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Sorry, Joe, I just had one of my Scrubs
Quagmire: It's the best show you're not watching!
Cleveland: I hate shows that cut away from the story for some bull crap.
Also known as a Cutaway Joke or, thanks to South Park
, a Manatee Gag, a Cutaway Gag is a joke generally found in sillier comedies in which a character says something and the action immediately cuts to a throwaway joke related to what the character said. The Cutaway Gag is usually a non sequitur which has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the comedy. It is just there to be funny.
And if the gag is
funny, no one minds the non sequitur. Of course, if it isn't...
A staple of the Gag Series
, or those using Rapid-Fire Comedy
(after all, it's easy to have lots of jokes if you don't need them to make sense).
Compare Big Lipped Alligator Moment
, Imagine Spot
, Crazy Memory
, Product Promotion Parade
(which this can overlap with), Separate Scene Storytelling
. Also an Aversion to the Noodle Incident
, especially when they briefly start off with a bit of dialogue that would imply such a trope.
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doesn't go an episode without several cutaway gags being thrown in (and yes, the writers liked the South Park
episode enough that they started using the nickname
). Most are only a second and a half long, and often take the format "This is worse than the time that..", allowing virtually anything to be slotted in anywhere. The show is widely acknowledged to be the most egregious
example of this trope.
- An example, from "One If By Clam, Two If By Sea":
Lois: Nigel's charming. All British men are!
- In 2010 they did produce a few episodes with no cutaway gags, basically to prove that they could. Two have been broadcast as of now. One of them, "Brian & Stewie", featured Brian and Stewie locked in a bank vault. It was a normal episode that was pretty well done. The other was an extended Very Special Episode.
- Sometimes the gag is subverted:
They'll come after you like Peter went after that hockey coach. [beat
] Oh, no clip
? Oh, thought we had a clip. Nope? Okay."
- In "Believe It or Not, Joe Is Walking on Air", Peter compares a situation to giving a monkey the keys to an amusement park. However, no clip follows, and Lois asks what it has to do with anything.
- In "Spies Reminiscent of Us", Stewie is knocked out, and he can't set up the cutaway properly. This leads to him standing in an empty white room. Then, famous athlete Wilma Rudolph runs by. Stewie comments: "Obviously, she had something to do with the gag, but I didn't hear the setup, so I don't really know the context." Later in the same episode, the cast meets Vladimir Putin, who shows them a Russian Cutaway Gag, which consists of a poorly animated yellow porcupine yelling in Russian until a loaf of bread lands nearby, at which point it starts laughing.
- In the episode "Back to the Woods", James Woods steals Peter's identity and when he tries to get back with his family, James threatens him with activating a cutaway gag if he doesn't leave. Peter leaves in fear while Brian doesn't understand why he's so scared.
- The quote at the top of the page gets a Call Back later in the episode:
: Guys, we have to re-cripple Joe. It's the right thing to do, just like taking out Hitler
(Cut to Hitler juggling on the unicycle again. Peter walks up to him and kicks the unicycle out from under him, then punches him out.)
- Yet another spoof comes in one episode where Peter says "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!" The scene changes to show Peter in bed with a lipstick-wearing horse; he glances at the camera and mutters "Um, I misspoke."
- One episode even had a Cutaway Gag within a Cutaway Gag.
- In the episode "Back to the Pilot", Stewie and Brian time-travel back to the pilot episode; rather than reuse the pilot's Cutaway Gags, it shows that during the gags, the characters just freeze in place and wait for them to finish. And then there's a Cutaway Gag showing that the "modern" characters now take time to smoke/text/do their makeup/etc during their gags. Later in the same episode, a Bad Future version of Peter says, "Here's a cutaway" which is just him on a white background saying, "Matthew Mc Cahoney is terrible".
- The 2011 Thanksgiving special involved Kevin Swanson returning home and admitting he went AWOL from the army. Peter refers to him as a "regular Benedict Arnold Drummond". Cut to the producers hopelessly confused and looking for a tape of Gary Coleman in a Napoleon hat. After giving up, they just put in one of the Cowardly Lion as Lindsay Lohan's OB/GYN.
- They even have Cutaway Gags poking fun at Cutaway Gags. In one episode, there's a cutaway about the time Quagmire thought he was getting his own show (instead of Cleveland):
Quagmire: "See you later, bitches. Have fun with your stupid, goddamn Giant Chicken jokes and your Conway Twitty... Hey, why is there a moving truck outside Cleveland's house?"
- The episode where pot is legalized in Quahog leaves Peter too baked to set up a cutaway. He stumbles through the setup, then gives up and instead resigns himself to throwing a scrolling list of celebrities he dislikes up on the screen.
- In another episode, Peter "she's betrayed me worse than Lady Macbeth betrayed Duncan." We then cut to a spaceship, where Lady Macbeth is fighting a bear. Cut back to Peter admitting "I don't know Shakespeare very well."
- In another episode, Peter introduces one involving Michael J. Fox, but then it cuts to him standing in front of a white background. He describes the entire flashback to the audience, explaining that the execs decided it was too low a blow...but then they decide to roll it after all, and they use the cutaway normally.
- In another episode, Peter says an intro to the cutaway, then cutting to Peter explaining to the audience that to enhance their reading abilities, he'll simply show a typed transcript of said cutaway. Unfortunately for the audience it was a visual gag.
- "Yug Ylimaf" has a reverse cutaway, where Brian says "This is more intense than when I fought a rabbit in that karate tournament" after we see said event.
- This actually becomes a plot point in "Finders Keepers". When Peter and Lois try to look for treasure in the Drunken Clam, they see it is closed, so Peter makes a cutaway setup to transport them inside.
- During early episode "I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar", a gag references something that literally just happened:
Peter: A boat's a boat, but the mystery box could be anything! It could even be a boat! You know how much we've wanted one of those!
Lois: Then lets just—
Peter: We'll take the box!
[Cut to next scene]
Lois: (sarcastic) "We'll take the box!" You gave up a boat for free tickets to a crappy comedy club.
Peter: C'mon Lois, you're acting like this is the first time I've ever done something stupid. You remember that time I was supposed to get that boat?
[Entire punchline plays out again]
Lois: Peter, that just happened ten minutes ago.
- A cutaway in "Life of Brian" that shows Stewie going forward in time to get a Christmas toy early actually provides foreshadowing to the events of "Christmas Guy".
- Could switching to GEICO really save you 15% or more on car insurance? Does Cromartie High School feature strumming guitars in the mountains?
- Parodied by The Annoying Orange.
- Inverted by a later campaign, called "Get Happy, Get GEICO", where the gag scene sets up the description as the punchline.
- Played straight in their newest campaign. "Huh, switching to Geico can save you 15% or more on car insurance." "Everyone knows that." "Well, did you know that [insert cutaway setup here]?"
- The General Auto Insurance television commercials has a character who is a "General" for obvious reasons. Not so obvious is the reason for the penguin sidekick.
- DirecTV has a a few of these for the DirecTV Genie. Whether its about how bad cable is to ___ or how awesome having DirecTV is.
- Ford Motor Company's "And is Better" campaign of 2013. For example:
- Voice activated and great gas mileage are two good things in the 2013 Ford Focus. Better than voice activated or great gas mileage, which is like sweet OR sour chicken....[cuts to the couple making disgusted faces as they eat sour chicken at a Chinese restaurant]
- Where the "or" is like going to a bed OR breakfast....[cuts to them on the stairs at an inn, where everyone is passed out at the breakfast table in the kitchen]
- Large OR in charge....[cuts to a Lilliputian chief executive standing on a desk in a meeting and demanding things be done his way]
- Police who protect OR serve [cuts to police raiding a house being burglarized, but then, while still shouting orders, offer the burglars delicious sea bass]
- Lampshaded by one of the spots; right after the gag scene, one of the couple comments, "That was weird".
- This Delta Airlines safety video that showed up around the Christmas holiday season of 2013 ran on these:
- "Ensure all aisles, exits, and bulkhead areas are clear." [cuts to a dreidel spinning on the aisle floor, where it gets picked up by a passenger]
- "If you're seated in an emergency exit row, please review the responsibilities for exit row seating on the back of the safety information card, which is in your seat pocket." [cuts to the flight attendant asking the three exit row passengers, the right one of which is Ebenezer Scrooge, if they are capable of performing the instructions. Scrooge says "Bah!" and gets up to be reseated]
- "Smoking is not allowed on any Delta flight." [cuts to a passenger with a Yule Log in his lap]
- "Internet access will be available while we're above 10,000 feet." [cuts to a gingerbread man surfing the web on his laptop]
- "But note, some items may not be used in flight at any time." [cut to a passenger turning off and putting away his giant table lamp that's shaped like a human leg]
- "As we come through the cabin for our final safety check, please let us know if you have any questions." [Cuts to Alex Trebek reading a newspaper while a flight attendant serves a drink to the passenger seated behind him]
Flight Attendant: This is a traditional milk-based holiday drink.
Alex Trebek: [boringly] What is eggnog?
Flight Attendant: Correct.
- Delta has done many more like this in the past year, including an 80's version for their anniversary.
Anime And Manga
- Used and explicitly lampshaded in one episode of Cromartie High School, which suddenly cuts to a sequence titled "Let's Strum A Guitar In The Mountains!", at the end of which the man playing the guitar throws the instrument up in the air, screaming "Oh my god, this is a non-sequitur!"
- Seen in InuYasha when the group are trying to stop two warring brothers from tearing up the countryside. When Inuyasha gets side-tracked complaining about how warring brothers cause needless hassle for everyone and then defensively claiming that he and Sesshoumaru have nothing in common with these two brothers, Sango - in a moment of complete randomness - wonders if Sesshoumaru's the kind of person who sneezes when he's talked about. Cue the momentary cutaway which doubles as a Sneeze Cut to reveal that it's actually Jaken who sneezes on Sesshoumaru's behalf and that he really dislikes this aspect of being Sesshoumaru's servant. Then the normal plotline continues.
- This is done in Axis Powers Hetalia: The notorious dance scene with Japan and Switzerland. Yo ho ho, tra la la la...
- Persona 4: The Animation does this twice in episode 11. When the team realizes they've left the head of Teddie's original body behind. Cue some kid crying at its white-eyed, soulless stare. Same kid both times, but in different places.
- Episode 16 of Slayers had Lina, Gourry, and Amelia travelling with a theater company. The director decided to cast them in an upcoming play, with Amelia as the hero. In one scene where she reads a line from the script (in her usual Large Ham / Love Freak way), the background shifts to make it look like she is a voice actress in a recording studio. Then she asks "how was it?" — cut to Gourry behind the recording desk, who says "Sorry, you were blowing into the mic." The background then shifts back to normal, and Amelia responds "I was what?!"
- Kotoura-san uses this as a weird sort of Meet Cute. After a dark and depressing backstory sequence, Kotoura meets Manabe, reads his mind, and she and the audience see...a purple frog-man in a desert doing a bizarre dance to a series of random noises. There's no real point to this freaky daydream other than as a "transition" to the cutesy OP and the much less dark second half of the episode.
- Darkwing Duck (in the new comics): After Darkwing welcomes Launchpad back as his sidekick:
There aren't really a lot of positions open for sidekicks/pilots. *Cut to Launchpad holding the Rangerplane with Gadget standing on his shoulder* Launchpad:
I can pilot this! Gadget:
No. No, you cannot.
- There are several scenes like this in the comedy Airplane!. One is where someone in the control tower says that the people flying the plane are gonna be fine; after all, "they're on instruments!" Cut to the plane's cockpit, where several of the characters are playing real swingin' jazz music.
- In Ernest Scared Stupid, there's a cutaway gag in which Ernest's 4th grade teacher confirms that "He never knew when to quit." after whapping young Ernest over the head.
- The Princess and the Frog: After meeting Louis, Naveen asks why he's never tried to play jazz.
Louis: Oh, I tried once.
(Cut to Louis jumping onto a river boat and playing his trumpet. Five seconds later, he dives back into the river as the boat's passengers fire at him)
- The "Zombie Kill of the Week" segments from Zombieland. It's only one scene, and it generally feels like something the executives had put in later for the trailer, but it's actually an artefact from when Zombieland was originally conceived as a TV show that they decided to keep.
- In Hoodwinked, this snarky conversation that Red has in her first conversation at the cottage with Flippers:
Red Puckett: They've got this all wrong, Mr. Flippers.
Nicky Flippers: Oh, I don't know. You look pretty dangerous to me. What's your name?
Red Puckett: Red.
Nicky Flippers: And why do they call you that?
Red Puckett: Why do they call you Flippers?
[Cuts to Flippers on the dance floor at a disco club, wearing a flashy white suit; as someone chants "Go Flippers!" in the background, he does a backflip and lands in a splitz]
- In the movie Good Burger, Ed and Dexter are eating outside when a dog runs up and barks at them. Ed is convinced the dog is trying to tell them that a group of clowns are stranded on the highway because their car broke down. Dexter tells him the dog is just hungry, and they throw the dog a hamburger patty. Cut to a bunch of clowns sitting next to a broken-down car, wondering where the dog went.
Live Action TV
- The Cutaway Gag is often seen in long-form Improv comedy shows. Sometimes when two players are doing a scene, a third player will tag one of them out and do a short scene with the other player about something that had just been mentioned, after which the player who was tagged out tags back in and resumes the original scene.
- In Dino Attack RPG, just after Greybeard sarcastically mentioned calling the mummy of Pharaoh Hotep III on his cell phone, it briefly cut to Pharaoh Hotep III's mummy grumbling that no one ever calls him on his cell phone.
- Megas XLR used this in the very first episode when Coop tried to explain to Kiva of how he "trained" for battle against the Glorft:
- South Park was the Trope Namer when this trope was still called Manatee Gag. In the episode "Cartoon Wars", the writing staff of Family Guy are revealed to be a group of manatees swimming around a water tank, randomly pushing around balls with words written on them. The episode featured several fake clips from Family Guy that all followed this format.
- Kappa Mikey had a few per episode that all seemed to be directly inspired by Family Guy.
- SpongeBob SquarePants has some examples:
- From the episode "The Bully:"
SpongeBob: Oh, Gary! I'm too young to have my butt kicked! There's so many things in life that I haven't gotten to do!
(Scene cuts to Spongebob working in an office cubicle.)
SpongeBob: Hello, I'll transfer your call.
- From the episode "Doing Time:"
SpongeBob: Patrick, she has lost it! She's completely institutionalized! She's forgotten to what it's like to live on the outside, to not be in prison!
(Scene cuts to a man in traffic, then working in an office cubicle, then staring out his bedroom window.)
Woman: Coming to bed, honey?
Man: Yes, dear.
- From the "Sun Bleached"
SpongeBob: So Patrick, how do you feel?
Patrick: Like one of those young old folks from the soda commercials.
(cut to a live-action old guy in a mock soda commercial)
- In the episode "The Great Snail Race", as Spongebob is training Gary to participate in the race, at one point (after Spongebob lampshades sexist strategies in his training) the scene abruptly cuts to Sandy saying to herself, "I don't know why, but I think I should kick Spongebob's butt tomorrow". And at the end of the episode she does just that.
- Phineas and Ferb has one practically every episode.
- American Dad! had a few in the pilot episode, but quickly dropped them in an attempt to distance the show from Family Guy.
- One episode lampshaded the difference by having Stan give the setup for a Cutaway Gag and nothing happens other than Francine asking what on Earth he was doing.
- Also lampshaded when Roger tries a cutaway gag setup ("That was as obvious as the Sequel Hook at the end of Batman Begins!"), but all it does is prompt Stan to ask what the hell that has to do with anything.
- The Cleveland Show, an actual Family Guy Spin-Off, will use cutaways, if not as often as its mother show. And like Family Guy, it has occasionally made fun of them as well. One episode featured them using the same cutaway gag for three different situations.
- Seth MacFarlane's use of this trope is spoofed in the Robot Chicken episode "Help Me" where he seems to be a Reality Warper that can make anything happen just by describing it and then having a cutaway of it happening.
: Robot Chicken? Why I haven't heard that name since it was renewed.
(Cutaway to an exec saying "Robot Chicken is renewed."
) Seth Green
: Wow! Uhh quick, offhandedly mention that time we ended world hunger
! Seth MacFarlane
: End world hunger? I haven't heard an idea that ridiculous since Scooby Jew.
(cutaway to Scooby Jew haggling
over getting only one scooby-snack in exchange for doing a task.)
- Although it's not widely associated with them, The Simpsons did a number of such gags in the early seasons. One commenter on an early DVD commentary even expressed surprise that they used to do so many.
Alberto: Let me take you for a ride...
(cut to glider in flight)
Alberto: ...or should I say, glide?
Marge: I'm just happy you're talking again. You didn't say a word for 45 minutes.
- Parodied (with a manatee-esque walrus) on Drawn Together
- For a show that doesn't pull many cutaway gags, this is a pretty good one in Aladdin.
- Regular Show does them once in a while. A memorable instance from "The Power", where the group arrives on the Moon thanks to Mordecai and Rigby's magic keyboard. They see a bunch of random objects and, when Mordecai asks how they got there, Rigby comments that while the others were in the bathroom...
Rigby (singing and playing The Power): A bunch of baby ducks, seeend 'em to the moon!/Soda machine that doesn't work, seeend 'em to the moon!
- Benson just fired Rigby when he overhears him slacking off, he justified that Rigby never finishes his work, Rigby defends himself by saying he always finishes his work. Then cuts a few scenes showing Rigby slacking off in his job.
- Animaniacs did these on occasion. More than once, they took advantage of having someone named Wakko in the cast, and led into the cutaway with the exchange:
No, he's Wakko. [cut to Wakko doing something funny]
- In "Bully for Skippy":
Slappy: You're not my nephew, you're one of those body-snatching pod people I always read about in the check-out line!
(Scene cuts to Slappy at the supermarket reading a newspaper.)
Woman: That'll be $10.95.
Slappy: Hey, quit rushing me! Can't you see I'm trying to catch up on the news here?
- Another one had a character complaining about the Warners doing a Stealth Hi/Bye gag, saying that he told them not to do it anymore. Yakko's response is "Yeah, but you didn't tell the writers!" Cut to the writers in hysterics as they put that gag in the script.
- In Brandy & Mr. Whiskers' "I Am Rainfo":
Brandy: Whiskers, think of all the fun we'll have with this lost stash of books!
[cut to Brandy and Whiskers dancing while tearing out pages from a book]
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Gravity Falls plays with this trope a bit, using it as a method of Foreshadowing or to flesh out its plot and characters instead of just as a way to get easy laughs. In addition, it usually ends with a lampshade by one of the main characters.
- Ultimate Spider-Man also makes rather frequent use of them, thanks to Spidey's continuous non-sequiturs, from imagining himself flying on a jetpack (after he says he'd love it if S.H.I.E.L.D. gave him one) to imagining Mary Jane as a female J. Jonah Jameson, haircut and all (when Peter finds out she'll do an internship at the Daily Bugle).
- The Futurama episode "I Second That Emotion" has a cutaway gag in one scene. When Leela starts hugging and kissing Nibbler, Bender sarcastically remarks "I have a busted ass, and I don't see anyone kissing it!" Cut to Zoidberg in another room sighing "Alright, I'm coming..."