Our Kickstarter campaign has received $74,000 from over 2,000 backers! TV Tropes 2.0 is coming. There is no stopping it now. We have 4 days left. At $75K we can also develop an API and at $100K the tropes web series will be produced. View the project here and discuss here.
Mr. Tweedy: Oooh, that's champion, that is... What is it? Mrs. Tweedy: It's a pie machine, you idiot. Chickens go in; pies come out. Mr. Tweedy: Oh, what kind of pies? Mrs. Tweedy: Apple. Mr. Tweedy: [excitedly] My favourite! Mrs. Tweedy: Chicken pies, you great lummox!
... and you'll Get a Stupid Answer.
You know how obnoxious Captain Obvious can be. You just want to yell at them and say, "Any blind idiot can tell what's going on!" But then there are those Captains Obvious who can not only tell what is going on, but ask a stupid question just to verify.
This is not only when that question is asked, but to the frustrated individual this is their chance to strike back with a non-sequitur, either in a Deadpan Snarker retort or full on Mind Screw confusion. A specific variation of Sarcasm Mode.
While examples on this page are of In-Universe instances of this type of exchange, this is certainly a staple of MSTing by pointing out where people are being oblivious to their dialogue (or being repetitive in them). For example: "This is a map to Hammunaptra." "The Hammunaptra?" "No, the one in Jersey."
Bill Engvall's "Here's Your Sign" routine was dedicated to these exchanges. MAD also had a section called "Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions" written by Al Jaffee.
Of course, if you decide to avert the inevitable sarcastic retort by not seeking explicit confirmation that your friend with the house full of boxes is actually moving, nine times out of ten it will turn out (after a generous helping of Poor Communication Kills) that he is just having the house fumigated.
An attempt to maneuver someone into asking a stupid question for the purpose of delivering a snappy answer is What's a Henway? When the stupid answer is, in fact, correct, it's Don't Be Ridiculous. See Stupid Question Bait for a similar concept.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
In Little Nemo, the titular character asks quite the stupid question upon being told that he will be the official playmate to Princess Camille
Nemo: "Wait a minute. This Princess is a girl?"
While the overall premise of Bill Engvall's recurring "Here's Your Sign" routine is that stupid people should wear signs advertising the fact, his experiences in encountering people who qualify often take this form. For example:
Bill:[to gal at lost luggage counter] Yes, ma'am, you lost my luggage. Lost luggage clerk: Has your plane landed yet? [beat] Bill: I said, "No, princess, I'm having an out-of-body experience!" [beat] "I was just checkin' on it."
And this classic:
Random Guy: (points to a buck's head mounted on Bill's wall) "Ya' shoot that deer?"
Bill: *beat* "Oh no. He tried to run through the wall and got stuck."
Jon: By the way there, doc, what's your name? Liz: Liz. Jon: Gee, what a pretty name. Is that short for Elizabeth? Liz: No. It's short for lizard.
In another strip:
Jon: Are you going to sleep all day, Garfield? Garfield: Let me check my social calendar. Let's see... There's high tea with the Queen of England tomorrow, but nothing today. (falls asleep) Jon: Ask a stupid question...
Don't Some People Ask the Biggest Fool Questions? uses this trope extensively. In one example, Gerald is building a dog house:
Man walking by: Hello, Gerald, building a dog house? Gerald: No, I'm up in a balloon milking a chicken.
In the original Thimble Theater comic strip that introduced Breakout CharacterPopeye, Castor Oyl and Ham Gravy are looking for a sailor who can take them to Dice Island.
Castor: You there! Are you a sailor? Popeye: Ja t'ink I'm a cowboy?
Azula: I'm great. I just love it here in the madhouse, where I'm not allowed to bend and everyone flinches at the sight of me, and where I can't even get a decent cup of tea because I'm supposed to be recovering from some kind of terrible disease of the mind. I'm so glad to be here, where I'm not a menace to society. And that freedom nonsense just wasn't for me anyway.
Sokka: I get it. No need for sarcasm. It was just a question.
Azula: It was a stupid question. Of course I'm not doing well. Idiot.
Sokka: I'm not an idiot. I was trying to be nice.
Films — Animation
Occurs twice in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, both times with the title character talking to Benny the Cab: "Benny, is that you?" "No, it's Eleanor Roosevelt!", and later "No, it's Shirley Temple!"
From Chicken Run comes the exchange above, when the pie-making machine is first introduced.
In the movie version of Dr. Suess's "Horton Hears a Who!," Morton shows up to warn Horton about Vlad showing up to take the clover, and the following exchange happens:
Horton: Wait, do you mean the bad Vlad or the bunny Vlad with the cookies? Morton: Yeah, Horton, the kangaroo is so mad she's going to send you a rabbit with cookies. I think we can just assume it's the bad Vlad.
Films — Live-Action
In Bruges, Ray provokes this trope in order to pick a fight with an American who's actually Canadian.
Reporter: What, Hildy, you still here? Hildy: No, I'm in Niagara Falls.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is absolutely ridden with this trope, coming from several characters, though it's a particular specialty of Gay Perry.
For example, after Harry finds a corpse dumped in his room:
Perry: OK, first thing's first: we gotta move her somewhere. You got gloves? Harry: Excuse me? Perry: Gloves, do you have gloves? We have to move her. If it's a frame-up, some asshole's probably calling the cops on you right now. Do this: wrap up the body, in a blanket, a sheet, anything. Harry: OK, uh... any particular kind of gloves? Perry: Yes... fawn. Will you fucking hurry?
And of course:
Perry: My $2000 ceramic Vektor my mother got me as a special gift. You threw in the lake next to the car. What happens when they drag the lake? You think they'll find my pistol. Jesus. Look up "idiot" in the dictionary. You know what you'll find? Harry: A picture of me? Perry: No! The definition of the word idiot, which you fucking are!
Eddie: They're armed. Soap: What was that? Armed? What do you mean armed? Armed with what? Eddie: Err, bad breath, colorful language, feather duster... what do you think they're gonna be armed with? Guns, you tit!
In Superman II, Lex Luthor gets one after offering General Zod the means to locate the son of Jor-El:
Zod: Jor-El? Our Jailer? Luthor: No, [in a silly accent] Jor-El, the baseball player... [going back to normal voice when he realizes the evil Kryptonians have no sense of humor] Yes, Jor-El, your jailer.
In Alien, Kane wakes up after he has just spent the last several hours in a coma with an alien creature on his face.
Parker: How are you doing? Kane: Terrific. Next silly question.
Jean: This is the first time we've seen each other in God knows how many years. Reg: Ninety-seven. Cissy: [gasps] Is it really that long? God, how time flies. [realization] You're joking.
In V for Vendetta, When Evey first meets V she asks him who he is, to which he comments:
V: "Who" is but the form, following the function of "what", and what I am is a man in a mask. Evey: Well I can see that. V: Of course you can, I'm not questioning your powers of observation, I am merely commenting on the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.
The Full Monty: Gaz asks his friend Dave to ďborrowĒ a jacket for a funeral from the store where he works:
Dave: What colour? [beat] Gaz: Orange. Dave: Orange? Gaz: Black! For fuckís sake.
Rachel: No way. George Washington? Marco: Jake, tell her, "No, Guido Washington." Jake: Marco would like me to pass along a sarcastic remark.
In Magic Strikes, Kate Daniels is in a strange kitchen trying to make coffee, only someone has rearranged all the labels on the containers so she can't find anything.
"Looking for something?" Dali came up from the hallway. "No, I'm dancing the can-can." Ask a dumb question... Dali blinked at me. "Would you mind making coffee while you're dancing? I smell it on the bottom shelf, either first or second jar on the left."
Sherlock Holmes'sWar of the Worlds: Sherlock Holmes tells Dr. Watson how one of the invading machines was going after him. Watson exclaims "And you escaped!", to which Holmes replies "No, Watson. I was caught and killed by the machines."
"Catching up on our reading, are we?" "No, I'm trying to burn a hole through paper with my retina."
In the Agatha Christie novel Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, a boy comes across a scene with a wrecked car whose front-end is smashed into a stone wall with an injured woman hanging halfway out of the car. The boy asks, "Has there been an accident?" prompting another character to say, "No, the lady ran her car into the wall on purpose." Though as a matter of fact, the lady did run her car into the wall on purpose.
The Dark Tower book Wizard and Glass has a villain ask his second-in-command how many of their men are armed. The second asks, "With guns?" prompting the villain to reply, "No, with pea-blowers, you damned fool."
Referenced but averted in the Discworld short story "The Sea and Little Fishes". When Granny Weatherwax is trying to be "nice", Nanny is surprised to see her looking at a pink cardigan. Nanny's reaction is "You're not going to wear that, are you?" She would have been reassured to get the reply "No, I'm going to eat it, you daft old fool", but instead Granny just says "You don't think it would suit me?"
In Men at Arms, the first dwarf in the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch, Constable Cuddy, keeps getting asked by incredulous citizens "Are you a dwarf?" He has snarky replies like "It's the nose, isn't it?" and "Are you a giant?"
Peter: You know how jazz is all about improvising on a melody? Lesley: No, I thought it was when you sang about cheese and tying up people's gaiters.
Two popular Jewish Russian jokes:
An old Jewish guy runs through the station, trying to catch his train, but the train drives off before his eyes. "Ha, you missed your train?" some laughing idiot asks him. "No," he says, "I chased him away."
An old Jewish guy tries to cross a frozen lake, but suddenly collapses into the ice. At that moment, a wise guy walks by the banks and shouts, "Hey, you! Did you fall through the ice?". "No!" says the old guy, "I went for a swim, but then winter surprised me."
A category on Jeopardy is "Stupid Answers". The correct response appears, unaltered, in the clue itself ó although that does not mean it is always obvious. For example:
Clue: In 1985 Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues" premiered on Broadway at this theater.
Correct Response: What is the Neil Simon Theater?
From Corner Gas when Brent walks into Oscar and Emma's living room while they're putting up Christmas decorations:
Brent: Whoa, what are you doing? Emma: We're building a haunted house for Halloween.
The title character is of course a repeat offender:
Cuddy: (Chase and Cameron are) sleeping together? House: If by "sleeping together" you mean "having sex in the janitor's closet". Cuddy: Here? House: No, the janitor's closet at the local high school. Go Tigercats!
Dorothy: Have you ever given a eulogy? Rose: You mean at a funeral? Dorothy: No, Rose, at a pie-eating contest!
Dorothy:[referring to her and her boyfriend] We...experimented. Rose: With what? Dorothy: Sulfur dioxide, Rose.
One memorable incident has Rose give it back.
Dorothy:[seeing Rose coming out of her room with a bucket in each hand] Oh Rose. Is your roof leaking too? Rose: No Dorothy. I just finished milking the cow I keep in my closet. Gee with only three hours sleep I can be as bitchy as you!
Another Dorothy moment:
Dorothy: It's dirty dancing, just like in that movie. Rose: What movie? Dorothy:Lawrence of Arabia, Rose.
From the Frasier episode, "Martin Does it His Way":
Frasier: Roz, that was quite a flattering description. Just out of curiosity, were you just helping that lady with her fantasy, or do you really see me that way? Roz: You really don't know, do you? Frasier, I am so attracted to you. I always have been. Your looks, your voice, you don't know how many times I've wanted to strip naked and hurl myself at that glass partition like a bug on a windshield. Frasier: Are you through? Roz:[bopping him on the head] Well, ask a stupid question!
In one episode, Dawn finds her sister sitting on her bed, reading a magazine and asks:
Dawn: What are you doing? Buffy: Playing soccer.
In the episode "When She Was Bad":
Xander: Hey, did you guys hear that Cibo Matto is going to be at the Bronze tonight? Willow: Cibo Matto? They're playing? Xander: No, Will, they're going to be clog dancing. Willow: Cibo Matto can clog dance?
In the pilot, Joyce asks if Buffy's going out to a nightclub.
Joyce: Oh. Will there be boys there?
Buffy: No, Mom. It's a nun club.
In "The Harvest", Harmony asks Cordelia if they're going to the Bronze tonight. "No," Cordy snorts, "we're going to the other cool place in Sunnydale." Harmony seems to struggle with that conundrum.
Buffy: No, I think you're up in the clock tower with a high-powered rifle because you wanna blend in.
In "The Wish", Cordelia, oblivious to the fact that Xander's a vampire in this reality, tells him that they need to find Buffy pronto.
Xander:(warily) ...Buffy. The Slayer?
Cordelia: No! Buffy the dog-faced girl!
Wishverse Buffy and Angel are present at the factory's unveiling, observing from the back. Angel asks, "What's the plan?" Without looking at him, Buffy holds up a stake and says, "Don't fall on this."
Used epically in an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, after Dick learned his girlfriend slept with his nemesis Dr. Strudwick once.
Dick: I can't get his face out of my mind! Nina: Strudwick's? Dick:[serene voice] No, Nina, little Davey Tenant, the boy down the block. You see, ever since Davey was three years old, he's wanted more than anything to see a real professional baseball game. He wished the biggest wish his little heart could muster. But his dad was laid off and couldn't afford the tickets. Well, one day last week, little Davey was outside playing ball like he always does, and who should walk up the block, tall as a building, but home run king Mark McGwire. To see little Davey's face light up as Mc Gwire handed him four seats on the first base line, well, it's something that I will never forget. [pause] YES, STRUDWICK'S! DON'T ASK STUPID QUESTIONS!
To those who've read the original Sherlock Holmes story upon which this episode is based (A Study in Scarlet), this is a hilariously subversive application of the trope: the police believe they have to look for a "Rachel," before Holmes points out that "Rache" is German for "Revenge", which is the major plot point.
In The Jack Benny Program, Jack can't get a busy receptionist to talk to him, so he calls her from one of the other phones on her desk. She says Mr. Lewis isn't available, but she can have him call Jack back...
Receptionist: Are you at home, or are in you in Palm Springs? Jack: I'm in Stockholm! Smorgasbord, 8321!
Dream Lord: If you die in the dream world, you wake up in reality. [...] Ask me what happens if you die in reality. Rory: What happens if you die in reality? Dream Lord: You die, stupid, that's why it's called reality.
Rory: Okay, I'm trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I'm really trying not to see this as a metaphor. Amy: How can we be in here? How do we fit? Rory: Miniaturization Ray. Amy: How would you know that? Rory: Well, there was a ray, and we were miniaturized...
In Time Heist, Clara asks Psi why he would choose to forget everyone he ever loved. Psi, obviously, does not remember why he made that choice.
Rimmer: Lister, is that a cigarette you're smoking? Lister: No, it's a chicken.
In the Blue Bloods episode "Leap of Faith," Danny Reagan thinks some small town detectives could've been more thorough with their investigation of the death of the first Mrs. Bines.
Danny: And where was Mister Bines during all this? Detective: Oh, right, I forgot to tell you. He was at the arsenic store.
On Nip/Tuck, as Dr. Christian Troy asks an extremely large-breasted woman the standard question the doctors ask their potential patients:
Troy: Tell me what you don't like about yourself. Woman:[deadpans]My nose. [she and Troy both crack up at this] Woman: Ask A Stupid Question, doctor. . .
Blackadder the Third: subverted in "Dish and Dishonesty" where the person receiving an actual answer assumes he's gotten this type of response.
Vincent Hanna: Well can you at least tell me one thing. What does the 'S' in his name stand for? Blackadder: Sod off. note It was established earlier that Baldrick thinks this is his name due to the other kids saying it when he introduced himself. "Hi, my name's Baldrick." "Yes we know. Sod off, Baldrick." Vincent Hanna: Well. I guess it's none of my business really.
Woops: In one episode, the group harvests some squash that has been mutated by radiation.
Alice: Does anybody know how long it takes mutant squash to ripen? Fred:(Deadpan) Three days. (Looks at other characters and rolls his eyes.)
In the comedy panel show Would I Lie to You?, Armando Ianucci's story was that, "I once had to abandon my car in a safari park after a baboon climbed in through the sunroof, lay down on the back seat and went to sleep.". Regular David Mitchell followed suit with a obvious question.
David: Right, where in the safari park was the car?
Rob: (sarcastically) In the lion enclosure.
During the ensuing shouting match with Rob (the host), David maintained that the question wasn't stupid, since the baboon may have escaped.
House of Anubis- When Victor is padlocking the attic door, Trudy comes up and asks,
Trudy: What are you doing?
Victor: Baking a cake. What does it look like I'm doing?
Celebrity Mole:Yucatan: In one of the games, the players had to answer a series of questions taken from elementary school textbooks. At one point, the host, Ahmad Rashad, had this exchange with Dennis Rodman :
Rashad: On what continent would you find the South Pole? Rodman: We have to name it? Rashad:(Sarcastically) No, you just have to think it and I'll read your mind!
The song "Foolish Questions".
Referenced (although not a true example of the trope) in Tom Lehrer's "New Math" while explaining how to solve a math problem in Base Eight:
Now instead of four in the eights place\\ You've got three, 'cause you added one,\\ That is to say, eight, to the two,\\ But you can't take seven from three,\\ So you look at the sixty-fours.\\ "Sixty-four? How did sixty-four get into it?" I hear you cry.\\ Well, sixty-four is eight squared, don't you see?\\ Well, you ask a silly question, and you get a silly answer.
Given the nature of the internet, you can expect this to happen in many forums or sites.
Quite a lot of interview segments will have wrestlers, usually heels, insulting or intimidating interviewers for asking obvious questions.
Used in Muppets in Space, when Gonzo sits upright in bed quickly, accidentally launching Rizzo the Rat out the window.
Gonzo:[hearing Rizzo climbing back in] Is that you, Rizzo? Rizzo: No, it's Santa. I forgot my reindeer.
In Dinosaurs episode "What Sexual Harris Meant", Earl comes home early because someone died at work.
Fran: Oh my goodness, what happened??
Earl: Fran, we push down trees for a living. You figure it out!
Paranoia supplement "Acute Paranoia", adventure "Outland-ISH". The Troubleshooters try to find out the source of a drug affecting ISH sector by questioning the residents.
Troubleshooter: How did all these people get drugged? Drugged Citizen: They drank the water. Snrfff. Troubleshooter: The drug is in the water? Drugged Citizen: Sklaxxl. No, the drug is on the inside of the cups! Of course it's in the water. Hrraww.
And this one from the Egosoft forum. Ego's latest game, X Rebirth has had a release date of Real Soon Now since roughly March 2011, and that thread is basically endless "When's it coming out?" A page later, the one Egosoft employee who interacts with the forum on a regular basis rounds up a dozen or so of his coworkers to come onto the forum and say, "I'm still alive."
The Spoony Experiment has two examples: during the review of Clones of Bruce Lee, a character mentions Bruce Lee and another character asks "The actor?". Spoony sarcastically responds, "No, the golfer." Later, during Spoony's review of Ripper, a character mentions that technology similar to what the Ripper (a serial killer) is using was recently stolen from her. The main character asks, "And you think the Ripper did it?"
A backwards example where Skipper gets sick of a stupid answer and returns with a stupid question happens in The Penguins of Madagascar, Sting Operation.
Skipper: What do you make of it, Kowalski? Kowalski: I'm not sure, Skipper. It could be anything. Skipper: Oh really? Could it be Alaska? Kowalski: No, it's probably not— Skipper: Are you saying Alaska might be stuck upside down to the clock tower of my zoo? Kowalski: I guess— Skipper: Because I think people would notice if the entire state of Alaska just... packed up and... moved to the zoo! Kowalski: All right, maybe it couldn't be anything!
Solomon Grundy gives Superman a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that involves — among other things — punching him through several buildings, smashing him between two cars, and tossing him through the supports of a suspension bridge. After that last one, Superman climbs out onto a pier, not only bruised and battered but dripping wet as well, and:
In the Elefun and Friends short "A Tangled Tale", Elefun follows a kite string all the way to China, where he and his friends see a panda trying to launch herself across a river using a piece of bamboo. The bamboo gets stuck halfway, leaving her dangling and leading to this conversation:
Elefun: Whatcha doing? Panda:Sipping tea. What does it look like I'm doing? Spin: Sinking. Pandarama: Who asked you?
Rainbow Dash: Pinkie Pie, you asleep yet? Pinkie Pie: No. Are you asleep yet? Rainbow Dash: If I was sleeping, how could I have asked you if you were asleep? Pinkie Pie: Oh yeah. (giggles) Rainbow Dash: When we get to Appleloosa, you think we'll have to carry that heavy tree all the way from the train to the orchard? Pinkie Pie: What tree? You mean Bloomberg? Rainbow Dash:No, Fluttershy. Pinkie Pie:Fluttershy's not a tree, silly. Fluttershy: I'd like to be a tree.
Animaniacs, episode "Temporary Insanity". The Warners are fighting to answer the phone first, causing Mr. Plotz's office (and Mr. Plotz himself) to be wrapped in a telephone cord.
Mr. Plotz: When will all this insanity end?! Dot: When one of us answers the phone, silly. Mr. Plotz: I did not know that.
Natasha: Boris, did you get blown up by your own bomb again? Boris: No, I'm up here robbing bird's nests! Natasha: But why? Boris: It keeps me off the streets, that's why! About six feet off.
In another example the "sarcastic" answer is actually the truth, but the man being answered thinks this trope is what's happening.
Man: Hi there Bullwinkle, what's the rush? Bullwinkle: We're being chased by a man eating plant! Man: Well, ask a foolish question, you get a foolish... [plant eats him]
The animated Punky Brewster episode "Growing Pain" has Glomer growing in size due to an allergy to pepperoni pizza. He is taken to a gym where he attempts to use a weights machine but is catapulted back and wedged within the bars of the machine:
Punky: Glomer, are you okay? Glomer:[not too pleased] Am I looking okay?!
In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: CAKED-THREE". Numbuh One was enthusiastic about Numbuh Two's plan to attack the Delightful Children by using a weapon that uses "a kajillion eggs" as ammunition, until...
Numbuh One: This is stupid! Why did you put the kazillion eggs in my room?!
Numbuh Two: Well, I certainly wasn't going to put them in my room.
Max Goof on Goof Troop did this with his friend PJ after he had collapsed into a covered trench behind him back-first onto a pipe.
Max: You okay? PJ: Oh, yeah, yeah. This rusty metal pipe broke my fall!