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Comically Small Demand

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Dr. Evil: Here's the plan: we get the (nuclear) warhead, and we hold the world ransom for... one million dollars!
Number Two: Ahem — don't you think we should, maybe, ask for more than a million dollars?
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Someone with authority or power (or the delusion of such) uses it to command, force, or negotiate with people to do mundane or simple tasks for him/her.

Usually the person ordered may eagerly oblige, having expected a more serious and/or dangerous task or being threatened if refused, though possibly with initial disbelief.

Alternatively, it could be a mundane reward or offer from performing a service, especially if the people needing it are poor or even extravagantly rich.

The reasons for the mundane needs are:

If there is a series of demands, you can expect the last one to be this.

When the boss sends people to do important things, then sends one to do something mundane, that's You, Get Me Coffee.

Compare Mundane Wish, Mundane Utility, Comically Small Bribe, Disappointed by the Motive, and Sold His Soul for a Donut. If it involves food, it overlaps with Bratty Food Demand.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Simpsons issue with the Smithers-clones starts with a strike going at the Power Plant. Burns decides that, after months of negotiating, it's time to find out what the demands are, and has Smithers tear open the dust-coated envelope;
    Smithers: They're holding out for a five cent wage increase.
    Mr. Burns: Five percent!?
    Smithers: No, five cents. A nickel, sir.
  • A 70s Luke Cage: Hero for Hire story featured Cage beating up the Fantastic Four, stealing their Fantasticar and flying it to Latveria to confront Doctor Doom. The ensuing conversation:
    Cage: "Where's my money, honey?"
    Doom: "Money? What money are you talking... You mean the money I owed you for tracking down my robots? You came all the way here for that? A paltry $200?! You are crazy!"

    Fairy Tales 
  • This is a fairly standard motive of a Deal with the Devil: You may sell Cursed Item X to another fool, but only for a smaller price than you paid yourself. Last one is a damned soul.

    Fan Works 
  • When Faith in A Jump to the Left tells Xander that she's been sent by the Mayor to keep him occupied for the night (with the implication that she's to have sex with him), Xander informs her that they could have accomplished that with a large pizza and a new release from Blockbuster.
  • In Trolling the League, Cheetah thinks Naruto wants to have sex with her in exchange for turning her human again. Instead, he just wants her to wear a t-shirt claiming he "sucked the pussy right out of her".
  • In a the sequel The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor, Xanna holds off on collecting the debt the Asgard owe them for curing their cellular degeneration for a few centuries. Once hers and Naruto's empire is advanced enough to make use of Asgard technology, she only demands teachers to instruct their scientists so their society can advance more swiftly. The Asgard are surprised, though pleased, she didn't demand advanced battleships or other weaponry.
  • Lelouch in Dauntless (Allora Gale) agrees to help Schneizel overthrow the Emperor in exchange for Japan.note 
  • In Now You See It, Hinata thinks Sakura is selling Kiba into slavery for knowledge of some seals. Sakura is actually selling the Kiba swords, but admits she'd sell her teammate for a half empty jar of umeboshi.
  • When Illyria reminds Narcissa that impressing her is far more important than impressing Harry in Harry Potter and the Shell of the God King, Narcissa asks what Illyria wants. Illyria wants Narcissa to marry Harry and become Lady Potter as it's important for Harry to have a wife but she doesn't want to bother. Given Narcissa's plan was to seduce Harry anyway, it's hardly an arduous task.
  • When asked what he wants in exchange for freeing Japan in Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion, Lelouch states he simply wants himself and his sister to be left alone. He has money from fleecing nobles and the only power he wants is over himself.
  • Saitama in Enemy Number One is mistaken for a very powerful and dangerous villain (when only that first part is true). So when he breaks into the Hero Association and starts making demands, they're taken aback when all he wants is for them to stop attacking him and for his apartment door to be fixed.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash gets lost in Celadon City and somehow ends up in an underground Fight Club. After winning the prize money, he gives it to Anthony (the man who trained his Primeape in canon) and only asks for one thing in return... directions to get back to the Pokémon Center.
  • In Screw the Rebellion, I want Cookies, a Self-Insert fanboy of the Empire offers Emperor Palpatine all the knowledge he has to help secure his rule and all he asks in return is to govern Ryloth and have a small fleet of five star destroyers. The former because he's a fan of Twi'leks and the latter because he always wanted some of the Empire's ships, and because even if he's a fan, he still knows Palpatine is pure evil and would simply kill him if his demand was too great.
  • After saving Alabasta from Crocodile in Blood Man Luffy, Luffy asks for King Cobra's throne. Not his kingdom, Luffy wants the man's chair.
  • In Colors and Capes, Circe restores Cheetah's humanity in exchange for some pictures of Wonder Woman tied up with her own lasso.
  • In Going Solo, Angel's price for sharing his blood with Ford and saving the young man's life is that he not date Buffy. As Angel explains, he'll be able to share Ford's senses and he recently broke up with Buffy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the German movie Der Räuber Hotzenplotz (1962), Petrusilius Zwackelmann is a sorcerer who can theoretically do anything with his powers, but the one thing he can't do is peel potatoes, so he forces a captured boy he bought from Räuber Hotzenplotz to do it for him.
  • The voted-out politician in RoboCop (1987) holds the city council hostage, demanding three things: "I want a recount. And then I want my old job back." Which would make the recount superfluous. And, of course, he also wants the new 6000 SUX that has reclining leather seats, goes very fast and gets really shitty gas mileage.
    Lt. Hedgecock: Let the mayor go, we'll even throw in a Blaupunkt.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: the Germans offer the Sultan of Hatay a large bribe consisting of "treasures donated by the most powerful families in Germany." The only thing that interests the Sultan, however, is the Rolls Royce that the Germans drove up in. In exchange for the car, he gives the Nazis the removal rights for the Holy grail and even throws in an armed escort, including a tank. The novelisation fleshes this out by pointing out that the Sultan is already fabulously wealthy and has plenty of treasures of the kind being 'donated' already, and so from his perspective this is a Comically Small Bribe; he just happens to be keen on cars.
  • In Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Cheech Marin's character asks Agent Sands for a smaller bribe, $10,000 instead of the $50,000 Sands initially offered. An amused Sands skips the traditional briefcase and brings it in a lunchbox. Marin explains that it is a nice amount of money, something they both can live with, and not big enough that Sands would kill him over it. Sands still kills him, because Sands is a dickish CIA agent/evil Gringo.
  • In We're the Millers, David thinks that a Mexican cop is demanding a bribe of either sex or a thousand dollars. This is a misunderstanding; he's actually asking for a thousand pesos (roughly $80 American). David rounds it up to an even 100 and proceeds without issue.
  • Sneakers: At the end of the movie, the protagonists realize they can make demand the NSA in return for giving back the "black box," which has the power to reshape global politics. Rather than demand millions of dollars, one member demands a Winnebago RV, another wants an international vacation, and Carl just asks for a cute agent's phone number.
  • Several Hume Lake films, such as We Like Sheep and Xenoviv, had a bonus Gainax Ending where one of the characters turned evil and killed everyone with an army of robots. After killing them all and piling their bodies into a huge stack, he'd climb to the top and yell "I'm the king of the world! Somebody bring me a pecan pie!"
  • Austin Powers:
    • Infamously in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, time-traveling villain Dr. Evil plans to hold the world ransom in exchange for "one million dollars!", which world leaders find hysterical. His minions advise him to raise the amount to $100 billion, because of inflation since the '60s.
    • Inverted in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, where he returns to the '60s and demands $100 billion, which world leaders find equally hilarious, because that amount of money doesn't exist yet. He's told that he might as well ask for a million-jillion dollars.
  • Payback: Porter launches a one-man war against the mob to recover his $70,000 share of a $130,000 heist that his mob-connected partner stole from him. As the damage Porter is doing starts to add up, and he finds himself dealing with multiple hits put out on him by more than one criminal syndicate, people start to become sure that Porter is after more than a mere $130,000. Porter keeps correcting them that he only wants the original $70,000 he was owed, which makes people even more shocked. As one of the mob bosses exclaims, "What do you mean it's only seventy? Seventy thousand?! Hell, my suits are worth more than that!"
  • Subverted in The Dark Knight: After the Joker is denied his phone call at the police station, he delivers a Hannibal Lecture to the cop watching him in order to provoke him into a fight, manages to defeat him and get his hands on a weapon, marches out into the station with the cop held hostage, and when asked what he wants says "I just want my phone call". The subversion is the call triggers a bomb.

    Literature 
  • Re:Zero: Some of Subaru's requested rewards for helping save Emilia's life include asking for her name, petting Puck's fur, and working in the mansion.
  • Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants: after shrinking Jerome Horwitz Elementary School and the people inside to hold them hostage from his Humongous Mecha, Professor Poopypants makes his first demand for a pencil from the reporter reporting on the incident.
  • In Reamde, the middleman Wallace "tasks" Peter with getting him a drink as a test: will Peter accept a junior role from him. Dodge happens to be watching and explains what Wallace is doing and why to Zula.
  • In the children's book Big Max by Kin Platt, the King of Pooka Pooka offers Big Max a room full of diamonds, a room full of emeralds, or a room full of gold for finding Jumbo, his prize elephant. But when Big Max does find Jumbo (he was at his birthday party), all he asks for is a slice of the cake. (No wonder the illustration of Big Max's apartment doesn't have any furniture...)
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Discussed in Summer Knight when Harry has learned the debt he once owed to his evil, psychotic Fairy Godmother the Leansidhe has been sold her sovereign, Winter Queen Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness. Mab makes a contract with Harry to repay the debt by doing her three favors, which he can refuse with no backlash from Mabnote . Harry inquires if these favors could be this concept and she just asks for the salt three times at dinner. Mab doesn't dispute the idea.
    • Earlier, in White Night, Harry makes several demands of Lara Raith after saving her from a horde of monsters and exposing treachery within the ranks of her court, among other things. The first few demands are serious (she will stop her subordinates from systematically murdering practitioners of magic, and release a number of The Fair Folk she has imprisoned) — and then he asks for mouthwash, because he has "a funny taste in [his] mouth" from kissing her earlier as part of a spell. Her response is apoplectic.
    • In Small Favor, Harry cashes in his favor from the Summer Court when faced with an incredibly powerful fae who easily dispatched a Fallen angel "like an uppity pixie". Harry's request? A cake donut with white frosting and sprinkles. Not only does the fae deliver the donut, it's warm and accompanied by coffee. Of course, the true purpose was to delay the fae long enough for Harry to escape the deadline it was under to kill him, and the fae played along.
    • In Cold Days:
      • To test the limits of a powerful fae forced to serve as his orderly, Harry demands a Coke. One is instantly provided, but it's warm, because Harry didn't specify otherwise. He then tells Harry to expect the same level of response from commands to the fae if he dislikes what Harry asks of him.
      • When he calls up Donar Vadderung (a.k.a. Odin) for advice and some information, Vadderung says he'll give it to Harry in return for one favor (which is standard) and... a nickel, in reference to Lucy.
    • Near the end of Skin Game, Harry asks the mercenary Goodman Grey how much he owes him. Harry had hired him to go along with Nicodemus's plan to rob Hades (for which Nicodemus was going to pay him 2 million dollars plus any loot Grey could grab from the vault they were hitting to which Nicodemus estimated could be about $20 million) then betray him, and they got into a fight with three fallen angels possessing dangerous entities and nearly been killed, before riding him miles through Chicago, so Harry is expecting the price to be something truly formidable. He charges him one US dollar. That's still more than he can give right then.
  • Happens some times on the Discworld:
    • In Guards! Guards!, after the Night Watch saves the... after the Night Watch is honored for saving the day, the city's Patrician, Lord Vetinari, asks them to name their reward. The guardsmen put their heads together and request a five-dollar pay raise, a replacement tea kettle, and perhaps a dart board.
    • In Men at Arms, after Carrot learns of his royal heritage, he requests a private audience with Vetinari. Initially all Carrot asks for is a replacement dart board, but then it's subverted when he goes on to describe his ambitious plans for the expansion of the Watch. Since this is still less than he was expected to be asked for, and is of course good for the city, Vetinari agrees.
    • By the third time, Vetinari is savvy enough to have spotted the pattern. After a Time Travel incident in which Vimes goes back to take the place of his own mentor and participate in an infamous civic uprising, Vetinari figures out what happened and seems ready to offer Vimes a huge reward. Vimes is furious that he would dishonor the memories of the people who died in this manner, but is taken aback when Vetinari's offer is far more reasonable: Vimes can have the old Watch headquarters restored, and the grave of those who died will never be disturbed.
  • Happens to Dunk in The Hedge Knight when an attempt to protect a lowborn puppeteer from an evil prince lands him in a public Trial by Combat to prove his innocence. When he tries to recover his shield for the trial, a smith at the tournament reveals to him that he's got Dunk's shield and has reinforced it and added a brand new steel rim. When Dunk asks him what he owes him for the work, the smith just smiles and replies "for you? A copper.".
  • In Lord of the Rings, Gollum's idea of being a Dark Lord involves demanding fresh fish, straight from the ocean, for dinner every day... and nothing else. That's comically little comparing to Sauron desiring absolute obedience from everyone, Galadriel desiring everyone to admire her, Saruman wanting to analyze and dissect everything and build machines, Gandalf desiring to force-feed his teachings to everyone and Boromir wishing for an invincible army.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of NYPD Blue a suspect promises to confess his crime (a rather grisly murder) for two 2-liter bottles of Coke. It has to be Coke though: not Pepsi, not RC, not Diet Coke.
  • In one episode of Once Upon a Time, Rumplestiltskin gives Snow White the potion she's looking for and only takes a strand of her hair for payment. She has no idea why, but gives it to him. It turns out he needed it, along with a strand of Prince Charming's hair that he gets in a later episode, for a True Love spell.
  • The New Statesman has a case of the demander simply being too stupid to understand what he ought to be asking; Piers Fletcher-Dervish has finally been given some actual power, and demands a bribe from Alan in exchange for information that has the potential to substantially increase Alan's (already considerable) wealth. After dramatically declaring that he wants his share of the dirty money floating around, he demands "One. Pound. Fifty... Cash!" Alan manages to keep a straight face as he "reluctantly" hands over the bribe, and Piers promptly grabs it as if he were afraid Alan was going to snatch it back.
  • The Wire: Wee-bey demands some take-out food to confess all of the murders he's ever committed. Given that he's already serving a life sentence, he has nothing to lose by confessing, and prison food sucks.
  • Patriot: Ichabod threatens secret agent John Tavener with blackmail and states that he's still deciding on what his demand will be. He ultimately reveals his demand to be... "nonsexual cuddling," which amounts to a long, therapeutic hug. The critically depressed and stressed-out John actually really enjoys it, and he later gives a hug to another depressed friend.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Luigi and Dino Vercotti try to shake down an army colonel for 15 bob note  a week. The colonel thinks this is so silly that he pulls the plug on the whole skit.
  • The Muppet Show: One Newsflash reported on the kidnapping of the Atlantic Ocean, with a ransom demand of two Christmases a year and kisses from Mommy every night.
  • In Person of Interest, it is revealed that the amount of money Harold Finch and his partner asked of the U.S. Government to create the Machine was $1 (that's right — a single dollar. They were already living large as tech moguls in the Fiction 500 bracket). This leads to a hilarious moment in a later flashback when a CIA officer gets angry at hearing that the Machine will be a Black Box (it will surveil all electronic traffic in America, but the government will not have any access to this feed nor it will be able to reprogram the Machine in any way) and demands this feature to be changed or he will see that all funding of the project get pulled... and when he hears how much the project is costing the government, he does a double-take.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, a vampire who is owed a favor by another vampire will usually hold onto this debt for decades, using it only in the most dire circumstances. Occasionally, however, the vampire will let his debtor settle the accounts by doing some relatively minor task. In this case, the Comically Small Demand is actually an Insultingly Small Demand: essentially, the creditor is saying to the debtor, "You are so insignificant and worthless that this is all I think you're capable of doing for me, and it isn't even worth the effort to hold onto the favor for the future."
  • In Changeling: The Lost, one way Changelings replenish their magic is by making deals. The deals themselves can involve any goods/services, mundane or otherwise — it's the act itself that's important. This can cause problems with humans unaware of The Masquerade, who naturally wonder why that strange unlicensed exterminator will clear all the insects out of their house for just a cheap trinket.
  • Beast: The Primordial: Beasts with the Hunger for Power feed the Horror by subjugating others, forcing them to acknowledge the Beast's power and do their bidding. For Beasts that are trying to restrain their Horrors, feeding in ways that cause only the bare minimum of suffering necessary to sate the Horror, this can take the form of petty tyrannies such as forcing a former rival to polish your nameplate.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem Awakening: Gaius's only demand upon being recruited is that he be provided with candy. It probably helped that he didn't really appreciate the goals of the group he was with at the time.
  • In Dawn of War 2: Retribution, Inquisitor Adrastia attempts to hire Blood Knight ork pirate, Kaptain Bluddflagg, to kill a rogue Space Marine leader and anyone else who stands in his way. Bluddflagg asks for her Nice Hat as payment. Negotiations break down.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the two little girls who won't tell you any gossip about the other townspeople, not even for two whole rupees! (They're so little that they're pleased to get even one rupee each.)
  • Resident Evil 6: Jake Muller's scenario's ending has him sending a text message to Sherry that he's dropped his price for his blood to 50 dollars. He goes even further in the secret ending, where he's seen taking an apple as payment from a kid for getting rid of some B.O.W.s. It's a pre-arranged price, too.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: You can convince the owner of the laser pointer of a Kill Sat to sell it to you for 1000 caps note  and convince him to down it to 20 capsnote  . On the other hand, said owner is a kid and thus not very math-wise.
  • In Ghost Trick one of the inmates at the prison took the police commissioner hostage with a flame-thrower. When asked what he wanted, he paused to think, then demanded a curry dinner. He then torched the office when his curry was too spicy. It turns out this was actually because he was being controlled by an outside force to destroy documents in the office, rather than any reason of his own.

    Web Comics 
  • In Red Meat, Papa Moai is an omnipotent transdimensional being who resembles an Easter Island statue. He usually speaks portentously of transcending time and space, but has more minor and immediate concerns like finding decent tobacco, or filling in a crossword with the help of the other characters.
  • Early on in Schlock Mercenary, lowly corporal Schlock acquires a controlling interest in his own mercenary company due to a stock crash. With dread in their hearts, his bosses ask what his demands are...
    Schlock: I wanna be a sergeant.
  • Played straight and later subverted in Hero Oh Hero. First Burk agrees to help a town with its bandit problem in exchange for... being allowed to use the guy who asked him's bathroom (he'd have done it for nothing, but he really needed to go). The subversion comes when The Aristocrat defeats a bandit and asks for nothing in return but his clothes repaired, whatever his medal's pointing at and... a statue of himself erected in the middle of the town.

    Web Original 
  • In the Das Sporking recapping of Fifty Shades Freed, the third book in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, Gehayi and Ket Makura note that Jack Hyde's ransom demand of five million dollars really isn't that much to demand from a business tycoon, especially since a previous book confirmed that Christian makes one hundred thousand dollars an hour.
  • In the Whateley Universe, the Imp decides to assist Lady Astarte and the Shielders in rescuing a few kids from the Triangle. She demands a terrible payment for her work, though, under that whole "mercenary clause" business: an ice cream sundae. With extra scoops.

    Web Videos 
  • After working out in Unraveled that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate stages add up to seventeen million dollars in OSHA fines, Brian David Gilbert puts in a special coda for Masahiro Sakurai, where he tries to blackmail Sakurai with the evidence...demanding fifty bucks, because he's in a tight spot right now and just needs to get through the month.
    BDG: Also you could send me Kirby's phone number. I know he is real, where are you hiding him?

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Sam & Max: Freelance Police, the duo bust a terrorist group holding a TV studio hostage. The Terrorist's demands? To make the programming nothing but figure skating.
  • On SpongeBob SquarePants, Barnacle Boy is tired of Mermaid Man treating him like a child, so he becomes a supervillain and forms a Legion of Doom. They eventually defeat Mermaid Man, and Barnacle Boy makes his demands. Instead of world domination (as Man-Ray suggested) or making Mermaid Man eat dirt (as the Dirty Bubble suggested), Barnacle Boy simply demands to be called Barnacle Man and to eat an adult-sized Krabby Patty, after which he reverts back to being a superhero.
  • In one episode of Superman: The Animated Series, Superman needs the Parasite (still incarcerated after their first encounter) to drain the memories of a comatose criminal to find the location of a bomb. Parasite had one demand in exchange for his cooperation; cable TV in his jail cell.
  • In a Justice League episode, Batman asks Circe what her price is to lift her spell from Wonder Woman. Circe's demand is "soul-shattering" — Batman must sing a song for her in a night club, in front of an audience. Turns out he has a great voice.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, The Mafia is after Krusty because he didn't pay his debts to them, with Fat Tony personally hunting him down with his men and later calling a world-wide search. In the end, it turns out that the amount of money in question is just 48 dollars which he pays in hand. They even give him a couple of bucks change for a fifty.
  • In Family Guy, Death comes to collect Peter, but sprains his ankle, so Peter is forced to take over Death's job while Lois nurses him back to health. Lois takes the opportunity to ask Death to spare her husband; Death agrees, but says "you've got to do something for me." Lois hesitantly begins unbuttoning her shirt, only for Death to clarify that he only wants her to get him a fruit cup from the kitchen.
    • Subverted in another episode where Peter's house becomes a sovereign nation (It's a Long Story) and he is discussing the terms of his surrender to the United States of America with Mayor West. After his other comically small demands (surrendering if he will be allowed to keep his neighbor's pool, for one) are denied, he hurriedly asks West to hand over the ballpoint pen he's holding just so he won't walk away empty-handed. Mayor West points out that it's a dime-a-hundred pen and he's got a lot more in reserve, but when Peter says that he wants it anyway, West refuses to give it.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Pigeon Pete says he'll only help the turtles if they give him "a lot of bread", by which he means literal bread.
  • In Bojack Horseman, two paparazzos snap some incriminating photos of the titular character with the intent to blackmail him. When they finally make their demands (after several failed attempts to get anyone to care), it is for the outrageous sum of... $150 dollars. Each.
  • In Futurama, criminally insane robot Roberto robs a bank (which he had already robbed twice before) and demands "the remaining dough... and all the calendars... and that pen!"
  • In a House of Mouse episode, this is played with in that the demand is only revealed to be comically small afterwards. Of course when Donald is angry with Mickey and thinks Jafar will help him get revenge in exchange for "the lamp" he assumes it's Aladdin's lamp and ventures deep into the prop room to get it...only to find out that Jafar just wanted a lamp that was lying around the House of Mouse that Mickey was happy to give him!

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