[[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.
* In ''Film/{{Chappie}}'', while the villain Vincent secretly uploads his virus at Tetravaal's high security area, security guards enter the room, which prompts Vincent to grab a random clipboard in hope it makes him look like official staff. The trick works.

* 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)."
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'':
** 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''.
** A similar point is made in ''Discworld/InterestingTimes''. Discworld protagonists use the BavarianFireDrill a ''lot'', so it's not too surprising.
-->'''Truckle the Uncivil:''' Why're we carrying pieces of paper?\\
'''Teach:''' Because no-one looks at you in a place like this if you're carrying a piece of paper.
* 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.
* In Dark Forces of "Literature/TheThrawnTrilogy" when Luke is rescuing Karrde from a Star Destroyer they use a datapad to this effect.
* 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...]]
* In the Literature/{{Dortmunder}} novel ''What's the Worst That Could Happen?'', Dortmunder and Kelp are able to gain access to almost every area of the Watergate complex by dressing as engineers and carrying clipboards.

[[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.
* In ''Series/DoctorWho'', the Doctor's psychic paper, carried in a wallet, credentials-style, often functions as this. The Doctor isn't the only one to use this tool, as Rose Tyler and Clara Oswald also made use of it from time to time. The paper is most often used to make people think that the Doctor, Clara, etc. is a person of authority who is not to be questioned.

[[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.
* Lab coats (or scrubs) are nearly as good as a valid photo ID badge in hospitals, as long as you act like you know where you're going.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
** [[http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/guerrilla-public-service/ Richard Ankrom]] "vandalized" (read: made much clearer) a sign on a stretch of LA Highway in broad daylight simply by wearing a high-vis vest and knowing what he was doing.
* Variation: A BBC journalist once claimed to have gained access to a sensitive facility behind the UsefulNotes/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.)
* [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunter_Wallraff Günter Wallraff]] is German undercover journalist, who, in his most famous exploit, managed to pass as Turkish low-paid worker for ''few months'', with nobody realizing anything, including actual Turks.
* While it certainly depends on the circumstances, one way a soldier might avoid being given orders while on base basically amounts to "grab a clipboard and act like you know what you're doing."