In the movie Inglourious Basterds, there are many scenes employing what I can only describe as "comic cruelty". Acts of barbarity that yet somehow inspire glee and revelry in the audience. Anyone who's watched the movie knows what I'm talking about.

Is this an official trope or a writing style? Does it have a name and are there other examples in books and film that you can think of? I would really like to study this form of comedy, but so far only have had exposure from one movie.

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    Hey there Seph. I know the kind of feeling you are talking of (and it is indeed prevalent in Tarantino's work), but maybe you should edit the question to make it clearer. Are you interested in other examples of comic cruelty? Or are you searching for an effective way to employ it? Nov 17 '18 at 16:17
  • I am interested in other examples of comic cruelty. Mind you I'm coining that term, because I haven't found an official trope name for it yet.
    – Seph
    Nov 18 '18 at 23:37
  • To quote John Cleese quoting WC Fields "Well, for most people, if an actor dresses up as a very, very, very old woman and walks along the street like this and falls down a manhole, they’ll laugh. But to make a professional comedian laugh, it has to really be an old woman." commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/transcript/… Nov 20 '18 at 16:21

This is typically called black humor (based on an essay by Andre Breton). Personally, I dislike the term, because it sounds racial when it isn't, but it is commonly used and well-understood ("bleak" humor is a soundalike alternative). It isn't always about cruelty, but it deals with grotesque, obscene, taboo or otherwise usually unfunny subjects. The most well-known subgenre of this type of humor is "gallows humor," which is specifically about death.

Physical comedy involving pain, cruelty and violence, but as played for lighthearted uncomplicated laughs, is called slapstick. In contrast to black humor, however, slapstick is usually cartoonishly unreal, and completely consequence free.

If you combine the two, you end up with what is variously called a bleak, black, or tragic farce. Death at at Funeral, The Ladykillers, Heathers, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Movie 43, and Tropic Thunder are a few examples that come readily to mind, or, for something more reminiscent of Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

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