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Chewing the Scenery

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Nick Nolte takes it a bit too literally.

Tom: Chocolate? Did you say chocolate?!
Patrick: Yes, sir! With or without nuts.

ACTING with EMPHASIS. Nearly any emotion will do here, so long as it's EXTREME!

A common term for a scene where an actor's acting so damn hard that they're picking bits of scenery out of their teeth for days. Sometimes scenes can actually require this, but more often the actor and/or director just has the character go over the top. This can include Berserk Button, Freak Out, and other exaggerated emotions.

While this can often be a bad thing and ruin a scene, just as often it can add to the fun, whether a work is So Bad, It's Good or genuinely good. In a Police Procedural, this will often be due to a Perp Sweating or an Exasperated Perp.

A Sister Trope to Melodrama. Compare Narm and Narm Charm. Contrast Dull Surprise (emotionless moments when emotion is called for), Dramatic Deadpan (when the dramatic punch is from how low key it's presented). Not to be confused with This Billboard Needs Some Salt (actually munching on the scenery) or Trash the Set.

It's well worth noting that this trope is also one of the biggest causes of memes.

A Super-Trope to:

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    Comic Books 
  • Back in The Silver Age of Comic Books, chewing the scenery was pretty much the default; characters and narration alike were always hamming it up and often indulging in Purple Prose. See anything by Jack Kirby or Stan Lee, both of whom practically exemplified this trope in American comics (hell, Stan Lee qualifies for this in real life while he’s at it). Homages to the era often parody this.
    There came a time when the Old Gods died! The brave died with the cunning! The noble perished, locked in battle with the unleashed evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust! The final moment came with the fatal release of the indescribable power — which tore the home of the Old Gods asunder — split it in great halves — and filled the universe with the blinding death-flash of its destruction! In the end there were two giant molten bodies, spinning slow and barren — clean of all that had gone before — adrift in the fading sounds of cosmic thunder... Silence closed upon what had happened — a long, deep silence — wrapped in massive darkness... it was this way for an age... THEN—THERE WAS NEW LIGHT!"

    Fan Works 
  • In The Legend of Total Drama Island, the normally deadpan Noah is oblivious to the fact that he's hamming up the delivery when he gives a flowery blank verse speech based on the “St. Crispin’s Day” speech during the dodgeball match. The Storyteller also notes that “a swell of dramatic music” accompanied Noah's speech in the finished episode.
  • In Tales of the Emperasque the Emperor's new, Nigh Invulnerable form allows him to chew the scenery more often than not, even when he's under enemy fire, especially as he has No Indoor Voice now. Dante also has his moment during the canyon battle, when he theatrically pretends to blow Orks with his pistol (they explode because of mines on the ground).
  • Basically everyone in A Very Potter Musical does this at some point, but Snape really takes the cake and throws it away in favor of some delicious scenery.
  • Those Lacking Spines gives us everyone in The City of OC, but special mention goes to JEFFIROTH, who says all his lines with all-caps No Indoor Voice flavor (sometimes bolded for no particular reason), punctuated with some Smug Snake, all while a 100-piece orchestra conducted by Nobuo Uematsu plays in the background as he gives a long speech about how the three Nobody heroes are blights upon the world that need to be destroyed.
  • The Loud House fanfic Boys and Girls:
    • Lori actually picks Lincoln up and shouts when she thinks he's cheating on Ronnie Anne.
    • She then lies on the floor and begs Lincoln to take her on his "date with Hugh", then rants about Hugh poetically.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: As in canon, Malcolm, the actor who plays Dr. Calico in the Bolt TV show, is said to be an avid scenery chewer, although Bolt can easily out-ham him at times. Later, in "The Wedding Reception," Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino out-ham him by tearing up the dance floor in a spectacularly over-the-top dance performance that impresses even Malcolm.
    Malcolm: "Bolt, you old rascal, nice to see you again. You know, you're the only one here who can chew the scenery better than me — and I sure want to thank you for it."

    Films — Animation 
  • Lilo & Stitch!
    • Bonus points to Lilo for doing it on an actual stage
    • If I fed Pudge tuna It'd be an ABOMINATION!!!!
    • Nani's breakdown after Lilo is abducted by Gantu: "LILO! SHE'S A LITTLE GIRL, THIS BIG, BROWN EYES, AND WAS HANGING AROUND WITH THAT THING!!" (referring to Stitch)
  • Hercules:
    • When Hades gets mad, he will literally get fired up, as in blowing flames in all directions.
    • And then there're the Titans...
      Hades: Brothers! Titans! Look at you, in your squalid prison! Who put you down there?
      Titans: ZEUS!
      Hades: And now that I set you free, what's the first thing you're going to do?
      Titans: DESTROY HIM!!!!
      Hades: Good answer.
  • Beowulf:
    • Grendel, perpetually shrieking and moaning and having difficulty walking.
    • "They SAY... you have a MONSTAH here? They SAY... your land is cursed! My name is Beowulf. I am here to kill your MONSTAH!"
  • Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty:
    • " No! IT CANNOT BE!!!!!!"
    • " Now you shall deal with ME O Prince... AND ALL THE POWERS OF HELL!!!!!!!!! AHAHAHAHAAHAHA!!!!!"
  • Cruella DeVille in 101 Dalmatians:
    • "Poison them, drown them, bash them on the head. Got any chloroform? I don't care how you kill the little beasts, just DO IT!!!!! AND DO IT NOW!!!!!"
  • Aladdin has Aladdin going all cool to the onlookers as Prince Ali. He's got to look his best and he delivers, though he doesn't say anything big.
    • Once Jafar gets his hands on the magic lamp, he goes all out big and loud, especially when he wishes to be "THE MOST POWERFUL SORCERER IN THE WORLD". And then, there's him becoming a genie, courtesy of his third and final wish...
  • In Turning Red, while Abby can and does speak at a normal volume, she can still be very loud whenever she gets particularly excited or angry (which, given her Hot-Blooded personality, is often).
  • Bowser in The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Full stop.

  • The music video for Al B. Sure!'s Nite and day has to be seen to be believed. The man is animated, to say the least.
  • Burly Chassis is the musical equivalent; after recording "Goldfinger", she probably needed A Glass of Chianti to wash down all the soundproofing in the recording booth.
  • Tom Jones.
  • To keep faithful to what the above two had done for James Bond, the usually low-energy Billie Eilish makes sure to go all-in during the bridge of "No Time to Die".
  • In the music video for Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion", a hammy Steven Tyler grabs a scarf from the microphone stand and begins to actually chew on it.
  • Ghostface Killah
  • Steppenwolf's "The Pusher" is big moment for lead singer John Kay. "I SAID GODDAMN! GODDAMN THE PUSHERMAN!"
  • Merry Clayton's guest vocal in The Rolling Stones' classic "Gimme Shelter", which was actually rumored to have caused her miscarriage.
  • Miyuki Nakajima usually has at least one in each of her Yakai concerts. The second half of this number is an excellent example, as is this one.
  • Michael Jackson, cf. "Black or White"'s finale.
  • Every one of VNV Nation's live performances, and we wouldn't have it any other way. If you're curious just search for some live performances on YouTube and watch him play the crowd.
  • Journey's video for "Separate Ways". The song isn't too hammy. But Steve Perry does the most exaggerated expressions possible.
  • The music videos for Of Monsters and Men's second album Beneath the Skin consisted simply of one person per song singing along into the camera and disgorging emotion and humanity, each a different flavour.
  • Much metal has a tendency towards the hammy. For example, Judas Priest: "HE! IS! THE! PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINKILLLLLER! THIS! IS! THE! PAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINKILLLLLER!"
  • Dio's vocal style popularized much of this in metal, with younger Power Metal bands taking it to its logical extreme (minus his sheer energy).
  • David Draiman: the only "acting" he's ever done in a video was a Big "NO!". His voice is the kind that can somehow make "WE BEGIN THE HUNT TONIGHT! FEEL THE POWER COURSE AS THE CREATURES TAKE FLIGHT!!" sound cool. He also loves to fill songs with Evil Laughter. If anyone else did this, it would be So Bad, It's Good. With him, he really can convince you that he's an indestructible master of war.
  • Christina Aguilera - all those riffs, runs and melismas. Your Mileage Will Vary if you like it or not!
  • After the video for The Ballad of Mona Lisa, Brendon Urie must've been picking scenery out of his teeth for weeks.
  • How has everyone forgotten Meat Loaf? NNNGHHYOOUBETTAHBELEEVEIT!!
  • The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. "I am the god of HELLFIRE!"
  • Jim Morrison slipped into this trope when he was parodying a fire-and-brimstone preacher at the beginning of the title song on The Doors' The Soft Parade. "YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!"
  • Spamalot, being a musical with No Fourth Wall, comments about how this is common in Award Bait Songs:
    A sentimental song / That casts a magic spell / They all will hum along / We'll overact like hell / For this is the song that goes like this
  • Nightwish's vocalist, Floor Jansen, can and will come up with grandiose belting and screams from time to time, especially during live performances.
  • As if a live jazz album by Jeff Goldblum would be anything but this.
  • Mariah Carey. She sings every song like she thinks she's going to win a Grammy just for stepping into the recording booth. The layered dubs of herself and the need to hit the extremely high notes just volumize this.
  • Grammy-conscious warbles? Liberal use of melismas? Music video of her performing in front of a humongous billboard of herself? That's Deniece Williams in a nutshell.
  • Pretty much any music video by "Weird Al" Yankovic features at least a little scenery chewing. "Eat It" and "Fat" are literal examples.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted, being a game designed to let players be over the top in all they do, allows your character to live this trope. There's even a mention of player characters getting a dying monologue, no matter how they die.
    • Dragon Blooded, almost literally, chew the scenery when they use a lot of 'mana', because their anima banners start doing damage to everything within a few yards. Accordingly, they tend to furnish their homes with sculpture and heavy stone furniture, so they don't have to buy a new couch every time someone gets pissed off.
    • In the source book for the Infernal Exalted, the Storytelling chapter has a section on how to use them as Card Carrying Villains (their original intent) entitled "This Scenery Looks Delicious." In fact, at one point in the book it's explained how the player of a 'Green Sun Prince' can even receive mechanical benefits from dramatic monologuing under the right circumstances.
  • Warhammer 40,000's Orks. Especially their leaders. And, to a varying extent, everyone else on the battlefield. (See Dawn of War for the Canon voice acting.)

  • There is a popular theatre blog called "Chewing the Scenery" which often slates over the top or silly acting in British theatre.
  • The "Spartacus and the Gladiators" recitation in The Solid Gold Cadillac serves no purpose except to allow whoever is playing McKeever to overact ludicrously.
  • Herakles enters the scene in the midst of dying a Cruel and Unusual Death in The Women of Trachis. In itself such a situation may call for some scenery chewing, but since the character is Herakles in this case it's a prerequisite.
  • We Will Rock You: Pop/Buddy flat-out feasts on the scenery during any scene he's in, especially in the US version. Ditto for Khashoggi and the Killer Queen.
    "It's called a VI-DAY-OH TAH-PE!"
  • Starship is a World of Ham, more or less, but the greatest of all these Hams are probably Taz, played by Lauren Lopez, Up, played by Joe Walker, and Tootsie Noodles, played by Dylan Saunders. Not that Pincer (Saunders) is much better. Walker just cheerfully chews up the scenery with their aid, trying to see who can eat more of it. For what scenes he's in there, of course, Krayonder (played by Joe Moses, who is Snape in A Very Potter Musical), eats what he can, as does Jim Povolo (Sweetheart and The Overqueen).
  • In Peter And The Starcatcher, a play based on the book of the same name as a prequel, there is a line that hangs a lampshade on this trope as pirates Black Stache (pre-hook Hook and a very Large Ham to boot) and Smee flee the crocodile:
    Smee: He's chewing up the scenery!
    Black Stache: NOT IN MY SCENE HE'S NOT!
  • "The Guy Who Didn't Like Musicals" like other Starship Production is filled with chewing of the scenery, but it really takes the term to new heights, with every ounce of the performance oozing this trait.
  • Marat/Sade: The work is largely a play-within-a-play where the principal cast are all inmates in an insane asylum. Naturally, several of the inmates are unstable, unhinged, and overly worked up in their performances.

    Visual Novels 
  • While the anime of Umineko: When They Cry didn't give the actors the occasion to chew much scenery, the PS3 remake of the sound novel does. Let the torture begin… Ushiromiya BWATORAAAA!!!

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue's Sarge can get like this at times

  • Sparks in Girl Genius are usually rather normal whenever they're not in The Madness Place — but when they are, this trope applies to damn near everything they do. Which counts as a deconstruction, since Mad Scientists chew the scenery due to being, well, mad — oscillating between psychotic breaks from reality and psychotic breakthroughs into reality.
    • ...which is why they also easily slip into loud mood swings. Or jump into loud mood swings. Childish flares of rage are all the rage among the Sparks, too.
    • That does explain Othar Tryggvassen, GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER! quite well.
    • The chapter where Agatha meets Gilgamesh Wulfenbach enter "The Madness Place" was named "Gil Chews the Scenery". After some rumours, this episode later was explicitly referenced as "chewing the furniture".
  • Goblins had a scene that the author actually changed because she thought it was too narmtastic. A mook is getting painfully transformed into a pile of snakes and screams, "I feel sick... Oh God, it hurts!
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: Galatea lives and breathes this trope. "'Crazy? Me? You dare?! All the world is mad and only I am sane!" "We are a new race, more intelligent than man and obliged to supplant him! We... are the ubermensch!!!... Or is that ubermenschen... or uberfrauen... or..." "SO ENDS THE AGE OF MAN!" "Heed me, Butane! This is Captain Galatea Martin of the starship Lathe of Empires!... I promise you wise and just leadership... if you surrender... NOW!''
  • Awful Hospital: Doctor E.M. Balmer, the mortician, is probably the number one hammiest embalming machine that ever ham-balmed.
    Can your feeble head-stuffings even fathom the delectable horror of an entire perception zone simply rotting away to nothing? Devoured from within by insatiable vermin!? Oh, the very thought of it tickles my wires with such decadent revulsion! How excitingly abominable!
  • At one point in Boy and Dog, Rowan does a slow, deliberate fall while saying, "This is the end! All is dark!".
  • In El Goonish Shive, during the "Pizza" storyline in which the characters are Animated Actors, Kitty doesn't so much speak her lines as shout them, and while her character shows an initial reluctance to eat pizza, her appetite for scenery more than makes up for it.

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • Most politicians have shades of this, especially more than a century ago. You can guess why, in a world without microphones, booming voices and exaggerated mannerisms might be advantages when giving a speech.
    • The politicians in the ancient Greek and Roman democracies may have been even more extreme. Unfortunately, for the most part, all we have are the texts of their speeches. There are some descriptions of speeches, however. In particular, we know that Late Republican Rome (around the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE), the most popular speechmaking style, especially in the courts, was the "Asiatic," which called for long speeches with florid language and hand gestures, overemphasized speech, and Manly Tears; when Cicero appeared with his Simple Country Lawyer act, which used a clear style of oratory that got straight to the point, the audience was impressed with the freshness of it. (In Rome, watching trials was a major form of entertainment, and there was no shortage of them—you think modern Americans are litigious? They have nothing on the Romans.)
  • Although the movie Mommie Dearest seems to have Joan Crawford thoroughly digesting the scenery, according to her daughter, Christina Crawford, the performance was understated.
  • Adolf Hitler tended to do this every time he spoke in public. The movies (like the Downfall example above) aren't really that far from the truth this time. Most other dictators have a tendency to indulge in the same style.
    • It was Hitler's ranting in the Downfall movie, coupled with the subtitles and the German, that inspired the Hitler parodies that are popular on the internet.
    • Hitler was reputed to do this a bit more literally in less-public venues. William Shirer mentions at one point in Berlin Diary that in some circles, he was referred to as Der Teppich-Fresser (the carpet eater), because it was rumored that when he was agitated, he would throw himself to the floor and start chewing the edges of the rugs.
  • Somehow, against all logic, BRIAN BLESSED!!!!! has managed to accomplish this in real life. Observe his performance as guest host of Have I Got News for You, with lines such as "PETROL! WE'RE RUNNING OUT!" and, referring to the beleaguered Prime Minister Brown, "GORDON'S ALIVE!"
  • Two Australian YouTubers went to the UK, and set out to make a video with a simple premise; find as many somewhat inebriated clubbers as possible, and ask them a simple question: "Tell us something your mum doesn't know." This culminated in them finding a man more drunken than most, whose first reaction was to literally try to eat their microphone!
  • Transylvanian stage actor Gyorgy Kárp, who, among other roles, played Juror#3, is often seen turning red and yelling so loud, it makes you wonder how come he didn't spit out his own lungs.
  • Fidel Castro. He used to deliver speeches taking 3 or 4 hours, even in front of the United Nations. They weren't quite amused... He was once asked an inane question at a party and spoke for FOUR HOURS without stopping. Dear god man...
  • Nikita Khrushchev's infamous "We will BURY you!" speech, as well as a separate incident at the UN where he took off his shoe and started banging it against the table. Though, contrary to public belief, he wasn't saying he would bury the US. The speech Khrushchev was giving was not threatening to destroy the US, but that communism would outlast capitalism, so the USSR would see the old ways die. As in "you will dig your own grave and we'll be the ones to attend your funeral", not cause it.

Alternative Title(s): Chew The Scenery, Feed Me, Chewing Up The Scenery, Chewing On The Scenery


Chocolate!? CHOCOLATE!!!

Tom the fish loses his sh*t over chocolate.

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