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"Wow, what a terrific audience."
Jimmy, South Park

If a character in any given show is constantly cracking wise and making wry observations, no matter how clever and funny they are, they never elicit so much as a smirk from any of the other characters. While in real life genuinely funny and charming people are social darlings, in TV land they're more seen as annoying losers.

The prime examples would have to be Chandler Bing and Xander Harris, who -- in their early seasons, at least -- were funnier than just about anyone in real life, yet got nothing back but eye-rolling and sighs. You wonder why they hang out with these people.

Of course, it's all for the best. Constantly chuckling characters would drive viewers insane (a constantly chuckling audience does nothing of the sort, of course), especially if they're laughing at a joke the viewer doesn't find funny.

Examples of Tough Room include:

Comic Books

  • Yorick from Y: The Last Man peppers his speech with pop culture references, to which 355 reacts with indifference and Dr Mann with snarkiness. This can be read as either an example or a subversion of the trope, depending on how funny you think he is.


  • In an American Express commercial, Jerry Seinfeld performs in Britain and his stand up with American cultural idioms is met with stony silence. Fortunately, with his Amex card, he goes on a whirlwind cultural immersion and he creates a British savvy act that brings the house down.
    • Partially subverted at the end: "...I have no idea what I just said..."


  • In the classic film, A Night at the Opera, Groucho Marx's character improvises an opening speech at an opera theatre that in real life would have brought the house down with laughter and inspire thunderous applause for making a normally boring formality so entertaining, but in the film, evoked only stony silence.

Live Action TV

  • Exception: Supporting characters on Raines frequently smile or chuckle at the title character's one-liners.
  • Sports Night subverts this quite nicely with most characters, especially Danny. Whenever anyone makes a joke, or just an amusing comment, the other characters actually laugh!
  • John Crichton from Farscape. Though, to be fair, none of his audience knows what the hell he's talking about.

 D'argo: Are you mocking me?

John: D'argo, I mock all of us.

  • Like Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic, this is more likely to be averted in Mockumentary/FauxDocumentary shows. Ricky Gervais interviewed Larry David, and this trope was one of the things they talked about.
    • And as you might expect, the trope is generally avoided in Curb Your Enthusiasm, and often in Seinfeld.
  • An example with something other than humour: in Criminal Minds, Reid is a walking encyclopedia who is always willing to share some kind of interesting fact with his teammates, but they never seem to want to hear it.
  • Despite what it says at the top of the page, in Friends a couple of episodes made something out of the fact that Chandler is "the funny one", so apparently the other characters do at least understand that he's being witty even if they can't bring themselves to laugh.
    • The in-universe justification for the other Friends not laughing at Chandler's jokes is because 1) they're often the targets of his barbs, and 2) he makes little jokes all the friggin' time.
      • Most likely the fact because he makes light of his friends' little crises, to the point where Rachel gets visibly annoyed with his snarkery at times.
    • In early episodes, the other friends were shown chuckling at Chandler's jokes once in a while. In fact, you can see the others laugh less and less at Chandler as the series goes on, and get more and more irritated with his quips.
  • Although House is almost always making sarcastic quips, none of the characters in-universe find them funny. Justified in that he's either mocking them or Crossing the Line Twice at a patient's expense.
    • They do occasionally avert this trope, but only when it's a plot point (as in the episode where Foreman contracted an infection which made him giddy).
  • MASH has a lot of witty one-liners, mostly done by Hawkeye, but there wasn't many times when people were laughing. Most probably because the situation they were in and Hawkeye was like an early Chandler.
  • This is noticably averted in How I Met Your Mother, where this trope is a pet peeve of the writers. Anytime a character on the show is intentionally telling a joke, only the actor playing the character telling the joke is told the joke beforehand. Thus, the other characters listening to the joke will laugh, or at least smirk, at the joke since this is the first time the other actors have heard it.

Western Animation

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