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Narm / Theatre

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Narm is especially feared by stage actors. It is one thing to cause narm in a movie, it's quite another to do so in front of a live audience, who will let you know immediately by laughing at you for your botched serious scene.

  • Potiphar's roar in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is rarely not Narmful, but special mention goes to the movie starring Donny Osmond, where Potiphar seems to moo in anger.
  • When Cirque du Soleil debuted KA in 2005, the aftermath of the Battlefield scene had the Emperor trying to comfort his wicked son, who has been blinded by his explosives and is crying in pain. The wailing went on at length originally, but was subsequently dialed back — probably because it easily came off as this.
    • Saltimbanco's climatic bungee act would be gorgeous if the singer didn't just... sit there and sing while watching the act.
    • Zarkana's baby funeral scene. "Welcome to my funeral, please don't scream..." Audiences found it hard to take seriously and reportedly mocked it walking out of the show — when the whole show got a Lighter and Softer retool in 2014, this transitional segment was altered and became a Creepy Good parade, dropping the offending lines and narminess.
  • Many modern Shakespeare productions will have the characters transported to a modern setting or just without period dress. Generally, a lot of people find it Narmful to hear characters like Shylock or Prospero speaking in the 16th century tongue whilst dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.
  • The last few scenes of Othello are ruined by lines like "I am maimed for ever" and "O heavens forfend us!" The latter is possible to say dramatically - but not in unison with somebody else, which is how it's supposed to be said.
    • Iago has the line, "Drown thyself? Drown cats and blind puppies!" Narm is combined with Kick the Dog — and the dog still got a respectable kick. Shakespeare, you Magnificent Bastard...
      "My leg is cut in two."
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    • Also in the end of Othello: Desdemona uttering a Final Speech after being suffocated. Suffocation kills you because of lack of air. Air is what you use to speak, Shakespeare. Better in the opera Otello, when she has an entire aria.
      • The conventions of theater might mean that Desdemona's final speech should be taken as an internal monologue and not spoken dialogue. Shakespeare's characters love thinking out loud, and not every instance of that should be interpreted as literal speaking. Still, it's all too easy to interpret it that way, and it doesn't explain how she told Emilia that she killed herself...
    • Almost everything Gratiano says in that scene is obvious. For instance, he says, "He's gone, but his wife's killed" to describe an event that happened approximately one second ago in front of everyone.
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    • Othello himself mars an otherwise magnificent speech in this scene with "Here is my journey's end, here is my butt..."
    • Not to mention the "O bloody period!" line.
  • Some of the deaths in Macbeth. Particularly "Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!"
    Young Macduff: "Thou liest, shag-haired villain!"
    Murderer: "What? You egg!"
    • Parodied in Horrible Histories, where the assassin says, "You've done it now, sonny! I happen to be very sensitive about my shag-hair!"
    • 'He has killed me, Mother.' No shit.
    • When the witches greet one another in an early scene and ask where they've been, one replies, "Killing swine." Now, while it was widely believed in Jacobean England that witches traveled the land slaying livestock, there's something about the bluntness of this line that makes it ridiculous.
    • After Macbeth and his wife murder Duncan, Ross and an old man take note of the ensuing dreary atmosphere. The dark skies and the owl killing and eating a hawk work well enough as symbolism, but the cannibalistic horses end up pushing things over the top.
  • From Julius Caesar, Mark Antony's famous "Dogs of War" soliloquy:
    "O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth..."
    • This can evoke the image of Caesar as a human-shaped pile of dirt oozing blood.
    • Julius Caesar also features Cassius, who, upon hearing that it looks like the battle is going badly for his friend Titinius down the hill, kills himself. Titinius enters immediately afterward, perfectly fine. It's hard to summon much pathos for a death that could have been averted by waiting thirty seconds.
      • Titinius (or some soldier) immediately kills himself out of sorrow for his beloved commander Cassius. Like Hamlet, Julius Caesar is overly scrupulous about obeying the idea that tragedy means "everyone's dead by the end of the play".
    • Have a Gay Old Time is the cause of quite a bit of Shakespearian Narm. Just try to take Lord Capulet seriously after he calls Mercutio "You saucy boy!"
    • All the 'what, ho's in Romeo and Juliet because of the modern usage of "ho." Especially in English class when read stiffly by students.
  • "O, I am slain!" is uttered by Polonius in Hamlet.
    • The final scene of Hamlet features "I am poison'd."
    • This made reading Hamlet in English class a bit more interesting:
      Student reading Marcellus's part: (awkwardly) Holla, Bernardo!
      Student reading Bernardo's part: (over-the-top ebonic tone) Say whaaaaat?
    • Many of the Shakespearean examples are in the plays because they announce deaths and, without them, either the actors wouldn't know when to die or the audience in the nosebleed seats wouldn't know if someone had truly died. (That goes for the broken leg as well.)
  • Early Shakespeare has some truly beautiful Narm. In Henry VI Part 1, for instance, there is this hilarious line:
    "O would mine eyeballs were to bullets turned,
    That I in rage might shoot them at your faces!"
  • The scene in Titus Andronicus in which Titus is presented his daughter, who had previously been raped and had her hands and tongue cut off/out:
    "Titus, this is your daughter!"
    "Why, Marcus, so she is."
    • The violence in Titus is so graphic, and Crosses the Line Twice so frequently that some modern scholars believe it to be either a deliberate self-parody or a parody of contemporary playwrights. But amidst all the murder, rape, dismemberment, and cannibalism, this gem from Aaron's Motive Rant still manages to stand out as tacitly ridiculous:
  • And then there's perhaps the most infamous stage direction in all of theater, from The Winter's Tale: "O I am gone for ever!" Exit, Pursued by a Bear. The bear is not mentioned at all in the prior speech and just comes out of nowhere.
  • For modern audiences, Aeschylus' play Agamemnon features a particularly hilarious bit of Narm. While being murdered offstage, the title character delivers this line:
    "Oh, I am struck deep with a mortal blow!"
  • In King Lear, the Duke of Gloucester, previously blinded, is led to believe that he is about to step off a cliff and kill himself. He is not actually on the precipice, and so he steps forwards and then falls over apropos of nothing. It is almost impossible to stage a serious scene of attempted suicide that has a scripted pratfall.
    • In one film version, the scene in which Cornwall gouges out the Duke of Gloucester's eyes is undercut by the presence in the background of a servant (who subsequently gives Cornwall the wound that kills him) who is so enraged he... rubs his stomach and pats his head while making a silly face.
  • Oedipus the King:
  • Spring Awakening has the beating scene, which depending on how it's played, ends up being a Tear Jerker or terrible, terrible narm. Wendla giving Melchior a branch that she found on the ground and wants to be beaten with is a little much to take seriously.
    "With this switch, for example?"
  • The entirety of The Duchess of Malfi. You've got to love a play where someone gets poisoned by a Bible, there's an echo-ey grave, mad men are cavorting around outside a jail, the heroine holds a dead man's hand ... And a mad incestuous Prince thinks he's a werewolf and later says, "I account this world but a dog kennel." The Cardinal's reaction on being stabbed? "You have hurt me." Oh, dear. The doctor tries to cure Ferdinand of his madness and thinking he's a dog by... trying to fight him. Also, the number of people hiding behind tapestries. Special mention also to Bosola who is with both the leads when they die... and has howlers both times. With the duchess, he responds to her brief revival and subsequent final death with a mildly frustrated, "Oh, she's gone again!" With Antonio, he gets the following tactless exchange:
    "Thy fair duchess and two sweet children—"
    "Their very names kindle a little life in me."
    "Are murdered."
  • RENT features a lot of people dying of AIDS and other un-fun things, so it's rather funny when people bluster in with comments like "Who do you THINK you are/barging in, on me and MY GUITAR?!" or just wailing out "MIMIIIIIIIII!" when someone's on their deathbed. The theatricality and over-emoting of musical theatre can make serious death scenes awkward. Never mind some of the goofy songs that were dropped from the musical during development, like "Right Brain".
  • In The Long Christmas Dinner Lucia says at several different points something like, "Such a beautiful sermon. I cried and cried." The first couple of times, it's moving— but after that, it just becomes a Running Gag.
  • In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
    "Blame it on your Daddily and Mammily, 'cuz depression runs in our family."
    • For some reason, this one line gets a laugh out the audience in most productions.
  • In the stage version of Footloose, the "Dancing is Not a Crime" sequence is one of the play's climactic moments, in which Ren pleads his case for the repeal of the anti-dancing law to the Bomont Town Council. Unfortunately, for some reason the composer wrote it as a white-guy rap number that includes the phrase "party in your pants"... as a euphemism for dancing.
  • Love Never Dies has "Beneath a Moonless Sky", a song where The Phantom and Christine discuss Intercourse with You with increasingly ridiculous euphemisms. The review by Musical Hell replaced it with a downright Filth version, and in the commentary track, the reviewer leaves this wise remark:
    Christi: I think it's a testament to these actors' abilities that they're able to get through "Beneath a Moonless Sky" with a straight face. I can't do it. I mean, when I first heard the cast recorded version, I had to pause because I was laughing so hard.

Alternative Title(s): Theater


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