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Vaudeville Hook

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Even a Large Ham can be cured.note 

"I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook or the ovation"

Real Vaudeville shows would Drop the Cow on bad or overly long acts with "the hook", a curtain hook extended from offstage to pull away the performer. Oftentimes by the neck. But in cartoons, you don't even need to be on a stage to get the hook. Any bad performance can get the hook, even if you're performing on top of a fence — it just reaches out from Behind the Black and drags you offscreen. Wearing a red-and-white vertically striped shirt and a straw boater makes you especially susceptible to this, as does dancing while holding a cane. Spending a while dodging the hook, continuing to perform all the while, before eventually getting snared, or even incorporating it into the performance while avoiding it the whole time is a common feature.

The real purpose of these hooks was to pull back the curtains at the start of the show in older theaters. Presumably, theatergoers at the time knew what they were for, making it that much funnier to see them being used to yank bad performers off the stage. As theater technology evolved, the hooks' original use has been forgotten over time and nowadays they're much better-known for their use in comedy.

Though he didn't originate it, the hook is forever associated with Howard "Sandman" Sims, a tap dancer who would use the hook on bad acts at the Apollo Theatre. After his passing, other dancers took up the "Sandman" name; sometimes instead of using the hook, they would dance onstage and escort the performer off.


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  • After a series of ads for price comparison website GoCompare, featuring fictitious Italian opera singer Gio Comparionote  became the UK's most hated advertising campaign, the company responded with a series of "vandalised" posters of Gio. One of them, which changes "GoCompare" to "Go Away", shows Gio about to be dragged away by a large hook.
  • A commercial for Tiny Toon plush toys had this in the end:
    - Kid holding the Hampton plush: And don't forget about Hampton!
    - Kid holding the Dizzy Devil plush: Pig, YUMMY!
    - Kid holding the Hampton plush: Get the hook!
    (Kid holding the Dizzy Devil plush gets dragged away!)

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Drag Queen Derrick Barry performed at the Haters Roast Tour (a touring stand-up show featuring former contestants from RuPaul's Drag Race), filling in for Willam Belli. Derrick's set went hilariously off the rails due to being extremely drunk at the time, causing fellow drag queen Trinity The Tuck to grab the actual stage hook from the back to try to pull her offstage. In true Vaudeville fashion, it doesn't work, leading to Derrick's (extremely embarrassed) boyfriend to try to get her offstage, then finally cutting her mic. You can see the Cringe Comedy in its full glory here.

    Comic Books 
  • In Justice League America #s 105-106, part of the Underworld Unleashed Crisis Crossover, various costumed assassins, under Neron's influence, have decided to undertake their "ultimate hit", and the League has split up to deal with them. Wisecracking alien sidekick the Yazz stops Chiller killing a singer live on stage and, realising they have an audience, launches into an improv routine about how weird Earth is. When Obsidian sends shadow tendrils to teleport the team back together, the one collecting the Yazz takes the form of a vaudeville hook.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield: Garfield sometimes gets the hook when he's doing his fence act. Once, when he gave a Christmas Special, a candy cane was used.
  • One Farley strip, when Bruin Hilda was running for mayor of San Francisco, had the beaver sing a campaign song (to the tune of "I Saw Her Standing There"). Hilda is thinking "Get the hook".
  • The page image comes from a political cartoon, where Uncle Sam is obliviously showing off America's status as a world power while China calmly watches in the shadows, with a "Your fifteen minutes are almost up, Sammy..."
  • In one Brother Juniper comic Juniper uses a candle lighter to hook a small dog that wandered into the church.
  • Dykes to Watch Out For #378: Then First Lady Laura Bush on TV, after saying that women are miserably oppressed in Saudia Arabia. "I say we go in there and— Gak!"

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used in one of Hal Roach's Our Gang comedies, Beginner's Luck, in which one of the stage mothers tried to drag her son, Spanky, offstage with the hook... but she kept missing him, first popping a couple of stage lights, then giving herself a really bad shock when the metal crook got caught in the live socket.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this happens to Donald Duck and Daffy Duck in the Ink-n-Paint Club. After several minutes of trying to sabotage one another's piano playing, Donald fires a cannon at Daffy's piano, flooring his own and destroying Daffy's. Both of them, along with their pianos, are dragged off-stage with hooks.
  • Early in Singin' in the Rain, Don has a flashback to his vaudeville days with Cosmo that includes the two of them getting pulled of the stage by a long hook.
  • In How the Grinch Stole Christmas! the Grinch grabs an unfortunate yodeler off his mountain with one and steals his outfit.
  • Happens twice in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, once when the narrator informs the audience that their show was cancelled in 1964, then again when he reminds them that nothing's changed.
    Narrator: After five scintillating years on the air, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is abruptly cancelled.
    Rocky and Bullwinkle: CANCELLED!?
    Narrator: Uh, sorry about that, boys.

  • A vaudeville performer (complete with fez and revolving bowtie) gets pulled off of an illustration by a vaudeville hook in the Murderous Maths book Desperate Measures for the joke "Why isn't my nose twelve inches long? Because if it was it would be a foot.".
  • The cover illustration of the Extreme Monsters Joke Book depicts Val telling jokes on the stage as a cane is about to yank him away.
  • In Chris Van Allsburg's alphabet book The Z Was Zapped, the letter Y gets "Yanked Offstage" with a hook.
  • The Berenstain Bears: Brought up in the Big Chapter Book The Berenstain Bears' Media Madness, where Bear Country School gets its own in-school TV station. During the auditions for various roles on BTV (as the station becomes known), Too-Tall and his gang work security, but when he brings up the idea of using a hook (made from a window pole and a bent coat hanger) to pull any obvious screw-ups off the stage, Teacher Bob quickly vetoes it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Gong Show: One of several methods for ejecting horrendously bad acts from the stage. These were, of course, non-scoring, comedy relief acts that performed in between scoring acts.
  • Referred to on The Daily Show in 2004 when, after winning the Oklahoma primary, Wesley Clark said, "Oklahoma is OK by me!"
    Jon Stewart: Clark then added, "Idaho, Alaska!" before becoming the first candidate in history to be yanked off stage with a cane.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? (the American version) has a slight Running Gag of Colin Mochrie carrying a joke for "Scenes from a Hat" a little too long (generally because Drew "forgets" to buzz him out), at which point Ryan Stiles, or occasionally Brad Sherwood, will come over and gently usher him off center stage.
  • Happy Days: At a stage performance, Al gets one of these.
  • Press Your Luck: A Whammy does a dance routine, then comes back onto the screen only to be hooked off.
  • Legion (2017): A rather strange example (which is par for the course for the show), Division 3's strike team deployed a "tactical hook" which was a candy-cane-looking hook that yanked away an unsuspecting lookout, leaving his tea cup spinning in air.

  • Zig-zagged in a bit Earth, Wind & Fire used to do in their live shows involving Verdine White's bass solo running long. He would ignore Maurice White and Philip Bailey's demands to wrap it up and keep playing. Maurice would bring out two roadies to physically remove him from the stage, who would pick him up on their shoulders to carry him off, but when they went to leave, Verdine was left suspended in mid-air, still playing.

    Music videos 
  • Played with in Bubble Butt. One of the dancers gets yanked off the dancefloor in this manner. But instead of a hook or a cane, it's a hose that comes out of a giant woman's mouth. And it wasn't because the dancer was bad either. In fact she might have been the best one in the video. But it was so that the giant woman could eat her.
  • In the music video for "Do the Bartman", Principal Skinner tries to pull Bart off the stage with one of these, but Bart dodges it.
  • The music video for Sub Urban's "Freak" opens with the creepy ringmaster being pulled away from a microphone with a crook.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: Deployed in several episodes, including multiple times during the episode that showed the audition process for the show. Listed on the Muppet Wiki.
  • Muppets Tonight: In a last-ditch effort to raise the show's ratings (Lest a bomb go off), Frankie Yakovic (A yak playing accordion) is put on camera. He fails to impress, and is unceremoniously yanked away by a hook.
  • In The Muppets (2011), one of these is used to grab most of the other Muppets during the montage.
  • Sesame Street: The "Cast of charactors" segment used this on the number 6.

    Video Games 
  • In Cuphead, World 2 Boss Baroness Von Bon Bon exits this way in her introduction.
  • In Fiendish Freddy's Big Top O'Fun, dropping five objects during the juggling act will have a long hook pull the juggler from the spotlight, ending the stage.
  • In You Don't Know Jack: Movies, if a player answers a question wrong, their number is yanked offscreen by a cane.
  • The Jackbox Party Pack 6: In "Joke Boat", if a contestant gets all the votes and earns the "Crushed It" bonus, their opponent will have their avatar hauled off-stage by a hook.
  • The fan game Mega Man Rock Force uses these in Charade Man's stage to try and pull the player into spikes.
  • After The Joker wins a round in Mortal Kombat 11, one of these can appear from offscreen to move him away from his opponent, before the next round begins.
  • The Nickelodeon Clickamajigs game "Belt Billy" has the player click on objects to throw them at a comedian. Clicking on "Exit" to end the game has a cane appear to drag the comedian off the stage.
  • In the Sega Genesis version of The Pink Panther: Pink Goes to Hollywood, when Pink loses a life, he gets pulled away by a long hook.
  • Peacock from Skullgirls exits the stage this way when switching out characters. She even does a bit of "softshoe" before getting yanked off-screen.
  • In Atari's arcade version of Tetris, there's an interlude every few levels where a Hopak dancer pops out of a door and starts doing his thing. Pressing any button while he's performing will cause a tiny hook to yank him back inside the door. (And sometimes the hook misses.)
  • Appears in a menu animation for Theme Hospital, for some reason.

    Web Animation 

  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic PMV "Beat It" features one in the post-music video part, when Animated James's OC asks Flash Sentry if he doesn't mind not being included in the video, because... nobody likes him. Cue Flash struck speechless, and a vaudeville hook slowly reaches for the pegasus before pulling him offstage. Then Ms. Harshwhinny walks in, carrying the hook, and James gives her money.
  • In the Barbie Life In The Dream House episode "Trapped in the Dreamhouse", Ryan does an embarrassing dance number at Teresa's fashion show, forcing Ken to yank him offstage with a pink hook.
  • Homestar Runner: Used to clear the Dancing Brothers away during their first scene in "A Folky Tale".


    Western Animation 
  • Happens to Donald Duck in shorts like "Orphans' Benefit" and Mickey's Amateurs.
  • Celebrity Deathmatch: For a comedy-themed episode, the show lets some fans come down and do some stand-up. The first is so terrible that a vaudeville hook comes out and... snaps off his head.
  • Futurama: Zoidberg is doing stand up at the Apollo and gets the hook. He breaks it with his claw, only to have another one whack him in the head.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Make 'Em Laugh", a disguised Joker shows up on stage and starts performing at a stand-up comedy competition — right as the judges are about to announce the winner. He gets pulled off stage with one of these on the grounds that since he hadn't registered as a participant, he had no business being there. A year later, Joker steals some mind control chips from the Mad Hatter, uses them to turn the judges into third-rate supervillains, and arranges for himself to be the only contestant in that year's competition -- with his henchmen as the new judges.
  • Happens to Batman(!) in Batman: The Brave and the Bold just when he's about to be caught and brought to "justice" for the crimes committed by his evil alternate-Earth doppelganger, courtesy of the Joker.
  • In one episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Wilt is making a spectacular mess of his introductory speech to a talent show, and gets pulled off in this manner when he's so flustered he can no longer even apologise for his mistakes coherently. Madame Foster then comments how he was much better than last year.
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Much Ado About Lanolin", a Running Gag involves Wade reciting different Shakespeare monologues from plays other than Taming Of The Shrew such as Hamlet's soliloquy and Julius Caesar. At the end of the episode, he attempts another monologue, only to be closed off by the iris, but he escapes from it and is pulled offscreen by the hook.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In the Merrie Melodies short "Hamateur Night", Egghead gets pulled away by a hook. When he comes back again, two hooks are used. Later, when he comes back a third time, three hooks are used, with an extra hook coming in to get his hat.
    • In "What's Up, Doc?", Bugs Bunny describes how early in his career, he was hastily chosen to be the understudy for a performer who had fallen ill. When his performance falls flat, Bugs gets yanked offstage with a hook.
  • Storm Hawks: In "Terra Neon", Radarr puts on a dancing performance and is yanked off stage at the end by a tentacle that reaches in from the side to wrap around his waist like a hook.
  • In the Teen Titans Go! episode "You're Fired!", Vixen gets this treatment during the Terrible Interviewees Montage.
  • A Tex Avery short, The Flea Circus (1954), has a Sad Clown flea performer upset the audience and get yanked offstage by a full-sized hook.
  • In an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, Babs gets a couple of these trying to audition for a part in a stage performance for William Shakespeare.
  • The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3: In "7 Continents for 7 Koopas", Luigi ends Hip's Koopathon by yanking him with a hook.
  • In The Fairly OddParents! special "Fairy Idol", the losers of the singing competition get this treatment. When Juandisimo was one of those disqualified, he cried out "No! I am too sexy for the stick!".
  • One twist of this trope: In an episode of DuckTales (1987), Luck o' the Ducks, at the end of a short chase scene, Scrooge says "Here! Let me give your act the hook!" before pulling Farderek from his horse.
  • In Wakfu Season 2 episode The Voice Thief, the exhausted-looking Sadida singer drops down in a heap mid-song during his performance and is then dragged offscreen by a hook.


Video Example(s):


The Turkey of Seville

In this Big Bird and Snuffy segment, a turkey comes onto the stage to sing "Largo al factotum", but is unable to reach a high note and is promptly hooked off the stage. Later, when Snuffy says he feels a song coming on, the turkey comes back to resume his singing, but he fails to reach a high note again and is dragged away a second time.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / VaudevilleHook

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