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The Stateroom Sketch

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"Hey, is it my imagination, or is it getting crowded
in here?"

A character has just moved into a small room the size of a closet. For added hilarity, it may even be an actual closet. This person barely has room to stand up in, so what's the first thing that happens? He gets visitors. Lots and lots of visitors. It often climaxes with one last person (preferably the comic foil, as per Margaret Dumont) opening the door and everyone tumbling out, Exploding Closet-style.

Originally done by the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera (seen right). All other versions of this gag are most likely an homage to the original, which was developed by Buster Keaton who reworked a similar sequence from his film, The Cameraman.

Compare with Clown-Car Base. Can be combined with the Closet Shuffle for extra hilarity if the recipient is trying to hide some of the visitors from the others.


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  • In Academy Award-winning 1981 short Tango, a little boy climbs into an apartment to retrieve his ball. Then a nursing mother enters. Then a schoolgirl. Then a man carrying a package. Then more and more and more people — a nude woman, a man with a dog, a plumber carrying a toilet, etc. — until 36 people are cycling through the tiny studio apartment.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Done in Brain Donors with Volare's dressing room. Appropriate, given that the movie is a remake of A Night at the Opera.
  • The Buster Keaton gag from The Cameraman involves just two people, Buster and a significantly bigger man. But it's a tiny changing room at the pool, so two is enough to make a crowd.
  • A Night at the Opera is the Trope Namer. In the scene in question, Groucho boards a ship and finds he has been booked into a stateroom so tiny that it barely holds him and his luggage. Inside his luggage, however, he finds stowaways Harpo, Chico and the movie's romantic hero. Then in come the maid, the electrician, some waiters with food, a girl looking for her aunt... It ends with Margaret Dumont opening the door and everyone tumbling out.
  • The Marx Brothers' A Night in Casablanca: A restaurant dining room is filled not only with guests, but also tables and chairs.
  • Some Like It Hot has a scene aboard a train in which a passel of female musicians cram into Jack Lemmon's sleeping berth for a party, to similar effect.

  • In Curse of the Wolfgirl fashion designer Thrix is preparing for a date and is visited by almost every non-villain character.
  • The children's book The Mitten is about a mole who finds a lost mitten and climbs in to keep warm, followed by a rabbit, then a hedgehog, etc etc...
  • In the Relativity story "Cricket", four people all end up in the same closet. The "door opens and everyone falls out" part happens, not because someone on the outside opened it, but because someone on the inside sees a giant spider and panics.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Bob Newhart Show has an episode where Bob and Emily prepare to embark on a two-month cruise, which climaxes with a huge crowd of people jamming into the Hartleys' cabin on the ship to see them off, including Howard, Jerry, Carol, Bob's entire therapy group, the ship's stewards... and one random guy who was walking down the hall and "was just suddenly sucked right in".
    Howard: The first one who makes a Marx Brothers joke gets it.
  • In an episode of Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine moves into a new apartment, which is really just an empty cleaning supply closet. The first thing he does is invite over everyone he knows for a housewarming party, which naturally spills out into the hallway.
  • In The Goes Wrong Show episode "The Pilot (not the pilot)", the staircase to everyone's quarters is one step and a trompe l'oeil painting of a staircase, which Chris discovers when he walks into it. Naturally, the script calls for each character to return to their quarters, and when Chris's crutch gets jammed in a coatrack, they have to fit that in too, and then close the door....
  • M*A*S*H does this in one episode when the doctors have to cram into a one-man tent to accommodate an overflow of wounded. Alan Alda's Groucho Marx impression shows up, of course, to quote the original's line, "Hello, room service? Send up a larger room!"
  • Seinfeld: Elaine moves into a janitor's closet so she can order food, and Jerry and the gang drop by.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: A confirmed homage in "The Circle", though it's in Kira's large quarters rather than a closet and it's pretty much friends barging in to wish her farewell or argue why she shouldn't leave. All done in one take, though the final cut has reaction shots cut in.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look has a series of sketches set in an absurdly small and cramped office. Although there are never more than 3 or 4 people in it at a time it's also full of office equipment such as a desk, water cooler and filing cabinet.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Actual Closet variant, completes the homage by having their mother open the door so that everyone tumbles out.
  • Yes, Minister Hacker is in a small train cabin reading an advance copy of a speech to be given in front of the Queen by an African leader who's just come to power. It encourages the Scots and the Irish to "throw off the imperialist yoke". First his Permanent Secretary, then the Foreign Secretary, the Press Officer and Undersecretary of the Foreign Office join him. Sir Humphrey lampshades this saying "Welcome to the standing committee."

  • Sesame Street did this on the album Bert & Ernie Sing-Along, where Ernie brings a piano into the bathroom while Bert is taking a bath and invites the rest of the street gang over.

    Music Videos 
  • In the video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", Cyndi Lauper invites so many people to her bedroom party that they fall through the door.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In the episode "Oo-Oo-Me-Me-Tocoludi-Gucci-Moo-Moo". Miss Brooks and Mrs. Davis had spent their summer vacation in a tiny house-trailer Miss Brooks nicknamed "mousie". While waiting for a perspective buyer to show up, Miss Brooks and Mrs. Davis clean the trailer. Unfortunately, Walter Denon, Harriet Conklin and Mr. Conklin all come to visit. Hilarity Ensues.


    Western Animation 
  • Done in Animaniacs, in "Hercule Yakko". Dot name-drops Night at the Opera. Includes a Visual Pun as well: a map of the continental 48 U.S. states on the door.
  • Set up and subverted early on in Futurama. Fry initially stays in Bender's tiny, closet-like apartment (since robots don't need a lot of personal space)... until he finds out that the apartment's "closet" is actually a full-sized apartment.

    Real Life 
  • Applied to a whole house by the Berners Street Hoax [1]. As part of a bet, one man sent out hundreds of letters requesting visitors, tradesmen, and deliverymen to visit. They duly did, attracting in turn more rubberneckers who read about the stunt in the newspapers and wanted to see it for themselves.
  • Done to William Gaines, publisher of MAD Magazine. Gaines was a big Marx Brothers fan, and a bunch of his friends dropped by for a visit. He quickly realized what was happening, and found it Actually Pretty Funny.
  • Sardines, a usually indoor variant of Hide and Seek in which winning or losing is beside the point. One person hides—and when others find them, they join the growing number of participants in the hiding place. Typical hiding places are closets and dormitory shower stalls.

Alternative Title(s): Stateroom Sketch