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Sarcastic Confession

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"I only tell the truth when it makes it sound like I'm lying."
April Ludgate, Parks and Recreation

Remember, kids, it isn't lying if you tell the truth in a sarcastic tone of voice!

The Main Characters are all trying to hold up the Masquerade, but the Nosy Neighbor is sniffing around, trying to figure out the secret. They won't settle for the standard excuses, and you can't convincingly make up something new on the spot. What's a Secret-Keeper to do?

Simple: Tell the truth, but in a tone of voice that suggests you don't mean a word of it. ("Yeah. Of course my roommate is a vampire. I'm so sorry I forgot to invite you to his coffin-warming party.") This usually will get them off your case, plus if they actually do meet your vampire roommate one day, they'll be less likely to take him seriously.

Of course, the danger of this trope is that the interrogator is Sarcasm-Blind. They could take your confession at face value and decide that they were right all along about your Masquerade. Now your secret is out, you’ll most likely face the consequences of it, and you really only have yourself to blame since you did confess after all. Oops!

Occasionally results in the trope user being hurt that no-one believes that they could have done what they sarcastically confessed to. It can also be used to lampshade the absurdity of the plot or setting.

See also Clark Kenting, Appeal to Audacity. Contrast with Cassandra Truth. A Cassandra Gambit is a large-scale non-sarcastic version of this. Compare You Wouldn't Believe Me If I Told You. Suspiciously Specific Denial can drift into this trope. The third type of Framing the Guilty Party may overlap. A particularly crafty character might use it as a form of Public Secret Message. It also may be a ploy for someone who's considered Too Funny to Be Evil. If the audience doesn't know it's a confession, this often acts a Rewatch Bonus. Compare and contrast "Just Joking" Justification. Sub-Trope of Lying by Omission, which isn't confined to confessions nor does it require that the omission be an appearance of sincerity.

Note that a Sarcastic Confession is one which the confessing party intends will not be taken seriously. Otherwise, it's an Ignored Confession.


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  • One of the Jay Bush and Duke ads for Bush's Baked Beans involves the talking dog Duke printing a bunch of flyers in a secret basement in his doghouse which read "Bush's Secret Family Recipe for Sale." When Jay confronts him with one of the flyers, asking if he had anything to do with it, he replies sarcastically with "Right, Jay, I'm running a printing press in my basement."

  • Bob was having sex with his mistress. He noticed that he had stayed longer than he expected and got stressed. Took a piece of chalk, smeared his fingers and rushed out the door. At home, Alice was waiting for him. "Where have you been?" she asks. "I was sleeping with my mistress" replied Bob. "Show me your hands," she exclaimed. She took one look at his hands and screamed, "you bastard, you spent the whole evening playing pool again!".

    Myths & Religion 
  • Horribly subverted in the story of Samson and Delilah. After lying about what his Achilles' Heel is three times, he tells the truth the fourth time, apparently expecting her not to believe him. He really should've seen it coming, though, since she did try all the other things he claimed would weaken him; there's really no reason to think she wouldn't give it a shot this time, too.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Muppets Tonight episode "The Cameo Show", when Charles Darwin and two police officers come across the Muppets carrying the dead body of Arsenio Hall (It Makes Sense in Context), and Darwin asks "what's in the bag, a dead body?", they sarcastically admit that they killed the guest star. And then when he asks what's really in the bag after they make sure he doesn't have a warrant, Rizzo says that it's Arsenio Hall, and they all laugh again.

  • From the BBC radio adaptation of the Raffles story "Nine Points of the Law":
    Addenbrooke: To hear you talk, one would think you'd done this kind of thing before.
    Raffles: Oh, we have. We're the most notorious thieves in London, Bunny and I.
    Addenbrooke: Heaven help us all if you ever do take to that line of country, gentlemen.
  • A common tactic in The Unbelievable Truth, in which panelists are given five truths to "smuggle" past the others in a lecture of Blatant Lies (sometimes, for example, by slipping them into long lists).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted the Sidereals have a charm (magic power), Avoiding The Truth Technique, just for doing this - its effect is to make people convinced that whatever the user says must be false.

  • At the climax of the film/play Arsenic and Old Lace, Mortimer uses sarcasm combined with Refuge in Audacity to convince the police captain that his old aunts are crazy when they casually confess to having thirteen bodies buried in their cellar. It helps that they've just signed papers committing themselves to a mental institution.
  • In The Goat, Martin uses a sarcastic confession to test the waters before he flat out confesses to his wife that he's been sleeping with the title character. She laughs it off.
  • In Norm Macdonald's 2017 standup special Hitler's Dog, Gossip, and Trickery, Norm describes a scenario in which a wife confronts her husband about the fact that he's been making eyes at her sister, and her husband responds with a sarcastic confession that grows more and more outlandish.
    Husband: Hey, the only reason I married you is to fuck your sister, right?
    Wife: No, I shouldn't have brought it up.
    Husband: No! Why wouldn't you bring it up? I mean, you're the victim in this whole thing. I remember at the vows, I kept thinking, "I am going to seduce every member of my wife's family. Regardless of gender."
  • In Pygmalion, Henry Higgins is successfully (if secretly) passing off Eliza as a Duchess at a grand Ball; when he himself is asked his opinion of her, he says she's just a poor flower girl.
  • In the musical version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Percy announces that he's the Scarlet Pimpernel in the middle of the royal ball, much to the amusement of all present.
  • After the title character of Tartuffe is caught making a move on his host's wife, the guy who caught him immediately runs off to tell on him to said host, Orgon. Tartuffe responds by saying that yes, he is a terrible, cruel, evil, sinful person who is unworthy of trust. Orgon assumes he's being humble and acting as befits a holy man, and decides that the accusations are all lies.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Case 4 of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, Calisto Yew says she's not related to Cece Yew with a straight face, then breaks down laughing, claiming she was kidding and admitting they're sisters. She actually isn't related to Cece, and "Calisto Yew" isn't even her real name.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony:
    • In the second chapter, Miu Iruma takes a jab at Tsumugi Shirogane's plain appearance and personality, saying that her glasses are the only thing that makes her noticeable. Tsumugi replies that in actuality, her glasses are the only thing concealing her true form, and those who witness it pay a terrible price. Her "true form" is indeed as horrific as she implies since she's the mastermind and Loony Fan who orchestrated the entire killing game.
    • Before the Chapter 2 trial, when Kokichi and Kirumi suggest that the killing game is being shown to the people outside, Monokuma says that the 13 remaining students are the only ones left in the world. Subverted in that this is only true within the "Truman Show" Plot.
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, Mitsuhide pretends to be so madly in love with the female main character on his route that he can't bear to leave her side for a moment when the real reason he won't leave her side is to prevent her from telling others about his plans to betray his lord Nobunaga. At least, that's what he leads the MC to believe; the real reason he won't leave her side is that he really has fallen madly in love with her but can't explain to her that he's actually planning to be a Fake Defector and has to keep her under constant surveillance so that the enemies he's pretending to ally with won't decide to kill her for knowing too much. He even lavishes her with sweet words and professions of love, knowing that his reputation as a two-faced Consummate Liar will make her interpret them as mocking taunts instead of the painfully sincere love confessions they really are.
  • Spirit Hunter: Death Mark II: In Chapter 6, “Michiho” decides to jokingly “pretend” she is the Departed and that she is crazily in love with Kazuo to scare him before “admitting” it was a prank.

    Web Animation 
  • An offscreen example was mentioned in The Frollo Show during the events of episode 16. When Wilford Brimley becomes The Starscream to the remaining members of Los no Frollos and reveals his own evil plans, Hitler admits that Wilford told him about it, but he dismissed his ramblings as mere "old man talk".
  • HFIL: In "Frognapped", when Cell asks where Raditz has been, he says he was banging Dodoria. Cell thinks he just made that up to annoy him.

  • The Awakened:
    Sue: Oh, yeah, and I'm kind of in love with you, but you never seem to notice.
  • Pulled twice in Captain SNES: The Game Masta. Both comics have "The Best Lie" in the title (with the first following with "is the Truth"). The first time, Alex convinces Daos that he put up a powerful mental shield so that Daos could not see his greatest fear, when, actually, his greatest fear (Evil Otto from Berzerk) looked like something that Daos didn't consider remotely terrifying (a blinking smiley face.) The second, Bass, after having already bluffed Amon into believing that he could achieve great power in the desert, admits (in a nervous tone) that he lied previously and was trying to trick Amon.
    Bass: In fact, I'm doing it right now!
  • In College Roomies from Hell!!!, Blue tells Vernon directly that she's there to distract him and his scientists while the others infiltrate his base. In fact, Vernon is Genre Savvy enough to take her at her word, but pretend not to.
  • Invoked in Erfworld, Summer Update 22:
    ChrlsNChrg: There's an interesting principle at work, here.
    If I tell them what happened, freely, then they won't believe it.
    But if I charge them what the information is worth, then they'll buy it.
    LordHamster: In both senses.
  • In Get Medieval, mob boss Broat cheerfully informs his legal business associates that he has to go hire mob hitmen.
    Voes: Your wife hates when you do that.
    Broat: And they never suspect a thing.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: This is how Winsbury and Janet hide their Secret Relationship; as soon as one of their friends expresses the first hint of suspicion, they admit to being together, then tell a highly implausible and self-contradictory tale of how it happened. By the time they've finished, everyone has lost interest and assumed the whole thing is nonsense. Even Bud, their psychic crab chaperone, seems to have dismissed their relationship as too unlikely.
  • Last Res0rt has Jigsaw Forte pulling this one off:
    Jason: Tell me where Daisy went already! You should know!
    Jigsaw: Sure, because we all know I'm a mind reader. After this, we're planning a magic act. Think you'd look good in sequins?
  • In Leif & Thorn, Thorn asks Kale why he's in therapy, to which he responds he "killed a bunch of people." Thorn first takes it as a joke, then becomes certain it's a joke when he hears Kale's name and doesn't recognize it. In fact, Kale committed the murders under a different name.
  • MoringMark - TOH Comics: When another student questions how Luz suddenly has a new sister that looks nothing like her despite having previously claimed to be an only child, Vee proceeds to tell her entire backstory as a shapshifting demon refuge from another world created by an evil emperor (understandably freaking out Luz) before "admitting" that she's just adopted.
  • In Questionable Content, Pintsize gives outlandish answers when asked where he has been. Readers who read the previous days' comics will know that the third answer is true, but upon hearing it Marten assumes that Pintsize is still screwing around and just gives up asking. The comic description says that all three answers were true.
  • Sam & Fuzzy: Used here.
  • Basic premise of the Comet, the tabloid newspaper for which our Main Characters work in Scandal Sheet As Detweiler, the editor-in-chief, puts it, "We operate on two principles. First, that the most artistic way to lie is by telling the truth so unconvincingly that people are sure you are lying, and second, the best place to hide a needle isn't a haystack — it's a big pile of other needles." As it turns out, the Comet actually employs a sasquatch named Phil and regularly gets information from a vampire named Samantha. They consider it their role in life to protect the rare and endangered supernatural beings of the Earth from being discovered and exploited by others. As such, most of the stories in the paper are made-up crap, but some of them are true — no journalist with any self-respect at all will pursue them, though, since it's well-known that once it's been in the Comet, it can't possibly be correct.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
  • In Wilde Life, Oscar's landlady warns him not to be late with the rent, commenting "I'm a real witch." Her name is Barbara Yaga, by the way, and right after Oscar leaves, she transforms her two dogs into human children.
  • Done accidentally in The Wotch, in this comic. Jason is trying to keep Ivan off the trail and outright lies to him. When Ivan calls his bluff, Jason tells the truth. Then Ivan decides that Jason was lying the second time, and goes along with what Jason said the first time when he was outright lying.
    Jason: Wow, I'm more clever than I thought.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Table Flip: During the first round of One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Arin at one point mockingly declares that "I'm just going to throw the game here: I'm the werewolf." It doesn't work.

    Real Life 
  • As a young man, Julius Caesar (future ruler of Rome) was captured by pirates and held for ransom, which was a common tactic at the time. Apparently, Caesar was so charismatic that the pirates took a liking to him, and laughed when he joked that once he was released, he would definitely raise a naval task force, come back, and crucify them all. Once the ransom was paid, Caesar went back to Rome, raised a naval task force, came back, and crucified them all.
  • In the French royal court of 1589, a monk named Jacques Clément requested to meet the (very unpopular) king Henry III, under the pretext of giving him a secret message. When interrogated by the guards about his intention (there were lots of rumours about an imminent assassination attempt against the king), he joked that he was indeed "a great killer". Once alone with Henry III, he stabbed him in the groin, and the king died the next day.
  • When one of Hernán Cortés's lieutenants, Cristóbal de Olid, went rogue, Cortés sent an agent, Francisco de las Casas, to assassinate him. By an epic strike of bad luck, De las Casas ended up captured by Olid, who had him as a VIP hostage in an attempt to convince him to join the Olidians. De las Casas pretended to think about it, and in midst of the good mood, he joked to Olid that he might take some chance to follow his orders and kill him. Of course, this is exactly what he did.
  • General James Wilkinson, head of the US Army under Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, was long suspected of being in the pay of the Spanish crown — so much so that the General would jovially agree that he was a "Spanish pensioner" at social gatherings. Turns out, he was.
  • When Philippe Petit was going through the airport to get to New York for his famous tight-roping between the Twin Towers, a security officer naturally asked him what all the equipment was for. He told him. The officer laughed and let him through.
  • In Richard Feynman's autobiography, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, Feynman tells of a fraternity prank where a door was stolen. He was the one who stole it, but even a year after it happened they still had no idea who had stolen it. He had confessed, but everyone just remembered that all the fraternity members had denied it. ("Yeah, I stole the door." "Cut it out, Feynman, this is serious!")
    • Additionally, he relates the story of how he got into a drunken brawl in a night club, with a black eye to prove it. When he truthfully explained where he got it, nobody believed him.
  • Allegedly, famed Prohibition agent Izzy Einstein was fond of using this trope to gain entrance to speakeasies, beseeching the guy on the door to let him in, as he was "a very thirsty Prohibition agent".
  • Once, a taxi driver asked a city newcomer checking out of a hotel if he had a dead body inside his heavy bag. The newcomer matter-of-factly answered yes, and the taxi driver laughed. The newcomer was Jeffrey Dahmer.
  • One of the Cambridge Five would regularly claim to be a KGB agent.
  • Jimmy Savile was an English presenter and philanthropist who abused his position to groom children for sex. This wasn't confirmed or made public until after his death, but during his life he frequently made "jokes" that in hindsight were basically him admitting to it. Like in response to the question, "What are you doing these days?" he'd respond, "Anybody I can get me hands on," or that he was "feared in every girls' school in this country," or that his "case came up next week." As Ian Hislop put it, "It's a brilliant disguise: you dress up as a paedophile."
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was asked in a press conference if he had anything to do with the lane closures on the perpetually congested George Washington bridge. He joked that you might not have noticed, but he was the one setting up the traffic cones. A month later, his office was implicated in closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor who didn't endorse him.
  • Corrie Ten Boom's book The Hiding Place relates an incident in which her niece, who had been taught to always tell the truth no matter what, was questioned by Nazis searching for her brothers (who were hiding in a cellar under a trapdoor, covered by a rug, beneath the kitchen table). She told them that her brothers were "under the table" and then burst out laughing when they lifted the tablecloth to look.


"If you must know..."

The Shredder is oddly honest when he steals the crystal from a kid.

How well does it match the trope?

4.69 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / SarcasticConfession

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