A character's cellphone goes off at an inconvenient moment, and the song they use is their ringtone is something they'd be embarrassed by. The Jerk Jock might have the Theme Song from some incredibly geeky television series as his ringtone. The Wicked Cultured villain's ringtone may be a crappy auto-tuned pop song. The Heteronormative Crusader's ringtone may be a song about having Intercourse with You with someone of the same sex. The ringtone of Colonel Badass may be something uncomfortably cute and cheery. The Evil Luddite will be embarrassed to have a ringtone at all. Or one could always just go with a ringtone that anyone would be embarrassed by. If the character is attempting to be mysterious or intimidating at the time, or attempting to win the trust/approval/respect of someone who find's the song's content objectionable, this is doubly likely to happen. Expect them to answer the phone as quickly as possible just to end the song, and be very grumpy towards the caller. It isn't always the character's actual phone, but may be instead be a phone belonging to someone else that they're holding onto for some reason. At times it may be a ringtone that wouldn't usually be embarrassing, but the situation makes it inappropriate.
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- A beer commercial featured a guy trying to prove to his ex-girlfriend that he's matured enough to hook back up with her ... until his cellphone rings, with "Baby Got Back" as the ringtone. Oops.
- In a T-Mobile myFaves commercial, a guy is asking his friend why his girlfriend is in his "Five" on his phone. His friend tells him he's being paranoid until his phone starts ringing "Secret Lovers" by Atlantic Starr which indicates the guy's girlfriend calling. He promptly takes back his phone.
Anime & Manga
- Used in Tentai Senshi Sunred. Evil Old Folks Vamp gets this twofold: He picks a dated One-Hit Wonder sung by a Boy Band for his ringtone, making his combat goons point out this makes him look like he's desperately trying (and failing) to be 'modern'. Later, he ends up stuck in Sunred's closet while hiding from Sunred's jerkass colleagues and the cellphone goes off, almost spoiling the hiding place (and making Sunred's colleagues mock what they think is his ringtone).
- In My Cage Norm's secretary Ashley once changed his ringtone to "Barbie Girl". Another time it was shown that Rex's ringtone for his Alpha Bitch girlfriend was "Taps".
- One Nemi strip showed a LARP gathering, which was interrupted by a ringing cellphone. Last panel has the guilty party telling that, worst of all, the ringtone was a Britney Spears song.
- FoxTrot: One strip had Jason swapping out the ringtone on Peter's phone for "I'm a Loser".
Films — Animation
- Megamind: When Megamind and Minion were suiting up to create a new superhero to replace Metro Man, the cell phone Megamind had stolen earlier went off, ruining the villainous pose scene.
Films — Live-Action
- In The Astronaut Farmer one of the two government agents who are trying to prevent the titular farmer from building his rocket and going into space has The Imperial March as his ringtone, as part of their gradual descent over the course of the film from genuinely intimidating antagonists to Those Two Guys.
- In Confessions of a Shopaholic, Becky's ringtone for her banker says "Don't answer this call; it's Derek Smeath." It goes off while Mr. Smeath is in the vicinity.
- In Easy A, Olive's grandmother sends her a greeting card that plays the Ear Worm song "Pocketful of Sunshine." Olive hates the song initially, then begins to like it, eventually enough to make it her ringtone. When Olive's phone rings later in the film, other people have the same (bad) reaction to hearing the song for the first time.
- In Inside Man, the thieves taking hostages in the bank demand that everyone turn over any cell phones. One executive (read rich white guy) claims he left his phone at home, but the thieves grab the phone of one of the guy's coworkers and dial his number. It rings and loudly plays Kanye West's "Gold Digger". Surprisingly enough for a few seconds the thieves seem like they're going to let the whole thing slide, perhaps out of sheer amusement at the incongruity of the ring tone... then the leader of the group drags the guy off into another room and beats the crap out of him.
- This happens repeatedly to the titular character in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but only because his phone was lent to him by a teenager.
- In She's the Man, Olivia has Aqua's "Barbie Girl" for her ringtone. This causes some problems when she's impersonating her brother Sebastian and she forgets to change it.
- White House Down: The ring tone on the cell phone of The Mole, who assisted those who took over the White House by becoming Acting President, so he could send them the access codes to launch nuclear missiles to the Middle East, is the main theme of "The Dating Game" (Herb Alpert's "Spanish Flea"). This creates Mood Whiplash during the denouement, where he's exposed to the President of the United States by redialing the terrorist Big Bad's cell phone.
- In The Last Witch Hunter, Chloe has a cat sound ringtone for Miranda's calls which everyone in the room finds awkward.
- In Happy Death Day, the protagonist discovers that for her birthday, her roommate changed her ringtone to an annoying voice saying "It's my birthday! And I won't pick up the phone!"
- In Episode 3 of Will You Marry Me And My Family, Jiang Dayan ends up with a Potty Emergency while waiting for a man to show up at a café. It does not help that the café owner's ringtone is musical whistling (which was constantly ringing, by the way).
- An early episode of Burn Notice features Michael using a ring tone on his phone as an alarm for when someone sets off a motion sensor he sets up at a safe house for the clients of the week. It's from some flash in the pan girl group.
Teen girl: Nice ring tone.
Michael: It came with the phone.
- In Hannah Montana, season 2 episode 27, "The Test of My Love", when Miley is dating a rich boy and she meets his parents, his parents act rude to her because she's from Tennessee and they see her as a bumpkin. When Miley tries to prove she's sophisticated, her ringtone goes off playing country music which she set to because she felt homesick.
- Completely subverted in House who has a string of seemingly embarrassing ringtones that he uses completely shamelessly. In fact, he appears to have chosen them deliberately to embarrass and mock his team. Calls from chronic adulterer Taub set off "Escape" (The Pina Colada Song).
- Invoked offscreen in the Frasier episode "Taking Liberties". Niles' wife Mel, as part of a domestic conflict, sets his ringtone to "La Cucaracha" before they go to a society funeral.
- On an episode of Judge Judy, a plaintiff's phone went off in the middle of Judge Judy's ruling. The ringtone was a mooing cow. Her Honor mocked him for it while she was chewing him out for not turning it off.
- An episode of The Newsroom sets Jim up on a date with Maggie's girlfriend, which introduces her ringtone as a Chekhov's Gun. Apparently she's a fan of Rod Stewart.
- On Scrubs, while being told that one of his patients has died and that a Morbidity and Mortality conference will be held to figure out who's responsible Turk's phone starts playing the first few bars of Beethoven's 5th symphony. He immediately remarks that he needs to change it.
- In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf's son Alexander joins his father aboard the Enterprise. Everybody was trying to reach Worf about his son through his communicator. Unfortunately, he was with Captain Picard who was explaining him some assignment. It looked like the communicators couldn't be turned off, and both Picard and Worf got really annoyed.
- In the Supernatural episode, "The Real Ghostbusters", evil spirit children trapped Sam and Dean along with many patrons at a hotel convention. To get the spirits to free everyone, Sam and Dean recruited an actress to play the ghost of the stern, turn-of-the-century school mistress (who Sam and Dean mistakenly banished earlier) to scare the ghost boys into releasing the hold on the hotel. Everything was going well until the actress' cell phone rang with a jaunty hip-hop tune. Cue her Oh, Crap! moment as the evil spirit children smiled menacingly, realizing she wasn't the school mistress and they had no reason to be scared.
- Oddly averted on the Israeli sitcom Traffic Light: Khefer's ringtone is that of a woman moaning aloud in the throes of passion, but he is never embarrassed about it. Although he does change it to Samantha Fox's "Touch Me", so a moment like this might've taken place offscreen...
- In Day Break, Chad has an embarrassing ringtone on his phone and Rita calls him out on it when they drive in his car.
- Daniel Warmolt from Better Call Saul has "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as his ringtone.
- The Jeff Dunham Show ran plugs for ringtones recorded by his characters, which always ended with Jeff getting a call playing the ringtone that had just been advertised while in a public place.
- Person of Interest. In "Guilty" the Machine arranges for Finch to be selected for juror duty. When it looks like Finch won't be chosen, the Machine sets off the cellphone of an already selected juror, causing it to play MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This". The juror is sent off protesting that it isn't even his ringtone, and Finch is put in his place.
- Death in Paradise: In "Flames of Love", Humphrey somehow accidentally changes his email notification sound to a whip crack accompanied by a "Ye-haw!", and cannot work out how to change it back. It goes off at several inopportune times during the episode.
- Two and a Half Men: When Jake stays out too long with a girl, her Scary Black Overprotective Dad shows up at Charlie's house. Jake left his cell phone behind, so when Charlie tries to call him, it starts playing a misogynistic rap tune on the coffee table.
- Was the basis of a punishment for Sal in Impractical Jokers. He had to endure multiple calls from the other Jokers during a book reading, and even read a passage from "his" book while the phone rang.
Ringtone: Whose phone is ringing? Mine! Mine! Mine!
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Ringtone" is about this:
Why did I buy the stupid ringtone?
I just can't imagine now
what I was thinking at all!
My friends all stare at me whenever I get a call!
When everybody (everybody)
everybody in the world really hates my ringtone!
- In the Flash series Cactuar and Tonberry by Crazy Boris, Cactuar (actually a criminal identical to Cactuar) busts into a heavily guarded vault to steal the last bottle of A1 steak sauce. As he sneaks past some guards, his cell phone inconveniently rings, playing a minimalistic, beeping version of "Barbie Girl".
- One "learn from my fail" entry in Fail Blog mentioned an "Another One Bites the Dust" ringtone going off during a funeral.
- There is an exchange on bash.org that involves a girl speaking to the storyteller while they're in high school. The girl says she always thought of him as a nerdy type, but the guy says he really isn't a nerd at all. Immediately after saying this, his cell phone plays the Final Fantasy VII victory ringtone.
- A minor Running Gag on The Spectacular Spider Man was Peter's cell phone going off at inconvenient times. One memorable instance had it go off in the middle of Spider-Man's fight with Electro... to the tune of The Itsy Bitsy Spider. It was Peter's designated "Aunt May Alert".
- In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Marco has his ringtone set to Parry Gripp's "Space Unicorn", which is a real song. "It's supposed to be ironic."
- In Gravity Falls, when Robbie insists that he is over his ex Wendy, his cellphone plays a track sung by him, about "never getting over Wendy." After smashing said phone, he says that it was about a different Wendy.
- Archer subverts it because of course Archer isn't embarrassed by "Mulatto Butts" a song about mixed race buttocks. Not even in front of his mixed race ex-girlfriend. At least one guard also has the same ringtone and also isn't embarrassed about it.