Is This Thing On?

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Bob the rock star is ready to wow the crowd with his hip brand of radical rap-rock-metal fusion. He calmly walks onto the stage. The crowd remains in an eager silence. He takes slow, echoing steps towards his personal, Jimi Hendrix signed microphone. His hand reaches out to grasp it. A light but dramatic cough, and... "Hey, Is This Thing On?" *tap tap tap* "Testing, testing, 1-2-3...".

Okay, so it's rarely that dramatic. But 9 times out of 10, you can bet any character, no matter how experienced with electrical sound equipment, WILL utter this phrase. You've probably Seen It a Million Times, probably even in real life. For some reason the microphone will always feedback for a moment. Unfortunately, because of a case of TV Never Lies, many people will often do this in Real Life, thinking this is the normal way to test a microphone. Doing so actually damages the microphone, and the AV technicians running the show will probably get really frustrated at you. If feedback DOES occur, the AV will become even more frustrated. Despite this fact, all forms of media still use this trope, misleading the common people to think that it is the proper way to check a mic.

Not to be confused with Is This Thing Still On?, though the two are vaguely similar.

Examples of Is This Thing On? include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Kantai Collection, Kirishima is a little obsessed with checking microphones she's given, even in her Image Song. In fact, she'll also check mics that she isn't going to use -- when Naka threw a microphone at Kirishima's sister, Kongou, Kirishima intercepted it and checked it before passing it on.

Fan Works

"Is this thing on? (coughs noisily) You are now thinking about what Zarbon did to you while you were unconscious. Have fun with that."


  • The 2009 Astro Boy film.
  • Shrek 2 has this trope, although rather amusingly it's when the fairy godmother is recording an "answering machine message"...
  • The Incredibles has it in its initial interview to Mr. Incredible.
  • In Home on the Range, show cow Maggie says this line and blows at her cow bell.
  • Said in the The Prowler when the supervising teacher tells the partygoers that there is a prowler on the grounds and everyone should stay inside.


  • Discworld:
    • Played with in the novel Thud!: an ancient recording of a historic dwarven leader begins with a couple of loud knocking noises, followed by "Art thys thyng workyng?"
    • In Soul Music, Asphalt the roadie says "One two. One. One. One two." prior to the concert at The Cavern, but doesn't know why.
  • In one Ciaphas Cain novel, an out-of-touch, confused planetary governor practices a speech... only to learn that the camera was in fact on the whole time.

Live-Action TV

  • Doctor Who: The Doctor does this with his camera when recording his instructions for Martha in Human Nature.
  • In one of the last episodes of I Love Lucy, Fred installs an intercom between his guest house and the Ricardo's main house. Lucy tests it with the "Testing 1,2,3" method.
  • Played with in Slings and Arrows. A stagehand soundchecks with "check, one, to be or not to be" before Oliver's memorial service.


I sit alone in my four cornered room, starin' at candles... Oh that shit is on? heh.
Let me drop some shit like this here

  • Eminem
    • The Eminem Show album ends with a skit. During the skit Ken Kaniff taps the microphone and says "Erm... izzis thing on...?"
    • At the start of "The Real Sugar Baby" (a cover of Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady", only with a female singer and with "sugar baby" instead of "slim shady") the singer goes into the mic at the start; "Hello, is this thing on?"
  • The Shellac song, "The End of Radio", repeats this phrase many times. Which is especially surreal when you consider that band leader Steve Albini is a professional recording engineer. "This... microphone... turns sound into electricity! Can you hear me now?!"
  • Lady Sovereign begins "A Little Bit of Shhh" with this phrase.
  • Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine would usually open concerts by shouting "one, two"
  • Less Than Jake has a song with this trope as its name. It uses the phrase to represent loneliness and watching the world leave you behind.

You're on your own.
Can't make it through this world all alone.
Is this thing on at all?

  • The Jimi Hendrix song "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" has this trope as its first line after the epic intro/solo.

New Media

Newspaper Comics

  • In one Far Side comic, captioned "Testing whether fish have feelings", two scientists have one microphone in a fishbowl inhabited by a single goldfish and another one being held by one of the scientists. The scientist begins to yell insults at the fish, only to ask if the mic is on when he doesn't get a response.

Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

  • Stock covering line for a comedian who tells a joke at which no-one laughs.
  • Parodied by Zack Galifianakis, playing a stand-up comic from the 1700s. "Is this thing on?...What is this thing?"
  • In Bill Bailey's Part Troll tour, he mentions how in one review he was described as looking like "a medieval roadie":

Bill Bailey: A medieval roadie? Ah, one do I say, one do I say, one do I say, one do I say then surely two should follow, two should follow, two should follow, two should follow.

  • Averted in CrapShots #25. Graham tests the microphone, but does not tap it. He does say some pretty embarrassing things, though.


  • Used in Wicked -- for a malfunctioning wand.
  • The Tango: Maureen in Rent.

Mark:Say something. Anything.
Joanne: Test, 1, 2, 3...
Mark: ... anything but that.

Video Games

  • In Dead to Rights, the objective of one of the levels is to stop a member of a corrupt SWAT-style unit from calling his boss. During the level the guy constantly repeats "Come in, hey Dick you copy! This stupid... What's the damn frequency?"
  • Similarly, Malcolm Corley said "How do I turn this thing off?" in Full Throttle.
  • At one point in Batman: Arkham Asylum, Harley Quinn says this while delivering an announcement over the Arkham Asylum PA system.
  • In the intro of Crash of the Titans, Cortex appears inside of a big zeppelin and utters this line before properly addressing (and kidnapping some of) the protagonists of the game.
  • Resident Evil 5: Albert Wesker says this in a voicemail message (don't look for it in the game; it's a joke by Wesker's VO D.C. Douglas).

Wesker: Is this thing on? Excella, I told you I hate AT&T! [sigh] Greetings, you have reached Albert Wesker's... celulate device. I'm currently away on business-- business that does not concern you. If Chris has given you this number I'll deal with you shortly. If you're calling to confirm the date of launch for the final phase of... the plan, please dial 01-800- [background noise] Excella, do not touch that! [more noise] Goddamnit, woman!

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Uttered by Lrrr of the planet Omicron Persei 8 in an episode of Futurama.
  • Used in the series Dave the Barbarian in which a peasant asks a series of really bad jokes before asking: "Has this thing been invented yet?"
  • Subverted in The Simpsons where Moe tells an awful joke, asks if his microphone is on, then gets an apology from Barney as he failed to plug the wire in.
  • Used in the start of the opening theme for Sid the Science Kid.

Real Life

  • Being an experienced professional doesn't mean that you don't do it—it means that you spend an hour doing it before the show starts to make sure the levels are correct.
    • Some professionals don't, however. Techs often use tongue-twisters, poems, songs and even a grocery list to sound check to ensure a broad range of vowel and consonant sounds are properly equalized. Tapping the mic, however, is frowned upon.
    • And even that doesn't foretell if the thing's actually going to work. Someone who's had a mic fail on them even after all this testing will still perform this ritual to make sure the thing's working.
    • Tapping the mic damages the thing. That is why it is frowned upon. It is also really frustrating for the AV when the people using the mic to tap the thing, not trusting the AV that it is on and working.
    • Surprisingly frustrating when working smaller venues. During sound checks, inexperienced singers will literally just say "check check, one two" and leave it at that as a result of this trope. In reality it takes a minute or two to properly EQ each microphone, and a few mumbled words are of no use to man nor beast. Many will also need to be given a specific topic to talk about, as they're often unwilling to sing a'capella in front of their mates and blowing their cool.
  • The trope is justified however, as both "testing" and "one two" feature harsh syllables (Two), plosives (WUH-ne) and sibilance (teSSSting), the three fiddliest aspects of speech to amplify. Once you've got these three sorted, the rest is easy.
    • Some replace "toast" for "testing", which serves much the same purpose. There's also usually at least one smart arse who goes for "testes". It's neither as funny nor as original as you think it is, but it tends to break up the monotony.
  • Reputedly happened to a priest at the beginning of Eucharist. "And He took the bread, praised God and said: Is This Thing On?"
  • At one point in his Presidency Ronald Reagan was asked to talk into a mic for a sound level and turned the trope Up to Eleven by saying "Negotiations with the Soviet Union have failed, we begin bombing in ten minutes." Needless to say the Russians were not amused.