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Reaching Between the Lines

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"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).



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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 and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In The DCU, this is a famous way of traveling for The Atom. He would call someone, and when the receiver is picked up, the superhero would shrink sufficient to enter the phone lines and emerge at the other end. However, one modern story had him forgetting that the call would involve satellite relay and he had a really rough trip.
  • Plastic Man did 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.

    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 — Animated 

    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 Bill Cosby's Ghost Dad, he at one point teleports through the phone to berate the man on the other end, courtesy of the fact that he is currently a ghost.
  • In the Abbott and Costello movie Who Done It?, Mervin (Costello) 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.
  • 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.

  • 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) 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...

    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)
  • 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 took two calls, one from a man whose plumbing was leaking and another from a woman who had a small fire, indicated by the fact that water comes out of the former tube, and smoke out of the later. He then connected the tubes together so the leaking water would put out the fire. Another couple of callers were a doctor and his patient, and the tubes were broken (they couldn't be connected) so he had to act as an inbetween. The doctor sent a pill to the patient by blowing it through the tube to Benny, who then blew it to the patient; but he sucked when he should have blown and swallowed 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. The same gag (of sorts) is reused again 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.
  • Grow demonstrates the trope using a cell phone and multiple recipients.
  • In Revolution X, A video message left by Steven Tyler tosses you the keys to his car.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    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.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • 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.
  • 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?)
    • This also 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.
  • 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 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 Misunderstandings", Penny sticks her eye through the receiver of Gumball's house phone, then sticks her lips through the mouthpiece and kisses 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.
  • Providing the page image, in the Doug episode "Doug's Fat Cat" Doug agrees to take care of Roger's cat Stinky. When she gets sick and Doug is worried 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 Marcy how she should do it and Marcy 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.”


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