Cue Card Pause

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A gag in which a character is reading something aloud, and accidentally cuts himself.


Off in the middle of a sentence by stopping too early. The truncated sentence is still grammatical, but it sounds like he's saying something complete.

... ly different from what he meant, so that it takes a moment for the audience and the other characters to catch up with the new information and parse the sentence correctly. This usually results from trying to read from cue cards, note cards or a screen that doesn't scroll quickly enough. A similar catch-up effect can occur if an unprepared character encounters a garden path sentence or a crash blossom headline. Sometimes a part of Bad Bad Acting.

Compare Bait and Switch Comment.

Examples of Cue Card Pause include:


  • A television ad for Bet 24 (an online gambling service) features gaffe-prone sportsman Mark Wary (previously seen on comedy programs The Wedge and Mark Loves Sharon) saying that he is going to "get online to score... some great odds".
  • A radio ad had a man typing a letter on a typewriter, with a well-timed pause coming at the end (ding! zip!) of every line. "Sincerely, your Son" (ding! zip!) ...-in-Law".


  • I did your mom... a favor... by making you... a sandwich.

Live Action TV

  • Frequently on Quantum Leap, with Al reading data off the tiny handlink screen. For example, in "M.I.A.":

Al: You graduated from UCST in '65 with a BA in Criminal. (Smacks the handlink.) Justice.

  • Saturday Night Live Recurring Character Tim Calhoun, a senator who runs for president. He's got his speeches on index cards but for some reason only part of a sentence is on a given card. For example (during the Mark Foley Sex Scandal, where Foley had sent sexually explicit text messages to underage congressional pages):

I have touched many pages in my life...because I am a voracious reader...of child pornography...studies. Illustrated studies.

Henry: (reading instructions) And carefully cut the wires leading to the clockwork fuse at the head.
Trapper cuts the wires
Henry: But first, remove the fuse.

George: ... and I firmly believe that, like me, you will conclude that Captain Blackadder is, in fact, totally and utterly... guilty!
[He sits. Blackadder turns over the page. George jumps up again.]
George: ... of nothing more than trying to do his duty under difficult circumstances!

  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Fear Itself", our heroine is told that there are two ways to banish a fear demon.

Giles: Destroying the Mark of Gachnar...
(punch! break!)
(Giles flips the page.)
Giles: not one of them, and will in fact immediately bring forth the Fear Demon itself.

  • In a Just Shoot Me episode, Finch is reading to Jack the instructions for assembling a dollhouse.

Finch: First, cut the cardboard in half...
Jack: Aha! (He snips the piece of cardboard.)
Finch: (turns instructions over) ...diagonally.

  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Ted's Girl of the Week has a habit of pausing to take a sip of her drink at the most inappropriate point in a sentence. By the second or third time, it's hard to believe she's not doing it on purpose just to mess with him.

Royce: My Dad used to make multigrain pancakes. He's the one who got me working in porn sip. You know, PORN? Parents Offering Recognition and Nutrition? It's a charity for inner-city teens who don't have access to sports or healthy food. sighs, chuckles That reminds me, I killed my brother, sip with this joke I told him last night. A barber, a stripper and a Jew sip liard-trained violinist walk into a bar."

Each time she pauses, a big labelled suitcase appears behind her in Ted's imagination, representing her "baggage", disappearing after she finishes the sentence. The third time the label reads "Ted, wait for her to finish."
    • In another episode, Marshall tries stand-up comedy, and Ted and Barney lie to him about how good he was:

Barney: You killed! (Marshall walks away) ... Everyone's Thursday night.

  • Thirty Rock: Liz Lemon has a outlook on life, and has turned to "Lizbeanism":

Liz: Lizbeanism means that I am a dike... against the rising waters of mediocrity.

  • Rita Moreno complained about this trope while on The Muppet Show, and insisted that they just wing it. Kermit had no problem with the idea, but noted that the cue-card boy might complain;

Sweetums: Nice lady don't want Sweetums to hold cue cards?
Rita: Uh, no.
Sweetums: Nice lady want Sweetums to hold somethin' else?
Rita: Sure, you can hold whatever you like.
Sweetums: Ha ha! That best offer me had all day! (Carries Rita off)


  • Often used by Les Luthiers, especially when Rabinovich tries to read an introduction to a musical piece.
  • "Rose" by Geoff Smith.

Tell your mom I said hello.
Tell her I'm sorry that I ever let you go [Beat]
Far from the life you knew.

  • One Capitol Steps sketch (paraphrasing), had Boris Yeltsin's aide apologize that Yeltsin couldn't talk, because he was dead... tired after his trip to the US. He apologized, because he was dying... to meet everyone, but he was in bed with a minor... condition.
  • Musical variation: starting to play a well-known phrase of music (dun dun dun...) and then turning the page to get the rest of it (DUUUUUUUNNN!'). Igudesman & Joo do it here, and Victor Borge displays a variant here.


Humphrey Lyttelton: Celebrities from Leeds include Alan Bennett and Barry Cryer. (Beat) Something wrong there...oh, hang on--celebrities from Leeds include Alan Bennett, and Barry Cryer used to know his milkman.


Adam: The third of eight children, he was the eldest son of John Shakespeare, a locally prominent merchant, and Mary Arden, daughter of a Roman. [He pauses, flips to the next card. With no comprehension of what he's reading.] Catholic member of the landed gentry.

If we offend, it is with our good will.
That you should think, we come not to offend,
But with good will. To show our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.
Consider then, we come but in despite.
We do not come, as minding to content you,
Our true intent is. All for your delight
We are not here. That you should here repent you,
The actors are at hand: and, by their show,
You shall know all that you are like to know,'

What a relief, at last we're given something new and delightful to kill...
Our time.

Video Games

  • The infamous first boss of Final Fantasy VII—Barret tells you, "Attack while its tail is up!/It'll counterattack with its laser!". By the time you see the second line and understand that this was meant as a warning, it may be too late.

Web Original

Captain Hammer: I hate the homeless. *flips cue card* ...ness problem that plagues our city...

  • In The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, Finn the bard reads off a legend from a note card:

He led the Sea King inland, stretching out the waves, which sucked!
[flips over card]
out the Sea King's...

the code between us and
Tammie Burns needs to be beaten into submission.


I didn't finish high school ... I enrolled at Harvard when I was sixteen.

Pikachu! my name.

Western Animation

  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Krusty is doing a Halloween special, dressed as a vampire...

Krusty: Tonight I'm going to suck!
[next card]
Krusty: ... your blood!

    • Another episode, Sideshow Bob is out on parole and mailing Bart death threats. As Bart becomes increasingly paranoid, he runs into his mom, Flanders and Mrs. Krabappel:

Marge: [menacingly, with large scissors] Bart... I'm going to get you...[brightly, clipping coupons]...some ice cream at the store since I'm saving so much money on Diet Cola.
Ned Flanders: [menacingly, wearing a Freddy Kruger razor glove] Say your prayers, Simpson...[brightly]...because the schools can't force you like they should. Maude, these new finger razors make hedge trimming as much fun as sitting through church.
Mrs. Krabappel: [menacingly] You're going to be my murder victim, Bart...[brightly] our school production of Lizzy Borden, starring Martin Prince as Lizzy.

      • And yet another:

Kent Brockman: Our top story tonight, a tremendous EXPLOSION... in the price of lumber. President Reagan DIES... his hair, plus Garry Trudeau and his new musical comedy revue.

Dr. Hartman: Mrs. Griffin, I'm afraid Peter will never walk again...
Dr. Hartman: ...without remembering how lucky he is that he'll only be in a wheelchair for two weeks.

    • It also frequently appears in courtroom scenes:

Prosecutor: In short, Mr.'ve inspired mistrust all mentally handicapped people!
Judge: Thank you, counsel, for your comically misleading remarks.

  • A Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Hare-less Wolf", has a scene where a dim-witted wolf attempts to employ a hand-grenade against Bugs and reads the instructions.

"Check that pin; see that is on the index finger of your right hand. If so, discard the pin. You are now ready to throw the grenade. Over...
(turns instruction sheet over)
Warning; it is important to remember perform...this operation..." (BOOM)

Real Life

  • Happens a lot in Real Life with those LED signs in front of restaurants and churches that page through input. Examples:
    • A church sign in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has gained some notoriety for reading "You don't have to/Go it alone!" It pages slowly enough that a passing car could only see the second page ("We give up, you're on your own!")
    • A sports bar (also GR) advertises live acts which occasionally read along the lines of, "Next Thursday: Tim (whose last name is on next page with the band name)."
    • This video, in which a malfunctioning police sign tells motorists, "DRINK AND DRIVE"
    • Similarly, Ohio drivers' licenses have "DONT DRINK AND DRIVE" in a repeating holographic pattern; the "DONT" is often cut off the top of the card.
      • Without any malfunctioning required, the original pausing version can also be seen in at least one sign on the main island of Hawaii, informing motorists: "You Drink / You Drive / You Lose". If you're speeding past it at the speed limit, you might only see that it encourages you to drive after drinking, or for that matter, describing the rules to a generic Drinking Game ("You Lose - You Drink").