Created By: randomsurferJuly 9, 2012 Last Edited By: TheWandererJanuary 12, 2016

Losing Count

A gag where somebody is counting something (often money) but loses count and starts over again.

Name Space:
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Page Type:
Trope
A character is counting something but loses his place and has to start over again. Alternately, another character may distract the first one (either accidentally or on purpose) by mentioning different numbers, confusing the counting character into picking up the count from those instead. The latter is the heart of the Quick Change con.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In Gaston Lagaffe, the eponymous Gaston drunkenly tries to count bottles arranged in a circle around him and turns around for a long time, counting the same bottles over and over again.
  • A very dark version in the Preacher comics, where the eponymous Preacher uses his Compelling Voice to force someone to count millions of grains of sand. Every time the guy loses count he has to start all over again, and he can't leave until he succeeds.

Film
  • In Abbott And Costello in the Foreign Legion, Lou is counting out potatoes while Bud is complaining about their recent hardships. Every single time Bud mentions a number in his tirade, Lou resumes his counting from that number. And the numbers keep getting smaller: at the start of the scene, Lou has over a hundred potatoes, yet he finishes his count at ten potatoes.
  • In the Bud Spencer & Terence Hill movie Go for It (1983), Rosco and Doug sabotage supervillain K1's attempt to detonate the "K-Bomb" which is supposed to eradicate all numbers on the world by distracting K1's spoken countdown before the rocket carrying the bomb is taking off, causing it to miss it's target and exploding harmlessly in space.
  • In Batman Forever, the Riddler counts the money he and Two-Face robbed, and after a while exclaims ecstatically, "I lost count!!"
  • In Blow, George and Diego have to count the cash they made from their drug smuggling operation by hand, which quickly becomes impossible because it's millions of dollars stored in countless cardboard boxes. After losing count one too many times, they decide to store it in a bank instead.

Literature
  • In Flatterland, Victoria Line (yes, an actual line) pranks the Space Hopper by pretending that she's been counting all of the thousands of 4-d "kissing spheres" combinations when he wakes up, then "losing count" and starting over from 1. Victoria loses count at 196,554 out of the 196,560 "kissing spheres" (meaning spheres of the same size that are touching). The maximum number of spheres of the same size that can touch one sphere in 24-dimesional space is 196,560; so Victoria made it look like the Hopper interrupted her just six spheres away from counting all of the 24-dimensional spheres.
  • A notable aversion in The Little Prince: the accountant still keeps on counting.
  • The Long Dark Tea Time Of The Soul: As a punishment, Odin makes Thor count all the stones in Wales. Thor eventually loses count but doesn't go back and recount them all.

Live Action TV
  • The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr: Pete Hutter is strapped in to a Chinese Water Torture device and counts the drops hitting his head in an attempt to stay sane. He gets up to 1,640, but after a visit from his torturer he discovers he's lost count and starts over at 1.
  • The Benny Hill Show: Benny as an accountant is counting a big pile of one pound notes. He's almost to the last one, then gets distracted by a girl in a short skirt bending over a file cabinet. After she leaves he starts to continue, but realizes he doesn't remember where he left off. He's forced to start over from the beginning. (Mildly NSFW image)
  • In The Brady Bunch, Alice is counting a pile of jelly beans. She stops a moment to explain to the others who come by that she's trying to approximate the number of beans in a jar at a local store, to win a prize for guessing the correct number. She then resumes counting, but now can't remember if she was up to three-thousand two-hundred-and-ninety-six or two-thousand three-hundred-and-sixty-nine (or some such). While the others debate about the number, Alice calmly empties out the sample jar, and begins again with 1, 2,...
  • On Corner Gas, Emma is at the gas station counting jelly beans for a "Guess the amount in the jar" contest. At the same time, Brent rings up a customer and tells him "$8.50", which makes Emma think she's counted to 850. She gets confused and starts over. Later on she has to start over again when she discovers that Karen's been eating some of the jelly beans she counted. They finally decide to abandon the counting and just lie about the number.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode "A Pressing Engagement" has Jason trying to make a bench press record, but Ernie keeps losing count (for various reasons) and has to start all over again.
  • An episode of Wilmot has him trying to beat a record by running laps around his garden. A pair of girls make his friend (who is keeping count) lose count.
  • Wimzies House. A subplot in one episode has Russo spending much of the entire day counting the pennies he has in a jar, but other activities in the house keep causing him to lose count; a couple of times, Lou Lou is able to help him pick up where he left off. In the end, he finally finishes counting all the pennies, only to spill the jar.
  • In an episode of a later version of Get Smart, Max is counting a large stack of money. The first time, he is thrown off by someone mentioning that if they don't get all the money back, they're going to Leavenworth - which Max hears as eleven. The second time, near the end of the episode, he's almost finished counting, when a night worker mentions the time being four in the morning, and Max starts counting from four.
  • In an episode of "Series/That 70's Show", Donna tries to count all the molecules in her body. After responding to Kelso she loses count and starts over.
  • In a Season 1 episode of All That featuring TLC, Angelique is seen counting jellybeans during the Cold Opening. She is up to "168" when Kevin interrupts, saying the show will begin in three minutes. Angelique briefly resumes counting at "three" before realising she's lost count and dumping the beans to start over.
  • A season 5 episode of Boardwalk Empire shows Al Capone and his brother Ralph making a game out of trying to get the Capone bookkeeper to do this by calling out random numbers as the man does his sums. The imperturbable bookkeeper, however, is able to filter them out and keep going without any problems.

Newspaper Comics
  • A recurring plot in mid-1950s Peanuts comics involves Lucy's attempt to count all the stars in the sky. She usually loses count by the end of a given strip. In fact in one of the earliest ones she's counting but not actually keeping track.

Professional Wrestling
  • When counting a 10 count due to someone being outside the ring, or a 5 count to break an illegal hold, if the referee is interrupted he starts the count over from one. You'd think it's because he's easily distracted, but no; it's in the actual rulebook that he has to start over.

Radio
  • In The Goon Show episode "The Canal" Bluebottle has to pay out a large sum of money, which he counts out in pennies. As the count nears the end there is a crash of piles of coins hitting the floor, and he starts again from one.

Video Games
  • The bomb in Starship Titanic. When activated, it starts a countdown (out loud) and makes so much fun of the player's attempts to figure out its disarm code that it frequently loses count and has to start over again from the top. This also carries over into the novelization, where the bomb always gets confused and starts over when somebody interrupts its countdown.
  • In World Of Warcraft, there's a gnome in the Shrine of Seven Stars counting the gold in the bank vault. He regularly gets confused and starts over.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, while exploring Galbadia Garden (a military academy) for the first time, you can find some students who are being punished by being made to do 100 push-ups. If you walk up to one of the students as he's doing the push-ups and talk to him several times, he'll lose count, get annoyed at you and be forced to start again.

Webcomics
  • In one Arthur King Of Time And Space strip, a character is counting a deck of cards, and keeps getting thrown off by numbers drifting over from a conversation happening in the background. In the end, he coincidentally ends up on the same number that he would have done if he hadn't been distracted.
  • In Divinity Original Sin, the player finds the Troll King in a cave, counting the gold pieces lying all around in huge piles. Since the King doesn't seem to be able to count to ten, he constantly loses count and starts from scratch (until the player charges in and murders him).

Western Animation
  • An episode of Arthur has an episode where Brain attempts to prove centipedes do not have have 100 legs, despite their name. His method of proving this? By counting them one by one. We see him getting interrupted in one scene and having to start all over again.
  • In Chowder, Schnitzel goes to the bank with Chowder and the woman in front of him wants to make a deposit, in change. As the teller keeps counting, Chowder keeps interrupting and mentioning numbers, which causes the teller to lose count, and Schnitzel to lose his patience.
  • This used to happen in Duck Tales usually with one of Scrooge's nephews interrupting him and making him lose his count.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: The time when Timmy wishes to try to have the step dad of another kid. Doing pushups... after Timmy interrupts he has to start doing the thousand pushups from zero.
  • In Garfield And Friends, the US Acres episode "Cornfinger" had Orson attempt to count how many ears of corn there were in the silo, only to land on a different number each time. It is later revealed that the reason for this is because Roy kept stealing an ear of corn each time and hiding it in his parka. Orson fortunately figures this out by using an electric heater to pop all of the corn that Roy had been stealing.
Community Feedback Replies: 56
  • July 9, 2012
    JonnyB
    The Riddler does it in Batman Forever.
  • July 9, 2012
    Mauri
    Common trope and sure troped to good senses. Start tagging the anime, comics, animation for it will start to get messy fast. Mostly used with a minimal distraction.

    • Western Animation

      • Fairly Oddparents: The time when Timmy wishes to try to have the step dad of another kid. Doing pushups... after Timmy interrupts he has to start doing the thousand pushups from zero.

    • Literature

      • A notable aversion in The Little Prince: As far as I recall the accountant still keeps on counting.

    Some better examples and or clarifications may follow.
  • July 10, 2012
    triassicranger
    Live Action Television

    • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode "A Pressing Engagement" has Jason trying to make a bench press record, but Ernie keeps losing count (for various reasons) and has to start all over again.
    • An episode of Wilmot has him trying to beat a record by running laps around his garden. A pair of girls make his friend (who is keeping count) lose count.
  • July 10, 2012
    spideydude
    • On Corner Gas, Emma is at the gas station counting jelly beans for a "Guess the amount in the jar" contest. At the same time, Brent rings up a customer and tells him "$8.50", which makes Emma think she's counted to 850. She gets confused and starts over. Later on she has to start over again when she discovers that Karen's been eating some of the jelly beans she counted. They finally decide to abandon the counting and just lie about the number.
  • July 10, 2012
    surgoshan
    • A very dark version in the Preacher comics, where the eponymous Preacher uses his command voice to force someone to count millions of grains of sand.
  • July 10, 2012
    Blubble
    Comic Books

    • In Gaston Lagaffe, the eponymous Gaston drunkenly tries to count bottles arranged in a circle around him and turns around for a long time, counting the same bottles over and over again.
  • July 10, 2012
    TonyG
    In Chowder, Schnitzel goes to the bank with Chowder and the woman in front of him wants to make a deposit, in change. As the teller keeps counting, Chowder keeps interrupting and mentioning numbers, which causes the teller to lose count, and Schnitzel to lose his patience.
  • July 12, 2012
    triassicranger
    Western Animation

    • An episode of Arthur has an episode where Brain attempts to prove centipedes do not have have 100 legs, despite their name. His method of proving this? By counting them one by one. We see him getting interrupted in one scene and having to start all over again.
  • July 12, 2012
    JonnyB
    Often part of the gag will be an interruption or distraction (as noted in the Benny Hill example above), or some wise guy starts throwing out numbers to cause them to lose their concentration.
  • July 12, 2012
    Fren
    I think that this used to happen in the Duck Tales cartoon, usually with one of Scrooge's nephews interrupting him and making him lose his count.
  • July 12, 2012
    moriwen
    In Flatterland, Victoria Line (yes, an actual line) pranks the Space Hopper by pretending that she's been counting all of the thousands of 4-d "kissing spheres" combinations when he wakes up, then "losing count" and starting over from 1.
  • July 12, 2012
    SquirrelGuy
    In The Brady Bunch, Alice is counting a pile of jelly beans. She stops a moment to explain to the others who come by that she's trying to approximate the number of beans in a jar at a local store, to win a prize for guessing the correct number. She then resumes counting, but now can't remember if she was up to three-thousand two-hundred-and-ninety-six or two-thousand three-hundred-and-sixty-nine (or some such). While the others debate about the number, Alice calmly empties out the sample jar, and begins again with 1, 2,...
  • July 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^^What medium is Flatterland?
  • July 13, 2012
    moriwen
    ^^ It's a book.
  • July 14, 2012
    Achitha
    Minor gag in Fairly Odd Parents, when Timmy is trying out new dads (It Makes Sense In Context), Sanjay's military step dad forces him to do a ridiculous amount of push ups... and loses count, forcing Timmy to start over at least twice
  • July 15, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Updates rolled to here, except for Batman Forever because it's Zero Context.
  • July 16, 2012
    PaulA
    • In one Arthur King Of Time And Space strip, a character is counting a deck of cards, and keeps getting thrown off by numbers drifting over from a conversation happening in the background. In the end, he coincidentally ends up on the same number that he would have done if he hadn't been distracted.
  • March 2, 2013
    ATC
    Well, for the Flatterland example, Victoria line is counting twenty-four dimensional spheres.

    Specifically, in Flatterland, Victoria loses count at 196,554 out of the 196,560 "kissing spheres" (meaning spheres of the same size that are touching). The maximum number of spheres of the same size that can touch one sphere in 24-dimesional space is 196,560; so Victoria made it look like the Hopper interrupted her just six spheres away from counting all of the 24-dimensional spheres.

    Really, though, she admits that she started counting at 196,540 to prank the Hopper when she realized that he had fallen asleep.
  • March 2, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • In the Bud Spencer & Terence Hill movie Go For It (1983), Rosco and Doug sabotage supervillain K1's attempt to detonate the "K-Bomb" which is supposed to eradicate all numbers on the world by distracting K1's spoken countdown before the rocket carrying the bomb is taking off, causing it to miss it's target and exploding harmlessly in space.
  • March 2, 2013
    Stratadrake

    Video Games

    • The bomb in Starship Titanic. When activated, it starts a countdown (out loud) and makes so much fun of the player's attempts to figure out its disarm code that it frequently loses count and has to start over again from the top.
  • March 3, 2013
    Arivne

  • June 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    I moved the Quick Change examples to that page; what else needs to be done? Got lots of examples but only 2 hats.
  • June 12, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    I fixed a couple of typos and alphabetized the examples in each folder. Also fixed the namespaces in the wicks. (Apparently I already added a hat before that.)
  • June 12, 2013
    kiukiuclk
    Would it make sense to unify this with Instant Counting Jump (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=7aq6tlrjq6wlmob05u4z98cm).

    Or call it Counting Gags and add the idea of Instant Counting(which is almost the inverse of this: I.e. where a character will either very quickly or instantly count a large number of objects with perfect accuracy)
  • January 23, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ That would be a close Sister Trope.
  • January 23, 2014
    JohnnyCache
    • In World Of Warcraft, there's a gnome in the Shrine of Seven Stars counting the gold in the bank vault. He regularly gets confused and starts over.
  • January 26, 2014
    robbulldog
    In an episode of a later version of Get Smart, Maxwell is counting a large stack of money. The first time, he is thrown off by someone mentioning that if they don't get all the money back, they're going to Leavenworth - which Maxwell hears as eleven. The second time, near the end of the episode, he's almost finished counting, when a night worker mentions the time being (IIRC) four in the morning, and Maxwell starts counting from four.
  • January 27, 2014
    astropolis
    In the BBC radio comedy series "The Goon Show" episode "The Canal" Bluebottle has to pay out a large sum of money, which he counts out in pennies. As the count nears the end there is a crash of piles of coins hitting the floor, and he starts again from one.
  • July 19, 2014
    DAN004
    Pmub
  • July 19, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Live Action TV
    • Wimzies House. A subplot in one episode has Russo spending much of the entire day counting the pennies he has in a jar, but other activities in the house keep causing him to lose count; a couple of times, Lou Lou is able to help him pick up where he left off. In the end, he finally finishes counting all the pennies, only to spill the jar.
  • July 21, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Updates rolled.
    • robbulldog, what do you mean by "a later version of Get Smart"? One of the last seasons of the original series, or the 1995 series, or one of the reunion movies, or ??
    • Jonny B's "The Riddler does it in Batman Forever" is Zero Context so I didn't add it. Anyone have some context to add in?
  • July 21, 2014
    CaveCat
    • In Garfield And Friends, the US Acres episode "Cornfinger" had Orson attempt to count how many ears of corn there were in the silo, only to land on a different number each time. It is later revealed that the reason for this is because Roy kept stealing an ear of corn each time and hiding it in his parka. Orson fortunately figures this out by using an electric heater to pop all of the corn that Roy had been stealing.
  • October 20, 2014
    DAN004
    Is this ever updated? Grabbing this if I'm allowed to.
  • October 20, 2014
    NESBoy
    • In a Season 1 episode of All That featuring TLC, Angelique is seen counting jellybeans during the Cold Opening. She is up to "168" when Kevin interrupts, saying the show will begin in three minutes. Angelique briefly resumes counting at "three" before realising she's lost count and dumping the beans to start over.
  • October 21, 2014
    TheWanderer
    • A season 5 episode of Boardwalk Empire shows Al Capone and his brother Ralph making a game out of trying to get the Capone bookkeeper to do this by calling out random numbers as the man does his sums. The imperturbable bookkeeper, however, is able to filter them out and keep going without any problems.
  • October 21, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    In Batman Forever, the Riddler counts the money he and Two-Face robbed, and after a while exclaims ecstatically, 'I lost count!!'
  • October 21, 2014
    Astaroth
    • In Final Fantasy VIII, while exploring Galbadia Garden (a military academy) for the first time, you can find some students who are being punished by being made to do 100 push-ups. If you walk up to one of the students as he's doing the push-ups and talk to him several times, he'll lose count, get annoyed at you and be forced to start again.

    I'm sure this was used as a joke in an episode of Dads Army as well, when the bank was hit by a bomb and Jones was tasked with counting some of the money that was rescued from the vault... can anyone confirm this/provide more details?
  • October 22, 2014
    Koveras
    • In Divinity Original Sin, you find the Troll King in a cave, counting the gold pieces lying all around in huge piles. Since he doesn't seem to be able to count to ten, he constantly loses count and starts from scratch (until you charge in and murder him).
  • October 22, 2014
    randomsurfer
    @Dan: There hasn't been anything to update since July. Unlike some other people I don't constantly bump my ykttws, nor do I bump them all at once; I let them lie fallow and then bump once in a while.

    Sincerely, OP.
  • October 22, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Can I call it a yes?
  • October 22, 2014
    Chernoskill
    Film

    • In Blow, George and Diego have to count the cash they made from their drug smuggling operation by hand, which quickly becomes impossible because it's millions of dollars stored in countless cardboard boxes. After losing count one too many times, they decide to store it in a bank instead.
  • October 22, 2014
    randomsurfer
    ^^No.
  • November 30, 2014
    DAN004
    Just bump for now
  • December 6, 2014
    randomsurfer
    updates rolled.
  • January 1, 2015
    DAN004
    pmub
  • January 1, 2015
    KyleJacobs
    Pretty sure this is People Sit On Chairs as written - there's something here, but the description right now is way too general to bring it out. What does this do for the story? Does it show the character as stupid? Drunk? Very young? Is it part of a con?

    We need more here.
  • January 1, 2015
    TomWalpertac2
    It generally operates on Rule Of Funny. It's fairly common in military fiction. Especially works involving Basic Training and Drill Sergeant Nasty.
    • Stripes: Drill Sgt Hulka is supervising his recruits as they do push-ups. As he's counting, he asks one Private nearing the final push-up a question with a numerical answer. The private answers and gives Drill Sgt Hulka an excuse to restart his count from the number the Private just named.
    • Mickeys Christmas Carol: Ebeneezer ScroogeMcDuck is sitting in his office, counting his money when an angry customer leaves and slams the door so hard his stack of coins falls over, spoiling his count.
      Five thousand, three hundred and twenty—- *SLAM! spill*
      ...Three.
  • January 2, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^^The "part of a con" portion is Quick Change, as linked in the description. Otherwise, it's usually (but not always) the punchline to a joke/bit, hence as Tom says ^ it's Rule Of Funny.
  • January 18, 2015
    DAN004
    Pmub
  • February 3, 2015
    DAN004
    pmub
  • February 26, 2015
    rcmerod52
    I believe Lazy Town did this once, though I'll need someone to elaborate because I don't know all the character's names in the original English.

    (Here's what I remember: one character is counting money and another character enters the room talking about the book Stephanie showed him, he starts reciting numbers causing the first character to lose count of the money. This was in the first episode of the museum two-parter, I think. If I could have the names of the characters, that would be swell.)
  • February 27, 2015
    randomsurfer
    I don't think I've seen more than 5 minutes of that show in my life, but does Characters.Lazy Town help?
  • April 10, 2015
    DAN004
    Bumpity
  • January 11, 2016
    randomsurfer
    Ba-dump. One more hat needed.
  • January 12, 2016
    BKelly95
    Live Action Television
    • Once on Mystery Science Theater 3000, Dr. Forrester's contribution to the Invention Exchange is a vending machine that dispenses internal organs and he's removed TV's Frank's liver to demonstrate. At the end of the episode, Frank is trying to count out money to put into the machine to get a new liver. Dr. Forrester intentionally distracts him, making him start over.
  • January 12, 2016
    CrypticMirror
    In The Fifth Elephant as part of his Sanity Slippage Fred Colon keeps on counting sugar cubes and getting a different answer each time. This is because he is absent mindedly eating some of the sugar cubes as he does so.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable