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Clowncar Base
How do they all fit in there? Because they can-can-can!

So you've got a two-person pup tent set up in the woods. Two guys get out. Then another four guys. Then another six guys...

No, there is no way all of them could possibly fit into that thing. It is a Clown Car Base.

A common variation in animation and comics is for a character to live in a structure barely larger than himself, but constantly drop hints that it is considerably more spacious than it appears; the actual interior of the structure is never shown.

Primarily a comedy trope. When we actually see the inside of the thing, it is Bigger on the Inside. A variation of Clown Car. See also Space Compression and Clown-Car Grave, a subtrope involving the undead. Compare Units Not to Scale and The Stateroom Sketch. The equivalent trope for containers is Hammer Space / Bag of Holding.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • While infiltrating the Hidden Rain, Jiraiya of Naruto used one of his toad summons as a mobile base. On the inside, it was cavernous; on the outside, it was the size of a normal toad. Watching him pull himself out of the toad's mouth without its size changing was interesting to say the least.

    Comedy 
  • Inverted in a way by French comedian Florence Foresti in her gig about the Barbie Airplane, in which she points out how the inside of the plane is much smaller (or less furnished) than it's made to look on the outside. A rough translation:
    "[...] Barbie Big Fat Liar. Why? How many seats in this plane, you think? (shows the 4 windows on the plane) I'm asking you people sitting at the front, of course... 4? Ah, 8? I see the maths sup and maths spé are here today too (imitating a Dumb Blonde) "Of course, there's 2 rows!". So yes, 4 or 8, that's what we'd like to believe. Except that, Barbie Big Fat Liar (opens up plane), 3 seats. You're expecting some nice people, a great atmosphere, and all you find is 3 crappy seats."

     Comics 
  • In "Superman & Batman vs Aliens & Predator" Superman brings his fortress of solitude to a volcano to evacuate the Aliens and Predators who have been stranded there for thousands of years, along with the predator ship. On the outside the fortress is roughly 4 meters in diameter and spherical, but the inside is an entire dead universe he is free to decorate as he choose.

    Film 
  • Resident Evil: Extinction From a steel freight crate seven by fifteen feet, that is open and partially empty (the view fades to an ominous jet black), dozens of zombies come running out. The scene and the zombiestream lasts for several minutes.
  • Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Jesus gets in a fist fight (for no apparent reason) with a group of atheists who pour out of a compact car. Six at a time. In six waves.
  • In Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, over eighty children of all ages come out of a small apartment in one continuous cut. Of course it's all the more impressive how they all must have come out of the same mother...
  • In Monty Python's Life of Brian, a group of few dozen roman soldiers are inspecting an apartment so small it couldn't possibly fit half of the group in. And still they manage not to find any of the dozen Jewish revolutionaries hidden inside the place. Not even after re-checking.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Mr. Weasley borrows a tent from a friend of his for use at the World Quidditch Cup. What seems like a small (3'x5') tent outside has at least 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining room inside. As Harry gets his first look, he mutters happily, "I love magic!"
    • The same tent shows up again in Part I of Deathly Hallows.

    Literature 
  • Played for Drama in Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command. No one can figure out how so many Chaos troops are emerging from the admittedly large rooms the Guard is assaulting. Turns out that there are warp portals through which they emerge, on the other side of which are vast armies.
  • Wizarding tents in Harry Potter work this way: Sure, the LOOK like a regular two-person tent on the outside. But on the INSIDE, its roughly a fourth of a circus tent, complete with kitchen and numerous bunk beds. And those are the ordinary-looking ones.
    • This also seems to be a fairly common thing to do with cars. Both Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia and a couple cars used by the Ministry of Magic are magically enlarged on the inside to comfortably seat over twice as many people as could be squeezed in normally.
  • Death's house in the Discworld series, from the outside it looks fairly normal, if a bit morbid, but inside... Death's study is reckoned to be about a mile square, and it apparently isn't the biggest room.
    • This has as much to do with Death just not understanding physics as anything else. In the land his house occupies, the ominous mountains in the distance are actually fairly close to the house; they simply look far away because they're literally blurry, which is all Death really cares about.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Sesame Street, Oscar the Grouch has at least one elephant living in his trash can. And a swimming pool. And even Mr. Snuffleupagus himself once payed the grouch a visit - his snuffle was seen first coming out as he was leaving the trash can (and after five kids came out of it first!).
  • In The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Artie lives in a porta-potty, but has hosted barbecue parties out of it, though the interior is never shown.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus episode 11. A vicar motions two gravediggers to get out of a grave they're digging. They do so, and then several others get out: 6 more gravediggers, two miners, two soldiers, a police dog and its handler, and a surfboarder. Watch it on YouTube here. This could be called a Clown-Car Grave but that name has already been used for another trope altogether.
    • In the scene immediately before, four undertakers are carrying a coffin, only for each of them to collapse one by one. Every time one of them falls, the other men in the group promptly put down the coffin, place the undertaker inside, and then move on. By the end this coffin made for one man contains five people (all four of the undertakers plus the body they were originally carrying), resulting in the coffin somehow moving on its own towards the grave, resulting in the aforementioned sequence.
  • The Goodies episode about the Rolf Harris plague has a take-off of the Pied Piper of Hamilton, which includes the Rolf Harris "attacking the babies in their cradles". Later when the Goodies draw them out of the city by playing "Waltzing Matilda" on didgeridoos, an endless stream of Rolfs are seen clambering out of the one baby carriage.
  • Played with on the SCTV "Fishin' Musician" segment - host John Candy and musical guests The Tubes are seen on a typical 16mm 'outdoors show' film leaving a little cabin; Candy narrates "There's that lodge we stayed at there, it looks small there, but it goes down four hundred feet, sleeps eight hundred..."
  • A sketch on Laugh-In had an absurdly large number of people getting out of a bathtub.
  • Doctor Who has the TARDIS, which is the trope namer for Bigger on the Inside, but there have been numerous cases of areas mentioned but never seen. For example, it has a library, and a swimming pool (which once fell into the library when the TARDIS landed on its side), a closet for the Doctor to change outfits, and even hallways, many of which are apparently past incarnations of it that came with each regeneration.
    • You do see the closet full of clothes at one point, when Ten has just regenerated and is picking out the outfit for his new form.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Jim Davis' U.S. Acres note , one-off mentions of things like his TV show add up to make the inside of Sheldon's eggshell downright palatial. No wonder he doesn't want to fully hatch.
    • His feet are also always sticking out of the bottom. That alone makes it probably the most unusual example on this page by a wide margin!
  • Snoopy's doghouse from Peanuts is much larger than it seems. Sometimes implied (or even stated) to be an elaborate basement, but whenever the (tiny) visible structure is destroyed, he behaves as if the entire house is gone. And, perversely, he chooses to sleep on top of the thing, even in the rain or cold!
    • A few strips had Snoopy building a birdhouse for Woodstock, which turns out to be another (bird-sized) Clown Car Base.
  • A recurring gag in Funky Winkerbean involved Funky doing things inside his locker that should have been impossible, like roasting hot dogs on a fire.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Monsterpocalypse, some units have the "transport" ability while others have "cargo," with the former able to drop off infinite numbers of the latter. This can be explained with Units Not to Scale for the pods or Sizeshifter for the Shinobi, but the 60-ft tall Mechacthugrosh storing that many of the 15-ft tall Mecha Taskmasters?

    Video Games 
  • Every strategy game ever.
    • Total Annihilation and Spiritual Successor Supreme Commander are notable aversions, you can actually see the units being produced in a properly-scaled building and they have to clear the production platform before the next one can start. It's especially notable with certain giant units: Total Annihilation's Krogath was so big it needed it's own specialized factory to produce, and Supreme Commander's "experimental" tire units are so big they're placed and constructed like buildings.
    • Zigzagged in StarCraft, due largely to Units Not to Scale: the sprite for a Terran siege tank is roughly the same size as a dropship, but the dropship can fit two. On the other hand, the bunker seems big enough to fit four infantry.
  • Can happen in Left 4 Dead and its sequel thanks to the algorithms of the AI Director. When a random horde spawns to charge the players they'll all spawn in the same area, usually just out of sight of the survivors. This occasionally leads to comical clown car circumstances, where 30 zombies come charging out of a single bathroom stall. The best examples are closets and small rooms that you just cleared and walked out of literally 5 seconds ago. Where were they all hiding?
    • It's entirely possible for a horde to spawn behind and come piling out from behind a small stack of boxes.
  • A key element of Pokémon. Poké Balls, roughly the size of a baseball or a hand grenade, can fit a 40' long whale or an 11' long, 2094 lb. dinosaur/earth god without changing size or weight whatsoever. They hinge open when capturing or releasing a Pokemon, but they don't change otherwise. It's even crazier in the anime, where they can shrink down to the size of a large marble until needed.
    • Justified, because the Pokémon get turned into a compressed energy state. This explains why they can be stored in this way for years (James' Carnivine was stored in its ball since he was a child) and has suffer no ill effects.
  • Used liberally in Gauntlet Legends. The bases have three sizes each, and the size determines the toughness of the monsters that come out.
  • Ace Combat games have from time to time bases that can keep spawning enemies until destroyed.
  • In Machines Wired For War, units can be significantly too large to fit inside the building that created them and transport unit can carry units larger themselves inside them. This is partially justified by teleporting technology.
  • Star Ruler has Quantum Space Compressors allowing you to do this. At high levels of Spatial Dynamics research, it gets... impressive. Even without them you can build ships or stations bigger than the constructor used.
  • Breeding pens in Farmville can hold up to 40 animals when fully expanded. This is reasonable for rabbits and other small creatures, but gets ridiculous with horse paddocks, cattle yards, and especially zoos, which can be stuffed full of 40 elephants.
  • In Growl, Round 5 ends with an encounter against a tank that has nine mooks inside it.
  • Most space stations in the X-Universe series dock ships on external berths, which avert the trope. But some stations can dock ships up to heavy fighter size internally (and certain shipyards can do the same with ships of up to corvette and freighter size). There is no limit to the number of ships that can dock internally. One popular mod adds internal docking (and a pair of capital ship docking clamps) to player-built factory complexes, making them pretty easy to defend: just stuff a few dozen fighters inside (pocket change in the late game) and have them launch as needed; out-of-sector combat modeling does the rest.
  • The creature lairs in Star Wars: Galaxies were subject to this, being far too small to house the typical dozen or so creatures that would emerge from one upon being attacked, let alone fit even one of them inside. It got especially ridiculous in the case of the biggest creatures like krayt dragons, where the lair was about the size of one of their feet.
  • In Pikmin, only 100 Pikmin can venture onto the surface at any given time as a survival mechanism so only up to 100 can be lost at one time. However, the Onions themselves can have an enormous number of them inside (up to 999 in the first game, 99,999 in the second, which is far more Pikmin than you'll ever need in either game).
  • Some levels in the Call of Duty games have Respawning Enemies spawn from implausibly small rooms or buildings.
  • Averted in Goldeneye, where each stage has a set number of enemies. A common tactic on levels with Natalya is to clear out the stage first due to her rather suicidal habit of running right between you and the enemies.

    Web Original 
  • As revealed in the animation "Where's The Cheat?", The Cheat from Homestar Runner actually lives in the King of Town's grill. Occasionally, we actually get to see Strong Sad be stuffed inside the grill, and in one Strong Bad Email, there is actually a pizza parlor inside the grill, and both Strong Bad and The Cheat actually fit inside the grill.
  • Many looped animations circulating the Internet have carefully crafted to make mundane objects in real life appear to act this way (for example, to the trash! [note: contains audio]).

    Western Animation 
  • Played with in the Looney Tunes cartoon "Rabbit Every Monday". During the cartoon, Yosemite Sam forces Bugs Bunny into his old wood-burning oven, and prepares to add wood to the fire. Bugs at one point emerges from the oven door and asks Sam, "You got a bottle opener on ya?" He then emerges from the oven for a moment, and returns to the oven with a bucket of ice and some folding chairs, and then pops out again to empty some ashtrays. Every time he opens the oven door, Dixieland music is heard playing. Finally, he opens the door and asks Sam, "Ain't ya comin' in, Mac? The girls have been askin' for ya." Sam, suddenly excited, slicks his hair back and enters the oven, expecting a party. Bugs gets second thoughts and opens the door to tell Sam it was all just a gag, only to see that there really is a party going on inside the oven. Bugs dives into the oven, and emerges one last time with a party hat and noisemaker, saying, "I don't ask questions, I just have fun!"
  • Also done with an OLD Popeye cartoon with an Arabian theme. Olive Oyl is captured by an Arab shiek (Brutus) who takes her to his teeny (obviously no more than 3ft by 3ft) little tent in the desert. When she dubiously peeks inside, its palatial; going on and on and on. She draws back outside and then cartoonishly stretches her neck so her head goes all the way around the tent. This is older than color.
  • In the U.S. Acres segment of Garfield and Friends, Roy and Orson were running for leader of the farm. Every time a chicken entered the voting booth and voted, they fell through a trap door. Roy, who watched the chickens entering the booth, didn't suspect a thing until Orson asked how many got out of it.
  • During the song "Topsy Turvy" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a troupe of women can be seen doing the can-can emerging out of one very small tent and disappearing into another (which also happens to be Esmeralda's dressing room).
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Inspiration Manifestation, while Rarity's "improvements" on the birdhouse make it double in size, the interior is so big that the robin gets lost and it includes a shoe closet and multiple stairwells.

    Real Life 
  • Bill Bailey once recounted a tale of people sneaking into Glastonbury by digging a tunnel under the fence that came out under a one-man tent. This is made even funnier when he describes the witnesses who are high on weed or LSD, watching thousands of people just pouring out of this tiny little tent. Something similar to that happened at the Woodstock festival.
  • There is another joke about this and the Basque, but this time it does not play with their supposed ability, but to the triple stereotype of them supposedly being stubborn, braggarts and gambling-lovers: "How do you fit 20 Basques in a Mini Cooper? By betting they cannot".
  • Sometimes a thing is just bigger than you think it is, volume-wise, if you're willing to use it in a manner it wasn't designed for. For instance, some soldiers figured out that they can fit fourteen people in a porta potty. YouTube is full of videos similar to this.
  • Certain tiny apartments in the North End of Boston are well known for achieving this affect whenever a group of people leave it at the same time, especially if it's a party that's been broken up by the cops.


Clown CarHyperspace IndexClown-Car Grave
The Hunchback of Notre DameImageSource/Animated FilmsDisneyfication
Clown CarComedy TropesClucking Funny

alternative title(s): Hyperspace Base
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