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Cue Card Pause
A gag in which a character is reading something aloud, and accidentally cuts himself.

(Beat.)

Off in the middle of a sentence by stopping too early. The truncated sentence is still grammatical, so it sounds like he's saying something complete.

...ly different from what he meant, and it takes a moment for the audience and the other characters to catch up with the new information and parse the sentence correctly. This usually results from trying to read from cue cards, note cards or a screen that doesn't scroll quickly enough. A similar catch-up effect can occur if an unprepared character encounters a garden path sentence or a crash blossom headline. Sometimes a part of Bad Bad Acting.

Compare Bait-and-Switch Comment and Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 

  • A television ad for Bet 24 (an online gambling service) features gaffe-prone sportsman Mark Wary (previously seen on comedy programs The Wedge and Mark Loves Sharon) saying that he is going to "get online to score... some great odds".
  • A radio ad had a man typing a letter on a typewriter, with a well-timed pause coming at the end (ding! zip!) of every line. "Sincerely, your Son" (ding! zip!) ...-in-Law".
  • A 1970s British deodorant ad starring Peter Wyngarde (of Department S and Jason King).
    Narrator: Peter Wyngarde smells...
    Wyngarde gives a sour look to camera.
    Narrator: (Laughs) ...great!
  • A commercial involves a guy driving around town in a nice-looking car with the GPS telling him where to go. Finally, the GPS says to turn right. The guy does... and drives into a store, followed by the GPS continuing "in 50 feet". Note: this is why all navigators say the distance first.

    Card Games 
  • A version of this trope caused confusion for Magic: The Gathering players with the card Book Burning. The first line reads "Unless a player has Book Burning", which could be a sentence in itself, leading some players to insert a nonexistent comma between that and the other half of the clause "deal 6 damage to him or her,". This made some people believe the card damaged a player and did the other clause (put the top 6 cards of their deck into their graveyard) unless they could produce a copy of Book Burning, instead of its actual effect of "milling" 6 unless someone takes 6 damage. The official wording changed quickly, but since that version of the card is the only one that was ever printed...

    Film 
  • In The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, Leo/Flynn reads out part of the backstory from a note passed to him by the GM.
    Flynn:But Jack was too clever. He led the sea king inland, stretching out the waves, which sucked!
    (Turns over page)
    Flynn:...OUT the sea kings power, as there was not enough water to drown Jack.

    Jokes 

  • I did your mom... a favor... by making you... a birthday cake.
  • So come down to our store at the mall, where you can see our lovely models in heat — (pause, turn page) — resistant clothing which will keep you cool all summer!
  • In a country occupied by the British, some protestors are carrying a long banner which reads "We are fed up with Britain!". Coming to a street which is too narrow to fit the banner through, they tear it in half and divide into two groups. They are now carrying two banners: "We are fed" and "Up with Britain!"

     Live Action TV  

  • Gameshows love this for Padding, especially ones like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? where the final results are delayed as long as possible for suspense. Classic version goes something like this: "Oh I'm sorry... but that is... ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!"
  • Frequently on Quantum Leap, with Al reading data off the tiny handlink screen. For example, in "M.I.A.":
    Al: You graduated from UCST in '65 with a BA in Criminal. (Smacks the handlink.) Justice.
  • Saturday Night Live Recurring Character Tim Calhoun, a senator who runs for president. He's got his speeches on index cards but for some reason only part of a sentence is on a given card. For example (during the Mark Foley Sex Scandal, where Foley had sent sexually explicit text messages to underage congressional pages):
    I have touched many pages in my life...because I am a voracious reader...of child pornography...studies. Illustrated studies.
  • In the Mash episode "The Army-Navy Game", during a Wire Dilemma:
    Henry: (reading instructions) And carefully cut the wires leading to the clockwork fuse at the head.
    Trapper cuts the wires
    Henry: But first, remove the fuse.
  • Used in an episode of Blackadder Goes Forth. George is Blackadder's defense lawyer in a Kangaroo Court:
    George: ... and I firmly believe that, like me, you will conclude that Captain Blackadder is, in fact, totally and utterly... guilty!
    [He sits. Blackadder turns over the page. George jumps up again.]
    George: ... of nothing more than trying to do his duty under difficult circumstances!
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Fear Itself", our heroine is told that there are two ways to banish a fear demon.
    Giles: Destroying the Mark of Gachnar...
    (punch! break!)
    (Giles flips the page.)
    Giles: ...is not one of them, and will in fact immediately bring forth the Fear Demon itself.
    • Monster appears: "Buffy it is time for you to pay ... your student loans." (Season 9)
  • In a Just Shoot Me! episode, Finch is reading to Jack the instructions for assembling a dollhouse.
    Finch: First, cut the cardboard in half...
    Jack: Aha! (He snips the piece of cardboard.)
    Finch: (turns instructions over) ...diagonally.
  • Believe it or not, Groucho Marx was a live-action inversion, in that he did use cue cards for his quips during You Bet Your Life. Based on info about his guests, Groucho would run through various scenarios in order to get an idea of what would probably come up on the program; he then wrote down his best responses on cards, to then be read on the air as needed. That he could pull this off as completely natural is part of his brilliance.
  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Ted's Girl of the Week has a habit of pausing to take a sip of her drink at the most inappropriate point in a sentence. By the second or third time, it's hard to believe she's not doing it on purpose just to mess with him.
    Royce: My Dad used to make multigrain pancakes. He's the one who got me working in porn sip. You know, PORN? Parents Offering Recognition and Nutrition? It's a charity for inner-city teens who don't have access to sports or healthy food. sighs, chuckles That reminds me, I killed my brother, sip with this joke I told him last night. A barber, a stripper and a Jew sip liard-trained violinist walk into a bar."
    Each time she pauses, a big labelled suitcase appears behind her in Ted's imagination, representing her "baggage", disappearing after she finishes the sentence. The third time the label reads "Ted, wait for her to finish."
    • In another episode, Marshall tries stand-up comedy, and Ted and Barney lie to him about how good he was:
    Barney: You killed! (Marshall walks away) ... Everyone's Thursday night.
  • 30 Rock: Liz Lemon has a outlook on life, and has turned to "Lizbeanism":
    Liz: Lizbeanism means that I am a dike... against the rising waters of mediocrity.
  • Rita Moreno complained about this trope while on The Muppet Show, and insisted that they just wing it. Kermit had no problem with the idea, but noted that the cue-card boy might complain;
    Sweetums: Nice lady don't want Sweetums to hold cue cards?
    Rita: Uh, no.
    Sweetums: Nice lady want Sweetums to hold somethin' else?
    Rita: Sure, you can hold whatever you like.
    Sweetums: Ha ha! That best offer me had all day! (Carries Rita off)
  • The Daily Show 5/9/2012, in response to President Obama publicly supporting same-sex marriage, Jon Stewart announces, "There you have it, the President of the United States is gay... (flips the page over) ...friendly, gay-friendly. Damn you, ellipses!"
  • Drake & Josh: Drake bets that he can go a set amount of time without any junk food, and Josh bets the same, but with video games. Megan throws together a contract. Whoever caves must die ... (*turns page*) his hair pink.
  • Arrested Development has the Bluths repeatedly saddled with a doctor who always does this, like saying someone is going to be all right...because their left hand is gone. The third time he appears, Lucille mutters "Oh great, it's the wordsmith."
  • In a Babylon 5 episode, the Centauri Emperor announces his plans for a peace treaty with the Narns, just after his ambassador Londo Mollari has made a deal with the Shadows to attack a Narn outpost. When Londo sees Narn ambassador G'Kar approaching he naturally fears the worst, especially when G'Kar says "Mollari! I'm going to get you..." And then G'Kar finishes the sentence: "...a drink!", revealing that he hasn't learned of the attack yet. Of course, this doesn't exactly make Londo feel any better about the situation.
  • Done in Hogan's Heroes when the POWs have a problem with an escape plan, and they use Klink's Incredibly Obvious Bug to get him to do something. One of them has made scripts, and the page turn causes some problems. (From memory):
    Carter: Boy, I can't wait to get back home for some good old apple. (Beat, rustling of papers) Pie. (Cue dirty looks at the person who wrote it)
  • On Spin City:
    Mayor: Good afternoon, all. I want to start out with a personal outrage that has been going on too long. Public access... pornography.
    Mike: (to James, the Mayor's speechwriter) You want to work on where you break those cards.
    Mayor: I just want to make sure that material with graphic sexual content is available and seen... only by those people who specifically want to see it.
    Mike: (to James) Ok, you did that one on purpose.
  • The first Cybermen, as seen in the Doctor Who story "The Tenth Planet," invoked this with their unnatural, computer-like parodies of human speech. In practice, this caused a lot of headaches for the actors, who would mistake one of those brief pauses for the end of the Cyberman's line and begin their own lines...and then the Cyberman would finally finish his line! Which is probably what would happen if you yourself met something that sounded like that.

    Music 

  • Often used by Les Luthiers, especially when Rabinovich tries to read an introduction to a musical piece.
  • "Rose" by Geoff Smith.
    Tell your mom I said hello.
    Tell her I'm sorry that I ever let you go [beat]
    Far from the life you knew.
  • One Capitol Steps sketch (paraphrasing), had Boris Yeltsin's aide apologize that Yeltsin couldn't talk, because he was dead... tired after his trip to the US. He apologized, because he was dying... to meet everyone, but he was in bed with a minor... condition.
  • Musical variation: starting to play a well-known phrase of music (dun dun dun...) and then turning the page to get the rest of it (''DUUUUUUUNNN!'). Igudesman & Joo do it here, and Victor Borge displays a variant here.
  • The classic version from Lit: "You make me come... you make me complete... you make me completely miserable."
  • Tim Cavanaugh, "I Wanna Kiss Her", gets this by way of a line break.
    I wanna kiss her but
    She won't let me
    • This is actually the entire point of the song. Another example: "I want to hold her behind / Closed doors and more"
  • Subtle one in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Your Horoscope For Today": "Try to avoid any Virgos or Leos/(beat)/With the Ebola virus"
  • Aerosmith's "Big Ten Inch Record" where Steven Tyler sings about his girlfriend liking his "big ten-inch (pause) record".
  • "How's your whole ... family".
  • A very early version of this is Benny Bell's 1946 hit "Shaving Cream" which features lines like "I have a sad story to tell you/It may hurt your feelings a bit/Last night when I walked into my bathroom/I stepped in a big pile of ...shhhhh . . . aving cream."

    Radio 

  • A favourite gag on the very self-deprecating show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. Thus (note - Barry Cryer is a regular panellist):
    Humphrey Lyttelton: Celebrities from Leeds include Alan Bennett and Barry Cryer. (beat) Something wrong there...oh, hang on—celebrities from Leeds include Alan Bennett, and Barry Cryer used to know his milkman.
    • Similarly:
    Humph: That went awfully well. Lets get on with the next round. ...I'm sorry, I misread that... "That went awfully. Well, let's get on with the next round."

    Theatre 

  • In RALPH ROISTER DOISTER, Roister does not understand why Constance was so offended by his love letter.... until Merrygreek reads it out loud with more normal rhythms instead of Roister's awkward prosody.
  • In The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), as Adam reads his biography of Shakespeare from notecards:
    Adam: The third of eight children, he was the eldest son of John Shakespeare, a locally prominent merchant, and Mary Arden, daughter of a Roman. [He pauses, flips to the next card. With no comprehension of what he's reading.] Catholic member of the landed gentry.
  • In A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Prologue to the Mechanicals' Play Within a Play "Pyramus and Thisbe" is perfectly sound if read with the proper punctuation, but Shakespeare mispunctuated it, on purpose.
    If we offend, it is with our good will.
    That you should think, we come not to offend,
    But with good will. To show our simple skill,
    That is the true beginning of our end.
    Consider then, we come but in despite.
    We do not come, as minding to content you,
    Our true intent is. All for your delight
    We are not here. That you should here repent you,
    The actors are at hand: and, by their show,
    You shall know all that you are like to know,'
  • Quoth the vampires in Tanz der Vampire:
    What a relief, at last we're given something new and delightful to kill...
    Our time.
  • Michael Green's coarse acting play of Moby-Dick, when the old sea dog says there's nothing like the smell of sperm (remembers the rest of the line as everyone gapes) Oil! Sperm oil!

     Video Games  

  • The infamous first boss of Final Fantasy VII— Barret tells you, "Attack while its tail is up!/It'll counterattack with its laser!". By the time you see the second line and understand that this was meant as a warning, it may be too late.
  • In Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal, during one of your rival's speeches we have this little gem:
    Rival: I... I AM A MONSTER
    (next page)
    Rival: COACH.

     Web Original  

  • Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog has this priceless gem:
    Captain Hammer: I hate the homeless. *flips cue card* ...ness problem that plagues our city...
  • From this article
    the code between us and
    Tammie Burns needs to be beaten into submission.
  • Several internet memes use a format with separate blocks of text at the top and bottom of an image, so a few using this format utilize this sort of gag:
    THEY WILL NEVER FIND YOUR BODY ... AS ATTRACTIVE AS I DO.
    I didn't finish high school ... I enrolled at Harvard when I was sixteen.
    • Same thing with the Ordinary Muslim Man meme, with lines like "72 virgins... went to a Star Trek convention" and "America will burn... through their oil reserves if they don't migrate to a renewable source."
    • Inverted with "Almost-PC Redneck".
    It don't matter if yer yellow, black, brown, orange ... or normal.
  • Pikachu does this in the redub of the first episode of Pokémon The 'Bridged Series to demonstrate that he won't be doing any Pokémon Speak.
    Pikachu!
    ...is my name.

     Western Animation  

  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Krusty is doing a Halloween special, dressed as a vampire...
    Krusty: Tonight I'm going to suck!
    [next card]
    Krusty: ... your blood!
    • Another episode, Sideshow Bob is out on parole and mailing Bart death threats. As Bart becomes increasingly paranoid, he runs into his mom, Flanders and Mrs. Krabappel:
      Marge: [menacingly, with large scissors] Bart... I'm going to GET you...[brightly, clipping coupons]...some ice cream at the store since I'm saving so much money on Diet Cola.
      Ned Flanders: [menacingly, wearing a Freddy Krueger razor glove] Say your prayers, Simpson...[brightly]...because the schools can't force you like they should. Maude, these new finger razors make hedge trimming as much fun as sitting through church.
      Mrs. Krabappel: [menacingly] You're going to be my murder victim, Bart...[brightly]...in our school production of Lizzy Borden, starring Martin Prince as Lizzy.
      • And yet another:
        Kent Brockman: Our top story tonight, a tremendous EXPLOSION... in the price of lumber. President Reagan DIES... his hair, plus Garry Trudeau and his new musical comedy revue.
  • This was done on The Huckleberry Hound Show, in either "Lion-Hearted Huck" or "Somebody's Lion".
  • In Family Guy, this is Dr. Hartman's entire schtick:
    Dr. Hartman: Mrs. Griffin, I'm afraid Peter will never walk again...
    GASP!
    Dr. Hartman: ...without remembering how lucky he is that he'll only be in a wheelchair for two weeks.
    • It also frequently appears in courtroom scenes:
    Prosecutor: In short, Mr. Griffin...you've inspired me...to mistrust all mentally handicapped people!
    Judge: Thank you, counsel, for your comically misleading remarks.
  • A Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Hare-less Wolf", has a scene where a dim-witted wolf attempts to employ a hand-grenade against Bugs and reads the instructions.
    "Check that pin; see that is on the index finger of your right hand. If so, discard the pin. You are now ready to throw the grenade. Over...
    (turns instruction sheet over)
    Warning; it is important to remember that...you...have...only...ten...seconds...to perform...this operation..." (BOOM)
  • Used and immediately lampshaded in the Gravity Falls episode "Boss Mabel":
    Dipper: (reading from his Great Big Book of Everything) Got it! "When fighting a Gremloblin use water..."
    (Mabel throws water on the Gremloblin)
    Dipper: "... only as a last resort as water will make him much much scarier"?! Who writes sentences like that?!

     Real Life  

  • Happens a lot in Real Life with those LED signs in front of restaurants and churches that page through input. Examples:
    • A church sign in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has gained some notoriety for reading "You don't have to/Go it alone!" It pages slowly enough that a passing car could only see the second page ("We give up, you're on your own!")
    • A sports bar (also GR) advertises live acts which occasionally read along the lines of, "Next Thursday: Tim (whose last name is on next page with the band name)."
    • This video, in which a malfunctioning police sign tells motorists, "DRINK AND DRIVE"
    • Similarly, Ohio drivers' licenses have "DONT DRINK AND DRIVE" in a repeating holographic pattern; the "DONT" is often cut off the top of the card.
      • Without any malfunctioning required, the original pausing version can also be seen in at least one sign on the main island of Hawaii, informing motorists: "You Drink / You Drive / You Lose". If you're speeding past it at the speed limit, you might only see that it encourages you to drive after drinking, or for that matter, describing the rules to a generic Drinking Game ("You Lose - You Drink").
    • There is an urban legend about a school which handed out pencils marked with the message "It's Not Cool To Do Drugs" to its students. Unfortunately, sharpening the pencil changed the message to "Cool To Do Drugs". And soon enough it was a bit more to the point, reading "Do Drugs".
      • Probably apocryphal, since printing on pencils normally starts at the blunt end.
  • Sometimes an Invoked Trope for attention-getting news headlines, such as a radio newscaster announcing that war has been declared... on grasshoppers in an agriculture-heavy state.
  • Sentences that can be punctuated differently to mean multiple things are sometimes used in classes and essays on grammar. One is the seemingly illogical "Charles the First walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off." The proper version is "Charles the First walked and talked. Half an hour after, his head was cut off."
  • Somewhat related to this is grammatical punctuation making some sentences when punctuated or unpunctuated differently leads to entirely different meanings.
    A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons. "Why?" asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. "Well, I'm a panda," he says. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves'."


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