[[quoteright:150:[[Webcomic/EscapeFromTerra http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Clipboard_6896.bmp]]]]

->"[A] clipboard is as good as a skeleton key."
-->-- '''Michael Westen, ''Series/BurnNotice'''''

When the characters are engaging in a BavarianFireDrill, are ImpersonatingAnOfficer, need to [[DeliveryGuyInfiltration infiltrate the enemy base]], or are DressingAsTheEnemy, their credibility is greatly enhanced if one of them is holding a clipboard. Nothing terrifies human beings as much as an ObstructiveBureaucrat on the move.

See also RefugeInAudacity. This is of course TruthInTelevision, as shows like ''Series/TheRealHustle'' can attest.



* ''ComicStrip/ModestyBlaise'' uses what Willie calls the 'universal passport' in "Garvin's Travels" to infiltrate a spy ring hiding in a resort. She adds to the effect by asking the first employee to see her if he's new; he chalks it up to the place being so large.

* ''Film/JamesBond''
** Bond does this in ''Film/DrNo''. While [[DressingAsTheEnemy dressed in a radiation suit]] he [[MuggedForDisguise stole by knocking out a guard]], he picks up a sheaf of papers to make himself look official.
** He does it again, this time with an actual clipboard (while posing as "Klaus Hergesheimer, G Section") in ''Film/DiamondsAreForever''.
* In ''Film/{{Sneakers}}'', Robert Redford claims (and demonstrates!) that all you need to get into any building in the world is a clipboard and a confident wave.
* Michael Keaton says (and does) the same thing in ''Film/ThePaper''.
* In ''The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer'', the titular character managed to successfully become part of an advertising agency by going in with a clipboard, looking like he knew what he was doing and saying he was with "efficiency", and everyone buys it!
* ''Film/TheDreamTeam'': This eases Christopher Lloyd's character in doctor-impersonating.
* ''Film/SherlockHolmes'': Watson grabs a clipboard to infiltrate a factory, briefly acting like an overseer while Holmes, carrying a barrel, plays the common worker.

* Dr. {{Scarpetta}}, PatriciaCornwell's character, does it on one occasion.
* ''Franchise/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'' has this with ''[[NoodleImplements towels]]''
-->"If you have your towel, everyone automatically assumes that you are an extremely on-top of it person, and thus will be happy to lend you anything you may have misplaced (food, money, etc)."
* In ''Discworld/MovingPictures'', it's said you can get into anywhere with a piece of paper, rolled-up sleeves, and a purposeful expression.
* Nobby Nobbs uses a sheaf of papers (Colon's shopping list), a purposeful expression, and a constant shout to bluff the guy running the city armory in ''Discworld/MenAtArms''.
* Robert B. Parker's Literature/{{Spenser}} does this at least once, while commenting on the phenomenon.
* No clipboard, but in ''Literature/TheLongDarkTeaTimeOfTheSoul'' Dirk Gently gets into a crime scene by being right behind a uniformed policeman, and when that policeman got stopped to show his ID Gently just walked by and said "He's with me."
* Disturbing variant in one of the ''Literature/SwordOfTruth'' novels. When [[TheEmpire The Imperial Order]] conquers a city she's in, Jebra hides out for several days in a cellar, managing to avoid the invading army. When she finally comes out, she finds them doing their [[RapePillageAndBurn usual thing]]...but they leave her alone, apparently on the assumption that if a woman ''isn't'' being brutally raped already, then she's a woman they're not supposed to brutally rape.
* In the ''Literature/{{Dexter}}'' novel ''Dearly Devoted Dexter'' Kyle Chutsky points out that "No one ever stops a man with a clipboard."
* One of the tricks Qui-Gon teaches Obi-Wan in the ''Literature/JediApprentice'' books.
* During the ComicBook/XWingSeries, Iella and Mirax pull this, with Iella as the exec and Mirax as the hapless technician having to guide her around.
* In ''{{Literature/Doom}}'', Fly and Arlene need to get to a radio they don't have access to. Arlene hands Fly a clipboard and he plays inspection sergeant all the way to it.
* Lampshaded and riffed on in ''The Rhesus Chart'' by Creator/CharlesStross. A think tank of investment bankers discover they've become vampires, so set about investigating in an organised manner how they'll get blood and what their powers and vulnerabilities are, turning up at hospitals and butcher shops wielding clipboards (even to church mass or nightclubs, where it's completely unnecessary).
-->[[StockShticks Two vampires with clipboards walk into a bar...]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* Michael and his colleagues put this to use more than once in ''Series/BurnNotice'', usually accompanied by being so loudly bureaucratic that everyone listens to them without question.
** They can also use it to be seen as a harmless, self-important nobody when they need a distraction. A pushy representative of the Homeowner's Lawn Association gets told to [[{{Pun}} sod]] off, not shot at.
* Discussed by Liz and Carol on an episode of ''[[Series/ThirtyRock 30 Rock]]'', though not about an actual clipboard: "You walk briskly in a pilot's uniform, you can go pretty much anywhere. Iíve been inside the Lincoln bedroom."
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''. In "Goodbye Iowa" Buffy infiltrates the Initiative's ElaborateUndergroundBase by posing as a HotScientist with a clipboard and NerdGlasses. The clipboard actually comes in useful when she uses it to stop a door closing.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* This is how Robyn and Sajjan escaped the lunar penitentiary in ''Webcomic/EscapeFromTerra''. [[http://www.bigheadpress.com/eft?page=460 Page image source]].
* [[http://xkcd.com/699/ A variation:]] "[[Webcomic/{{Xkcd}} Did you know you can just buy lab coats?]]"

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Two words: [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment Milgram experiment]]. 65% of completely normal, mentally-stable people ''"killed" another person'' because a guy with a lab coat and clipboard told them to do so.
* Proven true in a number of circumstances, making this TruthInTelevision. One of the ways to convince people you belong there is to look and ''act'' as though you do. Doesn't always work, but moving with a sense of purpose and giving the appearance that you belong there is one of the most effective ways to avoid drawing attention.
** That said, it doesn't work in retail or similar positions where there are a lot of customers milling about. Attempting to look busy (Or even actually ''be'' busy), ''especially'' with a clipboard will inevitably cause a customer to latch on and bother you for the next five to ten minutes. If you stand around doing ''nothing'', then the customers will assume you're no good at your job and bother the staff that are working. That, or they're intimidated by people simply waiting for customers.
** However, wearing any type of retail uniform and walking with a purposeful manner, even if you're wearing a different one than the particular establishment you're at, such as if you're merely shopping, tends to attract the inevitable "Excuse me, do you work here?" from customers. In some instances people will mistake you for someone important if you just wear a ''collared shirt and tie''; granted, though, that isn't exactly casual wear in most circumstances.
*** Moreover, if you actually know your way around the store, and aren't really paying attention, you might find yourself actually helping the person find what they are looking for, before they realize you aren't actually who they are supposed to be asking. Sources: Office Max, Office Depot, Best Buy, Albertsons, Safeway, Fry's Electronics, Barnes and Noble. I wear a black polo and black jeans for my work uniform (Dennys), and the uniform at NONE of those is a black polo and black jeans, yet I still get asked at every single one if I work there.
*** If you're sufficiently competent at walking around in a purposeful manner without gawking, this may also work if you are wearing ''jeans and a t-shirt''. Never underestimate the power of [[BavarianFireDrill looking like you know what the hell you're doing]].
* A group of professional pranksters managed to waltz right through the airtight security surrounding a U.N. summit by outfitting a rented limousine with Canadian flags and dressing in black suits with earbuds to give the appearance of being the Canadian Prime Minister's official vehicle and bodyguard detail. The only reason the Prime Minister didn't actually climb in and be driven away was that the troupe chickened out with how far through security they'd come (and how many felonies they'd probably committed) and left before any officials showed themselves.
* DJ Kenny Everett claims to have infiltrated Creator/TheBBC in order to obtain an audition by carrying a large reel of tape.
* When he was filming ''Film/InTheLoop'', Armando Ianucci convinced the State Department that his BBC pass was "access all areas". He spent the next three hours taking photographs of the US State Department.
* Poet Rives has a performance piece about trespassing on a construction site. Before starting he explains that this is very illegal, and if you want to do it you should grab some safety gear and a clipboard so no one tries to stop you.
* A couple waltzed in to a White House state dinner and met President UsefulNotes/BarackObama by simply ''looking the part'' according to the Secret Service after they'd been embarrassed about letting in two uninvited people into the most highly secure building in the world. They wore a suit and evening gown respectively and simply acted like they belonged. When Secret Service agents didn't see them on the guest list they assumed such well dressed folk must have been somehow accidentally left off the guest list and let them in. Oy.
* A [=CompTIA A+=] textbook by Mike Meyers (no, not ''that'' one) tells the story of how a former college classmate challenged him to gain access to his employer's server, having convinced them to stump up for some new and very flashy security software. (Whether he cleared this OPFOR exercise with his employers is not mentioned.) Meyers then proceeded to drive over to his friend's workplace. Wearing a boiler suit and an old photo ID badge on his lapel and pushing a parcel trolley, he talked his way in without the slightest difficulty and walked out with the server!
* On Air Force flightlines, a clipboard is the universal sign for QA inspectors. Many maintainers will actively avoid drawing attention from anyone carrying one, regardless of whether or not they're actually QA.
* Generally, you can just waltz into any rail yard in a high-visibility vest and do as you please.
* Variation: A BBC journalist once claimed to have gained access to a sensitive facility behind the IronCurtain because a confidante had told him it was unthinkable for anyone to be there without authorisation. (In other words, once he was there everybody had to assume he ''was'' authorised.)