Bad news is not easy to deliver. Especially if the person you have to deliver it to is your boss and has a habit of killing underlings, or you just don't want to piss him off. So how do you deliver the bad news? Try delivering it in a good way!
This is when bad news, often very bad news, is told in a way that's supposed to make it sound not quite as bad. Perhaps start it off with "a funny thing happened...", give it a positive spin, or tell it in a cheery mood. It also works if bad news is taken as good news.
- A series of (banned) "Bud Light" commercials featured a robot that delivered bad news right before offering the recipient Bud Light. Here's one example (paraphrased):
- Robot: I'd like to inform you that you just ate poisonous blowfish. An ambulance is on its way, but you're pretty much screwed.(people at the table stare in horror)Robot: But on the bright side, Bud Light!(everyone is happy again)
- Negima!? has the frog Motsu, who will always say "in a good way" at the end of everything, often times very bad news. Often times it sounds something like "You'll be turned into an ermine. In a good way."
- Yu Yu Hakusho's Botan is a Grim Reaper, and in the beginning of the series at least does everything related to her job in a very friendly and cheerful way. Yusuke lampshades this as being a very poor way to tell people they're dead.
- Lucky Star had Anime Tenchou apologize to a customer at the Comiket how their booth is out of limited merchandise. It's not so much as what he said as to how he said it.
"I'M TERRIBLY SORRY, SIR. UNFORTUNATELY, OUR LIMITED GOODS HAVE ALREADY SOLD OUT!" (smoke comes out of his eyes)
- In Dragon Ball Z, one of ways Krillin thinks of breaking the news of Goku's death to Chi-Chi is akin to this trope, simply coming out with the truth, then adding that, since he can easily be brought back with the Dragon Balls, it's not really that big a deal.
- Inverted in Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu, where there's been a series of incidents involving a man in a pony mask stalking young girls. One morning, Sōsuke tells Kaname that their friend Kyoko was a victim of the "Pony Man"; the serious way he delivers the news makes Kaname (and the audience) believe that poor Kyoko was raped or killed; however, it turns out that all he did was style her hair into a ponytail. Kaname promptly beats the crap out of Sōsuke for scaring her like that.
- Played for Laughs in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure. At one point a guard comes in, remembers Celesia's [sic] tendency to Shoot the Messenger, and then tells her exactly the same thing he would have otherwise, except that he prefaces it by calling it good news instead of bad news.
- King Gilda does the same thing later on, with similarly successful results.
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights is the Trope Namer, as the Sheriff of Rottingham had to deliver the bad news about Robin Hood to Prince John. When John suggested he tell it in a good way, the Sheriff began laughing and talking about it cheerily, so as to try and lessen the blow. It didn't work.
- Bridesmaids: 'We'd like to invite you to no longer live with us any more.'
- 10 Things I Hate About You
"Hey, I don't want to hear that defeatist attitude! I want to hear you upbeat!"
(cheerfully) "We're screwed!"
"There you go."
- Bill Lumberg in Office Space: "Yeeeeah, I'm gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday..."
- In The Room: "I got the results of the test back! I definitely have breast cancer."
- Played straight at first, then subverted in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The Beast awaits the arrival of Belle to the dinner he demanded her to attend. When Cogsworth shows up, the Beast demands to know where Belle is. Cogsworth tries to tell him in a positive way, but eventually just gives up and admits, "She's not coming" - which sends the Beast into a rage.
- When April in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) says she has to go to a neighbors house four miles away to call her boss, Casey responds, Hey, you just saved yourself an eight-mile round tripper. You were fired. April doesnt take it welleither the news or Caseys attempt at sensitivity.
- The Sisters Brothers: The brothers stop in the town of Mayfield, an Egopolis named for its beloved mayor, who pretty much put the town on the map. While there, they discover that said mayor is really a crime boss after the same target as them, and are forced to kill her and her henchmen in self-defense. After this happens, Eli tries to break the news to the townsfolk gently, but Charlie goes for a different approach: Good news, everyone! You can finally change the name of your fucking town!
- A variant. In Night Watch, Vimes receives note that one of his officers was killed, and asks who was sent to inform the family, hoping it wasn't Nobby Nobbs - he doesn't want a repeat of the "bet-you-a-dollar-you're-the-widow-Jackson" nonsense.
- In the Books of Samuel in The Bible, when King David asks a Cushite officer announcing his victory over his son Absalom whether Absalom is still alive, the Cushite replies that he hopes all of King David's enemies end up sharing that young fellow's fate. This does not help David take it well at all.
- Friends: The one where Eddie moves in. Chandler told Eddie a funny story about an ex.
Eddie: Alright, I, I've got a funny one, alright.
Chandler: Let's hear it.
Eddie: My last girlfriend Tilly. (haha) Ok, we're eating breakfast, right, (chuckles) and I made all these pancakes, there was like 50 pancakes right (laughs). And all of the sudden she turns to me, alright, and she says, 'Eddie.' I say, 'yeah,' she says, 'Eddie, I don't want to see you anymore.' (hahahah) And it was literally like she had reached into my chest, ripped out my heart, and smeared it all over my life (slightly maniacal laugh), ya know. And now there's like this incredible abyss, ya know, and I'm falling and I keep falling and I don't think I'm ever gonna stop. (frightening, high pitched laugh)
Eddie, straight faced: That uh, wasn't such a funny story, was it?
- The Office: 'We'd like to offer you a very generous redundancy settlement.'
- Blackadder: Series 1 The King BRIAN BLESSED! receives several messengers, bearing news:
Messenger 3: My Lord, news...
Messenger 3: Lord Wessex is dead.
King: Ah. This news is not so good.
Messenger 3: Pardon, My Lord?
King: I like it not. Bring me some other news.
Messenger 3: Pardon, My Lord?
King: I LIKE NOT THIS NEWS! BRING ME SOME OTHER NEWS!!!
Messenger 3: Yes, My Lord!
Messenger 4 (actually Messenger 3, coming in again): My Lord, news...
Messenger 4: Lord Wessex is not dead.
King: Ah, good news! Let there be joy and celebration; let jubilation reign!
- Rowan Atkinson incorporated this concept into stage comedy act with the Bearers of Good News, Bad News, Bad News That The Messenger Thought Would Be Good News But Didn't Read In Advance And Consequently Got Quite A Shock, Indifferent News (gestures languidly at the message) and Really Really Bad News (never seen, just throws the message in from offstage).
- Married... with Children had the episode "Banking on Marcy", in which Marcy D'Arcy had a fear of public speaking. So she decides to start thinking of sex while speaking to distract her from her nervousness. This results in her delivering an address about how poorly the bank is doing, during which she nears (and reaches) orgasm, complete with a cigarette that appears from nowhere afterward. She subsequently got more speaking gigs for this exact trope, as everybody was so focused on how she delivered the bad news that they didn't care about the bad news itself.
- An episode of Scrubs features a daydream sequence with Turk reading the following poem:
"Great to see you, great to talk. The bad news is, your son can't walk."
- "And, of course, the always popular Resident Kabuki Theater."
- Reality, in the episode with the poem, is just as bad. When JD gives Turk advice on giving bad news("My Na Na Na"), including thinking of the dancing gopher from Caddyshack to stop himself crying, and "no false hope", Turk quickly ends up Digging Himself Deeper:
Patient's father: Turk, I have a pit in my stomach because I'm afraid you've come here to tell me my boy is going to be paralyzed.Turk (starts laughing): Oh, my God. I'm so sorry, something really funny popped into my head. You remember, uh, when the gopher started dancing at the end of Caddyshack?J.D. (watching from corridor): No, don't do the dance, Turk, don't do the dance ... Carla, your husband's not doing very well in there.
- JD's entire family apparently does this; when someone has to give bad news to someone else("My Cake"), they do so while presenting a cake. When JD's brother shows up at the door with a cake, JD immediately knows something bad has happened; sure enough his dad has died.
- There's also the Dr. Toilet Imagine Spot.
- JD has an Imagine Spot about a bad news robot, unfortunately the robot breaks down and he has to tell it's kids. One of them promptly disintegrates him, ending the fantasy.
- Mr. Show brings you the "Bad News Breakers", where two adorable twin girls are brought in to tell people terrible news.
Bad News Breakers: Your wife is cheating on you!Bob: Awww... who wants ice cream?
- From Titus:
Christopher Titus: Bad news has never been broken gently in my family. Because, breaking it gently takes a few extra seconds. And who's got that kinda time? Hey, we may be failures, but we are very busy.
Ken Titus: I got a little story I wanna tell you. Once upon a time, your dog got hit by a truck this morning.
- In a first-season episode of Cheers, Sam's brother Derek - who he hates - is in town and coming to drop by, and Coach has a unique way of giving Sam bad news:
Coach: Sam, your apartment burned down and you lost everything.Sam: Oh my God, really?Coach: No, no, you're brother's in town and he's on his way over. Makes you feel better now, doesn't it?Sam: I hate it when you do that, Coach...
Coach: Sam, nuclear bomb just hit Boston!Sam and Diane: Derek's here.Coach: You're catching on.
- And when Derek actually shows up:
- From Buffy the Vampire Slayer: the episode "Once More with Feeling." Just about every one of the main characters reveals or discovers a painful secret that damages their relationships with each other. If it wasn't the musical episode, it would probably be the most depressing episode without the death of a main character.
Buffy: (singing) I live in hell/Cause I've been expelled/From Heaven
- From Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Quest of the Delta Knights:
Pearl: Good news! Only 20% of the village died of the plague today!
- From Hustle, Ash Morgan tells the team all the security safeguards in place at the bank they've been coerced into robbing.
Emma: "Is there any good news?Ash: "Yes, there is, yeah. It's protected overnight by a private Syrian security firm, with tasers, dogs and a bad attitude. They had an attempted robbery about 4 years ago; by the time the police got there, the Syrian security had beaten them half to death.Emma: "And that's good news how?"Ash: "Well, if we get caught, there might not be enough left of us to lock up."
- Parks and Recreation:
Tom: All right, the good news is there's only two pieces of bad news.
- This trope is also in play when Chris breaks up with Ann. He delivers the news in his usual upbeat tone of voice, and it's so positively worded that she doesn't even realize he's just dumped her.
- In Victorious, Robbie and Cat briefly make a business of singing bad news to people to make it easier to take. It works fine until they're hired to tell Trina her date cancelled on her.
- The Daily Show featured a segment discussing government wiretaps. Given that it was discussing massive violations of privacy, it delivered the news under the title "Good news! You're not paranoid!"
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Bat Jar Conjecture", Leonard offers Sheldon a Batman cookie jar, revealing that he is blackballing Sheldon off the physics bowl team of which the two are members.
- Doctor Who: Thanks to the way Tom Baker insisted on reading a line that was likely scripted straight, "Horror of Fang Rock" contains a truly wonderful moment where he announces to everyone stuck in The Siege that "this lighthouse is under attack, and by morning we might all be dead!!!" in the manner of someone announcing that he's brought along a picnic. Given that the Doctor is a bit of a Nightmare Fetishist, this isn't actually OOC at all.
- Another example comes in "A Christmas Carol," when the Doctor cheerfully notes that he'll get excellent readings from his sonic screwdriver when he gets it back from where it's lodged. In the mouth of a shark.
- A Dinosaurs episode called "The Last Temptation of Ethyl" sees Fran's mother Ethyl suddenly keel over while watching TV. After some token attempts to revive her, Fran's husband Earl buries Ethyl in the backyard while his wife is at the beach. When Fran returns, Earl tries to break the news gently:
Earl: Speaking of parasites, remember when you said your mother would be staying with us for the rest of her life?Fran: Mm-hmm?Earl: Well, she's moved out!
- Modern Family had an inversion. Claire's preferred method of giving people good news seems to be making them think she had bad news. We don't find out exactly how she told out Phil she was pregnant with Luke, only that it started out, "thousands of children die every day..."
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: In "We're Going to the Catskills!" Paulie approaches Midge and Rose as the Weissmans are finishing settling into their summer cottage, saying he has an exciting proposition for Midge regarding the Steiner swimsuit pageant that Midge has participated in every year, which is that she be the sash girl. Despite him sounding cheerful when initially pitching it, Midge is not thrilled because it basically means she's being demoted on account of her separation from Joel.
Midge: But the sash girl doesn't compete. She just hands the sash to the winner.Paulie: That's right.Midge: But what if I win? I hand the sash to myself?Rose: The photograph will look ridiculous.Paulie: Look, you've competed as a teen, as an ingenue, and in the Mrs. Steiner Pageant these past four years, but this year, we're hard-pressed to make the argument that you are any of those things. Not after the recent change in your situation.Midge: But I'm technically still married.Paulie: Yes, but the Mrs. Steiner Swimsuit Pageant winner is always accompanied by her husband. And having him there with you? [grimaces] It might cast a pall.Midge: I see.Paulie: But of course we want you there, and that's why we'd like you to enjoy the honor of handing the sash to this year's winner.Midge: But what about the weird old lady who always hands out the sash?Paulie: That would be my grandmother.Midge: Sorry. Won't she be disappointed?Paulie: She passed.Midge: So I guess she won't mind...Paulie: I appreciate your understanding.
- Modest Mouse has an album called Good News for People Who Love Bad News. The line itself comes from the song "Bury Me With It":
Good news for people who love bad news... we've lost the plot and we just can't choose.
- US tape-music act The Broken Penis Orchestra have a song titled "I'm So Happy I Could Put A Shotgun In My Mouth and Pull the Trigger."
- The Wizard of Id. The King, aware that his useless knight Sir Rodney is bringing news of his defeat, reminds him of the old Roman custom in which the bearer of bad tidings was put to death. A sweating Rodney replies with the 'joyous' news that one of the King's more awful provinces with its rebellious peasants, stinking swamps (etc, etc) has been given to the Huns to worry about.
- In a Dilbert comic, the Pointy-Haired Boss says he'll use humour in the workplace to ease tension. He then proceeds to tell a knock knock joke, in which the punchline is "not you anymore".
- Dogbert once taught classes about how to deliver bad news with humor. Here's one example:
Woman: I give up. What is the difference between my husband and the pop group "Village People"?Dogbert: They're coming back.
- Dogbert once taught classes about how to deliver bad news with humor. Here's one example:
- A Pearls Before Swine strip has Rat bouncing on a pogo stick to tell Pig that he lost all their money on the tracks and they're being evicted.
Rat: Bad news is best delivered on a pogo stick.
- In the Beetle Bailey strip seen here Cookie tells Beetle he does not have to peel potatoes while on KP, and gives him a choice of peeling the carrots or onions.
- Blondie got into an accident that totaled the family car. She breaks the news to Dagwood by informing him that the car's Airbags are in working order.
- In the Christmas 2015 episode of The Now Show, John Finnemore announced he was going to focus on good news! Instead he presented bad news in a good way, acknowledged rather manically that maybe it was "not quite so good after all", and by the end was in despair.
- From George Carlin's hilarious "Things You Don't Wanna Hear" bit: "Honey? Ya remember how we told the children never to play on the railroad tracks?"
- Richard II has the wonderful quote "too well, too well thou tell'st a tale so ill," spoken by King Richard to the man who just told him that his army is bleeped twelve ways from Sunday. Apparently he told his news in a good way — after all, Richard just told him to "Speak sweetly, man, although thy looks be sour."
- Pippin has a scene where couriers come on to report cheerfully such news as: "Peasants revolt. King slays thousands."
- World of Warcraft: "Good news, everyone! I've perfected a plague that will kill all life on Azeroth!" clearly a Futurama reference.
- Something of an inversion: It is good news for him but terrible news for the players.
- The above inversion is itself inverted (but still without playing it straight) when Putricide dies: "Bad news, everyone! I don't think I'm going to make it..."
- Dragon Age: Origins has a minor quest where you inform the wives of soldiers that they have become widows. Now, the player can either deliver the bad news Him/Herself, or opt to have one of your party members do it. What happens when you get the team drunk, Oghren, to do it?
Oghren: Oh... Um... Hey, Good news! You're single!
- From Portal: "Good news! I figured out what that thing you just incinerated did..."
- In Portal 2, Wheatley tries to gently break it to Chell that after being in suspended animation for years, she might have "a very minor case... of serious brain damage".
- Borderlands 2 has Claptrap announcing some bad news in a cheerful voice then noting that he's not happy about it, it's just the default setting on his voice synthesizer.
- In a more serious case, Claptrap also read a eulogy for a Borderlands fan who passed away; Claptrap's character being what it is, it has this effect. The voice actor breaks character soon after and speaks normally for the rest.
- In Majesty: The Northern Expansion, the mission "Urban Renewal" attempts this in the opening narration.
Advisor: (sigh) How can I possibly tell our Sovereign the news? Um, Majesty, I have good news and bad. The good news is your uncle died! No, that wont do. (ahem) My Liege, your late uncle has bequeathed you a town... of sorts. Hmm, maybe more positive. It pleases me to inform you that youve been granted a tremendous opportunity! You can be the first Ardanian sovereign to give the word "slum" a good name! Oh, that wont work either. (sigh) Its no use...
- In The Outer Worlds, you get to see the rough cut of Chairman Rockwell's presentation announcing the Lifetime Employment Program:
Chairman Rockwell: Everyone will die. [cut] Everyone will slowly stop living. From malnutrition. But we're doing it together, and that's what matters!
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has used this multiple times.
- And also its failure here.
- The following Cwen's Quest quote from the aptly titled page "Good News Everybody!"
Attez: The point is son, I've got some good news. Your mom is dead.
Sven': That is terrible news!
Attez: Is it? Hmmmmm. It certainly didn't seem that way to me. Well, I guess I've just moved on emotionally...which brings me to my next bit of good news. I've remarried.
- Schlock Mercenary uses this in what is almost certainly a Shout-Out to Futurama, as listed below.
Tagii: Good news, everyone. I just killed about fifty thousand complete strangers. And now I'm alone with the people I actually hate.
- Near the end of Narbonic, Mel and Artie have to inform Dave that he's actually a clone of the original Dave outfitted with memories five years out of date:
Mel: "Good news, Dave! You can't stop filling out those 'Bring Back Battlestar Galactica' petitions!"
- Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog had news from Bad Horse delivered by letter, sung as an upbeat western folk song by a three-man chorus. This trope hits home when the chorus gleefully proclaims that Horrible's slip-ups have not gone unnoticed and now his only way into the Evil League of Evil is cold blooded murder.
- From a "What If?" column by Randall Munroe answering whether a person could survive a nanosecond on the surface of the Sun:
"There's some good news: Deep in the Sun, the photons carrying energy around have very short wavelengthsthey're mostly a mix of what we'd consider hard and soft X-rays. This means they penetrate your body to various depths, heating your internal organs and also ionizing your DNA, causing irreversible damage before they even start burning you. Looking back, I notice that I started this paragraph with "there's some good news." I don't know why I did that."
- Invader Zim has a variation of this. Usually when something bad is about to happen, Gir is as cheery as always.
(From "Attack of the Saucer Morons")
Zim: Gir! Finally! I need your help. I've been captured!
Zim: No, Gir, that's bad!
(From "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy")
Zim: Only one pig left! Noooooo!
Gir: Yay! We're doomed!
- An arguable example, as this means Zim might not throw GIR's last rubber piggy into the past.
Shloonktapooxis: Yeah...our power core has been teleported OUT of the ship!Lard Nar: And the good news?!Shloonktapooxis: Well, it's been replaced by a new, HORRIBLE one!
- Also a variation in episode 1:
Zim: I put out the fires.
Almighty Tallest: You made them worse!
Zim Worse... or better?
- Also, from "Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars:"
- Professor Farnsworth from Futurama has his Catchphrase, "Good news, everyone!" The news in question would usually range from weird to bad to apocalyptic, with the occasional obligatory subversion of actual good news. Of course, the good news will usually be preceded by "Bad news, everyone!" or something of the sort.
Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! Tomorrow you'll be delivering a package to Ebola 9, the virus planet!Farnsworth: Good news everyone!Bender: Uh oh, I don't like the sound of that.Farnsworth: You'll be making a delivery to the planet Trisol...Bender: Here it comes. . .Farnsworth: A mysterious world in the darkest depths of the Forbidden Zone!Bender: Thank you, and goodnight.
Farnsworth: Now I've often said "Good news" when sending you on a mission of extreme danger. So when I say this anomaly is dangerous, you can imagine how dangerous I really think it is.Hermes: Not dangerous at all?Farnsworth: Actually quite dangerous indeed.Farnsworth: Indeed.
- To be fair, it's just a name. All the Zones that names like that in the Galaxy of Terror!
- Also, this exchange:
Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! Today you'll be delivering a crate of subpoenas to Sicily 8, the Mob Planet!
- And yet another example:
Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! There's a report on TV with some very bad news.
- "Mother's Day" has:
Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! The university is bringing me up on disciplinary charges... Wait, that's not good news at all.Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! I'm afraid I have some bad news.
- And of course:
- "Law and Oracle" revealed that Farnsworth got in the habit of doing this in a well-intentioned effort to make Fry feel good about his pointless job. Whether it actually worked is questionable, but this is Fry we're talking about.
- An episode of The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" began with Bart getting knocked into a coma. How does Lisa break the news to her mother? "Remember how you said you wished we'd stop growing up?"
Russ Cargill: Your government has realized that sealing you under this dome was a terrible mistake. Therefore, we are commencing with Operation Soaring Eagle.
- Another episode has this dialogue between network execs and Krusty:
Network rep: We think you're super talented...Krusty: Oh God, you're cancelling me!!!
- Then there's the episode where Maggie ran away, with Homer running through several versions of this to tell Marge in advance, including "She was only a baby, it's not like we grew attached to her" and "They grow up so fast, one minute they're a baby, the next they're out on their own."
- Homer: "Good news, everyone! I got in a fight with the garbage men and they're cutting off our service!" note
- Then in The Simpsons Movie, we have this line:
Russ Cargill: ... which involves killing you all.
- Another episode has this dialogue between network execs and Krusty:
- From SpongeBob SquarePants: Once, there was an ugly barnacle. He was so ugly that everyone died! The end."
- One Family Guy Cutaway Gag infamously took this to an extreme, when the doctor hired Peter to inform someone they had AIDS with a barbershop quartet.
- A later skit had Al Jarreau on TV singing about 37 people dying in a car bombing in Syria.
- One episode of The Critic had Jay dating an actress. When he sees her new movie, he discovers that she can't act, and in the episode of Coming Attractions where he reviews the film he tries to say so as nicely as possible ("God help her, she's trying.") Sadly she was only in it for the Casting Couch and promptly dumps him.
- The Danger Mouse finale, "The Intergalactic 147," dealt with a mysterious white planet on collision course with the Earth. The TV news reporter is quite serious relaying the news, up until he turns it into a contest to name the planet.
- In the Looney Tunes movie Daffy Duck's Quackbusters, when Daffy's ghost-hunting business goes bankrupt he gets a singing telegram telling him he's being kicked out of his office.
- One episode of The Jetsons has a variation on this:
Mr. Spacely: Jetson! Thank goodness you're still here! I've got some good news and some bad news...
George Jetson: What's the bad news, Mr. Spacely?
Mr. Spacely: We've discovered a very dangerous computer virus that you have to stop right away!
George: But that could take months! By the way... what's the good news?
Mr. Spacely: The good news is, I don't have to do it! Bye now!
- Done at the end of an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, where the perpetually cheerful news announcer declares the end of tornado season. "Now the only thing to worry about is that giant tidal wave roaring across the plains!"
- "Congratulations! You just won one hundred thousand dollars to be paid out over four years!" "Really!? How!?" "By not getting into Harvard."
- This was done by Henry VIII's jester to break the news that Catherine Howard was cheating on him. He told it as a joke because no one else in the palace could give Henry bad news and not be executed.
- Reportedly, Joss Whedon enjoys telling the actors that their characters are going to be offed in this way.