I've been thinking all day but nothing is coming to mind. I feel like I'd use it a lot if one existed.


5 Answers 5


tragicomic (adj), tragicomedy (n.)

1) ...
2) ...
3) An incident or situation having both comic and tragic elements.

tragicomic adj.

My downvoter doesn't think this a fitting word. I should provide some examples, to help everyone decide for themselves.

"In Search of Lost Time" by Marcel Proust (1913-22). Proust's great novel addresses just about every problem a person can face. ... Complexity, contradiction, flux are everywhere... The only real sin here is vulgarity, which is both ridiculous and depressing--i.e., tragicomic and, as I see it, horribly lifelike. http://orion.math.uwaterloo.ca/~hwolkowi/house.d/fivebesttragicomic.html


Like the 'wanderer' in Caspar David Friedrich’s painting of 1818, Axel Antas stands in the centre of Obstructed View (Boulderstone), (Treetop) and (Cliffedge) in solitary contemplation. But in a tragicomic twist his views of the landscape are almost completely obscured by artificial smoke clouds that rise around his body. REVIEW. Axel Antas, Rokeby, London


The tragicomic story of two brothers who survive by working as mechanics in a small garage in Sderot. Under the hail of missiles from Gaza, they comment the harsh reality of life in southern Israel during brotherly arguments oozing with black humour. a film distributor's site


Nothing in the episodes I’ve seen rivals the outlandish laugh riots of a Secret Service detail hiring Cartagena hookers... The mass-resignations, the political embarrassment, the congressional investigation — this is right in line with Vice President Meyer’s tragicomic milieu. washingtonpost


On the Jon Stewart show, when Obama adopted Stewart's... What we see is the tragicomic spectacle of the newsmedia and Democratic Party spinning the unspinnable... First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC


The whole situation had brought me to the verge, or nearly, of physical collapse, and I started to hear my publisher’s injunctions—the company was keeping an eye on my work—as still more noise; a noise that made me desperate, and I found it ever harder to obey. Finally, indeed, I no longer obeyed at all.

The whole tragicomic affair found its culmination in year three: the third year of my living so absurdly in my Roman hut. My building, here again, as before in Milan, was thrown into the turmoil of renovation, for a whole pitiless year. Anna Maria Ortese, transl. Henry Martin


We all witnessed the tragicomic spectacle of Western Flotillas moored within walking distance to ... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/guillermo-fesser/americans-in-palestinian-_b_3052770.html


"The tragicomic state of Arab democracy"
Abdeljabbar Adwan
The state of democracy in the Arab world is a tragicomedy. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Lebanonwire


—A Blog Devoted to Exposing America's Most Powerful Cult Leader and Political Power Broker—

"This Would Be Funny if It Weren't True"
I have come across information about the tragicomic life of former Bush appointee... Here's a passage from an 1988 article... :
... in which they literally prostrate themselves on the floor before a picture of Moon... blog


I guess on one tragicomic level, at least those jerk-off blog people are honest about their intentions? blog


I think it’s tragicomic that these actors (stevens and brown-findlay) think that they still have the support of the fans after ruining the show. Well, they don’t. tvline

[Edit2: noun & adjective separation, definition reformat]

  • Good word, but could you please link to the definition you used, improve the formatting, and add some commentary on why it's a good choice? Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 21:11
  • +1 and the state of it is called tragicomedy, mentioned in one of your examples. E.g., “Dr Horrible’s Sing-along Blog is (a) tragicomedy”.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 3:33
  • @JonPurdy Thank you for that comment! It compelled me to make constructive changes.
    – Talia Ford
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 3:48

I think a word that could be used in a lot of cases would be ridiculous. It can take on the meaning of funny and could also mean absurd.

  • 3
    How does this capture the sense of “if it weren't true”? Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 21:10
  • When true it would be an object of ridicule.
    – OneProton
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 22:01

The answer, I believe, is no; there is no single word (in English) that fully and precisely means something that would be hilarious if it were not true.

A few possibilities not yet mentioned that may fit your intended usage:










This seems to fit the notion of 'black humour' very well, but I don't think a single word encapsulates that idea.


I will go with the adjective sarcastic.

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