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Punctuality Is for Peasants

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"An audience is more eager if you make them wait!"

Somebody is late for an agreed appointment or appearance: not because they overslept, not because they were delayed in traffic, not even because the dog ate their homework, but because they consider themselves highly superior to whoever is waiting for them. They might even play for time deliberately before appearing, to show their audience who is in charge.

When this occurs in showbusiness, organisers often have the task of providing supporting acts from lesser performers to keep the audience as happy as they can. When the latecomer does appear, perhaps hours later, sometimes combined with a Big Entrance, they are often unapologetic, or they wave it aside with an insincere "sorry I'm late". They might be late not necessarily through arrogance, but because they believe their position means they will not face any consequences, which does not always end well for them. It is even possible that the latecomer does not appear at all.

This is Truth in Television, and likely to be committed by a celebrity, a Rich Bitch, a Magnificent Bastard, Awesome Ego, or by a powerful authority figure who knows very well that the people waiting for them cannot do anything about it. Can overlap with You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With if anyone tries to call them out on it. This can also be considered a sub trope of Screw the Rules, I Make Them!.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Archie Comics, Veronica Lodge on several occasions brags about being fashionably late. On one occasion she explicitly says "better fashionably late than tackily early," though she's a hypocrite in that she has no patience for Jughead's tardiness.
  • In Judge Dredd: Mega City 2 - City of Courts, when Dredd tries to meet with MC2's Chief Judge Kennedy, he's told that Kennedy is running late, and will continue to be running late until Dredd's watched the MC2 Justice Department corporate video.

    Comic Strips 
  • There was a Dilbert strip where Dilbert and his boss are meeting with a company vice president: the VP tells them "I'm running late, but since I'm vice president you'll have to wait in the hallway. You'll be able to judge your relative worth by observing what things I do while you wait." Dilbert's boss then gets a worried look when Dilbert notes that the VP is teaching himself how to play the banjo.

    Fan Works 
  • DRDC Director Blanchard, in Glorious and Free by Foobar137, likes to make people wait just to show that he can. It's implied that there's a bit of The Napoleon behind it.

    Films — Animated 
  • Referenced on Rio 2:
    Rafael: You guys are late.
    Pedro: Clock late.
    Nico: But musician early.
  • Referenced in Wreck-It Ralph. When Ralph shows up at Felix's party, Ralph initially thinks it's Mario pulling this.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • This is Jimmy Hoffa's pet peeve and Berserk Button in The Irishman. He expects punctuality from everyone, and flies into a rage if anyone is late for a meeting, viewing it as being disrespected. His opponents know this, and therefore show up late for meetings in order to get under his skin.
  • Played with in Little Voice: The young reclusive girl called "Little Voice" has an amazing singing voice, and agrees to perform one concert, which is a roaring success. However, the producer arranges a second concert without her consent, and Little Voice flatly refuses to get out of bed, leaving the producer to arrange a string of supporting acts to pacify the eager audience.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: When Gandalf the Grey meets up with Frodo Baggins on the way to attend the birthday party being thrown for Frodo's uncle Bilbo Baggins, Frodo accuses the wizard of being late, to which Gandalf retorts that he arrived when he planned to. Subverted and Played for Laughs, as Gandalf, who is a close friend of the Baggins, actually arrived just as the party was being set up, and both Frodo and Gandalf quickly break into laughter at the quip.
    Frodo: You're late!
    Gandalf: A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to!
  • Played for laughs in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, when someone suggests that Queen Clarisse might be late. She assures them that "A queen is never late. Everyone else is simply early."
  • The novelization of Return of the Jedi reveals that Jerjerrod (the commander of the second Death Star) is an arrogant bully who wholeheartedly subscribes to this school of thought. As he sees it, important people, such as himself, don't hurry for others, other people hurry for them. However Jerjerrod does have enough common sense to know that the meeting with Darth Vader near the start of the film is something he needs to be on time for, even if he tries to appear unconcerned and unhurried. When Vader announces that the Emperor will be coming to the station, however, Jerjerrod basically decides to temporarily ditch the attitude; there are times when even very important men have to hurry, and trying to make sure he doesn't disappoint a Bad Boss like The Emperor is one of them.
  • Averted in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, when Scott is surprised Ramona is waiting for him before their first date.
    Scott: Why are you just standing there?
    Ramona: Dude, I'm totally waiting on you.
    Scott: Oh, I'm sorry, I just assumed you were too cool to be here on time.
    Ramona: Well... you assumed wrong.
  • Spice World: The Spice Girls keep the whole world waiting for their first ever live performance at the Albert Hall, mostly because they want to keep their friend Nicola company while she gives birth, and partly to spite their manager, with whom they had a row the day before.
    Geri: (on the phone to the manager) I don't know what time we're going to be there! Look, the world can wait, this is more important! It's about friendship and commitment, but you wouldn't know about that!

  • Adrian Mole: Adrian believes he is the victim of this when his psychotherapist reschedules their first meeting on short notice, without giving a reason, and he rants about it in his diary.
    Why? Is she having her hair done? Have her parents been found dead in bed? Is double-glazing being installed in her consulting room? Am I so unimportant that my time is a mere plaything to Mrs De Witt?
  • Honor Harrington: In Cauldron of Ghosts, a Mesan security agent notes that his current boss is this type — routinely telling the agent to be in the boss' office at a given time, then showing up late to show the agent who's in charge. This turns into one of the reasons the Mesan higher-ups decide to "cull" said boss instead of evacuating him during Operation Houdini.
  • Secret Santa (2004): Erik Bigelow is keen on everyone but himself being punctual, although his own schedule is probably motivated more by laziness than a sense of superiority. This serves as his Establishing Character Moment.
    In his own way, Erik Bigelow was a stickler for punctuality. According to the employee manual, everyone who worked for Now! Publishing was supposed to arrive no later than 8:30 a.m. So when Bigelow came in at his usual time—9:20—he had his eyes peeled for anyone as lax and late as he was. Those he caught he lectured on the importance of giving one's all. He gave the same speech to any Now! employees he saw trying to sneak out earlier than his usual departure time, which was 4:50.
  • In the Ranger's Apprentice novel The Sorcerer of the North, Will's friend/Love Interest Alyss, posing as an airheaded aristocrat named Lady Gwendolyn, calls him to her rooms in his entertainer guise, and promptly keeps him waiting for a long time. Will notes that this carelessness about commoners' time suits her aristocratic cover identity, but he still feels that she overdoes it a bit. However, once he's safely inside, she apologizes for having to hold him in the waiting room for so long.
  • Soul Music: Dibbler thinks this is happening after the Band With Rock In doesn't show up onstage (having taken the money owed them and escaped). When it becomes clear they aren't coming, period, he puts on a stunningly bad Garage Band instead. The crowd riots and tears the stage apart.
  • The Stars My Destination: In a World… where everyone can teleport, the ultra-rich insist on traveling via conventional means. It’s implied this is as much about showing off that they are important enough to make everyone wait for them as it is that they are rich enough to afford it.
  • Dave Barry mentions this in Dave Barry Turns 40, describing what going to a The Rolling Stones concert was like in the 60's - they'd wait for hours, and then finally someone would come up on stage and explain that the band was still stuck at the airport in New Zealand.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Big Brother: In the UK series 5, the short-lived housemate Kitten tried to be like this on the first evening, ignoring Big Brother's summons to the diary room, saying "I'll come when I'm ready", while lounging in the spa. This backfired, because the reason the housemates were called to the diary room was to vote on which housemate would have their suitcase confiscated for their entire stay. Unsurprisingly, she received most of the votes; in the end it mattered little, because she was the first to be evicted.
  • Blackadder:
    • In "Bells" in Blackadder II, Lord Flashheart ("flash by name, flash by nature") is late for the wedding where he is Edmund's best man... before arriving in spectacular fashion, and stealing Edmund's bride.
    • In "Sense and Senility" in Blackadder The Third, Blackadder deliberately keeps a pair of pompous actors waiting outside and beating on the door to give the Prince acting lessons. When he finally lets them in, he says they should have knocked. Later he has them thrown in prison. The same actors, having said earlier "never upset the punters", change their tune to "sod the proles" when they are invited to the palace.
  • Cluedo:
    • In series 1, Peregrine Talbot-Wheeler, an arrogant television art critic, is three hours late for his invitation to dinner, perhaps knowing that his hosts will fawn over him, as indeed they do; until one of them murders him, and makes him even more late.
      Talbot-Wheeler: I meant that it tastes odd. Have you ever cooked veal before?
      Mrs White: (frostily) I have. But people are usually there to eat it when it's ready, and not three hours later! (Mrs Peacock nudges her)
    • When invited to open a summer fete, pop artist Bernard Kirkbride plays for time yelling at racehorses on TV, keeping everybody waiting. When Miss Scarlett pleads with him to appear, he literally throws her aside, casually saying that an audience is more eager if you make them wait.
  • In the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode where Hilary invites Lil'-T, Ashley's favorite singer, to her birthday party:
    Will: Cousin Hilary, this party has been goin' on for an hour. When is Little T gonna get here?
    Hilary: Will, you know nothing about celebrities. They always come to parties fashionably late, and for a celebrity, being an hour late is like being a half an hour early.
    Will: Yeah? Well, if he's not here 15 minutes ago, that's his butt.
  • Judge John Deed: The judge does this to wealthy defendant Mr Brooklands, whom he particularly dislikes, whose lawyers are pleading that he is mentally unfit to stand trial for killing a family by dangerous driving.
    Judge: (in his chambers, to his clerk Mrs Cooper) Is the defendant present?
    Mrs Cooper: Yes, with an army of psychiatrists.
    Judge: (heavily sarcastic) Oh, I'm sure that Mr Brooklands can afford them.
    (Instead of going into court, he makes a phone call to invite somebody for coffee)
  • Played with in Keeping Up Appearances:
    • Due to her own terrible map-reading (which she blames on her husband Richard), Hyacinth is late for her cruise on the QE2, and is tearfully appalled that the ship does not wait for her, or turn back.
    • When she is the hostess, she expects complete punctuality from her guests: if she invites them for coffee at ten forty-five, she expects them to appear just then, and not at ten forty-four or ten forty-six.
  • Start-Up: When Mr. Won the powerful CEO is late to show up for the networking party in episode 3, his wife grouses about how he always does this to look important.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Chain of Command", Captain Jellico keeps a Cardassian waiting for an hour before meeting him as a "show 'em who's boss" gesture. Troi can sense that for all his bluster and hardlining, Jellico has zero confidence that he can stop a war and can only hope intimidation will work.

    Video Games 
  • Played With in Dragon Age: Inquisition: During the Winter Palace arc, the Player Character attends a posh Orlesian masquerade ball, where a lot rides on keeping their Court Approval Rating high at all times. At one point, the player is instructed to be in a specific location when the bell rings in 10 minutes of real time, but missing the deadline actually causes the Court Approval to go up a little, prompting the Inquisitor to quip that they are "fashionably late". However, if they are still not there within the next minute or so, their Court Approval drops by double of what they gained earlier, because now they are "just late".
  • Fallen London: When you get A Polite Invitation to a high-society party, you have the option to arrive "fashionably late" to make even more of an impact when you deign show up. It can work, and has its own justifications (your time is a valuable resource when you get a trickle of an action every ten minutes), but you need to be charismatic enough to make it work.
    "It wouldn't do for people to think this was the only demand on your time."
  • In The Great Ace Attorney, while British Lord Chief Justice Mael Stronghart will time other people by the second, he has absolutely no respect for anyone else's time and will often leave people waiting hours after the appointed time for their meeting.
    Stronghart: Well, I must be leaving for my next engagement. I'm already... eleven hours and sixteen minutes late. My colleagues may be starting to fidget.

    Western Animation 
  • The Dilbert cartoon parodies this trope in the first episode. The Vice President of Dilbert's company arrives right on time for the product name meeting, but he holds off on it to make some phone calls. It then flash forwards to some time later and he arrives late. Dilbert hangs a lampshade on this by way of a Stealth Insult.
    Vice President: Am I late now?
    Dilbert: Yes. But it's not because you're an inconsiderate dolt, it's because you're more important than us.
  • Parodied on the Futurama episode "Bendin' in the Wind".
    Beck: Come on, move it! We have to get to the concert and make the audience wait for it to start.
  • Parodied on the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Mid-Life Crustacean". Mr. Krabs, who was going through a Hollywood Midlife Crisis, decides to have night out with the younger Spongebob and Patrick and tells them to go pick him up at 8:00pm. However, Spongebob warns him that he and Patrick are cool and always "fashionably late". Smash Cut to them arriving in Mr. Krabs's home at 8:01 pm.

    Real Life 
  • Probably not entirely his fault, but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was three hours late for his televised briefing on 31st October 2020, keeping the entire country waiting for his announcement about a second national lockdown. There was speculation that this was done deliberately to keep people glued to their televisions, instead of going out trick or treating. The "supporting acts" to keep the audience "entertained" took the form of large numbers of graphs predicting doom and gloom, and a repeated phrase of "next slide, please".
  • Real-life inversion: The French expression "L'exactitude est la politesse des rois" ("punctuality is the politeness of kings", meaning being on time is a show of respect at even the highest level of society) was a quote from King Louis XVIII, who hated being late to anything (and expected similar punctuality from everyone else).
  • A common joke in the military is that, with everyone trying to make sure that the men they're responsible for are mustered up in time, the regular rank-and-file enlisted end up having to show up hours before the event they're mustering for actually starts, while the captain who organized the muster often shows up later than the time he set. With the captain typically not having to be accountable to someone else for their own presence at the specific time they set, they generally have the leeway to show up late, to address any matter they feel is more pressing.
  • The author and playwright George Bernard Shaw was a regular user of the now-disused Wheathampstead station in Hertfordshire (a wooden statue of him is there in his honour), and legend has it that trains would wait for him if he arrived late.
  • The samurai Miyamoto Musashi was famous for showing up to duels hours late... even duels for which he chose the time. When he did finally turn up, he'd be unapologetic and remarkably casual about the whole "Duel to the Death" thing. This was actually part of his strategic brilliance; his being late really got on his opponents' nerves, and gave them plenty of time to contemplate the very real possibility that they would die in the upcoming battle. As a result, they would grow irritated, upset, and uneasy, taking the edge off their skill and giving Musashi a huge advantage before he even got there.
  • Justin Bieber was famously two hours late for his own concert in 2013, allegedly because he had a tantrum over a computer game, causing many of his child fans to miss his belated appearance completely.
  • As recounted in The Disaster Artist, Tommy Wiseau routinely arrived three to four hours late to direct The Room (2003). He typically goes to bed around six or seven in the morning and awakes at three or four in the afternoon, yet he insisted on morning shoots.
  • Guns N' Roses are infamous for being late to their concerts (sometimes making the audience wait for hours). Lampshaded by Chris Rock at the 2012 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony:
    And Axl didn't come tonight, but even if he was coming tonight, he wouldn't have been here by now.
  • Linda Blair was frequently late to the set of Exorcist II: The Heretic due to her substance abuse issues. She once proudly told John Boorman that she was only twenty minutes late.
  • Johnny Depp was frequently late to the set of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales due to his turbulent marriage to Amber Heard. It got to the point where a production assistant was hired just to wait outside his house and announce that he was awake when they saw the lights inside come on. All the while Depp was oblivious to this.
  • Lauryn Hill was infamous for keeping audiences waiting during shows, sometimes making them wait for over two hours. On some occasions, fans have booed her and left early.
  • Danny John-Jules was infamous for his tardiness on Red Dwarf, even unknowingly showing up late for his audition. The episode "White Hole" was directed by producer Paul Jackson, who was infamous for having both an insistence on punctuality and a really short temper. Danny arrived late as usual and was informed that Paul was directing. Danny thought it was a joke, until Paul gave him a dressing down.
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme was frequently late to the set of Street Fighter, as he was dealing with both a divorce and a cocaine habit. As a result, the crew would often focus on the scenes that didn't involve him.
  • According to the director of Out for Justice, Steven Seagal was often an hour late to the set, casing a lot of delays.
  • Marlon Brando revealed in his memoir that he was fifteen minutes late to the set of A Countess from Hong Kong, prompting Charlie Chaplin to give him a dressing down in front of the entire crew.
  • Kim Basinger was accused of habitual lateness while making The Marrying Man. She reportedly kept the production waiting on the set due to her elaborate morning routine, which included washing her hair with only Evian water and shampoo. On Batman (1989), Jack Nicholson got so fed up with her tardiness, that he told her, "If you showed up on time instead of fucking our executive producer, we'd get this movie done".
  • Faye Dunaway was often late to the set of The Towering Inferno. William Holden got so fed up with waiting around for her that he aggressively confronted her about it. From then on, she was always on time.
  • Marilyn Monroe was infamous for this.
    • While making The Prince and the Showgirl, Laurence Olivier chastised her for it by saying, "Just once, I'd wish you'd get here on time, for the love of fuck". To which she replied, "Oh, you have that word in England?"
    • She suffered a myraid of personal issues while making The Misfits which severely affected her punctuality.
  • Charisma Carpenter was often late to the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which annoyed Joss Whedon to no end.
  • Vladimir Putin is so infamous for keeping other world leaders waiting that someone even made a chart. His record is keeping Angela Merkel waiting for over 4 hours. Unsurprisingly, the less he likes the person and/or the country they represent, the more he makes them wait.


Video Example(s):


Pedro and Nico

When Rafael asks why Pedro and Nico are late they reveal they were late for this very reason.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / PunctualityIsForPeasants

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