Funny Background Event

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"Now what's the rush to get off the planet all of a sudden?"


The humorous counterpart to the Meaningful Background Event, and sometimes overlaps with Distant Reaction Shot.

Sometimes, a scene contains something funny going on in the background. Very often it is used during a conversation and if you are paying too much attention to the foreground, you may even miss the scene, especially if (as is often the case) the characters are looking away from it. The event can contain simple slapstick humor, or be an inside gag. It doesn't have to be subtle, sometimes it is obvious while the conversation is unimportant. The important thing is, that it is played in the background and is at least somewhat funny or cool.

Despite the name, sometimes this can actually be in the foreground, but the important point is that the audience has their attention directed elsewhere.

Occasionally, this might be a result of Artificial Atmospheric Actions.

Examples of Funny Background Event include:


Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • An advertisement from about 10 years ago (probably for an Internet search engine or some such) has as its tagline, "There's fun stuff everywhere. You just need to know where to look." In the immediate foreground we see a dour-faced man stepping out of a subway car while further back in the subway station, almost too far away to be seen, the doors to another subway car are opening and several circus clowns are stepping out! Made even funnier by the fact that the clowns have dour facial expressions, too.
  • State Farm has a commercial out now (2011) featuring a guy claiming the money he saved on insurance bought him a falcon. The end of the commercial draws attention to a guy who used his savings to buy samurai armor, but throughout the commercial there are people walking by with all sorts of things, including a cockatoo, a clown car, a stuffed moose head, etc.
  • During the Compare the Meerkat advert "The Battle Of Fearlessness" there are two soldier meerkats throwing sandballs at each other near the start.
  • The Vizio Adverts have been known to show a group of people watching TV while commotion happen right behind them, which goes unnoticed by those watching TV. For example, this family is watching second How to Train Your Dragon film despite a crew of firefighters and a police officer reporting about a fallen tree in the family's room.

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • A few in the Haruhi Suzumiya anime:
    • The scene where the two TV personalities "Hard Gay" and Akihiro Miwa appear.
    • How about Taniguchi's expression when he saw Mikuru in a maid outfit.
    • Basically, Live Alive, the episode containing the former incidents and others, is made of this trope.
  • In Laputa: Castle in the Sky, when the soldiers are in the glass-walled room that came out from the bottom of Laputa, you can notice Pazu peeking through the window from behind.
    • Miyazaki loves this trope in general as it enables him to showcase his characteristic attention to detail. Watch Calcifer eating up empty eggshells while Howl is cooking and Hiin scrambling to his feet in the palace stairs scene of Howl's Moving Castle."
  • In Lucky Star in the valentines day episode, a male student (Shiraishi, in fact) is seen giving Valentine's Day chocolate to another male student during a generic "front of school gates" establishing shot. Later in class, the two of them are seen in the background during a conversation by the main characters (who don't notice them), looking embarrassed.
  • The anime comedy Haré+Guu features this as a signature detail. Done by at least one or several groups of pokute and manda (the show's own flora and fauna), birds, and always during scenes in Guu's stomach. They mostly just mimic whatever the central characters are doing in a scene, but often they go off on their own scenerios. At one point, a bunch of pokute have a big laugh during a wide shot, and one of them actually rubs itself underneath Guu's skirt!! It takes at least a second viewing of an episode to catch everything.
  • Pokémon: After a brief shot of Pikachu activating a treadmill in the episode, "The School of Hard Knocks", we cut back to the main characters talking while Pikachu vs. The Treadmill carries on in the background.
    • In "Showdown at Dark City", Pikachu discovers his love for ketchup. However, shortly afterward a Scyther slashes the ketchup bottle. For the next few minutes, the main plot of the episode goes on unhindered, but Pikachu is in the background (and occasionally in the foreground, looking straight at the audience) crying over his broken bottle as though it were his own child.
    • In "It's Still Rocket Roll to Me", the gang accidentally get caught in zero gravity. While exposition was going on, Pikachu can be seen minding his own business swimming in zero-G!
    • In "Uncrushing Defeat", while Team Rocket have a lengthy discussion on the events of the previous episode, their Pokémon are playing with a roller the whole time.
    • BW42 takes the cake here, with so many things happening at once in a single scene: aspiring filmmaker Luke narrating his documentary at the foreground, while behind him we clearly see Ash and Stephan having an eating competition with Cilan watching in disbelief, and Iris and Bianca having a tug-of-war over Axew (which Bianca believes to be a disguised Zorua).
  • Ghost in the Shell: Innocence has a scene in a police station, with an incredibly detailed background with hundreds of people, including a man randomly riding a unicycle, and getting grabbed on all sides by cops. It looks like a scene from a slapstick comedy taken entirely out of context.
  • When first trying to play baseball, Koume from Taishou Yakyuu Musume does a somersault and ends up on her butt trying to catch a low ball. All this go unnoticed by the three characters having a conversation in the foreground, but not by the Fandom.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei has about one of these in each shot.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, during a discussion between the Ala Alba regarding Fate Averruncus' group, Sayo in her plush form can be seen holding up a sign saying "Terrorists are bad."
    • Ken Akamatsu has a habit of throwing funny stuff in the background, though it's usually a shout out and not an actual joke.
    • The most recent one has Godel and Takamichi in a choke hold while everyone else discusses how Negi's power-ups have made him borderline non-human.
  • In Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, while the members of the main Love Triangle are discussing where to go on a date-like... thing there is a fountain in the background shaped like a cupid that spouts water out of its butt, in varying volumes and pressures. Also someone rides by on a unicycle.
    • Also, in that very same episode while you see the main characters talk from an above angle, a shadow of a bird flies by, and then a shadow of a dragon goes by too. Other funny background things can be spotted too.
  • This happens a few times in the Bamboo Blade anime.
  • In the Baratie arc of One Piece we see a man eating off a girl's plate. Word of God said that he was the girl's father and is indeed mooching off a bite from his daughter.
    • And of course there's the running Panda Man gag. An OC of the author's who pops up frequently in the anime and manga, doing something or other in the background. Watch them all and an intricate story becomes clear.
    • In the Jaya arc, once Robin gets back to the ship, as Nami, who is still angry about what happened in Mock Town, blames Robin's claiming that there might be a sky island, Chopper uses Jumping Point, accidentally falls overboard, and Zoro goes after him.
  • Done a few times in Keroro Gunsou. In one manga chapter, Momoka is gushing about Fuyuki while in the background, Tamama shoots himself with his own energy blast as part of his Training from Hell.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has many. Like here, blink and you miss it.
    • Fullmetal Alchemist is peppered with these. In one episode of Brotherhood Scar causes a wall to explode, and for a split second you can see a startled cat flying through the air. There's actually a subtle (or not-so-subtle) cat gag every five seconds if you read the manga closely, usually involving Al.
  • At one point in Dragon Ball Z, King Kai is talking telepathically to the heroes and looking up Planet Namek. As he's doing that, his pet monkey Bubbles randomly starts hopping into the frame holding flowers for no reason—until King Kai whacks him with a hammer without comment or looking away from the book.
    • In the DBZ manga, the beginning of the Namek arc, Mr. Popo is standing on a flying carpet outside the window of 20th or so floor in a hospital. One floor below, an elderly man is staring at him and praying.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: After Daitokuji-sensei dies as Amnael, Judai, Sho, and Hayato have a conversation while Pharaoh, Daitokuji's cat, plays with his owner's soul, then swallows it.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh ZEXAL has Yuma's and Kotori's grandmothers talking about their respective grandkids, while a group of old ladies swoon over the waiter, who is then challenged to a duel by an old man.
      • A later episode has Yuma talking to his former opponent while Astral is checking out the construction site n the background. He looks rather amused.
  • During a scavenger hunt in a sports fest episode of Azumanga Daioh, you'll see Kagura frantically running around in the background shouting 'SCHOOL SWIMSUIT!' while Osaka borrows Yomi's glasses.
    • In the AzuDai manga, there's a strip where Osaka goes to ask Tomo about something—and we notice, but she apparently doesn't, that Tomo's got Chiyo-chan by the pigtails at the time. As they talk, we see Chiyo get released and run off.
  • In the Hetalia Bloodbath 2010, as Iceland was talking to Turkey about how he was getting an ominous feeling about how something bad was going to happen, in the background we see that something attacking the rest of the Nordics and kidnapping them.
  • Episode 18 of SHUFFLE! sneakily establishes itself as a romantic episode at the start. Watch what plays out in the background while Rin and Asa are chatting.
  • Fushigi Yuugi gives us one example of this during the Suzaku Warriors' journey to Hokkan; Nuriko had just risked his life to save Miaka and Tamahome from being drifted off into a raging sea, all the while telling them something very profound. Miaka and Nuriko have a serious moment as they recall it. Meanwhile, Tamahome and Tasuki prepare to rip each other's heads off behind Nuriko.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena takes this to extremes.
    • Student council meetings take place on a balcony over the school, and only student council members are allowed on the balcony. Yet somehow meetings take place in the middle of a baseball game or just as a train passes by.
    • In other locales, Chuchu provides entertainment by eating things, causing trouble, and getting sucked into the occasional vacuum cleaner.
    • The duels are initially fought in an empty arena with two duelists and the rose bride. Later, the arena gets more crowded — an array of desks each with a milkshake which Anthy drinks one by one, or a collection of red sports cars sticking up out of the ground.
  • Mawaru Penguindrum is absolutely made of this trope. Every single episode has the three penguins invoke this trope multiple times. (This should come as no surprise, considering that it has the same director as Revolutionary Girl Utena.)
  • In Bleach, Aizen is explaining to Isshin what the HELL is going on with the MacGuffin. While Ichigo and Gin are fighting it out in the background. Hilarity Ensues.
    • Also invoked in one of the endings, where Don Kanonji is flying off like a superhero in the background.
  • In one scene in the manga Goth, while Itsuki and Morino are talking about a murderer's notebook Morino found, a couple of their classmates can be seen respectively play-fighting and sprouting flowers from their heads in the background.
  • Pretty Cure All Stars DX 2 plays with this trope. When the Heartcatch and Fresh teams look for their friends, they end up passing them by as they're doing odd things - the Max Heart team just walking by, the Yes! 5 Go Go team rocking a bridge and freaking out one of their own and the Splash Star team promptly lost.
  • This scene in Sekaiichi Hatsukoi. Watch everyone else in the background panic as Ritsu is trying to talk on the phone. Takano is screaming at Ritsu for the manuscript, Kisa loses the last of his sanity, Mino simply smiles but is obviously just as freaked out as everyone else, and Hatori...drops dead.
  • Urusei Yatsura: In the first movie, Ataru is running down a church aisle towards Lum with a ball and chain around his ankle. The ball knocks a guest out cold.
  • Detective Conan: While watching a movie, Ayumi and Ai fall asleep on Conan's shoulders, leaving him trapped for a page. When something happens behind him, however, he gets up to look. While the actions that will lead to Conan discovering the murder are occurring, a thud sound is displayed and the two girls are shown rubbing their heads while Conan tries to figure out what's going on.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Archie comics sometimes have funny background events, like a man is chased by a dog or a child is swept away into a tree by his kite. The same artist usually is the one who does this.
  • The comic book writer and illustrator Don Rosa does it all the time: It's part of the appeal. There's hardly a panel without something funny happening in the background. If a painting (or any image of a character) is on-screen for more than one panel, it will invariably begin expressing emotion and reacting to what's going on in the foreground as if it were alive.
    • Not strange, since Rosa basically taught himself to draw so he could emulate Carl Barks, who did the same thing.
    • This is especially noticeable in Barks' Gyro Gearloose stories, where Gyro's little lightbulb Helper was always involved in some funny business in the background, sometimes even getting his own mini-plot line.
      • Though Rosa took it so far that once Barks commented that he was overusing the joke. Rosa and his fans respectfully disagreed.
    • Both funny and meaningful, in Rosa's early story, Last Sled to Dawson, Scrooge once again meets his old flame Goldie, who has since last time become owner of a hotel. As they have an awkward conversation, Donald is seen in the background, talking to the hotel attendant, and giving him a sly wink. If you're aware how much Rosa ships Scrooge and Goldie, you will realize that Don probably arranged for them to share a room without either of them knowing.
  • Mad Magazine doesn't have a page that isn't scrawled with miniature comics in the margins, footnotes, and assorted other wackiness. In fact, reading these can take up as much if not more time than reading the magazine proper (if such a word can even be said to apply to Mad).
    • The ur-artist of those margin comics is Sergio Aragonés.
  • FoxTrot often has small, easily missed gags in strips where the characters talk in front of paintings, posters, or photographs. A recurring gag is the object in question changing between panels (such as a person on a magazine cover being in a different pose). Likewise, whenever a character is reading a newspaper there will usually be a joke about a cartoonist in the headline.
  • Near the end of the Belgian comic Spirou and Fantasio in Moskow, one of the titular characters remark that their speaking pet squirrel Spip has been very quiet, and the other says not to say anything, or Spip will start complaining again. Zoom in to the furious squirrel, who's been gagged with tape since an early kidnapping, which is clearly visible once you've been told. Interestingly enough, the squirrel stopped speaking in the next comics, until a change of artist.
  • A regular occurrence in the comic series Amelia Rules; often accessible only to an older audience. Example: Amelia and friends attend Joe McCarthy Elementary School (motto: Weeding Out the Wrong Element Since 1952).
  • In Leonard Le Genie, the cat and the mouse are usually engaged in their own activities when not commenting on the actions of the main characters. Especially in the older albums, these are small stories by themselves.
  • There's a scene in the original Elf Quest storyline where Cutter is planning to go off on his own and is telling the other Wolfriders he needs them to stay safe at home. He doesn't notice that behind his back Leetah is whispering something to Skywise (ie she's persuading him to accompany Cutter).
  • Chilean comic book Condorito is famous for this, with a crocodile slowly crawling inside someone's house, a sleepwalker about to fall down a open manhole or a soccer player's picture kicking it's ball out of the frame and then trying to recover it being the most famous ones.
  • Ibañez, author of the Spanish Mortadelo Y Filemon comic books series, absolutely loves to do this. It is not a rare occurrence to spot a random pedestrian with his nose coming out the back of his head, pigeons with horse-like faces, the bare feet of someone sleeping in an unorthodox place like a folder cabinet or a trash bin, mouses chasing cats chasing dogs, anthropomorphic buildings, cars parked upside down... The list goes on.
  • The UK comic artist Tom Paterson (Calamity James in The Beano; Sweeney Toddler in Whizzer And Chips) is extremely fond of this, to the extent that sometimes the main action of the strip almost gets crowded out of the panels. (His "little squelchy thingies" in Calamity James eventually got their own full page spotters' guide).
  • Jack Chick uses these quite frequently, usually in the recurring appearance of Fang the dog. Frequently during the obligatory one-to-one preaching scenes, Chick will pull these into the foreground so he's not just drawing talking heads in every panel.
  • Done in Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin's Mom says that she hasn't seen Calvin for about fifteen minutes. We then see out the window while she's reading the newspaper, where the family car is rolling into the road and Calvin and Hobbes are chasing it. In the last panel, she says that it probably means he's getting in trouble.
  • Top Ten's setting of a city where every last person has superpowers and an outfit to match means there's probably more panels with something odd in the background than not.
  • In a Justice League issue from the 1990s, the League has just dealt with an attack on a city by evil versions of themselves. After the villains are taken care of, an angry citizen chastises them for not stopping them sooner, never mind that the League was missing several key members during the battle and that given the power levels of the villains, the casualties could have been far worse. Green Lantern starts to argue with the man until Superman says that he'll handle it. The focus then shifts to the rest of the League discussing the threat, but Superman and the man are still seen in the background. In the first panel, the man is shouting at Superman. In the second, Superman is calmly speaking to the man. In the third, Superman and the man are respectfully shaking hands.
  • The illustrations in Graham Oakley's Church Mice books are nothing but this.
  • Used frequently by the comic artist George Herriman, often as Running Gags. A recurring Funny Background Event in his comic The Dingbat Family eventually lead to his most famous creation, Krazy Kat.
  • Used in What's New? With Phil And Dixie, with things like people in dice costumes walking behind the title characters, or little gag scenes going on in the back ranks of crowds.


Film - Animated[edit | hide]


Film - Live Action[edit | hide]

  • In Catch-22 two officers are having a conversation near the airfield while a B-25 crash-lands behind them. Neither character notices.
  • The wrestling match in Sixteen Candles when Jake is talking to his friend about Sam.
  • Several in the Lord of the Rings movies.
    • In The Fellowship of The Ring, Merry and Pippin can often be seen goofing off in the backgrounds of otherwise serious scenes.
    • In The Two Towers, after the big flood we can see an Ent extinguishing his burning head in the water. Unusual in that he's actually in the foreground, but it's still easy to miss.
    • In Return of The King, Gandalf wryly laments the tragic end of Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, while directly behind him, a maddened Denethor (who has gone mad from grief and guilt) -- who is literally on fire—runs screaming in slow-motion for an long distance before finally leaping straight off the edge of a high cliff. Doubles as Narm (especially Narm Charm) and Meaningful Background Event. The supposed solemnity of the moment is very much not helped by the fact that Gandalf says "So passes Denethor, son of Ecthelion" just as the burning Denethor, well, passes Gandalf and a gaggle of guards as he runs out screaming, making it seem like Gandalf's tribute is an archaic way of saying "heads up, guy on fire coming through!"
    • Also from the third, as Aragorn is taking a breather at the end of the battle near Minas Tirith, we see one of the giant elephant creatures still running around behind him, looking like it might get a little too close to Aragorn if he's not careful.. and then the ghost army that Aragorn enlisted the help of earlier in the film literally overruns and overwhelms it until it falls over.
  • In The Breakfast Club, when John Bender has a "bender moment" and throws his knife into a chair, and gives a long winded mean spirited speech, Allison (weird girl) grabs the knife while he's making the aforementioned speech.
  • In the MTV cult classic Welcome To Joe's Apartment, when the insane artist Walter Mud talks with Joe about his avant-garde experiment to create a new race of "periwinkle" (which involves dumping cans of paint on random passer-by in front of Joe's apartment building), a guy in a three-piece suit and briefcase is seen walking away in the background, his entire head and shoulders dripping in pink paint.
  • In "The Wild World Of Batwoman," one long scene of exposition is punctuated by a couple of girls in the background, wrestling over a horseshoe.
  • In GoldenEye as Q gives James Bond his latest gadgets, we see a hapless lab assistant try to make a call from a phone booth situated in the lab, only to get squashed against the glass by an airbag that explodes from within the booth.
    • Q scenes were rife with this trope.
  • Played with in Scary Movie 3. The news channel where the heroine works only cares about showing sexy, risque, or obscene things, so they intentionally shoot serious news with provocative things going on in the background.
  • Any movie by Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers. Their movies are practically made of this trope.
    • Airplane!: "The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only." And that's just the first example.
    • Airplane 2: The Sequel also had some, such as the drug deal gone bad in the flight control center.
    • Hot Shots and its sequel both do a ton of these. We have troop drills involving can-can dancing, four ex-presidents having the crap beat out of them, monks taking turns to impress the first girl they have seen in generations and a reference to the governor of Nebraska making a public apology for his state being so flat. Just for a start.
    • Top Secret has a scene where two characters are trying to have an exposition-filled conversation in a pizza place. The conversation quickly gets overtaken by two people struggling with an incredibly cheesy pizza in the background.
  • An American Carol features some, one involving zombie lawyers. Given the film's clear stance, it's actually not that surprising that they threw in a background scene with them chasing a couple ambulances.
  • The Men in Black movies; most memorably, both have a scene where K has a dialogue while J is getting beaten by an alien in the background (above).
    • He's not getting beaten, he's trying to deliver a baby. The matter is, the woman is a Human Alien.
  • The scenes in Q's laboratory in the James Bond movies are prone to this.
  • The Three Musketeers 1973 becomes much funnier when you watch the facial expressions of the random extras reacting to King Louis' latest bit of loony behavior.
  • Lots of them in Star Wars.
    • Return of the Jedi; the creature in the corner of the Tatooine Scenery Porn shot snagging some prey with its tongue, eating it then belching.
    • Also when Luke Force Kicks one of the guards during the fight at Jabba's Sail Barge, you can see an out of control Boba Fett fly thru the air
    • A New Hope, Stormtrooper in the back (unintentionally) bangs his head on the scenery after they cut their way into the control room where 3PO and R2 are hiding.
    • This also happens when the Stormtroopers are shooting at Luke and Leia over the big chasm and in Attack of the Clones when Jango Fett is boarding his spaceship on Kamino.
    • The Kubaz spy in A New Hope.
    • An IG unit in the Cloud City furnace in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • In 10 Things I Hate About You, we see one of the main characters in the archery range. Just as she is firing her bow, someone else begins talking to her; she misses the target and instead hits the teacher in charge of the class.
  • In the movie Bottle Rocket, there's a very touching scene outside of a bar between Anthony and Inez. The camera slowly pulls back, and through the massive window, we can see that inside the bar Anthony's friend Dignan getting completely owned in a bar fight after trying and failing to hustle some guys at pool.
  • The Steve Martin movie L.A. Story is full of hilarious background moments: During the opening monologue, Harris K. Telemacher is riding an exercise bike in an outdoor park (which has signs clearly stating "No Running"). While the camera is zoomed in on him, in the background a guy on a stationary rowing machine has a heart attack. An ambulance shows up, he's carted off, and another eager exerciser eagerly claims the now-vacant rowing machine. All in the space of 10 seconds, silently in the background.
  • After Walter pulls the gun on Smokey in The Big Lebowski, The Dude notes that the bowling alley has called the cops. During the conversation in their car outside afterward, the police can be seen through the back windshield coming into the alley.
  • An otherwise dour conversation scene in the (rather insular) Finnish movie Emmauksen Tiellä shows two unnamed men in the distance behind the actors, taking turns jumping on an anti-tank mine. The result is predictable.
  • In Gremlins, When Billy's dad in on the phone at his inventor's convention, in the background is a time machine (like the one used in the 1960 film, The Time Machine, also seen on The Big Bang Theory). The time machine disappears (having gone back in time) and people start feeling the air around where it was looking for it.
  • Kick-Ass: When Red Mist is trying to load the video from the "nanny-cam," take a look at the other videos saved on it...
  • In one scene in Love and Death, while one of Napoleon's advisers plots treachery, in the background, Napoleon is teaching his Body Double how to walk like him, and the two of them get in an argument that ends with a fistfight.
  • In the first Harry Potter movie, Harry and Draco are stuck wandering through the Forbidden Forest together and they stumble upon Quirrell drinking unicorn blood, who menacingly advances on Harry. The scene's rather terrifying...except for the part where you see Draco running across the background screaming like a pansy.
    • Even better when you consider that they're told Fang is a coward, and he's the one who brings help.
    • In the third film, as Harry stalks off furiously after blowing up his Aunt Marge, you can see Aunt Marge floating away in the distance.
    • The fourth film has something of a Triumphal Background Event that plays off the humor of a Funny Foreground Event: after Neville exclaims "I've killed Harry Potter!" while facing the area of the camera, Harry leaps out of the water in the distance, disappearing again before Neville turns around.
    • In the sixth film, Ron was under the effects of a Love Potion. Harry takes him to Slughorn, and while the latter two were talking to each other about Ron's condition, Ron, who was sitting on the sofa, falls on his back.
    • In the final film, after the battle is over and Harry, Ron and Hermione enter the Great Hall, Filch stands behind them, contemplating the enormous pile of rubble before him and then ineffectually sweeping the bit of floor at the bottom of it.
  • In the Bill Murray movie Larger than Life, one scene shows Bill Murray talking to the elephant while Matthew McConaughey is on the phone with his boss and he discovers that Bill Murray betrayed him. Watching McConaughey's exaggerated poses with the juxtaposition of the heartfelt speech from Murray is but one of the funny moments of this film.
  • At one point in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, there is a scene where Tifa is chiding Cloud about letting people in more often while on the other side of the room Reno and Rude are arguing over whether to leave or keep watching.
  • The movie: Young Doctors In Love, a 1982 Garry Marshall comedy. The scene: A midget attempting to hang up a wall phone placed very high.
  • In Fight Club, the Narrator is talking to Marla on the phone as Tyler dicks around with nun chucks in the back ground.
    • Not to mention the unforgettable "Lovemaking Scenes" between Marla and Tyler, which are not on camera but HIGHLY audible when The Narrator is going about his daily life.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World features several of these, two of the best being Scott diving through the window of his apartment to escape when Knives comes ringing (and then reaching back in to get his jacket), and the other being the Vegan Police doing a jumping high-five and shouting "YEAH!" when they leave after depowering Todd.
    • In the climax, one of the side characters remarks, "The comic is always better than the movie." In the pre-climax, the line was "Yeah, their first album was definitely better than their first album."
    • At various times, Young Neil will do small, but weird things in the background. His very last moment is probably the strangest.
  • In Close Encounters of the Third Kind during the 'communication' scene near the end, when the mothership finally, and quite forcibly, answers the human communication attempts in kind, you see some random guy suddenly deciding that it would be safer to be in the Porta-Potty.
  • Jaques Tati's Playtime is entirely built on Funny Background Events. Tati wanted to make a comedy without a central character to focus on, so all of the humor comes from stuff in the background. And there are so many of them that you have to watch the movie over to catch all the visual humor.
  • In Teen Wolf, one of the extras in the basketball game scene exposed himself. This was part of the reason this movie was rented so much.
  • Beautifully Inverted Trope in Aladdin, when the melon stand owner wrestles with Abu. The scene is so distracting that neither he, nor most viewers, notices Aladdin's hands stealing his own melon in the foreground.
  • In Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again, Dr. Lanyon hooks his patient Mrs. Simpson to a device that would enlarge her breasts. Lanyon then leaves her unattended as Dr. Jekyll comes in to tell him about his transformation into Mr. Hyde, in fact transforming again while explaining the situation. Meanwhile...
  • In Idiocracy, when Joe goes to the hospital, the 'doctor' insults him for his low intelligence, then tells him that "There's lots of tards out there livin' really kick-ass lives. My first wife was tarded - she's a pilot now." Not ten minutes later, while Joe and Co are being chased by the police, a plane simply drops out of the air and crashes. Later in the movie, in Cost Co, the crashed plane is seen still stuck in Cost Co, where it crashed.
    • Even better, when in later viewings you realize the plane didn't just crash, but one of the cops fired their rocket launcher backwards and shot the plane down...
  • In Help!, when the other Beatles are talking to a jeweler to try and get Ringo's ring removed, George is quietly sneaking items into his pockets. In fact, George does quite a lot of these throughout the entire film.
  • In Zombieland, when Tallahassee is smashing up the minivan the building behind him has several posters in the window related to the plague including one showing a grenade and the phrase "Solve It." It's even funnier when you see it's a bridal store.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, at the end, just after the wall into Toontown is broken, a train zooms across the field of view. If you pause and go frame by frame, you'll find a different crime being committed in each car (murder, etc).
  • In the very first scene of Spartacus, an extra can be seen slowly sliding backwards down the mountain behind the actors.
  • In the film version of You Can't Take It with You, as the family is packing up to move away, Rheba and Donald are having a conversation in the kitchen. Behind them, Kolenkhov is stuffing his pockets with sandwiches.
  • In The Waterboy, while Vicki is talking to a field reporter about her predictions on the outcome of the game, Bobby's mama walks behind them, notices she's on camera, and starts dancing to the marching band music.
  • In Super 8, while Charles is filming Alice and Martin at the train depot, Preston walks up to a pay-phone in the background and silently pretends to be speaking into it, but he's obviously just opening and closing his mouth.
  • That Thing You Do makes a parking meter-jumping scene both funny and pivotal in the film.
  • In Woody Allen's Sleeper, while Woody's character is disguised as a robot butler, he attempts to deal with an out of control, sentient gelatin mold while Luna and one of her party guests have an obliviously-mundane conversation.
  • In Crank 2: High Voltage, when an old lady is being interviewed about Chev Chelios' rampage, a goofy guy in the background smiles, waves, flaunts Eve's panties, and gives a thumb's-up.
  • A Monster in Paris: When the commissioner is holding a conversation with Pâté at Lucille's restaurant, a disgruntled waiter can be seen struggling to open a bottle of champagne in the background.
  • In X Men First Class, combined with a Brick Joke, the first woman that Charles tries to pick up at the beginning of the movie shows up at his graduation ceremony - then Moira McTaggart cuts in front to talk with Charles. Behind them, the blond woman leaves with a huff.
  • The Cabin in the Woods: Inverted, of all things. During the celebration, we continually see Dana getting brutally savaged in the background on the monitors, while the operators live their lives practically oblivious to it.
  • Reversed and Played for Laughs in Loaded Weapon 1, when in the background of one scene a woman is seen being asked by the cops to describe a suspect. She gives an outrageous description, claiming the suspect had big red lips, eyes as big as plates, and so on. In a later scene, a person looking like Mr. Potatohead actually having these features is arrested by the police. (And protests that he's innocent)
  • In the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest, during the scene in the Mount Rushmore cafe, a boy in the background puts his fingers in his ears right before one of the villains fires a gun... because Hitchcock shot eleven takes on that one scene, and the boy was apparently getting bothered by the noise.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • A rare literary example occurs in Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers: a scene in which a depressed Lister remembers how he arrived on Mimas is frequently interrupted by two pimps arguing over a girl called Sandra. This argument involves two ears being cut off and the death of both participants.
  • One The Knowledge book dealing with magic tricks had plenty, based around the antics of the magician's bumbling assistant Clumsini. Perhaps the best was him hiding to avoid a squad of angry cats.
  • The Pumpkin Soup series of children's picture books by Helen Cooper (Pumpkin Soup; A Pipkin of Pepper; and Delicious) all have a wide variety of amusing background details in the illustrations. In Delicious, the activities of the insects practically qualify as an additional story.
  • A scary version in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Christopher, who is autistic, is focused on retrieving something he dropped on the train tracks. The text is almost all about his efforts, and gives only a few mentions to the consternation of the crowd, and the brightening light and growing rumble of what the reader (but not Chris) recognizes as an approaching train.
  • Many, many of them can be seen in the children's picture book Mrs. Watson Wants Your Teeth:
    • When the book's protagonist, a nameless young girl starting first grade, is getting on the bus, her cat is standing on its hind legs and waving to her along with her dad.
    • In the same scene, a kid is hanging upside down from the ceiling of the bus.
    • While our heroine is listening to a second-grader scaring her with rumors about her new teacher (which takes up a few pages), a boy can be seen annoying the girl he's sitting next to, who proceeds to tape his mouth shut and his arms and legs together.
    • As our heroine and the second-grader get off the bus, a kid in pajamas and bunny slippers walks out behind them and the kid from before is still hanging upside down from the ceiling.
    • On the following page, which takes place in the school hallway, a girl opens her backpack to find a puppy in it.
    • On the second-to-last page, everyone is back on the bus, the unnamed boy is being annoying again, and the girl is taking out her roll of duct tape. Also, there's a kid behind the bus running to catch up.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Arrested Development does this frequently, a particularly impressive one takes place after the show Mad Money moves the Bluth company up to "Risky business." In the foreground Michael walks into the office talking on his phone, in the background though you can see a half fallen sign saying "risky business," a collapsed ladder, a man next to the ladder rubbing his head and a man limping dressed in his underwear, white t-shirt and sunglasses saying "I couldn't see through the glasses and I slid into the ladder" and someone else changing the number of days since accident. This all takes place in 3 seconds and is probably missed on first viewing.
    • During the episodes where Tobias tries to get into the Blue Man Group, blue handprints can be seen all over the walls.
  • In the very first scene of the very first episode of The Middleman, Wendy is talking to her mother on the phone - as a terrifying mutant breaks out of containment behind her. She stays on the phone for quite a while before it breaks through the glass wall of its pen and attacks her. It tells you something about the show.
    • In "The Flying Fish Zombification," the titular hero is on the phone with Ida, who is explaining to him the giant deadly flying fish is causing their current problem. And that in order to reverse the effects, the fish must be captured alive. In the background, while this discussion is going on, Wendy Watson is alternately fleeing from and fighting against said fish. She defeats it a second after the Middleman hears it must be captured alive, and looks pleased with herself for not needing his help.
    • Wendy also works out her anger on an interrogation droid after Ben puts their video breakup online and it becomes an internet sensation. We see the video of her going medieval on the droid's ass in the background while the Middleman is obliviously talking to Ida.
  • Happens in the British comedy series Teachers, the plots of which are all about the titular teachers rather than the children they teach. The latter are, however, often seen doing funny and/or bizarre things in the background.
  • Occurs semi-frequently on My Name Is Earl; I believe they call them "bee moments" or something, based on a time Randy was trying to swat a bee in the background of a scene.
  • In Living Color had a whole series of skits based on this concept. A news report takes place in the foreground of a setting (crime scene, beach, etc.) and an unnamed bystander (Jim Carrey), having noticed the camera, goofs around in the background in increasingly silly ways while the reporter and interviewee are unawares.
  • Friends has at least one of these.
  • A seventh-season episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured the female cast members under the unknowing thrall of a high school jock (he didn't know he was having any affect on people). At least one result of this is Buffy trying to kill the school principal who'd been giving said jock a hard time. While Principal Wood is working in his office, we see Buffy through his window about to blast him with a rocket launcher before Spike shows up and wrestles it away from her.
    • Another episode from an earlier season has a conversation between two characters while in the distant background Spike runs from shadow to shadow under a smoking blanket.
    • A fifth-season episode features a banner in Giles' magic shop with a very inclusive holiday message, covering Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Gurnenthar's Ascendance.
    • In the sixth-season Musical Episode "Once More With Feeling", Anya, Giles and Xander walk down a street discussing their inexplicable singing, while around them Sunnydale residents enact various Broadway cliches- such as a romantic pas de deux and a trio of dancing chimney sweeps.
      • In the same episode, when Giles & co. sing the line "Let it Burn" there's firetrucks rushing off in the background.
        • Though remembering the spate of spontaneous combustions going on around the town might make the event a little less funny.
      • Tara bumps into a pillar during the Summon Backup Dancers at the end. And in the next shot she's fixing her hair and trying to join back in.
    • In a seventh season episode with numerous flashbacks to Anya's past, there's a scene where she's conversing with D'Hoffryn while in the background the villagers chase around her ex, Olaf (whom she turned into a troll) eventually leading to a large pine tree falling down and crushing a building.
  • "Numfarr! Do the dance of Joy!" (Numfarr was even played by Joss Whedon).
    • Also arguably half the karaoke singers in Caritas.
  • Played with on How I Met Your Mother: The gang have gotten up to watch Robin's early morning talk show, and mute it seconds after it starts because Ted has just found out Lily sabotaged several of his relationships. The fact that they're missing what appears to the most awesome episode of that show ever serves nicely as Comic Relief to the serious discussion in the foreground.
    • In another episode, Robin has an altercation with a woman outside the restaurant where Barney and Nora are having a date, the whole thing seen outside the window while an oblivious Barney and Nora dine on without noticing it.
  • In The Nanny, Maxwell and C.C. are entertaining backers, while in the background Fran is chasing her sister and husband through the mansion. The three of them eventually realize what they are interrupting and start dancing to the music.
  • Northern Exposure: during the wedding in episode four, they are not playing the traditional wedding song, but rather it seems to be an organ version of "(I Did It) My Way" by Sinatra.
  • In The A-Team season one episode "The Beast from the Belly of a Boeing," there is a scene where an airplane crashes into the terminal and a fleeing woman throws her baby (an out-of-tone gag for the series coming from careless use of Stock Footage from Airplane!, which has at least one of these in every shot).
  • Scrubs has done on an irregular basis. Particularly in the earlier episodes.
  • Stargate SG-1 had its fair share of background funny events, especially through Jack O'Neill, the leader of SG-1. In one episode, as Daniel Jackson explained something extremely plot-relevant and science-ey, O'Neill stood behind him, apparently oblivious, making faces while playing with a magnifying lens, the joke here is that Jackson is describing someone as having the mind of a child, and being very easily distracted, traits that O'Neill is so ably demonstrating. Jackson finally turned around when he realized everyone was looking behind him, but then just rolled his eyes and continued.
    • Anytime Siler walks past in the background with his absurdly oversized wrench.
  • Reaper uses this a few times, although the level of subtlety varies; in one example, the main characters lock the door to the big box store they work at in the middle of the day, leaving a huge crowd to mill around like zombies on the other side of the glass, in another, while one character crashes a funeral, the other three can be seen chasing someone around in a slightly slapstick manner behind him.
  • Happens on occasion in Top Gear. The most notable example is during the "typical seventeen year-old's car" segment, where, while the Power Trio discuss the difficulty in getting their cars insured, the Stig walks in and begins photocopying his head, helmet and all. For no apparent reason (then again, he is the Stig).
    • In the Sport Relief special in which the trio attempt gardening, at one point an unnamed man goes running across the lawn, on fire. Another unnamed man puts him out, but no one else pays them any attention. No explanation is ever given.
    • In another episode, while Jeremy is signing off on the homemade motor-home challenge , his motor-home is falling off the cliff behind him. It's amazing.
    • Earlier, Richard Hammond's motor home catching fire was this until Jeremy finally notices the smell.
    • Then on The One Show remote control cars (that stick to vertical surfaces) can be seen in one episode driving up the back window, being controlled by mischievous presenters down below as they played with them (Top Gear's offices are directly below the studio where The One Show is broadcast).
    • Then there is when Clarkson took a Peel P50 around the BBC Television Centre driving around the offices...and then into the background of the BBC News 24 live broadcast..
  • An episode of Gossip Girl has Dan trying to cook a delicious meal for his movie star girlfriend Olivia. While Olivia is on the phone, Dan can be seen running around in slight panic in the background as smoke begins to rise from the kitchen.
  • In The X-Files episode "Hollywood A.D.," Mulder and Scully's work is used as the inspiration for a movie starring Gary Shandling and Tea Leoni. At one point Leoni asks Scully to demonstrate how she runs in high heels. Later, while Mulder and Shandling are talking in the foreground, Scully can be seen running back and forth across the sound stage, while Leoni observes.
  • One of The West Wing's CMOF is this: Charlie and Zoe are arguing outside Josh's office, Josh can be seen in the background. Charlie says: "I work in a building with the smartest people in the world." Cue Josh sitting down on a non-existent chair.
    • DONNA!
    • In the first episode of the fourth season, Toby, Josh and Donna end up being left behind after an event in Indiana and on their way to catch their flight they find out that they've already missed it because it went out of an airport in a different timezone. While Donna starts coming up with a new plan with the volunteer who's been helping them out, Josh and Toby storm off to do helpful stuff in the background like shout about the lack of civilisation and hit things with sticks.
  • In the Doctor Who series 1 episode "Rose," Rose is briefly seen obliviously making tea while the Doctor is being strangled in the background. (Not that she gets much more concerned once she actually sees it...)
    • In "The Idiot's Lantern", when asked by a policeman to tell them everything he knows, the Doctor replies, "Well, for starters, I know you can't wrap your hand 'round your elbow and make your fingers meet." In the background you can see an officer trying it out.
    • In "The Impossible Astronaut," Amy and Rory talk about finding evidence of the Doctor's various weird adventures without them. On the TV, the Doctor's dancing across the screen in a movie that's playing.
  • Community has Abed in a series of these during the 3rd episode of the 2nd season. It ends with Abed helping to deliver a baby in the parking lot. They do some Lampshade Hanging on it when Shirley asks what Abed got up to. "Nothing Much" is the reply.
    • "Cooperative Calligraphy" has another example. The entire episode focuses on the group attempting to find Annie's missing pen. An early scene (Specifically, during Troy's "Aww, I wanna lick it!" line) shows Annie's Boobs the monkey taking it, but it's very difficult to spot.
  • A staple on Glee. A lot of the group numbers have to be seen multiple times to catch everything. For example during Forget You Kurt gets chased around the piano by the other guys.
  • iCarly occasionally does these. One example is in a crowd scene, Sam mentions something about hurting Freddie, and a couple of extras give each other a look of shock and horror in the background.
  • There was a part of Still Standing where the mother and father were going over their plan to snag some The Who tickets from their friends. While the mother is plotting, we see Tina walk into the kitchen, pick up a cutting knife, then leaves. Her older sister then runs in looking scared.
  • While Cheers normally puts its humor in the foreground, the episode where the gang makes a video for Woody's parents pulls this twice. The first moment occurs during a backyard barbecue at Carla's house. While she struggles through her lines, two of her kids chase Sam with a garden hose through the background. Later, we see Frasier give a speech in his office. As he sits with his back to the window, he talks about how the building has the best psychiatric help in all of Boston. Just as he says that, a body falls past the window.
  • A staple of the show Crank Yankers. Sometimes the gags going on in the background were actually funnier than the contents of the calls themselves.
  • In the first full moon episode of H₂O: Just Add Water, Cleo tries to hold a speech for Emma's father because Emma was stuck in mermaid form and was acting like a Cloudcuckoolander due to the influence of the full moon. While Cleo is trying to hold the speech, Zane and Miriam (whom Emma had earlier frozen together by the lips while they were making out) are seen in the background.
  • The Adventures of Pete and Pete episode "Yellow Fever," in which Big Pete's class gets lost on the way to a field trip, has Bus Driver Stu pull over in to ask for directions, only to find upon further inspection that the farmer he wanted help from was actually a scarecrow. Meanwhile, the main subplot continues on the bus, but look through the bus's windows and you see Stu beating the crap out of the scarecrow.
  • Pushing Daisies: One episode had the gang investigating murders at a circus. They visit the scene of a car accident where a clown Car crashed into the water. Throughout their whole conversation, coroners keep walking past with clown bodies. First it's funny. Then it's not. Then it is. Again.
  • Star Trek: Voyager had a few of these. Once with the engineers discussing the latest Techno Babble problem while Janeway hunts for coffee in the background (apparently an ad lib on the part of either Mulgrew or the director to liven up boring exposition). Later we have the doctor fuming in literally mute frustration at having his audio feed cut while the other Voyager crew members discuss their next action.
  • The Monkees: a rare example in a 60’s sitcom: at the beginning of the episode “Monkees Marooned," during a close-up of Peter talking with the salesman, there is a random guy in the background with his arms out like an Egyptian, standing on the bumper of a moving car, of all things. The same thing happens again in the tag sequence, but only after the guy and his friends are confronted by the policeman (also in the background). Hilarious and completely unrelated to the episode! Blink and you’ll miss it.
    • Another example: in the music video for “Randy Scouse Git”, while the camera is centered on Micky singing the song, Michael is seen in the background making several goofy expressions, and even yawning while playing guitar during the song!
  • In the J-drama Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge Kyohei looks up videos of belly dancers and shows them to the others, but they move on to discussing a completely different topic thereafter. As it goes on Kyohei is still watching the videos in the background and begins imitating them.
  • In an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Phil and Will are fighting in the sound room while Ashley and Carlton are fighting in the control room as to whether or not to listen in. The segments where Ashley turns off the sound definitely fit into this with Will's extremely active motions of anger.

Carlton: Oh great! Now we'll never know how Will took the news!

  • 30 Rock uses these pretty frequently. An early example is in the season one episode "Tracy Does Conan," in which Tracy is suffering some strange side effects from his new medication, leading Liz to have to call his doctor for help while behind her, we see a raving Tracy trying to put his shoes in the fish tank and then being rocked like a baby, with thumb in mouth, by Dot-Com in an attempt to sooth him.
  • On the Leverage episode "The Studio Job," Hardison and Parker are in a sound studio, distracted, while behind Plexiglas in a soundproof room Eliot furiously tries to get their attention while multiple thugs try to kill him.
    • In "The Boys' Night Out Job", Eliot beats up a bunch of drug dealers as Hardison tries to scare them into giving themselves up.
  • In the Jonathan Creek episode "No Trace Of Tracy," Maddie goes to interview a has-been rock star at a recording studio. It's soon discovered that he replaced his previous session musicians with a new crew while the old ones were out getting pizza. The rock star retreats to the mixing booth and leaves his manager to sort out the mess, and the interview is conducted while both Maddie and the rock star, thanks to the soundproof glass, are blissfully unaware that the two bands have started kicking the crap out of each other in the studio behind them.
  • On an Ellen DeGeneres episode of the fall 2009 season, there is a segment on Kid Inventors. The first invention is by a third grader named Simon who invented a high chair bib for his baby brother Alan with a pully system that can dump whatever food he drops back onto his tray. Two inventions later is an air pump powered by pojo stick invented by fifth grader Ben. While he is setting up his invention and explaining how it works, the camera switches back to Alan who is in the process of dumping his chocolate pudding over his tray.
  • Used by British-Indian comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me in a parody of Indian cinema, with a retrospective of the career of director "Ranjit Say", who keeps claiming that the important themes of his films are present "in the background." The interviewer thinks he means the subtext, but he literally means the background: All his films consist of the same black and white shot of two men playing draughts, whilst two people passing in the background stop to perform some action appropriate to the supposed genre of the film; comedy slapstick, fighting, a dance routine, etc.
  • An unintentional one happened at the WWF Free For All (pretty much a pre-game show) before the first No Way Out. The man they call Vader was being interviewed by Dumb Blond Sunny and near the end a nearby door opens and Road Warrior Hawk from the Legion of Doom steps out looks around and quickly backs away the look on his face was pricless.
    • Something similar happened on an episode of RAW Is War once during the invasion when The Rock was being interview by Kevin Kelly in front of his “personal dressing room”. The door opened and Par Patterson comes out and quickly goes back in.
  • A sketch on Mad TV featured Debra Wilson appearing out of character on a talk show talking about the show. Outside, people are fighting a giant ant.
  • Seinfeld has Jerry and Elaine in a mundane discussion on a couch while Kramer is having a violent seizure from hearing Mary Hart's voice.
  • Mad Men has the employees of SCDP wheeling around Miss Blankenship's body around on a wheeled chair through the window behind the clients that Don, Faye, and Ken are trying to impress in "The Beautiful Girls" (4.09).
    • Four episodes earlier in "The Rejected", there's not only Bert Cooper lurking in his own lobby eavesdropping on people's conversations, but when Alison confronts Don over his sleeping with her and then dumping her, throws a glass at his head, and quits, you can see Peggy's head rising over the partition between her and Don's office.
    • In the second episode of the series there is a scene where Don, Roger, and Cooper stand outside of Don's office and discuss creating a campaign for Nixon while inside the office Ken, Sal, and Kinsey goof around with aerosol cans of Gillette deoderant and create fireballs.
  • Inverted on the eighth season of American Big Brother with this funny foreground event happening as contestant Jameka cries and prays in the back.
  • America's Funniest Home Videos will occasionally show groups of clips where the funny part is in the background.
  • Happens all the time in Degrassi the Next Generation. That Sean is sitting with Ellie supporting Marco instead of with Jay and Alex is seen as proof of Sean/Ellie shipping, which is even more amazing when you consider that Marco sexually harassed Sean in the show's coming out party. Of course, the original Degrassi Junior High would often have you spotting your favorite extras.
  • While it's not always better than than the scene in the foreground, watching the improvers who aren't in a game on Whose Line Is It Anyway? can be comedy gold. Just watch Greg in the legendary Richard Simmons episode.
  • Married... with Children: The Bundys are having a holiday cookout and invite the Darcys. Marcy's bummed about her dead aunt, whose cremated remains she keeps in their house. Said remains end up in Al's grill after Peg spilled the ashes out of the grill. Once Kelly figures out she dumped Marcy's aunt on the grill, Hilarity Ensues in the background as Al consoles Marcy, both completely oblivious to what's going on behind them.
  • In Castle Season 2 Episode 18, while Beckett is having a rather serious phone call, in the background, Castle picks up a huge hunk of scrambled egg with his fingers, put the entire thing in his mouth, and then chokes on it because it's so hot.
  • In Episode 5 of Kamen Rider Fourze, while two of the teachers are talking about something, there is a teacher in the back who gets punked by a student. The teacher responds with a Necklock.
    • The opening credits has a quick montage of Fourze using various Astro Switches, which go by so fast it can be hard to pick out individual ones, but sharp-eyed individuals can see Shield!Fourze flashing a peace sign, and Flash!Fourze blinding himself.
      • The newest version of the opening adds in more Switches and more gags. Hand!Fourze can be seen playing Rock-Paper-Scissors with the mechanical hand (and LOSING), while Stealth!Fourze, does a Naruto-style hand seal as he disappears, then starts tip-toeing.
  • More subtly: in many Frasier episodes, there are groups scenes where something plot-relevant is happening in the foreground, while Niles can be seen gazing at or sighing over Daphne in the background. The actor (or director's) commitment to detail is impressive.
  • An extended one was improvised by Patton Oswalt in the opening to the King of Queens episode "Emotional Rollercoaster": There's a group scene where his character doesn't have any lines, so rather than do any sort of Artificial Atmospheric Actions, he opted to stand perfectly still with a blank expression on his face the entire time. It gets particularly funny when the action moves into the kitchen, and you can see through a window to the living room that he's still doing it.
  • In Episode 4 of The Thick of It, Olly is brought to Number 10 so that Malcolm and Jamie can coerce him to exploit his new relationship for information on the Opposition. At one point, a staffer behind Olly makes kissy faces at him while he tries awkwardly to arrage a date with the girl. Jamie then rushes over, grabs the guy by the head, and gives him a near-silent bollocking. There are also a couple of instances where Olly is trying to talk on the phone to different people while Malcolm or Jamie loudly berates one of their employees in the background.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Vanity Police's video for "Things You Don't Mean" has a rather hilarious moment where someone's cat walks onto the set in the middle of the video and starts nudging the scenery. You have to wonder who didn't make sure that the cat couldn't get in while they were filming it...


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]


Theater[edit | hide]

  • In at least one Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park production of A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is in the future listening to the businessmen discussing his funeral, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come stands calmly in the background, reading the newspaper.


Theme Parks[edit | hide]

  • Jim Henson's Muppet*Vision 3D at Walt Disney World has this at least twice. It's fairly obvious that while Dr. Bunsen is explaining his invention, Beaker is getting heavily pounded by said invention. But most viewers of the 3D film are too busy watching Kermit give a tour of the inside of Muppet Labs to notice that in one scene, Scooter and Janice ride across the hallway in the background on a double-seat bicycle. Especially notable since it's one of the very few times you can see Muppets' legs.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Divinity II Ego Draconis has a permanent Undead minion which is already quite wacky. However, whenever a cut-scene triggers it will keep doing its random thing. So there can be an evil boss gloating about how you walked into his trap and you are at his mercy and foolish... while your Undead pet is pissing on his leg.
  • In Bad Company, there are a few first-person cutscenes where Sarge talks to Juliet about their next objective, while Sweetwater and Haggard play Rock, Paper, Scissors behind him.
    • As well as Haggard tickling Sweetwater like a bug, and Sweetwater showing Haggard golf swing tchniques.
  • In Resident Evil 4, while Ashley and Luis are having an argument, Leon is running around and barricading the doors in the background.
  • This type of thing occasionally occurred in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, with characters having smaller text bubbles in the background. At the beginning of the game when Mario is talking to Goombella in Rogueport Plaza, a couple of grunts from the Pianta syndicate can be seen in the back roughing up a couple of Robbos. The game to come is rife with yet more shenanigans such as this; sometimes they stop being background events to intrude upon business at hand (such as the audience during the fights clowning around, only for a Shy Guy to flip its lid, leap onstage, then rush off in a panic).
    • Although not as much and usually not with text bubbles, the first game also had some moments here and there where townsfolk will be seen talking to each other or doing other little events (such as when Rowf first builds his badge shop with his son, which caused a few of the pillars to fall and both having to repeatedly put them back up). Too bad they tend not to last long after each new story event is completed.
  • Luigi tends to do this in the Mario & Luigi series regularly. During the opening sequence of Bowser's Inside Story, for instance, Mario and Luigi are in a meeting with Peach and the Toads. Throughout the meeting, Luigi slowly falls asleep on the table and somehow manages to sleep through Bowser interrupting the meeting, destroying a section of said table and nearly setting fire to the princess, leaving Mario to fight Bowser on his own. Throughout the battle, you can see Luigi, still fast asleep. Bowser attacking the castle has to get boring after the third time or so.
  • When you finish a race in Track Mania, the camera stays at the finish line while your scores are displayed. Many tracks position the finish such that behind your scores, your car is sent flying into a pool, wall, or off into the air. Hilariously.
    • The same thing happens at the end of matches in Battlefield 2. The now-pilotless planes become indestructible and often come careening into view in hilarious ways.
    • Need for Speed: Shift has drift races, where the car becomes notoriously difficult to control. After finishing the race the computer will take control of your car in an attempt to get it driving around the track looking cool. Except for wide-open drift course finish lines (which are pretty rare), the computer will inevitably lose control of the car and smash into...well, anything nearby, really. While your score is displayed, of course.
    • A truly hilarious example happens in this Let's Play of Red Faction Guerilla where at the end of a mission, an enemy vehicle unscriptedly knocks a character off screen... a character that, as mentioned in the beginning of the video is never seen again in the game.
    • Made even funnier by the Deadpan Snarker by one commentator:

Daerun: Yeah, I don't think we're going to be seeing Carmen again.

  • It's hard to concentrate on important Yuna-centric scenes in Final Fantasy X when Tidus and Wakka are fooling about and attacking each other in the background.
    • Just after Tidus learns the Jecht Shot, when talking to Yuna, you can see one of the blitzers try to imitate the move and fall on his ass.
      • This is his default animation for the rest of the night, until you go to sleep. It's awesome.
  • This happens a lot in Breath of Fire 3. During one conversation between Momo and Palet at the Plant, for example, Nina and Ryu can be seen having a spat, which ends with Nina sticking her tongue out and Ryu crying.
  • A regular occurrence in Shadow Hearts. They're usually Yuri's fault, helping to establish how he doesn't give a crap.
    • A notable one is after rescuing Anatasia, while everyone asked what she's doing - Yuri is shown dancing with the wolf.
    • Even during From the New World, these are commonplace. One occurs when stoic Hot Amazon Tsundere Shania returns to her native village in the Grand Canyon. While she's discussing a matter of great importance with her bodyguard Natan in the foreground, protagonist Johnny and the rest of the crew - which by this point includes a Polish immigrant McNinja, a giant talking cat and an Antonio Banderas Expy - stand around watching and acting like complete morons.
  • Some stages in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom have odd things happening in the background.
    • One example: in the background of the Orbital Ring Station, over the course of the battle, human soldiers are battling giant aliens. It doesn't seem to be going too well.
  • Stark Tower's intercom in Marvel Ultimate Alliance has a couple of good ones.
  • The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass: Linebeck accidentally knocking over a stone Tetra while Oshus is making an important speech about the Big Bad of the game, plus all the cutscenes in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess involving Barnes'usually show a moment of him being a pathetic coward while conveying major plot points.
  • There are humorous off-camera hijinks throughout Ratchet and Clank. In one of the infobots in the first game, an anchorwoman (anchorbot?) covers news stories involving a blob monster infestation as an exterminator get eaten by one of said creatures shortly after waving to the camera. The monster later devours the reporter, ironically after her stating that she was completely safe from the blobs.
  • In Mother 3, during a tragic scene with Fuel and Lighter, a bird can be seen apparently humping a flower.
  • A number of stages in the Super Smash Bros. series:
    • Melee, Great Bay: The moon slowly falls toward Termina. At the last second, giants push it back into the sky.
    • Melee, Mute City: It's very possible for the F-Zero machines to get totaled.
    • Many stages: Random characters flying through the background.
  • Metal Slug is rife with these. The first stage in Metal Slug 2/X has a businessman and a local attempting to negotiate. Later in the stage, upon blowing up a truck, a human baby happily crawls around the area, as if nothing is happening. In Stage 3, several Mooks on the ground below the train can be seen engaging in random acts such as having funny conversations and sunbathing.
    • The businessman's backstory is that he is a video game salesperson for the company that makes Metal Slug, and has a chronic habit of losing the briefcase full of merchandise he's trying to sell to his customers, and blaming the briefcase's disappearance on the client stealing it. He yells at a young boy for this reason on one level. Of course, it's you who takes the briefcase for points, naturally, and if you stick around you can see the businessman realize his briefcase isn't there anymore and flip out on the client.
  • Melty Blood has this twice with Neco Arc Chaos's midboss stage where the Damien Corps are having a party of some sort in the background and Satsuki is peeking in from even farther behind that.
  • Open sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. While busy doing your own missions, it's possible to pass cops in a gun fight (sometimes with each other) or see a two seater plane just slam into a record building. Just two of many examples.
    • This also happens in Just Cause 2, with the rebel factions occasionally getting into fights with military and then driving off in random vehicles. Planes frequently crash into skyscrapers in Panau City, too.
    • In Bully, you can sometimes see people randomly start a fight or walk up and pull the fire alarm in the school.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV, if you make the car friction -9, creates many instances of Apathetic Citizens getting killed by physics-defying cars (when you aren't the victim, anyway).
  • Some of Eggman's best in Sonic Colors is the commentary he spouts in the background, spending much of the game parodying the intercom announcements at theme parks.

Would the owner of the egg-shaped convertible please report to the parking lot; your car has been broken into. I repeat, would the owner of the egg.. shaped.. HEY, WAIT A MOMENT!
This ride not intended for small children... Or big babies!
Visit the Bucket'O'Sushi... Now with FISH!

  • Team Fortress 2: In "Meet the Medic" the x-rays attached to a light box in the back of the operating room reveal that the Heavy has had a bomb lodged inside him. The extracted bomb is in the bucket underneath the x-rays.
    • You can also peer through the areas that are barred from your access on other maps, revealing gems such as...
      • The panel from "Meet the Spy" at Doublecross—it even lights up when the intelligence is stolen.
      • Several BLU NPCs are standing in front of a black board behind Stage 1 of Thunder Mountain, and they randomly taunt from time to time.
      • the RED Team has a swimming pool on Stage 2 of Thunder Mountain, and NPCs can be seen lounging there.
      • A RED Sniper can be seen camping on Stage 3 of Thunder Mountain.
  • Bug!! - At the level endpoint of Quaria Scene 1, you'll see a scuba-diving bug chasing a small fish offscreen, wait a while, and he comes back in... being chased by a hungry dog-fish.
  • Mortal Kombat loves these, oftentimes making them into a form of Chekhov's Gun. The Pit 2 features a green Liu Kang palette swap fighting Blaze. Mortal Kombat 2 also gave us Sonya and Kano in chains in the Arena. The Living Forest has guys running around the forest. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3's Desert has Cyrax buried in sand.
  • Portal 2 has three types of this trope. Act One has the various advertisements for Aperture Science products (the Thermal Discouragement Beam was apparently developed to prevent employees from moving from their cubicles), while Act Two has both the not-at-all-helpful signs posted around the place (Know your allergens: Pollen, Animal Dander, Plastics, Antimatter) and the hidden instructive recordings by Cave Johnson ("Best case scenario, you get superpowers. Worse case, some tumours, but we'll cut those out."). Act three is a bit more serious than the rest of the game, but in one test chamber you can see one of the co-op robots running through a door in the distance.
  • Half Life 2 contains a few if you know where to look. The easiest to find is just after meeting up with The Resistance at Black Mesa East. While Dr. Mossman takes you on an elevator ride down to Eli Vance's lab you can catch glimpses of how the Vortigaunt aliens help out around the house.
  • At the beginning of No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, while Travis and Sylvia are talking at a restaurant, a man randomly falls out of the sky and lands on a car in the background. This event attracts the attention of just about everyone except them.
  • More of a funny sideground event, but in Persona 4, everyone is having a watermelon and Ryotaro and Nanako talks about how they can't break watermelons open...and Kanji is pulling a salt container out of his pocket and sprinkles his watermelon...
  • In the Nintendo 3DS Eshop, when you buy a download, progress is shown by little drops/spheres/toroids being moved across a conveyer line and dropped into the box representing your download. Occasionally, the little shopping bag mascot will ride the line and gets knocked off, flying off-screen. They should've had a crash/cat scream gag for it.
    • The Wii has Mario or Luigi running across the screen collecting coins, or sometimes both of them swimming all over the screen. There are 3 coin bricks that they hit to represent 33% done, 66% done, and almost done. If he happen to be Fire Mario, you can press the A button to throw fireballs.
  • Triggering these is what makes the Living Books so fun. They are absolutely loaded with these. Tap-dancing pencils, ants playing orchestras, you name it.
  • Often occurs in the Mario Party games, especially involving the loser of a mini-game with something bad happening to them.
    • One worth mentioning: In Mario Party 5, after the Squared Away mini-game, the loser(s) is chased by a random herd of stampeding thwomps.
  • This sometimes happens unintentionally in Knights of the Old Republic. Such funny examples include:
  • Sometimes, when enemies are still alive in Guild Wars cutscenes (Especially necromancer minions) they start attacking the party members who're supposed to be standing around watching the events unfold. This becomes a funny background event when you see your party members watching characters have a conversation when minions are beating them up.
  • Life and Death 2: The Brain has someone pouring coffee all over the floor in the background.
  • Tales of Monkey Island: During the Brotherhood chase in Chapter 3, while Guybrush is asking Morgan for help, you can see Noogie suddenly stop while raising his wooden sword in the air before collapsing, and Guybrush running and passing through him before he gets up and rejoins the chase. So funny.
    • Near the end of Chapter 4, though not a funny background event, while LeChuck shouts and laughs in glee, "LECHUCK! Arr, this name-shouting is jolly good fun!", you can see the wounded Guybrush sitting against the encased wind idol in pain in the background before Elaine runs up to him, kneels down, and desperately tries reviving him by holding him close to her. So touching.
  • Some of the minigames in Rhythm Heaven Fever for the Wii have funny stuff going on in the background, like various people leaping to catch kicked footballs in "Double Date" or Mr. Game and Watch fooling around in the factory in "Working Dough".
  • The end of a later chapter of Kid Icarus: Uprising features a conversation between Palutena and a certain god, but what you're more likely to notice is Pit being distracted with the Great Sacred Treasure...and eventually crashing into the floor with it.
  • LEGO Indiana Jones: when the senior Dr Jones is shot and his legs wander off by themselves, they can be seen in the background kicking the head of a fallen Nazi offscreen like a soccer ball.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Gunnerkrigg Court: In this strip, Kat and Andrew's facial expressions reference a Running Gag involving Kat's love of birds, while Annie talks to herself in the foreground.
  • 8-Bit Theatre does this occasionally with Black Mage asking White Mage out and getting beaten up.
    • Conversely, this strip had Black Mage asking her out with her trying to think of a proper response to get him to really stop asking her, while Fighter, Red Mage, and Thief float off into the sky seemingly because Fighter "slayed gravity".
    • Also this strip.
    • And down the bottom of this one, capping off the Running Gag about drilling for mana. Warning: spoilers.
  • Happens in this Irregular Webcomic strip.
  • A rather common occurrence in Girl Genius, especially when Agatha's little clanks are around.
  • Megatokyo has tons of little side jokes and things in its backgrounds. Spotting them all has become a kind of official sport on the forums.
  • The KAMics does this occasionally.
  • Epic use in Sluggy Freelance (this strip), where the edge of the panel changes the meaning of some background text, which in turn finishes Torg and Sasha's sentences.
  • Inverted in EarthBound fan comic The Chosen Four, thus making it a "Funny Foreground Event." While the main plot takes the back seat, two Exit Mice can be seen chatting. Meanwhile, Ness, Paula, and Jeff can be seen running around in the background in a comedic chase with the rabidly decreasing Guardian Diggers, which is then joined in by Gigantic Ants attempting to avenge their brother Titanic Ant, and then all of the sudden a horde of Mad Ducks and Noose Men.
  • Homestuck combines this with Mood Whiplash. HoNk
    • It also happens numerous times once Doc Scratch takes over the narration. For instance these two pages, wherein SS can be seen in the background (and page header) employing atrocious candy bowl etiquette. Then later, while the audience is distracted by Vriska vs. Bec Noir, SS wanders around in the header, casually spreading gasoline around the room, which he then lights on fire.
      • Inverted as well in that some fans actually forgot to look at the main panels, focused on the Background events, such as Jade accidently killing Dave, and didn't notice Doc Scratch as he beat up Slick with a book.
  • Something*Positive has this gem. look at Choo-Choo Bear
  • The Girl Next Door, this strip.
  • These two CRFH strips. The first one becomes even funnier when you realize the relationship between her and April and how she would be feeling about her right now.
  • Eerie Cuties shows what happens when the resident tomboy gets a good look at the local succubus.
  • Following Heather "Spinnerette" Brown accidentally destroyed a hugely expensive genetic modification device thingy, we get to see a panel that's been installed in the lab: "In Case of Heather, Break Glass".
  • Scandinavia and The World: This one has Norway trying to keep Denmark away from the beer while Sister Sweden is talking to her brother.
  • Nuzlocke Comics ribs its own Schedule Slip in Ruby's battle with Lorelei, by way of the audience holding a sign that says "UPDATE FASTER".
  • Numerous examples in Bite Me, such as there being hilarious meanings to french written on signs in the background, or tiny snippets of background conversations, once even between rats discussing political philosophy.
  • Miscellaneous Error has one across two strips.
  • Done subtly in Freefall. During the visit to Ecosystems Unlimited arc, careful observation will show that every time Sam encounters someone with a differently colored security pass, he will steal it and replace theirs with whatever one he has at the time.
  • In the General Protection Fault crossover with User Friendly, Fooker fights with the person who gave him the software that got him in trouble while Nick talks with his co-worker in the foreground.
  • In Bomango, when Hector asked out Cora May, the date itself began just awkward - but the scene involving Cora's ex-boyfriend, Hector's "Cool Big Sis" Gogo and the Cora's bodyguard in the background is much more lively.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog. You could watch Penny and Hammer on their date scene, or you could look in the background and see Doctor Horrible stalking them in a hilariously inept manner, even pretending to be a soup kitchen worker.
  • The first Nerd vs. Critic battle. After the Nerd chastises the Critic for not shutting the door after coming into his house, just before the door closes, Toucan Sam flies by.
  • This is mainly the idea in SMP films' Epic Nothing Series.
  • Any episode of The Joker Blogs is sure to include many blink-and-you'll-miss-it inside jokes about the DC universe. This comes to its logical conclusion during episode 18, which was in the form of a TV news broadcast. The news ticker at the bottom of the screen consists of nothing but comic book in-jokes (over 25 different Batman villains/allies are referenced), to the point that it mught be necessary to watch the video twice—once to watch the video and the other time to watch the news ticker.
  • Used often in Djy1991's version of Half Life: Full Life Consequences. One example includes someone in the background randomly firing cans around with the Gravity Gun, whilst John Freeman is reading the email from his Mom.
    • The third and fourth videos, Hero Beggining and Free Man, are filled with this, often involving the GMan.
  • Thanks to the Machinima nature of Red vs. Blue, you might be able to catch some of the cast wandering aimlessly around the set while other characters are talking in the foreground. The most memorable is probably agent Washington using quite a lot of explosives to dispose of a recently deceased fellow agent's body.
    • Don't forget when Church is getting the others to fix up his legs, and in the background the red's jeep which he is unknowingly controlling is going everywhere. Soon after it almost kills Sarge.
  • The Cinema Snob's cats often pop onscreen unexpectedly.
    • During Nudist Colony of The Dead his cat wanders onscreen and watches as he throws a crumpled up newspaper across the room.
    • The video "Brad Tries Durian Toffee" could just as plausibly be titled "Brad's Cat Has Fun", given that it hops around on the couch behind Brad, falls down behind it, gets out, and falls back in multiple times.
    • Then there's "Brad Tries Deep Throat energy drink" where halfway through, Lloyd starts going insane behind the curtain.

Brad: Hmm, wonder if Lloyd's been getting into this drink too.

    • In "Brad Tries Urge", Lloyd randomly pops up from behind the couch.
    • And then there's the funny foreground event in Jillian's review of Eclipse, where Lloyd suddenly pokes his head up right in front of the camera.
    • In "Brad Tries Jones Soda Christmas Packs", the cat has her own show in the background.
    • In "Brad Tries Sperm", Brad has to caution his cat against sniffing the curiously-named canned cocktail he's about to consume, as that would just make the video all kinds of illegal.
    • At the end of the Rock: It's Your Decision review, Brad describes just how messed up the movie was, and how it pretty much detailed the utter ruination of the main character as he is brainwashed. As he states that he is sure that, ten years later, the main character would hang himself, Lloyd picked that EXACT moment to jump up onto the couch as Brad smiles.
    • In one recent episode, Lloyd starts meowing quite loudly off-screen, to which Brad reacts by assuring the cat they will drink the drink, which shuts the cat up.
  • This video where the main focus in on the Spy trying (poorly) to do Caramelldansen, while people in the background are doing normal things (at least, normal for Team Fortress 2). However, about a third of the way in, an Engineer spawns in on top of the Spy and starts dancing, before the cameraman kills him. Then, about two-thirds of the way in, another Spy, who has, until this point, been just running around shooting people, decides to get in on the act, and actually does a much better job of Spy Crabbing in the background.
  • In Zero Punctuation's Super Paper Mario review, when Yahtzee shows the Dictionary.com definition of "game" (while complaining about padding), the other tab in his browser is titled "Super Huge Tits".
  • In the episode of Monster High, "Ghostly Gossip", just at the beginning there is a blink and you miss it moment where behind Cleo, a student is being attacked from her locker by tenticles similar to the image above.
  • Project Million: After receiving a Mind Screw from The Wire, Spazz spends several minutes in the background trying to make sense of it.
  • Ever since the Spoony One got a new dog, you can see her in the background having fun in recent V Logs.
  • Desert Bus for Hope 5: Game of Thrones on Kazoo and Guitar challenge has Monty Python horses in the background, as well as a flying stuffed dragon.
  • In this video combining Rhythm Heaven and My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, while Pinkie Pie is busy putting her twist on "Munchy Monk 2", Twilight Sparkle can be seen in the background trying (and hilariously failing) to play the trumpet.
  • An in-universe example happens in the Five Second Film, "The Worst Extra in Hollywood".


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Fa La La La Ed", while Jimmy is complaining to Sarah about the pain of smashing his piggy bank, we see Ed falling over as he tries to prop up some Christmas lights.
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "Now That's Lobstertainment." Zoidberg's Uncle, Harold Zoid, tells the extras in his film to throw a bit of humour into the background of a dramatic scene...which results in said extras running around screaming and throwing pies at each other. Later its mentioned that they spent the entire budget on pies before they could complete post production.
  • In the episode Mission: Responsible of The Fairly OddParents, the first time Wanda dials Timmy, Cosmo tries to find out how a napkin (even a plate!) works!
  • Rocket Power was actually quite fond of this trope. whenever there was an episode where a camera was involved (ie, Twister shooting a documentary, or even the news), there was something funny going on. During the episode about a Documentary of Otto and his Sno Mart ventures, you can see this trope playing through a LOT. Such examples include Ray coming out and dumping garbage all over the front lawn, a skater in the Blader Bowl flying out...then an empty skateboard coming out, and another where it was repeated, except a dolphin flew out of the Blader Bowl.
    • There was also an incident in which a news reporter was complaining about how there wasn't anything to film, and then right behind him, a flying saucer comes in...pulls a whale out of the ocean, then flies off.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: After the whole 'Appa ate Momo' incident, when the Gaang is talking about where Aang got off to, Sokka can be seen trying to get out of Appa's mouth, then slipping on the drool, twice.
    • Even the people who did the small annotations comment on the event! (This is from the marathon Nicktoons aired leading up to the premiere of The Legend of Korra)
    • Likely accidental example: The show usually avoid Faceless Masses which leads an an error in the fourth episode when Aang and Katara are talking at a marketplace and a man in the background is apparently talking to a wooden post, and then something it said made him depressed.
    • When Prince Zuko and Iroh are invited aboard Commander Zhao's ship, Zuko and Zhao have a rather intense conversation in his cabin, while Iroh occupies himself by looking at a set of polearms leaning against the opposite wall. At one point, Iroh accidentally knocks them all over, scrambling to catch them with a huge wide-eyed face before putting them back in place. The whole thing lasts less than a second.
  • The Legend of Korra: When Korra sneaks into the pro-bending arena, she's caught by Toza, who believes she's trying to watch for free. While the two bicker, Bolin walks by in the background, backpedals a step or two, and stops to fix his hair before conveniently interrupting the argument with awkwardness galore.
  • Winx Club: Stella wakes up from a sleeping gas induced slumber, finds ladybug on arm, and runs around in the background.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Fifteen Minutes of Shame," in which the Griffins get their own reality show, an argument at a seafood restaurant between Meg and her parents is hard to focus on while Stewie's fighting a live lobster in the tank behind them.
    • Another episode has Peter and Lois conducting a kitchen-table conversation while a seeming Simpsons promo at the bottom of the screen morphs into Quagmire sexually assaulting Marge Simpson.
    • And in yet another episode, the trope is not only lampshaded, but dressed up and sent to walk the streets as a serious conversation between Lois and Brian becomes completely secondary to the fact that Peter has just farted in the soundproof booth he has locked himself in, and is increasingly desperate to escape his own gas before collapsing into unconsciousness
    • Family Guy does indeed love this trope: Another episode had a discussion between Meg and Lois in the kitchen, while out the window a mind controlled Chris turns on Stewie and attacks him.
    • Another twist on this trope comes when Peter and Lois are getting ready for bed and calmly discussing an issue about Meg. While donning bondage gear. None of the dialogue alludes to this until the very last line.
    • In another episode, Peter announces that his father Francis has died. Lois and Brian (who never liked Francis) express sympathy, then leave. As Peter continues talking, through a window behind him we can see Lois and Brian dancing with joy on the front lawn, Brian grabbing Lois' chest, and her slapping him.
    • At the end of another episode "Long John Peter", Chris tries to apologize to Anna, the young vet he has a crush on whom Peter suggests that he'd act like a jerk to, by bringing in a badly beaten Brian. While the two of them have a conversation, Brian wobbles back and forth for a few seconds and then falls over.
  • In the first episode of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (not counting the "season zero" pilots), as Thor is talking to Jane Foster after saving her from an uncontrolled car, we see said car's driver struggling to get out with the seatbelt jammed. When the scene finishes, the driver gets a face full of airbag.
  • Borderline example from The Simpsons: Homer is having a relatively mundane conversation with his recently-new boss, Hank Scorpio, about how he's thinking of quitting and moving back to Springfield for the sake of his family. While this is going on, a massive battle worthy of the climax of a James Bond movie is happening in the background, but Homer doesn't seem to notice. Scorpio himself is killing ninjas and elite secret agents with a flamethower and launching a Doomsday Device during the whole conversation—which means it isn't completely in the background, but the effect is basically the same. At the end of the sequence, the background event comes to the foreground as Homer kicks a grenade out of his way before leaving.
    • "Homer, if you could kill someone on your way out, that'd really help me out!"
    • Another episode featured Lisa adopting a load of abandoned and unwanted animals, and whilst trying to find owners, Chief Wiggum's car breaks down, so Lisa gives him an ostrich to ride away on. Later on in the background, you can see Chief Wiggum (still riding the ostrich) leading an arrested Snake away (on another ostrich).
    • There's another example in the episode in which Bart become a boy scout, while seeing television with Homer and Lisa Bart criticizes Itchy & Scratchy for being unrealistic, Lisa says that the cartoons doesn't have to be realistic. In this moment a second "Homer" is passing by the window in the outside.
    • In The Color Yellow, the class is told to create family trees. While Lisa talks about family trees, we get a view outside of the window where Groundskeeper Willy is filling a hole in the ground with water from the hose, then sits in a folding chair and begins fishing in it.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends example: in the episode "Frankie My Dear," Frankie makes small talk with her date while in the background Mac, Bloo, the pizza guy (disguised as one very tall guy) and the Prince Charming imaginary friend (Disguised in Drag) try to get into the restaraunt without a reservation, culminating with the prince friend punching the maitre d'.
  • In American Dad episode "Stan Time", Rodger and Steve are trying to write an original, modern porno, while behind them two sexy ladies repair the air conditioning in increasingly erotic ways.
  • Used in Creature Comforts, both the original short, the series based on it amd the various commercials made by Aardman in the same format, such as their Chevron campaign.
    • Most recently seen on ads for Hubba Bubba Max bubble gum. Not done by Aardman, but clearly influenced by them.
  • In an episode of King of the Hill where Dale gets a suit of armor, in the background while the other three are talking you can see him walk off a roof in his armor.
    • After finding out Hank is entering Ladybird in the dancing competition in "Dances With Dogs", Bobby says "You told me dog dancing was only for weirdos!" as he says this a fat man dressed as Charlie Chaplin walks by twirling a cane and walking a french bulldog.
    • In "Phish and Wildlife" when Hank and the ranger are discussing ways they could get rid of the hippies in the control room, on one of the monitors Bill can be seen dressed in his hippie garb stumbling around drunk, or possibly high.
  • Robot Chicken did this in one sketch during a song recording. The two producers at the boards turn off the sound and take five to talk all while in the background the singer find himself assaulted by a mutant, an alien and finally devoured by a wolfman with the producers unaware.
    • There was also an episode where the Playmobil characters were inside the airport, talking about how silly the set was. If you watch the luggage conveyor belt in the corner, you can eventually see a playmobil kid figure (which came with the set) rolling through.
  • Easy to miss example in Re Boot. While Bob is begging Phong to give Hexadecimal an icon, we can see Ray sampling Hexadecimal's biscuits made out of Herr Doctor while Mouse tries to stop him from eating one.
  • Used in Home Movies. An especially bizarre one comes when Brendan and his father are at a restaurant. Two men are seen at another table. One man draws an unflattering picture of the other as a severed head, and gets hit for it. The DVD Commentary said of this: "Whoa, what's going on at that table?"
    • During the episode "It Was Supposed To Be Funny," when Brendon is admitting that he can't finish his fries, you can see a car going through the Alien Burger drive-thru being abducted.
  • An entire Jimmy Two-Shoes short revolved around this, with Jimmy, Beezy, and Heloise complaining about how nothing ever happens in Miseryville... while the city is being destroyed in the background.
  • In a less than subtle example in the DCAU, Harley and Mercy fighting it out in the background while Lex Luthor and The Joker are having the business meeting during The Batman Superman Movie.
  • The South Park episode "A Very Crappy Christmas" features the characters watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV. The first two shots of the screen are normal and the characters take note of them. In the final shot, Charlie Brown is naked and Snoopy is hitting him with a piece of wood. Wonder what happened there.
    • Another example is the episode with the people with asses for faces. They're sitting around having a conversation with Kenny's family, while in the background more and more people are crowding round the window to stare in and laugh.
    • In “Proper Condom Use” episode, Randy and Sharon are holding a book club meeting with their friends, while Stan ‘red rockets’ the family dog. At first, Randy and Sharon don’t take much noticed until they wondered on the other parents were looking at.
  • The first episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic featured one of the guests at Pinkie's welcoming party for Twilight, a grey pegasus with Eyes of Gold wearing a cross-eyed, vacant grin on her face. "Derpy Hooves" quickly became something of a sensation among the show's Periphery Demographic, enough that she made cameos in a few later episodes and by the next season is featured in a Funny Background Event Once Per Episode.
    • A green unicorn named "Lyra Heartstrings" is fond of this. Quite often in crowd scenes she will be jumping up and down ecstatically with a grin on her face, and it's common for her to do out-of-place human actions like sitting upright. In one memorable scene, she was seen in a city in the clouds, bouncing up and down. Despite the fact that she was a unicorn, they did not give her wings to make her a Pegasus.
  • Superjail is fond of these, especially in the second season, but they often turn out to be rather creepy, such as the monster eating its own guts, then its heart and finally dying.
  • Despite being in the foreground more often than not, this is half of what makes Ferb one of the most hilarious characters on Phineas and Ferb. Since everyone's attention is usually on Phineas, he's free to be an oft-ignored source of silent snarking, small-scale shout outs, and Getting Crap Past the Radar.
    • In both "Rollercoaster" and its Musical Episode version, almost all the humour to the scene where Candace is talking on the phone with Stacy is all the random stuff going on in the background; Phineas And Ferb carry in trucks, lions, construction parts...
    • In The Last Train to Bustville, you can see Doofenshmirtz being chased by the dodo bird through the window in the room where Lawrence and Grandpa Clyde are just sitting.
    • In The Magnificent Few, there's a sign that says "Egg laying contest this way."
  • In Batman: The Animated Series episode "Heart of Ice" as the reporter is finishing up on Mr. Freeze's latest crime, you can see several kids run up to the snow and start playing with it. A policeman chases them off, as of course this is a crime scene. However just as he shoes them away the kids pelt him with snowballs.
    • In "Mad Love", when we see Harlene Quinzel start her first day at Arkham, one of the patients is casually licking the glass in his cell as she talks about her fascination with people who are mentally insane.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • This is Photobomb is devoted to pictures and videos of people goofing it up in the background of events.
  • During an ESPN interview of 14-year-old skateboarding prodigy Michie Brusco another young skateboarder is seen going through the half-pipe—on his back, with his board a few feet away.
  • During an Australian news broadcast, office workers are going about their business... except for one guy who opens his email and starts going through nude pics of model Miranda Kerr. While on a live broadcast. Cue Oh Crap when he realises he's on live TV.
  • This awesome child.
  • This girl's little brother.
  • This video of a sleepy kitten trying to stay awake. Many commenters have pointed out that the kittens brothers and sisters wrestling and jumping on each other in the background is more fun to watch than the kitten.
  • This is largely the point of the Brazilian Tenso meme—to zoom in on a bizarre event/face buried in the picture that would probably not have been noticed otherwise.
  • This happens to everyone. People are always doing stuff that most people don't have the context to, so you could see someone doing something weird or nonsensical to you, but it could make perfect sense to the person performing said action. Just go to a comic con, for example, and you find a lot of people doing unusual things or wearing unusual clothing.
  • This news report interviewee was slightly upstaged by an accident happening behind him.