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Pushed in Front of the Audience

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Always make friends with loner kids; they make great substitutes for when you get Performance Anxiety.

A situation in which one or more characters are unexpectedly asked (or compelled) to take an acting part in a Show Within a Show. Maybe they just happen to be present backstage when one of the real actors suddenly collapses, or maybe they get mistaken for the real actor for some reason and have to play along, maybe they literally drop on stage by accident while doing something else, or maybe getting on stage is the only way for them to get close to a MacGuffin. Whatever the cause, they'll find themselves out in front of everyone trying to pretend that they know what they're doing. They might have a brief opportunity to skim the script, or they might just have to make it up as they go along, but expect it to be awkward either way.

Most of the time, the show in which they're forced to act is a play or other live theatrical production, but it could also happen with other media.

It can sometimes happen in video games, which requires that the players themselves do a plausible job of remembering their lines.

A frequent cause of Bad "Bad Acting". See also All Part of the Show, which is when characters aren't trying to follow their actual role, but the audience thinks they are anyway. When a character stands up to perform (as opposed to being pushed) because it's their best/only option, they are Holding the Floor. Frequently employed as part of the Concert Climax. May result in the Concert Kiss.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Kagome in Inuyasha; simultaneously Played for Drama and Played for Laughs in that there is a real youkai hiding in the building and Inuyasha is having trouble determining acting from reality. The audience, of course, presumes that it's All Part of the Show.
  • The third One Piece TV-Special focuses on a theatre actor putting on one last show. When some of the cast suddenly quit right before the opening act, naturally the Straw Hats ended up on stage causing all kinds of chaos.
  • In one episode of Samurai Champloo, Fuu throws the dice for an important gambling match when the person who was supposed to do it is kidnapped so that one of the participants can supply a substitute who will cheat for them.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler, Hinagiku gets thrown on stage to sing "Cruel Angel's Thesis" for her own birthday party in chapter 95 or episode 12 of season 2. Wataru and Hayate both get their own turns during Sakuya's birthday in chapter 141 or episode 23 of season 2. They are forced to perform their own comedy shows.
  • In Rave Master, during the Time Travel chapters, Ellie is mistaken for Resha Valentine and was forced into a dance show instead of Resha who got kidnapped. Subverted: Haru manages to save the real Resha in time for the show. Subverted again by the fact that she really is Resha Valentine.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Alexis is forced into a beauty pageant.
  • An episode of Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has Nozomi willingly take up the role of a main character in a stage show, mostly because she didn't want Urara's first show to be a disaster. Unfortunately, Nozomi's a major klutz who got herself kicked out of every club, including the Drama one. And that's not counting when one of the Quirky Mini Boss Squad showed up in the middle of the show, forcing them to figure out a way to transform without tipping people off. Like the Inuyasha example, people think that it's All Part of the Show.

    Comic Books 
  • Paperinik e l'indimenticabile Aida (one of these Italian Disney comics which never seem to get published in English) has a Classy Cat-Burglar fleeing from Paperinik (Donald's superhero alter ego) through an opera house and accidentally running on stage during a show of Aida, while in costume. She hastily attempts to ad-lib a song to blend in. Then Paperinik ends up on stage too, and both begin chasing and running from each other, while still singing in rhyme.

    Film — Animation 
  • Coco:
    • Héctor is dragged by Dante on stage and, at first reluctantly, joins Miguel in his performance at the battle of the bands.
    • Imelda accidentally winds up on stage at Ernesto's concert and decides to sing "La Llorona".

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The "getting on stage is the only way for them to get close to a MacGuffin" version occurs in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. Sigerson Holmes and his Sidekick Sergeant Sacker go onstage as actors during an opera to recover the Redcliff Document. On YouTube here.
  • In the early Alfred Hitchcock film The 39 Steps, the main character stumbles into a political rally while on the run from the police, and is mistaken for the next speaker. He manages, without knowing what candidate or party he is supporting, to get a standing ovation.
  • In Jingle All the Way, Howard, running from a cop, is mistaken for a replacement for a Turbo Man actor, and is essentially shoved into the suit. As Turbo Man, his job is to give out a free action figure during a parade.
  • Moulin Rouge!, the hero and The Dragon end up on stage during the climax of Spectacular Spectacular. In this case, the hero actually wrote the script, and nobody on stage wants the audience to realize there is a major catastrophe in progress with the show, so they collectively adlib around the fight going on on stage as the bad guy attempts to recover a gun he dropped (which the actors keep kicking away from him).
  • In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Caractacus Potts, running from an angry customer at the fair, ends up hiding in the middle of a men's song and dance act. At first he's obviously behind and trying to copy everyone else, but by the end, he has blended in seamlessly and ends up getting a cut of the money just like all the other guys who were actually supposed to be performing.
  • In Lets Get Laid, a shy recently demobbed (discharged) soldier meets an actress, and looks exactly like her leading man. At the end of the film, the actor gets arrested (wrongly) and the ex-soldier gets pushed on-stage on opening night. The resulting chaos is loved by the audience, and he's recruited to replace the original leading man.
  • In Wonder Man Edwin Dingle, trying to avoid the gangsters chasing him due to a crucial bit of information relating to a murder his late twin brother witnessed, is mistaken for an opera performer and carried onstage. He ends up singing the information to the District Attorney, who fortunately happens to be attending the performance that night.
  • In the closing sequence of Howard the Duck, having become Cherry Bomb's new manager Howard is on a catwalk during their concert. As they perform the movie's Title Theme Tune, Howard gets caught up in one of Phil's special effects, and ends up onstage. The crowd loves it, Phil gives Howard a guitar, and the duck literally plays along with a guitar solo.

  • In Deniska's Tales by Viktor Dragunsky, it happens to Deniska a couple of times:
    • In The Death of Gadyukin the Spy, Deniska is asked to assist at the school play when one of the original creators doesn't show up. He has to ring a bicycle bell to imitate a phone ringing and later hit a chair with a plank to imitate a gunshot. Everything goes wrong, since first he loses the bell and has to cry "Ding-ding-ding!" himself instead, and then he accidentally hits a cat instead of the chair. The play, however, is a success anyway.
    • In No Worse Than You Circus People, Deniska ends up in a seat intended for a circus child actor as a result of the latter's prank, and he is grabbed by the clown doing aerial gymnastics. Deniska is scared senseless at first, but later he decides it was rather a bit of fun and he was no worse than them circus people.
  • Discworld:
    • In Wyrd Sisters, the three witches (who have been keeping an eye on things) are rushed onto the stage by one of the crew members to play the part of the three witches. In the same book, Death walks onto the stage, expecting the Weirdness Censor will stop anyone noticing him. When he realises that the audience were expecting to see Death walk onto the stage, he forgets his line and needs prompting.
    • In Maskerade, after the witches realise that the villain they're pursuing is hiding in plain sight on stage.
  • Happens to the protagonist of The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear.
  • In the kid's book I Funny TV, the wheelchair-bound protagonist, Jamie, is starring in a sitcom pilot with himself as The Danza. It's being broadcast live. In one of the first scenes, the bully character knocks him out of his wheelchair, and his in-show best friend is supposed to come onstage and help him back up. Unfortunately, the best-friend actor has horrible stage fright and flees, leaving Jamie on his back in front of millions of people. After improvising some jokes for a minute, Jamie calls his actual best friends, who were watching backstage, to come on and help him, playing the whole thing like they were supposed to be there.
  • In Myth-Gotten Gains, a singing competition for one of the Macguffins is going on. The enchanted, sentient chalice Aahz has expels some oils to slide him out on stage. After a moment of stage fright-enduced shock, Aahz unleashes the Perv dimension's national anthem onto the audience. Once he was done, the only audience member left was an old, deaf man stuck in the back. And he voted for Aahz.

    Live Action TV 
  • Happened on Monk once, when Monk is persuaded to take over the part of an actor whose death he is investigating. He did reasonably well during rehearsal, but missed his cue during the real thing, was pushed onstage, and ended up making a fool of himself. He redeems himself, however, by solving and explaining the murder onstage.
  • Technically show-within-a-show-within-a-show: once in the Square One TV SwaS "Mathnet" they solved the crime and approached the perp (who was a Broadway actress) right after the curtain came down - then the curtain went up again for the Curtain Call. So they do The Summation in song, to a standing ovation.
  • This is pretty much the point of Thank God You're Here, except that the performers know they're about to be put in front of the audience. What they don't know, however, is what the 'play' they're going to be in is about.
  • One Amazing Stories episode featured a mix-up between a movie actor dressed up as a mummy, and the actual walking mummy whose legend is being filmed. The real mummy winds up roped into playing the part (which isn't difficult, as there are no lines) while the actor nearly gets burned alive as a monster by superstitious locals.
  • In the Quantum Leap episode "Catch A Falling Star", Sam leaps into an actor about two minutes before the show starts, and is about to be pushed out on stage with no idea what's going on. Fortunately he's the understudy, and the real lead shows up at the last second.
  • Psych did this on the season-2 episode "Lights, Camera, Homicidio." Shawn was investigating a murder on the set of a telenovela, and he managed to become the show's breakout star, at least until he solved the crime and quit.
  • Done to Willow in an early "What Do They Fear?" Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; she hallucinates being pushed on stage in the middle of an opera and she can't sing.
  • Happens many times on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, especially since some games involve audience participation.
    • In one skit, part of Wayne Brady's shtick is that he's transforming into a goofy white guy. To carry this out, he pulls a white guy from the audience and puts him onstage. The results are appropriately awkward.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In a Peanuts arc, Lucy volunteers Linus to sing "Jingle Bells" for the PTA assembly.

  • In The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Production of Macbeth, the director of the show within the show receives word after the curtain has already gone up that the actress playing Lady Macbeth will be unable to make it, and responds by forcing the (male) stage manager to stand in.
  • In The Producers, the director of the Show Within a Show has to take a part when the person meant to be playing Hitler breaks his leg.
  • The Actors Nightmare, a short comedy play, is a somewhat surreal instance - not only does the protagonist have to act despite (as far as he can remember) not being an actor at all, he gets contradictory answers about what play is being performed, and it seems to keep changing as he improvises. He ends up in a distressingly realistic execution scene that might (or might not) actually cause his death at the end of the play.
  • The gangsters in Kiss Me, Kate become part of the Taming Of The Shrew production.
  • The Play That Goes Wrong: When Sandra gets knocked out in a The Door Slams You incident, Annie the stage manager is hurriedly dressed in Sandra's dress and shoved out on stage with a script in her hand.
  • Combined with Audience Participation in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged); the RSC don't ask for a volunteer from the audience; they point at a woman in the audience and say "That woman there could play a better Ophelia!" sarcastically, then decide it's a good idea.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate II has an example, when the hero can end up owning a theatre. The lead actor comes down sick on opening night, and the player needs to remember his lines in order for the play to be a success.
  • Jade Empire gives the player the option of acting in a play which is being monitored by the authorities for possibly containing subversive messages. By their choice of lines, the player determines whether or not they find any (or they can just screw up, of course).
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask of the Betrayer has a dream sequence in which you get shoved onto a stage to play the role of Akachi the Betrayer, going along with the whole 'masks and illusions' theme present throughout the campaign
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind's Tribunal expansion gives you the option of replacing a sick actor in a politically charged play, and if you do it, someone tries to assassinate you part way through. Turns out that the assassin's presence was known, and you were deliberately put in that position in order to protect the actor.
  • There are some Final Fantasy examples:
    • Cloud and his date (usually Aeris, but not always) take part in a play at the Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy VII.
    • Then there's Celes performing at the opera in Final Fantasy VI, where Locke and Ultros fall onto stage and knock out two vital main characters, and adlib themselves into the plot so they can duel for "Maria" (Celes). The Impresario is livid.
    • And in Final Fantasy IX, when Dagger crashes into the play being performed at the beginning of the game, she ad-libs a very nice exit scene. Justified since the play is the in-universe equivalent of Romeo and Juliet, and Dagger is a classically educated Princess who happens to love that particular play.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, the Acting Guild asks you to take parts in a play. If you accept, you are rewarded at the end with titles that change your party into their costumes from the play.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, a knife thrower needs a volunteer assistant and Jones literally pushes Sophia in front of him.
  • In Mass Effect 3, in the second half of the Citadel DLC, Shepard is summoned to assist a Normandy teammate, who (it turns out) has been roped into a ludicrous re-creation of the reaper attack staged by a slapdash vid crew. The production's director is thrilled to have the real Shepard on stage. Shepard is reluctant to participate, but is already in front of the camera, and chooses to go along with it. However, as this version of the story becomes increasingly inaccurate and ridiculous, culminating in an appearance by Blasto, Shepard ultimately chooses to pull the plug on the show.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Happens to Elmer Fudd in "Rabbit of Seville." In "Stage Door Cartoon," Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny do this to each other. They both end up on stage in "Slick Hare" - true to character, Fudd flees in panic, while Bugs happily goes into a dance.
    • Porky Pig was once mistaken for a wrestler.
    • A Boston terrier with stage fright is pushed out onto a stage to recite "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in 1937's "Dog Daze."
  • In the Kim Possible episode "Hidden Talents", Ron goes onstage at a talent show to stall for time while Kim escapes from a Death Trap and returns. (Also, Kim was in the show to begin with because Ron signed her up without asking her.)
  • In The Simpsons episode "Mayored to the Mob" this happens to a mobster during a Guys and Dolls act. He is backstage preparing to throw his knife at Mayor Quimby when the manager appears and pushes him onstage. He gets out of it by tap-dancing with the knife between his teeth.
  • On The Spectacular Spider-Man, Harry is supposed to play Puck in the school's rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but doesn't show up because he's been kidnapped by the Green Goblin. However, Hobie Got Volunteered because he had played the part in another production, and winds up doing a great job. This also marks the end of a Running Gag where he's constantly interrupted before he can speak.
  • In the Milo Murphy's Law episode "Smooth Opera-tor," Milo attends the opera with his friends and crush, Amanda, who mentions that she really would like nothing to go wrong (as usually happens around Milo). As things inevitably do go wrong, he's forced to run around backstage, and occasionally on-stage, to fix them. Ultimately, all the chaos causes one of the performers to book it, forcing Milo to play his part to keep the opera going.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Holidays in Boxwood Terrace", Sean gets Performance Anxiety, and Mitchell just happens to be singing Sean's song backstage. So, Jet pushes Mitchell in front of the audience, and pulls Sean offstage.
  • Harry McCool and his brothers Tom and Dick are assigned to be part of an opera to protect the singers' performances from being disrupted by a phantom (actually, some nutcase in an ersatz superhero outfit). Harry is pushed out on stage when he suddenly gets stage fright.
  • A Kellogg's commercial from 1970 with Josie and the Pussycats has the girls nervous about doing a commercial for TV. Alexander assures them there's nothing to be nervous about. When the camera light goes on and it's on Alexander, he suddenly gets the mother of all stage fright and starts sucking his thumb.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Hands Across Ed", when Jimmy is having trouble backstage with his set during a telethon for Ed's eyebrow, Eddy pushes Double D in front of the audience to stall. Owing to his shy and nervous personality, he promptly faints.

    Real Life 
  • This happened to Guy Goma. He was at the BBC Television Centre for an interview for a job in their IT department on May 8, 2006. Somebody thought he was Guy Kewney, who was there for a live interview regarding the Apple Computers v. Apple Corp lawsuit, and dropped him in front of the camera. Now aware that he was in a live situation, he decided not to cause a scene and did his best to answer Karen Bowman's questions. This presumably inspired similar events in The IT Crowd when Moss, appearing on Dragon's Den under a pseudonym, is mistaken for an MP and taken into an interview about the Iraq War.
  • This is how Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers got into show business: his mother shoved him on stage to cover one of his brothers with practically no preparation.


Video Example(s):


Dragged on-stage

Héctor is dragged by Dante on stage and, at first reluctantly, joins Miguel in his performance at the battle of the bands.

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Main / PushedInFrontOfTheAudience

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