Subverted Catch Phrase

I stand for truth, justice, and...other stuff.
Clark Kent, Smallville, "Drone"

A character appears to be setting up their Catch Phrase, but instead says something completely different. Almost always a comedy trope, where the humor comes from subverting the audience's expectations.


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     Anime and Manga 

  • This is common on Pokémon where, quite often, Team Rocket will set up as though they're going to say their usual catchphrase, then replace it with a variation or completely different wording.
  • In, Gintama "Zura ja nai, Katsura da!" gets subverted plenty of times, always for laughs.
  • In the series finale of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    Timeskipped!Simon: Of course! Who the hell do you think--
    Young Boy: [too busy drinking from a coconut to notice him] Delicious!
    Timeskipped!Simon:, I guess I'm nobody.

     Comic Books 

  • An unusual, very serious example, in Marshal Law. Marshal Law's usual catchphrase is "I'm a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. I haven't found any yet." At the end of "Kingdom of the Blind", he's standing in front of the dismembered corpse of his sidekick Kiloton, who was murdered by the villain.
    Marshal Law: I'm a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. I guess maybe I found one.

  • A list of riffs on Angel Investigations "We help the hopeless" slogan (second one down).
  • In the original Dante's Night at Freddy's, when preparing to beat Freddy with his own severed arm, Dante asks, "You ready, Freddy?"
    • In Animatronic Boogaloo, he gets two. When he asks the other animatronics who it is who trapped their souls in the pizzeria in a petty revenge scheme, he says, "It's not me." and hands the Marionette over to them to kill. Later, when delivering the mother of all threats to Freddy, he states, "You're. Not. Ready."


  • Last Action Hero:
    • Early on, when Jack still doesn't believe he's in a movie.
      Jack Slater: I'll be back! Ha! You didn't know I was gonna say that, did you?
      Danny Madigan: That's what you always say!
      Jack Slater: I do?
    • And later in the same film:
      Jack Slater: You've seen these movies where they say "make my day," or "I'm your worst nightmare"? Well, listen to this one: Rubber baby buggy bumpers!

     Game Shows 

  • Occasionally done for laughs on Jeopardy when someone hits a Daily Double. Instead of saying the typical "I'd like to make this a true Daily Double", one contestant said, "I'd like to solve the puzzle." The requirements for answers being a question have also been abused for jokes, such as "What be ebonics?"
  • Contestants on other shows have to be reminded that they're not on Jeopardy! (Gambit, Win Ben Steins Money) after answering a question in the form of a question. Ben Stein makes a causer of this infraction wear a dunce cap.
  • Late in the run of Classic Concentration, contestants started saying "I'd like to solve the puzzle" once the board was at a position where the rebus was solvable.


  • Played for drama a few times in Animorphs, mostly as a case of OOC Is Serious Business. One notable example: when Ax, after getting some orders from Andalite commanders after being stranded alone on Earth for a long time, decides to follow them instead of staying loyal to his new human team. When he realizes that this was a mistake, he reaffirms that Jake is his prince, and the only leader that he should be following. He's expecting Jake to respond with "don't call me Prince," their usual running gag. For the first (and possibly only) time, Jake doesn't.

     Live Action TV 

  • Fez of That '70s Show is prone to saying "Good day", to which another character protests, "But, Fez..." and he replies, "I said, 'Good day'" and storms off. On a few occasions, however, he subverts the expectation by either not responding to the "but" line in the same manner, or else replacing "good day" with another phrase, often something to do with candy or women.
  • Barney from How I Met Your Mother did this once.
    Barney: You are legen—wait for it—daddy, legendaddy.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Upon entering the TARDIS for the first time, most characters feel the need to point out that it's "bigger on the inside." A few don't: Clara calls it "smaller on the outside", Wilf "thought it would be cleaner", Rory figures out that "it's a different dimension", The Brigadier insists it's an illusion and scolds the Doctor for wasting UNIT funds and equipment, etc.
      Doctor: Well, Sergeant? Aren't you going to say "it's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside"? Everybody else does.
      Benton: Well, it's...pretty obvious, isn't it?
  • A serious version occurs in Kamen Rider Wizard when the title character defeats Phoenix, a villain with Resurrective Immortality, by subjecting him to a Fate Worse Than Death: "For you, there is no finale."
  • In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, E20), the Sam in the Wishverse does not respond with "jerk" when Dean calls him "bitch". Instead, Sam seems hurt and then confused when Dean tells him what he was supposed to say.

     Video Games  

     Web Original  

  • The Nostalgia Critic does this a lot. Every once in a while, instead of his normal catch phrase ("I remember it so you don't have to."), he'll say something else instead, generally indicating the covered work is really bad instead of just plain old bad. One example comes at the end of his review of A Kid In King Arthur's Court, where he hits himself with a book in an attempt to forget the awful movie. As a result, he finishes by saying "I remember it so you don't Blue's Clues."
    • Another example occurs in his top eleven lists ("Why top eleven? Because I like to go one step beyond.") In Top 11 Disney villains: "Why top eleven? If you don't know by now, kiss it." And in Top 11 Coolest Clichés: "Why top eleven? Because I have my own cliché that'll never die."
    • His "Top 11 Most Awkard Christopher Walken moments" contains one, too, where his catchphrase is finished by a clip of Walken in a gypsy hat muttering "beyond", which leaves the Critic momentarily stunned.
      Nostalgia Critic: You know why.
    • NC has gotten a lot of use out of a clip of M. Bison turning around and shouting "OF COURSE!" whenever mention is made of taking over the world. When he dons Bison's trademark outfit in Kickassia, Chris Larios asks if he's planning to take over the world, and he turns and shouts, "NATURALLY!" However, after a few more tries, Larios does get him to deliver the line he wanted.
      • But only by asking him if the outfit gets him laid.
    • Perhaps his most extreme example is Garbage Pail Kids, where he just holds his face in his hands.
  • Linkara has probably subverted his "Because poor literacy is kewl!" Running Gag more times than he's played it straight.
  • In Two Best Friends Play: Captain America: The First Avenger, Matt spends the entire video avoiding his "AMERICA!" catchphrase despite Pat's goading, to the point where he even avoids saying Cap's name. Until the very end, that is.

     Western Animation 

  • On an episode of Regular Show, Muscle Man subverts his "MY MOM!" catch phrase:
    Benson: Muscle Man, have you seen Pops at all today?
    Muscle Man: Yeah, and you know who else has seen Pops today?
    Benson: [dryly] Who, your mom?
    Muscle Man: I wasn't gonna say that! Why does everyone always think I'm gonna say "my mom"?
    • And a Double Subversion, when asking if they know who taught High Five Ghost his mechanic skills:
    Muscle Man: You know who taught him? My Uncle John. He's a mechanic [...] You know who taught him? MY MOM!
  • At least once on Adventure Time, Finn and Jake have subverted their "What time is it?" "Adventure time!" exchange.
  • In the Pinky and the Brain episode "That Smarts", the Brain's attempt to make Pinky smarter eventually leaves them both stupid. They attempt their usual So Once Again, the Day Is Saved:
    Pinky: What are we gonna do tomorrow night, Brain?
    Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky...I have absolutely no idea.
    Pinky: Poit.
    Brain: Narf.
    • There are also two or three occasions when Pinky actually is pondering what Brain is pondering, instead of giving his usual response of "I think so, Brain, but..."
  • In episode 10 of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Scooby is locked up in an animal asylum, framed for attacks made by a robotic lookalike. Shaggy is despondent, so Velma attempts to cheer him up by wolfing down a sandwich and saying "Relma Delma Doo!"
    • In the cold open for the movie Scooby Doo And The Witches Ghost, when a horror novelist (and Expy for Stephen King) helps the Scooby Gang take down a crook in a ghost mask, the crook grumbles, "And I've have gotten away with it if it weren't for that meddling...writer!"
    Velma: At least he didn't call us 'kids' this time.
    Fred: Yeah, that's gotten old.
  • Phineas and Ferb does this almost Once an Episode.
  • Futurama sometimes does this with Farnsworth's "Good news, everyone", instead having him say something like "Bad news, no one" or "Good news, no one".
  • Quest from World Of Quest subverts his "X. I hate X."
    Quest: If you hadn't saved him, we wouldn't have needed his help.
    Nestor: I...I...
    Quest: A runt without words. I like a runt without words.
  • In the Two Stupid Dogs cartoon "Love", Mr. Hollywood only delivers the first half of is catchphrase "Isn't that cute? But it's wrong!" He then makes an Aside Comment pointing this out.
    Hollywood: Hah! Bet you thought I was gonna say it was wrong, didn't ya?