. Run from 2006 to 2010. Recurring characters tend to be limited to one series, although some (such as
) have run for longer. The sketches are occasionally intercut with
- Acceptable Professional Targets: The radio show has the Little Old Lady Job Justification Hearings, in which two very prim and polite old ladies interrogate people on how their jobs do any good for society, invariably talking them into "opening a little shop" instead. Subverted in regard to one particularly Acceptable Target; when a traffic warden comes in (getting an audience laugh just on being introduced), they come to the conclusion he does a very important and worthwhile job indeed.
- A Day in the Limelight: Played with and parodied in the stage show The Two Faces of Mitchell and Webb, where James Bachman and Abigail Burdess take the stage to "fill in the gaps" when Mitchell and Webb are doing costume shifts. They treat the situation as if they've got their own show, even singing their own theme song.
- After the End: The Quiz Broadcast takes place after "The Event" which caused The End of the World as We Know It. (Remain indoors)
: God, imagine The Event happening again...[beat]
...NO! DO NOT IMAGINE THE EVENT HAPPENING AGAIN. IT WILL CAUSE DISTRESS. THE EVENT IS IN THE PAST.
- Agony of the Feet: One sketch has a man abducted by a lost tribe that lives in his local garden centre, who tell him he can leave... if he makes it through a gravel path barefoot. He doesn't.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: During the "history of Numberwang" sketch, it is revealed that Colosson the Numberwang robot has gone insane and wants to destroy everything that isn't Numberwang.
- The Alcoholic: One-shot character Hugh, who walks into the corner shop seemingly intending to buy a loaf of bread, an apple, and a newspaper. Suddenly complaining of a "perishing thirst," he adds two cans of 10% lager, and then realises he unfortunately doesn't have enough for the first three things. The reactions of the owner suggest that Hugh performs the same routine pretty much every morning.
Hugh: Well it...it's the continental way, isn't it? In Spain they...they wouldn't dream of starting the day without a couple of cans and...maybe a vodka...
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: See Playing Cyrano below.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: The "Dinner Party Guests" sketches play this for laughs in-universe, revealing why people such as James Bond, Scooby and Shaggy and Mahatma Gandhi would be a nightmare at a party, whilst Adolf Hitler would be a delight. They also suggest that Scrappy-Doo would be a charming guest, if a little bit impetuous ("I think you can forgive that of a talking puppy").
- Also applies to the scarecrow sketch.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Fatally so - the kid was literally embarrassed to death.
- Amoral Attorney:
- Amusing Injuries: One sketch has two actors playing Sherlock Holmes and John Watson doing this to one another, starting with hitting one another on the head with a pipe, moving up to Webb's character smashing a carafe over Mitchell's head, then to somehow breaking one another's limbs.
- Anachronism Stew: "Posh Dancing" puts conga lines and freestyle disco into Pride and Prejudice.
- Ancient Conspiracy: An episode presents a trailer for The Number Wang Code, where we learn that all numbers are part of a conspiracy. Also, the above-mentioned Inebriati (or Knights Tippler), a select cabal of people who have shaped the world for the better for centuries, all on the principle that "everything is much, much easier if you're ever-so-slightly drunk." Being completely drunk, however...
- And Man Grew Proud: An awful lot of knowledge appears to have been lost barely two and a half years after The Event.
- Anyone Can Die: Parodied in the backstage show:
"If this show's going to mean anything at all, somebody has got to die!"
- Art Imitates Art: A creepy version of Test Card F is shown during breaks in the Quiz Broadcast. It features Bubbles the clown with a sad face, Carole wearing a gas mask, and depressing phrases such as "Mummy won't wake up" and "It is the mercy" written on the blackboard.
- As the Good Book Says: One The Quiz Broadcast sketch has the Test Card Girl writing "Revelation 6 13 15" on the blackboard.
Revelation 6:13-15 reads:
"and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains."
- Awesome but Impractical: The doorbell replacement product, a cannon that fires small dogs at your window with a note attached to their collar. If you visit multiple people in one go, you may need to carry more than one dog.
"I estimate you can shoot the same dog through twenty four windows before it becomes a terrifying lump of mutilated flesh."
- The Backstage Sketch: The show frequently featured the stars lounging around on set in-between takes. One particularly memorable instance lampshades how the supposedly documentary-esque content of these sketches were in fact just as scripted as the rest of the show.
- Bad Boss:
- Hennimore's boss is not really mean-spirited or a bad man, but he never fails to give Hennimore two simultaneous tasks with instructions so confusing that no one could possibly handle both without screwing them up in the most comedic way possible. Needless to say, Hilarity Ensues.
- Mitchell and Webb themselves during the Behind-The-Scenes skits, where they decide in order to create a meaningful message, they are going to kill off one of the extras. Cue them setting their sights on uber-cheerful James Bachman.
- Bad Export for You: Parodied in the behind the scenes of Numberwang special, which showed several international adaptations of Numberwang. The American version has the host say "Yes, that is a number."
- Berserk Button: The TV Realtor really doesn't like non-white...bathroom suites.
- Big "NO!": Professor Death every time one of his inventions is proposed for a military application.
- Big Word Shout: "HENNIMOOOOORE!"
- Bilingual Bonus: The man who wants to make a cup of tea for everyone in Belgium tries talking to them in French. The police car in the background says 'politie' (the Dutch word for police) meaning he's in Flanders. No wonder they're ignoring the guy speaking terrible French.
- Bi the Way:
- In one of the 'Behind the Scenes' segments, Robert was implied to have been in a long term relationship with a man before marrying his wife.
- Also, in an earlier episode, he tells David that he 'tried the gay thing... remember my earring?'
- Bitter Wedding Speech: A sketch has a well-intentioned best man slowly screwing up a wedding speech and disparaging the wedding, and then trying to fix it ineffectually.
- Black Comedy: All the Quiz Broadcast segments, and a few of the one-offs too.
"Pre-Event sources talk about 'hope'. What was hope?"
- Bond One-Liner: Parodied in one of the Party Planners sketches, in the middle of an extended What the Hell, Hero? aimed at Bond.
Everyone's in shock, except for James
, who strolls over to the window, glances down, and says "What a piercing bore."
Webb: "A piercing bore"? There's no such expression!
Mitchell: Well, right next to the railing was a rock crusher. It's pretty clear he'd wanted to say "what a crushing bore" but missed and was making the best of a bad job...
- The 'Agent Suave' sketch revealed that all of the titular superspy's quips and Double Entendres came from a pair of lazy comedy writers sitting in a van outside reading from a book called '1001 Super Spy Jokes'. They were also providing this service for the villain. This backfired on them.
- Brick Joke: In series 4 episode 5, the 'backstage' sketches talk about the idea of ending the show in an emotionally affecting way, but ultimately determine that the announcer would just talk over the credits and ruin the mood. In the next episode, the last of the series, the final sketch is a genuine Tear Jerker featuring an elderly Sherlock Holmes... and the announcer doesn't talk over the credits.
- Brown Note: "I've got a Red Tuba that makes you shit yourself!" And from the same sketch, the eponymous green clarinet which makes you sing embarrassing truths to the tune of "I Saw Three Ships".
- Bulletproof Fashion Plate: The host of The Quiz Broadcast (remain indoors) starts out looking remarkably well groomed, all things considering — and then progressively unravels as things get worse and worse.
- Butt Monkey: Julie would always lose Numberwang. The only time she won was when there was a sudden death round, and the first person to die won. That's Numberwang! for you. In fact, in their live show, the host started verbally abusing Julie in the last round and showing blatant favouritism towards Simon.
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": The interviewer in the "Realistic Film Director" sketch asks questions like this.
Interviewer: Peter, what would you say — and apologies if this seems like a crass question — is the horniest bra size on a woman?
Interviewer: By which I mean, what, if anything, is the message in your films?
- By-the-Book Cop: Parodied in one sketch, with one police officer who's fanatically by-the-book and extremely in-your-face about it when his superior calls him in because he's completely inefficient:
Officer: Oh, ah, that's what it's all about these days, isn't it? League tables and conviction rates! Listen, Sunshine, I may not get results, but by God I do things by the book!
Chief: Nobody cares about the book, O'Munroid! I don't even know where you got that book! All I know is you're supposed to be in charge of tracking down this killer, and I want you concentrating on nailing him, not reporting your fellow officers for uniform infractions!
Officer: I see, so a few old ladies are bumped off and suddenly epaulettes are optional? Listen, Son, when I joined the police force — round about the time you joined the cub scouts — I didn't do it for the glamour, and I sure as Hell didn't do it for the dough. I did it for one reason only: To follow correct procedure and document it appropriately!
- Calling Card: The Identity Killer, who leaves photo identification of himself, his driver's license, his passport and, on one occasion himself, at his crime scenes. The police have no leads for this Magnificent Bastard.
- Callback: A series four sketch parodying Cash For Gold adverts has a Cash for Plutonium commercial that says it's "Definitely not a front for a maniacal supervillain" at which point a picture of Leslie, the Bond villain parody from earlier series, flashes up on the screen.
- Calvinball: Numberwang, the maths quiz that simply everyone! Is talking about? Yes.
- Also the similarly-themed Wordwang and the German spinoff, Nümberwang.
- Parodied when it is revealed that Numberwang is decided through complicated mathematics by Colosson.
- In the live show, Julie somehow managed to achieve Numberwang while bantering with the host.
- Card-Carrying Villain: The company in the Our Slogan Is Terrible sketch.
"Now, I'm a certain sort of evil. Not "death camp" evil, not "serial killer" evil, but I take a perverse pleasure in having been paid through the nose for nothing of any value!"
- Catch Phrase: "That's Numberwang!" and "Let's rotate the board!" for Numberwang; "Hello, good evening and remain indoors!" for The Quiz Broadcast.
- Also "That's a bad miss" from the the snooker radio commentator.
- Worth noting that their most notable catch phrases are usually set right at the start of the sketch, rather than having them as the 'pay-off' at the end. This is due to the show's origins on radio, where a catchphrase at the beginning would let the audience know which characters they were listening to right away.
- The News live broadcast: "What's your reckon?"
- The Posh Waiter, Scary Vicar and Intimidating Tailor all introduced themselves in a similar fashion:
Person: Sorry, what happened to the [much nicer previous occupant of the position in question]?
Waiter/Vicar/Tailor: [With an alarming maniacal glint in the eye:] (S)he's gone, sir/madam/child. They've all gone. They've [Been removed]. And we're back.
Waiter/Vicar/Tailor: The [incredibly hostile and inappropriate] people who still unaccountably [do X].
- Not to mention during the Waiter/Vicar/Tailor's rant, he mentions that he and those he worked with saw Webb's character the last time he visisted, and they "though you were a dick/turd".
- Chekhov's Boomerang: Episode 5 of Series 4 has a series of "behind the scenes" sketches about the pair trying to create an serious thought-provoking ending akin to the ending of Blackadder Goes Forth. ("I think we desperately need to show maturity with something with something tacked on and mawkish. Like we care about MS ... doesn't have to be MS, just people and their relationships and their disgusting problems, like we give a shit.") This is apparently fulfilled when the episode ends with one of the cast members being killed off, fading to the message "SOD CANCER". However, Episode 6, the series finale, then ends in a desperately sad depiction of Sherlock Holmes with dementia, showing the inevitability of losing one's former glory in old age. This time, it's not played for laughs.
- Circular Reasoning: The justification for keeping aliens a secret in the Roswell Conspiracy sketch.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Sir Digby Chicken Caesar. "You mean, you detect the dread hand of my nemesis' arch-rival, Viscount von Sausagerolls?" "No, I can smell sausage rolls!"
- Comes Great Responsibility: The Green Clarinet. Subverted when the Enigmatic Empowering Entity comes to claim the clarinet back for misuse, as the owner just uses the clarinet to embarrass him into running away in floods of tears. Played straight again when he meets the guy with the Red Tuba.
- Comical Overreacting: While discussing how to make a Blackadder Goes Forth-style Downer Ending, the duo discover the tea urn is empty and a new one will take five minutes. Cue Platoon-esque slow-mo Skyward Scream.
- Conspiracy Theories: Parodied and Lampshaded in series 4, with a shady government cabal discussing how to fake the moon landings and assassinate Princess Diana. It turns out that it's easier and cheaper to fly to the moon than it is to fake flying to the moon, and that any assassination involving car crashes and paparazzi would be so improbable that it's more likely to happen by accident.
- Cool Old Lady: The old dears who are in charge of the "Old Lady Job Justification Hearings". Is is impossible to listen to those sketches without wishing they were in charge of the world.
- Counterfeit Cash: A forger proudly displays his work: "ten punds" scrawled in marker pen on an oversized piece of orange paper displaying the image of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
- Crazy Homeless Person: Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar and Ginger.
- Critical Research Failure: Parodied when Mitchell and Webb play a couple of screenwriters that know nothing about medicine, American law, Cricket, or prostitution, but write scripts about them anyway.
- Cruel and Unusual Death:
- The sketch where the Host refuses to accept the correct answers from his contestants... before the reveal that he's got 6 months left to live and he's imprisoned the contestants on a spaceship heading into the Sun. And he's going to drag it out for as long as he can...
- Mitchell and Webb conspiring to stuff one of the supporting actors into a woodchipper.
- Cursed with Awesome: Parodied: Biscuit telekinesis can ruin your life.
- Darker and Edgier: A lot of the sketches in Seasons Three and Four seemed to be a lot darker than the sketches in the first two series.
- Deadline News
- Deadly Euphemism: Parodied in one of the Bond Villain sketches, when Leslie wants a detective killed but keeps using euphemisms.
Alan: "'Have him removed'? 'Take him out of the picture'? I thought we agreed at the meeting that these terms are needlessly ambiguous? We all agreed that from now on, when we want someone murdered, i.e. deliberately killed to death, then that's what we we're gonna say!"
Alan: "This is gonna be 'let's hope Professor Ritson meets with a little accident' all over again! We spent nine months hoping that Professor Ritson would meet with an accident until Leslie made it clear it was an accident we were supposed to make happen!"
- Deconstructor Fleet: Just try to count the number of tropes this show parodies, subverts, deconstructs or otherwise plays with. Often examples of Don't Explain the Sketch being scathingly accurate and funny.
- Disproportionate Retribution: One sketch featured a man who shot anybody who made a grammatical mistake dead.
- Double Entendre: A doctor working at a typical 'bawdy 1970s hospital' has a bit of trouble grasping the nature of Double Entendre, with unfortunate results ("Shall I rub them against my cock?").
- Downer Ending: Played with in the "Sod Cancer" sketch, and played straight with Sherlock Holmes suffering with dementia at the end of season four. With a Credits Gag — "Meditation" from the opera Thais by Jules Massenet instead of the normal theme song.
- Drama Bomb Finale: Discussed in Series 4 ep 5 as a way to shoehorn some depth and maturity into the program — they finally go with Tonight Someone Dies, with a Really Dead Montage involving a minor player who makes the mistake of showing off his beloved girlfriend's Facebook page.
- Electric Torture: One of the contestants on the Remain Indoors quiz show is taken away to be "voltage-calmed".
- Eleventy Zillion: Parodied in a Numberwang skit involving "imaginary numbers." The contestants offer "twentington" and "frilve hundred and neeb" as their numbers, followed by "shinty-six." The host then stops the contestant and says, "Oh, I'm afraid shinty-six is a real number. As in the popular phrase, 'I only have shinty-six days left to live." Behind him, a board displays the number shinty-six (fifty-six with a reversed five). (Given the nature of the Numberwang board, we could have been looking at frilve hundred and neeb, or even Nova Scotia, for all we know.)
- Embarrassing Slide
- Entendre Failure: The Bawdy 1970s hospital sketch.
- Epunymous Title: Comedy Duos Fish & Chip and Pin & Cushion split up to form Chip & Pin... but Fish & Cushion end up being more successful. And even get the gig to promote the Chip & PIN system.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: Twice in the Quiz Broadcast statements - first when everyone but the main three has simply succumbed to the harsh conditions of the collapsing society, then, after being found again, when They kill everyone but Peter and the host before inexplicably disintegrating, leaving the two of them alone and extremely disturbed.
- Evil Is Sexy: A woman in a Christie-esque detective drama gets progressively better hair and make-up, and more cleavage, as she confesses to murder. This is, of course, lampshaded and invoked.
- Evil Sounds Deep: The cannibalistic creatures known only as "Them".
- Exact Words: Numberwang's "Sudden Death" round.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Parodied in the 'Mad Scientist' sketch, where the Giant Death Ray is aptly named... but not for the reason the President of the United States and the head of the US Army think, which prompts this reaction when they discover it's not quite as lethal as they expected:
: One question that obviously leaps to mind, Professor Death
, is why on Earth you elected to name this contraption of yours the Giant Death ohIsee
- Exasperated Perp: Parodied with regard to Poirot, who admits that he only knows the murderer for sure when they "do the evil voice". When the murderer shoots herself, he remarks, "It is better zis way. Some courts, zey do not accept ze Evil Voice as evidence."
- Facecam: "The Surprising Adventures of me, Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar!"
- Family-Unfriendly Aesop: To "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", discussed in a courtroom scene following the boy's death.
- Fatal Family Photo: Poor James Bachman's fate is sealed in the penultimate episode of Season 4 when he turns up happily showing off a photo of him and his girlfriend.
- Felony Misdemeanor: In a 'behind the scenes' conversation discussing Drama Bomb Finales, Mood Whiplash and Tonight Someone Dies, Mitchell and Webb reserve their greatest venom for announcers who talk over the credits.
- First Name Basis: The final sketch of the show, which features Dr. Watson visiting an aging, senile Sherlock Holmes in a nursing home, Holmes addresses Watson as "John" in his final speech, where he admits that he knows his mind has gone, but he can not do anything about it.
- Five-Token Band: "Let me introduce you to my team, Disabled Ethnic, Teenage Poofter and Woman. Don't talk to them, they're just here to tick boxes!"
- For Science!: A Mad Scientist named Dr Death has created a Death Ray for the US government. Although it's actually harmless and just named after him. At the first mention of weaponising any of his inventions he begins to destroy them with a wrench.
- Gambit Roulette: Parodied with lashings of Sarcasm Mode in a sketch ridiculing the conspiracy theory that Princess Diana's death in a high-speed crash was set up by the royal family;
Conspirator 1: Plus, people always die in car crashes, don't they?
Conspirator 2: Yes, always, and people who drive over the limit always crash. What we're organizing here, my friends, is a watertight hit. [...] Induced-tipsy-car-crash it'll have to be, then. It simply can't fail - unless she wears a seatbelt.
Conspirator 1: She won't. She's unprovably pregnant, remember? Women recently impregnated by the only man they've ever loved are notoriously slapdash about their personal safety.
- Genre Blindness: Hennimore's boss never seems to learn to either stop making his instructions to Hennimore so confusing, contradictory and overlapping or just get someone other than or as well as Hennimore to do it instead.
- Genre Savvy: In the SS sketches, and again in the Poirot sketch in series three.
- Germanic Efficiency: Parodied in Reports Mode - a Bavarian entertainment show centering around graphs and charts, even featuring a break from all those reports so we can take a look at how the show is doing in terms of efficiency.
- Going Native: In a garden center.
- Government Conspiracy: Parodied in a series of sketches which deconstruct conspiracy theories around Roswell, the Moon landing and Princess Diana's death, lampshading the inherent ludicrousness of them by having a trio of government spooks play them perfectly straight. In the Roswell sketch, even the agents seem unsure how the conspiracy benefits anyone:
Agent 1: I hate to be a skeptic, but... why are we doing any of this?
Agent 2: Doesn't really make sense, does it? But it's... [shrugs] it's just the sort of thing that generally, governments do.
- Grail in the Garbage: A recurring sketch involves a man at a garage sale casually selling incredibly valuable artifacts for a low price. The Holy Grail itself, for instance, was sold for five pounds, as having already gained eternal life from drinking it, he sees no reason to keep it around. Then there's the wardrobe that's the entrance to Narnia, as now that he has a garden at his new house, he doesn't really need the extra space.
- Grammar Nazi: A boss who shoots his staff dead when they make errors. Ironically, his misuse of the word "acronym" goes unnoticed.
- Gratuitous French: The Agent Suave sketch, being set in a Monaco-esque casino offering a selection of country fete games, has such treats as "Frappez le Rat".
- Gratuitous German: Das ist Nümberwang! Even better; they referenced the JFK "I am a jelly doughnut" legendnote , and Simon got a photo of David Hasselhoff as a prize. Turns out that the German is Surprisingly Good.
- Gretzky Has the Ball: The cricket version.
- Heartwarming Moments: Parodied and Invoked with "Sod Cancer!"
- Heel Realization: One of Those Wacky Nazis is starting to think that maybe they are the bad guys.
- "Hans... are we the baddies?"
- "It's just all these skulls, good guys don't wear skulls do they?"
- Hide Your Pregnancy: Averted with actress Olivia Colman, whose prominent belly was visible no matter what sketch she was in. They never talked about it directly, but they didn't really try and hide it either. Not hiding it made at least one sketch Darker and Edgier than it was intended to be when written, when Colman's heavily pregnant character is : strangled to death by her husband.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar's sidekick, Ginger: On the good days, his father would attempt to hang him, on the bad days, he would attempt to have sex with him.
- Hypocritical Humor: One of the behind-the-scenes sketches has David and Robert get into an argument about cheese that gets progressively heated, eventually turning into a shouting match. This involves David at one point screaming at Robert "You've got a lot of anger! A LOT OF ANGER!!!"
- Incurable Cough of Death: Lampshaded and averted, naturally, in "The Man Who Has A Cough And It's Just A Cough And He's Fine".
- Indecisive Parody: Obviously they couldn't end the episode where they heartily take the piss out of Sudden Downer Ending with a genuine example, so they parody it instead. The next episode ends with a proper one, with an elderly Sherlock Holmes descending into dementia.
- Infant Immortality: Averted in The Quiz Broadcast when the host asks the contestants what they wished they had learned prior to the event.
Sheila: I think if I'd taken in more survival tips for children, that would have been helpful.
Host: (chuckling) Oh, yes. Post-Event, the world would have been a different place if we'd managed to keep...even some of the children alive.
- It Never Gets Any Easier: Word for word, on a knowingly badly-researched medical show, when a doctor has to... pull off a plaster.
- It Will Never Catch On:
- A cook at a medieval feast trying to introduce a new side dish of "some-leaves-and-a-carrot-chopped-up-very-small".
- A renaissance inventor who invents the wireless mouse... several hundred years before the computer. His boss puts it in the "special cupboard", along with a windscreen wiper ("the device for wiping clean a screen, that, in some as yet obscure circumstance, would shield one from the wind"), a can-opener ("the device for extracting food which has somehow become encased in metal"), and a Sky Digibox.
- Gilbert and Sullivan being reluctantly forced to go back to writing "low-brow operettas" when their more serious work about a shark with large teeth and a teenage girl getting a demon removed by a priest, fail to capture the public's imagination.
- It's Been Done
- I Want My Jetpack: Both the attitude, and the concept of jetpacks, are spoofed in-universe here.
- Just The Introduction To The Opposites: A sketch where a husband and wife are arguing because he's just returned from a business trip and she finds a bra in his suitcase. She asks, mildly annoyed, if he's cheating on her, which he cops to absent-mindedly. The fight escalates as she brings in other "minor" issues such as her desire to have a baby and secret gambling addiction, until she suddenly bursts into tears and he figures out what this is really about — that time he left the fridge door open and a whole quiche and some milk went bad.
- Just Think of the Potential: Professor Death made a Giant Death Ray and an Armoured Scorpion of Death for peaceful purposes, damnit!
- Juxtaposition Gag: The Quiz Broadcast and Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar are both versions of this.
- Kill the Ones You Love: At the end of the "Avocado Bathroom" sketch, the husband kills his (pregnant) wife because she's revealed that she not only doesn't mind an avocado bathroom, but quite likes it.
Webb: That was for the best. Now, come on. Let's go and look at the guest bedroom. It's got flock wallpaper. You'll know what to say.
Mitchell: [sobbing] "I couldn't live with it."
Webb: Could you live with it?
Mitchell: I couldn't live with it!
- Kill the Poor: One sketch was based around contemplating this as an easy solution to revitalizing the economy.
- Lampshade Hanging: They are growing increasingly fond of using their 'out of character' segments of the show to do humourous lampshade hanging, a recent example being hanging a lampshade on the fact they weren't using Southern accents in a sketch highlighting the absurdity of KKK costumes by reflecting (out of character) on how bad it would be if they tried.
- Last Name Ultimatum: HENNIMOOOOOORRREE!!!
- Laugh Track: Surprisingly, it doesn't kill the humor as it would on a programme like Peep Show.
- Law of Disproportionate Response: Demonstrated in this sketch about a couple arguing.
- Lethal Eatery: The sketches about "Didldidi", a bargain supermarket parodying Aldi and Lidl, which sells food long past its sell-by date or that is clearly not fit for human consumption.
- Mad Scientist: Subverted with Professor Death, who doesn't want his Giant Death Ray, Armoured Scorpion of Death, or Doom Melon used for military applications.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Parodied in the sketch about the Government Conspiracy to kill Princess Diana;
: So we're all agreed, that's the best way to do it. Agent 2
: Absolutely. It's so simple
. No messing around with poison-tipped umbrellas or snipers
— we just get a chauffeur drunk. Agent 1
drunk. Agent 2
: And assume
he crashes the car.
- Magical Defibrillator: "Nurse, fetch me the electric paddles that can make you better if you're really sick but can make you sort of ill if you're fine!" Moments later: "Oh no... he was fine. And now he's poorly from too much electric."
- Magic Music: The Green Clarinet and the aforementioned Red Tuba.
- Maximum Fun Chamber: "Come on, what's the worst torture story you've got?"
- The Mean Brit: Anne Robinson's hosting persona is parodied in "Hole in the Ring".
Host: So, at the end of that round, you've scored a pathetic, a gay; one point. Which is shit. So...you idiots.
- Memetic Sex God: Invoked in the Behind-The-Scenes skits, where a Running Gag is that David Mitchell is apparently a master of cunnilingus.
- Men Buy from Mars, Women Buy from Venus: Utterly destroyed.
- Misery Poker: Inverted in a sketch in which a paediatric consultant tries ever so hard to be sympathetic to his boyfriend's problems at his own job as an ice cream taster, despite the boyfriend's insistence that his job "somehow feels... less important than taking care of terminally ill children."
- Mood Dissonance: The "elderly Sherlock Holmes" sketch, in which Holmes' obvious mental deterioration — and Watson's equally obvious desperation to pretend for his sake that nothing is wrong — is played for laughs... until Holmes, in a moment of lucidity, reveals he knows only too well what's happening to him.
- Moon Landing Hoax: In one of a series of Conspiracy Theory sketches, a shady government office plans to fake the moon landings. When they realize that no one will be fooled unless they really do build a massive rocket, and they'll have the cost of film crews and catering on top of that, they decide that it'll be cheaper just to pop to the moon and fake the footage there.
- Motive Rant: The 'evil voice'. Further parodied after the murderer shoots herself, when Poirot accidentally provokes one about someone defecating in his en suite.
- Ms. Fanservice/She Cleans Up Nicely: Sarah Hadland. Take note of her appearance in the Quiz Broadcast sketches as "Sheila" and then in season 4's "Dog Poker" and "Reports Mode" sketches. She also plays the Agatha Christie villainess in the Evil Is Sexy example
- Mundane Made Awesome - So That's The Football Coming Up Watch It Watch The Football Watch It IT'S GONNA MOVE!
- Mundane Utility: One sketch on That Mitchell And Webb Sound has a boss telling his employees off for using the Stargate as a supply cupboard and somewhere to take cigarette breaks.
- Name and Name
- Namesake Gag: The Giant Death Ray is in fact a Steam Punk barcode reader invented by Dr Death.
- Narrative Filigree: Parodied by the "realistic director" sketch. His films include Sometimes Fires Go Out and The Man Who Has A Cough And It's Just A Cough And He's Fine.
- Never Say "Die": Parodied in one of the evil genius skits. "This is gonna be 'Let's hope Professor Ritson meets with a little accident,' all over again! We spent nine months hoping that Professor Ritson would meet with an accident before Leslie made it clear it was an accident we were supposed to make happen!"
- Nobody Poops: "No one goes for a piss in Star Wars, you can watch the whole of Ghostbusters and no-one brushes their teeth, and in Lost in Translation, nothing happens. At all."
- Noble Bigot: Of all people, Jesus is called out on this for his racist attitude to Samaritans.
"The fact you wouldn't expect goodness from a Samaritan betrays your inherent racism!"
- Noodle Incident: A decidedly grim one in "The Event", as featured in the Quiz Broadcast sketches.
- No OSHA Compliance: Deconstructed with the Evil Genius trying to persuade a contractor to disregard the impracticalities of his plans.
Muahahaha! I think you'll find that neither Health nor Safety are among my primary concerns...
- Later on, the fully-compliant Trap Door (complete with flashing red light, warning alarm and fencing off of the area) gives the Board to Death guy in the chair plenty of time to escape.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
- The Ku Klux Klan founder and his costume designer speak in Mitchell and Webb's natural accents. Subverted and lampshaded when the costumer's wife enters and speaks with a southern American accent, to which the costumer replies, "We said we're not doing the accents."
- In a sketch about American government officials contemplating faking the Moon landing in 1968, Mitchell, Webb, and Sarah Hadland all speak in British accents.
- Not Using the Z Word: Them.
- Obviously Evil
Hans: Uh - I don't... uh-
- Poirot always knows when he's identified the murderer when they start doing the "evil voice", among other things...
- Office Golf: One of the Hennimore sketch mix-ups involves a set of golf clubs and a drinks cabinet in the shape of a set of golf clubs.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Parodied in the Inebriati sketch. "Were you just hiding behind that pillar?"
- Oh, Crap:
- During "What Not To Look Like", the two bitchy presenters have one where their quest shows up in a burqa.
- During a snooker commenters, one of them declares it's actually Christmas. The other then realises it's Christmas, and runs out the door.
- In one Get Me Hennimore! sketch, Hennimore imagines the results of the instructions Mr. Boss is giving him (though we never hear what the exact instructions are) and knows that things are going to badly, as usual. His face gets more and more distressed as the sketch goes on. Unusually for a Hennimore sketch, things go just fine and no problems occur... until the nuclear warhead detonates.
- During the Quiz Broadcast when the Host realises that "They" have gotten in.
- On the Next: The "Gift Shop Sketch" sketch makes fun of excessive previewing (to the point of revealing the entire story) and recapping of TV shows.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
- Usually averted, as the cast have a handle on many regional dialects, as well as Mitchell and cast member James Bachman being quite good at affecting American accents.
- Parodied with a sketch set in the American Deep South: The 'behind-the-scenes' footage beforehand shows Webb trying and failing to put on a convincing American south accent. The duo play the sketch entirely with their normal voices until Sarah Hadland, playing Webb's wife, comes on at the end to deliver her one line in an appallingly bad accent; Webb reminds her 'we said we weren't doing the voices.'
- The Other Darrin: Played for laughs with Speedo, in which the actor playing the white main character died, only to be replaced by an African American actor. The (fictional) writers were too lazy to rewrite the scripts, resulting in the now black Speedo telling a young black client he knows he doesn't want a "big white guy in a suit" like him defending him.
- Our Slogan Is Terrible: One sketch involves a business whose entire purpose is to supply people with "hand-holding accompanying phrases."
- Our Zombies Are Different: Them, from the Quiz Broadcast. It's never made clear if these cannibalistic former humans are zombies or just atrocious mutants, but they are unquestionably terrifying.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Deliciously exaggerated in the sketches about the Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit duo.
BMX Bandit: Well, we're supposed to be a partnership, but, to be honest, I'm starting to feel a bit overshadowed here.
Angel Summoner: Oh, right... Why is that?
BMX Bandit: Well. I think the thing is, that your ability to summon a horde of celestial super-beings at will... Is making my BMX skills look a bit... redundant...
- The Perry Mason Method: Speedo, parodying American legal dramas.
(Speedo in a courtroom.)
Speedo: Did you rape this woman?!
Speedo: Did you rape this woman?!
(Speedo pulls out a gun and fires it above the perp's head.)
Speedo: Did you rape this woman?!
Perp: Yes, yes, whatever you say!
- Playing Cyrano: A sketch revolved around Cyrano himself popping up to help a man woo a woman in the modern day. However, the man in question is a sensitive, good-natured fellow and the woman is, well, a slapper. Cyrano's advice is to be brash and offensive, and downright insulting, which the man in question takes only grudgingly — but it works perfectly. As the scene progresses, he realizes that he has absolutely no interest in going out with a woman who actually likes being treated that way. Cyrano convinces him to go on anyway, since at least he can sleep with her tonight. Eventually the man refuses to continue, but Cyrano keeps shouting out the lines for him, and jams a bag of cocaine into his hands, which the girl mistakes for his continued efforts and she drags him inside.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Ginger to Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar when he is 'poisoned' by a cloud of poisonous gas (read: candyfloss).
Ginger: Don't leave me, sir! Don't leave me...
- Poisonous Friend: Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar is clearly one to Ginger. In one episode we discover that Ginger's real name is Guy Reilly, and he has a wife and daughter, both of whom he lost and seemingly forgot about due to his drinking. When an accident causes him to temporarily recover from his alcoholism, he reunites with them and even settles into a stable job, only to be tricked into drinking an ale by Sir Digby, immediately returning back to his life as a tramp.
- Police Are Useless: Parodied in one sketch with an incompetent Scotland Yard detective tracking down a serial killer a la the Law & Order franchise.
Detective: We call him the identity killer, because he leaves details of his identity at each crime scene.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: Not political correctness, but the backlash against it, is parodied in a sketch where some people organizing a church panto are told they can't include "traditional" scenes like dwarves being gassed and Cinderella fellating a horse, and react as if this is hypersensitivity.
"I'm afraid we're going to have to cut the dame rape scene."
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Captain Todger, whose emblem is a crude drawing of a penis and ends up going to prison for statutory rape, to the horror of General Drayfox (the opposite of a Politically Incorrect Villain).
- Poor Communication Kills: The recurring sketch "Get me Hennimore!" has the hapless titular character requested to do various tasks by his boss. These tasks always involve two objects that are never to be confused, yet look exactly the same. Naturally, the worst possible result occurs every time.
- Precision F-Strike:
Mrs Patricia Wilberforce: Mr Compton, do be seated.
Mr Compton: Oh, I don't like to make a fuss.
Mrs Compton: (sobs) Oh, he's always like this.
Mrs Patricia Wilberforce: I'm sorry, but we'll have to stop it there as Mrs Compton has said "fuck".
(crew member whispers in her ear)
Mrs Patricia Wilberforce: Oh, I do beg your pardon viewers, Mrs Compton didn't say "fuck" after all!
- Promoted to Scapegoat: Karl Dönitz is thrilled to learn that he's been named the next Führer after the death of Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately, his underlings have to patiently explain that this means less that he gets to implement his various ideas about pensions and the housing shortage and more that he gets to call General Eisenhower and surrender to the Allies.
General: So... here's General Eisenhower's telephone number, here's the English for "We give up!", and here's an analysis of our military situation... in one rude word.
- Rambling Old Man Monologue: Anything the snooker commentators say that isn't "That's a bad miss."
- Reading Ahead in the Script: The series features fly-on-the-wall style sections with the actors having chats as themselves on the set. In one of them, David Mitchell points out that these are as scripted as the rest of the show, and shows Webb the script for the sketch they're in, which includes the direction "Cut to a close-up of the script. It reads: cut to a close-up of the script. It reads:..."
Webb: Just put that away.
- Really Dead Montage: James Bachman (he wasn't, either in real life or in-show) in a parody of Drama Bomb Finales.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- How the Incredibly Intimidating And Aristocratic Person Who Still Unaccountably Sells Clothes justifies being horrible to his customers:
Because I'm trying to help you! I'm trying to help you have standards! I'm trying to make you know that the world isn't
pleased to see you, you aren't
needed or included or loved! You're ugly! And superfluous! And ignorant! And you should be frightened. And meek. And grateful. That's better. Now, first things first; let's get you a hat
- Also, the "Little Date" man, who gives these to women, reducing them to tears so they'll go out with him to feel better.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The cannibalistic "Them" in the Event sketches have glowing red eyes.
- Reed Richards Is Useless:
- Monsieur Garnier (who is inexplicably a North-of-England mill owner rather than a French guy) suppresses the invention of a cure for Alzheimer's and a perpetual motion machine because he doesn't want his scientists to get distracted from hair products.
- Also, whoever built a sentient supercomputer and used it to determine what is, or is not, Numberwang.
- Ridiculously Human Robots:
- Parodied in a Robot War sketch. Robots have infiltrated the base, and are supposedly indistinguishable from humans. Cut to a particularly clunky robot (who could conceivably be Cheezoid Mk 9), who is absolutely not humanoid. He even makes toast
- Cheezoid itself, a robot built for the purpose of determining what something smells like, was inexplicably given sentience that eventually led it to attempt suicide as a result of its incompetence at its intended function.
- Sapient Tank: Subverted in that The Giant Death Scorpion was designed with peaceful if bizarre intentions.
- Scandalgate: Rob refers to the original scandal as "Watergategate" on the grounds that, otherwise, what would you call a scandal about water?
- Scare 'Em Straight: "If your children touch dirt, they'll explode."
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The two Nazi goons when they realise they are in fact the villains of World War 2.
- Self-Deprecation: One of the "Little Old Lady Job Justification Hearings" sketches sees Mitchell and Webb themselves get very politely grilled on how worthwhile it is for two men in their mid-thirties to be dressing up and doing silly voices for a living.
- Self-Disposing Villain: At the end of the 'evil voice' sketch (see Exasperated Perp).
- Service Sector Stereotypes: The Posh Waiter (cousin to the Scary Tailor and the Bad Vicar)
Customer: What happened to the friendly Australian girl who used to work here?
. They've all
gone, and we're back
. The incredibly posh people who are still unaccountably waiters...and I'm afraid we've changed the rules.
- Shaped Like Itself: "You know sheep? A bit woolly? It's WOOL!"
- In the German version of Numberwang, the host wishes one contestant "Good luck!" only to furiously disqualify her when she responds in English with "Thanks very much!", a reference to how one of the escapees blows his cover in The Great Escape.
- In another Great Escape reference, a chef who loses his keen sense of smell tries to prove he still has it by putting a clove of garlic on the floor, only to end up getting caught out. This is identical to one of the POWs putting a pin at a certain place on the floor to show he's not going blind. Even the dialogue ("You can't smell your hand in front of your face!") is taken from the film ("You can't see your hand" etc.)
- The announcer talking over the Quiz Broadcast Eyecatch mentions "our new topical entertainment show Mock the Event, which may offend viewers who were affected by The Event."
- Sickly Green Glow: The plutonium in the "Cash 4 Plutonium" sketch.
- The Simple Life Is Simple: Parodied with a recurring sketch featuring a guy under the impression that farming is a super-secret Get Rich Quick Scheme he's sharing with the audience. "You know sheep? A bit woolly? It's WOOL! Pull it off, sell it... fuckin' grows back again! You CANNOT lose!"
- Sinister Minister: "We're back." "Who?" "The incredibly horrible and twisted people who are still unaccountably vicars." (the full sketch is here)
- Sound to Screen Adaptation: Adapted from Radio 4's That Mitchell And Webb Sound.
- Stealth Pun: Busman and Christmas.
- Stepford Smiler: The host of the quiz broadcast.
- Stock Puzzle: Mitchell gives Webb one of these in an episode of the Radio series, which becomes a bizarre mashup of a Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle, the Monty Hall Problem and Knights and Knaves.
- Story-Breaker Team-Up: Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit are a parody of this trope. They Fight Crime.
- Sudden Death: First one to die wins. This round is also announced in one Quiz Broadcast, at which point one of the contestants immediately keels over. If he were on Numberwang, that would've been a victory, but The Quiz Broadcast evidently operates under different rules.
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Colosson, the robot with the job of determining whether or not something is Numberwang, was given mobility and laser cannons. This was apparently the result of the scientists who were creating him wondering late in development whether he could be used for the war effort. Because this didn't change what they used him for, it achieved nothing but creating a problem when he decides to take over the world. Maybe he was designed by Doctor Death? He does have trouble spotting the Potential Applications of laser cannon...
- Superpower Lottery: Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit.
- Surreal Humour:
- Numberwang's hilarity derives from the complete lack of sense, not just in the rules, but in everything.
: Joining me tonight are Julie, who's from Yorkshire, and Simon, who's from a factory and made of a special metal
. So, Julie, ever killed a man?
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Done in the Dosh 4 Gold and Cash 4 Plutonium skits:
- Take That:
- A sketch about a comedian making a cup of tea for everyone in Belgium as the result of a bet, and as a result writing a bestselling book about his exploits, was a dig at comedians who did similarly unlikely things supposedly as the result of bets, such as Tony Hawks (played the entire Moldovan football team at tennis, hitchhiked round Ireland with a fridge) David Gorman (flew around the world meeting people called Dave Gorman), and Danny Wallace (spent a year saying yes to everything).
- They delightfully skewer James Bond in their "Friends of Moneypenny" sketch:
Remember that drinks do I had just before Christmas, Moneypenny brings James along - Oh God, but Christmas spirit and all that. So I said, "hi James there's some mulled wine and I think there's some beer in the fridge." Cock asked for a martini...what does he think it is? 1973?
- There's also a sketch about how The Apprentice was created. "So, it's coverage of idiots behaving idiotically for an audience of idiots?"
- "Fishmonger out of Watermonger" mocks every aspect of Reality Shows like Faking It, with a fishmonger trying to produce a reality show in 2 days. "Tim has just five minutes to come up with his arbitrary deadline".
- "My Shags as a Whore," a series by the incompetent screenwriting duo that refuse to do research or make any kind of an effort, is an adolescent male fantasy where being a prostitute is sexy, empowering, and consequence-free. It's also pretty clearly aimed at Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
- "Coverage Of People Buying A House And Then Living In It" skewers Location, Location, Location and similar property programmes. Both the host and the prospective buyer clearly believe there is nothing exciting about watching complete strangers buying houses and then living in them, and make no effort whatever to appear interested in making a television programme about the process.
So, to sum up, Geoff, who you don't know, has bought a house and is now living in it, having put up some shelves, and I think we can agree that that's basically a good thing.
- The "Identity Killer" skit is a Take That to overly dramatic police procedural shows which insist on making cases that would, in Real Life, be resolved in a few days to be dragged out as long as possible.
- Talking Is a Free Action: BMX Bandit and Angel Summoner have a long conversation as the former apparently is performing a bike trick. It's this that clues BMX Bandit in on the fact that Angel Summoner has invisible angels helping him, much to his upset.
- Talking to Himself: Played with. In a sketch Mitchell plays both the captain of a cruise liner and a Poirot-esque detective who are on screen at the same time. Webb angrily enters the set, and demands a role, to which both(!) of the Mitchells answer that David is best at detective and captain kind of roles. As Webb retorts that it is just a bad excuse for Mitchell to fulfill his narcissistic fantasies, another Webb (in drag) enters the set and tells the first Webb that he is ready for their sex-scene.
- Technobabble: Parodied by "Now he's poorly from too much electric"
- They Fight Crime/This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: BMX Bandit and Angel Summoner.
- They Look Like Us Now: Parodied - they really don't.
- This Ain't Rocket Surgery: A sketch has a neurosurgeon mingling at a party and boasting that what other people do "isn't exactly brain surgery". Then:
"Brain surgery? Huh. Not exactly rocket science, is it?"
- Tin-Can Robot
- Cheezoid, given that he was actually built out of a hoover.
- In the They Look Like Us Now sketch, this is what the "infiltrating" robots actually look like.
- Tragic Dream: Mercilessly lampshaded in "Talent Dredge" sketch, where Robert delivers a lengthy putdown to contestants who apply for talent shows, who try to excuse their lack of obvious talent by claiming they gave it their "heart and soul" instead.
Robert: Sincerity is no excuse for failure!
- Tuxedo and Martini: Parodied with 'Agent Suave'.
- Type Casting: a sketch where a ship captain was being interviewed by a detective had David Mitchell playing both roles - when Webb storms on set to complain about it, Mitchell replies "captains and detectives are my thing".
- And then Robert Webb announces he will have a Sex Scene with another Robert Webb in drag, justifying it with "I am much sexier than you."
- Umpteenth Customer: Parodied; the three eccentric businessmen offer a prize for the millionth visitor to their website, and are confused to find that he completely ignores all the banner ads and pop-ups telling him what he's won.
- Unfortunate Implications: Invoked and subverted.
- "I advise you to march in step with the rest of the white-bathroom loving nation — REMEMBER, LIKE RACISM!"
- The Civil War reenactment sketch depicts a group of reenactors who grow bored of Roundheads VS Cavaliers and switch to "the government forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo" VS "rebel militiamen representing Sudanese tribal interests" - in Black Face.
"Are you absolutely sure that this isn't... racist?"
"Yeah. It's a historically accurate recreation of a landmark global conflict!" They subsequently come to the conclusion that it is indeed racist when the "battle" begins with Webb's character yelling "I AM GOING TO KILL YOU WITH THIS BIG MACHETE" in a horrible fake accent.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Despite the laugh track, many of the sketches are surprisingly intellectual or reference obscure material - how many comedy shows would get away with making a sketch about Karl Dönitz?
- Villain Ball: Parodied in the Conspiracy sketches; when a member of the conspiracy asks why exactly they're doing this conspiracy in such a convoluted way — or why they're even bothering at all — the answer's usually along the lines of "it's just what we government types do."
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The incredibly intimidating and aristocratic tailor played by Mitchell may be a colossal asshole but in the end, he still does want to help Webb's character look good.
- Wham Line:
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong? - Get Me Hennimore!
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?:
- Who's on First?: Used in the sketch skewering the people who pick music to go with idents.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: Spoofed in the Narnia sketch.
- You Bastard: The "Holmes with dementia" sketch goes from funny if very dark humor to the sudden realization that the audience has been laughing at the heartbreaking wreck of a brilliant mind.
- Zombie Apocalypse: In the later installments of "The Quiz Broadcast," the survivors (who'd been whittled by scarcity and disease down to the host, Peter, and Sheila) are found by soldiers fighting "Them," cannibals who, according to the Couch Gag, know what caused The Event.