"Don't you do it! Don't you dare! I don't want to hear it! Don't you beep! If you beep, I'll... don't even think about it!... Don't...!"
When a character lives in a modern setting, how do you show the audience or reader how quirky he or she is? Make that character an entertaining answering machine message for callers to hear! They're also good for showing the audience a hint of the character's personality.
Anime and Manga
- Darker Than Black uses November 11's answering machine in one episode, having him tell a joke while the person at the other end is waiting for the beep. It's used as an Orphaned Punchline, and surprisingly seems to be a bawdy joke as opposed to November 11's usual sense of humor.
- The Casanova Wannabe in the German comic Rudi has one, where he's bringing a woman to orgasm. How the hell did he manage to make her agree with that?!
- Played with in MouseHunt, where Nathan Lane's character has an answering machine prompt that consists entirely of, "When ya hear the beep, start talkin'."
- In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, the Grinch sees he has no messages and checks his outgoing: "If you utter so much as one syllable I'll hunt you down and gut you like a fish!!!!! If you'd like to fax me, press the Star key!"
- Swingers features a funny answering machine, even though the message is completely normal. It seems the main character has his machine to spout out encouragements to him, as after he checks it says, in its robotic voice, comments like "She's not worth it" and "There are other fish in the sea."
- In The Dinner Game, (French: Le Diner De Cons), François Pignon has such a message.
- The crafting of a funny message is the source of great angst in the short film "This Is John" by the Duplass Brothers.
- Meet The Fockers has Greg calling his parents and getting the machine, which includes the standard message and then his parents yelling about how to turn the recorder off.
- The beginning of Cheech And Chong: Still Smokin' features Cheech's long and funny answering machine message before Chong tells him they need to catch the plane to Amsterdam.
- Hilariously subverted in LA Story, in which Steve Martin answers the phone in a pitch perfect parody of an answering machine message:
Harrison: Hi, this is Harrison. I'm home right now, so you can talk to me after the beep *beep*
Sara: (very confused) ...hello?
- In Loaded Weapon 1:
Answering Machine: You've reached the desk of Sgt. Wes Luger. Please leave a message after the beep.
Billy: Yeah, Wes? It's me, Billy.
Answering Machine: Hey! I said after the beep!
- The Terminator. "Hi! [beat] Ha-ha, fooled you, you're talking to a machine!" The last time we hear this message, Sarah Connor really is talking to a machine as the Terminator has just killed her roommate who made the message.
- The Discworld novel Sourcery has a fairly standard message. The funny bit is that they're in a fantasy universe and it's not a phone, it's a Benevolent Genie's magic lamp.
Do not put down the lamp because your custom is important to us. Please leave a wish after the tone and, very shortly, it will be our command. In the meantime, have a nice eternity.
- How I Met Your Mother plays with this trope a few times. On one occasion, Barney and Robin record a corny duet as part of a bet. On another, Lily starts talking to her dad, learns he wants $5,000 in bail, and starts pretending to be one of these.
- George's classic message from Seinfeld, sung to the tune of the theme from The Greatest American Hero.
- This was copied for Sean Fausz's answering machine in Kickassia.
- Carrie Bradshaw's message in Sex and the City has variations of "Hi. I'm shoe shopping".
- In a sketch on the The Tracey Ullman Show, Tracey played a single girl whose recorded calls all indicated that her answering machine message made her sound sick or depressed (one, a wrong number, referred her to a suicide hotline). In response Tracey hired a studio band and recorded an elaborate message to the tune of "Something's Coming" from West Side Story. When she came home the next day and eagerly prepared to listen to her messages, all she received was a long line of beeps, indicating that the callers had gotten fed up waiting for the song to end and hung up.
- In one episode of Mama's Family, Mama gets an answering machine and each person's attempt to record an outgoing message reflects their personality: Iola does it in a drab monotone, Naomi does it in a sexy, seductive voice with a kiss at the end (Mama: "It's supposed to be a phone message, not foreplay!"), Bubba shows off by doing it Elvis-style, and Vint just describes the machine on his message. They finally settle on Mama's short but not-so-sweet "It's your dime, spill it!"
- Not always funny, but on The Rockford Files, Jim Rockford's message machine was the introduction to the episode, often leaving the audience with an idea of either the trouble Jim was up to or the personality of Jim's new client.
- One episode of Criminal Minds has a guy (played by Frankie Muniz) compulsively calling his girlfriend's cellphone, and getting the message "Hello, I cannot answer right now because I'm busy living my life!". He keeps getting increasingly exasperated that she doesn't answer, and a flashback reveals that he suggested the message to her (as he's some succesful comic writter/artist). Then it turns out she was murdered a while ago, he has the phone (in silence) and his insistence on calling is part of the denial/psychosis he's suffering. He didn't kill her, mind you; he's hunting down the gang that did.
- On the show Sisters, when after one sister's husband is killed, we see her sitting alone in their bedroom, repeatedly listening to their answering machine message, which includes him mock-angrily demanding that callers leave them alone, since they're newlyweds.
- House at one time had a very convincing "this number has been disconnected recording" for his answering machine.
- If Joey and Chandler's answering machine in Friends isn't enough ("Here comes the beep, you know what to do" - since it doesn't say who it is, allowed Chandler to date a woman who called the wrong number), Ross attempted one that made the duo groan ("* stomp, stomp, clap!* We will, we will, call you back!").
- When Rachel and Phoebe were sharing an apartment, they made a couple of attempts to record a message with alternating words. Somehow, Rachel kept ending up with the "good" words.
- One message said "You've reached Monica and Chandler's. If you're hearing this message, we're probably screening." While it's playing, we see Chandler reading a newspaper. "Yeah, we are."
- Hey, this is Drake & Josh! Leave your name and...blah, blah, blah, blah...
- A Kids in the Hall sketch revolves around a couple trying to record their outgoing message. The wife wants a simple, straightforward message while the husband wants something clever. While attempting to record their message, they have an argument while the tape is still running. A friend calls in and hears their message, which contains the argument. The caller laughs and congratulates the couple on creating their funniest message yet.
- One episode of Cheers involves Sam's message, which sounds like him answering the phone, then a long pause, followed by "Just kidding. You got my machine." Diane calls Sam before her wedding to Frasier, hoping Sam is on a plane on his way to stop the wedding. When she thinks he has answered, she hangs up in disgust without hearing the rest, and thus doesn't know that Sam is on his way.
- Another episode's teaser plays Woody's outgoing message, which Sam says (in the message) is stupid. The caller is revealed to be Woody, who now agrees that the message is stupid.
- From Supernatural you have the voicemail of Castiel: You have reached the voice mail of [Castiel: I don’t understand. Why do you want me to say my name?] [sound of numbers being pressed] [beep]
- Castiel also complains about Sam's voicemail being "too long, and the sound of your voice is grating." From the numerous times we've heard Sam's message over the course of the series, it's not particularly long.
- At the time, Castiel had recently drunk a liquor store, so his irritation and perception of a grating voice could have just been an utterly massive hangover.
- Dean's message is a terse: "Leave your name, number and nightmare at the tone."
- Bones 's voicemail reminds the audience that this is not Temperance Brennan, but a recording of her.
- In Frasier, Niles and Daphne's answering machine consists of them singing a duet to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony ("No-bo-dy's hooooooome, no-bo-dy's hoooooooome....")
- Not necessarily outright funny, is in George Takei's closing narration in Community. A relatively standard message for any Kevins who happened to like Star Trek.
- Will and Grace used to do these all the time. When the phone rang and they listened to one of them, Will said, "I hate us so much right now." Apparently they make them when drunk.
- When Iron Maiden re-released their singles, drummer Nicko McBrain had hilarious tracks commenting on the songs (among other things). At the end of each, he imitates an answering machine.
- One early Dilbert strip has him leaving a girl a message asking her out on a date. Her answering machine says "If you're calling to take me to Paris, press one. If you're offering to take me to a crappy movie, press 2."
- Cue Dilbert pressing '2' and saying "I've got a bad feeling about this..."
- In Zits, Jeremy Duncan makes a message where he simply farts into the phone: "Leave a message at the sound of the 'frap'." And in an early strip, "You have reached the number you called. Blah, blah, blah. If you actually need further instructions, well, that's just pathetic."
- In FoxTrot Jason is quite fond on these. Some include;
- A message offering the number of the insane asylum to anyone calling for Paige.
- A message telling someone leaving a message for Paige to press "666."
- Bringing the machine up to the shower to record Roger singing in the shower.
- Recording himself singing "A million bottles of beer on the wall...", leaving his parents wondering why they have no messages again.
- Informing the caller they've reached the "Jason Fox Hotline, your 24 hour source for all things Jason" and then a lengthy description of his day, leaving Roger wondering why everyone sounds so grouchy on the machine.
- "Hi, this is Suzy. I'm not at home, but please leave a message at the tone... Unless you're Jon Arbuckle, in which case the machine will automatically hung up."
- An episode of Garfield and Friends had a message where Jon was being assaulted by Garfield and Odie while recording.
- An actual strip (April 27, 2008) has Liz call and hear him fighting with Garfield in the recording (and it's implied that he'd JUST been recording it a short while before). As in the Kids in the Hall example, she likes it and says it's funny.
- Parodied in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin once picked up the phone and said, "Leave a message at the sound of the 'click'." and hung up.
- An early Frazz Sunday strip has Frazz and the kids recording a song with some nonsense instructions for the caller.
- Lemont's answering machine always identifies the caller, usually "Mom" or "creditor." To the latter, he tends to mention his lack of funds. To the former, he's painfully self-effacing and apologetic for not living up to her expectations.
- Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me has the promise of this trope as a prize. If a contestant wins, they'll get radio personality Carl Kasell's voice on their home answering machine. What kinds of thing do they make him say? Well, find someone who knows someone who's won the game to find out.
- You can hear a few samples here.
- Rent has Mark and Roger saying, "speeeeeaak" together in a bored tone.
- Lammy's answering machine message in Um Jammer Lammy is so long that she has time to run down some flights of stairs, run back up to her apartment, turn off all of the appliances she had accidentally left on, give her stuffed panda a kiss, and race back out the door.
- Jagged Alliance 2 has a number in the recruitment menu. A few examples.
Buns: "You have reached my video voice mail, please leave me a message. And Gumpy, if this is you, leave me a message like the last one, I will send you a reply that explodes on impact. I am not kidding."
Steroid: "Robert Gontarski is ummm... UNAVOIDABLE right now. Tell me who you are and what you want and maybe I put him in touch with you, maybe not."
Fox: You've reached Cynthia Guzzman. I'm kind of... -giggle- tied up at the moment, but leave me a message and I'll call you. If you would rather not hear from me, breathe heavily. Just once.
Fidel: How this thing work? Fidel no here now... OK, I am here now, but I no be here when you get message, because if I here, you no get message, you get Fidel... One thing for sure, Fidel like to kill. And Fidel like money.
Malice: "Hello dere. Single, white, French-Canadian guy looking for married, Black, English girl dat, uh, oh, uh, bad message. Leave me somet'ing, I get it back to you."
- This website.
- Roses are red und violets are blue/Hitler want a message from you.
- Almost Real Life example: This message for a school needs to be heard to believe.
- Marzipan's Answering Machine is mostly about the funny calls she gets, but some of her answering machine messages can be pretty unusual, too. Some examples:
Marzipan: Hi, this is Marzipan. I'm out doing some very important things, so please leave me a message, and if this is Strong Bad calling to prank call me, can you please do the one where I win the radio contest? 'Cause that one's my favorite. Okay. Bye.
- The Doctor Who Scream of the Shalka webcast (now non-canon with the new series) revealed the Doctor (and robot Master)'s answerphone message to end "we will get back to you before you call." Also, by the sound of it, the Master was somehow making the Doctor giggle while he recorded it...
- SCP Foundation: SCP-361 is an Etruscan artifact resembling a divining liver. If you put an actual sheep liver on it you get the following message:
Welcome to HarusCo! Your sacrifice is very important to us! For Tinia the Thunderer, please perform a horizontal incision on the offering. For Aita of the Underworld, please perform a vertical incision. For Maris, lightly cover your offering with the ash of a dead warrior related to you by blood.
- The Joker has one in Batman: The Animated Series. Naturally, it's also disturbing (Watch here).
Joker: [laughs] Boy, did you get a wrong number. Leave your message at the sound of the shriek.
Man's voice: No! Please! Don't! [shrieks]
- One episode of The Simpsons has Homer and Marge buying a book about trying to invoke this trope, and end up trying to record a message together while reading out of it. It sort of goes without saying, but it ends up being So Unfunny It's Funny.
- A season 2 episode had Homer calling Barney for bail, and initially gets an answering machine message sung to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
- A recurring gag in Archer is that characters will call Archer and start talking only to realize that it's just one of his elaborate and obnoxious voice mail messages.
- Roger from American Dad! has one.
- In the second Family Guy Star Wars special, Luke (Chris) tries to call Han (Peter) to tell him that he's going to the Degoba System.
Luke: Alright, so I'm going to the Degoba Sys-
Han: I'm sorry, I can't hear you.
Luke: [louder] I said I'm going to the Degoba-
Han: I'm sorry, but you're gonna have to speak up.
Luke: [screaming] I said I'm going to the-
Han: Haha! It's a machine!
- From the first episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, when Dr. Robotnik tries to call Grounder, who is in pieces:
The robot you have reached has been discomboobulated [sic], and the hedgehog you were chasing got away.
- In a 2-minute short for Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo and the gang try to make one of these, but it fails when Madame Foster overpowers the circuits before they could press the save button.
- In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Seat to Stardom," Heffer tries calling Rocko's house but gets his answering machine, which the outgoing message starts with Rocko saying "Hello?" as if he were really answering the phone. After a few seconds of silence, he says "This is Rocko," and goes into a typical answering machine greeting, fooling whoever is calling. Later when Rocko tries calling Heffer back, Heffer intentionally does not answer, resulting in his answering machine to play an outgoing message: "At the sound of the tone, please leave a message, unless you're a Wedgie Boy and have no time for your friends."
- In his column Hell and Back describing his slide into clinical depression after Hurricane Katrina, Chris Rose wrote:
I changed the message on my phone to say: "This is Chris Rose. I am emotionally unavailable at the moment. Please leave a message."
I thought this was hilarious. Most of my friends picked it up as a classic cry for help.
- Anyone who has worked in a call center likely has many stories of these. Remember when making your voicemail: random strangers asking for money will hear it.
- Baseball great Will Clark had B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone" on his answering machine. (He was known as Will "The Thrill" Clark.)