Bob wants to trick Alice into thinking that he is talking over the phone to Charlie when he really isn't.
Very, very often a Comedy Trope
, and as such it almost never succeeds, Alice usually finds out the truth almost immediately and tends to misinterpret it.
Occurs in three varieties.
- Bob isn't actually talking to anybody (Bob hasn't dialed anyone but pretends he's talking to Charlie). This can fail if:
- the phone isn't working
- the phone rings while he is talking
- Charlie walks into the room (not on the phone)
- Bob is actually talking to Carol, but he pretends it's Charlie. The comedy here is built on the fact Carol initially can't understand what's going on. It rarely fails, but in cases where it does, it can fail several ways:
- Carol screws everything up by walking into the room and asking "Why did you just call me Charlie?"
- Charlie walks into the room, clearly not on the phone, while Bob is still 'talking' to him and asks "who are you talking to, Bob?"
- Bob is talking to an automated system, such as:
- a time service
- his automated banking system (hilarity may ensue if it uses voice recognition)
Regardless of variety, all three attempts can fail if:
- Alice just knows that Charlie can't be talking at the moment (he's in a coma, dead, on vacation in a remote location with no phones, etc.).
- Alice later asks Charlie about some details of that phone conversation of which he can't possibly know.
Examples of Type A:
- In IT Crowd, Jen is pretending to be busy, so she makes Roy wait till she finishes her phone call. When she asks him what he wants, he replies that he came to connect her telephone.
- In Dilbert, Wally once gets a hands-free and goes around PHB, shouting insults in his face, pretending that he actually talks to his mother. Personal calls have been forbidden in the Path-E-Tech Management ever since.
- Modern cellphones often have a "fake call" option.
- In an episode of Scrubs Eliot overhears Dr Kelso talking about his enforced retirement on his cellphone. She later learns that the bathroom doesn't have cellphone reception - this was his way of asking her for help.
- In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, Toto has declared himself to be Dorothy's agent, and is apparently calling someone about a gig. Dorothy's reaction: "That isn't even a real phone!"
- A couple of times in Quantum Leap, Sam picks up a phone without calling anybody, so that he can have a conversation with the Invisible to Normals Al in front of other people.
- In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the murderer does this to help set up his alibi.
- There's a well-known lawyer joke along these lines:
- A young man is just starting up his own law firm. On the morning of his very first day in business, a man comes to the door. Just before he enters the office, the lawyer (wanting to impress this client) picks up the phone and shouts into it: "$100,000* is my final offer! I'm a very busy man, you know, and my time doesn't come cheap. You don't like it? Fine, then, you can just go find yourself another lawyer!" He slams down the phone and turns to the other man. "Now, what can I do for you?" he asks. The other man replies, "Uh, I was just here to hook up the phone."
- On Just Shoot Me!, Maya is at Nina's birthday party when she sees Nina have a conversation on a pay phone that was out of order. Turns out Nina was upset about many of her former colleages not coming and was faking a phone call to save face.
- In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Dewey pretends to be talking on the phone to their mother in order to get Reese and Malcom to do what he wants, which they think are orders from their mother. Fails when the phone rings as he is talking.
- In one of The Simpsons Christmas episodes, Bart and Lisa have to sneak past security guard Gary Coleman who is having an animated phone conversation. Lisa notices that the phone isn't even plugged in.
Examples of Type B:
- In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Grissom is taken off a case and Nick covertly calls him to discuss the investigation; when caught, he pretends he's talking to his girlfriend, leaving Grissom somewhat puzzled on the other end.
- Happens frequently on Frasier -- in one episode, Frasier attempts to get out of a date by pretending he's getting an emergency call from his brother, in another, he and his ex-wife simultaneously make non-calls to "cancel" other dates that they don't actually have.
- Garfield: Jon once talks about a date with the automated time service.
- Shock Treatment: Judge Oliver Wright and Betty Hapschatt at adjacent pay phones to cover up the fact that they're actually talking to each other while listening in on a conversation between some nearby bad guys.
- In the January 23, 1989◊ Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin momentarily pretends to be calling Susie about homework as his mom passes through when he's actually trying to purchase power tools.
- In another Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin lies to his babysitter, Roslyn, about feeling sick. Roslyn sees through this and calls the automatic time service, pretending that she's speaking with Calvin's doctor. She then tells Calvin that Doc wants Calvin to take a teaspoon of castor oil and lie down all evening.