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Amusingly Short List

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"I shall now read the names of the children admitted into the second phase of the test. ... Very well, if there are no other questions, I shall read the list. Reynard Muldoon! That is all. The rest of you are dismissed."

The opposite of the Long List.

An Amusingly Short List is funny because it's barely a list at all. The main joke of the short list is often the fact that someone has gone to the effort of writing out the list or started listing things out loud, despite there being only one or two entries.

Sometimes the humour comes from the fact that the character enthusiastically claims or implies there are many, many potential items that belong on the list... only to remember only very few. Or only one. Or none at all.

May be combined with Damned by Faint Praise, if it's a list of someone's good qualities. Rule #1 can be related: It's common to list only one or two rules, so numbering the rules is unnecessary.

What qualifies an Amusingly Short List as such and not just one or a few items that naturally form as part of dialogue is that it has to be presented as a list. The character should build up expectation of a list—by announcing they have a list, through Body Language such as counting on fingers, via a pause after an item, and so on—and then not deliver on that expectation because the list is unexpectedly, comically short.

A form of Low Count Gag, where the low count is items in a list.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Dark Reign: The List, Norman Osborn shows Nick Fury a list he keeps by his bedside, essentially the list of superheroes he's going to kill someday, including Fury. Fury in turn shows Osborn his own list, which consists of "Save the world", "Punch Norman in the face", and "Have a beer".

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • The title characters have a game called "Calvinball" (which named a trope) that only has two permanent rules: you can't play the same way twice, and everyone has to wear a mask.
    • In one Sunday strip with a G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy GirlS) club meeting, Calvin and Hobbes decide to make a list of what girls are good for. Calvin snarks that it will definitely be a very short meeting. The two end up fighting when Hobbes adds that girls are good for "smooching".

    Fan Works 
  • Boldores And Boomsticks: After some Training from Hell with Yang, Casey lists the parts of her that don't hurt. The list is just a pause.
    Casey: I'll list all of my parts that don't hurt… this concludes the list.

    Films — Animation 
  • Puss in Boots, the secret "bean club" devoted to looking for magic beans has only one rule, not to talk about it, which is stated twice. (A parody of Fight Club, although it does have more rules.)

  • The Book Of Utterly Ridiculous Stupid Lists has a couple of these.
    • "Ten quite appealing ways to die":
      1. Being orgasmed to death
      2. That's about it, really.
    • "Ten ways to get anybody you'd ever wanted into bed with you:"
      1. If we knew this, we'd never have bothered writing this stupid book.
  • In the Discworld book, The Last Continent, Death asks his library for a list of all the non-dangerous creatures on Fourecks. He gets a single sheet of paper with "Some of the sheep" written on it.
  • In Dave Barry Slept Here, the presidential administration of Millard Fillmore is summed up by the following list of highlights, or highlight:
    1. The Earth did not crash into the Sun.
  • In The Mysterious Benedict Society, Number Two reads off the list of children who passed the test in the session taken by the main/point-of-view character Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon.
    "Very well, if there are no other questions, I shall read the list." The room became very quiet. "Reynard Muldoon!" the woman called. Reynie's heart leaped. There was a grumble of discontent from the seat behind him, but as soon as it passed, the room again grew quiet, and the children waited with bated breath for the other names to be called. The woman glanced up from the sheet. "That is all," she said matter-of-factly, folding the paper and tucking it away. "The rest of you are dismissed."

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • "The Locomotion Interruption": Penny is nervous about her job interview arranged by her friend Bernadette. Bernie lists Penny's personality traits, trying to convince her she's gonna be fine.
      Penny: I haven’t been on a job interview in years. I’m really nervous.
      Bernadette: Don’t be. You are built for pharmaceutical sales. You’re cute, you’re flirty and I started that like there were gonna be three things.
    • In "The Sibling Realignment", Leonard tries to list things Sheldon and his brother George have in common.
      Leonard: I... I know you two have your differences.
      George: You mean pretty much everything about us?
      Leonard: Well, not everything. You're both tall, you have the same last name. Maybe I shouldn't have started this like it was a list.
  • Blackadder II:
    • After Blackadder comments that being Lord Executioner is itself a death sentence, Melchett says he has a list of candidates. He announces "Candidates for the position of Lord High Executioner", unrolls a scroll, says "Lord Blackadder", and then rolls the scroll up again.
    • Blackadder puts Percy in charge of the guest list for a party. When he checks in Percy tells him the first person on the list is his girlfriend Gwendoline. Blackadder shoots her down ("No chicks!") which forces Percy to sheepishly admit that he hadn't gotten around to listing anyone else.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • "The Slump": When sarge and detectives from 99 discuss their favourite cop movies and try to find the best one, Rosa lists things she likes about Robocop: Gratuitous violence.
      Rosa Diaz: No. Robocop. It's got everything I like: Gratuitous violence— [the intonation signifies she will list more; long pause ensues]
      Jake Peralta: Oh, I thought you were listing things.
      Rosa Diaz: I was. I'm done.
    • "Greg and Larry": When the squad is trying to escape from a hospital that is flooded with mafia boss Figgis' hit men, Detective Peralta says there are millions of ways to get out, but can name only one, and very silly one at that. (Seconds later he comes up with a good plan, though.)
      Terry: How are we gonna escape?
      Jake: Relax. There's a million ways to get out of a hospital unnoticed.
      Terry: Name one.
      Jake: [alarm blaring; long pause] —Dress up like babies.
      Terry: What?
      Jake: Well, you put me on the spot.
      Terry: Well, you brought it up.
  • Community: When the Dean goes insanely over-the-top in his attempts to make the new Greendale commercial.
    Dean: Three reasons why this commercial is going to be great: 1. Luis Guzman is in it...
    (The numbers 2 and 3 show up on the screen with nothing after them.)
  • Corner Gas, episode "Hair Loss": Lacey tries to make Brent feel better about losing his hair by listing attractive bald celebrities. She manages to think of three before resorting to Elmer Fudd of Looney Tunes. Lampshaded.
    Brent: Big dropoff between three and four, there.
  • Fawlty Towers: Subverted in "Gourmet Night", when in an emergency with the chef being drunk, the replacement menu has an extremely limited choice.
    Col. Hall: (Reading the menu) Duck with orange; duck with cherries; duck surprise.
    Mrs Hall: What's duck surprise?
    Basil: That's duck without orange or cherries.
    Col. Hall: What do you do if you don't like duck?
    Basil: If you don't like duck... you're rather stuck.
  • Friends:
    • Pheobe says Ross is "on my list", before adding "Has anyone seen my list? It's a piece of paper and it says 'Ross'."
    • Ross has Chandler type out a pro-con list to help him decide between Rachel and Julie. The only thing in Julie's con list is "She's not Rachel". Rachel is upset when she finds the list, and is not reassured when she finds the Julie's con list, as Chandler has typed it as "She's not Rachem".
    • Rachel's resume is very brief when she quits her first job as a waitress.
      Ross: Well hey, who did these resumes for ya?
      Chandler: Me! On my computer.
      Ross: Well you sure used a large font.
      Chandler: Yeah, well... waitress at a coffee shop and cheer squad co-captain only took up so much room.
    • The guy who works a Soul-Crushing Desk Job and to whom Phoebe tries to sells toner over the phone has a hilarious and utterly sad short task list on his white board. It reads: Today's tasks: KILL SELF. No one in his office notices.
  • On Great News, Portia reports on the latest celebrity caught in a sex scandal, ending with her listing the only good men left in Hollywood: "Tom Hanks; end of list."
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Barney Stinson bounces back and forth between Long Lists and short lists. If his list isn't hundreds of people long (they're usually people he's had sex with), then it's just one or two items long (usually a reason to have sex or not to have sex).
    • In the episode "Brunch", Ted hasn't told his parents any stories about Barney, to the latter's dismay. Ted says, "Here's a list of all the things I talk with my dad about: Baseball..." and makes a "that's it" gesture.
  • In "Where the Wild Things Are" from The Inside Man, as Mark Shepherd accompanies Erica on a business trip as "IT security," he keeps up a stream of chatter about things she should do to protect herself until finally she stops him, telling him she only agreed to him coming along because she owed him a favor. "Here are the rules," she tells him, saying that he speaks when he's spoken to. She then pauses, then admits that this actually the only rule.
  • Implied on Married... with Children. Al wants to list all his worldly possessions, so Peg gives him a small piece of paper. He reiterates that it's "all" his worldly possessions, so she rips off an even smaller piece.
  • M*A*S*H: Used during one of the morning announcements when they list volunteers for fitness program.
    PA Announcer:The following people have volunteered to go on today's 10-mile physical fitness hike.
  • Red Dwarf, "Nanarchy": Dave Lister deals with a loss of his arm and Kryten and Kochanski try to comfort him, saying that there are countless people who have lost an arm, and then gone on to lead a perfectly normal life. Thousands. More than thousands. Millions. They have trouble naming them, but the gang collaboratively manage to find five. Five could be a decently long list, but considering the names... You be the judge of that: Lord Nelson, the Venus de Milo, the one-armed man from The Fugitive, Vincent van Gogh note  and Dave Lister.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • There was a Running Gag on the Colin Jost/Michael Che era of Weekend Update where they present a list that's implied to be lengthy, only to have a small number of items on it. We then cut back to them to find them in the middle of something that should have been finished before the list was supposed to end.
    • In the Mike Pence Impeachment Strategy cold open, Mike Pompeo says that fleeing the country is an option. There's a "whole list" of countries that would be happy to have them: "North Korea, Saudi Arabia, end of list".
    • Liz Cheney (played by Kate McKinnon) expressed dismay at being hated by fellow Republicans, saying "I'm everything a Republican woman is supposed be: blonde, mean."
    • A parody of Shark Tank had lawyers compete for celebrity clients. One prospective client prompted Alan Dershowitz to say "You're everything I want in a client. You're famous, you're definitely guilty, end of list."
    • An awards show for black people set in the Star Wars universe had Saw Guerrera give a Shout-Out to all the black Jedi.
      Saw: [Reading from a written list.] Mace Windu. That's it.
  • In "Someone To Watch Over Me" from Star Trek: Voyager, the Doctor asks Seven of Nine, as part of a dating lesson, to tell him her tastes, her likes and dislikes. She tells him that she dislikes irrelevant conversations.
  • The X-Files, "Bad Blood": Agent Scully starts listing agent Mulder's problems with first of all... but the first and only thing is so huge that she doesn't even need "a second of all".
    Scully: First of all, if the family of Ronnie Strickland does indeed decide to sue the FBI for — I think the figure is $446 million — then you and I both will most certainly be co-defendants and second of all... I don't even have a second of all, Mulder. $446 million.
  • When Céline Dion is hassled by a US Customs and Border Protection agent in a Royal Canadian Air Farce skit, the agent tells her that the entire list of disallowed individuals consists of her, Cat Stevens, Holland Oates, and any surviving members of The Bee Gees.

    Print Media 
  • A Running Gag in Private Eye, which blatantly pads the lists by making the last two entries "Er..." and "That's it".

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: At one point, the Cheer Squad tries to recruit more girls to the team. They make a list and go to Deandra, who turns them down immediately. Trisha then reveals that the "list" is actually just a piece of paper with Deandra's name on it.

    Web Original 
  • House to Astonish, talking about Tom Brevoort taking over the X-books:
    Paul: One of the things people were saying on my blog in the comments, was rightly pointing out that the X-books have a much better track record for certain metrics of diversity than Brevoort's stable does, and that's undoubtedly true.
    Al: That's definitely true. Let's just quickly revisit the list of all the women who've ever written The Avengers out of the Brevoort office.
    Paul: That was quick.

  • In this Hark! A Vagrant, Musashi's opponent has a list of things necessary for a duel: that list being "Dudes" and "Swords". The reason the list becomes relevant is, of course, that Musashi forgot his sword(s) and had to bring a boat oar to the duel.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: After Mikkel disobeys Sigrun's orders, she puts him on her mutinist risk list. Mikkel is surprised she has such a list, so she produces it, revealing it to be literally a scrap of paper with only Mikkel's name on it.
    Mikkel: Most people tend to include more than one item when they make lists.
    Sigrun: Sounds to me like most people need to start making more focused and less stupid lists.

    Web Videos 
  • Benzaie: His In Name Only Top 5 lists at one point only had two entries.
  • Smosh Games has a Honest Game Trailer for The Order: 1886 where at one point it's discussed what the "Extras" menu option has available when unlocked.
    Narrator: And unlocking extras like... the credits. That's it.
  • In the Chimney Chickens episode Date Envy, Blaze implies to Buzz that he already has some girls' phone numbers by saying "I'll just bust out the ol' Rolodex here and have a date in about thirty seconds." But the only three numbers in Blaze's contact list are for his mom, Buzz, and 911.
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings: The Screenwriter tells the Producer that Howard the Duck will have a ton of jokes, and he starts counting on his fingers: "We're talking duck puns... Yeah." After a pause, the Producer asks if there are any other kinds of jokes, and the Screenwriter says absolutely not.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball
    • In the episode "The Parasite", Gumball and Darwin write a list of pros and cons to them snooping through Anais' diary. The pro side is only two items ("There might be something [they] need to know" and "[They] could eventually learn things about life") while the cons run off the paper and stretch across the town.
    • Discussed in "The Routine", where Richard’s chores list has only one item. When Gumball asks about it, Nicole replies that Richard’s never completed more than one task.
  • In the Close Enough episode "So Long Boys", a Cutaway Gag of Josh and Emily weighing the pros and cons of the former getting a vasectomy shows their (still numbered) list only has one thing per each side:
    Pros: 1. We can't afford any more kids.
    Cons: 1. Possible dong injury
  • Futurama:
    • Zoidberg is the only being on all of planet Earth on Robot Santa's "nice" list.
    • Bender's Big Score reveals that the KFC Secret Ingredient is, in its entirety, "Chicken, Grease, Salt."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Spike At Your Service", Spike has a long scroll of things he wants to do on his day off... which turns out to only contain three entries.
    • In "The Cutie Map - Part 1", Sugar Belle — the baker who's sacrificed her talent for baking — lists off everything she has to offer at her bakery:
      Sugar Belle: We have: muffins...
    • "Dungeons & Discords": Discord presents a scroll of the "rowdiest establishments in Ponyville" and opens it as if it were an overly long parchment — except it includes a whopping two entries.
      Discord: It's rather short...
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Dr. Doofenshmirtz has invented a Turn-Everything-Evil-Inator. We see the device fire all over the place in a series of failed attempts to hit Perry the Platypus. He eventually reasons he should just summon the things he has hit to be his minions, only to wind up with three items — a toothbrush, a bar of soap, and a sentient mass of grape and curry flavored gelatin.
    • These also are regular starting points for Phineas and Ferb's wild ideas and inventions.
      • "Gaming the System": Buford's video game, Jump n' Duck, only allows the player to, well, guess. Cue the immersive video game experience.
      • "The Secret of Success": The boys see an ad on TV promoting an all-terrain vehicle that goes on ROAD AND MUD!!! They decide to build an ATV that actually can drive on literally all terrains.
      • "Doof Side of the Moon": After watching a tourism ad for their city that lists "grass, milk, and smiles" as selling points, they and their friends set out to build the ultimate tourist attraction.
    • In "The Chronicles of Meap", the space criminal who has abducted Phineas, Ferb, and Isabella tries and fails to be intimidating:
      Mitch: I am known by many names throughout the universe... Well, actually, two: Mitch, and uh, [laughing a little] some of the guys, they like to call me "Big Mitch".
    • Played for Drama in the 44-minute special "Summer Belongs to You", where the kids are stranded on a desert island. Phineas temporarily descends to madness trying to come up with a solution with their limited materials.
      Phineas: We've got the seats! We've still got one rubber band! And we've got... We've got sand!
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (1998) Christmas Episode, Princess discovers that she is the only person on Santa Claus' naughty list. When Santa realizes just how rotten she is, he moves her over the "Permanent Naughty List", which has four names. Among them is someone named Adolph.
  • The Simpsons:
    • A Power plant announcement in "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk":
      Attention, workers: we have completed our evaluation of the plant. We regret to announce the following layoffs, which I will read in alphabetical order: Simpson, Homer. That is all.
    • In "Homer Badman", Homer goes to a candy vendor convention and encounters someone trying to advertise wax lips:
      Sales rep: Hey, sir. Try our wax lips. It's the candy of 1000 uses.
      Homer: Like what?
      Sales rep: One, a humorous substitute for your own lips.
      Homer: Keep going.
      Sales rep: Two... I'm needed in the basement.
  • In the episode "Something Smells" of SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob takes out a long list of things to do, in which all the items are "go to work". He realizes that he needed the list for Sunday, an index card that says "say 'hi' to everyone in Bikini Bottom".
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Sworn to the Sword", the Faux-To Guide on how to communicate effectively that Steven consults just reads: "1.) Think of what you want to say. 2.) Say it."

    Real Life 
  • Often considered the mark of an unimpressive resumé.
  • In programming, functions will sometimes only take a list as input and won't work on a stand-alone element. If such functions need to be used on a stand-alone element, the latter is usually replaced with the programming equivalent of a one-item list.
  • Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company had a saying with most of its early vehicles, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."
  • A common practice for automobile models that are being discontinued is to limit dealerships in the choice of options like interior colors and materials, making only 1 or 2 model trim levels, or limiting colors beyond white or black.


Video Example(s):


Irrelevant Conversations

In "Someone to Watch Over Me" from "Star Trek: Voyager," as part of a dating lesson the Doctor asks Seven of Nine what she does in her spare time. She tells him that she regenerates. When he asks about her tastes, her likes and dislikes, she tells him that she dislikes irrelevant conversations.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / HatesSmallTalk

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