Together, we're called — Badpan:
He's fallen asleep again! Coma:
I wasn't sleeping — I was pausing for dramatic effect! Now you've spoiled it!
Pretty self explanatory, the Dramatic Pause is a beat or two of silence with no dialogue and little or no music/background sound. Usually done to heighten the anticipation before The Reveal
. Also called a "Pregnant Pause", it can also follow
the reveal... it's just that
shocking! It's fairly common in situations where it takes a moment for the joke to sink in.
In sequential art, it is often depicted by a Beat Panel
A classic of mystery serials and soap operas would be to follow with a three-note sequence heralding The Reveal
. As in, "Nobody leaves! There's been ...(Dramatic Pause)... a murder!
Basically, the dramatic equivalent of an "Applause" sign in a TV studio. Soap Operas
often use a version of this called the Melodramatic Pause
The print equivalent (what you see in Literature
and sequential art
) is the Dramatic Ellipsis
A single-note (or chord) version of this is called a dramatic sting
is a Discredited Trope
, although subtle variations can still be effective.
The Dramatic Pause itself will likely remain a live trope for a long, long time; it's rather hard to overdo silence, after all. Stilted delivery, on the other hand...
Often used in Arson Murder And Life Saving
, which is shorter, and usually used for comedic effect. Also see Stop and Go
for the musical version.
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Anime and Manga
Films — Animated
- In Despicable Me, Gru tells the minions "We are going to steal...(pause for effect)...THE MOON!" Though he says the words "pause for effect" quietly to himself.
Films — Live-Action
- Lampshaded in (of course) Discworld, when Vimes is talking to "Madam" Roberta Meserole in Night Watch:
Madam: I have... business interests in Uberwald. Alas, the situation there is becoming rather unstable.
Vimes: Right. I see. And you'd like to have the significant pause type of business interests in Ankh-Morpork, I expect.
- In Soul Music, Quoth the Raven gets fussed at by Death of Rats for giving the "DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNN!" stinger before telling Susan Sto Helit who her grandfather is.
- In The Truth, scrap magnate Harry King (who also happens to manage the city's "night soil" collection) warns William de Worde that his investment in the newspaper had better pay off or they'll be "in deep... trouble. Face downwards." William later mentions wanting to avoid "deep significant pause trouble" with Mr. King.
- Angua is sometimes used to deliver this a a sort of running joke, although it also appears in Monstrous Regiment
- Going Postal has the Smoking Gnu's secret weapon, "... The Woodpecker."
- An episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (yes, it was a TV series briefly) has the punctuated sting performed by a trio of trumpeteers who always happen to be in the scene when it's called for. At one point, Wayne got so fed up he confiscated their trumpets, only for them to replace them with kazoos.
- A favorite gag of The Daily Show, often with the addition of lowered stage lights and/or a dramatic camera-turn.
- Played dead straight in game shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?:
Contestant: "A, final answer."
(Dramatic Pause, shot of concerned host, shot of nervous guest, shot of terrified loved one in audience, another shot of nervous guest)
Host: "A... is... correct, you're up to $5000!"
- Occasionally the host in this situation will actually begin this last statement with something that implies that the contestant got the answer wrong ("You've done a great job..." etc.), before switching back and declaring the answer correct.
- This was parodied to shreds in Whose Line Is It Anyway??; after every question the "host" would ramble on about how it's such a crying shame that the guest went all the way to New York just to win a million dollars!
- And if there's a commercial break coming up, they'll often keep the dramatic pause up to end on a Cliff Hanger, then start a new dramatic pause on the return and have even made answering the question an episode-ending Cliff Hanger, though.
- Also (over)used in Deal or No Deal before opening a case, or just about any other Game Show where they need to stretch a dozen questions or decisions into an hour of programming.
- Also done to death on "results shows" for talent (or any other reality) programming. You can just tune in in the last five minutes of American Idol to see who's going home, and even then, Ryan's going to say "The person going home this week is..."
- Parodied in an episode of Roger Mellie, the Man on the Telly in the adult comic Viz. In the first panel Roger is standing with the contestants. He says: "And the winner is..." He then walks off stage, drives away from the studio, spends the night in the pub, goes home to bed, gets up the next morning, eats breakfast, drives back to the studio and walks back on stage to announce the winner's name in the last panel.
- Jeff Probst also uses the pause on Survivor when an elimination comes down to the last vote in the urn. When it doesn't, he just flips around the deciding vote while saying "Nth person voted out of Survivor..." which pretty much kills the drama of the vote. In earlier seasons, he would simply flip over the vote silently and let it speak for itself, which was much more climactic.
- Horatio Caine from CSI: Miami is (in)famous for doing this in the middle of his one liners.
- Not to mention he punctuates the dramatic pause even further by taking the opportunity to don his Sunglasses of Doom. Every. Single. Time.
- Parodied in some comedy show: "Help me. I'm starting to talk crap...in...short...compact...sentences!"
- The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan does it quite a lot, both in his narration and his appearances at the end of each episode telling contestants whether they're eliminated or not. One time, a team actually broke down in giggles in the middle of his pause and told him to just get on with it already.
- Played with in the Friends season 9 episode "The One with the Mugging" when Joey is auditioning for a part in a play directed by (and starring) Jeff Goldblum's character, and reads the stage direction 'long pause' aloud, thinking it's the name of the character he's addressing.
- Ironically, he did actually pause, if only because he had to wait for the audience to finish laughing.
- Joey also used this in a technique called "smell the fart acting": "I'm afraid the situation is much worse than we expected. Your sister is suffering from a.. (dramatic pause) subcranial hematoma."
- This latter was actually because he forgot part of the line, and decided to cover it up by looking away from the camera with a distraught expression on his face.
- Barney in How I Met Your Mother does this all the time. His mid-word pauses are Legen...wait for it...dary! He actually managed to hold the beat between two whole seasons one time, and once fell asleep partway.
- My So-Called Life: The characters often pause mid-sentence, giving the dialogue a lurching and improvisational feel, even if the line is otherwise constructed very elegantly. Lampshaded when Rickie mimicks Mr. Katimski, who is probably the most egregious offender. But all the major characters did this a lot. In the case of Jordan Catalano, it was used to highlight how he was fumbling to come up with something, anything, to say.
- That lurching sensation, mentioned before ... was further heightened by having the actors ... pause at just the right point in the sentence that the apparent meaning being expressed ... seemed to change after the pause.
Angela-V.O.: I felt like a really shallow person, because I was. (long Dramatic Pause) Hungry.
- Jack Palance's distinctively breathy delivery when he hosted the original Ripley's Believe It or Not! provided a sort of ellipsis: "Believe it [hhhaahh ...] or not!"
- Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson is considered to use some of the longest dramatic pauses
wait for it...
wait for it...
in the world.
- Clarkson once criticised Harry Enfield's impression of him by saying that he left out the ellipsis in the catchphrase.
- Christmas 2009 had a well publicized battle for the Christmas number one spot in the British music charts between The X-Factor winner's cover of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" and Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name". Radio 1 milked it for all it was worth, including a ten second long pause before they announced the #2 song (and thus, the #1 song).
- Parodied one year at MTV's Movie Awards, hosted by Lisa Kudrow, when a category was announced as Best Dramatic Pause. After airing the nominees, Kudrow opened the envelope, and then began a Dramatic Pause that lasted until the next commercial break.
- Every episode of Justice's short run did this before announcing the verdict.
- Played with in The Vicar of Dibley, when the characters are rehearsing for a scene from the Nativity in which the angel (played by Geraldine) comes down to the shepards to tell of Jesus's birth. The comedy comes from Owen and Frank mistaking Geraldine's dramatic pauses for forgetting the lines and prompting her, causing her to lose her temper.
Geraldine: (narrating forcefully) And lo, an angel of the Lord appeared before them.
Frank: (prompting) Be not afraid...
Geraldine: No. BE AFRAID! BE VERY AFRAID!
Geraldine: (in angel costume) Be not afraid, for I am an angel of the Lord, and I bring tidings of great joy.(Pauses dramatically, whilst her halo appears over her head.)
Frank: (prompting) For tonight in the stable...
Geraldine: I KNOW YOU PILLOCK!
- This happens quite a few times in Reba. One example: Reba's comment regarding her dress for a beauty pageant she attended: "I feel overdressed... for Vegas."
- Lampshaded by Señor Chang in Community episode Comparative Religion:
Chang: "[Everybody passed] Except... pause for dramatic effect..."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Hush" the voices of everyone in Sunnydale are stolen by some demons, so Giles has to give his usual exposition via overhead transparencies, including one saying only "then" in order to include a suitable dramatic pause.
- The Hives are famous for their high octane live performaces with the Almqvist brothers (lead singer and guitarist) jumping all over the stage (and sometimes into the audience). But during performances of their song Tick Tick Boom, the whole band suddenly freezes like statues for several seconds while the audience goes nuts around them. (Here for almost a minute starting at around 2.30) It's impressive.
- Mr. Kennedy often announces his name, then makes a Dramatic Pause (which seems to keep growing longer) before repeating it.
- Also used, and lampshaded in the original ECW by the Impact Players (Lance Storm and Justin Credible) - "That's not just the coolest, that's not just the best, that's from Calgary (dramatic pause) Alberta Canada". Commentator Joey Styles would frequently say 'Dramatic pause' during the 'Dramatic Pause'
- HELL...IN A CELL
- BECAUSE I'M THE MIZ...AND I'M...AWESOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOME!
- Heavily Lampshaded in Freakazoid!!, in which "BUM-BUM-BUUUUM!" was sung by the characters, Joe the announcer, or even the background singers.
"We interrupt this program to increase dramatic tension."
- An episode of Batman: The Animated Series had The Creeper say "Last time I saw you, you were working for... dramatic pause... The Joker!" That's right, he actually said "dramatic pause".
- He also asked for a drumroll when he was about to say his name.
- An overused running gag on Drawn Together.
- "I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am [insert something hilarious]! I am [Dramatic Pause]: Darkwing Duck!"
- Dr. Weird from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is fond of this. "Gentlemen... behold!"
- Justice League villain Manga Khan soliliquizes as part of a medical condition, and demands his subjects make dramatic pauses before any important announcements.
- Norbert of Angry Beavers in one episode planned to foil Daggit's "Muscular Beaver" superhero persona (make-believe, of course) with his very own villain identity wherein he revealed himself as "Baron von Bad Beaver" followed by a "Dun-dun-duuunn!" to which he added for an even longer pause "Dramatic reverb!"
- Used for completely non-dramatic reasons in an episode of Dave the Barbarian. At the end of the story, Dave appears, Behind The Scenes style, and, referring to something he'd done during the episode, says, "I bet a lot of you are wondering why I tied a squirrel to a megaphone." Dramatic Pause "Well, bye!"
- Lampshaded in The Penguins of Madagascar:
Skipper: The clock... is... ticking.
Kowalski: So were the dramatic pauses really necessary, then?
- Obligatory My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic example, from "May the Best Pet Win!":
Rainbow Dash: You're all outstanding competitors! But there can only be one of you who's number one! So the final, tie-breaking contest is going to beeee...