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Comically Wordy Contract

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What your typical Terms of Agreement + End User License Agreement feel like.

Two or more parties have made a deal, come to an agreement, worked out an arrangement, formed a partnership, whatever. Bottom line, all the negotiating has been concluded (or so one or more of them thought) and it's time for everyone to huddle around the contract and sign on the dotted line...

Cue someone producing said contract, usually yellowed parchment wrapped up in a scroll. Opening it (usually at chest or eye level) causes it to drop several feet to the floor and then continue rolling across the floor for several more feet.

You've just encountered the Comically Wordy Contract.

Usually Played for Laughs. Commonly, but not always, found in a Deal with the Devil involving a Magically-Binding Contract. Signing in blood may or may not be required. Close attention had better be paid to Read the Fine Print and the use of Exact Words. Can also create a situation ripe for Loophole Abuse.

Compare with Long List.


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    Comic Books 
  • In the pre-Code horror story (not from EC, interestingly enough) "The Man Who Tricked the Devil!", Jeffrey Hagstone, an accomplished lawyer, has drafted his own contract for his Deal with the Devil, with thousands of added clauses to ensure no treachery on Satan's part. However, as such documents are typically signed in blood, Jeff has to sign each clause separately as well... and dies of blood loss before he gets to the dotted line.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: The Shining Concord Empire's main request from Ami is conveyed in a scroll that starts off with "long-winded introductions", and when the demands are reached, it's with a sense of having been a long time coming:
    Ami finally got to the part that held the demands.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cats Don't Dance: Danny Cat enters the office of talent agent Farley Wink at a fortuitous time. Mammoth Pictures is hiring animal actors and needs two cats for the Ark picture. Farley immediately agrees to manage Danny, presenting him with a contract to sign here, and here, and here, and over here ... and so on through thirty-some pages, finishing with a tiny slip, "And initial this." Danny's elated smile fades with each passing page.
  • Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio: The contract Count Volpe makes Pinocchio sign is a very long scroll of paper.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bedazzled (2000) had a contract big enough to be a phone book to a medium sized city. Elliot doesn't read it before he signs it. When he performed the selfless, benevolent act of wishing Allison a happy life he got out of hell under paragraph 147, paragraph 9 ,subsection 3. If he had read the contract he'd have known such an act might get him out of hell, so it wouldn't be selfless..
  • The Hobbit: In Peter Jackson's movie adaptation, when Bilbo joins the band of dwarves traveling to the Lonely Mountain, he is presented with a ridiculously long contract explicitly spelling out all the accidents that can happen and for which he shall NOT hold the dwarves responsible. In the book the contract merely states that he is hired in return for a 1/14th share of the treasure Smaug is hoarding.
  • A Night at the Opera: In this Marx Brothers movie, Groucho wants to hire the tenor Lassparri for his opera. Chico immediately plays himself up as the singer's manager and hands Groucho an overlong contract which the two immediately begin to read. The five-minute sketch ends with the two tearing off every clausule until all they have left is the bottom on which to sign. In the end, it turns out that Chico is actually representing the young tenor Ricardo, who turns out to be a better singer than Lassparri. So in the end Groucho and Chico repeat the contract scene once more, this time to hire Ricardo. Here is the link to the contract scene:
  • Stroker Ace: Clyde Torkle's sponsorship contract is shown to be a binder roughly the size of a phone guide, and Torkle expected Stroker to not read through the entirety of it before signing up - which leads to a lot of trouble for Stroker, because if he had read it right up front, he would have noticed that it's a Leonine Contract that forces Stroker to withstand Torkle's bullying with a penalty of being banned from racing for three years if he quits. After Stroker finally reads through it, he discovers that the contract's penalty will only be enforced if he quits, but not if Torkle fires him, so Stroker then sets out to force Torkle to fire him by any means possible.
  • In The Cat in the Hat, the Cat asks Conrad and Sally to sign a contract guaranteeing, in his words, "you can have all the fun you want and nothing bad's ever gonna happen". Said contract is a stack of paper several inches thick. While plenty of bad things do happen - many of which are the Cat's fault - the Cat returns at the end of the film, reminds the kids of the contract, and undoes all the damage he did, leaving the house spotless.
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: While not on a scroll, the contract the kids have to sign before they can enter Wonka's factory takes up an entire wall. The contract actually starts out in larger print. But line by line, the print gets smaller and smaller until it becomes microscopically tiny.
  • Wonka: The contract to rent from Mrs. Scrubbit initially seems like an ordinary sheet of paper but soon unfolds until it nearly reaches all the way across the room. Should anyone actually try to read it, as it's written to entrap guests in indentured servitude via ridiculous fees such as drinking the glass of gin they provide or using the stairs, Bleacher clubs them over the head.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory has "The Roommate Agreement". It is a lengthy document, with numerous sections, clauses, Articles, and addendums. You can read the various portions that have been televised here. Among its various, incessantly precise clauses, there are rules about what happens if either Sheldon or Leonard become zombies, gain superpowers, or wish to reserve a spot at the ten-year apartment reunion.
  • Crossing over with Real Life, Dave Gorman took on the contract for renting a bicycle in an episode of Modern Life Is Goodish. He photographed every single page of the terms and conditions and then actually read it all, finding an error that he then got into an protracted email exchange with the company over. In real life you probably deal with several of these agreements in an average month, where you are asked to tick a box confirming you have read the terms and conditions, and - admit it - you tick, despite not having read; these are colloquially known as "click-wrap" agreements, and there are some legal challenges to them because, obviously, nobody actually reads the twenty or thirty pages of T's & C's before they, say, order a pizza online. So if this behaviour is as widespread as it obviously is, how enforceable can the resulting contract really be? So far, by the way, the answer is that they are very much enforceable and binding.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "The Ensigns of Command" we meet the Sheliak, a nonhumanoid race who thinks of humans as lesser life forms. Their language is so complex that humans can't learn it, so when writing a treaty the Sheliak insisted on an absurd level of precision to remove any possible ambiguity with the English language. The treaty is half a million words long and took 372 Federation lawyers to write.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the season 7 finale "Survival of the Fittest", Leviathan Dick Roman and Crowley come to terms where Crowley gets Canada in exchange for not helping the Winchesters create a weapon that can kill Leviathans (one of the ingredients is Crowley's blood). Dick tells Crowley that he doesn't do the "sealed with a kiss" thing that Crowley usually does to close his deals. Crowley nods and pulls out an extremely long parchment contract that stretches a good ten feet when unrolled. They then spend a considerable amount of time painstakingly going over it before agreeing to sign.
      Crowley: Should the party of the first part fail to inform the party of the second part of his intent—
      Dick: Pause right there. Correct me, that should be party of the second part vis-a-vis party of the first part because we just amended Clause 314-Sub A.
      Crowley: Splendid.
    • Crowley does the same thing in the Season 8 finale "Sacrifice". He's negotiating with Sam and Dean over the exchange of the Demon Tablet for the Angel Tablet. Dean demands to see the contract and Crowley obliges, pulling out the rolled parchment and letting it unfold between them. He's at least a dozen feet from the brothers and the unrolled contract covers the whole distance. Crowley also gets a dig in while Dean is painstakingly reading through it.
      Crowley: You gonna move your lips for the whole thing?

  • NateWantsToBattle: In the music video for the song "Phantom", an aspiring magician seeks to make a Deal with the Devil, who promptly rolls a long scroll of paper to the magician from where he sits on the opposite side of the table. The magician has to sign and initial and write down his information at various points of the whole thing like he's filling out paperwork at a bank, with some of the information required being rather ridiculous for a demonic contract, such as the name of his first pet and if he has any allergies.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppets shows the standard "Rich and Famous" contract Kermit signed at the end of their original film for the first time and it's long enough to cover a decently sized table when only half unrolled.
  • The Muppet Show plays with this in the episode featuring Alice Cooper. Cooper is trying to get various people to sign a Deal with the Devil. It doesn't work out well. Gonzo eventually materializes in a puff of smoke, holding a very long scroll.
    Kermit: Gonzo! Is that the contract with the Devil?
    Gonzo: No, Kermit, it's worse than that. This is the bill from special effects!

    Video Games 
  • Tekken 4: In Kuma's (noncanon) ending, upon winning the tournament he receives all of Heihachi's assets, which require him to sign each page of a massive stack of papers (by putting a paw-print on them). He finds this to be amazingly entertaining, and just begins stamping them without reading any of them until they get to the very last page, which is a transfer of ownership of all of Kuma's assets back to Heihachi. Kuma ends up stamping his paw-print on Heihachi's face.

  • Freefall: Referenced. After taking on a government contract, Sam muses on why they might have switched from paper forms to digital, and concludes that it's because paper has a physical limit to how big it can get.
    Sam's Data Pad: File Type: Compressed ASCII Text. File Size: 1.36 googolbytes.
  • Webcomic artist Baalbuddy's series on female elf character alignment features a Running Gag with elf women of each Dungeons & Dragons-style character alignment shocking their male lover with a sudden pregnancy. The Lawful Neutral Elf reacts to his surprise by asking if he read her contract before sex. He replies that it was 500 pages long, and she morbidly states that she needs to inform him of all the other things that he's now signed on for.

    Web Original 
  • In one Hector's World animation, the evil Info Gang have the protagonists sign a contract that looks like a long scroll of indecipherable words.
  • When the SCP Foundation did tests on SCP-738, who is essentially Hell's negotiator, they sent in their genius legal counsel Sheldon Katz, who sat down to make a deal with the entity. What followed was a 900-page contract written over the course of 41 hours, before Katz collapsed from exhaustion while negotiating the precise definition of the word "shall". The entity left a note for Katz stating "Come back anytime. I haven't had this much fun in years!"
  • Title Pending: Alyssa brings up the contract that's several hundred pages thick and has "I OWN YOU" at the front. The two sign it without getting a chance to read it.

    Western Animation 
  • The Devil and Daniel Mouse: Exaggerated. B.L.'s "standard" contract, which he uses to get Jan to unwittingly sign away her soul, is literally endless. Jan tries to read the whole thing, but it just keeps stretching out (without mentioning the part about her soul) until she gives up and agrees to sign, upon which it immediately shrinks back to the size of a normal paper.
    B.L.: [smugly] Take your time, read it all.
  • In The Fairly OddParents! episode where Norm the Genie is introduced, the wishes he gives Timmy are conceded with the Exact Words that Timmy said. After Norm tricks Timmy into wishing Cosmo and Wanda to be trapped, Timmy wises up and wishes for a lawyer. The Lawyer draws up a very lengthy contract, that Norm signs, that states that Timmy's next wish will be conceded with no weird surprises or tricks.
  • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: "Fool Coverage," pairing Porky Pig and Daffy Duck in a satire on insurance and fine print clauses in contracts. Here, Daffy is a shady insurance salesman, trying to convince Porky to buy coverage from his company, using the promise of a $1 million payoff for a black eye to hook him in. Only thing is – as Daffy deliberately holds back on revealing until Porky buys (staging a series of accidents in the meantime, all of which Daffy takes the brunt of) – the following events must happen for the company to pay out such a settlement: A wild stampede of elephants rumbles through the house between 3:55 and 4 p.m. on the Fourth of July, and there must be a hailstorm occurring during said event. Before Porky can tell Daffy he's been ripped off, all of those provisions are met, one by one, as Daffy begins sweating bullets. Once Porky shows a speechless Daffy his black eye and tells him he'd like his check now, the duck – desperate to not have to pay up money he likely does not have – quickly points out there must also be a baby zebra run through the house, doing an aside that he just added that to worm his way out of the predicament. To Daffy's shock... a baby zebra gallops through the house right there and then, knocking the duck down. Daffy groggily gasps, "... and one baby zebra!" before passing out for good!


Video Example(s):


"It keeps on coming."

The contract to rent a room from Mrs. Scrubbit initially appears to be a single normal-sized sheet of paper but unfolds until it nearly reaches across the room.

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