Historical Person Punchline
In a work set in the past, there's a twist at the end revealing that one of the supporting characters, whose identity has been hidden from the audience, is actually a famous historical figure
Can overlap with Young Future Famous People
and In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous
. The Been There, Shaped History
person may be especially prone to having this kind of supporting character.
Not to be confused with You Will Be Beethoven
, in which a time-travelling character becomes
a famous historical figure.
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- The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is rife with famous historical persons, but their identities generally get revealed right away. There are exceptions though:
- In The Buckaroo of the Badlands, Scrooge befriends a young man who chose to become a cowboy instead of continuing his political career. Scrooge inspires him to go back into politics. The story's last panel reveals this fellow's initials to be T. R..
- In The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff, Scrooge meets a lot of legends of The Wild West: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, P. T. Barnum, and the Daltons. And a Native American who escaped from his reservation and now performs in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He is in the end revealed to be no other than Geronimo, the famous Apache leader. (He does mention his name well before the reveal though. But it is not the name he became famous with, and therefore a Genius Bonus. Scrooge, by the way, recognizes this name immediately.)
- In the 1987 Mickey Mouse story Topolino e il ritorno al passato, Mickey and Goofy time travel to 16th century Saint-Rémy where they meet a young boy named Michel who accidentally follows them on their return to the present. Michel, who only speaks in rhyme, spends a day in the modern world. Before he is sent back to the past he secretly rips out random pages from history books and hides them in his pants, leaving Mickey and co. to wonder what he'd to with these fragments of knowledge. It turns out that Michel is Michel de Nostredame - Nostradamus.
- In Vampire City a mysterious "God like" Englishman who twice served as a Deus ex Machina is revealed in the end to be Lord Wellington.
- In The Once and Future King King Arthur sends a young page, Tom of Newbold Revel, away from the coming final battle with Mordred, to preserve the memory of Camelot. Newbold Revel was the birthplace of Sir Thomas Malory. (Of course, this violates chronology wildly — but then, so does nearly everything else in the series.)
- The first book of The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica ends with the reveal that the three protagonists John, Charles and Jack are John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Charles Williams and Clive Staples "Jack" Lewis.
- Stephen Fry wrote a Christmas Sherlock Holmes pastiche called The Adventure of the Laughing Jarvey. It features a decidedly un-festive Holmes and an author hoping to recover a stolen manuscript. By the end of the story the manuscript and the author have been identified and Holmes has had a change of heart about Christmas.
- In the novelization of Back to the Future Part III, the little boy who hands Marty his gun belt and calls him "Mister" was revealed by bystander conversation to be D.W. Griffith, future film pioneer. This does not happen in the film proper, despite many trivia lists claims to the contrary.
- In The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, the protagonists (real-life pulp authors Lester Dent and Lafayette Ronald Hubbard) are joined by a young man who only identifies himself as Bob. He learns a lot about pulp writing and the growing science fiction scene from them, and at the end he reveals his last name: Heinlein.
- The Grimnoir Chronicles: An accountant (who helped in the climactic battle, explaining that he fought with the Gordon Highlanders in World War One), turns out to be Raymond Chandler.
- Crusade in Jeans by Thea Beckman: The student who is rescued by the protagonist and taught mathematics with Arabic numerals turns out to be Fibonacci.
- In Cure the Texas Fever by J.T. Edson, Waxahachie Smith is aided by a young man calling himself 'Frank Smith'. At the end of the novel, it is revealed that this 'Frank' is an impersonator who has been posing as Frank Smith to allow the real Frank Smith to travel to Texas unhindered. The impersonator's real name? Teddy Roosevelt.
- The German television series Löwengrube (Lion Pit) bases on this, as it tells the history of the Munich middle class Grandauer family from the 1870s to the 1960s, following them through two world wars and the post-war episodes. One of the various examples would be at the dawn of the first world war. In the police station (where the family patriarch works) a certain Austrian artist applies for German citizenship because he feels very German. Around the same time, the Grandauer's son (a preteen at that time) is seen being buddies with a short and bespectacled dorky kid from his class, called Himmler, Heinrich.
- This trope is used quite frequently to generate joke punchlines in Brass.
- In the Doctor Who serial "Timelash", a young man named Herbert gets caught up in one of the Doctor's adventures, which involves a war between worlds, an invisible man, a time machine, and Morlox — and in the end, of course, we learn that he's Herbert George Wells.
- In The Shakespeare Code Shakespeare teams up with The Doctor and Martha. During the episode Shakespeare opens up about the death of his son and how it almost drove him mad and made him question Life, death and everything. At the end we have the punchline:
I got new ideas. Perhaps it is time for me to write about fathers and sons. In memory of my boy, my precious Hamnet. Martha:
Wait, Hamnet? Shakespeare:
That's him. Martha:
Whats wrong with that?
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Time's Arrow": Jack the bellboy turns out to be Jack London.
- Interestingly, it's Mark Twain who tells him to go to Alaska, mostly to get rid of him.
- New Amsterdam, "Soldier's Heart": Walt the orderly turns out to be Walt Whitman.
- A few Quantum Leap episodes:
- "How the Tess Was Won": The main plot of the episode is a Shaggy Dog Story. The real reason for the leap is that the guitar-playing kid whose name Sam doesn't know, and who he's been calling "buddy", turns out to be Buddy Holly, who needs a push on the lyrics to "Peggy Sue".
- "The Boogieman": the kid to whom Sam keeps making Stephen King allusions (or, at least, to whom he presumably narrates these allusions after the All Just a Dream reveal) turns out to be "Stevie" King himself.
- This also shows up as the punchline to a few brief jokes: Sam gives real estate advice to Donald Trump, shows dance moves to Michael Jackson, and performs the Heimlich Maneuver on the doctor it's named after.
- Done in a roundabout way in "The Leap Between the States" when Sam leaps into one of his ancestors, a Union soldier during the Civil War. Near the end of the episode one of the characters, a runaway slave, discusses the surname he wants to take once he's free. Since being a free man makes him feel like royalty, he chooses the name King...and Al confirms the young man is the great-grandfather of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "Comes the Inquisitor", the Vorlons send a human named Sebastian to act as their Inquisitor. He acts, sounds, and dresses like a late 19th century upper-class Englishman, and claims he was taken by the Vorlons to do their bidding and is kept in suspended animation when he is not needed. He explains at the end that he is indeed a 19th-century Englishman, and that he thought he was chosen for a special destiny, but was wrong. And history was not kind:
Good luck to you in your holy cause, Captain Sheridan. May your choices have better results than mine — remembered not as a messenger. Remembered not as a reformer, not as a prophet, not as a hero, not even as Sebastian. Remembered only... as Jack
- In the short-lived show The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, the protagonists meet a young American boy named Al, deaf in one ear, who makes amazing inventions and is able to reverse-engineer a hovering machine from the future (or the past; not sure about this one). When leaving, he reveals that Al is a shortened form of his middle name - Alva. Yep, that's Thomas Alva Edison.
- Happens from time to time in Boardwalk Empire:
- In the pilot Jimmy (at this point Nucky's driver) is left out while Nucky meets with the crime bosses of Chicago and New York City. While waiting, he has a long conversation with another young driver from Chicago (though born in Brooklyn) during which they discover that they have a lot in common. With the meeting over, they say their names before parting ways, and this Chicago driver's is no other but Al Capone.
- In "Home", a teenager meets Chalky White and offers him a business deal. Chalky thinks that this is Nucky's way of testing his loyalty and sends the kid away after taunting him for his young age. The kid reunites then with Lucky Luciano and his business partners, revealing then that he is Meyer Lansky.
- Averted in the second season with the introduction of "Benny", an odd 15-year old that is a pupil of Lansky. Benny appears for only a couple of episodes and is not until the next season when he shows up more and is also revealed to be a cold-blooded killer. Even then, his full name is not stated on screen and is only mentioned in the director's commentary.
- Season 4 has an example with the reveal in mid-scene rather than at the end of it (when another, unrelated twist takes place):
Supervisor Elliot: ...Who are you? Who is this child?
Interrogator: You can address me as Acting Director Hoover.
Supervisor Elliot: "Acting Director" of what?
- Parodied in one episode of the short-lived Oliver Beene. One of Oliver's friends is a young boy named "Bill Gates". The Narrator (who's Oliver as an adult) points out that it's not that Bill Gates - this one grew up to work at Radio Shack.
- Given its Edutainment nature, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles usually introduced its historical figures right away. And there were a lot. The exception is the 6 year-old kid Indy and company find in Congo, January 1917 and name Barthélemy after one of their fallen comrades, who is only identified as Barthélemy Boganda by the old Indy in the episode's epilogue. The Book Ends were deleted when the show was recut and released in home video, so Boganda remains unidentified there.
- In Live A Live, Oboromaru is only told that the prisoner he's been sent to rescue is "an important person", and he turns out to be a light-hearted but determined guy wielding a gun. After defeating Ode Iou, he reveals himself to be Sakamoto Ryouma, and gives you the option to join him if you want.
- The ending of Saints Row IV reveals that the narrator is actually Jane Austen, who had been abducted via time travel by Zinyak and released from stasis by the Boss.
- A time-travel episode of The Fairly Oddparents had a little boy called Billy talking about computers and being called crazy. At one point, somebody goes "Oh, that Billy Gates!"
- More "Person From Historical Fiction Punchline", but works in the same manner: In one episode of the Back to the Future the animated series, the characters are in Ancient Rome and get some help from a slave named Judah who turns out to be a damn good charioteer. At the end he reveals his full name: Judah Ben Hur.