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Beat
"Michael, I wrote dot, dot, dot and you're giving me dot, dot."
Harold Pinter, to actor Michael Hordern during rehearsals

In Script Speak, a beat is an instruction in the script to leave a short pause, generally no more than the space of a breath, after a line or gag. Used either to indicate 'thinking time' or to let it sink in to increase the impact of the subsequent reaction. For the actor, it indicates a change in thought process. Occasionally it will come just before the punch line, as a "here it comes" signal to the audience.

Extremely common in comedy movie trailers, often combined with a Record Needle Scratch.

The Beat Panel is the equivalent in sequential art. Contrast with Rapid-Fire Comedy.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Lucky Star, Konata brings up the issue of her dad's attraction to small girls.
    Konata: Okay, you know how you're so clingy? Would you still be like that if I were a boy?
    * beat*
    Soujirou: ...Of course!
  • In Sky Girls, there is a beat when Otoha accidentally knocks in the flimsy dividing wall between the male and female outdoor springs. Hilarity Ensues:
    Otoha: All right! Let's do our best!
    *(stands up and pumps arms dramatically, striking down the dividing wall)
    * beat*
    *male cast and female cast stare at each other*''
  • Kyon from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, in his usual snarky way, will usually break a potential beat with a thought of his own. This doesn't happen when he encounters something he can't explain, like accidentally walking in on a Mikuru clothes-changing session.
    • Also, Taniguchi walking in on Kyon and Yuki in a suggestive position after the fight against Ryoko.
      Taniguchi: (idly) Wa-wa-wa-wasuremo-
      * beat (during which he holds an overly theatrical surprised pose)*
      Taniguchi: En... Enjoy yourselves! (flees)
  • In the Axis Powers Hetalia movie, England and France stumble upon a digital map of ongoing/successful invasions. England absent mindedly reaches out to touch the UK and a pop up appears, a voice (the narrator) reading it aloud.
    Narrator: Britain, a former pirate, but now a rather effeminate yet gentlemanly empire with a plethora of rain. France is a long time acquaintance he's often found bickering with for bickering's sake. However, in their heart of hearts they love each other.
    *beat*
    Sexually.
    England and France: Uh... Where the hell did they get that?
    * Proceed to fight until aliens burst in and break them up* Cue dramatic music!

    Audio Plays 
  • Ruby: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe:
    The Android Sisters: Humans are obsessed with money.
    Human: Not all of them, just some of them. (beat) Most of them. (beat and a half) Most of us.

    Fan Works 
  • Kyon Big Damn Hero used it as a part of an Expospeak Gag:
    Yuki: At this juncture, I will attempt to communicate something to you, though I am uncertain as to the accuracy of the transmission. Words remain a weak vector for communicating vital information. Despite the lack of adherence to social norms and the correct protocols for this procedure, I am attempting to convey to you the positive emotive content of my current condition and regards for you. The outcome is uncertain; no accurate prediction can be made. Regardless of the fact that determination is unclear, I have resolved to continue due to the content of the emotive concept I wish to relay. Despite the fact that I have no comparable metric, I am currently unable to conceive a greater intensity than the one I experience at this moment in relation to you.
    *beat*
    Yuki: I attempted to use more words. It appears that the data was not conveyed accurately.
    Kyon: C...can you try it again with less, maybe?
    Yuki: Yes. I like you. A lot.
  • Used several times in Turnabout Storm, usually setting up the road for some sort of Double Take.
    Phoenix Wright: Huh? Where am I?
    Twilight Sparkle: Hey! You're a human aren't you?
    Phoenix Wright: Yeah, I'm a human... *beat* WAIT, WHAT!?
  • MAGIC.MOV:
    Twilight: I'm going to try a black magic resurrection spell.
    Spike: How about you resurrect my penis. *beat* With sex.
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series refers to a beat by name at one point.

    Films — Animated 
  • Toy Story:
    Buzz Lightyear: ...and you, my friend, are responsible for delaying my rendezvous with Star Command.
    (beat)
    Woody: YOU! ARE! A! TOYYYY!!! You're not the real Buzz Lightyear, you're—you're an action figure. You are a child's plaything!
    (beat)
    Buzz Lightyear: You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.
    • And earlier...
      Buzz Lightyear: I just want you to know that even though you tried to terminate me, revenge is not an idea we promote on my planet.
      Woody: Oh (beat) Well that's good.
      Buzz Lightyear: ...But we're not on my planet — are we?
      (beat)
      Woody: Uhhh... No.
  • Surprisingly used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs... with a character who can't speak. After swallowing a bar of soap, Dopey starts to hiccup out bubbles. Despite this, he doesn't notice he swallowed it, and continues searching, until a few seconds of silence let him figure out where it ended up. The silence passes, and then he hiccups nonstop for the rest of the scene.
  • Lampshaded in Gru's speech in Despicable Me.
    Gru: WE ARE GOING TO STEAL... pause for effect... THE MOON!!!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In James Bond, there's nearly always a beat within the frequent Double Entendre jokes.
  • Bubba Ho Tep has a very noticeable beat when Elvis attempts to banish Bubba using the chant from the book of souls.
    Elvis: You nasty thing from beyond the dead, no matter what you think or do, good things will never come to you. And if evil is your black design, you can bet the goodness of the Light Ones... (Beat as Elvis begins to realize what he's reading) ...Will kick your bad behind?
    * Beat*
    Elvis: For chrissake!
    * Beat*
    Elvis: *To the heavens* That's it? That's the chant against evil from the "Book of Souls"? Oh yeah, right, boss. And what kind of decoder ring comes with that, man? Shit, it don't even rhyme well!
  • Serenity:
    Mal: Do you want to run this ship?!
    Jayne: Yes!
    Mal: (caught off guard) Well...(beat) you can't!
  • The whole scene with the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
    Black Knight: 'Tis but a scratch.
    Arthur: A scratch?! Your arm's off!
    Black Knight: No it isn't.
    Arthur: Well, what's that then?
    * Arthur points at the Black Knight's severed arm; Black Knight looks at it.*
    Black Knight: I've had worse.
    • Same movie :
    Sir Bedevere: What makes you think she's a witch?
    Peasant: Well, she turned me into a newt!
    Sir Bedevere: A newt?
    Peasant:... I got better.
    • Eric Idle can be seen biting down on his scythe to keep from laughing in that scene because John Cleese let a beat hang for longer than expected.

    Literature 
  • In the novel Mogworld by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw we have this line in an exchange between Slippery John and the protagonist, an undead mage.
    He scowled from behind the invisible wall. "Why do you feel you have to antagonize me, servant of evil?" A beat. "Actually, Slippery John sort of answered his own question, there."
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there's the Island of Darkness. They rescue the Lord Rhoop, who tells the crew of the Dawn Treader that the island was a place where dreams came true. The crew thinks this is a grand thing, despite the ominous darkness. Rhoop repeats himself, telling everyone to think about it. In 30 seconds, the crew comes to an unspoken agreement and turns the boat around faster than they'd ever done it before.
  • In the Discworld novel Thud!, the teetotaling vampire Sally lampshades this by stating, "And I don't drink significant pause wine."
  • Going Postal:
    There was a pregnant pause. It gave birth to a lot of little pauses, each one more deeply embarrassing than its parent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played often in Doctor Who.
    Bishop: Dr. Song, I've lost good men today. Do you trust this man?
    River: I absolutely trust him.
    Bishop: He's not some sort of madman, then?
    * beat*
    River: I absolutely trust him.
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Camille", when Kryten is telling her about his crewmates:
    Camille: Please, I can't meet your shipmates. Trust me.
    Kryten: But you don't know them! You'll like them! (beat) Well, some of them. (beat) Well, one of them. (beat) Maybe.
  • Thoroughly used and abused by Harry Hill's TV Burp, especially when it comes to the lead-up to the Catch Phrase, as these often tend to sneak up on the audience.
  • Used often in House.
    Walk-in patient: (feeling his own pulse) Got it!
    House: Start counting...
    (counting pause)
    House: How many?
    Walk-in patient: Twenty-six.
    House: Okay, either you suck at math or you're going to die in two seconds.
    * beat*
    House: You suck at math.
  • Hilariously discussed in Farscape:
    Aeryn: So you're... (she trails off)
    John: What?
    Aeryn: Afraid. (there's a long pause) Of commitment.
    (Scene change to later)
    D'Argo: Hey wait a minute - did she hesitate like that, or was that just you doing that now?
    John: What does it matter?
    D'Argo: Well it matters because, if she hesitated like that, she knows you were talking about her.
    (Scene change to Aeryn and Chiana)
    Chiana: You said what?
    Aeryn: What I said.
    Chiana: Like you said?
    Aeryn: What does it matter?
    Chiana: (with an exasperated sigh) Well if you said it to him like you said it when you said it to me, then it means that he knows that you know.
  • Every so often on Cash Cab. Most hilariously and unbelievably:
    Ben Bailey: An alternative to permanent tattoos, what plant dye, popular in India, is used for temporary body art?
    Contestant: I know this!
    Ben Bailey: You do?
    Contestant: Hentai!
    Ben Bailey: ... (aside glance)
    Ben Bailey: ... The correct answer was henna.
  • Battlestar Galactica uses this trope to no end, but one example stands out: in the pilot miniseries, Adama calls Col. Tigh out on flipping over a table while completely hammered, inciting a fight between him and Starbuck. Tigh unsuccessfully defends his position.
    Adama: Well, you did flip over the table first.
    Tigh: I did not! (beat) Unless I did.
  • Seinfeld uses them regularly, often because the studio audience won't stop laughing.
    Jerry: She's talking about her panties so uh, I said 'You mean the panties your mother laid out for you?" * beat*
    George: "You mean the panties your mother laid out for you?" What does that mean?!
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation used one for maximum effect when Worf was giving Wesley romance advice.
    Worf: Men do not roar. Women roar. And hurl heavy objects. And claw at you.
    Wesley What does the man do?
    Worf: He reads love poetry. (Beat) He ducks a lot.
  • The audience of Whose Line Is It Anyway? has one while they process a joke told by Drew Carey.
    Drew: Welcome back to Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where applauding loudly means that you're great in bed.
    Audience: *beat* (starts to clap loudly).
  • Very memorable unscripted instance in dash-cam video shown on World's Dumbest Drivers (episode 9, segment 5, "The Thin Blue One-Liner"). The professional comedians among the commentators unanimously loved this guy.
    Female driver: I thought you didn't give pretty girls tickets.
    Cop: You thought we didn't give pretty girls tickets.
    (beat)
    Cop: You're absolutely right, we don't. Sign here.
  • Stargate SG-1 has a truly epic Beat that lasts a full twelve seconds in its 100th Episode, Wormhole X-Treme. The actress who portrays Stacy Monroe corners the director and creative consultant of the show, and asks them that age-old "phasing" problem. It's one of the funniest moments in the whole episode:
    Monroe: So if I can walk through walls, how come I don't fall through the floor?
    (12-second beat)
    Martin: We'll have to get back to you on that.
  • The conclusion to the Den-O arc of Kamen Rider Decade. Long story short: Kuuga sees two Imagin fighting, proclaims that he knows who the enemy is, and proceeds to Rider Kick that Imagin...but he attacks Momotaros, the heroic Imagin, not the actual enemy, the Alligator Imagin. Decade, who was supposed to punch out Alligator, abruptly stops mid-punch to berate Kuuga on his mistake. Does that convince you of a lull in the battle? No? Then how about, during the whole fiasco, Kuuga was dangling in mid-air, his feet lodged against Momo's neck!
  • Arrested Development: Michael Bluth is a master of the sarcastic blank stare.
    Michael: Maybe you could take a date to the cabin?
    Lucille: How am I supposed to find someone willing to go into that musty old claptrap?
    beat
    beat
    Michael: The cabin. Yes, that will be difficult.
  • By far the most common gag on Kaamelott, given that everybody considers themselves Surrounded by Idiots. Arthur remains the Only Sane Man.
  • Lampshaded after Rhoda tells someone that she may be having a baby, and they're too surprised to respond.
    beat
    Rhoda: This is what they call a "pregnant pause".

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • This is actually written into combos for Fighting Games. Here, the Beat (generally written as a "!" or "-") is used to either allow the opponent to fall into a more advantageous position, or to let the combo meter reset. In both cases, it counts as a delay in the combo due to the player's lack of action, but the same combo as the opponent is generally incapable of acting.
  • Used hilariously in the World of Warcraft Hot On The Trail questline in Westfall. All done in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation/Film Noir style.
    "This was an execution. Whoever did this was sending a message. A message for anyone that would dare snitch on these criminals. It would appear that poor Two-Shoes Lou really did put his foot... (Beat) In his mouth."
  • Kingdom Hearts II has a rather long pause when it's revealed that the Ansem they defeated last time wasn't the real Ansem, and was just an impostor.
  • The first Shadow Hearts has this long (and hilarious) example:
    Alice: I feel like it wants to tell us something...
    Yuri: ...
    Yuri: ...
    Yuri: ...
    Yuri: ...Oh yeah?
  • Mass Effect 2 has this with a romance between Garrus and Female Shepard
    Garrus: I'd wait, if you're okay with it. Disrupt the crew as little as possible...and take that last chance to find some calm just before the storm. You know me, I always like to savor the last shot before popping the heatsink.
    Shepard: ...(with a small grin on her face)
    Garrus: ...
    Garrus: Wait, that metaphor just went somewhere horrible.
  • The Ace Attorney series does this a LOT.
  • The iDOLM@STER 2 - Whenever Miki mentions Ritsuko's name, there's a beat before she adds the honorific -san at the end of her name.
    Miki: Ritsuko... san and the others coached me to at least say my greatings correctly.
    • That happens even when she's having a heated discussion with Touma after her unit beats the RGKM the first time.
  • Jak 3: Wastelander has a great one when the precursors are finally revealed for the first time
    Precursor: We are unhappy with your performance. If you had been a true hero, you would have stopped Errol by now!
    (The Precursors are revealed to be fuzzy little rats, AKA, Ottsels, or what Daxter has been for the entire series)
    * Everyone stares at each other*
    * Veger's staff falls to the ground*
    Jak: Oh my God.
  • In Chapter 15 of Ghost Trick, one puzzle requires you to swap a bullet in with a wool hat after it's fired. After you perform the required action and unstop time, the game lets the scene hang there for a moment, so you can realize the implications of what you just did. If you did the puzzle wrong and swapped in a metal hard hat instead, the feeling of "that was clearly not the correct action" is very effective.

    Web Original 
  • Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog loves this trope, using it on multiple occasions, and frequently paired with Metaphorgotten.
    "Wow, sarcasm, that's original!" (Beat)
    "Billy? You're driving the spork into your leg." (Beat) "...So I am! Hilarious!"
    "See you in the aftermath. Peace!" (Beat) "... But not literally..."
  • Used extensively in Dragon Ball Abridged.
  • Also common in Code Ment. It's usually followed or caused by Lelouch saying something insanely Non Sequitur. Which is often. It's also subverted when Lelouch reacts INSTANTLY to well-nigh ridiculous situations that would normally require a beat to comprehend with something even more ridiculous.
    Lelouch/One is in a cave with a recuperating (and naked) C.C. when Kallen walks in.
    Kallen: WHAT THE HELL!?
    Lelouch/One: PLEASEGODNO. Now, wait, Kallen, calm down!
    C.C. Listen, don't get the wrong idea
    Kallen: (hisses)
    C.C.: Did that bitch just hiss at me?
    Kallen: WHATCHU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?
    Lelouch/One: Kallen, KALLEN. Let's get one thing straight, here...
    (Beat)
    Lelouch/One: I WAS GIVIN' HER THE SEX!!!
  • The Nostalgia Critic also does this in his review of The Room.
    NC: Wow. So, what year is this?
    NC of the future: The future!
    NC: Okay, but...why am I downstairs in the basement?
    NC of the future: Oh, it's the only place we can hide to stay away from the seahorses.
    NC: Oh, oh, okay.
    (beat)
    NC: What.
  • A long one after Dana does the Hair Flip in Echo Chamber's Trope of the Week episode Unresolved Sexual Tension.
  • A very short one in Red vs. Blue during the Curb-Stomp Battle of Tex vs. Everyone, when Tucker jumps away at the very last moment when Caboose drops a shipping container on him and Tex while the two are fighting.
    Tucker: I can't believe that worked!
    Tucker: Oh fuck, that didn't work!
  • Common in Shiny Objects Videos. An Earnest Discussion is probably the best example—it runs on this trope.
  • A Running Gag on Atop the Fourth Wall where Linkara will note the character's absurd plan or statement and respond with "...wait, what?" after a beat.
  • Friendship is Witchcraft has one so long that the characters start blinking in time with the beat of the background music.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue":
    Amanda Waller: Finding Batman's genetic material wasn't hard. (Cut to a shot of Batman being bandaged by a paramedic while she collects a sample of his blood off the ground) He left it all over town.
    (beat while Terry gives her a look)
    Not even remotely what I meant.
  • Dora the Explorer LOVES doing this.
  • A short beat occurs in Adventure Time's "Incendium".
    Flame Princess: YOU DON'T LIKE ME?!?!
    Finn: I like you!
    [insert 5-second beat and a Luminescent Blush here]
  • Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Uncomfortable pauses are used liberally in every episode, to the point of Lampshade Hanging:
    Space Ghost: It lets me blend... just about anything! (beat)
    Zorak: Beat!
    Space Ghost: Classy people are always blending stuff. (beat)
    Zorak: Beat!
  • Harvey Birdman often blends longer beats with faster speed for comedic rhythm.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk," the new owners of the nuclear power plant assess Homer's usefulness. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
    German Boss 1: You have been safety inspector for two years. What initiatives have you spearheaded in that time?
    Homer: Uh... All of them?
    German Boss 1: I see... Then you must have some good ideas for the future as well?
    Homer: I sure do!
    * Long beat* (bosses glance at each other)
    German Boss 2: Such... as?
    • Hosting his show on Halloween in a vampire costume:
      Krusty: Tonight I'm going to suck... (beat) your blood.
    • After Chief Wiggum, Eddie and Lou see Maggie driving by in a car:
      Wiggum: Aww, would you look at that, a baby driving a car. (beat) And look, there's a dog driving a bus.
    • Unsurprisingly, terrible news anchor Kent Brockman is prone to these:
      Kent: Hello, I'm Kent Brockman! Our top stories tonight: A TREMENDOUS EXPLOSION!
      (beat)
      ...in the price of lumber. AND PRESIDENT REAGAN DIES!
      (beat)
      ...his hair.
    • After seeing Homer and Marge kiss:
      Lenny: Carl, remember when we used to kiss like that... (beat)...with our respective girlfriends?
    • When Bart costs the football team a victory due to Homer appointing him quarterback.
      Terri: You ruined our undefeated season! You ruined everything, ruiner! (beat) My sister likes you!
    • When Bart is considering leaving the Jr Campers:
      Homer: Marge, don't discourage the boy. Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals! (beat) ...except the weasels.
  • Phineas and Ferb. Used fairly often, for instance in "Chronicles of Meap", when Isabella is irritated at Phineas for failing to realize that she might be causing the interference in his cute tracker:
    Isabella: I still have to earn my You-Wouldn't-Know-Cute-If-It-Bit-Your-Leg-Off accomplishment patch.
    * beat*
    Phineas: Cool, let's go!
    • In "That Sinking Feeling":
      Doofenshmirtz: The lighthouse is gone and there's nothing you can do about it! So you might as well run back to Major Monogram and tell him you lost this one!
      * beat*
      * Perry walks out the door*
      Background Singers: PEEEEERRRRRRRRY!
  • Futurama: Used quite a few times through out the series, but most notably after the show returned to Comedy Central:
    Farnsworth: Yes, it's almost like a... Comedy Central channel! And we're on it now!
    * beat*
    Amy: I get it!
  • Metalocalypse:
    General Crozier: You're being paid to gather all the information you can with this camera, so no fguitar riffking around, got that, candynose?
    (beat)
    Dr. Rockso: I DO COCAI
    General Crozier: Yes, yes, I know.
  • From My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "A Bird in the Hoof," Rainbow Dash tries to get a reaction from Celestia's guards, then says
    Oh you're good. (beat) Too good. I'm bored.
  • From the King of the Hill episode "Of Mice and Little Green Men" when Peggy fills in for Bobby in the "Of Mice And Men" play he was going to do with Hank:
    Peggy: Lenny don't drink so much
    Hank: Okay George you have some, you have some too
    Peggy: I don't know it looks kind of scummy to me (pauses to look at the script) who writes this crap!

    Real Life 
  • In an interview, actress Tea Leoni mentioned that she first thought "Beat" must be some sort of slang, because it showed up often in her scripts, and thus said it out loud. This was soon corrected.
  • During his final decade working for CBS; legendary NFL broadcaster Pat Summerall often read promotions for the CBS Sunday night lineup (from 1984-93; it was 60 Minutes; Murder, She Wrote and a movie) in which he would read the Murder, She Wrote listing as "Murder...She Wrote"; complete with pause.


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