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Voicemail Confusion

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When someone calls another person on the phone, usually because of some urgent matter, the caller gets a greeting, usually "hello" or something like that, and the caller tries to speak to them, but realizes that the greeting was actually a voicemail recording.

If the caller talks for a while and the answering machine reveals itself right after he finishes, that means that the person who recorded the message knew exactly how long the caller would talk, making it an example of The Tape Knew You Would Say That as well. May overlap with Funny Answering Machine, when the outgoing message is played for humor.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One episode of Sailor Moon had Rei calling up Mamoru for a date. She hears him say hello and starts talking only to stop when she hears the part about him not being home. Slightly ironic though, in that he really is home, but is out on his balcony deep in thought at the time (by this point, he's recovered a Rainbow Crystal and knows he is actually Tuxedo Mask and is thinking about how to secure another Crystal) so isn't paying attention to the phone.

  • The Terminator. Invoked in the message left on Sarah Connor's voicemail that starts with her roommate Ginger saying cheerfully, "Hi there!" and then after a pause "Fooled you! You're talking to a machine. But machines need love too." This becomes Dramatic Irony when Sarah rings Ginger to warn her, only the Terminator has just killed her so Sarah really is talking to a machine when she leaves a message revealing her current location.
  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. When Kung Fu Joe calls Slade, Slade answers. Kung Fu Joe warns him that the police are after them.
    Slade: Fooled you! I'm not home right now. Leave your name and number. I'll call you back. Thanks for calling. Bye.
  • Inverted in L.A. Story, where Steve Martin's character at one point answers his phone by playing an obvious recording of himself saying "I'm home right now, so you can talk to me after the beep. *beep*"
  • Lampshaded in Death to Smoochy, when Nora calls Sheldon earlier in the film, and gets Sheldon saying "Hello" on the line, she begins to speak until she hears "I'm just kidding; it's an answering machine." Fortunately the recording lists where his upcoming gigs as a prototype Smoochy the Rhino will be located, so Nora copies down one of the addresses so she can meet him in person.
  • In Spider-Man, Peter calls Mary Jane's phone in a panic after Aunt May tells him Everyone Can See It between them—and he realizes that includes the villain. He gets, "Hey, it's me—" and starts trying to talk, only to hear the message finish, "Sing your song at the beep." It's only after he leaves an awkward voicemail that the Green Goblin picks up the phone...

  • Good Omens has this priceless gem, from the angel Aziraphale, whose sense of technology lingers back in or before The '50s along with his fashion sense:
    Answering Machine: Hi. This is Anthony Crowley. Uh. I—
    Aziraphale: Crowley! Listen! I haven’t got much time! The—
    Answering Machine: —probably not in right now, or asleep, and busy, or something, but—
    Aziraphale: Shutup! Listen! It was in Tadfield! It’s all in that book! You’ve got to stop—
    Answering Machine: —after the tone and I’ll get right back to you. Chow.
    Aziraphale: I want to talk to you now
    Answering Machine: BeeeEEeeeEEeee
    Aziraphale: Stop making noises!
  • Harry's Mad: Inverted — at one point, Mr. Holdman calls home to let them know he'll be running late because of a meeting, and thinks he's gotten the answering machine... until it turns out to be the family's parrot Madison/Mad, who's fully capable of answering the phone and promises to relay the message for him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Cheers involves Sam's message, which sounds like him answering the phone, then a long pause, followed by "Just kidding. You got my machine." Diane calls Sam before her wedding to Frasier, hoping Sam is on a plane on his way to stop the wedding. When she thinks he has answered, she hangs up in disgust without hearing the rest, and thus doesn't know that Sam is on his way.
  • How I Met Your Mother: After Marshall's father dies, the rest of the cast thinks about their last conversations with their own fathers. Lily's is a phone call where her dad told her he was in jail and asked for money. To avoid the conversation, she pretends to invoke the trope, claiming she's been a recording the whole time, and hangs up.
  • Friends: Inverted, according to Chandler, when Joey first called him at work about renting the apartment:
    Chandler: Chandler Bing!
    Joey: Whoa, short message.

  • Inverted in Blake Shelton's song Austin. Earlier in the song, a woman attempted to call an ex-boyfriend for whom she's realized she still has feelings, only getting his answering machine. When he calls her back, she imitates the messages he'd had on his answering machine, ending with:
    And by the way, boy, this is no machine you're talkin' to
    Can't you tell, this is Austin, and I still love you.

    Web Original 
  • From Kickassia:
    That Chick With The Goggles: Oh, by the way, this has been an answering machine the whole time. Leave your message after the beep! *beep!*
  • A video by Loading Ready Run plays with this trope; the protagonist is about to go on a date to a very popular concert, when his roommate reveals that he's invisible. It's eventually revealed that the roommate knows precisely how his friend will respond, and recorded an entire conversation with that in mind, so that he could trick his roommate into staying home and thus 'steal' the date. The ruse is uncovered when the tape plays a standard 'end of side one' message.

    Western Animation 
  • This has become a running gag in Archer, Archer has many intricate versions of this. At one point, he says the exact time to try and convince his mother it is really him instead of an elaborate voicemail prank. This has, naturally, come back to bite him on the ass a few times as the others start getting Genre Savvy. On one memorable occasion, we are treated to a minute and a half scene of the gang boredly listening to the live sounds of Archer desperately fighting for his life while messily slaughtering a biker gang, waiting for him to crow that they've fallen for the prank.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Seat to Stardom," Heffer attempts to call Rocko but gets his answering machine. Its' greeting involves Rocko asking "Hello?" as if he really were answering the phone, then pauses, and then says "This is Rocko. Sorry I can't come to the phone right now," and explains to leave a message and he will get back to him. Heffer falls for it.
  • Rugrats (1991): In "Naked Tommy", Didi calls the Dr. Lipschitz hotline for advice on how to deal with Tommy's nudist phase after it rubs off on Phil and Lil and Betty doesn't take it well. After she dials the hotline's phone number, she hears "Hello, this is Dr. Lipschitz.", implying that Dr. Lipschitz has answered her call. Before she can explain her problem to him, it is revealed that a recorded message from Dr. Lipschitz picked up her call that now says "Thank you for calling the Dr. Lipschitz Baby Talk Hotline. If you have a question about nutrition, press One now."
  • Parodied and inverted in an episode of The Simpsons, where Homer initially thinks Stephen Hawking's "voice" is a recorded message.