Worse with Context

Carlton: Will, you had us stop to talk to every pretty girl.
Will: So?
Carlton: We were on the freeway!

Sometimes when a character talks about something, it doesn't seem like such a big deal at first. There's a big difference between your aunt being cut from her position, and her being cut from her position with a machete. Knowing the context of the statement only makes the situation worse.

Generally, a character either explains something someone did wrong that doesn't seem that bad or gives a hypothetical situation that at first glance seems fine. Then, someone points out a missing detail that makes things just horrible.

Frequently a Comedy Trope, although can sometimes be Played for Drama.

Compare Reveal Shot, If You Thought That Was Bad.... Contrast Not What It Looks Like. Can take the form of a Cue Card Pause. May sometimes cause an Escalating Punchline. Super Trope to The Not-So-Harmless Punishment.


Examples

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     Comic Books  

  • In the Disney Ducks Comic Universe story "Gyro's First Invention", Donald and Scrooge explain the events of "Christmas for Shacktown" to Gyro and how it will take 272 years, 11 months, three weeks, and four days to get all of Scrooge's money out of the hole it's trapped in (all umpteen fantasticatillion, three multiplujillion, nine obsquatumatillion, six hundred and twenty-three dollars and sixteen cents of it), culminating with this exchange:
    Gyro: (smiling) No, Mr. McDuck! You miscalculated! It'll take six months...
    Scrooge: (cheering up) Really! Not 272 years? Oh, joy! Oh, rapture!
    Gyro: No, no! You had the years correct! Just a tad off on the months!

     Fan Works  

  • Turnabout Storm:
    Phoenix Wright: What is the punishment?
    Twilight Sparkle: Banishment...
    Phoenix: Well, that isn't so bad compared to—
    Twilight: To the moon... or even the sun... I�ve convinced the Princess to go easy on her, but she will have no choice if the verdict ends up being guilty.
    Phoenix: (And forget what I just said, sheesh! Being sent to the sun is �going easy on someone�? Remind me never to do anything bad in this place.)
  • Ultra Fast Pony: In the episode "To Kill a Firebird", the immortal Princess Celestia describes one of her prior Mayfly December Romances:
    Celestia: And that was the day I met my 43rd True Love. His name was Washington Carbohydrate. And my, was he cute! [...] Anyway, the point of my story is, if I'm immortal, then really, age shouldn't be a problem for either of us. Of course, his kindergarten teacher wouldn't have any of it...

     Film—Live-Action  

  • Blazing Saddles. While masquerading as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Sheriff Bart tells Hedy (THAT'S HEDLEY!!) Lamarr why he should be a part of Lamaar's criminal army.
    Lamaar: Qualifications?
    Bart: Stampeding cattle.
    Lamaar: That's not much of a crime.
    Bart: Through the Vatican.
    Lamaar: Kinky! Sign here.
  • Me, Myself & Irene. While waiting for a train, Irene tells Charlie about her past as an aspiring actress.
    Irene: I got this eating disorder where I gained, like, twenty pounds.
    Charlie: That's not that bad.
    Irene: In a week.

     Film—Animated  

  • In Frozen, right before "Love is an Open Door," Hans tells Anna about how some of his brothers once pretended he was invisible. Classic case of older siblings teasing the younger one, except it lasted for two years. If you think of Hans as an Unreliable Narrator, this could be interpreted in more ways.

     Jokes  

  • A man talking to a friend:
    I think my wife is trying to kill me.
    How so?
    She got me a swim club membership...
    Sounds like she's worried about your health.
    ... and a pair of ankle weights.

     Literature  

  • Discworld:
    • Jingo: The D'Regs feel that 71-Hour Ahmed broke their Sacred Hospitality rules when he beheaded a man before the three days were up, just because he poisoned El-Ysa. The victim's actions seem pretty bad already, but when Vimes asks who El-Ysa was, he's told it was a village.
    • Guards! Guards!: Vimes gets this when he starts asking about a diner's terrible coffee.
      Vimes: How long has it been since the last time you cleaned the coffeepot?
      Harga: What day's today?
      Vimes: Grune 28, I think.
      Harga: What year?
    • The Last Hero: One of the wizards explains that when Cori Celesti explodes, the effects will last a few years. So when one non-wizard asks if they just need to bunker down and get back to life as usual once that's over with and enjoy a world free of magic and wizards...
      Ponder: The seas will boil. The sun will burn out and crash. The elephants and the turtle may cease to exist altogether.
      Downey: And that'll all happen in two years, will it?
      Ponder: No, sir. That'll all happen in the first ten minutes. You see, magic isn't just lights and fireballs. Magic holds the world together.
  • The Last Unicorn:
    Schmendrick: He had me juggling teacups. With tea in them!
  • In The Elenium, at one point Vanion says that someone besides Kalten should forge a document, because Kalten's spelling is so bad that he once got every letter of a six-letter word wrong. Darellon points out that some words are hard to spell, and Vanion responds that the six-letter word in question was Kalten's own name.

     Live Action TV  

  • Dog with a Blog episode "How I Met Your Brother And Sister."
    Tyler: You're the girl who got me detention.
    Avery: You're the kid who did a bike jump in school and ran over my backpack.
    Tyler: You can get another backpack.
    Avery: I was wearing it.
  • True Jackson, VP, when Oscar and Amanda are discussing why Amanda keeps losing assistants.
    Oscar: You made your last assistant pick up your dry cleaning.
    Amanda: So?
    Oscar: It was in Canada.
  • Three's Company:
    • One episode starts with the trio dancing to music. A neighbor calls the police to complain about the noise.
      Police Officer: She's also upset because she can't get her husband off the roof.
      Jack: Well, she can't blame us for that.
      Police Officer: Oh yes she can. He's up there with binoculars watching these girls dance.
      • Moments later, Chrissy realizes that the police officer is actually a distant relative of hers, Jay Garfield, and invites him to stay for coffee. He declines, as he would get in trouble with his Sergeant.
      Jay: If the Sarge found out I was on a social call he'd go through the roof.
      Chrissy: But we haven't seen each other for so long, I'm sure he'll understand.
      Jay: Not Sergeant Hamilton. He's had it in for me ever since I lost something once.
      Chrissy: What did you lose?
      Jay: My patrol car.
    • Inverted when Mr. Furley says that he's written many Strongly Worded Letters to his brother Bart, complaining about not being provided with enough funds to maintain the building. When the tenants are surprised that Mr. Furley would stand up to his brother that way, Mr. Furley says that if Bart doesn't shape up soon, he's going to start mailing them.
  • Zoey 101: Quinn is arguing with her dorm advisor and Zoey and Lola ask her what's wrong. Quinn tells them that the advisor put her in room 36D. Coco doesn't see why that's so bad, then Quinn tells her there's no room 36D note .
  • In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, season 1 "Dad's Back", when Carey gets mad at Kurt for making their home a mess and letting Zack and Cody watch a horror movie:
    Kurt: I know, you're mad.
    Carey: No, no, I was mad when you sold our car to buy a new guitar. I was mad when you came home from the playground with the wrong twins.
    Kurt: It was an honest mistake.
    Carrie: They were girls.
  • The Suite Life on Deck. Models come on the boat in one episode, so Zack suggests to Marcus they throw a party. Marcus's response:
    Marcus: If we throw a party and Mr. Moseby finds out he'll make us clean the propeller. While it's on.
  • That's So Raven: The subplot for "Don't Have a Cow" sees Corey and Larry's trick-or-treat expedition ruined when Larry's working remote costume sets off every remote-controlled device in town.
    Corey: All we got was a stupid pack of breath mints.
    Larry: And three pennies.
    Corey: They threw those at you.
  • Red Dwarf
    • Rimmer in the episode "Marooned," when he learns Lister lost his virginity at age twelve:
      Rimmer: The only thing I lost when I was twelve were my shoes with the compass in the heel and the animal tracks on the soles. Porky Roebuck threw them in the septic tank behind the sports ground. I cried for weeks. (Beat) I was wearing them.
    • When Lister learns the prison satellite will analyze his mind for any crimes he's committed in the episode "Justice," he's worried about going "scrumping" as a kid. Kryten assures him that the satellite will hardly care about stealing apples, and Lister clarifies that he and his mates scrumped cars. He also worries about the time he took stuff from a hotel. Again, Kryten tries to reassure him, but Lister explains it wasn't towels, it was all the furniture.
  • In the Blackadder Goes Forth episode "Private Plane," the full extent keeps getting worse as Melchett tries to justify it.
    Melchett: Now George, you remember when I came down to visit you when you were a nipper, for your sixth birthday? You used to have a lovely little rabbit, beautiful little thing, do you remember?
    George: Flossie!
    Melchett: That's right, Flossie! Do you remember what happened to Flossie?
    George: You shot him.
    Melchett: That's right! It was the kindest thing to do after he'd been run over by that car.
    George: Your car, sir.
    Melchett: Yes, but that too was an act of mercy when you remember that dog had been set on him.
    George: Your dog, sir.
    Melchett: Yes, yes, my dog. But what I'm trying to say, George, is that the state young Flossie was in after we'd scraped him off my front tyre is very much the state that young Blackadder will be in now. If not very nearly dead, then very actually dead.
    George: But surely, Sir, you must allow me to at least try and save him.
    Melchett: No, George. It would take a superman to get him out of there, not the kind of weed who blubs just because somebody gives him a slice of rabbit pie instead of birthday cake.
    • And in the first season, it's up to Edmund, newly named Archbishop of Canterbury, to convince a dying noble to leave his lands to the Crown instead of the Church. Unfortunately, the guy is convinced that he's going to hell, as he has committed the sin of adultery... over a thousand times... with his mother. Edmund convinces him via Hell of a Heaven in the end.
  • One Arrested Development episode ("Charity Drive") has Gob request George Michael and Maeby break into a municipal office and sneak a file into their file cabinet. This conversation occurs after Maeby sticks her gum on the side of the file cabinet:
    George Michael: What are you doing?
    Maeby: Leaving my calling card.
    George Michael: But they're going to know we were here.
    Maeby: Uh, they already know that. Our fingerprints are all over the office.
    George Michael: You said they wouldn't check for fingerprints!
    Maeby: I said, "Don't wear your mittens." They look ridiculous on the security camera.
    George Michael: THERE'S A SECURITY CAMERA?
  • In the episode "The Samurai" of Highlander, Hideo Koto warns Duncan about what happens to foreigners like him in Japan.
    Hideo: No matter, you are barbarian; if they see you, you will be crucified.
    Duncan Yeah...
    Hideo: And then BEHEADED!
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Carlton complains one time about a long drive:
    Carlton: Will, you had us stop to talk to every pretty girl.
    Will: So?
    Carlton: We were on the freeway!
    • In "Blood Is Thicker Than Mud" this trope is used again when Carlton's hell week is more extreme than the others':
    Will: Carlton, you seem to be getting it worse than the rest of us."
    Carlton: Come on, Will, everyone had to re-tar the parking lot.
    Will: Yes, but the rest of us got to wear shoes.
  • In one episode of Cheers, Woody refuses to bowl because he once injured a bowling alley maintenance man, leaving him unable to work there anymore:
    Woody: The last I heard, he was a clown at children's parties.
    Sam: Well, that's not so bad, is it?
    Woody: He wasn't invited to them.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia uses this when Frank tries to make people think he's a veteran.
    Frank: Look, I didn't go to Vietnam just to have pansies like you take my freedom away from me.
    Dee: You went to Vietnam in 1993 to open up a sweatshop.
    Frank: And a lot of good men died in that sweatshop!
  • On one episode of Hooperman, the title detective finds out that a criminal he put behind bars is getting out.
    Hooperman: He gave me the finger.
    Betty: So? A lot of criminals do that.
    Hooperman: Yeah, but he cut his off and mailed it to me.
  • iCarly: When Freddie is talking about his newfound freedom after his micromanaging overprotective mother is too busy taking care of Lewbert after being injured twice
    Freddie: Last night, slept with my socks on
    Sam: So?
    Freddie: Just my socks.
  • Nicky Ricky Dicky And Dawn has this at the beginning of Quad-ventures In Babysitting after they're complaining about their babysitter stayed the night
    Anne: How was your night with Tanya?
    Ricky: We were up half the night.
    Dawn: She sang us lullabies.
    Anne: Well that sounds sweet.
    Dawn: About all the things they put in sausages.
  • During the first season finale of Better Call Saul, Jimmy explains that his previously shown arrest in Chicago was giving a guy he disliked a "Chicago sun roof": climbing on top of his car and crapping through the open sunroof. Then he noticed that the man's children were inside the car, which caused the man to try to get Jimmy labelled a sex offender.
  • Frasier: Frasier and Niles need to fake their opinion on a play they haven't seen, and Frasier reminds Niles that it didn't go so well for him last time, when Niles had claimed another play had third act problems. Niles asks him why he considers that to be such a blunder, and Frasier replies that the play had no third act at all.
  • Home Improvement: Jill has Tim take a test of how good a husband he is from her magazine and he scores in the eighties range... out of three hundred. Tim retaliates with his own test, giving her a score in the nineties.
    Jill: Outta what?
    Tim: Seventy million!
  • This exchange between Laura and Steve about Myra in Family Matters
    Steve: Last week, she signed up for my chemistry class!
    Laura: Well, what's wrong with that?
    Steve: She doesn't go to our school!

     Video Game 

  • Tales of Symphonia has an optional scene where all of your party members (including the ones you'd need to deliberately put off the sidequest for) take a test that Genis has been challenged to. Lloyd's score is 25 points, and he remarks that it's the best score he's ever gotten. Turns out the test is out of 400.
  • Kingdom Hearts I has a very dark version of this. A minor plot throughout the game is the pursuit of the Ansem Report, written by a man who was studying The Heartless. Across the game, Sora and his friends gradually collect the odd-numbered Reports, which offer insights into an individual who is curious and concerned about these dark beings. The last boss before the whole game takes a Difficulty Spike is Ansem himself (possessing Sora's friend Riku). On the return trip to that world, you obtain the even-numbered Reports. These reveal that he made the Heartless via deliberate experimentation with darkness itself, was willing to expose living beings to them, realized that they were after hearts of both people and worlds, started manufacturing Heartless en masse, and voluntarily turned himself into a Heartless in order to help the Heartless find what they're looking for. For better or for worse, the second game reveals that 'Ansem' was a stolen name, and the guy responsible was unrelated to the wise ruler that the name belonged to.

     Webcomics  

  • In Schlock Mercenary, when Kevyn (who had earlier prepared a contingency plan to assassinate King Lota; a secret plan, he thought) suggests modifying a particular set of Credomar's systems, Lota angrily responds that:
    Lota: Those systems house Lota's consciousness. They are not to be tampered with. More to the point, in consideration of your previous assassination plan, should any of you so much as approach those systems Lota would be required to fire you.
    Kevyn: Okay, I get it.
    Lota: Out an airlock.
  • In Vexxarr, the plant AIs' sentence for Vexxarr's theft of services is forcing him to degauss their ship's engines. Vexxarr comments that hard labor seems a bit lenient for them, and is told that when he is finished they will activate the engine.
  • In Girl Genius, Agatha tries to reason with a ravenous intelligent locomotive by asking it what it wants:
    The Beast: What do I want? I want to travel the world and see the rich diversity of wonders which fill it—
    Agatha: Oh, now that sounds—
    The Beast: AND CONSUME THEM! HAHAHAHAHAHA!
  • Kick the Football, Chuck. does not outwardly state that Charlie Brown has cancer. Without this context many of the strips look like normal Peanuts comics.
  • In Tales of the Questor, the Duke of Fenwyck came out of a clash with The Fair Folk having the fae princeling's entire accumulated hoard transferred to him. He knew as soon as he saw it that the treasure in that room would spread Gold Fever over a three-duchy radius (and his formerly-destitute duchy had no real army), but when he asked his seneschal how much there was, he was told that what he was seeing was just some of the stuff they hadn't shifted to the dungeons yet.
    Duke: Ah, good. I'd hate to think this rising feeling of panic wasn't entirely justified...
  • The Whiteboard
    • After Doc repaired a player's thoroughly trashed paintball marker:
      Customer: Wow, it looks great. What all did you have to replace?
      Doc: Well, I checked it carefully, and...see this fitting? And the trigger? Those I kept. Everything else I had to replace.
    • After one spectacularly well-turned-out match, Bandit told Bruno that he'd run out of propellant, having only gone in with one small tank. Bruno suggested that now was the time to get out another, and Bandit said that he had only brought one 12-gram for the day (usually he doesn't need more) and that he'd had to finish the match using a blowgun.
  • Irregular Webcomic! after Steve is bitten by a snake:
    Terry: That's a red mamba! The 301st most venomous snake in the world!
    Jane Goodall: 301st? That can't be too bad then.
    Terry: The top 300 all live in Australia.

     Web Original  

  • Inverted with the "Ordinary Muslim Man" and Successful Black Guy" Image Macro; the first caption is about something stereotypically bad about the muslim or the black guy, and the second caption turns the first one better in context.
  • At some point in Noob Arthéon and Omega Zell overhear their guildmate Sparadrap trying to form a Pick-Up Group for a quest from afar. Due to the fact that Sparadrap is actually walking around while making an announcement, he eventually bumps into them:
    Sparadrap: Don't you want to help me with my quest?
    Arthéon: Let me remind you, we've already done that quest. You were with us!
  • This trope stuctures most stories on FMyLife.
  • In the Team Four Star version of Dead Zone, Garlic Jr. berates his henchmen for bringing back a dragon ball with the toddler it was on. Son Gohan then says his father will come for them, the mooks just laugh saying that they ganged up on and beat Piccolo. Gohan says his father fought against him and won as well, and he was alone.
    Garlic Jr.: Oh God your father's Goku. Oh my God you morons stole Goku's kid?! How?! How did you steal Goku's kid?!
    Mook: Well first we beat up his wife.
  • Texts from Superheroes once had Spiderman volunteer for street patrol on Black Friday:
    Spiderman: Great. Aunt May plans on shopping and I need to keep an eye on her.
    Iron Man: You're a good kid.
    Spiderman: Thanks. I really want to see what she's getting me for Christmas.
    Iron Man: You're a mediocre kid.
    Spiderman: If she gets me DVDs I'm making her return them. I keep telling her, Blu-Rays or nothing!
    Iron Man: You're not a good kid.

     Western Animation  

  • In the season four finale of Archer, ISIS must stop Captain Murphy from launching nerve gas missiles on the Eastern Seaboard.
    Lana:So how many men does Murphy have?
    Cecil Tunt: About two...
    Lana: That's not so bad.
    Cecil Tunt: ...Score. Two score. So, forty.
  • Futurama gives us the Not So Harmless Punishment variety:
    Fry: And what if I don't want to be a delivery boy?
    Leela: Then you'll be fired.
    Fry: Fine!
    Leela: ...out of a cannon, into the Sun.
  • In Mike Tyson Mysteries, "Jason B. Sucks", Mike and the gang goes to Jason B.'s house where Mike demands Jason B. to take down his negative review on his mystery business.
    Jason: Why? You ruined my life!
    Mike: Oh, my goodness! Exaggerate much?
    Jason: My wife died because of you.
    (Marquess and Yung gasps)
    Mike: Well, in that case, maybe it's not exaggerating.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Midnight Towboy," Flanders comes to Homer to pick up the church bus he towed... with the children still in it!
    • In one of the many The Simpsons where the family have legal trouble, Lionel Hutz has an Oh, Crap! moment when he finds out which judge their case is to appear before;
      Lionel Hutz: Well, he's had it in for me ever since I kinda ran over his dog.
      Marge: You did?
      Lionel Hutz: Well, replace the word "kinda" with the word "repeatedly," and the word "dog" with "son."
    • A Treehouse of Horror segment has multiple inverted and subverted version when Lisa finds an alien cookbook called 'to Cook Humans'. The alien blows some dust off the show the title 'How to Cook For Humans'. Lisa blows more dust off for 'How to Cook Forty Humans'. The alien finally blows the last bit of dust of to reveal 'How to Cook for Forty Humans'. According to the DVD commentary Matt Groening wanted a final reveal for the book to be 'How to Cook for Forty Humans and Then Eat Them'.
    • In "D'oh in the Wind", Mr. Burns' instructional video featuring Homer doesn't go so well:
      Homer: Well, there were script problems from day one.
      Lisa: It doesn't look like anyone read the script.
      Homer: That was the problem.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the episode "No Free Rides", after SpongeBob finishes his boating test.
    SpongeBob: Okay, Mrs. Puff. How many points was that?
    Mrs. Puff: Six.
    SpongeBob: Whoooo! And how many points do I need to pass?
    Mrs. Puff: Six.
    SpongeBob: Whooooo...
    Mrs. Puff: ...hundred.
    SpongeBob: Wha?
    Mrs. Puff: Six hundred. You need six hundred to pass. You got six.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, Omi loses the Heart of Jong to Jack and Wuya. Master Fung tries to cheer them up:
    Master Fung: While we should endeavor to win all the Shen Gong Wu, it is not the end of life as we know it if we occasionally lose one. So, Omi, which Shen Gong Wu did you lose?
    Omi: The Heart of Jong.
    Master Fung: [Gasps, turns deathly pale] But that means... the end of life as we know it!


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