All Part of the Show

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
An Eternal Fire Beast just killed the band?! BEST METAL CONCERT EVER!

"La commedia è finita!"

An audience is awaiting the next performance inside a theater or at a public event, when suddenly, all hell breaks loose. The performers are all viciously gunned down by an unidentified shooter, hostile alien invaders begin to land on platforms, a portal to an alternate dimension takes form, a clan of demon ninjas attack, evil ghost pirates begin pillaging left and right, buses filled with nuns crash onto the stage, the four horsemen arrive to herald the dawn of apocalypse.... at the same time....

The reaction of the audience at the sight of the havoc, mayhem and destruction: "Wow, what a great show!"

All Part of the Show is the frequent tendency for people at a showing to credit the bizarre, supernatural occurrences or peculiar statements and actions of certain performers that take place to a very creative Special Effects coordinator, cast or both.

Can be great for keeping the people hilariously ignorant toward the supernatural happenings and beings that exist around them, but naturally, it can also be very disadvantageous to the characters trying to convince them otherwise. It can also sometimes suggest the Viewers are Morons. Often forms part of a Concert Climax.

When an "All Part of the Show" moment actually is all part of the show, then it becomes You Just Ruined the Shot. When a character is trying to appear part of the show by attempting to act out a real part in it, it's Pushed in Front of the Audience. When bad guys create the show specifically to cover their criminal activities, it's Film Felons.

Compare Fatal Method Acting, Candid Camera Prank, and Film Felons. Contrast You Just Ruined the Shot.

Examples of All Part of the Show include:

Anime and Manga

  • Inuyasha: On stage in front of a whole school, Inu Yasha blows up a watermelon demon with his BFS, then super-jumps out of the resulting hole in the ceiling while carrying Kagome. The audience just thinks it's the best special effects they've ever seen in a high school play. Particularly impressive because Inu Yasha, a half-demon time traveler, interrupted in the first place because he didn't understand that it was just a play, forcing Kagome to ad lib wildly to keep things from falling apart in all directions.
    • The funniest part is the actual Ordinary High School Student who challenges Inuyasha to a duel, drawing a prop sword. Inuyasha responds by drawing Tessaiga, complete with the flashy magic and becoming the BFS.
  • In the manga Mahou Sensei Negima, the Magic-using teachers in charge of the Academy use this trope to recruit thousands of Muggles to help them fight off an army of robots. Thankfully, none of the weapons being used by either side were lethal.
  • In Slayers, Lina, Gourry and Amelia, while hiding from bounty hunters, end up getting hired by a theater company that is doing a play... about Lina. Then, when the hunters finally catch up to them, they're able to seamlessly integrate the whole fight into the play and clear Lina's name (in the play, at least).
    • On top of that, the play is being performed at a theater contest. They win.
      • Well, the special effects were amazing!
  • An episode of Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has the eponymous heroines appearing on-stage during Idol Singer (and fellow teammate) Urara's debut to defeat a Monster of the Week, and the crowd goes wild.
  • In the Pokémon anime, Team Rocket once invaded a water ballet that was taking place at the Cerulean City Gym to steal the Pokemon. The audience thinks the battle that took place was part of the was pretty convincing actually, save the Meowth balloon crashing through the roof, and Ash and Brock (in casual clothes) jumping in the pool to help.
  • In Shugo Chara, it is the sports day, and Amu still must catch an X-Egg. After transformation, she's in plain sight of everyone somehow, but since they can't see the X-Egg, and Amu's costume is that of a cheerleader's, everybody assumed all of her jumps, skips and all the works are an elaborate cheerleading. Her friends caught on fairly quickly and assist with their own cheerleading squad to make the "show" better.
  • In Dirty Pair OAV episode 2, a combat robot begins launching missiles during a Halloween fireworks display in Elenore City Park, and the audience mistakes the missile explosions for fireworks (as do the pyrotechnicians themselves: "Whoa, when did we send up that really big one?") Kei and Yuri borrow some of the rockets and use them to kill the robot—earning even more applause from the crowd in the park below.
  • In one episode of Samurai Champloo Mugen and Jin end up on stage during a Kabuki drama battling the police because they were sheltering a Westerner (and because Mugen skipped out on his restaurant bills). The fight and subsequent break up by Dutch and Japanese officials is seen as a terrific performance by the audience.
  • In Generator Gawl, Gawl ends up performing superheroic feats on stage while fighting another Generator, all to the amusement of the Power Rangers-esque actors and the audience.
  • In Nurarihyon no Mago, there was supposed to be a staged Oni attack, after which a class president candidate would take credit, via pre-recorded video, for vanquishing the monster. The main character fought off the Oni that actually showed up, and the delivered video was timed so well that nobody caught on. Naturally.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma, who is locked in female form, decides to protect his secret by fighting Mousse "disguised" as a girl. Akane is initially skeptical only to be amazed when it actually works

Akane: "They're actually buying it. Way to sell 'em, Ranma!"

  • In episode 5 of Solty Rei, Waterside Panic, a priceless emerald ends up in the middle of a water circus, creating an every man for themselves fight over it, resulting in Solty almost being electrocuted. Rose saves her at the last second. The crowd bursts into applause, and the circus's annoncer can be heard in the background congratulating them, as if it was all part of the show.
  • Also happened in Detective Conan, where the Murderer Of The Week killed an actress by discreetly poisoning a glass of water that she had to drink while reharsing a scene for a play. When the victim dropped dead, since her character was supposed to die in that same scene, everyone was all "Wow, you're a wonderful actress!" and cheered for her. Only when the other actor on-stage checked on the girl's well-being did they notice what happened.
  • Sailor Moon and her Sailor Warriors fight a clown Cardian who appears during a performance of Snow White. The audience are at first a little confused, but when the Sailor Warriors go Up to Eleven with their introductory speeches, everyone decides it must be a Sailor Moon pantomime, and enjoys it anyway (especially Shingo, who is a big Sailor Moon fan!)
  • Seto no Hanayome has Lunar practicing for a ventriloquist act by having Maki hide inside the dummy. Naturally, when she brings it to school, Lunar and Maki start arguing, and everyone else thinks it's the most awesome ventriloquist act ever.
  • The 11th episode of Burst Angel has Jo acting as guard for a show featuring a Kamen Rider Captain Ersatz. The villain turns into an actual monster and bursts out of his suit, and Jo fights him, while kids complain that the monster's transformation was different from that in the preview and wonder if Jo is part of a new plot.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch has two of the four of the Quirky Miniboss Squad crash a Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid the heroines were taking part of. They managed to make it part of the show and repel them off, but the rest of the play had to be ad libbed because of this.
  • In the second season of Digimon Adventure 02, when rogue Digimon attack a rock concert, the stage crew initially assume it's part of the show.
  • Happens in Amagi Brilliant Park when a Pirate ship captained by a walrus and with a crew of seals sails through a rift between universes into the amusement park's swimming pool section. The park's guests don't panic. Most of the park's personnel, though, are actually from the pirates' home universe, and they're quite worried, especially when some of them have to Walk the Plank. And then there's the temporary employee who isn't in on the truth, and is cheerfully translating what the pirate seals say into Japanese... Since the guests loved the "show," after the pirates are defeated, the park's manager forces them to become unpaid park personnel.
  • Rail Wars! episode 4 combines All Part of the Show with The Show Must Go On - nobody thinks the event is real, but the security squad doesn't want anybody to have any doubts that it wasn't part of the show, either.

Comic Books

  • Slightly subverted in a early Captain America story and a 1980s The Question story where there is a hand to hand combat exhibition where villains secretly appear to attack the feature players for real. As the fight gets more serious than the feature players suspect, the audience slowly begins to realize that there is no way that the exhibition could be that realistic.
  • An old Superboy story features criminals using this trope. They bring movie cameras and pretend to film themselves robbing banks so that people passing by will simply assume it is all a movie and ignore the screaming bank employees. Luckily, Superboy notices they didn't bring any sound equipment, so guesses they are criminals. Luckily, he had apparently never heard of looping.
  • Grant Morrison used the same idea when he wrote Marvel Boy. The incredibly wealthy Dr. Midas sets up lights and cameras so no one will find it strange when his army lets loose on the title character with lasers and other assorted sci-fi gear.
  • And how can we forget the classic Marvel Team Up where Spider-Man met The-Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players, complete with Silver Samurai breaking into a performance of SNL?
  • Dick Tracy fights Putty Puss on a stage. Vitamin Flintheart tries to convince the audience it's for real, but he's such a ham he only makes things worse.
  • During the Batman: Hush storyline, Batman and Catwoman wind up fighting Harley Quinn in the middle of a crowded opera house. The opera-goers seem to think this is part of the show, even applauding after Batman manages to catch Catwoman in mid-air.
    • The final fight of the first Batman/JudgeDredd crossover takes place at a Heavy Metal concert, on stage. The audience is not shown having any particular reaction to Batman appearing on stage, or a cop from another dimension, or for that matter a zombie cop from a third dimension who had killed half the band (Well, since Judge Death was singing while he killed them, there was some justification for assuming that it was staged).
  • In a Marvel Transformers comic, the Decepticons attempt to steal energy from the sound at a Brick Springstern concert. When this erupts into a battle against the Autobots, the audience just assumes it's a massive special effects extravaganza.
  • Played with in Astérix and the Cauldron. Asterix and Obélix get hired in a Roman theater company whose avant-garde director proclaims True Art is "spontaneity", improvisation and offending the public. (Ironically, as is shown during the play rehearsal, basically everything is in fact minutely staged.) When the actual play is performed in public, the Roman city prefect does enjoy the controversial show, until the point where Obelix improvises the play's final line: "These Romans are crazy!" Now that pushes the prefect's Berserk Button: he is not amused and sends the troops on stage to arrest the actors. The military intervention is not part of the show, but the public does believe so:

Spectator #1: Very well staged, that show!
Spectator #2: Yes, it's getting exciting!
Spectator #3: Now they're pushing it. It lacks realism.
Spectator #4: It's a new aesthetics. I, for one, dig it.

Fan Works


  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Harry reappears in the arena after facing Voldemort at the end of the labyrinth; the crowd immediately starts cheering but a hush spreads as they realize that Harry is holding Cedric Diggory's dead body.
    • Fleur Delacour takes it a step further by screaming when she realizes the truth.
  • Galaxy Quest: An alien spaceship crashes through the side of a convention building and everyone thinks it's a publicity stunt. To be fair, the ship was built to be exactly like the one from the show - and they did crash right into the stage. (One wonders what the convention center owners did when they found out.)
    • Not to mention what all those people did when they found their cars totalled and/or flipped over in the parking lot.
    • Presumably not enough to damage the fandom's cries for another season, as the next things we're shown is a relaunch.
  • Franco Zeffirelli's film version of Romeo and Juliet put an interesting spin on Mercutio's death scene—his friends think he's playing around, and only after he collapses do they realise he was dying.
  • The original film version of The Producers has the ex-Nazi author of the play storming out on stage to protest the hippie lead actor's laid-back portrayal of Adolf Hitler. The actors of the play hit the author on the head and pull him back behind the curtains, to the uproarious laughter of the audience, who thought this was all part of the act. Of course, the play itself wasn't meant to be a comedy, but the loopy performance of the lead actor made it so.
  • Played strictly for laughs in a I Know What You Did Last Summer parody within Scary Movie. While Buffy is performing onstage for a talent show, she becomes the sole witness of her boyfriend's murder in the balcony. As he struggles, get killed by, and is slowly dragged away, she goes hysterical trying to tell the audience, eventually crying out, "Why won't any of you bastards help?!" The audience is captivated by her "performance" and all rise to give a roaring applause as she gives up and runs backstage, where her mood instantly flips to pure joy once she learns that she won.
  • Bachelor Party: Near the end of the movie, a theater is showing some typical cheesy 3-D sci-fi film. In come three of the main characters, two guys duking it out for the love of the girl. The fight, and the girl's reactions, are perfectly matched to what's happening on screen, leading one audience member to comment, "What a realistic effect!" His girlfriend replies, "I've seen better," and is immediately punched by one of the fighters, at which point she is convinced.
  • Airplane!: In a slight twist on the trope, while a couple is dancing, the guy ends up stabbed in the back. His futile efforts to point at the knife are confused for dance moves by his partner.
  • Played, if anything, for Drama in To Be or Not to Be (1983). An elderly jewish woman is being led down the aisle to freedom in a room full of Nazi infantrymen, leaders and Hitler himself, all of whom believe her to be a clown acting the part of a Jewish woman. When she passes face to face with the latter, she starts screaming in pure terror, leading Mel Brooks to, what else, comically bop her on the head and drag her off. The Nazi's roared with laughter.
  • In the movie Explorers, a real space ship flies alongside a Drive-In Theater screen which is showing some cheap 1950s sci-fi movie. The scene cuts to a boy and girl who are watching the movie, and the boy complains he can see the strings.
  • In the opening sequence of Scream 2, a young woman is attacked by Ghostface in a theater showing "Stab", the movie-within-a-movie based on the events of the first Scream. Bleeding, she runs up in front of the screen, where people thinks she is a publicity stunt until she falls over dead.
  • A variation appeared in Dirty Work. The main characters ruin a performance of Don Giovanni by, among other things, releasing skunks and prostitutes into the theater. Everybody in the audience ends up fleeing, except for one man who praises the show as the greatest performance he has ever seen.
  • Meet the Feebles: Wynyard accidentally stabs himself while attempting to perform a Knife-Throwing Act while high. The audience promptly starts cheering.
  • Satine's death in Moulin Rouge!, during the big finale number, while the audience gives them a standing ovation.
    • Inverted at the beginning of the film when Satine falls off her swing. The crowd is uncertain what to think until Harold Ziedler covers up the accident by calling for applause and complimenting Satine's incredible showmaship, thus convincing the spectators that it was all part of the show.
  • The Rocketeer: Said verbatim at the the first appearance of the title character, at an airshow where he saves a pilot from Certain Death.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, the title characters fight a mutant wolf and a mutant snapping turtle in a night club and are mistaken for costumed dancers. Justified in that Vanilla Ice, who was performing at the time, apparently improvises the very suspiciously apropos "Ninja Rap".
    • In fact, the only person to suspect something is up is the club's manager, who is outraged at the appearence of 'these extras'. He tells his assistant to call the police, only to relent later on when he finds that the club's patrons enjoy the battle taking place.
  • Happens on two separate occasions in Phantom of the Paradise. It happens first when Beef is electrocuted, to the point that the crowd's chanting for him as the curtain falls - so the stagehands can at least put out his burning corpse. The finale's even wilder: the Phantom disrupts the wedding/assassination of Phoenix to Swan; Philbin is killed in the process. The Phantom had destroyed Swan's Deal with the Devil contract, so Phoenix is privy to Swan's resultant Glamour Failure; he tries to strangle her. The Phantom stabs him to death, but due to the contract he signed with Swan, he dies too. When his mask comes off, Phoenix realizes the Phantom was the thought-dead Winslow; she cradles his body. During all this, virtually no one else stops dancing and partying.
  • Happens in Repo! The Genetic Opera with Blind Mag's final song, Chromaggia. As her performance comes to a close, she gouges out her eyes on stage so Rotti can't repossess them. This triggers Rotti's Villainous Breakdown, and he cuts the ropes suspending her, causing her to fall onto a pointy piece of scenery and get impaled. The commentator announces cheerfully that it's all part of the show, as does Rotti.

Stay tuned, folks!
You don't wanna move, folks!
Because there's more excitement coming!

    • Pretty much the entire Genetic Opera from there on out falls under this trope.
  • In the movie inspired by Cirque Du Soleil's Alegria, when the ringmaster of the circus cannot bring himself to go onstage (his daughter/singer has run away), the clowns address the audience to tell them the performance will not proceed. Naturally, no one believes them; in fact they laugh and finally the clowns drive them out of the theater with a giant industrial fan and a paper snowstorm.
  • In Enchanted, when Giselle bites a poison apple and is only saved by True Love's Kiss, the rest of the ballroom think it's only a show. Then Queen Narissa announces something in the lines of "You want a show? I'll give you a show!" and turns into a dragon. A deleted scene on the DVD has the two crying old ladies complain that the noisy spectacle wasn't needed and that it could have just ended with the kiss.
  • In Octopussy, James Bond disguises himself as a clown to escape pursuit, but then struggles to convince circus-goers that there really is a bomb present.
  • When the militia blow up Cornwallis' ship in The Patriot, one of the ladies attending think they're just fireworks.
  • After confronting the male villain in his box seat, the heroine of Catwoman escapes security guards in a theater by leaping onto the stage and scrambling up the back wall—since the show is a Cirque Du Soleil-inspired one, the audience thinks she's just an acrobat and applaud her feat.
  • In The a Team, Murdock and the other inmates at a psychiatric ward are watching a 3D film with a jeep driving towards the screen. You can guess what happens next.
  • In Balls of Fury, Randy Daytona is performing ping-pong tricks as entertainment in a casino buffet. He starts bouncing a ball repeatedly off of an old guy in the audience, even as the guy is trying to block it. The man eventually has a heart attack and keels over. A few minutes later an FBI agent (George Lopez) visits Randy in his dressing room, and Randy thinks he's in trouble because of the old guy having a heart attack. The FBI agent replies "That's not what I'm here for. Honestly I thought that was part of the show until the paramedics showed up".
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother. When the opera is interrupted by Sigerson, Sacker and Moriarty's assistant trying to get the document, the audience doesn't appear to realize what's going on.
  • In the film Stage Beauty, the climactic performance of 'Othello' is a version of this: the audience doesn't realize that Billy Crudup's character is (arguably) actually trying to kill Claire Danes on stage under cover of Desdemona's death scene. When she survives, it becomes merely All Part of the Show.
  • In Little Nicky, Adam Sandler (a.k.a. Nicky) is having a magical duel with his demonic brother in the middle of a Harlem Globetrotters game, which a very enthusiastic mother explains to her children as "all part of the show". Even when the basketball explodes.
  • Hocus Pocus goes straight to Refuge in Audacity with this—not only are the witches invading the stage assumed to be performing, when they sing their spell the audience is convinced to sing along and enchant itself.
  • In Interview with the Vampire, the French Théâtre des Vampires troupe of vampires kill humans on stage, but the audience always believes the deaths to be part of the show.
    • In the film sequel to the above, Queen of the Damned, vampire hitmen bust onto stage to take out Lestat, sick of his Masquerade-breaking ways. One would think this act would only serve to confirm their existence to the world. Not so, as their deaths are assumed to be All Part of The Show.
  • In My Favorite Year, Variety show star King Kaiser is beat up on live television by goons of a gangster he regularly makes fun of. The studio audience thinks it's part of the sketch, as is movie swashbuckler Alan Swann swinging to his rescue.
  • The ending of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. It seems that the exhibits now involve all sorts of fancy new technology if you visit them during the new extended night hours…
  • The infamous exploitation film Bloodsucking Freaks has Sardu's Theater of the Macabre, wherein Sardu and his assistant Ralphus torture and dismember various women on stage in Grand Guignol style. Of course, everyone thinks it's just stagecraft.
  • During the Broadway opening of the play in Bullets Over Broadway, a pair of mobsters shoot and kill Cheech backstage. The audience thinks the gunshots were all part of the show. In fact, the show gets rave reviews because of the "symbolic" gunshots in the ending.
  • When the Ghostbusters take on a demonic creature during a rock concert in the 2016 remake, the audience thinks it's all part of the show. And when it becomes clear that it's not... they still enjoy the spectacle.


  • In Anne Rice's novel Interview with the Vampire (and its film adaptation), the French Théâtre des Vampires troupe of vampires kill humans on stage, but the audience always believes the deaths to be part of the show.
  • Done straight in Bernard Cornwell's The Warlord Chronicles (a serious version of the King Arthur story). The Saxons know that the Celts have a series of beacons ready to light as soon as Saxon invaders are sighted. So they wait for the Beltane festival, when every Celtic community has a bonfire anyway...
  • In the Discworld novel Maskerade, nobody in the audience of the Ankh-Morpork Opera House panics when they see the Phantom being chased by Greebo (in human form) across the Boxes and over the chandelier in the middle of the opera Il Truccatore, because they think it's supposed to be part of the show. (In fact, not wanting to seem uncultured, they start saying they remember hearing about a production in Quirm that did this.)
    • And in Wyrd Sisters, the real Death walks on stage during a play in place of the actor playing the role. He then realizes he's become the center of attention (because the Weirdness Censor doesn't work if they think you're just some guy in a costume) and gets stage fright.
    • And in The Science of Discworld II: The Globe, (mostly set in our world) Elves launch an attack on the Globe Theatre during the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is mistaken for part of the play.
    • In Moving Pictures an Eldritch Abomination takes the form of the lead actress in the 'clicks' and climbs out of the screen. Everyone just stands by and applauds the special effects. Although to be fair, they're pretty much mind-controlled by this point.
  • In Artemis Fowl during an opera, as a distraction, the stage light fused out. Even though the actors ran, people thought it was just symbolic.
  • This is pretty much the climax of Snow Crash within the Metaverse.
  • In The Darfsteller, a Hugo Award-winning novelette by Walter M. Miller, Jr., the protagonist is an actor. He is in a play where his character is shot and killed in the final scene. He puts a real bullet in the gun, in place of the blank, intending to commit suicide. When he changes his mind, he dodges but still gets shot. He then tries to lie as still as he can, so as to not ruin the show.
    • On that respect, the tragic death of Brandon Lee during the filming of the movie The Crow. Since he got shot for real just in the scene where his character (Eric Draven) is shot by mobsters, the director and the crew all believed his death (and the actress playing Eric's girlfriend's pleas for help) to be part of the filming. Only when Brandon did not react after the "Cut!" mark did they realize what was going on. This, incidentally, caused his entire death to be captured on film.
  • In the fourteenth book in the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate, the Animorphs uncover a plot by the Yeerks to infiltrate a military organization (Zone 91, a clear parody of Area 51) and attempt to stop them while at an amusement park. The Animorphs are battling several Hork-Baijir, as well as Visser Three, in the middle of one of the rides. Cassie is somewhat startled to discover that the ride is still running, and several of the patrons think that the battle is All Part of the Show.
  • The Pilo Family Circus suffers so many disruptions of its performances that "All Part Of The Show" has become a mantra on the showgrounds. One memorable example shows Mugabo the Magician getting sick and tired of pulling a rabit out of his hat, and deciding to liven up the show by simply blowing it to pieces with his powers. As two carnies tackle the rebellious magician to the ground, one of them shouts to the shocked and bloodstained audience "All part of the show, folks!"
  • The Master and Margarita has a demonic black cat beheading an annoying actor during Woland's Black Magic Show. The public is horrified at first, but then mistakes it for a trick.
  • In Thomas Pynchon's novel V., an unconventional ballet concludes with a virgin sacrifice (echoing The Rite of Spring,) but the ballerina fails to wear key protective gear and ends up killed for real. While she dies onstage, the audience applauds what they think is her very realistic performance.
  • Mocked in The Onion when a dance club burns down. The fire chief yells "The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire!" to which the dancers respond "We don't need no water, let that motherfucker burn!"
  • In Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones, the protagonists are very disappointed that the attendees of a fantasy convention mistake the villains (and various other otherworldly people) showing up as just part of the convention.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe short story "Swamp of Horrors (1957) ? Viewing Notes" by Michael Rees tells the story of how the Sixth Doctor disrupted the shooting of a B-Movie to rescue a stranded alien - from the perspective of a film critic praising the finished movie's thoughtful message, cinema verite direction, and quite amazing effects work. (It also includes a You Just Ruined the Shot; when the Doctor first appears, he mistakes the rubber monster from the film for his alien, and the director yells at him. The critic thinks this Breaking the Fourth Wall moment doesn't really work.)
  • The final battle against Maleficent in the first Kingdom Keepers book is dismissed as Disney World's best light show ever.
  • Alistair MacLean's Caravan to Vaccarès uses this when the villains decide to murder Neil Bowman by forcing him into a bullring where he'll be gored and/or trampled in front of an innocent crowd. The audience isn't expecting classic Spanish bullfighting, but something more akin to the performance of an American rodeo clown, so they're shocked when they see Bowman is up against a huge, bad-tempered Andalusian bull the bad guys brought in for the purpose. Then Bowman, desperately trying to avoid death, accidentally convinces the crowd that he knows exactly what he's doing and is one of the greatest comedic performers ever to grace the bullring. When he finally escapes, the audience laughs and cheers wildly.
  • Out of the Waters, second in David Drake's Books of the Elements series, has a theatrical performance paid for by Lord Saxa get out of control when supernatural visions intrude. On the advice command of his wife Hedia, Saxa tells the cheering audience that the emperor provided the cool "special effects." Hedia knows, and is able to convince her husband, that his whole family will be in crucifixion-level trouble if the very touchy and paranoid emperor thinks Saxa can arrange apparitions — and, perhaps more importantly, get cheers — like that.

Live-Action TV

  • Are You Afraid of the Dark??: A guy turns into a banshee onstage and goes after his young male co-star, who is transformed into a toad and saved by a leprechaun friend. Not only is the audience sitting back and watching while he's begging, "Somebody help me! This is really happening!", but the confused stage hands are flipping through the script backstage, wondering, "Did we miss this in rehearsal or something?"
  • The climactic scene in the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code" takes place at the end of a performance of Shakespeare's play "Love's Labours Won", the ending of which was written by the evil aliens to call the rest of their race to take over the world. After the villains are defeated, the audience stands up and applauds. Martha assumes that they think it was all special effects.
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Puppet Show" where the Scoobies fight a demon on the stage of the school talent show, only to have the curtains open just after they finish. Buffy is holding a venquilitrist dummy. Willow is holding a hatchet. Giles and Xander are standing next to a guillotine with a decapitated demon.

Principal Snyder: I don't get it. What is it, avant garde?

  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Wormhole X-Treme!", an alien spaceship appears in the sky during the filming of a sci-fi TV show; the crew assumes it's part of the script and gets it on camera, with the creator of the show saying...

Martin: We're gonna win an Emmy for this! ...For special effects.

    • In an unusual variation, Martin knew in advance it would happen, and had the outdoor filming scheduled accordingly.
    • In the episode "Bounty", an attempted assassination of Carter appears to be part of a demonstration of the technology she and Dr. Lee bring to a trade show.
      • Probably helped by the fact that they were demonstrating hologram technology. Looks like their original plan was to have "Carter" walk on stage and then wow the audience when she turned out to be a hologram generated from backstage. The sniper fell for it too of course and fired on the hologram which promptly disappeared. Cue the real Carter coming out from backstage holding a working laser gun which she uses to stun the sniper. The audience applauds and it's not hard to see why they would believe it to be part of the demonstration.
  • In The Vicar of Dibley, Alice Tinker gives birth to her child while playing Mary during a Nativity Play, to various comments of "it's very realistic".
  • Ace Lightning: Lord Fear invaded Mark's school during the showing of a play which was a somewhat uncreative remake of The Phantom of the Opera - of course the audience thinks he's just a very convincing actor. Lord fear typically relishes the attention, and Mark is the only one who freaks because he's the only one who knows what's going on.
  • Double-subverted in CSI: Miami. It's the start of a fashion show. The lights suddenly cut, somebody asks "Is this part of the show" and two women dressed in your typical robbery gear enter with machine-pistols, spraying off a magazine. One says "Now do I have your attention?". Then the two remove their outer clothes, the music starts and it does turn out to be the fashion show. Then one of the models gets electrocuted- which is definitely not part of the show and no-one thinks it is.
  • An episode of Wizards of Waverly Place features an actual faerie appearing on stage during Justin's production of Peter Pan to chastise Alex's dismal performance of Tinkerbell. The audience is flummoxed. Max reviews the play lauding Justin's creative direction of Tinkerbell "fighting herself," saving Justin's college recommendation.
  • On Cheers, Diane and crazy Andy are performing Othello when Andy really begins to strangle Diane. She struggles, causing the present acting scout to exclaim, "I love it! A Desdemona who fights back!"
  • In an episode of Goodnight Sweetheart Gary is acting in a play and falls down drunk. His friend Ron comes onstage and says "Ladies and Gentlemen, Gary Sparrow has been under a lot of stress recently" cut to an audience member saying "Its a bit too avant-garde for my tastes."
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: Larry David's performance in Mel Brooks' production of The Producers, when he forgets his lines and proceeds to perform an off-the-cuff standup routine and break the fourth wall
  • Inverted in an episode of Blackadder, where Prince George believes that everything that happens on stage is real, and attempts to have the actors arrested for murder whenever a character is stabbed on stage. Played straight when Prince George finally grasps the nature of theatrical illusion... only to believe that a bomb thrown at him by an interrupting anarchist is part of the show.

Professional Wrestling

  • One guy getting beat down by 2, 3, or 8 other guys? People using trash cans, steel chairs, and sledgehammers on each other? All part of the show. Someone's bleeding profusely ("the crimson mask")? Probably part of the show, unless it's WWE, then it's an accident.


Tabletop Games

  • This is one of the stranger methods suggested for getting people to believe in your magic in Mage: The Ascension: set up cameras and make it look like you're filming, and it'll all be attributed to special effects.
    • In Mage: The Awakening, this is actually a special power of the Legacy known as The Blank Badges. Their third Attainment allows them to literally explain away Paradox, with explanations ranging from "We're filming a movie" to "We're doing a pyrotechnics demo" to the utterly blatant "We're calling down magic from the Supernal Realms."
  • Dragon Blooded Exalted possess Charms that allow them to force people to interpret local violence as just a form of elaborate performance.


  • Vaclav Havel's Temptation, an adaptation of the Faust story set in Communist Czechoslovakia, subverts this trope. It ends with one of the actors catching fire following what appears to be a special effects accident, at which point firefighters run up onto the stage and put it out.
  • Real life example and possible inversion: Warner Le Roy's play Between Two Thieves concerns a small traveling company of Jewish and Christian actors who "improvise" a trial debating the life, works, and existence of Christ. At several points in the play the discussion onstage becomes so heated that members of the audience stand up and join in the argument. Of course, all of these audience members are plants, actors who are part of the play (and the whole thing is completely scripted), but during productions it's not uncommon for actual audience members to stand up and begin making comments as well, requiring the actors to, in turn, actually begin improvising in order to address the real audience member's point in such a way as to get him or her to sit back down, then steer things back the the script. Ironically, the better the actors are the more likely unscripted audience participation is, because they're more like to think it's not All Part of the Show and feel free to break in as well.
  • Invoked in the "ride" Stitch's Great Escape, wherein the conceit is that the audience is going to a presentation of a dangerous alien creature who "escapes" after the audience is securely strapped into their seats. Said creature then bounces around the auditorium, menacing the guests as the security team tries frantically to corral it, all the while assuring the trapped audience that everything is fine, it's all part of the show, please don't panic.
  • In the first scene of Show Boat, when a jealous Steve assaults Pete in full view of the town's finest, Captain Andy tells them it's just another preview of the melodrama he's presenting (having already introduced Steve as the leading man).


  • Pagliacci itself is an example of this trope: The second scene is devoted to the actor playing Pagliaccio (a clown) confronting his wife about her lover in the middle of a performance of the show within a show, while the audience praises the play. It culminates in him murdering them both, and ends just as the audience starts to realise what happened with perhaps one of the most famous lines in opera: "La commedia è finita!" ("The comedy is over"). Leoncavallo even claimed it was based on a true story, no less.
    • There's also various stories based on this sort of thing happening during an opera - one of Agatha Christie's involves Tosca, with the actor playing Scarpia getting Killed for Real (and it turning out the soprano was so good at Tosca because her life had parallels to it).
  • In this version of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, the battle between the pirates and the policemen spills onto the stage of a production of H.M.S. Pinafore. Some audience members perk up, others frown and check their playbills.

Video Games

  • The picture up top is from the intro to Brutal Legend. The crowd seems to think a Heavy Metal Physical God bearing the likeness of a stage prop showing up, killing the Linkin Park-like band, and threatening a roadie is all part of the act. The crowd goes absolutely wild with joy, jumping, screaming and throwing Devil Horns in approval as he roars and spews flame everywhere. It's the game's first Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • The opera scene in Final Fantasy VI culminates in an on-stage battle that begins when the heroes and the monster, Ultros, fall out of the rafters and onto the stage. Having previously promised not to ruin the show, Locke attempts to play the battle as part of the performance (although he turns out to be a hilariously bad actor). And for his part, the conductor plays along and leads the orchestra for a special Boss Theme. At the culmination of the fight, Setzer shows up out of nowhere and abducts Celes, and the entire main cast pursues—leaving the opera house director, whose show has been completely derailed, with no option but to promise the audience the plot will be resolved in "Part Two".
  • At the beginning of Final Fantasy IX, the Tantalus theatre troupe stages a production of "I Want to Be Your Canary", as part of a plan to kidnap Princess Garnet. Four of the game's eight player characters accidentally end up on-stage (which is actually the deck of an airship) in the middle of the performance. Although the characters play along at first, the performance eventually falls apart, with Steiner attempting to thwart the "kidnapping", Tantalus attempting to fly the ship away, and Queen Brahne ordering weapons fired at the ship.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, the crowd that is watching sorceress Edea's parade don't even bat an eyelid (hell, they even continue cheering) at the many questionable things that happen during said parade, particularly:
    • Edea gives a speech about her plans for world domination, refers to herself as a "cold-blooded tyrant that slaughtered countless men and destroed many nations," and even calls the audience "lowlives" and "shameless filthy wretches"...all while they still continue cheering for her!
    • Edea summons two giant lizard-lion hybrids to tear Rinoa to pieces on stage.
    • Edea kills the president on stage.
    • Riots start breaking out in the streets and soldiers begin attacking the back of the crowd, yet the front of the crowd still seems to be cheering for Edea.
    • Two heavily-armed mercenaries weave through the parade's dancers.
    • A battle takes place between Edea and the heroes, where Edea casts a giant ice shard to stab the protagonist through the chest...yet the audience is still cheering!
  • In the fourth installment of the Ace Attorney series, Klavier Gavin is holding the concert when the guitar he's using - a gift from the guest star he's performing with - suddenly bursts into flame. However, the words sung at that moment were "Burn my life away, all away", so everyone in the audience thought it was part of the show. Klavier, meanwhile, was pretty ticked off over it.
  • In Hitman: Blood Money, there is a mission set at the Paris Opera House where some actors are rehearsing Tosca. You have the option of replacing the prop pistol with a real pistol so that your target, the lead singer, is killed for real during the execution scene. Naturally, it takes a while for the audience watching the rehearsal to realize it wasn't part of the show.
    • A mission to Club Hell in Las Vegas features one of your targets dancing on a small balcony rigged with flame projects, hanging just above a massive shark tank. You have the option of rigging the pyrotechnics to set her ablaze: after wasting precious time rolling about on the floor, she hurls herself off the balcony and into the tank, where she becomes a barbecued meal for a hungry White Pointer. All throughout this, the partygoers are applauding.
  • The second mission in The 3rd Birthday has a massive Twisted (a weird monster from beyond time and space) warping into existence above a rock concert, right from the stage. It grabs a few audience members and nobody reacts until they realize the blood spurting from the portal is real.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, the heroes and their eidolons make a dramatic entrance in the middle of a parade. It's initially viewed by the crowd as a stunt, like the re-enactment battle seen earlier in the game...until they see Snow's Pulse l'Cie brand and start panicking.
  • Thwaite has two sets of cut scenes: one normal and one for a No Damage Run. In the latter, one of the villagers thinks the action is just an elaborate fireworks show, and another has a hard time convincing him otherwise.

Web Comics

  • In this Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures strip, Dan picks up an Incubus bear that Aaryanna tried to give him to make him behave himself. He asks it, rhetorically, what he should do with it - whereupon a loud, creepy-sounding voice answers, "YOU SHALL SURRENDER TO THE DARKNESS!" It turns out that the rats are playing a video game, and they have it hooked up to surround sound. (Interestingly enough, Potophie comments that Dan's screams "sound almost real!")
  • Eerie Cuties had Brooke explaining away a vampire going feral and drinking blood on public, then an enchanted doll exploding in fireworks as "a live movie trailer for an awesome monster movie that'll come out the next Halloween". It helps that Tabitha is such a cheerful Drama Queen it's hard to see her as a victim when she obviously isn't serious about it herself.
  • El Goonish Shive had The Men in Black hiding the presence of aliens on Earth using such methods as having them wear T-shirts that say "Homo Sapiens". Which works - everyone who sees them assumes it's some sort of publicity stunt.
  • In Girl Genius the punchline of several strips worth of fighting a cage-clank (along with Zeetha being stripped down to her underwear) has Gilgamesh attempt to explain to the locals... who toss a bunch of coins at him, clearly thinking that this was all just an act. Notably, Gil actually seems to be willing to play along to get the crowd to come with him.
  • In this Sluggy Freelance strip, a Russian mobster shoots someone in the middle of a nightclub, then goes, "Zat shot was part of ze song you vere dancing to! Look how your violent American music has made a man your parents' age faint!" Cue resounding cheers from the club patrons.

Web Original

  • In Survival of the Fittest, unable to admit that they could not catch the terrorists behind the tragedy, the US government convinces the American public that the show they watched, where teenagers murdered each other, was just that: a show, designed for shock value and drama. This works, until V2 of Survival Of The Fittest starts, and the public realize they were lied to.

Western Animation

  • In the Regular Show episode, Grave Sights, when people at the park are watching a 3D movie and real zombies attack, they think the zombies are just part of the movie.
  • An episode of The Simpsons features Sideshow Bob trying to murder the Simpsons in the middle of an Italian opera - naturally, it was a parody of Leoncavallo's tragic opera Il Pagliacci.
    • Played with (inverted?) in another episode when one of Fat Tony's mobsters is trying to kill the mayor at a dinner show (coincidentally, Guys And Dolls), but while hiding backstage one of the performers sees him and, assuming he's an actor, pushes him on stage. The mobster sticks his knife in his teeth and nervously starts tapdancing.
    • Then there was Krusty's heart attack...
  • In Gargoyles, when Coldstone is introduced, Broadway, Brooklyn, and Lexington initially think the sounds of him and Goliath fighting are just the sound effects of the movie they're watching. Played for laughs, as "I don't remember any explosions in Bambi."
    • In another episode, when Lexington and Goliath are fighting the Pack, some witnesses believe they must be filming a movie or something.
  • Played with in the Futurama episode "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings", where the interruption actually becomes part of the show.
    • And again in "Less Than Hero." During a superhero battle, Leela's mother is feeling scared and confused, and so assumes she's wandered into an off-Broadway play. (Response: "No, there are too many people here.")
  • In The Boondocks, Gangstalicious is shot on stage, during a performance of his new hit single, "I Got Shot." It took 45 minutes for someone to call an ambulance.
  • In the comic book version of WITCH, the guardians fight Cedric during a rock concert, on stage, and everyone in the audience is assured that everything going on is a part of the special effects. The rock star in questions wore a similar outfit to the Guardians Magical Girl uniforms which probably helped sell the idea as them as back-up dancers.
    • A similar example happens in the second season episode "W is for Witch." Since it's Halloween W.I.T.C.H. and their magical allies are able to walk around in their transformed states and their battle with the Big Bad is thought to be a skit put on for their school's carnival. One of their classmates praises the "special effects" that let the girls fly around and attack the other "actors" with elemental powers. The audience is still cheering at the end when Phobos takes the Seal of Nerissa from her and announces his intention to conquer the universe. Encore!
  • In an episode of Jimmy Neutron, Jimmy creates a weather machine for a school play. The machine goes haywire during the play and create a tornado that soon grows and picks a school up. When Jimmy resolves the situation, the people watching the play thought the whole thing was all part of the act.
  • An episode of Danny Phantom introduced the rock-girl ghost Ember, who apparently planned to take over the world through the hypnotic power of her music. On the night of a world-wide, televised concert, Danny goes to stop her, resulting in a big fight filled with energy blasts. The crowd oohs and aahs, and even Jazz remarks "Mindless teenage rebellion and a killer light show? Is this the best concert ever, or what?"
    • Another one occurred in "Beauty Marked" when Danny accidentally declares Sam the winner of the Beauty Contest. The host places a magical tiara on her and while fireworks are going off, Sam is taken to the Ghost Zone. No one reacts horribly (except the other contenders who are less then pleased a Goth girl won).
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door, a school play that has a plot similar to West Side Story has the Delightful Children from Down the Lane make a Humongous Mecha out of their costume. This results in an impromptu dance number/fight scene with all of the other kids and the team dancing while at the same time avoiding getting shot by the robot's lasers. One proud father remarks:

"That's my daughter up there dodging deadly laser blasts!"

  • During a wrestling show in one episode of Kim Possible, the manager of such uses some Egyptian artifact to turn himself into a humanoid Jackel. Kim, Ron, as well as two of the league's top wrestlers, Steel Toe and Pain King, work together to fight him. All the while the audience is none the wiser. In fact two of the audience members comment on the "special effects" at first but then dismiss the whole thing as "fake".
  • In the 'Bye Bye Greasy' episode of Home Movies Melissa is required to eat pie during one of her scenes. When she thinks the pie contains kiwis, which she is allergic to, she completely loses it and starts yelling that she is going to die, when the audience doesn't react, she yells, "This isn't part of the show!!" Of course, considering how the performance was going up to that point, the audience could be forgiven for not taking it seriously.
  • The Blunder Years episode of The Simpsons (where we see the death of Smithers' father) includes a scene where The Simpsons are in Burns' office, watching a security tape from that day. After the history is revealed, Waylon Jr. appears in the room to confront Mr. Burns. Homer (eating popcorn, believing that this is All Part of the Show) says: "Now the movie's turned into a play! Still good, though."
  • During the in-universe "filming" of the Gorillaz music video "El Manana", in which Noodle gets attacked by helicopters and shot at, nobody noticed that she was in actual danger until the real stunt helicopters showed up, by which time Noodle was missing and her attackers were gone.
  • In the 2010 Halloween episode of American Dad Stan warns people to run away from his home where the serial killers had been let loose by Roger. Naturally, people are more eager to enter his haunted house.
  • In the Amphibia episode "Fiddle Me This", Sprig is almost eaten by a bat and had to be rescued by his family. It's ambiguous if the audience realized Sprig was is real and unplanned danger in the moment, but after the fact they clearly thought it was part of the act.

Real Life

  • See Fatal Method Acting for real life incidents involving death on stage.
  • Health food enthusiast Jerome Rodale died onstage during a taping of The Dick Cavett Show in 1971. Rodale had been Cavett's first guest, and he remained on the guest couch when newspaper columnist Pete Hamill came on as the second guest. Rodale made a loud snoring sound and his head fell back. Hamill said "This looks bad", and the audience laughed. Legend has it that Cavett said “Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?”, but Cavett denies this. The episode was being taped, and thus never aired.
  • A particularly grim example: when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, some astronauts' family members watching on TV thought it was a second-stage rocket ignition and cheered. Probably a lot of therapy time devoted to that topic.
  • In one tragic incident, an accident with pyrotechnics lit the ceiling of a Rhode Island club on fire during a performance by the band Great White. The performers didn't notice for a while, and the audience thought it was all part of the show. Eventually, the band noticed and fled, the crowd panicked, and the club collapsed, resulting in the deaths of over 100 people.
  • In 1987, comedian Dick Shawn was playing a politician reciting cliches. One of them was "If elected, I will not lie down on the job." He then fell down and didn't get up. The audience thought it was part of his act. When he didn't get up, there were actually catcalls from people who thought he was dragging it out too long. Finally someone went on stage, examined him and said "Is There a Doctor In the House?" Another audience member performed CPR on him, but it was to no avail. The audience didn't know if the people coming on stage to examine him were part of the act or not. They weren't: he died of a massive heart attack on stage. There is sad irony in the fact that he had played Lorenzo St. DuBois (the actor playing Hitler) in the scene in The Producers described above.
  • This story is about a Viennese actor who nearly died onstage after stabbing himself in the throat with a knife that he thought had been blunted. The audience, thinking the spraying blood was just really good special effects, began to applaud. It was only after he collapsed and wouldn't get up that they began to suspect something was wrong.
  • A lot of Andy Kaufman's work was based on making his audiences wonder if what he was doing was for real or not; when people learned he was dying of cancer, more than a few simply thought it was an act. He died in 1984, but some still think He's Just Hiding.
  • An actor playing Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar" was supposed to have fake hung himself, and everyone clapped when he actually had his windpipe crushed, and didn't realize what was going on until the actors all dropped their roles and ran to try to untie the ropes.
  • At Burning Man in 2007, a man hanged himself inside a two-story tent. His friends thought that it was performance art.
  • Stage magician Chung Ling Soo (actually an American in yellowface) was famous for the trick where he would appear to stop a bullet with his teeth. In his last show, the act went wrong and a real bullet got fired into his chest, and he expired with the line: "Oh my God. Something's happened. Lower the curtain", the first and last time he spoke English on stage in his Chinese persona.
  • Former AC/DC singer Bon Scott said he saw current lead singer Brian Johnson perform with his band once. Bon Scott enjoyed the performance because at the end, Johnson started rolling around and screaming. "And to top it all - you couldn't get a better ending - they wheeled the guy off!", said Bon Scott. He thought it was all part of the show, but what really happened was that Brian had appendicitis.
  • British comedian Tommy Cooper died of a heart attack during a performance on live television. The audience thought his falling down was part of the act and laughed, until they realized he was seriously ill.
  • A stage show in Australia had a tragic example of this. There was a scene where a character was supposed to get shot. When the apparent prop gun was fired, the actor really did get shot... fatally through the heart. The other actors continued their parts, believing he was just acting, followed by an applause after the scene was done. After the scene was over and the lights went dark (so the next scene could be set up) the man continued to lie on the stage without moving. A prop organizer checked his pulse and called out: "We need a doctor! Now!" causing the spectators to laugh as they believed it was just a joke to keep them entertained during the break. A few moments later, as more and more people went up to check on the body, they started to realize that something was wrong. The actor had died instantly when shot.
  • One teenage girl in Pennsylvania began choking during a Halloween murder mystery party ... at the precise moment the script called for "somebody" to choke to death. Said girl had a panicky time convincing her friends she was really choking.
  • Part of the reason Per Yngve "Dead" Ohlin's suicidal behavior went untreated was that most Mayhem shows featured gore and self-mutilation routinely. When Dead slashed his wrists and almost bled to death in one show, the audience assumed that once again he had meant to simply draw blood from elsewhere. It also didn't help that fellow bandmate Euronymous wanted Dead's self-mutilation to go to even more ridiculous lengths to build Mayhem's reputation and infamy, and he lied frequently about the state of Dead's mental health to prevent intervention as well as frequently egging him on.
  • The military uses the phrase, "Real world," in order to avert this during drills. Anything that is not part of the drill will be declared "Real world."
  • Nobody knew actor John Wilkes Booth jumping on stage during a play wasn't part of an act and instead his getaway after killing Lincoln.