Cutaway Gag

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"Gee, her new boyfriend's scarier than an Iraq Lobster!"

Peter: Sorry, Joe, I just had one of my Scrubs fantasy moments.
Quagmire: It's the best show you're not watching!
Cleveland: I hate shows that cut away from the story for some bull crap.
(Cut to Adolf Hitler, juggling three fish while riding a unicycle)

Also known as a Cutaway Joke or, thanks to South Park, a Manatee Gag, a Cutaway Gag is a joke generally found in sillier comedies in which one character says something completely random and the action immediately cuts to a throwaway joke. The Cutaway Gag is a non sequitur in that it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the comedy. It is just there to be funny. And if the gag is funny, no one minds the non sequitur. Of course, if it isn't...

A staple of the Gag Series, or those using Rapid-Fire Comedy (after all, it's easy to have lots of jokes if you don't need them to make sense).

Compare Non Sequitur Scene, Imagine Spot, Crazy Memory, Product Promotion Parade (which this can overlap with), Separate Scene Storytelling. Also an Aversion to the Noodle Incident, especially when they briefly start off with a bit of dialogue that would imply such a trope.

Examples of Cutaway Gag include:


Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Has Geico adopted a cutaway gag based advertising campaign by actually showing the results of their sarcastic questions? Does Cromartie High School feature strumming guitars in the mountains?
  • The General Auto Insurance television commercials has a character who is a "General" for obvious reasons. Not so obvious is the reason for the penguin sidekick.


Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Used and explicitly lampshaded in one episode of Cromartie High School, which suddenly cuts to a sequence titled "Let's Strum A Guitar In The Mountains!", at the end of which the man playing the guitar throws the instrument up in the air, screaming "Oh my god, this is a non-sequitur!"
  • Seen in Inuyasha when the group are trying to stop two warring brothers from tearing up the countryside. When Inuyasha gets side-tracked complaining about how warring brothers cause needless hassle for everyone and then defensively claiming that he and Sesshoumaru have nothing in common with these two brothers, Sango - in a moment of complete randomness - wonders if Sesshoumaru's the kind of person who sneezes when he's talked about. Cue the momentary Cutaway Gag which doubles as a Sneeze Cut to reveal that it's actually Jaken who sneezes on Sesshoumaru's behalf and that he really dislikes this aspect of being Sesshoumaru's servant. Then the normal plotline continues.
  • This is done in Axis Powers Hetalia: The notorious dance scene with Japan and Switzerland. Yo ho ho, tra la la la...
  • Persona 4: The Animation does this twice in episode 11. When the team realizes they've left the head of Teddie's original body behind. Cue some kid crying at its white-eyed, soulless stare. Same kid both times, but in different places.
  • Episode 16 of Slayers had Lina, Gourry, and Amelia travelling with a theater company. The director decided to cast them in an upcoming play, with Amelia as the hero. In one scene where she reads a line from the script (in her usual Large Ham / Love Freak way), the background shifts to make it look like she is a voice actress in a recording studio. Then she asks "how was it?"—cut to Gourry behind the recording desk, who says "Sorry, you were blowing into the mic." The background then shifts back to normal, and Amelia responds "I was what?!"


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Darkwing Duck (in the new comics): After Darkwing welcomes Launchpad back as his sidekick:

Launchpad: There aren't really a lot of positions open for sidekicks/pilots.
*Cut to Launchpad holding the Rangerplane with Gadget standing on his shoulder*
Launchpad: I can pilot this!
Gadget: No. No, you cannot.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

Edgeworth: This is just like that one episode of the Steel Samurai where he meets the Pink Princess! WHEEEEEEE!!!
Phoenix: (Doctor, I'd like the part of my brain responsible for that image lobotomized please...)


Film[edit | hide]

  • There are several scenes like this in the comedy Airplane!. One is where someone in the control tower says that the people flying the plane are gonna be fine; after all, "they're on instruments!" Cut to the plane's cockpit, where several of the characters are playing real swingin' jazz music.

You've gotta talk him right down to the ground! (watermelon falls right to the ground)
We go back a long time. (long spear is thrown into the wall behind him)

  • The "Zombie Kill of the Week" segments from Zombieland. It's only one scene, and it generally feels like something the executives had put in later for the trailer, but it's actually an artefact from when Zombieland was originally conceived as a TV show that they decided to keep.
  • The Princess and the Frog: After meeting Louis, Naveen asks why he's never tried to play jazz.

Louis: Oh, I tried once.

  • Cut to Louis jumping onto a river boat and playing his trumpet. Five seconds later, he dives back into the river as the boat's passengers fire at him.*

Louis: It didn't end well.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

Mrs. Turpin: That's Mr. Kamikaze, the pilot. He's very nice really, but make sure he stays clear of battleships.
(cut to Stock Footage of battleships)
Voiceover: There have been many stirring tales told of the sea and also some fairly uninteresting ones only marginally connected with it, like this one. Sorry, this isn't a very good announcement.

  • Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In was, too.
  • Titus (starring, surprise surprise, Christopher Titus) featured so many cutaway gags that some fans referred to it as a live action "Family Guy."
  • The Young Ones often featured Manatee Gags. Although they usually segued from and back to the main action somehow.
    • Their use was lampshaded in one episode where there was a close up on an animated matchbox which merely said 'Don't look at me, I'm irrelevant'
  • As suggested by the quote above, Scrubs, with J.D.'s flights of fancy.
    • Although the one time they actually made a joke about a manatee, it was not one of these. (Although it was a non-sequitur, it wasn't a cutaway.)
  • Frequently used in How I Met Your Mother, usually in the form of someone's memory or invoking a brief flashback (appropriate, given that the entire series is a flashback made of a guys memories).
  • Thirty Rock.
    • They even managed to do this in the Live Episode; Julia Louis-Dreyfus replaced Tina Fey in the flashback scenes.

Jack: Why are you better-looking in your memory?
Liz: My memory has Seinfeld money.

  • Father Ted did a few of these.
  • Big Time Rush does this on occasion, most notably when the boys are reminded of or think about past actions they've done (like in one episode, they flashback to causing an explosion in the Palmwoods pool using dynamite). Most of the time, said cutaways are mentioned later in the episode.
  • The "adult puppet show" Mongrels does too many to count.
  • Arrested Development featured this a lot as well.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Elan: But what game? What competition should we choose that you could beat Death himself at??
(Cut to random female fighter ghost challenging Death to a wet t-shirt contest)

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series, especially the Show Within a Show gags.
  • Four Blokes Without Telly, used mostly in the first Episodes.
  • 2MattTV likes to play around with these, but not as much as Matt's other show 1visualFXguy.
  • Brightcarnage does this every now and then.
  • Annoying Orange has featured one or two cutaways.
  • YouTube Poops are generally known for this.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • South Park: although the Trope Namer - when this trope was still called Manatee Gag - South Park does not rely on this form of gag, instead preferring to mock it.
    • In the episode "Cartoon Wars", the writing staff of Family Guy are revealed to be a group of manatees swimming around a water tank, randomly pushing around balls with words written on them. The episode featured several fake clips from Family Guy that all followed this format.
  • Family Guy doesn't go an episode without at least twenty Manatee Gags being thrown in (and yes, the Family Guy writers liked the South Park episode enough that they started using the nickname). Most are only a second and a half long, and often take the format "This is worse than the time that..", allowing virtually anything to be slotted in anywhere. The show is widely acknowledged to be the most Egregious example of this trope. An example, from "One If By Clam, Two If By Sea":

Lois: Nigel's charming. All British men are!
Peter: Yeah right, that's what they said about Benjamin Disraeli.
(Scene cuts to Disraeli as he writes with a quill pen in his study, then glares at the camera)
Benjamin Disraeli: You don't even know who I am!.

    • In 2010 they did produce a few episodes with no cutaway gags, basically to prove that they could. Two have been broadcast as of now.[when?] One of them, "Brian & Stewie", featured Brian and Stewie locked in a bank vault. It was a normal episode that was pretty well done. The other was an extended Very Special Episode.
    • Sometimes the gag is subverted:

Stewie: They'll come after you like Peter went after that hockey coach. [Beat] Oh, no clip? Oh, thought we had a clip. Nope? Okay."

    • In "Believe It or Not, Joe Is Walking on Air", Peter compares a situation to giving a monkey the keys to an amusement park. However, no clip follows, and Lois asks what it has to do with anything.
    • In "Spies Reminiscent of Us", Stewie is knocked out, and he can't set up the cutaway properly. This leads to him standing in an empty white room. Then, famous athlete Wilma Rudolph runs by. Stewie comments: "Obviously, she had something to do with the gag, but I didn't hear the setup, so I don't really know the context." Later in the same episode, the cast meets Vladimir Putin, who shows them a Russian Cutaway Gag, which consists of a poorly animated yellow porcupine yelling in Russian until a loaf of bread lands nearby, at which point it start laughing.
    • In the episode "Back to the Woods", James Woods steals Peter's identity and when he tries to get back with his family, James threatens him with activating a cutaway gag if he doesn't leave. Peter leaves.
    • The quote at the top of the page is an example that ends up being subverted later in the episode:

Peter: Guys, we have to re-cripple Joe. It's the right thing to do, just like taking out Hitler.
(Cut to Hitler juggling on the unicycle again. Peter walks up to him and kicks the unicycle out from under him, then punches him out.)
Peter: See? We had a plan for that all along.

    • Yet another spoof comes in one episode where Peter says "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!" The scene changes to show Peter in bed with a lipstick-wearing horse; he glances at the camera and mutters "Um, I misspoke."
    • One episode even had a Cutaway Gag within a Cutaway Gag.
    • In the episode where Peter becomes overly-feminine, they set up a cutaway gag that cuts back to a scene from about a minute earlier.
    • In the recent episode "Back to the Pilot", Stewie and Brian time-travel back to the pilot episode; rather than reuse the pilot's Cutaway Gags, it shows that during the gags, the characters just freeze in place and wait for them to finish. And then there's a Cutaway Gag showing that the "modern" characters now take time to smoke/text/do their makeup/etc during their gags.
    • The 2011 Thanksgiving special involved Kevin Swanson returning home and admitting he went AWOL from the army. Peter refers to him as a "regular Benedict Arnold Drummond". Cut to the producers hopelessly confused and looking for a tape of Gary Coleman in a Napoleon hat. After giving up they just put in one of the Cowardly Lion as Lindsay Lohan's OB/GYN.
    • They even have Cutaway Gags poking fun at Cutaway Gags. In one episode, there's a cutaway about the time Quagmire thought he was getting his own show (instead of Cleveland)

Quagmire: "See you later, bitches. Have fun your stupid, fucking Giant Chicken jokes and your Conway Twitty... Hey, why is there a moving truck outside Cleveland's house?"

    • The episode where pot is legalized in Quahog leaves Peter too baked to set up a cutaway. He stumbles through the setup then gives up and instead resigns to throwing a scrolling list of celebrities he dislikes up on the screen.
    • In another episode, Peter claimed to feel "like Lady Macbeth when she was betrayed by Duncan." We then cut to a spaceship, where Lady Macbeth is fighting a bear. Peter then walks onscreen, and admits "I don't really know Shakespeare."
  • Archer: in the first episode, "Mole Hunt", Archer calls Pam a manatee. He says this after 3 cutaway gags have occurred, and prior to the occurrence of 3 more.
    • This episode aired 3 years after the "Cartoon Wars" episodes and appears to be a clear nod to the South Park/Family Guy debacle mentioned above.
  • Kappa Mikey had a few per episode that all seemed to be directly inspired by Family Guy.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has some examples:
    • From the episode "The Bully:"

Spongebob: "Oh, Gary! I'm too young to have my butt kicked! There's so many things in life that I haven't gotten to do!"
(Scene cuts to Spongebob working in an office cubicle.)
Spongebob: "Hello, I'll transfer your call."

    • From the episode "Doing Time:"

Spongebob: "Patrick, she has lost it! She's completely institutionalized! She's forgotten to what it's like to live on the outside, to not be in prison!"
(Scene cuts to a man in traffic, then working in an office cubicle, then staring out his bedroom window.)
Wife: "Coming to bed, honey?"
Man: "Yes, dear."

    • From the "Sun Bleached"

SpongeBob: So Patrick, how do you feel?
Patrick: Like one of those young old folks from the soda commercials.
(cut to a live-action old guy in a mock soda commercial)

    • In the episode "The Great Snail Race", as Spongebob is training Gary to participate in the race, at one point (after Spongebob lampshades sexist strategies in his training) the scene abruptly cuts to Sandy saying to herself, "I don't know why, but I think I should kick Spongebob's butt tomorrow". And at the end of the episode she does just that.
  • Phineas and Ferb has one practically every episode.
  • American Dad had a few in the pilot episode, but quickly dropped them in an attempt to distance the show from Family Guy.
    • One episode lampshaded the difference by having Stan give the setup for a Cutaway Gag and nothing happens other than Francine asking what on Earth he was doing.
    • Also lampshaded when Roger gave a cutaway gag setup, but instead of showing a joke, he explained his metaphor.
  • The Cleveland Show, an actual Family Guy spin-off, will use the Manatee Gag, if not as often as its mother show.
  • Seth McFarlane's use of this trope is spoofed in Robot Chicken episode "Help Me" where he seems to have the power to set up cutaways only to have them come true.

Seth McFarlane: "Robot Chicken? Why I haven't heard that name since it was renewed."
(Cutaway to an exec saying "Robot Chicken is renewed.")
Seth Green: "Wow! Uhh quick, offhandedly mention that time we ended world hunger!"
Seth McFarlane: "End world hunger? I haven't heard an idea that ridiculous since Scooby Jew."
(cutaway to Scooby Jew haggling over getting only one scooby-snack in exchange for doing a task.)

Rigby (singing and playing The Power): A bunch of baby ducks, seeend 'em to the moon!/Soda machine that doesn't work, seeend 'em to the moon!

Slappy: You're not my nephew, you're one of those body-snatching pod people I always read about in the check-out line!
(Scene cuts to Slappy at the supermarket reading a newspaper.)
Woman: That'll be $10.95.
Slappy: Hey, quit rushing me! Can't you see I'm trying to catch up on the news here?

  • Megas XLR used this in the very first episode when Coop tried to explain to Kiva of how he "trained" for battle against the Glorft:

Kiva: How did you get to be such a good pilot?
Coop (looking off into the distance): Well...
(Scene then fades into a Montage of Coop playing video games from when he was a child, to his teen years, to his early adulthood)