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Acting Unnatural

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Jack Black: Oh hey, Animal. What are you doing here?
Animal: Acting! [pause] Natural!

In fiction (comedic works especially), if a character is told to "act natural" to avoid drawing attention to what is supposed to be a covert task, there's a good chance they'll overdo it. Common flubs include reading a book upside down or Not So Innocent Whistling.

May be related to the Centipede's Dilemma, where a conscious attempt to do something is inexplicably harder than doing it unconsciously. Unrelated to Not Himself.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • On at least two occasions in Baccano!, Isaac advises Miria that the two of them should act casual to avoid suspicion. Isaac and Miria's idea of "acting casual" inevitably makes about as much sense as anything else they do - which is to say, none.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Frog Ginyu trying to steal one of the Dragon Balls. When Gohan spots him, he starts leaning against the ball and whistling nonchalantly, which only makes him more suspicious because he's a frog.
    • When Gohan first enters high school, he tries to pass himself off as an Ordinary High-School Student instead of the inhumanly strong Half-Human Hybrid he is. Realizing that even his baseline strength is a bit too much for a high-school baseball game, he decides that the best solution is to simply to do absolutely nothing when up to bat, not even ducking or flinching when Sharpner pitches the ball directly at his face to scare him. He then casually points out that getting hit by a pitch means he gets a walk and jogs to first base, completely oblivious to all the shocked stares he's getting from his P.E. teacher and classmates.
  • Gintama: Parodied in Episode 166, when Hijikata tails a fugitive while both his hands are handcuffed to Gintoki's thanks to Okita's personal amusement. When the fugitive goes in a restaurant, Hijikata instructs Gintoki to act natural as they enter. Cue Gilligan Cut of the two of them walking into the place with a rose in Gintoki's mouth while holding and moving each other in tango-like dance movements. Apparently Gintoki's idea of acting natural is to pretend the two of them have the natural tendency to dance thanks to their parents being dancers. Hijikata is unconvinced and annoyed by this nonsensical backstory and decision-making. While the fugitive doesn't catch wind of them, all the onlookers are confused.
  • Haikyuu!!: In Season 2 Episode 14, Kageyama attempts to act natural while he's walking on the grounds of Karasuno's rival school Aoba Johsai to spy on their volleyball team (mostly his rival Oikawa). He doesn't do a great job — he has a bigger scowl on his face than usual while he repeatedly grumbles to himself that he's an Aoba Johsai student, warranting confused glances from the actual students that walk past him.
  • Nobunaga Concerto: Not that it fazes any of the Oda retainers. They just think their master's gone off the deep end, and decide to put up with him.
  • In Oresuki, two of the main girls are horrible actors who can't even approach “natural” when acting. Himawari ends up stiffly reciting any lines given to her, often stumbling and forgetting her lines or getting the timing wrong. Cosmos on the other hand, invariably winds up acting like an overdramatic classic samurai drama.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Since he and Anzu/Tea are stowaways on the ship to Duelist Kingdom (and Joey wasn't really supposed to be there either), Honda/Tristan advises everyone to "act casual" going past the guards... and then marches past looking ridiculously uncomfortable and suspicious. The guards notice this and call out to him... to tell him not to be so nervous.

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Animated Adaptation of Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, Wei Wuxian reads his old notebook and panics when he finds out he accidentally made Lan Wangji break the clan rules about his forehead ribbon multiple times.note  He's still panicking over the discovery when Lan Wangji walks in, and he tries to act normal and pretend nothing has happened so that he can avoid awkwardly explaining himself. His idea of acting normal is to hastily throw the notebook onto the bookshelf, run to the shelf to put back another book, conspicuously pose next to the shelf to hide the notebook and then unconvincingly let out a cry of pain from his wound as a distraction. Lan Wangji is a little suspicious after he checks on the injury but pays no further attention to the situation when Wei Wuxian changes the topic.

    Comic Books 
  • A Little Something Special: One of the Beagle Boy disguised as one of Donald's nephews (thanks to a spell by Magica) attempts to make Donald buy his disguise by talking "how cute lil' ducks talk".
    Beagle Boy!Dewey: [with doe eyes and feminine body language] We sowwy we talk naughty, unca ducky! Oo give-um big hug?
    Donald: Saaay... did somebody slip these kids some silly-pills down at that party?
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Roman Agent, the villagers begin suspecting Asterix of being a friend of the Romans. Eventually, a fight breaks out over it, but everyone tries to "act natural" when Asterix starts approaching. The villagers stop fighting, but stay in the same big pile, which confuses Asterix further, because the villagers are more likely to be seen fighting than they are relaxing.
  • Hawkeye: In Hawkeye (2012) #2, Clint and Kate infiltrate a swanky gathering of underworld types, where Clint feels distinctly out of place:
    Clint: [to himself] Casual. Casual. Super-casual.
    Kate: You know there's nothing casual about a guy muttering "casual" to himself over and over again, right?
  • Iron Fist: In Iron Fist (1975), as Danny goes through the gauntlet of deathtraps that is the Rand-Meachum tower block, he suddenly comes across a trio of suits in a corridor just standing around, apparently unconcerned about the noise Danny's been making. He quickly pegs them as being too casual, and immediately they whip out guns.
  • Sonic the Comic: In DeCap Attack, a very loud, increasingly violent argument involving Chuck D. Head choking Igor quickly changes gears changes upon the return of a Missing Persons official, the former death grip now a friendly shoulder hold.

    Comic Strips 
  • Big Nate: At a yard sale, Nate finds a comic book that he guesses is worth much more than what it's being sold for. When he prepares to buy it, he stumbles over his words and gets very nervous, causing the owner to get suspicious of the comic book's actual worth, and keep the comic book instead.
  • In a Calvin and Hobbes story arc, Calvin attempts to fix a "leaky" faucet in the bathroom, only to remove the faucet without turning off the water valve first, inevitably flooding the bathroom. While trying to get buckets for the mess, he attempts to make it sound as casual and nonchalant to his parents as possible. Naturally, it doesn't work.
    Calvin: "La Da Dee Dee Da, I think I'll get a bucket... Dum Dee Doo.. Nothing's wrong... Da Dee Doo Ba... I just need a bucket to hold some... stuff. Ta Tum Ta Tum. Let's see, how many buckets do we have? Dum Dee Doo, no cause for alarm... no need to panic... I just want a few buckets. La La."
    Calvin's parents: (simultaneously) "Your turn."
  • In a FoxTrot strip, Paige and Nicole shoplift a CD. Nicole tells Paige to act naturally. Paige holds her breath. Nicole tells Paige that acting naturally includes breathing. Paige immediately starts loudly panting as Nicole Face Palms and adds "Quietly."

    Fan Works 
  • Happens briefly in BAMF Girls' Club when Hermione tries to sneak 50 Shades of Grindelwald off a shelf.
  • In The Faith Chronicles, Willow is perfectly willing to lie, but has so many tells that her friends can realize instantly she's doing it. This becomes a problem when she learns Classified Information about the SGC. She solves the problem via self-inflicted Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • In My Dream Is Yours, Oren has a Catapult Nightmare and stumbles out of the Pillow Room in a daze. Upon seeing Olympia and Otis, he tries to compose himself and reverts to his usual Jerkass personality, but they can see right through him as Otis deduces that he had an odd dream and he desperately tells him all about it.
  • In Tangled Up In You, after Marinette tells Alya and Nino about her attempt to get Adrien embarrassed, she tells them "I think he's coming. Act natural." The two resume making out on the couch next to her, which works, insofar as it convinces Adrien she didn't tell them anything.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Amazing Maurice: As they head towards the Rat Catchers guild, Maurice and Keith walk casually down the middle of the street and nobody gives them a second glance. Malicia, on the other hand, is dressed in a Spy Catsuit and darts from doorway to doorway, hides behind pillars in broad daylight, and generally does everything she can to make it obvious that she is being deliberately stealthy, and draws the attention of everybody she passes.
  • Cars. McQueen wants to surprise Sally with his new look.
    Mater: Here she comes!
    McQueen: Okay, places, everybody! Hurry! Act natural.
    [McQueen hides and everybody else gets in a perfectly straight line as Sally approaches]
    Mater, Ramone, Flo, Luigi, Sarge, Fillmore: Hi, Sally!
    Sally: Alright, what's going on?
  • Family Guy Presents: Laugh It Up, Fuzzball:
    • Peter-as-Han cautions Chris-as-Luke to "play it cool" when they're sneaking off to rescue Lois-as-Leia. This apparently entails slouching along jazzily to the strains of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher".
    • In reference to the above Return of the Jedi quote, when Han tells Chewy to "fly casual," the shuttle proceeds to spontaneously starts walking with its "arms" on its "waist" and whistling.
      Darth Vader/Stewie: Where is that very casual-looking shuttle going?
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: When Quasimodo is entertaining Frollo, all the while desperately hoping he doesn't notice the wounded Phoebus hidden under the table, Frollo suspiciously points out that Quasimodo hasn't eaten any of his dinner. Quasi nervously shoves a handful of grapes into his mouth and almost chokes on them.
  • In Monsters, Inc., Mike and Sulley try to help a disguised Boo back to her door on the scare floor without looking suspicious.
    Mike: We're just two regular joes on our way to work. We will blend right in.
    [Mike and Sulley enter the scare floor]
    Sulley: Top of the mornin', fellas!
    Mike: Hey, what's shakin', bacon?
    Sulley: Did you lose weight? Or a limb?
  • In Toy Story 2, Woody tells Buster the dog to "Act casual" while Woody hangs on his collar to rescue Wheezy unseen by humans. Buster begins to strut leisurely, and Woody hisses, "Not that casual!"
  • In Turning Red, Mei attempts to casually lie on her bed and not draw attention to the fact that she left a notebook full of her embarrassing drawings on the floor when her mother comes to her room. Her Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat and twitchy eyes alert her mother that something is wrong and one quick glance downward by Mei is all it takes for her mother to notice the notebook.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Art of the Steal: When Francie has to drive across the border with Crunch, Nicky and the stolen book hidden in the boot of his car, he is supposed to say two lines to the border guard: "Going to Detroit" and "Nothing to declare". However, his nervousness causes him to behave so oddly that the guard start asking him questions, and he then starts going off on all kinds of bizarre tangents, like claiming to be in a play called Witness!: The Musical and declaring that he likes Predator 2.
  • An unintentional example in Birdemic - early in the movie, the actor who plays Rod couldn't walk naturally on camera and ends up looking like he's made of wood.
  • Cash on Demand: Told to mop his brow in the window as a signal to someone watching the bank from across the street, bank manager Fordyce does so in an extremely exaggerated and affected way that immediately attracts the attention and suspicion of his chief clerk Pearson.
  • Eternals: Sersi and Ikaris pretend they weren't spying on Phastos and his son and even fight over a coloring book at one point. Phastos notices easily.
  • In Ingrid Goes West, Ingrid's first attempt to meet her online idol in person results in her knocking over three magazines while trying to blend in. After spending a good fifteen-seconds fumbling over the floor trying to put everything back up, Ingrid decides to leave before her idol notices her, only to accidentally set off an alarm by leaving the store with a magazine in hand.
  • In I, Tonya, Nancy Kerrigan's attackers attempt to avoid notice while staking out her training arena by changing their parking spot every half hour, which of course attracts far more attention than if they'd just stayed in one place.
  • In Johnny English Reborn, when Tucker confronts the mole at gunpoint in front of Johnny in a washroom, an unsuspecting old man walks right in. This basically leads to the mole drying his hands, Tucker washing his hands and Johnny taking the same whiz continuously until he leaves.
  • Jumanji: The Next Level: When Ming and Finbar go off to steal camels at the Oasis, they leave Bravestone (currently the avatar of Grandpa Eddie) to keep watch and tell him not to draw attention. He stands in the middle of the square looking awkward. When two locals walk by—not paying him any attention—he calls out "Nothing to see here! Keep moving!". This, naturally, attracts their attention, and the situation soon devolves into a brawl that draws in most of the population of the Oasis.
  • Invariably happens in any Laurel and Hardy film wherein Ollie instructs Stan to "be nonchalant."
  • Animal in The Muppets (2011) when he is standing outside Jack Black's trailer to lure the actor out, as seen in the page quote.
  • In Picture Perfect, it's actually amazing that Ernie did notice how unnatural the supposed family was acting most of the time.
  • In Pool of London, George—one of the sailors on the Dunbar—attempts to smuggle an absurd of watches into London: loading down all the pockets on his sui and even stuffing them down his trousers. He is immediately busted by Customs when he loudly states he has nothing to declare before the officers have even asked him, having spent time practicing the most natural way of delivering it.
  • Invoked in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Watson is looking for a disguised assassin, eventually discovering him by knocking a tray of drinks out of a waiter's hand — the impostor is so focused on acting naturally that he can't realistically act surprised.
  • The Signal (2007). A man has just been killed.
    Anna: [doorbell rings] Party guests!
    Clark: [holding bloody shovel] Act natural.
    Anna and Lewis: [line up behind Clark at the door with weapons ready]
  • In Star Trek IV Kirk tells his bridge officers, standing around in the streets of 1980s San Francisco, to "break up, you look like a cadet review." Cue entirely unconvincing attempt by the Starfleet officers to look inconspicuous and casual.
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, when flying on approach to the moon on Endor in a stolen imperial shuttle, Han tries to advise Chewbacca.
    Han: Keep your distance though, Chewie, but don't look like you're trying to keep your distance.
    Chewbacca: [noise of confusion]
    Han: I don't know... fly casual.
  • In Transylvania 6-5000, Gil is trying to climb over the wall of the sanatorium when two old women walk past. He hooks his elbows on the top of the wall and leans back like he is casually leaning against the wall and smiles and nods at them as they pass: despite the fact his feet are dangling 3 ft. above the ground.
  • In Where's Willie? Charlie takes Willie and Tracks fishing. While Charlie is getting some stuff from the car, Willie attaches a device to attract fish to Charlie's fishing line, even though he doesn't want Willie messing around with computers. When Charlie gets back, Willie and Tracks are both humming loudly and making awkward conversation about fish.
  • When the group discovers the Alien Invasion in The World's End, they decide to finish the pub crawl so that "they're not gonna know that [they] know". Cue the five man walking to the next pub to "The Alabama Song" trying to act natural while the whole town is looking at them.
  • In Young Frankenstein, Igor begins to shamelessly flirt with Frankenstein's fiancée Elizabeth. Then Frankenstein walks up.
    Igor (whispers to Elizabeth): Say nothing. Act casual. (leans against wagon and aimlessly looks around)

  • In The Brief History of the Dead, a Corrupt Corporate Executive, the last of the Coca Cola execs left in The City, decides to destroy the memorandum where they agreed to keep their part in The Plague a secret, realizes that there are no shredders in The City. Long story short, he ends up wandering around carrying a trashbin, then having to break a hole in an iced-over river to shove the dustbin through. He is entirely aware of how ridiculous and shady he must look.
  • Discworld:
    • Lampshaded by the narrator of Small Gods: "Urn and Fergmen walked nonchalantly through the tunnels of the Citadel, using the kind of nonchalant walk which, had there been anyone to take an interest in it, would have draw detailed and arrow-sharp attention to them within seconds."
    • Done tongue-in-cheek in Monstrous Regiment. Polly and her friend Shufti (Betty) have to sneak into a fortress as washerwomen, but being Sweet Polly Olivers don't have any women's clothing. Their sergeant brings them to a battlefield brothel to steal some dresses with the cover story that they're there to have men made out of them, and tells them to "act natural". Being terrified is natural for a boy in such a situation.
      Shufti: I'm s-shaking, Sarge.
      Sergeant Jackrum: Good, very natural.
  • Hermione from the Harry Potter series does this several times.
  • Kea's Flight: While the chess club is preparing to break into the engine room and change the Flying Dustbin's course, Kea tries not to look suspicious.
    I became painfully aware of how unnatural I looked when I was trying to act natural. Anyone who was on the lookout for someone suspiciously nervous-looking would have nabbed us in a second.
  • To Be or Not To Be: That Is the Adventure: While trying to cover up Polonius' murder, Hamlet is many times given the option to just play the situation off by acting casual. Since lying down on the floor in a room covered with blood isn't exactly the most normal of actions, it fails miserably every time.
  • Yumi and the Nightmare Painter: Design's idea of acting natural after noticing Nikaro's spirit outside his body and striking up a conversation is to say loudly that there are no invisible ghosts in her restaurant. It actually works; she's such a Cloudcuckoolander that her clientele have gotten used to her saying silly things like claiming to be a divine spirit from another world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agent Carter:
    • After a botched attempt to get some risky files out of a coworker's desk, Peggy pretends that nothing's the matter by eating a scone with her legs up on her desk, completely at odds with her usual proper demeanor.
    • The SSR agents who clear out the automat in "A Sin To Err" continue to act like customers, perusing the menu and sitting down, even though the suddenly near-empty restaurant is a huge tip-off that something's about to happen.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • Simmons makes a hilariously bad attempt to act casual (coached by Skye through an earpiece) when Agent Sitwell catches her attempting to access a computer terminal without authorisation in "The Hub". After first claiming to be looking for the bathroom only to be told that she is staring at a wall panel, she then attempts to compliment his head. It gets so bad that Skye has to tell her to stop talking.
    • In "T.R.A.C.K.S.", she insists that the problem is that she's horrible at improv, and concocts an entire fake backstory for herself and Coulson when they're undercover as father and daughter. Not only does she fail to tell Coulson any of this, but she shouts out far too much detail to random passers-by.
      Coulson: Prostitutes? Plural?
  • Abernazer does this in The ITV Panto of Aladdin when he tries to mingle with the crowd, even going "Mingle, mingle, mingle".
  • In Alas Smith and Jones, Mel Smith tells his friends that Queen guitarist Brian May is going to visit. They all get overexcited at the prospect of meeting him and Mel insists they treat him as a normal guy and his visit is nothing special. However, they take this overboard and when Brian arrives, they're all doing strange activities like vacuuming the flat while totally ignoring him.
  • In the Korean Drama Best Love, two actors who detest each other pretend to be best friends in front of the fangirls.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - in "Lie To Me", when Willow investigates the past of Buffy's newly-arrived old friend and early crush, she feels guilty about it and tries to act naturally around Buffy - failing spectacularly, but Buffy shrugs off her squeaking high-pitched panic as the result of too much coffee.
  • The Chosen: Worried about their safety while waiting in the middle of the town square with a huge box full of treasure, Gaius tells Matthew to try to look natural as the latter fidgets around nervously. As Matthew points out, "I am natural. I look exactly how I feel."
  • Subverted in The Dick Van Dyke Show. Alan Brady orders Rob and Laura to hold a party at their house for a documentary about him. Rob instructs the partygoers not to go crazy, and to treat Alan like one of their circle of friends. They do so comically: when Alan enters the front door, everyone turns, waves "hi" quickly, then turns back to their business. In unison! Alan insists on reshooting his entrance, they do it again, and Alan is furious. Not because everyone is unconvincing, but because they are NOT fawning over him. He's a big star! Why would he want to show people treating him like some ordinary shlub? They shoot it again, and this time everyone rushes to greet him.
  • In Frasier, Frasier and his family are encouraged to do this by Martin after they accidentally cross the Canadian border, unaware that Daphne's work permit forbids her from leaving the country, and must pass through customs before re-entering. This eventually involves Frasier babbling his head off whenever the customs officer asks him a question, Niles buttoning up entirely, and Daphne saying the only thing she can say in a vaguely convincing American accent, which happens to be the word "Sure!" Martin, who actually does manage to act naturally, is not greatly impressed.
  • When Rachel and Joey are having their brief fling in Friends, Ross knocks on the door to Rachel's hotel room; she tells Joey that they aren't doing anything suspicious and he just needs to act "nonchalant". He poses awkwardly with his hands on his hips, staring at the ceiling, until admitting he doesn't know what "nonchalant" means.
  • Full House did this in "Little Shop of Sweaters": D.J and Stephanie were entering a store at the mall to return a royal blue sweater Stephanie accidentally shoplifted (she thought it was credit, as evidenced by the "Buy Now, Pay Later" sign, not knowing it required a credit card). D.J. tells Stephanie to act casual, to which she begins strutting leisurely while humming. D.J. then tells Stephanie to "just act regular," to which she does, until the stolen sweater sets off the door alarm.
  • Fuller House: After Kimmy and Stephanie watch D.J. kissing Matt (she was originally supposed to break up with him), they see her coming in and frantically try to act normal but fail horribly; Stephanie ends up reading a magazine upside down, and Kimmy tries to pour coffee using an empty coffee server.
  • On an episode of The Good Life, Tom and Barbara think Margo is having an affair. When Jerry walks in, Tom tells Barbara to 'be natural'. They then both stand at attention and grin like idiots.
  • Goodnight Sweetheart: When Ron successfully travels back to the past, his attempts to fit in end up with the locals believing him to be clinically insane.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, when the protagonists try to work out who Barney's stalker is, they're told to try to look inconspicuous, and Marshall immediately reacts by acting very strangely, having no idea what to do with his hands, etc.
  • Moss and Roy in The IT Crowd after Moss shoplifts the Grand Designs DVDs in "Bad Boys". Their attempts at being nonchalant are anything but, and inevitably draw the attention of mall security.
  • Life with Boys: In "Young and Stupid With Boys", Tess and Allie are waiting to meet Sam's cute friend Adam. When Sam and Adam arrive, Allie says "Look casual". Tess and Allie then put one arm behind their heads and one foot on the table in perfect unison.
  • Little Lunch: In "The Milk Bar", Bad Liar Debra Jo's attempt to act casual and not blab Rory's whereabouts to Mrs. Gonsha results in her babbling incoherently about geography. And then being concerned that she got it wrong.
  • Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure: Cam tries to be included when he discovers that Evie has become a mermaid, but she's not interested in his help. He hangs around her at her boutique job anyway, only realizing he's not inconspicuous when she draws attention to him fiddling with women's swimwear.
    Evie: I don't think we have those in your size, sir.
  • Odd Squad: In "The Breakfast Club", Delivery Debbie is asked to help Odd Squad track down the Breakfast Club. She is extremely nervous, and when asked by the Club how much the pizza is, she first says $1 and then $10,000,000.
  • The Partridge Family: In "Old Scrapmouth", Laurie's boyfriend lurks around her home in the hopes of "accidentally" running into her so he can ask her to go steady. He walks past the house thirty-five times, attracting the attention of Laurie's siblings, and at one point walks into a kid because he isn't watching where he's going.
  • Protect the Boss has a couple of examples. Once with the Cha cousins acting friendly for the press, to cover up that they're mad at each other. And when Chairman Cha and Shin Sook Hee are doing community service together. "Oh, hello, Sister-in-law." "Yes, Brother-in-law?"
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Backwards", Kryten, in an attempt to look inconspicuous, walks into a café wearing a black cloak and a Ronald Reagan rubber mask.
  • Rentaghost: Telling medieval jester turned poltergeist Timothy Claypole to act like an innocent bystander was never going to end well.
  • Rescue 911: Discussed by a police officer in "911 He's Not an Officer", during his recollection of picking up a particular suspect. The officer says that when he pulls his vehicle up behind or next to a walking suspect and gently guns the engine, then they'll move to the side to get out of the way if they're innocent. If they're not innocent, then they'll keep on walking in an unnatural gait to try and get away without running or looking too guilty (doing what the officer calls a "penguin walk").
  • Runaways (2017): After the first-episode reveal about the kids' parents, Alex tells Gert to just act normal. The result is a painfully forced cheeriness that's totally unlike her normal self.
    Molly: You've never sounded that happy in your entire life.
  • Shut Up Flower Boy Band: Ji Hyuk and Pyo Joo are fighting in gym class but when a teacher comes over, the two quickly hug.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Unification, Part 1", Picard and Data travel to Romulus disguised as Romulans. The owner of a diner immediately pegs them as outsiders — however, she assumes that they're members of the State Sec (later named the Tal Shiar in "Face of the Enemy") rather than foreign agents and says their soup is on the house, "courtesy of a loyal establishment."
  • Supernatural: Parodied in "The French Mistake". Dean and Sam are transported to an alternate universe, where they are mistaken for the actors Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, who are currently filming this very episode of Supernatural. They decide to play along, failing miserably in the task of portraying their respective characters. Lampshaded by Robert Singer, who remarks that they apparently lost any shred of talent.
  • Justin from Undateable is a horrible liar and can't stop babbling until he lets the truth slip, like when he's trying to hide the fact that he and Danny hung out with Leslie's ex-husband. Brent is even worse.
  • In the Yes, Minister 2013 remake, Hacker and Bernard react to the news that a diplomat dislikes formality by standing around the office in a variety of awkward "casual" poses.

  • In one of Tom Lehrer's compositions for The Electric Company (1971), "L-Y", this trope comes into play in the second verse. Enhanced by the animation for the song, in which the "secret agent man" leans against the safe he is trying to open while playing with a yo-yo and smiling ear to ear.
    You're a secret agent man
    Who's after the secret plan
    How do you act so they don't know you're a spy?
    Ah-normally (Not-So-Innocent Whistle) Normally (whistles again)
    Normal... L-Y!

  • Cool Kids Table:
    • In the game Bloody Mooney, when Jess realizes that the unmarked van is following her and JT and tells him to look, he does a sweet dance move to keep it from looking too obvious. It works.
    • In Sequinox, this happens to Chell when she feels anxious, because she's usually super-chill and doesn't normally feel anxiety. She needs Yuki to calm her down.


    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In A Little Unprofessional, Ron White has a bit about being so stoned off his ass that he hallucinates his dog telling him she loves him more than his wife and she can prove it by having all his babies at the same time, and when his wife comes back in the room, the dog says "Act like nothing's going on." Ron later says he didn't know whether to smoke more of that particular strain of weed or to never smoke it again. He went with the first one.

  • In the play Ramona, a maid is eavesdropping at a door. She's holding her broom bristle-end up. When someone comes up behind her and says "What are you doing?", she says "Sweeping!", and makes sweeping motions with the upside-down broom.
  • In West Side Story, A-Rab and Baby John are determined to show 'they ain't scared' when Officer Krupke interrogates them. Their dialogue is so stilted that even Krupke notices something is wrong and decides to run them in. The rest of Jets show up allowing them to escape.

    Video Games 
  • Red Alert 3: The Spy moves at a sneaky half-crouch that only makes him more noticeable when undisguised. When disguised as an enemy unit, you can't tell the difference without a detector to remove the disguise... until they cross water, resulting in things like a Power Armor-wearing Tesla Trooper doing the breaststroke. This can happen in a similar manner with the Sudden Transport, when you see something like an Apocalypse Tank or artillery unit drive at an unusually fast speed, or hovering over water.
  • One sequence in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love has you tracking a mafiosi through New York along with one of the girls. At one point, the mafiosi's bodyguard gets suspicious and hangs back to check on you. You can choose to 'Act Natural' and deflect attention... or you can deliberately act outrageously suspicious, which works even better, and makes the girl impressed by your deception.
  • The Simpsons Game
    Lisa Simpson: It's the mother ship!
    Bart Simpson: This must be the level boss for this part of the game.
    Homer Simpson: The boss! Quick, act natural. (puts on glasses and pretends to write on a clipboard)
  • In The Sims Medieval, a Spy who's doing something like eavesdropping or stealing from a messenger post will do a "stealth walk" that's so over-the-top it should logically be more noticeable than a natural walk.

    Visual Novels 
  • Queen of Thieves: In Remy season 2 episode 4, after he and the heroine have a fight in his room, she exits to the common room to find everyone "suspiciously busy."
    Zoe scrolls down her phone too fast to actually see anything. Vivienne paints already-perfect nails. Nikolai holds a book directly in front of his face and suddenly Jett is super passionate about chugging water.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Grif and Simmons have to pretend they haven't seen Epsilon anywhere, nope, definitely he wasn't here just a minute ago until we punted him over the hill over there... Grif does fine. Simmons, not so much.
      Simmons: Whoa! I mean, what's the four-one-one, daddy-o's? Me and my homey were just, hangin' all up in here. Deserts-ville. 'S'all good. You know what I'm sayin', scrillas?
      Grif: What the fuck are you doing?
      Simmons: You told me to be cool.
      Grif: Right. So what the fuck are you doing?
    • Subverted in this exchange from the Reach miniseries:
      Caboose: Is that one of the red guys?
      Church: Yup, sure is.
      Caboose: Why is he acting so casual?
      Church: I don't know, seems like he's up to something.
      Caboose: Should we follow him?
      Church: Y'know what, I don't really care.
      Caboose: And I've already completely forgotten what we're talking about.

  • In this strip of Bloody Urban, Murray (who, for the record is very tall and hairy, with noticeably sharp teeth) makes a conscious effort to look less threatening and fails spectacularly.
  • In one strip of Public Humiliation, the children do exactly this — and the adults who see this see right through it, only to make the wrong conclusion — that one of the children is hoping the adult will not remember the overdue library book.
  • In this strip of Schlock Mercenary Brad mishears "act casually" as "act casualty", which does not look very inconspicuous.
  • The current page image comes from Sleepless Domain, where Kokoro attempts to "casually" run into Undine. She quickly admits that she was going to come up with an excuse for why she just happened to be walking around there, but couldn't think of a good one.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • Finn indulges in a bit of this in the episode "Storytelling".
      Finn: Normal guy, forest guy, just like normal forest guy...
    • His efforts at playing it cool in "Slumber Party Panic" are also very, very awkward and unconvincing.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, in the episode where they met Haru, the Gaang have followed him, and when a group of Fire Nation soldiers barge in they all "act natural". This involves freezing in place.
  • Ben's City: In "The Shuffle", Ben discusses with Scott about a scheme he discovered that involves getting Henry fired and replaced by a younger minister. While running in the park, they fear someone could hear them talking about the scheme, as Scott was hired to make an advertisement for the new Minister, so they start acting lines in case they're being listened. And indeed, they were. By a squirrel who reported what they said to the guy behind it all.
  • Callum has a gift for this in The Dragon Prince. The more determined he is to pretend that everything is all right, the more overtly terrified he looks. In "Bloodthirsty", for example, he attempts to warn Rayla that they have company, in the form of an actual company of soldiers led by his Cool Aunt, by putting just a bit too much emphasis on the words "human troops".
    Amaya: [via interpreter] Callum, you know it doesn't help to yell. And why are you saying "human troops" like that?
    Callum: Uh, what do you mean? That's how I always say HEAVILY ARMED HUMAN TROOPS!
  • Taken to ridiculous extremes in the Earthworm Jim episode "Upholstered Peril", where a scientist observes the fibers in an evil sofa that brainwashes people into becoming couch potatoes. Said fibers turn out to be alive, and one of them shouts "We're being watched! Act natural!", followed by the fibers indulging in Not So Innocent Whistling.
  • Futurama:
    • After Zoidberg breaks the Professor's bottled ship, gets covered in glue trying to fix it, and ends up with half the Professor's lab equipment stuck to his body, including a cuckoo clock and a "Zoidberg: Do Not Touch!" sign, he dons a trenchcoat to hide it.
      Zoidberg: Casual hello, it's me, Zoidberg, act naturally. [cuckoo clock goes off] Ow!
    • In one "Anthology of Interest" segment, Leela tries this after committing a murder:
      Leela: Okay, just try to be nonchalant. [Not So Innocent Whistling]
      Zoidberg: All right, so you're nonchalant. Quit rubbing our noses in it.
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • In "Stormy Weather", Marinette's attempt at walking next to Adrien as if they "just happened to be passing by" is anything but casual.
    • In "Antibug", Marinette does this as she enters a hotel and sneaks into a kitchen to get cookies for Tikki.
    • In "Troublemaker", Marinette's idea of laying low involves tiptoeing sneakily while crossing the road.
  • Molly of Denali: In "Art From the Heart," Molly and Tooey don't want Jack and Merna to find out about the surprise they're planning for them, so they try to 'act natural.' They end up acting awkward and dropping things.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the episode "Equestria Games", when Spike approaches while the Mane Six are worrying how he took the torch lighting, Rainbow Dash tells everyone to "act casual". She follows this up by slapping on her Cool Shades and striking a Badass Arm-Fold.
      Rainbow Dash: 'Sup?
    • In the episode "Hard to Say Anything", Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo stowaway in the back of Big Mac's apple cart. When they realize he's about find them:
      Apple Bloom: Quick! Act like apples.
      Sweetie Belle: What? How!?
  • Pinky and the Brain: In the Christmas Episode, the duo hide themselves in Santa's reindeer team, wearing antlers on their heads. The Brain tells Pinky to just act natural. Cue Pinky moving erratically, singing, laughing, and making his usual Verbal Tics.
    The Brain: Pinky! Not that natural!
  • Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?: In "A Mystery Solving Gang Divided", Scooby and Shaggy act like this when they're tasked with baiting some ghosts.
    Shaggy: Like, geez, Scoobert, we'll have to leave this map right here in this old cannon so the ghosts can find their gold and rest in peace! MAP! (whispering) Act casual, Scoob.
    Scooby: Good idea, Norville! Yes, we are, uh, leaving!
  • The Simpsons:
    • Skinner and Chalmers do it in "500 Keys" while waiting to snatch the key to the hidden classroom off Lisa.
    • Also, Homer and Milhouse do this in "24 Minutes":
      Homer: Cops! Act natural.
      Homer: [imitating a woman] Oh, hello officer!
      Chief Wiggum: [while driving by] Oh, hello, Ma'am! [to self] What is it about a woman and a dumpster?
    • In "Marge And Homer Turn A Couple Play", Homer is heading to a ballgame with his family, then proceeds to yell out that he's selling the tickets when a cop walks by.
      Homer: Cops! Quick, Marge, act like you're in love with me. [proceeds to kiss Marge all over the face]
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • Exaggerated in the episode "Life of Crime" SpongeBob and Patrick are panicking because (they think) they stole a balloon. SpongeBob advises, "Act normal," and, whether out of nerves or sheer stupidity, both of them start gibbering and acting crazy. They are immediately surrounded by a crowd who mistake them for street performers.
    • In the episode "Boating School", when SpongeBob is asked to act natural, he gets on all fours and starts grazing like a cow.
    • In another, he hides from a bully in a toilet. Spongebob tries to "act natural" when someone is stepping into the stall, becoming a live-action sponge floating in the bowl.
      Fish: Oh, that's real nice... [puts the toilet lid back down and leaves]
    • In yet another, both him and Patrick end up tensing up and greeting people in a robotic way, using “natural” as a prefix to all their sentences.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Veritas", Tendi suddenly becomes nervous and her eyes dart back and forth when Boimler asks about Clar focusing on certain parts of the story. This gets explained when Tendi testifies and it turns out that most of the things she did are highly classified.
  • Steven Universe: In "Hit the Diamond", Ruby's idea of "acting natural" involves holding herself stiffly, sweat drops, and Suspiciously Specific Denials. It's a good thing the Gems she's trying to fool are all Super Gullible.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan: In "Lessons in Love", Newton and Kimmy are about to kiss when Lance and Ilana burst in. Newton randomly shouts out the word "Parallelogram!" and extends his book pages forward towards Lance and Ilana, while Kimmy opens her book upside down.
  • Miko and Raf trying to lie to Optimus in an episode of Transformers: Prime. It goes as well as expected.
  • In The X's, the eponymous family is a perfectly normal family that acts just like a normal family would do, AND THEY'RE NOT SPIES!


Ducktales 2017

"Inconspicuous whistling... just a casual whistle..."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / ActingUnnatural

Media sources: