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"Hey hey, reader! Welcome to the TV Tropes Ultimate Competition line! Answer the following question to win an egregious prize: a five-week holiday on beautiful Sugar Bowl Beach!

Your question: is this article about:

  1. Competitions that consist of nothing but an insultingly easy question, often designed to loophole around lottery laws by making them nominal "tests of skill", or tempt gullible people into entering?
  2. Princesses?
  3. Custard?

Call now on our premium rate example line! Phone early, phone often! And win, win, WIN!"

The question may be in a call-in competition, which usually means the phone call is going to cost you money; require you to text-message your answer, at normal texting rates, of course; or on a form you need to mail in — then the question means that the contest is not a "lottery" by legal definition, and therefore not subject to the regulations concerning lotteries, and you provide your address and/or phone number which can be added to mailing lists for sale.

When used on the radio, the point of the competition is usually thinly concealed advertising for a local business rather than a true competition. In North America this kind of "competition" is usually primarily used to collect personal information which can later be sold to spammers and other advertisers at a premium.

Examples

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     Advertising 
  • Web banner ads do this, too.
  • There was an old Toyota radio commercial where if someone could guess the number of peapods in the jar, they would get a discount on a car. Whenever someone pointed out that there was only one peapod in the jar, a gong would sound and the Japanese-sounding announcer would say, "Winnah! Winnah!"
  • There is an ad featuring Naruto that asks "What cartoon character is this?" A: Naruto. B: Fullmetal Alchemist. C: Ninja Turtle. Bonus headache points for Cowboy Bebop at His Computer.
  • A series of ads about 20 years ago promised a "beautiful gift worth $40" if you could name the tune. One was "Yankee Doodle." The next was "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," and they used the part of the chorus where Marvin Gaye sang the title lyrics. It cost $10 per minute to call.
  • The back of a Honeycomb box from a few years back has a word scramble with (eg) "YCBEMOHNO is my favorite cereal".

     Film 
  • In Ireland, when Toy Story was released, there was a competition where the question was "What is the name of the cowboy?" The application form gave his name in the plot summary.

     Live Action TV 
  • American Idol had a text-message contest during season 7 that was similarly ridiculously easy. Of course, you had to pay to text.
  • On the old game show, You Bet Your Life, if a contestant wiped out on the regular questions, Groucho Marx would ask them an easy question like "What color is George Washington's white horse?" or "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?" so that every contestant left with something.
  • Inverted in the UK show QI, which would frequently have questions that looked temptingly easy only to have the real answer be something weird and complex.
    • Questions like "How many moons does the Earth have?" Go, on, you know that! It's obvious! What kind of moron doesn't kno- did you say "one"? Oh dear... or not: 3753 Cruithne is a quasi-satellite (which still means "one" is the right answer).
  • In the UK it's illegal under gambling laws for broadcasters to hold a lottery (a random giveaway of cash or prizes) except for the National Lottery themselves. It is legal to hold a contest with a skill-based element, however. So for a long time laughably-easy questions were essentially used as Loophole Abuse - since you could get the question wrong, technically there was skill involved. Recently this was finally addressed, and several shows, most prominently 'Richard & Judy', were given heavy fines after it was determined that their competition questions had become so insultingly easy that it was effectively a lottery. Shows were forced to make harder questions.
    • Some UK shows also got fined for allowing viewers to call in after the lines had closed, charging them the full premium rate for their call, and not telling them that they were being charged. Now all phone-ins are accompanied with a standard boilerplate: "Calls made after lines have closed won't be counted but may still be charged."
      • One of the shows found guilty of this, Channel Five's Quiz Call, at least didn't have questions that were too easy — it had questions which looked like they should be easy, but where the accepted answers were completely insane.
      • From the very similar ITV Play, Q "Things you might find in a woman's handbag" - A "Rawlplugs"
  • Parodied in the "Cash Cow" sketches on Touch Me, I'm Karen Taylor, which had easy questions like "Find an anagram of CTA", and ridiculous ones like "Things you might do" with the answers "Borrow an Angle Grinder", "Watch the film Coneheads" and "Oology".
  • Every single episode of The Afternoon Show did this. A typical question would be something like "In which country is the Eiffel Tower? A: France. B: America. C: Ireland."
  • Parodied on A Bit of Fry and Laurie:
    Who was the first man to run the four-minute mile? Was it: A) the Battle of Crecy; B) Moonraker, or C) the athlete and fast record-breaking fast miler Sir Roger "Four-Minute" Bannister, the famous runner?
  • Paul Merton likes to recount that he was once watching one of those breakfast shows and the question was, "Which comedy double act consisted of Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker? A) The Two Ronnies, B)..."
  • An number of interactive game shows on Australian TV did this, with questions such as "Who is the Prime Minister of Australia? A) Daffy Duck, B) Kermit the Frog or C) John Howard." This is parodied by The Chaser's War on Everything: when the above question is mentioned, Julian replies, "Which I guess leads to the question, 'Who are these shows aimed at? A) Bicycles, B) The Sydney Opera House, or C) Morons.'"
  • Subverted by the Japanese quiz show Time Shock, which is fond of occasionally throwing in questions like "What question number is this?" and "Including this question, how many questions are left in this round?" To the audience, these may seem like pathetically easy questions, because they can just look at the scoreboard. However, the contestants can't - the show makes a point of seating them in such a fashion that they cannot see any information on the state of the round during their turn, not even the clock or their score. (In fact, more recent revivals seat contestants inside the scoreboard facing out.) Thus the only reliable way to get these questions right is to count the questions as you answer them.
  • In Father Ted episode "Competition Time", celebrity Henry Sellers is shown asking one of these to a quiz show contestant:
    What is the capital of England? New York, London (pauses and nods), or Munich? (beat) I'll give you a clue: you live there.
  • Channel Five invites viewers of Gotham to answer the question "Which famous Bruce lives in Gotham City? a) Forsyth b) Wayne or c) Willis?" In the unlikely event you don't know the answer off the top of your head, the clue is in the show you just watched.

     Magazines 
  • The magazine Cube was a bit odd about this. On the one hand, an issue had a contest to win a Spider-Man DVD, with the question "Who plays Mary-Jane in the movie? A: Kirsten Dunst. B: Burstin For-Dump. C: Princess Peach". On the other hand, a contest to win a GameCube, some controllers, several games, a big-screen TV, and surround-sound speakers, the question was "What does RGB-SCART stand for?" This was in the days when Wikipedia only had a couple of thousand entries and tended not to even appear on Google searches, so in order to win, you needed access to some relatively obscure documentation.
  • 2000 AD usually hangs a lampshade on this, with a line like "To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is answer this brain-bustingly easy question."
  • N Gamer once ran a contest with the following (paraphrased) question: "Who is the the star of The Fast and the Furious? A) Vin Diesel B) Jim Petrol C) Kim Oil. Send your answers to itsvindieselyouidiots@ngamer.co.uk."
  • Private Eye once subverted this with a spoof phone-in quiz: What is our phone number? Is it: A) 0898 876876; b) 0898 876877 or c) 0898 876878. Ring NOW on..... The second part of this joke here is the fact that in the UK 0898 numbers are premium rate, so the terminally stupid may spend money phoning the wrong number..
  • Doctor Who Monthly regularly has a contest to win copies of the C Ds/Books reviewed in each issue. They always have a multiple choice question followed by the right answer, a plausible wrong answer and a "what the hell are you thinking?" answer. Although there are sometimes two WTHAYT answers: "Can you name the deadly insecticide in this story? A) DS9; B) DN6; C) WD40"

     Radio 
  • Often when there is a grand opening of a Wing Street (Pizza Hut) franchise, they will give away coupons for wings on the radio. Typical questions are "what vegetable is usually served with wings?" (celery) and "name one common dipping sauce for wings" (either ranch dressing or blue cheese works as an answer).
  • One episode of The News Quiz featured the following in the amusing cuttings:
    "Who starred in the film Enter the Dragon? Send your answer to: 'Bruce Lee competition'..."
  • John Boy And Billy Big Show has a multiple choice quiz for call in listeners that always has two joke answers and the actual correct one (usually it's about some wacky news story, so even the real answer is often ridiculous). The theme song for the segment includes a chorus of cheerleaders shouting "Pick C."
  • In the 1970's, when the BBC, still smarting from the impact of pirate radio on its listening figures and was jealous of any competition, it sabotaged its principal (and only) pop radio competitor Radio Luxemburg by deliberately giving out the answers to the previous night's Fab 208 write-in competition during Radio One morning shows. Otherwise, it could do nothing at all about a rival station broadcasting in English and using English DJ's from another country entirely. (Later in the decade the BBC had to adopt other methods of sabotaging legalised commercial radio offering competition to its services.)
  • Averted by Justin on The Brewing Network, who insists the listeners do something to earn prizes. Typically it involves playing games tilted towards brewing, such as Beer Jeopardy or Guess the Fake. The only time there was a giveaway that took no thinking was the much-maligned at the time and afterwards "Guess What Number JP Is Thinking".

     Stand Up Comedy 

     Theatre 
  • Fictional example: In A. A. Milne's play The Ugly Duckling, the law of the kingdom requires a suitor for the hand of the princess to answer a riddle. The current princess is very plain, and her parents, not wanting to give anyone an excuse to turn her down, use riddles like "What is it which has four legs and barks like a dog?" This is Played for Laughs in multiple ways. Early in the play, the king and queen recall one suitor who was so desperate not to marry the princess that he somehow completely failed to answer the riddle. Later, a none-too-bright prince who's an impostor anyway is given the answer in advance, but the riddle is changed at the last minute and he gets it wrong. Another character (the real prince) quickly covers for him.

     Video Games 
  • PC game You Don't Know Jack had at least one question along these lines. It was titled "It's a Dog" and was something like "What looks like a dog, sounds like a dog, etc?" The answer? A dog. Hilariously, this is labeled as an Impossible Question, and worth a crazy amount of money.
  • At least one barroom trivia game had a multiple choice question asking "What was the hit 1992 sequel to the sci-fi film The Terminator?" The game did not seem to be kidding, either. The correct answer? Come on, don't be an idiot.
  • The PC game for Blood Bowl had one of these in the commentator's chatter to win a year's subscription to Spike magazine. The question has to do with who held a certain record, listing a player by name and then "his son" and "his mum". The other commentator even points out that only one of them ever played Blood Bowl.

     Webcomics 

     Western Animation 
  • On South Park the townspeople did this to the unbelievably-annoying Jackovasaurs with a fake game show, hoping they would "win" a permanent trip to France. They were so stupidly unable to answer any of the questions (and Officer Barbrady, their competition, was too stupid to remember he was supposed to lose) that they eventually gave up and just declared them the winners anyway.

"Isn't it obvious? It's 'custard'."
Example as a ThesisExample as a ThesisExiled from Continuity
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Dumbass DJRadioLarge Ham Radio
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