From TV and movies, one gets the impression that a bouncer is a large person, whose main job is to turn away the business of people who are insufficiently cool, or to provide an escort out for those customers who have lost their cool after admittance. They also oversee the Wannabe Line
. Overtly unsympathetic examples are usually portrayed as dimwitted
assholes who needlessly harass patrons minding their own business and always
seem to be looking for a fight to start or join in on
or a sufficiently annoying patron to pound the shit out of
In truth, most real-life club bouncers have far more prosaic duties; their job consists primarily of checking ID, tossing out rowdy customers, watching for signs of trouble to come (be it the beginnings of a possible fight, patrons who are far too intoxicated for their own good, illegal activity being conducted, sexual predators getting ready to make their move, and other things of that sort), guarding VIPs, and often includes acting as the bar's janitor. If they work at a strip club, they will also be in charge of enforcing tipping rules, as most strip clubs require patrons to tip and give the dancers and bartenders the authority to report cheapskates to the bouncers, who can then either inform them of the rules or throw them out if they're rude or have already been warned; furthermore, they also have an incentive to skip the "warning" part when dealing with grabby or creepy customers, as clubs who are perceived as being "creep-friendly" will attract more bad customers, lead to high turnover among dancers, and will attract more desperate or low-quality dancers who can't get work anywhere else.note
That said, some clubs in New York City do use bouncers to screen incoming patrons for whatever reasons. The practice started with Studio 54 in the 1970s, when the owner empowered his bouncers as doormen and made admission to the discotheque arbitrarily selective (for non-celebrities, at least). This was an intentional ploy to build up the mystique of the club, and it worked like a charm. It was subsequently copied by clubs all over the city and beyond, and the entire practice has become rooted in pop culture as the "usual" way things are done. Which it isn't, of course, since most night clubs can't afford to be picky about their patrons. Well, not entirely, as bouncers are still required to screen for and refuse entry to prospective patrons who are visibly intoxicated, aggressive, openly displaying gang affiliation, known troublemakers
, or who don't meet dress code standards.
Often overlaps with Scary Black Man
, and he's sometimes the only person of color on the show.
Compare No Fame, No Wealth, No Service
Anime and Manga
- A&W hires one in this commercial. He does his job so well that the manager of the store himself- and the one who hired him- has to wait at the end of the line with the rest of the patrons
- Richard Filth, from Baki the Grappler. An American bouncer who fights by letting people hit him until their hands or weapons break. Out of respect, Orochi Doppo challenges him in a suit, and rather than use his karate, stands face to face with him and trades punches in a battle of sheer toughness.
- The bar Kadie's in Sin City is shown to have a bouncer. About the only thing he gets to do is to fail to realize Marv is a regular and, armed with this piece of ignorance, try to deny him entrance to the bar and insult him. It does not end well for him.
- Of all tropes, this might've been the least likely to get deconstructed, but it did, in Knocked Up. After enough persistent pestering, the black bouncer takes Debbie aside to confide that he hates his job, as he doesn't enjoy turning away everyone over a certain age, or fitting people into quotas such as "5% black."
- The main character in Road House is a legendary bouncer who works at a rowdy road house.
- You have to be some kind of supernatural being or at least psychic to get into Midnite's club in Constantine. The bouncer is armed with a tarot deck, and holds up a card to each patron. You can only get in if you correctly tell him what's on the back, without seeing it. They also seem to check your state of mind. After getting in with no problem earlier in the film, Constantine is refused entry when he comes back seeking Midnite's assistance against the legions of hell.
- The protagonist of After Hours faces a bouncer who accepts money from him but still won't let him in the club, which the bouncer justifies by quoting Franz Kafka.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the bouncer of The Ink & Paint Club is a toon gorilla named Bongo who unceremoniously dumps Eddie outside when he catches him peeping. (A customer who wants to get past him to get into the club has to know the password: "Walt sent me.")
- Budd from Kill Bill worked as a bouncer (and apparent custodian) in a strip club.
- Detritus the troll, in his earlier appearances in Discworld was a "splatter" for the Mended Drum. (So called because, when Detritus throws you off the premises, you don't bounce).
- In Steve Perry's The Man Who Never Missed, Dirisha, Sleel, and Bork are the bouncers at Khadaji's Jade Flower tavern. To decide who he was going to hire, Khadaji had the tables bolted to the floor, then asked each applicant to move one. Dirisha tried to lift one and failed, stooped down and studied how it was fastened, then set herself and pulled it loose; Sleel tore the top off of his, then used it to batter the base loose; Bork simply reached out and grabbed the base, held it up and said, "Where do you want it?", apparently not even noticing that it had been bolted down at all. Needless to say, with bouncers like that on duty, very few troublemakers stick around the Jade Flower.
- In the Blandings Castle book "Summer Lightning", a fracas at Mario's restaurant is broken up by the commissionaire, McTeague.
A man of action rather than words, he clove his way through the press in silence. Only when he reached the centre of the maelstrom did he speak. This was when Ronnie, leaping upon a chair the better to perform the operation, hit him on the nose. On receipt of this blow, he uttered the brief monosyllable 'Ho!
' and then, without more delay, scooped Ronnie into an embrace of steel and bore him towards the door
- Show up a few times on How I Met Your Mother. They're usually portrayed as pretty nice guys, actually.
- An episode of That '70s Show involved the gang trying to get past a bouncer into a nightclub. The bouncer was played by Neil Flynn, who isn't a big guy.
- One episode of Scrubs had a bouncer deny Turk and JD entrance to a club because they were acting uncool. They were allowed in when Carla said they were with her.
- Lois and Clark once went to a Gentleman's Club to investigate a robbery. The bouncer would allow Clark in but wouldn't allow Lois. Her name was Not on the List because she's a woman.
- One Bloom County series of strips had Opus as the bouncer for the Bloom County New Year's party. At first we just see him whapping Steve Dallas on the head with a ruler, but in the next day's strip he takes down a big burly biker (off-screen, of course), and the storyline ends with him throwing a drunken Steve out the door when he refuses to accept that the party's over and go home.
- In the Planescape campaign, most bars, clubs, inns, and restaurants in Sigil have bouncers (many of them not human) but practically all of them can be bribed if you need to get in. (How much you have to pay them depends on what kind of place it is, but Sigil is a place where Every Man Has His Price, literally.)
- Rare female example; King from the Art of Fighting and King of Fighters games. You probably don't want to be the guy who starts trouble at the club she works at (unless you're one of the games' protagonists of course).
- The PS2 launch title The Bouncer by Square Enix is all about this trope...except they don't actually do a lot of bouncing in the game at all. The three main protagonists are all bouncers employed at "The Fate" bar, but then they find themselves involved in a much larger plot that starts off as a rescue mission.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony has the main character perform club management as one of his duties, mostly watching certain locations for activity.
- Each location in The Urbs: Sims in the City except for the apartments, has a midnight party in a room guarded by a bouncer. You have to get your popularity high enough to be recognized by the bouncer and let in. You must enter the party to get a Power Social to use against a crook that steals money from people to get him to go away for good.
- Mass Effect 2 features a Funny Background Event in the Afterlife nightclub on Omega: an elcor doorman, an alien species whose hat amounts to "very patient, very polite gorilla". Of course, Aria maintains a more traditional selection of bouncers/generic goons for actually kicking people out and/or roughing them up, but it's the thought that counts.
- It becomes less funny when one considers that according to the Codex, Elcor can punch through the average non-military starship's hull. It means that he probably can't even throw anyone out (he'd splatter them with a touch) but it does ensure no one tries to pick a fight with anyone under risk of that. On the other hand, a major aspect of the elcor race is extreme patience, so anyone who manages to actually make one angry probably deserves what they get.
- Conkers Bad Fur Day has the "Rock Solid" dance club, where everyone in it, including the bouncer at the door, is a golem. You can't get in without the password, luckily Conker meets some cavemen who know it.
- Dante has a run in with one in DMC Devil May Cry, his response to him is to punch him out, grab his pen and clipboard and write "fuck you" on it before walking inside.
- Ratchet & Clank featured a bouncer who barred the heroes from seeing Quark unless if they paid him.
- In Mission Hill, Andy and his friends are turned away by a bouncer at the new club across the street. In retaliation, they start their own club and turn away everyone but themselves. Said "club" (the building's maintenance room) naturally becomes the hottest club in town in no time due to its refusal to admit anyone except the show's "hip" main cast and one hip baby. Eventually, after the joke has run its course, Andy and company have to stage a fire to get the crowd outside to disperse.
- Another bouncer shows up when Andy gets a date with a famous female celebrity, at a high profile award ceremony. For numerous reasons, Kevin has to be there in his place. The bouncers are quick to try and remove Kevin from the premises, before Kevin states that he is, indeed on the list. The bouncer apologizes for his harshness, but they have to keep the freaks out. Except for Marilyn Manson.
- The one butch robot clone in the Time Squad episode "Day of the Larrys" acts as a bouncer, preventing the original Larry from entering the gay disco his clones created. He even asks him, "Are you on the list?"
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Believing Ami and Yumi wanted to spend some time away from him, Kaz had a party and didn't invite them. A bouncer kept them from entering.
- Chernabog played this role during the House of Mouse special, House of Villains.
- In one episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, June hired a trio of demons - known for being dedicated to whatever they were hired to do - to do this at a stadium and not let any supernatural beings in who didn't have a valid reason. Unfortunately, she got more than she bargained for - they were so dedicated to their job, even she couldn't get in when she needed to. (She managed to do so by entering Monroe in the dog show, obtaining a valid reason.)
- Mr. T started as a bouncer. His habit of wearing loads of jewelry started with property he pulled off of people he was ejecting from his club - he wore any jewelry dropped by people in the fights as a walking lost-and-found. For some reason a lot of people never asked him for their necklace back...
- John Goodman of Roseanne fame had a job as a bouncer when he was younger but quit almost immediately when the management began teaching him techniques on how to beat people up.
- Garth Brooks had this job before he became famous.
- Pope Francis was a bouncer for a night club in Buenos Aires before entering the priesthood, prompting at least one commentator to say his biography should be titled 'Heaven Can Wait, And So Can You'.
- Vin Diesel did this for a while before he got his start in acting.