Created By: Lawman592December 3, 2011 Last Edited By: Lawman592February 25, 2014
Troped

Informed Real Life Fame

Bob must be famous because that\'s what the TV show he\'s guest-starring on is telling us.

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Informed Real Life Fame is a type of Audience Reaction that occurs when the luster of a real-life "superstar" is oddly contained to the universe of a particular TV program or movie in which he is appearing As Himself.

Sometimes, The Informed Real Life Fame can arise in retrospect such as when a One Hit Wonder manages to land a guest-shot as himself or herself on a popular TV show just before his or her 15 minutes expires. At the time the episode originally airs, the One Hit Wonder may actually have a fair amount of fame and public recognition but in the reruns aired years after the One Hit Wonder has ceased being even the punchline to flash-in-the-pan jokes, people seeing the show will have no idea who the One Hit Wonder is and will be puzzled about why he (or she) is being presented as such a big deal. (This also makes the episode of the TV show an Unintentional Period Piece.)

Another way Informed Real Life Fame comes into play is when the "celebrity" depicted in the TV program as a hot new star is, in real life, a One Hit Wonder Without a Hit. Even people seeing the show when it's initially aired have little idea on who this heavily-hyped newcomer is and why he (or she) is being presented as such a big deal. In some cases, this example of Informed Real Life Fame comes about when a campaign of money, publicity, and hype to launch an unknown performer into superstar status fails spectacularly.

Increasingly, Informed Real Life Fame has become intermingled with Fan Myopia and Popcultural Osmosis Failure. As popular culture gets more fragmented, a person who's famous with one particular demographic may be completely unknown by another. Something similar can be experienced if someone from "Country A" is watching a TV show from "Country B" featuring a guest-star who's not known outside of "Country B".


Examples

Advertising
  • A commercial example: back in the 1970s, Alberto VO 5 hair products had a series of ads starring "international superstar" Rula Lenska. While she was recognizable as an actress in the UK, in North America she was famous chiefly as "that woman on the shampoo commercials nobody's ever heard of."

Comics
  • A 1980s Archie Comics story guest-starred, and featured on the cover, one Glen Scarpelli as a Teen Idol that the characters just couldn't stop gushing about. In fact, while Scarpelli wasn't completely obscure—he had a recurring role as Alex Handris on One Day At A Time—he wasn't known for his music. However, his father, Henry Scarpelli, had been an Archie Comics artist for decades, so draw your own conclusion.

Literature
  • In an in-universe example, Miranda in When You Reach Me sees this at work while watching a taping of the $20,000 Pyramid. ("The celebrities take the stage. I've never heard of either one of them.")

Newspaper Comics
  • Mallard Fillmore did a week-long series of strips promoting the drafting of conservative economist Walter E. Williams as the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. In the strips, the groundswell of popular support for Williams' drafting is depicted as being so huge that it causes then-Chairman of the DNC Howard Dean to throw a tantrum out of fear and frustration. In reality, Williams was little-known other than by hardcore listeners of the Rush Limbaugh Show where he sometimes guest-hosted when Limbaugh was on vacation.

Live Action TV
  • Probably the best example of this occurred when the short-lived late 70s sitcom Hello Larry made a desperate attempt to garner higher ratings by getting Joey "Not John" Travolta to guest-star on the show as himself. Although efforts were made during the episode to convince viewers he was every bit as hot and famous as his older brother, even then people knew he was a lesser-known sibling trying to ride on his coattails.
  • During the 1970s, there were several variety specials aired starring an unknown singer named Dora Hall. Hall was the 70-something wife of Solo Cup Company CEO Leo Hulseman who used his fortune to bankroll her recording career and produce her TV specials even though she hadn't performed publicly since the 1920s. Hulseman even lined up some recognizable-at-the-time guest stars for Hall's shows even though they were as much in the dark about who she was and why she was being presented as such a big deal as the TV viewers.
  • The Muppet Show had this to an extent in the first season, when no-one knew how big it was going to be, and the special guests were mostly doing Lew Grade a favour. So there were several British celebs that American audiences had never heard of, but Kermit would still try and convince everyone that Bruce Forsyth was an international megastar.
  • Not so much in the show itself, but NBC's advertising for The Master (aka Master Ninja) hyped co-star Timothy van Patten as "the supreme heartthrob." As our own page notes, "Timothy van Patten was never a supreme heartthrob, even in 1984."
  • On reruns of What's My Line, the mystery celebrities are often long-forgotten teen heartthrobs or Broadway stars. (Oh my gosh, it's...Van Johnson?)
  • Parodied on one The Weakest Link special, which specifically used B list celebrities (or "People who are famous for one reason or another." as Anne Robinson put it).
  • Also parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000 with "TV's Frank". "TV's Frank" is not famous for anything even though his name would suggest he's a well-known television star. The creators just thought the convention of adding "TV's" or "Hollywood's" to an actor's name is funny.

Community Feedback Replies: 72
  • December 3, 2011
    Lawman592
    I had a few examples but I think they're probably too obscure to use. Maybe the other tropers will have some better ones. In any case, whether this YKTTW is tropable is questionable at best.
  • December 3, 2011
    wanderlustwarrior
    Isn't the point of your proposed trope that they be obscure? Also, though this can occasionally get taken too far, There Is No Such Thing As Notability.
  • December 3, 2011
    Lawman592
    What I meant was the actual TV programs (and comic strip) I was going to cite were themselves obscure. I may cite them later but I wanted to see if anybody else had better examples than mine.
  • December 3, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    No such thing as notability means we love obscure works, unlike some wikis.
  • December 5, 2011
    MorganWick
    Alternate "quote" (or laconic): "The fame of a guest star is inversely proportional to the number of times the audience is told how famous they are."
  • December 5, 2011
    Trotzky
    Guest star comes on, Live studio Audience goes mad with cheering, TV audience at home assumes that this guy was famous at the time. But if the show uses a laughter track, they could tack on mad cheering for a "guest star" and make the Audience at home think this guy is a celebrity. Is that it?
  • December 5, 2011
    Lawman592
    Close. I'm assuming in your example, the "guest star" is playing himself on a TV show that's otherwise fictional as opposed to appearing as a guest on a talk show or variety show.
  • December 7, 2011
    BlackMageJ
    Reality TV shows focusing around 'Celebrities' almost always do this- the typical lineup will consist of former soapstars who failed to make it big, a disgraced MP, a 'model' who once accused someone famous of sexual harassment, a singer who hasn't had a single in nearly a decade, the niece of a Hollywood actor, and someone who was on another reality TV show and now qualifies for the Celebrity version. They will be treated like royalty.
  • December 9, 2011
    Lawman592
    On the surface, reality TV shows with supposed "celebrities" would seem to qualify under this trope but there's too much self-awareness going on. The audience is aware the celebrities are low-rent; the reality TV show producers are aware the audience is aware the celebrities are low-rent; and the celebrities themselves are aware they're low-rent.
  • December 12, 2011
    LobsterMagnus
    Can be experienced often by non-Americans watching American sitcoms. (Or someone from country A watching a sitcom from country B in general, but "non-American viewer & American sitcom" is probably the most common constellation.) While many American entertainers and celebrities are famous internationally, there are also many others for whom this is not the case.

    A side effect of this trope: When someone you don't recognize is famous within the sitcom-universe, you have to wonder if the character is an entirely made up person, or a Real Life celebrity playing him- or herself.
  • December 15, 2011
    Bisected8
    Parodied on one The Weakest Link special, which specifically used B list celebrities (or "People who are famous for one reason or another." as Anne Robinson put it).
  • December 16, 2011
    randomsurfer
    There's a certain amount of Fan Myopia and/or Popcultural Osmosis Failure implicit in this writeup. I mean, Viewer Alice might not be aware that Special Guest Star Bob is a huge megastar, so this is her reaction. And what do you expect, to know every popcultural icon ever? Of course 60 year old Whats My Line reruns will have people you've never heard of, but were quite famous at the time.
  • December 16, 2011
    Lawman592
    This proposed trope is meant to be about One-Hit-Wonders and heavily-hyped never-weres rather than people who were famous for a long period years ago. On a TV show or movie where Informed Real Life Fame comes into play, the celebrity guest-starring as himself has to be depicted as being far more famous than he ever actually was.
  • December 16, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    The idea that "low-rent" can disqualify from this trope makes no sense.
  • December 16, 2011
    Lawman592
    The disqualification of an example under the Informed Real Life Fame trope doesn't have to do with the would-be celebrity's "low-rent" status but rather if it's done with the open awareness by all the parties (i.e., the TV show's producers, the celebrity himself, and the audience) that they are low-rent.
  • December 18, 2011
    crazysamaritan
    How would you know, 20 years later, if it was self-aware? Wouldn't it be an invoked trope even if you could?
  • December 18, 2011
    Lawman592
    What about examples where in Real Life the celebrity is famous among certain demographics, but in-universe they seem to be universally popular? I remember Atop The Fourth Wall reviewed "Eminem Meets The Punisher", wherein the titular rapper encountered a middle-aged white ice fisher in a remote area who happened to be a fan of his. I also heard somewhere that in-universe Hannah Montana is popular with more than tween girls as well.
  • December 19, 2011
    Frank75
    I'm surprised that noone mentioned Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian (or other people who're famous for being famous) yet. Recently I read an interesting article about this phenomenon: http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2011/12/14/dictatorship-the-duc-de-saint-simon-and-kim-kardashian/
  • December 20, 2011
    Lawman592
    Unfortunately for us, both Hilton and Kardashian are well-known by the general public. If they appeared as a guest star on a TV show, you wouldn't need exposition explaining who they are and establishing that they they're famous.
  • December 28, 2011
    MorganWick
    Which is a problem, as I could easily see tropers 20 years from now calling shows starring them obvious examples.
  • December 29, 2011
    Lawman592
    • Many of the "Celebrity Guests" on game shows like Pyramid and Match Game were like this.

    Another possible page quote, from When You Reach Me: "The celebrities take the stage. I've never heard of either one of them."
  • January 3, 2012
    Generality
    ^^ Hopefully, the existence of this page will help to inform them otherwise.
  • January 5, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    Except the point of the trope, as you've laid it out, is a "celebrity" that isn't well-known 20 years later.
  • January 5, 2012
    FallenLegend
    bill ray cyrus in Hanna Montana sure he is famous but not as famous as the show wants you to believe
  • January 5, 2012
    MyTimingIsOff
    I don't think this is tropable. It's essentially just an out-of-universe Popcultural Osmosis Failure.
  • January 5, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ And it looks like a method of stealth complaining (by claiming someone you dislike isn't that famous).
  • January 6, 2012
    KJMackley
    It seems obvious this is supposed to be related to Informed Ability but the crux of the trope is banking on performers who were once really famous, even then a lot of these are far cries from A-listers because most A-listers still have some sort of recognition years down the road. All this happens to be is a Special Guest that becomes dated, closer to Unintentional Period Piece but I'm not sure this is really tropeable.
  • January 6, 2012
    SonofRojBlake
    Leif Erickson. Anyone remember him? He was a blond, long haired teen hearththrob type in the seventies or possibly early eighties. He appeard in some sitcoms in just this style - not sure which, maybe Diff'rent Strokes or similar. I'm DEFINITELY SURE I remember the guy, and remember thinking even at the time "this guy must be huge in the States. I've never heard of him..."

    Here's how obscure he is - there is NO PAGE FOR HIM ON WIKIPEDIA. I've just tried googling him and I can't even confirm he existed. I'm now worried I dreamed him. Help.
  • January 6, 2012
    MorganWick
    ^ Well, it's kind of hard to google.
  • January 6, 2012
    Lawman592
    Unless it was meant to be a joke, I think Sonof Roj Blake is referring to Leif Garrett who actually did have a couple hit records and movie roles before his 15 minutes were up.

    Anyway, since I started this YKTTW topic, one of the situations I discussed where this trope comes into play is when the fame for the new performer is entirely manufactured. There's no HIT record, movie, or TV show that's the source of his celebrity. The TV show (or even movie) that the performer is guest-starring on buys into and continues the hype despite the fact that in real life, this performer was met with apathy, resistance, and/or bemusement by the general public.
  • January 7, 2012
    randomsurfer
    It could be because of a forced cross-promotion; AliceCo owns both Bob Records and the Charlie Broadcasting Company, so they make the producers of The Dan Evita Show (which airs on CBC) use their up-n-coming star Florence Geiger (who just signed with BR) on the show and make a big deal about how great she is.
  • January 7, 2012
    Lawman592
    ^ Exactly. I just need to think of an actual example to illustrate it.
  • January 9, 2012
    JimCambias
    A commercial example: back in the 1970s, Alberto VO 5 hair products had a series of ads starring "international superstar" Rula Lenska. While she was recognizable as an actress in the UK, in North America she was famous chiefly as "that woman on the shampoo commercials nobody's ever heard of."
  • January 15, 2012
    aurora369
    Just who the hell is Kardashian?
  • January 17, 2012
    MorganWick
    ^x5 That would explain why he couldn't find a Wikipedia page or Google info on him, if he searched for the wrong name...
  • January 19, 2012
    SonofRojBlake
    Oh thank God, yes, I meant Leif Garrett, and no, it was not a joke, just my failing memory. And while he may well have had hit records Stateside, he did nothing in the UK except turn up in sitcoms in precisely this style, which is what I (clearly very dimly) remember him for.

    Thank you so much for sorting that one out for me.
  • January 27, 2012
    Rognik
    So this is a trope of Real Life invading the fantasy? I just want to make certain it's not like an "Informed Celebrity" trope, where we're being told "This Guy is Famous."
  • January 27, 2012
    Lawman592
    ^ Yes. It's a real life person doing a guest shot as himself or herself on a TV show or movie that's completely fictional otherwise.
  • January 29, 2012
    benjamminsam
    This is obviously a huge YMMV trope but Curb Your Enthusiasm seems to be heavy on this. In fact, this could even be a subversion: Both A- and B-list celebrities are so often depicted playing themselves that it is a bit jarring to see a relatively well-known commodity like Ana Gasteyer play a character role, even when someone like Kevin Nealon plays himself.
  • January 29, 2012
    benjamminsam
    Parodied in MST3K; "TV's Frank" is not famous for anything even though his name would suggest he's a well-known television star. The creators just thought the convention of adding "TV's" or "Hollywood's" to an actor's name is funny.
  • January 30, 2012
    Lawman592
    ^ Good one. I'll add it.
  • January 31, 2012
    Rognik
    the Ghostbusters music video has a bit of this. There are a ton of cameos from people singing the chorus, but you'd be hard pressed to identify any of them nowadays.
  • January 31, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^ Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Melissa Gilbert, [black guy with dreadlocks], Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken (doing a Mick Jagger impression), Danny DeVito, Catherine Bach, Peter Falk, Teri Garr, Chevy Chase again. After seeing it once for the first time in probably 25 years. YMMV I guess but I don't think any of them count (with the possible exception of the one I wasn't able to identify after the first viewing.)

    EDIT: OK, I was wrong about one: Carly Simon instead of Catherine Bach.
  • February 1, 2012
    MorganWick
    ^ Who the hell are Irene Cara, Jeffrey Tambor, and Teri Garr?
  • February 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^Ass/u/ming you're serious: Irene Cara: singer/songwriter/dancer/actress; Coco in original film version of Fame and sang the title song, wrote & sang the song "Flashdance" for the film of the same name. Jeffrey Tambor: George Bluth on Arrested Development, Hank on The Larry Sanders Show. Teri Garr: Well, I guess she never had That One Iconic Role. You may know her as Phoebe's birth mother from Friends, or Michael Keaton's character's wife from Mr. Mom. Academy Award nominated for her role in Tootsie as Michael's girlfriend. EDIT: Oh, she played Inga in Young Frankenstein too.
  • February 11, 2012
    ScanVisor
    JUST LAUNCH IT ALREADY. I've been seeing this damn YKTTW floating around for months.
  • February 20, 2012
    MyTimingIsOff
    No, don't launch it. It's not tropable.

    Also, labeling variations of tropes as "type X" is frowned upon.
  • February 21, 2012
    crazysamaritan
    You seem to have a misplaced comment. It does not fit this thread.
  • February 21, 2012
    MyTimingIsOff
    ^No, my comment was put in the correct thread. If it was the type labeling criticism that confused you, the OP had that before I made the comment. It's fixed now.

    I still don't think this is tropable, though.
  • March 6, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    I kind of agree that this is way subjective, but at the same time... ok, I don't know if this is a UK thing or what but we do have a lot of "celebrity" shows (such as Im A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here or Strictly Come Dancing) where the so-called "celebrities" are incredibly obscure. Every time they announce the line ups for these shows people are asking who they are. Maybe there's something salvageable?

    There's an episode of Americas Next Top Model where the guest was Ciara. She's not THAT obscure but Tyra and the judges were going on and on and on about how successful she is that it certainly seemed like an Informed Ability.
  • March 7, 2012
    Lawman592
    Should I discard this? This YKTTW is probably too subjective and unless there's a place on this site for subjective topics, it should probably be discarded as not tropable.
  • March 13, 2012
    MorganWick
    We have Subjective Tropes. Whether or not this is too subjective for the wiki is another matter, but subjectiveness itself is not the issue.
  • March 13, 2012
    Deboss
    Eh, I'd probably restrict it to in universe or something. I personally think this would descend into complaining and natter too quickly to be useful.
  • July 16, 2012
    Lawman592
    Would this work under the Trivia tab?
  • July 16, 2012
    Xtifr
    Being "obscure" is definitely YMMV. The fact that an actor appeared as him/herself is not trivia; it's an actual element of the show. So I think YMMV trope rather than Trivia. Note that being YMMV still allows it to be used as an invoked trope, when it occurs in-universe (assuming we have examples of that).
  • January 19, 2014
    DAN004
    So Let Me Get This Straight - this is someone who posed As Himself in a show is poised as a famous celebrity by that show - but IRL he's not that popular?

    Close to Popcultural Osmosis Failure, but I think it's tropable.
  • January 19, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Or IRL he really was all that popular, but no-one remembers him now.

    "Obscure" is subjective, and we already have Celebrity Star, which is not subjective.

    Without an objective requirement, this trope would become a YMMV and The Same But More Specific of Celebrity Star. Because of that, I dont' see a need for this trope.
  • January 19, 2014
    DAN004
    "Or IRL he really was all that popular, but no-one remembers him now."

    If the description mentioned something along that line, I think that part should be deleted. That part is pretty much YMMV and debate bait.
  • January 19, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    Third "description" paragraph:

    Sometimes, The Informed Real Life Fame can arise in retrospect. The most common example of this occurs when a One-Hit Wonder manages to land a guest-shot as himself or herself on a popular TV show just before his or her 15 minutes expires. At the time the episode originally airs, the One Hit Wonder may actually have a fair amount of fame and public recognition but in the reruns aired years after the One Hit Wonder has ceased being even the punchline to flash-in-the-pan jokes, people seeing the show will have no idea who the One Hit Wonder is and will be puzzled about why he (or she) is being presented as such a big deal. (This also makes the episode of the TV show an Unintentional Period Piece.)
  • January 20, 2014
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized work titles, deleted blank lines between examples, and de-Blue Linked a whole bunch of Circular Links.
  • January 20, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ Yeah, that. Get rid of that plz.
  • January 20, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    There's also elements of that in the first description paragraph Example As A Thesis that sets the work in 1984, and the audience is from the unspecified "now".

    So that would need rewriting, and don't forget the other two reasons:
    • Person who is not yet all that popular, and never become popular (if they do become popular after being in this work, they're no longer obscure).
    • Person who is that popular in Country A, but the audience is Country B, where they're an unknown.
  • January 20, 2014
    DaibhidC
    • The Muppet Show had this to an extent in the first season, when no-one knew how big it was going to be, and the special guests were mostly doing Lew Grade a favour. So there were several British celebs that American audiences had never heard of, but Kermit would still try and convince everyone that Bruce Forsyth was an international megastar.
  • January 20, 2014
    MetaFour
    • Not so much in the show itself, but the advertising for The Master (aka Master Ninja) hyped co-star Timothy van Patten as "the supreme heartthrob." As our own page notes, "Timothy van Patten was never a supreme heartthrob, even in 1984."
  • January 21, 2014
    LordGro
    This is an Audience Reaction, not a trope.
  • January 31, 2014
    Lawman592
    I've edited and rewritten the description to read as follows. Tell me if it's any better.

    Informed Real Life Fame is when the luster of a real-life "superstar" is oddly contained to the fictional universe of a particular TV program or movie despite repeated claims in the TV program or movie stating otherwise.

    Sometimes, The Informed Real Life Fame can arise in retrospect such as when a One-Hit Wonder manages to land a guest-shot as himself or herself on a popular TV show just before his or her 15 minutes expires. At the time the episode originally airs, the One Hit Wonder may actually have a fair amount of fame and public recognition but in the reruns aired years after the One Hit Wonder has ceased being even the punchline to flash-in-the-pan jokes, people seeing the show will have no idea who the One Hit Wonder is and will be puzzled about why he (or she) is being presented as such a big deal. (This also makes the episode of the TV show an Unintentional Period Piece.)

    Another way Informed Real Life Fame comes into play is when the "celebrity" depicted in the TV program as a hot new star is, in real life, a One Hit Wonder Without a Hit. Even people seeing the show when it's initially aired have little idea on who this heavily-hyped newcomer is and why he (or she) is being presented as such a big deal. In some cases, this example of Informed Real Life Fame comes about when a campaign of money, publicity, and hype to launch an unknown performer into superstar status fails spectacularly.

    Increasingly, Informed Real Life Fame has become intermingled with the Fan Myopia and Popcultural Osmosis Failure tropes. As popular culture gets more fragmented, a person who's famous with one particular demographic may be completely unknown by another. Something similar can be experienced if someone from "Country A" is watching a TV show from "Country B" featuring a guest-star who's not known outside of "Country B".
  • January 31, 2014
    frosty
    Wasn't there a trope about real bands that make cameos on tv shows, and then all the characters in the show are huge fans, no matter how obscure the band is IRL?
  • January 31, 2014
    AliceMacher
    • A 1980s Archie Comics story guest-starred, and featured on the cover, one Glen Scarpelli as a Teen Idol that the characters just couldn't stop gushing about. In fact, while Scarpelli wasn't completely obscure—he had a recurring role as Alex Handris on One Day At A Time—he wasn't known for his music. However, his father, Henry Scarpelli, had been an Archie Comics artist for decades, so draw your own conclusion.
  • January 31, 2014
    crazysamaritan
    ^^^ That seems okay, although if you want straight examples, this becomes an Audience Reaction, and therefore a YMMV trope.

    Not that it is any less legitimate, that's just a classification when we require information not present in the work itself. The "Real Life" portion isn't something that can be determined from the work, especially if the work is doing the Informing.
  • February 15, 2014
    Lawman592
    Revised to remove Example As Thesis paragraphs and references to Informed Real Life Fame being a trope.
  • February 16, 2014
    LordGro
    This looks okay to me in principle, although I think the actual definition (the first paragraph) could use some polishing:

    "Informed Real Life Fame is when the luster of a real-life "superstar" is oddly contained to the fictional universe of a particular TV program or movie despite repeated claims in the TV program or movie stating otherwise."

    This seems to be worded unnecessarily complicated: If the fame of the (supposed) star is "contained to the fictional universe" of the show, it is not necessary for the show to "claim otherwise" (i.e. that the fame is not contained to the fictional universe of the show). In fact, I doubt that many shows will explicitly tell the watcher "These are actual stars, they are not only famous in our show!" When a real person is treated as a star in the show, that's kind of an implicit statement of "s/he's really famous". It would be a strange kind of humor to treat a real person as a star in the show, while at the same time signalling the viewer "just kidding, we know he's not really famous". I would just chop off the "despite repeated claims ..." part.

    Also, I take it this Audience Reaction requires a (supposed) star appearing in the show As Himself; the description should mention that.

    Edit: I see the description has been changed. Looks okay to me.
  • February 25, 2014
    Lawman592
    Unless anybody wants to add anything, I'm going to launch this soon.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable