Is This Thing Still On?

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"Is that camera still running?!" (gunfire)

A character is making an announcement on TV/the radio/a PA system/what-have-you. Either at the beginning or, more commonly, after the end, the character will be heard making some tangential offhand or vulgar remark, realize what he or she has just done, and ponder:

"Oh God, is this thing still on?"

Compare Did I Just Say That Out Loud?, Oh God, Did She Just Hear That? A spontaneous and usually nonvillainous variant of the Engineered Public Confession. Not to be confused with Is This Thing On?, nor with what people say about shows still airing despite having fallen from popularity many years ago.

Time to go find that page... Wait. Is this still on?

Examples of Is This Thing Still On? include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In the Show Within a Show for Lucky Star, after the two hosts for Lucky Channel went off on a rampage, the "executive producer" is heard talking about how he had his doubts about them from the very beginning, before an underling informs him that the cameras are rolling, and he frantically orders someone to shut them off.
  • Moral from the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist. Never rant about your evil plan in the audio room. Just don't.
  • One Piece has something of this vein happen to General Failure Spandam. When trying to contact one of his agents, he inadvertently presses the button that will summon a devastating military attack on their location. When he actually contacts his agent and explains this, he's horrified to realize he'd gone and broadcast his confession, his prisoner's warnings about the mercilessness of the attack, and his almost Kefka-like glee at everyone's deaths furthering his own ambitions to his entire base. Upon his discovery, he meekly tries to say "and my name is 'Straw-Hat Luffy'." No-one buys it.
  • A variation in Karin: Usui's mother is being molested by her boss in a supermarket, and he accidentally pushes her into the intercom, turning it on. They both get fired, resulting in her becoming very depressed and attracting the title character.
  • In Super Dimension Fortress Macross Kamjin is reporting via audio-visual radio to his new commander Breetai when his aide arrives and claims the prize of their bet about their ability to ram more of Breetai's ships than the number of their ramming ships by defolding not far enough. Breetai was not amused.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • A variant is used in ROM Spaceknight when Rom manages to free himself from a female Dire Wraith scientist's restraints, gets to a friendly human who is similarly restrained and orders the trapped villain to free him. She does so, but also quietly turns on an intercom and plays up being trapped and threatened by the alien for the benefit of the lab complex's security forces. By the time Rom realizes what she is doing, it's too late and security is charging to the room.
  • In an early issue of "Threeboot" Legion of Super-Heroes, Cos went into a rant to Sun Boy about how the team was falling apart, without realising he had an open comchannel. This didn't help.


Comic Strips[edit | hide]

  • The Far Side has a comic of a pair of airline pilots talking. One of them is horrified, screaming that the fuel light is on, and that they're all going to die. "Oh, wait. My mistake. That's the intercom light."
  • In one of the strips for Brewster Rockit Space Guy, the title character has to give a speech about the R.U. Sirius to the crew, but can't seem to figure out what he says. The inept Engineer Cliff Clewless attempts to feed him on what to say via a bug, but the plan quickly unravels when, shortly after having Brewster give the greeting, Cliff ends up being distracted by a female member passing by in his vicinity, tries to give a pickup line along the lines of "You must be a parking ticket, because you've got "fine" written all over you", and subsequently being peppersprayed, all of which Brewster ended up parroting, causing either Brewster to realize that it was still on or him parroting Cliff's response. Lieutenant Pamela Mae Snap later tells Agent X that the speech in question, despite the obvious fact that Brewster ended up actually parroting what he should say via a bug, was actually one of Brewster's better speeches, implying that the previous ones usually turned out far worse.
  • In FoxTrot, Roger is singing "Love Machine" in the shower, and Jason, who was programming the voice answering machine, included Roger singing "Love Machine" as part of the message as one of his pranks. A few weeks later, in the final panel, has Roger confronting Jason on this fact, and Jason reminds Roger that Roger was the one who bought the model that had a cord that reached all the way upstairs.
  • In Doonesbury, Mark has a "guest" named Chase Talbot on his radio show. Mark keeps dropping hints about their being a couple, and they argue about it during the commercial break before realizing the mike was still on.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • In the Harry Potter parody, Potterdammerung, Voldemort does this while magically broadcasting his voice across Hogwarts, where the students hear the dark lord explain that he doesn't want pickles on his Big Mac.
  • The Vinyl Scratch Tapes: It takes them until part three to figure out when they aren't on the air.
  • Yet again, with a little extra help gives us one when, after Sarutobi welcomes the crowd to the Chunin Exam Finals, followed by Naruto and Sasuke performing their Firestorm combo. After Orochimaru and Hiruzen comment on the jutsu, one of the latter's aides informs him his mic is still on, leading to the following:

"What? The microphone is still on? This is why I hate technology... erm oh wait, they can still hear me. Um. YES! So welcome everyone to the Chunin exams! How do I turn this damn thing off again?"

Films -- Animation[edit | hide]

  • Toy Story 2, with Tour Guide Barbie at the end. Undoubtedly one of the best parts of the movie.
  • Darla Dimple in Cats Don't Dance. She tells off Danny the cat, because she's angry he's upstaged her at her big premiere. Unaware that in her frantic attempts to sabotage him from doing so, she accidentally turned on one of the boom mics. So her boss and all of Hollywood hears her scream, "I should've drowned you all when I FLOODED THE STAGE!!!"


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy -- "What? I'm on right now?... I don't believe you." Ron Burgundy in fact cheerfully and obliviously subverts this two more times in the movie, being compelled to say anything that's written on the teleprompter—something which takes a much darker (though still hilarious) turn when a mean-spirited prank causes him to drop the F-Bomb on live television.
  • A time reverse case in Head of State when Mays make a bad comment regarding school shooting to the camera, thinks it wasn't on yet, but it was revealed that it was on all the time and is still recording. Lewis then use the tape to attack Mays' presidential campaign.
  • How Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) finally destroys his political career in the classic 1949 movie All the Kings Men.
  • A made-for-TV Hallmark movie had the main female trying to get into an airport, and ended up professing her love for the main male. Which turns out to be a good thing.
  • Frank Drebin wears a remote mic in The Naked Gun first movie, before taking a trip to the can. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Slightly before the climax of Problem Child, Ben asks his Jerkass father Big Ben for money to pay the ransom of his kidnapped wife and son while the former is preparing for his Mayor campaign speech. When he turns him down, Ben then asks "Hey dad! Why don't you tell all the voters what you really plan on doing with this town!" and surreptitiously turns on the camera:

Big Ben: I don't give a rat's ass for the voters! All I care about is the power and the power that'll give me the money. That's why I'm a success and you're not! America for the Americans. If you believe that nonsense, you're even stupider than I thought! I'd sell my soul to the Japanese if they made me an offer. And as for you, don't come suckering around me if you want something! The only thing you'll get from me is this! (moons the camera)

  • In a deleted scene from Young Frankenstein.
  • Subverted in Escape From L.A.: Snake Plissken has covertly swapped an EMP control device with a similar-looking but useless playback device. The fascist President, in the middle of a nationally broadcast speech, orders Snake's death so they can find the real one. When reminded that the camera is on, he actually tells the cameramen to film the execution.
  • In Bringing Down the House Steve Martin "infiltrates" the bad guys' club in a very bad "wigger" disguise, complete with his own boombox. After sitting down with the bad guy, he is ordered to turn off the boombox—and he carefully presses Record as well, getting the entire confession on tape in the end.
  • In the Weird Al Yankovic movie UHF, the villain goes into a tirade before one of the protagonists on what he really thinks of his viewers, unaware that he's being taped. Near the end when he's going to make a public announcement, they put the recording on instead, putting the final nails in his coffin.
  • Occurs toward the end of the classic A Face in the Crowd from 1957. Antihero "Lonesome" Rhodes spends the bulk of the film riding his television-friendly image to fame and power, cynically hiding his true nature behind an aw-shucks facade. At the conclusion of one broadcast, Rhodes is sitting on stage with his fellow performers, apparently engaging in casual chitchat. As the show's theme music dominates the soundtrack, the home viewers can't hear what Rhodes is really saying: he's expressing his venomous contempt for his audience. Marcia Jeffries, a disillusioned former lover and business partner, commandeers the studio's control room and switches the audio so Rhodes's words are broadcast to the world. Rhodes is thereby ruined.
  • In Galaxy Quest, Nesmith explains a plan to defeat Sarris while Sarris is still listening and watching on the big screen, thanks to the crew's mistaking the "cut the comm link" across-the-throat gesture for a "we're dead" gesture. And not actually knowing where the hold button is, anyway.
  • Airplane!
    • Right after Rex Kramer says that their only hope is to build up Ted Stryker's confidence, he launches into a rant about how poorly suited Stryker is to fly the plane, not realizing that his microphone button is pressed.

Kramer: Stryker, you ever flown a multi-engine plane?
Stryker: No, never.
Kramer: Shit! It's a goddamn waste of time. There's no way he can land it! [snip] Route him into Lake Michigan. At least avoid killing innocent people!

    • Airplane! 2: The Sequel, Commander Buck Murdock of Alpha Beta Base on the Moon.

Ted Stryker: I hope he's not still bitter about what happened between us during the war.
Buck Murdock: If it weren't for the people up there, I'd say let Ted Stryker go down in a fiery twisted mass of molten metal.

  • Twice in Apollo 13: the first time, Jim Lovell uses some colorful language while attempting a tricky bit of piloting, not realizing (until Mission Control informs him) that his mike is live. Later, the astronauts are having a heated argument when Houston calls; Lovell snaps, "Are we on VOX?" This time they aren't, and he's able to switch to polite-and-professional mode before answering. The first one actually happened, the second was made up by the film makers.
    • Another, more serious live-mike mistake Lovell actually made on that mission: "Well, I'm afraid this is going to be the last lunar mission for a long time..."
  • Jindrake in Max Keeble's Big Move had a running joke relating to this trope (that, or Accidental Public Confession): The first time he is using the teleprompter to give the announcements, after apparently turning it off, he inadvertantly ended up exposing to the whole school that his appearance was all an act (he had a drape that was designed in such a way that implied that he was near the capitol building, and wore a costume that indicated a rank similar to that of a senator, congressman, or even the President of the United States.) with hilarity ensuing. He later did it a second time, only this time, he put pencils up his nose and acted as though he was a walrus. Of course, Your Mileage May Vary on that last one, as it was implied that he may have been doing that intentionally, but in either case, Hilarity Ensues. He later had one happen when he witnesses Max's cutout board stating comic-style that Jindrake was wearing a thong, which after the official end of the announcements, people were still seeing it. Subverted the fourth time when busting Max, where he did make sure he turned it off. Of course that didn't stop Max from reactivating the camera and exposing that Jindrake embezzled the school budget.
  • Happens in Mister Roberts when Morton leaves the mike to the ship's PA switched on when screaming at Roberts. This lets the crew know the truth about Roberts strange behaviour and that Morton is really the one to blame.
  • Horrible Bosses: Harken's confession is broadcast to and recorded 'for quality control purposes' by the navigation-system operator.


Jokes[edit | hide]

  • There is an old joke about an airline pilot who, following the typical preflight announcements, forgot to turn off the microphone before telling his co-pilot (and by extension, the entire plane) that "I could really go for a cup of coffee and a blowjob right now."
    • Told as a joke in Good Will Hunting.
    • In an extended version he says, "After we finish our coffee let's screw the stewardess." Upon hearing that, the stewardess storms to the cockpit in fury, only to be stopped by an elderly passenger who says: "Why such a hurry? They've yet to finish their coffee first."


Literature[edit | hide]

  • This happens to Mr. Kidswatter in the Wayside School books. As soon as he finishes a long welcome-back announcement about how he's so glad school is back in session after the cows left (don't... ask...) and how the students can come to him any time because they're all friends, he launches into a diatribe about how much he hates kids and how much it sucked to be called away from his vacation in the Bahamas. He's also not very nice to the secretaries telling him the microphone was still on...
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: In the eighth book Count Olaf began laughing maniacally until his girlfriend informed him the intercom was still on.
  • A Colder War, a Cthulhu Mythos short story by Charles Stross. The End of the World as We Know It (World War Three with Eldritch Abomination weapons) comes about because Ronald Reagan makes his "bombing in five minutes" joke (see "Real Life") before a live mike.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000
    • In the Mitchell episode, Frank accidentally contacts the Satellite of Love by leaning on The Button. Since Joel and the 'bots are on survival test maneuvers, Gypsy is the only one to respond. She overhears the Mads discussing how to kill temp worker Mike - and thinks they're planning to off Joel, which leads to Joel's escape from the S.O.L.
    • Played with in a later episode: Mike decides to find out whether the communications system works both ways and tries calling the Mads... who, not even knowing they're on in the first place, are caught engaging in some very suspect Ambiguously Gay pastimes.

Dr. Forrester: (looks suspiciously toward console) ...Oh my God. Switch on the game, Frank! Switch on the game! (Frank hurriedly finds a football game on TV; the Mads sit back down on the couch as far away from each other as possible)

  • Somewhat on one episode of Babylon 5; Marcus sings, "I Am the Very Model of a Model Major General" near the end—it continues into the credits, and finally you hear the director yell "CUT!"
  • Occurs frequently on Aaron Sorkin's shows, especially Sports Night.
  • And subverted in The West Wing, when Bartlet makes an insulting comment about his election opponent while the mic was still open just after a radio interview. Panic sets in amongst the staff and it seems they get away lucky when the opposition's response is totally inept. CJ is the only one to realize, at the end, that the president had to have done it deliberately.
  • In one episode of Murphy Brown, the FYI anchors are instructed to pretend to talk to each other during the closing credits. Unfortunately, Murphy forgot to turn off her mic and her inappropiate commentary goes on the air.
  • Thirty Rock
    • Happens twice to Liz Lemon in the second episode. First she assures Jenna that Tracy Morgan is a talentless nut who nobody wants to be involved with the show but Jack. Jenna is still wearing her microphone however and everybody (including Tracy) hears. Later on she attempts to apologize to him by explaining that she was just trying to calm the "paranoid and neurotic" Jenna, and also insults the other writers. This time she's actually in front of a camera and everybody both sees and hears her.
    • It also happens to Jack Donaghy, when he doesn't realize that a remote mic is broadcasting him while he gives himself an extremely embarrassing pep talk.
  • This is the basis for an episode of Yes Prime Minister. Humphrey, as a senior government official, records a radio interview on the subject of unemployment, but while chatting to the host afterwards, he freely admits that "nobody tells the truth about unemployment" because "no politicians have got the guts to do anything about it". Of course, the microphone was still on, and the rest of the episode is about Humphrey trying to get hold of the recording before it can get him into trouble with the Prime Minister. The PM does find out, and is surprised that the usually sophisticated Humphrey didn't know better than to fall victim to this trope, saying that you should always treat every microphone as if it were a live microphone.
  • The Colbert Report parodied the Bill O'Reilly "Inside Edition" clip ("Fuck it! We'll do it live!") with Colbert unable to say the words "I'm sorry." when they appear on the prompter. The expected fit of rage follows, Colbert Cluster F Bombs the show's producer and everyone else within earshot...

Colbert: We'll do it live!
Producer: Stephen... this is live.

  • On Have I Got News for You, Guest Host Jeremy Clarkson managed to offend several countries with offhand remarks. Panelist Charles Kennedy noted that he'd offended Scotland and Ireland and wondered if he was planning to try for Wales next. Jeremy added that he'd also offended Birmingham, but that it was before recording had started. Paul Merton pointed out that they were, however, recording now.
  • On Whose Line Is It Anyway, one of the Scenes From a Hat was "things the pilot wishes he hadn't said when the intercom was on." The performers listed:

Ryan Stiles: Ooh, those chalupas are coming back on me.
Colin Mochrie: Hawaii's shaped like a liver, right?
Ryan Stiles: This is easier than I thought!
Colin Mochrie: I'm so horny I can't think straight!
Brad Sherwood: Did you see the jugs on the girl in row 4?

  • Used frequently on Reno 911! whenever the officers make announcements.
  • A regular feature of Frasier, which justifies the trope by having the title character repeatedly broadcast embarrassing or insulting comments on his radio show (in one instance actually having sex on the radio), unaware that he is on the air. Notable uses include:
    • "The Adventures of Bad Boy and Dirty Girl":

Newscast: (on radio) In local news, Congressman Robert Gill was accused of accepting bribes from a waste treatment facility. Asked to comment, the congressman said--
Frasier: (cuts in orgasmically) Yes! YES!!! I am a bad boy, aren't I, you dirty girl! Come to your bad boy! Oh, yes... Oh, no! Is that the on-air light?
Kate: (on radio, whispering) Stop talking.
Frasier: You must have hit the switch with your elbow while we were...
Kate: Stop talking!
Frasier: We'd better hurry up and get dressed while we still...
Niles: (listening to them from his car radio) STOP TALKING! (Niles rear ends another car, causing the airbag to inflate in his face)

    • "A New Position for Roz", when she is teaching Noel how to produce Frasier's show:

Roz: Now, let me give you some pointers on call screening. Your first priority are your leapers and jumpers. Next up, angry people, they're great energy and a welcome change from our largest group, the sad sacks. The trick of it is, you want to arrange these calls so that each segment is "can't miss" radio.
Noel: I thought it was just about Frasier doing good work.
Roz: Please, it's all about ratings! If the station had its way, every call would end in an auto-erotic suicide.
Frasier: (from the booth) Thank you, Roz, now that Seattle knows how we do things around here, perhaps you could let Noel know to keep his elbow off the mic button!

  • In Ellen, the title character accidentally broadcasted her coming out over an airport PA system.
  • From Firefly:

Jayne: (over radio) Whoa now, girl, that is just plain dirty.
Mal: Jayne, you aware that your radio's transmittin'? Cause I ain't feelin' particular girlish or dirty at the moment.

    • Also in the Pilot, where Jayne tests an earworm transmitter... while standing right next to Mal.
  • It happened unintentionally to a guest on Bullshit! and subverted. After redecorating a room via supposed Feng Shui, said guest whispers to his helpers, not realizing that the mic is still on, "Still looks like shit."
  • Radio Active
    • One episode involves Morgan accidentally playing her singing along with a song over the radio, and her singing becoming a hit. The other students on the show try to fake things "accidentally" going over the air to show some talent of theirs, but the student body quickly tires of it.
    • Another episode involves Morgan accidentally playing over the air that she intends to quit the radio show because it's too much stress, and Hilarity Ensues as the others go to great lengths to get her to stay, since she's the only one who is actually organized.
  • On Alias, Sydney and Vaughn discuss a romantic night together. After they start getting dirtier, Sydney suddenly asks "Wait, are we still on comms?" Her father Jack answers "Yes, you're still on comms! Right now!"
  • In Salvage, the pilot for the shortlived series Salvage 1, Skip Carmichael suggests to Mel Slozar a way they might wile away the time on their flight to the moon. When she demurs, he asks if would help if he closed the blind. Their ground control then comes over the radio saying "No, but you might want to turn off your microphone".
  • An episode of Empty Nest has Dr. Harry Weston fielding calls from the public on a radio talk show. After an incredibly long day, Harry declared, "Thank God that's over, because I really have to go to the bathroom!", leading his embarrassed producer to tell him to turn off his microphone.
  • Monk
    • In the episode "Mr. Monk Gets Fired", Stottlemeyer admits to his wife that he realizes that having her do the documentary on him and the rest of the police force was a very big mistake, as the Lithonian Torso case, Monk getting fired, and the Commissioner hounding him is getting on his nerves... and then he realizes the camera's still on.
    • In "Mr. Monk and The End Part 1", Stottlemeyer and a squad of policemen were staking out at a train station for Kazarinski to capture him alive and find out what product he poisoned Monk with, as well as which poison he used. Disher arrives at the control tower after their odd lack of a response, and finds the tower staff murdered with blood everywhere. Unfortunately, Kazarinski left something else besides dead bodies at the tower, as he also left the mic on, causing the staff and passengers to hear Randy attempting to report to Stottlemeyer.
  • On an episode of Frontline, Mike starts insulting one of Elliot's songs after his microphone has been cut off at the end of the show. Unfortunately, he forgets that the camera is still on him during the end credits and that there's a sign language interpreter next to him. His comments are translated accurately and reported in the following day's newspaper.
  • On Mash, Hot Lips had a scorching case of prickly heat and woke up Col. Potter in the middle of the night to authorize some rash cream for the next supply shipment. Unfortunately, the Colonel had had trouble sleeping and had taken a powerful sleeping pill. As a result, he was in a daze at the communications desk and began rambling about Margaret's condition while accidentally tripping the camp PA.
  • In Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Frank goes on a monologue about how people can do whatever sick and twisted thing they want to his corpse when he's dead. At the time, he's mic'd and backstage at a children's beauty pageant that he's hosting.
  • In an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place, Justin reports to Rudy, the head of the Monster Hunter Council that three level 6 monsters (his vampire girlfriend and her parents) have been detected on Waverly Place and Rudy says he'll send over their best available monster hunters. After the conversation ends, Rudy says "That kid'll be a bone necklace inside of an hour", prompting an appropriately frightened look from Justin. Rudy notices this and begins backpedaling, saying that he meant a different bone necklace.

Rudy: How do I turn this thing off?!

  • In the ending credit Roseanne episode, The Parenting Trap, Roseanne is discussing with Neil Conrad on a family way of explaining about erections on an ABC show. Conrad was trying to explain how the censors would interfere. This leaves Rosanne to explain to Conrad that it was "too late" for the protest. Cue this moment.

Radio[edit | hide]

  • The famous Urban Legend has it some children's radio presenter in the '30s finished up his show, then said "That oughtta hold the little bastards!" on an open mic. He was allegedly fired immediately. The slip is supposedly uttered by Uncle Don, but his career says otherwise.
  • A 1969 NBC radio news capsule ended with the anchor recapping the headline, followed by somebody in the background uttering the word "bullshit".


Music[edit | hide]

  • In the last chorus of Steve Earle by Sugarland, the line "The others wanted your whole heart, but I just want your sleeve..." degenerates into a rapid-fire stream of speech-- "...and the shirt that goes with it 'cause it smells like you and you know I like to sleep in that, and a vacation house, at the beach, and a really small wedding, only 'bout three hundred people, did I tell you that I've got kids?..."—until Jennifer Nettles finally stops to ask, "Is this thing on?"
  • The Cuban Boys' "Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia", a cover of Roger Miller's "Whistle Stop", ends with a reenactment of the supposed Uncle Don incident.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

A squad of Sisters of Battle were all being inserted by dropship.
The male pilot comes on the radio and says, "We are just entering the atmosphere now and will be landing at base alpha zero zero in half an hour."
The pilot forgets to switch off the intercom and turns to his male co-pilot and asks, "So what are you going to do when we've landed?"
The co-pilot says, "Well firstly; I'm gonna have a HUGE dump, 3 day anti-grav flights don't do my bowels any good. Then I'm gonna go see that new lieutenant, you know, the one with the dark hair and huge breasts, take her out, wine her, dine her, then I'm gonna take her to my quarters...." he then proceeds to go into graphic detail of the night's animalistic loving.
The new lieutenant, horrified at the detail spewing from the speakers about various uses for the butt of the co-pilot's las-pistol, runs down the aisle to switch off the intercom, trips over a boltgun, and lands flat on her face.
A new recruit sitting opposite turns and says, "Whoa! Calm down Ma'am! He's gotta take that shit first!"


Theater[edit | hide]

  • In Follies, Max and Stella Deems say that their radio career ended this way.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Statesman Task Force for City of Heroes has a cutscene where the resident Mad Scientist, Dr. Aeon, traps the player characters in a desolate future, before rambling on about how they can escape. Realizing that he goofed by revealing exactly that, he orders the tape erased and the speech done over, but is reminded that (per his orders) they're broadcasting live.
  • Ratchet & Clank
    • Supreme Executive Chairman Drek broadcasts his plan to take parts of other planets (destroying them) to piece together a new planet to replace his polluted homeworld. He starts in a polite tone, but drops it after a crewman yells "cut!

Chairman Drek: ...Thank you for your cooperation.
Crewman: CUT!
Chairman Drek: ... and if you don't like it, you can take your whiny, sniveling, snot-nosed population, form a line behind me, and kiss my--! What, is it still on? Well, turn it off, you idiot!

    • When you reach a certain point in Ratchet and Clank Up Your Arsenal, Big Al professess his love for Helga over the intercom at the Starship Phoenix, then realizes the intercom is on.
  • In the first Command & Conquer game, after a mission in which you (playing GDI) save a town from being wiped out by Nod, there is a cinematic featuring a reporter in front of a scene of destruction saying that the town was wiped out by GDI. It then cuts to a green-screen in a studio, where Big Bad Kane begins to give orders on the distribution of the propaganda video before noticing the camera and shooting it while ordering the destruction of its film.
  • Tyrian has this happen in Episode 4. Big Good Transon Lohk leaves the mic on after recording his messages twice; the first time is only mildly interesting, but the second time drove the protagonist to do this.
  • In ER: The Game, the player is frequently called over the intercom to be assigned a new task. One of these calls...

Jerry Markovic: This place is going to the dogs! What...? The mic is on? Ahem... Doctor, the lady with the dogs has finished her exams and is waiting for you....

  • In The Movies, on the radio announcement two years before the depression event hits early in the game.

Radio Announcer: ... Including this news reporter, who's set to make a fortune and kiss goodbye to all you hardworking suckers out there. Wait, is this thing still on?

  • Both of the UNN reporters in StarCraft II are terrible about this. For instance, when Kate reports on Donny Vermillion's sudden hospitalization in a neutral "news" tone, and wishes him well - and forgets to turn her mic off before celebrating her promotion to anchor.
  • Used in one of Eggman's PA announcements in Sonic Colors:

"Please beware of the spikes on the Asteroid Coaster -- they are sharp.... Really, we have to warn people about spikes? Like they won't notice the spikes, I mean come on -- the cars are nothing but spikes! Unbelievable! Wh -- uh -- my what is still on?"

  • During World of Warcraft's Operation Gnomeregan event, the Mad Scientist who's taken over the gnomes' underground city uses a "Brag-Bot" to taunt the heroes. First he launches into his rant, stops to make sure that the mike is on, and then starts over. Later, while gloating how his trump card will vaporize everyone, he wishes aloud that he could see his arch-rival's face before realizing that the mike is still on.
  • In Godzilla Destroy All Monsters Melee, the Vortaak leader finishes his speech, pauses for about two seconds, and realizes the camera is still rolling.

"That is all. (Beat) ...Am I still on? Oh. Well. We now return you to... whatever it was you were doing. Idiots."


Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Terrorists McLocke, Kaige and Rice from Survival of the Fittest accidentally activate the PA system in their headquarters, treating the students to a charming rendition of a Slash Fic (involving two of the students) they found on the web. Danya is not pleased, particularly when they go from reading the fic to insulting him and the entire organisation.
  • Parodied in Red vs. Blue Season 9's trailer, where Pelican pilot 479'er insults the air traffic controllers, leading to this exchange:

Controllers: "We heard that, 479'er."
479'er: "Yup. That's cause I transmitted it."

  • De Rez "Searching For Gordon Freeman": While having a private discussion about the fact that the cameraman doesn't know how to edit, Dave decides they can work with it, doing everything in one take, as long as there are no screw-ups. Then, "Is that on?"


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Family Guy
    • Happens in "I Never Met The Dead Man" where all the cable TV in Quahog shut down, and the people on the news start saying offensive things before being told that they're still on in Boston.
    • And in the episode "The Story on Page One", Stewie puts a mind-control device on Chris and speaks through him, and then accidentally transmits a conversation between himself and a bum while Chris is in a store trying to buy murder supplies.
  • The Simpsons
    • Subverted with Groundskeeper Willy on "Do What You Feel Day" in "Bart's Inner Child":

Willy: (on a podium) If I'm elected mayor, the first thing I'll do is to kill the lot of you, and burn your town to cinders!
Technician: (whispering) The mic is still on.
Willy: I know it's on!

    • In one Halloween episode, a vampiric Burns greets the Simpsons over the intercom:

Burns: Welcome! Please come in... Ah, fresh victims for my ever-growing army of the undead.
Smithers: Sir, you have to let go of the button.
Burns: Oh, son of a bi--

    • Let's not forget the episode with Gabbo and "all the kids in Springfield are SOBs" (a line inspired by a real life kids' entertainer who got caught in his own Is This Thing Still On? moment. Allegedly.). Although in the case of Gabbo, it was more of an Engineered Public Confession than an actual "Is this thing still on?" moment, as the camera was actually off, but Bart managed to stealthfully turn it back on while Gabbo was ranting about how Springfield's children are Sons of Bitches. It is played completely straight with Kent Brockman shortly thereafter, however, with predictable results, ironically right after chastising Gabbo for the faux pas.

Kent Brockman: Gabbo's kind of language has no place on or off TV. And that's My Two Cents. Heheh, that oughta hold the little SOBs. Heheh... (a prompt comes up with his picture while giddily saying this previous statement and a caption saying "Brockman in Trouble")... WHAT THE?!

    • In yet another episode, Homer is brought on stage to demonstrate a motion capture suit for animation. After hamming it up a bit, he goes off to the bathroom, complete with the CG dog doing likewise. "Urinal cake eroding...eroding...gone!"
  • On The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, SpongeBob steps into the podium thinking he's just been named manager of the Krusty Krab 2. He starts making his speech when Mr. Krabs whispers in his ear:

SpongeBob: I'm making a complete what of myself? The most embarrassing thing you've ever seen? And now I'm making it worse by repeating everything you say into the microphone?

  • In a 1996 episode of Animaniacs, the Warners are heard over the closing credits, complaining about work, dissing their voice actors, even trying to figure out who Steven Spielberg is. It is at the end when they discover they still had their microphones on.
    • And in "Yes, Always", Pinky does it. He makes a rude remark regarding Brain to the sound engineer, not realising that he is standing on the microphone button.
  • The following occurs in an episode of Justice League:

Linda Park: Are we off? Jeez, he's [[[The Flash]]] a total babe. Like the entire track team at once. I can't believe you're not into him, Marla.
Camera person: ... Okay, now you're off.
(Linda slaps her reading card on her forehead in embarrassment)

  • Lrrr from Futurama after he makes a threatening transmission to Earth and cues for the camera to be off.

Lrrr: Well I think that went well. (starts to scratch himself) Ya know it when you can't scratch is when you you have to. What... we're still on?! UGH! (camera cuts off)

Mayor: Nohoho nooo. Now I'll be stuck in this podunk town forever, with all these stupid hick, redneck, jobless, truck driving idiots.
Aide: Uh, Mayor, the mic is on.

    • Another episode has a demon manipulate a Republican speaker into supporting the extended life support of Kenny even though he was stuck in a vegetative state, so every time he spoke the Republican would repeat what he just said. However, his tendency to speak in snarls had the Republican repeat that too, then he complained about how he wasn't supposed to say that, only for the Republican to repeat that he wasn't supposed to repeat that.
  • An episode of Doug combined this with Engineered Public Confession; Roger, who framed Doug for stealing one of Vice-Principal Bone's yodeling trophies, goes into the office to taunt Doug, sits at Bone's desk and kicks his feet up—switching on the intercom just in time for Bone to hear the whole thing. Doug even tries to warn him, but Roger's too full of himself to notice until it's far too late.
  • The Urban Legend mentioned in the Radio section is given a nod in the Pinky and The Brain song about the parts of the brain, by The Brain, naturally.
  • In the Arthur special regarding Francine starting a rock band that quickly becomes a celebrity band, the Principal, after doing the announcements, is muttering bitterly to himself about the band's choice of a band name ("You Stink!"), only to realize shortly thereafter realize that he left the mic on.
  • Used and lampshaded several times in the American Dad episode "You Debt Your Life." The school's morning announcement readers repeatedly get Drunk with Power, only to be deposed by this. The crème de la crème comes after Principal Lewis has cancelled the announcements and grumbles about why he ever quit being a cocaine dealer in South America, where he had all the money, blow, and girls ("not women, GIRLS!") he could ever want. Then a teacher tells him that the mic is still on; cue hearty Precision F-Strike.
  • In one episode of Combo Ninos, Diadoro makes unflattering comments about the audience just as his assistant has finished repairing the equipment and activating the microphone.
  • The "beginning" variant shows up in Batman the Animated Series. After the theme of the "Jokers Wild" casino is revealed on live television (complete with revolving laughing Joker head) reporter Summer Gleeson is caught on camera muttering, "Just disgusting."


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • This happens often enough that one mantra of politics is "Every microphone is live." But to get down to specifics...
  • George W. Bush
    • Bush's much-mocked "get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit" aside to Tony Blair concerning the Middle East. The full transcript is enlightening, and ends with a literal "Is this thing on?"
    • Then there was the time when Bush had a press conference with some US troops in Iraq, a PR event advertised as the President's chance to have a "frank, spontaneous conversation" with the soldiers. Problem was, a news channel picked up a live feed of the conference room before the event showing a full-blown rehearsal with every question and cute one-liner laid out in advance.
    • "There's Adam Clymer, major-league asshole from the New York Times." "Oh yeah, he is, big time."
    • On the other hand, the famed "Now watch this drive" is not an example of this trope, as he knew full well the cameras were still on him. A Face Palm moment for sure, but not this trope.
    • There was also the time he gave the middle finger to someone at a speaking engagement, apparently no knowing the cameras were still on.
  • Barack Obama
    • Characterized Kanye West as 'Jackass' after antics at MTV Video Music Awards. Many conservatives commented that they finally found something to agree with him on...
    • Forgot the live mike in discussion with Dmitry Medvedev, assuring him that he'll have more freedom of movement after his final re-election. Conservatives are wondering what kind of sell-out he's planning after he's no longer under re-election pressure...
    • His "anti-fly ninjitsu" that got him in trouble with PETA...
  • From Overheard in New York: This quote.
  • There's a moderately famous recording of a bewildered Brooklyner named Gloria accidentally leaving a long and rambling conversation on They Might Be Giants' answering machine, in which she and an anonymous individual debate the dubious economics of Dial-A-Song. The recording was eventually made into a Stupid Statement Dance Mix. It was included, apparently unedited and without alteration, on the dual CD compilation which collected their first few albums.
  • This incident from the 2008 Republican National Convention, in which Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy (commentators one would normally expect to be sympathetic to Republicans) made dismissive comments about the party's prospects and selection of Sarah Palin as its Vice-Presidential candidate.
  • Jesse Jackson was caught on mic whispering, "I wanna cut his nuts off," referring to Barack Obama. Made further hilarious by the jerking motion he made, as though motioning just how he would go about with the castration.
  • Three employees [dead link] were fired from a Des Moines sports radio show when their profanity-riddled argument over credentials in a high school sports league was aired behind a commercial break.
  • While attending a course during his time posted to Egypt, then-Lieutenant Charles Hazlitt Upham (later winner of TWO Victoria Crosses) once looked out into a briefing-theatre full of generals and muttered, "My oath -- what a galaxy of bloody talent!"... not realising he was standing next to a live microphone.
  • When showing live coverage of a speech given by George W. Bush on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, CNN anchor Kyra Phillips visited the bathroom, leaving her mic on. Parts of a personal conversation between Phillips and a colleague—criticizing her sister-in-law and giving advice on men—were broadcast live as though it were color commentary. How this was not noticed by a sound engineer before Kyra returned to the studio is unknown.
  • Similarly, several years ago during some sort of Hollywood celebrity event Joe Pantoliano left his mic on after he thought the interview was over and proceeded to take a long and luxurious leak in the men's room, an act which gives new meaning to his nickname Joey Pants.
  • In July 2009 Michael Duvall, a California state assemblyman, was captured on tape describing to a colleague—in graphic detail—his ongoing extramarital affairs with two different women, one of whom turned out to be a lobbyist for a company in a sector (energy) that Duvall's legislative committee was in charge of overseeing. The tape in question was eventually aired by a TV station, prompting Duvall's eventual resignation.
  • There's an extra on the fourth season DVDs of How I Met Your Mother that has a panel of the stars and writers answering questions. Toward the end, Neil Patrick Harris gets up and goes to the bathroom, but forgets to remove his mic. Hilarity Ensues.
  • During the eighties and early nineties it was very common for US TV networks to transmit satellite feeds without any form of scrambling or encryption so anyone with a satellite dish and satellite TV tuner could view them. Because of this it was possible for people to watch (and record) satellite interviews as they were being conducted. For live broadcasts, the feed was usually setup far before the interview began and when the network cut to commercial or another segment of the program the satellite feed usually stayed on leading to many real-life instances of this trope. Several of them were collected in a documentary called Spin
  • News anchor Sue Simmons, displeased with some off-camera incident, unleashes a hilarious bit of profanity. She later apologized, but David Letterman still had a tremendous amount of fun at her expense.
  • Pat Robertson had a simliar blunder when he tried to insult the caller he had just spoken to, thinking his mic was off. It wasn't.
  • At the end of an interview, having thought that the broadcast had ceased, Mel Gibson added a little something to the end of his farewell to the interviewer he probably didn't intend to go to air.
  • During a group photo with his sons, Prince Charles muttered "I can't stand that man," referring to a prominant newspaper's royal correspondent. Naturally, because the man was that newspaper's royal correspondent, he had to report this comment about himself in the press.
  • Famous British football commentator Ron Atkinson said, referring to French player Marcel Desailly: "He is what is known in some schools as a lazy thick nigger." Although transmission in the UK had finished, his comment was broadcast to various countries in the Middle East. He had to resign from his job.
  • Vice President Joe Biden on health care reform: "This is a big fucking deal."
  • Bill "Fuckin' thing SUCKS!" O'Reilly, as mentioned under The Colbert Report above.
  • Casey Kasem wants to know why he's coming out of a fucking up tempo record into a death dedicaton. Kasem knew the mic was on, he just didn't expect the outtakes to ever be heard outside of the recording studio.
  • During his tenure on CBS' Early Show, Bryant Gumbel was interview Media Research Center president Brent Bozell in 2000 when Gumbel turned around and dropped an F-bomb on Bozell (keep in mind, this is fairly early in the morning). Also keep in mind that he was being forced to talk to a man arguing that gay people should be forbidden to become scoutmasters in Boy Scouts.
  • CNN, covering the 2004 Democratic National Convention, cut to a live feed from producer Don Mischer's microphone, just in time to catch him upbraiding his staff for a mediocre balloon drop. Cluster F-Bomb with confetti!
  • While being driven to his next appointment after a conversation with a local voter about immigration, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown referred to her as "a bigoted woman". After the audio made the news, he took a trip to her house to personally apologize. In between, he also failed to realise there was a camera filming him in the radio studio where the news was broken to him on air.
  • Back when Oliva Munn was part of Attack of the Show!, She did interviews around E3 2010. On one night she did an informal E3 Stream with Co-host Kevin in their hotel room. During the stream Kevin made comments about Olivia's sex life, not amused she decided to cut to commercial break and reveals her persona to Kevin. Fast forward about four minutes later and she's about to turn the stream back on, but there's a problem...she never turned it off
  • Similarly, during the 1989 election campaign, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke referred to a pensioner who had just harrangued him during a meet-and-greet as a "silly old bugger". The muttered comment was recorded by a television crew accompanying the PM and quickly became front page news across the country.
  • From Reader's Digest: an air traffic controller aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier didn't realize his mic was still on after talking to a pilot, saying "That guy sounds just like Elmer Fudd." After a long, awkward silence the pilot radioed back: "Be vewy vewy quiet. We're hunting submawines."
  • BBC weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker gave a sarcastic newsreader the finger, then realised half a second too late that he was live on air. His goggle-eyed Oh Crap face is priceless.
  • During the September 11th, 2001 attacks, broadcasters had far bigger things to concentrate on than FCC regulations, so most news broadcasts gave viewers an almost uninterrupted 8-hour stream of Cluster F Bombs and pointed Precision F Strikes from frightened civilians running by the cameras. This included lines such as, "This is all fucking crazy! This is the fucking end!"
  • In 2009, Chilean senator Fernando Flores is about to finish an interview for the CNN Chile channel. His host makes some questions that he dislikes, then finishes the interview. Just before the transmision was about to finish, a pissed-off Flores rants about how the guy's questions were "fucking dumb" among other things. That part was caught on-tape and then uploaded to youtube...
  • During the Apollo 16 lunar mission, while the astronauts were resting after a moonwalk, John Young told his colleague Charlie Duke how the potassium-laced orange juice they were given to drink was giving him gas, and how he intended never to eat another fucking orange again after the flight was over. Eventually Mission Control warned him that he had a "hot mike". It seems that his mike key was stuck in the "on" position—quite possibly by some dried orange drink that had been spilled earlier. The very same orange drink he'd been complaining about.
  • Shortly after the astronauts aboard Apollo 13 moved to the lunar module, the mike setting was switched to VOX (voice-operated transmission) by accident. The Capcom first tried to hint that the mike was hot by responding to the astronauts' private conversation; despite the hint, the astronauts still failed to see that the mike setting was not on "Normal Voice". It eventually had to be pointed out directly by the Capcom, similar to the movie. Even worse, later in the mission, Lovell accidentally made a comment that it would likely be the last mission for a long time; again, this was while the mike was on a VOX setting.
  • At a city council meeting in 2010, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson landed himself in hot water when he was recorded insulting his constituents as "hacks" of a rival local political party because they opposed his rental housing development plan. Annoyingly, the media (and inevitable backlash against the reports) focused on a supposed outrage over his use of profanity rather than the fact that he was belittling anyone who disagreed with him as a "hack" of a local political party. (The idea of a "hack" of any municipal political party sounds hilarious to this Vancouverite).
  • Ronald Reagan once, as a part of a sound test, announced "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.". However, the joke was leaked (sometimes erroneously reported as having been broadcast immediately), and the Soviet Union was very unpleased.
  • A certain air traffic controller was found to be a little distracted at work when his mic accidentally got switched on and he played his movie to all the passing planes...
  • A Southwest Airline pilot ranted to his co-pilot about the lack of Sexy Stewardess on his flights, and being around with only gays, grannies, and overweight folks. Unknowingly, he had turned on the mic, broadcasting to everyone in Texas airspace, but didn't even stop when an air traffic controller tried to butt in.
  • In October 2011, this happened to two world leaders for the price of one. At a G20 summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a liar; President Obama responded "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!"
  • Another rather innocent thing, A local news station had an anchor who was feeling sick to his stomach, but was going to do the broadcast either way since it was live and he had a devotion to his job. Eventually he started to feel sick during the broadcast and asked them to cut. The cameramen saw that he was getting pretty pale and sweaty, so they killed the video feed...unfortunately the audio was still being recorded, so viewers could hear the news anchor shout, "GET A BUCKET! QUI-" and then the sound of him throwing up on the floor, and it was broadcast live. 20 years after the incident, they still played that clip.
  • During an interview on ITN, the unpopular British Prime Minister John Major - thinking that his microphone was off - was caught on tape referring to rebellious members of his Cabinet as a shower of "bastards".
  • 'Bigotgate,' a scandal centred around British PM Gordon Brown insulting one of his voters, came about because he forgot to switch off his microphone.

There. That oughta hold the little S.O.B's... wait...