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Audience Murmurs

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Cabinet men: harrumphharrumphharrumphharrumphharrumphharrumphharrumph
Governor: I didn't get a "harrumph" outta that guy!
Hedley Lamarr: Give the governor a "harrumph!"
That Guy: Harrumph!
Governor: You watch your ass.

Something very shocking has happened in front of a large audience! It's so shocking that the audience must immediately discuss amongst themselves how utterly shocked they are by proceedings. Of course, we, the actual audience, don't hear what they're saying— we just hear a low murmur.

May be preceded by an audience-wide Gasp!!

Often happens in a courtroom, when a lawyer or witness has revealed a big twist in the case ("A murmur went through the courtroom..."). It also appears in general crowd scenes (parties, bars, restaurants, stadiums) as ambient noise.

In the business, this is sometimes called "rhubarb," "walla," "watermelon," and "peas and carrots," after the theater trick of using those words because (in theory) they sound like real conversation when mumbled indistinctly. In TV and movies, most recordings are actually of little snippets of pocket dialogue— unfinished phrases related to whatever is going on in the scene. This adds realism to the story, while saving the writers the effort of coming up with complete sentences for bit characters to say.

See Studio Audience. Compare Saying Sound Effects Out Loud. If the camera shows the actual audience the in-universe audience reaction, it's a Reaction Shot.


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  • When a riot breaks out in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the crowd can clearly be heard shouting "Riot!" in English.
  • This happens in Sai's Back Story in Hikaru no Go during a public game of Go. After his opponent accuses him of cheating (the opponent was actually the one who cheated) and Sai denies, the whole crowd begins to whisper.

  • From Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America:
    King: But you better sight land soon. There's rumblings of mutiny!
    Columbus: Really?
    King: Come over here and listen.
    Columbus: Alright.
    Columbus: I see what you mean.
  • In a bit discussing PM's Question Time, Eddie Izzard renders the background murmurs in Parliament as "Toilet paper! Toilet paper! Toilet paper in our time!"
  • Riders in the Sky's novelty album Riders Go Commercial features the fake ad "Geezer Training Course" to become a background extra in Western films. Part of the class is learning to mumble "rhubarb" and "peas and carrots."

     Comic Books  
  • Crowds in Asterix generally mutter "rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb".
  • Issue #34 of Marvel's What If? series (first series) was a series of one-page spoofs of the Marvel Universe. One such example was "What if anyone who had been an Avenger had remained an Avenger?" So naturally, just about every Marvel hero shows up upon the call "Avengers Assemble!", with the multi-stemmed word balloon "Watermelon cantaloupe watermelon cantaloupe watermelon cantaloupe" employed to simulate crowd noise.

     Fan Works  
  • Turnabout Storm: The pony courtroom audience murmurs just as Ace Attorney's human one would do; except when they are laughing their lungs out at embarrassing pictures.
  • In Chrysalis Visits The Hague: This happens occasionally during the hearings, with one problem - the actual gallery is separated from the courtroom by a security window, so the implication of this is that not even the court's own staff can help but comment or react on the revelations.
  • Detsniy Off Skiword’s Ace Attorney fanfics often reference the series’ canon examples. Apparently, the audience are just constantly saying “Ah, yes, yes, yes, yes” until Judge bangs his “litle hamer thing

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, the crowd at the 4*Town concert do this when Ming shows up.

     Films — Live-Action  
  • Lampshaded in Blazing Saddles about as hard as possible:
    Cabinet men: harrumphharrumphharrumphharrumphharrumphharrumphharrumph
    Governor: I didn't get a "harrumph" outta that guy!
    Hedley Lamarr: Give the governer a "harrumph!"
    That Guy: Harrumph.
    Governor: You watch your ass!
  • Also parodied in The Man with Two Brains; when Michael makes his announcement about "being able to put the brains of brilliant people in the bodies of dumb people", the German audience engages in murmuring of this nature. When he asks his host what they're saying, he's informed that it's just "a general murmur," and they're just repeating 'murmur' over and over. When he challenges them to "murmur all you like!", the response is the audience loudly yelling "Murmur Murmur!" at him.
  • Done really badly in On Deadly Ground, where amidst the standard "rhubarb"ing, utter non sequitur comments come from nowhere supporting Forrest.
  • Played for Laughs in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when Bilbo is giving his farewell and says "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve". This is straight out of the book where it describes the response as scattered applause with most of the audience working it out to see if it came out to a compliment. The movie conveys this reaction with mostly blank looks in the audience.
  • Parodied in Straight Jacket, where the (TV-)courtroom audience reacts to various shocking revelations by turning to each other and audibly murmuring, "Peas and carrots! Peas and carrots!"
  • In The Day After Tomorrow, when the hero announces his theory that a change in the ocean currents could have caused the disaster, the room full of scientists is murmuring.
  • The studio audience in Slumdog Millionaire responds with murmur to all of Jamal's decisions.
  • The Front Page: Lampshaded. After Hildy insists to his fiancée that he's in the press room saying goodbye to his friends, he says "Can't you fellas say something?" They respond with sarcastic nonverbal murmurs.
  • Waiting for Guffman: In the Show Within a Show Red, White, & Blaine, the actor playing Blaine Fabin (town founder of Blaine, Missouri) declares that he smells salt water, signaling that his pioneer group has reached California at last. Two of the other actors whisper "Salt water!" excitedly, while, in a show of Bad "Bad Acting", the other two whisper "hubbub hubbub" repeatedly.

  • Dave Barry has mocked this a few times, as when a murmur ran through a courtroom—then jumped up and bit the judge on the nose.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • In Maskerade Nanny Ogg, having joined an angry mob in order to divert them from their target, is revealed as the rest of the crowd dissipates to be waving her torch and pitchfork and muttering "Rhubarb... rhubarb..."
    • Another parody occurs in Interesting Times, where a samurai yells "Itiyorshu! Yutimishu!" — "I tie your shoe, you tie my shoe" was the rhubarb phrase specifically given to extras who were meant to sound like they were speaking Japanese.
  • In the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon books, Jake's narration uses "rhubarb rhubarb" to indicate that everyone is doing this.
  • In Sophie Sophie Hits Six by Dick King-Smith, the titular Sophie gets into big trouble with her teacher when she follows her dad's advice and plays her crowd scene by shouting, "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb!"
  • In his book about the making of the Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" David Gerrold discusses how he was trained as an actor to fake a conversation as an extra in a production. One extra would say "Nadder nadder nadder" and his partner would respond "Grommish, grommish, grommish."

     Live-Action TV  
  • Parodied on quite a few episodes of 30 Rock. In "Future Husband," Liz makes it seem as if Jack is in a meeting while on the phone by saying "Rhubarb rhubarb, golf prostate." In another episode, Rob Reiner said "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, peas-and-carrots, rhubarb" while on a congressional committee board, pretending to be conversing with the people around him after it had been pointed out during that he really had no business being there.
  • Andor: While Mon Mothma is making a speech trying to convince the other senators to vote against expanding Imperial surveillance and ability to imprison people most of them are chatting amongst themselves with a few shouting down her ideas to exhibit how little power she has to actually help people in her position as a senator.
  • In an episode of Becker, Becker is facing a malpractice suit. When the plaintiff is on the stand, he identifies Becker as his doctor for the record. Cue the audience gasping and murmuring. Cue Becker telling them to shut up, because it's not like that's a big surprise or anything.
  • On Community Shirley can be heard murmuring "pepperjack cheese" when the whole group starts talking at once.
  • Neatly and hilariously parodied to the point of subversion on Father Ted — as Ted's making a lot of surprising revelations at a "Sheep of the Year" contest, the audience in general engages in a bit of shocked murmuring amongst themselves... except for one chap (actually played by series co-creator Grahame Linehan) who can very audibly be heard exclaiming "Fuckin' hell!"
  • Parodied in the Blackadder II episode "Potato": when Blackadder and his crew are shouting at each other after getting lost at sea, Captain Rum is just saying "Rhubarb" over and over. And since he's played by Tom Baker, he's doing it very loudly and clearly.
  • On The Daily Show, after showing a clip of a rather raucous chat show, Jon compared it to a shouting Bohemian Rhapsody. It then cut to the correspondents in the Rhapsody position, of whom Jason Jones (as Jon lampshades at the end) is simply saying "watermelon".
  • In one episode of Will & Grace, Karen is clearly saying "peas and carrots" during a crowd scene.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 used "rhubarb," "sassafras" and "peas and carrots" sometimes for crowd scenes; they would usually lampshade what kind of murmuring was going on ("Rhubarb rhubarb journalist rhubarb", "Rhubarb soldier rhubarb defending countries blah blah blah...").
    • Mocking of Prince of Space (a Japanese film), Mike and the Bots riff on the Media Scrum by muttering random Japanese and East Asian phrases ("Wasabi." "Bok choy." "Yakisoba." "Samurai.").
  • Parodied by Monty Python's Flying Circus: "Dim of the Yard! Consternation, uproar!"
  • The Monkees parody this with the "rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb" variation in the episode "Your Friendly Neighborhood Kidnappers".
  • Beautifully parodied in a French and Saunders homage to James Cameron's ''Titanic'', whereby the Ghost Extras embrace their background-filling role by loudly saying "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb" to one another, and Gary Waldhorn clearly enunciates "Fah fah fah fah fah..." in Received Pronunciation during the dining scene.
  • In Slings & Arrows, Geoffrey admonishes an actor at one point that he can hear him saying "rhubarb" and he needs to mix it up a bit.
  • In NewsRadio, the onlookers at Jimmy's trial react to every new development with excited whispers, leading him to complain, "Are they gonna do that every time I answer a question?" When he gets back to the office, the staff does the same as they watch him face off with his Sitcom Archnemesis, and he tells them to stop because he's been getting that all morning.
  • Parodied in Schmigadoon!: The ensemble in "Welcome to Schmicago" uses "peas and carrots, peas and carrots..." to simulate the sound of a whispering crowd. Josh and Melissa complain they can't understand them.
  • Parodied in The Other Two where a fake Applebee's is constructed and actors hired to play servers and customers so that the famous Dubek family can have a normal family dinner. Pat, who isn't aware that it's all fake, starts a minor crisis because all the customers are saying "peas and carrots" to simulate chatter and orders this, even though Applebee's doesn't serve 'peas and carrots' as a dish.

  • Spoof-Victorian comedy The Brothers Faversham had a running gag one episode using this. Whenever something astonishing happened, a crowd would murmur over each other: "Good Lord! - I say! - Unbelievable! - What! - That's impossible!". Unfortunately, the murmurs would die down just as one of them said, very distinctly, "Shit".
  • Dimension X:
    • In episode twenty-two, based on Robert A. Heinlein's "The Roads Must Roll", there's a commotion during the emergency stop as the "roads" halt because of the strike, with indistinct shouting/screaming and sirens in the background.
    • In episode thirty-one, an adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's "Universe", while Hoyland is describing his heresy in the Control Room, the squadron of soldiers shout and grumble around him. The episode ends with them calling for his death.
    • In episode fifty, an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall":
      • While Theremon talks with high priest Sor, the other cultists chant incoherently in the background.
      • When the astronomers look out to see the cultists on their march to attack the observatory, you can hear shouts from the mob.
      • Once the eclipse has begun, there is screaming in the background from various characters, even as their final lines are being said. The shouting doesn't end until the music indicates a transition to the Narrator's perspective.
  • The Foundation Trilogy: The sound effect of a grumbling audience is used during Hober Mallow's trial to emphasize the fact that he and his prosecutor are having this courtroom debate in front of an audience.
  • The Goon Show lampshaded this - audience murmurs were always played by the full cast muttering "rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb". Considering that "the full cast" was only three people, and that they would occasionally intersperse the "rhubarbs" with "custard!", the effect was usually unconvincing.
  • X Minus One's "X Minus One E 028 Nightfall": Despite the previous adaptation making use of this trope in several scenes, only the murmurs of the mob during the climax of the eclipse show up.
  • Lamp Shaded in BBC WW2 sitcom Dot which has recurring minor character called Officer Background who only speaks in "Rhubarb"s with the occasional other word (eg "Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb Mrs Background rhubarb")

  • In the script of The Complete History of America (abridged), the announcement of the Boston Tea Party is followed by these lines spoken together:
    Austin: Peas and carrots, peas and carrots...
    Adam: Harumph, harumph, harumph...
    Reed: Rutabaga, rutabaga, rutabaga...
  • In The Golden Apple, when Ulysses is working his Divide and Conquer plan on the citizens of Rhododendron, they divide up into groups which sing "mutter mutter and grumble grumble."

     Video Games  
  • Happens in Final Fantasy VI during the Opera Scene when your party (and Ultros) crash into the scene from the ceiling. Locke Large Hams an improvisation once he realizes the lead actor has been knocked unconscious, and the guy who owns the opera house decides to Throw It In, and the orchestra starts up some nice thematic battle music for you.
  • In Chrono Trigger, the crowd at Crono's trial murmur cheers (at each "guilty") or boos (for each "not guilty") as each juror's verdict is announced.

     Visual Novels  

     Web Original  
  • Happens in the original Death Note Abridged by TioH and Dargonakis.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • Parodied in "DNA Evidence", where Strong Sad calls for attention of a murmuring audience. It's then revealed that the only other person in the room is Homsar, who was somehow making audience noises all by himself.
    • Also parodied in the Strong Bad Email "parenting", when Homestar imitates a murmuring crowd, which he refers to as being "a one-man hubbub."

     Western Animation  
  • Averted/played for laughs in South Park: crowds often say (quite clearly) "Rabble Rabble Rabble Rabble Rabble."
    Mayor McDaniels: Standing out here yelling "rabble rabble rabble" isn't going to help anything!
    Jimbo: But we don't know what else to do, Mayor!
    • When it's played straight, though, (or as straight as South Park lets something be played straight), crowds will say "peas and carrots". See "Two Days Before The Day After Tomorrow " for an example of this.)
  • Parodied in an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, where a background character is both the only one speaking on screen and clearly heard saying "Rhubarb, rhubarb, walla walla!".
  • Crowds in Spongebob Squarepants literally say Blah, Blah, Blah.
  • Parodied in Futurama - general murmuring will always be followed up with a hilarious statement by somebody.
    Cubert: What's the matter? Never seen a genius' wiener before?
    [general murmuring of no]
    Fry: Well, once in the park.
  • In Rick and Morty, our Rick claims to a crowd of other Ricks from other dimensions that they're hypocritical for banding together to protect themselves from the government. The other Ricks murmur at this, and our Rick says "yeah, murmur it up, d-bags."
  • In the Duck Dodgers episode "Green Loonturn", Dodgers' Green Lantern oath includes "Watermelon, cantaloupe, yadda-e-yadda".