Sheriff of Rottingham:Bad news is not easy to deliver
Sire, I have news! Prince John:
And what sort of news do you have? It's not bad news, is it? You know I can't take bad news. The day started out so good. I had a good night's sleep, I had a good B.M.
I don't want to hear any bad news. Now, what kind of news is it? Sheriff of Rottingham:
Well, to be perfectly frank, it's bad
. Prince John:
I knew it! I knew it would be bad news. Wait, I have an idea. Maybe if you tell me the bad news in a good way
, it wouldn't sound so bad. Sheriff of Rottingham:
The bad news in a good way. Yes, yes, I can do that. The bad news in a good way. Well, here it goes. Sheriff of Rottingham: [hysterically]
Ha! Ha! Ha! W-wait till you hear this! I just saw Robin of Locksley, he's back from the crusades. [laughs]
You know, he just beat the crap
out of me and my men. [laughs]
He hates you and he loves your brother, Richard! [laughs]
... he wants to see you hanged! [laughs and snorts loudly]
We, we're in an awful lot of trouble! [laughs] Prince John:
What, are you crazy?! Why are you laughing?! This is terrible news!
. Especially if the person you have to deliver it to is your boss and has a habit of killing underlings,
or you just don't want to piss him off.
So how do you deliver the bad news? Try delivering it in a good way!
This is when bad news, often very bad news, is told in a way that's supposed to make it sound not quite as bad. Perhaps start it off with "a funny thing happened...", give it a positive spin, or tell it in a cheery mood. It also works if bad news is taken as good news.
of Breaking Bad News Gently
Compare Bearer of Bad News
, Good News, Bad News
, Bad News, Irrelevant News
, No, Except Yes
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- A series of "Bud Light" commercials featured a robot that delivered bad news right before offering the recipient Bud Light. Here's one example (paraphrased):
Robot: I'd like to inform you that you just ate poisonous blowfish. An ambulance is on its way, but you're pretty much screwed.
(people at the table stare in horror)
Robot: But on the bright side, Bud Light!
(everyone is happy again)
Anime and Manga
Live Action Television
- Friends: The one where Eddie moves in. Chandler told Eddie a funny story about an ex.
Eddie: Alright, I, I've got a funny one, alright.
Chandler: Let's hear it.
Eddie: My last girlfriend Tilly. (haha) Ok, we're eating breakfast, right, (chuckles) and I made all these pancakes, there was like 50 pancakes right (laughs). And all of the sudden she turns to me, alright, and she says, 'Eddie.' I say, 'yeah,' she says, 'Eddie, I don't want to see you anymore.' (hahahah) And it was literally like she had reached into my chest, ripped out my heart, and smeared it all over my life (slightly maniacal laugh), ya know. And now there's like this incredible abyss, ya know, and I'm falling and I keep falling and I don't think I'm ever gonna stop.(frightening, high pitched laugh)
Eddie, straight faced: That uh, wasn't such a funny story, was it?
- The Office: 'We'd like to offer you a very generous redundancy settlement.'
- Blackadder: Series 1 The King BRIAN BLESSED! receives several messengers, bearing news:
Messenger 3: My Lord, news...
Messenger 3: Lord Wessex is dead.
King: Ah. This news is not so good.
Messenger 3: Pardon, My Lord?
King: I like it not. Bring me some other news.
Messenger 3: Pardon, My Lord?
King: I LIKE NOT THIS NEWS! BRING ME SOME OTHER NEWS!!!
Messenger 3: Yes, My Lord!
Messenger 4 (actually Messenger 3, coming in again): My Lord, news...
Messenger 4: Lord Wessex is not dead.
King: Ah, good news! Let there be joy and celebration; let jubilation reign!
- An episode of Scrubs features a daydream sequence with Turk reading the following poem:
"Great to see you, great to talk. The bad news is, your son can't walk."
- "And, of course, the always popular Resident Kabuki Theater."
- Reality, in the episode with the poem, is just as bad. When JD gives Turk advice on giving bad news("My Na Na Na"), including thinking of the dancing gopher from Caddyshack to stop himself crying, and "no false hope", Turk quickly ends up Digging Himself Deeper:
Patient's father: Turk, I have a pit in my stomach because I'm afraid you've come here to tell me my boy is going to be paralyzed.
Turk (starts laughing): Oh, my God. I'm so sorry, something really funny popped into my head. You remember, uh, when the gopher started dancing at the end of Caddyshack?
J.D. (watching from corridor): No, don't do the dance, Turk, don't do the dance ... Carla, your husband's not doing very well in there.
- JD's entire family apparently does this; when someone has to give bad news to someone else("My Cake"), they do so while presenting a cake. When JD's brother shows up at the door with a cake, JD immediately knows something bad has happened; sure enough his dad has died.
- There's also the Dr. Toilet Imagine Spot.
- JD has an Imagine Spot about a bad news robot, unfortunately the robot breaks down and he has to tell it's kids. One of them promptly disintegrates him, ending the fantasy.
- Mr. Show has a sketch called "Bad News Breakers", where two adorable twin girls are brought in to tell people terrible news.
Bad News Breakers: Your wife is cheating on you!
Bob: Awww... who wants ice cream?
- From Titus:
Christopher Titus: Bad news has never been broken gently in my family. Because, breaking it gently takes a few extra seconds. And who's got that kinda time? Hey, we may be failures, but we are very busy.
Ken Titus: I got a little story I wanna tell you. Once upon a time, your dog got hit by a truck this morning.
- From Buffy the Vampire Slayer: the episode "Once More with Feeling." Just about every one of the main characters reveals or discovers a painful secret that damages their relationships with each other. If it wasn't the musical episode, it would probably be the most depressing episode without the death of a main character.
Buffy: (singing) I live in hell/Cause I've been expelled/From Heaven
- From Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Quest Of The Delta Knights:
Pearl: Good news! Only 20% of the village died of the plague today!
- From Hustle, Ash Morgan tells the team all the security safeguards in place at the bank they've been coerced into robbing.
Emma: "Is there any good news?
Ash: "Yes, there is, yeah. It's protected overnight by a private Syrian security firm, with tasers, dogs and a bad attitude. They had an attempted robbery about 4 years ago; by the time the police got there, the Syrian security had beaten them half to death.
Emma: "And that's good news how?"
Ash: "Well, if we get caught, there might not be enough left of us to lock up."
- Parks and Recreation:
Tom: All right, the good news is there's only two pieces of bad news.
- This trope is also in play when Chris breaks up with Ann. He delivers the news in his usual upbeat tone of voice, and it's so positively worded that she doesn't even realize he's just dumped her.
- In Victorious, Robbie and Cat briefly make a business of singing bad news to people to make it easier to take. It works fine until they're hired to tell Trina her date cancelled on her.
- The Daily Show featured a segment discussing government wiretaps. Given that it was discussing massive violations of privacy, it delivered the news under the title "Good news! You're not paranoid!"
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Bat Jar Conjecture", Leonard offers Sheldon a Batman cookie jar, revealing that he is blackballing Sheldon off the physics bowl team of which the two are members.
- Doctor Who: Thanks to the way Tom Baker insisted on reading a line that was likely scripted straight, "Horror of Fang Rock" contains a truly wonderful moment where he announces to everyone stuck in The Siege that "this lighthouse is under attack, and by morning we might all be dead!!!" in the manner of someone announcing that he's brought along a picnic.
- A Dinosaurs episode called "The Last Temptation of Ethyl" sees Fran's mother Ethyl suddenly keel over while watching TV. After some token attempts to revive her, Fran's husband Earl buries Ethyl in the backyard while his wife is at the beach. When Fran returns, Earl tries to break the news gently:
: Speaking of parasites
, remember when you said your mother would be staying with us for the rest of her life?
Earl: Well, she's moved out!
Stand Up Comedy
- From George Carlin's hilarious "Things You Don't Wanna Hear" bit: "Honey? Ya remember how we told the children never to play on the railroad tracks?"
- Richard II has the wonderful quote "too well, too well thou tell'st a tale so ill," spoken by King Richard to the man who just told him that his army is bleeped twelve ways from Sunday. Apparently he told his news in a good way — after all, Richard just told him to "Speak sweetly, man, although thy looks be sour."
- Pippin has a scene where couriers come on to report cheerfully such news as: "Peasants revolt. King slays thousands."
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog had news from Bad Horse delivered by letter, sung as an upbeat western folk song by a three-man chorus. This trope hits home when the chorus gleefully proclaims that Horrible's slip-ups have not gone unnoticed and now his only way into the Evil League of Evil is cold blooded murder.
- Invader Zim has a variation of this. Usually when something bad is about to happen, Gir is as cheery as always.
(From "Attack of the Saucer Morons") Zim:
Gir! Finally! I need your help. I've been captured! Gir:
No, Gir, that's bad! Gir:
(From "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy") Zim:
Only one pig left! Noooooo! Gir:
Yay! We're doomed!
Yeah...our power core has been teleported OUT
of the ship!
Lard Nar: And the good news?!
Shloonktapooxis: Well, it's been replaced by a new, HORRIBLE one!
- Professor Farnsworth from Futurama has his Catch Phrase, "Good news, everyone!" The news in question would usually range from weird to bad to apocalyptic, with the occasional obligatory subversion of actual good news. Of course, the good news will usually be preceded by "Bad news, everyone!" or something of the sort.
: Good news, everyone! Tomorrow you'll be delivering a package to Ebola 9, the virus planet!
Farnsworth: Good news everyone!
Farnsworth: You'll be making a delivery to the planet Trisol...
Bender: Here it comes. . .
Farnsworth: A mysterious world in the darkest depths of the Forbidden Zone!
Bender: Thank you, and goodnight.
Hermes: Not dangerous at all?
Farnsworth: Actually quite dangerous indeed.
: Good news, everyone! Today you'll be delivering a crate of subpoenas to Sicily 8, the Mob Planet
Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! There's a report on TV with some very bad news.
Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! The university is bringing me up on disciplinary charges... Wait, that's not good news at all.
Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! I'm afraid I have some bad news.
- An episode of The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" began with Bart getting knocked into a coma. How does Lisa break the news to her mother? "Remember how you said you wished we'd stop growing up?"
Russ Cargill: Your government has realized that sealing you under this dome was a terrible mistake. Therefore, we are commencing with Operation Soaring Eagle.
Russ Cargill: ... which involves killing you all.
- From SpongeBob SquarePants: There once was an ugly barnacle. He was so ugly, everyone died! The end."
- One Family Guy Cutaway Gag infamously took this to an extreme, when the doctor hired Peter to inform someone they had AIDS with a ''barbershop quartet''.
- One episode of The Critic had Jay dating an actress. When he sees her new movie, he discovers that she can't act, and in the episode of Coming Attractions where he reviews the film he tries to say so as nicely as possible ("God help her, she's trying.") Sadly she was only in it for the Casting Couch and promptly dumps him.
- The Danger Mouse finale, "The Intergalactic 147," dealt with a mysterious white planet on collision course with the Earth. The TV news reporter is quite serious relaying the news, up until he turns it into a contest to name the planet.
- In the Looney Tunes movie Daffy Duck's Quackbusters when Daffy goes bankrupt he gets a singing telegram telling him his belongings have been repossessed.
- One episode of The Jetsons has a variation on this:
Mr. Spacely: Jetson! Thank goodness you're still here! I've got some good news and some bad news...
George Jetson: What's the bad news, Mr. Spacely?
Mr. Spacely: We've discovered a very dangerous computer virus that you have to stop right away!
George: But that could take months! By the way... what's the good news?
Mr. Spacely: The good news is, I don't have to do it! Bye now!
- Done at the end of an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, where the perpetually cheerful news announcer declares the end of tornado season. "Now the only thing to worry about is that giant tidal wave roaring across the plains!"
- "Congratulations! You just won one hundred thousand dollars to be paid out over four years!" "Really!? How!?" "By not getting into Harvard."
- This was done by Henry VIII's jester to break the news that Catherine Howard was cheating on him. He told it as a joke because no one else in the palace could give Henry bad news and not be executed.
- Reportedly, Joss Whedon enjoys telling the actors that their characters are going to be offed in this way.