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Historical Person Punchline

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"That man's name? Albert Einstein."
— The original Atheist Professor Copypasta

In a work set in the past, there's a twist at the end revealing that one of the supporting characters, whose identity has been hidden from the audience, is actually a famous historical figure.

Can overlap with Young Future Famous People and In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous. The Been There, Shaped History person may be especially prone to having this kind of supporting character.

Sister trope to You Know Who Said That?, when a similar reveal is used for a quotation.

Not to be confused with You Will Be Beethoven, in which a time-travelling character becomes a famous historical figure.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto is about Cesare Borgia as a 16-year-old student, and has him meeting a lot of people who would later become influential earlier than he's known to have done in real life. A few people who weren't already well-known at the time of the story are introduced this way:
    • A monk in a procession trips, causing Angelo to notice him. It turns out he's not really a monk, but a spy. His name? Niccolò Machiavelli.
    • That young student with his mentor who's explaining the art in Pisa Cathedral to him? The chapter ends with, "Come on, we've got work to do Michelangelo!" It turns out he's also Angelo's childhood friend, and Angelo remembers him and calls him over when the students need a repair to the intimate parts of a statue they broke while sword fighting inside the Archbishop's palace.
    • Lorenzo de'Medici says there's someone he wants Cesare to meet, but... who's that lurking, bearded stranger with the notebook? Could that be him? Cesare follows him down a hallway, and finds his letters, but... why are they written so strangely? What language is this? Oh, the mirror...! Finally, the stranger comes in and introduces himself, as Leonardo, from the town of Vinci.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Mouse and Duck Comics:
    • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is rife with famous historical persons, but their identities generally get revealed right away. There are exceptions though:
      • In The Buckaroo of the Badlands, Scrooge befriends a young man who chose to become a cowboy instead of continuing his political career. Scrooge inspires him to go back into politics. The story's last panel reveals this fellow's initials to be T. R..
      • In The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff, Scrooge meets a lot of legends of The Wild West: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, P. T. Barnum, and the Daltons. And a Native American who escaped from his reservation and now performs in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He is in the end revealed to be no other than Geronimo, the famous Apache leader. He does mention his name well before the reveal, but it is not the name he became famous with, and therefore a Genius Bonus. Scrooge, by the way, recognizes this name immediately.
    • And there are at least three Italian stories. In the 1987 Mickey Mouse story Topolino e il ritorno al passato, Mickey and Goofy time travel to 16th century Saint-Rémy where they meet a young boy named Michel who accidentally follows them on their return to the present. Michel, who only speaks in rhyme, spends a day in the modern world. Before he is sent back to the past he secretly rips out random pages from history books and hides them in his pants, leaving Mickey and co. to wonder what he'd to with these fragments of knowledge. It turns out that Michel is Michel de Nostredame - Nostradamus.
    • The 1995 story Dai diari delle antenate - Daisy Holmes e lo studio in rosso is about Daisy Duck's grand-grand-grandmother who works as a private teacher for a little kid called Artie. Artie's father's bearings (that are in his studio, whose walls are painted red) are stolen, but Daisy and Artie manage to solve the case together. The story ends with a flashforward with a now adult Artie visiting Daisy to show his first book, whose main character shares his last name with her. If you didn't get it yet, "Artie" is Arthur Conan Doyle.
    • In the 2018 story Paperino Paperotto e la biblioteca del mistero, a young Donald Duck is interested to stories about ghosts inhabiting the town's old library and wants to catch one. The story begins with the presentation of a new transfer student, a boy named Allan whose dad has to move very often forcing him to change multiple schools. He wants to become a movie director, but doesn't know what kind of movie he should make. That night, Donald and his friends discover that there is no ghost in the library, but an alien robot that got stranded on Earth and wants to go home. After they help the robot, he erases their memories, making them believe it was only a dream. Next day, Donald tells Allan about his "dream" of an alien who wants to go back to his planet, and he's interested to use it for a film. Then dad comes by to bring him at home, and it's revealed that Allan is his middle name: the first is Steven.
  • One instance that appears in the comic adaptation of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, but not in the TV series proper: the German pilot that attempts to gun down Indy as he is passing messages between the Allied trenches during the Battle of Verdun is revealed to be a young Herman Göring.note 
  • In one scene of From Hell, Abberline has a brief conversation with a young boy named "Alexander" who believes in magic, and flat-out tells Abberline that he's wrong for doubting the supernatural. Though the scene itself doesn't quite make it clear, the appendix reveals that the young boy is a young Aleister Crowley, who was born "Edward Alexander Crowley" before changing his name to "Aleister" as an adult.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Shanghai Knights: The kid who's hanging around for most of the movie turns out to be (an anachronistically older) Charlie Chaplin (and Artie turns out to be Arthur Conan Doyle, but that's not exactly hidden, given how many Sherlock Holmes references there are).
  • The boy in Shakespeare in Love who loves Titus Andronicus for its gruesome mutilations and vows that when he grows up he is going write plays full of murders and decapitations is John Webster, the writer of The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi.
  • In the third act of Apollo 13 (set in 1970), Jim Lovell's wife Marilyn brings two of Jim's work buddies (who the audience hasn't seen yet) to watch over Jim's old mother Blanche, and distract her from the TV in case that reentry fails and Jim is killed.
    Marilyn: Blanche, these nice men are going to watch the television with you. This is Neil Armstrong, and this is Buzz Aldrin.
    Blanche: Are you boys in the space program too?
  • At the end of Inside Llewyn Davis, Llewyn is revealed to have been sharing a billing with Bob Dylan for the concert shown at the beginning of the film.
  • Variation in the Croatian film Josef: The identity papers of a non-com KIA are taken and passed between several Croatian soldiers serving in the Austrian army during World War I. The last one takes on the identity of "Josef" post-war, presumably becoming the historical Josip Broz Tito, leader of Communist Yugoslavia.
  • A rather odd example happens in Battle of the Smithsonian: The protagonists travel to the end of World War II by entering The Kiss photograph; here the main character loses his mobile phone which is found by a young sailor. The Stinger reveals that the sailor brought the phone home to study and his name is Joey Motorola. Here's the rub: there never was a Joey Motorola; the company already existed in 1945 and it was not named after its founder — the name is a Portmanteau of motor and Victrola.
  • In the made-for-TV film Riverworld, one of the first people encountered by Hale on the titular world is an arrogant Roman who calls himself Lucius and speaks The Queen's Latin. Later on, during the gladiatorial combat set up by the local warlord Valdemar. There, Lucius challenges Valdemar and kills him, despite Valdemar being armed and Lucius not. He then announces his full name to the crowd - Lucius Domitus Ahenobarbus, and says that some might know him better as Nero, immediately recognized by some other Romans in the crowd. He takes Valdemar's place as warlord and becomes the movie's Big Bad.
  • Parodied in Support Your Local Sheriff; the film ends with the deputy addressing the fourth wall and saying what happened next, ending with "...and then I go on to become one of the most beloved characters in Western folklore.". Then he poses.

  • In Vampire City a mysterious "God-like" Englishman who twice served as a Deus ex Machina is revealed in the end to be Lord Wellington.
  • In The Once and Future King King Arthur sends a young page, Tom of Newbold Revel, away from the coming final battle with Mordred, to preserve the memory of Camelot. Newbold Revel was the birthplace of Sir Thomas Malory. (Of course, this violates chronology wildly — but then, so does nearly everything else in the series.)
  • The first book of The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica ends with the reveal that the three protagonists John, Charles and Jack are John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Charles Williams and Clive Staples "Jack" Lewis.
  • Stephen Fry wrote a Christmas Sherlock Holmes pastiche called "The Adventure of the Laughing Jarvey". It features a decidedly un-festive Holmes and an author hoping to recover a stolen manuscript. By the end of the story the manuscript and the author have been identified and Holmes has had a change of heart about Christmas.
  • In the novelization of Back to the Future Part III, the little boy who hands Marty his gun belt and calls him "Mister" was revealed by bystander conversation to be D. W. Griffith, future film pioneer. This does not happen in the film proper, despite many trivia lists claims to the contrary.
  • In The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, the protagonists (real-life pulp authors Lester Dent and L. Ron Hubbard) are joined by a young man who only identifies himself as Bob. He learns a lot about pulp writing and the growing science fiction scene from them, and at the end he reveals his last name: Heinlein.
  • The Grimnoir Chronicles: An accountant (who helped in the climactic battle, explaining that he fought with the Gordon Highlanders in World War I), turns out to be Raymond Chandler.
  • Crusade in Jeans by Thea Beckman: The student who is rescued by the protagonist and taught mathematics with Arabic numerals turns out to be Fibonacci.
  • In Cure the Texas Fever by J.T. Edson, Waxahachie Smith is aided by a young man calling himself 'Frank Smith'. At the end of the novel, it is revealed that this 'Frank' is an impersonator who has been posing as Frank Smith to allow the real Frank Smith to travel to Texas unhindered. The impersonator's real name? Teddy Roosevelt.
  • "Despoilers of the Golden Empire" by Randall Garrett uses this in a way that is much more of a spoiler than usual, since the very fact of the story being set in the past and not the future is obscured by clever phrasing and unusual but not actually incorrect translations and transliterations up until the very last sentence... which reveals that the story isn't just a science fiction version of the conquest of the Inca, but the actual thing.
  • In TimeRiders, the cast stay in a dingy basement in Victorian London, with an aggressive landlord assisted by a young man named Bertie. Sal confides in him and the two grow attached to each other. Bertie is actually Herbert George Wells, and an entry from his journal is included in the end of The Mayan Prophecy written later in his life, in which he expresses disbelief in what he remembers of the Time Riders, but admits to using them as inspiration for "The Time Machine".
  • On Stranger Tides: a minor character is the de jure Spanish governor of Nassau, known to the pirates as Governor Sawney, but the pirates have the real power in the town and he's a bit of an enigma otherwise. Close to the end of the book, Jack Shandy puts some clues together and asks Sawney point-blank what his real name is. His answer: Juan Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who searched for the Fountain of Youth. Clearly he found it.
  • Outlander: Claire has a conversation with a kind, charming young frenchman. At the end of the conversation, he reveals that he is the Marquis de La Fayette.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 'Allo 'Allo!, Rene's mother in law discusses how she bought a painting off a Dutchman who cut off his ear when she refused to marry him. "I called him Bobby, Vincent sounded too poor."
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Comes the Inquisitor", the Vorlons send a human named Sebastian to act as their Inquisitor. He acts, sounds, and dresses like a late 19th century upper-class Englishman, and claims he was taken by the Vorlons to do their bidding and is kept in suspended animation when he is not needed. He explains at the end that he is indeed a 19th-century Englishman, and that he thought he was chosen for a special destiny, but was wrong. And history was not kind:
    Sebastian: Good luck to you in your holy cause, Captain Sheridan. May your choices have better results than mine — remembered not as a messenger. Remembered not as a reformer, not as a prophet, not as a hero, not even as Sebastian. Remembered only... as Jack.
  • Happens from time to time in Boardwalk Empire:
    • In the pilot Jimmy (at this point Nucky's driver) is left out while Nucky meets with the crime bosses of Chicago and New York City. While waiting, he has a long conversation with another young driver from Chicago (though born in Brooklyn) during which they discover that they have a lot in common. With the meeting over, they say their names before parting ways, and this Chicago driver's is no other but Al Capone.
    • In "Home", a teenager meets Chalky White and offers him a business deal. Chalky thinks that this is Nucky's way of testing his loyalty and sends the kid away after taunting him for his young age. The kid reunites then with Lucky Luciano and his business partners, revealing then that he is Meyer Lansky.
    • Averted in the second season with the introduction of "Benny", an odd 15-year old that is a pupil of Lansky. Benny appears for only a couple of episodes and is not until the next season when he shows up more and is also revealed to be a cold-blooded killer. Even then, his full name is not stated on screen and is only mentioned in the director's commentary.
    • Season 4 has an example with the reveal in mid-scene rather than at the end of it (when another, unrelated twist takes place):
      Supervisor Elliot: ...Who are you? Who is this child?
      Interrogator: You can address me as Acting Director Hoover.
      Supervisor Elliot: "Acting Director" of what?
      Interrogator: The Bureau of Investigation.
    • Straight again in the fifth season. After taking a hit in the 1929 Crash, Nucky decides to make up for his loses by switching Republicans for Democrats and convincing these to repeal Prohibition. The big fish that shows more interest in his offer? One Irishman from Boston, named Mr. Kennedy.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Timelash", a young man named Herbert gets caught up in one of the Doctor's adventures, which involves a war between worlds, an invisible man, a time machine, and Morlox — and in the end, of course, we learn that he's Herbert George Wells.
    • "The Shakespeare Code": William Shakespeare teams up with the Doctor and Martha. During the episode Shakespeare opens up about the death of his son and how it almost drove him mad and made him question Life, death and everything. At the end we have the punchline:
      Shakespeare: I got new ideas. Perhaps it is time for me to write about fathers and sons. In memory of my boy, my precious Hamnet.
      Martha: Wait, Hamnet?
      Shakespeare: That's him.
      Martha: Hamnet?
      Shakespeare: What's wrong with that?
    • An in-universe example is used in "The Magician's Apprentice". The episode begins with the Doctor reaching out to save a young boy caught in a minefield on a war-torn hellscape planet. The scene ends with the reveal that the planet is Skaro in the distant past and the boy is Davros.
  • The Canadian mystery series The Frankie Drake Mysteries had an episode where police officer Mary takes part in a radio broadcast used as a cover for a robbery. She bonds with radio tech Huey. At the end of the episode, Huey tells Mary he's gotten a job calling hockey games. He then tells her his real name is Foster Hewitt who would become known as one of the most famous voices in all of Canada.
  • Friday the 13th: The Series: In the Time Travel episode "The Baron's Bride", Micki and Ryan track down a vampire with the assistance of a 19th-century Irishman named Abraham, revealed at the end to be Bram Stoker.
  • Legends of Tomorrow:
    • In "The Magnificent Eight", the team travels to an American town in 1871. There, Stein finds out that the young son of a local British barmaid has consumption. Unwilling to stand by and let him die, he has Gideon synthesize a cure for tuberculosis and gives it to the boy, imploring the mother to destroy what's left after he recovers. The boy gets better and tells Stein his name - Herbert George Wells. Incredulous, Stein confirms that his name is "H.G. Wells". The boy ends up liking this form of his name.
    • In "Left Behind", Ray, Sara, and Kendra are left behind in 1958. Two years later, we're shown Ray teaching a physics class at a university. One of his students, whom he calls "Mr. Gates" mentions his young son "William". Surprised, Ray blurts out, "Your son is Bill Gates?". The student considers it and admits he likes "Bill" more than "William".
    • In "Raiders of the Lost Art", the Legends travel to 1967 and discover their missing former captain Rip Hunter directing a thesis sci-fi film based on his adventures through time (although Rip had his mind wiped and thinks he's a film student named Phil Gasmer). His prop master and friend is a bespectacled bearded guy named George. Not much is made of this seemingly bit character, who is freaked out when blaster bolts start flying and decides he doesn't want to be in the film business anymore. The problem? He's goddamned George Lucas! Now, Lucas is a footnote in history, becoming a pretty good insurance salesman instead. Suddenly, with no more Indiana Jones or Star Wars, Nate and Ray lose their knowledge and abilities, since both of them were inspired by Lucas's films as kids. They manage to get Lucas to change his mind, suddenly regaining what they lost.
  • The German television series Löwengrube (Lion Pit) bases on this, as it tells the history of the Munich middle class Grandauer family from the 1870s to the 1960s, following them through two world wars and the post-war episodes. One of the various examples would be at the dawn of the first world war. In the police station (where the family patriarch works) a certain Austrian artist applies for German citizenship because he feels very German. Around the same time, the Grandauer's son (a preteen at that time) is seen being buddies with a short and bespectacled dorky kid from his class, called Himmler, Heinrich.
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Election Day", a little girl who tells the unsuccessful suffragist candidate how inspiring she was is revealed at the end to be Agnes Macphail, who would successfully run for parliament in 1921.
  • New Amsterdam (2008), "Soldier's Heart": Walt the orderly turns out to be Walt Whitman.
  • Parodied in one episode of the short-lived Oliver Beene. One of Oliver's friends is a young boy named "Bill Gates". The Narrator (who's Oliver as an adult) points out that it's not that Bill Gates - this one grew up to work at Radio Shack.
  • Outlander: Claire has a conversation with a rather charming man who amiably discusses medicine and philosophy for over three minutes of screen time. At the end of the interaction, she finds out that the man is the infamous Benedict Arnold.
  • A few Quantum Leap episodes:
    • "How the Tess Was Won": The main plot of the episode is a "Shaggy Dog" Story. The real reason for the leap is that the guitar-playing kid whose name Sam doesn't know, and who he's been calling "buddy", turns out to be Buddy Holly, who needs a push on the lyrics to "Peggy Sue".
    • "The Boogieman": the kid to whom Sam keeps making Stephen King allusions (or, at least, to whom he presumably narrates these allusions after the All Just a Dream reveal) turns out to be "Stevie" King himself.
    • This also shows up as the punchline to a few brief jokes: Sam gives real estate advice to Donald Trump, shows dance moves to Michael Jackson, and performs the Heimlich Maneuver on the doctor it's named after.
    • Done in a roundabout way in "The Leap Between the States" when Sam leaps into one of his ancestors, a Union soldier during the Civil War. Near the end of the episode one of the characters, a runaway slave, discusses the surname he wants to take once he's free. Since being a free man makes him feel like royalty, he chooses the name King...and Al confirms the young man is the great-grandfather of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • In the short-lived show The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, the protagonists meet a young American boy named Al, deaf in one ear, who makes amazing inventions and is able to reverse-engineer a hovering machine from the future (or the past; not sure about this one). When leaving, he reveals that Al is a shortened form of his middle name — Alva. Yep, that's Thomas Alva Edison.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Time's Arrow": Jack the bellboy turns out to be Jack London. Interestingly, it's Mark Twain who tells him to go to Alaska, mostly to get rid of him.
  • Given its Edutainment nature, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles usually introduced its historical figures right away. The exception is the 6 year-old kid Indy and company find in Congo, January 1917 and name Barthélemy after one of their fallen comrades, who is only identified as Barthélemy Boganda by the old Indy in the episode's epilogue. Since the Book Ends were deleted when the show was recut and released in home video, Boganda now remains unidentified.

    Video Games 
  • In Live A Live, Oboromaru is only told that the prisoner he's been sent to rescue is "an important person", and he turns out to be a light-hearted but determined guy wielding a gun. After defeating Ode Iou, he reveals himself to be Sakamoto Ryōma, and gives you the option to join him if you want.
  • The ending of Saints Row IV reveals that the narrator is actually Jane Austen, who had been abducted via time travel by Zinyak and released from stasis by the Boss.
  • In Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, the ending reveals that Dwight, the teenager who is listening the protagonist's story, is a young Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, the Mission Control Dr. Roman is obsessed with Magi☆Mari, a virtual Japanese idol. Later on, it's revealed that he's King Solomon, meaning he once again committed his transgressions regarding both foreign women and false idols (doubly so in this case, since Magi☆Mari turns out to be Merlin) in the later parts of his life, just updated for the modern day.
  • Assassin's Creed usually makes no bones about who a given character really is since it's mostly a historical fiction series, with conspiracy thriller and some sci-fi mixed in for each one. There are a few notable exceptions, though, such as in Black Flag where it turns out that the ostensibly fictional James Kidd is actually Mary Read, one of the more famous lady pirates in history—her story as being a lost son of Captain Kidd is cover for her Assassin activities. Much later in the series, in Odyssey, the quest line centered on Socrates and Ancient Greek philosophy concludes with the Eagle-Bearer having a conversation with a young prospective philosopher who ends the discussion contemplating what he'll become known as later in life when he becomes as important and famous as Socrates, all but deciding on Plato.
  • Shadow Hearts: Covenant. A mysterious man called Thomas is a minor ally that appears in Wales and claims he's a British spy investigating Sapientes Gladio. He offers his help in opposing the secret society. Later, his full name is given as "Thomas Edward Lawrence" AKA Lawrence of Arabia.

    Western Animation 
  • A time-travel episode of The Fairly OddParents! ("Father Time") had a little boy called Billy talking about computers and being called crazy. At one point, somebody goes "Oh, that Billy Gates!"
  • More "Person From Historical Fiction Punchline", but works in the same manner: In the Back to the Future episode "Roman Holiday", the characters are in Ancient Rome and get some help from a slave named Judah who turns out to be a damn good charioteer. At the end he reveals his full name: Judah Ben-Hur.
  • In one of Brian and Stewie's time travel adventures on Family Guy, Stewie sees a street performer he assumes is Charlie Chaplin and gives him the money he needs to pursue his dreams, but his "Danke" makes Brian worry he was actually Adolf Hitler. Stewie realizes his mistake but blithely dismisses Brian's concerns as this was "before all the crazy stuff".
  • Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Simpsons Christmas Stories". After telling the nativity story to the Church congregation, Homer concludes with a dramatic "And did you know, that little baby Jesus grew up to be...Jesus?"