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Dramatic Pause

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Coma: Together, we're called —
Badpan: He's fallen asleep again!
Coma: I wasn't sleeping — I was pausing for dramatic effect! Now you've spoiled it!
— "When Bongos Collide!", Simpsons Comics #5

The Dramatic Pause is a beat or two of silence with no dialogue and little or no music/background sound. Usually done to heighten the anticipation before The Reveal. Also called a "Pregnant Pause", it can also follow the reveal... it's just that shocking! It's fairly common in situations where it takes a moment for the joke to sink in. In Sequential Art, it is often depicted by a Beat Panel.

A classic of mystery serials and soap operas would be to follow with a three-note sequence heralding The Reveal. As in, "Nobody leaves! There's been ...(Dramatic Pause)... a murder!" (DUN-DUN-DAAAH!) Basically, the dramatic equivalent of an "Applause" sign in a TV studio. Soap Operas often use a version of this called the Melodramatic Pause.

The print equivalent (what you see in Literature and sequential art) is the Dramatic Ellipsis.

A single-note (or chord) version of this is called a dramatic sting.

The Sting is a Discredited Trope, although subtle variations can still be effective.

The Dramatic Pause itself will likely remain alive trope for a long, long time; it's rather hard to overdo silence, after all. Stilted delivery, on the other hand...

Often used in Arson Murder And Life Saving. Can overlap with Stopped Dead in Their Tracks.

Compare Beat, which is shorter, and usually used for comedic effect. See also Stop and Go for the musical version. Can turn into a Beam Me Up, Scotty! when fans routinely introduce a dramatic pause into a line that never had one. ("The question is ... do I feel lucky?") If it's just the music that stops, see Sudden Soundtrack Stop.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In AIR, the music gets cut off right before Misuzu's famous "goal"-moment. After that, the immensely melancholic vocal version of that tune kicks in, which makes the sadness of the scene hit really hard.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, when Shinji holds Kaworu in the hand of his Eva. The same frame lasts for about a minute before he finally crushes Kaworu!
  • The Garden of Sinners has one of the most terrifying uses of the dramatic pause ever at the end of episode 2.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kaiba comes back from the dead as a ghost to duel Yugi, a rematch for beating him earlier in the show. He makes his entrance at a dueling station with this line in the 4kids dub:
    "It's me, Kaiba. And this time you don't stand (dramatic pause) a ghost of a chance."
  • Avenger is notorious for these. Pauses are long and drawn out; they often switch between two character's faces for their reactions. The problem with this is that it is an anime, and at least one such exchange occurs between the unemotional protagonist and the antagonist, whom you only see the lower face of. The worst was between the antagonist and a subordinate in another city.
    Antagonist's face: *expressionless mouth and mask*
    Subordinate's face: *mostly bland but partially expectant*
    Antagonist's face: *no change*
    Subordinate's face: *no change*
    Antagonist's face: *no change*
    Subordinate's face: *melds to slight shock*
    Antagonist's face: *no change*
    Communication screen: *turns off*
  • Abused to hell and back by Crocus in One Piece, who ends anything he says with a long dramatic pause, complete with *WHAM* sounds, even when he's saying pretty irrelevant things. He lampshades it when the Straw Hats ask him to stop doing that, saying it's a Running Gag.
  • Code Geass: Aw, look at poor, blind, disabled Nunnally. *sad violin* ...and then she opens her eyes. Sad violin theme vanishes.
  • In Mononoke the Medicine Peddler constantly...talks like...this. Usually with the angle of the shot switching with every word.
  • Infinite Stratos does this when Laura steals Ichika's First Kiss. The frames then show Cecilia's, Ling's, and Houki's faces.
  • Bleach:
    • The fight between Charlotte and Yumichika is full of music and dialogue until the moment Charlotte appears to win. He clarifies to Yumichika what his final attack is doing, and suddenly.... silence. Even the music stops. Cue Glowing Eyes of Doom and Pre Ass Kicking One Liner as Yumichika proceeds to curb stomp Charlotte.
    • Done to powerful effect with Hitsugaya when he realises he's stabbed Hinamori instead of Aizen. Everything stops: characters, fighting, dialogue, music. Everything. And then the screen itself blacks out. And then Hitsugaya explodes.
  • The Pre Ass Kicking One Liner of Samurai Gun is always " Samurai Gun."

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Used all the time in My Immortal. For example, this gem:
    And then....
    It was……………………………………………………Dumbledore!
  • Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race has these in narration and sometimes in dialogue to add tension.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Lampshaded in (of course) Discworld:
    • When Vimes is talking to "Madam" Roberta Meserole in Night Watch Discworld:
      Madam: I have... business interests in Uberwald. Alas, the situation there is becoming rather unstable.
      Vimes: Right. I see. And you'd like to have the significant pause type of business interests in Ankh-Morpork, I expect.
    • In Soul Music, Quoth the Raven gets fussed at by Death of Rats for giving the "DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNN!" stinger before telling Susan Sto Helit who her grandfather is.
    • In The Truth, scrap magnate Harry King (who also happens to manage the city's "night soil" collection) warns William de Worde that his investment in the newspaper had better pay off or they'll be "in deep... trouble. Face downwards." William later mentions wanting to avoid "deep significant pause trouble" with Mr. King.
    • Angua is sometimes used to deliver this a a sort of running joke, although it also appears in Monstrous Regiment.
    • Going Postal has the Smoking Gnu's secret weapon, "... The Woodpecker."
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. The protagonist notes that Mike has been putting appropriate pauses in his speech to sound more human. He assumes that as Robots Think Faster, Mike just spends this interval doing something else, then goes back to the conversation.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: From Princesses in the Darkest Depths, used when someone's telling of their multi-year quest:
[Mistress Fresnelding said] "For years now, I have been working on recovering one of the great alchemical discoveries of the past age, one of the secrets now lost with the fall of the old empire. It was called..." She paused for dramatic effect, eliciting eye rolls from more than one princess. "... The Spice of Life."
"What does it do?" asked Cassie, whose eyes were wide and firmly in place.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Auction Kings, anytime an expert looks at a signature, expect a pause before they announce if its authentic.
  • An episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (yes, it was a TV series briefly) has the punctuated sting performed by a trio of trumpeteers who always happen to be in the scene when it's called for. At one point, Wayne got so fed up he confiscated their trumpets, only for them to replace them with kazoos.
  • A favorite gag of The Daily Show, often with the addition of lowered stage lights and/or a dramatic camera-turn.
  • Played dead straight in game shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?:
    Contestant: "A, final answer."
    (Dramatic Pause, shot of concerned host, shot of nervous guest, shot of terrified loved one in audience, another shot of nervous guest)
    Host: "A... is... correct, you're up to $5000!"
    • Occasionally the host in this situation will actually begin this last statement with something that implies that the contestant got the answer wrong ("You've done a great job..." etc.), before switching back and declaring the answer correct.
      • This was parodied to shreds in Whose Line Is It Anyway??; after every question the "host" would ramble on about how it's such a crying shame that the guest went all the way to New York just to win a million dollars!
    • And if there's a commercial break coming up, they'll often keep the dramatic pause up to end on a Cliffhanger, then start a new dramatic pause on the return and have even made answering the question an episode-ending Cliffhanger, though.
    • Also (over)used in Deal or No Deal before opening a case, or just about any other Game Show where they need to stretch a dozen questions or decisions into an hour of programming.
  • Also done to death on "results shows" for talent (or any other reality) programming. You can just tune in in the last five minutes of American Idol to see who's going home, and even then, Ryan's going to say "The person going home this week is..."
    • Parodied in an episode of Roger Mellie, the Man on the Telly in the adult comic Viz. In the first panel Roger is standing with the contestants. He says: "And the winner is..." He then walks off stage, drives away from the studio, spends the night in the pub, goes home to bed, gets up the next morning, eats breakfast, drives back to the studio and walks back on stage to announce the winner's name in the last panel.
  • Jeff Probst also uses the pause on Survivor when an elimination comes down to the last vote in the urn. When it doesn't, he just flips around the deciding vote while saying "Nth person voted out of Survivor..." which pretty much kills the drama of the vote. In earlier seasons, he would simply flip over the vote silently and let it speak for itself, which was much more climactic.
  • Horatio Caine from CSI: Miami is (in)famous for doing this in the middle of his one liners.
    • Not to mention he punctuates the dramatic pause even further by taking the opportunity to don his Sunglasses of Doom. Every. Single. Time.
    • Parodied in some comedy show: "Help me. I'm starting to talk!"
  • The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan does it quite a lot, both in his narration and his appearances at the end of each episode telling contestants whether they're eliminated or not. One time, a team actually broke down in giggles in the middle of his pause and told him to just get on with it already.
  • Played with in the Friends season 9 episode "The One with the Mugging" when Joey is auditioning for a part in a play directed by (and starring) Jeff Goldblum's character, and reads the stage direction 'long pause' aloud, thinking it's the name of the character he's addressing.
    • Ironically, he did actually pause, if only because he had to wait for the audience to finish laughing.
    • Joey also used this in a technique called "smell the fart acting": "I'm afraid the situation is much worse than we expected. Your sister is suffering from a.. (dramatic pause) subcranial hematoma."
      • This latter was actually because he forgot part of the line, and decided to cover it up by looking away from the camera with a distraught expression on his face.
  • Barney in How I Met Your Mother does this all the time. His mid-word pauses are Legen...wait for it...dary! He actually managed to hold the beat between two whole seasons one time, and once fell asleep partway.
  • My So-Called Life: The characters often pause mid-sentence, giving the dialogue a lurching and improvisational feel, even if the line is otherwise constructed very elegantly. Lampshaded when Rickie mimicks Mr. Katimski, who is probably the most egregious offender. But all the major characters did this a lot. In the case of Jordan Catalano, it was used to highlight how he was fumbling to come up with something, anything, to say.
    • That lurching sensation, mentioned before ... was further heightened by having the actors ... pause at just the right point in the sentence that the apparent meaning being expressed ... seemed to change after the pause.
    Angela-V.O.: I felt like a really shallow person, because I was. (long Dramatic Pause) Hungry.
  • Jack Palance's distinctively breathy delivery when he hosted the original Ripley's Believe It or Not! provided a sort of ellipsis: "Believe it [hhhaahh ...] or not!"
  • Top Gear (UK)'s Jeremy Clarkson is considered to use some of the longest dramatic pauses
    wait for it...
    wait for it...
    Overly-Long Gag
    in the world.
    • Clarkson once criticised Harry Enfield's impression of him by saying that he left out the ellipsis in the catchphrase.
  • Christmas 2009 had a well publicized battle for the Christmas number one spot in the British music charts between The X-Factor winner's cover of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" and Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name". Radio 1 milked it for all it was worth, including a ten second long pause before they announced the #2 song (and thus, the #1 song).
  • Parodied one year at MTV's Movie Awards, hosted by Lisa Kudrow, when a category was announced as Best Dramatic Pause. After airing the nominees, Kudrow opened the envelope, and then began a Dramatic Pause that lasted until the next commercial break.
  • Every episode of Justice's short run did this before announcing the verdict.
  • Played with in The Vicar of Dibley, when the characters are rehearsing for a scene from the Nativity in which the angel (played by Geraldine) comes down to the shepards to tell of Jesus's birth. The comedy comes from Owen and Frank mistaking Geraldine's dramatic pauses for forgetting the lines and prompting her, causing her to lose her temper.
    Geraldine: (narrating forcefully) And lo, an angel of the Lord appeared before them.
    Frank: (prompting) Be not afraid...
    Geraldine: No. BE AFRAID! BE VERY AFRAID!
    • On the night:
    Geraldine: (in angel costume) Be not afraid, for I am an angel of the Lord, and I bring tidings of great joy.(Pauses dramatically, whilst her halo appears over her head.)
    Frank: (prompting) For tonight in the stable...
    Geraldine: I KNOW YOU PILLOCK!
  • This happens quite a few times in Reba. One example: Reba's comment regarding her dress for a beauty pageant she attended: "I feel overdressed... for Vegas."
  • Lampshaded by Señor Chang in Community episode Comparative Religion:
    Chang: "[Everybody passed] Except... pause for dramatic effect..."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Hush" the voices of everyone in Sunnydale are stolen by some demons, so Giles has to give his usual exposition via overhead transparencies, including one saying only "then" in order to include a suitable dramatic pause.
  • In the TV adaptation of Hogfather, actor Marc Warren gave Mr. Teatime a Verbal Tic of pausing before the last word of every sentence ("I guess I just see things...differently."). This added a level of creepiness to Teatime's soft-spoken Psychopathic Manchild characterization.
  • In the next-to-last episode of the The Shield, there is a pause that lasts almost a minute right before Vic Mackey confesses all of his crimes to Olivia under ICE's immunity.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In the first scene of the third episode, both the Background Music and the dialogue stop for three seconds after Louis de Pointe du Lac informs Lestat de Lioncourt that Jackson Square used to be the site where runaway slaves were decapitated and their heads were placed on the iron gates as a warning.

  • The Hives are famous for their high octane live performaces with the Almqvist brothers (lead singer and guitarist) jumping all over the stage (and sometimes into the audience). But during performances of their song Tick Tick Boom, the whole band suddenly freezes like statues for several seconds while the audience goes nuts around them. (Here for almost a minute starting at around 2.30) It's impressive.
  • The finale of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 has a big "Luftpause" indicated just before completing its first triumphal modulation into D major. The first movement of Symphony No. 2 has another big one in a passage repeated in the finale. Part I of Symphony No. 8 makes the chorus and orchestra take a big pause in the middle of a word.
  • The Grand Pause (notated G.P.) is a rest bar for an entire symphony orchestra. Composers use them as a rare special effect. In the middle of a sequence of continuous music played by over 100 performers, having everyone go silent for a few beats creates a dramatic effect.
  • In music of all types, there is often a ritardando (slowdown) at cadences, the points where the harmony comes to rest on a tonic chord. In some final cadences at the end of a piece, performers and conductors may both slow down dramatically and add a pause after the penultimate dominant chord (V chord) before the final tonic chord. The moment of waiting and expectation followed by the release when the tonic sounds can create an exquisite effect. You are most likely to hear this in heartfelt ballads, romantic symphonic movements, and instrumental concertos.
  • The impact of using dramatic pauses in music is inversely proportional to how often they are used. If a group or composer uses them many times, the audience will tire of them and they won't have the powerful, surprising impact. If they are used rarely, they may create a more powerful impact.

  • Seen and Not Heard: Bet's rabbi pauses before telling her "something deep and vital". The transcript describes this as "The RABBI milks the moment."
  • Colonel Kepler of Wolf 359 speaks verrrrrrry slowly and uses...a lot...of these. It's probable that he does this just to put people on edge.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Mr. Kennedy often announces his name, then makes a Dramatic Pause (which seems to keep growing longer) before repeating it.
  • Also used, and lampshaded in the original ECW by the Impact Players (Lance Storm and Justin Credible) - "That's not just the coolest, that's not just the best, that's from Calgary (dramatic pause) Alberta Canada". Commentator Joey Styles would frequently say 'Dramatic pause' during the 'Dramatic Pause'
  • "Rest. ... In. ... PEAAAAACE."

  • The great comedian Jack Benny used this trope all the time for comedy, as well as its sister tropes the Beat and Melodramatic Pause. In his thirty-year career on stage, radio, and television, Benny honed his comic timing to such a fine edge that sometimes the pauses in his routines were as funny as the punchlines. An excellent example is the "Jack and the Mugger" skit: knowing his character's reputation for cheapness, the audience would start chuckling even before the pause ended.
    Mugger: Your money or your life.
    (long pause)
    Mugger: Look, bud! I said your money or your life!
    Jack: I'm thinking it over!

  • In the original Broadway version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street the chorus ends the opening song "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" with "...The Demon barber of Fleet ... Street!"
  • A common variation (in e.g. Adrian Plass, and also Truth in Television) is for an actor in a play to use a Dramatic Pause, only for the clueless prompter to think he's forgotten his next line and loudly speak it for him.
  • In Twice Charmed, Lady Tremaine does this in the reprise of "In A Moment."
    Lady Tremaine: There's still a chance she might be recognized from last night's ball, so show her how her life is insignificant and... small...

    Theme Parks 
  • The skipper in the JAWS ride at Universal Studios ends up doing this right after seeing the sinking remains of Amity 3.
    Skipper: I don't know what could have done this out here, except.... except a shark.

    Video Games 
  • The character Q from Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike talks exclusively in dramatic pauses.
  • Played for laughs in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, whenever Anthony reveals the new object of his affections. The Protagonist apparently considers this so shocking even the background music stops for a few seconds (Anthony quickly learns to anticipate this reaction and complains about it.)
  • Non-Terran characters in Starcraft II love... dramatic pauses.
  • The ending of Final Zone 2 has a lot of them.
    "That's what you should have done... in the beginning"
  • Kefka in Dissidia Final Fantasy emphasises the "dramatic" in Dramatic Pause. "I'm afraid the mouse is SMACK...dabinthemiddleofenemyterritory."
  • Happens in Portal 2 when you shoot the moon with your portal gun. As a Genius Bonus it lasts about 1.4 seconds, or the time it takes for light to reach the moon.
  • In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, one of Fayt's battle quotes is "Blade...of Fury!"
  • The voice director of Grandia Xtreme seemed to love this trope:
    • "This blow will...split your skull!"
    • "I'll cut you in...two!"
    • "X...Slash!"
    • "Eat...this!"
    • "I'll carve...YOU up!"
    • "Dra...gon...Rise...oh!"
    • "Dragon...Mirage!"
  • In Mother 3, this is used a lot during the final battle. After the Masked Man reveals himself as Claus, there's a long pause before he suddenly fires a bolt of lightning at Lucas. When this is inevitably reflected back at him by the Franklin Badge, the text that normally appears has a brief but noticeable pause.
    "Lucas's Franklin Badge (...) reflected the lightning back!"

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Tlf Travel Alerts takes it to ridiculous extremes:
    TLF Travel Alerts: The ghost of Harold Pinter has been spotted on Metropolitan line trains, leading to minor
    TLF Travel Alerts: (FOUR DAYS later!) delays.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Heavily Lampshaded in Freakazoid!!, in which "BUM-BUM-BUUUUM!" was sung by the characters, Joe the announcer, or even the background singers.
    "We interrupt this program to increase dramatic tension."
  • An episode of Batman: The Animated Series has The Creeper say "Last time I saw you, you were working for... dramatic pause... The Joker!" That's right, he actually says "dramatic pause". He also asks for a drumroll when he is about to say his name.
  • "I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am [insert something hilarious]! I am [Dramatic Pause]: Darkwing Duck!"
  • Dr. Weird from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is fond of this. "Gentlemen... behold!"
  • Justice League villain Manga Khan soliliquizes as part of a medical condition, and demands his subjects make dramatic pauses before any important announcements.
  • Norbert of The Angry Beavers in one episode planned to foil Daggit's "Muscular Beaver" superhero persona (make-believe, of course) with his very own villain identity wherein he revealed himself as "Baron von Bad Beaver" followed by a "Dun-dun-duuunn!" to which he added for an even longer pause "Dramatic reverb!"
  • Used for completely non-dramatic reasons in an episode of Dave the Barbarian. At the end of the story, Dave appears, Behind The Scenes style, and, referring to something he'd done during the episode, says, "I bet a lot of you are wondering why I tied a squirrel to a megaphone." Dramatic Pause "Well, bye!"
  • Lampshaded in The Penguins of Madagascar:
    Skipper: The clock... is... ticking.
    Kowalski: So were the dramatic pauses really necessary, then?
    Skipper: Yes.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, from "May the Best Pet Win!":
    Rainbow Dash: You're all outstanding competitors! But there can only be one of you who's number one! So the final, tie-breaking contest is going to beeee...
    [turns around, looks at camera] Pause for dramatic effect...
    A race against me! Through Ghastly Gorge! Dun dun duuuuuun!
  • Parodied in Futurama with Calculon, self-proclaimed master of the dramatic... pause!

    Real Life 
  • William Shatner is famous... for putting in lots... of dramatic... pauses... even in the... same... sentence. He is frequently... lampooned for this. This... may be related to his... constant need to... be... a Large Ham.
    • When called on this trait by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, he explained that he adopted the mannerism because "I kept forgetting my lines." (Specifically, he had trouble remembering the technobabble on Star Trek.
    • The urban legend in theatre circles is that he was the understudy in a production of (insert famous play here), but didn't expect to be called in, so didn't bother studying his lines to the degree he should have. He was called in and performed with his now famous pauses. The review the next day praised his performance (specifically the pauses) and he's been doing it intentionally ever since. The tale is in all likelihood completely false, but still worth retelling.
  • Shatner may be famous for it, but he's a positively fluid communicator compared to B-grade actor Thom Christopher, best known as Hawk from Buck Rogers and to MSTies as Troxartes, the villain from Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell.
    Troxartes: This has... nothing to do with... being rich!
    Tom Serveo: I put the... beats in my own... script and I'm... sticking with them!
  • U.S. President Barack Obama inserts a fair amount of these into his speeches.
  • Alan Rickman was also fond of doing this.
  • In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau employed this move when asked to comment about President Donald Trump's heavy-handed addressing of raucous protests after the police murder of George Floyd. To emphasise the point of the difficulty of dealing with a President of a neighboring nation who has been known to be highly mercurial and angrily sensitive to any perceived insult, Trudeau kept silent for 21 seconds before giving a carefully worded diplomatic answer. For the most part, the media and public, while recognizing it was probably prepared, responded positively as a well-considered response in the face of such a delicate matter. Though it didn't stop comedians, particularly in the late-night talk-show realm, from mocking him for it.


Video Example(s):


Mans Zelmerlow

The Eurovision 2016 host shows his successors how to wield the power of the dramatic pause.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / DramaticPause

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