Created By: BrokenEyeJuly 25, 2012 Last Edited By: LythandeJune 8, 2015
Troped

Embarrassing Ringtone

A character\'s ringtone is something they are embarrassed about or inappropriate to the situation.

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Trope
Nothing says terrifying assassin like The Village People.

A character's cellphone goes off at an inconvenient moment, and the song they use is their ringtone is something they'd be embarrassed by. The Jerk Jock might have the Theme Song from some incredibly geeky television series as his ringtone. The Wicked Cultured villain's ringtone may be a crappy auto-tuned pop song. The Heteronormative Crusader's ringtone may be a song about having Intercourse With You. The ringtone of Colonel Badass may be something uncomfortably cute and cheery. The Evil Luddite will be embarrassed to have a ringtone at all. Or one could always just go with a ringtone that anyone would be embarrassed by.

If the character is attempting to be mysterious or intimidating at the time, or attempting to win the trust/approval/respect of someone who find's the song's content objectionable, this is doubly likely to happen. Expect them to answer the phone as quickly as possible just to end the song, and be very grumpy towards the caller.

It isn't always the character's actual phone, but may be instead be a phone belonging to someone else that they're holding onto for some reason. At times it may be a ringtone that wouldn't usually be embarrassing, but the situation makes it inappropriate.

Indexes: Cell Phone, Rule Of Funny, Distraction Tropes?
Related Tropes: ???

Examples

Advertising
  • A beer commercial featured a guy trying to prove to his ex-girlfriend that he's matured enough to hook back up with her ... until his cellphone rings, with Baby Got Back as the ringtone. Oops.
  • In a T-Mobile myFaves commercial, a guy is asking his friend why his girlfriend is in his "Five" on his phone. His friend tells him he's being paranoid until his phone starts ringing "Secret Lovers" by Atlantic Starr which indicates the guy's girlfriend calling. He promptly takes back his phone.

Anime And Manga
  • Tentai Senshi Sunred. The nominal head villain gets a new cell phone with a ringtone that pegs him as an old guy—and later it goes off when people are trying to hide, and of course the hiding people can't figure out how to turn it off.

Comics
  • One of Deadpool's attempts at a stealthy assassination was spoiled by his agent calling him, his ringtone was "YMCA".
  • Quai D Orsay. Arthur's ringtone is a Metallica song. Not the best way to be taken seriously when it rings in the middle of a diplomatic summit.

Film
  • In The Astronaut Farmer one of the two government agents who are trying to prevent the titular farmer from building his rocket and going into space has The Imperial March as his ringtone, as part of their gradual decent over the course of the film from genuinely intimidating antagonists to Those Two Guys.
  • In Confessions Of A Shopaholic, Becky's ringtone for her banker says "Don't answer this call; it's Derek Smeath." It goes off while Mr. Smeath is in the vicinity.
  • In Inside Man, the thieves taking hostages in the bank demand that everyone turn over any cell phones. One executive (read rich white guy) claims he left his phone at home, but the Genre Savvy thieves grab the phone of one of the guy's coworkers and dial his number. It rings and loudly plays Kanye West's "Gold Digger". Surprisingly enough for a few seconds the thieves seem like they're going to let the whole thing slide, perhaps out of sheer amusement at the incongruity of the ring tone... then the leader of the group drags the guy off into another room and beats the crap out of him.
  • This sort of happened on Megamind. When Megamind and Minion were suiting up to create a new superhero to replace Metro Man, the cell phone Megamind had stolen earlier went off, ruining the villainous pose scene.
  • This happens repeatedly to the titular character in Paul Blart Mall Cop, but only because his phone was lent to him by a teenager.
  • In Shes The Man, Olivia has Aqua's Barbie Girl for her ringtone. This causes some problems when she's impersonating her brother Sebastian and she forgets to change it.
  • White House Down: The ring tone on the cell phone of The Mole, who assisted those who took over the White House by becoming Acting President, so he could send them the access codes to launch nuclear missiles to the Middle East, is the main theme of "The Dating Game" (Herb Alpert's "Spanish Flea"). This creates Mood Whiplash during the denouement, where he's exposed to the President of the United States by redialing the terrorist Big Bad's cell phone.

Live Action TV
  • An early episode of Burn Notice features Michael using a ring tone on his phone as an alarm for when someone sets off a motion sensor he sets up at a safe house for the clients of the week. It's from some flash in the pan girl group.
    Teen girl: Nice ring tone.
    Michael: It came with the phone.
  • In Hannah Montana, season 2 episode 27, "The Test of My Love", when Miley is dating a rich boy and she meets his parents, his parents act rude to her because she's from Tennessee and they see her as a bumpkin. When Miley tries to prove she's sophisticated, her ringtone goes off playing country music which she set to because she felt homesick.
  • Completely subverted in House who has a string of seemingly embarrassing ringtones that he uses completely shamelessly.
  • Invoked offscreen in the Frasier episode "Taking Liberties". Niles' wife Mel, as part of a domestic conflict, sets his ringtone to "La Cucaracha" before they go to a society funeral.
  • On an episode of Judge Judy, a plantiff's phone went off in the middle of Judge Judy's ruling. The ringtone was a mooing cow. Her Honor mocked him for it while she was chewing him out for not turning it off.
  • An episode of The Newsroom sets Jim up on a date with Maggie's girlfriend, which introduces her ringtone as a Chekhovs Gun. Apparently she's a fan of Rod Stewart.
  • On Scrubs, while being told that one of his patients has died and that a Morbidity and Mortality conference will be held to figure out who's responsible Turk's phone starts playing the first few bars of Beethoven's 5th symphony. He immediately remarks that he needs to change it.
  • Sherlock
    • In "A Scandal in Belgravia", Irene Adler replaces Sherlock's ringtone with the sound of her orgasmic groaning.
    • Moriarty's Staying Alive ringtone also qualifies. It's hard to be menacing with The Bee Gees providing a bouncy little riff.
  • In one episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, Worf's son Alexander joins his father aboard the Enterprise. Everybody was trying to reach Worf about his son through his communicator. Unfortunately, he was with Captain Picard who was explaining him some assignment. It looked like the communicators couldn't be turned off, and both Picard and Worf got really annoyed.
  • In the Supernatural episode, "The Real Ghostbusters", evil spirit children trapped Sam and Dean along with many patrons at a hotel convention. To get the spirits to free everyone, Sam and Dean recruited an actress to play the ghost of the stern, turn-of-the-century school mistress (who Sam and Dean mistakenly banished earlier) to scare the ghost boys into releasing the hold on the hotel. Everything was going well until the actress' cell phone rang with a jaunty hip-hop tune. Cue her Oh Crap moment as the evil spirit children smiled menacingly, realizing she wasn't the school mistress and they had no reason to be scared.
  • Oddly averted on the Israeli sitcom Traffic Light: Khefer's ringtone is that of a woman moaning aloud in the throes of passion, but he is never embarrassed about it. Although he does change it to Samantha Fox's 'Touch Me', so a moment like this might've taken place offscreen...

Music
  • Weird Al Yankovic's song "Ringtone" is about this:
    "Why did I buy the stupid ringtone?
    I just can't imagine now
    what I was thinking at all!
    My friends all stare at me whenever I get a call!
    When everybody (everybody)
    everybody (everybody)
    everybody in the world really hates my ringtone!"

Newspaper Comics
  • In My Cage Norm's secretary Ashley once changed his ringtone to "Barbie Girl". Another time it was shown that Rex's ringtone for his Alpha Bitch girlfriend was "Taps".
  • One Nemi strip showed a LARP gathering, which was interrupted by a ringing cellphone. Last panel has the guilty party telling that, worst of all, the ringtone was a Britney Spears song.

Western Animation
  • A minor Running Gag on The Spectacular Spider Man was Peter's cell phone going off at inconvenient times. One memorable instance had it go off in the middle of Spider-Man's fight with Electro...to the tune of Ba Ba Black Sheep. It was Peter's designated "Aunt May Alert".

Web Original
  • One "learn from my fail" entry in Fail Blog mentioned an "Another one bites the dust" ringtone going off during a funeral.
  • There is an exchange on bash.org that involves a girl speaking to the storyteller while they're in high school. The girl says she always thought of him as a nerdy type, but the guy says he really isn't a nerd at all. Immediately after saying this, his cell phone plays the Final Fantasy VII victory ringtone.
  • In the Flash series Cactuar And Tonberry by Crazy Boris, Cactuar (actually a criminal identical to Cactuar) busts into a heavily guarded vault to steal the last bottle of A1 steak sauce. As he sneaks past some guards, his cell phone inconveniently rings, playing a minimalistic, beeping version of Barbie Girl.


Community Feedback Replies: 60
  • July 25, 2012
    TheNinth
    It's spelled embarrassing.
  • July 25, 2012
    surgoshan
    You know it's embarrassing when it has a bare ass in it.

    • An early episode of Burn Notice features Michael using a ring tone on his phone as an alarm for when someone sets off a motion sensor he sets up at a safe house for the clients of the week. It's from some flash in the pan girl group.
      Teen girl: Nice ring tone.
      Michael: It came with the phone.
    • An episode of The Newsroom sets Jim up on a date with Maggie's girlfriend, which introduces her ringtone as a Chekhovs Gun. Apparently she's a fan of Rod Stewart.
  • July 25, 2012
    Noah1
  • July 25, 2012
    SpiderRider3
    This happens to the titular character in Paul Blart Mall Cop, but only because his phone was lent to him by a teenager.
  • July 25, 2012
    Jordan
    • In Inside Man, the thieves taking hostages in the bank demand that everyone turn over any cell phones. One executive (read rich white guy) claims he has turned in his phone, but then it rings and loudly plays Kanye West's "Gold Digger" to the thieves' incredulous amusement. Then they beat the crap out of him.
  • July 25, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
  • July 25, 2012
    LordCirce
    This sort of happened on Megamind. When Megamind and Minion were suiting up to create a new superhero to replace Metro Man, the cell phone Megamind had stolen earlier went off, ruining the villainous pose scene.
  • July 26, 2012
    erforce
    • One Nemi strip showed a LARP gathering, which was interrupted by a ringing cellphone. Last panel has the guilty party telling that, worst of all, the ringtone was a Britney Spears song.
  • July 26, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    One "learn from my fail" entry in Failblog mentioned an "Another one bites the dust" ringtone going off during a funeral.
  • July 26, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Often a form of Hypocritical Humor
  • September 27, 2012
    XFllo
    There is another YKTTW discussion with the very same trope. It would be nice to join the efforts. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=8461tax8l636gv9fzq0irtjp

  • October 28, 2012
    Sheora
    The description is overly complicated. If you're going to give an example, give one. That many is just overload.
  • October 28, 2012
    nlpnt
    Riff Trax likes to make this out of Natalie's bicycle-bell ringtone in Birdemic.
  • October 29, 2012
    Ctrooper2011
    In The Big Bang Theory episode The Einstein Approximation, Leonard is revealed to have a Joker laugh ringtone, which creeps Penny out.
  • October 29, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    The "Rickrolling" phenomenon, though not involving ringtones, is in this ballpark. Someone opening a link on their computer and getting that song (Rick Astley's "Together Forever") blaring across the office or whatever could be pretty embarrassing (as if you were actually looking for that song), which I think was the point of that whole phenomenon.
  • October 30, 2012
    mew4ever23
    During the School Festival in Lucky Star, the girls are about to go on stage and perform a cheer leading routine, when the MC's cellphone goes off, playing a rendition of the Adventures of Mikaru from Haruhi Suzimiya (Right song name?). Sung by a man.
  • November 3, 2012
    Sheora
    ^^ That has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
  • November 3, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^ As I said, it's in the ballpark, especially if it is used to embarrass the recipient (and if you think Rick Astley's music is insipid pretty-boy pop garbage like I do, it would be embarrassing if people think you're looking for his music on your computer--but then the phenomenon became so widespread, people soon knew what was going on). My theory is that it was started primarily to embarrass people, but maybe it wasn't.
  • February 22, 2013
    Dutchtica
    • Scrubs has a beeper ringtone for JD, which annoys Doctor Cox to no end, and he threatened to hurt him if he didn't change it. Sure thing when push comes to shove and Doctor Cox asks him (on a bad day) it goes off a second later with THAT'S THE WAY AHA AHA I LIKE IT.
  • February 25, 2013
    Zanreo
    ^^^^^ I thought Rickrolling was "Never Gonna Give You Up"? I've seen that other song used too, but usually it's Never Gonna Give You Up.
  • February 25, 2013
    XFllo
    I think your description contains way too many examples (which I believe is discouraged, if not, I apologize) so I think a re-write might be due.

    Plus one example:

    Live Action TV
    • In one episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, Worf's son Alexander joins his father aboard the Enterprise. Everybody was trying to reach Worf about his son through his communicator. Unfortunately, he was with Captain Picard who was explaining him some assignment. It looked like the communicators couldn't be turned off, and both Picard and Worf got really annoyed.
  • July 27, 2013
    MythrilMothV2
    Fix the description and you've got a trope, IMHO.

    Here's an example that sprang to mind immediately:
    • On an episode of Judge Judy, a plantiff's phone went off in the middle of Judge Judy's ruling. The ringtone was a mooing cow. Her Honor mocked him for it while she was chewing him out for not turning it off.
  • July 27, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^^ Is there such a thing as "too many examples" on a YKTTW description page? Oftentimes there are too few, and the eventual launched page is going to have examples anyway, might as well get some of those on there beforehand.
  • July 27, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    I still wonder though, does Rickrolling fit? Although it's not a ringtone, it can be an embarrassing noise coming from your phone or computer just the same.
  • July 27, 2013
    reub2000
    • On Scrubs, while being told that one of his patients has died and that a Morbidity and Mortality conference will be held to figure out who's responsible Turk's phone starts playing the first few bars of Beethoven's 5th symphony. He immediately remarks that he needs to change it.
  • July 27, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    Doc Martin has Joan's funeral interrupted by the local police man's ringtone of "Things Can only Get Better".
  • July 27, 2013
    Stratadrake
    The TV advertising example was for Keystone beer, IIRC. [1]
  • July 27, 2013
    paycheckgurl
    A minor Running Gag on The Spectacular Spider Man was Peter's cell phone going off at inconvient times. One memorable instance had it go off in the middle of Spider-Man's fight with Electro...to the tune of Ba Ba Black Sheep. It was Peter's designated "Aunt May Alert".

  • July 27, 2013
    zarpaulus
    • The Jeff Dunham Show had recurring skits where Jeff's characters would record their ringtones. These skits inevitably ended with Jeff's phone yelling out insults while in public.
  • July 31, 2013
    dvorak
    Film
  • August 1, 2013
    notShemp
    Advertising
    • In a T-Mobile myFaves commercial, a guy is asking his friend why his girlfriend is in his "Five" on his phone. His friend tells him he's being paranoid until his phone starts ringing "Secret Lovers" by Atlantic Starr which indicates the guy's girlfriend calling. He promptly takes back his phone.
  • September 8, 2013
    zarpaulus
    • In My Cage Norm's secretary Ashley once changed his ringtone to "Barbie Girl". Another time it was shown that Rex's ringtone for his Alpha Bitch girlfriend was "Taps".
  • December 28, 2013
    notShemp
    • In Hannah Montana, season 2 episode 27, "The Test of My Love", when Miley is dating a rich boy and she meets his parents, his parents act rude to her because she's from Tennessee and sees her as a bumpkin. When Miley tries to prove she's sophisticated, her ringtone goes off playing country music which she set to because she felt homesick.
  • December 28, 2013
    Someoneman
    I don't think Rickrolling counts because even though Tropes Are Flexible, this example lacks the main element of the trope, which is the ringtone, thus pushing it into Square Peg Round Trope.
  • December 28, 2013
    frosty
    I don't think the Megamind example counts. There was nothing embarrasing about it, they just didn't realize there was a phone in Megamind's clothes.
  • December 20, 2014
    zarpaulus
  • December 20, 2014
    MrFister
    • There is an exchange on bash.org that involves a girl speaking to the storyteller while they're in high school. The girl says she always thought of him as a nerdy type, but the guy says he really isn't a nerd at all. Immediately after saying this, his cell phone plays the Final Fantasy VII victory ringtone.
  • December 21, 2014
    Lavalyte
    There could be a sister trope of embaressing screensaver.
  • December 21, 2014
    jormis29

    The Weird Al example needs to be expanded.
  • December 21, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    • Oddly averted on the Israeli sitcom Traffic Light: Khefer's ringtone is that of a woman moaning aloud in the throes of passion, but he is never embarrassed about it. Although he does change it to Samantha Fox's 'Touch Me', so a moment like this might've taken place offscreen...
  • December 21, 2014
    Dalillama
    • Happens offscreen in the Frasier episode "Taking Liberties". Niles' wife Mel, as part of a domestic conflict, sets his ringtone to "La Cucaracha" before they go to a society funeral.
  • December 22, 2014
    RaustBD
    The Weird Al Song should be the page quote, probably the chorus:

    "Why did I buy the stupid ringtone? I just can't imagine now what I was thinking at all! My friends all stare at me whenever I get a call! When everybody (everybody) everybody (everybody) everybody in the world really hates my ringtone!"
  • December 22, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    Is there a webcomic example that can be used here?
  • December 22, 2014
    HeroGal2347
    Don't know if this counts: In Confessions Of A Shopaholic, Becky's ringtone for her banker sys, "Don't answer this call; it's Derek Smeath." It goes off while Mr. Smeath is in the vicinity.
  • December 26, 2014
    Skylite
    The "I Like Big Butts" song is called "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot.
  • December 26, 2014
    PacificGreen
    In the Flash series "Cactuar and Tonberry" by Crazy Boris, Cactuar (actually a criminal identical to Cactuar) busts into a heavily guarded vault to steal the last bottle of A1 steak sauce. As he sneaks past some guards, his cell phone inconveniently rings, playing a minimalistic, beeping version of Barbie Girl.
  • February 2, 2015
    bwatts92
    Happens to everyone in the western animation show archer
  • June 4, 2015
    notShemp
    Bump
  • June 5, 2015
    Lythande
    I added (most of) the examples from the comments and alphabetized examples, and I had to rewrite the laconic because it was over 100 characters. It has five hats and a workable description... If no one has objections or wants it I suppose I can launch it (maybe with a redirect of Inappropriate Ringtone since it's split about half and half between actually being embarrassing to the character and just being inopportune in the situation).
  • June 5, 2015
    Kartoonkid95
    In Ted, Lori is a little peeved that John's ringtone for her calls to him is "The Imperial March".
  • June 5, 2015
    TimG5
    Western Animation

    • Star Vs The Forces Of Evil: Star Butterfly develops a crush on a (bad) guitar-player named Oscar and gives him her number to call her back. However, she gives him Marco's cell instead of the landline when Marco asks why she says that she likes his ringtone more which is: "Space unicorn! Soaring through the stars!" He then frustratingly says that it's supposed to be ironic. This comes up again later when they're fighting Ludo's minions and Oscar decides to call back. Ludo's asks what the heck that noise is, much to Marco's chagrin.
  • June 5, 2015
    triton
    In [[Series/Gotham]] Victor Zazz, a terrifying Psycho For Hire who works for Carmine Falcone, has Funky Town as his ringtone.
  • June 6, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    White House Down: The ring tone on the cell phone of The Mole, who assisted those who took over the White House by becoming Acting President, so he could send them the access codes to launch nuclear missiles to the Middle East, is the main theme of "The Dating Game" (Herb Alpert's "Spanish Flea"). This creates Mood Whiplash during the denouement, where he's exposed to the President of the United States by redialing the terrorist Big Bad's cell phone.
  • June 6, 2015
    Lythande
    ^ and ^^ - Both of these examples lack any context to make them either embarrassing or inopportune.
  • June 6, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    Adjusted.,
  • June 6, 2015
    Lythande
    ^ Much thanks; added.
  • June 7, 2015
    LadyEvil
    Actually, the ring tone in The Spectacular Spiderman example was to the tune of (appropriately) "The Eensy-Weensy Spider".
  • June 7, 2015
    BrokenEye
    Wow, this really took off in my absence
  • June 7, 2015
    Lythande
    Aren't you glad I hadn't got around to launching it yet? I present it back to you with a gift bow. (I was trying to find related tropes to crosslink to and was really coming up blank.)
  • June 8, 2015
    BrokenEye
    So... launch ready?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable