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Reaching Between the Lines

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Wow. Telemarketers get more aggressive every day.

"A pay phone was ringing
It just about blew my mind
When I picked it up and said hello
This foot came through the line."
Bob Dylan, "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" - Bringing It All Back Home.

In television, phones are surprisingly convenient, but in cartoons, they can be even more so. They don't just connect two people metaphorically, they act as mini-teleporters between two places. Occasionally small objects can pass through, but just as often people put parts of their body through the phone line and make contact with the people on the other end (often to deliver some violence), or the phone take on properties of the event (such as growing a mouth).

As an example, if Dave has overslept for work, he might expect a phone call from his boss via a telephone which develops an enormous mouth and yells at him to wake up. It might then develop a giant eye to see that he's still in bed before the boss's upper torso appears from the line and shakes him awake. A grumpy Dave might then reach back through his phone and whack his boss, forcing the boss to pass his job notice form through the receiver.

How this works is never once considered. After all, if sound can be teleported over to the other receiver in an instant, why not other things?

This mostly seems confined to cartoons, although similar events have shown up in live action comedies from time to time, usually ones that don't confine themselves too closely to the laws of reality. Unless of course it's those scenes in particular that are not real. While there are more serious works where phones are used as transport focuses, this is about humourous uses.

Compare Telephone Teleport (in which the character physically travels to the other end of the phone line rather than merely reaching out through it) and Television Portal (in which a video link is used in a similar manner). A Smell Phone works on the same principle. Occasionally overlaps with Split-Screen Phone Call.


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  • In one commercial for Wilkins Coffee, Wilkins is on the phone to the grocery store. He orders some Wilkins Instant Coffee, which is immediately sprayed out of the phone's mouthpiece and into his mouth.
    Wilkins: How instant can you get?

    Anime & Manga 
  • One of futuristic devices Doraemon pulls out is a tool that allows you to reach out over the phone. It lead to disastrous results, as you'd expect with Nobita accidentally ripping Shizuka's skirt from her. Twice!
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise: In the "Special Story" at the end of Volume 5, Kuroe accidently accepts a video call on Line from her boyfriend Arata Minami (given that Arata is the first person her age Kuroe has ever been close to, she's still not deft at using social networking tech). She's so flustered at seeing Arata's face on her tablet that she frantically slams the tablet screen-down on the floor, at which point he says "ow" as if his actual face had hit the floor (though he could've just been joking).
  • Sakigake!! Otokojuku: In one episode Inoyama, the leader of the Rakkyou University cheer squad, tries to get even with Principal Edajima by holding some hostages from Otokojuku for ransom. When he calls Edajima, the principal reminds him who he's dealing with by shouting his catchphrase (I AM THE PRINCIPAL OF OTOKOJUKU, EDAJIMA HEIHACHI!) so loudly that Inoyama's phone explodes.
  • Urusei Yatsura: At one time, Ataru is talking to Shinobu on the phone, when Lum attempts to disrupt the conversation by shouting that she is pregnant from Ataru. In a jealous rage, Shinobu manages to reach through the phone and scratch Ataru's face.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 5, Wolffy is talking to his cousin, who hangs up on him and throws his phone into a nearby bowl of water. The water ends up spilling through Wolffy's phone.
  • Simple Samosa: In "Tutti Frutti", when a grieving mayor calls Samosa on the phone about his daughter Tutti Frutti running away, his tears literally pour out of Samosa's phone.

    Comic Books 
  • Dastardly & Muttley: General Harrier punches Dick through the telephone. While it's not unusual in the cartoon this comic is based on, the comic portrays it as an effect of the Unstabilium 239 and General Harrier is horrified.
  • The DCU:
    • This is a famous way of traveling for The Atom. He calls someone, and when the receiver is picked up, the superhero shrinks sufficient to enter the phone lines and emerge at the other end. However, one modern story has him forgetting that the call would involve satellite relay, and he has a really rough trip.
    • Plastic Man does this in his own short-lived series, sticking his tongue out of the receiver to lick the person holding it, before stepping out himself.
  • Venom did this with his symbiote in order to save his ex-wife from some thugs who'd abducted her.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one series of Dilbert strips, Bob the dinosaur gives Dilbert's company's CEO a "tele-wedgie" to dissuade him from relocating the company.
  • In one Caldwell strip the phone mouthpiece squirts water at Bozo the Clown's receptionist.
  • In one Sherman's Lagoon strip, Sherman's breath is so bad Filmore can smell it over the phone.

    Fan Works 
  • The Great Alicorn Hunt: In Chapter 14, Pinkie Pie reaches through the magic mirrors they're using to communicate to give Rainbow Dash a hug. Naturally, everypony else wonders how she did that.
  • Sons of Damas: Shining Armor is able to zap Errol, who's currently hacked into their holo-projector's transmission. A flabbergasted Errol lampshades the trope.
    Errol: How did you manage to shoot me through a communication transmission? [...] That's impossible!
  • In this Actor Allusion animatic of Steven Universe, Blue Diamond gets a "Conflict of Interest" notice stuck to her face through her Dull monitor when she tries to (unsuccessfully) edit her own Wikipedia page.

    Films — Animation 
  • A Running Gag in Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf is that any time Crunch speaks to Dracula, he ends up spitting in the vampire's face. This happens even if he is talking to him through a video screen or on the radio.
  • This happens a couple times in Jetsons: The Movie. At one point, as George drives off to work at the new plant, a monitor turns on the dashboard and all the members of his family each take turns saying goodbye, and when Astro appears, he sticks his head out of the monitor and gives George a big lick on the face. At another point, at the plant, Mr. Spacely is displayed on a huge TV screen. He warns George to keep things moving there, because "lost time means lost money. And lost money means lost. Vice. President!" He then leans his head out of the screen (which is huge, and so his head is huge, too) and into George's face to say sternly, "Get it?" George gulps.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In a Laurel and Hardy short, Stan and Ollie are arguing over the telephone; Stan blows into the mouthpiece and Ollie's hat is blown off.
  • In Ghost Dad, Bill Cosby's character, a ghost, teleports through the phone to choke and threaten his daughter's classmate on the other end for calling her a bitch.
  • In Who Done It?, Mervyn keeps trying to make an important call but is repeatedly obstructed by the operator who keeps telling him, "The line is busy" (even when other people are able to place calls from the same phone). Eventually he gets so frustrated that he squirts a soda siphon down the mouthpiece and the operator gets squirted in the face.
  • In A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Freddy possesses Nancy's phone and sticks his tongue through it and into her mouth.
  • The first Leprechaun ripped this off, replacing the tongue with a tiny hand.
  • In The Three Stooges short "Calling All Curs" Moe punches Curly through an intercom. Moe's head pokes out of the intercom so he can yell at Curly some more. However, Moe gets stuck there with his face still poking out of the intercom. Cue Curly plucking Moe's eyebrows while saying "She loves me, she loves me not" over and over until the scene ends.
    • Similarly in I'll Never Heil Again, Moe Hailstone is shaving when he takes a call from Field Marshall Herring (Curley), when Curley disses him over the phone. Moe violently shakes his shaving brush into the handset, which sprays shaving cream all over Curley's face on the other end of the line.
    • On at least one occasion, Moe has even been seen to be able to deliver eyepokes via phone.
  • J-Men Forever: An informer tries to report the activities of the Big Bad, only for the villain to burst in and zap the man with his raygun. On the other end of the line, smoke pours from the receiver. Then when a J-Man falls victim to a drowning trap, water squirts into the face of the man at the other end.
  • Kung Fury features Adolf Hitler shooting cops using a gun and a cellphone that transports his bullets through a landline, of all things.
  • In the Harold Lloyd comedy Captain Kidd's Kids, Lloyd and his fiancé have a phone conversation when her battle-axe mother grabs the transmitter and unleashes a tirade at him that gets so fiery that smoke comes out the receiver on his end.

  • Used (possibly more than once) in the Keys to the Kingdom series. All telephones within the House appear to be able to do this, with the most memorable example being Monday's Noon dragging an elevator operator out of one in order to demote him for stopping an elevator too suddenly whilst he was using it.
  • Chris Miller wrote a short story for National Lampoon (titled "Cock Tales"; PDF link to the magazine, story starts on p. 42) where a female telephone collector calls a broke young man to discuss the outstanding phone bill. He tries to weasel his way out of the bill by claiming he's the bassist in her favorite band. Dirty talk ensues, and then a tongue comes through the earpiece and licks his ear. When he unscrews the earpiece, he finds a mouth — and lets himself get fellated. The woman's voice on the other end demands sex; he removes the plate from the bottom of the phone and finds female genitalia ready for him. He plunges in — and then a metal clamp locks onto his junk while the voice on the other end, now an all-business man, resumes talking about the bill...
  • A Frederick Forsyth novel mentioned a realistic version of this trope that involved Mossad tampering with the handset in a hotel room that was being rented by a high-ranking enemy combatant, then calling the extension. When the right man picked up, they remotely detonated a small explosive device concealed in the earpiece with infallibly lethal and very messy results.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Police Squad!, someone on the phone asks his caller for a light, and lights a cigarette by holding it to the earpiece.
  • In Black Books, Manny calls a cleaning business to clean the bookshop. He "shows" them how dirty the place is by waving the phone about. There's no indication it works or makes sense, though.
  • Done with only slightly more logic by Manuel in Fawlty Towers to prove his boss isn't there. "He no here! Listen!" (waves phone about) In the same conversation, Basil instructs Manuel to call a nearby bearded man "a hideous orang-utan", which had the desired effect of Manuel being punched, even though Basil could not do this over the phone himself.
  • A variation: An episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 features as an Invention Exchange the "Gag Fax", by which you squirt water into the receiver, send the fax, and the printout at the other end will squirt the recipient.
  • The Benny Hill Show: In a sketch, Benny plays a switchboard operator in an apartment building with speaking tubes. At one point he takes two calls, one from a man whose plumbing is leaking and another from a woman who has a small fire, indicated by the fact that water comes out of the former tube, and smoke out of the later. He then connects the tubes together so the leaking water would put out the fire. Another couple of callers are a doctor and his patient, and the tubes are broken (they can't be connected) so he has to act as an in-between. The doctor sends a pill to the patient by blowing it through the tube to Benny, who shall then blow it to the patient; but he sucks when he should have blown and swallows the pill himself.
  • Danger 5. Our heroes take control of a Nazi airplane, but the pilot has locked herself in the cabin. Ilsa picks up the intercom phone, presses her gun against it and pulls the trigger, blowing the pilot's brains out. Combined with Telephone Teleport in the early episodes of season 2 where Khrushchev sends spy gadgets to Ilsa over the phone system.
  • Candid Camera once did a stunt where a person talking on the phone suddenly sneezed. The victim, at the other end, was then sprayed with water from a gadget in the receiver. The victims reacted with disgust, at least until Fridge Logic kicked in.

  • Peaches & Herb's "Reunited" has the female singer singing this:
    I wish I could climb right through the telephone line
    And give you what you want so you could still be mine...hey hey

    Puppet Shows 
  • One episode of The Muppet Show has a Running Gag involving stuff coming out of the phone related to whomever was on the other line (water from the water company, smoke from the fire department, etc.).
  • The Jim Henson Hour's Muppet Television segments used this trope more frequently.


    Video Games 
  • Sissel in Ghost Trick has this power. He could even use to transport to any phone number he knows without requiring them to be in the middle of a conversation.
  • Given a peculiar twist in this GMOD video.
  • In Grow Valley, the designer will chew out the mechanic and the architect through a cell phone if they build a train without consulting him while he was already working on a project.
  • In Revolution X, A video message left by Steven Tyler tosses you the keys to his car.
  • In Stay Tooned!, one of the three paths to reaching Apartment 5D requires you to fix the cable before Mr. Findley can let you in. The Cable Guy won't come over to do so until you find his missing sock. The player gives it to him through the pay phone in this manner.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Homestar Runner Halloween toon "Jibblies 2", the Horrible Painting casts its spell on Marzipan by leaving a message on her answering machine, causing green rays to emanate from the speaker that give her "the jibblies".
    Strong Bad: Jibblies via phone lines? It's worse than I thought!


    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Used often in Looney Tunes and MGM cartoons.
    • One example would be Tex Avery's Doggone Tired, a short about a dog trying to sleep while a rabbit places the phone on his pillow, with the operator jabbering away. The dog strangles the handset, thus somehow strangling the operator (complete with tongue lolling out the receiver).
    • On the Merrie Melodies short A Pest in the House, a hotel guest keeps going down to manager Elmer Fudd every time he's disturbed to punch him in the face. At one time he simply calls the front desk and punches Elmer through the phone.
    • In "Bugs and Thugs", Bugs Bunny tries to report Rocky and Mugsy's car to the police, and as he's dragged away from the phone booth the police officer on the other end is pulled through and dragged along until the line snaps.
      Policeman: Operator, we've been disconnected...
    • In "People Are Bunny", Bugs answered a quiz show in a phone booth, and the prize money comes through the change slot.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants:
    • In "Karate Choppers", SpongeBob tries to karate-chop Sandy through the telephone wire, but Sandy redirects his hand through the speaker of her own telephone so SpongeBob hits himself. She then somehow manages to hang up with SpongeBob's arm still threaded through her receiver.
    • The episode "Jellyfish Jam" had Squidward calling SpongeBob regarding the noise coming from next door and getting squirted with jellyfish jelly.
    • In "Squidville", Patrick's bad breath (from eating fried oyster skins) goes through the intercom of the Tentacle Acres gate, knocking out the security guards.
    • In "Squidward's Sick Daze", when Squidward calls Mr. Krabs to report he is sick so he could avoid going to work, Krabs pokes his eye through the phone to see what Squidward is really doing, determining he's not really sick at all. Krabs does it again when he calls Squidward, where the latter begs him to let him come back to work, but Krabs refuses, telling SpongeBob to "better step up the cure".
  • Also seen in Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, where the general often reaches his hand through the telephone to attack Dick Dastardly or take his medals. Even more impressive when you consider that Dastardly is often flying (or more likely falling) at the time, and the phone has no visible connection to the network. Remember, this is World War I. As mentioned in another entry, the short "Ice See You" implies that Dastardly's phone can also transmit video, as well as sensations of cold and heat.
  • The Jetsons has videotelephones where either party in the call can pass his body through the screen. (Matter transmission over IP, perhaps?)
  • Family Guy did a variation on this, with Peter's father-in-law punching him in the face through an e-mail.
  • In the Popeye cartoon Sock-a-Bye Baby, Popeye punches out a singer through the radio.
  • Done a few times by Dr. Robotnik on Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
  • In the Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "Cold War", Fanboy eats Lenny's nachos while talking to him on the phone.
  • One Donald Duck Christmas cartoon that pits him against Chip 'n Dale sees them firing candy balls through a phone. Donald tries to turn the tables by placing a stick of dynamite inside and calling them, but they don't pick up... and trick him into answering his phone again just before the explosion.
  • The Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Total Re-Carl" opens with Dr. Weird sending a telemarketer some "phone spiders".
  • Taz-Mania: In "Taz in Keeweeland", Taz's repeated pressing of the 'pound' key allows the Keewee to pop out of the handset and pound him on the head with a mallet.
  • In one of Cartoon Network's old "Shorties" starring Huckleberry Hound, Huck tries to get rid of all the city noise so he can sing. At one point, he shuts the radio up by reaching through the radio and zipping the DJ's mouth shut.
  • In the Cow and Chicken episode "Cow Fly", the Red Guy (as Rex Fanny) travels to Chicken's house by traveling through the phone.
  • In the Mickey Mouse (2013) short "Get a Horse!", Mickey (who is outside his own movie and inside the theater), calls Pete on a smartphone while Pete answers it on a candlestick phone. Horace sprays a fire extinguisher into the smartphone and it hits Pete on the other end.
  • In an earlier Mickey short Mickey's Delayed Date, Minnie tries to call an oversleeping Mickey on his phone to remind him about their date. Pluto answers it first and licks it, causing Minnie to actually feel the dog's slobber. Minnie promptly asks Pluto to give Mickey the phone, which he does.
  • In one Barney Bear cartoon, "Barney's Hungry Cousin", Barney tries to hide from another bear, out to steal his picnic food, inside a phone booth. As he is about to take a bite of a sandwich he has, the phone in the booth rings and he answers it. The other bear pops his head out through the mouthpiece of the phone and eats the sandwich, while the rest of his body is standing in another phone booth next door to this one with nothing between the two booths!
  • Rocko's Modern Life:
    • In the Show Within a Show Wacky Delly, Betty Baloney answers the phone and suddenly Sal Ami pops out of the receiver to assault her, screaming "I hate baloney!"
    • In "Kiss Me, I'm Foreign", the judge who's been calling Filburt to hear his voice tosses the phone into his face over the divider after he yells at her to stop calling him.
  • The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "The Boardwalk Booby Trap" combines this with Phone-Trace Race, where Penelope is trapped in a phone booth headed for a fish cannery, so she calls the Ant Hill Mob (Pockets answers with a phone in his jacket) which leads to the "You don't say!/She didn't say" gag. Clyde tells Zippy to trace the call to see where Penelope is. Zippy does so by entering the phone itself and traversing the phone line to Penelope's booth.
  • In one episode of The Pink Panther, the Panther has broken into a magician's home and is squaring off against the magician's rabbit. At one point he decides to take a break and watch some TV, where there's a crime drama playing. The criminal on screen goes to the phone and dials, at which point the phone in the real world rings. The Panther picks the phone up, and the criminal pulls a gun and shoots him through the phone.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The Pony", Darwin sticks his eye through the receiver of the Wattersons' house phone to check on Anais. Likewise, in "The Misunderstandings", Penny sticks her eye through the receiver to check on Gumball and sticks her lips through the mouthpiece to kiss him.
    • In "The Deal", one of the Watterson kids' antics, after they turn feral without Richard's supervision, is to put a raw chicken in the garbage disposal. They also rewired the house, so when Nicole answers the phone, the chicken comes out liquefied through it and hits her in the face.
    • In "The Cage", Gumball tries to protect Mr. Corneille from getting crushed by a muscular wrestler by calling the latter's manager, who does multiple coffee Spit Takes on Gumball's face through the phone.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters: A ghost does this to Jake in the opening credits—it bellows out the first part of the "LET'S GO, GHOST...BUSTERS!" line. In that case, though, it's less the existence of cartoony rules that allow random teleportation and more the fact that it's a ghost who doesn't have many physical limitations.
  • In the Doug episode "Doug's Fat Cat", which provides the page image, Doug agrees to take care of Roger's Right-Hand Cat Stinky. When she gets sick (actually pregnant) and Doug is worried about what will happen if he tells Roger the truth, he imagines Roger grabbing him by the neck and pulling him through the phone, then strapping him to a car and preparing to flatten him with a monster truck while yelling that he trusted Doug (so this is a justifiable case that's not even real in-universe).
  • In the Skylanders Academy episode "Return to Cynder", one of the Golden Queen's petty schemes is calling someone on the phone and turning the caller to gold. The end of the episode reveals that she was talking to Hugo.
  • In one Peanuts cartoon, Peppermint Patty wants to send flowers to Charlie Brown and asks Marcie how she should do it. Marcie says to send them by phone. Cut to Peppermint Patty trying to shove flowers into the receiver of a phone and saying, "She's got to be kidding!"
  • The Flamin' Thongs: In "Jurassic Dork", not only is Kevin's allergy triggered by wombat hair at Narelle's end of the phone, but his resulting sneeze drenches Narelle through the mobile phone.
  • The Impossibles had a villain called the Terrifying Tapper, whose gun enabled him to travel through telephone lines.
  • In the short ''Betty Boop's Big Boss", the boss calls an operator and asks for some service, then an arm comes out of the phone holding a match and lights his cigar.
  • In an episode of The Angry Beavers, Norbert and Bing are emotional messes due to losing their respective girlfriends. When Daggett calls them in a phone booth and they realize it's Daggett calling and not their girlfriends, the two cry and their tears go through the receiver and very quickly flood the phone booth.


Video Example(s):


MANLY Phone Call

Principal Edajima Heihachi is so manly he can destroy the phone of the person calling him.

How well does it match the trope?

4.71 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ReachingBetweenTheLines

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