Good News, Bad News
Good news for people who love bad news...—Modest Mouse, "Bury Me With It"
A Comedy Trope wherein a character relays two pieces of news to another, often using the Stock Phrases "I have some good news and some bad news", "The good news is...", and "The bad news is..." The humour typically comes from the sharp contrast between the good news and the bad news, or from each characters' perceptions of 'good' and 'bad'.
Several permutations of this joke exist. For instance:
- Not So Good News After All
The simplest permutation. The teller relays some Good News, but then relays some Bad News that completely invalidates anything good about the Good News.
Doctor: The good news is that you don't have colon cancer after all. The bad news is that it's brain cancer instead.
- "That was the good news."
The teller relays some terrible, shocking, catastrophic news, which the receiver can only assume is the Bad News. So, still reeling from this horrible revelation, they weakly ask what the Good News is. But, as it turns out, that was the Good News, because the real Bad News is unimaginably worse.
Doctor: I have some good news and some bad news. The tests showed that you have 24 hours to live.
Patient: What's the good news?
Doctor: That was the good news. The bad news is that I forgot to call you yesterday!
The teller relays some terrible, shocking, catastrophic Bad News first, and then it is revealed that the Good News is little more than a Breathless Non-Sequitur of complete insignificance in comparison. See the individual page for examples.
- There Is No Good News
The teller was flat-out lying, and has no good news of any context whatsoever to relate.
- Reading Between The Good News
The teller relays the Good News, which, given the context and identity of the teller, gives away what the Bad News is going to be.
Doctor: The good news is, they're naming a disease after you!
- Both News Are The Same
A variation of the above, where the bad news is the same as the good news, word for word (but the emphasis may change). It's up to the recipient (and audience) to tell the pros and cons of said news.
- "So what's the bad news?"
The inverse of the above "That was the good news" version. After the teller relays what s/he believes is the "bad" news, the person being told the news interprets it as the "good" news, either for comical purposes, or because the "bad" news is what they wanted all along.
If the situation gets worse, it quickly becomes, "Bad News Worse News."
If it's all bad news, but presented as though it were good news, then it's Bad News in a Good Way.
Anime and Manga
Freeza: There's good news and there's bad. "Good" in that I intend on seeing to it you last a bit longer. The flipside? You'll spend what time you have left in excruciating pain.
- Pokémon 2000: Jessie and Meowth are listing the results/consequences of helping the heroes, while James alternates between saying "That's good!" or "That's bad!" When Jessie ultimately says that they can just steal some money to make up for their lack of it, James finishes with "That's good...or is that bad?"
- A satirical example from Dark Knight Returns. With Superman's help, the US Government manages to drive the Soviet Union off of the island of Corto Maltese, but the Soviets respond by nuking the island, the fallout of which could easily spill over into the United States. The president is tasked with informing the American people, and he does so by appearing on TV and chipperly saying (whilst wearing a full radiation suit), "Well folks, I've got good news and bad news. Heh... The good news is that the Soviets have withdrawn their forces from the island of Corto Maltese.... And the bad news, well... It looks like those Soviets are pretty bad losers, yes they are..."
- In a classic She Hulk story, our heroine is informed that exposure to massive amounts of radiation has apparently left her 6' 7" and bright green for the rest of her life
- In the Simpsons Comic story "Sinbart the Sailor", Sinbart tells one of his sailors that there is "good news, bad news, good news, bad news, and good news." He then explains that there is treasure on the island, but it is guarded by snakes, but there are giant birds that eat the snakes, but the birds also eat humans, but the birds are full from eating another sailor.
Joey: He gave me the old 'good news, bad news' routine. The good news is you're gonna get the shot at the title. The bad news is they want you to do the old flip-flop for 'em.
- From UHF:
Bob: I have good news and bad news.
George: Okay, give me the bad news first.
Bob: Well, given our present financial situation, compounded by on-going fixed expenses and outstanding invoices, I figure this station will be flat broke by the end of the week.
George: What's the good news?
Bob: I lied. There is no good news.
- In the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, Kenneth, on the roof of the shopping mall, is communicating with Andy, who is on the roof of a gun store across the street. Since the zombie apocalypse is already well underway, they are forced to use whiteboards and markers, with binoculars to look at the other man's sign.
Kenneth: Fort Pastor GONE. No help coming.
Andy: So what's the bad news?
Oscar: She said, there's bad news and there's good news. You're paralyzed from the waist down - permanently. OK, I said, let's have the good news. That was the good news, she said. The bad news is that from now on, I'm taking care of you.
- From The One:
Yulaw: The good news is you're not crazy. The bad news is... [starts shooting at him]
- From The Rock: "I have some bad news, and some really bad news! The bad news is that the gas is corrosive and its eating our suits. The really bad news is there is enough C-4 explosive and poison gas to blow the whole chamber and everyone in the building!"
- From Robots
Robot parts salesman: I've got good news, and I've got bad news.
Fender: What's the bad news?
Robot parts salesman: (a little bit of a long speech) You've been officially outmoded.
Fender: Outmoded. Well that's fine. WHAT'S THE GOOD NEWS?!
Robot parts salesman: Well, when we had your parts, they were on sale.
- In Darkman, corrupt building developer Louis Strack Jr. pulls a false Irrelevant News with his #1 subordinate, replacing the real "good news" with a joking admission that he's had his wife killed (which he later on jokingly admits to having his own wife killed).
Louis Strack Jr.: Robert, I have good news and bad.
Robert Durant: Custom dictates that you render the bad news first.
- The Boat That Rocked: The good news is that the engines have exploded and they're all going to die. When everyone points out that this is hardly good news, he reminds them that he hasn't told them the bad news yet: just how painfully they're going to die.
- From Toy Story 2:
Slinky: I got some good news and I got some bad news. The good news is, I found your hat Woody.
Woody: My hat! Oh! Slink! Thank you! Thank you thank you thank you thank you! Where'd you find it?
Slinky: Well, that's the bad news.
- From Tango and Cash:
Cash: I've got good news and bad news.
Tango: What's the bad news?
Cash: We're almost out of gas.
Tango: What's the good news?
Cash: We're ALMOST out of gas!
- Artemis Fowl: A variant: Foaly tells Commander Root and the rest of the Council that they got pinged by Mud Men by some mysterious advanced technology. He says there are best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios. The mysterious-technology could read their culture like a book and do with the faeries what they will.
Commander Root: And the best-case scenario?
Foaly: That was the best-case scenario.
- A meta version is directed to the reader in Going Postal:
The broom must have been kept as an ornament, because it certainly hadn't been used much on the accumulations in the stable yard. On the positive side, this meant [Moist] had fallen into something soft. On the negative side, it meant that he had fallen into something soft.
- Death also performs the trope in Hogfather, when speaking to the spirit of a recently deceased man (who hasn't yet realized he's dead):
Ernest: "That's going to be the sack for sure, I'm gonna be in big trouble..."
Death: AH. WELL. THERE AT LEAST I HAVE SOME GOOD NEWS, ERNEST. *looks down at Ernest's body* AND, THEN AGAIN, I HAVE SOME BAD NEWS...
- Five Hundred Years After by Steven Brust has an excessively purple version of this trope, featuring an extended metaphor about fortune smiling and frowning simultaneously.
- Happens a few times in the X Wing Series, typically the last version. Someone's being promoted. So what's the good news?
- Black Magic Woman has a couple interesting examples:
- In one case, Morris has some good news and some bad news: "For one thing, I'm almost positive that your troubles here are not being caused by a poltergeist, or any other kind of resident spirit". When asked for the bad news, he says that was the bad news (said troubles are being caused by something much worse).
- Later, Van Dreenan has good news and bad news. The bad news is, he just realized that he's been a complete idiot for the past several hours. The good news is, he just realized that he's been a complete idiot for the past several hours (as he just came up with a plan that he should have thought of before.)
- Quoth Mack, of The Automatic Detective, the good news is, it looks like the data he got about the lair he's about to storm was completely accurate. The bad news is, is looks like the data he got about the lair was completely accurate (i.e. it doesn't look good for his chances of getting in and out).
- From Animorphs, Megamorphs #1 (Marco and Ax have just escaped from Visser Three's personal spaceship):
Marco: The good news is, we're out of the ship. I used a couple Hork-Bajirs as a ladder and climbed over them! That's the good news.
Ax: You seem to be implying that there might be some bad news, too.
Marco: Oh yeah. The bad news is we're about two miles up in the air and we are plummeting to Earth.
Live Action TV
McKay: OK, I got bad news and I got good news.
Sheppard: What is it?
McKay: There's little or no chance of getting the DHD working - the system is completely out of wack. It's gonna take some incredibly intricate re-routing of the power in order-
Sheppard: Woh, woh! What's the good news?
McKay: That was the good news. The bad news is we lost life support.
- Invoked in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's second season opener "Charlie Gets Crippled". Frank tells Dennis and Dee that their mother is dead, only to say that they are just getting a divorce. When asked why he would say this, he replies "That's a business tactic. You drop the bomb, then you soften the blow. You never tried this?"
- From 3rd Rock from the Sun:
Dick: I've got good news and bad news!
Sally: What's the bad news?
Dick: The Big Giant Head is here!
Tommy: What's the good news?
Dick: There is none!
Harry: Well, then why did you phrase it like that?
Dick: Oh, I don't know!
- From The UK version of The Office, Brent has to deliver the bad news of redundancies (layoffs, for all the Americans) to his staff, which he tries to cushion with the good news of his own promotion. It goes over about as well as things usually do in The Office.
- Variation from House to a couple who didn't know that their sixteen year old was smoking.
Dr. House: Bad news, your son has a filthy unhealthy habit. Good news, he's trying to quit. Bad news, the quitting is killing him. Good news, I can cure him. Bad news... nope, that's the end of it.
- From Hogan's Heroes
Sgt. Schultz: I have some good news and some bad news.
Col. Klink: This time tell me the good news first.
Sgt. Schultz: You are to be executed in the morning.
Col. Klink: Then what's the bad news?
Sgt. Schultz: They aren't giving you a blindfold.
- Played with repeatedly in a second-season episode of The Invisible Man. The Official tells Fawkes and Hobbes that he has good news and bad news. Fawkes and Hobbes immediately start arguing about whether you're supposed to hear the good news or the bad news first, until he cuts them off with the announcement that the Agency is "no longer under the auspices of the Department of Fish & Game".
Fawkes: Wait, was that the good news or the bad news?
- During a game of Scenes From a Hat on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, one of the suggestions drawn for mini scenes was "the good news, and the bad news".
Wayne Brady: (pretending to read a newspaper) Whew, the elections are over. (turns the page) President Bush!?
- Another Scenes From a Hat has the same suggestion:
Brad Sherwood: (to Wayne) The good news is, we're going to name a disease after you. (Walks away, leaving Wayne to realize what the bad news is.)
- Said by Richard Dawson in one infamous moment in FamilyFeud.
- Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad featured the "bad news and bad news" version, with the protagonist sarcastically going "Give me the bad news first."
- Played with in the Farscape episode "I Do, I Think":
D'Argo: "Well, now I can only speak truth, and that comes as good and bad news."
John: "All right, give me the bad news first."
D'Argo: "The bad news is that you're married, and you must endure as a statue for eighty cycles in a strange world."
John: "What's the good news?"
D'Argo: "Chiana and I are having fantastic sex."
- Quoth Hardison, in the Leverage episode "The Office Job", "Hey guys, I've got bad news and bad news; I'll start with the bad news."
- In the Middleman episode "The Flying Fish Zombification", Ida starts a phone call with, "I've got good news, bad news, more bad news, and worse news."
- What inspired the title of Somerset's song I lied... there is no good news.
- Also used in a Footrot Flats comic strip, when the Dog has just found a stoat.
Dog: Wal, good news: there's rabbits in the veges. Bad news: It's not going to matter...
- "Good News, Bad News" is a round in I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, in which the panellists try to top good news with bad news and vice versa. A typical round:
Tim: Good news - I've just got a new jacuzzi.
Barry: Bad news - It wasn't a jacuzzi when I got in.
Willie: Good news - Jamie Lee Curtis was in it with me.
Graeme: Bad news - But not for long.
Tim: Um, good news - I've also got a new bidet.
Barry: Bad news - It keeps falling of the ceiling.
Willie: Good news - At least I don't have to stand on my head any more.
Graeme: Bad news - Neither does Jamie Lee Curtis.
Recorded and Stand-up Comedy
Bob Hope: The Good News is that Jesus is coming back. The bad news is that he's really pissed off."
- Somebody told a joke once about the Pope getting a phone call and reporting to the College of Cardinals: "The good news is, that was Our Lord on the phone. The bad news is, he was calling from Salt Lake City."
- Another joke: "Sir, the bad news is that my scalpel slipped while I was performing surgery on your upper thigh. The good news is that your health insurance plan seems to also cover accidental castrations."
- Doctor: "Mrs. Jones, I have some good news for you." "It's Miss Jones." "Miss Jones, I have some bad news for you."
- From Magic: The Gathering's "Goblin Pyromancer": "The good news is, we figured out how the wand works. The bad news is, we figured out how the wand works."
- In the one-act Superhero Spoof The Thirty-Nine Dollar Man, the Sidekick has to inform the hero, sewer troubleshooter Milo Saperstien, by radio, that Milo's Arch Nemesis has sabotaged their sewer unclogging machine so that it's going to mangle Milo before he can leave the sewer. The Sidekick starts off by saying, "Well, let me put it to you this way. You know that recurring nightmare you keep having where you fall to your death from the top of a tall building?" "Yeah?" "The good news is that won't be happening to you."
- Mother 3 has a particularly jarring example: So the forest's burning and everyone is looking for Flint's family. A search is organized for his wife. The good news? They found an awesome Drago Fang that would make a great weapon! The bad news? It was found lodged in his wife's heart.
- On a lighter note, the creator of Mother 3 said this scene was essential, keeping the game on both a lighthearted note and a dark one. Had they simply been straight with the situation, it would have seemed all dark and no fun.
- In the opening of Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare Gaz has good news and bad news. The good news is that Russia is in the grips of a civil war with 15,000 nukes at stake, and the Middle East is in turmoil. The bad news is that a new guy is joining the squad.
- Halo: Reach features a good news/bad news exchange at the end of the fifth level:
- In Portal 2:
Cave Johnson: Those of you who volunteered to be injected with praying mantis DNA, I've got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is we're postponing those tests indefinitely. The good news is we've got a much better test for you: fighting an army of Mantis Men! Pick up a rifle and follow the yellow line. You'll know when the test starts.
- There's also this one:
GLaDOS: Okay, so the bad news is the tests are MY tests now. So they can kill us. The good news is... well, none so far, to be honest. I'll get back to you on that.
Dispatcher: Congratulations, Vel! You've made some new enemies today!
Velasquez: So what are the bad news?
Dispatcher: Some of them are still alive.
- The Nancy Drew games have many Have a Nice Death messages in this format. Usually the bad news nullifies the good news, though this trope is also played with in other ways.
- (I don't know where to put this, but it's a fan-made StarCraft campaign) In one mission of the "Fallen Angel" campaign, which is part of the "Legacy of the Confederation" story, which branches from StarCraft canon. In here, the agents sent for the mission manage to shut down the generators the power the cloaking field. However, one of the agents then had "bad news" and "really bad news". The leader tells him to tell first the "really bad"… which is that behind the cloaking field is a 'net' that shorts out all electronics, including their cloaking Fields. As for the "bad news", it's the generator that's powering it, which is protected by a security system involving explosions.
- In the iOS game Highborn, Archie tells Enzo he's got good news and bad news. Enzo says to tell him half the good news first, then the bad news, then the other half of the good news.
- Crash Twinsanity:
Evil Twin: The bad news is...we're taking over your world. The good news is...you won't be around to see it.
- In the flash video "Final Fantasy Gil Quest", Cactaur and Tonberry are trying to raise 3 million gil so that they don't have to go to jail.
Tonberry: Well, how are we doing?
Cactaur: Well, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is, with all the money we've earned, the most we can buy is a gumball.
Tonberry: Well than what's the good news?!
Cactaur: That is the good news! We can buy a gumball!...oh, and I did save a bunch of money on my car insurance by Switching to GEICO....
Haley(to a group of Hobgoblins): OK, I've got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, I won initiative, so you all get a sneak attack each. The good news is, I don't have to bother thinking up the second half to that joke, 'cause you're all dead now.
- Then you take a look at what the hobgoblin in the final panel is saying...
- Done again recently:
Roy (to the team): The good news is, we're here! The bad news is... we're here.
- Cyanide & Happiness keeps plenty of these in the drawer.
- Girl Genius. The good news is he doesn't have gangrene.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has used this repeatedly.
- Scandal Sheet has this exchange:
"Mitch? I have good news and bad news."
"Give me the bad news first, okay?"
"Okay. The bad news is I wasn't in time to stop Steve from starting a rumour that you're gay and you hit on me in the bathroom. Now everyone here believes it's true."
"Oh no. Oh my god. I'm gonna puke. What's the good news?"
"Actually, I lied. There isn't any good news."
- From Chainsawsuit:
- Happens a fair bit in Schlock Mercenary. A briefing from Der Trihs: "...Of course, that hints at the existence of more bad news."
Admiral Emm: Commodore Bhotsu plays an amusing game with me. At least, I suppose it to be amusing for him. I would now like to play it with you. It is called "Good News, Bad News."
Colonel DeHaans: Umm. . . I know this game well, Admiral. I'd rather not play.
- Kathryn finds herself news, good and bad.
- One from AIs:
Ennesby: This sounds like a new spin on the old "good news bad news" play.
Bristlecone: In that format, the good news is "I found the bad news." The bad news is "I found worse news."
Admiral Devereaux: Nice, but I want to know about Breath Weapon's long gun systems.
Levi: You instructed me to give you GOOD news, Admiral.
- And another AI (when Schlock accidentally got misplaced):
Chelle: Cindy! Telemetry check, Sergeant Schlock!
Cindy: Found him. Good news, he IS still in this galaxy.
Chelle: We should stop lowering the bar for good news.
- Dave from Homestuck, about a machine that can defeat CAPTCHA codes:
- Earlier in the same comic, Rose produces a time-travel clone of her long-dead pet cat.
The wretched creature exhibits a number of unfortunate mutations though. The good news is that it will be mercifully UNESTABLISHED along with this facility shortly. This is also the bad news.
Uriel: Do you want first the bad news... or the worse?
- John Dies at the End has an example:
Dave: Well, the good news is we're on our way to Vegas. The bad news is, the truck is being driven by some sort of physical manifestation of evil.
- From the Yogscast Minecraft Series, we're reminded why one of the game's unwritten rules is "never dig up."
Simon: Good news is I've dug our way out. Bad news is we're going to drown.
- From South Park:
Terrance: I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you're perfectly healthy. The bad news is that you have cancer.
- Appears in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa:
Skipper: I've got good news and bad news. The good news is we'll be landing immediately. The bad news is we're crash-landing.
- "Good news, everyone!" Invariably, it's the "Reading Between the Good News" variety.
- There's the one time where Farnsworth catches himself: "Wait a minute, that's not good news at all!"
- Which is because this time, the bad news applies to himself. It's pretty much good news to the rest of the group.
- There's the one time where Farnsworth catches himself: "Wait a minute, that's not good news at all!"
- An episode of Bonkers presented Bonkers and Lucky with a Good News, Bad News situation, which they responded to by debating which they'd rather hear first. Lucky felt the Bad News was better to hear first because the Good News made up for it. Bonkers felt the Good News first made the Bad News not seem so bad.
- Played with on The Simpsons in one of the Treehouse of Horror episodes
Shopkeeper: Take this object, but beware it carries a terrible curse!
Homer: Ooh, that's bad.
Shopkeeper: But it comes with a free frogurt!
Homer: That's good.
Shopkeeper: The frogurt is also cursed.
Homer: That's bad.
Shopkeeper: But you get your choice of toppings.
Homer: That's good!
Shopkeeper: The toppings contain potassium benzoate.
[Homer looks puzzled]
Shopkeeper: ...That's bad.
Homer: Can I go now?
- Happened in DuckTales (1987) when Scrooge received the news that half of his fortune, stashed in a shipment of ice cream, was eaten by a sea monster.
- In The Venture Brothers, Colonel Gathers pulls the There is No Good News variant on Brock.
- The Not So Good News variant shows up in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Dragonshy"
Twilight Sparkle: Listen up! Smoke is spreading over all of Equestria... but don’t worry, I’ve just received a letter from Princess Celestia informing me that it is not coming from a fire.
Fluttershy: Oh, thank goodness.
Twilight Sparkle: It’s coming from a dragon.
- From the Fairly Oddpatents: "The good news is, I named my nickel Philip! The bad news is, IT'S A GIRL NICKEL!!!!!"
- A variation happens on Invader Zim when The Resisty goes up against The Massive.
- From the finale of Danny Phantom: