One more ornament is the final tipping point.
First, fill something to the nick of overfilling. It just doesn't matter what it is: a bag almost bursting with stuff; an ominously creaking cliff; an elevator nearing its maximum occupancy; a morbidly obese gourmand's stuffed stomach
; you name it. When you've finished, add just a teeny, tiny bit more. Watch your recipient blow/crack/shatter instantly and/or loudly.
Basically, a literal interpretation of "the last straw that broke the camel's back".
This trope applies to situations where maximal capacity is reached, and even an infinitesimal quantity surpassing it causes effects far more massive than common sense could predict.
Often preceded by a character declaring how nothing could go wrong
before the proverbial straw is added.
Although the most common variation of this is when a group of people/stuff is at a ledge and a light feather/dust powder lands and it simply breaks apart instantly (and painfully), it's not only restricted to those cases.
Compare Death of a Thousand Cuts
, Cherry Tapping
, Critical Existence Failure
, Critical Encumbrance Failure
, Exploding Closet
, and The Stateroom Sketch
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- In Carl Barks' Donald Duck comics story "A Christmas For Shacktown", Scrooge's money bin has become so full that when he drops in just one more dime, the ground under the bin caves in and all of his money falls into a deep pit with a thin floor—right over a lake of lava. We don't find out how he got it all out until Don Rosa's story "Gyro's First Invention".
- FoxTrot did a variation as a Shout-Out to the former Trope Namer, with Peter and Paige's heads bloated from an all-night cram session (and a viewing of Meaning of Life) and Jason offering them "onlee a wafer-theen formula".
- An issue of The Batman Adventures had Mastermind, Mr. Nice, and The Professor escaping from Gotham City State Penitentiary ridiculously easily. As Mastermind and Nice try to think of some way to create a diversion in the cafeteria (which is at the moment occupied by hundreds of violent, sociopathic, could-snap-at-any-moment hardened criminals having dinner), the Professor simply stands up, clears his throat, and calmly announces: "Fire." All the convicts panic, the guards (thinking they're trying to start a riot) retaliate, and then a real riot breaks out, during which the trio slip away unnoticed.
- The US commercial for Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is similar to the scene from The Meaning of Life, with a man eating a huge amount of food to represent everything that was crammed into the game. When he's full, he has a bit of whipped cream or something (to represent a bonus level) and ... kablooie. Which soon got censored after it first aired. In the original versions of it the dude is seen exploding. Censored versions had him exploding off screen.
- A 90's commercial for a car had a man on a step ladder pouring soda into a very fragile bucket to represent the amount of gasoline needed to power other brand cars. He continuously pours more soda in to represent every stop he makes to get gas. When the bucket is about to overflow, the narrator tells him to get some gas "for the trip back home". Guess what happens next?
- Two Australian men have loaded a pick-up truck to capacity with Castlemaine XXXX beer. They add a couple of bottles of sherry for the ladies, and the truck's groaning suspension finally collapses. Of course, they conclude it was too much sherry.
- In an Allstate insurance ad, the "mayhem" pitchman is lying on a garage roof in winter, representing a growing load of snow. At the end, he blows air at a snowy tree branch, causing a few ounces of snow to fall on him and the roof to immediately collapse under the additional weight.
- In one of the episodes of Nu, Pogodi!, the Wolf had barely managed to lift a very heavy barbell, when a butterfly lands on it, with predictable results.
- Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life has the infamous sketch where Mr. Creosote eats exorbitant amounts of food while vomiting profusely. The Maitre d' then approaches him with a wafer thin mint — the former Trope Namer. After a few rude protestations that he was full, Mr. Creosote was coaxed into eating the mint. The Maitre d' then finds a hiding spot as most of Mr. Cresote's body explodes into chunks of innards and bile.
- In the movie Jack, the treehouse where a bunch of kids, Robin Williams as a forty-year-old adult that's actually a kid with severe growth problems and Bill Cosby singing and stomping feet falls down when a butterfly lands on not even the treehouse itself but a splinter, which slowly bends until it touches the treehouse, and then everything falls apart.
- In True Lies the bad guys' truck is hanging off the edge of the bridge and they sigh in relief that it didn't go over. Then a pelican lands on it...
- James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only: Car with baddie who killed Bond's buddy is poised on edge of cliff; Bond walks up and tosses (the baddie's own calling card) a pin at the car. Expected results, but the car doesn't fall. In a subversion of sorts, Bond gives the car a kick for good measure.
- Used twice with Pip in Enchanted. Once by accident, the second as a kind of Heroic Sacrifice. (But it was a Disney movie, so...).
- In Beetlejuice, Adam and Barbara are driving over a covered bridge and swerve to avoid a dog. They crash through the wall of the bridge and end up poised on the edge, teetering above a river. They look back and see the dog standing on a broken plank, panting happily at them. The dog hops off the plank, and over they go.
- In Black Sheep — the David Spade/Chris Farley comedy, not the horror-comedy with mutant sheep — a huge boulder behind the cabin in which the two main characters are staying is loosened by, among other things, David Spade's character standing on it and a rodent digging under it. Finally, a bird flying overhead poops on it, and...
- Spy Hard: In a flashback, Steele makes a false presidential rescue thinking there's a threat. He ends up having his feet hanging over the ledge of a bridge along with the president's car. He stretched his arms out with his wallet to keep himself from falling.
- In the film of Wizards of Waverly Place Justin has to make a bridge. He's very proud of it and taunts Alex until she wordlessly takes a pebble and tosses it on the bridge. The Genre Savvy can guess what happens.
- Idiocracy: A truck adds to a massive pile of garbage. It gets compressed, but stays intact; Then a single can falls out of the truck, triggering an avalanche dozens of meters high.
- Road Trip: Seann Scott's character demonstrates he can spit across a ten-foot wide broken bridge. He did, but causing the other end of the bridge to collapse from his spit.
- In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Bombur is sitting on a bench that's audibly creaking under his weight. So one of the other dwarves decides to toss him a sausage, and the bench promptly collapses.
- At the beginning of Cas And Dylan, Dr. Cas Pepper is already a widower and facing a fatal, inoperable brain tumor. When his beloved dog unexpectedly drops dead during an innocent game of fetch, Cas sets out on a cross-country trip to (a) give the dog a proper burial and (b) end his life on his own terms.
- In The Boxtrolls, Snatcher is already bloated from falling in the remains of the Briehemoth. Eating one more piece of cheese caused him to explode.
- In the Discworld book Interesting Times, Rincewind is dangling above a giant fall, barely supported by a few rotting logs. A quantum butterfly lands on his hat, and, wary of this exact trope, Rincewind tries to blow it off - so it starts making it rain just over his head, which is enough to drop him. It also stings him with a very small lightning bolt.
- Older Than Radio: In Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens says, 'As the last straw breaks the laden camel's back.
- The children's book The Mitten is about a small boy's mitten that gets dropped in the woods. First a little mouse finds the mitten and finds it a cozy nest. Then along comes a small frog, and then a rabbit, and the mitten is pretty much big enough for them, and quite warm. Then things start to get out of hand when a fox, then a wolf, and then a bear arrive and clamber for space in the mitten. Finally a doddering granny grasshopper comes along and blows off their cries of "No room! No room!" by saying, "There's always room for one more!" She nudges in one foot and the mitten goes plooie.
- In the Jan Brett version, the animals start with rabbit, and the mitten doesn't explode until a mouse snuggles herself on the bear's nose.
- Similarly, in the picture book "Who Sank the Boat", every time an animal gets in we're asked "Do you know who sank the boat?" The answer, of course, isn't one of the big animals but the little mouse, the last to get in, the smallest of all.
- The Annie M.G. Schmidt poem De brug bij Breukelen (The Bridge Near Breukelen) has everyone and everything going over a bridge safely, until a mosquito lands on it...
Live Action TV
- 8 Simple Rules: CJ stands on the trap door to the attic, holding a bowling ball and a teddy bear. He drops the bowling ball so the trap door would go up. Nothing happens. He drops the teddy bear, and then the trap door goes up.
- In the iCarly episode "iDate a Bad Boy" Spencer buys a pressure sensitive alarm in front of the door to prevent Carly from sneaking out. Carly jumps up and down on it, and it doesn't go off. Later, an obese postman comes to give a package to Spencer, telling him that it needed one more stamp. The postman steps on the sensor with the package. Nothing. Spencer gives him the stamp to complete the postage, and then alarm goes off.
- Seinfeld: George's wallet. The "mint" is a phone tab from an ad (a strip of paper just big enough to fit a phone number).
- House: Played with; the team has to diagnose a morbidly obese man in a coma. They eventually get to the point that they need to get an MRI. Only problem? The weight limit for the MRI is 450. The man in question weighs over 600.
Cameron: The weight limit's obviously just an estimation. It's not like it can hold 450 pounds fine and then collapse under 451.
Chase: He's not 1 pound over, he's 150 pounds over.
- Surprisingly, the MRI machine held until the patient woke up whereupon he promptly broke it via struggling to get out.
- The MythBusters have tested the "bird landing on a car making it fall" scenario. (Busted, twice over.)
- A variation appears on Frasier; a sleep deprived Niles misses out on the last stirring straw at Cafe Nervosa, and promptly has a breakdown, stripping naked and thinking he's still dreaming.
- According to World Wrestling Entertainment, the rings used for (among other things) the massive Royal Rumble Match held every January can bear the weight of approximately five non-metric tons, or 10,000 pounds - enough to bear the weight of about 40 standard-sized male wrestlers (the average male WWE Superstar weighing about 250 pounds). But if even a cruiserweight (wrestler weighing less than 200 pounds) jumped in after them, the whole thing would presumably collapse. Fortunately, 40 is the absolute maximum number of Superstars ever allowed in the Royal Rumble Match over its two-and-a-half decades of existence, and no more than 15 of those guys at the most are ever in the ring all at once (the overwhelming majority of the contestants being unable to stay in the match for 60 minutes, which is the average length of a Royal Rumble), so the chances of such a thing happening are practically nonexistent. When a superheavyweight (400 pounds or more) performs a top-rope maneuver on another superheavyweight, however...
- In NetHack, once you've eaten enough to become satiated, eating (almost) anything will give you a warning. If you keep trying, you may choke to death. This includes the corpses left by wraiths, which are incorporeal. Note that it's only possible to survive if you're wearing an amulet of magical breathing. This is referenced on "Lessons Learned the Hard Way": "Don't eat wraith corpses when satiated. You don't get a warning."
- Kingdom of Loathing: "You eat the piece of after eight. Despite the wafer-thinness of the mint, you explode in a shower of gore." This happens if you eat it while full, which you can do because it doesn't actually contribute to your fullness (you can keep eating wafer-thin coins and exploding all day if you feel like it).
- All but lampshaded in Devil May Cry 4, when Dante explodes a huge towering Boss with one hit point left with a single pistol bullet. Twice.
- CJ in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas can eat up to eleven super-size fast food meals perfectly comfortably. Try finishing it off with a salad though...
- In The The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you can run at full speed while being 0.1 weight units under your limit and preform stunning feats of acrobatics if your level is high enough, but if, in that state, you get hit by a 0.1 weight arrow, you are instantly immobilized.
- While not quite the same thing, in Breath of Fire IV the God Emperor Fou-Lu has spent the entire game with a target on his head by the very empire that resurrected him. Near the end of the game, they decide to go all out and drop a Fantastic Nuke on him. He survives this, only to notice the hair accessory of his love interest near him. They'd used her for ammo. This act effectively convinces him to go from Humans Are Bastards but he can live with it to Kill 'em All and then burn the world down.
- In God Hand, when a demonic enemy is both down to their last bit of health and stunned, a prompt appears for "Poke of God", which causes Gene to finish the enemy with a light poke.
- It's possible to drain the patient's blood level in Surgeon Simulator 2013 to an incredibly minuscule amount via whichever tools you decide to use, then finish him off with something seemingly inconsequential. This happens in an Achievement Hunter Rage Quit video; the patient is stabilized at 1 mL of blood (out of 5600), then is killed by a jab from a syringe.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Galatea is eating at a posh French restaurant and making her usual complete pig of herself. In a shout out to Monty Python, it turns out the long-suffering waiter fed her The Wafer Thin Mint some time ago, to no effect, and she orders another plate-full of them, just to emphasize what a bottomless pit her stomach truly is. After the meal, she skips out on the check.
- In Questionable Content, Faye has a long history of behavior at her job at Dora's cafe that most other employers wouldn't tolerate for an instant, but Dora lets slide to one extent or another due to their friendship. It's catching Faye drinking on the job that finally pushes Dora past the point of tolerance, and she fires Faye immediately.
- The Paradox of the Heap intentionally takes advantage of most people's tendencies to ignore the final straw.
- A riddle features a clever aversion of this. Suppose a truck weighing one tonne at the start of its journey (including the driver) is driving across a bridge with a weight limit of exactly one tonne. Halfway across the bridge, a robin weighing 75 grams lands on the bridge. What happens? Nothing: the truck now weighs less than a tonne, as it has burnt up some of the fuel which makes up some of its mass.
- Other riddles play it straight. One man weighing 248 pounds is carrying three 1-pound coconuts, and needs to cross a bridge with a weight limit of 250 pounds. How does he do it? He juggles, but this is a case of Artistic License - Physics since throwing up a coconut results in additional downward weight.
- Alternatively, cross with only one coconut at a time.
- Regardless of which riddle is chosen, in reality bridges are posted with a weight limit below their actual maximum load - in order to ensure that bridges won't snap simply by adding a straw to the load.
- While the weight limit is usually a catch-all, it's also possible to drive a vehicle that may weigh more than the weight limit if it has enough pressure distributed across the bridge (rather than at one point). For instance, there are tables that claim can hold up a ton... if it's spread out across the table.
- Can only work with supported bridges (but doesn't necessarily have to), if it's a hanging construction you have all the strain exerted length-wise.
- If you supersaturate a solution—dissolve something into a solvent (e.g. water) so that there is more of the solute (e.g. sugar) present than there could be under normal conditions—adding the tiniest amount of the solute into the apparently clear liquid will cause it to crystallize, as the added crystal provides a seed for the excess solute to grow upon. This is beyond annoying, among other things, when you are trying to make toffee.
- Useful, though, in chemical heat packs. Just snap the enclosed metal disc inside out, the mechanical shock seeds crystallization, and the pack releases the stored heat of the solution.
- To those more chemistry-savvy, the action described above is referred to as "falling out."
- Analogously, homogeneous fluids in clean, smooth containers can under some circumstances be heated beyond their normal boiling point without boiling. Disturbing the fluid sufficiently, or introducing nucleation points, can then cause flash-boiling and potentially a small steam explosion.
- Also, changing its pressure can cause it to boil. This, combined with the fact that evaporating liquids absorb heat, is very useful for refrigeration.
- This was shown on MythBusters, it happens most often in everyday life by somebody trying to boil purified water, usually in a microwave, will explode if you put anything into it.
- Equivalent to the superheating described above, you can also supercool a fluid below the freezing point in a clean, smooth, container. Adding a nucleation site (or even just jolting the container) can cause it to instantly freeze.
- Also examined on MythBusters, by supercooling beer and then rapping the bottle on a solid surface to cause it to freeze.
- The Trope Namer is the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back". This refers to a folk-tale that was persistent in both the Middle East and North Africa. According to the tale a camel could only carry XX kilogramsnote of supplies, and anything more would be too much. While the story is obviously not 100% true, like many folk-tales, it has a grain of truth to it. Apparently, caravan drivers were able to figure out close to the max weight that a camel could conceivably carry.