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Is This Thing On?

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Alex the rock star is ready to wow the crowd with his hip brand of radical rap-rock-metal fusion. The crowd remains in an eager silence as they calmly walk onto the stage and takes slow, echoing steps towards their personal, Jimi Hendrix-signed microphone. Their hand reaches out to grasp it. A light but dramatic cough, and... "Hey, Is This Thing On?" *tap tap tap* "Testing, testing, 1-2-3...".

Nine times out of ten, you can bet any character speaking into a microphone will utter this phrase. Unfortunately, because of a case of TV Never Lies, people sometimes do this in Real Life, thinking (1) it is the correct way to test a microphone or (2) that it hasn't been tested already. Not only is it wrong, it's unnecessary. The audio team will probably have already spoken into the microphone while setting up the sound system before the audience arrives, and definitely before the speaker arrives on stage. Despite this fact, all forms of media still use this trope, misleading the common people to think that it is necessary to check the mic this way before speaking.

Not to be confused with Is This Thing Still On?, though the two are vaguely similar. Also, Is This Thing Still On will sometimes follow Is This Thing On. Compare Feedback Rule.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Marika Kato of the Bodacious Space Pirates addresses the passengers in her first attack starting with questions about whether the microphone is already transmitting.

    Audio Plays 

  • Stock covering line for a comedian who tells a joke at which no-one laughs.
  • Parodied by Zack Galifianakis, playing a stand-up comic from the 1700s. "Is this thing on?... What is this thing?"
  • Also parodied by Patton Oswalt, when he commented on how he was amazed he was still funny because he was in a great relationship and in love:
    Patton Oswalt: You ever find yourself in a relationship and realize it's a rainbow basket filled with sunflower kisses? ...Hello? Is this thing on? C'mon— what are you, mummies?
  • In Bill Bailey's Part Troll tour, he mentions how in one review he was described as looking like "a medieval roadie":
    Bill Bailey: A medieval roadie? Ah, one do I say, one do I say, one do I say, one do I say then surely two should follow, two should follow, two should follow, two should follow.
  • Averted in CrapShots #25. Graham tests the microphone, but does not tap it. He does say some pretty embarrassing things, though.
  • In a Ukrainian comedy show, a performer tested the microphone replaced "one two three" with "eight nine ten jack queen king ace".

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Far Side comic, captioned "Testing whether fish have feelings", two scientists have one microphone in a fishbowl inhabited by a single goldfish and another one being held by one of the scientists. The scientist begins to yell insults at the fish, only to ask if the mic is on when he doesn't get a response.
  • In one Brother Juniper comic the title character speaks into the lectern microphone in an empty church.
    Brother Juniper: Testing... coal collection... warm hearts or frigid church... testing.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek 2 has this trope, although rather amusingly, when the fairy godmother is recording an "answering machine message"...
  • The Incredibles has Mr. Incredible say this in his initial interview.
  • In Home on the Range, show cow Maggie says this line and blows at her cow bell.
  • In WALL•E, the captain of the Axiom begins his groundbreaking announcement that Earth is once again inhabitable by asking this question.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks: Just before the finals of the Battle of the Bands, Rainbow Dash does the "Check, one two, testing, testing" thing and taps the microphone. Then Sunset Shimmer unwisely raises the volume to the max, causing an ear-splitting feedback on Dash's next try.
  • In Turning Red, When Mei starts recording with a camcorder, Miriam sticks her face right in front of it and asks if it's on.
  • Twice Upon a Time: Synonamess Botch taps his mic and says "Is this thing on?" before addressing his minions.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Said in the The Prowler when the supervising teacher tells the partygoers that there is a prowler on the grounds and everyone should stay inside.
  • In HOUBA! On the Trail of the Marsupilami, Not-So-Intrepid Reporter Dan Geraldo does this with the business end of a blowpipe. To be fair, he's thinking it's held by an imposter and not a real jungle native. He gets a faceful of darts for his troubles.
  • Avengers: Endgame: Before recording his message to Pepper at the beginning of the movie, Tony Stark taps against his helmet (which he uses as a recorder) and asks "This thing on?"

  • Discworld:
    • In Soul Music, Asphalt the roadie says "One two. One. One. One two," prior to the concert at The Cavern, but doesn't know why.
    • One of the silliest and most obviously deliberate examples anywhere occurs in Thud!: an ancient recording of a historic dwarven leader begins with a couple of loud knocking noises, followed by "Art thys thyng workyng?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • During the Carson-era of The Tonight Show, Johnny would leap up to grab the boom mic, bring it close to his mouth and announce: "Attention, K-Mart shopper!" whenever a joke fell flat.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor does this with his camera when recording his instructions for Martha in "Human Nature".
  • Falling Skies: The bonus material on the official site has Pope starting an oral history of the Second Mass on a tape recorder he stumbles on. This is the very first thing he says, and he's genuinely surprised that it works.
  • In one of the last episodes of I Love Lucy, Fred installs an intercom between his guest house and the Ricardo's main house. Lucy tests it with the "Testing 1, 2, 3" method.
  • Parodied in Galavant. King Richard attempts to do a comedy routine, and fails miserably. He then says this and taps his mouth, since they're in the Middle Ages and microphones don't exist.
  • Played with in Slings & Arrows. A stagehand soundchecks with "check, one, to be or not to be" before Oliver's memorial service.
  • Stargate SG-1, season 8 episode "New Order, Part 2": Jack O'Neill does this while his mind is merged with the computer of Thor's spaceship, and he's talking through its comms.
    Jack's voice: Hello. Testing, testing. One, two. One, two, one, two, testing. Helloooo? Is this thing on?
  • On the often-aired commercials for the series V (2009), the underside of the alien spacecraft was a huge video screen displaying the smiling face of their leader, Anna. Except for that one time, where it showed Zach Braff saying "Hello? Is this thing on?" It was actually a promo for Scrubs.
  • Rutland Weekend Television did a song called "Testing".
  • Saturday Night Live: In a "Wayne's World" sketch Tom Hanks plays Garth's cousin Barry who is a roadie for Aerosmith. Barry's job is to set up the mic stands including saying "Test test, check one, check one, sibilance, sibilance, check two check two, sibilance" into each mic.

  • Geto Boys — "My minds Plain' Tricks on Me"
    I sit alone in my four cornered room, starin' at candles... Oh that shit is on? heh.
    Let me drop some shit like this here
  • Eminem:
    • The Eminem Show album ends with a skit. During the skit Ken Kaniff taps the microphone and says "Erm... izzis thing on...?"
    • At the start of "The Real Sugar Baby" (a cover of Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady", only with a female singer and with "sugar baby" instead of "slim shady") the singer goes into the mic at the start; "Hello, is this thing on?"
  • The Shellac song, "The End of Radio", repeats this phrase many times. Which is especially surreal when you consider that band leader Steve Albini is a professional recording engineer. "This... microphone... turns sound into electricity! Can you hear me now?!"
  • Lady Sovereign begins "A Little Bit of Shhh" with this phrase.
  • Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine would usually open concerts by shouting "one, two"
  • Less Than Jake has a song with this trope as its name. It uses the phrase to represent loneliness and watching the world leave you behind as you mourn a loss.
    You're on your own.
    Can't make it through this world all alone.
    Is this thing on at all?
  • The Jimi Hendrix song "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" has this trope as its first line after the epic intro/solo.
  • Barenaked Ladies' "Testing 1, 2, 3."
    Testing 1,2,3
    Can anybody hear me?
    If I shed the irony
    Would anybody cheer me?
  • Schooly D's original recording of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force theme starts with his calling out "Mic check, mic check..."
  • Full Force's "Alice, I Want You Just for Me":
    Testing, testing, one, two, one, two
    Testing, one two
    In the place to be

  • Episodes of The Magnus Archives are in the form of recordings the archivist is making of statements about supernatural experiences. He utters the "1-2-3" version at the start of the first episode.

    Print Media 
  • "Leaders and Followers", an article in Dragon written as a transcript of a panel at an adventurers' convention, opens with the deaf old wizard chairing the panel tapping the mic and saying "Can you hear me now?" unaware that the audience is saying they can. Eventually, one of the panelists takes the microphone away from him.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street: One News Flash sketch features the witch from "Snow White". Before addressing the Magic Mirror, she blows on her microphone, then says, "Testing. One, two..."

  • Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks tests the microphone before beginning announcing duties at the titular "Walter v. Stretch Grudge Match".
  • Rory Bremner's One Question Quiz, with a contestant who's "been dead since 1797":
    Mary Wollstonecraft: [tap tap] Is this thing on? Also, what is this thing?

  • Used in Wickedfor a malfunctioning wand.
  • The Tango: Maureen in RENT.
    Mark: Say something. Anything.
    Joanne: Test, 1, 2, 3...
    Mark: ... anything but that.

    Video Games 
  • In Dead to Rights, the objective of one of the levels is to stop a member of a corrupt SWAT-style unit from calling his boss. During the level the guy constantly repeats "Come in, hey Dick you copy! This stupid... What's the damn frequency?"
  • Similarly, Malcolm Corley said "How do I turn this thing off?" in Full Throttle.
  • At one point in Batman: Arkham Asylum, Harley Quinn says this while delivering an announcement over the Arkham Asylum PA system.
  • Harley does it again in Batman: Arkham City when speaking through her statue-communicators.
  • In the intro of Crash of the Titans, Cortex appears inside of a big zeppelin and utters this line before properly addressing (and kidnapping some of) the protagonists of the game.
  • Resident Evil 5: Albert Wesker says this in a voicemail message (don't look for it in the game; it's a joke by Wesker's VO D.C. Douglas).
    Wesker: Is this thing on? Excella, I told you I hate AT&T! [sigh] Greetings, you have reached Albert Wesker's... celulate device. I'm currently away on business — business that does not concern you. If Chris has given you this number I'll deal with you shortly. If you're calling to confirm the date of launch for the final phase of... the plan, please dial 01-800- [background noise] Excella, do not touch that! [more noise] Goddamnit, woman!
  • In the introduction to 1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum Sadie's aunt insists on fiddling with the microphone before the high school graduation ceremony begins.
    Aunt Evelyn: Is this thing on? Newfangled technology, even if I did donate it...what?! It is?!
  • After beating Iggy inside the Golden Temple in Paper Mario: Color Splash the announcer will ask "Is this thing on?" before announcing Mario as the winner.
  • In Thief II: The Metal Age, Karras begins recording into the steampunk wax-cylinder device he invented thusly: "Is this functioning?"
  • In Overwatch Winston said this while preparing for a Video to recall Overwatch agents in the cinematic teaser.
    Winston: [grabs the camera and pulls it up to point it at him; he is eating a banana] Is this on?
  • In Homescape, after Austin and William add a microphone to the stage in the party room.
    Austin: Testing, one, two, give me some beats! Oh, it's working! Can you hear me, dad?

    Web Comics 

    Web Animation 
  • In Hazbin Hotel's pilot, Alastor jokingly The Radio Demon does this with his staff when Charlie is surprised at his offer to help.
    Alastor: Hello? Testing, Testing!

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Uttered by Lrrr of the planet Omicron Persei 8 in an episode of Futurama.
  • Used in the series Dave the Barbarian in which a peasant asks a series of really bad jokes before asking: "Has this thing been invented yet?"
  • Subverted in The Simpsons where Moe tells an awful joke, asks if his microphone is on, then gets an apology from Barney as he failed to plug the wire in.
  • Used in the start of the opening theme for Sid the Science Kid.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "The City of Frownsville", Lou Gubrious sets a ray on Townsville that has everyone crying torrents of tears. The girls attempt to make the crowd at a festival laugh, even though they're crying as well. Blossom taps the mic and sobs, "Is this thing on?"
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In episode "Sisterhooves Social", Granny Smith does it with a megaphone, before grumbling about modern appliances in general.
    • In "Make New Friends but Keep Discord", Discord starts his stand-up routine with the obligatory "Check, check, is this thing on?"
    • In "To Where and Back Again – Part 2", Discord again, quite naturally, asks "Is this thing on?" while taping the mic when the changelings aren't laughing at all to his jokes.
  • Uncle Fred in Arthur's Perfect Christmas in his video Christmas card. "Is this thing on? ... Oh, it is!"
  • In The Beatles episode "Tell Me Why," the boys discover a donkey that runs like a race horse when exposed to loud music. They enter it in a Madrid race with Ringo as the jockey. As they start to play the opening of the song, nothing is coming out of the speakers — because the guitars weren't plugged into them.
  • At the end of an episode of The Fairly OddParents!, a giant robot tells a bad joke and, after a second of silence, asks "Is this voice amplification device functional?"
  • The New Scooby-Doo Movies: In "The Haunted Showboat}'' the gang and the Pussycats pretend to abandon the riverboat, but hide in the cargo hold to set a trap for the crooks. They discuss their plan, only to realize that the boat's speaker tube is off the hook right next to them and broadcast their conversation through the riverboat.
  • In Pelswick, this is used by Vice Principal Ziegler as a Running Gag: ”Is this thing on?" "YES! IT'S ON!"

    Real Life 
  • Audio professionals will say "check one two" while setting up microphones since the phrase features harsh syllables and plosives, such as ch-ECK, WUH-ne, and TOO. They don't say three and never tap the mic. If more speech is required, they will use tongue-twisters, poems, newspaper articles, or any other large banks of text to ensure a broad range of vowel and consonant sounds are properly equalized.
  • Reputedly happened to a priest at the beginning of Eucharist. "And He took the bread, praised God and said: Is this thing on?"
  • At one point in his Presidency, Ronald Reagan was asked to talk into a mic for a sound level and said "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." Needless to say, the Russians were not amused, their Air Force staying on guard for a full half hour after the comment. The Americans, on the other hand, were too busy howling with laughter to care much.
  • When you are about to use a mic, just start talking naturally and see if you can hear yourself over the speakers. If it's not on after all, it won't matter. If in doubt, you can always just ask "Can everybody hear me?" Or just give into the meme and start testing.
  • During Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu's final speech on 21 December 1989, as the crowd began to boo and heckle him — an unprecedented moment in Communist Romania — Ceaușescu was so stunned that he resorted to pretending the crowd simply couldn't hear him, tapping his microphone and shouting "Alo!" (the standard Romanian telephone greeting) until order was (temporarily) restored.
  • A variation of this trope is used for radio communication, where it will likely not be immediately apparent to the operator if their station is transmitting properly or not, even if they know the transmitter is on, as radios typically cannot receive anything while transmitting, and will instead be dead silent to the operator. In this case, the operator can call out for a "Radio Check" or a "Signal Report", where they might receive some variant of "Loud and Clear" or "Five by Five" if everything is working properly. For amateur radio operators, this is a required part of most radio conversations for logging purposes, especially if done for competitions. When in doubt, you can always just give a signal report of "Five Nine", indicating a perfect signal, whether it was actually that good or not, just to be polite and help the other person complete their radio log.