[[quoteright:313:[[Webcomic/TheNonAdventuresOfWonderella http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/WonderexiA_7864.png]]]]

->''"Well, it is so often the way, sir, too late one thinks of what one ''should'' have said. SirThomasMore, for instance -- burned alive for refusing to recant his Catholicism -- must have been kicking himself, as the flames licked higher, that it never occurred to him to say, 'I recant my Catholicism.'"''
-->-- '''Edmund E. Blackadder''', ''[[Series/{{Blackadder}} Blackadder the Third]]''

A character is insulted. Later, they get a flash of inspiration and think of the perfect comeback (which may or [[LameComeback may not]] be actually witty, but they're very proud of it). So, of course, they try to arrange matters so that they get to use it--either setting up the original scenario in which they were insulted, or just using it later out of context. If the latter type appears late enough, it may qualify as a BrickJoke.

Very much TruthInTelevision. The Germans call it ''Treppenwitz'', and in French it is ''l'esprit d'escalier'', both phrases meaning "staircase wit". In a classic French architecture design, formal gatherings were held on the second floor; this would happen when the joke would occur to someone at the bottom of the stairs, having just left the party.

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!!Examples:

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[[folder: Comics ]]

* Sexton experiences this in ''Death: The High Cost of Living'' after Didi tells him she's [[Comicbook/TheSandman Death]]:
-->'''Sexton:''' You know, I thought maybe you were kinda nice and kinda of smart. But I was dead wrong. You're just as crazy as everyone else...
-->'''Didi:''' Well, I thought you were someone dumb enough to get stuck under a fridge in a garbage dump. And I was dead right.
-->''[pause]''
-->''[Sexton walks out the door]''

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Under The Cherry Moon'' features the leading lady agonizing over a ComebackTomorrow to Prince.
* A non-insulting comeback: in ''RatRace'', while Nick is flirting with Tracy. They're both reading the same biography of Charles Lindbergh, and she tells him that she's up to the part where "[[BlatantLies he's just had a sex change]]". A moment later he learns that she's a pilot.
-->'''Nick:''' Are there many female pilots?
-->'''Tracy:''' There's at least one.
-->'''Nick:''' When I walk away, I'm gonna think of something great to say to that.
-->'''Tracy:''' Good. Mail it to me.
** A few scenes later he comes back having realized the obvious comeback: "Two if you count Lindbergh."
* Brought up in ''Film/ShallowHal'' when one of the characters brags about the size of his anatomy. Hal takes about ten seconds to come up with the weak retort "yeah, bigger than a mouse's".
* Discussed in ''HortonHearsAWho'' after Horton actually does make a pretty good comeback, but admits he usually "Doesn't think of that stuff till' later."

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[[folder: Live Action Television ]]

* Subverted in ''TheKingOfQueens'', frequently, where Arthur does not bother with the setting up and instead screams out his comeback hours later, often by walking into his daughter's bedroom in the middle of the night
* George, in the "The Comeback" episode of ''{{Seinfeld}}'' does the thing of setting up the original scenario (which entails George flying from NYC to Akron, Ohio) so that Riley will repeat his insult. Unfortunately, Riley doesn't suffer from this:
-->'''Riley:''' You know, George, [[XCalledTheyWantTheirYBack the ocean called]]. They're running out of shrimp.
-->'''George:''' Oh yeah, Riley? Well, the jerk store called. They're running out of you!
-->'''Riley:''' What's the difference? You're their all-time best seller!
** It gets better. He then [[LameComeback resorts to]] "...I had sex with your wife!" only to be informed that Riley's wife is in a coma. Then, at the very end of the episode, we see him driving back home, only to murmur "Well... [[BlackComedy the life support machine called...]]" and triumphantly turn the car back around again.
* Lisa obsessed over delivering a comeback to Dave in an episode of ''{{NewsRadio}}''. Naturally, when she finally got a chance to deliver it, the response was [[LameComeback underwhelming]], to say the least.
* In the UK hospital comedy ''GreenWing'', loser Statham makes an ill-fated attempt to provide a witty comeback to Mac just after Mac has walked out of shot
-->'''Statham:''' Stop right there. Come back here.
-->'''Mac:''' Stop right there, come back here, which?
-->'''Statham:''' Can I say one thing? I don't know what you're talking about, and always check your facts. Good day.
-->'''Mac:''' That's two things. Three, if you count the valedictory flourish.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'':
--> '''Xander:''' I'm not gonna waste the perfect comeback on you now. But don't think I don't have it. Oh, yes! Its time will come!
* Used by Sheldon a couple times on ''Series/TheBigBangTheory''.
* An episode of ''SaturdayNightLive'' guest-hosted by [[NorthernExposure Rob Morrow]] had Morrow's character in a commercial for a time-travel machine, so you could go back in time to say the thing you later thought to say.
* ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'' - "I stayed up all night thinking of comebacks, and comebacks to her potential comebacks. I'm gonna show her I'm ''not'' obsessed with this."
* ''{{Series/House}}'' has this gem, ending with a blank stare that truly makes the moment:
--> '''House:''' So you’re saying Chase did screw up.
--> '''Chase:''' Or Foreman screwed up.
--> '''Foreman:''' Big hand points to minutes. Maybe you got them mixed up?
--> '''House:''' Oh, snap! Foreman’s playing the dozens; you’re at a cultural disadvantage here. Take a few minutes to think up a witty retort.
--> '''Cameron:''' So we have contradicting bleeding time tests. If we run labs to check his clotting factors we can confirm which one’s right.
--> '''House:''' Yeah, testing, nice idea. Way better than trying to guess which doctor’s incompetent. Much better than the paperwork, too.
--> '''Chase:''' Hey, Foreman. Your momma’s so fat, when her beeper goes off, people think she’s backing up.
* Prince George in ''Series/{{Blackadder}} the Third'', leading to the page quote. Then again, the witty comeback that took him all night to think of was "[[LameComeback Oh, bugger off, you old fart!]]"
* Subverted on ''Series/{{Justified}}''. Constable Bob is on official police business but this does not matter to two two drunk Clover Hillers who insult him, his job and then threaten him with a shotgun if he does not leave. As he is leaving he comes up with a comeback to their insults and he turns around and walks back up to their front door. However, when they open the door he simply points his gun at them and tries to arrest them.

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[[folder: Magazines ]]

* In a strip by Dave Berg of ''Magazine/{{MAD}}'', a woman tells her husband that he has "20/20 hindsight." Moments later he thinks, "When she said I had 20/20 hindsight, I ''should'' have said..."

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[[folder: Newspaper Comics ]]

* Calvin from ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes:'' "Oh yeah? Oh ''yeah??'' Well, remember what you said, because in a day or two, I'll have a witty and blistering retort! You'll be devastated ''then'', I promise!"
* One ''{{ComicStrip/Zits}}'' comic had the mom telling the boys that watching too much TV would dull their minds. Two beats later, the son goes "Oh yeah?" to which his friend mutters "Man, [[IResembleThatRemark don't make her more right than she already is]]."
* In a ''{{ComicStrip/Garfield}}'' strip, Jon asks a woman out, who says, that she would rather go out with camel spittle. Hours later, when he's already gone to bed...
-->'''Jon''': "But what if your brother already has plans?" That's what I should have said!"
-->'''[[CatsAreSnarkers Garfield]]''': Ol' Lightning Wit strikes again.
* Invoked in ''{{ComicStrip/Dilbert}}''. Dilbert tells Dogbert about a relative of his who was a marine biologist, famous for his work with sea anemones. Sadly, he was unpopular with his peers. Dogbert intentionally leaves the room before shouting his comeback, to avoid [[LamePunReaction getting smacked]].
-->'''Dogbert:''' With anemones like that, who needs friends?

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[[folder: Radio ]]

* A variation from the legendary Fred Allen/Jack Benny feud: Allen once told Benny, "You couldn't ad-lib a belch at a Hungarian dinner." Benny's reply: "[[IResembleThatRemark You wouldn't dare talk to me that way if my writers were here!]]"
* Not an insult, but in one episode of ''Radio/ImSorryIHaventAClue'', Humph mentioned that an interviewer said he was an "[[{{Malaproper}} orthinologist]]". He was on the way home before it occurred to him that the correct reply was "Not so much an orthinologist as a word-botcher".

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[[folder: Stand Up Comedy ]]

* Emo Philips inverts this.
-->I was driving down the highway, and I'm swerving all over, 'cause I'm trying to change the radio, and just as I get the old one taken out I hear this traffic cop behind me, "Whee-oo, whee-oo, whee-oo" .... well, I shouldn't make fun of his speech impediment... He asks me to walk in a straight line, so I do, then he asks me "You call that a straight line?". Well, I should have said, I should have said.... "yes". But I was nervous and the only thing I could think of was "Well Officer Pythagoras, the closest you'll ever come to a straight line is if they do an electroencephalogram of your own brain-waves!"
* Inverted by Mike Birbiglia in the [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin informatively-titled]] "What I Should Have Said Was Nothing: Tales From My Secret Public Journal".

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[[folder: Web Comics ]]

* In a ''PennyAndAggie'' strip, Aggie [[http://www.pennyandaggie.com/index.php?p=685 did this deliberately]], presumably to avoid a fight.
* [[Webcomic/TheNonAdventuresOfWonderella Wonderella]]'s comment in the above image is an example of just using the comeback out of context later.
* In ''Webcomic/TheFrumps'', Lance tries some [[http://www.thefrumps.com/comic/2013/03/14/smack-talk smack talk]] he learned from the film White Men Can't Jump.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Original ]]

* WebOriginal example: Formats of Internet communication make it possible to pull this off successfully. You can stew about a slight for hours to days, then deliver your rebuttal in what seems a timely enough manner to imply a quick wit.

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[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* Whenever this happens to [[WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons Homer Simpson]], when he tells the story later, he has himself actually saying the thing he should have said.
** "I AM NOT SLOW!"
** "Shut up Becky!"
** Sideshow Bob provided another example.
-->'''Marge''': You awful man! Stay away from my son!
-->'''Bob''': I'll stay away from your son alright. Stay away... forever!
-->'''Homer''': Oh no!
-->'''Bob''': Wait a minute, that's no good. (Leaves, groaning in frustration, only to return a moment later) Wait! I've got one now! Marge, say 'Stay away from my son' again!
-->'''Marge''': No!
* '''TheAdventuresOfSuperMarioBros3'' has this when Mario confronts Bowser in the Ninja Koopa episode.
-->'''Mario:''' Let my friends go or else!
-->'''Koopa:''' Or else what?
-->'''Mario:''' Err... Just let them go, and I'll come back Tuesday and tell ya.
* Also done in ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerb''. Candace was called "slow as molasses" by another girl competing for a job at Mr. Slushy Burger, but Candace could only manage to retort with "I think I'll call you... something slower than molasses, that's for sure!" At the end of the episode:
--> '''Candace''': Snail! I'll call you 'snail'!
--> '''Wendy''': [[SarcasmMode Ooh. You're good.]]
* In the ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' episode "The Big Bang Theory", Stewie uses his time machine so he could go back in time and use the good comeback.
** In "Excellence in Broadcasting" Brian meets with RushLimbaugh at a book signing. While walking home, he says, "Yeah, you can sign my ''ass'' book. Is what would've been awesome to say."
* In ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'', "Bridle Gossip", the six main characters are cursed with odd aliments. [[SnarkyNonhumanSidekick Spike]] comes up with pun-based joke names for each, before stumbling over Twilight Sparkle.
-->'''Spike:''' This is hilarious! Look at all of you! We got "Hair"-ity, Rainbow "Crash", "Spittie" Pie, Apple-"teeny", "Flutterguy", and... uh... I got nothin'. ''[aside to the audience]'' "Twilight Sparkle"... I mean, seriously. I can't even work with that.\\
''[later, after the girls leave]'' Ah! Twilight "Flopple"!
* The ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'' pilot has Steven thinking of comebacks against Lars after he leaves the doughnut shop. He was carrying around a trinket that allowed him to travel back to the insult, allowing Steven to make the comeback right away three times.
* One minor Batman villain had the ability to go back in time a short while at will, meaning he could win a fight with Batman via Savescumming. He also uses this power to rewind time after he realizes he made a LameComeback, erasing it from all (but his) memories.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Real Life ]]

* There's a Creator/DouglasAdams quote related to this trope, which goes something like this: "I am not a wit -- I am a comedy writer. A wit thinks of something funny immediately; a comedy writer thinks of something ''very'' funny two hours later."
* Admit it, we've all done this at some point in our lives.
* The French have a word invoking this idea: "esprit d'escalier".
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