Ask a Stupid Question
"I see this guy Marty tryin' to carry a big ol' sofa up the stairs all by himself. So I, I say to him, I say 'Hey, you want me to help you with that?' And Marty, he just rolls his eyes and goes Noooo, I want you to cut off my arms and legs with a chainsaw!'So I did."
—"Weird Al" Yankovic, Albuquerque
... and you'll get a stupid answer.
You know how obnoxious Captain Obvious can be. You just want to yell at them and say, "Any blind idiot can tell what's going on!" But then there are those Captains Obvious who can not only tell what is going on, but ask a stupid question just to verify.
This is not only when that question is asked, but to the frustrated individual this is their chance to strike back with a non-sequitur, either in a Deadpan Snarker retort or full on Mind Screw confusion. A specific variation of Sarcasm Mode.
While examples on this page are of In-Universe instances of this type of exchange, this is certainly a staple of MSTing by pointing out where people are being oblivious to their dialogue (or being repetitive in them). For example: "This is a map to Hammunaptra." "The Hammunaptra?" "No, the one in Jersey."
Of course, if you decide to avert the inevitable sarcastic retort by not seeking explicit confirmation that your friend with the house full of boxes is actually moving, nine times out of ten it will turn out (after a generous helping of Poor Communication Kills) that he is just having the house fumigated.
- Peter David likes these. For example, this exchange from Madrox, after Jamie was knocked unconscious and has now woken up, clearly in the same room with the same people:
Jamie Madrox: How long was I out?
Guido Carousella: Seventeen years. The US was bought by the Swiss. The new national bird's the cuckoo, but the chocolate's better.
- In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, there are a number of cases:
- "Seriously, who reads this stuff?" "You."
- When told that a sixth-year Gryffindor had deliberately cast a Dark curse on a sixth-year Slytherin - a curse he knew nothing about except that it was "for enemies" - Harry is unable to stop himself from asking "Are you serious?" No, Quirrell is in a bad mood today for no reason.
- When Bellatrix Black incredulously says "I'm... alive...?", Harry is tempted to say "no" just to see how she reacts.
- In Through a Looking Glass Darkly, Jack provides some choice answers.
Jellybean: Did you have that on you the entire time?
Jack: No, I teleported back to the Looking Glass while we were running from the Jabberwock and stole it then.
- Dragon Ball Abridged episode 14: Freeza and his thugs are attacking the Namekian village holding one of the planet's Dragon Balls.
Namekian: What do you want from us? Why are you slaughtering our people?
Freeza: Well, you see, I was just in the area and I thought this would be a delightful place for a summer home... -- What the f*ck do you think I'm here for?
Namekian: Our trees?
Freezza: (Beat) Zarbon, [kill] two or three more.
- Undocumented Features: In chapter nine of The Federation Lives Forever, there is this exchange when Yui Hirasawa and Azusa Nakano spot a sky bison in the yard of the Hirasawa home:
"... Senpai, why is there a sky bison in your yard?" asked Azusa, her voice flat.
"He's too big to go in the house, silly," Yui replied cheerfully.
"... Ask a stupid question," Azusa remarked, mostly to herself.
Films -- Animation
- Occurs twice in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, both times with the title character talking to Benny the Cab: "Benny, is that you?" "No, it's Eleanor Roosevelt!", and later "No, it's Shirley Temple!"
- From Chicken Run:
Mr. Tweedy: What is it?
Mrs. Tweedy: It's a pie machine, you idiot. Chickens go in, pies come out.
Mr. Tweedy: Ooh, what kind of pies?
Mrs. Tweedy: Apple.
Mr. Tweedy: My favourite!
Mrs. Tweedy: Chicken pies, you great lummox!
Films -- Live-Action
- In the Flemish movie Moscow, Belgium, Matty is calling to her daughter from the bathroom.
Vera: Mom, are you taking a bath?
Matty: No, I'm getting a massage from a big black guy.
- Then there's this exchange in Analyze This:
Paul Vitti: I couldn't get it up last night.
Ben Sobel: You mean sexually?
Paul Vitti: No, I mean for the big game against Michigan State. Of course sexually!
- From the sequel:
Jelly: Can you handle [a gun]?
Ben: What, you mean shoot it?
Jelly: No, twirl it like a fuckin' baton.
Reporter: What, Hildy, you still here?
Hildy: No, I'm in Niagara Falls.
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is absolutely ridden with this trope, coming from several characters, though it's a particular specialty of Gay Perry. For example, after Harry finds a corpse dumped in his room:
Perry: OK, first thing's first: we gotta move her somewhere. You got gloves?
Harry: Excuse me?
Perry: Gloves, do you have gloves? We have to move her. If it's a frame-up, some asshole's probably calling the cops on you right now. Do this: wrap up the body, in a blanket, a sheet, anything.
Harry: OK, uh... any particular kind of gloves?
Perry: Yes... fawn. Will you fucking hurry?
Fake Santa: That'll be 200.
Howard: ... dollars?
Fake Santa: No, chocolate kisses. Yes, dollars!
Hanks: The president of what?
Candy: The president of the Three Stooges fan club. The President of the United States!
- In Live Free or Die Hard, John McClane pulls off a particularly badass stunt to throw off his pursuers while protecting Matt Farrell
Farrell: Did you see that!?
McClane: Yeah, I saw it, I did it!
- The Dude of The Big Lebowski is a master of this.
Treehorn's Thug: (holding a bowling ball) What's this?
The Dude: Obviously, you're not a golfer.
- A conversation about Dottie's husband in A League of Their Own:
Jimmy Dugan: Does he know how good you are?
Dottie Hinson: Bob?
Jimmy Dugan: No, Hitler. Yes, Bob.
- In The Ringer Steve(Jeffy) walks in to his room and sees his roommate at the computer:
Steve(Jeffy): So you, uh, workin' on the computer there?
Billy: No, I'm walking my dog.
- The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy
- Zaphod is asked if he's THE Zaphod Beeblebrox. "No, just a Zaphod Beeblebrox. Haven't you heard, we come in six packs?".
- Zaphod does this a lot, but it's especially heavy in that episode. Right after that:
Receptionist: But sir, I umm, it was on the sub-ether radio this morning, er... it... er... said you were dead.
Zaphod: Yeah that's right, I just haven't stopped moving yet.
Roosta: Beeblebrox! Over here!
Zaphod: No, Beeblebrox over here. Who are you?
Roosta: A friend.
Zaphod: Oh yeah? Anyone's friend in particular or just generally well disposed to people?
Rachel: No way. George Washington?
Marco: Jake, tell her, "No, Guido Washington."
Jake: Marco would like me to pass along a sarcastic remark.
- In Magic Strikes, Kate Daniels is in a strange kitchen trying to make coffee, only someone has rearranged all the labels on the containers so she can't find anything.
"Looking for something?" Dali came up from the hallway.
"No, I'm dancing the can-can." Ask a dumb question...
Dali blinked at me. "Would you mind making coffee while you're dancing? I smell it on the bottom shelf, either first or second jar on the left."
- Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds: Sherlock Holmes tells Dr. Watson how one of the invading machines was going after him. Watson exclaims "And you escaped!", to which Holmes replies "No, Watson. I was caught and killed by the machines."
- Welkin Weasels: Heastward Ho!
"Catching up on our reading, are we?"
"No, I'm trying to burn a hole through paper with my retina."
- In the Agatha Christie novel Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, a boy comes across a scene with a wrecked car whose front-end is smashed into a stone wall with an injured woman hanging halfway out of the car. The boy asks, "Has there been an accident?" prompting another character to say, "No, the lady ran her car into the wall on purpose." Though as a matter of fact, the lady did run her car into the wall on purpose.
- The Dark Tower book Wizard and Glass has a villain ask his second-in-command how many of their men are armed. The second asks, "With guns?" prompting the villain to reply, "No, with pea-blowers, you damned fool."
- Referenced but averted in the Discworld short story "The Sea and Little Fishes". When Granny Weatherwax is trying to be "nice", Nanny is surprised to see her looking at a pink cardigan. Nanny's reaction is "You're not going to wear that, are you?" She would have been reassured to get the reply "No, I'm going to eat it, you daft old fool", but instead Granny just says "You don't think it would suit me?"
- From Rivers of London, when Peter compares magic to jazz:
Peter: You know how jazz is all about improvising on a melody?
Lesley: No, I thought it was when you sang about cheese and tying up people's gaiters.
- From Corner Gas when Brent walks into Oscar and Emma's living room while they're putting up Christmas decorations:
Brent: Whoa, what are you doing?
Emma: We're building a haunted house for Halloween.
- The title character is of course a repeat offender:
Cuddy: Chase and Cameron are together?
House: If by "together" you mean "having sex in the janitors closet" then yeah!
Cuddy: The janitors closet here?
House: No, the one at the local high school. Go Tigercats!
Foreman: What are you doing?
House: What does it look like I'm doing? I'm fighting the power.
- In "Euphoria":
House: There's a bullet in his head.
Cameron: He was shot?!
House: ... No, somebody threw it at him.
- The Golden Girls
- Dorothy is made of this kind of sarcasm.
Dorothy: Have you ever given a eulogy?
Rose: You mean at a funeral?
Dorothy: No, Rose, at a pie-eating contest!
- One memorable incident has Rose give it back.
Dorothy: (seeing Rose coming out of her room with a bucket in each hand) Oh Rose. Is your roof leaking too?
Rose: No Dorothy. I just finished milking the cow I keep in my closet. Gee with only three hours sleep I can be as bitchy as you!
- Another Dorothy moment:
Dorothy: It's dirty dancing, just like in that movie.
Rose: What movie?
Dorothy: Lawrence of Arabia, Rose.
- From the Frasier episode, "Martin Does it His Way":
Frasier: Roz, that was quite a flattering description. Just out of curiosity, were you just helping that lady with her fantasy, or do you really see me that way?
Roz: You really don't know, do you? Frasier, I am so attracted to you. I always have been. Your looks, your voice, you don't know how many times I've wanted to strip naked and hurl myself at that glass partition like a bug on a windshield.
Frasier: Are you through?
Roz: (bopping him on the head) Well, ask a stupid question!
- The West Wing
- Repeatedly on , mainly by C.J. in response to moronic press questions, but everyone else as well:
Mandy: Who was the last president to commute a [death] sentence?
Mandy: (surprised) Abraham?
Josh: No, Burt Lincoln.
- And another:
C.J.: There's an article I want you to read in the New Yorker.
Josh: What's it about?
Josh: The disease?
C.J.: No, the dessert topping, Josh. Yes, the disease!
- In "iQuit iCarly", Spencer enters singing and dancing with joy:
Spencer: I won the boat! I won the boat! I won the boooat!
Carly: You won the boat?
Spencer: No. Yes!
- And also this:
Freddie: Our webshow?
Sam: No, our potato farm!
- And this:
Carly: What's the temperature in here?
Carly: Turn the heat up to ninety!
Spencer: Ninety degrees?
Sam: No, ninety pickles! Yes ninety degrees!
- NCIS: None of the photographs were picked up by Abby's facial recognition software.
McGee: You ran all the faces?
Abby: No. Halfway through, I was just like "screw this!" and I quit.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- In one episode, Dawn finds her sister sitting on her bed, reading a magazine and asks:
Dawn: What are you doing?
Buffy: Playing soccer.
- In the episode "When She Was Bad":
Xander: Hey, did you guys hear that Cibo Matto is going to be at the Bronze tonight?
Willow: Cibo Matto? They're playing?
Xander: No, Will, they're going to be clog dancing.
Willow: Cibo Matto can clog dance?
- Used epically in an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, after Dick learned his girlfriend slept with his nemesis Dr. Strudwick once.
Dick: I can't get his face out of my mind!
Dick: (serene voice) No, Nina, little Davey Tenant, the boy down the block. You see, ever since Davey was three years old, he's wanted more than anything to see a real professional baseball game. He wished the biggest wish his little heart could muster. But his dad was laid off and couldn't afford the tickets. Well, one day last week, little Davey was outside playing ball like he always does, and who should walk up the block, tall as a building, but home run king Mark McGwire. To see little Davey's face light up as Mc Gwire handed him four seats on the first base line, well, it's something that I will never forget. (pause) YES, STRUDWICK'S! DON'T ASK STUPID QUESTIONS!
- In one episode, Joey is upset at his co-star Wayne, who is about to have him fired:
Wayne: Joey, I'll get you your job back if you help me out.
Joey: Why should I help you out?
Chandler: ... the reason he just said?
- Chandler did this a lot. After calling his Girl of the Week:
Chandler: I got her machine.
Joey: Her answering machine?
Chandler: No, interestingly enough, her leaf blower picked up.
- When they're playing poker and Rachel wants to leave:
Chandler: Rach, Rach, we gotta settle.
Rachel: Settle what?
Chandler: The Jamestown colony of Virginia. You see, King George is giving us the land so...
- In Sherlock, after the police find a dead woman who has scratched "RACHE" into the floorboards with her fingernails:
Lestrade: So she was writing 'Rachel'?
Sherlock: No, she was writing an angry note in German. Of COURSE she was writing Rachel!
- To those who have read the original Sherlock Holmes short story upon which this episode is based (A Study in Scarlet), this is a gloriously subversive application of this trope—since in the story, the police believe they are looking for a "Rachel" before Holmes points out that "Rache" is German for "Revenge", which proves decisive.
- In The Jack Benny Program, Jack can't get a busy receptionist to talk to him, so he calls her from one of the other phones on her desk. She says Mr. Lewis isn't available, but she can have him call Jack back...
Receptionist: Are you at home, or are in you in Palm Springs?
Jack: I'm in Stockholm! Smorgasbord, 8321!
- Doctor Who
- "Amy's Choice":
Dream Lord: If you die in the dream world, you wake up in reality. [...] Ask me what happens if you die in reality.
Rory: What happens if you die in reality?
Dream Lord: You die, stupid, that's why it's called reality.
- Later in "Let's Kill Hitler":
Rory: Okay, I'm trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I'm really trying not to see this as a metaphor.
Amy: How can we be in here? How do we fit?
Rory: Miniaturization Ray.
Amy: How would you know that?
Rory: Well, there was a ray, and we were miniaturized.
- In The Shakespearian Code
Martha: (thinking about Harry Potter) You mean the films?
Tenth Doctor: No, the Novelization.
Rimmer: Lister, is that a cigarette you're smoking?
Lister: No, it's a chicken.
- The song "Foolish Questions".
- Referenced (although not a true example of the trope) in Tom Lehrer's "New Math" while explaining how to solve a math problem in Base Eight:
Now instead of four in the eights place
You've got three, 'cause you added one,
That is to say, eight, to the two,
But you can't take seven from three,
So you look at the sixty-fours.
"Sixty-four? How did sixty-four get into it?" I hear you cry.
Well, sixty-four is eight squared, don't you see?
Well, you ask a silly question, and you get a silly answer.
- When Jon first meets Liz:
Jon: By the way there, doc, what's your name?
Jon: Gee, what a pretty name. Is that short for Elizabeth?
Liz: No. It's short for lizard.
- In another strip:
Jon: Are you going to sleep all day, Garfield?
Garfield: Let me check my social calendar. Let's see... There's high tea with the Queen of England tomorrow, but nothing today. (falls asleep)
Jon: Ask a stupid question...
- Don't Some People Ask the Biggest Fool Questions? uses this trope extensively. In one example, Gerald is building a dog house:
Man walking by: Hello, Gerald, building a dog house?
Gerald: No, I'm up in a balloon milking a chicken.
- Used in Muppets in Space, when Gonzo sits upright in bed quickly, accidentally launching Rizzo the Rat out the window.
Gonzo: (hearing Rizzo climbing back in) Is that you, Rizzo?
Rizzo: No, it's Santa. I forgot my reindeer.
Recorded and Stand Up Comedy
- While the overall premise of Bill Engvall's recurring "Here's Your Sign" routine is that stupid people should wear signs advertising the fact, his experiences in encountering people who qualify often take this form.
- Paranoia supplement "Acute Paranoia", adventure "Outland-ISH". The Troubleshooters try to find out the source of a drug affecting ISH sector by questioning the residents.
Troubleshooter: How did all these people get drugged?
Drugged Citizen: They drank the water. Snrfff.
Troubleshooter: The drug is in the water?
Drugged Citizen: Sklaxxl. No, the drug is on the inside of the cups! Of course it's in the water. Hrraww.
Church-in-Sarge's-body: Uhh... Who ya talking to red? Me?
Grif: No, I'm talking to Lopez, because, you know, that's real rewarding.
- And another one...
Grif: Fuck off, Blue, a ship just crashed on one of our guys.
Church: What, this ship?
Simmons: No, another ship, then that ship left and this ship crashed in the exact same spot.
- The classic one...
Donut: What state were you named after?
Tex(after Texas): Nevada.
- In Holiday Wars, "Ask a Stupid Question" is personified as a character who only speaks with stupid questions. An example of this can be seen here. [dead link]
- Penny Arcade
- The Order of the Stick: Elan asks a lot of stupid questions to which Roy gives snarky answers.
- In an Arthur, King of Time and Space strip, Merlin responds to Lancelot's "Do you think this is wise?" with "Why, no. I woke up this morning and decided to do the least wise thing that occured to me."
- (The Customer is) Not Always Right. Good God.
(in a bakery, to a guy bent over confectionaries, decorating them, who wears uniform and apron): Excuse me! Do you work in the bakery?
- The most common (in multitude of variants) question:
- They came to expect stupid questions:
Me: Hi, I wanted to ask about these wireless routers.
Employee: *suddenly looking scared* …Yes?
- A backwards example where Skipper gets sick of a stupid answer and returns with a stupid question happens in The Penguins of Madagascar, Sting Operation.
Skipper: What do you make of it, Kowalski?
Kowalski: I'm not sure, Skipper. It could be anything.
Skipper: Oh really? Could it be Alaska?
Kowalski: No, it's probably not -
Skipper: Are you saying Alaska might be stuck upside down to the clock tower of my zoo?
Kowalski: I guess -
Skipper: Because I think people would notice if the entire state of Alaska just... packed up and... moved to the zoo!
Kowalski: All right, maybe it couldn't be anything!
- Justice League Unlimited
- Solomon Grundy gives Superman a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that involves—among other things—punching him through several buildings, smashing him between two cars, and tossing him through the supports of a suspension bridge. After that last one, Superman climbs out onto a pier, not only bruised and battered but dripping wet as well, and:
- Although in fairness to Green Lantern, sometimes Superman will just shrug that off like it's nothing.
- A variant when Batman and GL are chasing a villain through a time tunnel:
- In the Elefun and Friends short "A Tangled Tale", Elefun follows a kite string all the way to China, where he and his friends see a panda trying to launch herself across a river using a piece of bamboo. The bamboo gets stuck halfway, leaving her dangling and leading to this conversation:
Elefun: Whatcha doing?
Panda: Sipping tea. What does it look like I'm doing?
Pandarama: Who asked you?
- Jimmy Two-Shoes, Beezy on Heloise's new machine:
Beezy: What is this, dandruff?
Heloise: Yeah, I made a machine that makes dandruff. It's snow!
- A Running Gag in Danny Phantom would be one of the characters falling, being attacked, thrown or mauled. Cue someone else asking uselessly:
"Are you okay?"
"Sorry, standard question."
- Happens twice in quick succession in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Over a Barrel":
Rainbow Dash: Pinkie Pie, you asleep yet?
Pinkie Pie: No. Are you asleep yet?
Rainbow Dash: If I was sleeping, how could I have asked you if you were asleep?
Pinkie Pie: Oh yeah. (giggles)
Rainbow Dash: When we get to Appleloosa, you think we'll have to carry that heavy tree all the way from the train to the orchard?
Pinkie Pie: What tree? You mean Bloomberg?
Rainbow Dash: No, Fluttershy.
Pinkie Pie: Fluttershy's not a tree, silly.
- Animaniacs, episode "Temporary Insanity". The Warners are fighting to answer the phone first, causing Mr. Plotz's office (and Mr. Plotz himself) to be wrapped in a telephone cord.
Mr. Plotz: When will all this insanity end?!
Dot: When one of us answers the phone, silly.
Mr. Plotz: I did not know that.
- From Beast Wars:
Cheetor, recently having gotten a flying Mid-Season Upgrade he's itching to use: You mean fly?
Rattrap: No, I mean take a submarine. Of course I mean fly!
- From Rocky and Bullwinkle:
Natasha: Boris, did you get blown up by your own bomb again?
Boris: No, I'm up here robbing bird's nests!
Natasha: But why?
Boris: It keeps me off the streets, that's why! About six feet off.
- That last one is a slight subversion, as he isn't being sarcastic, just rueful.
- The animated Punky Brewster episode "Growing Pain" has Glomer growing in size due to an allergy to pepperoni pizza. He is taken to a gym where he attempts to use a weights machine but is catapulted back and wedged within the bars of the machine:
Punky: Glomer, are you okay?
Glomer: (not too pleased) Am I looking okay?!
- From BoJack Horseman:
- Here is a fun excerpt from the book Disorder in the American Courts which goes over things actually said in court:
Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
Q: Did you check for breathing?
Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Q: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
A: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive, practicing law somewhere.