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"It's still real to me, dammit!"
Dave Wills, the Crying Wrestling Fan

"Kayfabe" is a carny term thought to have originated from the Pig Latin for "be fake", possibly originally by pronouncing it backward ("kay-feeb"). Professional Wrestling adopted the term as a reference to the standard Fourth Wall features of separating the audience from the action. It is meant to convey the idea that pro wrestling is a genuine sport, and this is how these people are really acting.

In all of these cases, the fact that what's being shown isn't really what's going on is obvious to anyone who looks at it. But the Willing Suspension of Disbelief is understood by everyone involved for the sake of enjoying the media. Telling the average fan that wrestling is "fake" or that the Muppets aren't real actors will just make you sound stupid - you're not the first person to say that, and everyone's well-aware by now. But no matter what you say, the fan still likes it. They're participating in the fiction because they want to enjoy it or believe in it.

In short: Kayfabe is when a work is presenting itself as real, and we all play along. Not because we think it's real, but because we know it's fake and we want to enjoy it.

See also Flynning, which serves many of the same purposes for depictions of swordplay. For another kind of fiction pretending to be real, see Direct Line to the Author. When actors themselves choose not to break kayfabe in order to better stay in-character, see Method Acting. When fans jokingly play along with the work as a meme, it's a Play-Along Meme.

Compare Pro Wrestling Is Real, where wrestling isn’t fake within the context of a video game or fictional work.

Kayfabe In Media:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The world of Flonyard in Dog Days seems to run on Kayfabe. Battles are non-lethal, thanks to the locations in which they are held, and the various warriors and important characters are treated like idols, getting interviews and giving concerts on television. No ill-will tends to arise between nations who hold battles.
    • The daring (and quite real) kidnapping of the Biscotti Princess is candidly televised and presented as though it were a story event similar to those seen in wrestling.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman: Truth, Superman comes across an underground wrestling ring where "gods" maintain their "followers" and thus their existence by reenacting their "legends" in wrestling matches. The matches are very real, with any injuries from the legend being incurred, but the promoter Scheherazade can heal them by recounting their stories behind the scenes.

    Fan Works 
  • Deus Ex Equine Revolution. According to Rainbow Dash, the supposed rivalry between the Wonderbolts (who don't use augments) and the Shadowbolts (who do) is just an act.
  • Jara from Kara of Rokyn is a heel wrestler that plays the hero-beating villain act. Her real person is pretty mean-spirited, but not evil.
  • Discussed in M.F.D.. Holly hated this aspect of the Roller Derby circuit.
  • Sporadic Phantoms presents itself as real, to the point that the website has no information about the creators and the characters encourage listeners to talk to them on their social media accounts. The only indication that this is an Animorphs fanwork is K. A. Applegate being mentioned in the "special thanks" at the end of each episode.
  • Tag Dream, despite otherwise lovingly playing with all sorts of wrestling tropes, largely avoids use of in-universe kayfabe. Kaguya is the only exception, having converted into an enthusiastic wrestling fan, which actually causes problems midway through the comic when the staged event used to bring Mokou on her team fools the audience, unfamiliar with kayfabe, into thinking Reisen had actually betrayed the fan favorite Hourai team, to they point they actually try to attack her.
  • This Bites!: On the SBS, Soundbite's Music Corner is frequently hijacked by Scratchman Apoo, who compete on who has the best taste in music. In reality, the whole thing is a DJ feud act staged by the two of them and Cross. There's actually a Side Bet among the other Supernovas if it's even real, with X Drake pointing out that the transceiver Cross uses was built by Dr. Vegapunk, and thus wouldn't be so easily hijacked.

  • The Wrestler explores this and other aspects of wrestling, and goes into the fact that while it's "staged", it's still extremely demanding as wrestlers are essentially doing rough stunt work. They're True Companions as well, when not doing kayfabe.
  • Requiem for a Heavyweight: Discussed Trope. Mountain Rivera, a washed-up boxer, has to start a new career in wrestling. It's explained to him that all he has to do is make it look real and learn how to fall without getting hurt. At the end, when he's entering the wrestling ring, he's told again that it's fake and that he, being a former boxer, shouldn't get carried away and hurt someone.
  • As depicted in Man on the Moon, Andy Kaufman was fascinated with wrestling and decided he wanted to be the Heel wrestling women. He and Jerry Lawler collaborated, and the two fooled everyone, and we mean everyone, with some hardcore Kay Fabe. Even if you knew Andy was faking it, he was uncomfortably realistic in his sexist persona.
  • In Shadow of the Thin Man, Nick and Nora attend a wrestling match. When the man running it says that they are in for a great match, Nick quips "How do you know? Were you at the rehearsal?". Later on they leave while the fight is still going on, with one wrestler in a painful looking hold and groaning with discomfort. As she passes the ring, Nora tells him that she hopes he gets out of it okay. The wrestler stops groaning and thanks her for her concern in a perfectly normal tone of voice.
  • In The Screwball Comedy Nothing Sacred, Wally takes Hazel to a wrestling match. He starts talking about how it's all phony and scripted, and then starts riffing on how New York is full of phonies.
  • Kayfabe: A Fake Real Movie About A Fake Real Sport is a mockumentary about the professional wrestling business. The wrestlers know that no one believes what they're doing is real, but they nonetheless do their best to put on a good show, never breaking character even in the most ridiculous moments.
  • The Prestige:
    • Alfred Borden and his assistant Fallon take kayfabe to great extremes to hide the fact that they're actually a pair of identical twins.
    • In one scene, Cutter sends Angier and Borden to watch a Chinese magician and figure out exactly how the man makes a heavy goldfish bowl (filled with water and goldfish) appear from under a cloth. Borden immediately deduces that the old magician is doing kayfabe: he's holding the bowl between his legs under his skirt, hiding the strength required to accomplish the trick by always appearing frail in public. Borden admires the way the Chinese magician goes to such an extreme that he "lives" his performance at home, especially since that's what he himself does with his twin brother.
  • When Darby O'Gill and the Little People came out, the film's leprechauns were presented as being the real thing with Jimmy O'Dea not being directly credited as King Brian. Besides a "Special Thanks to King Brian for his participation" credit, a special episode of Walt Disney's television show to promote the film had him go directly to Ireland to recruit the actual King Brian and Darby to participate in the film.
  • Alluded to in Rocky III. Thunderlips acts like a jerk and goes berserk during his charity match with Rocky, but afterwards is cordial and friendly. Rocky is baffled by the change and Thunderlips cryptically says that "that's the name of the game." Note that the movie was made at a time when kayfabe was still tightly enforced, so it stops just short of saying that wrestling is predetermined (since doing so would've certainly killed Hogan's career), instead implying that Thunderlips was acting up to give the audience a good show.
  • Fighting with My Family addresses this at several times, being a biographical film about Paige and her wrestling family. Vince Vaughn's trainer character outlines clearly to the audience that wrestling is an elaborate play presented to the audience, "Soap opera in spandex," and that wrestlers may come from different backgrounds depending on how well they fit a particular look for the company. When in-laws came to visit the Knight family the mother-in-law asks if wrestling is fake, to which the dad clarifies it is not fake but fixed. This movie is still presented like any other Sports Stories, an underdog going through training and overcoming obstacles in order to reach the "championship."

  • Mick Foley's second book Foley Is Good!...And the Real World is Faker Than Pro Wrestling was all about pointing out instances of this.
  • In Other People's Heroes, the superhero/supervillain business is an elaborate charade with choreographed battles according to storylines, controlled damage, and mind wipes to ensure that no one catches on for long.
  • Chuck Tingle has an elaborate persona and the real identity of the writer is unclear.
  • Discussed in Roland Barthes's essay, "The World of Wrestling," in the book, Mythologies.
  • Philip José Farmer wrote Tarzan Alive, a book purporting to be a factual biography of the "real" Tarzan the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels were based on. Not only does the book maintain Kayfabe, but Farmer always claimed in interviews he had written about a real person who he had really met and interviewed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • No-one sees The Muppets unless they're in action - they do their own press conferences and when they cameo in other works, they're treated like regular people.
    • This is much stricter than it used to be. Back when Jim Henson was alive, this was usually the case, but he wasn't afraid to break kayfabe on occasion; talk shows with Kermit clearly on the end of his arm while he explained how he did the voices, or The Jim Henson Hour episode "Secrets of the Muppets" (with the joke being that the Muppets know they're real, and have no idea what this strange bearded man is talking about). It didn't matter; many people who've worked with them have said seeing a Muppeteer doesn't stop the Muppets from seeming real.
    • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: The late Carroll Spinney, who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, was asked to appear on the show (at Fred Rogers' request) in his Big Bird costume before taking it off on-camera and explaining the costume's workings and that the character was fictional. Spinney refused, but as a compromise (which Rogers agreed to), would appear in character only in the show's "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" segments, and in the regular segments Spinney would talk about puppetry in general. Rogers did get in a few remarks, however, about one of the things about growing up is eventually discerning the difference between reality and make-believe characters. (Indeed, Rogers openly stated that the characters of the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe" are pretend.)
    • In a blog on The BBC Radio 4 website, the producer of More or Less, the Radio 4 show about numbers in the news, says that when the show interviewed Count von Count, they were sent a guidance document called "Interviewing Muppets" which stated "Muppets always stay in character". He hadn't realised that this extended beyond the actual recording, and that he would be explaining the technical details to the Count, rather than Jerry Nelson.
  • In a similar vein, Basil Brush is always depicted as himself.
  • Stephen Colbert's character on The Colbert Report was actually a character that happened to have the same name and certain life events as the real Colbert.
  • Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor on Doctor Who kept up the pretence that he was the Doctor whenever he met fans, and would never be seen smoking or drinking in public to uphold this.
  • There may or may not have been a certain level of Kayfabe surrounding "The Five-ish Doctors Reboot", a comedy Web Video made for the Doctor Who fiftieth anniversay with Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy Adam Westing as egomanical versions of themselves trying to sneak into the filming of "The Day of the Doctor", the fiftieth anniversary special. It's suspected by many fans that, during the run-up to the anniversary, the trio overstated their unhappiness at not being invited to replay their roles in the real special to prepare for the web video. Davison, certainly, spoke much more nuancedly about his feelings in a subsequent DWM interview.
  • The actors on Trailer Park Boys would always appear in public in-character during the show's original run; they didn't appear as "themselves" until the original cancellation. Now with the show back, they appear as exaggerated versions of themselves alongside their characters. While it wasn't that difficult to determine that it was a mockumentary (it after all has credits listing the actor's real names and the writing staff), it did lead some people to believe it was a real documentary show.
    • They still only very rarely make scheduled appearances as themselves, and typically only in things directly connected to their Swearnet online channel.
  • Hogan Knows Best and Brooke Knows Best were, ironically enough, rumored to be some of the most heavily scripted "reality" shows ever made.
  • The cast of one of the original modern reality shows, The Osbournes, prided themselves on the fact their show was not scripted like most of the ones that followed. However, The Osbournes is a large reason why most of them are now scripted, since filming in the unscripted style took a lot more time (and money) to get enough usable footage.
  • It's an open secret that a lot of The Jerry Springer Show is staged and many of the guests are actors playing roles (some come back several times as different people!), but it doesn't stop people from watching it.
  • The Crypt Keeper is always regarded as real when he appears with human actors (which admittedly isn't often). This was most pronounced when he "directed" the movie Demon Knight; the rest of the cast wasn't all-too impressed by his humor, however.
  • The various Iron Chef series have varying degrees of kayfabe, although one thing all of them have in common is that no, the Eccentric Millionaire hosting the show is really just an actor playing the part. Doesn't stop everyone from regarding him as such.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Ferne McCann's persona on The Only Way Is Essex is NOT kayfabe - she really is a Nice Girl, despite the media portraying her as such and as a Rich Bitch, although she's middle-class.
  • The producers of the original TV series The Fugitive forbade stars David Janssen and Barry Morse from appearing in public together; they were good friends in real life, but antagonists on the show — and the production company and network wanted to keep up that appearance. They and their wives would often have dinner at each other's homes, instead.
  • It's actually quite admirable just how seriously the humans involved take the Puppy Bowl, like it is a genuine football game, just with puppies.
  • Many daily Game Shows pretend that they filmed one episode per day (often referring to the projected air date as if it was "today"). In reality, they generally film one week's worth of shows in a single day (contestants and panelists bring multiple outfits, changing between shows). A contestant who will "come back tomorrow" only has a short break; one who will "come back next week" may actually return for filming the next day, next week, or even months later. (This was more of an artifact from when everything was live as opposed to tape; Jack Barry asked this on every show he hosted.)
    • On another, more recent note, the 2017 revival of The Gong Show has Mike Myers hosting under the persona of fictional British TV presenter "Tommy Maitland" (Myers with a bit of makeup and a Scottish accent). On the show itself, everyone refers to Myers as Maitland, and references to Myers himself are nonexistent. Outside the show, it varies; some articles about the show run with the idea of Maitland being "real"—complete with his own fictional backstory—while others explicitly state he's Myers.
  • Chloe Khan, former X-Factor contestant, who is not Middle Eastern - it's just a change of surname, teeters between this and her real-life self. The Playboy girl image she promotes is entirely a character, what she is in real life (apart from being a model) varies between The Fixer (in a positive sense), The Matchmaker and a Lady and a Scholar (but without the academic setting). She is actually not as ditzy as the British media seem to think.
  • GLOW (2017), being a fictionalized version of the real G.L.O.W., naturally illustrates the contrast between the wrestlers' lives and personalities and the characters they play.
    Ruth: Are you hiring actors to play wrestlers or are we the wrestlers?
    Sam Silvia: Yes.
  • Jimmy Kimmel started a Running Gag on Jimmy Kimmel Live! where he claimed they had Matt Damon as a guest but ran out of time, which came from an improv during an underwhelming episode (Damon was the first A-list celebrity he could think of to make the joke work). Kimmel's producer encouraged him to continue with it every episode, and Damon himself found it funny. This escalated into a type of Sitcom Arch-Nemesis rivalry between the two, with constant digs at each other well beyond the show itself. To date Damon has never had a traditional guest appearance on the show, only via a cameo or part of a cast interview where Kimmel ignores him, and they rarely address this feud as the gag that it is. This escalated into one particular exchange where Kimmel's then-girlfriend Sarah Silverman confessed to sleeping with Damon via a music video and Kimmel made a revenge video where he slept with Ben Affleck.
  • Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger goes out of its way not to treat the non-humanoid supporting cast any differently than if they were human actors. Events featuring cast interviews during the show's lifetime had either the interviews conducted in-character or by having the suit actors mime to pre-recorded answers by the VAs.
  • Max Headroom made multiple talk-show appearances during the 1980s, in-character and presented as a real computer generated television personality. (This is not to be confused with that one incident in Chicago.)
  • Attempted, but ultimately subverted by American Gladiators. The first half of the first season played up the Gladiators as outright villains (the pilot apparently had fake backstories for the Gladiators, but that element was discarded) and attempted to portray the Gladiator Arena as an almost-otherworldly place. By the second half, this stuff was tossed out and things were made much more like an actual sporting event, which stuck around for the rest of the show. Nothing was staged, and all the athletics were real.
    • Conversely, the multitude of shows that attempted to Follow the Leader on AG's success — Knights and Warriors, Wild West Showdown, and Battle Dome — all had this trope firmly in place.
  • The AlDub segments in Eat Bulaga!—a spinoff of the "Problem Solving" segment involving a Kayfabe relationship between Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza—went to the point that any interviews with Mendoza had to be conducted in written form or with someone else speaking on her behalf as her real voice was not supposed to be revealed until September 2015 when Maine, then known in character as Yaya Dub, met Alden in person for the first time; Mendoza, in her Yaya Dub persona, communicated mainly through audio samples taken from various popular songs and media.

  • Weekly World News never once ran a disclaimer or otherwise indicated they were a parody, even though some articles they printed were potential grounds for libel lawsuits.

  • Miley Cyrus's songs and performances during her early 2010s Can't Be Tamed/Bangerz period centered around a stereotypical off-the-rails-Former Child Star image, but her interviews constantly reiterated that it was just a persona and she's actually quite well-adjusted (although she does like her drugs).
  • GWAR's members never did interviews out of character (or costume) for many years.
  • In their early days, Fozzy did the same. At the very beginning (back when the band was called Fozzy Osbourne), Chris Jericho used the name Moongoose McQueen for his singer persona, and "McQueen" and Jericho would talk each other up but deny being the same person.
  • The Mechanisms present themselves as distinct characters, each with their own quirks, and ended the band by 'dying' in creative ways.
  • The Protomen all have codenames and stage makeup, present themselves as dissidents living in the dystopian society described in their music, and never give out-of-character interviews or news posts.
  • Ozzy Osbourne is a notable aversion. Though his "Prince Of Darkness" image is a huge part of his act, he has no problem acknowledging that it's just an act and even has a couple songs (such as "You Can't Kill Rock And Roll" and "Gets Me Through") openly admitting it.
  • For a long time, the band Ghost operated under a strict kayfabe, never taking off their outfits or even presenting their real names during interviews. This was finally broken when a lawsuit forced lead singer Tobias Forge to finally break character and expose his real life identity (which had been largely suspected for quite a while).
  • In the late 90s, the geeky and law-abiding white rapper Eminem created Slim Shady, a Heroic Comedic Sociopath alter-ego that would allow him to rap about Gangsta Rap topics that didn't fit his real life. He had 'Slim Shady' tattooed on his arm, and - once signed to a major label - bleached his hair to fit Slim's image. Unfortunately, once he started embodying the character, he began to lose himself in it, indulging his rage in unhealthy ways, getting into drugs (when he'd been basically straight-edge before) and carrying a gun around.
  • Stuart Daniel Baker is (in)famous for never breaking his Unknown Hinson persona in public, whether he's interacting with fans or partaking in official interviews.
  • A lot of rap artists through the 80s and 90s heavily played up a street persona, despite largely being middle class kids.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Pro wrestling is both the Trope Namer and the Trope Codifier of the concept, since the entire pro wrestling business takes kayfabe extremely seriously. Or at least it used to. Back in the old days of pro wrestling, kayfabe was much more than just part of the show; it was pro wrestling's real life Masquerade. Wrestlers, promoters, and everybody else involved with the business alike resorted to any means necessary to guard the secret that wrestling was rigged, from wrestlers roughing up any reporters who dared ask to (alleged) death threats towards anybody who threatened to expose the secret. Heels and faces weren't allowed to travel, eat, or be seen with their "enemies" in public, and changed in separate locker rooms. Wrestlers lived their gimmicks 24/7, and those playing Wild Samoans or Foreign Wrestling Heels could not speak English in public if their characters didn't. There are even rumors that some wrestlers would lie under oath in court to maintain the illusion, and some old-time heels tell stories about carrying guns for their own protection from those fans who took it just a bit too seriously. Even decades later when everyone knows that wrestling is "fake", they often start speaking as if various angles and feuds were real and tend to dance around actually saying that wrestling is staged.

    Naturally, there had always been skeptics that denied pro wrestling's legitimacy from the beginning note , but fans widely started to figure out the truth in the '70s. And once Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation rose to prominence in the '80s, the secret was out for any but the most die-hard fans. And even they finally got it in the '90s, when McMahon himself revealed it on Monday Night RAW. In spite of this, WWE had a massive period of success with its Attitude Era from 1997 to 2001 when RAW became one of the most popular shows on television. How were so many people fooled? The simple answer is that they weren't fooled at all; any one of those millions of fans could tell you that it was all staged, but they still enjoyed it.

    Note that even in the 21st century, when pro wrestling is known to be staged, kayfabe is still a big deal. For wrestlers, maintaining kayfabe is considered a matter of honor and professionalism, and any breaking of it except in the most extreme of circumstances (such as with a wrestler dying from an accident) is something that can damage a wrestler's reputation permanently. (Unless the booker tells you to break kayfabe, which happens a lot these days.) A good example of this is Vince McMahon's infamous "Montreal Screwjob", the fallout of which not only shattered Kayfabe for an entire generation of fans, but also went to redefine Vince McMahon himself into his "Mr. McMahon" image.

  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue:
    • No-one involved will ever openly acknowledge that scorekeeper (and focus of elaborate double entendres) Samantha doesn't exist (Humph once explained to a fan that Samantha was real, but pianist Colin Sell wasn't, and this was happily accepted), there is no "laser-display board" and, above all, that Mornington Crescent is anything other than a well-known game with a storied history and clearly defined rules.
    • Two episodes of ISIHAC are recorded in a row. However the chair and teams will act as if the second episode is a week after the first as this is how it sounds to the radio audience. Similarly, panelists on The Unbelievable Truth have called back to jokes or topics from 'an earlier recording' or 'some time ago' instead of half an hour earlier that afternoon.
  • Long-time fans of Bubba The Love Sponge have figured out "Ned" doesn't actually exist, but a voice done by one of the show's crew (and is played by his father at live appearances). Officially, they insist he's real, however.
  • Adam Carolla got his start in radio calling into The Kevin and Beane Show playing Mr. Birchum, a surly and jaded high school wood shop teacher. Although many fans assumed he must be a character, his genuine knowledge of carpentry kept others thinking he was a real person. At public events he would acknowledge it was just a character if people asked.
  • That Gosh Darn Hippie Show makes frequent use of scripted phone conversations Played for Laughs between DJ Hippie and various "callers", though DJ Hippie always behaves as if they were real and their scripted nature is never acknowledged on-air.
  • The characters portrayed in The Jack Benny Program mostly used their real names (Eddie Anderson as Rochester being an exception, and Sadie Marks would eventually adopt Mary Livingstone as her actual name), and their personas were extremely well known and usually who they "played" in everything, i.e. Jack was always a cheapskate, Phil always a boozer, etc. It was so convincing that the show got letters from a real lawyer who thought Rochester actually was Benny's mistreated valet and offered to represent him, and Benny had to break the fourth wall and admit that the real Anderson was a wealthy man with his own mansion and servants. On another occasion, the performers briefly dropped character to comically complain about how hard it was to play so stupid/drunk/fat/cheap all the time.
  • In effect, all pre-recorded radio presented "as live" (recorded in Real Time earlier in the week, but aired on another day and presented to the listener via radio station sites and presented as if it were an actual, live show) with occasional split links referencing local news and in-jokes/references is a form of this, but downplayed. Chris Tarrant had a networked show on Real Radio network in England, Wales and Scotland from 2007 to 2010 which was pre-recorded, but to the average listener sounded live and local.

  • The Washington Generals were the ultimate jobbers to the Harlem Globetrotters as the constant losers in a fake league that focuses on showmanship rather than actual basketball. In the early days of the exhibition matches, they would even play as several different teams to create the illusion of a whole league rather than just two teams, much like old-school jobbers, who would work as several characters to keep rosters and costs down. In 2015, the Generals folded when the Trotters ended their long-term contract to serve as their foils. Two years later, the Trotters bought the trademarks of the Generals and relaunched them as a separate barnstorming team that no longer plays the Trotters.
  • This practice was used in Roller Derby predominantly during the TV era (the 1950s-70s). Modern Roller Derby uses aspects of kayfabe only to the extent that skaters may adopt slightly different on-track personalities; the action is entirely unstaged.note 
    • The history of roller derby is difficult to discern because of self-promotion by the second owner of the original roller derby, Jerry Seltzer, who passed away in 2019. While showmanship and flashiness were common elements in the 1940s-70s era of the sport, the historical record seems to indicate that in fact, games were for real with no predetermined outcome, and this continued with the rival Rollergames promotion in the late 1970s to 80s.
  • It is not uncommon for athletes in "real" sports to put on a sort-of kayfabe of their own, creating feuds or rivalries that may well have no place in reality but which serve to help build a brand and keep fans engaged between games. It also isn't uncommon for players to make a show of being best buddies on the field and even in media interviews, only to be distant-at-best when the cameras aren't rolling.
    • During the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, they gave off the image of being close friends united in a race for history—when McGwire broke the home run record, Sosa came and gave him a big hug. Years later they both admitted that they never really talked to each other at all outside of happenstance meetings and pre-arranged interviews.
  • Bodybuilding has its own analogy to Kayfabe in the way everybody needs to dance around the issue of performance enhancing drugs. Anyone with a functioning set of eyeballs can tell that most people in the pro leagues are on all kinds of gear, and retired bodybuilders talk openly about all the drug use that goes on, but if you are currently competing or involved in promotion then there’s no way you can admit that. On one hand, the crazy physiques that PED use makes possible are the reason that people buys tickets to see these shows, and when every other competitor is doing it a pro bodybuilder can’t afford to not hop on the drugs. At the same time, people could go to jail if they admitted that they were currently using this stuff, or providing it to athletes. What’s more, the supplement companies that sponsor all these athletes and competitions want the public to think that it’s their products, not illicit drugs, that give the athletes such results. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if everyone familiar with the industry knows it’s a lie; if you’re in that position and you get asked if you’re enhanced, you have to swear up and down that you’re a lifelong natty, and that you got this big purely from really good diet and supplements.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Larry the Cable Guy got his start this way, as comedian Daniel Whitney would call into various radio shows across the country playing Larry. The character took off, and most never knew he was playing a character, and even now most assume Daniel is really Larry.
  • Stewart Lee plays "himself" - albeit an aggrandized, embittered version - in his stand up shows. He maintains the kayfabe well enough that press reviews have scorned him on a personal level, essentially confusing his act with the real Stewart Lee. The audience are usually in on the joke, however.
  • Andrew "Dice" Clay's character of "The Diceman" was a Deconstructive Parody of the Greaser Delinquents frequently found throughout The '50s, especially Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli from Happy Days. The Diceman played all of the stereotypes held during the Fifties for Deliberate Values Dissonance; Diceman was foul-mouthed, racist, homophobic, and especially sexist, seeing women as little more than ways to get a tally on a score card. However, there was long-standing confusion as to whether the things that The Diceman said were what Clay actually believed, or if this really was just all an act. This confusion was not helped by Clay's commitment to kayfabe, as he insisted on staying in-character every time he appeared on TV, even for talk shows and interviews.
  • Andy Kaufman was famously obsessed with this concept, even joining pro wrestling, getting "injured" by Jerry Lawler and getting into a fight on Late Night with David Letterman all staged. The efforts he went to keeping that image meant his own family wasn't sure what was true, his cancer diagnosis and later death was even questioned for years afterward presuming he was Faking the Dead.

  • When the casts of the Tou Myu series go on music shows, they always stay in character and answer interview questions in character — and their characters are time-traveling personifications of historical artifacts.

    Video Games 
  • Freedom Planet 2: Captain Kalaw is the hammy, superhero-esque champion of the Battlesphere who puts on a show for the people of Shang Mu with a smile on his beak. Behind the mask, he is sick and tired of it all, wanting to do actual good in the world. To this end, he sided with Merga and her revenge against Shang Tu, including leading the heroines into a trap at the Globe Opera. And yet, he breaks the act to vent his frustrations after being defeated at the Sky Bridge, forgetting his camera was still recording the whole time. At least he takes his community service sentence in stride at story's end.
  • No Straight Roads: Sayu is Vinyl City's top virtual idol, and most of the cast are socially required to treat her like a person, to the point that the word 'real' is considered a slur in her district. Mayday calls them out for taking political correctness to a fantasy level - then spends the rest of the level gushing over Sayu.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon:
    • Incineroar, the final evolution of the Alolan Fire starter, Litten. It's a Dark-Type, based on a professional Heel wrestler and fights extremely dirty in battle, even attacking the opponents' trainer. However, true to its pro wrestler theme, it's not deliberately malicious and is all an act. Out of battle, it maintains its act, but actually enjoys the admiration it gets, especially from children.
    • Professor Burnet in the same game may well be in on the act whenever she says the Masked Royal and her husband Kukui aren't the same person.
  • Downplayed in Street Fighter: in its world of Professional Wrestling (as shown through Zangief, Hugo, Rainbow Mika, etc.), the wrestlers are supposed to maintain over-the-top personas and selling moves is a concept... but the outcomes are not predetermined.

  • In Ménage à 3, DiDi has her first experience with professional wrestling and, being The Ditz, takes it completely seriously. Her behaviour after the match confused the hell out of Roxie, the wrestler she had befriended earlier, until Roxie realized that DiDi was legitimately angry at her for the Face–Heel Turn she pulled in the ring. She tried to run with it and play up her character... for all of 10 seconds until DiDi started crying, then she decided that she had to come clean or risk getting fired.
  • Mr. Boop: Part of the appeal of the comic is Alec Robbins constant public commitment to the idea that the comic is based on his "actual real life" being married to Betty Boop.
    • Finally broken in strip #166 when Alec publicly confesses that he was misleading the audience and was never married to Betty Boop.

    Web Media 
  • Adam Carolla:
    • On his podcast, he interviewed an actor who talked about all the "True Story" bio pics he appeared in as [insert fallen star here]'s drug dealer.
    • One of Adam's podcast regulars is Deaf Frat Guy, a Frat Bro with a hearing disability. In reality he's a comedian named Josh Gardner (who isn't deaf or in a frat), but he always appears in character. Most fans of course have figured out he's not real, since he's been playing this character since Adam's radio days and would now be on his tenth year or so of college.
  • "Willy" on the Christopher Titus podcast is just a voice Titus does; he's admitted it elsewhere but they treat him like a separate person on the show (he's since retired him due to some Unfortunate Implications and Titus revealed he was made up).
  • The Needle Drop has Anthony Fantano and Cal Chuchesta. The fact that they're the same person in a Paper-Thin Disguise is acknowledged absolutely nowhere in Anthony's online presence.
  • The members of Deagle Nation went several years without ever breaking character in public, even when people called them on the phone, to the point where up until a fluke accident gave it away it was commonly believed to be real. Even after it became known that the videos were staged, Jace and Tyce continued to post on forums and blogs and make videos in-character, and several communities continued to play along as though nothing had happened.
  • Cracked compiled a couple of lists of various times wrestlers took Kayfabe to nigh-insane levels, including fans accusing a woman of being a murderer because her opponent died in the ring.
  • Youtube vlogger Ami Yamato is a completely real British-Japanese woman who lives in London, and totally not a 3D animated character skillfully composited into real footage. That's why her face reveal was her without makeup, and the comments act confused whenever someone talks about animation. Because she's a completely real person.
  • Arlo's commenters generally treat him like an actual person, and not a Henson-style puppet who looks like Cookie Monster's younger cousin. Even this wiki's page on him downplays the 'puppet' thing.
  • Jelle's Marble Runs features marbles taking part in competitive sports, with these marbles apparently having personalities and the like. The results are not predetermined, but of course, they aren't actual living things. The fandom took this and ran with it anyway, and will frequently contribute to it with memes and jokes on the JMR subreddit.
  • Virtual YouTubers operate on the performers acting as if they are their online persona. What separates this from the concept as applied to wrestling is that V-Tuber content is typically more unscripted. Typical streams range from Let's Plays of video games to talking with a live chat about real-life topics, all of which are done as if they happen to the character instead of the performer. How closely an individual V-Tuber maintains their character also varies quite a bit.
    • Several of the performers from hololive are beloved specifically because they stream as "themselves", despite the anime rig. Mori Calliope is notable among this group in that she never breaks character, trying her able best to present herself as her online persona of The Grim Reaper in training and nothing else. When Calliope spoke of experiences at school and her job at a restaurant (which was implied to be the American chain Applebee's), she insisted that they were the underworld versions of those things, and that her dream was to go to Japan in the overworld. When appearing as a guest on the Trash Taste podcast, Calliope appeared as her V-Tuber rig next to three flesh-and-blood hosts in the studio. Once again, she never broke character.
    • Projekt Melody of VShojo has a career both as a typical Vtuber, and as an adult entertainer using the same character, but with a 3D rig. In interviews or conversations about herself, she refuses to identify as anything other than Projekt Melody, a character who, according to the wiki, is "a futuristic AI program that was initially made to scan and cleanse files until she was infected with a porn-based virus, causing her to be obsessed with any variety of sexual topics and actions". Her refusal to break character and her use a 3D model in the adult entertainment industry initially earned her a lot of criticism from other members of the sites she used, and was also attacked by magazine Wired for refusing to break character with the interviewer. Over time as Vtubers became more normalized, this hatred eventually subsided.
    • V-Tuber fandom also largely goes out of its way to avoid breaking kayfabe. Even in situations where the real life identity of a performer is an Open Secret, said identity will rarely, if ever, be discussed among fans. Instead, an individual streamer's fans tend to act as if the character is the performer. If their identity is discussed at all, it's generally treated as "forbidden knowledge" and only spoken of in certain spaces, away from fans who prefer to not learn about that kind of thing. Of which there are a fair number — maintaining kayfabe of V-Tubers is equally true of superstar channels as it is of indie V-Tubers with just a few dozen subscribers.
  • In general, Fanon wikis like Fantendo or Club Penguin Fanon often require at least a smattering of this for most if not all of their pages to look decent, structuring articles as if the fictional releases in question exist in the real world. However, most sensible fanon wikis will acknowledge that This Is a Work of Fiction to prevent confusion and other potential issues from taking the kayfabe too far.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park:
    • In one episode the kids take a field trip to a pioneer-themed living museum set in 1864, where the actors are under no circumstances allowed to break character until the second their work day ends at 5:00, even if they are held at gunpoint by a group of robbers demanding the code to the mine shaft tunnel so they can use it to escape from the police (a door locked by a keypad doesn't exist in 1864, you see). At one point, they killed an actor who dared to break character. It took Stan getting into a character of his own and rephrasing the question in a way the actors were allowed to answer it to defuse the situation.
    • Another episode featured actual professional wrestling and a real wrestler getting angry that they were getting more publicity. He eventually outdoes them when people think he's creating his own narrative.
  • Disney had a policy of not explicitly publicizing the actors behind Mickey and the Gang, so as to not shatter the illusion of the characters. It's not that they pretend they don't exist, but when they are brought up by the company, it's at events and in media meant for animation and Disney enthusiasts.
    • Ditto with Adriana Caselotti, whose sole feature film role was the titular princess in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While she did made cameo appearances in a number of films (notably singing "wherfore art thou Romeo" in The Wizard of Oz), Caselotti was said to have been contractually forbidden to appear elsewhere in a starring role—Jack Benny recalled that he asked Walt Disney for permission to hire Adriana for his radio program, only for Disney to flat-out decline, saying "I'm sorry, but that voice can't be used anywhere. I don't want to spoil the illusion of Snow White."
  • One segment in Animaniacs featured the titular Warner Brothers (and Sister) attending a wrestling match with Dr. Scratchansniff, who is an avid wrestling fan. After Warners Troll him by continually remaining skeptical and heckling him about the authenticity of wrestling (or lack thereof), the fed-up doctor shouts, "It's! Not! FAKE!" Unfortunately for the good doctor, the wrestlers in the ring only hear the last part of that exclamation, which results in Scratchansniff getting a firsthand look at how "fake" it is after all. Which just goes to show you that yes, Kayfabe exists, but the wrestlers are still 300lb masses of muscle and adrenaline who can, must, and will beat the tar out of anyone who breaks the illusion, intentionally or not.
  • In the Nickelodeon interstitial, Weird Answer Kommand, the three are tasked by the Boss to see if wrestling is real or fake. After having to fight a giant chicken, they're forced to admit it's real.
  • Steven Universe: One of the recurring subplots involves an underground wrestling arena that very much follows the kayfabe nature of boxing. Amethyst plays the role of "Purple Puma" a heel wrestler who loves it when the crowd boos her. Thanks to Amethyst's non-human body and inhuman strength, other wrestlers fail to defeat her even in the most simple of combat. Steven plays the character "Tiger Millionaire", another heel wrestler who uses his immense "jungle bucks" wealth to openly cheat by buying off wrestlers mid match or use various underhanded tricks. There are also numerous other face and heel wrestlers who take them on.
    • During the episode "Tiger Millionaire", Garnet and Pearl find out about the wrestling and interrupt a match, demanding Steven and Amethyst come home. Thanks to pent-up frustrations with the two, Amethyst starts fighting Garnet as Purple Puma, but with actual intent to hurt Garnet in a real fight (Garnet, being much stronger, bats her around the arena). Ultimately, Steven stops the fight reveals Purple Puma's "backstory", which is a fictionalized account of Amethyst's in-universe backstory. Realizing that this wrestling gig is not a problem and they've butted into something Amethyst uses as an outlet, both Garnet and Pearl then turn on the kayfabe and pretend to be "The Notorious Order of Wrestling Haters". No longer fighting for real, Garnet lets herself be dropped to the mat, and both she and Amethyst apologize to one another as the crowd cheers.
    • In "Tiger Philanthropist", Amethyst cold-turkey quits wrestling as she no longer feels she needs it in her life. Steven, who loved doing this with Amethyst, is left to wrestle by himself. He uses his immense strength to still win matches, but dubs himself "Tiger Philanthropist" and becomes a face. Eventually, during a conversation in which Steven decides he will quit wrestling, Amethyst realizes how much doing this together meant to Steven. That night in the ring, Steven, as Tiger, offers the belt to anyone who can grab it and will do nothing to stop the other wrestlers. Amethyst shows up as Purple Puma and, through the kayfabe dialogue, apologizes to Steven for jumping ship without him. The two then summarily get defeated on purpose and decide to quit for good, but with the intention that while Tiger and Puma are done, Steven and Amethyst will find new hobbies together.

  • Disney Theme Parks call it "Character Integrity", and it is very strictly enforced. As far as every—every—cast member (kayfabe Insistent Terminology for "Disney park employee") is concerned, that is Mickey Mouse, that is Cinderella. Cast members who play characters are even given a code to say that they are "friends with" the character they play as a way to hint at what they do while not actually admitting it. The characters never break character, and they're quite careful to make sure you never see two Tinker Bells at once. note 
    • This is taken even further in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge: the park's entire purpose is to give visitors the illusion that they are inside the Star Wars universe and thus every single cast member in the park is effectively a character with a back story and will always reply to questions in character. Staying at the Galactic Starcruiser resort entails two full days of LARPing in a personal Star Wars storyline with visitors encouraged to ally with the Resistance or First Order.
  • Very few sports teams acknowledge who plays their mascot, with some performers being listed in staff directories by highly euphemistic job titles or even only having in-character contact info. While most (but not all) mascot performers acknowledge what they do to their friends, it's not something most are willing to mention to random strangers.
  • Lily May, from Mold, North Wales, United Kingdom is a model and adult actor, but the MILF persona she portrays is very clearly a persona in the same way as wrestling is stage-managed, but some fans on Twitter do not realize this. Only a few people know it is kayfabe and Lily May's real persona is never or rarely mentioned, if ever, in public. The Ambiguously Bi nature portrayed on her Twitter page is also kayfabe too, although she has stated she is bisexual in Real Life. The MILF persona is not real, despite what fans think. This borders on Alter-Ego Acting.
  • It's an unwritten rule for Takarazuka Revue actresses - while still working with the revue - to behave according to their assigned gender in public (clothing, mannerisms, etc.) in order not to "break the fantasy", so to speak. Their conduct must align with the company motto of "Pure, proper, beautiful" - nothing scandalous. This expires once the contract is over.
  • Essentially the entire town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, maintain the pretense that the town's famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, has been alive and serving as regional February 2nd weather-forecaster since 1886. The same pretext holds that Phil's caretakers and spokesmen, the Inner Circle, hold the secret to Phil's prolonged lifespan and that the Circle's president communicates with the rodent in "Groundhogese".
  • Legal fictions are imaginary facts created for the purposes of pursuing a court case, which all the parties concerned pretend are real. For example, the action of ejectment involved an elaborate story about someone called John Doe who leased land from the plaintiff, but was evicted by Richard Roe who claimed a lease from the defendant. Neither Doe or Roe existed, but the plaintiff, defendant, lawyers and judge would all conduct the case as if they did. This was done to avoid the case being settled by combat — since Doe and Roe didn't exist, they couldn't demand to fight each other.
  • This is often the reality of any religious family with non-religious members during religious holidays. Many non-religious people still elect to "celebrate" religious holidays, that is, they use their days off to visit their family and spend some time together. They know this will make their religious family happy, so they put on a kayfabe: sure, everyone knows they are not religious and would not actually celebrate if it wasn't for their family, but explicitly bringing that topic up is faux pas, and as long as noone breaks the kayfabe, the religious family may harmlessly live through their idea of perfect holidays.
  • This is an enforced, permanent state of life in many totalitarian regimes in regards to state propaganda. As the famous quote says: "We know they are lying, they know they are lying, they know we know they are lying, we know they know we know they are lying, but they are still lying." Almost everyone is aware that the reality they are presented is not true, but breaking the facade is simply not tolerated.