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Is This a Joke?
A rabbi, a pirate and a horse walk into a bar and the bartender says "What is this, some kind of joke?"

Many a strange things are happening in Normaltown, USA and the Weirdness Censor isn't working at 100% efficiency today, so someone will suggest that the events are "Some kind of joke," despite how overly elaborate and complicated measures would have to be taken in order to produce such phenomenon for the sake of a laugh. They're hoping it's a Candid Camera Prank.

Compare to Some Nutty Publicity Stunt, which is somewhat similar, but involves effects too widespread, elaborate, or large to be considered just a joke aimed at one person or a small group.

Also a Stock Phrase used when someone does not want to believe that some bad news is true. It's almost never a joke.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Advertising 
  • In one recent ad campaign for air fresheners, they spray the stuff all over incredibly dirty environments, blindfold people, bring them in, and have them tell what they smell. After saying how wonderful the place smells, they're unblinded. In one ad, featuring two women, they both look around the absolutely filthy basement, and wonders aloud if it's a joke.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya: Kyon walks into the classroom and sees Ryoko was the one who had arranged to meet him. He asks if Taniguchi set this up as a prank.
  • Sayoko has made a deal with a demon and turned the university into a fairy-tale castle. The reaction from those whose minds she didn't take over? "* sigh* Probably just the engineering students goofing around again. Last year they put a bus on the roof." And the narration notes, "It seemed years of student pranks had rendered the sleepy town of Nekomi shock-proof."

     Comedy 
  • Bill Cosby used to do a routine in which the voice of God speaks to Noah in his carpentry shop and demands that he build an ark. Noah jokingly plays along, convinced that someone is pranking him.
    Noah: How come you want me to do all these weird things?
    God: I'M GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLD.
    Noah: Riiiiiiiight. ... Am I on Candid Camera? ... How you gonna do it?
    God: I'MA MAKE IT RAIN FOR A THOUSAND DAYS AND DROWN 'EM RIGHT OUT.
    Noah: Riiiiiiiight. Listen, do this, you'll save water— let it rain for forty days and forty nights, and wait for the sewers to back up.
    God: RIIIIIIIIGHT.

    Comic Books 
  • Such an explanation is staple of the Silver Age Marvel Universe. Alternately, if it is not considered to be "a joke" by someone, the possibility of the weird event being Some Nutty Publicity Stunt could also be suggested.
  • Apparently part of the Golden Age of Marvel Comics as well. In Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941) The Red Skull sends General Manor a Red Skull along with a death threat. The experienced military leader assumes it must just be a joke.
  • In issue #0 of Crossed, one of the Crossed walks into a diner covered in blood and holding a severed spine. At first, everyone thinks it's a prank... until the guy grabs the cook and bites his nose off.

    Film 
  • A great example in the form of a running gag to boot is when Marty stumbles into the soda shop in Back to the Future. First the bartender smirks when referring to Marty's 1980's orange sleeveless ski jacket as a 'life preserver' and later in the same scene Biff and his gangmembers laugh at Marty's expense after one of the gang makes the disparaging remark, 'Dork thinks he's gonna drown'.
  • Used by Ryan in the first High School Musical film, when it turns out that there are callback auditions for the lead parts in the school musical, which has never happened before:
    Ryan: Maybe we're being Punk'd. Maybe... we're being filmed right now. Maybe we'll get to meet Ashton!
  • The Film of the Book adaptation of Timeline has Paul Walker conclude that his father's message in the catacombs are just part of "a joke." Billy Connolly steps in to explain just how stupid an explanation that is, that a seasoned archeologist would deliberately damage a site that's thousands of years old for the sake of a cheap laugh.
    • This occurred in the book as well.
  • Asked by name in Spy Kids by Juni, after being instructed on the blue and green buttons, and opening the door to the SpyGuppy to find... a closet.
  • One of our heroes in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World suggest that Smiler's Final Speech may have just been part of "some big practical joke."
  • LA Story did this. The main character swore he was being filmed when the billboard was "talking" to him.
  • The tribunal in the original Planet of the Apes dismiss Taylor's claim of being from another planet as "a joke."
  • Liam Neeson says this line early on in Unknown.
  • A particularly ridiculous example from Monster A-Go Go: while investigating the strange death of an Air Force helicopter pilot, burned to death by an unknown force, Col. Manning is shown a singed section of grass surrounding the body, apparently made by whatever killed the pilot. Pressed for an opinion, Manning testily waves the whole thing off as "probably some kids' prank".
  • Subverted in the 1971 adaptation of The Andromeda Strain. Two scientists are dispatched to try and find out how an entire town in Arizona died overnight. One of them, while checking over a corpse, excitedly calls the other over to "look at this man's anus!" His partner tells him to stop being juvenile, but it does turn out to be an important clue to the virus' nature.

    Literature 
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is littered with this. When Roger Button first sees that his newborn child is in fact an elderly man, he demands to know if the hospital is playing a joke. Years later, when Benjamin is 18 (and looking 50), he tries to gain admittance to Yale. The dean throws him out for trying to pull such a prank, despite Benjamin's protests. Late in his life when Benjamin appears 10, he attempts to rejoin the Army. The other soldiers play along until he presents official military documents, and is told that this isn't funny anymore.
  • Suggested in The Mist
    "I sure hope this is a joke."
  • In George Gipe's novelization of Gremlins, when Father Barlett's Christmas cards first shoot out of a mailbox after he dropped them in, he assumed it was a "hidden camera prank" and good-naturedly plays along. Turned out to be those darn gremlins. (This is partially seen in the movie but a deleted scene spelled it out for sure.)

    Live Action TV 
  • Standard answer for any of strange events of every other episode of the original The Twilight Zone.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "New Order", Dr. Weir's reaction to the Stargate program was to think it was a joke. She was then handed a letter from the President reading simply "This is not a joke." It was also stated that this was the President's reaction to learning of the Stargate program, as well, hence his ability to predict her response.
  • Charmed episode 6 season 2, "That Old Black Magic" Kyle Gwydion reacts like this.
    Kyle Gwydion: "I bet one of my brothers put you up to this, right?"
  • Warehouse 13 does this in the Pilot.
    Lattimer: "This is a joke, right? Dickensen put you up to this."
  • Friends, when Phoebe is on the phone with Ross' fiancée's stepmother, trying to warn Ross that Rachel is coming to disrupt the wedding:
    Phoebe: Oh, hi, Mrs. Waltham. I need to speak with either one of the best men, or Ross's sister Monica.
    Mrs. Waltham: Who is this?
    Phoebe: Oh, I'm Phoebe Buffay. I'm one of Ross' best friends.
    Mrs. Waltham: Well, if you're one of Ross' best friends, why aren't you here?
    Phoebe: Yeah, um, I can't fly. I'm having my brother's babies.
    Mrs. Waltham: Am I on the radio?
  • Waiting For God: Diana(who, for those not familiar with this show, is about seventy) tries to get a job in a trendy clothing store. The young clerk doesn't quite understand it, until she "figures out" it must be some kind of prank show, and tries to find where the host is hiding.
  • The more modern variant on Community, when Britta is amazed at the guys jumping into a fight over something stupid.
    "Okay, seriously, I'm being Punked, right?"
  • Inverted in Jonathan Creek, where the titular Great Detective often claims that people would rather put a supernatural explanation on a remarkable occurrence than accept that someone would go to incredibly complicated lengths to fake it.
  • In the Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) miniseries, Colonel Tigh initially tries to dismiss the Cylon attack as a retirement prank played by the Fleet on Adama.
  • On an episode of The Later Show With David Letterman, where Letterman was interviewing Mike Myers, Letterman asked Myers if Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving. Myers explained that Canadian Thanksgiving is on a different day than Thanksgiving in the U.S., but Letterman kept asking if Canadians nevertheless still observed the U.S.'s Thanksgiving. Myers eventually got exasperated at that line of questioning and asked if he was being Punked.
  • In Doctor Who Rose Tyler's reaction to the plastic dummies coming to life and apparently trying to kill her is that it must be college kids - they're the only ones mad enough for a prank that big. The Doctor says it's a smart idea. She, and every other companion, came to discover that it is never a joke.

    Video Game 
  • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney:
    Kristoph Gavin: Wright. You aren't seriously accusing me... are you?
    Phoenix Wright: Oh, Kristoph? You know even I'd never take a joke this far.

    Web Original 
  • In Paradise, this is a frequent reaction of people upon discovering they're in the process of changing into Funny Animals, or of unChanged when Changed try to reveal their new nature (which is otherwise Invisible to Normals).
  • In the Rifftrax for The Two Towers, when Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are asked what business a man, an elf and a dwarf have in the Rittermark, the riffed reply is "Shouldn't you be walking into a bar somewhere?"

    Western Animation 
  • In the American Dragon Jake Long; episode "Half Baked," Jake replies, "I'm glad that everyone bought that You've been punked story we feed them." Then again, this is New York City we're taking about here. If you've ever been to New York, you know that you have no chance of being able to justify everything you see.
  • Stan Lee's reaction to the appearance of Mysterio in the second season of The Spectacular Spider-Man:
    "Are we being punked? I hate that."
    • Aunt May says the exact same thing when she is confronted about Peter's identity as Spider Man.
  • In Regular Show (and The Man From Lolliland), this is the reply Pops normally gets after giving lollipops as payment. Benson also says it to Mordecai and Rigby when they come up with a half-baked unorthodox solution for something.
  • Rainbow Dash asks "Is this some kind of cruel joke?" when she finally gets some cider, only to have it spilled on the ground.
  • Danger Mouse: In "All Fall Down," Penfold is disguised as a traffic officer in an attempt to distract villainous snake Mac The Fork so DM can infiltrate his hideout.
    Penfold: Y-y-y-your car, sir, it's on a gibble gabble gine, er....wibble wobble wine...
    Mac The Fork: Is this some kind o' joke?
    Penfold: Well, I'm not laughing.

Is There a Doctor in the House?Stock PhrasesIs This Thing On?

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