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Fake Static
"Bzzzt, Bzzzt you're breaking up" (hangs up) "Thank God that call's over."

Goku: Click-buuuuuuuuuuur (takes a breath) uuuuuuuuuuuurrrrr....
King Kai: He hung up on me! How the hell did he even do that?!
King Kai wondering how Goku hung up on a telepathic conversation in Dragon Ball Z Abridged.

The predictable but surprisingly effective method of ending a cellphone conversation in TV land — pretend there is interference on the line or that you are going through a tunnel, make some static noises and start saying "I can't hear you!" then hang up. Person avoided.

When trying this on a fixed-line phone, tradition requires you to press and release the switch in the phone cradle rapidly and repeatedly.

Sometimes subverted when the other person can blatantly tell what they are doing, or calls them back immediately.

Alternate variant is to have a character claim that they "lost the connection" while communicating via satellite, radio, or Subspace Ansible.

Contrast Cell Phones Are Useless, I Can't Hear You.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Used in a 2010 commercial for Discover Card. Bobby Bowden calls up "USA Prime Credit" to dispute chargers and gets Peggy, who eventually rustles some paper and tells him that he's breaking up. Bowden tells him "I'm not too old to find you, son."

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in one Gaston Lagaffe comic: while talking on the phone, Gaston is frying fish in his office. The resulting noise is mistaken for static by the guy on the other end of the line. Not a straight example of this trope since it's entirely unintentional on Gaston's part.
  • Frequently done to Oracle by both Black Canary and Stephanie Brown when they've decided to ignore her advice. She's never fooled, and they don't really expect her to be, they're just making it clear they're not listening.

    Comic Strip 
  • Doonesbury for April 12th, 2013. The Chairman of the Republican National Committee calls up Hollywood agent Sid Kibbitz and asks him to find A-list celebrities for a GOP Celebrity Task Force to present the Republican message to the public. When he says that he expects the celebrities to work for free, Sid says "Hello? Sorry, just lost you! I'm driving in a dead zone!"

    Fan Works 
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Goku does this to King Kai, during a telepathic phone call. King Kai tries to call Goku back but ends up getting George Takei instead.
  • In Sailor Moon Abridged, Serena attempts this... on a videophone.
    Serena: What's that? I can't hear you! kkkkkkkkkkch You're breaking up!
    Amy: Serena, I can see you!
    Serena: ...No you can't.

    Films — Animation 
  • Toy Story 2: Al claims to be going through a tunnel while talking to Mr. Konishi.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In the 1998 The Parent Trap, Hallie does this to Annie when she is unwilling to believe that her father is going to marry Gold Digger Meredith.
  • In Star Wars: A New Hope, Han Solo claims his radio is malfunctioning when trying (and failing) to pass as a Stormtrooper, then shoots it. Though in this case, he knows it didn't fool them ("Boring conversation anyway — Luke, we're gonna have company!").
  • In Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Pee-wee Herman did this to avoid having to ask Dottie out to the drive-in.
  • Patton:
    Aide: Sir, General Alexander has heard we're moving west. He says here, "Stop immediately. Go no farther than Agrigento. Repeat. Stop, immediately."
    Patton: That's what you think it says. I think it was garbled in transmission. Ask them to re-transmit the message. That'll take half a day at least.
  • Total Recall (1990)
    Cohaagen: Listen to me, Richter. I want Quaid delivered alive for reimplantation. Have you got that? I want him back in place with Lori. Did you hear me?
    Richter: What was that, sir? I couldn't hear you... Switching to another channel. I've got sunspots.
    Cohaagen: Call him back!
    Richter: I'm losing you.
  • Chekov and Sulu use a variation in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, pretending to be caught in a blizzard. Uhura just laughs it off.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the Enterprise does this to avoid being forced to return to Earth, so as to buy time to effect the rescue of Kirk and McCoy.
  • Denzel Washington gets a particularly hilarious example in Out of Time, where he yells "YOU'RE BREAKING UP!" at the top of his voice as he's stamping on the phone.
    • And he does it again in Unstoppable when his character, Frank Barnes, uses this tactic to end his conversation with Galvin before Galvin can order him not to try his plan to stop the train.
  • Blue Thunder. Officer Murphy has been ordered to fly the title helicopter back to the police airbase. He decides to do something else, so he repeatedly tells the tower that their transmission is garbled and he can't read them. His captain later calls him on it.
    Who are you fooling with that phony radio bullshit? Jesus Christ, Frank, that went out three days after Marconi invented the fucking thing!
  • In John Woo's Broken Arrow, Deacons' inside man on the warhead recovery team radioes his base while screaming in (fake) pain, while Deacons is shaving nearby. Deacons then actually holds the buzzing razor up to the microphone for a few seconds and the two share a chuckle.
  • Men In Black 2: Zed does this to Michael Jackson, when Michael brings up how he'd been promised a position in MIB.
  • A variant is done in the movie Heartbreakers. The person doing it isn't doing it to avoid someone, it's to get the person on the other end of the line to unknowingly volunteer information.
  • Used as psychological coercion in Spaceballs. While King Roland is trying to convince Lone Starr and Barf to rescue Princess Vespa:
    Lone Starr: We'll do it for... a million.
    King Roland: (outraged) A million!
    Barf: (starts fiddling with dials) Oh, you're starting to fade here, we're losing picture your Highness...
    King Roland: All right all right I'll pay it, only find her, save her!
  • Wayne's World: Wayne and his friends screwed with a fast food worker by only saying a couple syllables of each word in his order aloud. "I'd like 'rullers, 'ugar, 'ucks and a Mikita 'cup..." Subverted in that the Cashier was able to understand the order exactly.
  • In Real Steel, Charlie does this when he's on the phone with a man he owes money to.
  • The Brady Bunch Movie has Mr. Dittmeyer attempting to use this on his boss in the opening scene.

    Literature 
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga novels
    • When playing for time in The Vor Game, Miles tells his communications officer, "I want you to think of yourself as a non-communications officer.... I want maximum inefficiency, incompetence, and error.... You've worked with trainees, surely. Be creative."
    • And in the previous book, The Warrior's Apprentice, he tells the communications officer to pipe a base which he (correctly) suspects to have been taken by the enemy some gooey music and a 'Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By' message while he works out what to do about it.
  • Stephanie Plum does this on several occasions. Once, Morelli tells her she needs to work on her static, because he can hear phlegm in the noise she's making.
  • Wraith Squadron has a pair of pilots rubbing their gloves on their mics to simulate the sound while disobeying orders. Their commander is frustrated, knowing that he's done that himself, but he can't stop them. Both contribute hugely to the success of the mission, but both also die.
  • Near the end of Porno, Sick Boy scrapes the grill of his phone's mouthpiece to fake static for this, so he doesn't have to argue with Begbie about returning to Leith for a card game. From Cannes.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Blackadder Goes Forth, the title character avoids battle orders from his sadistic superiors by pretending there is radio interference in the line leading to his unit's phone. (His "static charade" even goes so far as to include a rendition of "A Wandering Minstrel I" sung in a tinny Radio Voice and saying "Quickly! Quickly, potato-head!" in German)
    • This causes an interesting little anachronism, as commercial radio and the radio weather forecast (both of whom Blackadder imitates) had not been invented yet at that point. Apparently, the static was so bad it was picking up interference from the future (Then again, it was hardly the most egregious anachronism ever to appear in the show).
    • The message was something about he had a lion up his end, so there's an advantage to an enema at once.
  • Subverted in one episode of The Smoking Room, when Sally uses the excuse of going into a tunnel to hang up on her mother, only to realize that her mother knows she's at work, so won't be fooled.
  • Friends does this one a few times, both with the tunnel excuse and various others (skip to 1:30).
  • In the pilot episode of In Plain Sight, Mary simulates a bad signal by holding her phone out the window of her moving car and shouting, "What? I'm losing you!"
  • Ezri Dax also tries this once in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but her "static" sounds so ridiculous that Ben isn't fooled for a second. (Of course, any engineer could probably tell the difference even with a really good static impression.) The looks on the faces of the people in Ops are something to behold.
    • Played with a few other times. Once, Sisko's superior has just sent him a message telling him to turn around rather than go rescue two crew members deep in enemy space. Kira relays the message to him, but he insists she couldn't possibly have understood what the Admiral was saying "through all that static". She pauses for a moment before agreeing the message was impossible to understand.
    • Played with again in an incident with some actual static interrupting a communication from Kira ordering the Defiant to move on to its rendezvous with a defenseless troop convoy rather than continue looking for Sisko's escape pod. Several of the bridge crew try to pretend they didn't understand what she was saying, but Worf is the commanding officer and after a moment of consideration he decides that he cannot justify pretending he didn't understand his orders even to rescue the captain.
  • Employed several times in Babylon 5, but most prominently in the episode "The Fall of Night" when Captain Sheridan cuts off his BabCom conversation with an angry Ambassador Londo Mollari by saying that "the line was breaking up" even though it wasn't (and Mollari being aware of the lie with an exasperated "Captain!" before the channel is cut). Sheridan proceeds to order the computer to run a diagnostic in order for Mollari's call not to come through.
  • House: "Sorry, I'm about to lose you because I'm driving through a tunnel, in a canyon, on an airplane, while hanging up the phone."
  • In Scrubs, when Dr. Cox is trying to avoid his wife, she calls him while in the hospital. He picks it up, opens it, says, "I'm in a tunnel." and hangs up in the space of about a second.
    • Then when he finally answers her call, "Oh, for the love of...WHAT!!!?!?!"
  • Better Off Ted: Veronica uses this to get out of a conversation. She's not on the phone, the person she's talking to is right in front of her, but no one dares call her on it.
  • A Running Gag in Brazilian Sitcom A Grande Família. Whenever resident Mr. Vice Guy Agostinho is being chewed out via the phone (mostly while driving his taxi), he alternatively takes the phone far and closer to his face while complaining about tunnel interference before actually hanging up.
  • In the December 31, 2002 episode of Royal Canadian Air Farce, an Al-Qaeda receptionist uses fake static to avoid speaking with the CEO of Nortel on the phone (even the Al-Qaeda Credit Union has standards!).
  • Angel
    • Spike pulls this on Angel after stealing his car.
    • Calling his old contacts in order to locate Angel ("In the Dark") has the added consequence of stirring up Doyle's creditors. Eventually, Doyle starts resorting to the 'wrong number' trick.
    Doyle (Nasally accent) House of Pies...
  • Pierce attempts this when he is unable to turn his phone off in Community episode "Introduction to Statistics".
  • Often in Burn Notice. An excellent example would be when Fiona's about to ask where a fake banker was dropped off, Michael tells her over the phone to be gentle on the human smuggler, over the phone, when she responds with "You're breaking up" and hangs up on him.
  • In an episode of Mash, Colonel Potter is trying to call home and everyone else is trying to stop him without letting him know why. At one point Margaret is imitating the operator saying a line is not yet available, complete with scrunching up carbon paper to imitate static.
  • In an episode of Up All Night, Reagan attempts this in the middle of a video chat with her parents, which requires her to freeze in place for several seconds at a time to give the impression that the video feed is buffering.
  • Elementary: Sherlock attempts to make it sound like Joan's call is breaking up, but Joan is actually walking up right behind him and catches him in the act.
  • In the first episode of MythQuest, Matt is on a video call with his university collegue, who is angry at him for borrowing an archaeological artifact without permission. He claims he can't see or hear her, then hangs up. She tells him not to do this again, so evidently it didn't fool her.
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "F.Z.Z.T.", Agent Coulson simulates static while talking to his superior officer in order to avoid hearing an order to kill Simmons because she has become infected. He isn't fooled.
  • In the third (televised) episode of Almost Human, Detective John Kennex is ordered by Captain Maldonado to safely evacuate a building under siege with the civilians rather than keep after the perpetrators who are holding hostages on one of the upper floors. He responds with "There's....I can't....wha...de..wh...do you...bu...an....Christmas..."

    Pro Wrestling 
  • John Morrison and The Miz attempt this on an episode of The Dirt Sheet in order to deal with WWE Diva Layla calling in and complaining about what they said about her dress. Unsurprisingly, considering that they tried this on someone who was apparently watching their show, it doesn't work.

    Video Games 
  • In StarCraft, Samir Duran claims interference when ordered to intercept an attacking Zerg force; his failure to act allowed Raynor and Mengsk to escape. This is one of the first hints that Duran's loyalties are not with the UED; he in fact works for Kerrigan. Maybe.
  • In Halo 3: ODST, Sadie tries to do this to end the conversation with her father. Probably wouldn't have worked even if it wasn't video feed.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Used sarcastically when Shepard cuts off the Council, and Joker will remark "Oops, lost the connection."
    • (S)he doesn't bother to make any fake static, but Renegade Shepard still shoots down The Illusive Man's attempt at a tirade after blowing up the Collector Base with the line "I'm sorry, I can't quite hear you - I'm getting a lot of bullshit on this line". And, yes, (s)he can have Joker hang up on him.
    • In the third game, you can find Joker and Liara talking over intercom on the Normandy. After Joker slips up and tells Liara how Shepard used to hang up on the council, he immediately claims they're "going through some dark matter".
  • Modern Warfare
  • Parodied in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. Ratchet tries to pull this trick during a call. He forgot the other guy could see him, though. He promptly shuts him up by killing the conversation.
  • Spoofed in Saints Row: The Third, with Pierce and the Boss faking static after Kinzie tells them not to follow the truck carrying a supercomputer with a tank. Which they do anyway.
  • In Fallout 2 if you accidentally contact The Enclave in the Possidan power plant you can use this trope to buy yourself some time.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • During an SF Debris review of a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, he wonders exactly how an Admiral would react to Benjamin Sisko's actions. It ends with...
    Admiral: Can you think of any reason why I shouldn't court martial you right now?
    Sisko: (static noises) Whats that sir? (static) You're breaking up! (static)
    Admiral: Holo-communicator, Ben, I can see you making the noises right now.
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, Rainbow Dash tries to pull this as she flies away from a face-to-face conversation.
    Twilight: Hey, you get back here, I'm speaking to you!
    Rainbow: I'm sorry Twilight, I can't hear you, I'm going through a tunnel or something.
    Twilight: You're in the sky!
    Rainbow: I can't hear you, Twilight!

    Western Animation 
  • In Star Wars: Clone Wars, Anakin claims the radio connection is breaking up when Obi Wan orders him not to pursue a Sith fighter alone.
  • Code Lyoko: Jérémie calls Jim, using the Supercomputer to disguise his voice as the principal's, to get him to release Ulrich and Odd. Jim falls for it, but then tries to discuss "a personal matter. It's about Suzanne Hertz..." Jérémie quickly blurts out, "Oh, it's a tunnel. We're about to get cut off!"
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents, Cosmo does this to distract Wanda from the fact that he's screwed up, resulting in an attack by intelligent roaches. Then the roaches swarm over him and he cries out, "Aah! This tunnel's itchy!"
  • Moltar does this to Space Ghost in Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Space Ghost calls him on it: "You're just making noises with your mouth!"
  • Justice League, "Eclipsed" — Flash's absurdly sleazy agent does this to him.
    • Galatea is busy beating the crap out of Supergirl when her boss realizes Lex Luthor's treachery. Her boss tries to call off Galatea's attack, but she claims the signal is breaking up. Then she tells Supergirl it was a wrong number.
  • Bumblebee in Transformers Animated tried this once. When Prowl did this later Ratchet replies that Bumblebee's fake static was more believable.
  • Ron tried doing this in an early episode of Kim Possible; he might have pulled it off if he didn't drop the fake static in between every word of his otherwise complete sentence.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Princess' limo driver tries to do this in the Christmas special when she asks him if she's naughty.
    Driver: (faking static) You're... you're breaking up ... going through a ... unnel ... call...lat...
    Princess: (leaning forward and knocking on his window) No, we're not! I'm in the car, you twit!
  • Futurama: "Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch":
    (Zap Brannigan commandeers the videophone from Kif)
    Zap: Well, well, well. Do my eyes believe me, or is that my bosomy swan, Leela?
    Leela: Say again? You're breaking up. (throws the book she's reading at the videophone)
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series movie Mystery of the Batwoman, Bruce is riding in his limousine with Tim, and talking on the phone with Barbara, who is away at college. When she begins grilling him about Batwoman and hinting that she wants to go out while she's in town for Spring Break, Bruce panics and resorts to pulling this on her.
    Bruce: (while crumpling a piece of newspaper) Uh, Barb, we're... going through the East... tunnel now. 'fraid... signal's breaking up. Talk later.
    Tim: Squeaked through again, didn't you?
  • Jade of Jackie Chan Adventures has done this to Jackie more than once.
  • In the Dan Vs. episode "The Animal Shelter," Dan does this to get out of a phone call with Elise. She gets annoyed that he isn't even bothering to make the noises, but is simply saying "crackle" and "buzz".
  • In the South Park episode, "A Ladder To Heaven", to cut off an interview with a pedophile, the news broadcasters hold up a cardboard test pattern with an image of TV static on it, shake it in front of the camera, and make static noises with their mouths.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Comes up twice in the episode "One Good Scare Ought to Do It!" First, Candace calls her mom to bust her brothers, but ends up talking to her crush, Jeremy, instead and freaks out, crinkling a ball of paper to fake static, claiming the call is breaking up. Second, Candace calms herself down and calls Jeremy, only for his little sister to pick up the phone and pull the same trick on her, which Candace calls her out on.
    • Linda does it to Candace in "Bullseye!", prompting Candace to remark "I hate when she does 'cshhhhhh'!"
  • Lagoon Boy tries to do this on the team psychic link in Young Justice. Nightwing immediately calls foul.
  • Wing Commander Academy: In "The Lords of the Sky", Maniac uses faked radio interference to ignore an order from Blair for the flight wing to stay together on a reconnaisance mission.
  • Subverted on The Simpsons, when Homer gets a loaner car while his regular car gets repaired. When Homer and Marge are lustfully driving in the new car, Homer gets a call from the dealer saying his car is fixed, causing Homer to say they can keep it so he can keep the loaner. He then tells the man to listen to him and his wife making "sweet love", which is followed by static sounds.
    Homer: That wasn't me, that was the transmission.

    Real Life 
  • Horatio Nelson did this in the 19th Century at the (naval) Battle of Copenhagen. When his superior ordered him to retreat, he "looked" for the signal by holding his telescope to his blind eye and said: "I really do not see the signal." He went on to win the battle.

    The superior (Sir Hyde Parker) was expecting this, if Nelson was in condition to continue the battle. The order to retreat was given only to allow Nelson to keep his honor (and his life) if Nelson and his force were in no condition to continue the battle.
  • David Hackworth mentions in his memoir About Face, that he would do the "radio interference" bit fairly frequently. Usually by using an electric shaver.
  • This incident at Not Always Right.
  • Rumor has it that a certain large brokerage had "static buttons" built into all its dealers' phones to facilitate the sudden end of inconvenient calls.


Excuse BoomerangExcuse of an IndexFreudian Excuse
Evil PhonePhone TropesFor Inconvenience, Press "1"
Fake DefectorNarrative DevicesFallen-on-Hard-Times Job

alternative title(s): Tunnel Of Avoidance; Faked Static
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