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Irony as She Is Cast

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Sometimes a talented person is hired to act talentless.

Hey, you know that actor that plays that character? The one that cannot sing? Turns out they are a classically trained opera singer. Ironic, isn't it?

Not really. Irony As She Is Cast happens when known skills of an actor and the displayed skills of a role do not mesh - and the fan knows this. If the fan didn't know the actor, then there would be no dissonance.


Their ability might even have been the reason for casting;

The second one is worth expanding on: To be funnily bad (when this is used in comedy) requires a great deal of precision. You have to be off tune in exactly the right way to be clearly off tune, at exactly the right time to engage maximum laughter; the level of skill involved is actually frequently much greater than performing "properly".

Do not expect the character to ever improve in the talent - at least, not for more than one episode. The Character might only be as bad as they are due to the Actor being so good.


Irony As She Is Cast might be reactionary in a long-lived role; extreme cases might try to counter what's Ripped from the Headlines.

Frequently implements: Dreadful Musician; Hollywood Tone-Deaf; or Bad "Bad Acting" (or any of the tropes under Stylistic Suck). Rarely implements Hollywood Homely (although it can be a subtrope of it, instead of talented playing talentless, it's beautiful playing ugly); that is more likely to be Dyeing for Your Art. Contrast: Cast the Expert, where this person was chosen specifically for their talent; Beautiful All Along, where improvement is part of the story; and The Cast Showoff, where talent gets to be in the limelight.

Never requires a Talent Double. Is not based on the beliefs of the actor - which tends to result in a Shallow Parody - but may be as a result of observed reactions to that belief.


The Trope Namer is English As She Is Spoke, probably the first real-life example of My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels, and not really related to the trope at all. But it makes for a good trope name.


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  • Windows started to use John Hodgman's PC character from the Mac ads even though Hodgman is actually a Mac user.
  • This tourism ad for Australia intended for a British audience cast AdamHills and Kylie Minogue as quintessential and recognisable Australians doing typical Aussie activities like visiting the beach and taking selfies with native wildlife. Both Kylie Minogue and Adam Hills live in England, home of the ad's target audience, which begs the question of why they'd leave their homeland if it's so great?

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • Peter Dinklage has dwarfism but voiced a ten-foot-tall extinct ape in Ice Age 4: Continental Drift and a giant eagle in The Angry Birds Movie.
  • Rise of the Guardians cast the Australian actor Hugh Jackman as Bunnymund the Easter Bunny. While Bunnymund takes offense to being called a kangaroo, Aussies would consider that comparison insulting to kangaroos, since rabbits are a much-maligned invasive pest down under.
  • Jess Harnell as Cacofonix in Asterix and the Vikings. In reality, Jess can sing quite well (he possesses a quadruple-octave vocal range and is a member of a band called Rock Sugar). Somewhat lampshaded in the animated feature film Asterix and the Big Fight where Cacofonix's singing actors Jean-Jacques Cramier and George Harrison do an amazing rock song, only to be knocked out like always with the villagers declaring him a horrible singer (it is implied at least in that scene that he is a brilliant singer, but way ahead of his time).
  • The voice cast of The Lorax includes Zac Efron, who's the star of the High School Musical series, and Taylor Swift, who's Taylor Swift. Even though the movie is basically a musical, neither of their characters ever sings a note (Swift's first role to involve singing was the 2019 movie adaptation of Cats).
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, the 49-foot 11-inch Ginormica is voiced by the 5-foot 1-inch Reese Witherspoon. The "behind the scenes" footage even lampshades this.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Conrad Veidt, an outspoken anti-fascist who fled Germany when the Nazis came to power, spent the war playing Nazi villains in America, most famously as Major Strasser in Casablanca.
    • This happened frequently, many European expats in Hollywood had fled the Nazis to begin with and ended up playing them in movies and television.
    • Usually the actors were fine with it because it gave them a chance to either lampoon or warn about fascism. Being clearly painted as belonging to the Big Bad and often dying horribly also probably helped.
  • The Prestige.
    • Ricky Jay, the film's magic consultant, as an incompetent stage magician.
    • Also celibate Nikola Tesla, played by David Bowie.
  • Madeline Kahn - a classically-trained opera singer, among her other talents - playing the German Lili Von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles. Lili is extremely popular for her sex appeal, but her singing voice is deep, heavily accented, and mostly off-key. Namely because she's an old-west parody of Marlene Dietrich.
  • Miranda Cosgrove (Carly on iCarly) needed lessons in how to sing badly to play Summer Hathaway in School of Rock.
  • David Bowie has played characters that sang off-key in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.
  • Meryl Streep playing hammy bad actress Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her.
    • Similarly, Streep playing the titular character in Florence Foster Jenkins. The whole point of the movie is that Jenkins is an absolutely awful singer who thinks she's great. Streep herself is an accomplished singer, having appeared in the movie musicals Mamma Mia! and Into the Woods, and even as a hard-rocker in Ricki and the Flash. Streep is also known for her humility and awareness of her own limitations, unlike Florence, who seems (literally) tone-deaf to her own bad singing.
  • Ralph Garman, a radio host, voice actor, impressionist, and a pretty damn good singer, was cast by his friend Kevin Smith as the mute Caleb in Red State.
  • Played with by Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain. Hagen, actually a talented singer, plays Lina with a hilariously shrill and screechy Brooklyn-accented voice and no sense of pitch. However, when Cathy Selden (played by Debbie Reynolds) dubs Lina's voice work for her in order to salvage the studio's current film, it's actually Hagen singing, not Reynolds.
  • At the end of the Steve Martin film All of Me, mystic and Cloud Cuckoolander Prahka Lasa is "playing" the piano as accompaniment to a saxophonist performing the eponymous song. This consists of him hitting a single note at the end of each musical phrase for the first verse of the song (and it's the same note each time, except once). Richard Libertini, the actor playing Prahka Lasa, was a professional musician before becoming an actor. Subverted in that a) it's always the right note to blend in with the song and b) at the end of the first verse, he looks at the rest of the keyboard as if in surprise and begins a quite talented accompaniment.
  • The Hairspray movie with John Travolta and Christopher Walken romantically singing together and dancing very, very badly. It's even funnier as both are well known as excellent dancers and are doing it badly on purpose.
  • Inverted in Major League, where the big slugger for the Yankees is played by Peter Vuckovich, who did play in the Major Leagues but was a pitcher who never hit a home run.
  • David Krumholtz is Jewish, but played the Head Elf Bernard in the first two Santa Clause films.
  • In a deleted scene in Little Fockers, Barbara friggin' Streisand's character sings "Happy Birthday" horrendously off-key. Though this may be a joking reference to the commonly observed 'fact' that it's impossible to sing that damned song on-key in a group.
  • This trope is invoked occasionally with Mark Wahlberg, who, because he started out in music as Marky Mark, is assumed to be a good singer. He's actually a good rapper, but it's this trope that's being milked when he sings badly in a movie.
  • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Michael Robbins is dubbed with a truly appalling singing voice courtesy of an uncredited... Julie Andrews!
  • James Bond:
  • In It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is denied from military service during World War II because of his deaf left ear. His little brother is accepted and receives the Medal of Honor as a pilot. The real Stewart was a bomber pilot and Lt. Colonel in WWII, later being promoted to Brigadier General after the war.
  • Looper has a mild one where Joe is shown earlier studying French and isn't very good with it. His actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is quite fluent in French. This is an accidental example, as Joe was planned to live out his days in France (hence why he's learning French). But budget reasons made it more practical for him to move to China instead.
  • In To Have and Have Not, Humphrey Bogart, known as much for his drinking as his acting, plays the relatively sober Harry.
  • Played with in Stage Door, Katharine Hepburn, considered one of the best actresses who ever lived (and who went on to win four Best Actress Oscars, playing the talent-free wannabe actress Terry Randall. However, Terry is also seen questioning everything all of the decisions of the writer and director of the play she's in, which Hepburn apparently did in real life.
  • Kristen Stewart, who has been dogged by paparazzi since her appearances in Twilight, plays a personal assistant who loves reading gossip in Clouds of Sils Maria.
  • In the film Australia, the character of Lady Sarah Ashley is a Brit. She's played by real Australian Nicole Kidman. Even in a film about Australia, directed by an Australian, and starring Australians, she's not even playing her own nationality, but a Fake Brit.
  • Joanna "Jojo" Levesque gets this twice in Aquamarine - she plays the best friend to a girl with a fear of swimming and has a scene where she swims with dolphins... and she was the one who was afraid. Similarly, out of the three leads (her, Emma Roberts and Sara Paxton), she's the only one who's a professional singer - and the only one who doesn't sing on the movie's soundtrack at all.
  • In Romance on the High Seas, it's a plot point that the wealthy Mrs. Elvira Kent (Janis Paige), who allows herself to be impersonated on a tropical cruise by a not-so-wealthy nightclub singer really named Georgia Garrett (Doris Day), is a terrible singer. The mistaken-identity complications are resolved in the movie's final scene where both women wind up on the same nightclub stage in Rio, but Mrs. Kent's singing abilities are not demonstrated even here. Janis Paige was a perfectly competent singer, as demonstrated by her leading role in the original production of The Pajama Game, though the movie version of that musical doubled the irony by recasting her part with Doris Day.
  • An inversion: despite his most famous role (you know the one), Daniel Radcliffe has admitted to being terrible at magic, going on to talk about how he screwed up the one thing he can do well—a card trick—while filming a scene in Now You See Me 2.
  • In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, the title character plays bass for a mediocre garage band. Michael Cera, who had been playing bass for years, had to be told to suck more on camera.
  • Emily Blunt has made films while pregnant, and both times she plays a woman who can't have children. First as the Baker's Wife in Into the Woods - who has been cursed by a witch to never bear children. Secondly as Rachel in The Girl on the Train whose marriage fell apart when she found out she was barren.
  • In a similar vein, Jason Bateman plays a reluctant father in Juno around the same time he was welcoming his first daughter into the world.
  • In-universe example in King Kong (2005). Carl Denham decides to cast Ann Darrow as the female lead in his film because she looks like a perfect Woobie - "Ann, you're the saddest girl I've ever seen" - and is surprised to find out that she's a vaudeville comedian, who makes people laugh.
  • An odd example in The Black Dahlia. Mia Kirschner received rave reviews - even from those who hated the film - for her work. Playing a terrible actress who can't get a part.
  • Malcolm X: Legendary civil rights attorney William Kunstler has a cameo as the racist judge whose harsh sentencing of Malcolm and Shorty is clearly motivated by the fact that they've been sleeping with white women.
  • Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life: The mother in this Lifetime Movie of the Week who screams at her teenage son for looking at softcore internet pornography and desperately tries to get him to stop is played by Kelly Lynch, who is known for doing numerous nude scenes in different movies.
  • American History X cast Roma woman and anti-ziganophobia activist Fairuza Balk as a committed neo-Nazi.
  • An unintentional example by Russell Crowe in the 2012 adaptation of Les Misérables: Crowe had been in Australian Rock Band "30 Odd Foot of Grunts", and yet his seeming inability to sing as required for the character was one of the main criticisms of the film.
  • Another unintentional example can be found in Wonder Woman with the casting of Gal Gadot as the titular character: Despite the film's anti-war thesis, Gal Gadot's vocal support of the Israeli Defense Force drew some controversy, causing the film to be banned in Lebanon
  • The casting of Neil Patrick Harris, an openly gay man, as a deviant over-the-top heterosexual in the various Harold & Kumar films.
  • Simon Callow has played Charles Dickens no less than five times. In The Man Who Invented Christmas, a movie about the writing of A Christmas Carol... he plays John Leech, the book's illustrator.
  • Another inversion is Myrna Loy; she found long success playing nurturing mothers and wives. As the woman herself pointed out, in real life she went through four unsuccessful marriages, never had any children, and possessed no domestic skills whatsoever.
  • In The Host, Park Nam-joo is shown spending the night in a bridge beam, then crawling out of it and looking for her niece, Hyun-seo, on a narrow walkway high above a river. Nam-joo's actress, Bae Doo-na, is terrified of heights.
  • The casting of Peter Dinklage as ten-foot tall dwarf Eitri, in Avengers: Infinity War.
  • Santa's Slay: Santa is played by the Jewish Bill Goldberg. The first scene has Santa kill a dysfunctional family at Christmas dinner who are all played by Jewish actors in cameos.
  • Seed of Chucky casts Hannah Spearritt - fresh off the heels of her fame from S Club 7 - playing a wannabe who spends her free time writing fan mail to celebrities.
  • The Bling Ring likewise has Emma Watson - the most famous actress amongst a cast of unknowns - playing a superficial teen who desperately wants to be famous.
  • The World of Suzie Wong - the eponymous Suzie Wong makes up lies that she is the daughter of a rich family when she's really an orphan who works as a prostitute. Her actress Nancy Kwan grew up in a very privileged life in Hong Kong.
  • 13 Going on 30 has Judy Greer playing the grown-up Alpha Bitch. Judy points out on the DVD special features that she was a nerd during high school.
  • Peter O'Toole's Star-Making Role in Lawrence of Arabia qualifies. O'Toole was a hard-drinking playboy, while T. E. Lawrence was a Celibate Eccentric Genius teetotaler.
  • In Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek portrayed Freddie Mercury, who was a famous Kindhearted Cat Lover, having owned several during his lifetime. Malek, however, is allergic to them. This is why you never see Freddie together with them in the same shot.
  • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Widow reveals that her spy training in Russia included forced sterilization to ensure that a female spy's mission isn't compromised by an unplanned pregnancy. Scarlett Johansson was pregnant during filming. And since she was quite far along while shooting that particular scene, she had to wear a heavy bathrobe and hold a towel in front of her stomach to hide her baby bump...all while talking about how she can't have children.
  • In JFK (taken from the perspective of former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, who had long alleged there was a Government Conspiracy behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy); we have an interesting version of this when Jim Garrison himself makes a brief cameo as Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, the namesake of the commission investigating the Kennedy assassination and which ended with the official "Oswald acted alone" determination.

  • The characters of P.Howard (Jenő Rejtő) are supposedly illiterate pirates or otherwise simple folk, but when narrating in the first person, they sound like schooled and literate middle-class citizens trying too hard to pretend they are complete morons because they reflect the style of the author.
  • Isaac Asimov once stated that Mark Twain's real genius was in writing Huckleberry Finn so that Huck, who is uneducated and all-but-illiterate, is telling it in such a way that not once does the reader ask himself "How is this illiterate moron telling the story so well?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Mole, the person playing the Mole purposely does badly at things at which they are highly skilled.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro is actually a professional dancer (with an instruction video to boot), but Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has a humorously goofy and unhip dance routine that serves as a Running Gag. But as unhip as his dancing may be, he is clearly performing the moves the way he intended—i.e., he is an uncool dancer, but not a bad one.
  • Glee:
    • In the original cast, before the character pool starting growing and flooding over, the cast's best dancer by a million miles was Kevin McHale. His character, Artie, is in a wheelchair.
    • Later on, Matt Bomer is cast as Blaine's older brother. Their real-life sexualities are a direct switch of the characters'; Matt Bomer plays the straight brother and Darren Criss the gay one.
    • Karofsky is an Armored Closet Gay bully who has no interest in the glee club and frequently torments its members. Max Adler is one of the few cast members who sang in show choir in high school.
    • A huge part of Puck's character is that he Likes Older Women. Let's just say that was the exact opposite of Mark Salling's type in real life.
  • Broadway veteran Jason Alexander had to tone down his voice to convincingly sing badly as George Costanza in Seinfeld.
  • Hogan's Heroes
    • Colonel Klink is a horrendous violin player. His actor Werner Klemperer was apparently very talented at it. His father Otto was a famous symphony conductor who left Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power and served in the US Army during WW2.
    • Many of the actors who played Nazis were actually Jews. One of them—Robert Clary—was a Holocaust survivor, while Leon Askin and John Banner were held in pre-war concentration camps. When asked if he felt uneasy portraying a prisoner-of-war, Clary stated, "Stalag 13 is not a concentration camp. It's a POW camp, and that's a world of difference," Klemperer didn't mind playing the role of a Nazi officer, as long as his character was presented as an incompetent fool who never succeeded in his plans. Said Jewish cast members also defended their roles as Nazi officers, as they were portraying the Nazi forces in a satirical and parodic light not unlike the later Hitler Rants parodies.
  • Neil Patrick Harris, an openly gay man, plays Barney, a ladykiller, in How I Met Your Mother.
  • Also, Peter Wyngarde playing skirt-chaser Jason King (although Wyngarde's homosexuality was not known to the general public at the time, it was common knowledge within acting circles).
  • Frasier.
    • Same thing with Dan Butler.
    • Beer-guzzling, opera-hating Martin Crane is played by the late John Mahoney, who was a connoisseur of both. He even shared his love of them with David Hyde Pierce, who had little to no interest in both at the start of the show.
  • In "Take Me Out to the Holosuite", an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where Sisko recruits a baseball team to challenge a Vulcan rival, the actors portraying the inexperienced players were actually better at baseball than those playing the experienced players.
    • Much of the episode's plot is driven by Rom's utter hopelessness at baseball. His actor, Max Grodénchik, was a semiprofessional player before pursuing his acting career, and could only appear as bad as he was supposed to by playing left-handed.
  • S Club 7 did this a couple of times on the TV show. Hannah is said to be a horrible actress and bungles her lines as an extra on a TV show. In real life, Hannah Spearitt studied acting for several years and had acted in numerous productions before joining the band. Another episode has Rachel failing at being a model. Rachel Stevens was part of a modeling agency prior to joining the band.
  • 30 Rock:
    • In an early episode, Jack was written into a sketch, causing Hilarity To Ensue when he turned out to be a really terrible actor. Of course, he's played by Alec Baldwin, who has been nominated for Oscars and is widely considered to be an excellent comic actor, especially for sketch comedy (Saturday Night Live has always loved having him on).
    • Liz Lemon can be pretty incompetent as a showrunner (depending on the episode). Tina Fey is not, as seen when she was head writer on Saturday Night Live from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s—and then running 30 Rock itself (probably the most acclaimed comedy of its era, which was a pretty good time for comedies).
    • Because 30 Rock is a show about making a fictional show, it could use this trope in-universe. It did so when the new actor Danny, a skilled singer, pretends to be a terrible one to avoid upstaging his costar Jenna.
  • In the Big Time Rush episode Big Time Rides, the fictional James has to learn how to ride a bike, while the real-life James already knows how to.
  • On Hannah Montana, Miley's best friend Lilly is shown to have a terrible singing voice. In real life, Emily Osment is a capable singer. In the episode where her poor singing is demonstrated, the "edited" version of the song is actually Osment's real singing voice.
  • M*A*S*H: David Ogden Stiers was a skilled French horn player, while his character, Charles, makes it sound more like a foghorn.
  • In Power Rangers, Billy was a triple-example: his characterization started as that of a bumbling dork, who was also incredibly clumsy. His actor, David Yost, used to be a champion gymnast. He was also initially portrayed as quite hopeless at fighting while unmorphed and generally weak. Whether or not Yost was as skilled as his cast mates is debatable, but he sure was muscular for a supposedly wimpy teen. Finally, in a darker form of the trope, Billy was the ranger most consistently shown as getting the girl and winding up in romantic entanglements. In real life, David Yost was a closeted homosexual and claims that the people who wrote the show knew this and were trying to make fun of him. (The only people who didn't were his fellow ranger actors.)
  • Hi-de-Hi!: Gladys is known for her bizarre semi-off key opera singing. Ruth Madoc is a professional singer.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Shirley Manson's character's daughter notes that she can't sing. Extra irony since a cover by Manson of the spiritual "Samson and Delilah", recorded specifically for the show, had been prominently used at the beginning of the episode that introduced her character.
  • While Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond shows mediocre singing skills at the end of "Sweet Charity," Patricia Heaton is an accomplished singer.
  • iCarly: Carly Shay cannot draw. Miranda Cosgrove can, very well.
  • Natalie Bassingthwaite did an impressive job playing a bad singer on Neighbours considering her success with the Rogue Traders.
  • Both the David Brent (played by Ricky Gervais) and Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) versions of The Office have extremely talented comedians playing a character that is not only not funny, but doesn't understand enough about comedy to understand that they are not funny. See, especially, Michael Scott's improv comedy classes.
  • Kath and Kim: Kim is shown singing off-key in two episodes. Gina Riley, her actress, is a very talented singer who has appeared in several theater productions, and the theme song is also proof.
  • On Law & Order, Lennie Briscoe describes himself as having no knowledge of music whatsoever. His actor (the late Jerry Orbach) was a veteran Broadway song-and-dance man, who even recorded a solo album.
  • In an episode of Parks and Recreation, the entire cast apart from April and Andy go on a hunting trip. As noted on the DVD Commentary, Chris Pratt, who plays Andy, is the only hunter in the cast.
  • In Married... with Children, Peg is an awful singer. Katey Sagal, who plays her, is a talented singer who has recorded albums and was a backup singer for Bette Midler, amongst others.
  • Moesha, who was played by the singer Brandy, could not carry a tune to save her life.
  • In the TV-Movie Brian's Song, real-life Michigan State football player James Caan portrayed scrappy underdog Brian Piccolo, while Billy Dee Williams, who did not have a sports background, played the supremely talented Gale Sayers. Caan had to consciously hold back in the training scenes to make Williams seem more believable as the superior athlete.
  • One of the world's all-time greatest violinists, Jascha Heifetz, whose name is synonymous with perfection, had a talent for imitating bad students playing the violin and once did this on national television. In reality, his playing was so awesome that it is close to perfection in matters violin.
  • Musician-turned-comedian Victor Borge made a routine out of this: he would play a piece from memory, but throw in a single off-key note, which gradually multiplied into three bad notes, then five, then an altogether unrecognizable mess. At this point he usually stopped, got hold of the sheet music, and played the song again while reading very carefully — until he started hitting the same bad notes again... the implication being that he wasn't a bad player, he'd just learned the piece from a hopelessly erroneous transcription.
  • In Jeeves and Wooster, Wooster (played by Hugh Laurie) was, at best, a competent piano player, while Jeeves (played by Stephen Fry) was better. In real life, it's the other way around.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Alex Russo is a terrible singer. Selena Gomez, on the other hand, can sing pretty well.
  • In a Friends episode, Joey tried to learn French, but he was only capable of speaking gibberish. His actor, Matt LeBlanc is a fluent French speaker.
  • On Law & Order: UK, DS Matt Devlin completely butchers the French language when trying to interview a witness. In real life, Devlin's actor Jamie Bamber speaks excellent French (aside from an early childhood spent in Paris, it's one of two languages that he studied, along with Italian, for his Modern Language degree).
  • On Leverage, Timothy Hutton is this. While he is an Academy Award-winning actor, the character Nate Ford is almost entirely a Large Ham when he plays roles in-universe.
    • Played with in-universe by Sophie. On a con, she can effortlessly step into any role and master any accent to play a part brilliantly. But when she tries her hand at legitimate theater or even a commercial, she becomes the worst actress imaginable. Even she can't understand how she can fool law enforcement with ease but can't win over a third-rate talent scout. As Nate once puts it "she can act when it's an act."
    • The gang uses a movie shoot as part of a con and are naturally worried about Sophie as the lead actress in the "film". To their astonishment, she turns in a great performance with Nate explaining that because Sophie is only pretending to be an actress, she can pull it off.
  • In Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Frank Sutton's Sgt. Carter is portrayed as completely hopeless at hand-to-hand combat. In real life, Sutton was an Army Veteran and a black-belt in Judo.
  • Marc Summers, the original host of Nickelodeon's Double Dare (likely the Trope Codifier for the "Covered in Gunge Game Show"), had a lifelong case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. While it is hard to watch the reruns these days knowing this, it does explain why he had towels with him whenever the contestants got into the physical challenges.note . However, Marc's ability to carry such a messy program without flinching makes him a Memetic Badass.
  • Supernatural: Mark Pellegrino, an outspoken born-again Christian, plays Lucifer.
  • In an episode of Frasier, Derek Jacobi, a classically trained actor with a long and tremendously successful career on stage and screen who has played in Hamlet, Much to Do About Nothing, and Richard III, plays a one-time Shakespearean actor forced to slum it. Frasier and Niles try to bring him back to respectability, only it turns out that he's much more terrible at performing Shakespeare than they remember.
  • Jacobi has been cast as a stammerer [[{{Typecasting at least three times.]] The first time was his Breakout Role, as the title character in I, Claudius. At any rate, he does not stammer in Real Life (although playing Claudius did, apparently, give him some temporary trouble in that area).
  • While filming Roots (1977), Levar Burton's character, Kunta Kinte, was supposed to be chased down in a sprint by his future wife's father. The father was played by football Hall-of-Famer O. J. Simpson, and it was expected that Simpson would have absolutely no problem catching Burton. Problem was, Burton had been a medal-winning track star in high school and could leave Simpson in the dirt when running flat out. After six ruined takes, the director finally took Burton aside and instructed him to not run flat out.
  • 'Allo 'Allo! Edith Artois is such a horrible cabaret singer that the patrons of Café René stuff cheese in their ears to avoid hearing her, but the actress who plays her, Carmen Silvera, was a talented singer. René Artois is forever uncomfortable with Lieutenant Gruber's infatuation with him, but the actor who plays René, Gorden Kaye, is an out gay man (while Guy Siner, who plays Gruber, is heterosexual). Actor Sam Kelly is Jewish and plays German Wehrmacht Captain Hans Geeringnote .
  • An early episode of The Incredible Hulk featured Martin Kove AKA Master Kreese and a three-time Black Belt as a completely untalented boxer.
  • On Under the Dome, Lyle sings horribly off-key during his short time in prison. He's played by Dwight Yoakam, who is better known as a country singer than as an actor.
  • In the Nashville episode "I Can't Get Over You To Save My Life," movie star Noah West asks country music star Juliette Barnes if she's acted much (she hasn't). Noah is played by Derek Hough, who's much better known for his dancing than his acting; Juliette is played by Hayden Panettiere, who's been in the business since she was a tot.
  • In Monty Python's Flying Circus, Biggles, played by Graham Chapman, finds out that his friend Algy is a Straight Gay "poof," and shoots him. Chapman was Straight Gay in Real Life.
  • A variant, related not to talent but to class: in the first series of Downton Abbey, Rose Leslie plays the working-class housemaid Gwen Dawson in the giant titular great house. Leslie herself comes from an old Scottish noble family; she was literally raised in a castle, and her parents own another castle. This wouldn't be terribly remarkable if it weren't for the fact that the British class system is practically a character on its own on Downton—and because she is the only true Blue Blood aristocratnote  ever to have been part of the main cast (in a show filled with fictional and not-so-fictional nobs, up to and including the Royal Family).
  • In The Wild Wild West's "The Night of the Murderous Spring," Dr. Loveless, Antoinette, and Kitten Twitty go down with their boat in a lake, due to the fact that none of them can swim. Luckily, Michael Dunn (Loveless) was a great swimmer - when Phoebe Dorin (Antoinette) came close to drowning during the filming, he rescued her.
  • Part of the comedy of Keeping Up Appearances involves Hyacinth being such a terrible singer that Emmet dreads even being in the same room as her. Patricia Routledge, who portrays Hyacinth, happens to have an excellent singing voice in real life, and in fact, actually shared the 1968 Tony Award for Best Actress with Leslie Uggams.
  • In the Undeclared episode "The Assistant", Steve's father Hal insists on performing an original song for Adam Sandler (As Himself) and turns out to be a Dreadful Musician: Hal is played by singer/songwriter Loudon Wainright III.
  • American Gods: 12,000-year-old pagan fertility goddess Ostara of the Dawn who in the present Day is a Stepford Smiler who is secretly furious over the fact that Christianity has co-opted her name and Day of worship as Easter, is played by devout Christian Kristin Chenoweth.
  • On Insecure, a major part of Molly's character is that she Really Gets Around (in fact at one point one character asks her, "Can you teach me how to ho?") and uses a lot of profanity. The actress that plays her, Yvonne Orji, is, in fact, a devout Christian, who only does clean comedy, and is saving her virginity for marriage.
  • Musical comedy show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has Rachel Bloom play Rebecca Bunch, a woman who frequently imagines herself in dramatic musical numbers but when heard to sing diegetically instead of in an imagine spot is awful. Bloom herself has long been known for her singing comedy.
  • One of the longest Running Gags on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has Charlie stalking the Waitress, a young woman who works at a local coffee shop. The Waitress openly states her hatred for Charlie, makes fun of him whenever they're forced to interact, has deliberately attempted to sabotage his and the rest of the Gang's plans (see: "The Gang Dances Their Asses Off"), and in general, absolutely despises him. Charlie is played by Charlie Day, while the Waitress's actress is Mary Elizabeth Ellis...Day's real-life wife. They've been Happily Married since 2006.
  • Sons of Anarchy: Neo-Nazi gang leader Zobelle is played by the Jewish Adam Arkin.
  • In the Playhouse 90 episode "The Plot to Kill Stalin," Poskrebyshev suggests targeting Kaganovich for his Judaism. Poskrebyshev is played by Eli Wallach, who was Jewish.
  • Ed Asner, who is Jewish, played a Nazi who hid as a Holocaust survivor in an episode of CSI: NY.
  • Multi-talented Catherine O'Hara plays Moira Rose, a terrible actor, horrible dancer, and mediocre singer, on Schitt's Creek. Moira does manage one excellent performance, at her daughter's high school graduation, showcasing O'Hara's actual vocal talent.
  • On Halt and Catch Fire despite Mackenzie Davis admitting that she's terrible at typing, she plays computer phenom Cameron Howe.
  • In Sherlock, the character Irene Adler is changed from an opera singer to a dominatrix. She is portrayed by Lara Pulver, an accomplished musical theatre actress.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Mr. Fowler is awestruck by Howard's stage magic act, and fails to reproduce a trick later, with painful results. He's played by Teller, who is part of a famous magic duo.
  • Much of the comedy of Telenovela comes from how Ana Sofia (Eva Longoria) is the Latina lead for a hit Spanish soap opera despite how she doesn't understand a single word of Spanish.
  • This occurred in Big Time Rush, but by necessity, only in the pilot episode. The boys are depicted as having no aptitude whatsoever for singing or dancing, until they finally agree to buckle down and get serious about learning from Gustavo. Of course, in real life, the four actors all needed to be skilled singers and dancers already, or else they wouldn't have been cast in the roles in the first place. From the end of the pilot episode and continuing through the rest of the series, the actors' real talents were allowed to shine.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • There's an infamous skit where Santino Marella tries (and fails) to do the splits on the ring apronnote . Santino actually can do the splits, as he has demonstrated in other matches. Although there is a difference between a side-split (legs out on either side, which he was doing on the apron) and a front-split (legs forward and back, which he does in matches.)
  • TNA's Joseph Park, a wrestling lawyer, was shown to be shockingly inept at wrestling, even not knowing how to get into the ring and winning by sheer luck despite being 6'8 and 300 pounds (136.08 kg). Of course, he's played by Chris Parks, a 15 year veteran of wrestling who also portrays Abyss.
  • CHIKARA brought in Stephen Kingnote , 7 years a professional wrestler in various Midwestern promotions, as Deucalion, the Big Bad of The Flood, the amalgamation of Heel groups out to destroy CHIKARA, and presented him as having no wrestling experience, leading to CHIKARA Grand Champion Icarus countering his "one move" the Chokebreaker (Chokeslam into a backbreaker across the knee) and making him tap out to the CHIKARA Special.

  • Part of comedian Jack Benny's persona was his inability to play the violin, much less realize it. In real life, Benny was an accomplished violinist, often performing with Isaac Stern.
    • As an amusing anecdote, Jack was at one point asked to dine at The White House, and while he was there he would play his violin. When he arrived, a Secret Service agent asked him what he was carrying in his violin case. Benny answered that he had a Thompson submachine gun in there, "the old Chicago typewriter". The agent sighed and said, "Thank God, I was afraid you had your violin in there."
    • Apparently, only a very good violinist can pull off playing badly for comic effect. A bad violinist doing it is just horrible.
      • This holds true for just about any musical or theatrical endeavor, resulting in this trope in the first place; someone who is very good can be far, far worse than someone who is actually bad or merely mediocre.
    • Speaking of Benny, he often compared his skills to the legendary Jascha Heifetz (see the live-action TV folder), who himself occasionally recorded hilarious imitations of bad violin students for fun. Once one such imitation of Heifetz was actually rejected in a blind audition test. Heifetz's actual playing was truly spectacular.
  • In The Goon Show, Neddie Seagoon is portrayed as utterly unable to carry a tune in several buckets. His actor Harry Secombe had a successful singing career.
  • Les Dawson and Eric Morecambe both used "playing the piano really badly" in their acts. Of course, both actually played very well, as is necessary to make playing badly comical rather than tedious, and in fact, it can be harder to play the wrong notes while keeping the tune recognizable than to just play the tune right.

  • A classic character type in musical theater is The Rival to the aspiring actor/dancer/singer protagonist. Of course, the rival is never as good as the protagonist at acting/singing/dancing. However, this is frequently Irony As She Is Cast. For example in Hairspray, the actress playing Amber Von Tussle has to be a good dancer, because it takes a lot of skill to trip consistently and safely.
    • The girl playing Penny has an even harder job—she has to be awkward and a beat behind everybody else.
  • In The Phantom of the Opera, Carlotta is a shrill, shrieky Opera singer who is beginning to get on in years. She's been played by many talented and wonderful singers, who switch from her shrieking voice during the parts where she's supposed to sound badly into a perfect operetta during the ensemble musical numbers. After all, even when she sings badly, she is still supposed to reach a high note during it.
  • In-universe example: In The Moon Is Blue, the virginal Patty tends to play a tart on TV.
  • A somewhat meta example: In Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson uses "immigrant" derisively towards West Indies-born Hamilton several times. Jefferson's actor also plays Lafayette in Act I (who would, in America, technically be an immigrant from France), and famously has the line "Immigrants - we get the job done". The irony is likely intentional.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda has played immigrants in both of his shows: Usnavi in In the Heights and Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton, and is in general very pro-immigrant. Not only is Miranda American-born, but his father (who's from Puerto Rico, an American territory so not technically an immigrant himself) also does not come from the same place as either Usnavi (who is proudly Dominican) or Hamilton (who was born and raised in the British West Indies).
  • The character of Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone is a famous actress who (in-universe) is played by Jane Roberts, a relative up-and-comer in the theater world. In the Original Broadway Cast, she's played by Sutton Foster, who at the time was one of the most well-known modern Broadway actresses, thus making this a rare case of Irony as She Is Cast (in the show) and Cast the Expert (in the Show Within a Show).

    Video Games 
  • During the saving skits in Super Robot Wars UX, Fei-Yen HD (aka Miku) starts to speaks in a very robotic way, contrasting with her cheerful personality during the game. This is mostly her voice actress trying to sound like Miku just like in the original Vocaloid software, rather than Banpresto trying to use the software for that job. Ironically, she does a bad job doing that, even if that scene is supposed to be a Tear Jerker for the player.
  • In Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Robin Atkin Downes has to do a bunch of horrible impersonations of Metal Gear characters in-character as Kaz. The voice actor himself is actually an extremely gifted vocal impressionist and nailed every line in the original recording session, with most sounding virtually indistinguishable from the original actor. The director had to call him in again to rerecord them all properly badly. Fortunately, the game gives Robin Atkin Downes the opportunity to show off his actual range when he plays Psycho Mantis and Revolver Ocelot in the quiz game at the end.
  • Celeste, one of the characters in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, speaks in the English version with a bad French because she's faking it due to her escapism from her real identity. She's voiced by Marieve Herington, a French-Canadian, in the English dub.

    Web Animation 
  • According to the RWBY panel at RTX Australia 2016, Blake is the worst singer in Team RWBY. Her voice actress Arryn Zech, on the other hand, can sing opera, as seen in Red vs. Blue: The Chorus Trilogy, where she voices Dr. Emily Gray.

    Western Animation 
  • Dr. Robotnik from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog is a horrible singer. However, his voice actor, the late Long John Baldry, was a blues and folk-rock singer.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In an episode, Catwoman jokingly mentions that Black Canary being gagged is for the best since she has a horrendous singing voice (which keeps with the comics, where Oracle has compared Canary's singing to torture on multiple occasions). Black Canary's voice actress, Grey DeLisle, is a professional singer. In the Musical Episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister," we get to hear her sing, and it's beautiful. Apparently, Catwoman was just messing with her.
  • In the Code Lyoko School Play episode, Laughing Fit, Ulrich gives a spectacularly bad performance as Romeo prior to the Return to the Past...his voice actress was on Broadway at one point.
  • Downplayed with Kim Possible: Kim's voice actress is Christy Romano, an accomplished singer. The episode "Hidden Talent" reveals Kim is a mostly good singer, but has trouble hitting high notes (she does manage it at the end of the episode though).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Madeleine Peters, who voices Scootaloo is notorious for her rather bad singing in "The Show Stoppers". However, according to Daniel Ingram, Madeleine is actually a very good singer (as evidenced by her vocals during "One Bad Apple" and "Flight to the Finish") and was told to butcher the song. He would also very much like an opportunity to record a version of the Crusaders' theme sung properly.
    • Claire Corlett grew into this trope. She only provided the speaking voice for Sweetie Belle in Seasons 1-3, with Michelle Creber doing the singing. On the one occasion during this time that Claire sang in her own right, she turned in a screeching, off-key campfire song, going sharply against Sweetie's previous beautiful vocals. As of Season 4, she is doing both the speaking and singing; based on fans' reaction to the latter, she is doing an excellent job.
  • Leela in Futurama is played by Katey Sagal, who has worked as a professional singer before she became known for playing Peg Bundy on Married... with Children. While during musical numbers, she gets to show off her chops, in-character Leela has a terrible singing voice, as seen when she attempts to serenade invading aliens with a horrific version of "I Will Always Love You".
    The humans are attacking!
  • Gina Cazador in Bojack Horseman is, at best, mediocre when she auditions for a singing part on her show Philbert. Stephanie Beatriz, who plays her, is a much better singer, as shown in Bojack's drug trip
  • On Family Guy , Meg's perceived ugliness is one of her defining attributes; her voice actress Mila Kunis is considered one of the sexiest women alive.
  • In the Avengers, Assemble! episode "Prison Break" , Crimson Widow takes quite a bit of joy in beating up Wasp and vice versa. Their respective voice actors, Julie Nathanson and Kari Wahlgren, are best friends in real life.
  • The Amphibia episode "Anne Of The Year" shows Hop Pop being terrible at improvisational stand up comedy. His voice actor, Bill Farmer, is an expert at improv.


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