Repeated Cue Tardy Response

This trope is when you repeat a word or phrase, hoping that just by the repetition you'll make something happen. Here's an example:

You and your friend have set up a scheme. When you say the word, your friend will trigger an event with perfect timing. Maybe you're going for dramatic flair. Maybe you're trying to fool an audience into believing you're magic. Or maybe you're just stalling until the villain is in the right spot to trap him. In any case, things have to go just as planned.

You're giving your speech. The big moment arrives, and you utter the code phrase...and nothing happens.

So you say the phrase again, hoping the event will now occur. Still no dice. Maybe your friend didn't hear you? You repeat it again, louder and with more emphasis...and still nothing happens.

Rule of Funny means that, if the event actually does eventually happen, it will always occur either after you've given up, or between recitations. Example: "Behold this event...Now!" (beat) "...Now!" (beat) "...No—" (interrupted by event)

This is an example of a phenomenon in behavioral psychology called an "extinction burst," which is where a behavior that's been consistently rewarded in the past suddenly isn't rewarded, and the behavior will briefly become more frequent before it stops.

Psychology textbooks use the example of flipping a light switch, finding that the lights don't come on, and then flipping the switch on and off again a few times before you give up.


  • Animorphs: Rachel is trying to get Erek (whose hologram is malfunctioning) out of the store, but a particularly obnoxious clerk is in the way. Fortunately, Marco is there in gorilla morph, ready to knock him out!
    Rachel: Look out, that lava lamp is about to fall and hit you in the head!
    Employee: Huh?
    Marco: <Huh?>
    Rachel: -Death Glare- I said, look out, that lava lamp is about to fall and hit you in the head!
    Marco: <Oh, right.> -Tap on the Head-

Live-Action TV
  • Arrested Development: In Exit Strategy, Michael is in a meeting with Wayne Jarvis. Wayne dramatically says, "[GOB]'s on the news right now," and turns the television on. GOB is not on the news. They wait for quite a while before the aforementioned news report finally comes on.
    Wayne Jarvis: And imagine the impact if that had come on right when we turned on the TV.
  • That '70s Show: Donna tells Eric to hide in the woods so he can jump out at the end of a ghost story she is going to tell.
    Donna: You'll know when she's coming because she screams before she kills. Let's see if we can hear her.
    Donna: I said, let's see if we can hear her!
    Eric (off screen): Donna, I'm stuck in a thorn bush.
  • In Just Shoot Me!, Dennis forgot to buy Jack's lottery ticket on the one occassion when he actually wins. To cover it up, he doctors a ticket and leaves Jack's office window open, so that the ticket will fly away when Nina opens the door. The cue is Dennis saying "Lucky day", but Nina mistakingly thinks it's Marvin Gaye. Dennis continues on saying "Lucky day" in vain before Nina opens the door because she got tired of waiting.
  • In Father Ted, Ted needs to hold a raffle for a prize that isn't his to give away, so he rigs the draw by giving Dougal the winning ticket. Dougal remains oblivious after the number is called several times, responding only when Ted addresses him directly.

  • The climax of Mallrats featured Brody setting up to expose the antagonist's previous crime (indecency with a minor) to be as public as possible, but it backfires in this fashion when the tape gets dropped. Cue protagonist yelling, "NOW!" several times while being hauled away before events turn and the tape plays, resetting Brody's plan.
  • In the Pixar film Cars, Lightning McQueen says, "Is it getting dark out?" at which point Lizzie was supposed to activate the neon lights, but she didn't hear him. Lightning tries again, she actually forgot what she was supposed to do and Red decides to do her job for her.
  • Pixar does it again in Finding Nemo when Nemo is about to be inducted into the fish tank's fraternal bond, the ceremony taking place atop Mount Wanna-hock-a-loogie.
    Bloat: If you can swim through...the Ring...of Fire!
    (Nemo looks confused as nothing happens)
    Bloat: (aside) The Ring of Fire, Jacques! The Ring of Fire!
    Jacques: Sorry! (starts spinning the wheel to make bubbles burst out of the mountain)
    Bloat! The Ring of Fire!
  • In Iron Man 3, a restrained Tony Stark faces this while summoning his armor.


Video Games
  • At the end of Team Fortress 2 tie-in video Meet the Spy, the BLU Soldier has killed the BLU Spy because the latter was "obviously" the RED Spy.
    BLU Soldier: Watch, he'll turn red any second now. ... Annyyy second now...
  • In Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction, Emperor Tachyon has finally gotten ahold of the Dimensionator, a device that will allow him to free the cragmites, the imprisoned race of which he's a member. He says, "The time has come for the cragmites to rise again!" puncuating the last word by pulling the lawnmower-like ripcord on the device. Nothing happens.
    Tachyon:...To rise again! *pulls the cord, nothing happens.*
    *Cut to the heroes looking bored*
    'Tachyon:' *Twitchy Eye* To rise AGAIN! *pulls the cord, portal opens*

Web Original
  • During The Nostalgia Critic's review of Inspector Gadget, when Gadget comes back from the dead simply by "having the heart."
    Critic: That’s right. Even though it defies everything logical and everything scientific, Inspector Gadget comes back to life simply through the will of heart. ...I said “simply through the will of heart.” ...“Simply through the will of heart!” ..Excuse me.
He then runs off and berates Ma-Ti into saying his famous line again solely for the purposes of this Running Gag. Ma-Ti is certainly not happy to do so.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Agent Washington has Sarge at gunpoint and order him to disarm, taking his shotgun. He then orders Sarge to march to the blue base.
    Sarge: Son, you can insult me. You can ambush me. You can even take away my weapons. But if you think I'm gonna set one single pinkie toe inside a Blue base, without my shotgun, you must not know who you're dealing with.
    Washington: I said move.
    Sarge: And I said: Shotgun.
    Washington: Yes. I have your shotgun.
    Sarge: No, I mean... Shot. Gun.
    Washington: What, you think I'm going to give you your shotgun cause you ask?
    Sarge: No! I said SHOTGUN! SHOTGUN DAMMIT!
    Grif (muffled): Oh, right, shotgun! That's my cue!
    Grif (after running Washington over): Next time we choose a codeword, how about we choose one you don't say every five seconds.

Western Animation
  • The Looney Tunes short The Isle of Pingo-Pongo (one of the Censored Eleven) employs this in its final gag, ending a Running Gag involving Egghead asking the narrator when it's time for his part.
    Narrator: And with the soft, sweet strains of the native music still lingering in the air, we say farewell to this island of enchantment as the sun sinks slowly in the west. (nothing) As the sun sinks slowly in the west. (still nothing) As the sun sinks...
    Egghead: N-N-N-Now, boss?
    Narrator: Yeah, now!
    (Egghead takes a shotgun out of his violin case and shoots the sun down)
  • In an episode of The Great Grape Ape, Grape Ape is dressed as a genie and hiding in a large vase. Beegle Beagle has arranged for Grape Ape to come out of the vase after the former knocks three times, but Grape Ape is slow to catch on.