aka: The Celebrity Lie
Usually takes the form "Of course I know [famous person]. We grew up/went to school/served in the military/shared a cell in a Turkish prison together. I can certainly get tickets/backstage passes/an interview/other difficult or impossible favor for you, no problem."
Of course, the person making the claim has no such connection to the celebrity in question, and sometimes may not even have a clue of who
the celebrity is. The promise is made either in an attempt to look more important than he really is, or out of misplaced sympathy for a friend, a child, or some other "unfortunate" who has failed at the task. The resulting mad scramble to make good on the foolish promise drives at least a subplot (if not the main plot) for an entire episode.
It usually ends up with apparent failure (and thus disgrace to the one who uttered The Celebrity Lie) suddenly rescued at the last minute by the celebrity in question, who sometimes goes so far as to help maintain the liar's deception. Usually requires a Special Guest
or a Celebrity Star
, although fictional celebrities are sometimes employed with sufficient exposition for the audience (see The Weekenders
Virtually every 1970s sitcom had at least one of these episodes, and the plot continues to be used today.
This device is often employed when the writers feel the need to enact An Aesop
about honesty, without actually requiring the characters to be honest
Not to be confused with Celebrity Is Overrated
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- Bora in Fairy Tail claims to be a member of Fairy Tail to convince Lucy to go to his party on a yacht (actually a trap) - when natsu hears this he proceeds to confront Bora. Natsu proceeds to beat Bora senseless whilst shouting that he won't allow him to dirty Fairy Tail's rep. It becomes a case of "Unwitting It's Personal" because Bora was claiming to be the famous Salamander - Natu's nickname - but Natsu appears to be completely unaware that it's him people refer to when they talk about Salamander.
Film - Animated
- A Goofy Movie: Max can't go to Roxanne's viewing party for pop star Powerline's concert because his father is taking him on a fishing trip. Naturally, Max tells her he can't come because they're going to be at the concert because Powerline and Goofy are friends from way back. At the end, Goofy and Max do break into the concert and appear on TV, but Max still feels the need to confess to Roxanne. She forgives him. (What do you expect? It's a Disney movie.)
Film - Live Action
- Jazzin' for Blue Jean: David Bowie plays a man who tries to impress a woman by claiming (falsely) to be friends with a rock star she seems interested in, who is also played by David Bowie. Turns out that she and the rock star knew each other — as lovers — all along.
- The 1965 film The Girls on the Beach features not The Beach Boys (who appear and perform in the film) but their trans-Atlantic rivals (who do not). A beach bum trying to impress sorority sisters promises a Fab Four performance for their fundraising concert, and fails spectacularly to deliver.
- Subverted in, of all things, the Hannah Montana movie. Miley tries impressing people in her hometown by telling them she "knows" Hannah Montana.
- Played straight, subverted and then played straight again with Joey 'The Lips' Fagan in The Commitments. He claims to have been a session trumpeter who has played with all the greats including Elvis. The trope comes into play when Wilson Pickett comes to Dublin and Jimmy Rabbitte asks Joey if he can get him to play with the Commitments on stage (Joey having claimed with Wilson Pickett on a number of occasions). Joey claims to do so (we never see the meeting) but then Wilson Pickett never turns up to the Commitments' concert so Jimmy Rabbitte assumes that Joey was lying.....until later on as he's going home, he's stopped by the driver of a large limousine asking for directions to the club. Then later on Jimmy gets a postcard from Joey saying he's on tour with a musician...who died five years ago.
- In Hustle and Flow, DJay's plan to get famous hinges entirely on his connection with old high school buddy Skinny Black, a local boy who made good and became a famous rapper. As it turns out, DJay is lying to his all his friends and had never crossed circles with Skinny Black ever.
- Children's book The Fib by actor George Layton — apparently autobiographical — tells the story of a young lad who claims that his uncle is famous footballer Bobby Charlton. He is correctly disbelieved, and then the real Bobby Charlton shows up to turn on the Christmas lights. His friends attempt to dob him in, only for Charlton to take it like a real sport and pretend that he is indeed the boy's uncle. Of course, he then gets into trouble because his mother doesn't believe he's late home because he's been having tea with Bobby Charlton and the Lord Mayor...
- Given a twist in Maskerade. Granny Weatherwax claims to be Lady Esmerelda Weatherwax, noted patron of the arts, who doesn't exist. However, she really has met the famous opera singer Senor Basilica, albeit in a context entirely unrelated to opera, and learned a few things in that brief acquaintance that he doesn't want known. As such when she claims to have met him many times in opera houses she can't remember the name of, he agrees that he too has met her many times, in opera houses the names of which have also unaccountably slipped his mind, confirming her identity.
- In The Fabulous Five book The Bragging War, Beth claims to know visiting rock star Trevor Morgan. Egged on by the disbelief of her rival, she claims to not only know him, but to have been personally invited to his upcoming concert. She manages to sneak into his hotel dressed up as a Native American (knowing this will get his attention thanks to his interest in the topic) and finagle front row tickets to the concert for her and her friends.
Live Action TV
- Appeared repeatedly on I Love Lucy.
- Archie Bunker's Place (the 1979 sequel series to All in the Family) displayed an early inversion of this trope in the episode "The Return of Sammy", when Archie fails to convince his friends at his bar that he actually knows Sammy Davis Jr. (Which he did, thanks to an episode of All in the Family from years earlier — see Ignore The Disability.) Even a call to a live TV show where Archie speaks directly to Sammy seems destined to paint him a liar until Archie gives enough detail about their earlier encounter, prompting Sammy's enthusiastic recognition and subsequent visit to the bar.
- Likewise the Mary Tyler Moore episode that takes place in Washington, where Lou can't convince Mary that he knows important politicians. She refuses to believe that Gerry Ford left his pipe in Lou's hotel room, even after Betty Ford (playing herself) calls to inquire about it.
Betty Ford: Hello Mary, this is Betty Ford.
Mary Richards: Hi, Betty. This is Mary — Queen of Scots!
- The Vicar of Dibley did a variation on this. A local offers to secure the services of his distant cousin, a musician named Reginald Dwight (the real name of Elton John), for a town event. The vicar assumes this Reginald Dwight to actually be Elton John, only to discover at the last moment that he is simply an accordion player with the same name. In this case, it is not so much a celebrity lie as a celebrity mistake, as the person making the claim did not actually know.
- The above portrayal may have been inspired by a similar urban legend reputing that Eric Clapton had offered to play guitar for a local church, only to be declined by an unknowing vicar who advised him to practice more first.
- Full House had a subplot where the band REM is booked for a bar, but it turns out it's three old ladies — Rebecca, Esther, and Martha.
- I'm Still Alan Partridge had Alan claim to his girlfriend that he knew Bono, lead singer of U2. After a row, she insisted he take her to Bono's house, so Alan takes her to a stately home and arranges for a man to turn up in dark glasses speaking in a fake Irish accent, which backfires quite badly.
- Subverted in Sister Sister, where not only does Roger know Batman (from the group Immature/IMX) because he is related to him, he gets him to come. Of course, since Batman looks just like Roger (and Marques Houston plays both), no one believes him until the very end of the episode.
- On one episode of The Weird Al Show, Al claims to know John Tesh and promises his friends that Tesh will perform in his cave. He then attempts to pull off an elaborate sales scam to raise enough money to hire Tesh for said performance. When the scam falls through and people come in to return the product, one of the people turns out to be John Tesh himself. Al doesn't recognize him.
- Boy Meets World had an episode where Eric and Jack form a fraternity named "Magnum Pi". When the dean of the fictional Pennbrook College asks who their famous alums are, the two scramble for names and come up with "Bernie Kopell and Ted Lange" (of The Love Boat fame). They did show up, though Eric had to pay them for their time.
- In the Seinfeld episode "The Wink," Kramer, in order to get back a priceless birthday card he accidentally sold, promises a young sick boy that Yankees player Paul O'Neill will hit two home runs for him.
- Also, George saying that he is "very good friends with Keith Hernandez" as part of a scam.
- Although Jerry had spent the past two episodes as Keith's friend, and George's scheme only failed because Jerry and Keith had an argument.
- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon twists this. Mio, the villain, claims that Usagi knows Idol Singer Minako and can get her to perform for the class, while telling Usagi that she'll take care of it. In reality, she's actually plotting to make Usagi miserable and lonely, intending for Minako never to show up. Minako, being Sailor Venus, is suspicious of Mio, finds out the plot and shows up.
- Wings: In an attempt to get Alex to go out with him, Brian tells her that he knows Clint Black and has several misadventures trying to meet him before Helen finally convinces the country singer to pretend to be an old friend of his. Afterward, Alex tells Brian that she had been sure he was lying and that the fact that Brian would have gone to such absurd lengths to impress her made her consider going out with him, however when she found out he actually did know him, it completely took the air out of it.
- The Brady Bunch had two examples:
- Bobby claims to know football star Joe Namath to impress his friends. After many unsuccessful attempts of his own, Cindy manages to wrangle a visit from the athlete...problem is, she faked a letter in Bobby's name claiming he was deathly ill. Naturally, their cover is blown, but in the end Bobby gets to throw a few passes with Joe and his friends are so impressed they don't even believe him when he owns up to his lie at the beginning of the episode!
- On another episode, Marcia made an empty promise to hire Davy Jones to sing at a school dance, then went crazy trying to fulfill her promise (mostly just to save her reputation). In the end, she not only gets him to sing at the dance, but receives the honor of being his date for the dance as well.
- Late Night with Conan O'Brien had a recurring skit where they would have a person walk across the set, stating that this person was some lesser-known public figure (usually a scientist or politician). Conan would then ask bandleader Max Weinberg if he was familiar with this person, and Max would respond by usually either saying that he has been following their work for years, or that they go way back and were childhood friends. Conan would then reveal that the person who just appeared on the set was actually an actor that they cast in order to fool Max, and an "ASS" stamp would be graphically super-imposed over his face.
- Frasier and Lilith tried to impress the headmaster of their son's fancy school by pretending that Lilith had been given earrings by Golda Meir. In another one, Frasier tried to impress another psychologist by claiming he was friends with opera tenor Jose Carreras. Turns out that Carreras was the other guy's godfather.
- The latter scenario led to what might be the best line this trope ever inspired. When the other doctor says, "I'll call Carreras tonight; he'll be delighted to hear I'm working with you!", Frasier laughs nervously and says, "I'll be interested to see if he remembers the game we used to play, where we'd pretend not to remember one another."
- The Fresh Princeof Bel Air has Will lying to his aunt and uncle that he can get Boyz II Men to sing at Nicky's christening because he grew up with them in Philly. He goes to their studio where they are doing some recording sessions and begs them to come, which works at first until events lead up to clarifying what is a slight subversion of the trope: Will actually did know one of the members, Wanya Morris, but only because he stole his girlfriend, which leads to the group saying no. After this fails, he returns to the studio dressed in a Santa suit and gets them to come, until he accidentally reveals himself. Later on, when it seems they won't show up, Will begins to confess and it seems everyone is about to be disappointed, but the group shows up at the last minute singing "Silent Night" and their first names, in turn, are used as Nicky's middle name.
- Inverted with Hilary, who frequently claimed to know famous people, to which a disbelieving Will would scoff. . .only to have several of these celebrities show up at the Banks' Christmas party and greet Hilary warmly, revealing that they obviously did know each other very well.
- Played with on The Steve Harvey Show: Steve meets Michael Jordan (who doesn't appear in the episode) after a fender-bender and convinces him to speak at the school's entrepreneur day event. Regina does not believe Steve at first but a call to the school from the insurance company convinces her and she is thrilled. Later, Michael Jordan cancels his appearance, leaving Steve to tell Regina the bad news. He couldn't bring himself to disappoint her so he hires an MJ look-alike to come to the school. Hilarity Ensues when the agency sends Michael Jackson instead.
- Sara did this a lot during the first season. She constantly lied to her classmates that she knew certain celebrities like George Clooney, Will Smith, and Wesley Snipes. This usually prompted everyone to tell her to shut up.
- Subverted repeatedly as a Running Gag in Gavin and Stacey; Vanessa is constantly namedropping celebrities she's met (and often slept with) in her Mysterious Past — and she's apparently telling the truth every time.
- In one episode of Saturday Night Live, Jon Lovitz's Pathological Liar character was trying to pick up Jerry Hall in a bar, with increasingly absurd lies ranging from being a Senator, inventing Rock'n'Roll, to knowing Mick Jagger. Mick Jagger then walks in to pick up his girlfriend, and uses Lovitz as his excuse for not coming home some nights.
- Inverted in the episode "Major Topper" in Mash. In a bragging and name calling contest, Charles Winchester claims to have had dinner with Audrey Hepburn, despite never having seen any of her movies. Hawkeye and BJ refuse to believe him, until Charles produces a picture to prove his tale (picture is never shown to the viewers).
- Done oddly on an episode of The Golden Girls, in which the girls are working to put together a variety show to raise money for charity. Their scheduled emcee cancels, and Rose offers to get Bob Hope to fill in. She doesn't claim to actually know him, however; she claims to believe he's her biological father, and admits that they've never even met. Through a bizarre coincidence, Bob Hope really does show up to host the event for them, although no indication is given that he's been made remotely aware of Rose's conviction.
- On The Wayans Bros., Busta Rhymes is in town for a concert and Dee's church needs $3,000 to stave off foreclosure due to Shawn and Marlon losing the money because they got arrested for scalping tickets to said concert. At that point they meet Busta and try to get him to remember them from their school days. He says that he does and that's because they insulted his girlfriend who is now his wife. He refuses to help them. Later, they raise money for Dee's church by lying that Busta will do a benefit concert. Marlon hijacks Busta's limo and takes him and his crew to the church instead of the airport. Busta's angry at first, but when Marlon and Shawn apologize to him, he agrees to do the benefit and Dee's church is saved.
- Happy Days: Richie really did know the keyboard player from "Johnny Fish & the Fins" at summer camp, but when he tries to get tickets for their concert nobody believes him because they're in the nosebleed section. They figure he just bought cheap tickets to cover the lie. Then he's given a Shout-Out from the stage, and everyone believes him.
- Silver Spoons: Alfonso claims to know Michael Jackson, and when called on it he hires a Jackson look-alike to show up. Everybody is convinced but he ends up telling the truth.
- Cheers: Woody has an extra role on Spenser For Hire and claims to have become good friends with its star Robert Urich. Nobody believes him, but it's true as shown in The Stinger of the episode.
- Buffalo Bill: Bill hires a Burt Reynolds look-alike to do a pop in on his local talk show, pretending it's his good friend the real Reynolds.
- The Suite Life on Deck: In another effort to impress Bailey, Cody tells her that he is friends with Hannah Montana and can get them tickets for the concert she was going to hold. Subverted because he actually does know Hannah (they met at the Tipton when they were younger) but Hannah doesn't remember Cody. Cody does everything he could to win the tickets for him and Bailey and when he fails, he tells the truth to Bailey but she is touched that Cody was willing to go through so much trouble for her. Then, Hannah and Lola skip by and Hannah finally remembers Cody (Woody getting cake all over Cody's shirt helped) and gives them tickets and backstage passes. Cody and Bailey then have a Relationship Upgrade (prompting a hilarious Brick Joke from the beginning of the season).
- Also used on Brooklyn Bridge — the grandfather claims to have played ball with Gil Hodges. When they run into Gil Hodges, he plays along with the story so the grandfather doesn't lose face with his grandkid. He's called a mensch for it.
- Inverted on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Sabrina ends up alienating her co-workers and they're convinced she's crazy. One day she pays for a woman's coffee and talks casually about it to her, not knowing it is actually Ashanti. Ashanti later comes into the magazine office while it's empty and sings for Sabrina to prove who she is. The rest of the magazine refuse to believe Sabrina but then Ashanti comes back in and references their conversation earlier, making it seem like they know each other. Sabrina then makes it seem like they have known each other a while in order to save her reputation.
- Also subverted in a season six episode. Roxie claims to know Isaac Hanson - which she does. They dated years ago.
- A variation in Kenan & Kel - Kenan mistakenly thinks Sharla is going to the dance with some "special guy" (she means him) and lies saying he's taking R&B singer Tamia. Realising his mistake, he goes to a signing and eventually persuades Tamia to say yes. She is forced to cancel at the last minute - but Kenan has already left for the dance so she tells Sharla instead.
- Pretty much the point of the Aaron Carter song "Oh Aaron". Although Aaron really is Nick Carter's little brother, three thousand tickets are a bit much.
- The plot of David Bowie's short film/music video, Jazzin' For Blue Jean, is about this. Bowie plays a guy who tries to impress a girl by claiming he knows rock star Screaming Lord Byron (also played by Bowie).
- An unusual variation appears in The Zeta Project, where in an attempt to help impress Ro's one-time foster family, Zeta takes on the appearance of fictional celebrity Adam Heat... without telling her beforehand. This goes awry on a variety of levels: Zeta gets roped into a Romeo and Juliet rehearsal, stalling them. Undesirable publicity follows. Then, when the real Adam appears appears in a live interview at the same time, Agent Bennet comes knocking...
- In an episode of Father of the Pride Larry the Lion claims to know Donkey from Shrek in order to impress his son's classmates. A Zany Scheme ensues (involving kidnapping what turns out to be Donkey's stunt double), before Donkey decides to play along.
- It should be noted that in this case, Larry actually tries to get help from the "real celebrity" much earlier than the usual examples of this trope, in a case of Genre Savvy. However, Donkey keeps adamantly refusing. The only reason Donkey eventually decides to help is because he walks in on Larry's son's classmates laughing at him...which causes Donkey to have a painful flashback to his own foalhood days of his classmates laughing at him, so Donkey sympathizes with Larry's son enough to play along.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Lisa becomes popular when Bart tells everyone that she is best friends with a Hannah Montana Expy. Lisa plays along with the lie but eventually has to come clean.
- Another episode of this has Gary Coleman pretend to be talking to the President of the United States on a telephone that isn't plugged in — while there's no one to his knowledge actually around, meaning that he's essentially performing a Celebrity Lie on himself.
- The Gary Coleman example was more of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander or I Reject Your Reality situation. He'd previously been having an imaginary argument with the employee of a Chinese restaurant through said unplugged phone, again with no knowledge that anyone was there.
- Disney's animated series of Hercules had Hercules claiming to know the master bard Orpheus and could get him to play at their dance to impress the amazon princess he had a crush on. Parodied in that Hades claimed the same thing to get Lastrigon, the Titan, to join his forces.
- Played with in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Sweet and Elite". Rarity really does know Princess Celestia, which is what initially turns the Canterlot upper class' heads towards her; however, an incident involving some upper class ponies shunning her earlier in the day for coming from Ponyville drives her to put out a few fibs here and there to mask her origins. Eventually comes to a head when her friends from Ponyville show up at Canterlot, end up merging Twilight's birthday party with the upper class one Rarity was invited to, and inadvertently force Rarity to admit where she really came from. Fortunately for her, one of the most influential ponies she befriended finds the whole thing "delightfully rustic", so she gets to keep her celebrity status despite the earlier lies.
- Another variant in the same episode exists. Rarity, discussing who will win the Wonderbolts Derby she and several upper class ponies are attending, uses what Rainbow Dash has told her to correctly guess the winner. Rainbow Dash's name was mentioned, though, and when the other ponies ask who she is, Rarity claims that Dash is the Wonderbolts' personal trainer.