Quip to Black

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A snappy, one-liner comment just before the commercial break or opening sequence. Often takes this form:

"Chief, we found the marine's body. Cause of death is electrocution."
"Looks like he's been... discharged."
(Cut to black/credits.)

The cut is what differentiates this from a standard One-Liner.

Commonly found on detective/mystery series; a frequent (but not exclusive) use of this is when the detectives make a pithy 'gallows humour' comment about the crime of the week in the Cold Open, followed by a cut to the credits. The usual purpose is to convey a sense that the detective has seen this level of horror before, and that he's so used to it he can make a joke about it. Often will include a Glasses Pull for emphasis.

Used frequently enough, the audience can be trained to expect one of these. Comments after the one-liner are usually a gag. Failure to make the one-liner means the situation is serious.

Examples of Quip to Black include:

Comic Books

  • Shows up twice in Bookhunter.
    • Agent Bay defuses a Perp and Weapon standoff, by shooting the perp in the stomach. As the man lies on the floor, bleeding and screaming in pain, Agent Bay just says "Shhhhhhhhhh."
    • The pursuit of another book thief ends with said thief being flung through a plate glass window, into the library's pro-literacy diorama.

Agent Finch: Are you okay boss?
Agent Bay: Read him his rights.


Sy: We just got to accept it and enjoy it, because it can end... like that. (Snaps Fingers. Quip to Black. Credits Roll.)

  • Most theatrical films are broken up into eleven - minute chunks for television airing, and are deliberately set up for these.


"It would seem," Ehren said, "that someone doesn't want you making this trip."
"Then someone," Tavi replied, "is going to be very disappointed."

  • In Gregory McDonald's novel, Flynn, Inspector Flynn finds a severed hand on his front porch the morning after a plane exploded over Boston Harbor. He says "Pull yourself together, Charlie," and muses about the dark humour professionals use to deal with such sights.

Live-Action TV

Frank: "The suspect was identified by an eye-witness as one Rick Astley and was seen leaving the scene of the crime with the missing Pixar movies."
Horatio: "Well Frank, he may have Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.,
* Puts on Sunglasses*
But I'll never give him Up."

    • What makes this so Narmy as compared to Grissom's, has as much to do with Caruso's shades and deadpan delivery, as it does with the start of the theme music serving as almost a sort of laugh track or "Applause" light. On the other hand, when Grissom did it, he delivered it in a "I feel your pain" kind of way.
    • Parodied often and hard on The Soup, also, with David Caruso even winning a soup award and recording an acceptance speech.
    • A CSI-themed episode of MythBusters naturally parodies this as well, complete with Who sample. Only it cut to the next narrative segment instead of commercial.
    • Parodied twice by Bruce Campbell in an episode of Burn Notice. A bit of Fridge Brilliance, since both shows are set in Miami and Campbell's character was posing as a CSI technician.
    • Parodied on Saturday Night Live with CSI: Sarasota featuring an elderly pair of detectives. Each of Betty White's lines is a one-liner accompanied by removing her sunglasses and YYEEEAAAHHHH!!!!!
    • Unfortunately, what most people don't realize is that this is a case of Beam Me Up, Scotty; most of Caine's one liners aren't actually quips, simply straightforward, serious statements made in a ridiculously deadpan manner. Only rarely do they fit the spirit of this trope of being ironic or punny.
  • CSI is a famous example. Gil Grissom has these so frequently that he used to be the Trope Namer.
    • A self-parody appears in the episode "Fight Night": Grissom delivered the usual quip and the credit music started... then his cell phone rang, the credit music reversed, and the teaser went on for about two more minutes before the real credits started.
    • In the season 7 episode of CSI "Meet Market" is an example of what might be called Lampshaded Subversion. With Grissom on sabbatical it is left to someone else to pick up the slack.

As Phillips and Keppler wheel out this week's corpse...
Stokes: Hey. You know what Grissom would say here, don't you?
Phillips: Something ironic, I'm sure.

...but we do not cut at this point. Instead we move to the autopsy where Robbins and Keppler discover that there are several foreign objects inserted into the body. After removing and opening an umbrella which covers Robbins in blood...
Keppler: That's bad luck, isn't it?
    • In the episode "Iced" the trope was subverted as a gag. Greg Sanders, The Lab Rat, spoke after Grissom delivered his one-liner. The other characters appeared visibly surprised by the interruption. Grissom still gets the last word, but is forced to use a less poignant line.
    • A subversion: in the episode "Grissom's Divine Comedy", the leader ends with a shot of a very ill Gil Grissom at home, making himself chicken soup and coughing into his handkerchief. When his cell phone rings, calling him in to handle a case, Grissom says nothing... he just sighs in frustration. Roll credits.
    • Lampshade Hung and subverted in "Two and a Half Dead". After finding a dead comedy actress with a rubber chicken stuffed in her mouth (it's a long, complex and hilarious story), the lab techs ask Grissom why he hasn't done a One-Liner, suggesting "I suspect fowl play" and "This is poultry evidence". Grissom goes for neither, instead invoking Incredibly Lame Pun with "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard".
    • The Quip to Black was somewhat Lampshade Hung in the episode "Crow's Feet", when Catherine Willows, who had reported to the scene and therefore got the chance to quip, stated "it's my turn now" before the credits rolled.
    • In another episode, the characters are all being filmed in a cops-esque derivative. Grissom delivers his one liner, and there's a pause, and then the producers ask him to repeat it because they didn't catch it. Roll commercials.
    • In "A Space Oddity", Hodges and Simms are at a sci-fi convention when a corpse is found. Hodges calls up Captain Brass, flips open his phone communicator-style, and says "He's dead, Jim".
    • Parodied in the episode "Field Mice". Hodges is recounting the story of an old murder case to two rookie CSIs, challenging them to solve it. On two occasions Hodges' story appears to end with a Quip to Black, complete with the intro music starting to fade in...only for someone to interrupt, lampshading the ridiculous nature of the quip. He finally manages to play the trope straight on the third attempt.
  • A CSI New York example—on discovering that a corpse that has fallen from the Empire State Building has had its brain go out of the hole in its skull, Stella opines, "Looks like a no-brainer."
    • Dead man found dressed as a giant cigarette; "Let's just say it now to get it over with, Smoking Kills." This was shamelessly lifted for Grindhouse: Planet Terror, though, of course, the delivery style was entirely different.
    • Lampshaded on the 21 March 2007 episode, when Det. Flack responds to Messer's failed attempt at a Quip To Black by giving it a numerical grade like an Olympic judge.
    • Body discovered sitting peacefully at a park bench; when Mac's partner tries to figure out what happened and connect the clues they have there, Mac promptly tells her "Not everything's connected", grabbing the corpse's cleanly decapitated head and lifting it off its body.
    • A forearm and thigh are found in separate locations. In the autopsy lab, Lindsay walks up to the others and says "Let me give you a hand", before presenting Sheldon and Sid with the dead man's hand.
    • Man found buried in a potting bed with a buzzard picking at him. Mac's response: "I thought that the only vultures that lived in this city worked on Wall Street".
    • The episode, "Hammer Down", pulled off a two-person Quip To Black:

Stella: Looks like the end of the road for her.
Mac: And the start of the line for us.
(I'm not sure if I quoted it correctly, but that's the gist of it.)

  • The Teaser on Law & Order and its various spin-offs almost always has such a line. During Jerry Orbach's tenure, it was usually Lennie Briscoe's line. (One almost wonders why this Trope isn't called "Briscoe One-Liner".)
    • Before Briscoe joined the cast, it was generally Mike Logan who delivered the one-liner. In the latest seasons it's usually Cyrus Lupo.
    • Every two-man team on L&O must have at least one Deadpan Snarker. No exceptions. When Lennie Briscoe left, his partner automatically became the designated snarker.
    • These lines can also be delivered by other characters. An episode opens with two runners, one of whom falls down. The other asks him "Are you okay?", and the fallen runner says "Yeah, but he's not." and the camera cuts to a body.
    • In the TV movie Exiled, Logan and some of the other cops make quips of this nature about the recent case. Unfortunately for them, the victim's sister happens to overhear them. She's not amused.
  • This was referenced in an episode of Joan of Arcadia in which a police officer makes a quippy comment about a crime scene, followed by a Law and Order-esque musical Sting. Her partner gives her a bewildered look, to which she responds, "What? Too Law and Order?"
  • The opening sequence for Cold Case is set up for this, though it's only occasionally preceded by a quip.
    • In the episode "Wings", when they find a winged pin that means the victim was a flight attendant.

Lilly: Looks like someone clipped her wings.

    • Also in "Andy in C Minor" when they find a body in a school for the deaf.

Lilly: ...Killed in a place where no one can hear you scream. Aaaaaauuuuuuuuwwww

  • Parodied in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk gets Lotto Fever", where Randy Disher repeatedly tries (and fails) to pull a snappy one-liner off. Though really, the phrase "Randy repeatedly tries (and fails) to say something clever" could be applied to any episode he appears in.
    • And smashed into pieces in "Mr. Monk and the Birthday" when Stottlemeyer does a couple one liners about a body followed by Monk describing how the man would probably have been alive as his body was sliced up and crushed.
  • Long before most of these shows, Kojak had several in his show.
    • An example from the show: Seeing a young woman's dead body. "Baby, Why'd you have to go get yourself killed and ruin both our mornings?"
  • How I Met Your Mother parodied this in one episode with Ted having been analysing the 'crime scene' of his apartment for evidence of a fight between Lily and Marshall and determining the cause was leaving the lid of the peanut butter, explained with CSI intenseness and use of shades.

Ted: Lily left the lid off (puts on sunglasses), and Marshall blew his.

  • The West Wing frequently had someone make a dry comment about whatever impending crisis had just been set in motion before the smach cut to the credits.
  • Stargate Atlantis, episode Vegas, is set in an alternate reality, where Sheppard never joined the SGC. "Detective John Sheppard" pulls a one liner at the end of The Teaser.
    • In an episode of Stargate SG-1, a tv producer pitches a number of show ideas, including T'ealc P.I. (a shameless ripoff of Shaft) featuring a scene where the one liner is simply. "Indeeeeed."
  • On The Dukes of Hazzard, the Narrator (Waylon Jennings) usually employed one of these to accompany each Commercial Break Cliffhanger.
  • Bones mocks this trope in "The Beaver in the Otter". After describing how a corpse had been shot with a cannon filled with bric-a-brack, pelted by a crowd, and set on fire at a pep rally:

Cam: Now that's what I call team spirit. (Vaziri and Angela stare at her) I'm a wise-cracking pathologist with a dark sense of humor. (cut)

    • With a subversion in "The Priest in the Courtyard" where Bones makes a quip about consecrated ground and has a complaint filed against her for it.
  • Parodied in Supernatural, where the boys were Trapped in TV Land.
After finding a victim with quarters jammed down his throat:
Sam Winchester: Well I say . . . jackpot.
    • Both of them actually do both this and Glasses Pull about a dozen times, mostly to distract the Trickster.
  • This trope was referenced and criticized in an episode of Murder, a reality series where two teams of three amateurs try to use forensic techniques to investigate and solve recreations of real life crime scenes. One of the members in one team kept making quips about the crime scene, causing the host (an actual police detective) to berate said contestant saying that real cops are not supposed to joke around during an investigation since doing so is highly unprofessional.
  • Burn Notice skewered CSI: Miami's Caine one liners in the episode Partners in Crime. Sam Axe (played by Bruce Campbell) pretends to be a crime scene investigator in order to put pressure on the murderer of a clothing model. Just before leaving, he pulls on his shades and delivers these gems:

{{quote|"Looks like murder...is in style this season." "Looks like our killer's plan...is coming apart at the seams."

  • Castle plays this for laughs; Richard Castle is frequently given to making some comment of this nature, prompting Beckett to just give him an exasperated look in response.
    • On the other hand, Castle is delighted to learn how real cops operate, because the ones on TV "seem to be obsessed with their sunglasses".
    • Subverted in the season two episode "Famous Last Words".

Castle's Mother: Now does that man look like a killer to you?
Castle: Everybody looks like a killer to me; it's a job requirement.
Castle's Daughter: You didn't say that about [the victim's sister].
Castle: Just... let me have this moment.

  • Delightfully parodied on an episode of Two and A Half Men - Alan's ditzy buxom girlfriend Kandi gets the Grissom role on a show called "Stiffs." The video shows it far better than I ever could.
  • Played with on The Wire, in an effort to distinguish itself from traditional cop shows. The pilot opens with McNulty questioning a witness about a dead kid named "Snot Boogie," a knucklehead who always hung around the local craps games and tried to steal the winnings because he "couldn't help himself." So McNulty asks why they kept letting him hang around if they knew he was going to grab the cash, and the kid says "You got to. This is America, man." The somber theme song dampens the humor of the moment, but the characters find it hilarious: McNulty opens the next scene by re-telling the story to another cop.
  • Lampshaded into a Running Gag on NCIS when Jimmy constantly makes what would be a Grissom One Liner on another show; not only does it never precede a cut, he inevitably causes everyone present to either roll their eyes with the lameness of it or react in disgust with the complete inappropriateness. Sometimes both.
    • Abby is in Autopsy to collect a tissue sample from the cadaver du jour.

Jimmy Palmer: So, light meat or dark?
[Abby gives him a look]
Jimmy Palmer: Inappropriate?
Abby Sciuto: With a big dash of creepy, Jimmy.


  • The Men's Room, a radio show based out of 99.9 KISW in Seattle, features a daily "Shot of the Day", where the hosts will tell a brief story about some notable person with an interesting story that's funny in some way. Typical sources include minor news stories, Cracked, etc. After reading through the story, each of the hosts will usually try to come up with an Incredibly Lame Pun to describe the situation, each capped off with the "Yeeeeeeeeagh!" stinger. Especially lame or just plain unfunny puns will receive a long vocal stinger from Journey.


  • Lampshaded and/or a case of Sarcasm Failure in the computer game S.W.A.T. 4: The Stetchkov Syndicate, where in a particularly gruesome shooting in a subway, normally smart-alecky Officer Fields has nothing to say, which is mockingly mentioned by Officer Reynolds, the veteran of the group.

Reynolds: Nothin' to say, Fields?
Fields: There's nothing funny about this.

Well, Frank, I think we'd better check her purse for receipts, because somebody...just overcharged her.

  • In the Crash Course level of Left 4 Dead, Zoey had just shot the group's (infected) helicopter pilot, causing the helicopter to crash. When approaching his dead body, she has a chance of saying:

Zoey: Pilot's license... revoked! Dun Dun Duuun!

    • It looks like the Hunter... wants in.
      • Also, the opening cutscene of Left 4 Dead 2.

Coach: "Wait for official instructions"... (Laughs) Wait, my ass.
Ellis: Kill all sons-of-bitches. *Cocks shotgun* That's my official instructions.

  • GTAIV has commercial for a TV show about a forensic crime lab, complete with a different YEEAAAAAAAAHHHHH scream (that's available as a ringtone).
  • In the third World of Warcraft expansion, Stormwind's town guard is investigating the murder of a beloved horse (and his two owners):

Stormwind Investigator: Given the body temperature, I'd say they've been dead no more than six hours. Damn shame what they did to Old Blanchy.
Lieutenant Horatio Laine: No kidding, rookie. Looks like they really put the cart...before the horse.

    • And to top it all off, Blizzard gives this NPC a fairly ridiculous looking pair of sunglasses.
      • Just in case you don't get the joke first time, said NPC then goes on to crack several more quips to black in the course of the quest line.
  • Chuck Greene has a tendency to drop one of these after taking out the more unsympathetic psychopaths.
(While watching a psychopath get his face chewed off by the zombie of a girl he killed when she refuesed to marry him)
Chuck: You may now kiss the bride.
    • For bonus points, he can even get a pair of shades.
  • The flash game Replaying the Game has one level that is nothing but these based on the deaths of Hamlet characters.
  • In Dragon Age II's "Mark of the Assassin" DLC, snarky-Hawke pulls off a one-liner so intentionally cringe-worthy it must be a Shout-Out to CSI: Miami. After the villain, an Orlesian duke, falls off a cliff:

Hawke: It looks like the Duke... has fallen from grace.

  • Parodied in the first episode of Hector: Badge of Carnage, when a punk, who desperately wants a record, gets tasered by an old lady. Hector says something like "looks like he...puts on sunglasses... just got charged", followed by the start of the CSI: Miami theme, before it's cut off. Hector takes off the sunglasses and apologizes to the player, not sure what came over him.


Rick Astley: That, my dear... * Puts on sunglasses* ...is how I roll.

Web Originals

  • The Hamlet level of REPLAYING :the game: runs this one deep into the ground.
  • One of the subcategories on Comixed.com, a yonkoma creation site, is a Quip to Black (usually featuring Horatio Caine but occasionally characters from other series as well) with the last panel being a establishing shot of Miami (or wherever) with YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH captioned across it.
  • A meme on the general-interest Tabletop Games website RPGnet has forum posters doing this when somebody gets banned.
    • It's been nipped in the bud. Or if you prefer... [puts on sunglasses] ... it critically failed. Yeeeeaaaaaahhh!!
    • The meme has since been unofficially retired since one of the veteran posters pulled it off Hamlet style. VEEEEEERRRRRILYYYYYYYYYY!!
  • A similar tradition on gray hat hacker boards is to mock permabanned with the circumstances of their banning, generally through a quip or Incredibly Lame Pun.
  • The Onion's AV Club forums have a commenter who calls him-/herself David Caruso and posts nothing but one-lines, with the Glasses Pull and YYYYYEEEAAAAHHHH copied from CSI.
  • On the Cheezburger Network site Comixed, this is a popular trend. However, one recent comic averts this.
  • On the Wrestlecrap Radio podcast, Blade Braxton's character C. S. Irwin was a parody of Horatio Caine. Ostensibly the podcast's TNA correspondent, Caine (like all previous correspondents) never actually recapped TNA; instead, he'd do a sort of TNA-related Shaggy Dog Story that ended in a lame pun, followed by the signature Who music.
  • Dragon Ball Abridged parodies this. Krillin tries to set one up after he and Gohan take out a pair of Freeza's soldiers, all it does is give him his first owned count point of the season. No glasses or The Who though.

Western Animation

  • Parodied in American Dad when someone from animal control attempts this in complete with him putting on shades, jumping up and yelling "Yeeeeeeeeagh!". but it falls flat when his friend doesn't get the reference.

"I guess it wasn't this Groundhog's... (puts on shades) Day..."

(After Phineas and Ferb parody Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice)
Thrift Store Owner: Aren't you a little young to know about all these old detective shows?
Phineas: Yes. Yes we... (puts on sunglasses) ...are.

(After Doofenshmirtz finishes a Broadway Style Song and Dance Routine)
Dancer: Are we done now? I have to pick my kid up from school.
Doofenshmirtz: Just wait till it fades to black.
(Jumps to black)
Doofenshmirtz: There.

  • Subverted in Family Guy when Peter mentions they're going to Hollywood, "where the people are sexy and clever and they always say somethin' funny right before the commercial break". He then doesn't say anything until after the break.
    • Also from Family Guy as the last line from the episode "Stewie Kills Lois":

Stewie: "Well at least it didn't end like The Sopranos where it just cut to black in mid sent--"

    • And lampshaded by Peter at the end of "Dial Meg for Murder":

Peter: "Always end on a strong joke."

This page isn't nearly long enough. To get to the bottom of this, we're gonna need... more trope.