Follow TV Tropes


Holding Both Sides of the Conversation

Go To
Nothing suspicious here!
Woody: Oh, hi Buzz! Why don't you say hello to the guys over there?
"Buzz": Hi ya, fellas. To infinity and beyond!

Let's say we have Bob, Carol, and Alice. This trope is for when Bob is pretending to have a conversation with Alice, even though Alice isn't actually there (or in certain cases may not even exist). The purpose of this is to convince Carol that Alice is actually there, to maintain some lie Bob is pulling. Bob may do this by holding a one-sided conversation with "Alice", or he may even attempt to imitate Alice's voice and hold both sides of the conversation. Depending on the situation, this may involve Bob actually partially/fully disguising himself as Alice to further the ploy.

May also involve that character changing clothes or seating positions to further the absurdity of the one-sided conversation.

Can involve a Paper-Thin Disguise, Of Corpse He's Alive, and Bad "Bad Acting". When done while on the phone, this is a Phoney Call. Can overlap with …But He Sounds Handsome (where Bob is actually pretending to be Alice, and then talks about himself). Not related to Talking to Themself (which involves a character literally having a conversation with split parts of their personality) or Acting for Two (which refers to Real Life actors playing multiple characters).


    open/close all folders 

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 3 episode 6, Little M. disguises himself as his own mother for a parent-student conference at school. He winds up having to make it look like both he and his mother are there at the same time, including making it look like the two are speaking to each other.

  • Astro City: used by Atomicus, who developed a power to duplicate himself and almost immediately used it to try to conceal his (rather obvious) secret identity.
  • In the first Venezia album, the painter finds himself having to mimic being assaulted and knocked out by The Eagle, all the while changing into his costume, to rescue the diva without arousing suspicion.
  • The Simpsons: An early issue has Lionel Hutz managing to cross-examine himself. This lasts until Lisa petitions the judge to let her fire Hutz as her lawyer. The judge does so.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) spinoff Sonic Universe, Silver greets the trash pile he uses for psychokinesis practice, then greets himself back as the trash pile. He then sighs and mutters that he really needs to stop talking to himself.
    • An early issue (specifically issue #3, when the comics were still silly, AoStH fare) had a one-page joke story with Sonic arguing with himself... over the phone.
    Sonic: When you travel faster than the speed of sound, you sometimes wind up talking to yourself!
  • An issue of Spider-Man has the titular hero in such a predicament. When his Spider-Sense alerts him that a private investigator is tailing him and is inches away from discovering his identity, he quickly improvises a conversation between Peter Parker and Spider-Man by taking his mask on and off (as it muffles his voice enough to be unrecognizable). He then follows this up by dressing up a dummy in the suit and having it "swing away" for added effect.

    Films — Animated 
  • Toy Story: Buzz Lightyear, who originally believed he was the real Buzz, has gone temporarily insane after having his worldview shattered when he found out he was just a toy. His (toy) arm gets broken off in attempt to fly; later, he throws the dismembered arm at Woody in anger. Woody has to convince the other toys (especially Mr. Potato Head, who's holding a string of Christmas lights that Woody intends to climb back to Andy's house and refuses to let the other toys handle it) that Buzz is okay. He hold's Buzz's arm out from behind a wall, as if Buzz was actually standing just behind the wall, and proceeds to (badly) mimic Buzz's voice while waving the arm around.
    Slinky: Hey look! It's Buzz!
    Woody: (Shaking the arm's hand) Yeah, hey Buzz. Let's show the guys our new secret best-friends hand shake. Gimme five, man! (Pantomines with arm)
    Hamm: Something's screwy here.
    Woody: So, you see? We're friends now, guys! Aren't we, Buzz? (as Buzz) You bet. Gimme a hug! (Woody makes the arm grab his neck and pull him forward in a hug) Ha, ha, oh, I love you, too.
    Slinky: See? It is Buzz. Now give back the lights, Potato Head.
    Mr. Potato Head: Wait just a minute. What are you trying to pull?!
    Woody: Nothing! (innocently shrugs and throws both his hands up... exposing the severed arm.)
  • Megamind: Megamind has a disguise hologram that makes him look like a normal human. At one point, though, he's in a situation where he has to pretend to be both simultaneously. There's a "fight sequence" between the two, where Megamind ends up repeatedly switching back and forth between his normal appearance and the hologram, all the while opening and closing a door over and over to give the appearance that that two are fighting each other.
  • The Pixar short Geri's Game: Geri plays both sides of a game of Chess, getting up and switching sides of the table to do so. He acts out both parts, including feigning a heart attack and tricking the other into thinking he's lost. The difference between them is one has glasses and the other doesn't.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, Friar Tuck is doing this when Robin Hood first meets him. He even sings the male and female verses of a love song!
  • In the final segment of Knowhutimean Hey Vern Its My Family Album, Ernest P. Worrell recounts the experiences of his ancestor, Davy Worrell, who is chased by Indians into a high-walled fort...that happens to be empty. Realizing that the Indians now have him surrounded, and will kill him if they get through the gate, Davy attempts to scare them off by pretending the camp is fully defended, doing multiple voices and holding several conversations among himself. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Mrs. Doubtfire: Daniel receives an unexpected visit from his caseworker, whilst dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire. Mrs. Doubtfire claims to be Daniel's older sister, says she'll go get Daniel, and then runs into a backroom. While getting out of his Mrs. Doubtfire costume and makeup, Daniel loudly holds both sides of their conversation, and then calls to the caseworker that he just got out of the shower.
  • Young Frankenstein has an inverse example: in order to disguise a dead body, the title character pretends the arm of the dead man is his own.
  • Bananas: When Fielding Mellish is on trial, he acts as his own counsel, and interrogates himself, rushing in and out of the witness stand.
    Fielding: [angrily] I wouldn't joke if I were you! [runs into the witness stand]
    Fielding: [casually] Wouldn't you, or couldn't you?
  • In the same vein, Walter Keane from Big Eyes' is sued for libel and slander, and his lawyers are only concerned with the first part. Once the libel is dismissed, his entire legal staff leaves the courthouse, resulting in Walter having to act as his own lawyer. He switches positions as he plays both roles, until the judge essentially tells him to keep the theatrics to a minimum.
  • In Mighty Like a Moose, Mr. and Mrs. Moose each get plastic surgery on the same day, without telling each other. After their procedures, they fail to recognize each other—and they make a date. After figuring out that his girl is actually his wife, Mr. Moose scares her to death by rapidly changing in and out of a robe and putting on/taking off his fake teeth, tricking her into thinking that both men are in the house. He then goes so far as to stage a fake fight, in a long comic sequence that has him tussling around a doorway. Amusingly, she gets bored with the fight, even before she reads a newspaper plastic surgery advertisement and finally figures out that her husband and her would-be lover are the same person.
  • The Mysterious Lady: Boris the bad guy tells Tania that he just arrested Karl, the good guy. Tania shoots Boris dead, Boris collapsing into a chair. The chair happens to be positions with its back to the door. When Boris's goons come in, Tania, with Boris's arm wrapped around her waist, tells the goons that Boris wants Karl sent in alone. After Karl is sent in, he and Tania escape via the hidden passage.
  • Captain Phillips: In the first attempt by the pirates to board the ship, the titular captain uses the radio and talks to himself, alternating between his natural voice and a deep voice to pretend that they're calling in air support, scaring off one of the two boats of pirates (who have a radio that can hear what he and the supposed Coast Guard are saying).

  • In the Agatha Christie book They Do It With Mirrors, an accomplice does this to help the murderer establish his alibi: the murderer and the accomplice go into an office, and then the accomplice fakes both sides of an argument, loud enough for those outside to hear, while the murderer slips out a back way and commits the crime.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Brit Com Sykes has an episode where the eponymous Eric pretends to be his own sister to try and fool a criminal uninvited guest (played by Peter Sellers) who claims she once promised to marry him. There are a couple of scenes where Eric has to hold rapid-fire conversations with himself while changing clothes out of sight.
  • In one episode of ALF, the titular character manages to get himself into a situation wherein he has to (vocally) play the role of a hostage-taker as well as a whole bunch of hostages.
  • Amen: Deacon Frye calls himself to the stand, sitting on the stand, leaping up to accuse himself of something, sitting back down to get upset, jumping up again, etc., until the opposing council is forced to shout "Your honor, he is badgering the witness!"
  • The hostage variant was done earlier in an 1983 episode of the Finnish cop sitcom Reinikainen where a burglar of thousand voices pretends to be holding a number of Finnish celebrities hostage in a cottage he just robbed.
  • In the episode "Ice Spy" of Batman (1966), Chief O'Hara calls Bruce Wayne while Commissioner Gordon is on the phone with Batman. The chief gets the idea to put the two phones together so Batman and Bruce Wayne can speak to each other. Adam West actually pulls it off.
  • The Big Bang Theory, when Leonard, as part of an angry rant to Sheldon about his relationship troubles with Penny, fakes a conversation, giving her a classic Dumb Blonde Alpha Bitch voice. This is the result:
    Leonard: I mean, what's she expect me to say - sure, Penny, have as many weird ex-boyfriends stay around as you like!
    Leonard (as Penny): Okay like, sure Leonard, because, like I'm Penny, and I'm doing you a favor just by being with you (the "conversation" continues in this vein for a while)
    Sheldon: Leonard, stop the car. STOP THE CAR. (gets out tearfully) I can't listen to the two of you fight anymore!
  • Throughout Jikuu Senshi Spielban, Queen Pandora acts as the Mouth of Sauron for Waller, conveying its orders to the other generals of The Empire. In the finale, it turns out Pandora was Waller all along, and Waller was just an illusion she created to scare her subordinates in submission. All those scenes of Pandora gushing over Waller and delivering hammy and fanatical speeches praising it for its protection? That was all Pandora talking to herself.
  • Attempted in an early episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. One twin had to convince the babysitter they were both in the bathroom while the other was sneaking off for the latest Wacky Hijink.
  • In the show Good Luck Charlie, during the episode "Appy Days," Teddy tricks both her mother and Ivy's mother into letting them both go to a senior party by recording a conversation on her phone and playing it back so it appears their mothers are giving their approval.
  • In The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff, Amoral Attorney Skulkingworm does this while "consulting with his client"; he wears two different top hats and discusses the case with the mirror. There's no one present who needs to be convinced they're seperate people, though, he's just crazy.
  • For the final episode of What's My Line? in 1967, John Daly was both the host and the mystery guest.
    Bennett Cerf: Are you possibly impersonating yourself, Mr. Daly?
    • Wally Bruner was known to do this as well on the syndicated edition, as did Eamonn Andrews on the 1950's BBC version.
  • On one episode of NewsRadio, Jimmy is in a coma, and his coworkers take turns spending time by his bed. Dave, being in the midst of a relationship crisis, opines that he wishes he could ask Jimmy for advice, then speculates about the weird and inscrutable things he'd say if he were conscious, and then responds to them. Afterward, he mentions he has a different perspective because of "something Jimmy said".
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Mr Mental collects bird watchers' eggs, then he does a rather poor ventriloquism of a TV interviewer asking questions and answering them.
  • Fawlty Towers: In Waldorf Salad, Basil pretends to have a shouting match in the kitchen with Terry the chef, to pretend to Mr Hamilton that Terry is working.
    Basil: (as Terry) I was making another Waldorf salad.
    Basil: (as himself) Making another Waldorf salad?! What are you making another Waldorf salad for?
    (Basil takes his hat off and beats the fridge)
    Basil: (as Terry) Careful, Mr Fawlty! I'm only a little fellow.
    Basil: (as himself) What do you think Mr and Mrs Hamilton must think?
    (He suddenly notices that Mr Hamilton has entered the kitchen, and is staring)
  • In one episode of The Addams Family, Fester dials a phone number at random, and manages to connect to another phone on the desk in front of him. He answers this phone and switches back and forth between the two "different" conversations. He never realizes he's just talking to himself the whole time.

  • Stirring Science Stories: Due to the early issues of these magazines not having a fanbase yet, Donald A Wollheim used a number of Pen Names for submissions, pretending that they were different from himself as editor. This includes the letter-to-the-editor section, called "The Cosmoscope". For the first issue of Cosmic Stories, he pretended to be Graham Conway from Indiana and responded to the letter as the editor (DAW).

  • In Twelfth Night, Feste fakes a conversation between himself and "Sir Topas the Curate" outside Malvolio's cell.

    Video Games 
  • In Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush, while on trial, has A Fool for a Client. He can cross-examine himself, consult with himself during recess, insult himself, and even feign a fight with himself. The judge has a limited tolerance for this nonsense, but the guard is fooled enough to let lawyer!Guybrush go free after being "assaulted" by client!Guybrush.

    Web Comics 
  • This was used by Professor Gurwara in Strong Female Protagonist as a means of getting Alison to debate with herself as to whether an action she had recently carried outnote  was ultimately justifiable. She then tries this for herself.
    Alison [coat off]: You didn't care when... when they told you about their life. About their story. You dismissed it.
    Alison [coat on]: You're right. I didn't have the wherewithal to care about them, at that moment. Feral's pain, her suffering, the suffering of countless others had just been dismissed right in front of me. When I was asked to show the same level of empathy I had just been denied, I didn't have it in me. I knew who I cared about in the moment, and I made the call.
    Coat off: But you're honestly telling me there's no other call you could make? You couldn't have given them time to consider?
    Coat on: Every second that Feral was on that table...
    Off: I understand that, but why not at least try to convince them first?
    On: I did!
    Off: You gave them the moral argument, sure, but you could have tried to persuade them, manipulate them...
    On: What's so noble about that!? Me tricking them is your moral alternative? Say what you want about a half nelson, at least it's fucking honest! Charisma and intelligence are instruments of force just like strength, you can charm and bamboozle people into doing what you want, that doesn't make it right either! If anything it just robs them of the dignity of being able to resent you for controlling them!
    Off: You're being dishonest right now. You know there is a middle ground somewhere in between a sterile approach to heroism and Machiavellian mind-control.
    On: Yeah? Well I... I'm not any good at them.
    On: ...Because I've never had to be.
    Off: "You've got to be careful what you get good at," that's what you said. Well the ace up your sleeve is turning you into a monster, or maybe it already has. For god's sake, you could have offered them something they wanted.
    On: ...What could I have offered them that they didn't already have?
    Off: I dunno. Understanding? Compassion? Trust?
    On: Even if I was enlightened enough to have felt those things in the moment, what if they didn't work? There's no evidence to suggest that any amount of talking would have got Feral off that table.
    Off: Well, I guess we'll never know.
    On: Yeah, I guess we won't.
    Off: ...Look, maybe it's naive to assume that there will always be a way to do things cleanly. No one-punch victories, right? In a messy, complex world, maybe the ends do justify the means. But the threat of living that way is that you pretty quickly stop looking for better means. I can admit that I'm glad to live in the world where Feral is happy and saving people.
    On: I can admit that until violence is off the table, I'll always be quick to use it.

    Web Original 
  • Played very much not for laughs with the alantutorial episode "how to make double barrel ww2 italian fighter plane origami paper art," which has the distressed and mentally-deficient Alan angrily knocking on his own door while he pleads for just a moment to finish his video. The result is... uncomfortable, to say the least.
  • In That Guy with the Glasses's 2nd year anniversary, Kickassia, the Molassian president has a conversation with his Foreign Relations officer. They are the same guy in different attire.
    • Of course, if you look at the Molassia website, the same guy plays at least five different roles in his government. He must do this constantly.
  • In the Strong Bad Email "pizzazz", Strong Bad interviews himself to find out the secret of his pizzazz. It eventually turns out there really are two Strong Bads talking with one another.
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on Twitch and YouTube, known for his iconic characters such as "Granny Edna," "Billy Maizear" and "Daniel the rival scammer."
    • Sometimes, Kit has played multiple characters at once — typically as either family members or store clerks (in the latter, typically asking them where the Google Play gift cards are) — to make his side of the calls seem more plausible and realistic. In one call, Kit posed as another tech support caller from the "World Wide Web Wide Tech Support Team" trying to offer his services to Edna. He also at times pretended to be a representative from his fake bank, or a rival scammer.
    • Perhaps the ultimate example of this is the call "Furious Scammer Faces His Worst Nightmare," a.k.a. "José from Microsoft." The fun begins around an hour and a half into the call, when Kitboga pretends to connect the scammer with "Tony," a rival scammer that his Ethel character (Granny Edna) claims is helping her with her printer. Things quickly go wild from there, as when the scammer starts to question Tony's claims, Tony starts putting various other people on the line, including "FTC Frank" and "Better Business Bureau Bob." All are just thinly disguised versions of the "Tony" voice and the scammer is convinced this guy is using multiple voices to try to scam Ethel, not realizing that they're all the same person, whose real voice he's never heard. Things then go up a level, when the Tony character then claims to connect the call to Joe Biden, then Joe Biden's non-existent son "Tony Biden," and later Jennifer Lopez. Kitboga even manipulates the scammer into the act, first engineering him into a situation in which he pretends to be his own father, and later to pretend to be Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons
    • Homer tries to withdraw his and Marge's life savings from the bank. The banker insists that he needs both of their signatures.
      Homer: I'd like to withdraw my life's savings, please.
      Teller: Uh, sir, this is a joint account. You'll need your wife's signature, too.
      Homer: Oh, yes, of course. She's, uh, behind that plant. Hello, Marge. [ducks behind plant] Hi, Homey. [as himself] Sign this, please. [as Marge] You're the boss. [as Lisa] Daddy, ask the man for some candy. [as himself] Now, now, no candy for you. [as Lisa] Well, at least get some candy for yourself. [walks back to the teller] Heh, heh, heh, kids.
      Teller: [sighs] Here's your candy.
      Homer: So long, sucker!
      Teller: Uh, sir? Your life savings?
      Homer: [nonchalant] Ah, yes, I see that it's in bill form. Excellent.
    • In "The Otto Show", Bart gets caught by Marge and Homer allowing Otto to live in the garage. He says that Marge gave him permission, and since he knew she wouldn't remember, he took the liberty of recording the conversation. He plays it back, and it's obviously Bart doing an impression of Marge.
      Marge: That's not my voice!
Homer: Oh, everybody says that when they hear themselves on tape.
  • On Sidekick, one episode focused on "Super Mother's Day". Maxum Man's Maxum Mom wanted to spend the day with him, but since Maxum Man is missing, Eric tries to cover it up. At one point, he creates a Maxum Man dummy and props it across the street, with Trevor using the dummy as a puppet to wave and talk to Maxum Mom. Unfortunately they somehow didn't think that Maxum Mom would try to cross the street to go see him.
  • Family Guy: Stewie pretends to be a girl in order to get on his favorite TV show, Jolly Farms Revue. When a girl he has a crush on comes over to meet his girl persona, he quickly goes to change into his girl costume while he argues with himself, pretending to be both Stewie and the girl. And then does the same thing in reverse later.
  • In season 1 of The Critic, Jay often does this by pretending to be his secretary with a British nanny accent. He doesn't do this gag anymore since Alice appeared in season 2.
  • Bugs Bunny does this twice to fool his antagonists, in "Racketeer Rabbit" and "Bugs and Thugs."
  • In the Martha Speaks episode "My Mother, the Dog", Mariella has to leave on an errand and the cranky neighbour, Mrs Demson, calls, asking for her. Martha (a talking dog) answers the phone and pretends to be Mariella but then Mrs Demson comes over to help Mariella make the lemonade. Martha lies that Mariella is stuck and then Mrs Demson wants to get her out so she lies that she got unstuck. She then does this, hiding behind the door to do Mariella's voice.
    Mrs Demson: "Is she OK?"
    Martha: "Are you OK? (as Mariella) I'm fine. (as herself) Are you sure? (as Mariella) I'm sure. (as herself) Absolutely? (as Mariella) Absolutely."
    Mrs Demson: "Why doesn't she come out?"
    Martha: "I think she's just lost the use of her legs."
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Cabin Fever," Garfield begins going nuts because dinner is late and starts playing checkers with himself, running back and forth to be on each side of the board, and ending with an acrimonious argument with himself about whether he cheated.
  • In The Loud House episode "Cover Girls," Lincoln is forced to do this twice to cover for his sisters. When his parents call for the absent Lori to check up on the also-absent Lily, he holds a "conversation" while imitating their voices. Later, when Pop-Pop calls the siblings on video call and asks to talk to Polar Opposite Twins Lana and Lola, he pretends to be them arguing with each other over who speaks to Pop-Pop first.

    Real Life 
  • Ventriloquism is an entire profession based on this.
  • In World War II, when they were about to be outnumbered and suspected their radio communication wasn't secure, pilots would sometimes have a conversation with each pilot using multiple callsigns to make it sound like there were many more of them then there actually was, hoping to spoof the enemy into breaking off to avoid the suspected (and nonexistent) large force of planes just over the horizon instead of starting a fight.
  • Serial Killer Rodney Alcala was had his conviction for the murder of Robin Samsoe overturned twice. In the third trial he infamously cross examined himself in a deeper "lawyer voice" and addressed himself as Mr. Alcala.


Video Example(s):


Tilly vs. Jilly

Cricket tries to get Tilly to settle things with Jilly; she does her best to pull off this ruse with both in the room.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / HoldingBothSidesOfTheConversation

Media sources: