Alice is talking about Bob, who will be entering the room shortly. Bob is generally a "nice" character. Alice does not like Bob, and says Bob is "such a phony", but as soon as Bob enters, Alice pretends to be nice to Bob, thus being as big a phony as she claimed Bob was.
Alice: Here comes Bob. I hate him. He thinks he's so perfect. He's such a phony.
Alice: [sweetly] Hi, Bob! Great to see you!
A staple of sitcoms from the eighties to the nineties, but constant reuse has robbed the joke of its sting
. You can still see it on contemporary shows, but the better written ones try to avoid or play with it.
Sub-trope of Hypocritical Humor
. See also I Resemble That Remark
- The Catcher in the Rye is practically built around a non-comedic example. One of the most prominent aspects of Holden's character is that he refers to everybody else as a "phony". Another of the most prominent aspects of Holden's character is that he lies to just about everyone and is proud of his lying skill.
- Célimène does this in Molière's The Misanthrope.
- Seinfeld: The Parking Space "That Michael Jordan is so...phony" is the knee-jerk answer, attempt at saving face, and failed example, by Mike (Kramer's Friend) to convince Jerry that he meant calling him a phony behind his back was said in a positive light, as in using a reverse nickname (bad means good, hot means cool, and to shake your booty means to wiggle one's butt.)
- Used a couple of times in Frasier, once by Frasier and once by Roz. Also once by Martin, who was bitching to Frasier about how much he hated Niles' new girlfriend Mel.
- Becker, with Reggie.
- On Friends, Joey sees a job at Chandler's office as a chance to play a new character, a processor named Joseph with a wife and three kids. After making plans with a co-worker to get their families together, the co-worker leaves and Joey exclaims, "What a phony!"
- Majors Burns and Houlihan to . Blake's "friend" Nancy in the M*A*S*H episode, "Henry in Love".
- A variation is used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xander complains about how much he hates Angel, and when the latter enters, he calmly adds "Oh, hey, Angel" without bothering to revise his statement.
- In Cheers, whenever Henri enters some of the barflies start talking about how much they don't like him, then when he say's hi, they say hi back nicely
- Something similar can be found in the very first Peanuts strip: "Good ol' Charlie Brown... How I hate him!"
- Overheard documents a number of real-life examples, this being one.