Homer: Uh, buh, buh, we're new foreign exchange students from ... uh, um ... Scotland!
Willie: Saints be praised, I'm from Scotland! Where do ya hail from?
Homer: Uh ... North ... Kilttown.
Willie: No foolin'! I'm from North Kilttown! Do you know Angus McLeod?
In creating a false identity a character has invented a piece of backstory. Perhaps, when asked about their hometown or high school, they blurt out a fake name, sometimes inventing it out of whole cloth
. Too bad that, not only does that place actually exist, but one of the first people they run into has actually been there, and excitedly
wants more details. The pretender has found himself quite a pickle of a problem, which only more and more lies
can get them out of.
This situation can be part of a Spot
or Bluff the Impostor
scene. See also Because I'm Jonesy
, which is going one step further: an impostor meets the very person he's masquerading as. If it actually works, consider Seamless Spontaneous Lie
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- Somewhat related is the whole Winchestertonfieldsville scene in Mr. Deeds, in which every lie Winona Ryder's character makes up about her childhood ends up actually existing.
- In a similar fashion, the framing device for Y Tu Mamá También is a road trip to the (fictional, as far as the protagonists know) beach of Boca de Cielo ("Mouth of Heaven"). It's actually just an excuse to try and get the female lead to sleep with one or both of them, but then they actually reach it...
- In Maverick, Bret Maverick wants to expose/embarrass the con woman "Mrs. Bransford".
Maverick: I can't quite place your accent. Where in the South are you from?
Mrs. Bransford: Ever been to Mobile?
Mrs. Bransford: Well, that's where I'm from.
Maverick: Mobile, Alabama? Hell, I've been there. I'll bet we know the same people. You start.
Mrs. Bransford: [beat. then, in tears:] I've tried so hard to forget that place.
- Well played on Maverick's part because her first response didn't answer the question. Had he said, "Oh, you're from there—" and tried to discredit her, she still could say she was not from there. So Maverick played dumb until she specifically says where she's from. Bam.
- Done in Catch Me If You Can, when Frank's new girlfriend's father is trying to prove that he is lying about which school he went to. The father asks about the name of a certain professor's dog, knowing that Frank can't possibly know it — Frank manages to evade it by saying the dog died.
- In There's Something About Mary, a crude, low-class private detective is trying to impress Mary by pretending to be a suave architect. Cue her architect friend. Who was also only pretending.
- In Kate and Leopold, Kate's boss is trying to impress her by claiming to either have an impressive manor in England or know someone who does (we don't hear this claim, only the reaction). Leopold immediately points out that such a manor doesn't exist. Kate tries to say that Leopold could be wrong, but Leopold is adamant. He grew up there, and he'd know.
- Leopold further shatters JJ's pretensions by pointing out the errors he made in trying to fake familiarity with La Bohème.
- Even more ironic when you realize that the filmmakers themselves don't know the opera very well: it premiered in 1896, and Leo is from 1876.
- A scene in Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins involves Velma sneaking around an office in the school's library while she's looking for evidence. When the librarian walks in and demands to know what she was doing, she pretends to be a lost exchange student from Russia. Guess who once went to Moscow and learned Russian.
- In Splash the main character and his brother are pretending to be Swedish scientists who have been sent to examine the mermaid. Unfortunately they run into an actual Swede who proceeds to query them in his native tongue. For his first question they basically respond just by saying "yes" a great number of times. His second question, translated for the viewers, is along the lines of "what are a pair of Swedish scientists doing in the USA". John Candy's character, being an afficionado of pornography responds by saying "Hey baby, I've got a 12 inch penis" which he only pulls off due to having watched a decent amount of Swedish porn. This convinces the guard who just laughs knowingly.
- In True Lies the main character's wife seems to be having an affair. The main character, being a spy uses his skills to track down the other man and while under surveilance hears the other man claiming to be a spy himself. However the other man claims to have been involved in an incident that the main character was responsible for and he immediately realises the guy is only pretending to be a spy to attract his wife.
- In Inglourious Basterds, because Lt. Aldo and his men don't know enough German to replace the spies originally chosen to attend a Nazi movie premiere, they confidently decide they can pass for Italian instead. The first Nazi they're introduced to is an SS officer, who greets them in perfect Italian.
- The A-Team movie has a scene where Face accidentally switched BA and Murdoch's fake passports. BA manages to bluff his way past his customs official but the one Murdoch went up to is also from Zimbabwe and asks him a question in Swahili. It ends up working out for the better as Murdoch turns out to know enough Swahili to answer the question while BA wouldn't have.
- In Ocean's Twelve, Tess uses her uncanny resemblance to Julia Roberts to impersonate the famous actress. She finds herself having to bluff her way through a conversation with Bruce Willis.
- Speaking of Bruce Willis, in Live Free Or Die Hard, he uses one of these to expose the fake dispatcher, giving her a code for naked people running around, and then calling her out on it...
- In the Line of Fire. The would-be presidential assassin is opening a bank account as part of his false identity when he casually mentions he's from Minneapolis. The teller replies, "Oh I'm from Minneapolis!" His Oh Crap reaction causes him to fluster his response — worried that she's realised he's a phony, the assassin tracks her home and kills her. The murder later helps Clint Eastwood's character isolate the false identify in time to stop the assassination.
- In I.D., two British police officers are trying to go undercover as football supporters to infiltrate a known hooligan club. They start frequenting the club's pub and eventually strike up a conversation to get chummy with the Shadwell supporters. Naturally the fans are wary and ask lots of questions about their team, which one copper, who did his homework, answers with ease and puts on a convincing performance. He keeps having to jump in and bail out his colleague, who did not do the research, until the club notice and tell him to shut up and let the clueless one answer. John has no choice but to watch helplessly as a guy puts his arm around his partner in a friendly manner...:
Shadwell supporter: Still, Wilkinson's not a bad striker, is he, for a black guy?
Trevor (looking relieved): Yeah! ...for a black guy.
John: You prat.
(A good hiding ensues)
- In one of Robert Fulghum's books he describes a series of these. He wants to be left alone on a flight, so he claims he's a neurosurgeon. Too bad the person next to him really is a neurosurgeon.
- In the novel The Proteus Operation, one of the heroes is taking a train through Nazi occupied territory. Someone else on the train asked him what his profession was and he replied with his cover of an archaeologist. At that point, the other person responded that he, too, was one and what did the hero think about the xxx controversy? At that point the hero got on his high horse and announced that he was only interested in the archeology that proves the superiority of the Aryan race and that all other studies of lesser races was not proper National Socialist thinking. The passenger archaeologist immediately decided they really didn't have anything to talk about.
- In a Choose Your Own Adventure style book where you time travel back to medieval times to figure out the meaning of the Order of Garter's motto, "Evil to those who think evil of it" (naturally ignoring questions of hygiene, health, height, and...hlanguage), one of your excuses for your oddness is that you come from Navarre. However, one of your rivals has a friend, actually from Navarre, who asks you how the king is doing...
- A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat has tips for avoiding this when pretending to be an evangelical, including a sample conversation:
Questioner: Tell me about your church.
You: It's a church of two thousand just south of St. Louis.
Questioner: Oh, you mean Christian Life Center?
You: That's the one.
- The Discworld novel Interesting Times does a Reverse on this trope. Rincewind runs into someone from the place he's pretending to be from, and being Genre Savvy enough to know that his challenger is going to try to trip him up by asking him about a fictional person or location, calls him on it— only instead the man asked him about a real person whose identity would be very obvious if Rincewind's story was true.
- In Jingo, some thieves have taken Angua hostage only to be confronted with her wolf shape. So they're confessing to everything Carrot and Reg are suggesting in order to be let out. This happens:
Carrot: We've got them down for everything but the Hide Park Flasher.
Thief: We did that!
Carrot: And that was a woman.
- Used by Sherlock Holmes in the short story The Three Garridebs, in which he tests his suspicions of a con man posing as American by casually asking after the nonexistent mayor of the con man's claimed Kansas 'hometown'.
- A joke found in an issue of Readers' Digest (and possibly a real incident) referred to a man who liked to pretend he'd had the same operations that other people had been through so that he could share in their complaints. Eventually carelessness resulted in a pair of women asking him, "Really. When did you have your hysterectomy?"
- Linnea Sinclair uses this in An Accidental Goddess. The time traveling protagonist claims to be visiting from another spaceport, which in her day didn't have a lot of traffic. Unfortunately, the woman sitting next to her at the bar is from there, and is suspicious when the protagonist doesn't recognize the name of a local bigshot. Fortunately, the protagonist is also telepathic, and can pull the relevant details out of the woman's mind.
- In Catch Me If You Can, con artist Frank Abagnale pretends to be a lawyer who studied at Harvard, which works fine until he meets someone else who actually did study there. The guy asks him a load of awkward questions, gets suspicious, and Frank soon has to cut his losses and disappear. Which makes this Truth in Television.
- Donald Westlake's unlucky criminal John Dortmunder once, under pressure, claimed his name was "John Diddums," and then started to use it as a regular alias. Whenever people asked about the name that sounds like babytalk, he'd tell them, "It's Welsh," and they'd be embarrassed for questioning it. And then he ran into a British gentleman who remarked, "I know a Diddums family near Caernarvon. Might you be a relative?"
- Used and played with in Josepha Sherman's The Shattered Oath. A prince of the Sidhe has been exiled into ~9th century AD Ireland, claiming to be an exiled prince from Cathay (China). Naturally a trader who's been in Cathay comes calling. Played with because, even then, China was a huge country. Ardagh, the prince, cannot answer the trader's questions...but the trader, who does know how big Cathay is (generally at least), also has to admit to not knowing how to answer Ardagh's questions, nor having heard of his family or even dialect (actually the Sidhe tongue).
- In the first Georgia Nicolson book, Georgia walks up to a cute guy on the street, pretending to have a limp, and starts speaking to him in fake French (It Makes Sense in Context... or, well, as much sense as Georgia ever makes). The guy, in an attempt to help her, leads her to a restaurant nearby whose waitresses speak French.
- In Gregory Benford's short story Doing Lennon, a man from the twentieth century hatches a plan to live out his dreams of stardom by having himself frozen and upon being revived in the future, claiming to be John Lennon. The plan hits a snag when he meets another cryogenically-frozen person claiming to be Paul Mc Cartney.
- When Frodo leaves the Shire, he travels under the assumed name of Underhill. This gets awkward when he passes through Bree — several local Underhills are at the inn that same night and start quizzing him on family history, certain that they must be related somewhere along the line.
- In The Farthest Shore, Ged tells Arren they are going to pose as merchants from Arren's island, and, being Genre Savvy, asks him to give some large town as a fake birthplace - just in case they run into a townsman.
- The second Artemis Fowl book references this to build up Artemis's boy-genius cred. He and his bodyguard Butler use fake identities while traveling abroad, one of their favorites being a chess prodigy and his chaperone. A checkpoint official who happened to be a chess grandmaster himself doubted the story...until Artemis beat him in six moves.
Live Action TV
- For complicated reasons Monica in Friends has claimed her name to be Monana, which she also claims is Dutch. Too bad the person she's trying to deceive is from the Netherlands, and starts speaking in Dutch. At least Monica can recover from this amazement by specifying Pennsylvania Dutch instead.
- A variation is used when for complicated reasons Ross is at the wedding reception for complete strangers and is posing for a picture at the rostrum. People start clinking their glasses to demand a speech. Ross pretends to be working for the hotel, saying that a certain car will be towed. A guy rushes up nervously. He has that exact make, model, and color of car. What are the odds?
- In another episode Phoebe found a lost police badge, which she then starts flashing around to intimidate people. Eventually she tries to pull it on a real cop and tries to bluff her way through his questions, like which precinct she works at. After a while he seems to believe her, then he asks "So where did you find my badge?"
- An episode of Coupling ("the man with two legs") has Jeff for various reasons claiming to a woman he fancies that he has only one leg: It's too bad her brother also lost a leg.
- Happens to George Costanza all the time; since he's always making up more interesting jobs for himself — to the point that he has studied up on how to pass himself off as an architect.
- In one memorable example he tries to pass himself off as a marine biologist, and then he's asked to save a beached whale. He saves it, but then admits he was lying and is dumped.
- In an episode of Hogan's Heroes, Col. Hogan is trying to convince Col. Klink that he (Klink) is psychic as part of a complex scam (Business As Usual). As part of the convincing, he cites a "famous German scientist" who studies psychic powers, making up the name off the top of his head. Later, Klink has acquired a book about psychic powers by the same scientist, leading Hogan to remark "Maybe I'm the one who's psychic!".
- Played straight when Newkirk attempts to pass himself off as an expert forger. The head of the forgery operation asks him if he's familiar with a certain forger and certain machine and Newkirk claims to know both intimately. Of course, one's a composer and the other's a piano.
- Another is a test Colonel Hogan uses to see if escapees are actually German spies, asking if they know certain people from the unit they claim to be from. All of these people are fictional.
- Subverted in the 30 Rock episode "Reunion." Jack is mistaken for a popular former student at Liz's high school reunion, and after his initial denial is muffled, he plays along. Then he meets what appears to be the man's ex-girlfriend from high school. He manages fine in not giving away any details until the woman asks, "Say to me what you said that night." Jack looks her straight in the eye and says, "No." From her reaction, this was exactly what she wanted to hear.
- The ruse only falls apart when the ex-girlfriend decides that it's the opportune time for Jack to meet "his" son.
- In an episode of Will and Grace, Will pretends to be a professional tennis player (because being a lawyer at a party kills conversations), and then panics when he finds out there's an actual professional tennis player at the party. Who is also a fraud due to his real job being an even worse conversation killer: IRS agent.
- In an episode of Criminal Minds, the female FBI agents are out at a bar having a night out drinking. A guy tries to impress one of them by telling them he works for the FBI, but can't talk about his job. They ask him if it's a dangerous job, and generally puff him up with softball questions, before showing him their FBI badges and telling him to buzz off.
- This scenario also formed the basis of a series of British Territorial Army recruitment adverts.
- Captain Jack of Torchwood took his identity from a deceased fighter pilot from WWII. When he finds himself in that time period, he starts to introduce himself according to his fictional backstory. This trope's subverted when he doesn't go into any more details, as he finds himself introducing himself to the real Captain Jack Harkness.
- Interestingly enough, the real Jack Harkness turns out to be gay, while the immortal one is of the Anything That Moves variety. The Jacks end up being attracted to each other, which "our" Jack finds painful, as he knows the real Jack is destined to heroically die the next day.
- Referenced on a first-season episode of House, following Cameron's very brief resignation. Interviewing candidates for the empty post, House asks one, "Do you really speak four languages, or are you just betting on never being interviewed by someone who does?"
- In Spellbinder, when Ashka finds her way to our world, she uses the name "Mrs. Harley" (as in the motorcycle). Later on, Paul's dad introduces her to a woman named Anna by her full name, leading Askha to remark "Oh, you have two names. Yes, my name is Anna too."
- The Veronica Mars episode "The Wrath of Con" sees Veronica and Wallace infiltrating a college party posing as prospective students. Wallace claims to be a math major and finds himself having to come up with plausible-sounding answers to questions like: "The Poincaré conjecture or Fermat's Last Theorem: which one do you think better defines the geometry of three-dimensional space?"
- In the Scrubs episode "My First Kill", J.D., panicking, finds himself claiming that his patient is from Luxemburg - which is not only untrue, but nothing to do with what he's actually lying about! Dr Cox spent two weeks in Luxemburg. Subverted in that J.D. does answer Dr Cox's questions accurately ("Thank you, third grade book report!"), but Dr Cox still realises he's lying because, well, it's really obvious.
- On Home and Away, Xavier poses as a university student in a philosophy course while trying to get with Miranda. When she introduces him to her friend, an actual philosophy student, it takes him all of a few minutes to trick him by claiming that Jerome Kern is a philosopher who'd interest him. However, the friend does nothing with this information, as Xavier is quickly exposed when Miranda comes to his high school to give a talk about Uni life.
- In The Nanny episode "The Butler, the Husband, the Wife, and Her Mother", Maxwell Sheffield is posing as Sheffield family butler Niles when some butler inspectors arrive to evaluate Niles' performance.
Fran Fine: (trying to explain away Maxwell's initial reluctance to act as Niles) He's been a wreck ever since all that unpleasantness in the Falklands.
Butler Inspector #1: Ah, you saw action too? What ship were you on?
Maxwell: The other one...
- In Sanctuary during a flashback episode to WWII Watson poses as a Nazi tank driver and when stopped at a checkpoint claims to be from Bavaria when the Major can't place his accent. Guess where the real Nazi was from.
- Watson then remarks in clear English something like "what are the odds?" causing the German to immediately realize he's a British spy.
- On an episode of The Drew Carey Show, Oswald is pretending to be German while talking to a bartender to see if she cheats him. She immediately says she was born in Germany and starts talking to him in German. He then says he is actually from a small town France called Germany. She then says she went to school in France for several years and starts speaking French.
- A double example in 24. At the start of Day 5, Jack is working at an oil refinery under the alias "Frank Flynn" after having faked his death at the end of Day 4. He starts a relationship with his landlady, but her son Derek doesn't trust Jack. At one point, Derek asks "Flynn" about his past and Jack claims he used to work in an oil rig in Alaska called "the Albatross". Derek replies that the brother of a friend of his worked there but he had never heard of "Flynn". Jack maintains calm and claims they were mostly known by nicknames and asks the one of his friend's brother...which prompts Derek to leave.
- One episode of Dharma and Greg has Dharma and her friend pretending to be German tourists, speaking faux-German. When Dharma learns her niece shoplifted from that store, she has to return to the store, but can't drop the masquerade. Eventually, the clerk gets tired of not being able to communicate with the "tourists", and asks, "Does anyone here speak German?" Naturally, someone does.
- In Bottom, Rishie often claims to have served in the Falklands War. In "Parade", he meets someone who actually did serve, and who promptly beats Richie up for lying.
- A skit by Lorne Elliott tells the story of a St Patrick's Night gig where an angry audience member demanded that he play Danny Boy - which he didn't know the words to. In a desperate effort to placate him, he announces that he will sing Danny Boy in the original Gaelic - and sings nonsense syllables to the tune. "Turns out he spoke fluent Gaelic..."
- Adventures in Odyssey: Happens to Monica when she poses as Missions Board intern Paula Jarvis. Walter is from near the real Paula's town and first realizes "Paula" is hiding something by asking her about phony details like the "annual blueberry festival."
- In the musical Anything Goes, the mobster Moonface Martin sneaks onto the cruise ship that the play takes place on in the disguise of a minister. He then runs into a real minister not five minutes later. Being a "clever" man, he tries to deflect suspicion from the minister by claiming to be from somewhere far away, and settles on China. Guess where the real minister practices?
- In the opera Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II, two characters pretend to be French at a ball in Vienna. This results in an exchange of simple phrases and nonsense before the other characters insist they speak German. Later, they share a brief duet with the chorus 'Merci, merci, merci.'
- In his stand-up show "The award winning mince pie", Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert says that he made up a home town called Llanpoble. There follows a five minute rant against people who claim to have been there, including a rugger-bugger type, who said that his team beat Llanpoble 64-17. Rhod is impressed 15 imaginary rugby players scored 17.
- In Terror Island, Stephen makes up the name "Ned Q. Sorcerer, D.D.S." on the spot when attempting to crash a class reunion at Center of the Earth University. The real Mr. Sorcerer shows up a few strips later (but is catapulted away.) Stephen must later do a presentation in front of all the university alumni entitled "Ned Q. Sorcerer answers trivia questions about his life." He attributes the real Ned showing up to bilocation.
- In Gorgeous Princess Creamy Beamy the alien "X" Hoshibana claims to be from USA. He eventually realizes he should have picked a more obscure nation as his fake background.
- Parodied in The Simpsons. The episode featuring Lisa Kudrow as a popular new student from the city. Homer is breaking into Springfield Elementary, and is caught by Groundskeeper Willie.
Homer: Uh, buh, buh, we're new foreign exchange students from ... uh, um ... Scotland!
Willie: Saints be praised, I'm from Scotland! Where do ya hail from?
Homer: Uh ... North ... Kilttown.
Willie: No foolin'! I'm from North Kilttown! Do you know Angus McLeod?
Homer: Wait a minute! There's no Angus McLeod in North Kilttown! Why, you're not from Scotland at all!
Chalmers: You call hamburgers steamed hams.
Skinner: Yes, it's a regional dialect.
Chalmers: Uh-huh. What region?
Skinner: Uh, upstate New York.
Chalmers: Really. Well, I'm from Utica and I never heard anyone use the phrase, "steamed hams."
Skinner: Oh, not in Utica, no; it's strictly an Albany expression.
- Stewie on Family Guy managed to completely bluff his way through one of these without missing a beat or showing any signs of panic (having stuffed himself into the top of a corpse's suit so as to appear as the head on the body):
Officer: Everything alright here?
Stewie: Oh fine officer, just enjoying the sunset. No law against that, is there?
Officer: What happened to your shirt?
Stewie: Oh you know, just a pizza party at the office.
Officer: Oh yeah, where do you work?
Stewie: First Fidelity Insurance over on Weybosset Street.
Officer: Oh my cousin Arnie works over there.
Stewie: Oh Arnie's your cousin is he?
Officer: You know him?
Stewie: Oh somewhat, good middle management type. Just sort of blends in with the furniture, though, never really wowed anyone at the office.
Officer: Yeah, that's always been Arnie's problem. Well, take it easy.
Stewie: Yes yes, you too. Oh and if you see Arnie, tell him 'boogity boogity boo.' He'll know what it means.
- In the Pinky and the Brain episode "My Feldmans, My Friends", the Brain attempts to persuade his neighbour that "Mr The Brain" was his high school nickname by inserting his picture into a high school yearbook. The high school he picks happens to be the one his neighbour attended, so Brain is left trying to convince his neighbour that they were, in fact, classmates.
- In one episode narrated in The Colditz Story, a pair of British escapees pretending to be Flemish ("As Flamands we could pass off our bad German and our bad French — a useful nationality!") were in a bar when a genuine Flamand came up. Fortunately, they were able to bluff their way through by bursting into laughter at the man's (presumably) hilarious story, buying him a drink, and quickly departing.
- Man impersonating police officer pulls over a real undercover cop car. Some people have all the luck.
- Numerous stories on Not Always Right have a scammer or angry customer impersonate a lawyer or someone with knowledge of law. Only to have a customer behind them step forward and reveal they are a lawyer as well, then disprove the customer. Which leads to the customer fleeing the store in shame. Another common variant is for the customer to angrily claim to be a friend of the owner, only for it to be revealed that they are actually speaking to the owner — who has, of course, never seen them before.
- Several examples have had the employee/sane customer also lying about being the owner/lawyer, but successfully scaring away the troublemaker
- Stanley Johnson, father of British politician Boris Johnson, used to be a spy. Supposedly, the first time he tried out his cover story — that he was working in the Foreign Office as the desk officer for the Sudan — it was at the Foreign Office, to the actual desk officer for the Sudan.
- Physicist Richard Feynman, according to Ralph Leighton's "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", liked listening to Italian radio programs so much as a boy, despite not understanding a word of the language, that he came up with his own form of "mock Italian," which he used successfully on numerous occasions. ("...maybe it's Milano instead of Romano, what the hell. But he's an iTALian! So it's just great. But you have to have absolute confidence. Keep right on going, and nothing will happen.")
- In DVD Commentary on Space Ghost Coast to Coast, series head writer David Willis told a story about a time he overheard a guy in a bar talking up some girl and bragging that he's the head writer on SGC2C. After the guy struck out with the girl, Willis introduced himself to him as the show's real head writer, and they talked (amicably) for a little bit. If anything, Willis was flattered that somebody thought the show was so good that they claimed to be head writer in hopes of getting laid.
- In this Cracked article, Seanbaby details an encounter with a bouncer who regaled him with obviously fake fight stories. In this case, the bouncer knew Seanbaby was into fighting because it was all over his shirt, but clearly mistook him for a hobbyist or even a wannabe like him. "The story made me sad. [...] because this idiot managed to tell the story to maybe the one person in the bar with academic certainty that he made it up. "
- He even did the "revealing it to the liar" thing; when the bouncer said he trained nearby, Seanbaby asked which of the local Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools he goes to, referring to them by name. The bouncer quickly changes his story and continues to lie about his fighting experiences.