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Series / That Mitchell and Webb Look

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"That's Numberwang!"

That Mitchell and Webb Look is a BBC Two Sketch Show starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb, best known for their characters Mark and Jeremy in the Brit Com Peep Show. It ran from 2006 to 2010. Recurring characters tend to be limited to one series, although some (such as The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar) have run for longer. The sketches are occasionally intercut with Faux Documentary "behind-the-scenes footage" of the comedians, featuring much Lampshade Hanging and Self-Deprecation, and zig-zagging between playing up and sending up the duo's respective The Smart Guy and Manchild personas.

The series was adapted from the radio show That Mitchell and Webb Sound, and the pair had previously made a short-lived TV Sketch Show called The Mitchell and Webb Situation. For ease of reference, tropes found in each series have been put into separate sections.

See also Bruiser, another of Mitchell and Webb's earlier works.

That Mitchell and Webb Look contains examples of:

  • 419 Scam: The three billionaires, who really do want to randomly give their MASSIVE YACHTS to the owners of specially-preselected telephone numbers but fail to realise how much they resemble scam artists.
  • Adam Westing: The third Numberwang segment has writer, public speaker, and former politician Gyles Brandreth appear in "Number Corner" (which was specifically invented for this episode and doesn't appear in any other segments) to parody his frequent appearances on Countdown's "Dictionary Corner."
  • After the End: The Quiz Broadcast takes place after "The Event" which caused The End of the World as We Know It. (Remain indoors)
  • Agony of the Feet: One sketch has a man abducted by a lost tribe that lives in his local garden centre, who tell him he can leave... if he makes it through a gravel path barefoot. He doesn't.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: During the "history of Numberwang" sketch, it is revealed that Colosson, the Numberwang robot, has gone insane and wants to destroy everything that isn't Numberwang.
    Colosson: I am Colosson! I am Numberwang! The world is Numberwang! Therefore I am the world! YOU MUST ALL DIE!
  • The Alcoholic: One-shot character Hugh walks into the corner shop seemingly intending to buy a loaf of bread, an apple, and a newspaper. Suddenly complaining of a "perishing thirst," he adds two cans of 10% lager, and then realises he unfortunately doesn't have enough for the first three things. The reactions of the owner suggest that Hugh performs the same routine pretty much every morning.
    Hugh: Well it... it's the continental way, isn't it? In Spain they... they wouldn't dream of starting the day without a couple of cans and... maybe a vodka...
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: See Playing Cyrano below.
  • All Just a Dream:
    • The man abducted by garden centre natives is apparently sacrificed to their god in the Shed of Destiny, only to wake up in his own house with his wife and doctor assuring him he'd just had bad food poisoning. Except he's still got the squirrel god's marking on his chest.
    • One sketch has David Mitchell being informed he's married to Keeley Hawes, much to his surprise, even more so when she actually turns up to confirm it. Then Robert Webb decides he'll go flying.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • The "Dinner Party Guests" sketches play this for laughs In-Universe, revealing why people such as James Bond, Scooby and Shaggy and Mahatma Gandhi would be a nightmare at a party, whilst Adolf Hitler would be a delight. They also suggest that Scrappy-Doo would be a charming guest, if a little bit impetuous ("but I think you can forgive that of a talking dog").
    • Also applies to the scarecrow sketch.
    • Even the Blue Peter garden gets this, in a sketch which reveals that every TV show has its own private garden, not just Blue Peter; there's apparently an unwritten rule that you shouldn't show off the gardens on television, and the Blue Peter team are considered very uncouth for doing so.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Fatally so - the kid was literally embarrassed to death.
  • Amoral Attorney:
    • The Inebriati sketch has Webb's character exclaim, "Yes! I got that guy off that vicious sex murder, even though he obviously did it!"
    • There's also "Speedo", a hybrid of House and Shark, a former defence barrister now working prosecution. When asked why he defended known rapists, he replied:
      Speedo: I don't know. I guess I just liked rapists.
      • He does, however, then say that he was only joking. It's just his wicked sense of hu-mor.
  • Amusing Injuries: One sketch has two actors playing Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson doing this to one another, starting with hitting one another on the head with a pipe, moving up to Webb's character smashing a carafe over Mitchell's head, then to somehow breaking one another's limbs, ending with Webb's character knocking Holmes to the ground on stage, and kicking him repeatedly.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: In-Universe
    • "I advise you to march in step with the rest of the white-bathroom loving nation — REMEMBER, LIKE RACISM!"
    • The Civil War reenactment sketch depicts a group of reenactors who grow bored of Roundheads VS Cavaliers and switch to "the government forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo" VS "rebel militiamen representing Sudanese tribal interests" — in Black Face.
      "Are you absolutely sure that this isn't... racist?"
      "Yeah. It's a historically accurate recreation of a landmark global conflict!"
      • They subsequently come to the conclusion that it is indeed racist when the "battle" begins with Webb's character yelling, "I AM GOING TO KILL YOU WITH THIS BIG MACHETE" in a horrible fake accent.
    • When Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, the Apostles get on his case for implying that a Samaritan being good is so strange that it's worth a whole story and thus revealing his own anti-Samaritan prejudice. ("Me and my wife went on holiday to Samaria last year, and they were lovely people!")
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • "Posh Dancing" puts conga lines and freestyle disco into Pride and Prejudice.
    • The Caveman Pathologists. Of course, being as they are cavemen, they lack the terminology or technology to do a crime scene reconstruction, guessing that their victim was killed "some time before now", and having no way to track the killer.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: An episode presents a trailer for The Number Wang Code, where we learn that all numbers are part of a conspiracy. Also, the above-mentioned Inebriati (or Knights Tippler), a select cabal of people who have shaped the world for the better for centuries, all on the principle that "everything is much, much easier if you're ever-so-slightly drunk." Being completely drunk, however...
  • Anyone Can Die: Parodied in the backstage show:
    "If this show's going to mean anything at all, somebody has got to die!"
  • Apocalypse How: The Event from "The Quiz Broadcast" is implied to be a Class 2 (planet-wide, societal collapse), bordering on Class 3 (planet-wide, species extinction). Society is barely holding on with its limited resources and a severe lack of knowledge. By the last sketch, humanity is implied to be on the verge of extinction.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: In the "Community Support vs Real Police", sketches the police officer mercilessly pours scorn on the hapless PCSO he's partnered with, but arguably the cruellest jibe is this:
    Police Officer: Did you see Britain's most senior Community Support Officer on the news last night?
    PCSO: No.
    Police Officer: Neither did I.
  • Art Imitates Art: A creepy version of Test Card F is shown during breaks in the Quiz Broadcast. It features Bubbles the clown with a sad face, Carole wearing a gas mask, and depressing phrases such as "Mummy won't wake up" and "It is the mercy" written on the blackboard.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: One "Behind the Scenes" sketch has Webb asking Mitchell if people can levitate. Bickering ensues when Mitchell asks Robert why he even bothered asking such an idiotic question.
  • As the Good Book Says...: One The Quiz Broadcast sketch has the Test Card Girl writing "Revelation 6 13 15" on the blackboard.
    Revelation 6:13-15 reads: "and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
    Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains."
    (remain indoors)
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The doorbell replacement product, a cannon that fires small dogs at your window with a note attached to their collar. If you visit multiple people in one go, you may need to carry more than one dog.
    "I estimate you can shoot the same dog through twenty-four windows before it becomes a terrifying lump of mutilated flesh."
  • Awful British Sex Comedy: The Bawdy 1970s Hospital is a homage to them.
  • The Backstage Sketch: The show frequently featured the stars lounging around on set in-between takes. One particularly memorable instance lampshades how the supposedly documentary-esque content of these sketches was in fact just as scripted as the rest of the show.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Hennimore's boss is not really mean-spirited or a bad man, but he invariably gives Hennimore two simultaneous tasks with instructions so confusing that no one could possibly handle both without screwing them up in the most comedic way possible. Needless to say, Hilarity Ensues.
    • Mitchell and Webb themselves during the Behind-The-Scenes skits, where they decide in order to create a meaningful message, they are going to kill off one of the cast. Cue them setting their sights on uber-cheerful James Bachman.
      James Bachman 1972-2010. Tragically got put into a woodchipper for narrative reasons. SOD CANCER.
  • Bad Export for You: Parodied in the behind-the-scenes of Numberwang special, which showed several international adaptations of Numberwang. The American version has the host say "Yes, that is a number." invoked
  • Berserk Button: The TV Realtor really doesn't like non-white...bathroom suites.
  • Big "NO!": Professor Death every time one of his inventions is proposed for a military application.
  • Big Word Shout: "HENNIMOOOOORE!"
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The man who wants to make a cup of tea for everyone in Belgium tries talking to them in French. The police car in the background says 'politie' (the Dutch word for police) meaning he's in Flanders. No wonder they're ignoring the guy speaking terrible French.
    • In one of the Didldidi adverts, the phrase "sárga olcsó dolog" appears, which is Hungarian for "cheap yellow thing".
  • Biting-the-Hand Humour: Series 4 opens with a "behind the scenes" sketch of Mitchell and Webb declaring that only sick, twisted people like the BBC would renew their show, rather than trying to do some good in the world. Guess they listened...
  • Bitter Wedding Speech: A sketch has a well-intentioned best man screwing up a wedding speech and disparaging the wedding, though the groom is surprisingly fine with it after it's finished. It's not bitter in the ordinary sense, just pedantic about how it's all just So Okay, It's Average and not literally the most beautiful/lavish/etc. in the world.
    Best Man: Look, if the most beautiful woman in the world were getting married, that would be big news! The papers would be here. There'd have been champagne, not prosecco.
  • Black Comedy: All the Quiz Broadcast and Barry Crisp segments, and a few of the one-offs too.
    "Pre-Event sources talk about 'hope'. What was hope?"
  • Blatant Lies: One sketch revolves around a "veterinary hospital", whose charges of pheasants, chicken and lamb tend to suffer terrible, tragic accidents, like getting their heads cut off, or their shoulders, or the "incinerator" cooking them. Tragic, delicious accidents.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • Parodied in one of the Party Planners sketches, in the middle of an extended What the Hell, Hero? aimed at Bond.
      Mitchell: Everyone's in shock, except for James, who strolls over to the window, glances down, and says, "What a piercing bore."
      Webb: "A piercing bore"? There's no such expression!
      Mitchell: Well, right next to the railing was a rock crusher. It's pretty clear he'd wanted to say, "what a crushing bore" but missed and was making the best of a bad job...
    • The "Agent Suave" sketch reveals that all of the titular superspy's quips and Double Entendres come from a pair of lazy comedy writers sitting in a van outside reading from a book called '1001 Super Spy Jokes'. They're also providing this service for the villain. This backfires on them.
      Suave: Lazy double-crossing shits!
      Leslie: You made us look like dicks in there!
      Comedy Writer #1: I suppose you're doing this for kicks?
      Suave: That's exactly the kind of shit we're talking about!
      Both Writers: That was good!
  • Born in the Wrong Century: One sketch has a brilliant Renaissance inventor who can apparently see the future (but only indistinctly) and keeps on inventing things which he sees can be useful someday (like a computer mouse) while he can't quite understand how.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The "Flankel Pat" system for finding lost objects can be used to find books, scissors, keys, and earthquake survivors.
  • Breaking Lecture:
    • In a behind-the-scenes sketch, David unleashes one of these on Robert when he plans to send a rude letter to a friend. It's enough to reduce Robert to tears.
    • The man in the "Talent Dredge" sketch unleashes one of a failed contestant, For the Evulz.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Episode 2 of series 3 begins with a company who makes banal hand-holding phrases. The first sketch with Captain Todger has a prominent police banner with one of those phrases (Police - "The People Who Arrest People").
    • One of the sketches in series 4 revolves around the supermarket Didlididi and its suspicious "produce". One of these can be seen in the food supplies in the same episode's Quiz Broadcast.
    • In series 4 episode 5, the 'backstage' sketches talk about the idea of ending the show in an emotionally affecting way, but ultimately determine that the announcer would just talk over the credits and ruin the mood. In the next episode, the last of the series, the final sketch is a genuine Tear Jerker featuring an elderly Sherlock Holmes... and the announcer doesn't talk over the credits.
  • Broken Record: Sheila, a contestant on the Quiz Broadcast (remain indoors), becomes incapable of saying anything other than "yes" after being voltage-calmed. It gets her shot by the guards when the host makes a joke about Them.
  • Brown Note: "I've got a Red Tuba that makes you shit yourself!" From the same sketch, the eponymous green clarinet also makes you sing embarrassing truths to the tune of "I Saw Three Ships".
  • Bulletproof Fashion Plate: The host of The Quiz Broadcast (remain indoors) starts out looking remarkably well groomed, all things considering — and then progressively unravels as things get worse and worse.
  • Buffy Speak: Several shows written by the lazy writers contain examples, not done out of wit or humour, just because they couldn't be bothered finding out the right terminology.
  • Butt-Monkey: Julie in the Numberwang sketches, who was almost always declared the loser of the game and was made to suffer various indignities such as having a paper bag placed over her head, being stuffed into a cardboard box, and getting whacked on the head repeatedly with a frying pan. The only time she won (outside of the lone Numberwang radio sketch) was when there was a sudden death round, and the first person to die won. That's Numberwang! for you. In fact, in their live show, the host started verbally abusing Julie in the last round and showing blatant favouritism towards Simon.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": The interviewer in the "Realistic Film Director" sketch asks questions like this.
    Interviewer: Peter, what would you say — and apologies if this seems like a crass question — is the horniest bra size on a woman?
    Director: What?
    Interviewer: By which I mean, what, if anything, is the message in your films?
  • By-the-Book Cop: Parodied in one sketch, with one police officer who's fanatically by-the-book and extremely in-your-face about it when his superior calls him in because he's completely inefficient:
    Officer: Oh, ah, that's what it's all about these days, isn't it? League tables and conviction rates! Listen, Sunshine, I may not get results, but by God I do things by the book!
    Chief: Nobody cares about the book, O'Munroid! I don't even know where you got that book! All I know is you're supposed to be in charge of tracking down this killer, and I want you concentrating on nailing him, not reporting your fellow officers for uniform infractions!
    Officer: I see, so a few old ladies are bumped off and suddenly epaulettes are optional? Listen, Son, when I joined the police force — round about the time you joined the cub scouts — I didn't do it for the glamour, and I sure as Hell didn't do it for the dough. I did it for one reason only: to follow correct procedure and document it appropriately!
  • Callback:
    • A series four sketch parodying Cash For Gold adverts has a Cash for Plutonium commercial that says it's "Definitely not a front for a maniacal supervillain" at which point a picture of Leslie, the Bond villain parody from earlier series, flashes up on the screen.
    • In series one, it's noted that the number '2' is deadly to humans. In the Numberwang Code, the Ian McKellen expy is poisoned, his mug filled with the number 2.
  • Calling Card: The Identity Killer, who leaves photo identification of himself, his driver's license, his passport and, on one occasion, himself, at his crime scenes. The police have no leads for this Diabolical Mastermind.
    Detective: So let's go through it one last time. All we've got is a name, an address, an occupation, a phone number, a modus operandi, motive, opportunity, a confession and him in the room.
    Identity Killer: [waving] Hi.
    Detective: So, I ask you all, where the hell do we go from here?
    Officer: We could try arresting him, boss?
    Detective: Or is that just what he wants us to do?
    Identity Killer: No, it isn't.
    Detective: ... or is that just what he wants us to think?
    Identity Killer: Look, I'm just gonna go. [leaves]
    Detective: He's always that one step ahead of us.
  • Calling Your Orgasms: "Now we know! NOW WE KNOW!"
  • Calvinball: Numberwang, the maths quiz that simply everyone! Is talking about? Yes.
    • Also the similarly-themed Wordwang and the German spinoff, Nümberwang.
    • Parodied when it is revealed that Numberwang is decided through complicated mathematics by Colosson.
    • In the live show, Julie somehow managed to achieve Numberwang while bantering with the host.
  • Captain Ersatz: Monsieur Vauron, who shows up in a few sketches, is clearly David Suchet's version of Poirot with just enough details filed off to prevent Agatha Christie's estate from showing up with lawyers.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The company in the Our Slogan Is Terrible sketch.
    "Now, I'm a certain sort of evil. Not "death camp" evil, not "serial killer" evil, but I take a perverse pleasure in having been paid through the nose for nothing of any value!"
  • Cargo Cult: By the halfway point of series 4, the cast and crew of the Quiz Broadcast have taken to worshipping the regulations, Sheila especially.
    Blessed be the regulations!
  • Catchphrase: "That's Numberwang!" and "Let's rotate the board!" for Numberwang; "Hello, good evening and remain indoors!" for The Quiz Broadcast.
    • Also "Oh, and that's a bad miss" for Ted during the snooker radio commentator sketches.
    • Worth noting that their most notable catchphrases are usually set right at the start of the sketch, rather than having them as the 'pay-off' at the end. This is due to the show's origins on radio, where a catchphrase at the beginning would let the audience know which characters they were listening to right away.
    • "Henni-MORE!"
    • The News live broadcast: "What's your reckon?"
    • The Posh Waiter, Scary Vicar and Intimidating Tailor all introduced themselves in a similar fashion:
      Person: Sorry, what happened to the [much nicer previous occupant of the position in question]?
      Waiter/Vicar/Tailor: [With an alarming maniacal glint in the eye:] (S)he's gone, sir. They've all gone. They've [Been removed]. And we're back.
      Person: Who?
      Waiter/Vicar/Tailor: The [incredibly hostile and inappropriate] people who still unaccountably [do X].
    • Not to mention during the Waiter/Vicar/Tailor's rant, he mentions that he and those he worked with saw Webb's character the last time he visited, and they "thought you were a dick/turd".
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Episode 5 of Series 4 has a series of "behind the scenes" sketches about the pair trying to create a serious thought-provoking ending akin to the ending of Blackadder Goes Forth. ("I think we desperately need to show maturity with something with something tacked on and mawkish. Like we care about MS ... doesn't have to be MS, just people and their relationships and their disgusting problems, like we give a shit.") This is apparently fulfilled when the episode ends with one of the cast members being killed off, fading to the message "SOD CANCER". However, Episode 6, the series finale, then ends in a desperately sad depiction of Sherlock Holmes with dementia, showing the inevitability of losing one's former glory in old age. This time, it's not played for laughs.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: "They" are mentioned on the test card a few skits before they appear.
  • Childless Dystopia: The post-apocalyptic gameshow recurring sketch has a "contestant" say that one of the things she regrets from before "The Event" was not learning more about keeping children alive, prompting the host to say that life would certainly be different if even some of the children survived.
  • Circular Reasoning: The justification for keeping aliens a secret in the Roswell Conspiracy sketch.
  • Classically-Trained Extra: One sketch shown on the BBC website has Mark Evans briefly tearing up as he mentions that despite being an award-winning writer, he ends up playing such roles as "Man With Leaflet".
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Sir Digby Chicken Caesar. "You mean, you detect the dread hand of my nemesis' arch-rival, Viscount von Sausagerolls?" "No, I can smell sausage rolls!"
  • Clueless Mystery: In-universe. Vauron is frustrated after seven days of investigating to find he has no evidence, only realising who the culprit was when they did "the Evil Voice".
    Vauron: It has been a Hell of a week, to be honest with you!
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: This is usually a humourous Sketch Show, but the final sketch is a shockingly bleak look at the future life of Sherlock Holmes, who is suffering from dementia and is well aware of the mental degradation that he's going through.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: The Green Clarinet. Subverted when the Enigmatic Empowering Entity comes to claim the clarinet back for misuse, as the owner just uses the clarinet to embarrass him into running away in floods of tears. Played straight again when he meets the guy with the Red Tuba.
  • Comically Missing the Point: An archaeologist discussing what appears to be Romans drinking beer from cans and wearing swimming trunks objects only on the basis of the length of a centurion's scabbard, and once she's told there's evidence that supports it being that length, her reservations vanish. This despite seeing all this on a video tape.
  • Comical Overreacting: While discussing how to make a Blackadder Goes Forth-style Downer Ending, the duo discover the tea urn is empty and a new one will take five minutes. Cue Platoon-esque slow-mo Skyward Scream.
  • Complexity Addiction: Used and discussed with two men sharing an office, where Ray, the one played by Mitchell, wants someone's number, which Colin (Webb) has. Rather than just giving Ray the number, Colin insists on using text, rather than just telling him. When Colin relents, he crows about how using their phones is "quicker, easier and fun" despite all the evidence to the contrary. When this doesn't work, he reluctantly just tells Ray the number... but gives it in an overly elaborate fashion.
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: Used by the creepy director to reassure a man he's filming that his penis won't appear on film. The guy buys it.
  • Counterfeit Cash: One skit involved a guy who's completely convinced his bad fake money is exactly what his gangster compatriot ordered. It isn't (the bills are bigger, wrongly coloured, have a portrait of Queen Beatrix instead of Queen Elizabeth, and it says "Ten Punds").
  • Continuity Snarl: In series 2, it's stated that Numberwang has been running since the 50s without stop (aside from Colosson trying to take over the world, of course), but in a series 3 sketch, an executive in the modern day claims to be talking to the inventors of Numberwang. Of course, the executive quickly turns out to be mad (he did say that he had a large part of his brain burned out by a hot wire when he became an executive), so he could be wrong, and, well... it is Numberwang.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Played for Laughs. In the Diana Assassination sketch, the agents come up with the plan to get a driver slightly drunk, and hope that he'll both crash, that Diana won't wear a seatbelt, and that she'll die. Just as they're about to put the plan into action, it all just happens by accident.
  • Counterfeit Cash: A forger proudly displays his work: "ten punds" scrawled in marker pen on an oversized piece of orange paper displaying the image of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. His credit cards look more realistic until his boss actually picks one up and discovers they're made of cheese.
  • Crazy Homeless Person: Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar and Ginger.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The creators of Colosson figured sooner or later it would try to take over the world, and built it with a failsafe mechanism that it would shut down if shown a picture of a chicken. Tragically, the documentary narrator confronted by an escaped Colosson, despite having foreseen this might happen, did not have a picture of a chicken.
  • Credits Pushback: Mercilessly savaged in series 4, episode 5, when a back-stage sketch has Mitchell and Webb discussing how this would impact their Drama Bomb Finale, especially regarding the bastard from Dave.
    Mitchell: He doesn't give a shit. As soon as he gets to the poppy bit of Blackadder Goes Forth, he's already split the screen and he's showing highlights of Frankie Boyle's nan-pussy set, "in memory of the fallen".
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • The sketch where the Host refuses to accept the correct answers from his contestants... before the reveal that he's got 6 months left to live and he's imprisoned the contestants on a spaceship heading into the Sun. And he's going to drag it out for as long as he can...
    • Mitchell and Webb conspiring to stuff one of the supporting actors into a woodchipper.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Parodied: Biscuit telekinesis can ruin your life.
  • Darker and Edgier: A lot of the sketches in Seasons Three and Four seemed to be much darker than the sketches in the first two series.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Played with and parodied in the stage show The Two Faces of Mitchell and Webb, where James Bachman and Abigail Burdess take the stage to "fill in the gaps" when Mitchell and Webb are doing costume shifts. They treat the situation as if they've got their own show, even singing their own theme song.
  • Deadline News: The news reporters who keep at their stations even as giant alien war machines destroy the station around them.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Parodied in one of the Bond Villain sketches, when Leslie wants a detective killed but keeps using euphemisms, and his henchman, Alan, insists on clearer language.
    Alan: "Have him removed"? "Take him out of the picture"? I thought we agreed at the meeting that these terms are needlessly ambiguous? We all agreed that from now on, when we want someone murdered, i.e., deliberately killed to death, then that's what we we're gonna say!
    Alan: This is gonna be "Let's hope Professor Ritson meets with a little accident" all over again! We spent nine months hoping that Professor Ritson would meet with an accident before Leslie made it clear it was an accident we were supposed to make happen!
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Just try to count the number of tropes this show parodies, subverts, deconstructs or otherwise plays with. Often examples of Don't Explain the Sketch being scathingly accurate and funny.
  • Description Cut: Invoked and lampshaded when Mitchell and Webb discuss which cast member they should kill. Robert suggests Mark Evans, only for David to say that he's so obscure they'd probably have to cut to him just to remind viewers who he was. Sure enough, the scene does indeed cut to Mark having a coffee, complete with a name tag on him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: One sketch featured a man who shot anybody who made a grammatical mistake dead. In fairness, he does apply it equally — he shoots himself when it is pointed out to him he made a grammatical mistakenote .
  • The Ditz: Robert Webb, in several of the behind-the-scenes sketches. The special guest star sketch in particular is a good showcase.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: ZE DOOM MELON! ... which still requires some work.
  • Double Entendre: A doctor working at a typical "bawdy 1970s hospital" has a bit of trouble grasping the nature of the trope, with unfortunate results ("Shall I rub them against my cock?").
  • Downer Ending:
    • Played with in the "Sod Cancer" sketch, and played straight with Sherlock Holmes suffering with dementia at the end of season four. With a Credits Gag"Meditation" from the opera Thais by Jules Massenet instead of the normal theme song.
    • The Quiz Broadcasts. Sheila is killed, and mostly eaten. They get inside and attack, killing everyone but the presenter and Pete before disintegrating, leaving the two men alone.
  • Drama Bomb Finale: Discussed in Series 4 ep 5 as a way to shoehorn some depth and maturity into the program — they finally go with Tonight, Someone Dies, with a Really Dead Montage involving a minor player who makes the mistake of showing off his beloved girlfriend's Facebook page.
  • Drinking Game: A company makes it official policy for employees to take a drink whenever certain phrases are said, like for example, "merger" (wa-hey! *chug*). The Only Sane Man of the company tries to point out this is probably the reason they've wound up needing an actual merger (wa-hey! *chug*) in the first place.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Played for Laughs in ''Coverage Of People Who Are Ill In Hospital Receiving Treatment", where a patient the host had been talking to a moment before has suffered what the host dubs "a bit of a cock-up" and died.
  • Electric Torture: One of the contestants on the Remain Indoors quiz show is taken away to be "voltage-calmed".
  • Eleventy Zillion: Parodied in a Numberwang skit involving "imaginary numbers." The contestants offer "twentington" and "frilve hundred and neeb" as their numbers, followed by "shinty-six." The host then stops the contestant and says, "Oh, I'm afraid shinty-six is a real number. As in the popular phrase, 'I only have shinty-six days left to live.'" Behind him, a board displays the number shinty-six (fifty-six with a reversed five). (Given the nature of the Numberwang board, we could have been looking at frilve hundred and neeb, or even Nova Scotia, for all we know.)
  • Embarrassing Slide: Inverted, with one sketch of Webb showing Mitchell increasingly lewd holiday photos until he caves to Webb's demand to read a dirty magazine.
  • Entendre Failure: The Bawdy 1970s hospital sketch.
  • Epic Fail: The Cavemen Pathologists, being cavemen, lack the understanding and terminology to analyse a crime-scene, figuring the victim was murdered "some time before now", and have no way of tracking the criminal. In their attempt at a reconstruction of the crime scene, they end up accidentally killing their only witness.
  • Epunymous Title: Comedy Duos Fish & Chip and Pin & Cushion split up to form Chip & Pin... but Fish & Cushion end up being more successful. And even get the gig to promote the Chip & PIN system.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Parodied in the History of Numberwang sketch, where Professor Bertrand Russell, who's spent several hours trying to work out whether he could sit on his chair, finally realises out how exactly one can tell whether something is or is not in fact numberwang... by looking at a jug on his desk. He then smashes the jug to prevent anyone from copying him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: General Drayfox is quite disturbed to hear that the superhero Captain Todger is in jail for statutory rape and is greatly appalled by his politically incorrect ways.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Twice in the Quiz Broadcast statements - first when everyone but the main three has simply succumbed to the harsh conditions of the collapsing society, then, after being found again, when They kill everyone but Peter and the host before inexplicably disintegrating, leaving the two of them alone and extremely disturbed.
  • Everybody Knew Already: The "Working from Home" sketch revolves around a man who has recently started his own home business receiving tips from another home worker on how to resist the compulsion to masturbate whenever he feels like it, and bemoans that it's getting harder to keep that from his wife in light of the business not making progress. When their wives return to the conversation, the men play it off as the more experienced man giving business tips to the less experienced one... at which point the latter's wife cheerfully pipes up with "You should tell him how to rein in all the wanking! That's what I'd be doing if I was at home alone all day."
  • Evil Is Sexy: A woman in a Christie-esque detective drama gets progressively better hair and make-up, and more cleavage, as she confesses to murder. This is, of course, lampshaded and invoked.
    Freddie: Have her tits just got bigger?
    Vauron: Zis can happen.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The cannibalistic creatures known only as "Them".
  • Exact Words: Numberwang's "Sudden Death" round.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Parodied in the 'Mad Scientist' sketch, where the Giant Death Ray is aptly named... but not for the reason the President of the United States and the head of the US Army think, which prompts this reaction when they discover it's not quite as lethal as they expected:
    Major: One question that obviously leaps to mind, Professor Death, is why on Earth you elected to name this contraption of yours the Giant Death— ohIsee.
    • In the second Numberwang, Simon is wearing a shirt that says "I AM FROM SPACE." Webb introduces him as "Simon, who is from space."
  • Exasperated Perp: Parodied with regard to Poirot, who admits that he only knows the murderer for sure when they "do the evil voice". When the murderer shoots herself, he remarks, "It is better zis way. Some courts, zey do not accept ze Evil Voice as evidence."
  • Eye Scream: Peter, one of the contestants on Quiz Broadcast, is blind.
    Host: Were you blinded by the Event?
    Peter: No, I was blinded post-Event by raiders.
    Host: (Chuckles) Well, that certainly is a funny story.
  • Facecam: "The Surprising Adventures of me, Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar!"
  • Fatal Family Photo: Poor James Bachman's fate is sealed in the penultimate episode of Season 4 when he turns up happily showing off a photo of him and his girlfriend.
  • Felony Misdemeanor:
  • Fictional Board Game: There's a commercial for "Numberwang: The Board Game" in one episode, which included an encyclopedia-sized manual listing what was and was not Numberwang.
  • First-Name Basis: The final sketch of the show, which features Dr. Watson visiting an aging, senile Sherlock Holmes in a nursing home, Holmes addresses Watson as "John" in his final speech, where he admits that he knows his mind has gone, but he can not do anything about it.
  • Five-Token Band: "Let me introduce you to my team, Disabled Ethnic, Teenage Poofter and Woman. Don't talk to them, they're just here to tick boxes!"
  • Foregone Conclusion: One of the reasons the "Hennimore" sketches were fairly unpopular compared to the others is that they (with one exception) all follow the same pattern - Hennimore will always screw up the assignment because of the boss's orders and be yelled at for it.
  • For Science!: A Mad Scientist named Dr Death has created a Death Ray for the US government. Although it's actually harmless and just named after him. At the first mention of weaponising any of his inventions he begins to destroy them with a wrench.
    Dr Death: NOOOOO! The Giant Death Ray was intended to help people!
  • For the Evulz: The health secretary behind the kat-kat and kid-kat foodstuffs/spate of dead kids and cats admits when asked that his reasons for doing so are simply because he prefers dogs.
  • From Bad to Worse: The Quiz Broadcast sketches. First, The Event destroys almost all human civilisation and knowledge, and the survivors must huddle inside for protection (apparently from radiation), but there are some glimmers of civilisation, with mention of "food parcels" being delivered by someone. Human reproduction is stymied by the fact that people keep vomiting whenever they try, and a mysterious disease starts infecting everyone. Then the food stops coming. Then "They" show up, in the thousands, all desperate to get inside.
  • Funny Background Event: The finale "Prayer and a Pint" segment has the CERN technician who'd been talking to Donny silently asking the crew if he should leave while Donny's singing, even starting to get off his seat, only to apparently be informed he has to stay. He spends the rest of the song sitting there looking awkward.
  • Gambit Roulette: Parodied with lashings of Sarcasm Mode in a sketch ridiculing the conspiracy theory that Princess Diana's death in a high-speed crash was set up by the royal family;
    Conspirator 1: Plus, people always die in car crashes, don't they?
    Conspirator 2: Yes, always, and people who drive over the limit always crash. What we're organizing here, my friends, is a watertight hit. [...] Induced-tipsy-car-crash it'll have to be, then. It simply can't fail - unless she wears a seatbelt.
    Conspirator 1: She won't. She's unprovably pregnant, remember? Women recently impregnated by the only man they've ever loved are notoriously slapdash about their personal safety.
  • Gargle Blaster: When the host of "A Prayer and a Pint" ends up in Tehran under the misapprehension that it's in Iraq, he's given a pint of pure ethanol mixed with caramel for colour since alcoholic beverages aren't legal in Iran and has to cough and wheeze his way through the hymn.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • The two Nazi goons who realize that their Skeleton Motif isn't quite right for the heroes of a story. The stage version adds one of them arguing that the pattern of German success in the war thus far doesn't fit with the heroes in any movie he's seen, but it does fit plenty of villains.
    • Poor Hennimore clearly realises just how disastrous the consequences of his boss's latest set of conflicting instructions will be, and is a nervous wreck as a result.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Invoked In-Universe in the German Numberwang sketch, in which Simon is handed an autographed picture of Hasselhoff upon winning.
  • Germanic Efficiency: Parodied in Reports Mode - a Bavarian entertainment show centring around graphs and charts, even featuring a break from all those reports so we can take a look at how the show is doing in terms of efficiency.
  • Godzilla Threshold: On the Quiz Broadcast, the viewer is constantly reminded to Remain Indoors. However, the fact that they got in is bad enough for the host to tell the viewers to go outside.
  • Going Native: In a garden centre.
  • Government Conspiracy: Parodied in a series of sketches which deconstruct conspiracy theories around Roswell, the Moon landing and Princess Diana's death, lampshading the inherent ludicrousness of them by having a trio of government spooks play them perfectly straight. In the Roswell sketch, even the agents seem unsure how the conspiracy benefits anyone:
    Agent 1: I hate to be a skeptic, but... why are we doing any of this?
    Agent 2: Doesn't really make sense, does it? But it's... [shrugs] it's just the sort of thing that, generally, governments do.
  • Grail in the Garbage: A recurring sketch involves a man at a garage sale casually selling incredibly valuable artifacts for a low price. The Holy Grail itself, for instance, was sold for five pounds, as having already gained eternal life from drinking it, he sees no reason to keep it around. Then there's the wardrobe that's the entrance to Narnia, as now that he has a garden at his new house, he doesn't really need the extra space.
  • Grammar Nazi: A boss who shoots his staff dead when they make errors. Ironically, his misuse of the word "acronym" goes unnoticednote . He ends up shooting himself for getting the plural of "ignoramus" wrong though.
  • Gratuitous French:
    • The Agent Suave sketch, being set in a Monaco-esque casino offering a selection of country fete games, has such treats as "Frappez le Rat".
    • Monsieur Garnier, who for whatever reason is a Northern-accented sort, always refers to laboratories as "laboratoire".
  • Gratuitous German: Das ist Nümberwang! Even better; they referenced the JFK "I am a jelly doughnut" legendnote , and Simon got a photo of David Hasselhoff as a prize. Turns out that the German is Surprisingly Good.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: The cricket version.
  • Haughty Help: Featured in the sketches "The incredibly posh people who are still unaccountably waiters", and "The incredibly aristocratic and intimidating people who still unaccountably sell clothes".
  • Heartwarming Moments: Parodied and Invoked with "Sod Cancer!"
  • Hešvy MŽtal ‹mlaut: Some of the numbers on the board on Das ist Nümberwang! have umlauts.
  • Heel Realization: One of Those Wacky Nazis is starting to think that maybe they are the bad guys.
    • "Hans... are we the baddies?"
    • "It's just all these skulls, good guys don't wear skulls do they?"
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar's sidekick, Ginger: On the good days, his father would attempt to hang him, on the bad days, he would attempt to have sex with him.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Discussed by the people who make terrible slogans, with one suggesting that they have in fact become the victims of their own success. The boss isn't too happy with this.
    Boss: That would be gratifying, but at the same time a pisser.
  • Home and Garden: Parodied in the sketch "Coverage Of People Buying A House And Then Living In It". The titular show is clearly supposed to be in the vein of British versions like Location Location Location, with all the Mundane Made Awesome that is usually involved... except that everyone involved in the show has clearly realised just how teeth-grindingly mundane the process actually is and so cannot be bothered to actually inject the awesome. The result is two clearly rather bored men who cannot hide their disinterest and mild resentment at having to make a television on the process of buying a house and fixing it up a bit, and so rush through everything in as quick a dull monotone as can be gotten away with.
  • Ho Yay: Invoked in-universe in the "Snooker Commentator" sketches, in which Ted and Peter get very enthusiastic about the appeal of a young, blonde, handsome player. In Ted's case, it appears to be a man-crush, whereas Peter apparently has a much deeper attraction (it's confirmed that he's gay soon after).
  • Humble Hero: In the "Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit" sketch, Angel Summoner is a genuinely modest fellow who just wants BMX Bandit to feel useful and included. It's just unfortunate that BMX Bandit's rather limited skill-set is fundamentally overshadowed by his ability to summon a horde of celestial super-beings at will.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • One of the behind-the-scenes sketches has David and Robert get into an argument about cheese that gets progressively heated, eventually turning into a shouting match. This involves David at one point screaming at Robert "You've got a lot of anger! A LOT OF ANGER!!!"
    • The real estate agent who insensitively badgers a woman who works with torture victims for "the worst torture story you've ever had", once she finally breaks down and tells him one off-screen, angrily denounces her for her callousness over taking an afternoon off to look for a house.
    • The fourth series begins with Mitchell and Webb apologising to the viewers for all the humour and filth featured throughout the series. Then...
    David Mitchell: The filth in particular was getting to be a load of fucking balls.
    • The Incredibly Scary Vicar browbeats the two visitors to his church for their lack of spirituality to the point of eventually chasing them away, screaming at them with a crucifix as if he were trying to expel demons. When they eventually flee, however, he complains that they didn't leave any money for the church upkeep.
    • After brainstorming ideas for their Drama Bomb Finale, Mitchell and Webb conclude that the ideas they've got are too contrived. Then, they go to get some coffee, and have a slow-motion breakdown to being told there's no hot water.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Referenced in The Quiz Broadcast when the host asks the contestants what they wished they had learned prior to The Event.
    Sheila: I think if I'd taken in more survival tips for children, that would have been helpful.
    Host: (chuckling) Oh, yes. Post-Event, the world would have been a different place if we'd managed to keep even some of the children alive.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Lampshaded and averted, naturally, in "The Man Who Has A Cough And It's Just A Cough And He's Fine".
  • Indecisive Parody: Obviously, they couldn't end the episode where they heartily take the piss out of Sudden Downer Ending with a genuine example, so they parody it instead. The next episode ends with a proper one, with an elderly Sherlock Holmes descending into dementia.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After several minutes trying, to no effect, to talk about the company's dire financial straits, which has ended with everyone completely sloshed, the Only Sane Man decides he's going to go to the pub.
  • Innocently Insensitive: The host of Prayer and a Pint seems to have no idea just how hideously offensive what he's saying can be. The end result is guests sitting there looking horrifically awkward as he sings.
  • Insane Troll Logic: As a result of an idiotic executive's meddling, the inverted version of Rebecca has everyone unfavourably comparing Rebecca to the second Mrs. DeWinters, even though they've no idea who she is or what she looks like, much to Rebecca's increasing confusion.
  • Insignificant Anniversary: One of the Numberwang sketches started like this:
    Host: Hello and welcome to Numberwang. And today is a very special day because it's our nine thousand, three hundred and forty-first episode! [The contestants are showered with confetti.]
  • It Never Gets Any Easier:
    • Word for word, on a knowingly badly-researched medical show, when a doctor has to... pull off a plaster.
    • Also paraphrased in a sketch involving... a caveman cop.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
  • It's Been Done: The two lazy writers, while trying to come up with a "heartwarming British sports film", find Microsoft Word comes with a program for anyone wishing to do so. It also shoots down their first idea (tennis), because someone else had done that.
  • I Want My Jetpack: Both the attitude, and the concept of jetpacks, are spoofed in-universe here.
  • It's Probably Nothing: The "Everything is Fine" sketch has the mayor of a flooded Shrewsbury releasing a statement on how everything is okay, except all the water everywhere, which he assumes will go away after a while.
  • Jerkass: Most of the "behind the scenes" sketches portray Robert Webb as one, like in one instance guilt-tripping David into wearing a shirt that makes him look gay, simply to claim he's not homophobic after making some homophobic remarks sometime before, and bluntly dismissing an upset Mitchell's concerns that this would ruin any future attempts at romance.
  • Joke of the Butt: "The Boy With an Arse for a Face"
  • Just the Introduction to the Opposites: A sketch where a husband and wife are arguing because he's just returned from a business trip and she finds a bra in his suitcase. She asks, mildly annoyed, if he's cheating on her, which he admits to absent-mindedly. The fight escalates as she brings in other "minor" issues such as her desire to have a baby and secret gambling addiction, all of which are attended to in the same bored-but-mildly-tetchy fashion, until she suddenly bursts into tears and he figures out what this is really about — that time he left the fridge door open and a whole quiche and some milk went bad.
    Wife: A whole quiche I had to throw away, you bastard!
    Husband: So it is about the fridge door!
    Wife: (crying) And milk! So much milk!
    Husband: Look, I've said I'm sorry! I'm so so sorry!
    Wife: You think I care if you're sorry? I'll never see that quiche again!
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Professor Death made a Giant Death Ray and an Armoured Scorpion of Death for peaceful purposes, damnit!
  • Juxtaposition Gag: The Quiz Broadcast and Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar are both versions of this.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: At the end of the "Avocado Bathroom" sketch, the husband kills his (pregnant) wife because she's revealed that she not only doesn't mind an avocado bathroom, but quite likes it.
    Webb: That was for the best. Now, come on. Let's go and look at the guest bedroom. It's got flock wallpaper. You'll know what to say.
    Mitchell: [sobbing] "I couldn't live with it."
    Webb: Could you live with it?
    Mitchell: I couldn't live with it!
  • Kill the Poor: One sketch was based around contemplating this as an easy solution to revitalizing the economy. Though it's played with, since the Minister suggesting it is forced to irritably clarify whether it would work or not he has no intention of actually doing it; he just wants to make sure they've literally contemplated all possible solutions.
  • Lampshade Hanging: They are fond of using their 'out of character' segments of the show to do humourous lampshade hanging, one example being hanging a lampshade on the fact they weren't using Southern accents in a sketch highlighting the absurdity of KKK costumes by reflecting (out of character) on how bad it would be if they tried.
    • When discussing which of their supporting actors to kill, Mitchell brings up Mark Evans, and Webb points out Evans' lack of mainstream success and recognition compared to, say, James Bachman or Olivia Colman.
  • Last Name Ultimatum: HENNIMOOOOOORRREE!!!
  • Law of Disproportionate Response: Demonstrated in this sketch about a couple arguing.
  • Lazy Bum: The Lazy Writers, whose usual excuse for not doing any research goes along the lines of "we were given the chance to do some research, but couldn't be bothered", usually because it conflicts with their holiday plans.
  • Left Hanging: Due to the series ending, we never learn if Colin's crewmates figure out he's a robot.
  • Lethal Eatery: The sketches about "Didldidi", a bargain supermarket parodying Aldi and Lidl, which sells food long past its sell-by date or that is clearly not fit for human consumption.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: Happens in the bawdy 1970s hospital when Dr Asquith fails to use innuendo.
  • Lost Common Knowledge: After The Event, a great deal of knowledge has been lost, so much so that the presenter cannot identify traffic cones, clocks, tombstones, Eric Morecambe, spices, water, or hope. It is implied that one of The Event's side effects is severe memory loss.
  • Mad Scientist: Subverted with Professor Death, who doesn't want his Giant Death Ray, Armoured Scorpion of Death, or Doom Melon used for military applications.
  • Magical Defibrillator: "Nurse, fetch me the electric paddles that can make you better if you're really sick but can make you sort of ill if you're fine!" Moments later: "Oh no... he was fine. And now he's poorly from too much electric."
  • Magic Music: The Green Clarinet and the aforementioned Red Tuba. In the former case, it makes people reveal embarrassing personal things by singing them when playing. Meanwhile, when blown, the latter makes you shit yourself.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Parodied in the sketch about the Government Conspiracy to kill Princess Diana:
    Agent 1: So we're all agreed, that's the best way to do it.
    Agent 2: Absolutely. It's so simple. No messing around with poison-tipped umbrellas or snipers — we just get a chauffeur drunk.
    Agent 1: Slightly drunk.
    Agent 2: And, uh, and assume that he'll crash the car.
    • Then ultimately subverted;
      Agent 1: Well, you can stand down, everyone. That all just happened by accident!
      Agent 2: Well, don't tell Prince Philip! We'll still get our fee!
  • Manchild: Colin, in the office co-owners sketches. He's a hostage negotiator who refuses to actually leave his office, on account of not liking being outside, he shows little to no regard for the hostages' safety, making snide comments when sent a finger by the kidnapper, and during football season acts like a typical obnoxious football fan.
  • Maximum Fun Chamber: "Come on, what's the worst torture story you've got?"
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Discussed in one Behind the Scenes sketch, where David Mitchell starts wondering about this, calling himself the "Myth Child" and annoying the rest of the cast.
    • Speedo's name comes from the fact that, for reasons known only to himself, he wears incredibly tight speedos.
  • Men Buy from Mars, Women Buy from Venus: Utterly destroyed.
    Announcer: Women, you're leaking, aging, hairy, overweight, and everything hurts. And your children's clothes are filthy. No wonder men long for other, less clammy women. For God's sake, sort yourself out!
    Announcer: Men! Shave and get drunk, because you're already brilliant!
  • Misery Poker: Inverted in a sketch in which a paediatric consultant tries ever so hard to be sympathetic to his boyfriend's problems at his own job as an ice cream taster, despite the boyfriend's insistence that his job "somehow feels... less important than taking care of terminally ill children."
  • Mood Dissonance: The "elderly Sherlock Holmes" sketch, in which Holmes' obvious mental deterioration — and Watson's equally obvious desperation to pretend for his sake that nothing is wrong — is played for laughs... until Holmes, in a moment of lucidity, reveals he knows only too well what's happening to him.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The "elderly Sherlock Holmes" sketch goes quickly from Black Comedy to tragedy.
    • More humorously, a series of sketches in the fourth season involved Robert Webb and Abigail Burdess as a pair of new parents who swerve suddenly between happily cooing over their baby daughter (played by their actual daughter) and viciously hissing abuse towards each other right in front of her.
    • The Quiz Broadcast sketches, especially the later ones, can cause these.
  • Moon-Landing Hoax: In one of a series of Conspiracy Theory sketches, a shady government office plans to fake the moon landings. When they realize that no one will be fooled unless they really do build a massive rocket, and they'll have the cost of film crews and catering on top of that, they decide that it'll be cheaper just to pop to the moon and fake the footage there.
  • Moral Guardians: Mrs. Patricia Wilberforce, of the Mrs. Patricia Wilberforce Hour, acts as one, for Deliberate Values Dissonance. One show we see has her bringing a woman who became pregnant after being sexually assaulted during the blackout into the studio just so the audience can boo and hiss at her.
  • Motive Rant: The 'evil voice'. Further parodied after the murderer shoots herself, when Poirot accidentally provokes one about someone defecating in his en suite.
  • Moving the Goalposts:
    • The UN, faced with its growing inability to fight international terrorism, decided to refocus its efforts on a more achievable goal: fighting the international threat of Bill Oddie.
      Secretary General: We must remain strong, in the face of this new menace. We will not rest until Bill Oddie is hunted down, and completely destroyed.
    • A creepy director talks an actor into doing a nude scene, supposedly just for the purposes of voyeurism, but on the day of the shoot it's turned into an S&M scene instead, complete with popcorn-eating spectators.
  • Ms. Fanservice/She Cleans Up Nicely: Sarah Hadland. Take note of her appearance in the Quiz Broadcast sketches as "Sheila" and then in season 4's "Dog Poker" and "Reports Mode" sketches. She also plays the Agatha Christie villainess in the Evil Is Sexy example
  • Mundane Made Awesome - So That's The Football Coming Up Watch It Watch The Football Watch It IT'S GONNA MOVE!
    • Honourable mentions to "The Gift Shop Sketch", and "Reports Mode", the latter of which makes a series of graphs awesome.
    • Subverted to the point of deconstruction in "Coverage Of People Buying A House And Then Living In It", which flips the script on property shows like Location Location Location which apply this to people buying houses then renovating them. In this example, everyone involved clearly realises just how utterly mundane the process of doing so really is and they make no effort to pretend otherwise whatsoever, to the point where the host and the participant cannot hide their boredom and mild resentment at having to make a television program about it.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: One sketch has a man murdering people at a dinner just for mildly annoying him. Most of the guests don't make it to the end of their starters.
  • Name and Name
  • Namesake Gag: The Giant Death Ray is in fact a Steampunk barcode reader invented by Dr Death.
  • Narrative Filigree: Parodied by the "realistic director" sketch. His films include Sometimes Fires Go Out and The Man Who Has A Cough And It's Just A Cough And He's Fine.
  • Never Say "Die": Parodied in one of the evil genius skits. "This is gonna be 'Let's hope Professor Ritson meets with a little accident,' all over again! We spent nine months hoping that Professor Ritson would meet with an accident before Leslie made it clear it was an accident we were supposed to make happen!
  • Nobody Poops: In one sketch, a film director complains: "No one goes for a piss in Star Wars, you can watch the whole of Ghostbusters and no-one brushes their teeth, and in Lost in Translation, nothing happens. At all." In the director's own film, The Gathering People, a cabinet meeting about the outbreak of World War II is interrupted when one of the ministers has to go to the bathroom.
  • Noble Bigot: Of all people, Jesus is called out on this for his racist attitude to Samaritans.
    "The fact you wouldn't expect goodness from a Samaritan betrays your inherent racism!"
  • Nonindicative Name:
    • One sketch featured famous explorers naming their discoveries with totally irrelevant names- Walter Raleigh coming up with Virginia to honor Queen Elizabeth, Columbus naming them the West Indies despite them (supposedly) being in the east, and the vast and unconquerable expanse of Austrailia bringing to mind South Wales.
    • Professor Death's inventions like the Giant Death Ray are simply peaceful devices that happen to be named after him.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • A decidedly grim one in "The Event", as featured in the Quiz Broadcast sketches. The only people who know what happened are "Them", if the test card is any indication.
      • Also, whatever happened to one of their contestants on a show we don't get to see. The area is cordoned off, and the host is reasonably certain that whatever it was, they stopped it.
    • In a less apocalyptic example, we don't learn the specific details of the story that the woman who works with torture victims eventually tells to the real estate agent badgering her about it while he's showing her around a house, but from the horrified way he reacts it's apparently not very nice.
    • Subverted with the banana dance that Webb proposes. Mitchell switches off the camera before watching it. It switches back on to Webb completely out of breath with an empty banana peel in his hand and Mitchell's opinion that it was shit. We get to see the actual dance (banana costume and all) when the credits roll.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Deconstructed with the Evil Genius trying to persuade a contractor to disregard the impracticalities of his plans.
    Muahahaha! Forgive my levity, Mister Cooch, but when you come to know me better, you will find that neither Health nor Safety are among my primary concerns...
    • Later on, the fully-compliant Trap Door (complete with flashing red light, warning alarm and fencing off of the area) gives the "victim" in the chair plenty of time to escape before he can be Thrown from the Zeppelin.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
    • The Ku Klux Klan founder and his costume designer speak in Mitchell and Webb's natural accents. Subverted and lampshaded when the costumer's wife enters and speaks with a southern American accent, to which the costumer replies, "We said we're not doing the accents."
    • In a sketch about American government officials contemplating faking the Moon landing in 1968, Mitchell, Webb, and Sarah Hadland all speak in British accents.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Them.
  • Obviously Evil
    Nazi: They've got skulls on them. Have you noticed that our caps actually have little pictures of skulls on them?
    Hans: Uh... I don't... uh—
    Nazi: Hans... Are we the baddies?
    • Poirot always knows when he's identified the murderer when they start doing the "evil voice", among other things...
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: Spoofed. The Helivet's helicopter is quite blatantly just a model helicopter.
    • A Get Me Hennimore! sketch features a giant CG wasp that looks rather familiar.
  • Office Golf: One of the Hennimore sketch mix-ups involves a set of golf clubs and a drinks cabinet in the shape of a set of golf clubs.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Parodied in the Inebriati sketch. "Were you just hiding behind that pillar?"
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • During "What Not To Look Like", the two bitchy presenters have one where their quest shows up in a burqa.
    • Immediately after, we're shown Webb approaching Mitchell (who was the one wearing said burqa) to have a discussion as to whether it could be considered offensive. It goes From Bad to Worse when Mitchell removes the outfit only to be sporting (mild) blackface. And not for any show-related reason - apparently David Mitchell just feels more comfortable when in blackface.
    • During a snooker commentary, one of them declares it's actually Christmas. The other then realises it's Christmas, and runs out the door.
    • In one Get Me Hennimore! sketch, Hennimore imagines the results of the instructions Mr. Boss is giving him (though we never hear what the exact instructions are) and knows that things are going to end badly, as usual. His face gets more and more distressed as the sketch goes on. Unusually for a Hennimore sketch, things go just fine and no problems occur... until the nuclear warhead detonates.
    • During the Quiz Broadcast when the Host realises that "They" have gotten in.
    • In the "War on Bill Oddie" sketch, the British Foreign Secretary is not prepared for the suggestion that Bill Oddie, after being made the subject of an international military action when the world realised that going after Al-Qaeda was "too difficult", might actually seek refuge with Al-Qaeda.
      Foreign Secretary: [Horrified] Oh God, he wouldn't do that, would he?!
  • On the Next: The "Gift Shop Sketch" sketch makes fun of excessive previewing (to the point of revealing the entire story) and recapping of TV shows.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Usually averted, as the cast have a handle on many regional dialects, as well as Mitchell and cast member James Bachman being quite good at affecting American accents.
    • Parodied with a sketch set in the American Deep South: The 'behind-the-scenes' footage beforehand shows Webb trying and failing to put on a convincing American south accent. The duo play the sketch entirely with their normal voices until Sarah Hadland, playing Webb's wife, comes on at the end to deliver her one line in an appallingly bad accent; Webb, breaking character within the sketch, reminds her 'we said we weren't doing the voices.'
  • The Other Darrin:
    • invoked Played for laughs with Speedo, in which the actor playing the white main character died, only to be replaced by an black actor. The (fictional) writers were too lazy to rewrite the scripts, resulting in the now black Speedo telling a young black client he knows he doesn't want a "big white guy in a suit" like him defending him.
    • Played for laughs again in the stage adaptation, The Two Faces of Mitchell and Webb. While the televised Numberwang sketches always had Simon and Julie played by Paterson Joseph and Olivia Colman, two fairly well known actors, the stage show had to use James Bachman and Abigail Burdess instead. The change was Lampshaded in the sketch itself:
    Host: As you may have noticed, Simon and Julie have regenerated into two slightly less expensive actors.
  • Our Slogan Is Terrible: One sketch involves a business whose entire purpose is to supply people with "hand-holding accompanying phrases." A problem comes up when the slogans suggested aren't acceptable.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: "Them", from the Quiz Broadcast. It's never made clear if these cannibalistic former humans are zombies or just atrocious mutants, but they are unquestionably terrifying.
  • Overly-Long Gag: The "Everything is Fine" segment, where everything is completely fine, except the occasional intrusions of horror.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Deliciously exaggerated in the sketches about the Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit duo.
    BMX Bandit: Well, we're supposed to be a partnership, but, to be honest, I'm starting to feel a bit overshadowed here.
    Angel Summoner: Oh, right... Why is that?
    BMX Bandit: Well. I think the thing is, that your ability to summon a horde of celestial super-beings at will... Is making my BMX skills look a bit... redundant...
  • Padding: One sketch featured a quiz show host who dragged everything out for as long as possible, interrupting or ignoring the contestant's attempts to give the right answer and repeating himself. It turns out that it's not a quiz show at all, but they're on board a spaceship headed for the Sun, the host has six months to live and he wants to drag it out as long as possible. invoked
  • Pśdo Hunt: Among the embarrassing truths the Green Clarinet Man is forced to reveal is that he's not allowed near local schools.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: One of the contestants on Late Night Dog Poker is actually a man in a dog costume. Neither Ted or Peter notice, even when he removes part of his costume to take a drink.
  • Paranoia Gambit: Colin the definitely-not-a-robot hears some of the humans discussing the (supposedly) well-disguised robots, and suggests it might be Bob. Everyone starts glaring suspiciously at him, and he's never seen after that...
  • Partially Civilized Animal: The farmer who shows up several times in series two seems to think his horse is one of these. In fact, it's just a normal animal (i.e. just a regular horse), but that doesn't stop the farmer from launching into a violent tantrum whenever the horse reacts with uncomprehending disinterest towards his various overtures.
  • Period Piece, Modern Language: Parodied in a sketch in which a caveman crime scene investigator (whose most advanced technology is a rock) describes something as "a double-edged sword", then states that he has no idea what that phrase actually means.
  • The Perry Mason Method: Speedo, parodying American legal dramas.
    (Speedo in a courtroom)
    Speedo: Did you rape this woman?!
    Defendant: No.
    Speedo: Did you rape this woman?!
    Defendant: No.
    (Speedo pulls out a gun and fires it above the perp's head)
    Speedo: Did you rape this woman?!
    Defendant: Yes, yes, whatever you say!
  • Pie in the Face: During the live show, the final round of Numberwang was played using custard tarts. Every time a contestant achieved "Numberflan," they had to smash a tart into their own face.
  • Playing Cyrano: A sketch revolved around Cyrano himself popping up to help a man woo a woman in the modern day. However, the man in question is a sensitive, good-natured fellow and the woman is, well, a slapper. Cyrano's advice is to be brash and offensive, and downright insulting, which the man in question takes only grudgingly — but it works perfectly. As the scene progresses, he realizes that he has absolutely no interest in going out with a woman who actually likes being treated that way. Cyrano convinces him to go on anyway, since at least he can sleep with her tonight. Eventually, the man refuses to continue, but Cyrano keeps shouting out the lines for him, and jams a bag of cocaine into his hands, which the girl mistakes for his continued efforts and she drags him inside.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Ginger to Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar when he is "poisoned" by a cloud of gas (read: candyfloss).
    Ginger: Don't leave me, sir! Don't leave me...
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Parodied in one sketch with an incompetent Scotland Yard detective tracking down a serial killer a la the Law & Order franchise.
      Detective: We call him the identity killer, because he leaves details of his identity at each crime scene.
    • And again in another sketch with what appears to be the same detective chasing after a ventriloquist committing robberies. Their sting operation only manages to catch the puppet, who amazingly manages to withstand seven hours of interrogation.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Not political correctness, but the backlash against it, is parodied in a sketch where some people organizing a church panto are told they can't include "traditional" scenes like dwarves being gassed and Cinderella fellating a horse, and react as if this is hypersensitivity.
    "I'm afraid we're going to have to cut the dame rape scene."
  • Politically Correct History: Subverted with the Lucentio sketches. The lords get fed up of their king passing jobs off to the useless Lucentio, and just ask the king to have sex with him already. The lord that does this admits that, as far as they're concerned, this does mean he'll go to Hell, but that's "long term".
  • Politically Correct Villain: General Drayfox wants to rule the world and will turn people to stone for opposing him, but is very supportive of multiculturalism and gender equality.
    Drayfox: Let him kneel before me! Unless, of course, he's an Orthodox Jew and has an issue with kneeling for religious reasons, in which case I'd be happy for him to pay his obeisance in whatever way he finds culturally appropriate. Mwwahahahaha!
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Captain Todger, whose emblem is a crude drawing of a penis and was in prison for statutory rape, much to Drayfox's horror.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The recurring sketch "Get me Hennimore!" has the hapless titular character requested to do various tasks by his boss. These tasks always involve two objects that are never to be confused, yet look exactly the same. Naturally, the worst possible result occurs every time.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • From the Numberwang board game skit: "No, Timmy, because that would be shit." It looks like a polite, family-friendly scene at first, which is why it qualifies.
    • Mr. Darcy of all people gets a good one when he finally gets sick of Caroline Bingley.
    • A literal example from the "Mrs Patricia Wilberforce Programme" sketch:
      Mrs. Patricia Wilberforce: Mr. Compton, do be seated.
      Mr. Compton: Oh, I don't like to make a fuss.
      Mrs. Compton: (sobs) Oh, he's always like this.
      Mrs. Patricia Wilberforce: I'm sorry, but we'll have to stop it there as Mrs. Compton has said "fuck".
      (crew member whispers in her ear)
      Mrs. Patricia Wilberforce: Oh, I do beg your pardon viewers, Mrs. Compton didn't say "fuck" after all!
    • And an entire sketch that revolves around a series of these: "Linden Trees Smell Of Cum". (Combined with Truth in Television, yet; in bloom, they absolutely do. It's quite striking.)
    • The Avocado Bathroom sketch has the host reveal his problem via a bleeped swear.
  • Previously onÖ: Series 4 opens up with a montage of out-of-context clips from past episodes set to a serious, dramatic musical score. Of course, since this is a sketch show, none of the clips have any bearing on anything that happens in the premier.
  • Promoted to Scapegoat: Karl Dönitz is thrilled to learn that he's been named the next Führer after the death of Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately, his underlings have to patiently explain that this means less that he gets to implement his various ideas about pensions, autobahns, and the housing shortage and more that he gets to call General Eisenhower and surrender to the Allies.
    General: So... here's General Eisenhower's telephone number, here's the English for "We give up!", and here's an analysis of our military situation... in one rude word.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The Green Clarinet sketch follows Alan; initially, he uses the clarinet that reveals embarrassing truths only on his Bad Boss and an annoying racist woman who pushes ahead of him in a queue. However, he's soon using it to extort free meals from people and abusing it, even turning it against the person who gave it to him. Luckily, the last person he tries blackmailing has a red tuba that makes you shit yourself.
  • Psycho Ex-Boyfriend: One behind-the-scene sketch features Olivia Colman, Robert Webb and James Bachman all encouraging David to be one towards someone he's just broken up with. All three suggest planting crack on her as revenge. Then Bachman goes even further, calmly suggesting David kill her pet "in a weird way". Otherwise, how's she going to know it's over?
  • Race Lift: Parodied when Speedo's original actor dies of a heart attack during filming and is replaced by a black actor with no story changes to account for this. This wouldn't be a problem in itself if the story in question wasn't entirely about a black client not wanting to take the white Speedo as his lawyer.
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue: Anything the snooker commentators say that isn't "That's a bad miss."
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: The two Posh Jaws sketches don't last a minute between them. Aside from them two there's Polite Taxi Driver and Rude Gandhi.
  • Reading Ahead in the Script: The series features fly-on-the-wall style sections with the actors having chats as themselves on the set. In one of them, David Mitchell points out that these are as scripted as the rest of the show, and shows Webb the script for the sketch they're in, which includes the direction "Cut to a close-up of the script. It reads: cut to a close-up of the script. It reads:..."
    Webb: Just put that away.
    Mitchell: It says I don't.
  • This Is Reality:
    • The premise for the skit featuring Moneypenny's friends.
      Mitchell: Anyway, everyone's laughing, thinking "bit cheeky, but y'know", when suddenly, James walks up and throws him through a window!
      Webb: Bloody hell! Is that why Darren can't walk now?
      Mitchell: Yeah! Poor guy landed on a railing spike and it went straight through his spine! Everyone's in shock, apart from James, who strolls over to the window, glances down, and says "What a piercing bore."
      Webb: "Piercing bore"? There's no such expression.
      Mitchell: Well, the railing was right next to a crusher. It's pretty clear he'd wanted to say crushing bore, but he'd missed and he was making the best of a bad job.
    • Similarly done in their Kitchen Nightmares parody, where the beleaguered restaurant owner tearfully exclaims that the host is just a better cook than he is.
      Owner: I can't cook that! And-and there's loads of things in there you didn't even mention, like the thing with the potato that might as well be magic as far as I'm concerned.
      Host: It's just local ingredients simply cooked.
      Owner: By you! King Lear is just English words put in order! The only way any of this will help my restaurant is if you stay forever.
    • In the Evil Genius sketch, the villain has a hard time communicating with his minions since they are having trouble following his euphemisms. When he tries to establish false doors and trap doors, the builder bluntly tells him that they have to remodel the entire room since the desired plan has a lot of health and safety violations. With the changes in place, the genius's plans go wrong since his victims are given plenty of time to escape.
  • Really Dead Montage: James Bachman (he wasn't, either in real life or in-show) in a parody of Drama Bomb Finales.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • How the Incredibly Intimidating And Aristocratic Person Who Still Unaccountably Sells Clothes justifies being horrible to his customers:
      Because I'm trying to help you! I'm trying to help you have standards! I'm trying to make you know that the world isn't pleased to see you, you aren't needed or included or loved! You're ugly! And superfluous! And ignorant! And you should be frightened. And meek. And grateful. That's better. Now, first things first; let's get you a hat.
    • Also, the "Little Date" man, who gives these to women, reducing them to tears so they'll go out with him to feel better.
    • A series 4 sketch has a man at a party unleash one of these on an irritatingly smug man who thinks he has "people skills".
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The cannibalistic "Them" in the Event sketches have glowing red eyes.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless:
    • Monsieur Garnier (who is inexplicably a North-of-England mill owner rather than a French guy) suppresses the invention of a cure for Alzheimer's and a perpetual motion machine because he doesn't want his scientists to get distracted from hair products.
    • Also, whoever built a sentient supercomputer and used it to determine what is, or is not, Numberwang.
      Scientist: That's Numberwang!
      Politician: My God! It works! It actually bloody works, you geniuses!
      Scientist 2: I say, chaps, you don't suppose we could use this for something else?
      Scientist: Like what?
      Scientist 2: Something to do with the war?
  • Relax-o-Vision: A fourteen-hour long video showing scenes of the English countryside, vicars walking across fields, crosswords being filled in and then covered with jam, all to sap the will of the humans fighting their robot overlords.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots:
    • Parodied in a Robot War sketch. Robots have infiltrated the base, and are supposedly indistinguishable from humans. Cut to a particularly clunky robot (who could conceivably be Cheezoid Mk 9), who is absolutely not humanoid. He even makes toast
    • Cheezoid itself, a robot built for the purpose of determining what something smells like, was inexplicably given sentience that eventually led it to attempt suicide as a result of its incompetence at its intended function.
  • Rule of Three: One episode has the explorers discussing the name of the new land they've discovered (The West Indies, Virginia, New South Wales), and Webb's character questioning the captain's choice of name, only to be bullied down when the captain pulls rank. By the fourth...
    (two explorers walk through a blizzard)
    Captain: Greenland?
    Lieutenant: Whatever!
  • Sanity Slippage: Sheila on the Quiz Broadcast becomes increasingly unhinged as things get steadily worse, until she's "voltage-cured", which destroys what little sanity she had left.
  • Sapient Tank: Subverted in that The Giant Death Scorpion was designed with peaceful, if bizarre, intentions.
  • Scandalgate: Rob refers to the original scandal as "Watergategate" on the grounds that, otherwise, what would you call a scandal about water?
    Mitchell: ...Aquagate?
  • Scare 'Em Straight: "If your children get dirt on them, they'll explode." (PROBABLY!)
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The man who shoots workers for grammatical errors growls that since it's his company, he'll do what he likes.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The two Nazi goons when they realise they are in fact the villains of World War 2.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: At the end of the 'evil voice' sketch (see Exasperated Perp).
  • Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: Invoked and Played for Laughs (naturally) in "Evil Voice". Once the murderer is revealed, in between shots she suddenly gets better hair, "evil lipstick", and a tighter, shorter, cleavagey-er version of her dress.
  • Separated by a Common Language: A may-or-may-not-be intentional version with the Party Hosts, who scoff at Shaggy from Scooby-Doo for calling himself that as a "hollow sexual boast." Certainly rude in England where "shag" is a crude term for having sex, but in America, "shaggy" just means "scruffy."
  • Service Sector Stereotypes: The Posh Waiter (cousin to the Scary Tailor and the Bad Vicar)
    Customer: What happened to the friendly Australian girl who used to work here?
    Posh Waiter: She's gone, sir. They've all gone, and we're back. The incredibly posh people who are still unaccountably waiters...and I'm afraid we've changed the rules.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "You know sheep? A bit woolly? It's WOOL!"
  • Short-Lived Leadership: One sketch has admiral Karl Donitz become the Fuhrer after Hitler commits suicide. He immediately starts going on about the projects he wants to work on such as an autobahn, but his aides bring him back to reality by providing him with the essentials of what he'll need for his stay in power: General Eisenhower's phone number and how to say "We surrender" in English.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the German version of Numberwang, the host wishes one contestant "Good luck!" only to furiously disqualify her when she responds in English with "Thanks very much!", a reference to how one of the escapees blows his cover in The Great Escape.
    • In another Great Escape reference, a chef who loses his keen sense of smell tries to prove he still has it by putting a clove of garlic on the floor, only to end up getting caught out. This is identical to one of the POWs putting a pin at a certain place on the floor to show he's not going blind. Even the dialogue ("You can't smell your hand in front of your face!") is taken from the film ("You can't see your hand" etc.)
    • The announcer talking over the Quiz Broadcast Eyecatch mentions "our new topical entertainment show Mock the Event, which may offend viewers who were affected by The Event."
    • Another Quiz Broadcast featured a parody of The Generation Game's conveyor belt round. Of course, they don't know how to use the conveyor belt, so all the prizes are carried in front of the player by stagehands. They include food objects, fuel, a grandfather clock ("We don't know, but they're everywhere"), tablets, Holy tablets, someone's head, a "Frightening animal" (cuddly toy), a stone, a stone, a stone, and a traffic cone ("We don't know, but they're everywhere").
    • One sketch is an inversion of a well-known Fry and Laurie sketch involving a man tormenting another man by showing him holiday photos. Whereas the original version ends with the reveal that the second man slept with the first man's daughter and that this is a form of Cool and Unusual Punishment, the Mitchell and Webb version involves the first man's holiday photos gradually becoming very pornographic in nature in order to torture the (apparently asexual) second man into demonstrating sexual urges.
    • When discussing making a Drama Bomb Finale, Mitchell asks Webb if he means doing something like "kill Adric, roll the credits in silence".
  • Sickly Green Glow: The plutonium in the "Cash 4 Plutonium" sketch.
  • Silent Credits: Discussed between Mitchell and Webb in the second-to-last episode. Implemented in the final episode, which foregoes the typical end music.
  • Single Substance Manipulation: There's a sketch about a man with telekinetic powers that only work on biscuits.
  • Sinister Minister: "We're back." "Who?" "The incredibly horrible and twisted people who are still unaccountably vicars." (the full sketch is here)
  • Sissy Villain: Leslie, a parody of Bond villains, is a Diabolical Mastermind evil genius with very effeminate mannerisms and constantly talks in an uncomfortably seductive tone of voice. A Euphemism Buster by one of his minions leaves no doubt whatsoever.
    Leslie: Perhaps I'll see you later for a little... light refreshment?
    Alan: [bluntly] Do you mean "anal sex"?
  • Skeleton Motif: Discussed in a sketch wherein two Nazi SS soldiers begin to notice that they're wearing uniforms with skulls on them. The junior one points out that he can't really think of any positive symbolism for a skull, and meekly asks if they're the baddies.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • One sketch features a woman who isn't too bothered about her husband's infidelity but can never forgive him for leaving the fridge door open.
    • In the sketch where a man starts chloroforming people for being irritating, the first time he does so, the hostess of his party acts like he's just made an annoying faux pas, rather than drugging someone.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Recurring character Jason, a bitchy Reality Show participant who somehow became well-known and popular enough to host a variety of make-over programmes and quiz shows despite the fact that he's clearly not cut out for even the D-grade nature of the material he's given.
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: Adapted from Radio 4's That Mitchell And Webb Sound.
  • Special Effects Failure: Invoked with the Helivets, a parody of action-emergency shows. The helicopter is clearly a remote control toy.
  • Standard Snippet: Adagio for Strings, played over a slow-motion reaction to discovering that they're out of tea.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: After a man shoots several of his employees dead for grammatical errors, the last man standing asks why he didn't just sack them, if it bothered him so much. The boss is actually taken aback, and admits he'd never thought of that.
  • Story-Breaker Team-Up: Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit are a parody of this trope. As stated by their theme song, one can summon angels, and the other... rides a BMX. The theme song even provides the page quote for the trope.
  • Studio Audience: Sketches which are not shot on location are filmed in front of a live studio audience. They even appear in one "behind-the-scenes" sketch, and in another, Mark Evans playing the part of David Mitchell's chiropractor descends from the audience to complain at a sketch depicting him.
  • Sudden Death:
    • How ties are broken in Numberwang, literally. First one to die wins.
    • One edition of The Quiz Broadcast also goes to a sudden death round, at which point one of the contestants immediately keels over. If he were on Numberwang, that would've been a victory, but The Quiz Broadcast evidently operates under different rules.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: The very last episode of the last series ends with a surprisingly touching sketch about a senile Sherlock Holmes, who reveals he knows all too well what is happening to him. For a show built around frequently insincere, cynical Black Comedy and Surreal Humour, to have a moment of genuine pathos cap the series off works surprisingly well. Consider also that this is a Sketch Comedy we're talking about, not a Sitcom. It is rare - if not unprecedented - to see sketch comedy showrunners decide to finish off their run with a moment of genuine drama.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Colosson, the robot with the job of determining whether or not something is Numberwang, was given mobility and laser cannons. This was apparently the result of the scientists who were creating him wondering late in development whether he could be used for the war effort. Because this didn't change what they used him for, it achieved nothing but creating a problem when he decides to take over the world. Maybe he was designed by Doctor Death? He does have trouble spotting the Potential Applications of laser cannon...
  • Superpower Lottery: Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit.
  • Surreal Humour:
    • Numberwang's hilarity derives from the complete lack of sense, not just in the rules, but in everything.
      Host: Joining me tonight are Julie, who's from Yorkshire, and Simon, who's from a factory and made from a special metal. So, Julie, ever killed a man?
      Julie: No.
      Host: Simon?
      Simon: Yes.
      Host: Great! Let's play Wordwang!
    • Reports Mode
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Done in the Dosh 4 Gold and Cash 4 Plutonium skits:
  • Sustained Misunderstanding:
    • The whole "Vectron" thing started because one guy lost his plectrum, and it all somehow got massively out of control. Once they realise this, the military leaders decide they miss it.
    • The rich man who assumed his butler was his lover, and that "butler" was his name. For forty years. He's incredibly embarrassed to find out the truth, and that his constantly annoyed drunkard of a maid was his wife.
  • Take That!:
    • A sketch about a comedian making a cup of tea for everyone in Belgium as the result of a bet, and as a result writing a bestselling book about his exploits, was a dig at comedians who did similarly unlikely things supposedly as the result of bets, such as Tony Hawks (played the entire Moldovan football team at tennis, hitchhiked round Ireland with a fridge) David Gorman (flew around the world meeting people called Dave Gorman), and Danny Wallace (spent a year saying yes to everything).
    • They delightfully skewer James Bond in their "Friends of Moneypenny" sketch:
      Remember that drinks do I had just before Christmas, Moneypenny brings James along - Oh God, but Christmas spirit and all that. So I said, "hi James there's some mulled wine and I think there's some beer in the fridge." Cock asked for a martini...what does he think it is? 1973?
    • There's also a sketch about how The Apprentice was created. "So, it's coverage of idiots behaving idiotically for an audience of idiots?"
      • Not to mention the very concept of The Apprentice is skewered, with the Alan Sugar-stand in pointing out how impractical firing one-fifteenth of his staff every week would actually be.
        Businessman: This is a complete departure from normal. I wouldn't be a millionaire if I fired one-fifteenth of my staff every week. Just to help out, does anyone want to lie pointlessly or take credit for something they didn't do?
        (the contestants shake their heads)
        Businessman: Worth a try...
    • "Fishmonger out of Watermonger" mocks every aspect of Reality Shows like Faking It, with a fishmonger trying to produce a reality show in 2 days. "Tim has just five minutes to come up with his arbitrary deadline". His end result is also apparently good enough for Channel 5, but not good enough for Dave.
    • "My Shags as a Whore," a series by the incompetent screenwriting duo that refuse to do research or make any kind of an effort, is an adolescent male fantasy where being a prostitute is sexy, empowering, and consequence-free. It's also pretty clearly aimed at Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
    • "Coverage Of People Buying A House And Then Living In It" skewers Location, Location, Location and similar property programmes. Both the host and the prospective buyer clearly believe there is nothing exciting about watching complete strangers buying houses and then living in them, and make no effort whatever to appear interested in making a television programme about the process.
      So, to sum up, Geoff, who you don't know, has bought a house and is now living in it, having put up some shelves, and I think we can agree that that's basically a good thing.
    • The "Identity Killer" skit is a Take That! to overly dramatic police procedural shows which insist on making cases that would, in Real Life, be resolved in a few days to be dragged out as long as possible.
    • The "Sunday Chill-Out DVD" claims it has all the establishing scenes of ITV's Kingdom, but with "nothing as jolting as the plot".
    • Several sketches in series 3 and 4, "Late Night Dog Poker" especially, take shots at the channel Dave. The "Dog Poker" sketch has the line "Rejected by the BBC, chosen by Dave", spoofing the "Chosen by Dave" slogan it adopted when its lineup was mostly wall-to-wall BBC panel games and Top Gear.
    • The "every TV show has a behind-the-scenes garden, not just Blue Peter" sketches reveal that the only reason that Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps avoided cancellation was because it had a beautiful garden that the BBC didn't want to get rid of.
      David: I think if people knew how nice the Two Pints garden was, they wouldn't mind the show at all.
      Robert: They'd see it as a necessary evil.
    • A sketch where David Mitchell plays a historian who has to be restrained because he's waving his arms too much is a parody of James Burke on Connections, right down to using phrases similar to his most famous ones.
    • Two different sketches mock alternative medicine and quack nutritionists. In the latter, homeopathy specifically gets skewered, with the two doctors getting homeopathic beers (two drops in water) after explicitly discussing how one kills all but the most healthy patients. The nutritionists meanwhile are (unlike the alt med doctors) knowing con artists who string people along with expensive, impossible diets.
  • Take That, Audience!: At least those obsessed with finding any Easter Egg possible, as Mitchell is sitting for 5 minutes doing nothing but scratching his face once on loop for a DVD background.
    Webb: Well who's gonna watch that?
    Mitchell: Freaks.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: BMX Bandit and Angel Summoner have a long conversation as the former apparently is performing a bike trick. It's this that clues BMX Bandit in on the fact that Angel Summoner has invisible angels helping him, much to his upset.
  • Talking To Himself:invoked Played with. In a sketch Mitchell plays both the captain of a cruise liner and a Poirot-esque detective who are on screen at the same time. Webb angrily enters the set, and demands a role, to which both(!) of the Mitchells answer that David is best at detective and captain kind of roles. As Webb retorts that it is just a bad excuse for Mitchell to fulfill his narcissistic fantasies, another Webb (in drag) enters the set and tells the first Webb that he is ready for their sex-scene.
  • Technobabble: Parodied by "Now he's poorly from too much electric"
  • Tempting Fate:
    • The real estate agent who badgers a woman who works with torture victims for the the worst torture story she's ever heard asks "how bad could it be?" He finds out.
    • What's the harm in the PM finishing his second beer? Nuclear war.
  • They Look Like Us Now: Parodied - they really don't.
  • This Ain't Rocket Surgery: A sketch has a neurosurgeon mingling at a party and boasting that what other people do "isn't exactly brain surgery". Then:
    "Brain surgery? Huh. Not exactly rocket science, is it?"
  • Third-Person Person: In one sketch, Julius Caesar is instructed to talk about himself in this way, which leads to a great deal of confusion.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: It saw this action denied by a lack of No OSHA Compliance. After several minutes of flashing lights, a safety rail being placed around him, and a voice announcing "Trap door number four is about to open, please vacate the area" he got up and left.
  • Tin-Can Robot
    • Cheezoid, given that he was actually built out of a hoover.
    • In the They Look Like Us Now sketch, this is what the "infiltrating" robots actually look like.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The man in the "Jump Off A Cliff" and "Swim With A Shark" sketches, who falls for Barry Crisp's sales-pitch both times.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Sir Digby Chicken-Caesar is clearly one to Ginger. In one episode we discover that Ginger's real name is Guy Reilly, and he has a wife and daughter, both of whom he lost and seemingly forgot about due to his drinking. When an accident causes him to temporarily recover from his alcoholism, he settles into a stable job, only to be tricked into drinking an ale by Sir Digby, immediately returning back to his life as a tramp just as he was about to reunite with his family.
  • Tragic Dream: Mercilessly lampshaded in "Talent Dredge" sketch, where Robert delivers a lengthy putdown to contestants who apply for talent shows, who try to excuse their lack of obvious talent by claiming they gave it their "heart and soul" instead.
    Robert: Sincerity is no excuse for failure!
  • Tuxedo and Martini: Parodied with 'Agent Suave'.
  • Typecasting:invoked a sketch where a ship captain was being interviewed by a detective had David Mitchell playing both roles - when Webb storms on set to complain about it, Mitchell replies "captains and detectives are my thing".
    • And then Robert Webb announces he will have a sex scene with another Robert Webb in drag, justifying it with "I am much sexier than you."
  • Umpteenth Customer: Parodied; the three eccentric businessmen offer a prize for the millionth visitor to their website, and are confused to find that he completely ignores all the banner ads and pop-ups telling him what he's won.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: "My Shags as a Whore", naturally, since it's a send-up of another show that's guilty of this.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Many of the sketches are surprisingly intellectual or reference obscure material - how many comedy shows would get away with making a sketch about Karl Dönitz?
  • Villain Ball: Parodied in the Conspiracy sketches; when a member of the conspiracy asks why exactly they're doing this conspiracy in such a convoluted way — or why they're even bothering at all — the answer's usually along the lines of "it's just what we government types do."
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The incredibly intimidating and aristocratic tailor played by Mitchell may be a colossal asshole but in the end, he still does want to help Webb's character look good.
  • Wham Line:
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong? - Get Me Hennimore!
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?:
  • Who's on First?:
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: In one sketch, a groom (Webb) at a wedding reception calls his bride the most beautiful woman in the world. When the Literal-Minded best man (Mitchell) has to give a speech, he objects to that description, and doesn't understand what the audience is upset about.
    The most beautiful woman in the world? I don't think so, mate. I mean, honestly! (audience gasps) Iím not being nasty. Itís not nasty to say someone isn't the most beautiful woman in the world. And she looks, you know, fine, good, very presentable, better than ever. Just not... better than everyone. (more gasps, the bride starts to cry) What? Sorry, Jane, you've not been thinking you're the most beautiful woman in the world, have you? Why would you think that?
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Spoofed in the Narnia sketch.
  • You Bastard!: The "Holmes with dementia" sketch goes from funny if very dark humor to the sudden realization that the audience has been laughing at the heartbreaking wreck of a brilliant mind.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: The torture counsellor and her husband both warn the real estate agent he doesn't want to hear "the worst torture" she's ever heard of.
    Counsellor: Look, you really don't want to know.
    Estate Agent: I do!
    Husband: N-no, you don't.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: In the later installments of "The Quiz Broadcast," the survivors (who'd been whittled by scarcity and disease down to the host, Peter, and Sheila) are found by soldiers fighting "Them," cannibals who, according to the Couch Gag, know what caused The Event.

That Mitchell and Webb Sound contains examples of:

  • Accidental Truth: One of the Ministry of Things Which are Apparently True ran into trouble when he tried spreading a rumour that was apparently true about Trident, namely that it doesn't really exist, only to be blocked at the highest level.
  • All for Nothing: The host of Coverage of People Who Want to Buy A House spends over a month looking for suitable locations for his guests, one of whom wants to live in Dorking, the other in the Bahamas, only for them to be unable to compromise, wasting everyone's time. Then they bought a house in Dorking anyway.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • In-universe with the Party Hosts again, who think Bertie Wooster is alright, but have nothing but scorn for the creepy, haughty, controlling Jeeves and his complicated plans for fixing relationships, which almost always seem to involve throwing dogs in lakes.
    • The police interview the uncle of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, asking why he left his nephew alone in an area known for wolf attacks, especially when he'd cried wolf already, and questioning how he could have heard the boy's final pleas for help but not the noise of a vicious wolf attack.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Inverted, and parodied, during the Channel 4 execs sketch, where several gay celebrities keep turning out to be married with two kids, much to the execs' annoyance.
  • As You Know: Frequently played for laughs in the radio version. In later series, a minor Running Gag is for one character to sum up information that everyone present already knows, and then say something like "I like to occasionally remind myself what's been going on. It's realistic." Some of these characters also like to point out the obvious just in case they're in a situation where they can't be seen, such as a radio comedy sketch.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: During a discussion between several Channel 4 executives, one asks if Simon Schama, the host of the then-recent Story of the Jews, was Jewish. Another executive takes him to task for this.
    Executive: Is Simon Schama Jewish? Have you actually seen Simon Schama's The Story of the Jews?
    Executive 2: Well—
    Executive: Because I can tell you, it does come up.
    Executive 2: Okay.
    Executive 3: So, what we need—
    Executive: "Is he Jewish?"
    Executive 2: Alright!
  • Awful British Sex Comedy: An executive at a company that manufactures these brings one of his subordinates into the room to discuss the downturn in innuendo-laden farce. Despite situations that seem ripped right out of four Carry On films at once causing chaos around them, they can't seem to think of anything to improve the situation.
  • Berserk Button: A writer has severe difficulty with the word "and", something of a problem with the English language. Sadly, for one Mr. Ampersand, there's no workaround.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Runs into a problem for some MiniLov workers, when someone's telescreen gets busted. One of them informs someone that the couple will have to watch each other. Then it turns out their partner has already been taken in, so she'll have to watch herself.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Battery farm penguins. The farmers insist they love being crammed a hundred in a shed at a time. Not to mention the whale blowhole, and the farmers admit that, in this case, it is cruel to just throw away the mutilated whale. Doesn't stop them doing it.
  • Body Horror: Played for extremely dark laughs with "I Want To Be A Celebrity Centaur", where celebrities have their torsos grafted onto horse bodies. Complications quickly ensue, such as the bodies suffering organ rejection, or catching horse diseases and requiring the celebrities to be put down.
  • Book Burning: One sketch claims this is what supermarket chain Tesco does with the books it doesn't give away as a charity, followed by a long discussion on it between the two men doing the burning in the first place on how convoluted and pointless the whole system is.
  • Breathless Non Sequitur: A man who's just gotten a job as a TV weatherman is given a rundown of his first day's schedule; showing him around, getting him in front of the camera, doing a few practice runs, paying homage to the all-knowing weather god, and then lunch.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: The man who cured cancer purely to avoid being nagged for donations from charity cold callers.
  • Broken Tears: The end result of a composer for the BBC Proms talking to a ditzy modern TV show host, who knows nothing about music, composing, or what she's supposed to be interviewing him about.
  • Burn the Witch!: Open-mic night at The Little Inn Before the Turn-Off to Castle Dracula goes horribly wrong when the winner is a Roma woman. The rest of the peasants don't take it well.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": The "goblins" in the Narnian Accounting sketch, when questioned by the office worker about whether she's just being reassigned. The first two deny it, but the third admits that, yes, it's true.
  • Camp Straight: The party planner played by Robert Webb, who mentions being in a relationship with a woman named "Magnesia" (Yes, she's named after Magnesium), no thanks to Jeeves.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The host of Gardener's Question Time fails to notice the questions being asked of the panel are completely inane and unrelated to gardening at all, like who they'd kill in a garden. When the Only Sane Man is asked a question about a plant with strange mould on it, the host stops him from answering at all because the question pertains to a houseplant and not to a garden. When the questioner tries to rephrase her question, he shoots in down because "we don't deal in hypotheticals".
  • Complexity Addiction: The Party Planners discussing Jeeves and his laboriously overcomplicated plans for solving relationship problems. The one with girlfriend troubles mentions that instead of following Jeeves' plan, five minutes talk with Magnesia was all he needed.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The guys in Room 102 start to think people have gotten wise to Ingsoc's torture methods, since a lot of people getting dragged into Room 101 are now claiming they're terrified of sex. The tip off? They've stopped yelling "do it to Julia!" and start yelling "do it to me." One of the workers figures that while there are people who have a legit fear of sex, four or five of them a week is just a little suspicious.
  • Cool Old Lady: The old dears who are in charge of the "Old Lady Job Justification Hearings". It is impossible to listen to those sketches without wishing they were in charge of the world.
  • Creator Breakdown: Invoked; one sketch involves a man bumping into a woman he once met and fell for at a party in the street, leading him to produce a keyboard and sing a song about how he fell in love with her at first sight. And then her husband shows up... and he proceeds to sing another song about how he met the husband at a different party, found him rather rude and offputting, and has no particular feelings for him at all and considers him a remote acquaintance at best, with the implication that he does this for everyone he happens to meet.
  • Credits Gag: The last sketch of series 4 is Mitchell and Webb getting summoned up before the Old Ladies, and deciding to open up a little shop of their own. The credits then roll, with the normal credits replaced with everyone's jobs in the little shop.
  • Did Not Think This Through:
    • One episode features a mock-PSA from an organisation wanting to set free bears who had been driven mad through being forced to dance in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, they apparently didn't have any plans beyond just setting the bears free, leading to a sequence of other appeals from the increasingly alarmed presenter for help to deal with the ensuing rampage and aftermath.
    • The farmers dealing in exotic meats once tried "Gay Beef". A problem with producing more quickly became apparent.
  • Dull Surprise: Invoked with the "Coverage of People [performing action]" sketches. At one point a guest on "Coverage of People Having Sex" makes a lewd joke and is scolded for it by the presenter.
    Host: That is- that is not the tone for this program. We are treading a fine line between the excruciating and the dull.
  • Epic Fail: BBC Radio 4's "Man's Hour", an intended counterpart to "Women's Hour". Regrettably, due in part to the choice of guest, the show barely lasts five minutes before the host has an emotional breakdown, and the BBC cancel the show. At the beginning and end of the sketch, it's made clear this isn't the first time the Beeb tried this format and failed.
  • Euphemism Buster: During the Channel 4 exec sketch, the exec played by Robert Webb tries dancing around what David Starkey said about certain peoples in regard to the London riots of 2011. A slightly ditzier executive cheerfully points out Starkey called them "the blacks".
  • Everyone Has Standards: During the "History of the Blacks" sketch, Alan Carr passes on Channel 4's initial offer to make "the Story of the Gays" on the grounds it's "too frivolous". The execs concede he's got a point.
  • Evil Is Sexy: In-universe, when the superhero Magneta Man tries explaining to his girlfriend who he is, while she's a little more focused on his descriptions of his archnemesis, Dr. Optimax, who apparently is very rich...
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: The wedding planner who gets called up before the Old Ladies, as she realises her job is entirely redundant.
  • Garnishing the Story: Directly invoked by the "trailer" for the Academy Award winning "Godzillas In the Mist".
    Because sometimes, a true story needs more dinosaurs.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The fine people at "TheHorrorTheHorror.Com" help those with anxiety problems by showing their customers the bleak truth at the heart of the universe, which consolidates all their various worries into one twenty-four hour burst of existential terror.
  • Godwin's Law: Comes up as two debaters compare each other to Stalin and Hitler respectively.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: A couple die in a car crash, and learn that due to being Virgin customers, they've been uploaded into the human digital cloud. However, as a result of a completely unfixable software glitch, they and everyone else in the cloud must spend the rest of eternity rotating in a giant pig machine.
  • Good is Not Nice: One sketch revolves around a man who went to the trouble of curing cancer purely so that it would free him from having to worry about any other cause.
    Mr. Miracledoctor: I didn't do it to be nice. I did it to be off the hook for all of humanity's other woes and screw-ups.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Ministry of Things Which Are Apparently True, the people whose job it is to spread pointless rumours that only make sense if you don't think about it for more than five seconds. Thanks to budget cuts, they're forced to merge with the Department of Things Which Are Suddenly Everywhere.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: A series of sketches revolve around Pinocchio driving his father to madness with his unthinking sabotage, ruining the man's life and driving off potential dates, all the while oblivious to his father's attempts to get rid of or just kill him. All of which is played for laughs.
  • Honour Before Reason: The owner of a doorbell shop refuses to knock on the door to his shop when locked out when there's a perfectly good doorbell.
    Store owner: Don't make me knock! What will you have made of me if you force me to knock?!
  • Ho Yay: Invoked in one sketch about a new producer and writer who take over Preston and Loader, a mystery series about a Detective Inspector and his partner, and quickly turn it into a gay romance between the two main characters. They insist to the two actors that they're just "bringing out the subtext". One of them disagrees. The other one doesn't.
    Actor #1: Are you saying you want to get off with me?!
    Actor #2: No, mate, no, no... but I think Preston wants to get off with Loader. And I think deep down Loader wants it as well.
  • Hufflepuff House: One bit has a Hufflepuff head of house (voiced by Mitchell) consoling students who have just been sorted into it due to being boring and largely irrelevant. There are also some take thats toward the idea of entrusting admissions to a hat, or having a house just for the children who are evil.
  • Human Sacrifice: The all-knowing weather god is given sacrifices, but the new guy is assured it's usually small animals. Very rarely humans. Only a few human babies.
    Weatherman: Really, after your third or fourth baby you start to wonder what the big ol' fuss was about.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Two farmers who specialise in bizarre and impractical foodstuffs discuss their final idea: Farmer Burger, specifically the farmer played by Robert Webb.
  • Insistent Terminology: The Swedish euthanasia clinic workers don't see it as committing assisted suicide, they see it as "quitting while you're ahead".
  • It Will Never Catch On: A cook at a medieval feast trying to introduce a new side dish of "some-leaves-and-a-carrot-chopped-up-very-small". It gets him shot by his boss.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The straight party planner, on mentioning his girlfriend Magnesia, has to keep mentioning that yes, she is named after a metal (in a parody of P.G. Woodehouse characters and their unusual names).
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The feckless, lazy and xenophobic staff of Brown's Orthopaedic Supplies keep misusing the Stargate that happens to be in their office to dispose of rubbish and otherwise play mean jokes on the aliens on the other side, much to their manager's frustration. However, in the final sketch, it turns out the aliens have had enough of this and have started throwing everything back. With hyper-velocity.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the final Little Old Lady Job Justification sketch, Mitchell and Webb themselves are the interviewees, and at one point they admit that they tend to write themselves the best sketches and lines and give the lesser ones to their co-stars. One of the little old ladies, with uncharacteristic sharpness, snaps that this isn't very nice of them. In this sketch the little old ladies are, of course, played by Olivia Colman and James Bachman, their co-stars.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The niche meat farmers considered lamb-crabs, but realised that the benefits of six boneless legs would be overshadowed by the aggressiveness.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: One sketch has an office worker stumbling into Narnia, where the locals tell her she was chosen to take some sacred scrolls and move them to another cabinet, then do filing and accounts, from nine 'til five. She quickly pegs on that this is just her superior's way of reassigning her.
  • Mundane Utility: One sketch on That Mitchell And Webb Sound has a boss telling his employees off for using the Stargate as a supply cupboard and somewhere to take cigarette breaks.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: An elitist composer is forced to deal with the end result of his hubris after coming up with the idea of the Doctor Who Proms, when he has an interview with a ditzy young host who doesn't know a thing about music.
  • Overly-Long Gag: The cash register shop sketch, followed by the almost exactly identical doorbell shop sketch.
  • Overly Long Name: "Footage of People Where One Person Wants To Live In One Country, And The Other Wants To Live In Another Who Have Perversely Decided Not To Get a Divorce Buying A House".
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • A series of sketches in series 4, episode 6 revolve around an office worker who's actually Superman, and the Only Sane Man is constantly hushed down by everyone else when he tries pointing out how obvious this is. Then turned on its head when it turns out he's really not Superman... but everyone else at the office is a superhero.
    • The school that's actually a pub, on account of pub licensing being tediously complex, whereas school licensing is incredibly easy.
  • Piano Drop: A man has a piano fall on him, and then is surprised to find he previously agreed to leave his body to evil, and now someone's come to collect. Apparently it happens a lot in the evil organ donation line of work.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Skewing the Beeb's need to be impartial on all matters, when even people's enjoyment of the weather cannot go without the BBC getting in someone to offer counter-opinions. And then when the host gets a man's name wrong and is rebuked with "I think I know my own name"...
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The two guys who work in MiniLove's Room 102 as telescreen repairmen, who just happen to be ordinary blokes dealing with lack of government funding, and the constant irritation of having to listen to the screams of agony from next door, especially since their coworkers go to extreme effort to recreate people's worst fears exactly.
  • Rattling Off Legal:
    • The biscuit insurance salesman rattles off a bunch of disclaimers that end in "Do not bother claiming, it's all a scam."
    • reminds viewers at the end that if they cannot cope with the harsh truth at the heart of the universe, their sanity may be at risk.
  • Self-Deprecation: One of the "Little Old Lady Job Justification Hearings" sketches sees Mitchell and Webb themselves get very politely grilled on how worthwhile it is for two men in their mid-thirties to be dressing up and doing silly voices for a living.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "Who's the Winner", which is all about being... the winner, and the guest's plans for winning are "be the winner". Failure to do so is ascribed to not being the winner.
  • Shipper on Deck: A (sort-of) meta example; the producer and new writer in the Preston and Loader sketch are determined to turn what was previously a gritty detective show into what is basically their personal gay Slash Fic by having Preston and Loader make out with each other in every scene. One of the actors objects to this, but it turns out that the other actor also ships the two.
  • Snipe Hunt: Brown's Orthpedic Supplies sends the work experience kid through the Stargate on one of these. Their boss chews them out, because while it is pretty funny, the kid's been missing for three days now.
  • Stock Puzzle: Mitchell gives Webb a brainteaser that becomes a bizarre mashup of a Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle, the Monty Hall Problem and Knights and Knaves.
  • Take That!:
    • The "Yogurt" sketch is one to Yakult and the like, pointing out it's just yogurt.
    • The two farmers discussing their weird meats mention trying to get their pigs to laugh by making them watch things like Friends or Mr. Bean, only to get no reaction from the pigs. According to the farmers, the pigs understood it, they just didn't like it.
    • One sketch in a episode pretending to have audience interaction tells viewers to down at least three cans of the nearest cheap spirit they can find before The Archers comes on next, to make it more tolerable.
    • The "Story of the Gays" sketch has several aimed at historian David Starkey, who is most well-known for his tendency to say rather... controversial things about non-white people.
      Executive: Even at the best of times, David is incredibly difficult to watch, and we always assumed that was why people tune in, people enjoy the challenge somehow.
    • The "Womanhood Test" has many, including ones at "Sex in the City".
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Spoofed in the "yogurt" advert, where the narrator says a random woman has eaten some yogurt, and now feels incredibly excited. Cue a woman saying exactly that.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: The radio version of the "Are we the Baddies?" sketch has the worried Nazi officer begin to realise that the course of the war has begun to resemble the plot of every single Underdogs Never Lose film ever (with the Allies in the role of 'underdogs'), and that he's never actually seen a film where the good guys start off strong, have a few setbacks, but then win anyway:
    "I'm increasingly worried about our place in the narrative structure of this war..."
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • The Channel 4 execs, when their attempt to make a knock-off of "Story of the Jews" gets only one applicant — David Starkey, who wants to make it "The Story of The Blacks"note .
    • The "Man's Hour" host has this when he tries talking to his guest, who is a typical bloke and refuses to talk about how he felt about watching a film. He quickly mutters "it's happening again", before trying to get the conversation to continue.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: A man and a woman crash and die due to the woman texting while learning to drive on a dual carriage-way, and take it all blithely in stride.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The workers of Room 101 are absurdly dedicated to making sure the room contains a person's worst fears, even if it's something like a whale with the victim's childhood teacher's face on it, which is time consuming and a logistical nightmare (plus the difficulty of getting the mask to stay on).
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: An in-universe example; when bitterly griping about the success of legendary snooker pro Steve Davis, Ted and Peter are absolutely flabbergasted to learn that he's been selected to be the commentator for the BBC's coverage of... the Winter Olympics Ice-Dancing.
    Peter: What... on... Earth does Steve Davis — I mean, bless him — have to offer in the way of insights into the minutiae of Olympic-Standard Dancing on Ice or Ice Dancing?
  • You Didn't Ask: In one sketch, it turns out that if one of the French underclasses had just complained to the King of France about their terrible conditions and asked for some more rights and better treatment, the King would have been happy to comply and the entire French Revolution could have been avoided.

The Mitchell and Webb Situation contains examples of:

  • Bad Boss: The lead scientist in the virus research lab, who gives one of his underlings AIDS just so he'll be motivated to cure it.
  • The Caper: Hons, Dons and Two Smoking MA Oxons
  • Couch Gag: The two homeless people in the closing credits.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The poisoning sketch.
  • Harmless Villain: The poisoning sketch revolves around a man attempting to murder another with poison but becoming increasingly transparent with his attempts until finally...
    Webb: I thought you might like an injection.
    [Mitchell just stares witheringly at him; Webb sheepishly leaves]
  • Historical Re Creation: The Early 1990s House, where you have to cope with 28k dialup.
  • It's Been Done: Parodied with a possible inversion in the 'two writers' Seinfeldian Conversation sketch; the two writers seem to be setting one of these up, but from the way they eagerly begin to start typing once the 'original' idea has come together, it's suggested that they are either amazingly sheltered or that they're the ones who came up with the idea in the first place. Played straight in the final episode, where all their ideas get this response.
  • Master of Illusion: Two barmen who can make people believe something is happening just by making the proper sounds.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The farmer's reaction to everything he learns about working on a farm.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: The revolving table. A murderer's worst enemy.
  • Pull the Thread: The poisoner's would-be victim can see right through the poisoner's feeble attempts to pull one over on him.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: The aforementioned barmen fool their customers (and each other) by simply saying "rumble rumble, earthquake!" or "beep, beep, beep."
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: A pair of writers talk about religions, fairytales and the human reproductive system as though coming up with these things is the job they're doing.
  • Shout-Out: The poisoning sketch is a parody of Suspicion, a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock in the 40s.
  • The Simple Life is Simple: Parodied with a recurring sketch featuring a guy under the impression that farming is a super-secret Get-Rich-Quick Scheme he's sharing with the audience. "You know sheep? A bit woolly? It's WOOL! Pull it off, sell it... fuckin' grows back again! You CANNOT lose!"
  • Sophisticated as Hell: A recurring sketch in one episode has several erudite and well-spoken people talking about how they would've inflicted violence on people who annoyed them in slang.
  • Zeerust: The iMac G3 and Clamshell iBook used in the abovementioned Seinfeldian Conversation, looking back on the show from the present day.



Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): That Mitchell And Webb Sound


Double-Edged Sword

The caveman opines that the human development of stone tools has been a "double-edged sword", before it's pointed out that none of them know what a sword is as they haven't been invented yet.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / OrphanedEtymology

Media sources: