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Irony as She Is Cast

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Irony As She Is Cast happens when known traits of an actor and the displayed traits of a role do not mesh. Perhaps a classically trained opera singer is cast as someone who cannot carry a tune to save their life, or a born-and-raised Jewish actor is cast as a Nazi. In order to qualify, the fans must know about said traits, otherwise there would be no dissonance.

Their trait might even have been the reason for casting:


Casting a talented actor as an untalented character is a common form, as it usually 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 for Stylistic Suck is frequently much greater than the skill needed to perform "properly". This version often implements Dreadful Musician, Hollywood Tone-Deaf or Bad "Bad Acting" (or any of the other tropes under Stylistic Suck).

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.


Compare Casting Gag, when an actor is cast in a role that mirrors or parodies a previous role or experience, Playing Against Type, where the actor plays a character contrary to the previous characters, Contrast Cast the Expert where this person was chosen specifically for their talent, The Cast Showoff, where talent gets to be in the limelight, Actor-Shared Background, where an actor's characteristics line up with that of their character's.

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.



    open/close all folders 

  • 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 Adam Hills 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?
  • The classic Willkin's Coffee ads featured puppets performed by Jim Henson. Despite not liking coffee himself, Henson performed the part of the coffee-loving creature Willkins. It was simultaneously averted as Henson also performed the coffee-hating Wontkins.

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • The Angry Birds Movie has Peter Dinklage voice the Large and in Charge Mighty Eagle. Dinklage has dwarfism.
  • 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.
  • The voice of the Hero Boy in The Polar Express, Daryl Sabara, is Jewish.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Prestige: Ricky Jay, the film's magic consultant, is cast an incompetent stage magician.
  • 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. The same goes, in a way, in the Japanese dub, as Carly is voiced by Nana Mizuki, which is also a professional singer.
  • David Bowie has played characters that sang off-key in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.
  • Meryl Streep
    • She 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.
  • In a deleted scene in Little Fockers, Barbara 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:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mystery Men: Captain Amazing's publicist complains to him, "I'm not a magician!" He's played by Ricky Jay, a famous card magician.
  • In films featuring The Marx Brothers, Zeppo Marx is remembered for playing The Straight Man who rarely gets any good lines and mostly just serves as someone for the other brothers to play off of. Offstage, he was considered the funniest of the group.
  • In the Divergent films, Caleb is the Non-Action Guy and is visibly winded and out of breath whenever he has to run. He's played by Ansel Elgort, who's a trained dancer and extremely ripped underneath the baggy clothes.
  • In The Neon Demon Jessie has a speech about how she has no talents, mentioning she can't dance or sing. Elle Fanning is both a professionally trained ballerina and quite a gifted singer.
  • The Red Baron: Matthias Schweighöfer suffers from aviophobia, the fear of flying on planes. And he played Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron himself.
  • Scream:
    • In Scream (1996), Tatum dies when she tries to escape Ghostface through the pet flap on the garage door, only to get stuck. During filming, it turned out that her actress Rose McGowan was actually skinny enough to fit through the pet flap, forcing the production to nail her top to the inside of the garage door to prevent her from slipping out. Maybe she wasn't Too Dumb to Live when it was such a close thing in real life?
    • A prop example came with the Buck 120 hunting knife that was used as the model for Ghostface's signature weapon. Wes Craven wanted Ghostface to use a big, scary-looking knife that the killer might've taken from Dad's garage as opposed to a slender, flimsy-looking kitchen knife like Michael Myers, and the Buck 120 certainly looked the part. The ironic part? Buck had actually discontinued the 120 because it was too big to be used at its intended purpose of gutting and skinning animals — and one of the most famous scenes in the first film concerns Ghostface telling his target that he's going to gut her like a fish! Even more hilariously, Buck later put the knife back into production because of the movie renewing demand for it.
  • Jojo Rabbit: Since the film mocks the hell out of the Nazi characters, of course many of them are played by Jews for extra "fuck you, Hitler" points. The biggest being Imaginary Hitler, who is played by Taika Waititi, who's not only Jewish but also half-Maori and describes himself as a "Polynesian Jew".
  • Bohemian Rhapsody: Rami Malek portrayed Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who was a well-known Kindhearted Cat Lover. In real life, however, Malek is allergic to cats, which is why he isn't directly seen alongside any cats onscreen.
  • The Harder They Fall (2021): Idris Elba is the prominent villain in this modern-day Western, but he's allergic to horses and constantly took Benadryl to avoid sneezing all over the place.
  • On that note, Clint Eastwood, star of numerous Spaghetti Westerns, was himself allergic to horses. The famous Clint Squint originated partly as an allergic reaction to the animals he worked with, and partly for another ironic reason: the smoke from the cigars his characters smoked stung his eyes.
  • Happens in-universe in Grave Encounters, where the protagonists, hosts of the titular Paranormal Investigation Reality TV show, work with a purported psychic named Houston Gray. The entire show is staged, but whereas the rest of the cast do actually believe in ghosts and express mainly disappointment that they've never found any real ones, Houston is an unapologetic Phony Psychic and the most skeptical of the supernatural out of all of them. When it turns out in this case that the ghosts are Real After All and actively malevolent on top of it, he becomes the Flat-Earth Atheist of the group.
  • In the US film version of Fever Pitch, the main character is a ride-or-die Red Sox fan...and is played by Jimmy Fallon, a Yankees fan raised in the NYC metro area. For non-baseball fans, the Yankees are the bitter rivals of the Red Sox, and their rivalry is the fiercest and longest-running in MLB history.
  • Cromwell: The choice of Richard Harris to play Oliver Cromwell raised many eyebrows, as Harris was a hedonistic and proudly patriotic Irishman playing an English puritan who allowed countless massacres to happen in Ireland. The salary was simply too good to pass up.
  • 101 Dalmatians (1996): Despite playing Cruella de Vil, Glenn Close insisted all the fur coats she wears in the film be fake. She's also allergic to tobacco, and smoked herbal cigarettes for when Cruella smokes on screen.
  • In Fighting with My Family, Florence Pugh is a natural blonde who dyed her hair black to portray Paige - a wrestler who is a natural blonde (but the movie doesn't show this) dyed black, who dyes her hair blonde to better fit in with the other 'Divas' training at WWE.
  • The Black Dahlia has Mia Kirshner playing the title role of Elizabeth Short; a terrible actress who couldn't get a part. And she gives a performance that even critics who hated the movie raved about.
  • Similarly is Sarah Michelle Gellar in I Know What You Did Last Summer as Helen Shivers; a young woman whose dreams to become an actress fail and she's reduced to working in her family's department store. Not only was this movie made during the peak of her career (Buffy the Vampire Slayer had just put her on the map), her performance was singled out as the best.
  • In Disney's Enchanted, Nancy is the real world Foil to a literal Disney Princess who sings musical numbers throughout the film. Nancy never sings once in the film. Her actress Idina Menzel is an acclaimed Broadway star known for her incredible singing voice. While many bemoaned the wasting of her, she herself said she felt flattered to be hired just as an actress.
  • In Spears, Jeff is the Non-Action Guy and is reluctant to let things get violent. Bobby Calloway was previously a pro wrestler.
  • The Harvey Girls has a gag where Ray Bolger's character is terrified of horses, and Virginia O'Brien is the one brave enough to put a shoe on one. In reality it was her who was afraid of horses.
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once stars Ke Huy Quan, who quit acting for three decades because of a lack of Asian roles in Hollywood. He gets to play over 200 on-screen variations on Waymond Wang, each a visually and emotionally distinct character with their own quirks and behaviors across the multiverse.
  • A Bad Moms Christmas: Amy's family loudly complains at her mom dragging all of them to the Russian The Nutcracker, which is entirely in Russian, as no one in their family understands it. Her mom also later remarks, "What are we, Jewish?" speaking about their Christmas tradition. Mila Kunis, who plays Amy, is a Russian-speaking Jew.
  • Knives Out:
    • Both Ana de Armas and Marlene Forte (who plays Marta's mother) are originally Cuban, pretty much the only place in Spanish-speaking Latin America their characters can't be originally from.note .
    • Linda Thrombey's most notable trait is her arrogant and deceitful claims that she's a Self-Made Woman, despite owing much of her success to her famous, wealthy father. In contrast, her actress (Jamie Lee Curtis) was praised for her honesty and humility in a post-release interview where she admitted that nepotism played a role in much of her early acting career (her parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, were both famous actors).
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2:
    • The ironic thing about Gamora not enjoying dancing, is Zoe Saldaña actually has a deep background in dancing, with Ballet being her first passion.
    • Similarly, Dave Bautista's Drax hates dancing and explains his attraction to his wife was due to her not dancing, no matter how catchy the tune playing was. Bautista himself is a former breakdancer and has married two dancers.
    • Kurt Russell plays Ego, Peter Quill’s Disappeared Dad who abandoned him and his mother, whereas Kurt Russell has been in a relationship with Goldie Hawn since 1983, around the time her biological children, actors Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson, with her ex-husband were still very young. Though little else is known to the public about the years growing up, both Oliver and Kate have publicly stated that they see Russell as their father.
  • Aftershock: Lorenza Izzo, who's Chilean with Spanish as her native tongue which she speaks fluently, in the film plays Kylie, who's American, just visiting Chile and only knows a tiny bit.
  • Lords of Chaos: The Jewish actor Emory Cohen plays Varg Vikernes, who in real life is an outspoken neo-Nazi and white supremacist. Needless to say, the real Varg was not amused, both by the choice of actor and how the film portrays him as the villain.
  • Although Anton Diffring played Nazis in many film and TV productions, including Where Eagles Dare and Operation Daybreak, he was actually gay and Jewish, which caused him to flee Nazi Germany in 1938 in order to escape persecution.
  • In the Lord of the Rings movies, the kingdom of Rohan forbids women from joining its mounted army, and Eowyn has to disguise herself as a man to do so. But behind the scenes, most of the Riders of Rohan (or at least the non-speaking extras) were played by women disguised as men. Production wanted to cast local equestrians with their own horses, but women vastly outnumber men in the equestrian hobby. As a result, production hired what men they could and the rest were women in fake beards. The Witch King never stood a chance.
  • Shiva Baby: The Jewish Danielle (Rachel Sennott) is contrasted with the gentile Kim (Dianna Agron), whom the characters call a "shiksa princess". In real life, Agron is Jewish and Sennott is not.
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: Tenoch Huerta didn't actually know how to swim when he was cast to play Namor the Sub-Mariner. He had to take eight months of swimming lessons to prepare for the role.

  • 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?"
  • Caitlin Waite, a former child model who lent her likeness to Kit Kittredge in the American Girl book series, stated on a Reddit thread that while she got the gig to portray Kit, she was actually more into the books and was honestly creeped out by the dolls themselves.

    Live-Action TV 
  • House of the Dragon:
    • Rhaenyra, whose status as the official royal heir in a world of tightly set gender roles kicks off the entire plot, is played by the openly non-binary Emma D'Arcy.
    • Young Alicent, who fully abides by the set gender roles of her world, is played queer actress Emily Carey, who has said pronouns are she/they ( a mark of gender nonconformity) and a feminist who rejects such sexist gender norms.
  • 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.
  • Frasier: Sir Derek Jacobi plays the worst Shakespearean actor in the world. Of course, he won an Emmy for his performance, too.
  • 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 a wheelchair user.
    • 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.
  • In the 1998 Live-Action Adaptation of Great Teacher Onizuka, Kirari (the singer of the anime's first ending theme) plays Nanako, who shows how Hollywood Tone-Deaf she is when Onizuka considers entering her in an idol contest.
  • 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.
  • 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 ended up playing left-handed (his off hand) for the episode because it was the only way he could convincingly fake his character's level of incompetence.
  • 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.
    • Alan Alda reacts in one episode to Tracy's weekly hijinx: "A guy crying about a chicken and a baby? I thought this was a comedy show."
  • 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 addition, Charles once told a patient that while he loved music he had little talent for music, while Stiers was an accomplished musician who conducted over 70 different orchestras.
  • NUMB3RS:
    • Charlie is a math genius, while David Krumholtz was not a great math student in high school.
    • Conversely, Colby is as lost when it comes to advanced math as any of the other agents, but Dylan Bruno went to MIT for engineering.
  • Power Rangers,
    • Mighty Morphin' 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.)
    • Power Rangers Time Force: Kevin Kleinberg who played the Green Ranger Trip has a red belt in karate and seven years of kickboxing experience. Unlike other Ranger actors who got to show off their martial arts skills, Kleinberg rarely shows off this skill when Trip is unmorphed and Trip is depicted as being the weakest of the Rangers in terms of fighting skill with his main asset being his brains.
  • Kamen Rider
    • Kengo Utahoshi from Kamen Rider Fourze has a chronically weak constitution, but his actor Ryūki Takahashi is quite capable with stunts and fight scenes. Movie War Ultimatum does give him a chance to show his skills, however.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is for all intents and purposes, a video game Medical Drama, and the Riders of the main cast are all doctors or involved in the medical field. One of the few major Riders who isn’t a doctor is the Big Bad Kamen Rider Genm/Kuroto Dan, who is instead a Corrupt Corporate Executive for a game development company. His actor—Tetsuya Iwanaga—also happena to be the only member of the cast who actually does have real life experience practicing medicine, as he is (among other things) a licensed pharmacist and has written parts of medical textbooks.
  • 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 (which is doubly funny given the fact that Steve Carell actually taught improv classes back in his Second City days).
    • Michael Scott's first girlfriend in the series, Carol Stills, is perhaps the least tolerant girlfriend of Michael's Manchild ways and is quick to turn down his hasty marriage proposal. Carol is played Nancy Carell, Steve Carell's real-life wife.
  • 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 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).
  • 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.
  • Derek Jacobi has been cast as a stammerer 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! René Artois is forever uncomfortable with Lieutenant Gruber's infatuation with him, but the actor who played René, Gorden Kaye, was an out gay man (while Guy Siner, who played Gruber, is heterosexual). Actor Sam Kelly was Jewish and played German Wehrmacht Captain Hans Geeringnote .
  • An early episode of The Incredible Hulk (1977) 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 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.
    • Additionally, Hyacinth is a social climbing snob who prides herself on being "upper middle-class", looks down her nose at anyone she considers "beneath" her, and goes to great lengths to get "in" with the local social elite. In reality, Patricia Routledge comes from a working-class background. She herself has admitted that she only agreed to play Hyacinth as a parody of all the traits she despises most in snobs!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger: A Victim of the Week Education Mama is played by Rei Yoshii, who is infertile.
  • 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.
  • Vida: Melissa Barrera, a native Mexican who speaks fluent Spanish, plays Lyn Hernandez, who's inability to speak (and just barely understand) Spanish serves to highlight her pochanote  image.
  • The British comedian Tommy Cooper had a lot of routines in which he performed magic tricks that went wrong. In actual fact, Cooper was an accomplished magician (a member of the Magic Circle, no less) who deliberately performed the tricks in such a way that they would fail because he knew that they would get bigger laughs than successful tricks. Every now and then, he would perform a trick that actually worked - to which the audience would respond with rapturous applause.
  • Studio C has a sketch where a group of people are choosing players for their basketball teams. Then comes actual NBA player Shawn Bradley, who's about one and a half times the height of all the others ("it's like someone put a pair of pants on a ladder", to quote the Shoulder Angel that shows up), and everyone treats him like The Load.
    "Don't get near the hoop. Or the ball."
  • Victorious: Trina Vega is utterly untalented. She can't sing, she can't dance and she can't act. Her actress, Daniella Monet, can do all three.
  • WandaVision: Randall Park and Kat Dennings had previously been sitcom stars themselves, whereas Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis are much more serious looking in on Wanda's artificial sitcom setting for herself.
  • Bewitched has, at its main source of drama, friction between Darren and Samantha's mother, Endora. In truth, Dick York and Agnes Moorehead, the two actors, were dearly fond of each other.
  • Lost: For the first few seasons Jin can only speak Korean and doesn't understand English until Sun, and eventually the other castways, start teaching him. In real life Daniel Dae Kim's first language is English and he knew very little Korean, requiring coaching from Yunjim Kim who played Sun and spoke both languages fluently.
  • Diplomatic Immunity's lead character Leighton has a bit of a thing for princesses, having a previous public indiscretion with a French princess and being in love with the king's niece Leilani. He's also furious at a musical about Edmund Hillary that inserts Homoerotic Subtext, and is visibly uncomfortable when The Niu hits on him. His actor Craig Parker is openly gay.
  • Jackie from That '70s Show frequently makes cracks about Fez being from another country. The irony is that Fez's actor (Wilmer Valderrama) was born in the United States while Jackie's actress (Mila Kunis) was born in Ukraine.
  • In-universe in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Spartacus is a Thracian with a deep hatred of Romans because of the legionnaire who sold his wife into slavery. He is to take part in a re-enactment of a famous battle where a Roman general slaughtered a group of Thracians, himself playing the Roman.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: whenever Aunt Hilda tries to perform comedy on stage, she's terrible. Her actress Caroline Rhea was also a stand-up comedian.
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina casts Kiernan Shipka to play Sabrina Spellman, whose famous companion is her black cat Salem. Kiernan herself is allergic to cats.
  • Young Sheldon: "Summer Sausage, a Pocket Poncho, and Tony Danza" has Missy convincing George to take her to Red Lobster, and she loves the experience. Missy's actress, Raegan Revord, is a vegan in real life. Perhaps alluded to in "A Live Chicken, a Fried Chicken and Holy Matrimony", where Missy becomes upset that the Sparks' are going to kill their pet chicken Matilda, and steals her, along with trying to stop her family from eating fried chicken. It's possible that the character is on her way to becoming vegan also.
  • Degrassi: The judgmental Christian Darcy Edwards was played by Shenae Grimes, who in real life is an atheist.
  • Bob Hearts Abishola: The notoriously man-hungry and somewhat homophobic Kemi is portrayed by Gina Yashere, who's a lesbian in real life.

  • Used In-Universe in the Spike Jones song "I'm the Angel in the Christmas Play", the humor of which comes from the fact that a child known for being an Enfante Terrible (even cheerfully singing about all the pranks he's pulled) was cast as, well, the angel in his school's Christmas play.
    Daddy laughs, he bends in half,
    When I wear angel hair
    But wait until he takes a spill,
    My halo's on the stair

    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.
  • Cherry was a timid valet to Deuce and Domino who at first was just the Damsel in Distress, and then portrayed as the weaker friend to Michelle McCool. Kara Drew on the other hand had been wrestling on the indies for years, and was the more experienced of the two. She however didn't mind this role, viewing Cherry as a separate character, and the plan was for her to slowly get stronger without betraying the persona (before she was released thanks to budget cuts).

  • 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 Caribbean-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 and Alexander 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 proudly claims lineage from the Dominican Republic) or Hamilton (who was born and raised in what is now St. Kitts and Nevis).
  • 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).
  • In Cats Victoria is a silent role who dances a ballet number and must therefore be played by a very talented ballerina. During the performance, she is supposed to shake and look nervous, looking like an amateur, because Victoria is a very young cat at her first Jellicle Ball.
  • In Spies Are Forever, the Jewish actor Brian Rosenthal plays Baron von Nazi.
  • Company (Takarazuka Revue) casts Tamaki Ryou as Aoyagi, who is nervous, stiff as a board, and fumbling during Takano (the company's principal danseur)'s seductive demonstration of the New Swan Lake. She is, in fact, very good at dancing, having played Death (a dance-only role) in Romeo et Juliette: De La Haine a l'Amour as a younger actress. Additionally, Aoyagi is the male lead role. By default, principal male leads in Takarazuka are played by the top star - the leader of the troupe, who must have singing, acting, and dancing skills par excellence to get to that position in the first place.

    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.
  • "Celestia Ludenberg" of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, an obviously Japanese girl who claims to be European, speaks with an affected French accent in the English dub (that quickly disappears whenever she gets angry and reappears just as quickly afterwards). She is voiced by Marieve Herington, who is French-Canadian.

    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.
  • Angel Dust of Hazbin Hotel is one of, if not the most promiscuous characters on the show. His voice actor in the pilot, Michael Kovak, is asexual.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Critical Role: Happens and gets lampshaded in the second campaign: Caleb claims he is bad at imitating voices and accents and subsequently does a bad (but hilarious) job at imitating his friends' voices. Caleb's player, Liam O'Brien, then breaks character to point out how strange that was since he, as a voice-actor, is very good at accents.

    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 occasionsnote ). 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.
  • Homer Simpson from The Simpsons is know for eating junk food, drinking beer and rarely doing physical activities. But actor Dan Castellaneta, who voiced Homer for nearly 35 years is a vegetarian, doesn't drink alcohol and does exercises regularly.
  • 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.
  • A twisted example is with Steve Blum, a Jewish voice actor. One of his role in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is the Red Skull, a literal Nazi. Likewise, the late David Warner did the first appearance of the Skull in Spider-Man: The Animated Series and was himself Jewish.
  • Moral Orel: One of the most notable traits of Orel's mother, Bloberta, is that she's incredibly tone-deaf, which earned her a lot of grief from her family, who all had perfect pitch. Bloberta's voice actress, Britta Phillips, is a professional musician best known as the singing voice for the titular character in Jem and the bassist for the indie rock band Luna.

Alternative Title(s): Irony As He Is Cast, Irony As They Are Cast