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Private Eye Monologue

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"The rain was comin' down like all the angels in heaven decided to take a piss at the same time. When you're in a situation like mine, you can only think in metaphors."

The signature narration style in Film Noir. A bored-looking, world-weary, utterly cynical detective (hardboiled and/or defective) with his feet on the desk meets a Femme Fatale, while the voiceover gives us his mental play-by-play:

"She walked through my door like a tigress walks into a Burmese orphanage — strawberry blonde and legs for hours. No dame her age could afford a coat like that, and the kinda makeup she had on gave me a good idea how she got it. She had bad news written on her like October of '29."

The Private-Eye Monologue is characterized by certain pronunciation and speech patterns that make it immediately recognizable and utterly cool. The most basic rule to remember is that it is a monologue, so it is spoken (not written), preferably in a deep chain-smoker baritone. The last (or second last) word in the sentence is emphasized, to make clear where it ends. Short, choppy sentences in past tense with little conjunction (buts, howevers, and therefores) between them are preferred, and the lexicon mainly consists of short, simple words; that's why such monologues are so super quotable. Purple Prose and most Big Words are taboo.

The most important aspect is thinking-in-metaphors. Creative metaphors and similes are the alpha and omega of a good Private-Eye Monologue, in stark contrast to the simplicity of the vocabulary. They demonstrate the relatively good education of the speaker without estranging him from the audience by sounding geeky. These characters also tend to accentuate their metaphors by addressing everything via descriptors instead of their names, symbolizing their reluctance to connect with anyone or anything on a personal level. References to popular culture and politics are pure win. Mentioning the climate and the current weather, usually in the beginning, is often a must. Even more impressive are religious (Judeo-Christian) symbolism and mythology, just don't overdo it. Repeating a metaphor or simile is a faux pas.

Must be black and white, with preference given to grimy offices, frosted-glass doors, half-open Venetian blinds, and a cheap and conspicuously open bottle of hooch. Bonus points for saxophone music or impractically slow ceiling fans.

Tends to make one wonder how someone so jaded could have such a fertile imagination, or why he isn't a poet or a public lecturer.

When done well it is always a consistent narrative. Done badly, this monologue just becomes laughable amounts of complaining like a spoiled emo teen.

Nigh impossible to play straight these days. (A classic subversion is Did I Just Say That Out Loud?.) The tough First-Person Smartass, of course, is far from dead.

See Captain's Log for voiceover of the lead character talking out a journal or diary entry.


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  • In one of the Miller Lite Beer adds Mickey Spillane did As Himself, he's typing up his next detective novel using this trope, only to get distracted by a bottle of said beer and writing it into the story.
  • A series of radio adverts for an Australian nightclub called Spillanes followed this trope.
    He wanted me to find a Maltese Falcon. I suggested he try an ethnic car dealer.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Darker than Black sees Gai Kurasawa start one of these, complete with cigarette smoking, window blinds and other private detective trappings but he gets interrupted by his Genki Girl assistant.
  • The Film Noir episode of The Animatrix, Detective Story, is told entirely in this style.
  • Roger Smith of the film noir-esque The Big O is a "negotiator" who often ends up investigating the cases of his clients in a manner similar to a Private Eye. He does the Private-Eye Monologue frequently, especially during the first season.
    "My name is Roger Smith. I perform a much-needed job here in this city of amnesia..."
  • Shido from Nightwalker does this often.
  • Episodes of Durarara!! are narrated by various characters and sometimes evoke this, especially the one narrated by Intrepid Reporter Shuuji Niekawa.
  • Parodied in a few episodes of Case Closed, in which Kogoro Mouri gives these in stereotypical scenarios, like while drinking coffee or meeting a client at a bar. When Kogoro tries it, it always winds up going wrong somehow, either because Kogoro himself will be cut off or because he's wrong about a fundamental part of the subject of his monologue.
    • Conan himself occasionally veers into this. While his inner monologue is always snarky, he will occasionally enter brief bursts of melancholic or poetic description. This is usually in response to the exposure of a particularly tragic or poetically fated culprit, but occasionally also after the first body of the case is discovered.
    "I don't think I'll be eating any cake for a while. At least, not until this rain stops..." - Episode 514

  • Comedian Tommy Sledge's stage persona was a hard-boiled detective from 1947. His entire set was a long monologue, in character, with occasional interactions with the audience.
    Tommy Sledge (Asking a female audience member her name}: "'Diana,' she said in a voice so husky it could pull a dog sled... 'Diana,' she breathed. She was my kinda dame: breathing."
  • Parodied by The Capitol Steps in the character of Hugh Jim Bissell.
  • Lampshaded/parodied in The Firesign Theatre's "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger", from the album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All?
    Nick Danger: "That reminded me: how had she gotten herself involved with that slimy weasel Rococo? and... how do I make my voice do this?"
    Betty Jo Bialosky Nancy: "Who's he talking to? And how does he make his voice do that?"
  • Stan Freberg does this in his classic Dragnet parody "St. George and the Dragonet".

    Comic Books 
  • Sin City, a stylistic imitation of classic film noir, made extensive use of it, and even managed to play it straight. It is responsible for the classic line, "Walk down the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything."
  • As a result of Frank Miller and Alan Moore's influence this trope has almost become the industry standard, with internal narrative caption boxes becoming the standard over the more traditional thought bubbles. How noir-like they are varies; of the two DC characters most associated with them, Batman's usually are, while The Flash's generally aren't.
  • Much of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is accompanied by Hellboy's internal monologue (and, in a few scenes, Abraham Sapien's, though his isn't nearly as hard-boiled). The first arc was scripted by John Byrne, but Mike Mignola himself doesn't use it.
  • Deadpool attempts this in Cable & Deadpool #13. The results are... interesting.
    Deadpool: My name is Wilson. Wade Wilson. I'm a dick. A private dick. A detective! Never mind...
  • Regularly used in the Marvel Comics series Alias.
  • Occasionally used either unlabeled or as entries in the "war journal" of The Punisher.
  • Ms. Tree contains a written narration in this style by the heroine.
  • Milo Garrett in 100 Bullets.
    It's about seven o'clock in the evening. Mid January. The sun nothing but a cigar cherry, as an old man's weak piss of rain gives an oily shine to Tinsletown. This morning I woke up in a hospital.
  • Rorschach's journal in Watchmen is an insane version of this.
    Rorschach: Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists, and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!" And I'll look down, and whisper "No."
    • This is parodied in an issue of Radioactive Man. The vigilante "Heart of Darkness" (yes, that is his name) opens the story with a very similar monologue, only even more floridly overwrought and paranoid. (He claims that everyone is in on a massive government conspiracy, including even the Shriners.)
  • Kabuki: "I feel the burning of their gaze and it keeps me warm. I hold onto it and proceed. I find myself thinking of my sensei again...and of a little girl training her body to perform beyond built in psychological taboos. I think of this as I bite off my finger."
  • Android Detective Menlo Park's narration in Dean Motter's Electropolis is very heavy on the wordplay aspect.
  • Jamie Madrox, the Multiple-Man of X-Factor Investigations, likes to imagine his life as a Film Noir detective movie, and narrates to himself accordingly.
  • A Private-Eye Monologue provides the narration for "The Deep Hereafter"; a Noir Episode of the Doctor Who comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine. The Doctor also tries to get in on the act.
    Majenta: What a dump!
    Doctor: Guys like Johnny Seaview ain't got time to think about the dusting, lady. Not when there's a killer on every corner...
    Majenta: If you're going to talk like that the whole time we're here, then I want nothing more to do with you.
  • Valhalla: Odin in "The magic mead", often including references to his enormous thirst for the mead he's after.
  • All of the Lori Lovecraft stories are narrated by a character who isn't Lori. Whenever Private Detective (and Lori's sometime lover) R.C. Bowman is narrating, the narration is done is in this style, complete with some very strange analogies.
  • In Silverblade, whenever Jonathan Lord transforms into one of his film characters, he acquires the tropes that go along with that character as well. When he becomes Sam Slade, P.I. in order to infiltrate a crime scene, the comic suddenly acquires a private eye monologue.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): In "Pirate Plunder Panic", Vector begins every issue with one of these, only to change it when the Chaotix pretend to become pirates, and utterly confused in the final issue, thinking they're archaeologists while still doing the monologue. He has to stop and punch himself in the head to get back to normal.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes delivers dead-on parodies of the Private-Eye Monologue as "Tracer Bullet", one of his alter egos. It's surprising how well it's done, since in his intro to the strip's Tenth Anniversary Book Bill Watterson admits he's not a fan of the Hardboiled Detective genre and really knows nothing about it except what he picked up by osmosis from pop culture.
    "I keep two magnums in my desk. One's a gun, and I keep it loaded. The other's a bottle and it keeps me loaded. I'm Tracer Bullet. I'm a professional snoop."
    "I've got eight slugs in me. One's lead, and the rest are bourbon. The drink packs a wallop and I pack a revolver."
    "Suddenly a gorilla pulled me in an alley, squeezed my spine into an accordion, and played a polka on me with brass knuckles!"
    "The dame's scream hit an octave usually reserved for calling dogs, but it meant I had a case, and the sound of greenbacks slapping across my palm is music to my ears any day. After all, I'm not an opera critic. I'm a private eye."

    Fan Works 
  • In the Sailor Moon Expanded Fan Verse, Magnesite lives to embody this trope. While a mid-ranking baron in the Dark Kingdom, he had his agents bring him earth video equipment so that he could watch old videos of Humphrey Bogart, to whom he bears a remarkable resemblance. He was eventually trapped in a crystal prison by the Sailor Senshi and his former subordinate Calcite, and the only way for him to pass the time for the next 800 years was to replay every Bogart movie he's ever seen. Line by line, scene by scene, from memory. After he is released and placed on parole by Neo-Queen Serenity, he seeks employment in his idol's footsteps as a seedy detective. Unfortunately, Crystal Tokyo is a utopia, which clashes with his desired dingy atmosphere. In addition, because of his prolonged confinement and means of passing the time, he constantly thinks to himself in terms of the Private-Eye Monologue. Sometimes, though, in accordance with the Rule of Funny, he will accidentally monologue out loud; usually when the "dizzy dame with legs that could wrap around my waist with room to spare" standing in front of him is a Senshi looking for a reason to inflict harm.
  • The Mass Effect fanfic "Noir Tali Is Noir" got its start as one of these from the perspective of the eponymous engineer, before being developed into an actual story.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic ficfic Jericho (MLP) parodied this. Specifically, the narrator once tired to use this trope... by narrating his life out loud, much to Princess Luna's annoyance.
    Jericho: She stalked in like a tigress in Mörmease cathouse (meow) — blue hair and legs as far as the eye could see. No dame her age could afford a dress like that, and the makeup she had one gave me a good idea how she got. She had bad news written on her like October of 2010. With that quiet hum of saxophones playing in my head, she must've been Femme Fatale — the kind vibe she was givin' off. And behind me, the rain was coming down like God had broken down crying, and the angels had joined in on it. When you're in a situation like mine, you can only express your thoughts with clever, flowery metaphors.
    Luna: Who are you talking to?
    Jericho: She asks, her kinda voice the kind that can make "good morning" sound like an invitation to bed. The mare cocked a brow—
    Luna: Seriously, who are you talking to? And it's not raining.
  • Rise of the Minisukas: Parodied. The Minisuka "Noir" dresses as a classic movie detective, and "intones as if narrating the scene like an old-time detective show". But right like all Minisukas, she can only tell "Baka" and "Anta Baka".
  • In the Teen Wolf fanfic Bogarted, Derek is hit with a curse, which forces him to narrate his entire life, Film Noir style.
    Stiles: Can I come over? I made you those snickerdoodles!
    Derek: I hadn't heard his voice in days. Even soaked as it was in suspect intentions, it bombarded me with the same sweetness and seductive spice of those damned delicious cookies of his. It was a ploy, a trap—and I knew better than to get caught.
    Stiles: Oh my god, oh my god, it's true.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager uber fic "The Last Kiss Goodbye," Jane Kates (Kathryn Janeway) is a Los Angeles private eye hired to find the missing beauty Anna Borg (Seven of Nine) at the behest of Paramount producer Canon Bragger (Brannon Braga).
    Doctor Zimmerman had a fancy joint in Beverly Hills so I roared on up there in my heap. I found him on the back patio with his hands all over a hot-looking broad. She had a great pile of red hair and enough warpaint to keep the Sioux in stock for life. The Doctor was a notorious ladies man, but he might be getting more than he bargained for there. I'd heard of this one; the lads called her the Beverly Crusher.
  • In the Blaseball fanfiction What We Do With The Shoes, the viewpoint character's continuous monologue is justified by them narrating events into a tape recorder. But despite their best efforts to purposely maintain this style, the fact that they are Narrating the Present occasionally interferes...
    JORDAN: O’Brian looked over at the batter who glimmered in the fledgeling sun (2) and there was a glint  in his eye as he locked gaze with Nakamoto. [...] The two revved up their engines, louder than I had heard previously, and ripped back onto the road, leaving heavy plumes of dust in their wake. They accelerated, moving… faster and… faster un… TIL… [...]
    JORDAN: Nakamoto began to shift the massive weight of the bike back and… no… you can’t be… Nakamoto was… whatareyoudoing Nakamoto lifted the front wheel OFF OF THE GROUND ignoring the fact that they have a sidecar with A WHOLE PERSON INSIDE OF IT

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Done in classic style in Out of the Past, itself a classic Film Noir. Jeff narrates the extended flashback to his girlfriend, and the rest of the film to the audience.
  • Humphrey Bogart, originator of Hardboiled Detective, used a few of these in some of his lesser-known works, for example Dead Reckoning, and in The Barefoot Contessa. The trailer for The Big Sleep had one, but the movie itself didn't.
  • The Naked Gun:
    [walking through the city streets] "The attempt on Nordberg's life left me shaken and disturbed, and all the questions kept coming up over and over again, like bubbles in a case of club soda. Who was this character in the hospital? And why was he trying to kill Nordberg? And for whom? Did Ludwig lie to me? I didn't have any proof, but, somehow, I didn't entirely trust him, either. Why was the I Luv You not listed in Ludwig's records? And if it was, did he know about it? And if he didn't, who did? [looks around to see dense jungle] And where the hell was I?"
  • Steve Martin's Rigby Reardon, in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, takes these to new heights of comic absurdity.
    "Carlotta was the kind of town where they spell 'trouble' T-R-U-B-I-L, and if you try to correct them, they kill you."
  • The first, movie theater version of Blade Runner came with a voice-over narration by Deckard (Harrison Ford), the main character and Blade Runner, who was indeed both a Private Eye and a government assassin of rogue replicants. All of Deckard's voice-overs were removed from the Director's Cut, because they had been added against Ridley Scott's wishes, due to Executive Meddling, in the hopes that the narration would provide some explanation of Deckard and his world for the audience (it didn't). Reportedly, Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford hated them, a sentiment echoed by many moviegoers and critics. According to some, Ford tried to do as bad a job with the voice-overs as possible, an accusation Ford denies.
  • "The Girl Hunt" in The Band Wagon is half Private-Eye Monologue, half ballet. (It should be noted here that the monologue's writer was Alan Jay Lerner.)
  • Parodied in The Hebrew Hammer. Seems to be played straight early in the film, until the colors return to normal and the voice over is revealed to be actually coming from a tape player at his desk.
  • The Element of Crime, a film both homaging and deconstructing Film Noir, offers an interesting variation: the whole movie is a hypnosis induced flashback, and the Private-Eye Monologue actually consists of a dialogue between the detective undergoing the hypnosis and his therapist. It is also done is the present tense, instead of the past tense.
  • Done all throughout Sin City.
    "Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything. Anything."
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, in a rather eccentric style.
  • Hellraiser: Inferno. While only being a police detective, Joseph has a noirish-style internal monologue while working the Engineer case. It's a recap of his personal failures as he's looking back on how he wound up in hell.
  • The nameless protagonist's narration in Fight Club gives the film a very noir-esque vibe.
  • In Clegg, the protagonist Harry Clegg provides a first person narration of the events in a typical hardboiled style. The opening lines set the scene:
    That's me. My name is Harry Clegg. I'm a private eye. I'm also a cold-blooded killer, a lecher, a liar and a thief. My big problem is I've been a loser since the day I was born. I was returning from a little job in Brighton, having picked up a tenner for my part as co-respondent in a divorce case. I hadn't worked for four months. If that was work, I liked it. She turned out to be a real swinger. And it proved to be one hell of a job. Why my client failed to get his divorce, I'll never understand. Unfortunately, he didn't. And he wanted his money back so I left town fast.

  • All the Wrong Questions combines deadpan detective narration with the Lemony Narrator trope, since the protagonist is Lemony Snicket himself.
  • The Dresden Files uses this kind of narration when it's not lapsing into novelized anime/comicbook territory. Unlike most examples, though, Harry is perfectly aware of what he's doing, and takes great pleasure in noting when it doesn't all go to spec.
  • Lazlo Woodbine, from Robert Rankin's books, as a character is a parody of the Private-Eye Monologue, and he only works in the first person even when he appeared in The Suburban Book of the Dead, where everything else was simple third person, and when the characters met, the story ended up mixing third person prose and first person monologue.
  • The darkly playful use of simile in this trope dates back to Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels (which are pretty much the Trope Codifier).
    • Chandler is the past master of this. His analogies are usually novel, powerful, and operate on many levels. This effect is often imitated but rarely equaled.
    • Even earlier, Dashiell Hammett was using these in his Continental Op stories, albeit in a more matter-of-fact and less self-consciously "literary" manner than Chandler.
    • Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer started out as a Marlowe knockoff, before finding his own more philosophical voice.
    • Robert B. Parker, often considered the heir to Chandler, used this to great effect in his Spenser novels.
  • Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps: A rare non-detective story example with Cthulhu Armageddon where the protagonist, John Henry Booth, uses flowery, purple, and pulpish metaphors about his eldritch cyclopean surroundings filled with antediluvian structures that forebode dread. It's just our protagonist is a cynical tough guy and smartass when describing them so the effect is the same.
    • Similarly, in Moon Cops on the Moon's protagonist, Neal is a 1st person Hardboiled Detective protagonist engages in a large amount of this.
  • Brawne Lamia, a private detective in Dan Simmon's Hyperion Cantos, has a few of these.
  • The Night Mayor alternates between two viewpoint characters, one of whom is an author of hardboiled detective thrillers; the chapters where he's the viewpoint character are narrated in first person in this style.
  • Shakespeare Without the Boring Bits presents Macbeth from the point of view of Macbeth in this manner. "Call me Mac."
  • John Taylor sometimes lapses into this when he's describing the Nightside or some of its more appalling neighborhoods and residents. Joanna Barrett indirectly calls him on this in Something From The Nightside, accusing him of lecturing to her rather than conversing.
  • Played straight in a different fashion than usual in Kiln People by David Brin. The protagonist is a private eye who uses dittos (avatar golems you upload yourself into) with a built-in recorder and a compulsion to narrate everything that happens. But the results are precise and dry.
  • The narrator in Neil Gaiman's short story "The Case of the Four-And-Twenty Blackbirds" uses this in a spot-on parody as a private eye explores the seamier side of nursery rhymes.
  • The Chronicles of Amber starts off using this style; the first-person narrative returns to the style now and then.
  • Mick Oberon does this almost constantly, with occasional digressions to complain about how he has pretend he has a grudge with grammar to fit in in the human world these days.
  • One of the characters in Radiance is a private investigator, so naturally his chapter is in first person with the requisite Weather Report Opening.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: "Postage Due" sees Miss Brooks search for a vanished postman wearing a trench coat and narrating the action.
  • Frequently parodied on Whose Line Is It Anyway?
    "I'm a mob hitman... They call me Jimmy the Exposition!"
    • Eventually made into a full blown game, with the exposition delivered as an aside facing the audience
    "I noticed that...every time he said somthing, he'd turn and face the wall for several was kinda disturbing..."
  • Spoofed on Hyperdrive, where Teal interrupts.
  • Spoofed on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, where Sabrina interrupted Salem several times. Also occurs when Sabrina goes to hire a detective to snoop on Harvey only to discover it's her old romantic admirer Roland the troll. She is transformed into a black and white 50s style femme fatale and he explains he charges so much to pay for his fog and voiceover machines.
  • In NCIS, when Tony reads a brief excerpt of McGee's mystery novel aloud, he gives it the full film noir treatment.
  • Parodied in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Big Goodbye". At the denouement, after Riker asks Data what happened in the holodeck, Data puts on an exaggerated Humphrey Bogart-esque voice and manner and begins to monologue "It was raining in the city by the bay. A hard rain. Hard enough to wash the slime—" before Picard tells him to shut up, and he meekly turns back to the Ops console (while still wearing his 1940s gangster costume).
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Noir Episode "Necessary Evil" opens with Constable Odo making his first Federation log entry, which consists of a long rant on the tendency of humans to accumulate useless information, ending with his one sentence report: "Everything's under control." But as Odo investigates an attempted murder which is linked to his past, the log entries begin to take on the form of the more traditional narrative. Odo, it's later revealed, is a fan of Mickey Spillane novels.
  • Magnum, P.I.: Thomas Magnum did this in just about every episode.
    • And when rival PI, Luthor Gillis was in town, Luthor turned it up to 11.
  • Kamen Rider Double, itself a Homage to Western detective drama, does this regularly.
  • Very common on Veronica Mars, which works, given that Veronica moonlights as a private eye.
  • Burn Notice: Michael Weston sounds like he's giving a lecture.
  • Married... with Children had an episode ('Al Bundy, Shoe Dick' S06E11) where Al became a private eye and they spoofed the usual monologues, especially by having him monologue while other characters are talking so that he misses important information. And, being Al, he also says things aloud he intended to be only in the monologues.
  • The TV Series of Mike Hammer was chock-full of this trope, of course.
  • Boy Meets World parodies this in the Noir Episode.
  • Parodied in Community when Chang comes to think he's a detective, which causes him to take long pauses before answering questions so he can monologue to himself. At the end he and the Dean both do this simultaneously so they drown each other out. And once he gets what he wants, Chang's monologue is just his own insane laughter.
  • Between the Lions would have occassional noir segments narrated by Sam Spud, a potato detective. He would give cliche narrations like "she was as cool as a cucumber", only to find his client actually IS a cucumber.
  • Done hilariously well in a The Kids in the Hall sketch.
  • Castle:
    • In "The Blue Butterfly", Castle finds an old PI's diary from the '40s. Throughout the episode, we cut to his imagination of the events depicted in the diary, with the regular cast filling the roles. Castle is the PI, of course, and he provides narration in this style.
    • Later on, after being barred from the 12th Precinct, Castle becomes a PI himself and in one episode starts doing the monologues out loud in his office. On the first occasion, a client walks in on him. The second time, Beckett who is of course now his wife arrives and does the typical voice of a client, turning it into a Private-Eye Dialogue... then they start to make out. Then the client walks in. The third, he's going with Beckett and she advises him to stop doing if he wants to have a chance of getting lucky.
  • Tropical Heat: In the episode "Double Switch" private detective Nick Slaughter does this.
  • The first few episodes of Arrow had Oliver Queen doing this, mainly as Exposition as it was dropped the moment other people joined Oliver's crusade and he could talk things over with them.
  • MacGyver did this in the early seasons. He's introduced by voiceover, using a story from his childhood (the first time he tried to ride a horse) as a metaphor for his current mission (infiltrating a Soviet campsite, destroying the captured U.S. technology they're there for, and rescuing a pilot). The voiceover narration is eventually dropped.
  • Jessica Jones (2015) regularly has Jessica provide some sort of internal monologue. Besides being fitting for the story, as Jessica is a private investigator, it also ties in to one of her issues. In the penultimate episode of the series, she admits that she is not comfortable with talking about her issues to other people. The internal monologue is her talking her problems through with herself.
  • Nestor Burma (Guy Marchand) always has these when working on his cases.
  • In the Switch (1975) episode "The Late Show Murders," Pete occasionally reads aloud from the detective novel ''The Saracen Horse''. The events of the novel match up suspiciously well with whatever the villain, a corrupt private eye, happens to be doing at the moment.
    Pete: I don't know what happened, but the lights went out. As I started to come around, my head felt like Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras all scrambled into one. I had only one thought: to find out who had given me the Pearl Harbor treatment.
  • Played with in Altered Carbon. Takeshi Kovacs is actually a Super-Soldier and former revolutionary terrorist hired for a private investigation by his megarich client to find out Who Dunnit To Me. So his thoughts have little to do with the case (except when he has a crucial "Eureka!" Moment) and have more to do with philosophical musings on the future society he lives in.

  • The Bonzo Dog Band's "Big Shot" is a parody of this.
    I am the big shot. You heard me right the first time — name of bachelor Johnny Cool. Occupation — big shot. Occupation at the moment, just having fun...what a party that was, the drinks were loaded and so were the dolls. I poured a stiff Manhattan and then I saw...Hotsy. What a dame, a big bountiful babe in the region of 48-23-38. ...One hell of a region. She had the hottest lips since Hiroshima and I had to stand back for fear of being burnt. "Whisky wow-wow," I breathed — she was dressed as Biffo the Bear. In that kind of outfit, she could get rolled at night...(music stops) ...and I don't mean at a craps table.
  • Comedy artist Kip Addotta did a piece called "The Frolic Room" that was allegedly a parody of this, with the twist that the Femme Fatale was a lesbian looking for her lover. Unfortunately, Addotta tends to be rather unfunny, so the trope was played more or less straight, making it more awkward than amusing to listen to.
  • Parodied by Primus in "Tommy the Cat" (it could also be a First-Person Smartass... hard to tell). They even got Tom Waits to do the spoken word part.
  • The Big Heat by Stan Ridgway has elements of this.
  • In the Dire Straits song "Private Investigations", Mark Knopfler does an exhausted-sounding spoken word vocal on noir themes.
  • Tom Waits was very fond of those in his early career, to the point where EVERY song on his album "Nighthawks at the Diner" is preceded by a spoken monologue.
  • The Megas interpreted Gemini Man as being at once a private investigator and his client, and as a result the bridge is handled as one of these.
    The clues had led us to a dead end; how dead, we'd soon see. There was a sound as the door locked behind us. We were trapped, and the GeminEye was anything but surprised. The night was seeming to stretch on forever, and for us, it would - this was the end. And now the gloves were off, the truth was out. The hired gun was on his way, and we were both as good as dead. But I looked to the stars and I swore, if we were both takin' the big sleep...I'd take the rat out myself! [Dramatic Gun Cock, followed by a gunshot]

  • Juno Steel in The Penumbra Podcast does these, naturally.
  • Many episodes in the first season of Rivetter: Private Eye: start off with a Private Eye Monologue. Often a variation of "The name is Rivetter. Rex Rivetter. License number 698753. Issued by the police department of Los Angeles. Occupation? Private Eye. Sometimes known as a 'Private Detective' or 'Private Dick'. I never liked that term, Private Dick, but it's better than being called a Public Dick, or a dick in public." This is a running joke throughout the series.
  • The Starfinder podcast Cosmic Crit uses this for recaps at the beginning of each episode in the third season from the point of view of private detective Sprouts Marlowe.

  • Black Jack Justice has an interesting variation: there are two main character PIs, and they both have this type of monologue. Occasionally parodied by having the two begin arguing through monologues.
  • The first episode of The Burkiss Way finishes with a sketch spoofing this:
    Harry Nelson: My name is Harry Nelson, private investigator. I operate on the East Side of Manhattan, where private eyes keep their eyes out for loose women, and private dicks keep getting arrested. The story you're about to hear is true, only the facts have been changed to make it sound better. It was a dismal, thick kind of evening in late November. I was in my office, thinking about no naked girl in particular. Outside, the darkened city was all quiet, just the occasional song and dance number from a jerk splashing about in rain puddles. The door opened, and in walked a dame. She was a redhead, with blonde hair.
  • Dimension X's "Pebble in the Sky": When Bel Arvaden speaks in an aside to the audience to narrate his opinions and the setting changes, he changes his tone and cadence to fit the classic pattern of a radio detective.
  • The Doctor Who audio dramas (as well as several of the books and comics, but never the series) have featured a companion of the 6th Doctor named Frobisher. He's a shapeshifter private eye who prefers to spend his time in the shape of a penguin. The audio drama "The Maltese Penguin" pretty much is full of monologues, many of which are entirely inaccurate.
    Frobisher (narrating): 'I dived out of sight into an alleyway gracefully. [sound of trash cans crashing and a cat yowling]
  • A Prairie Home Companion: The "Guy Noir: Private Eye" sketches are a spoof of this.
    "She was tall and long-legged and her blonde hair hung down sort of like what Beethoven had in mind when he wrote the Moonlight sonata. She wore a knit sweater and jeans so tight it looked as if she'd been poured into them and forgot to say When. When she moved, she seemed to undulate under her clothes in ways that took a man's mind off the state of the economy."
  • Also played straight with the Philip Marlowe radio series, naturally — at least, the excellent version with Gerald Mohr.
  • Ruby 1: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe: Lovingly parodied in the ZBS Foundation's ''Ruby 1: The Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe'' series:
    Ruby (narrating): "... Who really wanted him dead?... Yeah, the Author. Authors—they create characters just so they can blow them away. Writing is a dirty business."

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the GURPS Magic Items supplements has an item called "The Black Fedora". Wearing it increases your abilities of deductive reasoning, but also makes you want to put on a trenchcoat and monologue (ie: about gams and their inability to quit), and makes you incapable of using words like "money" or "woman", replacing them with terms such as "dough" and "dame".
  • Back when Eberron was a new setting, one of the threads on the official forums discussed running a noir campaign in it. Naturally, it quickly developed into snippets of a half-orc private detective in Sharn following this trope.

  • Played straight in the Film Noir Show Within a Show in the musical City of Angels.
  • Parodied in Eric Overmyer's In a Pig's Valise.
  • The Complete History of America (abridged) has an extended Film Noir pastiche, containing all the essential elements: trenchcoat, fedora, jazz music, assassinations, motorcycles, Lucy Ricardo, Ho Chi Minh's daughter, a puppet Ronald Reagan... In short, it's a parody, like everything else in the show.

    Video Games 
  • Baldurs Gate 3: In Act 3, it's possible to meet a cat that talks like this, if you're using the Speak With Animals spell.
  • Played straight throughout the Max Payne series. The entire story is provided with a voice-over by Max, who has every right to be more than a little grumpy.
  • Used and parodied in the video game Discworld Noir, with the usual Discworld insistence that metaphors have to be precise.
    Mankin: Say, I do like your 'ard-boiled dialogue. 'Ow long d'you boil it?
  • Played straight in Full Throttle, which is especially impressive seeing how the protagonist is a outlaw biker gang leader.
  • While not technically a detectivenote  otherwise played straight by garrett of Thief in his mission briefings. Almost every mission begins with Garrett dryly describing the job and the basic plan for infiltration with similes and jabs at the owner of the building thrown in. This works very well to set the games Film Noir flavored Low Fantasy style.
    Garret: [second game first briefing] I've always equated "feelings" with "getting caught", they both get in the way of my money. Unfortunately not everyone is as committed to their work as I am. An old associate of mine, Basso the Boxman, wants to marry Lady Rumford's chambermaid, Jenivere, and live happily ever after. Guess prison life spoiled his taste for thievery. ...I'll sneak in after dark, and clear a path for Basso, so he can rescue his damsel in distress. Along the way I'll pick up a few souvenirs for the local pawn shops. That should make all this aggravation worthwhile. Otherwise, I'll make Basso wish he was still rotting in Cragscleft. Huh, this proves it, going legit is more trouble than it's worth.
  • Both played straight and parodied in the Tex Murphy games.
  • No voice work, but Hotel Dusk: Room 215 does this stylistically, especially in the post-chapter summaries. The main character's a former NYPD looking for a friend who apparently betrayed him.
  • Gunpoint oddly has the protagonist type his ending monologue into his smartphone and post it on his blog.
  • The 1997 Adventure Game based on Blade Runner had its fair share of this; appropriate, considering the game's theme.
  • Parodied with detective Flint Paper in Sam & Max. While his manner of speaking is fairly normal, reading of his mind reveals that he exclusively thinks in metaphors. And in "The City That Dares not Sleep" we get to hear Max attempting to do one, when Sam finds his Flint Paper fanfic, full of Stylistic Suck. Sam from "They Stole Max's Brain!" also does these out loud, but nobody besides him finds them interesting.
  • inFAMOUS character Cole McGrath uses this in every comic-style cutscenes.
  • L.A. Noire being a Noir game has this at the beginning of every Patrol case.
  • In Lacuna (2021), the Player Character, Neil Conrad, occasionally monologues to the audience his insights into the world and the cases he's investigating. Said monologues are especially noteworthy, in that the game features no other voicework, adding a lot more gravitas to them.
  • Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl has the character do this throughout the game, both in cutscenes and in the game itself.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the Penne Dreadful pasta thrall is a hard-boiled detective inhabiting a skeletal body made out of enchanted pasta who is prone to doing these sorts of monologues. You may find your opponent in combat wondering "Who is he talking to?"
  • Petra from Emerald City Confidential monologues occasionally when narrating background information or when considering characters' motives.
  • Parodied in Mass Effect 3: Citadel. Shepard is sent a collection of recordings from their old squadmate, Mordin Solus, and one is a noir-esque short story narrated entirely in this style.
    Mordin: Omega. Sky was color of television, tuned to dead vorcha.
  • The protagonists' narration in the Danganronpa series almost always becomes this at one point or anything, especially before a class trial where they deliver a long soliloquy about what's about to happen.
  • Parodied in Spider-Man (PS4). As a Running Gag, Spider-Man frequently takes on the persona of the "tough but lovable seen-too-much detective" Spider-Cop and narrates his adventures in this manner out loud. His Friend on the Force, Captain Yuri Watanabe, is not amused.
    Spider-Man: (as Spider-Cop) The chief never did understand Spider-Cop. Thought he was a loose cannon.
    Yuri: Already regretting this...
  • Cloudpunk: One major supporting character is the Ambiguous Robot private eye Huxley, who can only speak with his Private Eye Monologue. Apparently, he got Lost in Character after doing the job for so long and suffering a malfunction.
  • The introduction for Question 6 in You Don't Know Jack: Movies is given in a voice parodying the stereotypical movie private eye, and shows smoke curling around the screen.
    "She was built like an interstate cloverleaf, made for speed with all the right curves. All I could think of...was 6."

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Family Shatters: In "Hard Boiled", West dreams of himself as a noir detective who narrates in a stereotypical gritty style, with short, choppy sentences and at least one metaphor.
    West: I remember it like it was yesterday. Raining cats and dogs. All I had was breakfast. The same breakfast I always have: black coffee and two eggs, hard-boiled. Lady Luck ran out on me the moment she walked in the door. Of all the bases in all the planets in all the solar systems, she walks into mine. She had legs up to here. [Camera pans up, but stops short.] Okay, here.
    West: Her money was no good here. And why would anyone want to spill this tall glass of milk? All I know is I could feel a cold chill down the back of my helmet.
  • Ruby Rocket Private Detective parodies this trope, with Ruby getting so tangled up in her monologue's bizarre metaphors that she can't hear her potential clients speak.
  • Parodied in season 2 of X-Ray & Vav with the introduction of Flynt Coal, "a Private Eye stuck in the forties" according to X-Ray. Whenever he starts a monologue, the scene goes monochrome and he talks like he's narrating a film noir. However, the whole thing is said out loud, and he then goes to repeat himself to the guys, as if it had been in his head.

  • In the Sluggy Freelance story arc "Phoenix Rising," reporter Nash Straw starts doing one of these after his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Featured in this strip of The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, as part of the Sin City parody.
  • Despite the name, the MS Paint Adventures series Problem Sleuth mostly averts this trope until right at the end, when they become actual private eyes in the real world. Technically, they were already private eyes in the real world, and there are hints and splashes of evidence of such scattered throughout the earlier parts of the epic (references to doing things in a hardboiled way, for example). But since the problem that kicks off the plot is the seemingly-simple request to leave your office, you never really get to do your hardboiled monologuing because of all the crazy puzzle shit.
  • Jip does this in The Squeeze, a film noir parody strip from The Life of Nob T. Mouse.
  • Gabriel narrates the fourth chapter of Evil Diva like this. He appears to be writing a film noir novel based on the events happening around him (then again, maybe he just writes his diary entries in the hard-boiled detective voice). It's not spoken dialogue, but it's as close as Gabe can come.
  • Played straight(ish): The dieselpunk / film noir comic Even Death May Die! starts with sarcastic monologuing from Private Detective Jack Chow.
  • Pibgorn the guy in the trenchcoat
  • Paradox Space:
    • "Indemnity Double Reacharound" mixes this with Troll terminology to create an utterly bizarre monologue from Inspector Berrybreath.
    • Crowbar has one in "The Inaugural Death of Mister Seven," fitting with his role as an old-school mobster. Later on in the story, Doc Scratch uses his omniscience to read and respond to Crowbar's narration.
  • In the Girl Genius side-story "Ivo Sharktooth, PJ", Sharktooth has one of these, made all the funnier by retaining his Jaegermonster Funetik Aksent. Lampshaded at one point:
    Narration: Watch Chief Drozecki. He's a strengesic  guy, even by Mechanicsburg standards—
    Chief Drozecki: You're doing that monologue thing in your head again, aren't you?
    Narration: —but schmott!
  • Fillbert: When Fillbert becomes a detective, their use of similes is Zig Zagged:
    Fillbert: [monologuing] It was a dark morning. As dark as the fate of the temporary sealant industry.
    This dame's hair had as many curls as a spring factory, in the season.
    She wore a scarf as dark as the fate of the temporary sealant industry wasn't.
    And her dress was green.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-2100-J is a fedora that causes whoever wears it to do one of these out loud.
    D-929181: The dame wore hazmat. I'd never been a clever guy, but the lady was throwing out more danger signals than a barbed sex-doll. She pulled a face like she'd smelt something bad on me, maybe she had. Not much time for showers in this godforsaken place. She was talking about tests or something. Tests? Hope she didn't expect me to do any math, the only thing I could add these days were entries to the obituary column.[...]
    • There's also the strange reality bending entity Murphy Law that appears on SCP entries and tales who can use this to alter reality to fit his monologue.
  • SF Debris parodied this in his intro to his "Ex Post Facto" review.
    "Into my office walked a dame with million-latinum legs and a swing to her hips that could unphase a tacheon beam. She had trouble stuck to her like stink on Klingon, but the way she set my phaser to stun, I knew I'd be taking the case..."
  • Mercilessly parodied in's A Detective Yarn So Clever it Makes Angela Lansbury Look Like a God Damn Mongoloid.
  • Parodied in a surreal way in @urbanfriendden's The adventures of DICK HARDBOILED in Neo Noir Dark Noir City.
  • Reddit Noir, a novelty account on reddit posts all of his comments in this style.
  • Played straight by Zeddicker in chapter one of No Pity for the Dead: "Women. They're all over the place. I've known my fair share, and I like dames just find. But they can be trouble. Most of them are, even the ones that don't look like it. This one looked like trouble. She was slim built, lithe, filled out her skirt like a second skin, honey-blonde hair playing over her shoulders in lazy half-curls. Eye-lashes longer fourteen to eighteen and probably left as many men devastated in their wake. Tiny mouth like you'd find on a China doll, but call this one "doll" and you'd probably find your next words muffled by your own feet."

    Web Video 
  • Since the CollegeHumor improv musical show Play it by Ear has a Noir Episode in "The Missing Member", naturally it features these.
    Darren: (to the camera) The thing about crime is, it never changes and it never stays the same. Whether it's hearts or horses or the mayor, everyone's taking things only to feel onnnne...sad hole in themselves.
    Scarlett: His thoughts are on the outside of his noggin!
  • LoadingReadyRun's skit "30 Minutes or Less" shows the gritty world of pizza delivery through this method.
  • The series There Will Be Brawl is set in a gritty film-noir-ish version of the Mushroom Kingdom, so it's only natural that Luigi (the protagonist) narrates much of the story in this fashion. It's played completely straight though.
  • Parodied in Stupid Mario Brothers with Max Payne saying his out loud which makes him look weird to everyone else.
  • 5 Second Films: The Big Drip.
  • Setsuna does this pretty much every time she appears in Negima The Abridged Series.
    Setsuna: "School. Classroom 3-A. A place of learning. But I'm not here to learn. I'm here to protect my sweet princess, Konoka. Like the gargoyle that stands sentry over a beautiful citadel."

    Western Animation 
  • Not only does the eponymous Bogart/Marlowe-style robotic PI in Gerry Andersons stop-motion series Dick Spanner keep up a near-constant monologue, his narration is the only comprehensible dialogue in the entire show; everyone elses lines consist of a mixture of mumbling, blah blah blahs and the odd proper sentence. The only other character who gets real dialogue is a prisoner who keeps getting pre-empted by Spanners narration anyway.
    "He told me he was planning to break out of this joint."
    "...I'm breaking out of this joint."
    "He must have had help on the outside."
    "...I had help on the outside."
    "It looked like a good scam."
    "...It's a good scam."
  • Adventure Time: BMO does this in the Noir Episode "BMO Noire", as his search for Finn's missing sock turns into a storyline straight out of Raymond Chandler.
  • Amphibia: In "Little Frogtown", Hop Pop is inspired by a detective movie Anne happened to have saved on her phone to do a film noir-style investigation of the disappearance of his old friend Sal. This includes copious monologues, which Hop Pop sometimes argues with. The episode ends with Hop Pop getting "stuck" in monologue mode, leaving the kids weirded out.
  • Animaniacs:
    • They spoofed this in the short "This Pun For Hire", a film noir parody that mostly riffed on The Maltese Falcon. The episode opens with Yakko narrating. When we see him in his office, he's casually reading from the episode's script.
    • Yakko also did an Apocalypse Now-style narration in "Hearts of Twilight", one that shows him and his sibs on the hunt for a rogue movie director. Amusingly, Yakko describes his journey across the Warner Brothers studio lot as if it really is like war-torn Cambodia - and when his party reaches the director, his minions behave a lot like Colonel Kurtz's deranged followers.
  • Parodied in Archer Dreamland. At several points Archer appears to be delivering one of these only for the camera to pan out and reveal he's talking to a stray dog, a hobo, a prostitute and eventually just straight-up talking to himself because he's so tired and hopped up on pills.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold does this often — rather appropriate, with its regular dropping of the phrase "World's Greatest Detective".
  • "The Big Claim Up" from Captain Planet has Mat-Ti imagining himself as a private eye doing this.
  • An entire episode of Codename: Kids Next Door has Hoagie Gilligan, AKA Numbuh 2, playing the part of a grade school Private Eye with an office in the janitor's closet. Not only does he use the PI dialogue, the entire episode is a parody of the film noir genre with school hallways becoming fog-shrouded streets, the hallway monitor acting like a hard-nosed police detective, and everyone using bad 30's slang. Which is appropriate for the series, seeing as most all of the episodes are either parodies of movies, or movie genres.
  • The Count Duckula episode "All In A Fog" had the Count playing at being a film noir private eye, and a Running Gag involving other characters asking him how he did the Private-Eye Monologue without moving his lips.
    • A similar joke occurs in the Bonkers episode "Frame that Toon", which also uses the PI dialogue. At the end, it's revealed that Bonkers isn't doing the narrating, a doppelganger is.
  • Ace Hart, Private Eye Dog, in Dog City often opened his cases with one. Which usually broke off as he realised Elliot had forgotten to draw something, or taken the plot in an odd direction.
  • The Garfield's Babes and Bullets special has Garfield doing this as detective Sam Spayed.
    Client: Are you Spayed?
    Monologue: ...I never know how to answer that.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The Daffy Duck and Porky Pig short "Rocket Squad" effects this with Daffy providing the narration. Think Dragnet meets Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century.
    • Daffy does this on location in two cartoons: "Daffy Dilly" (giving the butler the third degree) and "The Super Snooper" (as a detective going through the motions on how he thinks a femme fatale committed a presumed murder).
  • The Real Ghostbusters One episode involving an Egyptian artifact heist that went awry decades earlier had this from the unpossessed ghost of a P.I.
  • Employed in the Jimmy Neutron episode One Of Us when Jimmy investigates the town's sudden transformation into permanently-happy zombies.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Rarity Investigates!", Rarity repeatedly does this while helping to clear Rainbow Dash's name, and even accidentally says a few out loud.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In the episode "Finding Mary McGuffin", when Phineas and Ferb become detectives for the day. Phineas monologues out loud, much to Candace's annoyance.
      Phineas: The sun beat down on the city like a hammer, a relentless hot beating hammer hammering down like a big metaphor that was... hot, for some reason.
      Candace: Stop with the narration and start finding my doll!
    • As they search, and as Phineas monologues, they interrogate their father, Lawrence, after which this happens:
      Phineas: For an average Joe, he gave us an above-average clue. Our next step was clear.
      Lawrence: [to Candace] Who is he talking to?
      Candace: Ugh, don't get me started.
  • Spoofed in a Pinky and the Brain episode parodying Film Noir: Brain would do a Spock Speak monologue, and Pinky would suggest the standard Private-Eye Monologue alternative.
    Brain: It couldn't fail. But then... she walked back into my life. Billie — a comely female specimen of consummate genetic design.
    Pinky: Is that like a real swell dish with more curves than Mulholland Drive, Brain?
    Brain: Yes, Pinky.
  • The Pink Panther did this in "Black and White and Pink All Over".
  • Ruby Rocket Private Detective. Ruby barely even says a word to the client, and eventually turns him away because she's too busy monologuing to listen to his problem.
  • Spoofed in the Rugrats episode "The Case of the Malties Woodchuck" (a play off of the Maltese Falcon). Tommy does the Private-Eye Monologue, similes and metaphors included, but since he's one year old, the metaphors often get derailed into his own little segues.
  • While a bit short on metaphor, "The Tale of X9" episode from Samurai Jack is almost wholly done in this style to great effect.
  • Superman does one in Superman: The Animated Series, in the episode "The Late Mr. Kent".
  • Sylvester is this in Sylvester And Tweety Mysteries.
  • The 2003 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ranges this in the beginning of each episode from the turtles to their enemies like Shredder ("Tales of Leo" and "Exodus Part 2"), Hun ("Hun on the Run"), and Bishop ("Worlds Collide Part 3", "Aliens Among Us", and "Outbreak"). Seasons 6 and 7 don't apply this. This is a holdover from the comics, which used this trope as a parody of Frank Miller's writing.
  • Tom and Jerry: Jerry's narration in "Blue Cat Blues" is clearly based off this.
  • Parodied in Ninjago Season 12 Episode 13 "Ninjago Confidential". In it, Zane narrates in a raspy voice as he and P.I.X.A.L search Ninjago City for clues of the whereabout of Milton Dyer, with many background charecters hearing Zane who is revealed to narrating out loud.
  • Hank gives his take in The Venture Bros. episode "Everybody Comes to Hank's".

The troper made it all the way to the end of the page. They had more time on their hands than a clock maker. All I could wonder now was how long they'd wander on their Wiki Walk, trudging onwards into the sunset with no destination.


Video Example(s):


Dick Jett, the Frozen 50's Man

Naturally, as a parody of the archetype and the genre, he uses it frequently, complete with silly disconnect between what he reports and what the audience sees.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / PrivateEyeMonologue

Media sources: