fiction in general (he has even expressed a desire to meet Hannibal Lecter).
  • This QDB.us quote:

 Tim333: You sound like a real winner

rockstar111: is that a good thing

Tim333: Have you ever heard of "sarcasm" or "irony," rockstar?

rockstar111: what

Tim333: Wow. It must be nice to be invulnerable to insult by means of incomprehension.

rockstar111: what the hell r u talking about

  • For a joke, The Nostalgia Chick took her snarky woobie Sex Bot's sarcastic suggestion to get to Nella through a wormhole in the sink totally seriously. And hey, it worked.


Western Animation

 "Oh, yes, I'm sarcastic all the time."

"You're doing it right now!"

    • Later in the episode, when a man defends a pretty ludicrous deceit with "I was being sarcastic," Mac and Bloo are able to call him out, and back it up with extensive research.
    • Also gets mixed with Mind Screw in that episode:

 Noah: Throwing balls, gee, another mentally challenging test.

Lindsay: I know, right?

 Izzy: Noah, I'm counting on you for three gallons of diesel fuel.

Noah: Sure thing. I'll just get my unicorn to deliver it.

Izzy: Perfect!

  • Much of the cast in Daria (aside from Daria and Jane, obviously), to much comic effect. Particularly the stupidest characters (Brittany, Kevin, Sandy/Quinn, Mr. O'Neil...).
  • Used in the South Park movie "Imaginationland". The military is interrogating Stan and Kyle, trying to find a way into Imaginationland, and a specialist accidentally lets slip that they have a secret portal there. The general shuts him up, sarcastically saying, "Why don't you just tell them everything about Project X?!" The specialist starts describing it until the general cuts him off by pointing out he was being sarcastic.
  • Used hilariously in Justice League. In the episode "Eclipsed," a general is possessed by an evil spirit, which wants to pass itself along to a member of the Justice League. Asking a subordinate how to get the attention of the Justice League, the subordinate replies, "Put on a gaudy costume and threaten to hurt a lot of people." So he does. The costume he puts together is a Shout-Out to one of the more garish of the old school super villains, Eclipso.
  • In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown is none to pleased to discover he has received no Christmas cards, so he goes up to Violet, and says:

 Charlie Brown: Thanks for the Christmas card you sent me!

Violet: I didn't send you a Christmas card, Charlie Brown! (walks off)

Charlie Brown: Don't you know sarcasm when you hear it?!

 Lucius: Well, I hope you're happy, Two-Shoes.

Jimmy: Aw, Thanks Lucy. I'm a little bummed about the plane and Jez, but other than that I'm pretty happy!

 Chief Wiggum: Just sit down and wait for "Detective Like I Give A Damn."

Homer: Thank you so much.

(Beat)

Lisa: Dad?

Homer: Honey, Daddy's waiting for the detective.

    • Also...

 Lisa: Maybe they're all reverse vampires and they have to get home before dark.

Kids: AAAAAAHHHHH!!! REVERSE VAMPIRES!!!

    • Barney also shows this in one famous scene:

 Barney: And I say England's greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerston!

Wade Boggs: Pitt the Elder!

Barney: LORD PALMERSTON!

Boggs: PITT! THE! ELDER!

Barney: Okay, you asked for it, Boggs! (punches out Boggs)

Moe: Yeah, that's showin' 'im, Barn! "Pitt the Elder"...

'Barney: LORD PALMERSTON! (punches out Moe)

  • Most characters on Avatar: The Last Airbender are pretty quick on the uptake, but Aang, due to his optimism and shining idealism, demonstrates this characteristic at least once, when he is reluctant to kill the Big Bad, but the rest of the Gang wants him to.

 Aang: Maybe we could make some big pots of glue, and then I could use gluebending to stick his arms and legs together so he can't bend anymore!

Zuko: Yeah! And then you can show him his baby pictures and all those happy memories will make him good again!

Aang: Do you really think that would work?

Zuko: NO!

 Spike: Well, you're good at a lot of things. Just not nest making, ice skating, animal waking, snow clearing...

Twilight Sparkle: Thanks a lot for making me feel so much better.

Spike: That's what I'm here for, sister.

    • Pinkie Pie seems to be especially prone to this. In "Feeling Pinkie Keen":

 Pinkie Pie: (observing the frog conspicuously clinging to Twilight's head) Uh, Twilight, you got a little something on your face there.

Twilight Sparkle: Oh? Did your "Pinkie Sense" tell you that too?

Pinkie Pie: No, I could just see it. (hops off) La la la la laaaa....

    • And again in "Over a Barrel," where it backfires on Rainbow Dash because Pinkie Pie takes her quip about Fluttershy being a tree out of context.

 Rainbow Dash: When we get to Appleoosa, you think we'll have to carry that heavy tree all the way from the train to the orchard?

Pinkie Pie: What tree? You mean Bloomberg?

Rainbow Dash: [sarcasm] No. Fluttershy.

Pinkie Pie: Fluttershy's not a tree, silly.

Twilight Sparkle: What's going on?

Pinkie Pie: Rainbow Dash thinks Fluttershy's a tree.

Rainbow Dash: I do not think she's a tree, I was just...

Twilight Sparkle: Did you say she was a tree?

Rainbow Dash: No... well, yes... but... not exactly ...

Twilight Sparkle: You know she's not a tree, right?

Pinkie Pie: She's not a tree, Dashie.

Fluttershy: ...I'd like to be a tree.

    • And once again in "A Canterlot Wedding, Part 1", after showing off what she had planned for the wedding reception:

 Pinkie Pie: I think this reception is gonna be perfect! Don't you?

Princess Cadance: Perfect! ...if we were celebrating a six-year-old's birthday party.

Pinkie Pie: (gasps) Thank you!

  • Beavis from Beavis and Butthead. If told "Tell me something I don't know." he'll do exactly that. He thinks "Stick it where the sun doesn't shine." means "Put it under your pillow."
  • In The Legend of Tarzan, Terk gives Tantor a sarcastic compliment. When Tantor acts smug, she follows it up by saying that he's really good at detecting sarcasm, as well. Tantor continues acting smug.


Real Life

  • Children often take a couple years to recognize sarcasm, hence the prevalence of the "talking to children" tone from adults. Their reaction can vary between simply taking the statement at face value just like this trope, or getting confused at why the speaker's tone and expression doesn't match their words.
  • People with Aspergers Syndrome often do not get sarcasm, as they are very Literal Minded. And even if they do realise you're being sarcastic, it can still make a conversation very complicated very quickly. Interestingly, some people with Asperger's can still be very sarcastic, even if they can't always recognise sarcasm themselves.
  • The use of sarcasm and the recognition of sarcasm from someone else are two different things - this is why even a person who uses a lot of sarcasm might not pick up on it when used against them. The expressions and idioms we use are picked up from interaction with other people, so Sarcasm Blind people can sometimes use a sarcastic expression without recognizing it as sarcasm.

Notes

  1. You know, that girl from Wammy's House who appeared in a panel the size of a postage stamp
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