In fiction, when a character has to retell some event to other characters, it normally happens that the scenes of the characters meeting up so they can talk are skipped. After all, if you've just watched something earth-shatteringly amazing or terrible happen to the character, you don't want to spend hours watching him driving over to the other side of the city so that he can talk about it.
What normally happens is that the scene will cut and go directly to the scene where the character is giving the story. It's a quick way to go from action to character reaction. And often the cut will have skipped directly to the most important part of the recollection — after all, the audience already knows what happened. In that way it's the opposite of As You Know
: Instead of using unrealistic dialogue to reveal to the audience information that the characters already know, it skips over completely realistic, but boring to the audience, dialogue that results from the audience knowing information that the characters don't.
Occasionally, of course, the audience has not
seen what happened between the cut and the retelling, which allows for unexpected twists of the expected outcome.
A clichéd way to cut into the middle of an anecdote is to arrive when the character is saying, "And then I said...," which makes it immediately clear that he is retelling the recent event.
A more humorous form of this is to cut into the end of an anecdote, but have it so bizarre that the audience is left wondering what on earth the character could have been talking about. The Orphaned Punchline
is an example of this, as are some Noodle Incidents
. This may come in the form of the Kent Brockman News
channel finishing up its reports with a ridiculous ending.
Another form of mid-anecdote jump involves not a scene cut, but rather a character jumping into mid-anecdote on purpose
, normally if they want to abruptly stop a discussion because they don't want someone nearby to hear it.
- Wild Wild West (1999).
Artemus: Which is not to say that Rita doesn't possess a beauty worthy of a Shakespeare sonnet or a Botticelli painting. The curvature of her buttocks and the swell of that magnificent bosom! So full, so sumptuous...
Artemus (notices that Rita is in the room listening): So...what were all those foreign ministers doing at Loveless' party? This is what really puzzles me...
Artemus (aside to Jim West): How long has she been here?
Jim: Somewhere around Botticelli's buttocks.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean:
Captain Jack: ...And then they made me their chief.
- Field of Dreams (1989).
Ray Kinsella recounting his poignant experience with Doc Graham to Terence Mann: "And then I figured maybe we're not supposed to take him with us..."
- Friends liked to do the fake anecdote trick when characters were hiding secrets from each other.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "The End", Rimmer is revising for an exam:
Rimmer: What does this mean? What does any of it mean? I've covered my body in complete and utter and total absolute nonsense gibberish! Aaaargh!
(Lister wakes up, coughing)
Rimmer: ...er, plus 20 per cent of the ship's course minus the Pythagoras theorem multiplied by two over the X axis minus one equals the total velocity of Red Dwarf, which means I know everything about astroengineering. Good morning, Lister, for probably the last time.
- Played straight in Seinfeld when Kramer recounts the details of his entire adventure that come from racing to get a severed toe to the hospital in time to be reattached to a woman's foot.
- They had originally filmed a cutaway sequence to incorporate into the anecdotal story, but decided to leave it out because Michael Richards' performance was so good it didn't need it.
- In the Watership Alan episode of I'm Alan Partridge:
Michael: He puts his hand up her skirt, gets a hold of the old meat and two veg, right? Thinks, hang on, I've paid my money, I'm going to have something, so he flips him over, and he fu-
[he notices another character has entered]
Michael: And funnily enough, it lands on its wheels, and it starts first time and they just drive away.
Alan: [not realising the trope is in operation] Strangest story I've ever heard. [Gets up] Oh, hello. Lynn. Oh! I see what you were ah, right, yes. Hello, Michael was just telling me an army story about a friend of his who slept with ... a landrover. Lonely nights in the desert.
- Blackadder II uses the Noodle Incident version, as the scene cuts in on what appears to be Edmund yelling at the Queen and Melchett:
Edmund Blackadder: GET OUT! GET OUT, LIBIDINOUS SWINE, AND TAKE THAT WHORESLUT PAINTED STRUMPET WITH YOU! MAY YOU BOTH ROT IN THE FILTH OF YOUR OWN FORNICATION!
Queen Elizabeth:: And what did you say to him?
Edmund Blackadder: Say, madam? I said nothing. I simply pulled up my tights and jumped out of the privy window.
- One of the Running Gags in On the Town: Flossie strolls across the scene, always chatting to her girlfriend about what she said to her employer, Mr. Gadolphin. Her friend keeps asking her, "So what did he say?" Flossie ignores this question, continuing to talk about what she said him.
- Family Guy has an excellent parody of the mid-anecdote cut: it cuts to Peter in the principal's office, saying: "And that's my plan!", only for the principal to reply "but you didn't tell me anything... you just sat down and said 'And that's my plan.'"
- Dilbert does something similar, with the Pointy-Haired Boss saying "and on that i think we're all in agreement", only for Alice to tell him that he only just arrived.
- Subverted when Futurama did it:
Bender: And so that's how I defeated Elzar!
Leela: We know. We were there. And we just finished watching it again on TV!
- Played straight and partially lampshaded in the episode Raging Bender.
Bender (in a very weak voice): See you at the fight!
(Immediately cuts to Planet Express)
Bender: And then I said, "See you at the fight!"
- Amongst other uses, Bart has a throwaway joke in The Simpsons that falls under the second case.
Bart: So I says to Mabel, I says....
- In one episode, resident bully Nelson Muntz was describing how to pick and eat huckleberries to his classmates. When he notices Principal Skinner is within earshot, he abruptly switches to "So anyway, I kicked the guys ass!" as a cover story.
- From My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "The Ticket Master" brings us the page quote. And a meme.