In comedy, two normal items followed by a non sequitur or humorous third item. The classic example is "Can I get you anything? Cup of coffee? Doughnut? Toupee?" from The Dick Van Dyke Show, to the point where a bumper running on Nick At Nite specifically explained the structure of the joke. Not to be confused with My Friends... and Zoidberg, where the things listed are one or more categories, and the non sequitur is an insult to a listener who ostensibly fits one of the categories. Informed by the Rule of Three (two items set up a pattern, and then the third breaks it, subverting expectations and registering as funny). It helps that these things tend to be rapid-fire, so that viewers have just barely noticed the pattern before the punchline hits. Subtrope of The Last of These Is Not Like the Others. See also Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking; The Three Certainties in Life; Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick, and A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma.
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- An old Sega ad had a stewardess saying, "Coffee? Tea? SEGA!"
- A State Farm commercial has an alien mecha that seems to target one person.
Anime and Manga
- In an episode of Excel Saga, Il Palazzo is playing a dating sim, and the third option is always "put it in".
- A very common stock joke phrase used in Japan (and in Japanese media), typically in a "man arriving home from work" context, goes like "Would you like a bath? Or dinner? Or maybe m.e.?"note .
- A Judge Dredd story where the title character is chasing after Count Dracula sees the infamous vampire run into a Hall of Horrors tourist museum, prompting the following exchange between Dredd and an employee at the exhibit.
Dredd: You! Close the Hall! Get everyone out! Dracula's in there!Employee: 'Course he is! So's Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Margaret Thatcher...
- The Wrong Reflection: When Dalin Bastra advises Gul Morag that they could just take Eleya's data on defeating the Terran Empire's Klingon-derived cloaking devices by force, Eleya pulls one of these.
"First of all, in your current state the Bajor outguns both of your remaining ships put together. Second, our cyberwarfare tech is way better than yours so you’ll have to physically board us. My XO has orders to erase the files if they pick up any unauthorized transporter signatures, and you’ll never get a shuttle docked in one piece. Third, quit testing my patience, you moron."
Films — Animated
- In Ice Age, Manny to Sid: "Is there no-one else that you can annoy? Friends? Family? Poisonous Reptiles?"
- A non-verbal version happens in Kung Fu Panda. Tai Lung is breaking out of Chorh-Gom Prison, only to be confronted by Commander Vachir and his thousand rhino soldiers. A messenger duck called Zeng is also present, clutched in Vachir's fist to stop him flying away. Vachir sees Tai Lung and growls. Tai Lung growls in reply. Zeng just squeaks in terror.
- In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast asks his servants what he can give Belle. Cogsworth immediately pipes up with the standard romantic gestures: "Flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep..." (Fun fact, this line was improvised by David Ogden Stiers.)
Films — Live-Action
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation:
Clark: Can I refill your egg nog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?
- Working Girl: "Coffee? Tea? Me?"note
- The Nutty Professor (the Eddie Murphy one): "Anything I can get for you? Juice? Coffee? Rack of lamb?"
- Miss Congeniality: "By the way, what are you planning to do for your talent: sing, dance, chew with your mouth closed?"
- In The Addams Family, Morticia is clearing out a closet and finds three bags. In bag #1, "Uncle Knick-knack's Winter Wardrobe". In bag #2, "Uncle Knick-knack's Summer Wardrobe". In bag #3, "Uncle Knick-knack."
- In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle: "Go on inside, boys, and make yourselves at home. You can rest up, get something to drink, fuck my wife, whatever you want. Just don't do anything the good lord wouldn't do."
- The X-Files: Fight the Future: When Scully got Mulder big time, it was Mulder's turn to buy them something to drink:
Scully: You're buying.
Mulder: What? Coke, Pepsi, saline IV?
Scully: (smiling) Something sweet.
- In The Avengers Tony Stark asks Bruce Banner how he stays calm.
Tony:What's your secret? Relaxing jazz, bongo drums, huge bag of weed?
- Cotton McKnight, the announcer from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is rather prone to these.
Cotton: Tomorrow we separate the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, and the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian.
- Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet: Countess Thun's favourite reading? Dante, Goethe, and Nick Carter's stories.note
- A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!: The live-action film has Timmy's parents attempting to offer gifts to Tootie when they try to marry their son off to her:
Mr. Turner: We'll give you money!
Mrs. Turner: Livestock!
Mr. Turner: Raisins!
- Dracula 2000. Jeri Ryan is playing a news reporter.
(to her cameraman) "Ready to go? Getting the crash? Getting the sunset? Getting the tits?"
- In the After the End B-Movie Battletruck (aka Warlords of the 21st Century) the villains have just seized a village.
Big Bad (to The Dragon): "Tell the men to Inventory and Requisition."Mook Lieutenant (to everyone else): "LOOT! LOOT!"
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
"In those days... men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri."
- The 1978 essay "The Three Most Important Things in Life" by Harlan Ellison; they're sex, violence, and labor relations.
- In her book, Eats Shoots And Leaves, Lynne Truss remarks that, if people went about saying "Elizabeth'r Reign," instead of "Elizabeth Her Reign," there would be "...the regrettable result of making people sound a) a bit stupid, b) a bit drunk, or c) a bit from the West Country." (39)
- The book Coffee Tea Or Me?, a memoir of two airline stewardesses that was a best seller in 1969.
- The fifth chapter of Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys is titled "Guy Problems: The Pain. The Anguish. The Men's Room."
- Dave Barry's column "Don't Box Me In" refers to a electric ceiling-fan switch with three positions: "Low," "Medium," and "Burn Down House."
- According to the protagonist of Monster Hunter Alpha, badass Russians only have three emotions: revenge, depression and vodka.
Live Action TV
Captain Montgomery: Feds say he is a white male, 25 to 45 years old.Castle: (to himself) Could be me.Captain Montgomery: With a dysfunctional relationship with his mother.Castle: Still me.Captain Montgomery: He has a menial, unimportant job.Beckett: Definitely you.Castle: Just for that, my next book is based on Esposito.
- In Eureka, Dr. Boyle lists off his grandmother's missing heirlooms after the bank is stolen. She had a gold wedding ring, a pearl necklace, some antimatter...
- Friends did a variation on this. When Rachel's pregnancy became a plot point at the beginning of season eight, Phoebe tries to figure out who the father is. When she invites the (wrong) man to the coffee house and it's revealed that, no, Tag is not the father, Phoebe is understandably embarrassed.
Phoebe: Can I get anyone anything? Coffee? Tea? Poison? Just me? Okay.
- In Stargate Universe, when Volker needs a kidney transplant:
Park: Still a lot of other potential post-operative drawbacks. Infection, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction...(everyone except Volker snickers)Volker: Why is that funny?(everyone else snickers again)
- Star Trek in its various incarnations has a tendency to do this when a character is comparing someone to great artists, scientists, explorers or whatever: they will list two ones from our past and an unfamiliar third, often sounding like that of an alien. Alternately, two historical people and one contemporary. (Granted, this person may well be considered historical by their standards.) An example is when listing blind poets and going with "Homer, Dante, Wonder."
- Star Trek: The Next Generation. Amanda Rogers, an intern on Enterprise, has superpowers and Q is sent to investigate.
Q: Very impressive the way you contained that explosion. What else have you done?Amanda Rogers: I-I don't understand.Q: Telekinesis? Teleportation? Spontaneous combustion of someone you don't like? (shoots a meaningful glance at Picard)
- Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager's EMH is examining Dr Zimmerman.
EMH: To your knowledge have you been exposed to theta radiation?Zimmerman: No.EMH: Neutron flux?Zimmerman: Never.EMH: Have you ever had intimate relations with a Bolian?
- Game of Thrones. Jaime Lannister is shamelessly trolling the huge female knight who's holding him captive. "Have you known many men? Women? Horses?"
- In Two and a Half Men, this is how others react to the news that Jake heard Judith and Herb having sex through his bedroom wall.
- Angel. "The Girl in Question"
- Burn Notice's pilot features this line when Mike and Fiona are hashing out why they broke up the last time.
Michael: Fi, there's a few things I'm good at: tactical analysis, hand-to-hand combat, and I'm a decent cook.
- Our Miss Brooks has one rapid-fire breakfast exchange with her landlady:
Miss Brooks: Toast?Mrs. Davis: Toast.Miss Brooks: Cereal?Mrs. Davis: Cereal.Miss Brooks: Hat-coat-and-bicarbonate?Mrs. Davis: ...
- Done all the time by the Voiceover Guy for the introduction of the 1990's The X-Files spoof, The X Fools.
"They are two unusual agents investigating unusual mysteries: Haunted houses...UFO's...If a man climbs a mountain because it's there, why doesn't he do the washing up?"
- The Abduction of Figaro by P.D.Q. Bach:
Donna Donna: You worm! You skunk! You yellow-bellied imperialist running-dog!
- Sunday In The Park With George, "Color And Light":
George: More red... More blue... More beer...
- The song "I Believe" in The Book of Mormon is built around this structure, but interestingly the third item isn't even a joke, technically, but rather a real Mormon belief that just sounds really bizarre out of context.
"I believe that the Lord God created the universe. I believe that he sent his only son to die for my sins. And I believe that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America..."
- The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) explains that the Letters basically teach three things: "Love the Lord thy God"; "Love thy neighbor as thyself"; and "Women: you're responsible for the downfall of mankind, so shut up and obey your husbands."
- Tenderloin has one with a pun at the end of "What's In It For You?":
Tommy: You're deep.
Brock: You're shrewd.
Both: Your move.
- The Order of the Stick:
- In #709, Tsukiko complains about how Paladins forbid things left and right: "Don't walk on the grass, don't litter, don't rape the cycle of life with your unclean power".
- Also, #20: "Fireball!" "Arrrgh!" "Lightning Bolt!" "Arrrgh!" "Evan's Spiked Tentacles of Forced Intrusion!" "Wait, what? —AAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHH!!!"
- This Questionable Content:
Marigold: Large Phillips screwdriver.Momo: Large Phillips screwdriver.Marigold: Thermal paste.Momo: Thermal paste.Marigold: Squirrel....Momo: S-SQUIRELL!
- From Crimson Dark, Chapter 01: Page 22. Kari takes control of the Niobe's guns as the enemy closes in. Doubles as a Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
Kari: Sorry, guys, but this is what happens when you destroy my ship, kill my friends, come after my rescuers, and fly level while in formation.
- In The Lazer Collection 3 a gritty new detective comments that a detail of the case he was assigned is, quote, odd. This launches his senior officer into a mini-rant.
Senior Officer: Odd? Odd is Benjamin Franklin playing tetherball with Van Helsing. Odd is a big-toed tadpole tainted by the tides of a dawn since past. Odd is a 40 year old senior officer who cries himself to sleep every night dreaming of a life on the road as a traveling naked contortionist, never returning home, never stopping or breaking his stride! ... Unless he saw a TGI Fridays. He f**king loves that place.Detective Randall: * stare*Senior Officer: This isn't odd, Randall. This... is a mystery.
- When Tweeterman287 reviewed a handheld game console, he said (holding up each object in turn) "Rapid-fire size comparison so you can get an idea of the size of this in Real Life. Xbox 360 controller, PSP-3000, and a turtle made out of clay."
- According to Cracked, success depends on three things: Talent, hard work, and randomly meeting the right people and not pissing them off.
- Freeman's Mind has an episode where he yells to a vortigaunt alien:
Freeman: You stay on your side of the line! Your side of the line is where everyone is dead. My side of the line is filled with love, hope, and sub-machine guns!
- What If?: The first image of "Free Fall" labels the parts of Mount Thor with "East Slope", "Summit", and "AAAAAAAAAAAAA" (pointing at the sheer cliff).
- A Triple combined with a Julius Beethoven Da Vinci from Futurama:
Calculon: I was all of history's great acting robots; Acting Unit 0.8, Thespomat, David Duchovny.
- The Fairly Oddparents episode in which Mr. Crocker first appeared has this:
Crocker: Can I offer you anything with that? Cream, sugar, magic?
Wanda: What was that last one?
Crocker: (unsure) Sugar?
- In one episode of American Dragon: Jake Long, when Spud and Trixie are looking over Lao Shi's store while he and Jake are away Fu Dog tells them not to touch anything, not to open any drawers, and if a big toothless guy named Morty shows up saying "Where's the money?" tell him Fu moved to Machu Picchu.
- Some episodes of Roger Ramjet do this during the fight scenes where all that is flashed on screen are sound effect words like "Bam," "Pow" and "Ouch." In one episode the word "indigestion" turns up.
- Played with on The Simpsons, after Krusty gets fired:
Krusty: They took my dressing room, my parking space, even my writer, so I don't have a funny third item.
- Rugrats Angelic has a list of things she needs before she can examine Chucky
Angelica: Lil, I'm going to need a box of cookies, about a hundred band aids, some water and a helicopter!Lil: Where am I gonna get a box of cookies?
- In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Buzz is thrown into the far future (it's actually a trick) and sees what became of his team:
Buzz: Commander Booster...President Nova...XR...with a mustache.
- This article. "Skinny jeans, adult films, human excrement sell 'like hot cakes' in North Korea"
- During the 2008 Democratic primaries, when Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and John Edwards were the three candidates left in the race, Obama mentioned in one of the debates how historic a time it was, because it included the first African American final contender for the presidential campaign, the first woman, and John.
- The three "major prophets" of the syncretic Cao Dai religion of Vietnam are Lao Tzu, Confucius and...Victor Hugo.
- A memorable gag by comedienne Rita Rudner has her ending a confusing story with "Any questions? Any answers? Anyone care for a mint?"