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Fake–Real Turn

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"There are a lot of things in my life that I thought were real and ended up being fake. Why can't the opposite be true?"
Monica, Accepted

A group of people decide that, for whatever reason, they want to make something. It's not serious. Maybe they're making a fake college so their parents don't find out that they've been rejected by every college in the country. Maybe they make a fake movie so they can bang actresses, or a fake musical so that they can keep the money. But, somehow, people find out about their fake and think it's real. Everyone wants to be part of it, and now they must make it real.

Similar to Becoming the Mask, but with entities. For cases where the goal was to make something real, but to have it fail, see Springtime for Hitler. If it's a person being faked it becomes Invented Individual. A subtrope is Romantic Fake–Real Turn. See also Secret-Identity Identity, Wrote a Good Fake Story, and Appropriated Appellation. If a previously fake organization becomes real, it might be Under Strange Management. Compare Defictionalization. This trope's name is a pun on Face–Heel Turn.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Series: This happens to the Team Rocket trio multiple times. They'll open a beauty salon or engage in some other form of seemingly legitimate business just so they can steal Ash's Pikachu or some other rare Pokémon/items. While they're biding their time, their business draws actual customers and money.
  • This is pretty much the origin of the Dollars in Durarara!!. Initially, people got e-mailed to join an online group called the Dollars, which was presented as a secret society of sorts, but had no membership obligations, and it was a joke. Over time, rumors got started about their power and because they acquired a reputation for violence, people started committing crimes in the name of the group. Eventually, their founder realizes things have gone horribly wrong, and starts spreading counter-rumors about them being a heroic group in order to stop this. The fun part is that this also works, or at least it does until Izaya arrives. Well, it's not that Izaya wants to stop the heroic nature of the group — he was the one who spread the e-mail around in the first place — but that he wants to have the group be flexible enough so that he can manipulate it to whatever end he wants. Sort of.

    Comic Books 
  • In the comics miniseries Superman & Batman: Generations, Bruce Wayne, now elderly and retired as Batman, confronts Ra's al-Ghul one last time. He wins the duel, is rejuvenated by the Lazarus Pit, and takes Ra's' place. Bit by bit, he dismantles the criminal empire while developing the façades of its front organizations into full-fledged legitimate and socially beneficial enterprises.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Dark Lords of Nerima, Ranma and the rest of his Neriman peers orchestrate the eponymous scheme to fake their deaths and get both the Sailor Senshi and the Dark Kingdom off their cases. During Ascendant, thanks to both Beneda hyping them up and their subsequent feats, the Dark Kingdom's remaining monsters decide to place themselves under Ranma's group. The end result is that the Nerima Wrecking Crew become Dark Lords for real.

    Films — Animated 
  • At the beginning of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Alex and the rest of the protagonists impress their way into a traveling circus by describing "Trapeze Americano," where they repeatedly top themselves describing a highly exaggerated and extremely hard to pull off circus act. At the climax of the movie, every single detail of their totally made-up act becomes real, including the jetpacks, the aquatic cobras, and releasing balloons for all the children of the world.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The movie Accepted used the fake college plan. By the end it becomes legitimate.
  • Raoul Walsh's The Bowery has George Raft playing a low-life thug decide to get the attention of the Love Interest by boasting that he will jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. Plan A was to fake the jump by strategic feints, tricks and doubles and escape hatches. His romantic rival, played by Wallace Beery catches up to his plan and naturally sabotages his plan to humiliate his rival, but eventually Raft, with his reputation on the line, decides at the last minute to jump off the bridge for real... and he survives, and gets the girl anyway!
  • "Sweding" from Be Kind Rewind. The plot of the last act inverts this partway through, when it is revealed that Fats Waller was not born in Passaic, NJ, or grew up there, but they go ahead and make a "documentary" movie about him based on that scenario anyway.
  • In the movie Camp Nowhere, four kids get out of summer camp by inventing a fictional camp just far enough from their suburb to be hard to check on. Then the four head out to enjoy summer where their parents can't watch them. Unfortunately, one of the kids blabs about it to a friend, and soon every kid in the neighborhood (who also hate summer camp) shows up to hide there for the summer. Now they have to create at least the illusion of a real camp, because parents will be coming to check. Even worse, the parents have been told different lies. (One pair thinks their kid is going to drama camp, another pair thinks their kid is at weight-loss camp...)
  • Munna Bhai MBBS starts out with Sanjay Dutt's character hiding his mafioso persona from his father. Accordingly, every year, he converts his base of operations into an imitation hospital and dresses up his goons as assistants. It only falls apart when the father meets an old friend who's also a doctor.
  • In Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks, two wannabe bank robbers rent a storefront next to a bank in order to tunnel their way in. The wife of one runs a cookie store out of the storefront to act as cover. They fail completely at tunneling into the bank vault, but the cookie store is a huge success.
  • Y tu mamá también plays with this, with the majority of the movie being a road-trip to a beach called "Heaven's Mouth"note  begun in the hope of getting Luisa to sleep with one or both of them. They actually find it...
  • In the Steve Martin comedy My Blue Heaven, Martin plays a gangster in the witness protection program. Bored with life as a suburbanite, he begins a scam that involves getting donations of loose change to "renovate the little league park." At first he plans on just pocketing the money and getting out of town. By the end of the movie, not only does the local little league team have a new place to play, Martin is coaching them.
  • In Half-Cocked, a group of teenagers steal a rock band's van and equipment out of revenge, driving off with no destination in mind; Finding themselves in an unfamiliar town with no food or money the next day, they con themselves into a paid gig at a local club, claiming to be a touring band called Truckstop. They keep traveling and playing shows in order to evade the law and eventually get better at playing their chosen instruments, becoming more like a professional band.
  • In Chou Ninja Tai Inazuma the main character, a TV producer from 2076, starts out trying to make three losers from the Edo period think they're superheroes, but when actual monsters start attacking she has to make them into real superheroes.
  • This becomes the plot of Galaxy Quest when the Thermians, a TV-stealing alien species with no concept of dishonesty or even fiction, recruit the cast of a Star Trek-esque TV series under the assumption that the show is a historical document detailing real heroic exploits and that the cast can stop a Galactic Conqueror from finishing the Thermians off.
  • A similar plot is in play in The Adventures Of Captain Zoom In Outer Space, when an actor named Ty Farrell is transported to a distant planet called Pangea, when a local child genius picks up the transmission of his TV show The Adventures of Captain Zoom and assumes that Ty really is the heroic Captain Zoom, whom he transports to Pangea to save it from the evil Lord Vox of Vestron. Except Ty is just an actor. Strangely enough, some of the plot points from the Show Within a Show end up being mirrored by Ty's own adventures on Pangea.

  • In The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein, the young girl title character feels awkwardness and social anxiety after her family moves to a new city, resulting in her being the new kid at school. She is afraid that nobody will want to be her friend because she considers herself to be a dull person, without any interesting qualities that other kids would like. So she tells a white lie: she claims to have the biggest doll in the world, a life-sized doll with red hair and cerulean blue eyes. This gets her lots of attention from the other kids, but it backfires when she gets volunteered by them to show her doll at the school carnival. Now she has to produce a huge doll that doesn't exist. She eventually deals with this by stealing a department store mannequin to pose as the doll. This just causes her a lot more trouble, demonstrating the Aesop that lying can cause a lot more problems than it solves.
  • Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco does it with an Ancient Conspiracy. By the end of the book, the more enthusiastic of the two conspirators becomes a victim of cult assassination, and the other one ends up merely waiting until everyone realizes it's all a hoax to come and kill him as well.
  • A major plot point of The Postman (both the David Brin book and the Kevin Costner movie): a drifter tries to get into a town by posing as a United States postman After the End, and things snowball.
  • In H. Beam Piper's novel The Cosmic Computer, the protagonist begins organizing a search for a supercomputer left over from a recent war, even though his investigations on Earth indicate that the computer never even existed. The search itself leads to the very economic and morale revival that people had hoped to obtain by finding the supercomputer (just as the protagonist intended). It turns out that the computer exists after all. The Federation covered it up because it had predicted that 1)the Federation was irreversibly decaying and 2)the decay would snowball if this fact became generally known. The "short version", Graveyard Of Dreams, cuts off just before the spoiler... but has a better-sounding name.
  • In Poul Anderson's The Critique Of Impure Reason, Felix Tunny is trying to motivate an improperly imprinted robot to go on a space mission; the robot has become addicted to literature (and literary criticism) dripping with Wangst. Tunny fakes the revival of Space Opera, and the robot is inspired — but other people read excerpts from his (plagiarized) story, and like it, and want more....
    "Maybe our book is crude, but it does touch something real... there's going to be a spate of novels like this, and many will make a whopping profit, and some will even be genuinely good..."
  • In Son of Interflux by Gordon Korman, the protagonist uses student government funds and a fake organization's name to buy a patch of land that his father's corporation needs for a building project as a spontaneous act of rebellion. When the student government learns he spent their money, he has to convince the school that he did it for environmental/anti-corporate reasons. He speaks on this so eloquently that the student body rallies around him, everyone wants to join the organization, and the whole thing takes on a life of its own.
  • In a way, this is how Dumbledore's Army comes about in the Harry Potter series. The Ministry of Magic tried to smear him as training up children as soldiers to overthrow them while stoking fear of Voldemort to shift attention away from himself. Harry, chafing against Ministry imposed prohibitions on Hogwarts curriculum, organizes with his friends and like-minded students a secret group to study the magic the government doesn't want them to learn. He calls this group Dumbledore's Army as a reclamation of the Ministry's baseless paranoia, only he's directing them against the very real threat of Voldemort's return.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Warrior's Apprentice, Miles invents the "Dendarii Free Mercenaries" out of whole cloth as a quick cover story. Then the new "provisonal members" start to inadvertently Pull the Thread, so he adds more detail. The sound doctrine means they win battles, which leads to people joining. By the end of the novel there actually is a Dendarii Free Mercenaries — uniform, field manual, hidden government backing, and all. The majority of what defined the Dendarii was essentially made up on the spot by 3 terribly overworked people.
  • In the beginning of Dhampir, Magiere and Leesil had a good scam going in staging Vampire Slayings and taking peasant hamlets for everything they can get, but them Magiere gets tired of it, buys a bar in a seaside town to retire to... and ends up at odds with the real vampires haunting the place (not to mention learning the hated whispers of her childhood had basis in fact).
  • In The Godfather this is explained as the ultimate objective of the old-line Mafia families—to create conditions in which their children could become legitimate pillars of society. Vito and Michael Corleone actually try to get the Corleone Family out of 'the olive oil business' by avoiding narcotics trafficking and moving its resources into legitimate businesses (legalized gambling in Las Vegas, construction, and the movie industry). Unfortunately, things don't turn out as planned.
  • Near the end of Phule's Paradise, the heroes pretend to be filming a movie as a way to keep people clear of an area where they're going to be staging a surprise assault, taking advantage of the presence of a cameraman and a film star. After the dust has settled, they get a number of offers from potential backers, and the company commander suggests that, rather than explain, they just go ahead and have someone make the movie.
    • Earlier in that book, a Legionnaire impersonates a member of the Yakuza; when actual Yakuza come looking for him in the next book, he pretends to be a representative of a secret organization behind all the Yakuza families. He then decides that the best way to keep up this lie (and not get killed) is to actually take over the Yakuza.
  • In the 1632 short story "Diving Belle", Ginny Cochran, an assistant librarian from the time-displaced West Virginia town of Grantville, engineers such a turn by maneuvering the Con Man Fermin Mazalet — who had stolen books from the Grantville library to help sell a get-rich-quick scheme based on salvaging the warship Vasa — into a partnership with the four Lennartson brothers whom she had befriended. The four brothers then sign half their shares over to her, and she uses her technical knowledge and the money Mazalet raised to arrange the actual salvage of the ship.
  • Monster of the Year: Michael and Kevver made up the Monster of the Year contest solely to mock BAM and fill in a billboard left empty by their actions. Then they got a call from radio station WERD offering to sponsor the contest and wanting to build their entire fall promotion around the idea (and normal people sending in entries for themselves or people they knew)... and telegrams from a pair of real monsters who wanted to enter themselves and a friend, respectively.
  • In Don DeLillo's Libra, the assassination of John F. Kennedy originated as a false flag operation to fake a failed assassination attempt. In the confusion of a postmodern world, however, the plan to fail got lost along the way, and the plan became a real assassination attempt that succeeded.
  • Slacker: By the end of the first chapter, Cam Boxer's parents have had enough of his single-minded and reckless slacker behavior and order him to get involved in non-gaming activities or else. Cam and his friends Chuck and Pavel pretend that Cam has started a do-gooder club called the Positive Action Group (or P.A.G.) but is still in the planning stage while thinking of the best ways to help the community. This quickly backfires when lots of other students hear about the group, think Cam is sincere, and instantly volunteer their time or ideas (the most notable of which involves protecting a beaver named Elvis from habitat loss), forcing Cam to engage in genuine charity work, which he views with frustration but occasional pride.
  • In Wings of Fire, the NightWing tribe (who used to have genuine precognitive abilities, but don't anymore) orchestrate a fake prophecy about children stopping the war, which gets the tribe political leverage. They delude not only members of all the other tribes, but the actual children involved, who they kidnap and raise to be patsies. And then the children escape- partly because they want to fulfil their "destiny"- and because they are genuinely heroic, and so many people believe in the prophecy at this point, they succeed. Halfway through, they discover the prophecy is a sham but decide to fulfil it anyway, because it's the best chance anyone has of bringing peace to Pyrrhia.
  • There Was No Secret Evil Fighting Organization begins with a telekinetic getting very upset that his newfound powers don't come with any monsters or Glorious Purpose to use them on. So he uses his telekinesis to create convincingly monstrous puppets and awaken superpowers in other people, all with the goal of ensuring that kids will be able to have the heroic, magical experiences he never could. Then "Amaterasu", the organization he created to enable this, becomes a kind of genuinely supportive community club that helps kids study and build friendships in between fake-monster fights. Then it foils a very real airplane hijacking, saving hundreds of people. With every book, the telekinetic gets more confused as to what's really going on.
  • In "Razzle Dazzle", one of the Whateley Universe stories, Mephisto the Mentalist learns that his Master of the World scheme, where he would issue random "orders" to nonexistent minions, has turned into an actual organization networked across multiple states, who have been interpreting his messages to their own design.

    Live-Action TV 
  • When GOB on Arrested Development mockingly pretends to be a waiter at the restaurant his mother is eating at, it backfires. Actual members of the staff begin to give him instructions and his mother fails to notice him since she doesn't look at waiters. Not knowing how to end the joke, he finishes the day out actually waiting tables, earning tips in the process, and inadvertently doing an honest day's work for once.
  • In one episode of Car 54, Where Are You?, "White Elephant", a team of crooks moves into a diner next door to a bank with the intention of tunneling through ... but the two officers of Car 54 continually interrupt them by trying to help the diner succeed.
  • The Community study group was originally completely fake, created as a means for Jeff to try and hook up with Britta.
  • I Love Lucy had an episode where Lucy and Ethel tried to pay their way to Europe by inventing a charity.
  • On Its Your Move, Matt invented a fake band, the Dregs of Humanity, when Eli accidentally lost the money to hire a band for a school dance. The band actually consists of four skeletons from the biology department, but somehow they not only make it big, but are sued by several people, from a man who claims to be their original manager to a woman who claims one of them is the father of her baby.
  • In The IT Crowd, the three main characters go to the theatre for the evening, and due to various mishaps one of them ends up having to pretend to be one of the theatre's waitstaff. In a similar version to the example from Arrested Development, he ends up having to do the job until by the end of the evening he's good friends with the other employees and genuinely enjoying himself. One of the others has something similar happen to him, in that he gets caught using the disabled lavatory and, to get out of trouble, pretends to be disabled... with the result that he ends the evening in a wheelchair being driven to Manchester with a group of other disabled individuals. While he doesn't end up actually disabled, he does have a much less enjoyable evening.
  • Off Center had an episode where Chau, creates a fake band ("The Chau Project") in order to get girls. He gets carried away and ends up booking a gig despite him only having had one guitar lesson and none of the other band members knowing anything about music. However in the end it was revealed said lesson was a really good one...
  • An episode of Seinfeld when one of Elaine's co-workers keeps calling her Susie, and due to an elaborate chain of events everyone is convinced Susie is a real person. Elaine "kills her" by telling her co-workers Susie killed herself, and there is somehow a funeral at the end.
    • Another episode had George making up a charity called "The Human Fund" to avoid having to give actual Christmas gifts to his coworkers. After his boss gives George a large sum of money to donate to this fund, George contemplates starting it for real and becoming a philanthropist.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun had an episode where Sally puts up a sign advertising her "hair salon" (which was really an excuse to get a tax refund) and then begins getting customers. She decides to run with it, because she enjoys the gossip...but the business tanks when her customers realize her haircuts are awful.
  • Henry from Mad Men invents a fake fundraiser as the reason why he's at Betty's house; she ends up having to host a real fundraiser to keep the lie from being exposed. (The real reason, of course, is that they're having an affair.)
  • In an episode of The Suite Life on Deck, Zack, Woody, and Marcus set up a fake Beauty Contest as a scam to get girls. However, Mr Moseby finds out and forces them to throw a real beauty pagent as punishment as well as appointing them judges of the contest.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • A "Shoot" in wrestling is a term for something that happens which wasn't in the script, contrasted with a "work" which is something that was. The etymology may come from wrestlers accidentally "shooting" their opponents through ropes. And due to how Kayfabe works, the goal of a work is to make it look as much like a shoot as possible without it actually becoming a shoot to avoid liability and real injuries that can cripple or even end a career.
  • This is how Mixed Martial Arts promotion Pancrase was founded. Its creators, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki, had been working for years in a pro wrestling style which was made to look like real fights, and they decided to advance it and make it completely real under the same rules and format.

  • Jean Shepherd started his radio career as the overnight host of WOR in New York City. He organized gags with his listeners, the most famous of which involved creating a hoax about a non-existent book, I, Libertine, by the equally non-existent author "Frederick R. Ewing", in 1956. As an attack on the fact that literary best-seller lists counted not just actual sales but also requests for new and upcoming books, he told his listeners to go to all the book stores and ask for this book and author; as planned, I, Libertine soon entered the New York Times best-seller list despite not actually existing. Shepherd, Theodore Sturgeon and Betty Ballantine later wrote I, Libertine themselves, with a cover painted by illustrator Frank Kelly Freas, published by Ballantine Books.

  • The Lingerie Fighting Championships (which is exactly what it sounds like) began as a mockumentary of a fictional MMA league. Then people began asking when the next event would be. They just rolled with it, and now it's an actual (albeit small) MMA promotion that puts on a few shows per year. The mockumentary, for its part, morphed into a reality show with a similar "behind the scenes" premise.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One secret organization in Paranoia started as a rumor, but lots of spies were sent out to find more information about it. After one spy after another was executed for failing to discover any details, one agent simply created the organization himself, so he had something to report back. Since then, other members have joined the organization, every single one of them spies sent by other groups trying to infiltrate it.
  • Shadowrun has this as the backstory for two of the Triple-A corporations: Mitsuhama was a Yakuza front company that, by happenstance, began making more money legitimately than by organized crime, while ORO Corporation was originally a money laundering front for multiple drug cartels before rebranding itself as Aztechnology.
  • Infernum has an ability called "Lies of Commission" in which stating a outright lie will cause Reality Warping to ensue until it is the truth.
  • Princess: The Hopeful began as a parody, with its creators initially assuming nobody would take the idea of magical girls in the New World of Darkness seriously. But the idea proved surprisingly popular, and a few Cerebus Retcons later Blossomed into a fully developed gameline.

    Video Games 
  • In Criminal Case: Mysteries of the Past, Leopold Rochester endorses a telephone company, which the heroes eventually discover is a sham. However, since many of the citizens have invested in the company, including the Flying Squad's chief, the heroes decide to build the company for real, so that the investors wouldn't lose their money.
  • Katawa Shoujo, much like the Princess: The Hopeful example above, began as a parody. It started as a joke about an idea that would be too offensive to ever make into an actual game, but 4chan, with typical perverseness, ran with the idea and made it into something sensitive and respectful as well as entertaining.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, the Church of Martel turns out to be a Path of Inspiration and Martel isn't really a goddess, but actually the deceased sister of the Big Bad, who is using the church to find a vessel to resurrect her. However, in the game's ending, the heroes revive the World Tree and the souls of all former Chosen merge to form the tree's spirit, the most dominant among them being Martel's. Since the new spirit of the World Tree is one of the strongest spiritual entities in the world, this effectively makes "The Goddess Martel" real.
  • At the end of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, it's revealed that Labyrinthia is actually a testing ground built by the Storyteller's/Arthur Cantabella's company Labrelum Inc. The volunteers for the project who had their memories suppressed to become the town's citizens regain them and panic, with many of them making a run for it. However, some of them such as the Judge decided that they enjoyed their fake lives and town, with all of them deciding to make both of them legitimate.
  • This is a plot point in The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog. For Amy's birthday, she elects to host a murder mystery-style game, and everybody gets into their roles. Things take a turn for the real, though, when the player finds Sonic (the game's "victim") actually hurt and not just pretending to be. The main character even notices that Sonic is hurt for real, but their own doubts stop him from telling the rest of the cast, resulting in the events of the game. By the time everybody's figured out what's going on, Sonic is on the verge of death, but he recovers in time for the finale.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "pizza joint", Strong Bad and The Cheat try to make a fake pizza joint to pick up chicks, and end up attracting customers.
      Strong Bad: This is all wrong! The Cheat, in our effort to make a pretend pizza place in order to score some chicks, we somehow created a successful and well-reviewed actual pizza place!
    • In "diorama", Strong Bad notes that it used to be possible to cheat at book reports by writing them about made-up books, but the Internet means that the only way to do that is to follow this trope by making websites for the author and publisher, and sometimes going so far as writing the book yourself.

  • In a strip in the Full Frontal Nerdity webcomic, the players get more obsessed with running the inn they started as a front for their criminal activities than the actual criminal activities themselves.
  • According to this xkcd strip, Google started as a plan to control the world's information as a step before "turning evil", but they find that by the time they got there, they own Google.

    Web Videos 
  • CollegeHumor made a trailer for a Dora the Explorer gritty action movie. It was so popular, fans insisted they make an actual film. So they did.
  • The three guys behind Everyman HYBRID thought they would make one of those Slender Man web series that were all the rage at the time. Then the real one shows up.
  • Stuck inside his house with COVID-19, Austin McConnell dreamed up an entire cinematic universe based on old, forgotten superheroes from The Golden Age of Comic Books who'd fallen into the public domain. He never intended to actually make any of the proposed films, but the idea proved unexpectedly popular with his audience, so he decided to make it for real, dubbing the project "Superzeroes."

    Western Animation  
  • DuckTales (1987): In "The Big Flub" Fenton Crackshell creates an advertisement for a product that doesn't exist, and it becomes so popular that everyone wants it. He then takes an untested bubblegum product from Gyro Gearloose and sells it. Of course, being an untested product there are awkward consequences.
  • DuckTales (2017): In "The Duck Knight Returns", Scrooge and Dewey attempt to make a Darker and Edgier Darkwing Duck Continuity Reboot movie. Jim Starling, the actor who played Darkwing in the original TV show, is furious that somebody other than him was cast for the part of Darkwing and tries to hijack the film, culminating in an epic battle between the two Darkwings. In the end, Scrooge cancels the movie after everything is lost, but Launchpad convinces the new Darkwing actor to become a real-life Darkwing Duck. It's only then that the actor's name is finally revealed: Drake Mallard.
  • Family Guy:
    • "Brian Writes a Bestseller": Brian Griffin's mocking self-help book, Wish it, Want it, Do it becomes a best-seller, eventually leading Brian to buy into his own hype. Then he goes on Real Time with Bill Maher, who criticizes the book, getting Brian to accidentally admit that the book was a hack job. Maher then completely destroys his reputation (it doesn't help that Brian wets the floor).
    • "Start Me Up" combines this with Springtime for Hitler: In an attempt to pay off a bill, Stewie, Chris, and Brian try to crowdfund a nonexistent movie and pocket the (significant but insufficient to make a movie) funds when it inevitably fails. However, they somehow manage to make $1.5 million and are forced to make a real movie.
  • In the Kim Possible episode "Odds Man In", Drakken establishes a gourmet cupcake franchise as a cover for his latest world domination plot. The cupcake franchise proves to be so successful that Drakken seriously considers abandoning supervillainy altogether and just running the company. He still plans on taking over the world, of course, just as a mundane Corrupt Corporate Executive instead of a Mad Scientist supervillain.
  • In The Replacements series finale reveals that this was case with the Fleemco Replacement Program. The owner of the company is actually Todd and Riley's lost-long uncle, who created the company to get out of formally adopting the duo after their parents' death, but still make sure they're well-cared for.
  • South Park
    • In the episode "Li'l Crimestoppers", when the boys play at being detectives, they are recruited by the South Park police force and tasked with taking down a meth lab by using their hands as guns and making pew-pew noises. They do lose Kenny... again.
    • In another episode, it turns out that the entire 2008 election was orchestrated by Barack and Michelle Obama, John McCain, and Sarah Palin planning an Ocean's Eleven style-heist to steal a diamond stored beneath the White House. The plan was to get themselves nominated by both tickets so one of them would have to be elected, then swipe the diamond and fake their own deaths. At the end of the episode, Barack decides to actually give being president a whirl, and convinces Michelle to keep their fake marriage going.
  • Meta-example: The Phineas and Ferb episode "The Chronicles of Meap" ends with a fake trailer for a sequel episode ("Meapless in Seattle"). However, so many fans kept writing in to ask when this episode was going air (some not realizing the joke and others wanting it regardless of the gag) that they were forced to make it anyway and figure out how to connect all the random scenes they depicted. This is explained in a Star Wars-style text scrawl at the beginning of the episode, and the episode ends with a third trailer that's prefaced with the narrator explicitly stating that they have no plans to make it.
  • Looney Tunes: The Bugs Bunny short "Rabbit Every Monday" ends with Bugs bamboozling Yosemite Sam by tricking him into thinking a wild party is going on inside a pot-belly stove. Much to Bugs' surprise, there turns out to be an actual party going on (represented by live-action footage from the 1948 Warner Bros. movie Romance on the High Seas), and he decides to join the festivities: "I don't ask questions, I just have fun!"
  • American Dad!: In "Stompe le Monde," Stan gets the North American rights to Stomp. He uses it to run a scam where the family will roll into a town, offer to put on a show, sell tickets, and then leave with the money without actually performing the show. Eventually they are forced to actually perform, at which point they realize that with all the practice they put into their fake auditions, they actually became skilled enough to perform the show.

    Real Life 
  • This is Spın̈al Tap seems to have resonated so well with the actuality of the music world that the fictional band has released actual albums and done multiple "reunion" performances and appearances. Whether fans of the band are in it for the tongue-in-cheek charm of the mockumentary or legitimately appreciate the band's unoriginal-original music sort of blurs the line between fiction and reality.
  • Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer did this again with folk group The Folksmen in the movie A Mighty Wind. As part of the parody, the Folksmen "opened" for Spinal Tap in some of those "reunion" concerts. Enough fans in New York didn't get the joke that Guest and company became possibly the only people in history to be booed off stage so that they could come back on.
  • In 1969 Greil Marcus, a critic for Rolling Stone magazine, penned a spoof "review" of a pending release from the Masked Marauders, a purported Supergroup consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan. So many readers bought into the hoax, inundating the magazine as well as the various artists and their managers with requests for information on how to get the album, that Marcus decided to take things a step further by recruiting The Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band (a San Francisco Bay Area cult favorite) to record an album in the guise of the fictional Marauders. Even after the hoax was revealed, said album actually made it onto the lower reaches of the Billboard charts (the album itself revealed the hoax in its final track, in which a disgruntled customer angrily complains about wasting his money on the album).
  • Subverted In Marvel Comics, in Retcon, the person who pointed out a problem in continuity and at the same time provided a plausible explanation was awarded a Genuine Marvel Comics No-Prize by editor Stan Lee, a tradition that was kept alive by other editors after he became publisher. This was initially created because fans wanted prizes for finding errors and Stan Lee decided to give (for finding specific things) these no-prize awards (in print) without actually giving anything. However, eventually fans started demanding no-prizes, looking and writing to Marvel just so they could receive one. Some complained that they never received their no-prize, so Marvel began sending out empty envelopes with no-prize on them. Some fans complained their envelope was empty. Writers and artists are sometimes annoyed by receiving some letters just pointing out errors for no-prizes.
  • According to this interview, the term "witch house music" was invented as a joke and has now taken on a life of its own. This happens more often than you'd think with music genres. "Chillwave" was invented the same way.
  • More or less as a joke, one hockey fan in upstate New York began an online campaign in 2006 to use the National Hockey League's "vote online as often as you like" policy to get fringe defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick voted as a starter in the 2007 NHL All-Star Game. The "Vote for Rory" campaign gathered such steam, and garnered so many votes, that Fitzpatrick was vaulted to the top of the race with only weeks remaining before the game. This led to backlash among some NHL pundits who thought the All-Star Game was, somehow, Serious Business. In response, the Vote for Rory campaign became less about having fun with a wonky system and more about using that system to grant recognition to a hard-working, "aw shucks" nice guy who would never get that kind of attention otherwise. Ultimately, the only reason Fitzpatrick did not get voted in was poorly-engineered Executive Meddling by the National Hockey League, as revealed in this Slate article. This was repeated in the case of John Scott, who was even traded and sent down to the minors in an attempt to prevent him from getting to the All-Star game...but he actually DID get in, and in fact became the (well-deserved, non-joke) MVP.
  • ThinkGeek posts several imaginary new products every April Fool's day, some of which end up being popular (and physically plausible) enough that they become real products:
    Yep. This unusual shirt was originally a joke product for April Fool's day. But after your overwhelming positive response and hundreds of e-mails screaming to "make the damn shirt already" we went ahead and made the damn shirt... please enjoy.
  • In the wake of the 2010 financial crisis, a group of Icelandic entertainers led by comedian Jón Gnarr formed the "Best Party", and jokingly ran for office on a platform which was basically "leave it to the amateurs to not screw up as bad as the pros!" In the end, Jón Gnarr was elected Mayor of Reykjavik and served his term with distinction.
  • The town of Agloe, NY started as a copyright trap (a fake town or landmark deliberately put on maps as a way to detect plagiarism), but after a general store was built there it started getting listed on maps for real, even for years after the store closed.
  • This is essentially how The Monkees got started; although all four members of the band were musicians to start with, the band itself was created purely for television, only becoming a reality when they broke free of the control of producer Don Kirschner after studio executives noted more people were buying their albums than watching the show itself.
  • Yoshimi P-We of Boredoms was asked to do a photoshoot for a magazine, and wanted to bring a few friends along - So in the magazine they posed as a Fake Band called OOIOO. Not long after, they decided to actually start making music together and became a real band complete with albums and live performances.
  • The name of the mustachioed mascot of Pringles potato chips, Julius Pringles, was completely made up for a jokey Wikipedia edit by two college buddies in 2006 (inspired by the chance appearance of Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers on TV during the game they were watching). Their edit remained largely untouched, then after a while shows like The Colbert Report and Jeopardy! began seriously reporting that the Pringles guy was named Julius, obviously using Wikipedia as their source. When Kellogg's bought the brand in 2012 they wrongly assumed that the name Julius Pringles originated with previous owners Procter & Gamble, and duly had it trademarked, and the company has since reaffirmed in official marketing material that Julius Pringles is indeed his name.