Shave and a Haircut
Probably the most infamous seven beats of music in the modern world, or at least high on the list, this five-and-two lick appears everywhere. In music, it's a sting to end a piece; in other media, it appears in a joke and/or as a recognition signature, usually a knock—the first person taps out "shave-and-a-hair-cut," and waits for the "two bits" responsenote . While the rhythm is flexible, and the words change, it's always to a similar tune, though some different versions of it exist. Illustrated is actually a variation of the original tune, with a flattened sixth. (A flat instead of an A). Another common variation is to have an additional faster note between the "and" and "a" part of the melody, usually an augmented fourth. (which would be an F# in the illustrated example) For an equally ubiquitous song intro, see the Minsky Pickup.
open/close all folders
- A '50s Swedish ad jingle for a cough drop. "Hälsan för halsen, Bronsol." "Health for the throat, Bronsol."
- In the late 1970s/early 1980s, VW advertising in the US used the tagline "Volkswagen Does It Again" set to this beat.
Anime & Manga
- Used in classic style in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, complete with the demonstration that an animated character must, simply must, complete the line if "two bits" is omitted.
- Several The Three Stooges short subject films have them. Usually a stooge (usually Curly) would tap something (usually a wall) and get a response from whatever is on the other side (usually some kind of monster). They would mirror it perfectly until the "shave and a haircut" part was tapped out. A delay, a "nyuk nyuk", a "two bits" response, and you know the rest.
- Ace Ventura used this in the Animated Adaptation: He suspects he's being followed and does the "Shave and Haircut" on his cat, since the other cat responded with the two bits, he knows he's being followed.
- Del Griffith clears his throat to this tune in Planes Trains And Automobiles.
- Used in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when a florist delivers flowers to Ferris's house, where Mr. Rooney is. The florist honks the "shave and a haircut" but. Mr. Rooney flips the bird in lieu of the 'two bits'.
- This tune shows up in You've Got Mail at the end of the scene where Joe and Kathleen meet (physically) for the first time.
- In the scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest goes on Captain Kangaroo, Forrest has recently played ping-pong in China. As Forrest enters the studio, the (in-movie) band plays a jingle starting with an asian-sounding tune and ending with Shave and a haircut.
- In a scene in Spy Kids, Juni accidentally handcuffs himself to a metal lunchbox. He walks away from Carmen, trying to shake it off, and the soundtrack drum plays "Shave and a Haircut". Juni responds with "two bits" by smashing the lunchbox into the wall, and the lunchbox rebounds and slams into his head.
- Used in Whats Eating Gilbert Grape, when Gilbert has to lure Arnie down from the water tower: "Match in the gas tank, boom boom!"
- The Movie of On the Town has the main characters hiding under a street vendor's stand while being chased by police. One of them sticks out a sign saying, "Shave and a Haircut—75¢,"note and the familiar snippet is heard.
- Known on Discworld as "Shave and a haircut, no legs" being the jingle of the Guild of Barber Surgeons.
- According to John McCain's autobiography, Vietnamese people are incapable of tapping out Shave and a Haircut, and he and other American POWs would use it to hail each other through walls.
- It's not so much that they were incapable, but that they were unfamiliar with the Western ditty. One POW would tap "shave and a haircut", and the other would answer with "two bits". If the answer was "shave and a haircut" repeated back to him, the POW would know it was actually his captor trying to get information.
- Shows up in a couple of The Dresden Files novels. The first time it appears, Harry uses the words "six bits!" as the punchline - perhaps he learned of the gag from the Michelle Shocked example below in Music? Regardless, someone must have corrected him, as in a later book he uses the more common "two bits" version.
Live Action Television
- Most Muppet sketches on Sesame Street have these.
- The Muppets Tonight version of the "Mana-mana" sketch (where the pink... things have been appearing whenever Kermit says "phenomena") ends with Sandra Bullock's psychiatrist character saying "you should see what happens whenever I say "Shave and a haircut"... Cue a giant furry monster appearing out of nowhere, lounged across her desk: "Two bits!"
- A non-humorous, punny example was used on an episode of Tales from the Crypt: after the Cryptkeeper, dressed as a barber, snips someone's ear off, we hear the victim scream. The Cryptkeeper then holds up the severed ear, sings this and laughs.
- Mexican viewers are usually amused by its use on American TV, because the Shave and a Haircut tune in Mexico is usually sung with the phrase "¡Chinga tu madre, cabrón!", which roughly means "Go fuck your mother, asshole!".
- This has turned into an American Urban Legend which says that if you honk the tune on your horn in a Mexican neighborhood, you'll likely be shot dead.
- Argentinian comic Carlos "Carlitos" Balá had this in his TV sketches as his signature greeting or knocking, using it each time he could. The first part, if not used for knocking, would be vocalized by him as "pa-pa-ra-ra-pa", and a chorus of childrens' voices would be heard responding with his last name: "Ba-lá!".
- During Johnny Carson's hosting of The Tonight Show, the band would frequently end the opening theme with "Shave and a Haircut".
- On Scrubs, J.D. visits Dr. Cox at home and knocks "shave and a haircut" on his door. Cox, exasperated, whips it open during the pause. J.D.: "Two bits."
- On Ghost Hunters, the team is constantly using it to try to get responses from whatever paranormal entity might be lurking in the location of the week. The team member knocks out 'shave and a hair cut' and waits for the entity to knock the 'two bits' response.
- This is the password to get into Santos's secret stem-cell meeting in The West Wing.
- Doctor Who:
- In "Enemy of the World", the Second Doctor mimes recorder-playing to indicate to Jamie that it is him and not Salamander. Jamie whistles the first part of 'shave and a haircut' and the Doctor happily finishes off with the 'two bits'.
- In the episode "The Doctor's Wife" this is what the white message box uses to knock on the TARDIS' door. In fact, the closed captions for the episode actually read "Knocking 'shave and a haircut'".
- In M*A*S*H, Hawkeye once started singing Largo al Factotom("Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!") before segueing into "Shave and a Haircut". Radar then adds, "So that's where that came from!"
- Played with in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In the movie The Atomic Brain, the antagonist knocks on a door to find out of two of the girls she hired were in the room. Mike quips "'Shave And A Haircut'! What do we do?"
- The Captain and Tennille Show show had a recurring sketch called Masterjoke Theatre which opened with the very regal theme music from the real Masterpiece Theatre (from “Symphonies and Fanfares for the King’s Supper” by Jean-Joseph Mouret), except the song ended with an equally regal version of this sting.
- The Big Bang Theory: Amy knocks "shave and a haircut" on her kitchen table when Sheldon claims that he has no problem leaving things unfinished. After a brief staring match he compulsively knocks "two bits."
- The episodes of the German comedy series Klimbim always ended with this.
- In the Kraft Suspense Theatre episode "Are There Any More Out There Like You?", a college student plays the melody on his recorder.
- The short-lived 1976 variety series starring the pop duo the Captain And Tennille had a segment called "Masterjoke Theater." The opening music is the stately piece that usually accompanies Masterpiece Theater but it ends with "Shave And A Haircut."
- Victor Borge had a comedy bit about the lady who invented the "two bits" part, but without words so it was an unrecognizable couple of notes until the punchline where the phrase was played in full.
- The Smothers Brothers did something similar involving church bells that combined to form the tune.
- In nearly every one of his polka medleys, "Weird Al" Yankovic includes "Shave and a Haircut" right before the final few notes.
- The end of the "Cabbage Rolls and Coffee Polka" by Yosh and Stan Schmenge of SCTV fame contains multiple variations on the theme... which goes on for half a minute. (Most of their polkas ended with shave-and-a-haircut, as a running gag.)
- At the end of Tom Lehrer's The Elements. And there may be many others, but they haven't been dis-covered!
- The shortest musical single ever released was called "Magic Melody, Part 2," by Les Paul. It consisted entirely of "two bits!" and lasted less than one second. Part 1 had ended abruptly on "Shave and a Haircut," and DJs had been complaining.
- The Japanese rap song "Shiroi Yami no Naka" by Shakkazombie ends in this.
- Forms the theme of the Fugue in D minor from "The Short-Tempered Clavier" by P.D.Q. Bach.
- The first aria of the P.D.Q. Bach cantata "Blaues Gras" ends with "Rasieren und Haarschneiden, zwei bitte." Which means, of course: "Shave and a haircut, two please."
- Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater has used this as an audience participation segment at the end of his drum solo.
- DVDA's version of What Would Brian Boitano Do? feature a guitar riff based on the rhythm of Shave And A Haircut, and the phrase is also played on the drums after each chorus.
- At the end of Michelle Shocked's version of "The Arkansas Traveler"(?) the old man playing the farmer in the dialogue parts ends up flubbing the classic ending, "Shave and a haircut: two bits!" by saying "six bits" instead. This is followed by his and Michelle's raucous laughter, and the old man muttering the quip, "Six bits?...I'll saw you in half for six bits...."
- It happens at the end of "Unsquare Dance" by ''Dave Brubeck".
- Happens at the end of "Piano Picker" by Carpenters.
- Richard Cheese's version of "Come Out and Play" by Offspring ends with the famous original riff (on xylophone), then switches to this for the close.
- "Everything About You" by Ugly Kid Joe ends with this.
- In a The Far Side cartoon, an exasperated conductor informs his orchestra that they will not be concluding the symphony with "Shave and a Haircut".
- In another, police are arresting a group of mobsters, and one of the mobsters complains, "I knew it. I just knew it! 'Shave and a Haircut' was a lousy secret knock."
- A cartoon in The New Yorker by Roz Chast skewered the inflationary angle, portraying a barber shop with a sign reading, "Shave and a haircut, 200 bits."
- In both LEGO Indiana Jones videogames, whenever you knock on a door.
- In Half-Life 2, Alyx plays this on the buttons of a vending machine, and bangs on it twice for the "two bits" part. It's her way of signaling to Dr. Kleiner that it's her, and opens the door to the secret lab behind the vending machine.
- Chrono Trigger featured a version of the tune, titled "Rat-a-Tat-Tat, It's . . . Mitsuda!", in its toughest ending. (Yasunori Mitsuda was the composer.)
- In the beginning of EarthBound, Pokey/Porky knocks on the door in a very annoying fashion. In the middle of the knocks is the classic "Shave and a Haircut".
- UmJammer Lammy: "I Am a Master, and You", Lammy's version of the Chop Chop Master Onion stage, eventually evolves into this quite subtly, eventually—unsurprisingly—finishing off with it.
- Also occurs in the outro of Stage 1.
- The first five notes appear at about 55 seconds into the stage 2 theme from Mr Gimmick.
- One of the bosses in Rocket Knight Adventures (whom you face in a few smaller battles before the end of the stage) has this accompany each of his defeats at your hands.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, sometimes when you honk the first half of this tune using a cat horn, other drivers will respond with the rest.
- Used in "Clapping Trio 2" from Rhythm Tengoku, at the end of the song.
- In Jazzpunk, this is the secret knock to get into the hotel in the Soviet Embassy level.
- In Ponpoko, this is used as the Game Over jingle.
- In The Ren & Stimpy Show, a synthesised version is used right after Mr. Horse delivers his famous "No sir, I didn't like it." line from "Fire Dogs".
- Steamboat Willie uses this to end the "Turkey in the Straw" sequence.
- Too many Looney Tunes cartoons to name. "Show Biz Bugs" is an excellent example of this.
- Animaniacs did this a lot, particularly with Yakko's songs (and also with "Wakko's America").
- The end of the theme song to Pinky and the Brain. "Narf!"
- Used at the end of most Camp Lazlo episodes.
- Phil Ken Sebben in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: "Shave and a haircut, two ti-whoah, hold on".
- Toph of Avatar: The Last Airbender knocked on a steel door this way in the Grand Finale, but instead of knocking the "bits" part she knocked the door down. She then turned it into armor, and used it to defeat multiple superpowered firebenders in a couple seconds.
- The Simpsons had it at the end of the Presidents Day assembly's song for "lesser" President.
- Used in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Fall Weather Friends", when Applejack makes the apples from a tree fall on Rainbow Dash's head in tune with this melody.
- One wishes they'd had a bet for two of the Equestrian coin of the realm; the Bit.
- Played by Owen in the Total Drama Island episode "I Triple Dog Dare You" on his freebie bottles.
- Done twice in "We're Despicable (Plunderers' March)" in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.
- In the Goon Show episode "The Great Bank of England Robbery", Neddie, Eccles and Bloodnok are trapped underground. When tapping on the walls and receiving mysterious replies, Eccles taps out the first part and, in the silence that follows, ribs the listeners for expecting the second part, but is interrupted by the *Two Bits!* tap.
- The Italian one (Ammazza la vecchia col Flit) means "Kill the old woman with DDT!"...!!
- The phrase "hasta la vista, baby" fits the sting almost perfectly.
- Nardwuar The Human Serviette ends all his interviews with "doot doola doot-doo" and the interviewee provides the "doo-doo" at the end.
- A popular variation in the United Kingdom was "How's your father? All right!" the first part of which became slang for a certain act, as in "A bit of 'ows-yer-father".
- Used at the end of "George and Lil", a 1980s PIF about burglary prevention.
- In Icelandic it's Saltkjöt og baunir! Túkall! meaning Salt mutton and pease pudding! Two crowns!.
- American POWs in Vietnam communicated by tapping Morse code on their cell walls. One would initiate a conversation by tapping the familiar "shave and a haircut" pattern, and the other would finish with "two bits". If the respondent instead repeated "shave and a haircut", it meant he was a Vietnamese agent.
- In Sweden there are two 'lyrics' to this tune. The oldest is "Kvart över elva, halv tolv." "A quarter past eleven, half an hour to twelve." The second is the cough-drop ad jingle above.
- This video on making an electronic secret knock detector of course uses it as the secret knock.
- The tune is well-known in Mexico, where playing it in public is liable to get you beat up, since it's associated with to one's mother.