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Stereo Fibbing
Two characters are conspiring to deceive a third, but they haven't worked out their story in advance. When questioned, they blurt out answers in unison, which naturally are different answers, requiring further lies to explain how both blurted answers can be true.

For added comedy, the characters may then swap answers, each one trying to change his own answer to match his co-conspirator's, or their excuses may start blending together.

Compare Cover Identity Anomaly. Contrast Seamless Spontaneous Lie.

Examples:

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     Advertising  

  • In a commercial for Ace Hardware, where the ad claims that your local Ace Hardware storekeeper is like a friend, the shopkeeper is serving the customer, not from his store, but from the ample hardware supply located in the kitchen of the shopkeeper's home (including a full selection of wrenches and even a wood mounted full-size p-trap on the island in the middle of the kitchen!) The shopkeeper is interrupted in the middle of the demo by his wife, who walks into the kitchen to get something out of the refrigerator and asks why the other guy is there. Rather than admit that he's there because he dropped his wedding ring in the sink and has to get the tools and knowledge to remove the p-trap to retrieve it, both of them simultaneously lie and give a different reason.

     Comic Books  

  • From a comic with the Beagle Boys, where they try to rob a Lost and found:
    Beagle Boy #1: I have lost my umbrella.
    Clerk: What color has it?
    Beagle Boy #2: Black!
    Beagle Boy #3: Pink!
    Beagle Boy #1: Er - pink with black dots.
  • In the third issue of a Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy comic series, there is a scene where Harley and Ivy show up at a movie studio meeting.
    Studio Exec: Who are you?
    Harley/Ivy: Extras/Stunt Girls.
    Harley/Ivy: Stunt Girls/Extras.
    Harley: The heck with it!

     Film  

  • In The Secret of My Success, Mr. Prescott walks in on Brantley Foster (Michael J. Fox) and Mrs. Prescott in a compromising position. They claim Brantley hit his head. On what? "The ceiling!/The floor!" Which is it? "Both!/Neither!"
  • In 9 to 5, when the leading ladies are pulled over, Violet explains that one of them is sick.
    Cop: Which one of you is sick?
    Dora Lee/Judy: (together) I am!... She is!
    Violet: They're both sick.
  • Happens at the start of Serendipity. The two romantic leads have just met when they both try to grab a pair of gloves off a display stand in a store at christmas. While they're trying to decide who should get them another man comes in and picks them up. They tell him to stop, saying that the gloves were a very important gift for someone.
    Man: Who?
    John/Sara: My Girlfriend/My Boyfriend
    John/Sara: Her Boyfriend/His Girlfriend
    Man: Mind straightening that out for me?
    Sara: He is, at the present time, my boyfriend
    John: but in 18 months...
    Sara: ..after the operation... he will be
    John: she will be, my girlfriend..... you're not buying this are you?
    Man: No, but merry christmas (gives them the gloves)
  • From Raising Arizona: "What's the baby's name?" "Hi Junior"/"Ed Junior" "...We've just been calling him Junior."
  • Star Trek: The Voyage Home has a hilarious example.
    Dr. Taylor: You guys like Italian?
    * in rapid succession*
    Spock: No.
    Kirk: Yes.
    Spock: No.
    Kirk: Yes.
    Spock: No.
    Kirk: Yes.
    Spock: ...no.
    Kirk: YES. I love Italian. *turns to Spock* And so do you.
    Spock: ...yes.
  • In Ocean's Twelve, when Tess and several of Danny's accomplices are posing as (pregnant) Julia Roberts and her entourage, Bruce Willis shows up and asks "Julia" why she's not traveling with her usual doctor. Half the group claim Ms. Roberts' real doctor is sick, the other half that he's on vacation; Tess narrowly avoids giving the game away by remarking how lousy it is to get sick when you're on vacation.
  • In The Ice Pirates, after the Space Herpie ruins the crew's turkey dinner and escapes into a vent:
    Princess Carina: WHAT WAS THAT!?
    Jason: Oh, it was a....(mumbles)
    Princess Carina: A what!?
    Jason (clearly): Space Herpie.
    Princess Carina: How long have you known about this?
    Jason: First we've heard of it. Roscoe: Couple of days. (Simultaneously)
    (They pause)
    Jason: Couple of days. Roscoe: First we've heard of it.

     Literature  

  • In the Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters, the titular coven of witches leaves a baby (who is secretly the heir to the throne of Lancre, smuggled out of the palace after the king is murdered by his brother) in the care of a band of travelling actors. When asked the boy's name, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg provide separate answers, "Tom" and "John", but settle on "Tomjon".
  • This trope is central to the plot of the Book of Daniel and Susannah (biblical apocrypha), making it Older Than Feudalism.
  • In his book They Shoot Canoes, Don't They?, humorist Patrick McManus gives a fictionalized account of his youthful encounter with the local game warden:
    "What you boys doin' here?" he demanded finally. We answered simultaneously: "Lookin" for a cow." "Pullin' up thistles." Sneed didn't smile at these contradictory explanations. He was not a fun-loving man.
  • In Redwall, Sela and Fangburn tell a phony story to Cluny, but didn't work out all the details:
    Cluny: Where was the noise coming from?
    Sela/Fangburn: North/West.
    Sela: Er, er, it was sort of north-west.
  • In John Dies at the End Dave and his friends are trying to sneak into a casino disguised as a rock band, but the security guards notice the shotgun hidden under his coat:
    John said, "It's not a gun! It's part of our act!" at the exact same moment I said, "I'm a cop! I'm undercover!"
  • Subverted in Judge Dee, when three monks come in claiming a very valuable statue which they prayed before every day was stolen by the local tyrant the judge just deposed. The judge, smelling a rat, has them out in separate areas of the courtroom, given sheets of paper, and orders each one to draw the statue. One draws a Buddha, one a four-armed deity, and one a mother holding her child.

     Live Action TV  

  • In the Small Wonder episode "Vicki's Adoption", Mrs. Fernwald asks Ted and Joan how Vicki's natural parents died. "A train crash!/A plane crash! A plane crashed on top of a train."
  • Subverted in an episode of Friends: Rachel and Phoebe conspire to leave Joey alone with a girl they want him to date. Joey sees through the ruse and tries to catch them in the lie by asking several follow-up questions. However, Rachel and Phoebe have worked out their story, and answer several successive questions in perfect unison.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In one of the host segments for The Giant Spider Invasion" - which had an Invasion of the Body Snatchers'' plot throughout the segments, Pearl and Observer identify the pods as:
    Pearl/Observer: Zucchini/Throw pillows.
    Pearl/Observer: Throw pillows/Zucchini.
    Pearl/Observer: Well, it's a kind of (Zucchini/throw pillow) that you can use as a (throw pillow/Zucchini).
    Pearl: They're throw pillows -
    Observer: Zucchi-
    Pearl: (glares at Observer) They're throw pillows.
    • In an SOL segment, Joel reads a letter from a young boy who says his use of the word "dickweed" (heard on the show) got him in trouble, and asks if it's a swear word. Servo and Crow quickly reply "Yes!No!/No!Yes!"
  • In the final episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil tries to justify to two customers why another customer had just been given veal when Basil has just said that the veal is off. He claims that the veal is "veal substitute".
    Basil: We had it flown in from...
    Polly: Japan.
    Basil: Norway. It's a sort of Japo-Scandanavian imitation of the real substitute and I'm afraid that's the last slice anyway.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Killed by Death", Xander, Willow, and Cordy take an unconscious Buffy into the Hospital Emergency room:
      Intern: What happened?
      Willow: The flu.
      Xander: She fell.
      Cordy: She fainted.
      Xander: The flu, fainted and fell. She's sick, make it better!
      • Oddly enough, none of those were lies. Buffy did have the flu, which caused her to faint and fall down. It just sounded like a lie.
    • In the episode "Becoming, Part II", Buffy lies to her mother and tells her that "she's in a band" with Spike.
      Mom: What instrument do you play?
      Spike: She plays the ... triangle.
      Buffy: Drums!
      Spike: Drums, yeah, she's a hell on the old skins you know.
  • Subverted in Spaced where the two main characters, in order to rent a flat, pretend to be in a relationship. When first asked how long they've been together, they answer to the day, having memorised it beforehand. However, when asked again two days later, they give the exact same answer. Oops.
    • Even more hilarious when they try to weasel out of the mistake by claiming that one of them goes by when they first had sex, and the other goes by when they first kissed, causing an unusually sharp Brian to ask:
      Brian: You had sex before you kissed?
      Tim: [beat] ...Yep.
  • An episode of Porridge, in which the cellmates have to explain a bottle of pills found in their cell.
    Godber: They're Fletch's. They're for his...
    Fletcher/Godber: ...nerves/...indigestion.
    Fletcher/Godber ...indigestion/...nerves.
    Fletcher: I get this nervous indigestion. And sometimes vice versa.
  • The title character of House discovers that the elderly couple he's been giving relationship advice are actually having an affair when he asks them how long they've been married and they give different answers—the lengths, one assumes, of their respective marriages.
  • Not quite fibbing, but one episode of Full House found Joey and Jesse fighting over a girl, with Danny attempting to defuse the situation by pointing out that they don't even know this girl very well.
    Danny: What color are her eyes?
    Jesse/Joey: Green/Blue. {unsurely} Blue/Green? Kind of a greenish blue...
  • Averted on That '70s Show, when Eric and Hyde gave the same answer to Kelso's question in unison through luck, despite not having planned it.
    • They almost blow it anyway by turning to each other with surprised delight when they realize what just happened.
  • A favorite with the kids of The Brady Bunch.
  • I Love Lucy.
  • A variant appears in the season five finale of NCIS when Vance asks Tony and Ziva about the events of the episode thus far. Tony lies but Ziva doesn't, creating the usual effect of the trope:
    Director Vance: Did you know Mike Franks was involved in this?
    Tony / Ziva: No. / Yes.
    Director Vance: Want to take a moment to get your stories straight?
    Tony / Ziva: Yes. / No.
    • They answer the final question, about whose side they are on, in perfect unison. "Gibbs." Awww.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, after Data's head has been found in an abandoned 19th century mine on Earth, Data notices that the rest of the crew seems awkward around him. He says to Riker and Troi:
    Data: I am perceiving an apparent change in the way that others act toward me. For example, people abruptly end their conversations when I appear... as you did when the turbolift doors opened. Is this an accurate observation?
    Troi / Riker: Yes. / Not at all.
  • Double Subverted on Scrubs, during the "Seamless Collaborative Guy Lie" incident - watch here.
  • In Eureka, Carter and Allison do this when they enter a room right after having spent the night together.
    Fargo: Where have you two been?
    Carter / Allison: Sleeping. / Working.
    Carter: Uh... people... work better... when having slept.
    Jo: Okay...
  • Distilled to its purest essence in the Doctor Who episode "Vincent and the Doctor":
    Vincent van Gogh (To Amy): I take it from your accent that you're from Holland, like me?
    The Doctor / Amy: Yes. / No.
    The Doctor: She means yes.
    • This is a nod at both Vincent and Amy being played by Scottish actors.
  • Done in Last of the Summer Wine:
    Pearl: So what were you talking about?
    Clegg: Philosophy / Howard: Football!
    (beat)
    Howard: ...Football and philosophy.
  • An episode of Spin City has Carter and Stuart trying to convince Paul the apartment for sale across the hall from them has already been taken so he won't buy it.
    Paul: Who took it?
    Carter: An old white man./ Stuart: A young black woman.
    Carter: It was a... young old black white man woman.
  • In an episode of Zoey 101, Trisha is dating Chase against his will. To get out of it, he puts on an act for her that depicts Zoey as his girlfriend. When questioned about it, they usually agree on everything. Until...
    Trisha: How long have you two been going out?
    Chase/Zoey: A year./Six months.
    Chase: A year and six months. Eighteen months, really.
  • In The Class, Yonk finds out that Nicole and Duncan dated in high school.
    Yonk: So, how long did you guys go out?
    Mrs. Carmello: Three years. / Nicole: Two weeks. / Duncan: Five months.
    Yonk: How's that?
    Nicole: Uh, three years, five months, and two weeks, thanks to everyone who contributed to that.
  • Beautifully averted in Frasier's fourth-season premiere. Everyone has been telling a bunch of outrageous lies to Daphne's ex-BF Clive (It Makes Sense in Context. well, a little). When he asks the dog's name, everyone looks tensely at one another for a moment, and then in unison they say the dog's actual name, Eddie. Because for the first time that day, it's a fact they didn't have to lie about.
  • A Mash episode has Col. Potter pressing Hawkeye and BJ for details after his wife writes them (about a surprise mortgage-burning party she wants them to throw for him):
    Potter: Answer me this: Does (the surprise) have anything to do with where I'm going to be living out my retirement years?
    Hawkeye / BJ: No. / Yes.
    Potter: You boys want to confer for a bit and work out one lie between you?
    BJ: No, actually, we can stand by either lie.
  • Invoked and then subverted in Game of Thrones. Catelyn Stark arranges a secret Prisoner Exchange to send the captured Master Swordsman Jaime Lannister back to his family in exchange for both of her daughters, guarded only by the swordswoman Brienne of Tarth. When Brienne runs across a few Stark soldiers who recognize Jaime and intend to recapture him, she tries to claim he's merely a thief that she's taking to the local authorities. The Genre Savvy leader of the soldiers replies with the following:
    Soldier: I've a question for you both, and I want you both to answer it at the same time. I count to three, you both answer. (Points to Jaime) What's his name? One... two... three... (Jaime and Brienne look at each other in dismay... then Brienne kills all three soldiers)

     Radio  

  • In one episode of Absolute Power, Charles has supplied Prentiss McCabe's newest client with an entirely fictional tragic background, including being raised by an abusive single mother in a tower block. (She was actually raised by two loving parents in a bungalow.)
    Interviewer: What happened to your father?
    Toggle/ Charles: He died./He walked out.
    Toggle: He walked out, then died. He fell off the tower bungalow. It was ironic, really.

     Theatre  

  • The Neil Simon farce Rumors, when the characters try to explain a gunshot.
  • In "A Healthy, Normal American Boy" from the musical Bye, Bye, Birdie, Albert and Rose simultaneously explain how Conrad Birdie started singing. They don't agree on the biographical details, but they do rhyme, and a very nice Counterpoint Duet ensues.
  • A certain Norwegian theater piece featured the main character (a man who was swindling money by faking to host a whole bunch of crippled people) and his friend (the only real apartment renter) trying to cover up the scheme from several sudden guests. They often ended up having to answer for the other's lies.
    Tax inspector: I find it weird that a deaf piano maker can understand me so well.
    Norman (posing as the piano maker and now suddenly "deaf"): Sorry, did you say something?
    Mr. Brown: He reads lips. It works fine as long as you remember to look directly at him.
    Tax inspector: He understood me perfectly well through the living room door.
    Mr. Brown: (Winces)
  • Blood Brothers has Mickey and Eddie do this when they intend to go and see Nypmhomaniac Nights and Swedish Au Pairs at the cinema. It somewhat falls apart when they learn that Mrs. Johnstone has already passed the cinema and seen that it's on, and not the Dr. Zhivago/Magnificent Seven double bill they end up claiming it is.

     Video Games  

  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, if Guybrush asks the three Men of Low Moral Fibre "What's in the keg?", the one on the keg and the tall one reply:
    Keg/Tall: Rum./Jam.
    Keg/Tall: Jam./Rum.
    Keg: Er, rum and jam, it's an old pirate favourite. Everybody knows that.
    • Subverted in the third chapter of Tales of Monkey Island, where Coronado De Cava tries this on Guybrush and Morgan (who are pretending to be a honeymooning couple). Their answers turn out similar enough that he believes them.

     Webcomics  

  • This xkcd strip. "Bees!" "Tires." "Bees with tires!" "Whatever."
  • In 8-Bit Theater, Thief and Red Mage start out out of sync on this lie, but pull it together:
    Thief: Ghosts.
    Red Mage: Aliens.
    Thief: Ghost Aliens.
    Red Mage: Who possessed us.
    Thief: From space!
    Cleric: Well, if there were ghost aliens, they would likely do their possessing from space.
    Rogue: Agreed. Their story checks out.

     Web Original  

  • Done by Linkara and Benzaie when The Nostalgia Critic has Dr. Insano at gunpoint.
    NC: You're a part of this, aren't you?
    Benzaie: Me or him? *points at Linkara*
    NC: Either!
    Benzaie: YES! Linkara: NO!
    Benzaie and Linkara look at each other.
    Benzaie: NO! Linkara: YES!

  • LoadingReadyRun "The 720th Degree"
    Olivia: So... Where are we at? What's the sit rep on the new Xbox?
    Shaun: That... is an excellent question.
    Cyrus: It's going super well!
    Shaun: Poorly.
    Cyrus: I mean, not that great.
    Shaun: Awesome! It's great.
    Olivia: This is not instilling me with confidence.

     Web Animation  

  • In Teen Girl Squad issue 5 on Homestar Runner, Cheerleader and So and So are trying to impress a pair of "olda boys":
    Cheerleader: We're in college!
    So and So: (overlapping) We're in eight grade!
    Olda Boys: Ha ha ha ha!
    Cheerleader looks mad, and kicks So and So offscreen
    Strong Bad: (narrating) PUNT!
    So and So: Ow! My hopes of reaching first base!
  • Similiar to the Discworld example above, in Season 9 Church and Tucker break the news to Tex about the poor, deceased Andersmith.

     Western Animation  

  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures episode "The Warrior Incarnate", the Dark Hand busts into Uncle's shop looking for a terra-cotta statue on loan there. However, the statue was previously broken and is now totally disappeared from the shop, as Jade hauled the pieces away without Jackie or Uncle's knowledge. In this case, both Jackie and Uncle are telling the truth yet don't know the full story, making their explanations sound inconsistent:
    Ratso: We know you got the statue. Where is it?
    Jackie/Uncle: Missing!/Broken!
    Jackie and Uncle look at each other.
    Jackie/Uncle: Broken!/Missing!
    Finn: You need to get your story straight.
  • Used in the Danny Phantom episode "Secret Weapons", when Skulker presents a captured Danny to Vlad and Jazz.
    Danny and Jazz: What are you doing here?
    Vlad: You two know each other?
    Danny: Yes!
    Jazz: *Overlapping* No!
    Danny: No!
    Jazz: *Overlapping* Yes!
    Danny and Jazz: Sorta!
  • Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash do this in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Party of One", while claiming to be house-sitting for a bear named Harry who's vacationing at the beach:
    Rainbow Dash: Yep, he loves to...
    (Dash and Fluttershy stare at each other)
    Fluttershy: Collect seashells!
    Rainbow Dash: Play beach volleyball!
    (beat)
    Fluttershy: Play beach volleyball!
    Rainbow Dash: Collect seashells!
    (beat)
    Fluttershy: Collect volleyball!
    Rainbow Dash: Play seashells!
    • Bonus points: the two make different foreleg gestures when they speak, swapping them when they swap lies. When they blend the two lies together, they both make one gesture with one foreleg and the other with the other foreleg.
  • Rocket Power: The kids find a motorized skateboard and decide to keep it, in secret. When Ray finds out, they say they are just fixing it up for a friend, called...
    Otto: Larry.
    Reggie: Phillip.
    (beat)
    Otto: Phillip.
    Reggie: Larry.
    (beat)
    Sam: Larry Phillip.
  • In one of the [adult swim] Wonder Twins shorts, Zan and Jayna run into old acquaintance Marvin after accidentally walking into the "adult" section of their local video store. He remarks that them being into this stuff is "pretty, uh, progressive, for a brother and sister." They scramble to explain themselves:
    Zan: We're on a case!
    Jayna: It's for a bachelorette party!
    (beat)
    Jayna: It's a case involving a bachelorette party!
    Zan: The bachelorette party murderer!

     Real Life  

  • An anecdote about a teacher trying to catch students Stereo Fibbing goes like this: Three students miss a test and claim it was because they had intended to come in in the same car, but it had a flat tire. The teacher says he'll make up a special version of the test for them. When it comes time for them to take the new test, they see that it has only one question: "Which tire was it?"


Stealth InsultDialogueStock Quotes
Stating the Simple SolutionOlder Than FeudalismStranger in a Familiar Land
Invented IndividualTruth and LiesSuspiciously Specific Denial
Stealth PunComedy TropesStereotype Reaction Gag

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