A white tablecloth. A beautiful placesetting (bonus points for a lot of fine crystal or a vase of fresh flowers). Our Hero takes one corner of the cloth and with a single pull whips the tablecloth off the table, leaving the placesetting undisturbed.
This trick is a good, showy way to demonstrate
that a character is a stage magician or is otherwise unusually dexterous. (It also demonstrates that the character knows physics — the dishes and glasses are held in place by inertia.)
And even when this trick fails — sending flowers, silver, and glass everywhere — it's still entertaining.
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Anime & Manga
- A famous scene in the beginning of Black Butler.
- Asuna does this in Mahou Sensei Negima!.
- In Revolutionary Girl Utena, when Anthy's dress disintegrates during a party due to a vicious prank, Utena whips a nearby tablecloth free (sending everything that was on the table flying in the process) and wraps it around her, making it into a new, toga-like dress to replace it.
- Death does this in Thief of Time, in which it's a Phlebotinum Analogy for what the History Monks do — the table is still laid, but the tablecloth can now be reused. Susan points out that the salt's fallen over and the tablecloth is stained, and Death replies, "Yes. As metaphors go it is rather good, don't you think?"
- Gleefully averted in Wolf In The Fold, in which Fisher snatches up a tablecloth to cover the naked body of a dead man. The toppling crash of place settings is described in all its destructive glory.
- The MythBusters took on a viral video showing this trick being done on a banquet table, with a motorcycle. It didn't work.
- Top Gear: Similar to the MythBusters example, Clarkson tried to emulate the stunt using a Nissan GT-R to pull the tablecloth off. And, like the MythBusters example, it didn't work.
- Captain Awesome did this on Chuck.
- Time Warp did both versions, showing you the secret to achieving both.
- Benny Hill from The Benny Hill Show has done Tablecloth Yank quite a few times and has sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed. In one of the episodes, he also did an inversion of a classic Tablecloth Yank.
- One of the games in WarioWare: Smooth Moves is exactly this.
- In the animation Dad's Home, the titular Dad successfully pulls this near the end, for no particular reason and on a table that had no reason to be where it was. He also kicks the table over immediately afterwards.
- Bender in the Futurama episode "Bender Gets Made": This is a double subversion, in that Bender succeeds in performing this trick, but his success was really a failure, since he meant to single-subvert the trope by just pulling everything off the table.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?", Robin knocks a thug standing on a table off his feet by pulling out the tablecloth. "I love that trick, but I can never make it work."
- In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger successfully pulls a cloth off Piglet's table without harming any of the dishes. Then he turns to leave the room:
Tigger: Ha, ha, thought they were all gonna crash, didn't ya? [slams the door and the dishes all shatter]
- Done successfully by Applebloom in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "Call of the Cutie". She wasn't really trying; she just needed the tablecloth.
- A Spring Time For Hitler example in Rugrats, where Angelica has been asked to ruin a grown-ups' dinner party. She yanks the tablecloth, but everything on the table doesn't fall.
- In The Smurfs episode "Tick Tock Smurfs", Clumsy is told by his fellow Smurfs to clear the table because they're on Brainy's time schedule, and Clumsy does it by yanking the tablecloth, causing food to spill right onto Papa Smurf's face.