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Comeback Tomorrow

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Points for trying.

"Well, it is so often the way, sir, too late one thinks of what one should have said. Sir Thomas More, for instance — burned alive for refusing to recant his Catholicism — must have been kicking himself, as the flames licked higher, that it never occurred to him to say, 'I recant my Catholicism.'"
Edmund E. Blackadder, Blackadder the Third note 

A character is insulted. Later, they get a flash of inspiration and think of the perfect comeback (which may or may not be actually witty, but they're very proud of it). So, of course, they try to arrange matters so that they get to use it—either setting up the original scenario in which they were insulted, or just using it later out of context. If the latter type appears late enough, it may qualify as a Brick Joke.

Very much Truth in Television. The Germans call it Treppenwitz, and in French it is l'esprit d'escalier, both phrases meaning "staircase wit". In a classic French architecture design, formal gatherings were held on the second floor; this would happen when the joke would occur to someone at the bottom of the stairs, having just left the party.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Shirobako, there is a non-comedic example late in the series. When Midori and Hiraoka nearly bump into each other, Hiraoka goes off on a rant about how girls like Midori only have to say that they're sorry with a cute face to be forgiven, and that the men in the office go easy on them. In a later scene, Midori encounters Hiraoka again and points out that she doesn't think the others are going easy on her, since none of her dialogue ideas got accepted.

    Comic Books 
  • The Sandman (1989): Sexton experiences this in Death: The High Cost of Living after Didi tells him she's Death:
    Sexton: You know, I thought maybe you were kinda nice and kinda of smart. But I was dead wrong. You're just as crazy as everyone else...
    Didi: Well, I thought you were someone dumb enough to get stuck under a fridge in a garbage dump. And I was dead right.
    [Sexton walks out the door]
  • In the French comic Les Profs (The Teachers), a student makes a joke to the Spanish teacher on how boring her classes are. She mopes through the rest of the day, until she wakes up at night shouting the comeback she should have told the student.
  • In one The Beano story Dennis and Danny of the Bash Street Kids are arguing over which of them are the coolest kid in school. Danny says Dennis is "about as cool as ... er ... a thing that's really not cool", and the next panel is captioned "Thirty years later" and shows Danny as an adult, with a beard and glasses, suddenly realising "Teacher! I should have said you're as cool as Teacher!"

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes
    • From Calvin in this strip:
      Calvin: Oh yeah? Oh yeah?? Well, remember what you said, because in a day or two, I'll have a witty and blistering retort! You'll be devastated then, I promise!
    • Lampshaded by Calvin in this strip:
      Moe: Wimp!
      Calvin: OH... OH YEAH??
      (Beat Panel)
      Calvin: What really bugs me is knowing I'll probably come up with a much sharper retort sometime tonight.
  • One Zits comic had the mom telling the boys that watching too much TV would dull their minds. Two beats later, the son goes "Oh yeah?" to which his friend mutters "Man, don't make her more right than she already is."
  • In a Garfield strip, Jon asks a woman out and she says that she would rather go out with camel spittle. Hours later, when he's already gone to bed...
    Jon: "But what if your brother already has plans?" That's what I should have said!
    Garfield: Ol' Lightning Wit strikes again.
  • Invoked in Dilbert. Dilbert tells Dogbert about a relative of his who was a marine biologist, famous for his work with sea anemones. Sadly, he was unpopular with his peers. Dogbert intentionally leaves the room before shouting his comeback, to avoid getting smacked.
    Dogbert: With anemones like that, who needs friends?
  • Lampshaded in Momma, after Momma loudly scolds her two grown sons.
    Francis: When Momma chews you out, do you stand there looking stupid or come up with a snappy comeback?
    Thomas: Both. A week apart.

    Fan Works 
  • Once More with Feeling: At one point, Shinji muses that an underrated benefit of time travel is being able to use the quips you thought of too late.

    Films — Animated 
  • Discussed in Horton Hears a Who! (2008) after Horton actually does make a pretty good comeback, but admits he usually "Doesn't think of that stuff 'til later."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A non-insulting comeback: in Rat Race, while Nick is flirting with Tracy. They're both reading the same biography of Charles Lindbergh, and she tells him that she's up to the part where "he's just had a sex change". A moment later he learns that she's a pilot.
    Nick: Are there many female pilots?
    Tracy: There's at least one.
    Nick: When I walk away, I'm gonna think of something great to say to that.
    Tracy: Good. Mail it to me.
    • A few scenes later he comes back having realized the obvious comeback: "Two if you count Lindbergh."
  • Brought up in Shallow Hal when one of the characters brags about the size of his anatomy. Hal takes about ten seconds to come up with the weak retort "yeah, bigger than a mouse's".

  • In the first Artemis Fowl book, Holly Short insults 12 year-old Child Prodigy Artemis by telling him she'll "buy [him] a lollipop when [she] gets back". Artemis is too stunned to reply, and delivers his (lame) comeback after she's long gone.
  • In the "Cargo of Rice" story from Horatio Hornblower, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower loses his French for a moment while arguing with the French captain of a supply ship the Indefatigable has just captured and snaps "Go to the Devil" in English. It's not until he goes to the cabin to plot a course that he remembers—then he says "allez au diable" to himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Prince George in Blackadder the Third, leading to the page quote. Then again, the witty comeback that took him all night to think of was "Oh, bugger off, you old fart!"
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    Xander: I'm not gonna waste the perfect comeback on you now. But don't think I don't have it. Oh, yes! Its time will come!
  • Doctor Who: In "The Timeless Children", the Master only comes up with the perfect Pre-Mortem One-Liner after having killed someone with his Tissue Compression Eliminator: "Time to cut you down to size!" He's quite disappointed with himself for that.
  • In the UK hospital comedy Green Wing, loser Statham makes an ill-fated attempt to provide a witty comeback to Mac just after Mac has walked out of shot:
    Statham: Stop right there. Come back here.
    Mac: Stop right there, come back here, which?
    Statham: Can I say one thing? I don't know what you're talking about, and always check your facts. Good day.
    Mac: That's two things. Three, if you count the valedictory flourish.
  • House has this gem, ending with a blank stare that truly makes the moment:
    House: So you're saying Chase did screw up.
    Chase: Or Foreman screwed up.
    Foreman: Big hand points to minutes. Maybe you got them mixed up?
    House: Oh, snap! Foreman's playing the dozens; you’re at a cultural disadvantage here. Take a few minutes to think up a witty retort.
    Cameron: So we have contradicting bleeding time tests. If we run labs to check his clotting factors we can confirm which one's right.
    House: Yeah, testing, nice idea. Way better than trying to guess which doctor’s incompetent. Much better than the paperwork, too.
    Chase: Hey, Foreman. Your momma's so fat, when her beeper goes off, people think she's backing up.
  • Subverted on Justified. Constable Bob is on official police business but this does not matter to two drunk Clover Hillers who insult him, his job and then threaten him with a shotgun if he does not leave. As he is leaving he comes up with a comeback to their insults and he turns around and walks back up to their front door. However, when they open the door he simply points his gun at them and tries to arrest them.
  • Subverted in The King of Queens, frequently, where Arthur does not bother with the setting up and instead screams out his comeback hours later, often by walking into his daughter's bedroom in the middle of the night.
  • Malcolm in the Middle - "I stayed up all night thinking of comebacks, and comebacks to her potential comebacks. I'm gonna show her I'm not obsessed with this."
  • Lisa obsessed over delivering a comeback to Dave in an episode of NewsRadio. Naturally, when she finally got a chance to deliver it, the response was underwhelming, to say the least.
  • An episode of Saturday Night Live guest-hosted by Rob Morrow had Morrow's character in a commercial for a time-travel machine, so you could go back in time to say the thing you later thought to say.
  • Happens to George in the Seinfeld episode "The Comeback". He then does the thing of setting up the original scenario (which entails George flying from NYC to Akron, Ohio) so that Riley will repeat his insult. Unfortunately, Riley doesn't suffer from this:
    Riley: You know, George, the ocean called. They're running out of shrimp.
    George: Oh yeah, Riley? Well, the jerk store called. They're running out of you!
    Riley: What's the difference? You're their all-time best seller!
    • It gets better. He then resorts to, "Well, I had sex with your wife!" (on Kramer's advice), only to be informed that Riley's wife is in a coma. Then, at the very end of the episode, we see George driving back home, only to murmur "Well... the life support machine called...", have a "Eureka!" Moment, triumphantly declare, "YES! THAT'S WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID!", and turn the car back around again. Keep in mind that he is back in New York at this point, meaning he's turning his car around to fly back to Ohio just to deliver this comeback.
  • One episode of Spin City has Caitlin deliver a decidedly lame retort to one of Mike's comments and storm out of the room. A moment later, she sticks her head back in and delivers a (very slightly) better one. Mike is unimpressed.
    Mike: You know, Caitlin, they're not called "comebacks" because you leave and then come back.

  • In a strip by Dave Berg of MAD, a woman tells her husband that he has "20/20 hindsight." Moments later he thinks, "When she said I had 20/20 hindsight, I should have said..."


    Stand Up Comedy 
  • Emo Philips inverts this.
    I was driving down the highway, and I'm swerving all over, 'cause I'm trying to change the radio, and just as I get the old one taken out I hear this traffic cop behind me, "Whee-oo, whee-oo, whee-oo" .... well, I shouldn't make fun of his speech impediment... He asks me to walk in a straight line, so I do, then he asks me "You call that a straight line?". Well, I should have said, I should have said.... "yes". But I was nervous and the only thing I could think of was "Well, Officer Pythagoras, the closest you'll ever come to a straight line is if they do an electroencephalogram of your own brain-waves!" He said: "You're under arrest."
  • Inverted by Mike Birbiglia in the informatively-titled "What I Should Have Said Was Nothing: Tales From My Secret Public Journal".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine: It's not unheard of for celestials to be bound to extremely specific and unfortunate Words. One such example is Thratch, the Demon of Snappy Comebacks You Only Think of After It's Too Late.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: Invoked in one argument between Nakmor Drack and Cora Harper. The former suffers an "Old Man Moment" mid-bicker, and vows to come up with a snappy retort later.
  • Hi-Fi RUSH: After Kale attempts to "fire" Korsica using the CH-AS1R laser beams, he has this realisation:
    Kale: "You're fired?" ...Oh, OH, should have used the flamethrower! Alright, well, there's always next time.

  • Penny and Aggie: In one strip, Aggie did this deliberately, presumably to avoid a fight.
  • The Non-Adventures of Wonderella: In one strip, Wonderella's arch-enemy leaves a confrontation with a cutting remark that Wonderella's stupidity isn't a superpower. A week later, Wonderella comes with a comeback that would have been witty in reply ("Neither is anorexia!") and resolves to use it when she has the chance. One week further one, she shoots it out mid-fight, but by that point it's entirely out of context and her enemy has no idea what she's talking about.
  • Two Guys and Guy: Wayne thinks up a comeback to something Guy said about his online dating profile three years ago — and had since forgotten about saying in the first place.
  • Vexxarr: When Vexxarr is getting ready to finally depart Earth, his nemesis from the homeowners' association comes over to see him off with one final tirade. Naturally, Vexxarr comes up with a really good menacing response to his parting remark just after the man has gotten out of earshot.

    Web Original 
  • Not Always Romantic: One story has a woman find a clever way around this — when she thinks of ways to tell off her husband's boss too late, she writes them down and later gives them to another girl said boss is harrassing. It works like a charm.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Whenever this happens to Homer Simpson, when he tells the story later, he has himself actually saying the thing he should have said. Case in point from "Secrets To a Successful Marriage":
      [In his mind] Slow? They called you slow! [Now standing up to confront the guys, only to see everyone has left and its nighttime] HOW DARE YOU CALL ME THAT...!"
    • Marge has this for new housemate, Becky (long story) in "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge" where she eventually gets sick of the family liking her better and thinks up a "comeback" for her while driving in the car:
      "Shut up, Becky!"
    • Sideshow Bob provided another example.
      Marge: You awful man! Stay away from my son!
      Bob: Oh, I'll stay away from your son alright. Stay away... (does a Kubrick Stare) forever!
      Homer: Oh, no!
      Bob: Wait a minute, that's no good. (leaves, groaning in frustration, only to return a moment later) Wait! I've got a good one now! Marge, say "Stay away from my son" again!
      Marge: No!
      Bob: (rake grumble)
  • The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 has this when Mario confronts Bowser in the Ninja Koopa episode.
    Mario: Let my friends go or else!
    Koopa: Or else what?
    Mario: Err... Just let them go, and I'll come back Tuesday and tell ya.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In "Unfair Science Fair", Candace was called "slow as molasses" by another girl competing for a job at Mr. Slushy Burger, but Candace could only manage to retort with "I think I'll call you... something slower than molasses, that's for sure!" At the end of the episode:
      Candace: Snail! I'll call you "snail"!
      Wendy: Ooh. You're good.
    • Doof does it to himself after trapping Perry the Platypus on his hover machine in "What Do It Do?":
      Doof: So you see, Perry the Platypus, I have more hidden traps here than....than...what's something with a lot of traps?" [Later, after Perry escapes and the two are fighting:] "A golf course! That's something with a lot of traps!
    • Doof does it to his rival mad scientist Rodney when they enter an "Inator Creator" contest. Doof says Rodney will cry like something that cries a lot. In the end, Doof finally figures out that a baby cries a lot.
  • In The Cleveland Show, Cleveland tries to come up with witty insults for Donna's cousin Jannett, but knowing her, she'd retort with "Leave, Cleve."
  • In the Family Guy episode "The Big Bang Theory", Stewie uses his time machine so he could go back in time and use the good comeback.
    • In "Excellence in Broadcasting" Brian meets with Rush Limbaugh at a book signing. While walking home, he says, "Yeah, you can sign my ass book. Is what would've been awesome to say."
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "Bridle Gossip", the six main characters are cursed with odd ailments. Spike comes up with pun-based joke names for each, before stumbling over Twilight Sparkle.
    Spike: This is hilarious! Look at all of you! We got "Hair"-ity, Rainbow "Crash", "Spittie" Pie, Apple-"teeny", "Flutterguy", and... uh... I got nothin'. [aside to the audience] "Twilight Sparkle"... I mean, seriously. I can't even work with that.
    [later, after the girls leave] Ah! Twilight "Flopple"!
  • The Steven Universe pilot has Steven thinking of comebacks against Lars after he leaves the doughnut shop. He was carrying around a trinket that allowed him to travel back to the insult, allowing Steven to make the comeback right away three times. The bad news is that now that's the only thing the device could be used for.
  • One minor villain on The Batman had the ability to go back in time a short while at will, meaning he could win a fight with Batman via Save Scumming. He also uses this power to rewind time after he realizes he made a Lame Comeback, erasing it from all (but his) memories.
  • Done in an episode of Earthworm Jim, where Jim makes his triumphant return and announces he's "as strong as a...a really big thing." After seizing victory, he says "HORSE! Strong as a HORSE! That's what I should have said!"
  • In Justice League, Batman has an argument with his Knight Templar Alternate Universe self about freedom vs. tyranny, and Justice Lord Batman wins, arguing that under their "tyranny", the Justice Lords have created a world where no other little boy will ever have to watch his parents be murdered before his eyes. Justice League Batman can't think of a rebuttal for that and admits defeat. Later, the two are driving down the street and see a man get arrested for complaining about his restaurant bill, and League Batman finally gets his rebuttal.
    League Batman: They'd love it here, don't you think?
    Lord Batman: Who?
    League Batman: Mom and Dad. They'd be so proud of you.
    Lord Batman: ...Just drive.
  • Invoked in Star Wars Rebels when the Ghost crew are fleeing stormtroopers through a sewer. They have to split up, and Sabine jokes that she will track the others via their smell. Ezra is searching for an appropriate retort only for Hera to curtly tell him to think of a comeback later as they don't have time.

    Real Life 
  • There's a Douglas Adams quote related to this trope, which goes something like this: "I am not a wit — I am a comedy writer. A wit thinks of something funny immediately; a comedy writer thinks of something very funny two hours later."


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Escalator Wit


"Stay away from my son!"

Sideshow Bob, attempts to make a threat at Marge's demand to stay away from him. It goes rather poorly, and he attempts to think of a better one. Sadly, Marge won't give him a second try.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / ComebackTomorrow

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