The Joy of Killing

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Bob Ross, host of The Joy of Killing.

“It's your world, your massacre, and you can kill as many people as you want.”

~ Bob Ross on The Joy of Killing

The Joy of Killing was an American 1980s–90s instructional television show on PBS, hosted by noted hair stylist Bob "Domination Bob" Ross. In each episode, Ross taught techniques for landscape oil deconstruction, adding grit and stark realism to various paintings. Although Ross could in fact destroy a painting in 30 minutes, the intent of the show was not to teach viewers "speed destruction"; rather, he intended for viewers to learn subtle nuances within the time that the show was allotted.

The Joy of Killing was a massive success and ran for a good two decades, even spawning a video game. To this day, the series is renowned for teaching a generation of viewers how to completely destroy a landscape in half an hour.


A landscape painting, seen before (top) and after (bottom) an episode of The Joy of Killing.

At the beginning of each episode, Demolition Bob was seen standing next to a selection of weaponry in front of a black background. He would happily select a weapon, and explain its use the viewer. Within 30 minutes, Ross graphically ran his weapon across his canvas, turning something as joyous as an elementary school into a hellish Vietnamese prison camp.

Ross's efforts were accompanied by a soothing monologue about the "happy explosions" and the explosion's "little friends", the "happy flying body parts" that he was creating with his munitions. He created scene after scene of grotesque hells, fiery landscapes, and shrapnel strewn settings. An agent provocateur, Ross was not beyond pointing out that his viewers couldn’t afford to lose control of their “happy, bloody, little worlds.”

“See that Charlie village over there under the camouflage netting?" Ross once said, in his ever calm and comforting voice. "Let’s load up with a dollop of Agent Orange and lob it, right over here. There; can't you just hear Mr. and Mrs. Charlie screaming in agony. But you could also use a bazooka, and get the same results.”

Ross always reminded the viewers that little mishaps were bound to happen when creating a scene of chaos. He frequently stated that there were no such things as "civilian casualties" or "collateral damage" and preferred to call them "happy accidents." Being a Vietnam veteran, Ross brought a special realism and familiarity with both his weapons and the canvas. This familiarity was not lost on the viewers, who anxiously anticipated each new episode and the heartfelt destruction it would bring.

The painting to the left is an example of Ross's "pretty little trees on fire" technique that has become popular in recent years, however the lack of several dead squirrels, as well as other rabid creatures has left numerous fans disenfranchised by Ross's lack of dead lawn rodents.

At the end of the show, Ross gave a little wave to the viewer and said: "So from all of us here, I'd like to wish you happy killing, and God bless, my friend".

Production and broadcast

Premiering in 1983, The Joy of Killing cultivated a huge international following, being broadcast in countries such as Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Bosnia, and even remote African villages. In fact, Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega barred himself inside his home so as not to be disturbed when watching the show. However, the series was outlawed in Islam, as Muslims felt Ross's explosive violence against their people was in clear violation of the laws set forth in the Koran.

The show came to an abrupt end in 1994. Ross was unable to escape from his own zeal, when the cluster-bomb air strike he called in for the finale was off-target, accidentally bringing to an end one of the most beloved and violent television shows ever to air. What remained of Bob (plus his Afro) was preserved in the Smithsonian Museum of Death and Destruction in Seattle.


A Joy of Killing tie-in video game was produced by LJN in 1987 for the NES. Taking advantage of Nintendo's unique control style, the game put you in the axe-wielding body of our hero as he hacks and slashes perfect landscapes into grotesque hells of rock and debauchery.


The Joy of Killing was a success for PBS. Ross's techniques have inspired millions to take up landscape deconstruction and experience the so-called "joy of killing" for themselves.

Despite this, Ross was criticized by more hardcore painters for his simplistic technique. His fire-on-fire method was looked down upon by those who preferred the traditional method of fire-wait-fire.

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