Acting's version of Hollywood Tone-Deaf. In Hollywood, bad acting can only come in two flavors: Large Ham; and this trope. Stilted, wooden, or monotone. These actors have never heard of suspension of disbelief. They couldn't act wet in a thunderstorm.
This often happens when characters are forced to reenact a specific event in hopes that it will have the same consequences. Often afflicts school rooms around the world where teachers have students read lines aloud, with the students not caring for the actual tone of the piece at all. What can almost be considered a trope in its own right is to attempt to homage William Shatner with strangely.. placed.. staccato pauses and.. random jumps in pitch. Another popularly used example is if the characters are attempting to fool a third party by acting as if they are having a conversation or argument. Usually the third party doesn't pick up on this.
Bonus points if the character's eyes scan slowly back and forth as they read the out-of-shot cuecards.
Also like Hollywood Tone-Deaf, in that professional actors can, well, act. If they aren't very good at their job, you wouldn't be able to tell if they were sucking on purpose for the Show Within a Show. Those that are good at acting typically couldn't mimic a poor actor, and even then, just like above, it'd be hard to tell if the actor was trying to fail — though it's something like common wisdom that only someone who's very good at something can be deliberately bad at something. Also, as per Rule of Funny, genuinely poor acting isn't amusing — or at least not as amusing as Bad Bad Acting. Impersonations done in Bad Bad Acting tend to involve Hugh Mann and Most Definitely Not a Villain.
Just to reiterate, this is where characters try to act and do a horrible job at it, not when you think someone does a legitimately horrible acting job or even a So Bad, It's Good performance. We have a whole other set of tropes for that.
See Stylistic Suck, the Super Trope of this, and its subtropes Bad Impressionists and Hollywood Tone-Deaf.
Contrast The Power of Acting.
Late in the Ouran High School Host Club anime, Haruhi is kidnapped by the Zuka Club and forced to participate in a tragic play (as part of an excruciatingly complex revenge gambit by Benio). The characters comment on Haruhi's "robotic" acting, which consists of repeating the same line with virtually no intonation. (As an aside, Haruhi's English voice actress does an excellent job of crappy acting in this instance; the rest of the time, Haruhi is acted with great aplomb.)
Syaoran in volume 5 of Cardcaptor Sakura. So bad it actually comes across in a manga. That is not easy to do.
In a Lucky Channel segment of the first Lucky Star episode to feature Minoru Shiraishi's voice in the main segment, Akira criticizes his reading, and offers to help him practice by going over the scene again, with her as Miss Kuroi. Her reading of Kuroi's line is really dull, except for a bit when she has trouble reading the word "quiet" and Shiraishi whispers the correct pronunciation to her, provoking a bit of mild annoyance that shows as she says it correctly.
In episode 4 of Zero no Tsukaima Final, some people (who are presumably part of the staff at the tavern) put up an act that "re-enacts" the fight between Saito and King Joseph of Gallia. The acting is...deplorable to say the least.
Guy acting as Joseph: Oh no. I have been slain. Ahhhhhhhh... (collapses)
In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the girls of the "Beauty Village" claim to be under attack and ask for help from Team Gurren, pretending to be terrified. It is obvious to the viewer that they are faking it, and most of the brigade realizes that it's at least "suspicious." But Kittan is so excited to be able to save an all-female village that he agrees to help.
The student-made murder mystery film in Hyouka is full of this; most of the actors seem like they aren't even trying to behave naturally. Oreki actually incorporates this into his theory of the story's intended ending, claiming the acting was bad because the characters knew the cameraman was the culprit the whole time and were awkwardly playing along with the script. This turns out to be wrong, though, so either the students are just amazingly bad actors, or they couldn't get into the story since the ending didn't even exist yet.
Done deliberately by villain Rubber Soul in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure. He knows how the person he's impersonating should act, but he enjoys making the people he imitates look like total idiots and perverts.
Watamote features a sequence in which Tomoko records over the dialogue in an Otome in her own voice. She is... not very good.
Erza from Fairy Tail is a rare mix between Large Ham and this. She apparently loves acting, and she has the spirit, but she can barely remember her lines, and her enthusiasm about delivering them in the most hammy way possible just makes her spout some random nonsense... when she's not stuttering.
In The Castle of Cagliostro, Inspector Zenigata learns about an illegal counterfeiting operation in the basement of a building. The problem is that his superiors refuse to act on this, since many nations are buying these counterfeit bills. His solution? He brings a TV news camera crew down to the basement of the building while pretending to chase Lupin and badly feigns surprise at finding counterfeiting equipment, "discovering" it in a way that makes it impossible to ignore. This makes one of his superiors comment, "He's such a bad actor."
Subverted for effect in the first Naruto movie: the actress the team escorts played out a scene they see her shooting quite convincingly; this shocks the team because it sharply contrasts with how distant and snide the actress really behaves. She's not, however, able to fake crying.
Daddy Day Care features a scene where Marvin has to fill in for a professional actor. His attempt can be put in this category.
A truly spectacular example occurs in Super 8 during the short film the main characters are producing throughout the movie. During the credits, you see the finished film, and the acting is bad. In fact, it shows off the acting talent of the young actors in being able to act that badly. The film even shows that their actress Alice is actually really good, but the kid director chose a cut where she had to yell above the sound of a train, causing her to sound just as bad as the rest of them.
In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Robert Downey, Jr.'s character, a petty thief, is running from the cops and bursts into some acting auditions. In order to escape the police, he goes ahead and does an audition, reading out the lines in a monotone ("Um... beat up on me all night. You want me to give up my client, you can go spit.") until some of the dialogue hits too close to home. Then he appears to be doing a great acting job, but it's really genuine emotion. (Ah, Method Acting...)
The entire film The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is this way — the actors were playing the part of B-movie actors in a film, not like the characters.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno includes this when the main characters and the people they hired attempt to "act" in the film they are making. (Just as well that it's, um, a porno... Pity a mainstream film can't show "the good parts".)
In The Naked Gun 33 1/3, Frank Drebin has to replace a host at the Oscars Gala. At first he doesn't know what to say, so his co-hostess tells him to read off the autoprompter. Which he does, word for word, including the stage directions and the co-hostess' own lines. Things don't exactly improve when he starts to ad-lib. Hilarity Ensues.
Borderline example in Son of Rambow, where the older brother is used in the film within a film. He reads his lines exactly as someone with no acting experience and no preparation would realistically have read them. The makers of the movie then comment about how bad of an actor he was.
In Ghostbusters II, Janine and Louis are roped into acting for a commercial for the company. They fall squarely into this.
This scene follows the similar commercial from the first movie, with the originial three Ghostbusters reading very stilted lines, and Egon even looking down when he steps forward and back to make sure he steps on his floor mark.
This was actually Harold Ramis making sure he hit his mark — the director thought it was so perfect he kept that take.
This scene was later referenced in Evolution (also directed by Ivan Reitman), with the main characters doing a really badly acted commercial for Head & Shoulders (with one of them even holding the bottle upside down).
Likewise Alexander Dane, Alan Rickman's character in Galaxy Quest, when the out-of-work and typecast actors are advertising the opening of an electronics store. Alexander Dane is a perfectly good classically trained actor otherwise, but there he was feeling very unenthusiastic. The others are all pretty stilted too, he's just the most obvious about it.
Averted in Cold Souls: when the newly soulless Paul Giamatti is acting in Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya", his performance is not stilted or hammed up, but it is still very noticeably and realistically bad.
Outrageous Fortune. Shelley Long's Russian acting instructor asks her to simulate being shot, which she grossly over-acts. Later on in the movie he takes a shot at her for real and appears to have killed her, but it turns out her performance has improved.
In Dunston Checks In, a maid's boss's boss wants her fired, but her boss likes her and knows his boss will never remember the incident when he shows up again next year, so for the meantime the maid is on two weeks paid vacation. The joke is supposed to be that she's trying to seem sad in front of her boss's boss but is actually happy to be on vacation and is bad at acting. Interestingly enough, the actress seems to have been trying for Bad Bad Acting as a way of making the joke clear to the audience. What came out was more like bad bad bad acting.
Black Dynamite is a spoof of blaxploitation films, complete with bad acting as part of its Stylistic Suck. In one scene, Black Dynamite's girlfriend is playfully frolicking with him in a park, but whenever the shot cuts back to Black Dynamite, he's scowling and clearly confused about what he's supposed to be doing.
Reds has an example of this with Louise Bryant's terrible acting in one of Eugene O'Neill's plays. In general, Diane Keaton, who plays Louise, is the master of this trope.
In Scream 3 when Sarah is asked to read her lines from the script, she reads them out with a pretty hammy performance, somewhere between Marilyn Monroe's president voice and a bad scared sounding voice.
In Help!, the ineffectual Scotland Yard inspector impersonates Ringo to fool pursuers on the phone:
Inspector: Allow me; I'm a bit of a famous mimic in my own small way, you know...James Cagney...[on the phone] Hul-LO there, this is the famous RING-o here, gear fab! What is it that I can do for YOU as it were, gear fab?
George: Not a bit like Cagney.
In "Girls Will be Girls," which features a cast of Drag Queens, bad yet self-deluded actress Evie gives the most stilted performance possible in her One-Hit Wonder film. At one point the script is simply placed open on a table on set, with Evie "subtly" cribbing looks at it, sounding out her lines.
Deran Sarafian dubbing the voice of the late Robert Marius: Zombies are bad!
In the first Major League, as the team is starting to turn things around they're pulled in for an American Express commercial. Everyone is horrible, either completely monotone, reading their lines slowly, awkwardly trying to snap their fingers, or just talking about "you know, your favorite... movies or... restaurant type places." The only one who seemed a natural in front of the camera was Willy "Mayes" Hayes who, in the sequel, had done an ACTUAL action movie in the off-season. It was every bad action cliche possible rolled into one and tanked at the box office. This may have been a reference to the fact that Willy's original actor, Wesley Snipes, didn't come back because he was doing other projects.
The movie Act of Valor is a film about Navy SEALs that stars actual, on-duty Navy SEALs. The good news is that the action scenes of the film are filmed to the utmost realism and accuracy. The bad news: most Navy SEALs aren't actors.
The Brady Bunch: The episode "And Now a Word From Our Sponsor" where the Bradys are offered a chance to star in a TV commercial has Mike and Carol hire an actress acquaintance (Myrna Carter) to help them brush up their acting skills, hoping to become believable when the fateful day finally comes. However, Myrna is at best a method actress to the extreme and more than likely just a very bad actress who is completely unqualified to give lessons or advice. Nonetheless, Mike and Carol (and the rest of the family) take her well-intentioned advice to heart ... and the resulting stiff, bombastic acting winds up costing them their shot at TV commercial stardom. The director, Skip Farnum, had wanted the family to "be themselves," and at the end of the last scene, Skip angrily asks his cohort the name of that bad actress they used to work with, because the Bradys' style was just like hers.
There's an episode of NewsRadio where a camera crew decides to shoot Jimmy James for a documentary. Whenever they start filming, though, he starts going all monotone and speaks like a robot.
Another one of Bayer's characters, Laura Parsons, is a parody of adolescent drama students who think showing off acting technique is the same thing as giving a performance. She performs scenes from Age Inappropriate movies like Brokeback Mountain and The Social Network with a singsong vocal rhythm and gratuitous hand gestures.
An older SNL sketch, "Goth Talk" was more or less Bad Bad Acting of the hammy variety. The two black-shrouded hosts, Stephanie and Todd (aka Circe Nightshade and Azrael Abyss), as well as all of their guests, tried to be ludicrously morbid, gothic and emotional, even when referencing very modern, pedestrian things. The fact that they essentially broke character every few sentences did not help.
In the third season of Breaking Bad, Jessie and his buddies decide to take advantage of a Drug Addict Recovery Program with them all posing as concerned former users not so stealthily advertising their meth to the addicts. It predictably doesn't go very well.
The Daily Show: For a while, the end segment (a.k.a. "the toss") that segues into The Colbert Report was pre-taped, instead of done with a live audience as usual. Fans noticed and were displeased. On the show that returned to live tosses, Jon Stewart acknowledged that the fans enjoyed the expression of "warmth and genuine camaraderie" between him and Stephen Colbert — and both immediately became very wooden, read robotically off the teleprompters, and expressed relief when it was over.
Sophie from Leverage is terrible. Really terrible. Once, Parker compared her acting in Death of a Salesman, in which Sophie played the title role, to a horror movie saying "Attention must bePAID!" and Eliot declared that that was the worst night of his life. This was juxtaposed with a flashback of him playing Russian Roulette somewhere. As is made clear throughout the series, she's only terrible when she's trying to act outside of a con. If it's during a con, she can pull off almost any role effortlessly. As Nate puts it, "She can act... when it's an act."
Face from The A-Team had a very similar example. When the A-Team had to help Hannibal make a monster movie on location in Season 4, the plot started to happen, and Face wound up playing the male lead. Normally, he was the slickest con man around, convincingly pretending to be all sorts of different occupations, but when they put him in front of a camera, he was wooden. Face, being Face, immediately made excuses for it, saying that he was getting the feel for the character, etc.
Subverted by an episode of The Big Bang Theory. The show worked up an expectation that Penny, who is an aspiring actress, (and also shown to be a horrible singer), was also not that good an actress either. Whilst the fans of the show would expect her to be a typical sitcom style bad actor (and this is lampshaded to an extent in the lines previous), the first time her acting is revealed, it's in a tense moment with the Dogged Nice Guy, Penny exclaiming that if they moved in together (to save on rent) that "She couldn't keep her hands off him". He believes her, at which point she reveals her acting classes "weren't a waste of money".
And as far as the singing is concerned, she's got quite a nice voice sometimes, as shown by the episode where Sheldon takes over her business.
In an episode, Barclay performs a play with Dr. Crusher. He is terrible at acting, stammering and forgetting lines. The audience, however, is too nice to criticize him and politely applaud the performance while saying things like "bravo" — except for Data.
In "Time's Arrow, Part II" the Next Generation crew have travelled back in time to 1893 San Francisco. When the landlady Mrs. Carmichael demands their overdue rent they pretend to be actors rehearsing A Midsummer Night's Dream and encourage her to read the part of Titania. Captain Picard then praises her stilted performance, and Mrs. Carmichael is so flustered she forgets about the rent for another day.
Lampshaded and parodied in several MADtv skits entitled "Prehistoric Glamazon Huntresses A.D" that poked fun of B-rated television series.
"You are not a scientist... from the future... AS I am."
Young Hercules; Hercules and friends have found an Ares lookalike, and need to convince Strife and Discord he's the real thing.
Jason: Don't hit Hercules or I will hurt you...no don't throw me backwards Ares!
Ares: (to Discord) You are insolent, and disobedient...and naughty!
Jason: Oh no it's Ares! ::cringing - badly::
Played with in Monk. In "Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater", Monk becomes the understudy for an actor who was murdered. When he's re-enacting the scene in the play to try to solve the crime, he's really good; Sharona does her part much less convincingly. Monk starts to lose it in rehearsals; during the actual performance, he makes a lot of mistakes and veers into Large Ham territory. During the actual performance, he was also rather flustered due to having just figured out that the murderer was the person he was acting with on the stage.
Everyone in Garth Marenghis Darkplace does this in their own particular way. Garth (as Rick Dagless) hopelessly overangsts his every line, the actress playing Liz lives in a world of Dull Surprise and breathless delivery, Dr Sanchez is played as the Ham to end all Hams, and Thornton Reed does little more than read his lines straight off the script.
Simon in the episode "Jaynestown", when he's pretending to be a merchant looking to buy "mud".
When Simon and River come back onto the ship at the end of "Safe", Jayne's attempt at welcoming them back (and covering up that he's been looting Simon's luggage) is all about this.
Also in "Trash", where at the end it's revealed that everything was played by the entire crew from the moment Mal released Yo-Saff-Bridge from the crate, Inara insists that the crew's acting skills were sub-par. In fact, if you watch closely, the crew's performances really weren't that great, with Kaylee lapsing into giggling fits a few times, and Wash being a bit of a Large Ham.
J-Roc's numerous porno films in Trailer Park Boys, where the "actors" are absolutely terrible.
Such as a painful rendition of Oedipus Rex by the main characters for a mandatory talent show in the first-season episode "The Puppet Show".
Nice-girl Willow trying to pass as her evil vampire counterpart in the third-season episode "Doppelgangland". ("I'm a bloodsucking fiend! Look at my outfit!")
Also in "Doppelgangland", not only does Willow try to pass herself off as the evil vampire Willow, but the vampire Willow tries to pass herself off as good Willow, so Cordelia will let her out of the book cage. "Look at me. I'm all... helpless." Hilarity Ensues.
A variant: a robot (in seasons five and six) designed to look like Buffy moving among her friends using such cunningly in-character lines as "Willow, you are my best friend. You're recently gay!" What annoys Buffy is that it manages to fool them for a while.
Faith trying to impersonate Buffy. This involves Sarah Michelle Gellar, who plays Buffy normally, in the role of playing Faith pretending to be Buffy. Includes rehearsing some lines Faith thinks Buffy would say before a mirror over and over, hilariously.
Faith-in-Buffy's-body: Because it's wrong. Because it's wrong. [fiercely]Because it's wrong....
Spikepretending to be American so Initiative soldiers won't realize who he is. When he tries it again in a later episode, he gives up before he's even finished speaking.
Soldier: Do I know you?
Spike: Uh, no. Uh, no sirrr, I'm just an old friend of Xanderrr...herrre.
Doyle's video ad for Angel Investigations in the first season. After his death, it's played later on in the first and then the fifth season, turning into a Tear Jerker.
Cordelia also displays this — especially in a risible performance in Henrik Ibsen's A Dolls House — but improves markedly.
The League of Gentlemen has Pam Doove, who became The Unintelligible whenever it was time for her to speak a single, easy line. Played with in that in-universe her unintelligible phrase becomes a popular meme, her advert is actually filmed and broadcast and, in the minds of the writers according to the DVD Commentary, she becomes a famous actress and wins an Oscar.
Reno 911! occasionally shows its police-officer characters doing incredibly stilted Public Service Announcements.
An episode of Green Acres, where the town puts on a play. Arnold, a pig, is considered to be a great actor and is sent to Hollywood. Considering the quality of the human acting, I don't blame them.
There's a spoof behind-the-scenes production of a Dickensian costume drama with a useless lead actor, who can barely read and can't even say his lines in the correct order: "I think it now not far... is?", "I too, wife weary... am?".
Bad Bad Acting is a staple of KYTV's "Brazilian soap opera, Ole!, translated and dubbed by KYTV," where the "Brazillian" actors play with exaggerated melodrama, while the voice-over actors read their lines in a dull, monotone way, regularly missing their cues, reading the wrong lines and mispronouncing words.
KYTV was based on the radio series Radio Active which also used this trope regularly. The radio version of the Dicken parody featured the narrator saying "Children die on the street happily.... Die on the streets. Happily our story concerns on who lives." And the Oliver Twist expy saying "Gruel, please can I have some moron... Please can I have some more on my plate."
Hayes: You're thinking too much. Joey: I really doubt that.
Phoebe and Ross also go overboard when they "act".
In the Doctor Who story Meglos, the Doctor and Romana are caught in a chronic hysteresis (a time loop), which results in them going through the same scene involving repairing K-9 by waggling his tail several times. In order to break themselves out of said loop, they have to deliberately recreate the scene, which results in Romana acting very woodenly, and the Doctor actually forgetting what he has to say next, even though he's already delivered the line at least three times already. Hilarity Ensues.
Scrubs has J.D. and Turk perform a concept scene for J.D.'s screenplay "Dr. Acula" and requisitely has them doing a horrible job at line delivery and staying in character when their line is over.
Despite Miley Stewart's successful Clark Kenting in Hannah Montana, Hannah herself couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. In one episode while co-hosting an award show, she speaks in a robotic voice and reads the instructions from the teleprompter. In another episode she is fired from a voice acting job for an animated movie. Ironically, director Rob Reiner gives her a role only after she goes out of her way to try not get the part.
The latter scenario was more of a Springtime for Hitler situation; Miley was deliberately botching the audition as Oliver was jealous of Hannah's successes in life while Oliver was doomed to failure. Oliver would eventually forgive Miley for sacrificing her opportunity to save their friendship.
In Supernatural's "The French Mistake," Sam and Dean are thrust into an alternate reality in which they are Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. At one point Sam and Dean are forced to play themselves, and they do a spectacularly bad job of it.
Dean: Don't look at the camera. Sam: What? Dean: Look anywhere but the camera.
One can only imagine the "real" script directions for Jared and Jensen who were told to act as Sam and Dean(normal), who are acting like Jared and Jensen(would already be difficult) who are acting as Sam and Dean (OMGWTFBBQ).
Everyone on Acorn Antiques from Victoria Wood as Seen on TV. But especially Miss Babs.
Ed Norton (no, not that one) on The Honeymooners when Ralph Kramden's Zany Scheme of the Week is to sell a multi-purpose tool on TV. "Can it core an apple?" However, when the time comes to actually do the commercial (live in those days), Ralph is even worse: "Homminahomminahommina...."
Will and Grace: it seems that Jack's a pretty terrible actor: he often breaks character to laugh at his own mistakes and doesn't read the script ahead of time:
Jack:(auditioning, fake-shivering violently) "Please, Mr. O'Shaughnessy, I'm begging you. I can't stand out here any longer in this unbearable—" (turns page) "heat." Oh. Oh... it's hot. (fans himself) "We need food or else I fear my family will perish, and my harp will break." Oh, "heart." (laughs) "My heart will break." I said, "harp will break." Did you hear that?
Margo's performance in The Sound of Music on Good Neighbors. Among other issues, she at one point starts singing "Mack the Knife".
Skins series five. The third generation gang are involved with putting on a college show towards the end of the series and chief organizer, head girl and all-round queen bee Mini McGuinness turns out to give a horribly stilted and melodramatic performance that she naturally thinks is really good. Meanwhile the most extreme outsiders of the group, Franky and Richard, give extremely good performances that are well-received by the audience.
Neighbours runs into this at time, especially with staged arguments. The fight between Rachel and Stingray, intended to convince Susan they weren't really interested in each other, was particularly cringe-worthy.
In the Married... with Children episode "Kiss of the Coffee Woman", Al and Marcy try to act in a coffee commercial, but deliver their lines in a completely stilted and unnatural way. After everybody has given up and left, they try it for one more time, and do it perfectly.
In the British cop series Jericho the title character is asked to introduce a television series about his 'real life' cases (actually fictional cases delivering moral Aesops). He's eventually replaced by an actor because his performance is too stilted.
On Arrested Development, Tobias Funke's entire acting career falls squarely into this. Highlights include his performance as George Sr. on Scandalmakers and his audition for the fire sale ad.
Tobias: OH MY GOD WE'RE HAVING A FIRE (sale), women and children first! Amaaaaaaaazing graaaaace... aaaaaand end scene.
On Californication when Hank is asked to read out loud from a screenplay he wrote, the result is stilted and incredibly awkward. It's especially interesting since the scene he's reading is based on events that occurred in the series' pilot episode, and the dialogue matches the earlier scene almost word for word.
The It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth" featured an absurd showing of a fan film made by the main characters: Lethal Weapon 5. Aside from all its other problems (like the horrible racism), it featured some of the worst acting imaginable. Like Charlie's dreadful line readings ("Turns out someone tainted - tapped the tainted water supply! The person who just died was your wife!") and Frank's turn as the screeching Large Ham villain.
The Gang's venture into musicals in "The Nightman Cometh" also featured loads of bad acting.
The MythBusters sometimes do Stylistic Suck videos that illustrate a myth that they're doing. When they do this, the acting is either over-the-top or oddly stilted. While this is somewhat justified by the fact that none of them (with the possible exception of Adam) are professional actors, it still manages to be So Bad, It's Good in the exact way Bad Bad Acting generally is.
An interesting episode was about testing to see if hypnotic recall could actually work to make you remember things that you couldn't before. To test this Adam and Jamie set up an altercation with with some delivery guys (who were planted actors) with Tory, Kari and Grant nearby. As a viewer in on the deception you could tell it was an act but it would be convincing enough for the casual observers.
A Murphy Brown episode had the title character hired for a cameo on a comedy show. Unfortunately, Murphy keeps delivering her single line in a horribly stilted manner:
Murphy: I GOT your APOLOGY, Kelly! NOW I'm SORRY that I filled your CAR with HERRING!
Eden Sher as Sue Heck in The Middle when Sue does public speaking or things on camera
Usually in That '70s Show, the actors will indulge in this trope, especially prevalent in a parody of the cult film Reefer Madness and a short about the future.
In Game of Thrones, certain scenes in the court are played as having been obviously rehearsed by the royals in advance. In the final episode of season 2, Joffrey turns to his mother in anticipation for her line before she even opens her mouth, even though she's meant to be suggesting something he hadn't previously thought of.
Shaun Micallef has the character of David McGahan, a media personality whose ego far outstrips his talent. One recurring McGahan sketch, Roger Explosion: Secret Agent has him manage to hit every single point of this trope. McGahan continually forgets his lines, misses his cues, flubs the blocking (to the point where there's a giant cross on the floor) and even messes the cues of other characters.
Chewin' the Fat featured Ronald Villiers, "the second-worst actor in the world." He cannot remember the simplest of lines, respond to any cue, or take any form of direction. He can ruin any scene no matter how small the part (when playing a Puritan villager in an angry mob during the Salem Witch Trials, he constantly mumbled over the main actors) and even when he has no lines (when playing a prison warden who is only there to open the door of a cell, every take failed because of him noisily clanging the door or fumbling with the keys.)
On the Israeli sitcom Zanzuri, the eponymous character botches the funeral scene hes participating in as an extra by trying to hog the focus repeatedly with hillariously over-the-top crying and screaming.
In the Dom De Luise episode of The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy is trying to get noticed by Kermit. Among her efforts is a badly-acted conversation between Miss Piggy and Scooter involving her having gotten an offer from another show.
Kermit: Uh, Scooter, that performance by you and Miss Piggy was terrible. Scooter: Gee, I didn't think it was that bad. I missed one line, but... Oh, no.
Stop. Please. Just let me go. Alejandro. Just let me go.
Used frequently by radio satirists Bob & Ray, in the course of poking fun at various conventions of the medium. One of their mock talk shows was called "Us, the Folks, Mumble!" and featured the following running gag:
Bob:(as host) OK now sir, tell us what happened in your own words... Ray:(as guest) Um... mph schmpfl reffle flp... Bob:(hastily) Er, maybe you'd better use our words, sir. Right here on the card. Ray: OK, sure. (reads off card in stiffest and most unconvincing manner possible)
Early episodes of the BBC radio comedy The Burkiss Way opened with "unsolicited testimonials from satisfied customers" in which people would explain how the titular correspondence course had changed their lives. These were often delivered with reading-off-the-cue-cards stiltedness; The female customers (all played by Denise Coffey) would always end by asking "Was that all right?", but the worst example is an illiterate man explaining how the course taught him to read:
Customer: Then, a fiend in-tro-dunced me to... The Burgess Wag! Now, I can read and... re-redistribute all the choice lapels I want. Prompter:Cheese labels!
In one episode of the Bert Coules "Sherlock Holmes" radio plays, Holmes and Watson act out a scene from the 1899 play by William Gillette. Watson reads his own part rather woodenly, and Holmes reads the part of himself and the female lead.
Lum And Abner did this frequently, both in their wartime "plays" on fighting inflation, and the plotline where they buy a radio transmitter at an auction and decide to start their own radio station, reading their lines deadpan like it was the first time they'd even seen the scripts (which was probably the case).
Abner: I can tell you've been to Moze Moots' Barber Shop. By the way, you smell!
In Curtains, Jessica Crenshaw is a triple threat: she can't sing, dance or act.
Jessica: Kiss me while you can, boys! I'm bidding you!
Jessica: Farewell! I'm bidding you Farewell!
In the Sondheim classic Into the Woods, there are examples of this with the Baker and the Baker's Wife, the most notable being The Baker's Wife trying to get Jack to trade her magic beans for his "cow as white as milk".
Baker's Wife: Oh -
Baker's Wife: Ooooohhhhh! Oh, no! We mustn't give up our beans!
In the "Madonna's Brain" sketch from Forbidden Broadway, the actress plays Madonna trying to rehearse a line for David Mamet and delivering horrible line readings.
Madonna: (in a monotone, with no inflections or pauses) I know what it's like to be bad, I've been bad. (then, a second try) I know what it's like to be bad, I (pause) 've been bad.
One of the races in Mass Effect is the Elcor, who communicate emotion and nuance through scent and facial cues. Speaking in monotone and prefacing their statements with a description of how they feel for the benefit of other races doesn't make for good acting, but there is still a famous, award-winning all-elcor run of Hamlet. See the trailer:
Gertrude: Uneasy: What wilt thou do. Thou wilt not murder me. Help. Help. Ho.
Polonius: Shocked: What ho. Help. Help. Help.
Hamlet: Startled: How now. A rat. Dead for a ducat. Dead.
Polonius: Agonized: O. I am slain.
Gertrude: Horrified: O me. What has thou done.
Hamlet: Shaken: Nay. I know not. Is it the king.
Gertrude: Horror gives way to anger: O. What rash and bloody deed is this.
Hamlet: Venomous Sarcasm: What a piece of work is a man!
The best part? This could be the most powerful, moving version of Hamlet ever made - and it's completely lost if you aren't elcor. Also, it's fourteen hours long.
Mass Effect 3 has an in-universe action movie Blasto 6: Partners in Crime. Blasto is a hanar, a race of excruciatingly polite jellyfish-like aliens who have little ability to express emotions vocally - and his partner is an elcor (see above).
In Disgaea, one of the Prism Rangers delivers half his lines like this, and the other half of his lines as if he's trying to do this and failing to entirely remove the inflection... and then Etna shoots them.
Agent: I am a road worker. This is my stop sign. Agent: I am a sad widow. Boo, hoo. Boo, hoo, hoo.
The PSP game Dragoneer's Aria contains a segment wherein the two female characters need to agitate a spirit guarding a tree that wouldn't listen to anything they say (thus necessitating the threat). Their delivery is wooden, but, somehow, the centuries-old spirit falls for it.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion contains a set piece in which an NPC "puts on a little act" as a prelude to faking his own death with the assistance of the player character. The result is positively hilarious.
Locke's performance in the Opera scene of Final Fantasy VI is supposed to be this. Due to technical limitations, it's left as an Informed Ability. Although he does refer to the main character of the opera by the name of her actress. That's a pretty amateurish mistake.
The Way of the Samurai series shamelessly uses most of the tropes you'd find in an old samurai film (Mook Chivalry is explicitly noted in the tutorials), so the English version of the sequel decides to up the ante and invoke the poor dubs such films would receive.
In Tales of Symphonia, Remiel's wooden delivery during the early stages of the game turns out to be this. His voice acting gets much more natural when he's revealed as a villain.
One of the endings of Saints Row The Third has you chase the villain to Mars, with a mixture of extremely contrived plot devices and wooden acting meant as clues that he actually got away in that ending and you're making a film about going after him.
The Protagonist even forgets the lines to his ending speech, despite the fact that it's just a copy of the opening lines to Red Faction: Guerrilla.
The same goes for the Gangsta's In SPACE! DLC, where the entire mission pack is around similarly cheesy film scenes.
In Saints Row IV, Jane Valderama invokes this when she's brought in to help Zinyak read a selection from Romeo and Juliet on the classical station. She reads it in the same smarmy newsreader monotone she used for her news reports in the last few Saints' Row games.
In the prologue of Final Fantasy XII, listen carefully to Basch during the assassination scene. In it, he sounds a bit... strange. That's not him, it's Gabranth doing a really bad job of imitating his brother.
Frequently done by the characters when they're given a script to read.
The tutorial of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People is full of Bad Bad Acting, with Strong Sad and Bubs reading their lines with all the pathos of a plank of wood, occasionally broken up with complaints about the awful, awful script.
The Dangeresque installments are full of this, especially from Coach Z.
A DVD bonus toon opens with the King of Town on stage, reading from a cue card in an extremely forced manner, and giving a reaction after the line is read indicating that he didn't even know what he was reading until after he read it. This bit of bad acting is justified when the viewer gets to see the cue card... and Homsar is holding it upside-down.
Red vs. Blue. Donut tried to orchestrate a play to illustrate how the time jump happened. The reds actually do good, but Caboose, being The Ditz, reads his stage directions aloud. However, that was his only flaw; he wasn't monotone or wooden.
A Running Gag with The Nostalgia Critic is that he responds to instances of bad acting in the movies he reviews by staring at the camera and saying "I'm acting!" in a dopey voice and style reminiscent of the actor.
Also variations, e.g. in his Red Sonja review he imitates the actress' uncertain-sounding tone with "I'm... acting?"
Other That Guy with the Glasses contributors have also dabbled in this: Spoony and Linkara'sWarrior crossover video showcased an alternate universe (one of several) where Spoony and Linkara are terrible actors, reading their lines flatly from the script, fumbling with the props and making no attempts to emote. Linkara's commentary hung a lampshade on this by mentioning that some people think they were already terrible actors to begin with...
There's also The Nostalgia Chick's review of Showgirls. Because she can't show the naughty scenes on blip, she has to get her friends to play the parts. They either look bored or uncomfortable and one is even reading a book while he gives a lapdance.
NC: (in monotone) Hi, guys. I just wanna stand directly in the middle of the shot and stare blankly into the camera.
In Unforgotten Realms, when Rob is forced to do a scripted event, he seems to go out of his way to act as bad as possible. After a certain point, he gets sick of it and acts normally. Normally being kill everything.
PG Porn's construction worker/adult movie actor Chris can't remember his partner's name, delivers his lines in the most stilted way imaginable and looks on his mark before stepping on it. Leave it to Nathan Fillion to make bad nekkid-film acting even more hilarious than it already is.
Shows up in Echo Chamber episode Tyrant Takes the Helm, where Tom and Dana are pushed into performing an episode of Echo Chamber with "class" (read: obnoxious britishness) by the new Executive Producer. Cue the world's most exaggerated cockney accent from Tom and a deadpan hate from Dana.
On the Half in the Bag series, produced by Red Letter Media, this is the acting style of both hosts (supporting characters generally play it straight as a deliberate contrast). Mike, however, is much better at it than Jay, to the point that he could be called Giftedly Bad if he wasn't doing it on purpose.
Arin of the Game Grumps often uses this type of bad acting. Jon prefers the Large Ham type, however.
Near: I want to tell you about a party... we're throwing... There's going to be booze... and pur-etty ladies with... Rester, do I really have to read this?
An episode of The Amazing World of Gumball called "The DVD". In the episode Gumball and Darwin try to produce their own version of "Alligators on a Train" to replace the one they destroyed. Obviously, the end result had hilariously Bad Bad Acting and did not fool anybody.
Also in the porn film featured in "A Big Ball of Garbage" — with gusto!
Also, the two educational films shown within the show: I Dated a Robot!! and Global Warming — None Like It Hot!!! (the second features the claim that the Earth is warming due to the piling-up of corpses after gang-member-like greenhouse gases beat sunbeams to death).
Also in the Star Trek episode where William Shatner himself does it. It's the complete opposite of his usual unholy acting talent, and the entire Star Trek cast follows suit with their own embarrassingly monotone acting — though the fact that they're being held captive and forced to perform a fanboy's Marty Stu script goes a long way towards explaining their complete lack of effort.
Katara and Sokka when they're trying to get Katara arrested for earthbending and speak in the most stilted tone possible:
Sokka: Get out of my way, pipsqueak! Katara: How dare you call me pipsqueak, you giant-eared cretin! Sokka: What did you call me? Katara: A giant-eared cretin! Look at those things. Do herds of animals use them for shade?
Daggett: Oh my! It's going to crash into!... Us? Save yourselves! Daggett: The End... Question mark?
Practically every other episode features at least one example. In-universe B-Movie actor Oxnard Montalvo is the embodiment of this trope.
The Beavers idolize Oxnard Montalvo and he is probably consciously or subconsciously emulating him. (And really, why wouldn't anyone want to be Just Like Oxnard Montalvo.)
In the episode of Metalocalypse where Dethklok acts in a movie, they all do this.
In a good few Recess episodes the gang sometimes have to act for a scam and deliver horrible performances. One episode has a kid forgetting what word he's supposed to say... halfway through saying it and he has to check his hand for the rest of it (said word was "automatically"). Though subverted in one episode where Gus convincingly disguises himself as a girl in order to steal a baseball bat from the Ashleys.
Danny Phantom: Jazz and Danny has to perform a mock battle in front of Vlad, so convincing that even Danny himself didn't get it until the last minute. That was good acting, at least on Jazz's part. Then they commence the bad acting with Jazz having "killed" Danny; the two perform stilted acts that somehow gets the usual Chessmaster Vlad convinced. Later, Danny and Jazz poke fun at their poor attempts at drama.
The ninth episode of The Venture Bros., "Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean", ends with the characters delivering a PSA. Their delivery is an awkward monotone and their eyes shift from left to right to indicate that they're reading from cue cards.
A trope constantly employed in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo; the characters would act like this every time they needed to trick a monster into falling for a trap. Lampshaded in one episode when Scooby's scolded for going off script by showing genuine emotion.
Darkwing Duck is a terrible actor, although his ego won't allow him to realize it. So he... starts and stops... all of his lines... with Hollywood Tone-Deaf... and wrong inflection... to indicate intent?
In an episode of W.I.T.C.H., the Guardians need to leave to fight the forces of evil just before their slot in a school talent show. They leave behind copies of themselves to take their places, but it turns out that the copies don't retain any memories and therefore are not familiar with the short play they are putting on. It all goes downhill when the Taranee copy begins her narration with "Taranee speaks dramatically..."
In "As Seen on TV", Mr. Krabs films a commercial for the Krusty Krab, where him, Squidward, and Pearl are obviously not good actors. Then again, it aired very early in the morning.
There's also the bit in "Nature Pants" where Sandy and Patrick are trying to convince SpongeBob to return home. It obviously doesn't work very well; Patrick is both too dense and (at the time) too teary-eyed to act worth a damn.
In "Karate Island" there are the "opponents" SpongeBob has to face to take the throne as "King of Karate". They all play dead when SpongeBob throws a punch, and he didn't even touch them.
In one episode of Sushi Pack, Titanium Chef "acts" horrified that Wasabi has discovered his plot in a ploy to get the blob of mustard to attack, giving him the final ingredient for his plan. One of his henchmen even face palms at how bad this acting is, but Wasabi takes the bait.
The "Mr Plow" episode, where the family produces their own (badly acted) TV commercial.
And then there is the nuclear plant's commercial to convince graduates to work there.
In one episode of Freakazoid!, a man who runs into the room the main character is, panicking and yelling that the Lobe has arrived. He's promptly scolded and forced to repeat the scene. At a second instance, the titular character tells him to take acting lessons. Much later during the final showdown between the hero and the Lobe, the same man breaks up the fight to show them that the acting lessons have payed off, by performing the Death of Romeo, from Shakespeare's famous play.
Bridgette: Oh honorable samurai, do you have any FOOD?
Duncan's "crying" in "African Lying Society". His mother actually falls for that!?
Sierra's attempt at a dramatic farewell to Cody in "Planes, Trains, Hot Air Mobiles" is so Narmy it's actually hilarious that she thought it sounded heartwarming.
In an episode of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, a TV commercial for a used car dealership shows off one of its "satisfied customers". Said "customer" is obviously reading from cue cards, to the point of stumbling over the word "courtesy".
In The Smurfs, Smurfette's crocodile tears when she was working for Gargamel and trying to turn the Smurfs against each other. Funnily enough, whenever she cries for real it's exactly the same, except with actual tears.
Played with in an episode where Cow plays the title character of a film called "Pretty Little Girl". Not only is the acting atrocious, the actors (especially Cow, who's also nervous) keep mixing up random words on the cue cards. The director (who's actually the Red Guy) eventually decides to employ a little Enforced Method Acting, which makes the entire staff (himself included) burst into tears. Too bad the cameraman forgot to put the film in the camera.
Also, in the episode "Meet Lance Sackless," when they film a video to send to Canada's Funniest Home Vidiots, Cow pretends to accidentally put glue on her head as she mistakes it for anti-itch cream to heal her horns from doing chores and then Chicken falls onto Cow from the ceiling having their heads stuck to each other's, while saying their lines in a seemingly sarcastic manner. Also, when Cow reaches for the anti-itch cream, Chicken tells her to reach for the glue.
Seen in the Mega Man cartoon on two separate occasions when Mega and Roll try to fool Wily. (You can also tell which of Roll's voice actresses voices her by this—Robyn Ross doesn't do this, while Kathleen Barr does.)
Doug: "Doug's On Stage". The Bluffington Founder's Day pageant's traditional version is a prime case of this. Luckily, Judy arrives and reinstates her own, livelier version.
In the Tiny Toon Adventures segment "Bat's All Folks" Hamton as Decoy the Robin equivalent is told by Batduck to plant a bomb in the villain's hide, he knocks himself out by accident and two thugs find him, their acting is very wooden:
Thug 1: (monotonous) Look it is Decoy the pig hostage, we must bring him inside. Thug 2: (unenthusiastically) What is this thing? (picking up the bomb) Thug 1: (just as unenthusiastic) Who cares, just toss it over into the all concealing shadows.
Shows up a number of times on Adventure Time, such as Finn and Jake's fight with the Cuties in "Conquest of Cuteness".
The Bakshi Mighty Mouse episode "A Star Is Milked" has the hero going to Hollywood to appear in a movie about him (with arch villain the Cow tagging along to sabotage it). Mighty Mouse actually struggles to say his tag line "Here I come to save the day" and delivers it half-heartedly.
The start of the Danger Mouse episode "Bandits, Beans and Ballyhoo!" has DM and Penfold doing a bland but obvious introduction after the show's announcer, Isombard Sinclair, leaves the studio in protest.
DM: (whispers to Penfold) Isombard is having another temperment. We'd better do this ourselves. (loudly and stiltedly) Well, Penfold, my faithful assistant...here we are.
Penfold: (same as DM) Oh yes. "Cor it's nice to be back in the Mayfair abode of the world's greatest secret agent! (DM smiles cheesily to the camera and points to his badge)
DM: Yes...but that holiday in Mexico was most enjoyable. (Penfold unsubtlely shows the suitcase)
Count Duckula was a master at bad acting. He turns overacting and bad acting up to eleven in "The Return Of Count Duckula" when he's cornered by our heroes.
Duckula: Look not so fierce. No villain I. 'Tis but a little, a little thing I crave. I need a TV show. Let not poor Nelly starve. Stay but the hour of execution and let a lonely cripple orphan duck smile one more time, before the shades of night overwhelm him.
Agent 57: (disguised as an American talent agent) Yep, I was right. That's the worst acting that I ever did see!
PJ's attempts at acting on Goof Troop run into this most of the time. He falls into emotionless monotone both when trying to sway Pete emotionally into taking him fishing (against his wishes) and when trying to trick Pete into thinking he's in life-threatening danger as a result of Pete's unrealistic and hypocritical expectations. The weird part is, it works both times. Averted when he was playing a baby, though that time he had other problems.
In the Young Justice episode 'The Runaways,' Blue Beetle's voice sounds weirdly stilted and flat compared to previous episodes. Jaime has an accent. The Scarab doesn't. Guess who's in control?
In the Quack Pack episode "Pride Goeth Before the Fall Guy", Donald sets a trap for world-class thief Nigel Nightshade by having his nephews stand outside his window and talk loudly (while reading from cue cards) about the treasure to which Nigel supposedly now has access. Although they manage to avoid speaking in monotone, the resulting inflections still sound awkward and unnatural.
Huey: Oh no! I don't be-lieve it! You'd think a smart guy like Nigel would know what that key opens. Louie: Oh! You mean theenote sic chest back on theenote and again ship? Dewey: Yeah... the one that holds the trea-sure of... (squints) Tral-fa-ma-dor. Huey: Oh well, I guess Nigel's not the greatest thief, in the world, after all.
In "Hurricane Fluttershy", Fluttershy's attempts at playing sick are rather bad. She pretends to sneeze and cough in the most unconvincing way possible.
Applejack's acting in "Spike at Your Service" isn't a while lot better, with very flat cries for help, and very unconvincing acting. Weirdly, Spike says he's impressed by it.
In the Dragons: Riders of Berk episode "Twinsanity", the kids' efforts at fooling Dagur the Deranged by staging a dragon attack are more wooden than the average coffin. Dagur still falls for them, probably because the dragons were much better at it.
Mordecai and Rigby win a spot on a TV series in episode of Regular Show "Carter and Briggs". Mordecai's Bad Bad Acting goes so deep his voice even cracks during his line. Unlike other examples of the trope, this really was bad acting, as the rest of the cast spares their feelings when they ask for feedback by hastily evacuating the room.