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Performance Anxiety
aka: Stagefright

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At least he's not in his underwear...

"See the man with the stage fright
Just standin' up there to give it all his might
He got caught in the spotlight
But when we get to the end
He wants to start all over again"
The Band, "Stage Fright"

A character has an ability that they cannot show off to or use in front of others because of nerves. When under pressure, the character can't perform as well, making others doubt that character's ability.

Usually, once under pressure, the character is unable to perform at all, looking like a complete idiot as they stand there unable to do what others are asking them to do. Other times, it has a more mild effect, causing them to simply make stupid mistakes that they wouldn't any other time. Sometimes, they just act apprehensive rather than making mistakes.

The trope name is a more technical term for Stage Fright (see Real Life examples below). The specific phobia of public performing may appear on its own, or may be part of a broader case of social anxiety.

A common trait of the Shrinking Violet. If all we ever see is the character cracking under pressure, then it starts to edge into Informed Ability territory. Compare Centipede's Dilemma (aka Paralysis by Analysis), in which a character loses an ability by thinking too hard about it. Related to Dead Air, an occasional occurrence on radio. If the character is shown to actually be good at whatever it is they're attempting to do in public when they're in private (or doing it for friends/family), it usually goes hand in hand with Hidden Depths. See Imagine the Audience Naked and "No Peeking!" Request as possible ways of handling it.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Action Heroine Cheer Fruits, the main characters get to meet their idol Mako Kamisu (who plays Japan's #1 local hero, Kamidaioh), who says that she's a fan of their work too and offers some words of encouragement. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of pressure on the girls, causing them to make several amateur mistakes in their next live show and leading to their dropping in the local hero rankings.
  • Anpanman himself from Anpanman. Despite being a powerful superhero, he is horrible at onstage acting. He stutters, speaks his lines in a very forced tone, and blushes like mad. This leads to problems when he's roped into performing (normally by Shiratama-san or the Den Den Troupe). However, as soon as Baikinman attacks the stage, he forgets all of his fear and goes back to being the one thing he truly is: a superhero.
  • Valt from Beyblade Burst has stage fright. It's especially bad since, as a beyblader, he is very often on stage.
  • In Boruto, Metal Lee is a very anxious kid who freaks out a lot. Fighting in front of others often causes him to stiffen up.
  • One episode of Carole & Tuesday concerns a metal musician named Joshua who apparently suffers from this to such an extent that he can't perform unless drunk. Carole and Tuesday are drafted in for the Cydonia Festival as reserves, in case Joshua can't bring himself to perform, but their attempt to cover from him is roundly booed by the crowd and Joshua ultimately finds the courage to go out and perform.
    • Subverted when DJ Ertegun delivers his first major concert after a serious Break the Haughty moment. He cowers beneath the spotlight, whimpering that his fans have forgotten him, and Carole and Tuesday think he's relapsed... but it's just a ploy to goad the audience into calling his name, and he rises to his feet in a matter of seconds to tremendous cheers.
  • Chopin from Classi9 has terrible stage fright and fainted more than once while playing in public. He feels better when he's playing with someone, and usually performs duets with Liszt. Truth in Television as the real-life Chopin gave around 30 public concerts and preferred private and cozy concerts in his home than big concerts.
  • The Dangers in My Heart: Upon getting 2nd place in his grades' finals, Kyōtarō Ichikawa is chosen to give the congratulatory address for the school year’s farewell ceremony (Also, no one else was found willing to do it). He reluctantly agrees to do the rehearsal, but he whispers so quietly that the crowd couldn’t hear him from the mic. He tries to use that as an excuse to drop out of the official speech, but Yamada encourages him and helps him practice. Overhearing Nanjou dropping by near them and seriously confessing that he likes Yamada is what convinces and motivates Ichikawa to do the speech.
  • In Fairy Tail, Erza Scarlet is an Action Girl par excellence, but despite her claims of being a master thespian she cannot for the life of her act on stage, often getting stage fright and flubbing her lines.
  • Haruka Harano of Go! Princess Pretty Cure suffers from this in Pretty Cure All Stars: Spring Carnival - she can sing by herself pretty well, but in a crowd, it's just a bunch of frightened warbles. It takes being put in a Darkest Hour moment to overcome that fear.
  • Haikyuu!!:
    • The main character Hinata has performance anxiety to the point that he regularly gets stomach issues before playing in a volleyball match. This is taken up to eleven in episode 4 and 5 where he gets so nervous, he pretty much stops functioning before and during the practice match against Seijoh. It takes hitting the back of Kageyama's head with a flubbed serve for him to finally calm down because the scariest thing that could've happened has already happened. He's able to play normally after that but still gets nervous at other important matches. As he gains experience and confidence, even that stops.
    • Yamaguchi is insecure about his skills as a pinch server and afraid of messing up and disappointing his teammates. Knowing that, Shimada teaches him to focus on a "reset point" (like an emergency exit sign) to calm his nerves during a match. When the exit sign is blocked from view during a match at nationals, Shimada swoops in to hold up a grocery bag from the sidelines, something that they used as a reset point before.
    • Almost the entire Karasuno team suffers from this at the Inter-High final against Shiratorizawa until Sugawara screams at them from the sidelines to calm down, though he's just as nervous as them.
    • In the manga, Sugawara asks Hinata and Yachi to prepare a sport club introduction for new members but just practicing the speech has them burn out so bad from stage fright, they end up short-circuiting and crashing into a ball basket. Asahi remarks that those two are the last people he should've asked for that.
  • Hitohira: Mugi Asai. The plot revolves around her being convinced to join her school's drama club, and she has a tendency to get so nervous in front of people that sometimes she faints.
  • Suffering from this is the main reason the titular Magical Sempai is such a crappy magician. While she can make all the tricks when alone, as soon as she's in front of an audience, her clumsiness turns even the simplest tricks into an Epic Fail.
  • Natsumi Murakami of Negima! Magister Negi Magi has this listed in her character profile as something she actually enjoys.
  • Miko Iino from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War suffers from crippling stage fright, which is cited as the reason why she's never managed to win a student council election. Shirogane starting an impromptu debate and pretending to insult her values allows her to her focus on him instead of the crowd and lets her give her speech properly. She still doesn't win the election (getting just under 50% of the vote compared to the 5% that she'd normally get), but she did earn the respect of her fellow students, basically assuring that she'd win the following year (and sure enough, the next election is a landslide in her favor).
  • Sorata from The Pet Girl of Sakurasou suffers this in Episode 8 during his presentation for his video game idea. Naturally, this doesn't go very well for him. Subverted come Episode 10, where he performs just fine.
  • An episode of The Story of Cinderella features an acrobat named Mary who is nervous about performing in front of the prince - she sees everyone as the prince. Mary's first performance in the episode fails when she messes up and everyone laughs at her. Cinderella tries to help her but is unable to make Mary's insecurity go away. Charles decides to help out and helps Mary overcome her anxiety.
  • A one-shot character on Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is a competent duelist who gets stage fright when dueling in front of others. He deals with this by creating the "Duel Giant", where his very large friend (who has his own self-esteem issues) disguises himself to look like a fierce giant and duels others while the smaller one relays instructions via hidden radio.
  • Itsuki from Yuki Yuna is a Hero is a good singer but her voice cracks when she sings around others. Episode 4 revolves around her trying to resolve the issue before a test in music class.
  • Yuri!!! on Ice:
    • This is Yuri Katsuki's Fatal Flaw. He's genuinely a really good skater — the top male skater in Japan, even — but he suffers terribly from stage fright and consequently tends to do much worse than usual at competitions. One of the main arcs of the anime is about teaching him to have confidence in himself as a skater, but Episode 7 proves that even Victor's encouragement or his recent successes can't cure anxiety completely.
    • Jean-Jacques Leroy suffers from a one-off attack of performance anxiety in Episode 11. It ends up ruining his short program and his chance at victory in the Grand Prix Final.

  • One story in Archie Comics involved Reggie getting stage fright during his first attempt at stand-up comedy, leading to Jughead heckling him, which got Reggie mad enough to reply and then go into the rest of his routine.
  • Asterix:
    • In Asterix and the Cauldron, one of Asterix and Obelix' attempts to raise the money they need is to try their luck at performing in a theater. Unfortunately, Obelix is hit by a massive case of stage fright; his face turns pale, he starts sweating, and can only stare at the audience with open mouth. When he finally does manage to say something, it's his catchphrase "These Romans are crazy", angering the Roman audience.
    • This is brought up again in Asterix and the White Iris, when Asterix and Obelix have to fight off a group of Roman soldiers inside the Lutetian amphitheater. Obelix gets the shakes and Asterix has encourage him.
  • On the eve of a big presentation Dilbert gets some dubiously-helpful advice from Dogbert, who points out that fear of public speaking trumps fear of death in most people, so "technically, if you kill a guy who's scheduled to speak, you're doing him a favor." He then casually asks Dilbert when he plans on getting some sleep...
  • In Jem and the Holograms (IDW) stage fright is Jerrica's reason for creating the "Jem" persona. She can't sing in front of people besides her family members as Jerrica, but as Jem, she's a flamboyant and popular pop star.
  • Arthéon from Noob, according to one of the early short stories.

    Fan Works 
  • Chloe Cerise in Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail has a hidden knack for writing horror short stories, as shown by how Atticus and Lexi praise her writings. But when Lexi asks her to read a story for some Sorbet Sharks, she immediately declines since it reminds her of how her classmates mock and jeer for her interests, let alone not even a giving a damn when she presents it. It takes a pep talk from Lexi and Atticus to get her to take the stage.
    • In Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus, Chloe is able to perform with a smile on her face although she still has insecurities while at a conference with the Alola gang (due to her insecurities and bullying issues about "not being like others" and also the gang had been ganging up on Augustine about his problems even though Chloe was gone longer than he was and has even more traumas to work out). Meanwhile, Augustine does not like performing on stage and even has to ask his Persona, Asher, to hypnotise him to make him appear cool and confident.
  • The Nightmare House points out that Lola Loud actually isn't afraid of going onstage, but most little girls are.
  • In the first Holiday Special of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, one of the snippets features a young Aria, who is to fill in for an actress in a Christmas play, but is too scared to come out. Fortunately, Palermo gives her some encouragement words to snap her out of it.

  • An Angel at My Table: On Janet Frame's first day as a schoolteacher, an evaluator has come to sit in during her class. Standing up at the blackboard, Janet has a panic attack and realizes she cannot do the job.
  • CODA: Ruby has a great voice, but when she is asked to sing in front of everyone on the first day of choir, she freezes up and runs out of the room because she is not used to singing in front of others.
  • In Daredreamer, Winston is reluctant to share his songs and dreams with his friends despite carrying his guitar case around on the regular. Early on, he dreams about being naked and fainting from embarrassment when called on to give a report.
  • Todd in Dead Poets Society is actually quite a good poet, but has a bit of a problem with reading/speaking in front of people, which leads to him taking notes at Dead Poets meetings rather than doing any of the actual reading. At first, his aversion to public speaking is so strong that he refuses to join the society at all.
  • Godmothered: Jane used to sing with her father, but then he died in a car accident. Ever since then, she hasn't been able to sing in front of other people.
  • Luther: Shortly after his ordination as a priest Martin celebrates a Mass in front of his monastic community, father, and other dignitaries. He is shaking with anxiety and some of the wine spills out of the cup as a result.
  • Referenced in The Man Who Knew Too Little:
    James: [Wallace] got the lead part in the school play but on opening night... I never knew it was possible for someone to forget so much so quickly without a severe blow to the head.
  • In The Menu, whether Tyler has any cooking ability under any circumstance is unclear, but his efforts are certainly hampered by being forced to cook while everyone stares at him with hostility and his culinary idol makes contemptuously commentary on his efforts. He burns himself, forgets to wash his vegetables or melt the butter, and declares obviously undercooked lamb done.
  • Constantine, the villain in Muppets Most Wanted, surprisingly suffers from stage fright.
  • In My Favorite Year, Alan Swann is a beloved swashbuckling film star. When he learns he has to perform in front of an audience (and on live television) for his latest gig, well...
  • The Invisible Boy in Mystery Men has the power to become invisible — but only when nobody is looking. For most of the film the team question whether he actually has powers at all or is just pretending he does- until the climax where he manages to turn invisible in order to walk past an automated camera-triggered Death Ray to reach the switch that disables it, because cameras aren't people.
  • Meena in Sing has a tremendous singing ability when she's alone but gets shy in front of people, even her own family. When she tries to audition for the singing competition, she freezes up and totally blows it. In the finale, she finally overcomes it and literally brings down the house.
  • The Idolmaker: Before Guido's first show as Caesare, he gets so nervous that he sings terribly, causing the audience to laugh at him. About a minute into the first song, he runs offstage and into the parking lot for a Stress Vomit.

    Let's Play 

  • Fat Charlie, the protagonist of Anansi Boys suffers from a seriously bad case of Performance Anxiety that leaves him basically incapable of singing in front of other people. It's a shame, really, since he's actually a phenomenal singer with a real love for music ( and he has an unknown affinity with reality-warping Magic Music due to being the son of Anansi) , but whenever he gets in front of a crowd, he just freezes from sheer nerves and runs the risk of just puking all over himself. Conquering his fears of embarrassing himself and preforming in front of others is an important part of his Character Development. By the end of the story, Charlie realizes that he loves preforming and music and becomes a singer. His old stage-fright never truly went away, he just knows he can always overcome it once he starts singing.
  • Happens to Petra in Ender's Game, crippling her usefulness to Ender. This is not because of an inherent inability to deal with nerves, but because of the enormous weight of pressure and responsibility that Ender had placed on her.
  • Discworld:
    • In Moving Pictures, clickie superstar Ginger is terrified to step out of the coach in front of a cheering crowd, having only acted in front of a camera crew rather than an audience. Victor snaps her out of it by suggesting that she pretend it's a click, and it works: she can handle the attention if she stays in character.
    • Similarly, in Wyrd Sisters, Death gets a case of stage fright and starts fumbling over the lines "he" is supposed to play when he turns up for real on the stage towards the climax at the book. It's explained this is because the circumstances mean everyone is expecting to see him, and thus they can, and it's very unusual indeed for him to be seen by such a large crowd of living people.
  • Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!: Vivy has mastered her knuckleball playing with her brother Nate, but she does really badly the first time she practices with the Flying Squirrels, then keeps messing up during her first real game. Major League pitcher VJ Capello has a similar problem - his performance has been underwhelming since he botched a throw in last year's World Series.
  • Ron Weasley has this problem in Harry Potter books five and six. He's a good Keeper when no one is looking, but he gets too nervous to play when people are watching him play.
  • In one Horatio Hornblower story, Hornblower goes down in flames when he takes his examination for lieutenant before a board of three captains. They pose him a hypothetical shipboard disaster and he blanks out as they point out all the horrible things that would be happening in the real situation—and then the Spanish send a fire ship into the harbor. Hornblower helps steer it away from the fleet with one of the examiners, who makes a point of telling him afterward what a mercy it was because he was about to fail. (Hornblower's heroism does net him the promotion.)
  • In Lonely Werewolf Girl one of the biggest problems Dominil has acting as manager for werewolf punk-rockers Beauty and Delicious is preventing them from getting completely drunk due to their stage fright. Yep, werewolves with stage fright.
  • Oddly Enough: The narrator of "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" has a bad case of this, as he cannot perform on stage. When he tries, he freezes up with terror and looks like he's paralyzed. During the events of the story, he's asked to perform on stage and manages to do so without freezing up for once... until everything else suddenly goes wrong in the last phase of the skit.
  • A children's book about a boy getting the lead role in the school performance of Robin Hood brings this up. "The more mistakes I made, the more nervous I got. The more nervous I got, the more mistakes I made." It gets so bad that he ends up mixing up words; when the script reads "Listen to the minstrel", he comes onstage and announces "Listen to the Smartie!"
  • "Randy's Dandy Lions" is a children's book written by Bill Peet that features a troop of performing lions that suffer from what the book refers to as 'cage fright.' This results in the firing of their trainer and the hiring of a new one. This does not end well.
  • Justine from You Look Different in Real Life gave up guitar when she was thirteen after a recital in which she couldn't play a song even though she knew it by heart.
  • The Great And Powerful Turtle in Wild Cards suffers from this when using his telekinetic powers. This gets in the way of his desire to be a superhero until he gets access to some military surplus battleship armor and a scrap Volkswagen Beetle.
  • Slug Days Stories: In Penguin Days, Lauren and her cousins Sophia and Zoe are going to be flower girls at Auntie Joss and Uncle Charlie's wedding. The day before the wedding, the girls participate in a rehearsal in front of rows of empty chairs. But on the day of the actual wedding, Lauren finds that the chairs are full of people she doesn't know. She freezes up, afraid she'll walk or scatter flowers wrong and everyone will laugh at her. Her cousins gather around to offer encouragement. Kevin tells her to picture the audience in their underwear. Lauren doesn't want to picture that, so Kevin tells her to imagine they're penguins instead. That helps her calm down enough to start walking down the aisle.

    Live Action TV 
  • Andor: Syril Karn obviously thinks himself some kind of heroic dedicated cop and leader, but he's a nervous and awkward public speaker. His attempt at a Rousing Speech to the team he's taking to arrest Cassian falls flat.
    Karn: There comes a time when the... the risk of doing nothing becomes the greatest risk of all. This is one of those decisive moments, and I can't imagine a team I'd rather share it with than all of you. There's no room for doubt on the path to... success. And, uh, justice.
  • Our Miss Brooks: The plot of the episode "Public Speaker's Nightmare".
  • On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon wins an award but is a nervous wreck because he has to give a speech (public speaking being one of his many phobias/quirks). He has a few drinks beforehand, but winds up getting so drunk he makes a total fool of himself.
  • The Brady Bunch:
    • "You Can't Win Them All," from the fourth season, was about Cindy earning a spot on a Quiz Bowl-type show for elementary students ("Quiz the Kids," with Chris Knight's father, Edward, playing the quizmaster). Cindy's huge ego (the central focus of the episode) underlied the fact that she studied hard for the program...only for it to come crashing down when the cameras started rolling and the live TV broadcast began. Cindy fails to so much as mutter a syllable the entire time - all she can do is stare blankly at the camera throughout the show - and Mike reassures his disconsolate, humiliated youngest daughter afterward, "It can happen to anyone."
    • "The Driver's Seat," one of the last episodes from Season 5, where Marcia, Jan and Greg each experience this: Marcia, when trying to pass her driver's test to get her license (despite Greg's heckling about Women Drivers); Jan, when she tries out for the debate club; and Greg, when he tries to beat Marcia in a winner-take-all driver's obstacle course competition.
  • Family Ties: The first season episode, aptly titled "Stage Fright," had a High School Bowl-type program in its plot, where the highly intelligent Alex, captain of his school's quiz bowl team, is forced to turn to his dunce of a sister Mallory when a teammate falls ill. Alex is well prepared for the show and victory for his school is assured just by his mere presence...only for him to unexpectedly come down with stage fright. Alex is unable to answer one question or spit out a coherent statement, while Mallory (the underachiever) is relaxed, despite only answering a few of the questions right.
  • Game shows are a prime example of this trope. Many shows have qualifying tests, which producers use to select the contestants they believe will perform the best and have a chance to win. While many contestants selected to play the game do well, many others simply do not...not necessarily because of the unexpected difficulty of the material or because they're facing a Ken Jennings-type champion, but because they simply are unable to relax or perform well under pressure (i.e., when they're expected to do well). As such, contestants sometimes unintentionally say the wrong thing when asked a question everybody knows the right answer to...if they are able to give any response at all; the contestant will almost always - unless they were honestly stumped or truly believed their answer was right - admit their error once they realize their mistake or the host reads the right answer.
    • Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, has said many times - especially after an easy Bonus Round puzzle goes unsolved - that playing the game at home or from the studio audience is much different than a contestant playing the game, and that nerves and the pressure to do well take their toll when the cameras begin rolling.
    • At least one champion from The $100,000 Name That Tune recounted his experiences from the $100,000 tournament in Jefferson Graham's "The Game Show Book"; in an elimination round, he knew the titles to three songs ("Yesterday," "America" (from West Side Story) and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree") but was either unable to answer before being buzzed or press his lock-out buzzer fast enough, and he owed his lack of success to extreme nerves (particularly since he knew a large prize was up for grabs). At least one other book - pitching advice to prospective game show contestants - included its author's own disastrous experience on the Jim Perry version of Card Sharks; she wrote that, despite being relaxed beforehand, she became completely unnerved when told she was going on air to play the game, and those nerves - plus a lack of support from others in the contestant pool, whom she had thought were her friends - contributed to a pair of quick losses to a dominant champion.
  • Chuck's ability to "flash".
  • Dee Reynolds on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia suffers from debilitating stage fright to the point of dry heaving during a stand-up comedy routine.
  • Played with in Married... with Children. Marcy is anxious about having to deliver bad news at a presentation to her bank executives. She sees a psychotherapist who conditions her to associate public speaking with sex. This not only relieves her performance anxiety but causes her to have an orgasm during the presentation. She's soon in demand throughout Chicago as a speaker delivering bad news.
  • Simon in Misfits has difficulty when trying to get the hang of his power — he can't turn invisible while people are watching.
  • Sesame Street: In the "Big Bird's Song" street story, Big Bird is invited to sing on an all-bird live show and reveals he has a huge case of stage fright when it comes to singing before an audience. The host understands his fears and tells him he doesn't have to sing unless he feels like it. When the show is about to end, Big Bird decides to face his fears, heads onstage and sings his song, and gets over his stage fright.
  • Starsky & Hutch: Hutch can pull off the most embarrassing undercover roles without a hitch or a stammer but put him in front of an audience in his own identity and he freezes up.
  • Inverted in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by Worf's son Alexander. He's only good under pressure. When he enlists in the Klingon military, he's constantly screwing up and becomes a figure of mockery among his shipmates; but when they are attacked by Jem'Hadar, he runs alone into an incredibly dangerous damaged portion of the ship and successfully performs emergency repairs to save the ship. Then he accidentally locks himself into the corridor and has to be freed after the battle is over. The rest of the crew actually starts to like his clumsiness, as they believe that by screwing up in small, harmless ways when they're perfectly safe he's using up all their bad luck before battle.
  • Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Singing in front of people is identified as one of her worst fears in "Nightmares", a first season episode.
  • In Zoey 101, Michael gets a bad case on Open Mic Night, to the point of vomiting on the first row of spectators, including the girl he has a crush on.
  • Ally from Austin & Ally has a bad case of this whenever she gets on stage. How bad is it? She accidentally destroys an entire TV studio while trying to get away when Austin gets her on a live TV show. It is revealed near the end of the first season she has it because she got nervous during an audition to an elite music school and hallucinated the piano trying to eat her, thus she lost her only chance. She finally gets over her stage fright partially into Season 2 when she sings a duet with Austin at her mother's book presentation.
  • The second Horatio Hornblower telefilm is appropriately titled "The Examination for Lieutenant" in the UK and "The Fire Ships" in America. Despite spending all his free time inside of a book (even when commanding a quarantined supply ship) Hornblower, as in the original story, can barely give his name correctly. It's compounded by the fact that he'd previously an angry exchange with one captain on the board who insisted on taking provisions before the quarantine was up. All interrupted by the fire ship, of course. After congratulating him for his act of heroism, Captain Pellew then brings up what the One Sane Man of the examiners said about Hornblower's performance and jokes that it was lucky the fire ship appeared when it did. Hornblower ends that particular episode still as an acting-lieutenant, but the official promotion comes down in the next.
  • Shoestring: On his first day as radio show presenter, Eddie has an attack of nerves. He stammers his way through much of his first broadcast and even giggles at one point.
  • The Partridge Family:
    • Before the band's first public performance, Shirley is so nervous she has trouble moving her mouth and is afraid she'll faint on stage. She does fine; it's the kids who end up freezing up, and she has to tell them to close their eyes and pretend they're still in their garage.
    • In "The Red Woodloe Story," the titular folk singer agrees to perform with the family, but on the first night, he gets scared and leaves before he's supposed to appear. The next night he tries to do the same thing, but Tracy stops him and helps him overcome his stage fright.
  • Victorious: Tori suffers from stage fright, which becomes a plot point in the pilot when she has to perform. She manages to get over it with the help of Andre and seems to have no problems performing over the course of the series.
  • Emily in Paris: Mindy abandoned her singing career after a fumbled performance on Chinese Idol caused her to develop stage fright.
  • Dark Matter (2015): A Sexbot offers her services to One, and when he balks at having sex with an android, she thinks it's this trope and offers to turn off her performance evaluation software.
  • We Are Lady Parts: Amina has crippling stage fright that paralyzes her onstage at best and outright causes nasty bodily excretions at worst, and part of her arc is getting over it.
  • The Red Green Show: One sketch has Red and Harold try to wind up Ranger Gord before the latter gives a presentation on the show, going into the all the details about how thousands of people will be watching and judging him. For a moment it looks like it's going to work, but then Gord just says "Weird" and casually gives a ten-second presentation.
  • Odd Squad:
    • In "Orchid's Almost Half-Hour Talent Show", Olympia becomes so concerned with finding acts for Orchid's Talent Show so she can get a spot that when she does manage to get a spot, she realizes that she never thought about what she was planning to do. As a result, she becomes anxious and can only utter a single quiet "meep" when onstage. Luckily, Otis, who is backstage, bails her out with an on-the-spot duet that manages to save herself from any further embarrassment.
    • In "The Deposit Slip-Up", when Symmetric Al enters the vault and talks to Pete, the vault owner (being portrayed by Delivery Doug), Pete freezes up and becomes unable to speak, nearly ruining the entire operation. Otis attempts to help him out, but things quickly take a turn for the worse when the key that the agents suspect is the correct key to the safe where Oprah's jetpack is kept isn't the right key.
    • In "O for a Day", Osmerelda describes to Oswald how she used to be afraid to play her flute in front of her flute instructor, but got past it by working up the nerve to play it in front of a hundred people so she could play it in front of one person.
  • Frasier: Bulldog is normally just fine as the boistrous host of his sports show but when Frasier casts him in a radio play he gets a sudden case of stage fright and completely clams up. Frasier is forced to turn his character into The Voiceless on the spot to get around Bulldog's inability to deliver his lines. Amazingly, this turns out to be the least of the play's problems.
  • The Boys (2019): Whenever someone shows a genuine lack of fear of him, Homelander can’t bring himself to pummel them, laser them or kill them any of the other many ways he does someone he can intimidate. He can’t even threaten them. Even when he managed to remove Stan Edgar from his position of power, Edgar was still able to belittle him and walk away without a scratch, leaving him to stew in his impotence. In season 3 he could only talk to Butcher, who lost what little fear he had in the last season. He only killed Stilwell after she admitted she was terrified of him. When Maeve finally stands up, telling him she always hated and even pitied him, he can't bring himself to attack her and needs Black Noir to do it for him. He not only relishes fear, he’s completely dependent on it like a person is to oxygen.
  • ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.?: Carmen organizes a talent show with a Cuban-American theme. Her mother is set to sing an aria, but on show night her nerves have her running to the bathroom multiple times. When it's her turn, she tries to start her number three times but she breaks down and has to be escorted offstage. Later, once the whole audience is gone, her family and friends beg her to sing, which she is able to do.
  • Queen Sugar: Charley used to play the piano when she was younger, but no matter how much she practiced, she couldn't perform well in front of a crowd.

  • In the concert version of Pink Floyd's The Wall, Pink starts "The Show Must Go On" asking if he has to "Stand up wild-eyed in the spotlight" and why he shouldn't turn and run
  • The Band, as quoted above, released an album named "Stage Fright." Fittingly enough, its title track is about a man who suffers from it.
  • This is actually what the front cover art to Jean-Michel Jarre's Equinoxe (1978) represents (original artwork by Michel Granger is indeed titled Le Trac (stage fright)). As Equinoxe was the follow-up to his 1976 breakthrough album Oxygéne, Jarre knew that the new album was invariably going to be compared with its predecessor, which is why he chose the art piece about stage fright as the album cover.

    Video Games 
  • C14 Dating: Joan is a good flute player, but gets nervous in front of an audience. It's to the point that she's considering making a living via teaching others rather than joining the entertainment industry.
  • Carina from Detective Pikachu is a violinist who is going to perform on television. She's new to playing professionally and mentions being nervous about being in the spotlight.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, we later learn that Sen has symptoms of this. Her Christmas Version's Fate Episodes has her overcoming her own stage fright with the guidance of Clarisse and Ladiva.
  • Muv-Luv: Miki Tamase has this issue in both continuities: in Extra, she's a fantastic archer, but completely falls apart if anyone's watching her. Her whole personal story arc is about her trying to get over this. In Unlimited and Alternative, it's downplayed: she used to have similar anxiety issues, but has trained herself out of it for the most part. It still pops up in one story arc where she has to shoot down orbital debris heading for the base: the pressure causes her to run and hide, and she needs encouragement to step up and do her part.
  • Potion Permit: In Socellia's second Friendship Event, she runs out of the church after her failed recital. She asks the Chemist to check her throat, but while they don't find anything wrong with it, they still make a potion that they believe will improve her next performance. This time, her recital is well-received and she thanks the Chemist for it, but they tell her that it was just warm water (regardless of the ingredients you put in), and that she just needed to be more self-confident in her talent.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Homestar Runner short "A Decemberween Pageant", Strong Sad gets the part of The First Decemberween in the titular pageant. He gets so nervous that he locks himself in the bathroom before his scene, and the rest of the cast are forced to improvise to extend the play. When Strong Sad finally does come on-stage, it turns out that The First Decemberween's entire part consists of walking on-stage and saying "What?" (or alternately, that Strong Sad's part was supposed to be larger, and no one in the audience noticed or cared that he messed it up).

  • When Park Hyung Suk is about to sing in the School Festival in Lookism he suddenly freezes and can't sing at all, even though he's in his Bishōnen body at the time. Thankfully does Duk Hwa have the courage to rap until Hyng Suk feels confident enough to sing, and the concert became a success.
  • In Questionable Content, Marten claims to suffer from performance anxiety. Later, he shows this when, on the occasion of his father's remarriage, he's called upon to give an impromptu speech, which quickly descends into Inane Blabbering.
    ANYWAY. Ma-marriage! Yes! Marriage yes. Good job marriage. Good dads. Yes. Thanks.
  • Irya from Bits Fair is a constant victim to stage fright, first seen at the start of chapter one.
  • Rougina of Alice and the Nightmare, while with a lot of practice, still dislikes public speaking and the stress of it makes her tremble and in need of several minutes of exhausted panting afterward.
  • The Smoke Knight Malek from Girl Genius is generally quite good at his job but starts having trouble when working with someone since he's used to working alone and it makes him nervous which leads to potentially fatal mistakes:
    Varpa: Are you trying to kill us?!
    Malek: I'm used to working alone! I get nervous when someone's watching!
  • In El Goonish Shive, Sarah has no problem appearing in Elliot and Susan's review show until she discovers it has over a 1000 subscribers which is after recording is complete causing her to have "retroactive stage fright". Similarly, Elliot feels the same way upon being told many of those subscribers could be fellow classmates.

    Web Original 
  • A mild version is called the "Let's Play Curse", where the LP-er's game will be completely thrown off their mojo. It happens a lot more often in live commentary because the LP-er has to focus on two things at once.

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: Viktor is very dismayed at Jayce insisting he joins his speeches with him, evidently anxious about being on a stage in front of people.
  • In an episode of Birdz, Eddie's friend Gregory is shown to have a fine singing voice, but is afraid to perform onstage. At first, he has Eddie lip-sync to him, but then feels guilty over pushing Eddie into the spotlight this way and runs off. Eddie finally fakes a sore throat, forcing Gregory to step in as his understudy and overcome his stage fright.
  • Darnell from Buddy Thunderstruck in the episode "Buddy Shreds" reveals himself to be a talented guitar player, but is too nervous to play in front of people, so he records himself playing and Buddy pretends to play the music on stage.
  • Even though she does perform out in public in the same episode, Aelita from Code Lyoko has stage fright in "Music to Soothe The Savage Beast". Luckily a return trip helps lessen this near the end of the episode.
  • Molly of Denali: "Lights, Camera, Patak" reveals that Mr. Patak is very camera-shy, and he struggles to film a video of himself throughout the episode.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Fluttershy is very nervous about performing in the Hearth's Warming Eve play in Canterlot. Does not get better when Rarity tells her there might be thousands of ponies watching.
      • In "Hurricane Fluttershy," Fluttershy has to help out in whipping up a tornado with the other pegasi but is overcome by a fear of her own perceived inadequate flight capabilities. This has a cause; as a filly, she was bullied for being a weak flier. This also only occurs when she's being observed by other ponies; she goes off to train with her animal friends and is fine when they are watching, but as soon as they don pony masks, Fluttershy falters. By the end of the episode, however, Fluttershy manages to overcome her inferiority complex, and in Season 4 proves capable of flight performance in a very public setting twice.
      • In "Filli Vanilli", Fluttershy is afraid of singing publicly, and as a result, hides behind a curtain while another pony lip-syncs to her voice. To her credit, she had a deep bass singing voice at the time. When she accidentally knocks the curtain down and outs herself as the real singer, she has a nervous breakdown. For this specific problem, she ultimately is able to try again but decides to work through it slowly.
    • Happens with Rainbow Dash in "Sonic Rainboom" after she crashed during every practice session and was being upstaged by Rarity.
    • Sweetie Belle has an instance of this in "The Show Stoppers." Like Fluttershy, she has a good voice but is shy about singing in front of others, prompting her to do props and costumes for their show instead of singing, which goes to the Hollywood Tone-Deaf Scootaloo. She appears to have gotten past it as of "For Whom the Sweetie Bell Toils," when she writes, directs, and acts in a play, but she has yet to publicly sing.
    • In "Equestria Games", when it's time to light the torch in front of the entire stadium, Spike's unable to trigger his fire breath.
  • The Owl House: Despite being the head of the Bard Coven, Raine Whispers suffers from such crippling stage fright that they end up flubbing their lines and running off the stage in a panic during their inauguration ceremony. They do slightly better as leader of the BATTS, but they still get flustered at some of their cornier lines, and are only confident enough to speak when their face is covered by a mask.
  • In the Christmas Episode of Ready Jet Go!, Sean assures his friends that it won't be a pressure to sing in the Christmas pageant. But when it comes time to actually sing, Sean gets nervous and freezes up on stage when he realizes that everyone's looking at him.
  • Rugrats (1991): In "The Word of the Day", Timmy is one of three kids chosen to appear on the latest episode of Miss Carol's Happy House, the other two being Kim and Angelica. When Miss Carol asks Timmy what she thinks of her kids, he stutters. After Angelica exposes Miss Carol's true colors by repeating the "real" fun phrase (which includes an explitive) and goading her into saying it as well, Timmy ends up getting chosen to appear on the show when it is retooled into Miss Stephanie's Happy House, where all he can do is stare with his mouth wide open.
  • Sofia the First: When Sofia first meets Minimus the winged horse in "Just One of the Princes", he's nervous about the upcoming derby try-outs and often stumbles during practice. He learns to overcome this with Sofia's encouragement, and together, they win the try-outs along with James.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • This was the original reason why SpongeBob kept failing to get his boating license. The first couple episodes it was shown, it was stress that made SpongeBob freak out and crash into everything. Then it became a case of Depending on the Writer, where his driving skills would vary according to how the scene could best be formatted, and when he drove well, there'd be a decent justification for his confidence boost. Then Flanderization and Seasonal Rot hit, and the reason was completely forgotten, and that SpongeBob would just inexplicably turn into a crazy, senseless Person of Mass Destruction behind a wheel, no matter the situation. Another episode has SpongeBob suddenly develop a fear of public speaking when he has to give an oral report in boating school.
    • SpongeBob has this in the episode "ChefBob" when Mr. Krabs creates an open kitchen. SpongeBob gets past this by inventing a new persona, a puppet named ChefBob, that becomes a hit from insulting the Krusty Krab customers and staff.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "All The Smurf's A Stage", Poet Smurf, who decides to become the lead male star of a play he wrote, comes down with stage fright and is unable to perform on the night of its production, requiring Timid (who was studying to become an actor behind the scenes) to take Poet's place as a last-minute substitution, which earns him the rename Actor.
  • Steven Universe:
    • This is the main reason Sadie doesn't want to perform her song in "Sadie's Song".
    • Navy, one of the Homeworld Rubies, becomes flustered and runs away when brought up to talk to an audience, as seen in "Back To The Moon".
      Navy: If I remember correctly, we were on Earth... uh... (chuckles nervously) this is so embarrassing, ohoh, oh... (yells and runs off to the side)
  • In the Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! episode "The Big Wuzzlewood Concert", the titular character has this when he finds that he will be performing with the Wubb Girlz in front of a large audience. His friends had other plans to cure his anxiety, but luckily Shine suggests that Wubbzy can bring his friends onstage for the performance and her idea works as planned.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Occupy Bears", Panda gets stage fright and turns red all over when the interviewer mentions the thousands of viewers watching him.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television for many people: glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is commonly listed as the most common phobia in humansnote . When referring to people specifically performing something (like a play or a music recital), it's colloquially called Stage Fright. "The most common", by the way, means ahead of other phobias like fear of death. That's right, many people would literally rather die than give a speech.
    • The Trier Social Stress Test, a common method used in laboratories to generate genuine stress in human subjects on short notice, is composed of speaking (usually, the question is framed as the "opening pitch" of a job interview, i.e. "Why should we hire you for [X] position?") in front of a panel of three stern-looking men and performing an tricky arithmetic task in front of them.
    • Also a common malady in the sexual realm, and a frequent contributor to The Loins Sleep Tonight.
  • Everywhere in amateur/high school productions of plays or musicals. It can merge into Bad "Bad Acting" eventually if the performer does not try to keep it under wraps. The way to spot it is a refusal to put down their arms, frequent gesturing to emphasize words and/or legs placed firmly on the stage, complete with bobbing in some performers.
  • Barbra Streisand has admitted to having terrible stage fright before every performance.
  • Steven Tyler of Aerosmith was extremely reticent about singing in the studio in the band's early years.
  • Peter Gabriel used to suffer stage fright as the frontman of Genesis. Wearing outlandish costumes onstage helped him overcome it.
  • Till Lindemann of Rammstein has such an extreme case of anxiety on stage, he rather set said stage and himself on fire in order to keep people distracted from staring at him, this is how and why Rammstein's popular style of performances was created. He used to wear sunglasses but he figured fire was more effective.
  • Reputedly, the discomfort original Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips had with the larger audiences and venues the band played post-Trespass led him to quit the band.
  • Alyson Hannigan is afraid of singing in front of people, leading her to request almost no singing lines in Once More, With Feeling, the Musical Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • This is still a problem for Ringo Starr. That's right, the drummer of The Beatles still gets an anxiety attack before every gig he plays. Luckily, when you're behind a drumset, nobody can see your legs shaking.
  • Some people argue that not having an anxiety attack before public speaking to a group is weirder than having one, depending on the circumstances and topic.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Roy Orbison was not blind. He actually had normal glasses at the beginning of his career, until one day when he lost his glasses and had to wear sunglasses instead. Orbison eventually discovered that they helped him cope with his shyness, as well as his stage fright, and it stuck for the rest of his life.
  • Mitch Hedberg, to his dying days, wore rose-colored aviator sunglasses on stage to help him get over his stage fright. He said it helped the audience feel that much farther away.
  • Eddie Holland, one-third of the Motown songwriting trio Holland-Dozier-Holland, was originally signed to Motown as a performing artist. However, he has very bad stage fright which eventually led to him becoming a full time lyricist for many on the Motown roster.
  • When Eddie Kendricks quit The Temptations in April of 1971, the group initially recruited Ricky Owens, a member of fellow R&B group the Vibrations. Despite being an accomplished vocalist, the pressure of replacing the Temps' most popular members (especially after he'd sang lead on their latest hit "Just My Imagination") got to him and he flubbed most of the lyrics to his leads. After two disastrous performances, he was unceremoniously booted out, and replaced with Damon Harris, who would remain with the group until 1975.
  • It is very possible to develop this kind of anxiety with things that are not actual performances. If a person is micro-managed too much on anything, be it a chore, a job, or anything else, they might get this in regards to that task, not wanting to let others see them inevitably mess up and call them out on it.
  • Andy Partridge of XTC. For years, his stage fright was kept under control by valium (he was prescribed for it as a teenager, but the doctor never took him off of it), but when his wife threw away the pills on him, his stage fright was so crippling the band had to cancel the rest of the tour they were on and became a "studio-only" band.
  • Actor Ian Holm suffered a catastrophic attack of anxiety during a performance of The Iceman Cometh in 1976 and didn't do any live theatre for almost fifteen years. Ironically, this probably led to him becoming much more famous, as he shifted to film work and built an international career there.
  • Meg White's increasingly severe phobia of live performance was the main reason for the end of The White Stripes.
  • Thom Yorke of Radiohead has admitted to having issues with performing onstage. The repeated lines of "I'm not here/This isn't happening" from the song "How to Disappear Completely" were a mantra taught to him in order to help tamp down his stage fright.
  • Dave Bautista admitted to have suffered from an acute fear of public speaking this during his earlier days of wrestling as Batista. According to him, this fear would show in his eyes, and covering this up was the reason why he wore Cool Shades while delivering his promos.

Don't mess up the edit, Troper... Remember, we are all watching, listening and judging.

Alternative Title(s): Stage Fright


Hailey's stage fright

Hailey Austin has stage fright.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

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Main / PerformanceAnxiety

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