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World's Smallest Violin

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"Do you know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin playing just for the waitresses."

Squidward: When they get here tonight, they're going to see I'm just a big phony and a loser!
Mr. Krabs: Aww, boo-hoo! Let me play a sad song for you on the world's smallest violin. [moves his fingers and music plays]
Squidward: This is serious!
Mr. Krabs: I know, this really is the world's smallest violin! See? [the scene switches to a frame depicting his pincers holding a very tiny violin]

When a character is presumed to be exaggerating the sorrow of their predicament in order to gain sympathy, another character may respond by rubbing their finger and thumb back and forth as if they were playing the world's smallest violin, possibly making fake violin noises with their mouth. A predominantly Western gesture, the World's Smallest Violin is used to say that a person is whining, or exaggering their plight, and that they will get no sympathy. There are other, much more rude hand gestures available to tell someone they're being an ass, but the violin is more sophisticated. It plays on the idea that wangsty characters expect the Warsaw Symphony Orchestra to pop up out of nowhere to provide some background for their soliloquies.

"BAAAWWWWWW", "somebody call the WAAAAAAAAAmbulance", "this is so sad, Alexa play 'Despacito'", and "let me press F on the world's smallest keyboard" are the internet equivalents.

See also Misery Poker.


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  • One State Farm ad has two men — Lebron James and Aldis Hodge — who were in a car accident; when Hodge blames Lebron, he (Lebron) uses the State Farm jingle to summon the World's Smallest Violin.

    Fan Works 
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls: There’s apparently a freaking phone app for that in-universe! Nayumi and Tsuji play it in response to Caius and Claudia's Melodrama.
    Nayumi: Aww. Tsuji, let's play them a tune from the world's smallest violins.
    Tsuji: Word. [he and Nayumi take out their iPhones as if doing something completely different])
    Kid: [not impressed] Could you two be a bit more considerate?
    Tsuji: We are.
    Nayumi: We're using the World's Smallest Violin app on our iPhones. See? [she and Tsuji show the apps to Kid that show the world’s smallest violin]
  • The Secret Life of Dolls has a slightly more literal example: when Tonner Edward is complaining about the Ellowynes flirting with him, Cleo snarks, "Oh, WOW, not one but two pretty girls want to be your friend. I'll see if The Littlest Edward has a violin to play just for you." (The Littlest Edward being a six-inch-tall action figure, the tininess of the violin is implied.)

    Films — Animation 
  • Done as a Visual Gag in The Great Mouse Detective. When an apparent clue turns out to be a Red Herring, Basil goes into a sulk and plays his violin (as he's a mouse, it's quite small) ignoring Olivia as she tells the sad story of how her father was kidnapped and she wants Basil to find him (Basil eventually pays attention, but later accidentally sits on his violin and breaks it). Of course, Basil is an Expy of Sherlock Holmes, who famously played the violin (surprisingly well too).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Pink does this to show his lack of sympathy for underpaid waitresses during a debate about tipping.
  • Used by J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man 2, after Peter tries to appeal to his sympathy.
    Peter: Mr. Jameson, please, isn't there any of these shots you can use? I really need the money.
    Jameson: Awww. Miss Brant? Get me a violin.
  • In Steppenwolf, (1974), Hermine plays the world's smallest violin for Harry, the protagonist. It almost certainly does not appear in the book on which the film is based.
    Harry: I really am hopeless.
    Hermine: Perhaps you ought to go home and hang yourself after all. Oh, sorry!
    Harry: [coughs]
    Hermine: Doesn't anyone look after you? a wife? sweetheart?
    Harry: I'm divorced. A sweetheart, yes, but she doesn't compare to... we don't get... we don't get along very well, anyway.
    Hermine: Well you are difficult. Nobody can stand you.
    Harry: Well, just don't scold me. I, I know I'm impossible, I'm hopeless. I'm helpless!
    Hermine: Da dummm, da dummmh...
    Harry: What's this?
    Hermine: It's the world's saddest song playing on the world's smallest violin. You've got a nerve saying you've tested life to the bottom, and found nothing in it. You haven't even tried the easy, fun part yet.
  • Bruce Willis repeatedly uses the "WAAAAAAH-mbulance" version to sneer at his younger self in Disney's The Kid (2000).
  • In Joe Dirt, Robby mocks the title character with this example:
    Robby: You want a Wah-burger and some French Cries? How bout a Whine-eken?


    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H: When Charles complains that an overflow of post-op patients has kicked him out of his tent:
    Margaret: Charles, do you know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin, and it's playing just for you.
  • Repeated on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, when Principal Kraft, under a spell, mouths off to Libby:
    Kraft: Aww, here's the world's smallest violin playing the world's saddest song just for you!
  • This exchange in the Warehouse 13 episode "Merge With Caution" after the Warehouse agents just jumped out through a window and Pete is complaining about his knees:
    [Myka makes tiny violin motions]
    Pete: What's that?
    Myka: The world's tiniest purple violin. (she's wearing purple protective gloves)
  • In School of Comedy, a brash character attending a group therapy session actually produces a miniature violin to play for someone relating their story.
  • On a Saturday Night Live skit, Saddam Hussein (Horatio Sanz) calls Osama bin Laden (Jimmy Fallon) to complain about bin Laden running him down in one of his tapes. Osama rubs his finger and thumb together and says, "You know what I'm doing? I'm playing the world's smallest violin."
  • The Girls first-season finale gives us Adam making this gesture while giving Hannah a (probably much-needed) snap out of your self-centered bullshit speech. Shortly thereafter, he gets hit by a van.
  • Jon Stewart used the "WAAAAAH-mbulance" on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart once.
  • On American Vandal, basketball star DeMarcus likes to taunt other teams by pretending to play the violin for them.
  • Raylan's version of this in Justified Season 2, Episode 5: "Do you know what that is? That's the world's smallest man playing "My Heart Bleeds For You" on a tiny violin."
  • In the second episode of Elementary, Dr. Watson has been trying to get Holmes back into the violin as a way to help him cope with his addiction. During one scene, the two are listening to an addict tell her story, which Holmes has deemed "useless nattering" and he mouths off to Watson in the following fashion:
    Holmes: I'm playing the violin again. The world's smallest. Happy now?
  • In "Not Pictured", the season 2 finale of Veronica Mars, Vinnie Van Lowe, in jail for trying to rob the mayor's house, offers Keith a 60/40 split on reward money. When Keith responds that it should be 50/50, Vinnie whines that he's the one in jail, and Keith does this to him:
    Vinnie: I risk my life to bring a fugitive to justice and you're giving me world's tiniest violin.
    Keith: Guess I'm just heartless.
  • Often lampshaded in The Goodies with someone playing violin music (not always on a violin) when a new client gives their sob story.
  • On a season 4 episode of Modern Family, Lily, while going through a snarky phase asks Cam and Mitch if they need a WAH-mbulance, it was later revealed that Lily had picked up the sarcastic remark from Claire.
  • Bosch: In season 3, tasked with identifying the car that was used by Sharkey's killer, Barrel says he'll look over hours of surveillance camera footage because he's "got nothing but time"—he's getting divorced. Crate ribs him by making the "tiny violin" gesture and saying "And a thousand tiny violins begin to play."

  • Invoked in Pantera's "Walk":
    ''Run your mouth when I'm not around, it's easy to achieve
    You cry to weak friends that sympathize
    Can you hear the violins playing your song?
    Those same friends tell me your every word
  • Also invoked by brentalfloss in "Cave Story WITH LYRICS":
    Everybody's livin' in the cave
    Can't escape the island, world's smallest violin
  • AJR literally has a song titled “World’s Smallest Violin”, in which the singer invokes this trope on himself, getting annoyed with himself for complaining about small problems when his father and grandfather had it way worse than him. However, he knows that his problems, however small they may seem, are still valid, and this trope is ultimately defied.
  • From Ava Max's "My Head and My Heart":
    ''Baby, now and then
    I think about me now and who I could have been
    And then I picture all the perfect that we lived
    'Til I cut the strings on your tiny violin, oh whoa

  • Used by a columnist in the New York Times (11/9/2003) about the travails of bluebloods having trouble finding jobs.
    In a tight job market, should we be surprised that some Ivy League grads have problems? Welcome to the 21st century, and excuse me while I practice the world's smallest violin.

    Video Games 
  • World of Warcraft has an Emote Command, /violin, which displays "You begin to play the world's smallest violin." If you have something targeted, it displays "You begin to play the world's smallest violin for [target]."
  • An actual weapon in Kingdom of Loathing (and a fairly good one at that), although the item description references the related symbolism.
  • Referenced in AdventureQuest Worlds in the description of the Bone Violin.
  • In The World Ends with You, Joshua plays the World's Smallest Violin for Neku after Neku shares the story of how Shiki Misaki is now his entry fee.
  • In Borderlands 2, after you are forced to kill a mutated companion of a character from the first game, Handsome Jack taunts you, but promptly loses his violin he was supposed to play. He doesn't find it until you make it back to Sanctuary, wherein he gets mocked off-screen for being way too late to play it (and playing it poorly).
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, After Estelle admits she's a bit jealous of Khoe and Jill sharing room together, Jill replies by playing a small violin after reminding her that she and Joshua lived under the same roof for most of their life.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X occasionally has fun with its Dialogue Trees and players have the option to make their Player Character act snarky. One such instance is responding to another character complaining that you are crushing his business reputation by how well you are doing by, "Rubbing your fingers together like you're playing the world's smallest violin"

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Linkara once got out a violin when Ultimate Wolverine was about to get into a long flashback involving how he had sex with Wanda's mother.
    Linkara: Are we going to start a flashback involving Wolverine's past? Give me a second. [goes off-screen and came back with a violin] You may continue.
  • The Nostalgia Chick:
    • Doctor Tease once played a tiny violin to accompany the Chick angsting. Which, according to the commentary, had been an actual gift from Lindsay, prior to that.
    • The violin returns in the She's All That review for Freddie Prinze Jr. — though first The Makeover Fairy appears with a real violin as Lindsay can't find it.

  • Lampshaded in Super-Hero-Bowl!, during the dialogue between kaiju-size Oscar and Dr. Manhattan.
    Oscar:Well if it isn't the MVP.
    Dr. Manhattan:The power you've accumulated is too much for any one being.
    Oscar: You hear that? I'm playing the smallest violin for you (plays a real violin with his fingers)
    Dr. Manhattan:Given our current enormity, that's actually the size of a normal violin.
  • Todd in the Shadows plays with it reviewing Chris Brown's "Deuces". He sets his piano on violin and plays a song to "show his sympathy".
  • A ''literal'' version of the world's smallest violin was played by AltoonaYourPiano. Not using the actual sound that came from the violin, however, because as he said, it sounded "like a mouse passing a kidney stone", opting instead for a chipmunked version of "Hearts and Flowers".

    Western Animation 
  • South Park: In the episode "Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes", Cartman played a violin while a small business owner talked about how Wall-Mart's low prices had forced his business to close down. When Kyle then smashed the violin, Cartman tells him that he can just go buy another one from Wall-Mart.
  • An old Captain America cartoon has Cap asking the Red Skull if he wanted someone to play a violin while he told his sad Backstory.
  • In a soundtrack gag on Avatar: The Last Airbender, a violin plays very, very softly during Toph's brief attempt to bond with an unsympathetic Zuko during the series finale.
  • A scene from the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squilliam Returns" has Mr. Krabs literally plays the World's Smallest Violin as a variant of this trope:
    Mr. Krabs: Aww, boo hoo! Let me play a sad song for you on the World's Smallest Violin. [does so]
    Squidward: This is serious!
    Mr. Krabs: I know, this really is the World's Smallest Violin. See? [camera focuses on his claw to show World's Smallest Violin]
  • The Simpsons:
    • Apu does this gesture in response to his wife's complaining, but with a sitar rather than a violin.
    • Fat Tony, having won the prized violin of Krusty's daughter in a poker game, does this when Krusty begs him to give it back. Then, realizing that he can do it for real, pulls out the violin and plays a sad melody, surprisingly well.
    • In the episode "Them Robot" Lenny also plays the world's smallest violin for Homer, but it turns out he was actually holding a real tiny violin. Moments later he loses the bow, and Homer steps on it as he leaves the bar.
    • A street mime mocks Lisa with a balloon whale, and after it explodes like the real one did, with a balloon violin.
    • In "King Leer", Homer hallucinates Bart's new violin mocking him with this.
  • In an early episode of Family Guy, Peter gets sent on a Vision Quest. When the trees start talking to him, he asks the old question:
    Peter: Hey, if any of you falls down and no one is around to hear you, do you make a sound?
    Tree 1: Of course, Scott fell down last week and he wouldn't stop talking since.
    Scott: Sure, stand there and bitch, but would any of you take the time to HELP ME?
    Tree 2: (rubbing branches together) Oh, oh, I'm playing the world's smallest violin, Scott.
  • In episode 5 of The Animals of Farthing Wood. While it's not a tiny violin, Rabbit does pick up a stick and mock-play sad violin music when Mr. Pheasant starts to get a bit theatrical about "when one faces death as often as me" before leaving back to the farm to help Adder find her way to the others. True enough, Mr. Pheasant just lost his wife to the farmer's gun, but the general opinion of his established character is that he's all too concerned in himself.

    Real Life 



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