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Comically Small Bribe
"Who knows? Maybe there are two General Washingtons."note
Dr. Venture: Okay, I see how it is. And what would you prescribe for... (brings out a ten-dollar bill) Alexander Hamilton?
Dr. Ernesto Guavara:
Hey, you. Yes you. I'm looking for some... information. What, you can't disclose that? Maybe this shiny new quarter would change your mind...
This is when a character tries to bribe somebody, but the bribe is either pathetically small or involves something of no conceivable value to the recipient. Common reactions include an incredulous stare, dismissive laughter, or even arresting them for attempted bribery
. Alternatively, the recipient may enthusiastically accept the bribe, much to the amusement of the audience. (A once-common form of this variant involved Canadians being bribed in American currency
, although economics can largely ruin any humor it holds
Common variations are:
- Attempting to use Monopoly money or a minor coupon in place of real cash.
- Doubling the payment of voluntary or forced labour, and when they refuse on the the grounds that double of nothing is still nothing, the briber offers to triple the payment.
- Bribing people with something they have in a great abundance, like offering a rock monster a rock you just found on the ground.
Sometimes gets inverted; the initial bribe is very large, at least by the standards of the person offering it. The other character refuses it but accepts something comparatively worthless instead, maybe even making the reduced counter-offer themselves. This is more likely to be a dramatic example than the normal way around— typically because the person taking the "bribe" has reasons of their own to do what's asked of them, but want to make a statement of some sort with the token payment. A specific example common in the real world is taking a single dollar (or local equivalent) as payment for services rendered; this is done because both sides have to give something in order for a legal contract to exist
. Such an absurdly small payment is referred to in legal parlance as a peppercorn
, after the rent paid yearly by the Freemasons of Bermuda for their meeting hall: a single peppercorn.
Can also apply to unusually small payments, tips, or demands. Usually Played for Laughs
. Contrast Worthless Yellow Rocks
, where the characters treat something as being less valuable than it is, rather than more valuable. Compare Not Rare Over There
, where something is valuable to someone, but only because they need it and can't find it, and Comically Small Demand
open/close all folders
- A commercial for the now-defunct Pets.com company had their sock puppet mascot attempt to get into an apartment building by bribing the doorman with $3, quickly upped to $4 when the doorman seems to be seriously considering it.
- A commercial for 10-10-220 had French Stewart bribing a Maître d' with $1. It doesn't work until after Stewart explains the service.
Anime & Manga
- Invoked and inverted in Dragon Ball where Goku ends up paying a pedestrian a huge amount of money for giving him information about the city as well as where Bulma lives at. Justified because he legitimately thought that he was supposed to pay people for the information they gave due to a misunderstanding when he attempted to take a taxi (the driver was requesting that Goku pay him if he wants to use a taxi, but Goku thought he meant he should pay him for him to tell him where Bulma's house was located) as well as having absolutely no concept of how to use money during that time.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Dirty Work:
Mitch: Hey, homeless guys! I'll tell ya what. I'll give you a dollar each if you'll go into this building here and run around yellin' and screamin'.
Homeless Guy #1: Uh, that's very nice, but I think what you probably need are, like, some psycho, out-of-control homeless guys?
Homeless Guy #2: Yeah, we're more the broken, spiritless, I've-lost-the-will-to-live type homeless guys.
Mitch: How about for two dollars?
(Homeless Guys run into the building screaming)
- A Night At The Roxbury. Trying to get into a club, the main character says something like, "Well, maybe my friend Mr...Washington will change your mind. Uh, and his friend Mr...Washington..."
- The movie doesn't call attention to it, but the bribe Happy Gilmore offers so the nursing home would take extra-special care of his beloved grandma is a single wrinkled Washington. Could be why the evil orderly wouldn't accept it.
- Inverted in Once upon a Time in Mexico, in which Cheech Marin's character asks Johnny Depp for a small bribe, $10,000 instead of the originally offered $50,000. An amused Depp skips the traditional briefcase and brings it in a lunchbox. Marin explains that it is a nice amount of money, something they both can live with, and not big enough that Depp would kill him over it.
- Jackie Chan in The Tuxedo attempts to slip himself and Jennifer Love Hewitt into a club with seven dollars.
- In Easy A, Olive is usually paid for pretending to have sex with people in gift cards from various stores. The lowest price she ever accepts is soon-to-expire vouchers for the foreign language arthouse cinema.
- A very literal example appears in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. The bribe is $100,000, which isn't a small amount of money, but it takes up a comically small amount of space inside the briefcase it's presented in.
- Judging by the bouncer's reaction, this was the case in Mystery Team.
- In Strange Brew, a doughnut is used as a bribe.
- Something of an inversion occurs in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: the Germans offer the king of the country where the grail is located a large bribe consisting of "treasures donated by the most powerful families in Germany." What the king really wants, however, is the Rolls Royce that the Germans drove up in. He then throws in an armed escort, including a tank, to the passage and removal rights they were bargaining for.
- Captain Phillips: The pirates see Phillips' offer of $30,000.00 (all the cash in the ship's safe) as this. In real life, Phillips didn't even offer the cash until much later because he knew they laugh at such a measly sum.
- In Superbad after a driver hits Seth he offers him seven dollars as a bribe, Seth replies "What am I fucking six years old?!"
- Discworld series
- In Terry Pratchett's Making Money, Cosmo Lavish offers Moist von Lipwig ten thousand dollars in exchange for Mr. Fusspot, getting a rather indignant reaction. (Moist will get twice that per year just for not selling him, and that's without considering the associated contract with the Guild of Assassins.) Lampshaded later on during the scenes in which Cosmo talks with other Lavish relatives - he deliberately offered a Comically Small Bribe in an effort to get Moist to underestimate him.
How dare he try to bribe me, thought Moist. In fact, that was his second thought, that of the soon-to-be wearer of a gold-ish chain. His first thought, courtesy of the old Moist, was: how dare he try to bribe me so small.
- In Unseen Academicals Glenda is able to get her way into the palace and see the ruler of the city by bribing the guards with pie. This is a subversion, however, because A) Glenda is a Supreme Chef whose pies are fantastic and B) Lord Vetinari specifically instructed the guards to accept any and all bribes, no matter how small.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- Wraith Squadron has Face, in disguise as a stereotypical bumpkin on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a more civilized world, giving a customs officer one whole credit in exchange for information about where he might go looking for "brides". The whole thing is hilarious.
- The bribe is "insultingly" small rather than comical, but in the Hand of Thrawn duology, two Imperial saboteurs go to Bothawui pretending to be small-time merchants trying to make a quick credit. They reinforce this impression with a small bribe to get their stock through customs quickly.
- Inverted in Atlas Shrugged, where brilliant inventor/philosopher/scientist John Galt is captured by the evil government and offered the position of Economic Dictator of the entire United States. He refuses. The Head Of State, Mr. Thompson, tries to offer Galt comically large bribes to join them, such as a billion dollars in gold. Galt is unimpressed as any value he would be able to obtain from said gold in the collapsing society of the USA would have to be created by himself, making it totally worthless to him.
- Vorkosigan Saga
- In the short story "The Mountains of Mourning", a woman tries to bribe a Vorkosigan armsman to let her in to see Count Vorkosigan with all the money she has on her - $1.20. Miles, seeing enough of the incident to know that that woman is trying to get in so that she can petition the count to send a criminal investigator to her village over a matter of justice (Something that as a subject of the Vorkosigan District, she had the legal right to do), lets her in without any money changing hands.
- The inverted version occurs in Labyrinth. A refugee from Jackson's Whole hands Miles and Bel Thorne her entire life's savings in cash, hoping it will be enough to engage them as mercenaries to get her off the planet. Bel tells her the price is wrong— then peels one single dollar off the stack, hands her back the rest, and tells her this is more like it. Needless to say, It's Personal for Captain Thorne.
- In the seventh Captain Underpants book, the kids write a comic which opens with a lament about how out of touch old people are. Among other reasons, one of their complaints is that they have no idea how much things cost, illustrated by a grandpa giving his kid a nickel saying "why don't you buy a video game with it?" This is inverted when the villains of the comic create "Robo-grannies", who give their kids $100 to buy a candy bar.
- In The Bible, Jacob cheats his older brother Esau from his inheritance when Esau returns from a hunt famished. Jacob offers a trade of Esau's birthright for a bowl of soup. And Esau agrees.
Live Action TV
- As the preview for South Beach Tow shows, at least one car owner tries this on the truck driver, saying "You can buy all the Ho-Hos you want."
- Dinosaurs episode "License to Parent":
Earl Sinclair: Surely we can talk about this. After all, this is kind of a coincidence.
Officer Bettleheim: A coincidence? How?
Earl Sinclair: Well, that ticket has my name on it, and I do believe this crisp one dollar bill has your name on it. Wouldn't you call that a coincidence?
Officer Bettleheim: No, I would call that a cheap attempt at bribery.
Earl Sinclair: What if it was a five? What. Oh come on, you're not giving me another ticket.
Officer Bettleheim: Section 9, paragraph 4, setting a bad moral example for a child.
- Boy Meets World:
Clerk: I'm sorry, we don't give that kind of information.
Eric: Really? Well... (produces $1 bill) Perhaps my friend Mr. Washington will help you change your mind.
- In "Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater," Monk tries to bribe a doorman for information on Jenna Ryan's wherabouts with three dollars; when he refuses, Monk ups it to four. Finally, Sharona makes him talk with $40. After, Monk asks for his four back; when the doorman refuses, Monk informs Sharona that "we have a four-dollar credit on any future bribes."
- The page header image is from "Mr. Monk and the Bully". Monk and Natalie walk into a bar while trying to retrace Marilyn Brody's footsteps:
Natalie Teeger: Hi. Excuse me.
Adrian Monk: Hi. Um, we're looking for this woman. (shows a photo of Marilyn to the bartender)
Bartender: You a cop?
Adrian Monk: No, no. Just an old friend.
Bartender: Haven't seen her.
Adrian Monk: Okay.
(Monk pulls out a $1 bill and puts it on the counter)
Adrian Monk: Maybe General Washington can refresh your memory? (Natalie buries her face in her hands, embarrassed)
Bartender: Is that a dollar? (Monk winks at him. The bartender continues glaring at him)
Adrian Monk: OK, I get it. Who knows? Maybe there are... (puts a quarter down) ...two General Washingtons. (The bartender walks away) Where are you going? (to Natalie) Where's he going? (Monk sighs and puts his money away) You've got to admire the guy. He's incorruptible.
- Subverted in the Season 6 episode "Mr. Monk Goes to the Bank." Randy tries to bribe a silver tin statue performer for information relating to a bank robbery he undoubtedly witnessed. It fails, but the reason it didn't work has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of money Randy puts in his collection tray: it's because his job requires him to stand absolutely frozen still until his beeper goes off to signal his stretch break (and he does a damn good job at it, because he doesn't so much as move a muscle even when Randy tries yelling loudly in his face).
- Three's Company: When Cindy goes missing, Mr. Furley goes to the Regal Beagle to find her. He pays a blonde girl three dollars to tell him anything she knows. Hilarity Ensues when the girl turns out to be an undercover cop and arrests Furley for cheap solicitation.
- An episode of The Amanda Show had a security guard refusing to let somebody in when offered diamonds or cash... but he let them in for a slice of pizza.
- An episode of The New Statesman had the idiotic Piers Fletcher-Dervish, who upon deciding to become corrupt, demands a bribe of...£1.50!
- An early episode of That '70s Show has this:
Punk kid: I've got nothing to say to you... but Andrew Jackson on the other hand...
Bob: Jackson, huh?... (opens wallet) He's not in, do you have anything you'd like to tell Abe Lincoln and the Washington twins?
- 30 Rock has Jack Donaghy offer Josh a comically small contract negotiation offer of $1 for a year of comedy work. Josh is so intimidated by Jack's negotiation skills that he almost takes it.
- In the iCarly episode iWant a World Record, Spencer tried to bribe the representative of the world record book into overlooking the four seconds the webshow was off the air (his sculpture drew so much power that it briefly knocked out the power) with skee ball tickets. Upon realizing that they were tickets and not money, he promptly took them back so he could get a giant harmonica.
- At a time when The Beatles were being offered millions to reunite, a 1976 Saturday Night Live sketch had producer Lorne Michaels making an on-air appeal to the group, offering them a check for $3000 to perform on the show. John Lennon and Paul McCartney happened to both be in NYC and watching the show that night, and were amused enough to briefly entertain the idea of heading over to the studio just for the hell of it. They then talked themselves out of it, sadly.
- It should be pointed out that $3000 was the standard rate for the musical guest on SNL at that time. The whole thing came about when someone asked Lorne Michaels how much he'd pay to have the Beatles reunite on the show, and his answer was that he'd only pay the standard rate.
- In a subsequent episode, George Harrison came on but was dismayed to learn that the $3000 was for all of them, meaning $750 for each ex-Beatle. ("Pretty chintzy.")
- McCartney appeared on SNL in the late 1980s and was shown trying to get the $3000 for himself and his backup band.
- Occasionally on Top Gear, when Jeremy Clarkson will offer ludicrously small sums of money if a certain celebrity will appear on the show or someone will lend them a particularly rare and valuable car.
- The Mighty Boosh: Bob Fossil, trying to bribe Bollo to let him into a party, offers him such worthless incentives as "the key to a bike I had in the '70's".
- The Loop is a comedy about a man who worked at an airport. In one episode he need to x-ray a bunch of dogs.
Sam: Hi. Can we use the luggage scanner to x-ray all these dogs?
Security Guard: Sir, I am an airport security guard. It is my sacred duty to guard this entrance against anything it may face.
Sam: I'll give you seven bucks.
Security Guard: I'm looking away now.
- The $1.98 Beauty Show was a comedy Game Show mocking beauty pageants, in which the grand prize was Exactly What It Says on the Tin: $1.98.
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anya once tried to bribe a demon with promises that she would have sex with him, and the demon responded that he didn't find a human-looking creature like Anya to be sexually attractive (thus averting the Mars Needs Women trope that has certainly been played straight elsewhere in the Buffyverse). Of course, Anya was insulted that her sexual bribery turned out to be a Comically Small Bribe. (There's a Double Entendre in there somewhere, but not quite as easily as if it were a male getting turned down.)
- On Blue Water High, Anna once suggested Simmo keep Deb occupied by offering her vouchers to a PG-rated movie.
- In 1996 the town of Wahoo Nebraska started a campaign to become The Late Show with David Letterman's "Home office." Letterman decided to have a bribe-off: whichever city gave him the most stuff (Wahoo or then-current Home Office Tahlequah, Oklahoma) would get it. After some very pathetic bribes from Tahlequah Letterman declared Wahoo the winner.
- The Office: Michael tries to give a terminated employee a pack of coupons in an attempt to make everything cool between them. Especially given that Michael is only firing him so that he doesn't appear indecisive, this doesn't go over well.
- When Dwight was left in charge after Michael's departure in the Season 3 finale, he announced that employees would receive "Schrute Bucks" when they did something good. He said that 1,000 Schrute Bucks would earn the recipient five extra minutes of lunch time, and that one Schrute Buck was worth 1/100 of a cent in actual money.
- Several times in Everybody Hates Chris, Julius would do this, at one point offering a bribe of a single penny.
- In an episode of The Odd Couple, Oscar and Felix are trying to get bumped up the waiting list for a space in a mid-town parking garage. Felix tries to "schmooze" the owner (played in a delightful guest shot by John Byner) by coyly displaying some currency:
Felix: Will...um...this get us anything?
Owner: (Glances at bill) Yeah — two fives.
- Once, trying to gain admittance into a Paul Williams concert to bring his wayward daughter back home, hapless Felix offered a quarter to the security guard outside. He scoffed, "What is this? Your allowance?"
- In the two-part M*A*S*H episode "Goodbye, Radar," Radar tries to bribe his way onto an earlier flight from Kimpo to get back to the 4077th:note
Radar: Hey, Mac?
Olson: The name's Olson.
Radar: I'm sorry... Hey, Olson? How would you like to make a little green stuff, huh?
Olson: How much?
Radar: I got four bucks that ain't doin' nothing. Get me that seat and they're all yours.
Radar: Two now, two when you deliver.
Olson: Get lost!
- In the Corner Gas episode "Hurry Hard", Brent and Wanda and Oscar and Emma each want Lacey to be their fourth for an upcoming curling bonspiel. Oscar and Emma rush to ask Lacey "Lacey, will you join our curling team?" Wanda then tells Brent to up the ante and he says "Lacey, will you be on our team please." And Wanda sarcastically says "Good ante-ing."
- In an earlier episode, the Dog River hockey team catches wind that Brent might be joining another team, so they compile a "signing bonus" consisting of coupons, a free sub card (two tokens short) and a roll of police "Do not cross" tape.
- Spin City: Paul attempts to bribe the office efficency expert to keep silent about his hoarding of office supplies with a 'Buy One, Get One Free' frozen yoghurt coupon.
- Alan B'stard once found himself having to bribe his former colleague Piers, now a junior government minister, in The New Statesman. The princely sum demanded? One pound fifty pence. As Alan commented, "You're a hard man, Piers Fletcher-Dervish... solid bone from the neck up."
- Cordelia tries it to prevent Angel from using his "patented burst of violence" to get past a security guard.
GUARD: Do I ever!
CORDELIA: Well, we really wanna go backstage.
GUARD: Yeah, okay, but this isn't so much a bribe as it is a tip. And since I'm not parking your car, there's really no way that -
ANGEL: (knocks him out) Okay. That's how we do it.
- Addressed in Burn Notice. They explain that actual cash in bribing someone is only part of the whole plan. If the location isn't too high security (like an upscale parking garage), you behave like an obnoxious tool offering five bucks and the guard will let you in just to get something from your stupidity.
- The Big Bang Theory has this exchange:
Sheldon: I stopped by to bring you this gift.
Penny: Gummy bears? Thank you.!
Sheldon: Now that you're in my debt could you -
- He then offers her "Cooper Coupons" which are basically an excuse to be his obnoxious, Insufferable Genius self, failing to see why Penny doesn't view them as better than gold (they include a free grammar check or an afternoon at the museum where he points out all of their mistakes).
- In the first season, Howard Wolowitz tries to bribe a hospital emergency room receptionist to pretend to treat him for an allergic reaction (to stall for time to set up a surprise party for his friend Leonard). He offers to introduce her to "the man who freed your people" (Abraham Lincoln on a five dollar bill).
Unless my people were freed by Benjamin Franklin
and his five twin brothers, you are wasting my time. note
- The inverted version appears in Person of Interest: Nathan Ingram sold the Machine to the US government for $1. Not knowing about this, a government official tries to force Nathan to make changes to the Machine by threatening to withhold Nathan's payment. Nathan and Finch have a good chuckle at that.
- Another inversion occurs when a kid wants to hire Reese to help get revenge on the murderers of the kid's brother. The kid offers Reese all the meager cash he has on him but Reese gives back all except a quarter. Reese was going to help the kid for free but realized that the kid was about to do something very stupid on his own. By agreeing to be the kid's 'employee', Reese could get the kid to stand down and let a professional handle matters.
- Averted on many other occasions since both Reese and Finch are very good at offering just the right amount to get someone to cooperate. It helps that Finch is a billionaire and thus can bypass the need to bribe individuals by bribing entire organizations (eg donating millions to a hospital so Reese, as his representative, can have unfettered access to the building and the people who work there).
- On The West Wing, a Comically Small Bribe is requested: The President's foreign aid bill is one vote down, and a senator offers to vote for it if the White House will fund a study in intercessory prayer out of the federal budget. Since this would be blatantly unconstitutional, he knows they cannot possibly accept, so he demands the princely sum of $115,000. Sure enough, everyone who hears of the deal repeats, "$115 thousand? You mean 115 million, right?"
- Also played with in the second season episode "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail"; C.J. and Josh meet with the Cartographers for Social Equality, who want the President to support legislation to make it mandatory for schools to teach the Peters Projection Map. Josh's response; "Give me $200 and it's done." C.J. vetoes that.
- In the sixth season finale of Desperate Housewives, Gaby tries to bribe a hospital nurse to let her in before visiting hours with all the cash she has on her—$12. Then she realizes, "Oh wait, I'm going to need ten for parking" and just offers the remaining $2.
- The man interviewing Frasier and Lilith for Frederick's place at a prestigious school: "I'll have you know that in 50 years, I have never accepted a bribe!" He takes the cheque. "This is an insult!" He reads the cheque. "In every possible way." He hands cheque back and leaves, slamming the door.
- The Goon Show, in which people will gladly perform insane actions for photographs of moneynote or bags of sweets. (Of course, that last one was Bluebottle, and he's generally portrayed as a young and mildly insane Boy Scout, so...)
- In the Cabin Pressure episode "Fitton", Carolyn's rotten ex-husband Gordon offers to buy her aeroplane for £100. Since he relays the offer through his Cloud Cuckoolander son Arthur, he has to include an explanation that Arthur isn't giving her the wrong amount by mistake. After this offer is rejected, Gordon makes another offer of £1 for the entire company including all the debts. Carolyn seriously considers this offer until one of Douglas's schemes gets the company back into the black.
Stand Up Comedy
- A common net result of the skill check rules of Dungeons & Dragons when applied to bribery attempts. Players with high enough charisma, diplomacy, or raw luck can offer pitiful bribes and see amazing results. Couple it with a natural 20 and a permissive DM will allow a soldier to commit high treason for a bag of jellybeans. This has gotten only easier in fourth edition, with social interaction taking on a more rules-governed, mechanical aspect.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Cyrano invokes this trope at Act II, Scene V, trying to bribe Roxane’s Duenna to leave him alone with Roxane (and then bribe her properly).
Cyrano: Are you fond of sweet things?
The Duenna: Ay, I could eat myself sick on them!
Cyrano: (catching up some of the paper bags from the counter) Good. See you these two sonnets of Monsieur Beuserade...
The Duenna: Hey?
Cyrano: ...Which I fill for you with cream cakes!
The Duenna: (changing her expression) Ha.
- In Anne Of The Thousand Days, Norfolk remarks on the lack of clamor in the streets for Anne's wedding and coronation. Cromwell says that one thousand apprentices were paid one groat each, which was obviously not enough:
Norfolk: A groat? Man, that won't buy a whole drink of good liquor! They should have had a silver penny apiece and they'd have shaken the foundations! They'd have rung the bells! They'd have jumped out of windows! Anyway, they'd have thrown their caps in the air! The rabble I saw must have had the mange. Their head-gear was stuck tight on their skulls and when they yelled it was more like a growl.
Cromwell: For a half-crown each, or a whole one, they wouldn't cheer Queen Anne — not as they'd like to be cheering Queen Katharine.
- Nerds features Bill Gates and Paul Allen buying DOS from Tim Patterson for the price of three Playboy magazines, two meat sticks, and an action figure. Patterson takes it, figuring that has to be worth more than his other offer — 50% of the stock of the then-nascent Starbucks. What an Idiot indeed.
- A Man for All Seasons: Invoked by Thomas More's line to Richard Rich:
- RWBY: Played for laughs. Nora is so determined that she and Ren end up on the same team together, she contemplates bribing the headmaster to ensure it happens. However, she quickly realizes that there's nothing a first-year student could possibly offer a man who owns an entire school.
- Ultra Fast Pony uses this for a one-two punch. First, in "The Penny and Clyde Show", it gets inverted:
Discord: Applejack, I want you to betray Twilight.
Applejack: How dare you! I would never betray my friends for no reason.
Discord: I'll give you a neverending apple!
Applejack: Ha, the joke's on you! I'da betrayed Twilight for just a regular apple!
Discord: Oh, whatever.
- Then in the next episode, Twilight has to up the ante to get AJ back on her side.
Twilight: Applejack! I need you to break your deal with Discord. And as payment, I will give you a regular apple!
Applejack: What, you think I'd go back on a deal just for one regular apple? What kind of pony do you think I am?
Twilight: Two regular apples!
Applejack: Yeah! Let's go kill Discord!
- When Torg reaches into his wallet in Sluggy Freelance, he says "Maybe 'Mr Franklin' can change your mind", and then sticks his hand up into a puppet inside the wallet while yelling in a Mexican accent: "My name is Juan Frankleen, I shoot you in the head!" Actually works, once, but only because the guy in question was a "puppet-phobe".
- Used similarly in Moe, with this exchange.
Moe: Well, maybe my friend Benjamin Franklin can convince you to take on the case.
Lawyer: This is a print-out of a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.
Moe: Glossy paper!
- A non-illegal variant appeared in Something Positive. Davan's boss went shopping for superhero licenses he could turn into a musical, and got the idea for Batman: The Musical. He tried to purchase the licensing rights for ten thousand dollarsnote . Needless to say, it doesn't work out very well.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del: Ethan continues to demonstrate his Cloudcuckoolander credentials.
- In Oglaf, the Mistress bribes (straight) Ivan to give a blowjob to the Xoan Ambassador... for a pinecone. Eventually the Mistress explains that the box holding the pinecone was enchanted to "make you want whatever's in it".
- Max in Housepets! makes it all the more comical: "Mr. Washington" is a quarter.
- Fletcher in Antics attempts to bribe his friend with a piece of chewed up gum
- One of the main characters in Paul Southworth's Ugly Hill tries to bribe a patent office clerk with a quarter and some pocket lint to ignore that the invention he wants to patent, a pillow that stays cool on both sides, already exists.
- In Coach Random, Nightlatch the Frog Pimp introduces cops to his friend Washington—who is the man featured on the $1 bill.
- Aang attempts this on a pirate while haggling in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Fortunately the pirate thinks it is quite comical, until Aang tries a higher price which is only one copper piece higher. Pirate's not so amused the second time.
- In The Fairly OddParents, as part of a plan to get rid of Poof, Foop tried to have the Fairy Council declare Timmy Turner the worst godchild ever. (All wishes of godchildren declared as such are undone and Poof only came into existence because Timmy wished Cosmo and Wanda had a baby) After the Fairy Council declared Timmy the worst godchild ever, Jorgen reminded Foop that, as Poof's Anti-Fairy counterpart, he only came into existence because Poof did. "If he goes, you go!" Foop then offered a dollar bill and asked if anyone could break it.
- In Family Guy when Peter is negotiating for peace in exchange for his nation's (that is, his house's) sovereignty, both his sovereignty and Joe's pool denied, so he demands... a pen sitting on the desk in front of him:
Mayor West: This pen, this worthless plastic pen I have millions of back in my office?
- Later when Peter was visiting Brown University he offers the Dean's secretary a $5 bribe to get Meg admitted.
- Peter also learns that the Cuban Black Market does not accept bits of string in lieu of payment. Store policy.
- Peter also tried to bribe a judge with a magazine subscription. The judge turns it down because he already has a subscription to that magazine
- In another episode Chris runs off to live with a tribe in the jungle. When the family arrives to get him back Peter learns that his $37 makes him the richest man in the village and he begins giving out tiny bribes for everything, including the natives acting out Seinfeld episodes. Also Joe Pesci will say things that sound funny for a nickel. After he laughs Peter throws a coin at the village warriors - "Here's a dime. Kill Pesci."
- Kim Possible
- One episode had Ron try and bribe a judge of a dog show with $5 to sign Rufus in as a Peruvian hairless. It actually works, much to Kim's surprise.
- Another episode had Kim successfully bribe a black market dealer with a chocolate bar. Though in this case, it's implied that the chocolate was a serious Weaksauce Weakness of the dealer, which Kim knew about from prior experience with him.
- The Simpsons:
- Bart Simpson once tried to bribe the officer with a hairdryer, or some other house appliance. The cop showed him his badge: "cash bribes only".
- Inverted in another episode, where Mr. Burns attempted to bribe the head of a media outlet to let him run the place with a huge bag of money, but he refuses, offers him another bag of money, he still refuses, to which a hot woman pops out of the second bag and while starting to actually consider the offer, was still not giving in, and managed to successfully bribe him when the hot woman in question offers him a hot-fudge sundae.
- In another episode, Officer Wiggum actually accepts two dry cleaning coupons as a bribe for an unspecified offense.
- In another episode, Bart and Lisa try to bribe the Blue-Haired Lawyer with 35 cents.
- A foreign currency variant when the family is in Canada, Homer gives the CN Tower guard one US dollar when it's five minutes to closing. "American currency! What time you would like your breakfast, sir?"
- Happened again when Homers gives one U.S. dollar to Tony Blair to leave them alone; he takes the dollar but doesn't leave anyway.
- In a Bait and Switch scenario, Homer and Bart had chloroform with them when they broke into a hotel. When they met a guard, Homer offered him the chloroform as a bribe, which the guard accepted.
- In another one, Homer was trying to find Lisa and decided he needed to look from a high spot. He then bought several balloons, which he used to bribe someone into helping him. It also worked.
- There's a subversion of the Briefcase Full of Money in the South Park episode "Gnomes": a global coffee company executive attempts to buy Tweek's coffee shop with an empty briefcase.
- In Sponge Bob Square Pants, the Flying Dutchman offered some pocket change ("62 cents!") to Mr. Krabs if he sold SpongeBob's soul to him. Mr. Krabs sold SpongeBob's soul for the pocket change. Even Squidward, who absolutely hates SpongeBob, called him out on it. A Beat goes by...and cue Mr. Krabs' Oh, Crap/My God, What Have I Done? face.
- In The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie, SpongeBob attempts to bribe Dennis with "Goober Dollers". He's unimpressed.
- Mr. Krabs once switched places with Plankton, saying he could do a better job at stealing the formula than him, for one dollar.
- In an episode of The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, an Italian crook threatens to drain every canal in Venice dry unless he gets 3 thousand lire. Which is something like 6 American dollars. This is even funnier now that Italy has switched to Euros and lire can't even be used.
- Beavis and Butt-Head tried this when they photocopied a dollar bill in order to buy nachos. When the Quick Stop guy doesn't fall for it, Butthead offers him another obviously copied dollar, and then photocopied coins, until the guy throws them out.
Butthead: "Maybe this will change your mind?"
- In The Oblongs, when it is suggested offhandedly that Bob consider filing a lawsuit after being injured by a Globocide park ride, Globocide's lawyers immediately offer him a "really big check." It is in fact a novelty check worth only $20, which Pickles points out. They simply say, "But look how big it is!"
- Murdoc Niccals of Gorillaz was, as a child, forced to participate in embarrassing talent shows for money by his father. "The prize? £2.50 and the chance to humiliate yourself further in the biannual county finals." To add insult to injury, he apparently never won.
- In an episode of Earthworm Jim, Jim and his gang successfully enter the Hall of the Gods by giving the gatekeeper a $1 bribe.
- In The Weekenders, Carver attempts to bribe a man with "his friend Mr. Washington." When the man points out how stupid attempting to bribe with a dollar is, Carver replies that he was actually offering him a quarter.
- In Hey Arnold!, Arnold's grandmother attempts to bribe someone with, "Maybe a picture of Lincoln will change your mind..." — and shows the guy a small framed portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Arnold steps in and bribes him successfully with an actual $5 bill.
- The Powerpuff Girls: Princess Morebucks bribes the Mayor of Townsville to give her his job. He turns down $1 trillion, then $5 trillion, but accepts a roomful of Turkish Delight candy.
- In Dan Vs. "Art", Dan attempts to get records of failed art school applicants:
Secretary: I'm not giving you our private records.
Dan: Well, maybe this (puts a sandwich on her desk) will change your mind.
Secretary: Are you trying to bribe me...with a sandwich?!
Dan: Come on, aren't you a starving artist? ♪It's a really good sandwich♪.
(Secretary just glares at him)
Dan: Playing hardball, huh? (tosses a bag of chips on the desk) They're ruffled.
- Played with in The Ren & Stimpy Show, Ren and Stimpy were working as bell boys. Stimpy was bribed by a photographer to take a picture of a VIP for five dollars. When Stimpy doesn't take the bribe, the photographer raises the price to one million dollars, but Stimpy still won't fold. Later, he makes the same offer of five dollars to Ren. When Ren hesitates, the photographer begins to offer the million dollars before Ren enthusiastically cuts him off and takes the five dollars.
- In Pinky and the Brain, some male scientists are successfully bribed with women's nightgowns.
- Camp Lazlo: In "The Tusk Wizard", Raj attempts to bribe Nurse Leslie into removing a perfectly healthy tusk by offering him a quarter.
- Time Warp Trio had some fun with this one. A man from the 30s offers The Girls $1 which is actually a lot of money back then. However he unknowingly offers it to a trio of time travelers from 2105 with Ridiculous Future Inflation in play, so they view it this way. There was also The Boys offering Blackbeard a quarter, which he views as a large bribe, before discovering it's effectively useless to him as no tavern will take it. In a straighter example, the number of times Joe offered to do (what is almost always recognized as-and if not quickly discovered to be by someone) a cheap parlor trick in exchange for passage through somewhere in a series that only has 24 episodes is mind boggling.
- An episode of DuckTales contains an inversion: Scrooge and a rival are both trying to obtain a rare mask from a native tribe, and both are offering larger and larger bribes to try to get the chief to give them the mask. Scrooge's nephews, however, figure out that what's valued in this tribe is not money, but "a large belly," so they offer the chief a jar of high-fat, high-calorie peanut butter. The chief gives the mask to Scrooge on the spot.
- Futurama has an episode where Dr. Zoidberg is trying to get the head of a Yeti from Mom, the richest person in the universe.
Mom: It will cost you.
Zoidberg: But I am penniless! All that I have is this coupon for a free tanning!
Mom: (genuinely concerned) Is that really all you have? (Zoidberg nods) Then I'll take it!
- Total Drama Island has an incident where Heather assembles an ad hoc coalition to eliminate the innocent Justin to protect her guilty self after she alienates the other contestants. She recruits Owen by giving him a piece of cake. In a game where $100,000 is at stake.
- Highroller of Hero 108 managed to turn all the animal species against the humans, with a simple offering of candy.
- Recess had this a few times, since the main characters were children and were bribing their fellow students. Aside from one occurrence where Gus didn't bring a permission slip to a carnival and TJ tried to bribe the teacher into letting him come anyway with a quarter.
- Dr. Venture tries this in The Venture Bros., attempting to bribe a Mexican Back-Alley Doctor with a $10 bill to get prescription medicines. See the page quote for the doctor's reply.
- Fosters Homefor Imaginary Friends: Bloo frequently tries to buy others off with pocket change to no effect. Often he'll throw in an extra penny to try and sweeten the deal.
- Danger Mouse: In "The Great Bone Idol," a troop of nomad guards are paid a fortune by Greenback to keep DM and Penfold off his trail in the search for the Idol. Penfold offers them a pound and thirty-seven plus an autographed picture of DM to let them pass. The guards have never heard of him.
- The German satirical magazine Titanic offered a cuckoo clock, sausages and ham to delegates of the FIFA World championship committee to support the German bid to host the 2006 World Cup. A $20 value for arguably the biggest sporting event in the world. Amazingly it worked, as one of the delegates who was supposed to vote for South Africa got very confused and abstained, causing the final vote to be 12-11 in Germany's favor. South Africa did get the World Cup in 2010.
- On November 8, 2009, Chad Ochocinco of the Cincinnati Bengals offered an official $1 during a replay challenge on one of his own catches. Even though he was joking, he got hit with a $20,000 fine.
- This Not Always Right entry has a customer, convinced that the cashier knows when the store will get more Wiis but is trying to keep it secret, try to bribe him with $20 for the info. As the cashier points out, even assuming he did have secret knowledge of the store's shipments, $20 is not worth the punishment he'd get for giving out such a secret.
- People find it amusing when politicians and bureaucrats revealed to have accepted bribes turn out to have accepted what seem to be ridiculously small bribes in exchange for their favour. A few million dollars, people can respect that. A few thousand dollars worth of furniture, on the other hand...
- Though this could be them trying to seem subtle, a truckload of new furniture isn't nearly as suspicious as several thousand-ish dollars suddenly appearing in the bank.
- Roger Ebert's contests on his blog, such his limerick contest and photo caption contest have always given tiny rewards of "a shiny new dime." In the case of the caption contest, it became satirical Serious Business when the winning entry was accused of plagiarism, and the prize given to another, only to find that it wasn't and for the original winner to receive his dime after all.
- His "Outguess Ebert at the Oscars" defy this, as being official contests the prizes can range as high as a private screening to the years' Ebertfest or Pixar film. The most recent prize was the highest, $100,000, a year that Ebert only correctly guessed 15 Oscars out of 24.
- Stephen Merchant's harrowing encounter with a nightclub bouncer certainly counts. It's one thing to flaunt your cash in front of some girls, quite another when that attempt consists of offering 7 quid on a 5 quid entry fee.
- After Terminator Salvation, Joss Whedon offered to buy the Terminator franchise for $10,000. This was apparently not taken seriously, as the rights were up for sale, and ended up not being sold.
- A contestant on Family Fortunes, whose family had not covered themselves in glory, once offered to buy the rights to that episode so it would never be shown — for £100. The producer had to explain to them that this fell somewhat short of covering the show's £38,000 costs.
- The anti-corruption organization 5th Pillar prints zero rupee notes which are intended to shame officials who ask for bribes.
- Bribery often takes the form of items of wealth and taste rather then money because money seems less "classy". One mole in Russia was paid by the CIA with a custom sporting rifle, although in his case he intended to defect for ideological reasons and simply asked for the bribe on the "why not?" argument.
- When a painting was stolen from the Museum of Bad Art, a reward of $6.50 was offered for its safe return. The stakes were later raised to $36.73, but eventually it was returned with no ransom paid.
- The inverted version has happened numerous times in real life, usually either selling something for $1 or working for $1 a year. Although most of these people working on $1 salaries are actually paid in stock options and other perks that would easily be worth millions of dollars (it also serves as a convenient tax dodge, in America, income from stocks are taxed more leniently than salaries).