Right in Front of Me

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Bob makes candid comments to, or argues with, Alice, whom he doesn't know or has just met. Only later does Bob learn, to his chagrin, that Alice is the President/Queen/Boss/etc. In other words, Alice is the last person Bob should be acting like that in front of.

This tends to work best when Alice is a newly appointed authority figure, unbeknownst to Bob. Thinking of Alice as an equal rather than the boss, Bob will let it all hang out in a way he never would if only he knew who it was he was speaking to. (Malicious Slander is particularly dangerous, for obvious reasons.)

Often subverted by making it a Secret Test of Character or setting up other circumstances under which Alice likes Bob's candor for some reason. For example, if Alice is unaware that Bob doesn't know, she may think this manifests With Due Respect and commend him for it.

Compare Right Behind Me. Also compare Actually, I Am Him, King Incognito, Actually, That's My Assistant, Because I'm Jonesy and But He Sounds Handsome. Some overlap with I'm Standing Right Here.

Examples of Right in Front of Me include:


  • The first advert in the 1990s UK Kenco Coffee campaign about the female Kenco executive started with a man and a woman in a lift. The man said he was a bit nervous, because he was starting work for the aforementioned executive, and had heard she was a bit of a dragon. Guess what happens next?
  • A Twix commercial has a woman making several insulting comments about her boss to a new employee...only to discover she's the boss' daughter.
  • A 1997 commercial for Coors Original (the yellow can) had a young guy tuning up his guitar at a bar (presumably warmining up for a set). An older man (somewhere in his seventies) wanders up and asks if he could see his guitar. ({bemused} "You play?" "I've been known to.") After stunning the younger man with a blues riff, the younger guy asks the older one's name.

"It's on your guitar." (It's the Les Paul).

Anime and Manga

  • At The Twelve Kingdoms when Yoko joins the rebellion against herself (ok, technically against the official of the realm who ruled that part of the kingdom), by the state and royal armies. The look of the face of the generals of the royal army when they recognize her is completely priceless.
    • This often happens while Yoko is in disguise and working with the other rebels; at various times they talk about the queen in angry or disparaging terms, having no idea who Yoko really is. The look on their faces when they find out is hilarious.
  • Early in Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka encounters a young woman being harassed by a creepy old man on a bus, whom he confronts and punches out. Not long afterward he finds out the woman is Fuyutsuki, who becomes the primary love interest, and heading the interview for the teaching position is Uchiyamada, the old man on the bus, complete with a bandage over his nose. Needless to say the interview goes poorly.
    • It actually happens again when he has a candid conversation with an elderly woman in the school store. Turns out she's the superintendent who is so impressed with his passion and dedication she hires him over Uchiyamada's protests.
  • Inverted in Dragonball Z, where Goku is searching for the martial arts master King Kai and wrongly assumes twice that strangers he's met were the person he was looking for (One of whom was a woman.)
  • In Mai-Otome, this happens to Mashiro on a few occasions while she's going incognito, such as when she meets up with the similarly disguised Prince Takumi, or with Mimi while fleeing Windbloom with the other refugees. Both those instances show how much the people hate her, and lead to her Character Development and becoming a better ruler.
    • In the manga, after Mashiro is going through a Ten-Minute Retirement after punching Nagi for whipping Nina, he abandons his crossdressing disguise and encounters Nina. Nina tells him a little about her life experiences, including her desire to save people from poverty, and how she regrets harshly treating Mashiro for helping her. Then, shortly afterward, she sees the discarded wig and clothes and realizes not only the boy's true identity, but Mashiro's true gender.
  • In The Heroic Legend of Arslan Anime, after being imprisoned by Arislan's forces, Estelle/Etoile confides in the guard assigned to bring her food that she has heard that Arislan is a Complete Monster. He responds by feeling the top of his head. When she asks him why, he replies that he's checking to see if he has horns. Because he is Arislan.

Comic Books

  • Buck Danny: Sonny Tuckson does it to the title character before finding out the latter is going to be his commanding officer.

Fan Works

  • In Elecktrum's Narnia Fic They Also Serve, Ilando, a visitor from Galma, unknowingly accuses Edmund of being a traitor to his face. Edmund, being a pretty decent guy by this point, takes it pretty well, but that doesn't stop Ilando from being horribly embarrassed when he finds out.


  • The Empire Strikes Back: Luke's patience is tested to the breaking point by a little troll who turns out to be Jedi Grand Master Yoda.
    • Something similar happened in The Phantom Menace, too, with Padme dressing up as one of her handmaidens.

Padme: The queen will not approve.
Qui-Gon: The queen doesn't need to know.
Padme: (to herself) Well I don't approve.

  • Lawrence of Arabia: The officer who angrily shoves Lawrence to the ground in Damascus, thinking he's just a "dirty wog". Later, when he sees Lawrence in uniform, he rushes for the honour of shaking his hand, completely unaware he's the same person.
  • Love Actually: Colin walks up to Nancy, a girl at the wedding, and insults the food at length only to find out that she was the caterer.
  • Animal House: One of the fraternity members starts making innuendos at a woman in the grocery store, who introduces herself as the dean's wife.
  • Wing Commander: Blair is sitting in the cockpit of a Rapier, when a woman suddenly standing next to the ship quizzes him on his dogfighting skills with a couple hypothetical scenarios. She is brutally honest in explaining why Blair's responses would only get him killed, leading to the following:

Devereaux: What's wrong, Lieutenant? Did I bruise your ego?
Blair: No, it's just that I'm not used to getting combat advice from a grease-monkey.
Devereaux: [introducing herself] Commander Devereaux, Lieutenant. Your wing commander.

  • In Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel Hillard complains at work about an extremely boring television program... to the higher-up who allowed the program to air. When he finds out exactly who he's talking to, he introduces himself as a "former employee". Luckily for him, the higher-up agrees that the show is terrible and he's there to announce that he's taking it off the air.
  • A non-insulting variation occurred in the French movie Parlez-moi d'Amour: A man heading to a job interview for a rich businessman has coffee spilled on his shirt, and in desperation asks another man to trade shirts with him. He accepts, but turns out to be his interviewer and future employer.
  • The War of the Worlds (1953). A non-insulting version:

Sylvia: Ever hear of Clayton Forrester? He's top man in astro and nuclear physics. He knows all about meteors.
Man: You seem to know all about him.
Sylvia: [snip] They had Forrester on the cover of Time. You have to rate to get that.
Man: He isn't that good.
Sylvia: You don't even know him!
Man: I do know him, slightly.
Sylvia: What's he like?
Man: Well, he's like...[points to himself]
Sylvia: You don't look like yourself in that get-up, but I'm happy to meet you.

  • In an outtake of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Charles chats up a woman at a wedding by disparaging the catering. It turns out that she's the caterer.
    • Although Richard Curtis managed to get the same gag on screen at last in Love Actually.
  • A classic example is in They Died With Their Boots On on the life of General George Armstrong Custer. As our dashing hero (Errol Flynn) is on his way to meet his girlfriend's father for the first time, he gets into an altercation with an imperious old gentleman. Guess who the old guy turns out to be?
  • In The Bad and The Beautiful, Fred Amiel is hired to pretend to be a mourner at the funeral of former Hollywood bigwig Hugo Shields. He spends the entire funeral doing his own little Mystery Science Theater 3000-style commentary about what a bastard the man was, little realizing that the man he's making the asides to is actually the deceased's son, Jonathan Shields.


  • In The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold, the protagonist is assigned to a legendarily awful base, and blurts out "Just who is the incompetent that commands this place!" to someone he sees on a morning jog—who is of course the base commander.
    • A similar thing happens in Barrayar, in which a pair of young unfortunates cast all manner of aspersions on Count Aral Vorkosigan and his new wife... while seated directly behind the lady in question. She's amused until they start in on Aral's injured aide.
  • In the children's novel King Matt the First, the eponymous boy-king escapes the palace to join the army and witnesses older soldiers debating whether King Matt is a tyrant or not.
  • In John Ringo's We Few, Prince Roger MacClintock, undercover, gets shaken down by gangsters. Who then proceed to kidnap his fiancee.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, Imperial forces enter the Eisenstein and demand that they stand down and identify themselves. All his frustrations overflowing, Garro says it's his ship and they will stand down and identify themselves. Then he realizes they have a primarch in their number. Who obeys his demands and gently asks permission to come aboard because they might be of assistance.
  • Joanne does this in The Walker Papers series to her new boss, Morrison, by insulting him all over the place when he mistakes her car for another model.
  • In one of the WW2 books by Sven Hassel, a group of aristocratic German officers find an unassuming civilian in their office and proceed to ridicule him, until they discover he is a notorious high-ranking Gestapo officer.
  • In Unseen Academicals, Glenda tells Countess Margalotta's librarian exactly what she thinks of the way the Countess treated Nutt. It's only after the woman's left that Glenda suddenly thinks "did she look like a librarian?"
    • In Mort the wizard Cutwell babbles nervously to his client about how his housekeeper says the new Queen is a real terror. Princess Kelli decides its probably kinder not to tell him who he's talking to until she has to.
    • In a middle-class variation, the lodgers at Mrs. Arcanum's place in The Truth voice all sorts of misguided assumptions about who's writing the Ankh-Morpork Times, never suspecting that they're sharing a meal with its founder. Subverted in that, while they're suitably startled to learn this at the end, they're more curious about the Times' stupid filler-stories than its genuine news.
  • In the World of Warcraft novel The Shattering Prelude to Cataclysm, Thrall meets a female orc upon his arrival in Nagrand who insists on calling him "Go'el", rather than Thrall and mentions that Greatmother Geyah has a student named Aggra (whom Thrall initially assumes to be male) who will teach him more about being a shaman. Finallly, the encounter concludes with the following exchange:

Thrall: I look forward to meeting this Aggra.
Aggra: You already have.

  • Harry Dresden gets one of these with the Summer Queen of Fae. She explained that she engineered that as a test of character. She was actually distracting him from the fact that the Lily statue was right freaking in front of him.
  • In The Sword of Truth, Friedrich very briefly gets one of these looking for the Lord Rahl. Subverted because, due to the D'Haran bond with the Lord Rahl, he's already fairly sure who just saved his skinny old posterior from Heart Hounds.
    • Many of the people in Altur'Rang talk about the Lord Rahl as this mythical hero of the New World. So when he cleverly disguises himself as Richard Cypher instead of Richard Rahl, they have no idea that the Lord Rahl is their close personal friend and confidant, gathering them as his army in the fight for freedom. When they discover this trope, they apparently find the subject of who he really is supremely awkward.
    • Jennsen sees the Lord Rahl from afar and watches him detonate a company of Imperial Order troops. Without seeing the magic. She decides she doesn't want to mess with this stranger. She's sworn to kill him.
  • In Treasure Island, young Jim Hawkins takes a break to go get an apple, and because their are only a few left in the apple-barrel, he climbs in to get one. While there, he is unseen when Long John Silver and a henchmen walk by and discuss their Evil Plan to mutiny and assassinate the captain.

Live-Action TV

  • In Still Standing, Bill and his co-workers are goofing off at work when a college-age fellow calls them out on it. Not realizing that this kid is their new manager, they blow him off and continue goofing.
  • One episode of Nurses revolved around a rich woman who checks herself into the local hospital and demands the royal treatment, running the nursing staff ragged. The head nurse eventually gets fed up and tells the woman off; it is later revealed that the woman is the hospital's new Administrator.
  • In The Tenth Kingdom, when Virginia has to defend Wolf at his trial and decides to make a desperate claim that the man at the festival wearing the wolf mask the night before is the real killer, the Judge tells her that role always goes to "an unimpeachable member of our society." Not seeing the warning signs, Virginia really warms up to her accusation, calling the mask-wearer all sorts of nasty names—only to be told by the Judge that * he* was the one wearing the mask.
  • From the Lost episode "The Other Woman":

Juliet: Harper hates me... I get the feeling that she is a mean and spiteful person.
Goodwin: She's my wife.

  • In the Fawlty Towers episode 'Waldorf Salad' Basil refers to an antagonistic man who has just walked in as 'rubbish' to a woman he has just met. She then introduces him as her husband.
  • The episode 'Fools for Love' of House MD had House insulting a clinic patient. It backfires later when he discovers Tritter is a cop.
  • The pilot episode of The West Wing has a subplot where Sam discovers that a woman that he met at a bar the night before (and subsequently slept with) is actually a prostitute. Later in the episode, Sam is forced to give a tour of the White House to the Chief of Staff's daughter's first-grade class. After giving ludicrously bad information to the class, the teacher pulls him out into the hall and berates him. The following exchange occurs:

Sam: Ms. O'Brian, I understand your feelings, but please believe me when I tell you that I am a nice guy having a bad day. I just found out the Times is publishing a poll that says that a considerable portion of Americans feel that the White House has lost energy and focus. A perception that is not likely to be altered by the video footage of the President riding his bicycle into a tree. As we speak, the Coast Guard are fishing Cubans out of the Atlantic Ocean, while the governor of Florida wants to blockade the port of Miami. A good friend of mine is about to get fired for going on television and making sense. And it turns out that I accidentally slept with a prostitute last night. Now, would you please in the name of compassion tell me which one of those kids is my boss's daughter?
Mallory: That would be me.
Sam: You.
Mallory: Yes.
Sam: Leo's daughter's first-grade class.
Mallory: Yes.
Sam: Well, this is bad on so many levels.

  • In the NCIS episode "Headcase", Gibbs doesn't want a deceased Captain's wife to know that the remains she was given by the funeral home may not, in fact, be her husband's, so he spins a story about how he's being persecuted by the vindictive new female director. When the widow stops by the offices to check on things, guess who she runs into.

Widow: The new director has it in for him.
Jenny (a.k.a. the new director): He told you that?
Widow: Well, I've seen it before. When Parker was XO for one of the first female ship captains, the woman was a nightmare trying to prove herself.
(Gibbs enters the room)
Jenny: Special Agent Gibbs, I didn't know the new director was punishing you. She always seemed very fair to me.
Widow: Well you're a woman. She doesn't have anything to prove to you.
[After the three of them talk, and Jenny overrides Gibbs]
Widow: She isn't the new...
Gibbs: Uh huh.

  • Drop the Dead Donkey. Pointy-Haired Boss Gus Hedges starts ragging off at a woman in the lift with him who's apparently forgotten her ID card. It turns out she's an inspector from the government.
  • In an episode of Night Court, Dan makes a rather dumb joke to a dwarfism sufferer about his height, not knowing at first that the guy is actually the new DA. Unfortunately, this news only causes Dan to insult Vincent even further (as he had wanted that job himself) and Vincent is a lot tougher than his height would suggest.
  • In a Saturday Night Live sketch, Sarah Palin was scheduled to be a guest star along with lookalike Tina Fey. Gov. Palin was talking to the Producer when Alec Baldwin came in. He thought that Palin was Tina and started complaining to the producer about how that Tina would get hurt with Sarah Palin. After a few minutes of saying all the bad stuff about Gov. Palin, the Producer finally pointed out that they are talking in front of Sarah Palin and not Tina. Baldwin promptly started kissing up to Gov. Palin.
  • The whole point of Undercover Boss. Bosses go off and work on the front lines in disguise.
  • In the first episode of the fourth season of Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsey spied on the contestants on the bus to the restaurant disguised as a contestant. The others talked about how they are going to impress Gordon and he will love them. They were shocked when Gordon revealed himself at the restaurant.
  • Played for laughs in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Prodigy".

O'Neill: General, I'd like to talk to you about this mission upon which we are about to embark. Seems a bit…ridiculous doesn't it?
Hammond: Have you met General Ryan?
Ryan: Hello, Colonel.
O'Neill: THE General Ryan? Chief of Staff?
Ryan: That's right.

    • Though, to be fair, O'Neill's entering line could have (and has been many times) much, much worse.
  • Happens in the episode of The Muppet Show featuring Rudolf Nureyev. Sam the Eagle, pleased to have a "high culture" show for once, has the theater all decorated and everyone dressed to the nines to impress the guest star. In walks a young man in trendy casual dress, who Sam immediately and unceremoniously shoos out of the theater before he can spoil the ambiance:

Sam: Who do these hooligans think they are?
Kermit: Um...well, that one thought he was Rudolf Nureyev...
Sam: ...What?
Kermit: In-in fact, that was Rudolf Nureyev.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • One Haddith tells of a woman who says to the kindly man who's helping her with her groceries that he should not talk about Muhammad, so as to not start a heated argument as she doesn't like the guy and his followers. After she gets home, she asks the Stranger his name. After he tells her that he is Muhammad, she converts to "believe the nice polite man who helped with my stuff is a prophet of God"ism, and by extension Islam.

Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy

  • Stand-up comic Brett Butler tells a joke about a comedy routine she performed in England. According to the joke, after the performance Butler became embroiled in a (ahem) colorful argument with a boorishly critical woman; as onlookers dragged the comedienne away they told her "You cannot speak to the Queen that way!"


  • In the musical Annie Get Your Gun, Annie refers to Frank Butler as a "big swollen-headed stiff", not knowing that the man she has just met is Frank Butler.
  • Henry V.
  • In Measure for Measure, Duke Vincentio of Vienna appoints his deputy Angelo as Replacement Dog Kicker and disguises himself as a friar. The "fantastic," Lucio, proceeds to slander the hell out of the Duke in front of the friar. Later, when the Duke returns, he slanders the friar in front of the Duke. This does not end well for Lucio, whom the Duke sentences to a fatal Humiliation Conga.
    • Eh? The Duke makes Lucio marry the prostitute whom he had impregnated. How is that fatal?[1]

Duke: Vpon mine honor thou ſhalt marrie her.
Thy ſlanders I forgiue, and therewithal
Remit thy other forfeits…...

Video Games

  • In the game Primal the main characters, Jen and Scree, are met by a character who proposes rebellion against the king of the realm they're in. Needless to say, his identity is revealed later. The two, however, feign loyalty to the villain, because Volca is a notoriously hostile realm, especially to outsiders. The king, however, is not amused.
  • In Tales of Hearts, Shing tells what appears to be a one-off NPC that she's the "most beautiful woman I've ever met" in the course of cheering her up. As soon as you leave town, she is revealed to be the Empress of basically the entire world. This actually works out to the party's advantage, as Marin warms up to Shing, so while this pisses off The Ace Chalcedny, who is in love with her, in the short term, she's instrumental to his Heel Face Turn later on.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Yes Man can describe with great pride how he calculated the identity of the courier who was carrying the platinum chip in order for Benny to arrange an ambush for him/her. That courier happens to be you, the player character who is shot in the head at the beginning of the game. You then have the option of saying this:

Courier: I'm the courier Benny shot.
Yes Man: Hahaha! I know that's not true, because you still have a head!
Courier: I'm serious.
Yes Man: Hahaha! That's...not funny...you getting shot in the head. I really shouldn't have taken so much pride in how I set that up, huh? ...I feel really bad right now.

  • In Tales of Graces, Asbel breaks into Richard's room before he learns Richard is a prince.

Web Comics

  • PHD: Tajel hits on someone she assumes is a student, and then is told he's her new professor.
  • In Girl Genius, Zola delineates her plan to Gil(gamesh Wulfenbach), thinking he's just a Pirate trying to loot the Castle.

Zola: And no-one has to die.
wordless panel: Gil thinks
Gil: Except, of course, young Wulfenbach.
Zola: Well, duh. We're not stupid.

  • In Kevin and Kell, Martha, after breaking up with Ralph over him having a teenage daughter, mentions this to the said teenage daughter at an online costume party (albeit one in which part of the point was to guess the person's identity). Corrie is apparently relatively understanding, and makes a good enough impression on her future stepmother that Martha and Ralph get back together.
  • El Goonish Shive had a moment when Diane got a new haircut — her close friends recognized her, but the rest of the school didn't, so…

Rhoda: See? Disguise!
Diane: They're talking behind my back to my face.
Rhoda: Ooh! Learn any secrets?
Diane: Yeah, people think I'm a stupid selfish slut.

Western Animation

  • In an episode of The Secret Show, Victor babies and insults a child he has been assigned to defend, only to find out later that the kid is the leader of the organization he works for.
  • In the Futurama episode "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back", Bender starts complaining to his friends about Hermes' replacement, Morgan Proctor. Bender's friends use frantic nonverbal cues to indicate that he really needs to stop talking about that particular subject. He asks if she's behind him, and feels around. The scene pans out, and she responds, "No, I'm in front of you."
  • In Galaxy High, Booey spends an episode trying to meet Mick Maggers. While on his ship, she meets a guy named James and talks about how awesome Mick is. Later, James reveals that he's Mick in disguise.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Heloise will show Jimmy and Beezy some cruel, evil thing in Miseryville, and they'll wonder aloud who could be evil and twisted enough to think it up. Naturally, it's Heloise. Equally naturally, she's more flattered than insulted.
  • In Drawn Together, Xandir, at a party full of gay people, meets Pac-Man, tells him that he knows that Pac-Man's ex-girlfriend and his girlfriend are good friends, and asks him not to tell Ms. Pac Man about his orientation. Pac-Man then puts on a bow and tells him that "she already knows". Upon realizing that Pac-Man is also Ms. Pac Man, Xandir decides to tell his girlfriend the truth.

Real Life

  • One man at an opera, to make conversation with the rich, important fellow next to him, said "Who is that ugly woman who just walked in?" The answer: "That's my wife." "Oh, no, not her; I mean that shocking monstrosity next to her." "That is my daughter."
  • There is a joke that both uses and subverts this, involving a man listening to his boss speak.

Man: *turns to woman* This guy is a pompous fool.
Woman: Do you know who I am?
Man: No.
Woman: I am that pompous fool's wife.
Man: *in an imposing tone* Do you know who I am?!
Woman: N-no...
Man: That's a relief. *blends into crowd*

  • John Krasinski, of The Office (US version), stated in one of the show's DVD commentaries that when he first auditioned for the role of Jim Halpert, he struck up a conversation with another man at the audition and stated in passing, "I hope they (the show's producers) don't screw this up." The other man then introduced himself as executive producer Greg Daniels.
  • In his autobiography About Face, David Hackworth tells how he was talking on the phone to what he assumed was an officious and annoying clerk at the Pentagon. After calling him a "little prick" Hackworth discovered the man was Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy. Fortunately his (Irish American) commanding officer was able to smooth things over, but as he put it: "Of all the people!"
  • A joke about a man trying to make the situation less awkward while dancing with a beautiful woman at a party.

Man: I really made a fool out of myself before.
Woman: Is that so? How?
Man: You see that man over there? The one with that disgusting wart on his nose? I commented on how the woman standing by the door was the fattest I'd ever seen. Turned out it was his wife!
Woman: *coldly* Oh, really. What did Dad say then?

  1. Unless, like Lucio, you think that marrying a whore is pressing to death, whipping, and hanging.