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Paper-Bag Popping

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One character finds that his friend is asleep, so he tries various ways to wake him up, but nothing works. Finally, he gets the idea to blow up a paper bag then pop it while standing by his sleeping friend.

POP! The paper bag is popped and the sleeping character is wide awake.

A common gag on cartoons is for one character to set up explosives to destroy another character and hide at a safe distance, then for the second character to sneak up from behind and pop a paper bag so the first character will think the explosives went off and run out, just in time for the explosives to go off in their face.

Put more simply, this is a method to either wake up a sleeping character or to surprise another character, which may culminate in Surprise Jump.

There are also some cases where instead of just using a paper bag, a character will blow up a balloon and pop it with a needle, but it still has the same effect.

Compare Banging Pots and Pans.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Episode 4 of the Little Lulu anime, Tubby does this after eating the peanuts that were in the paper bag that he was given. One of the examples that do not involve waking up someone.

    Comic Books 
  • There was an Archie Comics story where Archie is being hounded by Mr. Weatherbee, because of the former's sleeping in class, prompting the latter to send him to his office to wait for him. When Mr. Weatherbee gets to his office, he finds Archie sleeping at his desk, which prompts him to blow up a paper bag while stating that everyone has a weakness, then pops it, which surprises Archie so much. At the end, Mr. Weatherbee then says, "That's my only weakness, I'm too softhearted."
  • Batman: Black and White: In the comedic "Batsman: Swarming Scourge of the Underworld", Batsman sneaks up behind Commissioner Gordon and pops a paper bag, in a spoof of Batman's traditional Stealth Hi/Bye.
  • In one Baxter Basics strip in Viz, Baxter loses his seat in a general election, and his plan to be re-elected involves murdering an elderly Tory MP by popping a paper bag behind him to cause a heart attack and getting selected for his safe Tory seat in the by-election.

    Comic Strips 
  • Blondie (1930): Blondie did this to her husband, Dagwood, to get him to wake up for work. It was usually played for comedy. She did it quite a few times in the comic strip and at least once in an animated TV special.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin pops a paper bag while his dad is reading a newspaper. Having startled his dad, Calvin says "Pay attention to me."
    • One Sunday strip has Calvin ask Dad if people ever spontaneously combust. Dad says no. There's a Beat Panel, then Calvin pops a paper bag around the corner and scares the living daylights out of Dad.
    • In another strip, Calvin uses this ploy to simulate a gunshot to get out of taking a message for his mom, except it was used with a balloon instead of a paper bag in this case.
  • The Far Side: A comic has a rocket scientist carefully hammering rivets into a missile while another scientist behind him is about to pop a paper bag.
  • Jon does this to Odie in this Garfield strip. Unfortunately, Garfield had been in the bag the whole time it happened.
    Jon: I didn't know you were in the bag, Garfield. I was playing a trick on Odie.
    Garfield: At least I died for a good cause.

    Films — Animation 
  • The balloon version is used in The Emperor's New Groove. When Kuzco finds himself surrounded by sleeping jaguars, Bucky the squirrel, as payback for how Kuzco treated him earlier, blows up a balloon, bends it in the form of a llama, and pops it. The pop doesn't wake up the jaguars... but Kuzco laughing at Bucky does.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games: Snips and Snails are shown in a still of the closing credits about to wake up Lyra and Bon Bon, sleeping in the library, by popping a blown paper bag.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who serial "Battlefield", the Doctor pops a bag to wake Ancelyn and Bambera from their Sleep Cute.
  • Winston Churchill does this in a Horrible Histories sketch, as his aides keep falling asleep due to how late he's having them work. Neither of them is particularly amused by this, given this takes place during the Blitz.
  • iCarly: In the episode "iBeat the Heat", Sam does this to get everyone's attention when Carly is giving a speech that no-one will listen to at first.
  • Mr. Bean once tries to cheer up a kid on a plane by blowing up an airsickness bag and popping it to wake a sleeping passenger. While he tries in vain to blow up the bag, the kid gets sick and throws up in his bag. Bean sees the full bag, thinks the kid blew it up for him, and pops it. Fortunately the episode ends before we see the results. The gag was reused on Bean, only this time we see Bean's reaction as the bag pops offscreen, along with some of the vomit as it splashes out.

    Web Animation 
  • Oddball webtoon Krentz and the Hand of Shame has an instance of this. In this case, it doesn't work — largely because the target is in a coma rather than merely being asleep.

    Web Comics 
  • Grrl Power: A flashback panel shows that a younger Maxima discovered her power to shoot blasts of energy with her hand when her brother woke her up by popping a paper bag as a joke, resulting in a large, burning hole in the wall of their house.
  • In Narbonic, when Artie finally figures out how to stay in either human or gerbil form with zen meditation, Mell tests him in this way.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Donald Duck cartoon Dragon Around, Donald tries to blow up Chip and Dale's tree with dynamite, but they put the sticks out and trick Donald by popping a bag to simulate an explosion.
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Sound Judgment", Garfield tries to do this to Nermal who is asleep in his bed, but once he gets the paper bag blown up and pops it, there is no sound, because the sound effects editor had apparently quit. Odie is then hired to do the sound effects, with catastrophic results, as the popping sound of the paper bag is then replaced with the sound of a train whistle.
  • Mr. Bogus:
    • In the claymation short shown after the third and final act of the episode "Bookstore Bogus", Bogus tries to wake up a sleeping doll without any success, which ends when he pops a blown-up paper bag, with the doll still asleep!
    • Bogus does this to Ratty and Mole with a balloon in the episode "Bad Luck Bogus", while they were preparing a potion to use on him. The ensuing popping of the balloon surprises Ratty and Mole, culminating in a Surprise Jump from Mole who then lands in the potion. Hilarity Ensues afterwards when the effects of the potion cause Mole to have a convulsive reaction and also causes him to rocket all around the attic.
  • Recess: In "Chez Vince", T.J. and the gang learn that Vince's cooking skills have earned him the chance to a scholarship in France, so they try to sabotage his final test, a soufflé, by having Mikey pop a paper bag as he presents it to the judges. However, once they learn that Vince actually wants to go to France, they now have to stop Mikey before he pops it.
  • In at least one Tom and Jerry short, Tom puts a stick of dynamite into Jerry's mouse hole, then covers his ears and eyes. Jerry walks up behind him and pops a paper bag, tricking Tom into thinking it exploded, only to take the dynamite out of the hole and it explodes in his face.

    Real Life 
  • Peter O'Toole told a hilariously awful story of his childhood that involved this.
    Mr. O'Toole recalls walking into a room at age 3 or 4. His parents, obviously in their cups, are trying to put up the family Christmas tree. "Is Father Christmas coming?" he demands. Gales of laughter. Marching up to his father, he repeats: "Is Father Christmas coming?" Whereupon his father picks up a brown paper bag and leaves the room. There's a bang. The door opens, and Pat O'Toole returns. "He stands above me," Mr. O'Toole writes, "and looks solemnly down at me before pronouncing very clearly: 'Father Christmas has just shot himself.'"