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Fly in the Soup

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"The maître'd I pursued. 'Flies in the soup are an issue. They were not on the menu.' Skip to the loo, my darling."

A Stock Joke involving a recipient at a restaurant having a bowl of soup, only for him to call out to the waiter that there's a fly in his soup. Sometimes the customer is just trying to scam the restaurant into giving him a free meal — and other times he really did find a fly in there. The joke has many variations, the most famous one being:

Customer: Waiter, what is this fly doing in my soup?
Waiter: The backstroke.

The joke can sometimes be parodied, as instead of an actual housefly, there can also be a Visual Pun in the soup... a zipper,note  a baseball,note  etc.

The joke is believed to have originated at Lindy's Restaurant in New York during the 1920s, when comedians who frequented the place poked fun at the rudeness of the waiters.

May be a form of Faked Food Contaminant. Not to be confused with Cinéma Verité, or 'Fly in the Soup' style filming, which refers to a style of film that uses conversations between the director and a passerby, the antithesis to 'Fly on the Wall' filming.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece: When Luffy is stuck working to pay for damages on a Restaurant Ship we meet Sanji, who is dealing with a difficult customer that is trying to impress a lady. The man becomes aggravated when Sanji flirts with his date, so to get back at Sanji, he places a fly in his soup and reports it to try to get Sanji written up. Sanji, knowing what he's up to, jokes the the fly is "doing the backstroke". One thing leads to another, and Sanji beats up the customer and kicks him off the ship.

    Comic Books 
  • The trope image comes from Asterix and the Black Gold. Only in this case, it's a messenger fly that the Roman spies use to communicate, making the "crash lands" sort of deliberate.
  • In the now-defunct Penny Power, a children's magazine published by Consumer Reports, an article on milk had the following cartoon playing with this trope:
    Girl: Waiter, there's a fly in my milk!
    Waiter: Ssshh! Everyone will want one!
  • De Kiekeboes: In Tegen De Sterren Op this joke is also used when Kiekeboe visits a restaurant.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Wizard of Id has this exchange between the prisoner and the warden.
    Prisoner: There's a fly in my swill!
    Warden: So?
    Prisoner: So I ordered a cockroach.
  • The Fusco Brothers comic strip sometimes uses this gag. In the strip for September 13th, 2014 there are two flies in the soup - one fly is the other fly's lawyer.
  • The Far Side:
    • One comic inverted it. A giant fly is seated at a table, with a bowl of soup on his head. A human, sitting at the same table, exclaims, "Waiter! What's this soup doing on my fly?"
    • Another has a fly who's fallen into a soup bowl, while another shouts to her from the rim: "Tread soup, Deborah! I'm going to get help!"
    • A diner fishes a fly out of his soup, and is asked by the frog sitting next to him if he's just going to throw it away.
  • MAD Magazine:
    • In issue #289 (September 1989), an article wondered how the "waiter, there's a fly in the soup" joke would sound as told by different stand-ups popular at the time. The writer nailed the styles of David Letterman, Sam Kinison, George Carlin, Robin Williams, and others. (Letterman rambled and barely talked about the fly, Williams put on a variety of strange comic voices including "Help meeeee! Help meeee!") A similar article appeared twenty years later (#489, May 2008).
    • A one-pager (Norwegian Mad) had Spider-Man sitting in a restaurant, totally subverting the joke: "Waiter! There is soup on my flies!

    Films — Animation 
  • A Bug's Life: "Hey, waiter! I'm in my soup!"
  • Corpse Bride Takes a twist on this. At one point in the movie the dead go to the land of the living and crash a celebratory dinner. Lord Everglot says "there's an eye in me soup" and lifts it with his spoon just before everyone freaks out at the undead corpses that just appeared around everyone at the dinner table.
  • Ratatoing tries to make a joke out of an inversion - one of the rats dining at Marcel's restaurant is upset not because there's a fly in his soup, but because he ordered flies with Gorgonzola, not Camembert.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the James Bond film A View to a Kill, this line is cleverly done after May Day poisoned Achille Aubergine to death with the poisoned butterfly.
    Restaurant Guest: Qu'est-ce qu'il y a, monsieur?note 
    James Bond: There's a fly in his soup!
  • Victor/Victoria: When Victoria finds a cockroach in her hotel room, she takes it to a restaurant and orders everything on the menu for her first meal in days, a plan that Toddy decides to help her with when he drops in and joins her (having watched her talented but failed audition at his nightclub). But the waiter and manager, having seen this scam before, both express skepticism—until the bug escapes and crawls up another diner's leg, causing a mass panic and allowing Victoria and Toddy to flee unnoticed.
  • Silent Movie: During the chase scene at the end, the cars pass an "ACNE Pest Control" truck with a giant, fake fly on the roof. The fly gets knocked off, into an outdoor cafe, completely covering one table. The customer (standup comic Henny Youngman) calmly says, "Waiter—there's a fly in my soup."
  • In the Audience Participation album for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when Frank N. Furter is seen floating on a life preserver in the pool during "The Floor Show", the audience yells, "Hey, waiter, there's a fly in my soup." "Shut up, everyone will want one."
  • Love on Delivery: At the restaurant where Ho Kam-An works as a delivery boy, a customer complains about a fly in his soup. The boss pulls it out and starts stomping on it with the other employees, ignoring the customer's request for a new bowl. Frustrated, the customer just pays and leaves - just as the owner wanted.

  • Having been a standard for decades, numerous variations have sprung up. One such joke encapsulates National Stereotypes:
    There are an Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman (or alternatively Frenchman and Australian) drinking at a bar when simultaneously, three flies land in each of their glasses. The disgusted Englisher pushes his glass away and calls for another one. The Scot (or Frenchman) either picks out the fly or carefully finishes their drink without swallowing the fly. The Irishman (or Australian) also picks the fly out, but holds it over the glass and yells "SPIT IT BACK OUT, YOU SOZZLED BASTARD!!"
    • There are variants with more nationalities, like a Chinese who eats the fly as a snack with the drink, and a Jew who sells his fly to the Chinese.
  • How students deal with roaches in their soup:
    • 1st year: If they find a roach in the kettle, they dump the whole kettle into the toilet.
    • 2nd year: They simply throw the roach away.
    • 3rd year: They keep the roach in.
    • 4th year: They don't start cooking the soup until they catch enough roaches.
  • Then there's this version:
    Kid: Waiter, there's a fly on my french-fry!
    Waiter: Don't worry kid, the spider on your hamburger will eat it in no time!

  • In Bill Bryson's memoirs of his childhood, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, he recounts how his friend Willoughby tricked a restaurant they were dining at into giving them both large sundaes by floating a beetle on (yes, on) his soup and casually mentioning (lying) that his father was a health inspector. He managed it a second time (at the same restaurant, no less) by putting several tadpoles in his glass of water. The third time, when Bryson thought he was pushing his luck and opted to sit at another table, he poured a large mound of dead insects into his soup. This time he was walked to the door and asked never to return, instead.
  • archy and mehitabel: archy sometimes noted that he dropped into an Irish stew or ragout in a restaurant for a warm bath and a bite to eat
  • In one of Scott Adams's books, he explains that he's too timid and unassertive to complain to the waiter if there's a fly in his glass of wine. Instead he'll drink carefully while talking about the sterilizing effects of alcohol.

    Live-Action TV 
  • El Chavo del ocho: El Chavo and La Chillindrina bring a fly to Doña Florinda's restaurant to pull a scam. Hilarity Ensues when the fly flees and El Chavo destroys the restaurant and scare away the other customers while trying to recapture it.
  • The Electric Company (1971): There's a variation of this in a three-part skit where each diner complains to the waiter that "there is a moth in my broth."
  • The Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night" features one of the patrons complaining to Polly that there is a hair in his soup. Her attempt to play it off with the "don't speak too loud, everybody will want one" joke just elicits fury from him.
  • Game of Thrones. In "The House of Black and White", a depressed Tyrion, who is trying to drink himself to death, complains there is a bug in his cup of wine.
  • Harry Hill invoked this in response to a clip from Last Chance to See in which the presenters were mucking around in a green, swampy water that looked very much like pea soup:
    Harry: Waiter! There's a Fry in my soup! (tee hee)
  • Home Improvement: Parodied in one episode when Tim brings out his book of flannel jokes to tease Al. "Waiter, there's a fly in my flannel!"
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: During the episode featuring the movie Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, the main character is trapped in a VR version of Rick's bar from Casablanca. When a waiter walks by, Tom Servo makes the quip, "Because it's fly soup, sir— that's why!"
  • Spike Milligan used it in one sketch, showing it as if done by nations in a Eurovision-esque contest that had the punchline playing on various national stereotypes.
  • VR Troopers: In one episode, JB complains to a waiter that there's a fly in his soup. The waiter starts smacking the fly with a fly swatter.
  • WandaVision: Parodied when Wanda finds her kids giving a stray dog a bath in the kitchen sink.
    Wanda: Oh boy. Waiter, what's this canine doing in my kitchen sink?
    Tommy: The doggy paddle?

  • In "When you're Evil", Voltaire declares this as one of the ways he can annoy people.
  • Allan Sherman's "Strange Things in My Soup" (a parody of "Strangers in The Night"). The punchline is that the restaurant's soup du jour is actually "bug soup".
  • A variant in the song "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette has the line, "There's a black fly in your Chardonnay".

  • A non-comedic example in The Bible: Jesus during His rant against the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew chapter 23 tells them, "You strain out a gnat, yet you swallow a camel!" — which was how they prefer to enjoy their drinks, pouring them through a cloth in order to strain out insects that would make their beverage "unclean" to drink. However, the point Jesus was making with that statement is that the Pharisees were majoring in the minor things of the Law of God while not also doing the major things in the same Law.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Between the Lions episode "There's a Fly in My Soup" was focused entirely on fly jokes, which featured different variations.
  • One of the Waiter Grover sketches on Sesame Street plays with this: Mr. Johnson complains about a fly in his soup, but Grover looks under the soup, next to the soup and on the soup without seeing a fly. Finally, Mr. Johnson demands another bowl of soup, so Grover brings him the soup of the day: cream of mosquito.
  • Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird inverts this when Oscar and Maria stop for dinner at the Don't Drop Inn; amid all the chattering that goes on in the diner, one grouch patron can be heard yelling, "Hey, waitress! There's no fly in my soup!" "It's comin'!" the waitress yells back.
  • Referenced in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, during a number spoofing Moulin Rouge!.
    Robin: I'm the Green Fairy.
    Kermit: What are you doing in my drink?
    Fozzie: The backstroke!
  • There was an episode of The Muppet Show where the "At the Dance" number was a series of Fly in the Soup jokes.

  • In the 1988 iteration of Anything Goes, Mrs. Harcourt's dog goes missing throughout the entire show. At the very end of the show, he is returned, saying he was found in the ship's pool. When Mrs. Harcourt asks what he was doing in the pool, everyone, right on cue, says, "The dog paddle."
  • In She Loves Me, Georg improvises a story about there being a fly in Amalia's wine to get her out of trouble with the headwaiter after she screams.
    Headwaiter: Show it to me.
    Georg: I can't. ... She swallowed it.
    Headwaiter: Good God.
    Georg: Wouldn't you scream?

  • In The Trash Pack trading cards, Grotty Bot Fly is portrayed as floating in a bowl of tomato soup...along with tons of maggots.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: In "Lily Pad Thai", a restaurant critic eating at Stumpy's Diner complains about there being a fly in his soup; since the restaurant is made for amphibians, his complaint is that there aren't enough flies in his soup ("There should be dozens!").
  • This joke is also used in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: C.L.O.W.N." when Numbuh Five questions what a fly is doing in her soup. Numbuh Two almost tells her "The backstroke", until he remembers that a clown threatened him not to tell any jokes.
  • From House of Mouse:
    Timon: Waiter, there's a fly in my friend's soup. [happily] I want one too!
    Timon: There are bugs on my plate. [happily] Thanks!
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer puts a trick ice-cube (featuring a fly in the middle) in Dr Hibbert's drink. As Homer recalls it, it was frightfully droll and the toast of the high-brow evening Marge had planned. In reality, however, Dr Hibbert doesn't find it amusing and instead points out the ice-cube contains dangerous chemicals, and the night goes downhill from there.
    • "Penny-Wiseguys": Lisa attends an insectivore banquet where the Old Jewish Man complains that there isn't a fly in his soup.
    • In "Homer's Triple Bypass", Homer gets out of a diet by claiming to spot a bug in the oatmeal Marge prepared. Later, while he's eating something he likes to eat, when Bart points out there's a bug in it he doesn't really care.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz and a waiter at Tony's Delicatessen once argued because Doof noticed there was a fly in his soup but the waiter insists it's a raisin. An entomologista said it's a raisin but there's a fly on the other side. Doofenshmirtz wants to destroy Tony's Delicatessen for this.
  • In one episode of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Professor Nimnel, having swapped bodies with Zipper in a Teleporter Accident, falls out of the sky and lands in a man's soup.
    Man: Waiter! Waiter! What is this fly doing in my soup?
    Nimnel: [coughing] The hundred meter breast stroke. What does it look like, Idiot?!
  • A variation occurred in the Futurama episode "Benderama" when one of Bender's copies ended up in Hermes's soup.
    Hermes: What is this tiny robot doing in my soup?
    Scruffy the Janitor: He appears to be giving you the finger, Sir.
  • A variation happens in an episode of Muppet Babies (1984) where Gonzo had an Imagine Spot that he is an anteater at an anteater restaurant and said "There's a piece of food in my ants" as an excuse not to eat them.
  • Family Guy adds an element of Black Comedy to the joke: Peter brings Chris to a restaurant and teaches him the scam by using a dead body. Then Chris tries it, but his "dead" body isn't actually dead yet, and Hilarity Ensues as Chris tries to ensure the "dead" part.
  • One episode of The Flintstones and the Frankenstones had both families go to a restaurant together. Frankenstone began complaining that there weren't any flies in his soup, and began shaking live flies out of a shaker into the restaurant, causing a commotion.
  • The Garbage Pail Kids Cartoon inverted the joke in the Garbage Pail Groaner segment of "The Land of Odd", where a customer orders soup from a waiter, both of their faces initially hidden from the viewer. The punchline has the two men's faces revealed after the customer complains about a human man swimming in his soup, showing that the customer and waiter are actually giant flies.
    Customer: Waiter! What's that man doing in my soup?
    Waiter: It looks like the backstroke to me.
  • In the Sitting Ducks episode "Nothing But The Truth", Ed asks Beth for a fresh one after finding a fly in his milkshake. Beth, knowing this is a lie, swats a fly and hands it to him saying, "There's a fresh one right there, Ed."
  • The Johnny Bravo episode "I, Fly", which spoofs The Fly (1958) by having Johnny switch bodies with a fly after meddling with Carl's teleportation device, uses the joke when Johnny is in Pop's diner and falls into a customer's soup. The customer complains about having a fly in his soup, to which Pops only replies by saying "Welcome to Pop's."
  • In an episode of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the Ant Hill Mob is forced to work at a restaurant for some damage they caused. In one vignette:
    Diner: Waiter, what's this fly doing in my soup?
    Yak-Yak: The backstroke!
  • Flip the Frog, in "Soup Song" episode, one of the customers had fly in a soup. The fly was then pulled out using a miniature lifebuoy.


Video Example(s):


Skip to the Loo

A character complains about flies in his soup... but the waiter assumes he wants more and claims they add to his revenue.

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Example of:

Main / FlyInTheSoup

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