Follow TV Tropes


Kinda Busy Here

Go To
Do you mind, I'm on the phone.

Daina Le Guin: Isaac! I don't think I can–
Isaac Clarke: NOT NOW!
Dead Space 2, in the middle of Isaac's first encounter with Stalkers

Cell phones are wonderful conveniences that make it easier for human beings to stay connected to each other. That said, it's inevitable that every so often they will ring at the most inconvenient times. Like when you're driving, or about to have sex, or in a board meeting. Or, occasionally, when you're in a dangerous, stressful situation like a gunfight or a car chase.

Rather than becoming a break in the action, the hero will inevitably answer the phone, if only to tell the person on the end that "now's not a real good time to chat." Other times, they hold full-fledged conversations, all the while blazing away with their weapons. Often the phone call will be a minor or mundane thing that contrasts with the deadly action, especially if there's a Secret Identity to maintain.

A Sub-Trope of Casual Danger Dialogue. Contrast Mid-Battle Tea Break, where the opponents are perfectly happy to let the distracted party take a break from the fight. Compare Excuse Me While I Multi Task where the one taking the call uses it to showcase how much better they are at close combat than their opponent. Compare Not Now, Kiddo. Compare Compromising Call, where someone calls while the recipient is trying to be stealthy (which may lead to this trope for comedic effect, but usually doesn't). Will likely result in TV Telephone Etiquette, since if the person being called doesn't have time for the call, then probably don't have time to say "goodbye" either.


    open/close all folders 

  • Jamie Lee Curtis did a cell phone commercial where she goes through multiple action sequences, all the while amiably chatting on her cell phone.
  • If you're a mom, you call at the worst time. It's what you do. If you want to save 15% or more on car insurance, you switch to GEICO. It's what you do.
    Hero: (answers ringing phone while facing enemies) Where are you?
    Mom: Well, the squirrels are back in the attic.
    Hero: Mom?
    Mom: Your dad won't call an exterminator.
    Hero: Can I call you back, Mom? (starts punching people)
    Mom: He says it's personal this time. [...] Where are you? It's very loud there. Are you taking a Zumba class?
  • One commercial for Trident chewing gum shows a man sitting in the jury box during a trial when his cell phone starts ringing. "Uh-oh, Jay, should've put that phone on silent," intones the announcer. Supposedly, Trident gum makes Jay's innocent smile so brilliant that everyone else will ignore the racket in his pocket. Not happening, Jay.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Suzu makes a move on Matsuri during his birthday, and they're in the middle of making out when their friends call and invite them to karaoke. Suzu is secretly relieved they had a reason to stop there, as she was getting cold feet over her plan to pull off her hoodie to show almost nothing beneath.
  • In Black Cat, Train Hartnet gets a call from his partner, Sven, while attempting to hide from Torneo's Mooks in a bathroom inside Torneo's mansion. He cuts the call short when someone urgently needs to use said bathroom.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Index calls Mikoto for help reversing a brain hacking while Mikoto is fighting dozens of Mooks armed with assault rifles.
  • Code Geass:
    • More than once, Lelouch gets a call from Shirley while hiding from Britannian soldiers. Since he's a little more sensible than most people on this page, he immediately turns his phone off (angering Shirley for hanging up on her), but the damage is done, and the soldiers find him.
    • In another instance, Princess Euphemia calls her knight, Suzaku (on his radio) while he's in the middle of a huge battle. Initially, he tries to tell her he's busy and this isn't a good time, but she still confesses her feelings for him — while Suzaku continues to royally own the attacking Knightmares.
  • In Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, Kaname happens to call Sōsuke's cell phone while he is in Sicily serving as a getaway driver for Mao and Kurz. For some reason he answers, resulting in several minutes of conversation while he is driving a car being pursued and shot at by a baker's dozen cars full of Mafia Mooks.

    Comic Books 
  • The Fury, the Spider-Man Captain Ersatz in 1963 has one of these while fighting a giant psychic dinosaur, despite the action taking place Exactly When It Says On The Tin. How? He hops into a phone booth when he absolutely has to make a call mid-fight.
  • In Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time, young Robo attempts to battle the eponymous menace when it attacks while his creator/father-figure Nikola Tesla is out of town. Halfway through the battle, Tesla calls to check that he's doing his homework, and Robo has to pass off the background noise as a radio serial he's listening to.
  • In an issue of Barb Wire, Barb is in the mother of all Chase Scenes fleeing from every criminal force in her City on her motorcycle, when her cell phone beeps. After exclaiming that they must be kidding her, she decides to answer with the most sensible line:
    Barb Wire: What the hell! It could be good news!
  • In the original Vertigo Comics Human Target mini-series, Dee-Noyz holds a cell phone conversation while he and his crew shoot up a house.
    Dee Noyz: Huh? The noise? I told you, brah, I already gots a show. That's the motherfucking soundtrack!
  • Paperinik New Adventures:
    • Subverted in Pk2, the sequel, where the cellphone going off distracts the droid who was about to shoot Paperinik, saving his life.
    • It was also deconstructed in the reboot, where the distraction of the cellphone stops Pikappa from attacking a monster and almost gets him killed.
  • In an issue of Power Girl, the title character desperately tries to call Zatanna for help after dinosaurs begin appearing around in New York City. Unfortunately, Zatanna is unable to answer her phone, as a villain has taped her mouth shut and is absorbing her powers.
  • In PS238, any time anyone calls Batman Captain Ersatz The Revenant for advice, he will be in the middle of fighting some form of super villain and carry on the fight while talking. Occasionally he will let slip some form of comment as to what he's doing.

    Comic Strips 
  • A cartoon from the National Enquirer depicts the driver of a getaway car loaded with money talking on his car phone while the rest of the gang is firing at the cops chasing them.
    Driver: How many times have I gotta tell you, Flo... don't call me at work.

    Fan Works 
  • A running gag in Sonic and the Death Cheese is Robotnik getting phone calls from his mom, and Sonic getting phone calls from the bank and Tails.

    Film — Animated 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: This exchange which happens after the Ulysses is damaged and starts taking on water and Rourke gives the order to Abandon Ship:
    Helga: Packard, sound the alarm!
    Packard: [on the phone] And he took his suitcase? Marge, honey, I don't think he's coming back!
    Helga: PACKARD!
    Packard: Gonna have to call you back. [slight pause] No, no, I'll call you.
  • Hoodwinked!. Red calls Granny when she is in Japeth's shack, unaware that Granny is in a ski race and dealing with the fact that the bandit's ski team henchmen have eliminated Granny's teammates.
  • Incredibles 2. While Helen is pursuing a Runaway Train, she receives a call from her son Dash, asking her where his tennis shoes are while her husband Bob yells at Dash not to call her in the background. She tells him she can't talk right now but still helps him by suggesting he look under his bed.
  • Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Carmen is not amused when Carl Jenkins makes psychic contact with her while she's trying to launch a planetary invasion. At least he has a good excuse, as he warns her that she's about to be arrested.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In 3 Days to Kill, Ethan Renner is a retired CIA assassin trying to reconcile with his teenage daughter, Zooey. He accepts One Last Job only because they have an experimental cure for his disease and throughout the film, Ethan is in the middle of interrogating/torturing a suspect when Zooey calls him needing help. In several of these cases, Ethan convinces the suspect to actually provide help to Zooey (such as her needing a simple recipe for a romantic dinner she's cooking and Ethan's suspect happening to be an Italian who remembers his mother's recipe for tomato sauce).
  • Inverted in 3 Ninjas Kick Back when Tum Tum has to make a mandatory phone call with his parents during a fight with ninja mooks. He had to talk to them at the same time everyday. One of the mooks carried a phone which Tum Tum and his brothers used to talk while fighting and had to make excuses with the fighting noise.
  • Done at the start of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 when Peter is chasing after a truck with dangerous chemical, the canisters soon spilling out into the street from the reckless driving and forcing him to break off the chase and retrieve them. He manages to grab the last one only to get hit by a truck, though luckily unharmed and sticking to it thanks to his powers. It's at that point Gwen calls to inform him that their graduation has started and wondering where he is.
  • Apollo 13: Jack Swigert gets the call that he's going to the moon during what's obviously shower sex.
  • Batman Forever: Alfred interrupts an intimate liaison to report that "Master Dick" has... borrowed "the other car."
  • One of the funnier moments in Black Hawk Down:
    Lt. Col. McKnight: How are things going? Things okay there, Struecker?
    Sgt. Struecker: [while racing his Humvee down a city street while bullets ricochet all around] I don't wanna talk about it right now, Colonel. I'm busy!
  • Casino Royale (1967) does it in a makeshift foxhole with military telephones.
    British General: I'm sorry, dear, but I won't be home in time for dinner... well, apparently a war has broken out.
  • In Charlie's Angels (2000) Natalie casually talks with her boyfriend Pete while rescuing Bosley in the bad guy's hideout. She assures him that he didn't call at a bad time, when he comments she seems distracted.
  • Inverted and happens every 10 minutes in Crank: Chev Chelios calls his doctor while committing insane acts of violence and vandalism, at one point calling him while driving his car through a mall.
  • Die Hard:
    • In Die Hard 2, Holly McClane, worried about why her plane hasn't landed (due to the airport being forcibly shut down by Colonel Stuart) calls her husband's beeper on the airphone... while McClane is sneaking up to the church Stuart is using as a base. His beeper goes off, and he hurries to silence it, but Baker has heard his beeper and attacks him. After a fight, McClane defeats Baker by stabbing an icicle into his eye.
    • In A Good Day to Die Hard, McClane is in a car chase after a truck that's chasing his son, Jack. That's when his daughter calls.
  • In Heartbreak Ridge, Gunny Highway's squad of Marines place a call to their base back home while holed up in an old church in order to call in an airstrike, because all other methods of communication have been broken somehow. They are taking fire (from tanks) all the while. This was based on an actual incident during the Grenada invasion.
  • In Home Alone 3, Alex's mom calls while he's home alone with the burglars.
  • Played with in John Wick. Wick is fighting an assassin in his hotel room in the Continental, when the concierge Charon rings him up. After a few seconds of violence, there's an abrupt cut to the very quiet lobby, with Charon patiently waiting for John to answer, even though he clearly knows what's going on. This happens again before John wins the fight and picks up the phone to hear a notification about noise complaints.
  • Happens in the 2008 film of Journey to the Center of the Earth, if the trailer is accurate. That's some impressive phone coverage they've got there.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man, the eponymous superhero is flitting over Afghanistan, blowing up terrorist bases, when he's picked up by US Air Force radar. After confirming that it isn't a US unit, Col. Rhodes, having begun to realize whose movie he's in, calls up Tony Stark to ask if one of Stark's prototypes is loose in his airspace. It is... and Tony's flying it.
    • Reconstructed in The Avengers. Natasha is tied to a chair, seemingly at the mercy of Russian badinskys, when a mook's phone rings. It's for the leader, and it's Phil Coulson:
      Coulson: You're at 114 Solenski Plaza, 3rd floor. We have an F22 exactly 8 miles out. Put the woman on the phone or I will blow up the block before you can make the lobby. [when the bad guy does so, to Natasha] We need you to come in.
      Natasha: Are you kidding? I'm working!
      Coulson: This takes precedence. [the situation is explained...]
      Natasha: Let me put you on hold. [proceeds to kick the borscht out of all three badinskys, then finishes the conversation]
    • Inverted in the climax of same film. Tony Stark is about to make a Heroic Sacrifice, so tries to make one last call to Pepper Potts. Unfortunately her phone (set on vibrate) is lying forgotten on a table, while Potts and everyone else is staring aghast at the events unfolding on their television. Potts of course is far too responsible to even think of calling her boss in the middle of a crisis.
    • In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scott, Hope, and Hank are captured and tied to chairs by Bill and Ava. As the pair are explaining to the heroes Ava's predicament and what they're hoping to accomplish, Scott's daughter Cassie, along with her mom and stepdad, FaceTime him to ask him where Cassie's soccer shoes are. Ava and Bill ignore the call the first time, but when she calls again, they rather exasperatedly pick up the phone and hold it in front of Scott's face so he can talk without them realizing anything's wrong.
  • In Obsessed, Beyoncé Knowles has a phone conversation during her fight with Ali Larter.
  • In the 1995 television movie Paparazzo, Nick Berry's character gets a call from a colleague as he's being roughed up by a heavy who wants some intimate photos he took of his boss's daughter.
    Nick: I can't talk now. I've got a rather large man standing on my chest.
  • For the climax of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Will and Elizabeth ask Barbosa to marry them. Barbosa lets them know he’s a little busy fighting The Flying Dutchman’s crew in the middle of a fierce storm. Barbosa eventually agrees and proceeds with the ceremony while still fighting Davey Jones’ men.
  • Polar has a Running Gag of Vivian being busy with her own activities when someone rings her, from attending a funeral to partying at a strip club. On one occasion she appears to be playing squash, only for a Reveal Shot to show she's just assassinated a man who is still bleeding out all over the squash court.
  • In Preservation, the eldest of the psycho teens has Wit tied to a picnic table and is about to kill her when his mobile phone rings. He halts, steps away from the table, and takes the call. It's his mother, and he proceeds to have a perfectly ordinary conversation where he tells her that he is just hanging out with his friends, that he'll be home in a couple of hours, and that she shouldn't worry.
  • Used with the castle's communications system rather than a cellphone in The Rocky Horror Picture Show:
    Riffraff: Master, Rocky has escaped!
    Frank: Coming!
    Audience: So's Brad!
  • In Shaun of the Dead, while they're trying to sneak into the pub while pretending to be mindless zombies to get past a real zombie horde, Ed receives a call on his cellphone and answers it.
  • This happens to Mister Hertz multiple times in Shoot 'Em Up, most notably just as he's going to execute Mister Smith.
  • In the climax of Super Mario Bros. (1993), Koopa gets calls on his walkie-talkie to let him know that his pizza is here, and that the Goombas are dancing again.
  • In Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, Jables receives a call in the middle of a car chase with the police, from the car's owner, who's watching the chase on the news.
  • Inverted in Transformers (2007). It's justified, though, as well as funny. Captain Lennox tries to make a call to The Pentagon while his (dwindling) men fight off Scorponok. The justification comes from Bay's military advisers listing similar issues soldiers had while trying to connect to the Pentagon mid-battle.
    Lennox: This is an emergency Pentagon call! The Pentagon, do you understand—?
    [the window behind him explodes]
    Operator: [bored] Sir, the attitude is not going to speed things up any bit at all. I'm going to ask you to speak very clearly into the mouthpiece...
    Lennox: I'm in the middle of a war! This is FRIGGIN' RIDICULOUS!!
  • In Twister, Dr. Reeves (Bill Harding's new fiancée) keeps answering her cellphone in the middle of tornado chases. At one point, after seeing a rather amazing feat of tornado-ness, she blurts, "I gotta go, we got cows!"
  • Under Siege: Casey Ryback is shooting it out with the hijackers when he gets a call from the Reasonable Authority Figure, and his female sidekick answers.
    Admiral Bates: I'm trying to get ahold of Ryback.
    Jordan Tate: He's in a gunfight. I'll have to take a message.
  • World War Z. The protagonist leaves a satellite phone with his wife, saying he'll call once a day to let her know he's still alive. Unfortunately his first call doesn't make it through, so she tries ringing back just as he's trying to sneak past some zombies. After surviving that he makes another phone call and this time gets through, only to hang up in mid-conversation because he's just seen a nuclear explosion go off.

  • In Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan's commanding officer, Admiral Desplains, calls while Ivan is in the middle of a massive misunderstanding: Police are trying to break down his door since he's suspected of murdering Tej, while immigration officials are trying to deport her (assuming she's alive). He answers "Not now, sir!" and throws his comlink in the refrigerator to shut it up, then gets on with proposing marriage to her (proving he didn't murder her and rendering her immune to deportation due to his diplomatic immunity).
  • Margaret Ball's short story "Career Day" features a swordswoman from a fantasy world who has enrolled her daughter in a school from our world. When a member of the PTA calls right in the middle of a swordfight, she's so distracted she accidentally winds up agreeing to show her daughter's class around her workplace...
  • In Good Omens, the demon Crowley is facing down two superior demons from the infernal hierarchy, effectively the IS department who want to take him in for questioning about his divided loyalties. Right in the middle of the stand-off, his phone rings. It is the Angel Aziraphale, who wants to talk about the very irregularity for which Hastur and Ligur want to arrest him...
    • Bonus points for Crowley answering "Umm, kinda busy here" so casually that Aziraphale just knows something horribly dangerous is happening.
  • In Michael Crichton's novel, Jurassic Park, game warden Robert Muldoon has to cut a radio call short because he is "very popular at the moment." At the time, he was cornered in a large concrete pipe by a group of hungry velociraptors.
  • Labyrinths of Echo has telepathic speech that cannot even be "turned off", and fail only due to magic blockade few can perform well, unconsciousness, or a superhuman level of concentration on something else. Customary ethics and possibly bylaws in the World of Rod prohibit subordinates from distracting superiors by initiation of thought-chats, with the obvious exclusion of ordered reports and dire emergency. Also, the Chief of Minor Secret Investigative Force has an old bad habit of telling callers he's "waiting in ambush" while playing cards, and once noted that in a real ambush it's not much of a problem, but few understand it. This occasionally bitten him in the butt, though.
  • The Radix: During a dangerous car chase, Brynstone gets a call from wife who wants to tell him their daughter said her first word.
  • In Return of the Archwizards a character had a magical sending responded to only with a "fleeting impression of terror" and was afraid to send another due to the possibility it would distract the other party from a hard fight.
  • Happens in The Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly. Notably, the person being called is a twelve-year-old boy and the event is a High-Speed Battle in which a convoy is chasing a 747 down an Egyptian highway.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
    • In "Crucible", Oliver Queen's business partner demands to know why he hasn't shown up at a crucial investor party. Felicity Smoak promises to call and find out, then winces at the sound of gunfire in her ear when she does.
    • And in "The Calm", it's Oliver who calls Felicity while she's working on the sales desk of an IT store. She has to leave the line of customers unattended and use the store's computer to hack into the CCTV network to help Oliver with the chase he's currently involved in.
    • In one of the opening scenes of the crossover Crisis on Earth-X, Felicity calls Oliver to discuss RSVP-ing to Barry and Iris' wedding... while Oliver is fighting ninjas in a warehouse.
      Oliver: [punching a ninja] I'm. A little. Busy. Right. Now!
  • In the Broad City episode "Just the Tips," Abbi calls her paramedic boyfriend to break up with him while he's giving someone CPR.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Pangs", Angel calls Giles to warn him and Buffy that the Monster of the Week is going to be attacking them — right as they're being attacked.
  • Chuck has had it on several occasions with the titular character getting calls from his Locked Out of the Loop Buy More friends at the most inopportune times. A prime example is in the Pilot, where Morgan calls Chuck to find out how his big date is going while Chuck has a bomb to defuse (although Morgan does accidentally give Chuck a "Eureka!" Moment of how to do it).
  • CSI: NY: Mac's cell goes off at a lot of inopportune times but ut he's a detective, so not much he can do about it.
    • The very first scene in the entire series has his phone go off while he's praying in church.
    • Peyton calls him just as he sneaks up on the Big Bad in "Snow Day". Later that season, he gets called to a scene during an opera date with her on his birthday. And another time during sex.
    • In the final season, his cell goes off while he's on a date with Christine and they're enjoying a quiet moment on "their" bench in Central Park.
  • Daredevil (2015): In "The Path of the Righteous", James Wesley abducts Karen Page and tries to scare her into backing off her investigation of Wilson Fisk by threatening to have her loved ones killed, placing a gun on the table in front of him to emphasize the threat. At that moment, Wesley's phone rings as Fisk tries to call him to find out what he's up to, distracting him just long enough for Karen to snatch up the gun and kill him.
  • Several times in Day Break (2006), including the one when the hero's phone rang when he was hiding on the backseat of an arms dealer's car.
  • Dexter:
    • It wasn't during a fight scene, but Dexter has been called once or twice while engaged in his night job.
    • And a car chase, as well.
  • Doctor Who.
    • "Planet of the Dead": Scientist Malcolm Taylor, on Earth, is assisting the Doctor, on an alien planet. At one point he calls him when he learns something. The Doctor, busy running away from an alien storm, just shouts "Not now, Malcolm!" and hangs up.
      Malcolm: Fair do's. He's a busy man.
    • At the start of "The Time of the Doctor", the Doctor takes a call on the TARDIS telephone from Clara, who urgently needs him to turn up for Christmas dinner and pretend to be her boyfriend. The Doctor is in the middle of investigating this week's mystery, and being the Doctor he doesn't stop to finish the conversation before barging onto a spaceship without checking to see if it's full of Cybermen. Clara, having Seen It All as the Doctor's companion, has equally Skewed Priorities.
      Clara: I need you. I'm cooking Christmas dinner!
      The Doctor: I'm being shot at by Cybermen!
      Clara: Well, can't we do both?
    • And in "Flatline", Clara is pretending to her actual boyfriend Danny Pink that she's stopped going on adventures with the Doctor, so she answers her mobile just as she's about to be attacked by the Monster of the Week. The sounds of shouting and breaking glass do not reassure Danny that his girlfriend is being honest with him.
    • Unfortunately all this serves as foreshadowing for "Dark Water", where Clara calls her boyfriend with a Love Confession that can't wait a few minutes until he gets home. Distracted by the phone call, Danny is killed in a road accident.
  • ER:
    • In the legendary "Hell and High Water" episode, as Doug and Mark try to revive the nearly-drowned, hypothermic boy whom Doug rescued from a storm drain, desk clerk Jerry decides this is the perfect time to barge into the trauma room and tell them that the press is demanding answers regarding the boy's condition. Mark basically name-drops this trope by snapping, "Yeah, well, we're a little busy in here!"
    • Also in the episode "All in the Family," as the staff tends to Carter and Lucy, desk clerk Randi comes in to tell them that the cops are looking to talk to whoever treated the assailant. Kerry snaps at her to, "Handle it, Randi!"
  • Happened all the time in Father Ted. Ted would ring Father Larry Duff for advice, always at the most inconvenient moment, leading to Father Larry meeting such fates as driving over a cliff, being trampled by a herd of stampeding donkeys, or (the very least of his problems) missing out on the jackpot prize in a TV game show by having his concentration broken.
  • Get Smart is probably the Trope Maker. Maxwell Smart had a Shoe Phone, and just about every week it would ring at an inconvenient time and he would answer it. Since this was long before cell phones were invented, this was pure science fiction. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to pay attention to this warning of what the future was to bring...
  • Gomorra. A youth is tricked into assassinating one of Comte's underbosses, so he rings his older brother (working for Comte as a driver) for help. His brother hangs up on him because he's chauffeuring the boss around and can't talk, and the episode cliffhangers with the kid putting a gun in his mouth. Fortunately he doesn't shoot himself, but it's a while before his elder brother can get away and call back to find out what's going on.
  • Despite being set in the pre-cellphone era, Hill Street Blues had a similar running gag; Detective Belker's Jewish Mother always seemed to call him while he was trying to book in a suspect.
  • Kamen Rider Amazons: Whilst the exterminators are in the middle of fighting an Amazon, Shidou gets a call from work and shouts "Fuck off, we're busy!" down the line; unaware that he's on loudspeaker to the board of Nozama Pharmacy.
  • Kamen Rider Double: In a flashback, Soukichi Narumi talks to his daughter while in the middle of his first battle as Kamen Rider Skull. While the bad guys are attempting to kersplat him with industrial equipment, Akiko calls and Soukichi casually talks about how fighting for justice (as a detective) seems heavy enough to crush a man sometimes, but he'll be okay. Thanks to a Monster of the Week curse that does not have No Ontological Inertia placed on him later in the film, he can never see Akiko again, so this scene becomes Harsher in Hindsight as it's likely their last-ever conversation.
  • At the beginning of the second episode of Leverage, Nate calls the team and some of them are not exactly disposed to talking. Eliot was in a face-off with a guy who had a gun (he used his cellphone as a distraction to take him out), and Parker was hanging from a ceiling after stealing a painting (she tried to shush her phone).
  • Major Crimes: In the episode "Poster Boy" an insane murderer in interrupted by a phone call from his grandmother while he is dismembering the body of his latest victim.
  • One Piece (2023); Dracule Mihawk's Establishing Character Moment in Episode 5 has him holding a casual phone conversation with Garp while single-handedly slaughtering Don Krieg and his entire fleet.
  • Person of Interest:
    • "Root Cause" opens with Finch at the library pouring tea, then ringing up Reese to wish him a pleasant "Good Morning". Cut to Reese being slammed about the room by a bald-headed thug twice as big as he is.
      Finch: Bit of a bad connection. Were you able to convince Mr Billoc to abandon his plans to kill his ex-wife?
      Reese: I'm working on it.
    • "Prisoner's Dilemma" starts playing this trope for laughs, then ends up playing it for drama. Finch rings Detective Fusco, only to hear screaming and shouting as the POI has just tear-gassed Fusco in the face, mistaking him for a villain. Later he calls as the two are dodging Armenian gangsters on the street, but when Fusco asks for help, Finch hangs up as he's busy helping Reese. At the end of the episode Finch is rushing to save Reese, only for the Machine to call with another POI number — the FBI agent who just arrested Reese. Finch rings to warn the agent, only he's too late as the murder happens at that exact moment.
    • "If-Then-Else" plays it for drama and Ship Tease. Team Machine must shoot their way past Samaritan operatives to get to a server room, while Shaw is on the subway trying to get the access code for the server room, but is distracted by a suicidal man wearing a bomb vest. Shaw rings them for advice on Talking Down the Suicidal, but they're too busy to help much. Later Shaw is annoyed by a flirty phone call from Root, who's actually calling because she's about to get killed. Because this is all a simulation, we keep running through different versions of this trope.
  • It happens to Dr. K in an episode of Power Rangers RPM.
    Dr. K: I'm a little busy saving the human race right now, Benny.
  • The Red Green Show: A Played for Laughs variation of this involving an intercom system rather than a cell phone showed up in one Handyman Corner segment...where Red was building the intercom system using PVC piping and used toilets. At the end of the segment, Red tried to use one of these toilets to contact Harold, and at first, all he heard was a trickle. Then Harold answered, "Don't talk to me now, Uncle Red, I'm...kinda busy...!"
  • Scrubs: JD gets a little short with Ted when the latter interrupts him with some very unimportant news as JD is urgently trying to fix a patient's ruptured surgical stitches.
    Ted: My band has decided we're only singing songs from classic movies now.
    J.D.: Ted, I'm a little busy, OK? [holds up his blood-covered hands] Toodles.
  • At one point in Sherlock a showdown between Holmes and Moriarty is interrupted when the latter gets a phone call. He threatens to have the unfortunate caller made into shoes.
  • In the Smallville episode "Warrior", Clark Kent is rounding up some crooks when Lois Lane calls him. Hilariously, one of the criminals tries to run away, but Clark fishes a can out of the trash and chucks it at his head, knocking him out.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation ("The Arsenal of Freedom"), Geordi LaForge takes a call from Captain Picard in the middle of a battle:
    "We're kind of busy right now. I'll get right back to you."
  • Supernatural:
    • Played with at both ends of the conversation in "Weekend at Bobby's". Dean calls Bobby Singer for information on how to kill a demon that Sam is currently fighting in the background. At the same time Bobby, who has a corpse buried in his backyard, is trying to fend off a suspicious FBI agent.
    • In "Baby", Castiel calls Dean and launches into a long discussion of what he's found while researching the monster of the week. Dean, who put the call on speaker and then placed the phone on the dashboard, doesn't actually hear much of the explanation because he's busy fist-fighting, shooting, and decapitating the monster who appeared out of nowhere to attack him.
  • In the Japanese drama Tokyo Dogs, Sô's mother always call him at the most inappropriate moments, while apprehending a suspect or rescuing an hostage. Usually to ask him what kind of food he wants to eat or if he prefers a yellow or purple pajama.

  • Subverted in the Lady Gaga song "Telephone", as she is telling the person calling her that she can't answer the phone because she is busy:
    And now you won't stop calling me, I'm kinda busy

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Troubleshooters in Paranoia are issued with PDCs (mobile phones, Alpha Complex style) mainly for this reason. Phone calls from Friend Computer during a firefight aren't exactly uncommon, especially if everyone is being too efficient for the GM's tastes.

    Video Games 
  • Company of Heroes, especially US Airborne troops who will flat-out scream profanities into the radio if poked during a shootout.
    Airborne infantry: "In case you haven't noticed, THERE'S A FUCKING WAR GOING ON OVER HERE!!!"
    • Well, they were known as "The Screaming Eagles".
  • Dead Rising: This can happen to the player when somebody calls your cellphone while you're fighting zombies. You can elect to hang up, but that person calls you back about five seconds later ...and then you are scolded, because hanging up on someone is rude. Sadly, you cannot tell the person exactly where he can place his manners.
  • Dead Space 2: Twice, Isaac gets calls when he's up to his ass in Necromorphs. The first time, when Daina calls him, he simply yells "Not now!" and hangs up on her. The second time, Isaac's fighting off even more Necromorphs on top of a subterranean drill. Ellie calls Isaac to ask him if he's okay, to which Isaac sarcastically replies "Oh yeah! Good times!" and hangs up.
  • Christo from Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance says this frequently to his superior who calls him frequently before various fights in the game.
  • At the beginning of the "Secret of Cabot House" quest in Fallout 4, the player witnesses this situation first hand. Jack Cabot is trying to talk to Edward Deegan over the radio, while the latter is engaged in a running gun-fight with a bunch of raiders. Edward even drops the trope name at one point before being forced off the air by the fighting.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: The Shivering Isles DLC has a variant; if you summon Haskill when you're in the middle of combat, he'll comment that now probably isn't the best time for him to offer advice and you might want to focus on the fight first.
  • In Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, after Genesis summons Bahamut SIN, Zack gets a call on his cell phone from Aerith. He explains that he can't talk as he has to deal with a guest, while Bahamut roars in the background. After he hangs up, he turns back to Bahamut:
  • Freelancer: Non-hostile NPC ships engaged in combat will respond this way if the player attempts to hail them. The only exceptions are hostile ships (which ignore hails by default), ships that appear during missions and scripted sequences, and Nomad ships even if you use mods to overcome their Hard-Coded Hostility.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko can be called by his friends or girlfriends on his cell phone any time he's not in the middle of a race or mission, but there are also scripted sequences inside of certain missions where he will receive a phone call as well. They're often of an ironic nature, such as being invited to go drinking while he's driving a truck rigged with explosives, and being called to go to a strip club while kidnapping the daughter of a mob boss. One such phone call can even blow his cover during an on-foot Stalking Mission and force him to chase his target to their destination.
  • During a mission in inFAMOUS, Zeke calls up Cole about ways Cole could make some money off of his powers. At the time, Cole is trying to defend some medical supplies from the Reapers, who among other things, are using a truck-mounted mini-gun on him. Cole, naturally, tries to tell Zeke off, but Zeke just ignores him.
  • In Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story, when Yachiyo calls Kanagi about working together against the Wings of the Magius, Kanagi happens to be fighting against some of the Magius’s Black Feathers. Kanagi easily wipes the floor with the Feathers while agreeing to meet with Yachiyo.
  • In Marvel: Contest of Champions Deadpool's third special attack has his cellphone ring in the middle of the fight and he goes to answer it, while his opponent makes exasperated gestures and looks away while he yammers away on it, only to have Deadpool shake his head, hang up and offhandedly shoot his opponent.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • During the final battle of the Tuchanka arc in Wrex/Wreav comms Shepard in the middle of dodging a Reaper's attacks while on foot, and evading an infinite number of Brutes to heckle him/her on how long it's taking. Shepard is less than amused.
      Wrex: Shepard, get that second hammer going!
      Wrex: I know. You get all the fun!
    • There's also the firefight in the Citadel DLC where the team receives an urgent call... from the pizza delivery volus, demanding payment.
      James: Tell them they burnt the pepperoni!
  • Max is busy in Max Payne 2, in the mission where both him and his lover invade the Mook hideout from opposite sides.
  • Snake does this in Metal Gear when he gets codec calls at bad times. Notably bad, given the absurd amount of time that he often spends chatting with Mission Control instead of doing his job. Lampooned in this VG Cats strip.
  • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, Crystal, and the remakes, trainers would call you via Pokégear all the time. What's that? You're busy saving the Radio Tower from Team Rocket? Eh. They'll call you anyway.
  • The sequel to Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? has the Phantom Thief, upon being caught in the Prinnies' trap, use the Omega Cool spell to summon Ice Keeper Joshua, who lands less than gracefully on her rear, seeing as she was in the middle of a phone conversation. While she does lend the Phantom Thief some assistance, she spends the entire fight reading a magazine and chatting away on her cell phone. Amusingly, listening close enough to her conversation will reveal plenty of references to prior games in the same universe.
  • Skullgirls: Parasoul's Egret Call move has one of her soldiers call her with a status update when she's in the middle of a fight, allowing her to cancel animations while she tells the Egret to call back later.
  • In Spider-Man (PS4) this can happen several times with one of Peter allies calling in at the worst possible time during gameplay. Said verbatim at one point when he's at The Raft trying to stop the prison break while talking to his Friend on the Force, Yuri, only for Scorpion grabs to grab Spidey from behind with his tail and Peter complaining he was in the middle of a important call.
  • One of Crimson Viper's victory poses in Street Fighter IV is her daughter calling her on her cellphone after the fight is over.
    • Inversely, in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, one of Viper's intro quotes has her end a call with her daughter because she's ABOUT to get in a fight.
  • Undertale has three examples of this.
    • During Mettaton's cooking show when he moves towards you with a chainsaw, needing "a human soul" as an ingredient, Alphys interrupts with a phone call and his response is "I'm kind of in the middle of something here." It turns out to be staged as part of Alphys' plan to stop you from leaving.
    • One of Alphys's calls to you in Hotland is timed to interrupt you the moment a conveyor belt is pulling you past a switch you need to press to solve a puzzle which would turn off a forcefield and let you move to the next room. The forcefield then seemingly deactivates on its own. It's later revealed that she has control over Hotland's puzzles, and she turned it off herself after realising she stopped you from doing it.
    • While running away from Undyne during her boss fight, at one point Papyrusnote  calls you to suggest that you and him should hang out with Undyne. This seems like an inconvenience because you can't move during phone calls, but if you look closely you'll see that Undyne actually stops chasing you, only moving again once the call has ended. After befriending her, calling her in that room will have her say that she purposefully waited while you were on the phone.
  • Real-time Tactics game World in Conflict pulls this when you try to select infantry units that are under fire.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, Officer Ooe gets a call while she and the rest of the group are fleeing for their lives from the murderous Demon Tsukuyomi. Taking the call turns out to be important, however, as it provides them with an important clue on how to take Tsukuyomi down.

  • Cell phones are the bane of Pokémon trainers everywhere, as demonstrated in this webcomic. That's why they removed the cell phone feature in later games.
  • Tiffany in Eerie Cuties is "mind-sexted" by Faith (presumably, not the first time) during an attempt to stake Layla. By her own count, it was 13-th time only in that park, so it's not like Tiffany would not find one more excuse to cancel the attack anyway, obviously. But she was running, and the distraction caused her to stumble and fall.
  • In Grrl Power, the would-be hero Sydney call her teammate Dabbler at night for some "urgent" informations. She is first responded by Dabbler that this is not the time as she is in the middle of something, and then, more explicitly, that something is in the middle of her. This cut the conversation short. Of course, since Dabbler is a succubus, this was to be expected.
  • In Special School, Manny makes a date with Karne while he's at his "day job".
  • Spying with Lana: Happened offscreen to Lana. Mission Control apparently called her on her "Get Smart Special earring mic" at a pool party hosted by gun runners, blowing her cover in the process, to ask her something important: if her birthday was on the 3rd or the 8th.
    Chief: It's always important to have accurate employee records.

    Web Original 
  • The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is service that provides bots which are designed to waste the time of telemarketers and other nuisance callers. The bots go through all sorts of routines and gags, all while supposedly listening to the pitch of the telemarketers or whoever it is that's calling. Of course, the real gag is that nothing is happening because they're just a bot and the caller is talking only to a series of pre-programmed recordings.

    Web Videos 
  • Left POOR Dead: George, everytime Reginald and Tippy try to call him

    Western Animation 
  • Archer:
    • Archer causes three agents' covers to be blown by calling them drunkenly. He called the first two were to convince women at a bar that he was a secret agent, the third he just asks if he plans on attending a work function.
    • This happens to Archer during a break in. Fortunately, one of the guards has the same obnoxious ringtone, so no one notices.
    • Happens in a later episode when all of ISIS starts interrupts Dr. Krieger's surgery on Ray in the episode "Legs". Kreiger even references the trope by name.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has Batman in this situation several times, including a few times when AQUAMAN was bored on a family vacation and hoped that Batman would need him to join the current battle.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: In "Duped", Gwen calls Rath in the middle of a fight. Not through his Ultimatrix, but through the phone he pulls out of Hammerspace. For once, Rath whispers his "Let me tell you something" Catchphrase.
  • In The Bremen Avenue Experience episode "Jessica's Story", the incessant ringing of Jessica's mobile phone disrupts the titular Fake Band's rehearsal—until the band starts incorporating it into the song they're playing.
  • In the Big Hero 6: The Series pilot "Baymax Returns", Aunt Cass calls Hiro while he and Baymax are fighting one of Yama's Evil Knockoffs of Baymax to tell him not to snack since she's bringing home butterfish for dinner.
  • In the Dan Vs. episode "Baseball," Elise—who is some kind of secret agent, unbeknownst to her husband Chris—fields several calls from him while involved on a mission. The last time he's calling to say that he's on the field at the World Series...while she's just below his feet, trying to disarm a bomb that's set to blow up the stadium.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie is often kicking ass with the shadowkhan or some other mooks when Uncle calls, often with the Phlebotinum or the info needed to defeat the Monster of the Week. His phone calls usually take forever with his constant "one more thing" reminders, while Jackie's trying to listen and fight off the attackers at once. Conservation of Ninjutsu seems to be the only thing that keeps him alive through them.
  • Justice League:
    • In the episode "Wild Cards," Batman takes a call from The Flash while he's in the middle of a fight. The Flash had a good reason for calling, since he needed instructions on how to disarm a bomb.
    • Also, in the episode "Dead Reckoning", Batman and Wonder Woman figure out Gorilla City is under attack from the Legion of Doom, and Batman calls Solovar (leader of Gorilla City) to warn him - right as they're being attacked.
  • Kim Possible:
    • The main character has occasionally called her mother while her mother was in the middle of performing brain surgery. Dr. Possible happily talked on the speaker phone to her daughter, all the while continuing with the operation.
    • There's also a few Kimmunicator calls that have come in during action sequences. In the Series Fauxnale, Kim is under attack by giant robots, calls Wade, and he's got another one destroying his room. Earlier in the film, Kim takes a call from her friend Monique for some high school gossip while flying down a street in central Tokyo on a grapple line attached to Shego's fighter jet.
    • Building a Heads-Up Display Kimmunicator into the suit her dad made to replace her ruined mission outfit: good idea. Having it suddenly take up her whole field of view while Kim was in the middle of fighting Shego: not so much.
  • A variation on this is almost the entire premise of The Midnight Gospel. Every episode involves the main character Clancy interviewing a character in a podcast style while chaotic events in Deranged Animation happen all around them, often with the interviewee engaged in dire circumstances while having very in-depth conversations.
  • In the obscure 1970s cartoon Mighty Man And Yukk, this happens to Mighty Man while he's fighting a pair of icicle creatures. (Of course, since it was the 1970s, it wasn't a cell phone, but a corded phone attached to the inside of Yukk's doghouse, which he wears as a face-concealing hat).
  • Once per Episode in The Secret Show:
    Professor Professor: Victor, are you still alive?
    Victor Volt (usually in danger): Yes, I'm still alive!
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Homer is offered a new job in "You Only Move Twice" by Scorpio, this trope is played through the entire episode. Homer asks Scorpio for advice on numerous issues, which Scorpio happily gives, all while executing his plan to Take Over the World. Most notably, at the end, Scorpio gives Homer advice on whether to keep his current job or not, while fighting off a UN invasion force.
      Scorpio: I understand, Homer. You gotta put your family first, and I respect that. But, Homer, on your way out, if you wanna kill somebody, it would help a lot.
    • Also, in "Future-Drama", Snake is called about his dinner in the middle of a hold up. Of course, his cell phone is merged with his ray gun, giving Bart the opportunity to thwart him.
  • Inverted on The Spectacular Spiderman: Aunt May insists Peter call home if he's going to be out past his 10 o'clock curfew. He set his cell phone alarm to remind him when to call, and in early episodes this tended to happen right in the middle of a fight.
  • In the last episode of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon's first season, Donatello is busy building a new device at Baxter Stockman's lab while the rest of the family goes off to attack the Technodrome. While they're fighting off Foot Soldiers, Don gives them a call, checking in;
    Raphael: [getting throttled by a Foot Soldier] A little...busy here!
    Donatello: Oh, okay. I'll try again later.
    Raphael: Do that!
  • Happens a few times in Totally Spies! when the girls are on a mission and usually get some phone calls from friends or love interest who're unaware of them being spies during a fight or a perilous situation. For example, in one episode Clover was tasked with baby-sitting her cousin and told to come home early. The mission ended up going longer then expected and during a fight, her mother called her to demand where she was. Clover tried to cover that it was a class she was attending but her mother thought she was at a party and grounded her on the spot to Clover's dismay.
  • Touché Turtle and Dum Dum: A Running Gag in these episodes showed Touché being interrupted mid-battle by a ringing telephone located inside his shell. He invariably stops what he's doing, pulls his head and arms inside his shell, and takes the call.
  • Young Justice (2010) has a variant, slightly different in that it's between heroes on the same mission (who are using telepathy instead of a phone):
    Miss Martian: Superboy, are you online or just pouting?
    [Superboy is holding a giant mutated wolf by the jaws to keep it from biting him]
    Superboy: Busy. Call back later.

    Real Life 
  • During the battle which earned Audie Murphy his Medal of Honor, he was contacted by officers in the rear and asked how close the Germans were. Murphy responded, "Hold on and I'll let you talk to one," put the radio down, and kept on fighting.
  • The cell phone of Jeff Nolan, a soldier deployed in Afghanistan, dialed his parents' home on Oregon on its own accord in the middle of a gunfight. The funniest (or most horrifying) part of the story being that the call ended right after someone shouted "Incoming RPG!" Nolan survived.


Video Example(s):


In the middle of something

Miles' dad receives a phone call from his wife while he is involved in a fight scene with The Spot.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / KindaBusyHere

Media sources: