A type of Room Shuffle where one character actively wants another character out of a room so they can discuss something in private. They'll usually either come up with some absurd reason for the character to go to the kitchen or across the hall or whatever—something along the lines of "Hey, did you know one of the bathroom floor tiles looks just like a map of Tanzania? Go have a look!"—or they say something that they know will make that specific character clear out, like "You know Greg, I was just talking to Bill across the hall and apparently his favorite thing is interminable circus anecdotes."
They may send the character on a search for some item, which may or may not actually exist.
Often the comic potential of this is stretched by having the departed character reappear at an inopportune time (and just after the audience has forgotten about them). "You know, you don't even have tiles in your bathroom... what are you doing?"
A variant in works set before cell phones became ubiquitous is to have the inconvenient party receive a telephone call. Bonus points if this happens in a restaurant or other public place so that the person will have to leave the table in order to take the call. There may or may not actually be someone on the other end of the line when the character picks up the phone, but if there is, the distraction will last longer.
I Need to Go Iron My Dog is the inverse of this, where the character offers some excuse for their own departure; if the real purpose is to distance himself from what the others are saying and doing, it's Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee. If a character tags along the unwanted character to get him out, it's an Escort Distraction. Compare and contrast with Look Behind You and We Need a Distraction. Was Just Leaving ensues when a character doesn't bother to come up with a pretense for wanting someone else gone.
- In one Knights of the Dinner Table strip, Dave is sent on an elaborate and extremely convoluted snack run to get him out of the house while the others eat a pizza in his absence.
- A Running Gag in Nodwick, employed whenever Arthax and Yeagar need to get Piffany out of the way so they can do something horrid to Nodwick behind her back.
- After Shrek is... uh, wounded by an arrow, Fiona tells Donkey to get blue flowers with red thorns so he would leave them alone. Donkey then stumbles upon a field chock full of blue flowers with red thorns... and subsequently complains that his task would be easier were he not colorblind.
- In Shrek the Third, Shrek insults Artie so that he angrily leaves the room, stopping Charming from killing him.
- Bolt: When Mittens threatens Bolt with Styrofoam, he comments "That's a weird place to put a piano" which distracts her long enough for Bolt to knock the Styrofoam from her hands.
- A Bug's Life: To distract P.T. Flea, Francis yells out "Hey, look! Money!"
- Capture the Flag: Amy distracts the night guard at the retirement home with a rock so she and Mike can get inside. He ignores the first rock, but investigates the second one, and when doing so discovers three of the residents are secretly building their own rocket.
- The Producers: Used at the beginning of the 2005 version. Max tells Leo to use the bathroom while he deals with the octogenarian nymphomaniac at his door. Leo uses the bathroom but gets done before Max can get rid of the old bat. Leo then comments on how sorry he was to interrupt him 'feeling up the old lady'.
- In the film Old Yeller, when the mother is treating Old Yeller for an injury from a wild boar, she claims that she needs a horned toad and asks the younger brother to go get one.
- A Few Good Men has this exchange:
Capt. West: Commander Galloway, why don't you get yourself a cup of coffee.Galloway: Thank you sir, I'm fine.Capt. West: Commander, I'd like you to leave the room so we can talk about you behind your back.Galloway: Certainly, sir.
- In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore points out various pieces of landscaping to Fudge in order to keep him from noticing Harry and Hermione sneaking behind him to rescue Buckbeak.
- In Gray Matters, when it's in the middle of the night and Sam tries to get Gray to go to bed so that he can be alone with Charlie:
Sam: Don't you have that big meeting in the morning to get to?Gray: What big meeting?Sam: The big meeting in the morning that you have to get to? That big meeting?Gray: Oh, that big meeting!
- In Sherlock Holmes (2009), Sherlock sends the policemen inside the recently deceased Sir Thomas's home to look for bath salts while he continues searching by his lonesome for a secret compartment where Thomas kept his occult paraphernalia.
- In the western spoof Support Your Local Sheriff, Mayor Perkins wants to discuss the hiring of the new sheriff in private, and so sends all the non-important hangers-on out to watch an ongoing brawl in the street.
- In The Losers, Jensen tells the occupant to the office he's trying to sneak into that security needs the man's help dealing with the individual who has been exposing himself in the elevator, who happens to be Jensen himself accidentally interrupted in the middle of a costume change.
- A complex example from Star Trek: First Contact involves Captain Picard being ordered by Starfleet to take the Enterprise and patrol the Romulan Neutral Zone to make sure the Romulans don't try to take advantage of the Borg invasion of Federation space. Picard and Riker quickly deduce that the rather uneventful assignment was set up just to keep Picard away from the battle and from letting his intimate history with the Borg complicate the fight.
- Used as a Running Gag in The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, in order to get the Lawful Stupid Paladin out of the way so the party can torture an enemy (or innocent) for information. At one point, the party captures a demon who points out the Paladin's presence, who then invokes I Need to Go Iron My Dog.
- Shows up in Kelly's Heroes when Kelly enlists the services of Crapgame.
Kelly: I want to talk to you [...] about a deal.Crapgame: What kind of deal?Kelly: The private kind.Crapgame: Yeah?... Henry, go get yourself a haircut.
- When Sulley and Mike go into Monsters, Inc. to get Boo back home, they run into Randall, who asks them if they know anything about the child who got loose. To deflect attention from themselves, Mike suggests that "if anyone's involved, I'd put my money on Waxford." So while Randall goes to talk to Waxford, Sulley and Mike slink away.
- In The Hunt for Red October, Dr. Petrov, the chief physician, is the only Red October officer not part of Ramius' defection plan. So, during dinner in the officers' mess, Borodin orders him to compile his radiation tests so that they can privately discuss their plan.
- In Lazer Team, the Worg-controlled Mindy arrives to her mother's cabin, where the titular Ragtag Bunch of Misfits is hiding out. Her dad opens the door. She hands him bags full of take-out and says she brought food as a distraction. He ignores what (and how) she says and grabs the bags, claiming to be starving.
- Intentionally weaponized in Guardians of the Galaxy: Just as Ronan the Accuser was about to thrust his Power Stone-equipped hammer onto Xandar's surface, Peter Quill starts dancing to "Ooh, Child", leaving the former briefly speechless; then Quill reveals that he was just distracting Ronan, so that Rocket could finish repairing the Hadron Enforcer, which Drax later uses to destroy Ronan's hammer and remove the Power Stone from it.
- In The Peanut Butter Falcon, Tyler and Eleanor have Zak practice holding his breath underwater so they can argue about him.
- In Season of Miracles, Richard's mother sends him outside to play when she gets a phone call telling her that Richard's father has gone missing in Vietnam and may be dead.
- In Heidi there is a scene where Mr. Sesemann wants to speak about Heidi with his daughter Klara, so he (somewhat clumsily) makes up an excuse by asking Heidi to bring him a glass of water. This errand turns then into a real adventure for Heidi.
- Harry Potter:
- Several adults commit variations of this throughout, with several less than comic results in the 5th and 7th books.
- Subverted in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Mr.Weasley pulls Harry aside to tell him that Sirius Black is after him after Mrs.Weasley's attempts to hide this tidbit from him.
- And in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Luna does this in the Great Hall to let a fatigued Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, slip out of the room to be by themselves after Voldemort is defeated.
- In "The Tower of the Elephant" (a Conan the Barbarian story) Taurus sends Conan to check whether there are guards in the garden. Conan suspects this, but obeys. Taurus shuts the door and gets killed.
- Lord Vetinari of the Discworld series is fond of doing this with committees. When an emergency is afoot, he will gather all the people who think they should have a say in how to deal with it, carefully organize them into teams, and let them bicker about what color the committee newsletter should be while Vetinari and the other competent people actually see about solving the problem.
- The Supernaturalist had a character toss an 'ID card' note into the air, then shooting (nonlethally) the bad guys when they watched it go. Crosses with Hey, Catch!.
- Once in The Dresden Files, Harry needs to pick a lock. Since Officer Murphy is there, he tells her to "look at that zeppelin." Subverted in that Murphy knows exactly what he's doing, but complies anyway so that she doesn't actually see him doing anything illegal.
- The gamebook Quest for the Cities of Gold has the protagonist captured by some Aztecs who intend to make him into a Human Sacrifice. The "time travel rules" prohibit the hero from time travelling while being observed, so he distracts the guard by convincing him to check out a supposed noise outside.
- In one episode, Phoebe uses the word "Crummies" to make Chandler flee the room.
- A slight subversion where Ross distracts Rachel, despite having nothing made up to distract her with. After a short time of Ross trying to think of a conversation, Rachel assumes that he wants to get back together with her.
- In Titus, when the titular character is being annoyed by his less-than-smart brother during a car ride, he shouts, "Dave, cow!", causing Dave to look frantically for the cow and moo at it. Later in the same episode, the same trick is tried, and Dave replies, "That doesn't work every time, you know", before surreptitiously looking out the window for the cow.
- In one episode, JD wants to talk to Elliot, but The Todd is in the room. To get rid of him, JD mimes throwing a ball into the hallway. Todd, naturally, goes to find it then, inexplicably, returns after JD and Elliot's conversation and hands JD a tennis ball.
- He tries it again with the Janitor. The Janitor asks what he's doing as the Todd runs past, looking for the ball.
- The IT Crowd: Subverted multiple times in episode four. Roy at one point gets stuck under a desk, with no way to escape because the employee to whom the desk belongs has returned to it. Moss is called in to distract said employee using this trope, but he fails miserably at it because his attempt is only slightly better than literally just saying "Go look at the distraction!". Eventually, Jen successfully pulls it off by claiming that there's a shirtless construction worker outside, a sure distraction for the all-female employees on the floor... and it turns out there really was a shirtless construction worker, but hardly an attractive one.
- In iOwe You, Sam tells Freddie his relative got hurt, sending him running back to his apartment, so she could cry to Carly without him seeing.
- In iQuit iCarly, Sam distracts Carly's group by calling out Ryan Seacrest. They fall for it, prompting Sam to occupy the scaffolding they both wanted to shoot a video from first. It's repeated a few seasons later in an I Need to Go Iron My Dog fashion when Freddie's control freak (to put it kindly) of a mother walks in on Spencer, his girlfriend, and T-Bo playing a zombie slaying game. Spencer yells "Ryan Seacrest" and he and his date run back into his apartment.
- NewsRadio: Dave helps Lisa get rid of a Japan-obsessed Matthew: "Do you know anyone who knows how sushi is made? Because Joe was wondering..."
- In Murder Most Horrid episode "A Determined Woman", Dawn French's character, who has travelled back in time to prevent herself killing her husband, sends him out of the house on errands for random implausible items (a specific sort of string and soup from Uruguay). These items of course turn out to be somewhat less than random as they are all present in the house already and his presenting them to the wrong version of her is part of what leads to his murder in the first place.
- Frasier: When Niles is dueling his wife's German fencing instructor, he points offscreen and yells some German-sounding nonsense to buy some time.
- Merlin has the most common variant of this trope be asking someone to "go get some water".
- On El Chavo del ocho had a little conversation that ended outsmarted.
- In Lois & Clark, a temporarily blinded Superman is staying with Lois, who doesn't know his secret yet. When Jonathan and Martha Kent show up at Lois's apartment (greeting their son with an awkward "Hello, Superman"), Superman suddenly requests oolong tea. Jonathan takes the hint and ushers Lois out to the store for tea so that Superman can be alone with his mom.
- Red Dwarf
"Excuse me, could I please just distract you for a brief moment?"
- Top Gear: during one challenge related to the fallen British sports car industry, the hosts were engaged in a dispute with the producers over the value of the resultant cars. Richard Hammond's car window refused to shut, leading to him pointing the cameraman in another direction while he tried to quickly drag it back into position. Even Jeremy laughed.
- In one episode of All in the Family a neighbor lady wants to tell Edith something privately; she starts describing her sister's giving birth to her baby in explicit detail, causing Archie to flee. As soon as he's out of the room she stops the story and begins to discuss the real reason for her coming over.
- Babylon 5: One of the security guys on immigration duty was becoming annoyed with some religious pilgrims. He pointed the other direction: "Hey look! It's a comet!"
- The West Wing: In the second episode, Margaret is bugging Leo about something, so he hands her a picture and says "Here, look at this. It's a baby with a new mother." She predictably melts.
- In one episode of Even Stevens, Louis yells "Look, a diversion!" which is enough to fool the security guard they're trying to get away from.
- Murder, She Wrote: In "Murder in Milan", Jessica distracts a pack of paparazzi by saying "Isn't that Mel Gibson?" and pointing behind them.
- Deadliest Catch: Season 11 opened with the Hillstrands lighting up thousands of dollars worth of fireworks (safely, on land) to the delight of "practically the entire population of Unalaska" which was just a distraction so Sig, Edgar, and Jake Anderson could move the Cape Caution as a prank so Wild Bill would think he'd gone senile.
- In Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019), the heroes are dealing with a giant Beebo when an attempt to trip it up leads to the wire just easily passing through its legs. When Batwoman hits an Eureka Moment, they realize that it's nothing but a distraction.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, characters who are lawful and/or good tend to be especially susceptible to this... especially Paladins or Monks, who MUST keep to the straight and narrow or lose their powers. Often, the player will realize it is in their best interests to be easily distracted when their friends want to do something immoral that will benefit them in some way, leading to a sort of selective ADD.
- In Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Eli Vance sends his daughter Alyx to make some tea for him, so that he can privately talk to Gordon Freeman about their "mutual friend," the G-Man. Unfortunately, just when it looks like we're coming up on The Reveal, Alyx comes back with the tea, and Eli promises Gordon that they'll talk more later. "Later" never comes, as the next time we see Eli, he's rather unpleasantly killed by a Combine Advisor.
- Mr. Hopp's Playhouse: While stepping on the wrong toys at the wrong time will definitely lead you-know-who right to you, the toys can also serve as a distraction; it makes it easier to control where you want him to end up.
- In Tales of the Abyss, when the group is looking for more information on Largo possibly being Natalia's father, they plan on keeping her out of the loop at the moment, and claim that they're going to Chesedonia to investigate the fake Scorer. When the fake Scorer (Sync) greatly upsets Anise by reminding her of her responsibility for Ion's death, using Ion's voice, the party has Natalia accompany Anise around the marketplace. They notice that Anise is somewhat upset at being used as the bait.
- In the first season of Telltale's Sam & Max, Max is asked by Sam to distract a body guard so Sam can assault the president. One of Max's distractions involve shouting "hey, look at Sam!"
- In one of the sidequests in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel which has Rean trying to bust Rex for selling candid photos, he corners him at the Old Schoolhouse. Rex then distracts Rean by asking what Alisa's doing in a swimsuit. Rean soon realizes he fell for the oldest trick in the book!
- Invoked in Borderlands 3 with Zane's Digi-Clone skill. Zane will occasionally attempt to convince his enemies to focus on his hologram while he keeps shooting.
"Everyone get the new guy! Idiots.""I'm the fake! I'm the faaake!"
- On the second night of the Urashima Woman case in Spirit Hunter: NG, the investigation trio work out a system for two of them to sneak into the Urashima Lake while the third distracts the security guard with a phone call. You can leave again and change partners as many times as you want, and the guard never catches on to anything suspicious even after multiple phone calls.
- Seen in the webcomic Narbonic during the "Lovelace Affair" storyline.
Dave: I'm back. Artie, can you explain why we need vegan burritos right now?
- Emergency Exit: Played hilariously straight in this strip.
Bob: Look! A distraction!Eddie: Ooh! Where?! I collect those!
- Mac Hall. "Quick, run home! Your mother is on fire!"
- In Chirault, at one point Astrid sends Teeko to go collect some water from upstream, leaving him and Kiran alone for some interrogation.
- In General Protection Fault, Fooker, wanting to greet the apparently beautiful woman who comes to his apartment first, tells Chuck that someone is keying his car. He immediately comes to regret it when it turns out to be Trudy.
- Hella Jeff does this◊ to Sweet Bro in Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff by asking him where his socks are, which leads to Bro going into an endless rant about Jeff's inability to locate his socks. Jeff uses the opportunity to take Bro's car from outside while Bro is ranting and go drive it directly into a river.
- Rather than suffer the bad cuisine at The Golden Trough, Florence of Freefall decides to go kill a deer to eat. Problem is, Helix puts human emotionalism about animals over the needs of his carnivore friend. After using his survival programming to get him to compromise on "roadkill", she distracts him while going to kill a deer. With a section of road.
- The Demonic Duck from El Goonish Shive is an expert in "distraction magic," and when it goes on strike attempts to summon it fail to serve as efficient distractions.
- In Forest Hill, Colin uses a videotape to distract his son, Hunter, so that he can talk to his daughter, Tanya, about Hunter being molested at school.
- Linkara has his method of going "Look at the pretty bunny! Look at the pretty bunny!" while waving an adorable rabbit sculpture in front of the camera whenever the logic in the terrible comic he's reviewing falls apart.
- Lampshaded in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, when Goku throws two small energy blasts to distract Freeza so he can attack from behind:
Freeza: *dodge* What? Well, that's just distracting! *dodge* And that's just annoyingly distracting!
- To Boldly Flee: I'm a distraction, of pure satisfaction...
- Nash once did a WTFIWWY episode on fails pertaining to the Olympics. He starts by discussing the history of the games, and shows footage of the first televised Olympics, the 1936 Games in Berlin. Awkwardness ensues.
Nash: Going back to 1936 with the first live broadcast of —(Video footage of Hitler at the Olympics appears.)Nash: OKAY! (He quickly cuts to footage of a bunny.) Here's a bunny! Everybody look at the bunny! The...the Not-Hitler Bunny!
- During The Nostalgia Critic's review of Les Misérables, he (alongside Paw Dugan and Oancitizen) was interrupted by brentalfloss, who wanted to participate in the review while impersonating Russell Crowe's Javert. The three critics tried to get rid of him by telling him to get a PhD in medicine before he can join them.
- The Simpsons:
- Reverend Lovejoy once got Ned Flanders to leave by telling him there was an oil stain in the parking lot that looked just like St. Barnabus.
- Bart gets the Red Hot Chili Peppers out of Moe's by telling Moe to look at a wall. Moe does so and isn't sure what it is he is supposed to be seeing, but continues looking regardless. He even charges Homer to do the same.
- Another time:
Milhouse: Hey look it's Bart! And he's doing stuff!Bart: Hey, look at me! [dances around]Skinner Bart! Stop creating a diversion and get out of here!
- After receiving a hospital bill, Homer shouted about a bear and tried to run away. He didn't go far, given the reason he needed medical help in the first place. Also, there really was a bear.
- Family Guy
- Lois gets Brian (the dog) to leave the room by throwing a ball through the doorway.
- In "Wasted Talent", in order to win a piano competition, Lois takes Peter drinking at a teenager's house. When the cops catch the two of them:
Cop: Aren't you two a little old to be underage drinking?Peter: Uh... uh... Lois! Look over there! (to cops) Run!
- In A Pinky and the Brain Christmas, Pinky shouts "Look! A decoy!" to Shotzy the elf.
- In Beavis and Butt-Head, Butt-head unsuccessfully tries to get Beavis off the couch so he can sprawl out on the couch by himself. When Beavis refuses to leave, Butt-head tells him "Hey Beavis, my uncle was over earlier, and he left a 6-foot poop in the toilet, and didn't flush". Beavis goes to check it out, Butt-head sprawls out on the couch.
- Invader Zim:
- In one episode Dib shouts "Hey! Look at that garbage can!". Zim turns, while Dib rams an Incredibly Obvious Bug into Zim's computer. The bug then activates a noisy drill to insert itself, leaving a huge hole. Zim: "Yes. It is rather impressive, that can."
- Dib's method of distracting the Pig-thing in "Gaz: Taster of Pork": "Hey! Look! It's something a Pig-thing would like!"
- From Phineas and Ferb, "The Lake Nose Monster": "Hey Ferb! It's a Red Herring! I say we follow it and see where it leads us..."
- From The Tick, "The Tick vs. Arthur's Bank Account": "Hi, I'm Arthur, and this is my diversion."
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
Azula: Ahem! Zuko, could I have a word with you?
Zuko: Can't you see we're busy?
Azula: Oh, Mai... Ty Lee needs your help untangling her braid.
Mai: (completely deadpan) Sounds pretty serious.
- Also Lampshaded and parodied in "The Ember Island Players."
Not!Azula: "Look Zuko! It's your honor!"Not!Zuko: "WHERE!?"
- Also Lampshaded and parodied in "The Ember Island Players."
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy is about to discover one of Heloise's Jimmy dolls. In order to distract him, she quickly shouts "Look, a meteor!" It works.
- Adventure Time: In "Hitman", Ice King tries this when the unflinching assassin, Scorcher turns on him.
- Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
- In the first episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic distracts one of Robotnik's more dim-witted robots simply by running up to it and telling it, "I'm over there!"
- In the B-plot of the Sonic Boom episode, "You and I Bee-Come One", Dr. Eggman goes on vacation to the Villain's retreat. At one point, he participates in a limbo contest, then distracts T.W. Barker, Willy Walrus, and the Weasel Bandit Leader by telling them to look at a solar eclipse, so he can cheat without them looking. Barker looks up at the sun and says, "Wait a sec! You're not supposed to look directly into a solar eclipse!", then sees Eggman cheating by crawling under the limbo stick, which Charlie sees and scolds him for.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Sweet and Elite", Rarity has spent most of the episode trying to keep her small-town roots a secret from the Canterlot elite. She tries to distract Fancy Pants before Twilight Sparkle can blab that Rarity is "the friend from Ponyville" who made her dress, saying "I'd like to show you... uh, this thing that's over there, on the other side of the room."
- In "The Crystal Empire, Part 2", Applejack is tasked with keeping the crystal ponies' morale high by making sure they don't learn that the Crystal Heart hasn't actually been found yet. AJ is also a terrible liar, so every time somepony asks her about the Crystal Heart, her response is something along the lines of "Hey, look! Food! Look! A jousting match!"
- In Drawn Together Clara tells Foxxy that Denzel Washington is out the room so she can stop Wooldor from telling that Clara is keeping him sick. It works. Twice. And the third time Denzel DOES show up. And when he starts telling Foxxy that Clara is keeping Wooldor sick she manages to distract Foxxy by saying that there's another Denzel Washington with two penises.
Foxxy: DOUBLE DONG DENZEL!
- Dilbert does this mercilessly in one scene of the episode where Dilbert and the building security guard switch jobs for a day. Apu is dealing Blackjack in the office that night (It Makes Sense in Context) and on one hand every players except Loud Howard distracts him to look at his hole card.
Loud Howard: Look Apu, there's a wall behind you!...What Am I doing wrong?
- The VeggieTales episode "Lyle the Kindly Viking" features an entire musical number in which Sven and Otar make up increasingly ridiculous things to distract Olaf.
Look, Olaf! There's a turtle
And he's wearing pink pajamas
And he's got a cowboy hat upon his lid!
Look, Olaf, very close, and see
He's riding on a llama
And he's chasing down a herd of giant squid!
- The Fairly Oddparents: Timmy uses this on occasion, on Crocker for example ("Look! A child in pain!"). Double-subverted when he tries it on Francis:
Timmy: Uh, look! A rottweiler!Francis: I'm not falling for that one.Timmy: You're right. It's just a brick wall.Francis: A brick wall! Where?!
- Futurama: While Professor Farnsworth removes Bender's head to work on his body, Bender tells Amy to look at him ("Look, I'm being entertaining!") while the body picks her pocket.
- Looney Tunes: In Frigid Hare, Bugs Bunny distracts Playboy Penguin by shouting "Look! A four-legged airy-plane!" and pointing up. When Playboy looks up, Bugs kicks him off the ice shelf.
- In the short, "Minister Golf" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Sports Shorts", when Baby Plucky plays miniature golf with his dad, he tells him to look at a helicopter to distract him while he throws his ball into the gingerbread house, and a blimp to distract him while he throws his ball into the windmill. When Baby Plucky tries this a third time by telling his dad to look at a rocket ship, he doesn't fall for it. At the end of the short, Plucky in his normal age distracts Buster, Babs, and Hamton by telling them to look at Julia Roberts.