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Amusingly Short List

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This list has to be TWO THINGS: 1. Amusing. 2. Short. note 

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.



    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".
  • In one of the Futurama comics, Bender says that all he needs is "booze and floozies".

    Comic Strips 
  • In 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.

    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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • They Live: John Nada has only come to do two things.
    John Nada: I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass — and I'm all out of bubblegum.

  • 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.

     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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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, van Gogh note  and Dave Lister.
  • Saturday Night Live had a Running Gag on the Colin Jost/Michael Che era of Weekend Update where they would 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.
  • 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.

    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 Comics 
  • In this Hark! A Vagrant, Musashi's opponent has a list of things necessary for a duel: that list being "Dudes" and "Swords".
  • 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 

    Western Animation 

    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.


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