This is what happens when Finagle's Law, Tempting Fate and the human tendency to spout hyperbole when a simple "never" would suffice all get together and have a drunken party with hilarious results.
When circumstances conspire to incite someone to exclaim that something would happen if and only if something everyone knows is impossible occurs — "when Hell freezes over" (nevermind that according to The Divine Comedy, the final level of Hell is frozen over) and/or "when pigs fly!" — you can bet that by the end of the episode we will see pigs soaring majestically over the landscape or Satan running ski slopes while sipping hot cocoa.
Compare No Man of Woman Born, Ironic Echo Cut, Retroactive Wish. See also Kitchen Sink Included.
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A Canadian lottery commercial references the trope. Two people are in the lunchroom at work. One looks out the window. "Hey, flying pig." And indeed there is a flying, or rather hovering, pig outside the window, along with a "Not possible" caption on the screen. "Hey, I won!" says his coworker, checking his lottery ticket. "Possible" shows on the screen.
There's a Red Bull commercial featuring this. (Boy wants to go to a 'gentlemen's club', told only if pigs fly, cue the pigs.) The Italian (European?) version has the "flying donkey" variant. In the ad, the pigs/donkeys have drunk Red Bull, of course.
GEICO's new ad has a pig using his GEICO mobile app on a plane in preparation for takeoff. The flight attendants say, "I'll believe that when pigs fly," at which point the pig turns to the guy next to him and says, "Did she seriously just say that?" Although if they're preparing for takeoff, pigs haven't flown yet.
There's a Bush's baked beans ad where the talking dog asks the human if he can sell the secret family recipe. The guy replies "sure, when pigs fly". Cut to the dog talking to a pig with improvised wings getting ready for takeoff. "All you have to do is buzz the house once."
Dilbert: During a brief period when Dilbert had a steady girlfriend, Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light barges in:
Phil: Heck just froze over. Dilbert: This is not my fault! Phil: (points over his shoulder to a pair of flying pigs) Tell that to them.
In Zits, Jeremy's dad watches a flock of pigs flying by. He looks surprised until his wife tells him Jeremy cleaned out his bathroom without being threatened.
Garfield: Consciously averted by Garfield: "Don't get me wrong, I love dogs. I'd never hurt a dog. And if I'm lying, may lightning... *pause* ... strike the dog next door." (Crack) "Yip!"
The Star Wars one-shot comic Force Fiction has this trope mixed with Ban... err... "Restaurant" robbery. When Yoda and Mace Windu were, in an interesting case of Role Reversal, debating whether Anakin should be made a Jedi or not at a restaurant, Yoda, while chewing out Windu for even suggesting the idea to let Anakin receive the late Qui Gon Jinn's lightsaber, much less train him as a Jedi, mentions "When Banthas fly, my Jedi friend." One panel later, a "flying bantha" of sorts (a repulsorlift skiff designed in such a way that resembled a bantha) crashes through the window of a restaurant, with the pilots declaring that they are commiting a robbery, demanding that everyone put their credits on the table and raise their hands.
In Dogma Jay propositions Bethany, and she turns him down. So he says, "What if the world was about to end?" and she agrees so he'll shut up. Fast forward all the way to the end of the movie, when Bartleby is close to unmaking reality, and Jay tries to make good on their "deal."
In Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, this trope appears in the backstory. Whitmore reveals to Milo that he and Milo's grandfather Thaddeus had had a bet: If Thaddeus ever found the elusive Shepherd's Journal, Whitmore would not only finance the expedition to find Atlantis, but he'd also kiss him full on the mouth. Whitmore then shows Milo a photograph of himself and Thaddeus, both looking thoroughly squicked out.
Whitmore: Imagine my embarrasment when he found the darn thing.
General Craham Chapman: It's all very well to laugh at the military, but when one considers the meaning of life, it is a struggle between alternative viewpoints of life itself. And without the ability to defend one's own viewpoint against other perhaps more aggressive ideologies, then reasonableness and moderation could, quite simply, disappear! That is why we'll always need an army, and may God strike me down were it to be otherwise. [Is promptly struck by lightning]
In The Wolfman 2010, a psychiatrist lecturing about the strapped-down Lawrence Talbot remarks that his patient can no more transform into a monster than he, the doctor, can sprout wings and fly out of the window. Sure enough, when Talbot transforms and breaks loose, he invokes Destination Defenestration on the shrink.
In Its A Very Merry Muppet Christmas, Miss Bitterman is threatening the Muppet Theater with foreclosure, and says they will raise the money to save it "when pigs fly." In swoops Miss Piggy, still suspended from the cables from the act they had been practicing. After a beat, Bitterman adds, "For the record, I consider that a coincidence, and not a sign from God."
In Bruce Almighty, Bruce-turned-God confronts the hoods who had beat him up the previous day, demanding an apology, to which one replies:
Hood: Okay cool, man, the day a monkey comes out of my butt is the day you'll get your "sorry". Bruce: What a coincidence, because that's today.
This joke about Finland. The end is obsolete now. Another version talking about Russia lasted until 2008, and, finally, Norway worked until 2009. Has Europe run out of northern countries yet?
Actually, the joke works with Northern Canada. Maybe even southern Canada, as long as you're not too close to any of the Great Lakes. Only problem is the crazy hot summers in the southern parts...
Several of the Midwestern states have variants on it. Simply replace "Koskenkorva" with "keg" and "Eurovision" with "Super Bowl" (if you're in Michigan, Minnesota, or Ohio) or "World Series" (Wisconsin).
The current version replaces Eurovision with Football World Cup. We Wait...
In the Diana Wynne Jones book Dark Lord Of Derkholm, an elf makes a sarcastic prophecy that he'll find his brother "when pigs fly". As it happens, the main character is a wizard who breeds flying pigs...
In Piers Anthony 's Incarnations of Immortality series, a minor character says she'll surrender to some pirates "when God kisses Satan and all the Incarnations applaud". Guess what happens at the end?
In the Disney Fairies book "A Snowy Surprise," Vidia claims she'll appreciate other talents "when it snows in Pixie Hollow" (where it's always spring or summer). One day, however, it does snow and all the fairies, including Vidia, enjoy playing in the snow. Rani points out to Vidia that she must appreciate another fairy's talent now, since the snow was all the work of the water fairies.
In Memory Sorrow And Thorn, Miriamele tells Cadrach she will trust him again "when the stars shine at midday!" Of course, during the Storm King's attempt to return to the world at the end, the midday sky appears as the night sky did on the night of his death, and Miriamele trusts Cadrach enough to walk across his invisible magic bridge during his Heroic Sacrifice.
A variant in Chrome Circle, by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, when Shar insists to herself that she had purely practical and impersonal reasons for expending magical energy to Heal Tannim ... and then admits mentally, "And pigs were certainly flying in tight formation over LaGuardia at this very moment."
In By The Sword, teenage aspiring mercenary Kerowyn ruefully thinks that finding life with a man who would love her and let her be herself would be as likely as her horse talking to her. Guess what happens a couple of decades later after her merc unitwent beyond the terms of the contract they accepted from Valdemar and her Shin'a'in Warsteed got killed under her in the middle of a fight....
The protagonist of the Garrett, P.I. series frequently references this expression about his own hyperbole, even though he lives in a fantasy world where winged pigs might hypothetically be possible.
Justified in the Emily Rodda novel Pigs Might Fly. The story is set in a parallel universe where a weather pattern called the Unlikely Events Factor, or UEF Storm, causes all manner of unlikely events, most commonly flying pigs. One occasion, the government foolishly attempted to stop these by tying pigs down, which meant the next UEF Storm was completely unanticipated and impossible to detect until it was over.
Rachel: (looking toward the window) Is that a flying pig? Because that's the only way I would ever go out with you.
At the beginning of The Jungle Book story "Toomai of the Elephants", the title character is told by Petersen Sahib that he may one day go into all elephant stockades "when thou hast seen the elephants dance" — although there is evidence that such events occur, no human has yet witnessed it, thus the statement equates to "never". Sure enough, though, by the end of the story, Little Toomai has seen the dance of the elephants.
Live Action Television
In the fourth season of White Collar, Neal is trying to find out who killed Ellen by searching for the man she told him about, Sam. Mozzie suggests that Neal should ask for Peter's help, because Peter's FBI resources could be useful.
Neal: You realize somewhere pigs are flying right now?
Mozzie: Yes, and that is the sound of hell freezing over.
Saturday Night Live: Around the time of the 2000 US presidential election, there was a "flash forward" skit in which each of the candidates (Bush, Gore, Nader) is giving a speech about the state of the nation under their yet-to-be administration. When it came time for Nader, he droned on for a while, and then stuffed winged pigs started floating past and a couple of earmuff — wearing devils wandered into the shot rubbing their hands and throwing snowballs at each other.
In one Everybody Hates Chris episode, Chris points out that his father's lack of an appetite can only mean one thing. Cue shot of Satan shivering and rubbing his arms.
An episode of Weird, True And Freaky on animals with tattoos included a photo of a piglet with wings inked on its sides.
In the CSI episode "Appendicitement", the BBQ restaurant's kitschy decor includes a plastic pig statue with white feathery wings. The subplot set at the restaurant is, itself, rather tongue-in-cheek, with one implausible event after another.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia recently had a spectacular example where Dennis boldly proclaims that if Charlie becomes King of the World, 'I'll blow myself'. Cue episode title: Charlie Rules the World.
When The Eagles got back together in 1994, they named the tour and the new album "Hell Freezes Over".
Brad Paisley's "Come on Over Tonight" takes this attitude toward falling in love. "Come on over tonight, we'll sit on the swing / Watch the pigs fly by, flapping their brand new wings..."
Pink Floyd's Animalsopens and closes with "Pigs on the Wing." (and the album's cover has an inflatable pig, which was carried over to the band's live performances)
And predictably, whe the band reunited for a one-off gig at Live 8 after decades of open conflict, several banners in the audience proclaimed "PIGS HAVE FLOWN."
The Megas have the song "Hell Has Frozen Over," which features Fire Man and Ice Man teaming up to take on Mega Man even though they had thought such a union could never be. Just to drive it home, the majority of the chorus is the words "Hell has frozen over" over and over again.
Mythology And Religion
Hippogriffs, believe it or not. They were originally a speculation as to what would result from obeying the expression "breed gryphons with horses." Since gryphons ate horses in the myths, the saying "breed gryphons with horses" meant to perform any impossible task. But hippogriffs eventually evolved from a joke creature into their own myth. Love knows no bounds...
At TLC 2011, CM Punk, Zack Ryder, and Daniel Bryan walk out as the WWE Champion, US Champion, and World Heavyweight Champion respectively. Punk and Bryan are Indies wrestliers, which have great difficulty in the WWE and them alone would be enough. Zack Ryder? He was a jobber who worked his way up to this point through sure, home grown Popularity Power he got purely by himself! This is probably the single biggest Cue the Flying Pigs moment in WWE history!CM Punk, being who he is, lampshades this to no end the next night.
Christian, the newly crowned WWE Intercontinental champion, turning up at TNA's Slammiversary Pay Per View to present the number one moment in TNA history, as voted by the fans.
For some, the fact that Bruno Sammartino, who has had a long-standing hatred of Vince McMahon and Pro Wrestling today in general, is finally going into the WWE Hall Of Fame, which he has turned down for years on end, thanks to Triple H in part.
The Magic: The Gathering card Phantom Wings has on its illustration a goat with wings magically added, and the flavor text is: ”But you said ‘when goats fly!’” Squee whined. The card Mighty Leap has a similar joke, except with elephants this time.
Woody: I'll raise the money somehow. Buzz: Money don't grow on trees, you know. (The cliché explodes in his face in a shower of dollar bills which Sharon drops down from the tree.)
In the Sam And Max Freelance Police game episode "What's New, Beelzebub?" Sybil says that they'll be serving ice cream in Hell before she lets Max conduct her wedding. At the end of the game, both these things happen, in that order. Max also gets the Nobel Peace Prize, while Sam lets Max have the phone and seriously considers working harder to lose weight. Oh, and the Shambling Corporate Presence is finally making progress at work.
Duke Nukem Forever: Several years ago, 3D Realms employee George Broussard said that Duke Nukem Forver would be released "when pigs fly." On September 1, 2010, however, his Twitter account linked to this picture◊, and a playable demo of Duke Nukem Forever was on display at Penny Arcade Expo.
Blizzard celebrated the release of a long awaited patch for Diablo 2, with a wallpaper◊ featuring the Chaos Sanctuary frozen over, and Diablo himself leaning over a campfire to keep himself warm.
A conversation in Vagrant Story has a soldier claiming that swine will take wing before soldiers dabble in black magic, and his friend retorting that with a Grimoire's power, a sow could outfly a falcon. It later turns out that the Cardinal, as well several soldiers under his employ, are proficient in the Dark Arts.
In this Sluggy Freelance strip, Satan has stoked the fires of Hell to the point where they would sear the flesh from a demon queen's bones... and suddenly it's snowing. The Red Sox won the World Series!
In The Order of the Stick book Snip, Snails, and Dragon Tails, 4e Haley explains to 4e Elan, that she used her Knockout on 3e Durkon by stabbing him in the foot. She had "used the power of abandoned verisimiltude" — and she and Elan are surrounded by flying pigs.
We see hell freeze over before it cuts to a half naked nerd dance around singing "I got laid! I got laid!" with a hot girl in the background saying that she thinks Nerds Are Sexy.
A small girl asks her mother if her curfew can be midnight. Her mother replies "only when pigs fly". The daughter then launches her pet pig out of a catapult to get her mother to change her curfew.
Sheep in the Big City: There's a crazy example in the first season finale, where the narrator is being carried away to fuel the narrator-powered ray gun, he begs to himself that it's all just a dream, then the flying pig appears and says it's real, or else he won't have wings. Cue Big "NO!".
In The Simpsons episode "Lisa the Vegetarian", after an actual roast pig is already flying through the air for perfectly good reasons, we randomly cut to a completely unrelated scene where Burns is telling Smithers that he'll donate an enormous amount of money to charity when pigs fly, and they both have a good laugh...which fades as they look out the window.
Smithers: Will you be donating that money now, sir?
Burns: No, I'd still rather not.
Subverted in the episode Monty Can't Buy Me Love, where Mr. Burns and Smithers enter a book store:
Burns: Books and cocoa in the same store? What's next, a talking banana?
Played with in Looney Tunes short "Crowing Pains", where Foghorn Leghorn gets halfway through the phrase when an ominous rumble of thunder and a lightning bolt appearing behind him forces him to reconsider.
Another short, "Fool Coverage," ends with one big parade of the trope. Daffy is trying to convince Porky to buy insurance. In the process, Daffy runs into mishap after mishap, and this convinces Porky to sign. He then says all he needs to get a million dollars is to get a black eye. Daffy then notes that the policy has a list of impossible conditions (no pigs, but there is a stampede of wild elephants). Cue Daffy's chagrin when every single one of the conditions occur...including the one he made up on the spot (one baby zebra).
I'm every bit as cool as Larry, and if I'm not, may I be struck by... (thunder) ...a flying ice-cream truck. (Shadow of Impending Doom, accompanied by Bomb Whistle and ice-cream truck chimes) AND LIVE!
South Park: Subverted when Cartman is not hit by lightning when he says he has never done anything just for the money, although Butters does moves out of the way.
Kyle's parents will only allow him to go to a concert when he cleans out the garage, shovels the driveway, and brings democracy to Cuba. His parents explain that he wasn't actually supposed to accomplish the last one but he expressed more concern about shoveling the whole driveway.
The Boondocks: Huey, after a number of odd schemes, fails to prevent the execution of an obviously innocent man on death row. Uncle Rukus, struck by lighting in the beginning of the episode, claims to have spoken to God and creates an televangelical craze by claiming that hatred of black people, including self-hatred, can get one to heaven. As Rukus makes the standard 'may i be struck by the Lord himself' a lighting bolt strikes the microphone in his hand. The electrical blast causes a blackout moments before the electric chair for the execution is activated. This is followed by the Governor finally calling to stay the execution.
When Family Guy was Uncanceled, their very first scene back was Peter breaking the news to the family that their show had been axed by Fox. When asked why, he explains that Fox needs to make room for their hot new shows such as Firefly, Dark Angel, and about three dozen other programs which had come and gone in the period that Family Guy was on hiatus. When Lois asks if there's any hope, Peter replies sarcastically that they might have a shot if all those other shows get dropped. Roll opening credits.
A running gag in the first season of American Dad has Hayley telling Stan that he can do some crazy thing 'when pigs fly'. He then calls a CIA lab and tells them to keep working on the flying pig experiment.
In one episode, Stan called the CIA and they told him that it's almost complete and it shows a pig with only one wing.
On Johnny Bravo, when Susie says Farrah Fawcet is her cousin, Johnny notes "Yeah, and pigs fly." Then he looks up in the sky...
On Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Lucius tells the story of how he won his bowling trophy, it involves him telling his father if he makes the strike, he gets to freeze him. Lucius VI agrees, muttering "And pigs will fly." Of course, Lucius makes it. Flash forward to the present where he's frozen, and his son is holding a flying pig on a leash, saying "He was always making crazy bets."
Possible reference to this trope in Avatar The Last Airbender. Toph's family crest is the Flying Boar, which is, well, a boar with wings. A vision of such a creature is part of what leads Aang to her, and it may be a reference to how unlikely it would seem for a 12-year-old blind girl to be such a master bender.
The gist of the joke though is that he makes several otherwise scientific postulates, such that a soul has a certain amount of energy, and since every religion says that if you don't believe in that religion you're going to hell i.e. everyone is going to hell, the question becomes whether hell is expanding faster than there are souls going into it (hell freezes over) or it is expanding slower than the rate of souls going into it (all hell breaks loose). Then he discards those for the punch line.
A spoof news story from 2002: "Pigs flew over the frozen landscape of Hell yesterday as amazon.com reported its first ever profit."
Before Eurovision Song Contest 2006, after Finnish metal band was announced, it was said that "Hell will freeze over before Finland wins". Finland got 292 points, at that time highest.
Perhaps ironically, the Finnish band was Lordi, which was almost not admitted due to accusations of Satanism. Definitely ironically, the song with which they won was "Hard Rock Hallelujah," which the band's "face", Mr. Lordi, used as proof that they're not Satanic.
According to a pre-2006 Russian joke: ‘At -10 degrees Celsius, heating is switched on in British homes, while Finns change into a long-sleeved shirt. At -20, Austrians fly to Málaga, while Finns celebrate midsummer. At -200, hell freezes over and Finland wins the Eurovision Song Contest. At -273 absolute zero temperature is reached, all atom movement ceases. The Finns shrug and say: “Perkele, a bit chilly today, isn't it?”’
Appropriate headlines were done when Apple switched to Intel processors.
James Randi presents Pigasus Awards (Pig + Pegasus) each year for paranormal fraud in several categories.
Hunter S. Thompson and the Battle of Aspen. Thompson ran for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, of which Aspen is the county seat. Folks said that the long-haired hippie-types who formed the "Freak Power" movement to elect Thompson would win when pigs flew, or some such. Thompson shaved his (already balding) head, and began referring to the crew-cut Republican candidate as "my long-haired opponent."
The New Orleans Saints for the most part were one of the worst NFL teams; some exclaiming that "Pigs Would Fly" if the Saints went to the Super Bowl. Recently though, the Saints' fortunes have changed for the better and in 2010, the Saints finally got the right to play in the Super Bowl, which Saints announcer Jim Henderson then exclaimed: "Pigs have flown! Hell has frozen over! The Saints are on their way to the Super Bowl!"It Gets Better...making sure that "Pigs Were Flying" in New Orleans, the Saints would go on to win the Super Bowl.
A popular radio sportscaster in New Orleans once said that if the Saints ever made it to the Super Bowl he would wear a dress. He died before he got the opportunity, so former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert led a drag parade in memory of this trope. It managed to be allthreetypes of Crowning Moment at once.
An Italian soccer team has embraced a variation of this trope, but with donkeys instead of pigs. Verona hosts two soccer teams: Hellas Verona and Chievo Verona. In the past decades, the first team used to play in Serie A, while the second used to play in Serie B. Supporters of Hellas Verona even made a rhyme about this: Quando i mussi i volerà / faremo il derby in serie A / e sarà sempre così / Verona in A e Chievo in B. Translated into English: When donkeys fly / we'll have a derby in Serie A / and it will always be like this / Verona in A and Chievo in B. Cue 2001, when Chievo was promoted to Serie A and went on to actually play two derbies against Verona. At this point, Chievo itself embraced the trope, inserting the picture of a flying donkey in the team's website and getting the nickname "i mussi che vola" (="the flying donkeys"). For added irony, as of 2011 Chievo is still playing in Serie A, while Hellas Verona is relegated to Lega Pro Seconda Divisione, three leagues behind Chievo.
As almost everyone knows by now, there is a town in Michigan called Hell. Being in Michigan, it has been known to freeze from time to time. There's one in Norway as well.
The one in Michigan has begun to realize this, and has begun to market themselves (sigh) to Hell and back. When Caroline Rhea had her own talk show, she asked one of the town citizens if she had seen her ex-boyfriend (whom she had told to go to hell previously.) The woman said that he had enrolled in their local university, Damn U. They also sell souvenirs (Hell in a Hand Basket) and toys (Bat out of Hell) and even have an Ice Cream Parlor.
There's an urban legend that when Neil Armstrong was a boy, he overheard his next door neighbors arguing loudly. The wife shouted at her husband, "I'll give you oral sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!"
I wonder what she was doing when that actually happened?
Johnny Carson told America in his monolog that NBC had given him a raise. "It was in my contract that I'd get a raise when people walked on the moon."
In Australian Rules Football, the Sydney Swans had a long losing streak in 1992-3, which ended when they beat the Melbourne Demons. The next day, a newspaper cartoon featured two demons standing in a frozen-over hell, with one saying, "Looks like the Swans finally won a game."
During World War II, Brazil was in a bit of a bind—traditionally aligned with the Allies and heavily dependent on American trade, the regime at the time was authoritarian with Fascist sympathies, and as a result tried to remain neutral. As a result, the dictator Vargas said that Brazil would enter the war "when snakes smoke" (at the time a Brazilian Portuguese expression for "when pigs fly"). When Brazil actually did join the war in 1943, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force was nicknamed the Cobras Fumantes—the "Smoking Snakes". Their insignia was even a snake smoking a pipe◊. Ever since , "a cobra vai fumar!" ("snakes will smoke!") has meant "it will definitely happen, and it will be huge!" in Brazilian Portuguese.
A recent joke: In the 1970's, people said America would have a black president when pigs fly. In 2008, they elected Barack Obama, and sure enough, swine flu.
It is said that before he became Emperor, Caligula met with a fortune-teller, who told him 'you are as likely to rule the Roman Empire as you are to ride across the bay of Naples without getting your horse wet.' When he did become emperor, he commandeered all the boats in Naples, lined them up from one side of the bay to the other, and rode his horse across them, just to spite the fortune teller.