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Singing Telegram

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"Dudut, dudut dut dut! I. Am. Your singing telegram!" (BANG)
The Singing Telegram (before she is shot by the murderer), Clue

Want to send somebody a message in a humorous way and/or troll them doing so? Want to deliver bad news in a cheery way? Want a big romantic gesture for your significant other? There's a simple solution. Have somebody show up to their home, comically singing it for them. May involve one singer or an ensemble. The singer(s) may also wear a ridiculous costume. The singers will run the gamut from being extremely cheerful to being more cynical and fed up with their job.

Since telegrams have been long obsolete, these are never used for legitimate communications. When this trope does appear, it will be for a novelty message and Played for Laughs. Usually, the telegram will arrive at the most awkward or inopportune moment. Expect a large crowd of people to witness it. If bad news is being delivered, the cheery song will be juxtaposed with the depressing nature of the news. This will undoubtedly make the bad news worse. If this is done as a romantic gesture, the love interest will likely think it's too much. Often the singing telegram will be a barbershop quartet.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Doom Patrol, Terry None first meets Casey Brinke while delivering a singing telegram.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beaches: CC, dressed in a bunny outfit, sends a birthday telegram to John who she later marries.
    CC: Happy, happy birthday bunny boy love's kind of funny with a bunny boy He loves me so hard He's my bundle of joy I try to go to sleep but it's just no use 'Cause all he really wants to do is reproduce Happy birthday to you Happy birthday darling Johnny Happy birthday to you.
  • In Brazil, Sam Lowry's mother invites him to a party celebrating her latest round of plastic surgery via a Cute, but Cacophonic singing telegram, to Sam's utter bewilderment; for added comedy, when the singing telegram offers to deliver a reply, Sam attempts to sing the reply! Also, because of the hopelessly bureaucracy-clogged setting, the "courier" is discovered to have arrived an hour after the party has already started.
  • Charlie's Angels (2000): The Angels and Bosley pose as a Swedish-themed yodel-gram group who arrive at the "wrong" address to get access to a Redstar executive and scan his retinas via a device hidden in Bosley's sousaphone.
  • Clue: During the blackout, a singing telegram inexplicably shows up and is promptly shot by the mystery assailant. Professor Plum reveals that she was a patient he had an affair with, and Mr. Boddy blackmailed him over publicly revealing this.
  • Invoked in Elf. Buddy the Elf goes to the Empire State Building to meet his birth father, Walter Hobbs, who never knew Buddy was born to his late wife. Because Buddy is in his elf suit, Walter initially assumes Buddy is there to sing for him, calling it a "Christmas-gram."
    Buddy: What's a Christmas-gram? I want one!
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off: One arrives at the Bueller household in the form of a nurse while Jeannie's looking for Ferris.
    Singing Nurse: I heard that you were feeling ill. Headache, fever, and a chill. I came to help restore your pluck, cause I'm the nurse who likes to... (Jeannie slams the door)
  • In a 1987 film from the Philippines called Ready!... Aim!... Fire!..., a recipient of a regular telegram forces the three protagonists to have it sung. The three refused to sing because the contents are private, but the recipient insisted and threatened their lives. He's humiliated when it turns out that it's his wife telling him that she's had enough and not to look for her because she's leaving him for a rich black man. His relatives who are listening thinks that he's Hoist by His Own Petard. Clip here in Filipino.
  • From My Name is Bruce:
    Hi, I'm Kasey, the famous singing prostitute.[singing] I'm here to offer birthday greetings, and wish you lots of luck, and if you're really really lucky I'll even toss in a f...


    Live-Action Television 
  • On Alice (1976), Alice dresses as a singing telegram to convince Telly Savalas to visit the diner, as Vera has claimed to have met him and no one believes her. The song was set to the tune of "My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean," if memory serves.
  • On Bringing Up Bates, the titular family has reunited at the family home, including all the older children and their significant others. They're getting ready for their "I Love You Day" celebration when they see four guys coming up to the house. Dad Gil heads outside to find out what they're up to, then pops back into the house a few minutes later, saying "We've got a surprise here, people." It turns out Gil's eldest son, Zach, hired a barbershop quartet to deliver flowers to wife Whitney and sing her two songs. Gil, his wife Kelly, and several of the younger siblings (particularly the boys) offer their take on the romantic example Gil has set for his sons over the years and the romantic example Zach set with this latest gesture.
  • Elementary: In one episode Joan Watson asks the Hacker Collective known as "Everyone" for information about a crucial suspect. "Everyone" responds by delivering the information via a singing telegram who performs "Private Eyes" by Hall & Oates for Joan in front of the entire precinct.
  • Friends: In "The One With All the Jealousy", Ross sends a barbershop quartet to Rachel's office to deliver a song about how much he loves and her and how nice it is to have a boyfriend. Rachel is humiliated as it's clearly an attempt to remind her co-worker, who Ross believes is attracted to Rachel, that she's seeing someone. In the same episode Monica dates Julio, who turns out to be misogynistic about American women. She dumps him by sending the barbershop quartet to the diner where they work to sing a special message:
    First Singer: Mister Pretentious, you think there's no-one finer, well your poems are unpublished, and you work in a diner.
    Quartet: You're no God's gift to women, that's all in your head. You are just a buttmunch.
    Second Singer: No one likes a buttmunch.
    Quartet: And you're also bad in bed!
  • The Nanny: In "The Dinner Party", Fran Fine and Maxwell Sheffield have officially engaged, but Maxwell's worried he hadn't told his business partner C.C. Babcock. Niles, however, reassures him he'd taken care of it. Cut to C.C.'s apartment where she finds two singing and tap-dancing telegrams at her door:
    Singing Telegrams: [to the tune of "Yankee Doodle"] Fran and Maxwell are engaged / It looks like you're a loser! / She'll be happy all her days / And you'll become a boozer!
  • On Night Court, Dan goes off on an assignment with the army and the staff at the court receives a telegram. Harry pays the delivery boy some extra money to have him sing it to them. So, he sings to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" "The U.S. Army sadly states/sometime yesterday/Captain Fielding's plane went down/north of Hudson Bay."
  • Parks and Recreation: Appears twice, both as ill-advised efforts to boost someone's spirits.
    • In "Tom's Divorce", Leslie tries to cheer up Tom by sending him a "divorce horse" singing telegram. Later, she sends the same singing telegram worker over to Ron to deliver an apology to him for her.
    • In "Second Chunce", Ben calls the singing telegram company and asks if they can perform something sad for Leslie, who just lost her job. He gets as far as asking if they know the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack before realizing it's a terrible idea and hanging up.
  • Small Wonder: In "Singing Telegram", Jamie and Reggie run competing singing telegram services.
  • Victorious: The B-Plot of "Tori & Jade's Play Date" involves Cat and Robbie breaking bad news to people through song. They show up at Tori and Trina's door at the end to sing about how Trina's date cancelled... and get their guitar destroyed for the trouble.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: One "Song Styles" game has Wayne singing to an audience member in the style of a "singing strip-o-gram". He gives her a Preemptive Apology before starting the song.
  • The A-Team: In "A Small and Deadly War", Murdock delivers a portion of "The Hearse Song", which is perky like any other singing telegram, but entirely morbid.
  • In the Glee episode "Heart", the God Squad (a Christian club made up of Glee Club members) drum up attention by offering their services as Valentine's Day singing telegrams. The b-plot is kicked off when Santana asks if they're willing to perform one for her girlfriend, and the Squad has to determine if their religious beliefs are reconcilable with them having multiple queer friends. In the end they determine it's fine and perform for the two.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street: One skit has Grover trying to deliver a singing telegram to Mr. Johnson, but accidentally sings the wrong ones.
  • Under the Umbrella Tree: In one episode, Holly and Iggy get a job delivering singing telegrams to parties in funny costumes. Hilarity Ensues. First they go to a child's cowboy-themed birthday party, but get lassoed and forced to sing the telegram four times; then they go to a baby shower and get their noses pinched by the baby; then they go to a wedding dressed as a gorilla and a banana (because the groom "drives [the bride] bananas" and she wants to be the "gorilla his dreams"), but Holly's mask gets stuck and she's mistaken for a real gorilla, captured and sent to the zoo; then they go to a party celebrating a woman's success on her diet, dressed as a hamburger and fries, but the woman is so hungry that she hallucinates them as real food and tries to eat them.

  • In Monsters - The Musical, as Samantha is overwhelmed by the Monsters who are preying on her self-confidence, the Birthday Singer suddenly shows up to deliver a birthday song for her 40th birthday. The Birthday Singer later turns out to be another, benevolent Monster, helping Sam fight back against the other Monsters.

    Video Games 
  • In Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, Angela sends Ratchet a "Galactic Greeting" that plays cheerful circus-style music and releases helium balloons, in order to give him co-ordinates to her homeworld. At the end of the recorded message, she apologises for the balloon-o-gram, saying it was the only means of communication she could get off the planet.
  • The Sims 3: The "Showtime" expansion includes the Singer career, where Sims can perform Sing-A-Gram gigs. These include celebratory messages, messages of support, messages to set a romantic mood, and "You Are Special!" messages. The game admits, though, that "you'll likely never admit it once you've made it big".

    Web Animation 
  • The Cyanide & Happiness Show: In the episode "Special Delivery", the Running Gag of a barbershop quartet in inappropriate situations continues with the quartet now delivering singing telegrams. In the short, they (comically and in song) inform a man that his girlfriend is breaking up with him, and has in fact been cheating on him with one of the members of the quartet.

    Web Videos 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: A (possibly non-diegetic) variation occurs when Dr. Horrible receives a letter from Bad Horse about his application to the Evil League of Evil. As soon as the letter is opened, a trio of singing cowboys gathers around the doctor, summarize the letter's contents in song, and then disappear off-screen. The bit gets a short reprise in Act 2 after the doctor's latest evil scheme gets foiled.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, "The Feud": Sheen starts a business delivering yodeling telegrams. Jimmy's dad finds his Lawn Lopper appliance is missing and accuses Carl's dad of borrowing it and failing to return it. When Carl's dad denies borrowing the tool, an enormous feud beings, resulting in the crabgrass on their lawns growing into giant mutant monsters. After the boys risk their lives defeating the monsters, Sheen recalls that he forgot to deliver a message from Sam Melvick informing Jimmy's dad that he [Sam] borrowed the Lawn Lopper and will return it as soon as possible. Now realizing they started the whole feud for nothing, everyone becomes furious with Sheen and they advance on him as the episode ends.
  • The Backyardigans: In "Fly Girl", Uniqua flies around in a biplane delivering singing telegrams to a series of fearsome creatures. It leads to a misunderstanding, as they pursue her in an attempt to tell her they actually appreciate the telegrams and she's freaked out by them all.
  • In one Ducktales 1987 episode, Gizmoduck gets a telegram and pleaded the messenger to make it a singing telegram; to which the messenger just sings, "You're fireeed!"
  • Family Guy:
    • There's a Cutaway Gag about Peter being part of a barbershop quartet that's used to inform a patient that they have AIDS via song.
    • In another episode, a group of barbershop singers arrive to explain to the Griffins how a vasectomy works.
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Peace & Quiet", it's revealed that Binky the Clown can be hired to visit someone, sing a birthday song to the tune of "Freres Jacques" and give presents. Binky then shows up at Garfield's house to celebrate Edna Fogerty's 97th birthday, but since Jon isn't around, no one can tell him he's got the wrong house. Being a Determinator here, Binky keeps trying to get in to complete his task despite Garfield's attempts to fend him off until the latter dresses up as an old lady to appease him. But then it turns out it's also Garfield's birthday (he forgot because he was tired), and Jon secretly hired Binky...
    (All right, all together now!)
    Happy birthday, happy birthday
    Whoop-dee-doo, whoop-dee-doo
    May your day be pleasant
    Open up your present
    Just for you, just for you
    Happy birthday, happy birthday (repeat ad nauseam)
  • Looney Tunes: In The Hardship of Miles Standish, John Alden (played by Elmer Fudd) is hired by Miles Standish to deliver a singing telegram to Priscilla Mullins.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Party of One", Pinkie Pie uses a singing telegram to invite her friends to her pet alligator's first birthday party. She's implied to perform the whole thing for all five of her friends, so by the time she reaches Fluttershy, she's exhausted.
    This is your singing telegram, I hope it finds you well!
    You're invited to a party 'cause we think you're really swell!
  • Rayman: The Animated Series: In "Big Date", after Inspector Grub screws up his date with his clumsiness, Rayman tries to salvage it by posing as a singing telegram and offering Grub's love interest flowers and another date with Grub at the movies.
  • Rugrats (1991): In "Aunt Miriam", the Pickles family gets a telegram from Miriam, Grandpa Lou's cousin. Stu asks the delivery boy if it's a singing telegram, but the delivery boy tells him it's just a regular telegram. Stu asks the delivery boy if he could sing it anyway, and the delivery boy does so and tells Stu that he actually gets asked that question a lot.
  • The Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Ransomgram" begins with Marco recieving one of these to let him know that his dragoncycle, Nachos, has been kidnapped. Rather than sending someone over to sing it, the postwoman herself has to sing it.
    You stole our sword
    So we stole your dragoncycle
    So bring back the sword
    And we'll return your dragoncycle.
  • TaleSpin: In "On a Wing and a Bear", Shere Khan hires Don Karnage to fake a fuel shortage so he can raise gas prices. When his plan succeeds, Khan orders his assistant, McWhirtley, to send a telegram to Karnage congratulating him on the highjacking. When McWhirtley arrives at Karnage's hideout, Karnage asks McWhirtley if he will sing the telegram for him, and McWhirtley tells him he can't, as it doesn't even rhyme. Karnage then holds McWhirtley at swordpoint, telling him to make it rhyme and sing it, which McWhirtley does. At the end of the episode, when Khan's plan is foiled by Baloo, Khan orders McWhirtley to send Karnage another telegram. McWhirtley asks Khan if it should be a singing one, but Khan tells him, "Not this time". The telegram Khan has McWhirtley send Karnage is an explosive that explodes when Karnage opens the envelope.

    Real Life 
  • Fortean Times reported that in 1943, an unpopular and disliked spy operating in the diplomatic community in Istanbul was "outed" at a diplomatic reception where the dance band had been primed to play a comedy song about an ineffectual spy - the moment he walked into the room. After that, in a profession where discretion and deniability are essential, his country had no option but to recall him home, his cover broken.


Video Example(s):


Telegraph Line

In a rather literal example, "Telegraph Line" involves a telegram delivery boy singing whilst he delivers his telegrams to their recipients, which all read out what their nervous system is about to make them do within a matter of seconds.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SingingTelegram

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