Follow TV Tropes


Script Swap

Go To
Swapping sheet music is a common variant.

"Okay. The game is Cue Card Rummy. I deal."
Garfield, preparing to invoke this trope in Garfield and Friends (episode: Health Feud)

A Script Swap occurs when, either by accident or by external mischief, someone winds up reading or following a different document than what they're supposed to, and does so without at any point noticing the mixup.

Setting one of these up is a common Adventure Game-exclusive Stock Puzzle. The structure is simple: you've got a character in the middle of reading a speech/playing a song/giving someone instructions. Your life would be a whole lot easier if that speech/song/set of instructions was different. So you inform the character of the three-headed monkey sneaking up behind them, then swap their speech/lyrics sheet/instructions booklet with another one you acquired by irrelevant means.

A common trick to pull on the Cartoon Conductor. See also Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List. The cases in which it happens by accident rather than deliberate trickery also fall under Unfortunate Item Swap. Compare the Bavarian Fire Drill.


    open/close all folders 

  • One commercial for Snickers has the news anchors on a news broadcast saying only "AAAAAAAA" because the teleprompter operator had fallen asleep on the keyboard due to hunger.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Battle Girls: Time Paradox, when the girls put on a play, Ieyasu changes Nobunaga's script so she will assault the others, during an orgy scene. Nobunaga notices that script seems different, but shrugs it off. Before Ieyasu's plan can succeed, the stage catches fire, forcing everybody to run.
  • Variant: In the manga Cat Street, Keito's script is wrongly transcribed for her by rival auditionees in order to improve their own chances of being selected. Keito cannot read kanji and asked them for help, resulting in a completely nonsensical monologue.

    Comic Strips 
  • Foxtrot:
    • One strip has Paige making cookies while reading the instructions aloud ("Two cups sugar..."), then turning the page ("Chopped onions...").
    Andy: I've never liked this cookbook. The pages always stick together.
    • Another has Jason hack a teleprompter so it insults his sister, among other things.
    Jason: Wolf Blitzer's about to say "Fear me" in Klingon.
  • A slightly inventive version is performed with two typewriters in a Spy vs. Spy comic.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • Subverted in ParaNorman. The ghost of the witch haunting the town wakes up and wreaks havoc because when Norman did the ritual to keep her asleep, he took the book of fairy tales instead of the spellbook. Then it's revealed that it was the right book. The witch was only eleven when she died, and her family kept her soul at peace by reading her stories at her grave. Norman messed up because he was at the wrong grave.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: Ron is noted to be especially vulnerable to this trope, as he'll read anything written for him on the teleprompter verbatim. Veronica takes advantage of this at the height of their feud and switches out his usual sign-off catchphrase for "Go fuck yourself, San Diego!" Ron reads it without missing a beat, then obliviously wonders why everyone in the newsroom is freaking out.
  • Invoked in Bruce Almighty, with Bruce making another newscaster go completely off script, the writing staff desperately trying to get him back on track.
  • In A Night at the Opera, Chico and Harpo swap the sheet music of an entire orchestra so that they all start playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in the middle of the opera. Chico and Harpo then start throwing a baseball in the pit and Groucho acts as a peanut vendor.
  • In Scary Movie 3, there's a scene in which two characters type conflicting information into a teleprompter, followed by a technician typing in rude words just for laughs. The newscaster reads it all (including gibberish such as the output from just sitting on the keyboard) with a completely straight face.
  • In The Seduction, Morgan Fairchild plays a news anchorwoman named Jamie who is being stalked. At one point the stalker gets into the newsroom and replaces her teleprompter feed. She starts to read it in her bland newswoman's voice until she realizes what she's saying.
    "Jamie, I'm watching you… "breaks down on live TV He's gonna kill me… Please help me… Please!

  • In The International Smile by Brian W. Aldiss, a major diplomatic incident between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union is kicked off when a tired British PM loses a page of his speech and obliviously announces that the Soviet president is a disagreeable sight that must be abolished.
  • In Unsong, Dylan Alvarez manages to use this as a means of assassination, hacking Bush's teleprompter in order to trick him into speaking the Mortal Name and dying as a result.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Are You Being Served?, when the staff are performing a radio play over CB radio
    Mr Spooner: Hello little Nell, let me hold you in my arms.
    Mrs Slocombe: Ooh haven't you got a whopper!
    Mr Humphries: Cut!... You've turned over two pages, that's when he's out fishing and he pulls out the big pike.
  • A classic accidental example from Friends: Rachel is making English trifle for dessert, but two pages on the recipe book stick together, so she ends up making a mincemeat trifle that tastes like feet.
  • Just Shoot Me!:
    • In the first episode, Maya is fired from her job in a newscast for changing the teleprompter on an obnoxious anchor, making her say that she got her frontal lobe removed and that she wet herself.
    • Another episode has Nina and Maya nominated for fashion magazine awards. Maya's nomination was for an article that was changed without her permission, so she planned a speech rejecting the award and badmouthing the article. Unfortunately, Nina took Maya's acceptance speech by mistake, causing her to unintentionally decline her reward and making Maya look bad when she won her award immediately afterwards.
  • Done in an episode of Murder, She Wrote with an aging actor whose memory is so bad he has to rely on the teleprompter. While this looks like an Engineered Public Confession, it is actually a ploy on Jessica Fletcher's part to trick the real killer into exposing themselves.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Poetry Mix-up", a love poem intended for Harriet Conklin is given to Mr. Conklin by mistake.
  • In Seinfeld, when Jerry and George got their mentoring notes mixed up, Bania ends up doing a brilliant stand-up routine about corporate risk management, and George gives a lecture to his colleagues about Ovaltine.
  • In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a computer glitch replaces the text of a play with some of Data's poetry. Fortunately, they notice this during rehearsal.
  • On The West Wing, President Bartlett is forced to nominate complete non-entity "Bingo Bob" as a replacement V.P. to avoid a long confirmation battle, and his speech writers complain bitterly, going so far as to pen a resounding denunciation of this ridiculous lobbyist lapdog. Inevitably, it ends up on the president's teleprompter by mistake. In a double subversion, Bartlett merely gives a surprised blink and then improvises a glowing introduction, because he is just that awesome. (And the V.P. actually requests a copy, saying he needs to be aware of what people are thinking of him.)

  • Victor Borge, Danish comedian, conductor and pianist, would switch around his own sheet music during his comedy act.
  • In Hamlet, Hamlet replaces Rosencrantz's and Guildenstern's letters to the King of England, which originally requested that the king execute Hamlet, with letters that order the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead.

    Video Games 
  • This is done on two levels in the second episode of Back to the Future: The Game, where Marty has to swap the sheet music at the piano so Cue Ball plays just the right music to change the mood so a drunken officer will get in the mood to talk to him. Then when he needs a more inspirational song than the club has to offer, Marty gets the lyrics to such a song, swaps them for Trixie's lyrics to her own song, then changes the piano music so Trixie's song is played. Possibly justified in the latter case in that the two songs have really similar lyrics, and Trixie explicitly hasn't memorized hers.
  • In one of the Reincarnation (2008) games, you change the price of drinks on a bar blackboard so the bartender will serve drinks or not... note that the bartender appears to be the only one working the bar, and yet fails to question the price magically (literally) changing.
  • Episode 102 of Sam & Max: Freelance Police does this when swapping a set of game show question cards with an easier set of questions. Possibly justified in that since Hugh Bliss isn't the normal host, he probably has no idea what the questions are supposed to be.
    • Episode 104 of the same series does the same thing with a series of cue cards for Abraham Lincoln's statements on the issues. Abe must really not be paying attention, since the poster and the sign used for the swaps look nothing like the normal cue cards in terms of font and layout... maybe this one relies on Rule of Funny.
    • Episode 205 has a grocery list swapped with a list of swear words. To be fair, both of them are written on official stationery.
  • Sims in Politics in The Sims 2 can sometimes receive a chance card that says their speech was replaced with the text of Titus Andronicus. A failure to deliver a new speech would get the Sim fired.
  • The image is from the first SPY Fox game, where the player has to do this to get tango music playing so Russian Blue will dance.
  • Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People:
    • Strong Bad attempts to sabotage the Two-O Duo's dance routines this way by manipulating the records in their set list (including introducing new ones), combining this trope with Programming Game. Coach Z, the target of your sabotage, is just smart enough to avoid dancing off the stage, but still not smart enough to stop himself from air-punching his partner Bubs square in the face if that's what the music suggests.
    • He also attempts to sabotage Pomstar. Homestar is still new to being a singer, so Pom Pom is reminding him what the words are through a set of headphones. The headphones pick up radio signals other than Pom Pom's, though (you can have Homestar repeat what Strong Sad says into a walkie-talkie), so you need to have Strong Bad put an antenna in the nonsense-spewing Blubbo's Whale speaker, so Homestar will repeat the Whale's nonsense.


    Web Original 
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "love poems", Homestar produces an acrostic poem that spells out the name of his girlfriend Marzipan. The poem consists entirely of food items.
    Strong Bad: That's not a love poem! That is a lavishly produced grocery list.
    Homestar: No, here's my grocery list! "Amazing thing, amazing thing, amazing thing, amazing thing."
    Strong Bad: Woah, where have you been shopping?
    Homestar: Skymall.
  • Old Man Henderson and his party wipe out a large portion of the local Hastur cultists through one of these. The cultists, still putting up the facade of a harmless new church, organizes a mass prayer at the local school hall complete with a Powerpoint presentation with the prayer itself. Henderson's party, in a vulnerable moment, swap out one of the slides with a summoning incantation for lesser abominations of Cthulhu. Cue all of Hastur's cultists suddenly stuck in a room with abominations of a rival god, one for each cultist who read the incantation.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In one episode, the CIA holds a telethon to raise funding in order to keep their torture program. Roger, who came up with the idea, becomes enraged by Stan who takes credit for it and vows to get revenge by sabotaging the telethon. One of the tricks he pulls is messing with the teleprompter so that instead of making the joke "CIA stands for Central Insanity Agency", Stan ends up saying "Stan Smith was born with both male and female genitalia".
  • In the Chilly Willy cartoon "The Legend of Rockabye Point", Chilly puts a clarinet on the sleeping guard dog's mouth, causing it to make noise as he snores and waking him up. The polar bear gets him back to sleep by pulling out the sheet music for "Rock-a-Bye, Baby" and playing it on the clarinet. Chilly then switches the sheet with one for circus music, waking the dog up again.
  • In the Daria episode "Fair Enough", Joey and Jamie are jealous when Jeffy is subbed into a play version of The Canterbury Tales to do a love scene with Quinn. Since he's a last minute replacement, Jamie will just have the book on stage and all he has to do is read out loud. Joey and Jamie tell him that he's playing The Pardoner (instead of Palamon), and he reads the wrong lines on stage in front of everyone, humiliating Quinn.
  • Roger would often do this to Doug such as the time where it led Doug to report that Mr. Bone wore pink underwear. Doug never caught on because he's crazy.
  • This is a favorite trick of Garfield in Garfield and Friends. He's done it with—among other things—the cue cards for an exercise show (page quote), a disc jockey's advertisement, and a list of pet tricks for a cat show.
  • Gerald McBoing-Boing: In "Gerald McBoing-Boing's Symphony", Gerald is asked to stand in for an orchestra for the premiere of a new symphony. Unfortunately, some of the pages from his sound effects script get mixed in with the score, and so the music is often interrupted by sound effects. At first, Gerald is fired for his mistake, until messages come pouring in praising this new piece of "avant-guard" music.
  • The Jetsons:
    • In "A Date with Jet Screamer", Judy enters a songwriting contest to win a date with teen heartthrob Jet Screamer, with George intentionally replacing her entry with Elroy's secret code message in order to sabotage her. This turns out to be a Springtime for Hitler as the coded message ("Eeep, Opp, Ork, Ahah") causes Judy to winnote 
    • A similar plot happens in the 80s-era TV Movie Rockin' with Judy Jetson has the encrypted directions to a WMD switched with Judy's lyrics submission to pop star Sky Rocket. Sky likes the directions, mistaking them for song lyrics, and calls it "Gleep Glorp". The song subsequently becomes a hit while the goons tasked with finding the WMD somehow manage to decrypt Judy's lyrics, which lead to a pair of fuzzy dice.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "I Scream, You Scream", Phineas and Ferb plans to build a machine that makes a giant sundae for Isabella, while Doofenshmirtz works on his Space-Laser-Inator to destroy a billboard in front of his building (among other things). At the end of the episode, it was revealed that the blueprints for Phineas and Ferb's sundae machine and Doofenshmirtz's Space-Laser-Inator were accidentally switched at the blueprint shop, with none of them having a clue that they're building each other's plans as they follow along with the blueprints they got.
  • Pinky and the Brain has a variant that turns into a straight example. Pinky is running for president, and during a debate, Brain is feeding him lines through a pair of teleprompter glasses. When Pinky is asked the meaning of "Narf", which Pinky has been throwing into his answers randomly (as he does), Brain improvises... but his keyboard sticks, causing Pinky to say that it's the "North American Ratified Fffffffff..." going on long enough that even Pinky looks embarrassed. That's the variant. Now on to the straight example: Brain then destroys his computer out of rage, and its antenna starts picking up random signals from nearby displays. Pinky dutifully repeats everything displayed to him... which, fortunately enough for Pinky, actually work for answers to the questions he's posed.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Bart Sells His Soul", Bart replaces the hymn sheets and music at the local church with those of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", labeled as being titled "In the Garden of Eden" by "I. Ron Butterfly". When Reverend Lovejoy picks up on the swap (nearing the end of the entire 17 minute-long song), he remarks that it "sounds like rock and/or roll."
  • South Park: The episode "World Wide Recorder Concert" uses this when the boys are able to confirm that the brown note works, they decide to prank some rival kids by altering a copy of the sheet music to include said note and taping it onto their hotel room door. The only problem is that they added a post-it note saying "Revised music for tomorrow", so when one of the organizers of the titular event comes along...
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster switches the lyrics on a bossy kid's performance so that his song about a monkey who looks both ways to cross the street ends with the monkey being run over.
  • In the Tom and Jerry short "Carmen Get It!", Jerry pulls a variation of this trick on Tom by having a sizable number of ants rearrange themselves on the conductor's lectern, making him play random songs like "Yankee Doodle", "I Wish I Was in Dixie", and "There'll Be A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight".

  • Austrian comedy group "Die Hektiker" had a series of sketches about this trope, where a group of criminals swapped out the prepared speeches of high officials. The Austrian defense minister's speech before the NATO becomes the lyrics of "Jingle Bells", the US president's German speech before his Austrian guests a series of insults, and the Pope's German mass becomes the parable of "Jesus and the Self-Cleaning Oven".
  • Victor Borge has a sketch where an assistant is needed to turn the pages as Borge plays. Except the assistant can't read music, so he turns the pages at random, leading to Liszt's Liebenstraum turning into Turkey in the Straw.


Video Example(s):


The Grinch Conquers Olympus

Living in a garbage heap means you might end up reading off the wrong Evil Plan.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ScriptSwap

Media sources: