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Bad Omen Anecdote

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Patrick: Maybe a story will cheer you up. It's called The Ugly Barnacle. Once, there was an ugly barnacle. He was so ugly that everyone died! The end.
SpongeBob: That didn't help at all!

This trope is for when, in the middle of some tense, possibly life-or-death situation, one character will remark to the other: "You know, this reminds me of a similar story..." The other character, hopeful, will remark "Oh, and they succeeded?" and of course, the first character says "No, they all died, actually."


May overlap with Metaphorgotten if the person giving the example genuinely forgot the unfortunate ending of it. Also overlaps with Analogy Backfire, "Shaggy Dog" Story and Ice-Cream Koan.


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    Films — Animation 
  • In Gnomeo and Juliet, Gnomeo has a chat with a statue of William Shakespeare, who tells him that he knows this story. When Gnomeo asks what happens to the lovers in that story, Shakespeare tells him that they both die.
    Gnomeo: They both die? What kind of an ending is that?
    Shakespeare: My dear boy, this is a tragedy.
    Gnomeo: Yeah, you're telling me, mate! It's rubbish! There's gotta be a better ending than that!
  • When Hot Rod and Kup are trying to avoid a Macross Missile Massacre in The Transformers: The Movie, Kup likens it to an encounter with shrikebats on Dromedon. When Hot Rod asks what he did back then, Kup remarks that there were an awful lot of casualties before remembering they reversed the polarities. It works, sort of.
  • The Brave Little Toaster, when the appliances try to cross a waterfall.
    Radio: I think Houdini did this once, and if I remember right, he was out of the hospital in no time.
    Lampy: Well, that's encouraging.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Near the conclusion of Beverly Hills Cop, Billy and his partner, Taggart, find themselves outnumbered and pinned down by enemy gunfire. Despite the gravity of their situation, it's made clear that Billy is having the time of his life, as he gleefully recalls how Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid found themselves in a similar situation when facing the Bolivian Army. Taggart tells Billy, if they make it out alive, he's going to make him pay.
  • In Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd tricks Sea Bass and his friends into picking up Lloyd and Harry's tab at a restaurant. They rush off in their van before Sea Bass can catch them. While on the road:
    Harry: That was great! Did you come up with that yourself?
    Lloyd: No, I saw it in a movie once.
    Harry: Let me guess, they get away scot free?
    Lloyd: No! In the movie, they catch up to him about half a mile down the road and slit his throat! (laughs) It was good one!
    [Harry starts driving a lot faster]
  • Judge Dredd. Dredd and Fergie are trying to get back into Mega City.
    Dredd: There is a way in. Six years ago, two refugees figured it out. It's a vent to the city's incinerator. There's a burst twice a minute. That means somebody could run through that tube and have 30 seconds before it flames again.
    Fergie: And these, these refugees, they made it through, right?
    Dredd: Actually, they were roasted. But the theory's sound.
  • This exchange from the film version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, before Harry's first Quidditch game:
    Oliver Wood: Scared, Harry?
    Harry: A little.
    Oliver Wood: That's all right. I felt the same way before my first game.
    Harry: What happened?
    Oliver Wood: I, uh, I don't really remember. I took a bludger to the head two minutes in. Woke up in hospital a week later.
    [Harry has an Oh, Crap! look as the game begins]
  • In The Last Samurai, Nathan Algren is talking to Katsumoto about the war and makes note that they can win, despite being outnumbered and outgunned, using the Battle of Thermopylae to exemplify his thesis and tactics. Katsumoto never heard of said battle (as Japan was isolated from the world until the movie's time period), so he only knows what Algren told him. Moments before they march to war, this exchange occurs:
    Katsumoto: What happened to the warriors of Thermopylae?
    Algren: Dead to the last man.
    [Both look at each other and chuckle]

  • In the Warrior Cats series, one young cat's spine is broken when a tree falls and she's pinned by the branches. Jayfeather, the medicine cat, tries to encourage her by telling her how ShadowClan once had a cat with a similar injury and had told him about their experiences. Unfortunately, ShadowClan's warrior had ended up dying because of complications with it, which doesn't encourage Jayfeather's patient much.
  • In Towers of Midnight, the penultimate book of The Wheel of Time, Mat Cauthon asks Birgitte, famed archer and Hero of the Horn, for information about the very dangerous Tower of Ghenjei where dwell the Aelfinn and Eelfinn so that he can enter it to make a rescue. Birgitte proceeds to tell him the story of how she and her lover Gaidal Cain once entered so as to receive magical healing; Mat assumes that the great Birgitte naturally succeeded in her quest but no: both of them died in the tower's Mobile Maze, most likely right on the other side of the wall from the fountain they sought. (The nice twist on this variation is that the speaker, rather than telling the anecdote about someone else, is talking about herself—since, as a dead Hero of the Horn, she has her memories of all her previous lives and can speak of them when out in the mortal world, whether summoned by the Horn or unnaturally.)
    Mat: How do you know so much about the Tower anyway? You've been into it, haven't you?
    Birgitte: I have.
    Mat: Well, you got back out! How'd you manage it?
    Birgitte: That legend didn't survive, I'm assuming?
    Mat: I don't know it.
    Birgitte: I went in to ask them to save the life of my love. It came after the battle of Lahpoint Hills, where we led the Buchaner rebellion. Gaidal was wounded horribly; a blow to the head that made him unable to think straight. He forgot who I was, some of the time. It tore my heart, so I took him to the Tower to be Healed.
    Mat: And how'd you get out? How'd you fool them?
    Birgitte: I didn't. The Eelfinn never Healed him. They killed us both. I didn't survive, Mat. That is the end of that particular legend.
    Mat: Oh. (Beat) Well, that's kind of a sad story, then.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The dour Scot Frazer in Dad's Army is fond of doing this, much to Mainwaring's exasperation.
  • In The George Lopez Show, Carmen compares her relationship to Romeo and Juliet. George is quick to point out that they both die.
  • Inverted in The Golden Girls when Rose tells a story about some people from her home town in an effort to dissuade a friend from doing something. Though her friends expect a bad ending to the story to further the moral she's apparently getting at, Rose says that the people involved became quite rich and lived happily ever after.
  • Inverted in an episode of How I Met Your Mother, in which the gang tell anecdotes within anecdotes within anecdotes all trying to convince Ted not to do something. All of them have bad endings except for one. Barney's. Because he's crazy.
  • In Scrubs, Eliot often tries to cheer people up by remembering one of her relatives being in a similar situation. These stories all end with the relative committing suicide.
  • In seaQuest DSV the crew are exploring an ancient alien spacecraft. One of them brings up a science fiction story he read as a kid that was about a similar situation, except the ship hadn't really crashed. The characters in the story were trapped when the ship took off again and dissected.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Defiant is leading a fleet of over six hundred Federation starships to retake Deep Space Nine from the Dominion, and find themselves up against twice their number in Dominion warships. O'Brien and Bashir begin reciting Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade, but are told to cut it out. Later on, Garak asks O'Brien how that poem ends. O'Brien assures him that he doesn't want to know, from which Garak deduces exactly how it ends.
  • On an episode of Match Game '74, Richard Dawson tells a story of a neighbor's cat who accidentally lapped up some spilled lawn mower fuel, and the cat gasped, ran around wildly for a couple of minutes, stopped and then collapsed on the ground. Gene Rayburn fearfully asked "Did it die?" and Dawson—in Paul Lynde voice—said, "No...just ran out of gas!"
  • In one episode of Frasier, Daphne tells what seems to be a helpful anecdote about how it's worth it to trust people, only it seems to end with the old man she trusted giving her a sexually harassing written note, though she still seems happy about the situation. After she leaves, the listeners agree they have no idea whether she was advocating trusting or the opposite.
  • In an episode of Criminal Minds, while Reid is in jail, Stephen reminds Prentiss of a previous case they worked where he was nervous and she told him trust the system. He took her advice, and everything worked out. Prentiss does calm down, but at the end of the conversation, she remembers something.
    Prentiss: "Hey, wait. That guy was guilty. We don't want the system to do its job."
    Stephen: "I was hoping you wouldn't remember that. This is why I don't give pep talks."

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • When The Order of the Stick is lost in a labyrinth, Elan suggests that they leave a trail of breadcrumbs to help find their way. As he talks about how Hansel and Gretel did it, he remembers what happened afterwards and says "Never mind".
  • Kevyn in Schlock Mercenary once did remind a lieutenant about military anecdotes on how the different branches handle the task at hand. They eventually got their punchline, of course.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, in the episode "The Cave of Two Lovers", the hippie nomad tells the Gaang about the secret cave, though he doesn't recall the song about it very well ("Uh, secret tunnel! Secret tunnel!"). Eventually...
    "Hey, I just remembered the end of that song! *plink* And diiiieeeee!"
  • One of the more famous scenes of SpongeBob SquarePants invokes this; the mysterious tale of The Ugly Barnacle.

    Real Life 
  • Played for Laughs in Stephen Colbert's speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2007 when he compares G.W. Bush's presidency to Rocky:
    Stephen Colbert: ... But does he stay down? NO! Like Rocky, he GETS BACK UP and IN THE END HE actually loses in the first movie... um...


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