It's time for the Second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest! Details here
An individual has a perfectly unremarkable name, until someone unrelated, but happening to share the same name, becomes well known. This can lead to the namesake basking in reflected glory or plunging into Embarrassing Middle Name
territory. Naturally averts the One Steve Limit
See also Name's the Same
open/close all folders
- A series of ads for ESPN featured the daily life of a man named Michael Jordan. Every time he received a delivery, showed up for a reservation, got called in the doctor's office, there would be a disappointed "Oh" as soon as he identified himself as Michael Jordan.
- A series of Australian ads (can't remember what company) centred on the story of Cameron Diaz, an unfortunately named man.
- A 2014 Taco Bell ad found a bunch of men named Ronald McDonald and got them to talk up their new menu item.
- Best Buy ran an ad where a customer suggested that Bill Gates should be their spokesman. And so Best Buy got Bill Gates —a rancher from Lufkin, Texas— to plug their stores.
Films — Live Action
- Michael Bolton from Office Space: "There was nothing wrong with it... until I was about twelve years old and that no-talent ass-clown started winning Grammys."
- The main character of the French film Camping shares his surname with former president Chirac. When asked why he doesn't change it, he replies "Why should I be the one to change my name?"
- The plot of Saving Private Ryan revolves around finding Private James Ryan and bringing him home to his mother. Midway through the movie, they find James Ryan...but it turns out he's a different James Ryan.
- The fact that there are two Jeff Lebowskis drives the whole plot of The Big Lebowski. One is an insanely rich paraplegic and the other, known as The Dude, is an unemployed stoner who likes White Russians.
- Taken to an art form in Bill Fitzhugh's Pest Control, whose lead is named Bob Dillon, and was born a few years before Robert A. Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, became famous. It didn't make for a happy childhood. He spends the entire book being confused with Bob Dylan, even by the CIA.
- Jennifer Lopez in John Dies at the End.
- Basically the whole point of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, where two teenagers in Chicago who share a name meet and then find their lives start to clash.
- Óscar de León, the main character in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, has the name of a famous salsa singer. This is, though, never mentioned in the book.
- John Sandford is fond of this trope. Minor characters named Bill Clinton, James Brown ("Not the James Brown?" "Why yes, I am. This is my disguise: keeps the groupies off."), and Henry Ford (a medical examiner: "doesn't know shit about cars") show up in the Prey and Virgil Flowers books.
Live Action TV
- Elaine's boyfriend Joel Rifkin on Seinfeld, whose name she tries to get him to change because it's the same as the serial killer's. Eventually she breaks up with him over it. (In a Hilarious in Hindsight moment, one of the names she suggests, while desperately flipping through Sports Illustrated, is O.J. If you forget that there was a time before O.J. was a suspected murderer, this comes off as an intentional joke, and you wonder why the audience isn't laughing.)
- NCIS episode "SWAK" has a Dr. Brad Pitt treating Tony for the pneumonic plague.
- Arrested Development gave us George Michael, whose name is perfectly logical (he's named for his grandfather and his father respectively). Almost looks like it could be an Averted Trope because it's only mentioned once in the whole series ("Are you sure it wasn't the other George Michael? You know; the singer songwriter?") but it's clear that the idea of a nerdy, self-conscious teenage kid who questions almost everything he does and thinks being lumbered with George Michael as a name is an intentional layer. He's also never called simply "George".
- A sketch on an early episode of All That had people making wishes before taking shots at a basketball hoop, and having them granted if they make the basket. Kenan Thompson then says, "If I make this shot, I'm gonna meet Michael Jordan!" He makes it, and in walks a very white plumber named Michael Jordan.
- On JAG, Harm persuades a witness to talk by offering to set him up for a date with Jennifer Lopez, not mentioning that he means his dental hygienist.
- In one episode of The Vicar of Dibley, the vicar gets Alice's cousin Reg Dwight, who she's not seen for years, but thinks became some sort of musician, to open the village fete. He turns out, of course, not to be that Reg Dwight.
- On Cheers, Sam discovers that, while drunk, he had bet a stranger that he could marry Jacqueline Bisset within a year. On learning that the other party plans to hold him to that bet (and has a binding contract), he reads over the terms of the bet and realises that it doesn't specify Jacqueline Bisset the actress. He immediately sets out to find another woman of the same name to marry him.
- On 30 Rock, Liz's "future husband" Wesley Snipes doesn't like that to be pointed out.
Wesley Snipes: It's insane that the actor Wesley Snipes has that name. If you saw a picture of him and a picture of me and you were asked who should be named Wesley Snipes, you'd pick the pale Englishman every time. Every time, Liz! Frankly, you should be having this conversation with him!
- On Sifl And Olly, a caller comes in complaining that people make fun of him because of his name and he's thinking of changing it. It's Abraham Lincoln.
- Stella: Stella's new neighbour is called Michael Jackson. He will point this out on your first meeting "just to get it out of the way".
- We finally discover Mac's real name on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia when he's handed a name badge at the gang's high school reunion: It's Ronald McDonald.
- The Scottish folk song "Leezie Lindsay" is about a peasant girl who is courted by, and marries, a chieftain. In at least one version, his name is Ronald Mac Donald. Though the song probably pre-dates the fast food chain by centuries, it's funny to hear the line "For she's to wed Ronald Mac Donald."
- A variation in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: In the half-issue that started the comic, the titular doctor gets furious at McDonald's after they release "the McNinja Burger". His lawyer tells him that this isn't an unusual case, bringing up a huge protest made up of hundreds of people with the last name McDonald claiming their name was stolen (as well "one Robert Pizzahut").
- Another variation in Concerned, a comic set in and around the events of Half-Life 2, starring Gordon Frohman. Conversely, when Freeman actually does show up late in the comic, the first reaction to him shown in-comic includes someone mistaking him for Frohman. Other strips also have a man mistaking Frohman for the Sausage King of Chicago and Frohman recounting the death of his World War II veteran grandfather, Morgan Frohman.
- A comic of Bob the Angry Flower has Bob warning Osama bin Laden that he's been placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The punchline is that he then exclaims "But I am not that Osama bin Laden!" (Note this was written in 1998.)
- Would current U.S. President Barack Obama be on the Embarrassing Middle Name page if a man named Hussein and a man named Osama hadn't been enemies of the United States and "Hussein" wasn't rare to the point of One Mario Limit in America?
- Brig. Gen. Sir Michael Jackson.
- Not to be confused with the late beer critic of the same name.
- Or the Los Angeles-based talk radio host, also of the same name.
- Or the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens wide receiver.
- Whose actual last name is Dyson, but preferred the last name Jackson.
- Or the former head of Channel 4 — What made so many Mr and Mrs Jacksons independently choose the name Michael?
- Because it was the most common/second most common name in America for a good, long time. And on that note, former Cleveland Indians closer Mike Jackson.
- Also some singer or other.
- You mean the one who wrote Blame It on the Boogie?
- Nancy Cartwright, author of How the Laws of Physics Lie.
- Really, though, how many people have been embarrassed or received 15 minutes of
media obsession fame because they were named Harry Potter, Homer Simpson or Jennifer Lopez? Especially true of Spanish names, as there are 10 extremely common surnames and a lot of chances for redundancy. Several stories involved Jennifer Lopezes having to prove they weren't identity thieves.
- There is a newscaster in the Dallas area named Jennifer Lopez, and the network even ran advertisements talking about how they had their "own star" in her.
- The Weather Channel also had a reporter named Jennifer Lopez.
- There is an Australian news reporter named Harry Potter. You can almost feel his "What did I do to deserve this?" when he signs off with "Harry Potter, 10 News."
- There is a mythology/religion author named Michael Jordan.
- And, of course, actor Michael B. Jordan, who uses his middle initial to avoid confusion (and because the Michael Jordan made a foray into acting before his career began and therefore most likely got the initial-free SAG card).
- The name "Harry Palmer" is not all that rare, even with the presence of a certain actor named Michael Caine.
- In France, there are a lot of people named François Pignon who do not like film director Francis Veber.
- How many Jareds are there on these boards? Now, how many have them have been associated with Subway restaurants and diamonds?
- And let's not forget the other apostle Jude. Getting anyone to pray to him was seen as a lost cause — so the Roman Catholic Church made him the patron saint of lost causes.
- Not to mention all the "na na nas" people named Jude inevitably get.
- There are probably lots of real people named Michael Scott. God help any of them who are office managers.
- French car manufacturer Renault is being threatened with a lawsuit over the proposed name of its new model, the Zoe. Apparently the real Zoe Renault is not amused.
- ... But it'd be known as the "Renault Zoe", wouldn't it? So, no problem.
- British rugby player Austin Healey already has this problem, although the Austin Healey car was named first and is no longer made.
- "Chevrolet" is a French surname, and "Ferrari" is pretty much the Italian equivalent of "Smith", so there are lots of Ferrari's in Italy.
- "Honda" is a Japanese surname, though very few Westerners actually pronounce it as the surname is meant to be pronounced.
- There's a guy in Britain named Slobodan Milosevic.
- Anyone with the same name as a hurricane. Actually, this only applies to one name, as there has never been a hurricane half as famous as Katrina.
- Hurricane Mitch in 1998 killed ten times as many people as Katrina did, but they mostly weren't Americans, so who cares? In fairness, "Mitch" is a much more common name than "Katrina" ("Catherine" and its other variants are common, but "Katrina" specifically isn't so much), which tends to diffuse the impact. Andrew, the hurricane holding the record for most property damage prior to Katrina, is also common enough as a name that it doesn't stand out.
- Brings a whole new meaning to Katrina & The Waves...
- The Levi Strauss jean company. With everybody saying when they meet you, "Like the jeans?"
- Funny how they never say, "Like the French anthropologist?"
- Within Christianity and readers of the old testament, the Israeli tribe of Levi can suffer this too..
- Brad Pitt was a guest on a Nickelodeon bump. No, not the Brad Pitt, just a guy who happened to be named Brad Pitt. He showed his driver's license to prove it. No, he had not changed his name.
- It's pretty tough to have two such common names as "Thomas" and "Jones".
- One is a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs (and previously, the New York Jets).
- Tom Kruse, inventor of the Hoveround.
- In 2010, an Indo-American lawyer named Kamala Harris was elected Attorney General of California. This may have caused some confusion/amusement to Professional Wrestling fans, as 400-pound wrestler James Harris is best known for having used the gimmick of a "Ugandan Headhunter" named Kamala.
- There have been news anchormen called James Brown. They're white, and not very funky.
- Richard Tracy would have been fine, if he hadn't gone into police work, eventually working his way up to Detective.
- There's a man in Florida named Justin Bieber. No, not the Justin Bieber, just some guy who happens to have the same name. He actually had his Facebook account shut down on accusations of being an impostor. To say nothing of the fangirls.
- Much like that, there's a British office worker who shares a name with Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. She got kicked off Facebook, too.
- Or an even bigger example: A lawyer named Mark Zuckerberg got the boot off Facebook because he was apparently trying to impersonate Facebook's creator.
- There's a Michigan college student named Ashley Tisdale who had two accounts shut down for "impersonating a celebrity."
- One of the producers on The Price Is Right is Adam Sandler. No, not that Adam Sandler, though it's hilarious considering his onscreen brawl with Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore.
- There's a nurse in Northampton, England, named Yassar Arafat. He spells his first name with an A, but still.
- Jonathan L. Woodward, co-author of GURPS Banestorm, shares his name with Jonathan M. Woodward, frequent guest star in Joss Whedon projects.
- There is an economics professor named Steven Landsburg. Not the exact same name as Steve Landesberg, but they could easily get confused, especially in conversation.
- An early editor of Dragon Magazine once ran a fan's letter in the April issue's editor's column, which praised his work in the James Bond films. He didn't have the heart to tell the fan that he wasn't that Roger Moore.
- A Los Angeles resident named Adam Levine just happened to have his number listed in the phone book, which was no problem until Maroon 5, fronted by another Adam Levine and also hailing from Los Angeles, became popular. For a while, he was retaliating by posting mp3s of some of the more embarrassingly fangirl-ish voicemail he'd been getting; now that the calls have died down and he's made his point, the messages have been taken offline and the site is no longer updated.
- Sir Peter Parker, former head of British Rail.
- Gerhard Schröder is a very common combination of names in Germany. It includes at least three politicians of note in the Federal Republic, including its third foreign minister (a Christian Democrat) and its sixth chancellor (a Social Democrat).
- The creator of the cochlear implant was Dr. House, though his first name was William, not Gregory. He also performed ear surgery on astronaut Alan Shepard which allowed him to fly again and command Apollo 14. Google shows there are a few other doctors named House out there as well.
- Try living in the United States with the name Joaquin and not having the actor come up once a month.
- The name "Ralph Macchio" is shared by the lead actor from The Karate Kid and a long-time editor at Marvel Comics.
- Speaking of Marvel, Shadowcat was named "Kitty Pride" after a real life person who, underestimating the popularity the character would have, authorized it. To avoid being compared to the character, she officially changed her name to "K.P."
- When phonebooks still existed, there was a guy named "George Jetson" in the British Columbia Lower Mainland White Pages.
- Don Arden, who was the manager of ELO and Black Sabbath and the father of Sharon Osborne, can easily be confused with Donn Arden, a stage producer known for creating the modern Vegas "showgirl" show.
- Robert Altman is a filmmaker and a photographer, but they are not the same person.
- Take two of the most common names in English: "John" and "Williams". Put them together, and it's only natural that you'd share the name with a multitude of celebrities from musicians to athletes. See Name's the Same for a list.
- John Roberts in 2005. One anchored the CBS evening on the weekends, the other was sworn in as the Cheif Justice in the U.S. Supreme Court. Not to mention that "John" and "Roberts" are an ordinary first name and surname, respectively, in the English-speaking world. You'll find a handful of them.