Sarcastic Confession

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"Honesty is the most subversive of all disguises."
T Bone Burnett, "Hollywood, Mecca of the Movies"

Remember, kids, it isn't lying if you tell the truth in a sarcastic tone of voice!

The protagonists are all trying to hold up the Masquerade, but the Nosy Neighbor is sniffing around, trying to figure out the secret. They won't settle for the standard excuses, and you can't convincingly make up something new on the spot. What's a Secret Keeper to do?

Simple: Tell the truth, but in such a way that no one will believe it. Then not only will you get them off your case, but if they actually run into the truth one day, they'll reject it out of hand.

Occasionally results in the trope user being hurt that no-one believes that he/she could have done what they sarcastically confessed to. Can also be used to lampshade the absurdity of the plot or setting.

See also Clark Kenting, Appeal to Audacity. Contrast with Cassandra Truth. Compare You Wouldn't Believe Me If I Told You. Suspiciously Specific Denial can drift into this trope. The third type of Framing the Guilty Party may overlap. A particularly crafty character might use it as a form of Public Secret Message.

We also do this with the premises of our favorite shows for fun: see Better Than It Sounds.

Note that a Sarcastic Confession is one which the confessing party INTENDS will not be taken seriously. Otherwise, it's an Ignored Confession.

Troper General's Warning: It is not recommended you try this in real life, particularly if you are being questioned by authorities. The world can be more Genre Savvy than TV seems to think.

Examples of Sarcastic Confession include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Code Geass, Lelouch tells Euphemia about his Geass ability being able to force anyone he uses it on to do absolutely anything he tells them too. For example, he jokingly tells her that if he orders her to kill all Japanese people, and she would have to do it. Prior to this incident, he was able to use his Geass ability at will, but during this conversation he loses the ability to control it, and it stays on permanently. Which means the sarcastic order he gave her became an absolute one, and she went out to immediately order the slaughter all the innocent Japanese people who had showed up to her area in an attempt to alleviate the issues the Japanese had with the Britannians.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya does not believe Kyon because he has already established himself as a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!, chapter 82:

Chao: You want to know my real identity?
Setsuna: That's right!
Chao: Hehehe... sometimes I'm a Chinese inventor full of mystery. Sometimes I'm a treasure box inside the class, a Mad Scientist. Sometimes I'm the number one genius inside the academy, and sometimes I'm the boss of the popular Chinese stand "Chao Bao Zi". My real identity is... AN ALIEN FROM MARS!!
Setsuna: WHAT KIND OF JOKE IS THIS!!

Chao: Hahaha, if something sounds too wild, nobody will believe you.

    • Of course the best part is that even the audience doesn't know yet.
    • During the Magical World arc, we find out that the layout of the world they are on is similar to the planet Mars, and that "joke" that Chao made earlier really IS a Cassandra Truth.
  • In Black Butler, some torturers tell Sebastian (who is a demon disguised as a butler) that he'd better confess or they'll hurt him. He admits that he was responsible for the Black Death, but since that was 500 years ago, they don't believe him.
  • Kida does this for Mikado in Durarara!! when some of Mikado's classmates overhear them talking about Mika staying at Mikado's apartment.
  • In a filler episode of One Piece,Zoro is captured by the Marines and questioned by an officer about how they infiltrated their base. He sarcastically tells them the truth- they dropped in from the sky with the help of a giant octopus balloon. The officer thinks he's mocking him.
  • Early in FLCL, Noata asks Haruko what she is. One of her sarcastic responses is "I'm an alien".


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Batman, as Bruce Wayne, was once called for jury duty and stated that he would not be a suitable juror because he was Batman, and helped apprehend the criminal. No-one believes him, because everyone knows Bruce Wayne is a fop and an utter dope (he later told Robin that, since he was under oath, he had no choice but to admit that he was Batman).
  • In an issue of JLA, white Martians start controlling the minds of people in an attempt to ruin the lives of the Justice League. They force Dick Grayson to cut the Bat-Rope while Batman is dangling from it, send an angry mob after Jimmy Olsen, etc. One of their tricks is to briefly take control of Lois Lane while she and Clark are at the Daily Planet, and have her rip open Clark's suit and expose him as Superman. Immediately afterward she comes to her senses and tries to fix it via this trope. With Clark's super-speedy help she is able to make it look like a prank by ripping open an intern's suit as well, revealing that he suddenly has a Batman shirt underneath. However, when she attempts to continue the gag by ripping open her own shirt and exposing herself as Wonder Woman Clark isn't fast enough and she ends up just... exposing herself.
  • In an early issue, Spider-Man is injured in battle with the Vulture and spends the rest of the issue with his arm in a sling, telling people he hurt it in P.E. Betty refuses to believe this is the case and asks him for the truth:

Peter: It happened when I was fighting the Vulture in mid-air for dear life.
Betty: Oh well. Ask a silly question, get a silly answer.

    • In another issue, Mary Jane's Aunt Anna confronts her with the evidence that Peter is constantly sneaking off at all hours and meeting with strange people, so obviously he's having an affair. MJ sarcastically explains that the real reason he does that stuff is because he's Spider-Man.
    • In a strip from the Newspaper comic Jameson demands to know how Peter always gets such good photos of Spider-Man. Peter comes out and says it's because he is Spider-Man and Jameson kicks him out of the office complaining that he can "never get a straight answer out of Parker".
  • Cormor from The Dungeon Series is an automaton and therefore cannot lie. At the beginning of his life, it gets him into all sort of trouble. After a few centuries, he's gotten good enough in Sarcastic Confession to build a whole life as an undercover automaton.
  • Marvel 1602. The Grand Inquisitor's messenger Petros is asked by King James of Scotland how he manages to carry a message from there to Spain and back in only a few days. His response? "I ran very fast, sir." Naturally, King James remarks on how funny he is.
    • Subverted when an inquisitor investigating the witchbreed insiders takes his statement at face value to use it as a confession.
  • From a Big Top story arc, where Dusty has been secretly replaced by a robot duplicate:

Dustybot: Pete. Tell me a secret, please.
Pete: What? What's with you? You've been acting really weird. Why do you want to hear secrets?
Dustybot: It is my primary objective. I have been programmed for intelligence collection.
Pete: Oh, ha ha. Seriously, what's up?
Dustybot: I'm just needy. Hold me, human.

  • There was a Marvel comic quoted in other Marvel comics with the line: "The best way to keep a good secret is to tell everybody - then nobody believes you."
  • Subverted in Spider Woman, a police officer asks Jessica what her Skrull-detecting watch is. She tells him it's a watch, but he doesn't believe her. So she tells him it's an alien detector. To her surprise, he nods and asks her how it works. After all, there's a dead alien in the morgue, and Spider-Woman put it there, so that makes sense.
  • This was how the Metans operated in Dikto's version of Shade the Changing Man: their outpost on Earth was disguised as a conspiracy theory insisting Metans were amongst us.
  • The Trickster does this in the prelude to Blue Devil.

Security Guard: Hiya, Mr. Jesse! What brings you here? I heard you was working over at Associated Pictures!
Trickster: That's right, Fred... I'm just here to steal the Blue Devil costume!
Security Guard: Ha ha! Always with the jokes!


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • NGE fanfic Taking Sights indicates that you have to be real careful what you tell Rei because she CAN read between lines (despite her emotionless nature)...

Asuka: Look, boy and girls... men and women too... have rituals.
Rei: Rituals?
Asuka: It's stupid crap girls gotta do if they wanna get their mack on with the dude they want to bone -- like cooking them lunch first or being all fake demure -- because if they don't do it then everyone else thinks she's a slut.
Rei: Ah, so your behavior towards Mister Kaji is explained by your desire to "bone" him but to not appear promiscuous for wanting to do so.
Asuka: ...
Rei: Am I... in error?

  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, when Kyon's mother asks him if he's stopped being a delinquent, he replies that he's skipped straight to joining the Yakuza.
    • Kyon uses Sarcastic Confessions many more times in the same fic, including the following gem (to Sasaki, the resident Agent Scully):

Let's see ... I have to have a conversation with past instances of several people, rescue an heiress from twelve boryokudan thugs, arrange for an alien artifact to be delivered, and ... hum, tomorrow is Tuesday, so I really should study for that math test, too.

"Yes Raikage-sama. While I was in Konoha, I met people who can travel between dimensions, several people who came back through time to prevent Armageddon, more than half of the jinchuriki in the world, learned of a secret organization that wants to take over the elemental nations, and met the creator of all the known universes in existence. It was a very enlightening experience."


Films -- Live Action[edit | hide]

  • In Attack of the Clones, Count Dooku "warns" Obi-Wan that the Sith control the Galactic Republic, knowing that he won't be believed. He conveniently avoids saying that the Trade Federation is still working for Darth Sidious and that Dooku himself is a Sith Lord named Tyranus, however. The Expanded Universe implies, though, that even at this point he might want to kill Sidious, without consciously realizing that such urges are perfectly natural for a Sith.
    • Of course, he also lied a handful of times in the same conversation. He's just a Manipulative Bastard.
  • In Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Dr. Brown rants that the weakness of the criminal mind is "you tell them the complete truth and they'll believe nothing!" He says this right in front of the bad guys whom he proceeds to pull this on. They fall for it.
  • In Calendar Girls, Chris enters a store-bought cake into a baking contest, which it wins. When the judges call her up to share the secrets of her success, she says that she followed her mother's advice, the last part of which is to buy one at the store. Everyone thinks she's kidding.
  • Happens in Dial M for Murder in the most blatant way possible.
  • The Girl Next Door: "Do those girls go to your school?" "No, actually, they're porn stars."
  • In Grosse Pointe Blank, Martin Blank tells each character the truth that he is an assassin when they ask him his profession. Of course they take it as a joke.

Martin: I freaked out, joined the army, went into business for myself, I'm a professional killer.
Paul: Do you have to do postgraduate work for that or can you just jump right in?

  • In Hard Candy, Hayley jokingly says early on that "Nine out of ten doctors agree: I'm crazy." Later, she repeats it, not at all jokingly.
  • In Bruges: Ray, a hitman whose first job (assassinating a priest) went horribly awry when he accidentally killed a little boy, is asked during a date what he does for a living.

Ray: I shoot people for money.
Chloe: What kinds of people?
Ray: Priests, children, you know. The usual.
Chloe: Is there a lot of money to be made in that business?
Ray: There is for priests, there isn't for children.

    • In Bruges applies this trope to other characters too. But since the movie doesn't take place from their perspective, the audience finds themselves on the receiving end of sarcastic confessions and are not sure whether the character is telling the truth or just being sarcastic.
  • In Little Big Man, Jack Crabb tells General Custer in the final battle scene exactly what's going to happen if he charges forward. Crabb gives Custer the information because he knows that he won't be believed, and he isn't.
  • In Practical Magic, Sally Owens accidentally kills Jimmy Angelov with an overdose of belladonna, and then after she and her sister resurrect him as a homicidal revenant, she is forced to kill him again. Later in the film, when lawman Gary Hallet asks her if she killed Angelov, she answers—perfectly truthfully and with a flippant tone -- "Oh, yeah. A couple of times."
    • It's also worth mentioning that the reason she was forced to do this was because she was under a spell that made her unable to lie.
  • In Red Eye, there was a minor case of this. Jackson Rippner is very unhappy about his meaningful name...

Lisa: That wasn't very nice of your parents.
Jackson: No! That's what I told them! Right before I killed them.

    • The dialogue first third of that film is almost entirely composed of Sarcastic Confessions, until he makes it clear he's not joking.
  • Cardinal Richelieu does this in The Three Musketeers (1993). King Louis tells the Cardinal that he's heard rumors that he is planning to betray him. Richelieu responds:

Richelieu: Ah, yes. That is usually the first. Let me see if I remember it correctly. While the English attack from without, the wicked Cardinal undermines from within, forging a secret alliance with Buckingham and placing himself on the throne. But really, Your Majesty, why stop there? I have heard much more festive variations. I make oaths with pagan gods, seduce the queen in her own chamber[1], teach pigs to dance and horses to fly, and keep the moon carefully hidden within the folds of my robe. Have I forgotten anything?

  • In Night Hawks, the Big Bad is flirting with a girl when she asks him what he does for a living.

"I'm an international terrorist wanted for bombings all over the world, and a lady-killer."

  • In Closer, Larry ask Alice (while she works as his stripper) what her real name is, and spends a good amount of money on it. She tells him it's Jane Jones. That being a rather unusual name, he doesn't believe her of course. At the end of the movie, we see her passport ...
  • In The Accidental Golfer, Bruno at one point is asked by his wife who just called him. He says truthfully that it was his lover. "Haha." his wife sarcastically answers.
  • In Road to Perdition a waitress asks Michael Sullivan and his son what they are doing in the middle of nowhere. Michael Sullivan Jr answers that they are bank robbers in an innocent voice. She treats this as a joke and doesn't look into the string of bank robberies following the gangster and his son across America.
  • In Liar Liar, Jim Carrey is cursed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (at least as he perceives it) for a whole day, and unable to lie by omission or even remain silent. Naturally, he is asked what he really thinks of his bosses right in front of them. He gets out of the situation by taking it so far over the top that everyone thinks he's roasting them.
  • True Lies shows that even under a Truth Serum, the bad guys don't believe Arnie when he says he's gonna kill 'em.
  • In Creature with Atom Brain the forensic scientist, Chet Walker, is so annoyed by the press badgering him to give them details about the murder that he goes right out and tells them that the murder was committed by an undead monster with radioactive blood. They all get mad at him.
  • Subverted in Ladyhawke. Mouse tells the Captain of the Guard that he saw Navarre going south, assuming that since they know he lies constantly they'll go the other direction. They go south anyway, since the Captain figured that Mouse would do just that.
    • Sadly, it would've worked better if he'd just told them 'east' or 'west'.
  • In The Breakfast Club, principal Richard Vernon tries to publicly shame John Bender for having pulled a false fire alarm, leading to his detention:

Vernon: What would you do if your home, your family... your dope was on fire?
Bender: Impossible, sir, it's in Johnson's underwear.

    • Of course, earlier in the film he had indeed tucked his bag of weed into Brian Johnson's pants.
  • In For a Few Dollars More, the Man With No Name joins a gang of robbers with the intent of getting close to their leader and kill him for the bounty on his head. His answer to the question why he wants to join: "Well, with such a big reward being offered on all of you gentlemen, I thought I'll might just tag along on your next robbery, might just turn you in to the law".
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Jack Sparrow does this with the two bickering redcoats, then points out that he knew they wouldn't believe him.

Mullroy: What's your purpose in Port Royal, Mr. Smith?
Murtogg: Yeah, and no lies.
Jack Sparrow: Well, then, I confess, it is my intention to commandeer one of these ships, pick up a crew in Tortuga, raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weasely black guts out.
Murtogg: I said no lies.
Mullroy: I think he's telling the truth.
Murtogg: If he were telling the truth, he wouldn't have told us.
Jack Sparrow: Unless, of course, he knew you wouldn't believe the truth even if he told it to you.

[She and her mother is watching TV. Her mother is engrossed in the show.]
Elin: [Out of the blue] Mom, I am a lesbian. I am a homosexual.
Her mother looks up from the tv, have clearly only heard one half of what she said
Elin: ...just kidding.
[Mom looks bewildered and then mentally shrugs and returns to her show.]

  • In The Man Who Wasn't There, Ed's wife is accused of murdering her paramour. Their lawyer is trying to come up with a story—any story—that might convince the jury that she didn't do it. Ed then relates the whole, unvarnished truth to his lawyer, telling him he did it in self defense because the victim saw through Ed's blackmail scheme and tried to strangle him. The lawyer's response? 'Bah! No jury would believe such a ridiculous story! You can't keep helping each other like this'. The crazy thing is that the lawyer doesn't hear the confession at all. He only hears a possible story to tell the jury, as it is story that won't work, he forgets it. The lawyer cannot even understand 'truth' 'lies' 'what really happened'. 'Reality' has no meaning for him, it is ALL only 'what will the jury believe'.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Happens a few times in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books.
    • In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Malicia (the mayor's daughter) is an avid "storyteller" with a flair for the dramatic, insisting that every ordinary aspect of life in general has some sort of fairytale-themed supernatural basis. Of course, by this point nobody in town ever believes anything she says, so when the adults of the town finally stop carrying the Idiot Ball and go looking for the bad guys (for the wrong reason, of course) and question her and Keith, it leads to this little gem:

Malicia rolled her eyes. "All right, yes," she said. "They got here and a talking cat helped us to feed them poison, and now they're locked in the cellar." The men looked at her. "Yeah, right," said the leader, turning away. "Well, if you do see them, tell them were looking for them, okay?" Malicia shut the door. "It's terrible, not being believed," she said.

    • In Going Postal, Moist Von Lipwig often states the truth of what he is as a criminal, and what he does, but in such a way that everyone takes it as him being heroic... and the only one who believes him (and who didn't know beforehand) not only forgives him for what he did that hurt her personally, but also enjoys watching him when he's in the midst of his latest scheme. Oh, and is his fiancée.
      • In Making Money, when this same phenomenon suddenly becomes tremendously inconvenient, he laments that he must have some dual superpower, to allow little old ladies to see right through him, but like what they see.
    • In Hogfather, Twyla's parents asked her governess Susan why she's going into the basement with a poker. Susan answered that Twyla thought she heard a monster in the basement. The parents then assumed that Susan was going to pretend to beat up a monster to assure Twyla that it was safe. They thought the bent poker was a nice touch...
  • At the end of Patricia Briggs' Mooncalled, when asked about a large bruise, Jesse explains that her father had killed the one who gave it to her and it's laughed off, the questioner unaware that her father is the alpha of the local werewolf pack and really did kill the guy. Later, Mercy is asked about her broken arm.

I remembered Jesse's method of telling the whole truth, and said, "I got knocked into a bunch of wooden crates by a werewolf while I was trying to rescue a young girl from the clutches of an evil witch and a drug lord."
"Ha-ha," he said in the exact same tone as I'd given his joke. "Must have been something stupid if you won't tell the truth."

  • Subverted in G. K. Chesterton's short story "The Worst Crime in the World", in which Father Brown accompanies a lawyer to visit the father of Captain Musgrave. The priest's niece is considering marriage with the captain, while the lawyer's firm is considering lending him money, so they're interested in his character (and whether his father is on good enough terms with him to leave him money). The father says that while he will leave his son the estate, he will never speak to him again, because his son committed "the worst crime in the world". In fact, the captain had murdered his father just before they arrived, and was passing himself off as his father during the conversation.
  • San does this in Zen and the Art of Faking It.

OLD LADY: You again! What are you doing this time?
SAN: (poking around in a sandbox) I'm looking for a place to hide my coat, gloves, and sneakers because everyone at my school thinks I'm a Zen master. Is that okay?
OLD LADY: Sure. Just try not to hide them behind my invisible flying saucer, alright?

  • In Agatha Christie's The Murder at the Vicarage (the first Miss Marple novel), two characters give implausible confessions shortly after the murder, apparently in mutual attempts to shield each other. In fact, they are telling the truth but are not believed.
  • Another Agatha Christie example: In Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, the heroine, with the help of a doctor, decides to fake a car wreck in order to gain entrance to what she believes is the murderer's house. The results in the following exchange:

Passerby: I say, has there been an accident?
Doctor: No, the lady ran her car into the wall on purpose.

Lestrade: The first fellow was a bit too active, but the second was caught by the under-gardener, and only got away after a struggle. He was a middle-sized, strongly built man -- square jaw, thick neck, moustache, a mask over his eyes.
Holmes: That's rather vague. Why, it might be a description of Watson!
Lestrade: (amused) It's true. It might be a description of Watson.

    • The punchline, of course, is that it was a description of Watson - the two 'burglars' had been him and Holmes, who had broken into Milverton's house the night before to find and destroy his blackmail stash. The murderer had been someone else entirely and escaped via a different route.
  • In Artemis Fowl, the fairies can't enter a human dwelling unless they've been invited. In a scene in the third book, Artemis sarcastically asks Corrupt Corporate Executive Jon Spiro if he thinks Artemis is going to get the C Cube back with the help of his fairy friends. Spiro laughs and tells Artemis that he can bring all the fairy friends he wants, giving Holly and the rest access to the building. Juliet later gets Holly permission to enter another building by adopting a "little girl" attitude and asking "Can I bring my invisible friend?"
  • Partially subverted in The Sword of Truth. A nondescript man shows up at the Wizard's Keep and declares, "I am an assassin, sent by Emperor Jagang, to kill Richard Rahl. Could you direct me to him please?" As would probably happen in real life, the guards aren't sure whether to believe him or not, but they do assume that this guy is trouble somehow and treat him as a threat. The subversion is that his aim was to be taken prisoner and taken inside the Keep, which is what happens; at which point, he reveals that he is a wizard and starts kicking people's asses in an endeavour to do exactly what he said he would do. They beat him, but with difficulty.
  • In Simon Hawke's Time Wars book The Zenda Vendetta, one of the main characters is impersonating the protagonist of The Prisoner of Zenda, who is supposed to be impersonating the kidnapped king of Ruritania. The king's fiancée comments that he's been acting strange and jokingly asks what he's done with the real king. The impostor replies, with perfect honesty, that the king has been locked up in Zenda Castle as part of a plot by his half-brother, and she tells him not to joke about something like that.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in A Strange Land. When Jill smuggles the Man from Mars out of the hospital in a large trunk, a passing cop asks her what the trunk contains. She replies, truthfully, "A body"... he considers it a joke and lets her pass.
    • Similarly, in Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long remarks that one of two ways to tell a lie artistically is to tell the truth in such a manner that no one actually believes you.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Arrow's Fall (part of the Valdemar series), the heroine Talia is imprisoned by the bad guys. When they learn the Valdemarans have found out their plans, they interrogate Talia as to how she informed them, and, aware that she will not be able to hold out under Cold-Blooded Torture indefinitely, she intentionally starts off by telling them a truth she knows they will not believe: "My horse warned them."
    • The narrative further mentions that this is specifically a part of her training as a Herald; she and her fellow trainees are previously warned that, subjected to enough torture, they will eventually break down and give up whatever information they're being tortured for, so the best precaution is to throw out so many lies, half-truths, and Sarcastic Confessions that no one will believe the truth when they hear it.
    • 'Best' in the sense that the information (that may be obsolete in a few months) is kept safe. Perhaps not so good from the point of view of the torture victim, if they have hidden the truth so well they will not have any left to tell the torturer and therefore the torture will not stop.
      • Which is entirely in-keeping with Herald training, as one of the things Heralds explicitly volunteer for is that their lives are expendable if necessary for the mission.
  • The Magnificent Bastard Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish in A Song of Ice and Fire hides his duplicitous nature in plain sight, telling the world that he is untrustworthy. Of course, no one takes him seriously until it's too late. In fact, the frequency with which people who know how much of a snake he is from his own mouth continue to trust him (until their unfortunate downfalls) nearly makes Littlefinger an example of human Schmuck Bait. When Littlefinger first appears, he's a man from a house of no name worth mentioning, and has only risen so far in rank (to becoming the trusted advisor of a king) because he's a damn fine accountant...which reputation keeps the people around him complacent, even as he gathers, at an astonishing rate, more power, wealth, and influence unto himself. Also note that while the audience sees all the plans he runs, none of the characters do. All the viewpoint characters that manage to figure out his schemes are bumped off (usually by him, directly or indirectly,) in a matter of pages.
      • Indeed, the only person who has not only managed to figure Littlefinger out and survive the process, but actually come anywhere near to coming out on top when dealing with him, is Tyrion Lannister. And at the end of book three, he's wanted for Regicide and fleeing for his life. I wonder who set that up?
      • Sansa's catching on, but only with Littlefinger helping her.
      • In that vein, Tyrion gets a sort of Sarcastic Confession of his own, when he is on trial for the murder of King Joffrey, his nephew. After he loses his trial by combat, he confesses to the only accusation he's actually guilty of—being born a dwarf and disappointing his lord father, complete with Ironic Echo to the first book.

Tyrion: All dwarves may be bastards in their fathers' eyes, but not all bastards need be dwarves.

      • Also a very funny one when he is on trial for throwing Bran off the roof of the Starks' castle.
  • In Ellery Queen's Inspector Queen's Own Case: November Song, when the adopted baby is smothered, his mother breaks down in hysterics, blaming herself; her husband ends up sending her to a very discreet private hospital to try to recover. In fact, she had learned that the baby was her husband's illegitimate son, and had snapped and killed the boy.
  • In Paul Robinson's In the Matter of series book The Gatekeeper: The Gate Contracts, Dr. Sign has a secret he doesn't tell people. (It's not revealed for real until the next book in the series, that he has discovered a way to read minds, along with other things). When Dr. Sign has simply made an enlightened evaluation of George's condition because of his experience, George asks him, but doesn't believe it when he tells him the truth.
  • The Shaman Laughs, by James D. Doss. The perpetrator confesses directly to the police under the guise of helping them with their investigation.
  • Subverted in Into the Thinking Kingdom, where Simna when captured mentions something about his captors. When they ask how he knows he sarcastically says "A little bird told me" which is just a saying. His captors freak out, as it turns out they actually have birds that are basically thought reading parrots, and they start to think that Simna is actually an extremely perceptive and dangerous person.
  • In Night World, Quinn talks to some girls at a death-themed club he frequents that he might be from another world, or that maybe he isn't human. When Rashel says that she came to the club to find darkness while flirting with him, he laughs, "And you found it!" Lampshaded:

That's right, Rashel thought. Make fun of them by telling them a truth they won't believe.

  • In The Alchemist, when guards ask the eponymous Alchemist what the egg and bottle of liquid in his possession are, he replies that they're actually the fabled Philosopher's Stone and Elixir of Life, and they share a good laugh. He later explains to the young protagonist that he could tell them the truth because only wise men can recognize truth in front of them.
  • Stanislaw Lem's Peace on the Earth contains "history" of weapon design in the beginning of the third millenium. It was published separately with preface claiming that the text is secret document in future, and the author found no better way to hide the document than to publish it as Sci-Fi.
  • Barbara Hambly's Dog Wizard: When a wizard from another world is exiled to San Francisco and joins a dojo to keep up his sword fighting skills, he explains that his technique may be a bit unique as he is a wizard in exile from another world.
  • In DeepWizardry, Nita reacts to a question from her little sister about where she and Kit have been all day with, "Turning into whales." Subverted in that said little sister connects the dots with some other weirdness that's been going on, and her suspicions are not allayed in the slightest.
  • Bit of an inversion in Dangerous Liaisons: Valmont was having an affair with a woman whose bedroom was placed between her husband's and her lover's rooms. When she tried to go back to her room the door was locked. Valmont convinced her to scream loudly, then he broke down the door, letting her run into bed while pretending to the husband and lover that she had been screaming for some minutes before they heard her pretending that she woke up and thought there was an intruder. She was able to truthfully claim that she had never been so terrified.
  • Alden Nowlan's poem "Fair Warning", where the author is detailing his imprisonment of his brother, explains why the poem exists:

I could confess to
murder and as long as
I did it in a verse
there's not a court
that would convict me

  • At the start of The Day Watch Alisa gets a lift to work, and tells the driver she's a witch who wants to turn people to darkness. He thinks she's joking and plays along. She later uses the same trick on a group of little girls she ends up looking after.
  • In Al-Farabi's commentary on Plato's Laws, Al-Farabi claims that Plato is using this trope.
  • In Aliens Ate My Homework by Bruce Coville, Rod has a near-pathological barrier against telling lies. So when the eponymous aliens eat his homework, and he holds the torn sheets up to class, he just tells the class the truth. Grakker, the aliens' captain, is furious with him for revealing their existence, but diplomat Madame Pong compliments him on "the creative use of truth."
  • Played with in Isaac Asimov's short story Pate de Foie Gras, (a spoof scientific article ostensibly written by a Department of Agriculture employee) about a goose which through some unknown atomic transmutation process really does lay golden eggs. Since the golden eggs don't produce more geese, there's only the one, so they can't afford to dissect it for study. Stumped, they turn to the public for an answer, openly publishing the story in a science fiction magazine in the knowledge that it won't be believed but will still get a pile of thought-out responses from its audience.
  • Done in the Star Wars EU novel Rogue Planet, when Anakin tells a guard that he's talking to the planet himself, who is getting ready to blast the invaders out of the sky.
  • In The Time Traveler's Wife, Clare pulls this when Alicia tells her she could swear she once saw a naked 40-year-old Henry in her house.

Alicia: Maybe it was, you know, astral projection or something.
Clare: Time travel.
Alicia: Oh, yeah, right. God, how bizarre.

  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore tells Snape, "unless you are suggesting that Harry and Hermione are able to be in two places at once, I'm afraid I don't see any point in troubling them further." Harry and Hermione had, in fact, been in two places at once.
    • This one is less about Snape not believing it, and more about him needing an excuse to pretend that he believes that Harry & Hermione couldn't have done it. After all, being a Hogwarts Professor, he already knew that Hermione had been using a time-turner all year long to attend more classes than she should be able to.
  • Barbara Michaels' The Dancing Floor has a scene in which a member of a coven points out to the heroine that, since the authorities don't believe in witchcraft, a witch who killed someone by magic could brag about it and be perfectly safe as long as there was no way that witch could've done the killing without magic....
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden appears on a talk show discussing magic (mostly whether or not it's real) alongside, among others, a Brazilian professor named Paolo Ortega, who maintains that "wizards" like Harry are just charlatans that use optical tricks and technology to sell their illusions, and quips to the audience that, with the proper preparation, he could appear to the audience to be a real live vampire. The audience laughs at the amusing joke. Guess what Ortega actually is?
  • Resident Magnificent Bastard Dirk Provin from Jennifer Fallon's The Second Sons trilogy does this more than once. Every time brilliantly and no one believes him. Most significantly, his friend straight up ask him what he was doing on one very suspicious afternoon: he tells her that he just sent a message for their mortal enemies to meet them at their destination so he can defect to them and rise to a position of power within a shadowy evil religious organisation that is dominating their country. She laughs it off and gets mad at him once she realises he was telling the truth. Of course it was what he left out that made her want to actively kill him out of sheer frustration: that he single handedly put in place a to bring down the entire governmental and religious regime and completely uproot a corrupt and deadly power system that an entire war and the death of thousands of people couldn't stop. Suffice to say the resistance movement is mightily pissed off that the only person he told this particular plan to was a mad mathematician with an opium addiction.
  • In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Lamora, in the middle of his current Bavarian Fire Drill, first convinces one of the mark's employees to let him pass, then (once he has the mark's attention), yells at said employee for it, claiming, "I could've been a thief!" His goal: thievery.
  • In a column included in the Harper Collins paperback edition of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket says that the best way to keep a secret is to tell it to everyone, but pretend you are lying.
  • Played with in Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. Anarchist terrorists disguise their intentions by loudly proclaiming themselves as anarchists, thus encouraging onlookers to dismiss them as merely harmless boors. Backfires on one character, who accidently invokes the trope whilst trying to convince the protagonist he is the real deal. Subverted later when it turns out the anarchists were actually police spies all along.
  • In the world of Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings, "the Wit", a magic allowing for communication with animals, is considered by many to be a vile sort of magic, justly punishable by death. In one scene in Fool's Errand, Fitz uses it to help him track a missing prince, his companion doesn't believe his lies as to how he managed it, and before thinking, he admits (sarcastically) that he could have used the Wit. Of course, Laurel didn't believe that, either.
  • From The Shadow of the Lion:

Policeman: [I'm looking for] a boy. Rumor has it he lives somewhere in this area of the city. Dark curly hair.
Father Lopez: There are thousands of boys in Venice with dark curly hair. Doubtless I have this one hidden under a blanket in my cubicle.
Policeman: [I'd] just wondered if you'd seen him, Father Lopez.
Father Lopez: I did. When I see him again, I will tell him you're looking for him.

  • Indirection by Everett B. Cole has it right in the epigraph:

The best way to keep a secret is to publish it in a quite unbelievable form — and insist that it is the truth.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Angel:
    • Used by Cordelia, right to Angel's face, stating how she caused the entire first half of the season as a sarcastic confession.
    • Inverted by Angelus, who uses a sarcastic denial of guilt to torment his friends. He's discovered drinking a dead person's blood, and declares that it isn't what looks like. It isn't--he just found the corpse after it was killed by the same mole as in the above example, and was feeling peckish.
  • Sometimes used in Bones, confusing Dr. Brennan.
  • In Alias Smith and Jones, Heyes and Curry find themselves accidentally impersonating two of the agents who are supposed to catch them. Another agent realizes they're not who they say they are and asks their real names. Heyes promptly says, "Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry", and the agent assumes they just don't want to tell him who they really are.
  • In the new Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Tyrol is afraid at one point that he might be a Cylon sleeper agent; the priest, Cavil, assures him that he is not. When Tyrol asks him how he knows, Cavil sarcastically replies "because I'm a Cylon, and I've never seen you at any of our meetings." Of course, no one takes it seriously at the time... but then he's revealed to be a Cylon in the very next episode. Savvy viewers start suspecting it from that line alone, since Chip Six made the same joke earlier.
    • At the end of season three, Tyrol actually is revealed as a Cylon. So Cavil wasn't right after all. Of course, the final five explicitly are said to be not like normal humanoid models, and the others are explicitly not even supposed to think about them, so Cavil really hasn't seen them at the meetings.
      • And then that's double-subverted when we find out Cavil knew who and what Tyrol was the entire time, since the Final Five created Cavil and the other "skinjobs", Cavil went Ax Crazy, murdered the Final Five, had them Boxed upon resurrection, then let them out brainwashed just in time to witness the Colonial Holocaust...which the Final Five tried to avert forty years earlier. Messing with Tyrol was just part of his personal enjoyment of the whole thing, as he was the only being in existence who knew the truth.
      • And it gets even better in The Plan, which reveals that the Cylons on the fleet actually do hold regular meetings. So Cavil is two-for-two on that one.
  • Happens occasionally on Burn Notice, when one of the cast is undercover. For example, in an episode where Michael was hired as a security consultant by an art dealer to find someone spying on him, he finds out the culprit was a woman whose father the dealer had killed. He spends the rest of the episode messing with the art dealer's security, including wiping out a hard drive containing security footage with an electromagnet. When explaining how the drive could've been erased, he puts quite a bit of emphasis on the possibility of someone using an electromagnet.
    • And that's not even mentioning all the lines like "Your spy could be standing right in front of you and you wouldn't even know it!" As Television Without Pity put it, when Michael eventually revealed his real identity and the bad guy was shocked: "Dude, he tried to tell you. Like, nine times."
    • In Hard Out, Michael is trapped on an island with a bunch of nasty mercenaries, so he pretends to be a superior in their chain of command. When he's asked why they should believe his story, he pulls this on them: "oh, you think we're lying, smart guy? You think we're intruders who just landed on this island with heavily armed troops, we walked right up to you, just to tell you you have a broken comlink?" Yes, in fact. (He left out merely the part where the comlink is broken because he just destroyed it.)
      • Later in that episode, he pulls the same line as in the previous example: "For all we know, a team of highly-trained operatives could be after those files, right now!" (Indeed there are, and they're talking to one of them.)
  • A variant (sarcastic Denial) occurs in the Blackadder The Third episode "Nob and Nobility". Having killed The Scarlet Pimpernel, Blackadder tells Prince George that the real Pimpernel would never admit his identity, so the Prince's enormous postal order belongs to someone who has been to France and rescued an aristocrat but, when asked "Are you the Scarlet Pimpernel?", replies "No sir. Of course not." George quickly realizes that Blackadder has (supposedly) been to France and rescued an aristocrat, and asks if he is the Scarlet Pimpernel. Blackadder replies, completely truthfully, "No sir. Of course not."
    • In the Christmas special the Elizabethan Blackadder performs a double bluff wherein he confesses truthfully to Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry) that the queen is thinking of beheading anyone who tries to give her a present, knowing that he'll think it to be a lie and decide to give her one. (This leads to the hilarious line, "Baldrick, you wouldn't know a subtle plan if it got naked, painted itself purple, and danced around on top of a harpsichord singing "Subtle plans are here today!") The plan backfires when the queen changes her mind and ends up demanding a present from Blackadder, who of course doesn't have one, but he gets it to backfire *again* in his favor when he tricks Melchett and the queen into signing a death warrant for Melchett and persuades her to let him inherit all of the things she promised Fry's character in exchange for his gift.
  • Subverted in an episode of House. House was taken away by the CIA, and when he called Dr. Wilson, Wilson (at least initially) didn't believe him. Dr. Cuddy (their boss) asks Wilson where House is, and she doesn't believe Wilson, either. At the end of the episode, Cuddy asks House where he's been, and tells him he better not say it was the CIA or she'll give House and Wilson extra clinic hours. House then had to come up with an alternative explanation Cuddy will actually believe. Unfortunately, Cuddy wouldn't believe that House would be willing to be hired for a day by a rich guy with a sick child, stating that it's actually more plausible that House was with the CIA (and they get the extra clinic hours).
    • Used straight in the episode "Top Secret", where Foreman almost catches Chase and Cameron having sex at the workplace while they should be watching over a patient. When he later inquires what they were doing, Chase comes with a quick and shady excuse that just seems to make the exposing of their naughty deed inevitable. At this point Cameron tells the truth, which Foreman just grimaces over and drops the subject.
    • Used again in the season finale of season 4, when Wilson asks House what he didn't say aloud about Amber while he was under hypnosis. House responds honestly, "I wanted to see her naked," but Wilson doesn't believe him originally.
    • Also in the recent season. While not actually spoken, the detective guy gives Cuddy a picture of House as a college cheerleader to earn her trust. She admits she knew the picture was falsified. Turns out it wasn't.
    • Yet again, season 5 episode 7, when his employees ask House why Cuddy went to talk to him, he just blurts it out. No one believes him, except Wilson, later on.

House: I kinda hit that last night, and now she's all up on my jock.
Wilson: Wow! Wha... what?
House: Huh. Everyone else thought I was kidding.

    • Some House/Wilson shippers like to think House does this in the episode "The Mistake".

Stacy: What are you hiding?
House: I'm gay. (Stacy looks unimpressed) Oh, that's not what you meant! It does explain a lot, though. No girlfriend... always with Wilson... obsession with sneakers...

  • Psych: When a criminal makes Shawn prove his Psychic Powers by telling how many fingers he's holding up behind his back, Shawn can see the fingers using an overly-elaborate series of reflections including a TV, mirror, and glass of water. When he tells the criminal that's what's going on, he, naturally, doesn't believe him.
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack: The ingredients in some exotic curry Alex ate have reacted with the GC-161 to give her Super Strength. Unfortunately, it wore off exactly when she and her Secret Keepers were testing the ability, and Ray needs to bring her the rest of the curry so she can lift the Earth cat off her foot. When he finds her father about to eat the last of it, Ray grabs it, explains the above at Motor Mouth speed, and runs off.
    • In another episode, Alex bribes her friend Louis into impersonating her for a doctor's visit. He manages to fool everyone, but almost spoils it at the end; when the doctor reveals that he plays up the Mad Doctor persona for his amusement, Louis angrily retorts that he was just pretending to be Alex Mack and the doctor fell for it.
  • Seven Days has the main character explain the government Time Travel casually on live television, including the plots of several episodes. The reporter is fired for letting him on the air.
    • It helped immensely that Parker, the main character, prefaced his statement with, paraphrasing, "They took me out of this insane asylum..."
  • New Amsterdam is shaping up to be this way (paraphrase):

Main Character: I can read lips.
Partner: I suppose you were also deaf.
Main Character: Was for a while. Back in Normandy. A shell exploded too close for comfort.

    • He does that a LOT. He tells anyone who asks that he's an immortal 400-year-old.
  • In the first-season finale for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Morris asks Cameron whether the car she's standing next to is hers. She responds by telling him it belongs to the man she just killed and was loading into the trunk when he found her. The particularly hilarious part is how it's impossible to tell if she was actually using a sarcastic confession, since the car did presumably belong to a criminal she'd killed because his boss was threatening John and his family...but she might have just killed him and hidden his body elsewhere, instead of the trunk.
    • Also, in the episode "Alpine Fields", one almost hopes that Lauren telling her father that she was looking at lesbian porn was a Sarcastic Confession gone wrong, and the resulting outrage was just a coverup (she was kind of butch).
  • In Power Rangers Mystic Force the record-store boss Toby demands to know why his employees keep leaving work abruptly. Chip tells him they are Power Rangers and he simply laughs it off.
  • In The Pretender, Jarod is completely honest about how he came by his impressive skills. Since he is a genius who can learn things extremely quickly, these answers are along the lines of "I learned it from a book," or "I forged my transfer papers." Almost everyone assumes he's joking.
    • One example, IIRC: "You show people a diploma and they assume you're some kind of expert."
  • From Pushing Daisies:

Olive: Are you and the pie-maker in some kind of cahoots together?
Chuck: I died. He brought me back to life. Cahoots enough for you?
Olive: If you don't want to tell me, just say so.

  • In Gossip Girl after Blair loses her virginity to Chuck, her on-again-off-again boyfriend Nate has the following conversation with Chuck, who is also Nate's best friend:

Nate: Could you find who she's seeing?
Chuck: Me.
Nate: Yes. Come on, man, who better?
Chuck: Who better indeed.

  • In a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode where Sally, Tommy and Harry broke into Mary's house and decided to stay even after Officer Don showed up:

Suzie Martin: Hi, you must be Mary Albright.
Sally: Uh... yeah. Otherwise I'd be this strange person that broke in and was hanging around even though the police told me to leave.

  • Dexter often uses such to put people at their ease. Regarding a therapist he's investigating:

Fellow patient: How do you like him?
Dexter: He's all right. But I'm a sociopath, so there's not much he can do for me.

    • And in a flashback to his first date with Rita, she says his sister has been telling her all about him, and he jokes, "You mean she admitted the fact that I'm an ax murderer?"
      • Actually, that's not exactly a confession. He uses a big knife.
  • In Primeval, after a mammoth has ravaged the M25 Motorway, this exchange occurs between Jenny and an Intrepid Reporter:

Reporter: I've seen the pictures. That thing is too big to be an elephant.
Jenny: Do you know what? You're right. It's actually a mammoth.
Reporter: I could do without the wind up.

  • Clark Kent has used the same tactic as in the animated series on Smallville, such as when he and Pete discover Rose Grier's dead body stuffed in a cupboard:

Pete: How'd you know she was in there?
Clark: Because I can see right through the door, Pete.
Pete: Very funny, Sherlock.

  • When the title character of Nurse Jackie urges doctor Coop to oppose the introduction of a pharmacy robot that'll put the pharmacist, Eddie, out of a job, he jokingly accuses her of having a "little crush on Eddie", to which she replies:

Jackie: Yeah. That's it, Coop, I have a huge crush on Eddie. In fact, we fuck every day at noon. You're a moron.
(cut to the clock in Eddie's pharmacy, where he and Jackie are fucking... at noon)

  • In Veronica Mars, Veronica uses this every so often on her dad.
    • One example:

Keith: What are you doing tonight?
Veronica: I'll be meeting two hookers at my boyfriend's place.

    • And in a later episode, when she answers the phone.

Veronica: If you're wondering what I'm doing at this time of night, I'm hanging outside a convenience store, eating corn nuts and watching strippers.

      • She has a tendency to give him this kind of answer even when she isn't actually doing anything shady (e.g., answering "How was your date?" with "Lousy conversation, but the sex was fantastic!" when the most that happened was a peck on the cheek), which makes it work better.
  • On the Taxi episode "Crime and Punishment", Louie has been embezzling money from the company, and when this money is discovered to be missing, he attempts to frame Jeff in hopes that the whole thing will blow over without incident. Alex, who all along suspected that Louie was covering his own crime, threatened to turn him in if he didn't himself. Louie confesses in private with their manager, who immediately breaks down laughing in disbelief, and even drops charges against Jeff because of how ridiculous he find the idea of Louie committing this theft. When Alex arrives to ensure that Louie confessed, they both partake in hilarity over his "alleged" dishonesty, with Louie even pretending to steal a piece of office equipment on the way out.
  • Dollhouse: Paul Ballard, who's been in the role of Agent Mulder all season with regard to the Dollhouse, invokes it deliberately when he tells the perfect truth to FBI agents summoned by a fake report of a terrorist threat: there is no threat, but they're standing in front of the Dollhouse and he can show them everything. As he expected, they leave in disgust.
  • Arrested Development: While visiting a film studio with Tobias, Maeby ducks into an empty office to use the phone. She's found by an employee:

Jeff: Sorry, is this your office?
Maeby: No, I'm just sitting behind someone else's desk, pretending these are my kids.

  • Played straight in Stingray when Agent X-2-Zero, upon being questioned by a security, tells him that he has kidnapped Troy Tempest and locked him in his car boot.
  • On one episode of Fawlty Towers wherein Basil is putting on a painted smile and a false air of jollity in front of one of the old ladies who have permanent residence at the hotel because he's trying to pretend like nothing's wrong when a guest had (unknown to most everyone) died in his sleep, she says, "You're very cheerful this morning, Mr. Fawlty!" to which he replies with just enough faux merriment so she'll think he's kidding, "Yes, well one of the guests has just died!!"
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch seems to be very fond of this one. In one particular episode, her aunts' accountant shows up, turning out to work inside a file cabinet. When mortal friend Valerie walks in and hears noises within the cabinet, Sabrina simply says "Oh, yeah, there's a guy in there." Valerie laughs and moves on.
  • Invoked in Supernatural; Sam and Dean need to be admitted into a mental ward for a case, so they earnestly explain to the doctor that they're monster hunters who accidentally started the apocalypse. Naturally, nobody believe them except the monster they're looking for, who tells them how stupid it was of them to do so.
  • In the 3rd season premiere of Breaking Bad, brother-in-law and DEA agent Hank is helping Walter move out of his home after a falling out with his wife. One black duffel bag is heavy, and Walter isn't supposed to do any heavy lifting. Hank insists, and feels the heft. "What have you got in there, cinder blocks?" Without a drop of Irony, Walter replies, "Half a million dollars in cash." Hank only chuckles and says, "That's the spirit," not realizing that Walter actually does have half a million dollars in cash that he obtained by selling crystal meth.
    • In a later episode, Hank is going through Gale's lab notes and begins wondering who this "W.W." person is whom he praises. After joking that it might stand for Walter White, a nervous Walt puts his hands up and sarcastically says "All right, you got me.".
  • Doctor Who episode "Underworld". The Doctor goes back to the planet to get rid of the fake race banks, which are actually bombs. He travels all the way back to where he can get captured again (rather than just leaving them on the surface) so it's obvious that he planned to have them taken from him, yet when forced to give them up, he explains that they are really bombs. "You can do better than that..." replies a villain and confiscates them. The bombs blow up the planet, of course.
  • In The Office, a series of suspicious mouse-clicks and taps leads Dwight to believe that Jim and Pam are talking about him behind his back in Morse code. Jim says, sarcastically, that yes, new parents Jim and Pam used their very limited time and money to learn Morse code specifically to mess with Dwight.

Jim: (later, in interview) Yep, that's exactly what we did.

  • In the Merlin episode "The Beginning of the End," King Uther orders the execution of a young druid boy, Mordred. Merlin and Morgana notice he's been injured, and hide him in Morgana's room. When Prince Arthur comes into the room to look for the kid (he's doing a city-wide search), he and Morgana share this little gem of an exchange:

Arthur: As much as I'd like to stay and talk, the sooner we get started, the sooner we'll be finished.
Morgana: Well, I'll save you the trouble.
Arthur: Trust me, if I could find him, I would.
Morgana: The druid boy's hiding behind the screen.
(cue Merlin freaking out behind the screen, and Arthur's not-so-surreptitious glance toward it)
Morgana: I'm sure your father would love to know how you wasted your time rifling through my things. Go on.
Arthur: So you can have the satisfaction of making me look a fool?
Morgana: In my experience you don't need any help looking like a fool.

    • In "The Darkest Hour", Merlin tells Arthur "You have no idea how many times I've saved your life". Arthur's response is that when he's king, Merlin can be his court jester.
  • Happens on Wings when Brian is trying to figure out if Joe slept with Alex (whom both the brothers have been pursuing).

Brian: Joey, you're my brother. Just tell me. Whatever you say, I'll believe it.
Joe: All right. I didn't sleep with her.
Brian: Liar.
Joe: Okay. I slept with her.
Brian: Liar.

    • Just for the record, Joe didn't sleep with her.
  • In the Due South episode "Hawk and a Handsaw", Fraser manages to get himself committed to a psych ward (intentionally—he's going undercover) simply by showing up in full dress uniform and telling the precise truth about his past.

Psychologist: So you're a Mountie are you?
Fraser: Constable. Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Yes.
Psychologist: Here in Chicago.
Fraser: Well, you see I used to live in the Yukon but I uncovered a plot that involved drowning caribou and then some men who were dressed in white came after me with homicidal intentions. It's a rather long story and it takes exactly two hours to tell but the upshot of it is I was sent here. I think I embarrassed some people in the government.
Psychologist: Do you have anyone who can vouch for you here?
Fraser: Well, yes, there's my wolf. Although I'm not sure he would vouch for me. If you know anything about lupine behavior, you know how moody they are and on top of that he's deaf.
Psychologist: Name?
Fraser: I'd rather not say.

  • Played with in the original pilot of Hogan's Heroes: The crew's certain a new inmate is a spy and are trying to figure out what to do about him. Hogan decides to actually SHOW HIM their underground hideout. They blindfold him, walk him around the camp to the trap door and use a fake You Just Told Me to convince him they're under the water tower. Hilarity Ensues when the agent runs to his superiors, rambling about a counterfeit money press, a tailor forging Nazi uniforms, and a small factory that makes gun-shaped cigarette lighters - his "lighter" was swapped for an actual gun, and his attempts to trigger the trapdoor lead to him being doused in gallons of water. The other Germans think he's nuts.
  • Jenna sees through one of these on Blakes Seven.

Jenna: You wouldn't be trying to get rid of me, would you?
Avon: I have to get rid of Blake first. You're next on my list.
Jenna: That would have been very disarming, if I didn't know that you meant it.

  • Used sometimes by Buffy, on her mother, before she learned the truth about what was going on:

Joyce: Honestly, don't you ever think about anything besides boys and clothes?
Buffy: Saving the world from vampires?
Joyce: I swear, sometimes I don't know what goes on in your head.

  • Minor example in the final episode (of the main story arc) of Babylon 5. 500 years in the future, Earth has been bombed back to the Dark Ages by a high-tech war. An old monk is asked by a younger one why the Rangers [2] don't return to help humanity. The elder suggests that perhaps humanity is not ready for them, but even now they have agents among them, slowly returning technology and helping where they can. The younger laughs and leaves...then the elder turns to the camera and begins his report back to the Rangers.
  • In the pilot episode of Heroes, Claire, after rescuing someone from a burning building by simply walking into the building and shrugging off the heat of the flames, is asked by her mother what she did that day. Her answer, "I walked through fire without being burned," is dismissed as angsty teen-age poetry.
    • Not dismissed, appreciated. "You say something profound like that!"
  • NCIS borrowed from the above-mentioned scene from True Lies (DiNozzo even cited the movie) when Tony and Ziva were being held captive by Somali terrorists who had doped up Tony on truth serum. Tony blithely announced that the lead terrorist was about to die. When the terrorist scoffed that Tony was lying, Tony told him, "I can't lie. And I didn't say I was the one who was going to kill you. Remember when I told you my boss was a sniper?" Cue the Crowning Moment of Awesome (and one very dead terrorist).
  • Bunny Colvin on how he plans to lower the crime rate in his district.

"I thought I might legalize drugs"

  • Hustle: Ash temporarily Can Not Tell a Lie, so when the mark asks if there's any reason he shouldn't transfer the money, Ash admits to being a con man and tells him that if he transfers the money he'll never see it again. Then he starts laughing and passes it off as a joke, Emma joins in, and the mark laughs with them and transfers the money.
  • Life On Mars has a couple of examples:
    • In 1x03, Gene Hunt offers a room full of mill workers a fiver to name the murderer. One of them points out a friend, who agrees, identifying the first man as his accomplice. The laughter dries up when Sam Tyler orders them both arrested and charged.
    • In 2x06, Simon Lamb confesses to the murder of a student. Since his family's been kidnapped by someone demanding the release of the person convicted of the student's death and he's clearly distraught, the police dismiss his confession out of hand. Turns out...
  • Inverted in Skins when Emily came out of the closet. When her father asked what she had been doing that afternoon, she answered with perfectly honesty that she had had sex with her girlfriend, but her dad assumed that she was being sarcastic and apologized for snooping.
  • In Revenge, Emily's friend Ashley warns her that Emily is suspected in a prank that resulted in all of the Hamptonite women having their secrets revealed in public. Emily points out that she was a victim too, then confesses, "That's exactly what I wanted. All my most embarrassing confessions [about my boyfriend] broadcast for all the world to see."
  • White Collar:

Peter: You once told me you never lied to me and you never will. So I need to know something. The first time Kramer and I went after you for the Degas, how'd you switch the paintings?
Neal: I snuck up to the penthouse, pulled the swap, then base jumped off the building and landed on Wall Street.
Peter: Fine. Don't tell me.

  • In Season Two of the US Big Brother, "Evil Doctor Will" Kirby started out the game by literally telling everyone that he was untrustworthy, and that his strategy would be to lie, cheat, and steal from everyone else in the house, and backstab any so-called allies he might have as soon as there was profit to be had in betraying them. Everyone thought he was hilarious. Of course, this is exactly how he played the game and walked away with the prize.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the series 3 episode "Second Skin", the crew has to infiltrate Cardassian space, sneak onto Cardassia Prime and rescue the kidnapped Major Kira from the jaws of the Obsidian. Since they need his help, they take Garak with them but he's supposed to be confined to crew quarters until they reach Cardassia. Odo drags Garak onto the bridge for lurking suspiciously around some phaser banks to be given a reprimand by Sisko. Garak sarcastically tells them that he was merely going for a walk because the quarters are making him feel claustrophobic. No-one believes him but the whole incident, including the length of the exchange caused by his sarcastic "lie" does the job of getting him onto the bridge and then keeping him there long enough for trouble with Cardassian checkpoints to occur in his presence so he can step in and solve the crisis before it gets out of hand. Then, in series 5, it's finally revealed that Garak was telling the truth about suffering from claustrophobia: he has a very acute form of the condition that utterly debilitates him when it flares up.
  • The 2014 premiere of The Vampire Diaries has Stephan asked by his current girlfriend to tell aher something about himself. He replies that he is a vampire, and neither is believed nor expects to be believed.

Radio[edit | hide]

  • In The Shadow episode "Death Hunt", Lamont admits he got past a guard by becoming invisible.

Religion[edit | hide]

  • Horribly subverted in the story of Samson and Delilah, in which he makes a confession he expects to be ignored, and it isn't.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In Exalted the Sidereals have a charm (magic power), Avoiding The Truth Technique, just for doing this.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • At the climax of the film/play Arsenic and Old Lace, Mortimer uses sarcasm combined with Refuge in Audacity to convince the police captain that his old aunts are crazy when they casually confess to having thirteen bodies buried in their cellar. It helps that they've just signed papers committing themselves to a mental institution.
  • In Pygmalion, Henry Higgens is successfully (if secretly) passing off Eliza as a Duchess at a grand Ball; when he himself is asked his opinion of her, he says she's just a poor flower girl.
  • In the musical version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Percy announces that he's the Scarlet Pimpernel in the middle of the royal ball, much to the amusement of all present.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Tales (series) likes this one. At least once every game, one of the characters will reveal their tragic and touching emo backstory with fanfare... and then, having elicited sympathy from the rest of the party, they'll proceed to claim they were "just kidding".
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features a quest where you have to kill everyone at a party, Agatha Christie style. When you introduce yourself, one of the conversation options is "I'm an assassin, sent to kill you.", which just earns you a laugh -- "Well, I'm glad someone has a sense of humour about this event."—and immediately maxes out her disposition toward you.
  • In Fahrenheit (2005 video game)/Indigo Prophecy, at one point either Carla Valenti or Tyler Miles goes talk to Lucas Kane about the murder case. Then they show him a composite sketch of the killer (said sketch's accuracy depending on the player's actions earlier). The only way to avoid raising suspicion is an option marked "Joke" where he says, "That could be a lot of people I know. Heck, it could even be me!"
  • Iori Yagami from King of Fighters sarcastically claims that despite his violent tendencies, Orochi blood, and generally being a Jerkass, he hates violence. The fandom is torn as to whether or not his comment was sarcastic.
    • This is implied to be genuine. He holds a deep hatred towards his father for making him what he is today; his initial hostility towards Kyo stems from the their clan rivalry, and Iori figured that killing Kyo (his father's intention apparently) would end his suffering.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The player can use this to get through customs at the starport on Onderon.

Exile: The shuttle belongs to the leader of the Mandalorians. I'm a powerful Jedi.
Customs official: You could have just said "no". Answers like that mean more paperwork for me.

    • If you choose this route, a group of bounty hunters (who would have ambushed you regardless of how you answered the official's questions) says your unusual comments helped them track you down.
  • Used in X-change Alternative. When the protagonist's parents are on the phone and questioning him about why his voice sounds so odd, the player can choose to either lie or just admit his situation. The latter results in him snapping and explaining how a bizarre drug turned him into a girl, laughing insanely all the while and making no attempt to hide his lighter voice. Not only do they assume it's some elaborate joke, it's also the only way to deflect their suspicion.
  • Alpha Protocol has a scene where the main character meets Scarlet for the first time. They engage in small talk, and when she asks what you do for a living, one option is to admit you're a spy, which Mike does in his usual tone of voice. Naturally, she doesn't believe you.
  • If you ask Arcade Gannon from Fallout: New Vegas why he keeps dodging questions about his past, he will jokingly reply that he's doing it 'to obfuscate his past involvement with a fascist paramilitary organization'. His parents were both members of the Enclave and before its collapse during his childhood, he was being raised to do the same.
  • From the last case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney : "Surely, you aren't going to suggest I was responsible for poisoning her father, too?"

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • On the Schlock Mercenary forums, someone once made a joke to the effect "The author'll have to blow up the Milky Way next to top himself." The author responded, "Hey, I should write this stuff down!" A year or two later...
  • Basic premise of the Comet, the tabloid newspaper for which our protagonists work in Scandal Sheet! As Detweiler, the editor-in-chief, puts it, "We operate on two principles. First, that the most artistic way to lie is to tell the truth so unconvincingly that people are sure you are lying, and second, the best place to hide a needle isn't a haystack -- it's a big pile of other needles." As it turns out, the Comet actually employs a sasquatch named Phil and regularly gets information from a vampire named Samantha. They consider it their role in life to protect the rare and endangered supernatural beings of the Earth from being discovered and exploited by others. As such, most of the stories in the paper are made-up crap, but some of them are true -- no journalist with any self-respect at all will pursue them, though, since it's well-known that once it's been in the Comet, it can't possibly be correct.
  • Haley of The Order of the Stick uses a variant of this here, where she tells the truth entirely, but everyone assumes she's lying, which she takes advantage of for profit.
    • Why, that's a Batman Confession!
  • Sam and Fuzzy here.
  • This strip of CRFH!!!
  • Invoked in Erfworld, Summer Update 22:

ChrlsNChrg: There's an interesting principle at work, here.
If I tell them what happened, freely, then they won't believe it.
But if I charge them what the information is worth, then they'll buy it.
LordHamster: In both senses.

  • Aggressively invoked in this Shortpacked strip.
  • Done accidentally in The Wotch, in this comic. Jason is trying to keep Ivan off the trail and outright lies to him. When Ivan calls his bluff, Jason tells the truth. Then Ivan decides that Jason was lying the second time, and goes along with what Jason said the first time, when he was outright lying.

Jason:' Wow, I'm more clever than I thought.

  • Pulled twice in Captain SNES. Both comics have "The Best Lie" in the title (with the first following with "is the Truth".) The first time, Alex convinces Daos that he put up a powerful mental shield so that Daos could not see his greatest fear, when, actually, his greatest fear (Evil Otto from Berzerk) looked like something that Daos didn't consider remotely terrifying (a blinking smiley face.) The second, Bass, after having already bluffed Amon into believing that he could achieve great power in the desert, admits (in a nervous tone) that he lied previously and was trying to trick Amon.

Bass: In fact, I'm doing it right now!

Jason: Tell me where Daisy went already! You should know!
Jigsaw: Sure, because we all know I'm a mind reader. After this we're planning a magic act. Think you'd look good in sequins?

Sue: Oh, yeah, and I'm kind of in love with you, but you never seem to notice.

Web Original[edit | hide]

199. I should not confess to crimes that took place before I was born.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

Lois: I'm confused, Kent. See, I've lived in Metropolis most of my life and I can't figure out how some yokel from Smallville is suddenly getting every hot story in town.
Clark: Well, Lois, the truth is, I'm actually Superman in disguise and I only pretend to be a journalist in order to hear about disasters as they happen, and then squeeze you out of the byline.
(pause)
Lois: You're a sick man, Kent. **Walks off**
Clark: You asked...

  • In The Simpsons, Homer once went to great lengths with this when he had to tell Marge that a chimp had kidnapped Bart. Comes complete with Lampshade Hanging as Homer goes on to explicitly describe the trope and sarcastically inform Marge that he's making full use of it. When Marge finds out and gets mad that it was hidden from her, Homer complains that he did tell her, in great detail.
    • In that same scene, Lisa asks why he's confessing sarcastically, pointing out that Marge will still be angry when she finds out; Homer responds by giving us this little gem:

Homer: Maybe I'm talking like this because I can't stop. Oh help me, Lisa! I have serious mental problems!

    • Parodied when Homer dresses up as an airline pilot to drink at the pilots-only bar of the Springfield airport:

Pilot: Hey...you're not just impersonating a pilot so you can drink here, are you?
Homer: [dejected] Yeah. That's exactly why I'm here.
Pilot: [laughs] You fly boys, you crack me up!
[[[Gilligan Cut]] to Homer being forcefully shoved in the cockpit pilot seat]
Homer: But I keep telling you I'm not a pilot!
Pilot: And I keep tellling you, "you fly boys crack me up!"

Yumi: I've gotta go.
William: Really? Where to?
Yumi: To save the world...

  • Tuddrussel from Time Squad used this in "Ivan The Untrainable, when Larry asked him about strange events from last few days.Tuddrussel: Are you accusing me of smuggling Ivan The Terrible on board the satellite? Cause that's just crazy! Oh what, do you think I smuggled him under my shirt before we zapped back, and then locked him in the storage and fed him on table scraps? I mean come on!". He did it.
    • Later in "Out With The In Crowd", Larry and Tuddrussel try to hide Otto from fellow officers J.T. Laser and Lance 9 Trillion, they nervously laugh him off saying- "Well he's certainly not an orphan we've borrowed from the Twentieth century."
  • In Danny Phantom, Vlad does this a lot, particularly in The Movie, where he several times admits he's a diabolical supervillain, takes a pause, and then joins in the laughter at that utterly ridiculous idea.
  • Hilariously inverted in the South Park episode "Ladder to Heaven." God catches Saddam Hussein building a "chocolate-chip cookie factory" and, suspecting that the dictator is actually building a nuclear weapons plant, calls him out on it. Saddam immediately denies it, whereupon God comments that "it looks like a weapons plant to me." "Come on, God," Saddam argues. "If I were really gonna do that, I wouldn't make it look like a weapons plant. I'd make it look like a chocolate-chip cookie factory, or something!" "Well, I guess you're right," God admits, and then God leaves - causing Saddam to smirk and mutter: "Stupid asshole...."
  • On an episode of Gargoyles, a robbery attempt goes sour when the cops show up. A woman known to the crooks as "Sally" angrily demands to know who called the police. When no one owns up to it, she shrugs and says "Well, I guess it was me!" It was. "Sally" was actually Detective Elisa Maza in disguise.
  • Inverted (and combined with Crying Wolf) in the Regular Show episode "Grilled Cheese Deluxe". After an episode of competing to see who was the better liar, Benson demands to know what happened to mangle his sandwich so. Rigby excitedly gives a garbled, but truthful, explanation of the rather fantastic events between Benson discovering the theft of his first sandwich, and the current one being placed in his hands; Benson chews him out for lying. Mordecai, worn out and frustrated, drops a much shorter and more plausible lie, and Benson says, "There. Now wasn't it so much easier telling the truth?"
  • In Pinky and The Brain, this was how the Brain got out of being asked too many uncomfortable questions by nosy humans
  • Parodied in the movie of Phineas and Ferb when Doofenshmirtz-2 lies to our dimensions' Doofenshmirtz, only for him to pick up on it...

Doofenshmirtz-1: "...Were you just being sarcastic?"
Doofenshmirtz-2: (sarcastically) "No..."
Doofenshmirtz-1: "I'm pretty sure that's what I sound like when I'm being sarcastic!"


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Remember that guy who tight-roped between the Twin Towers? When he was going though the airport to get there, a security officer naturally asked him what all the equipment was for. He told him. The officer laughed and let him through.
  • While the above warning that this doesn't work as well in Real Life is true, teachers and parents seem to be more susceptible to it. Or were at some point. Perhaps it has something to do with that stage where Not Now Kid is in effect but kids have realized it.
    • Also as noted in the article, many an Obstructive Bureaucrat or Reasonable Authority Figure will avert this handily.
    • Perhaps not "as well", but it works better than you might think if correctly executed... AND if one has a reputation for waxing absurd (though anyone who knows this troper well enough are aware that everything he says is "technically true", and pay closer attention).
  • In Richard Feynman's autobiography, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, Feynman tells of a fraternity prank where a door was stolen. He was the one who stole it, but even a year after it happened they still had no idea who had stolen it. He had confessed, but everyone just remembered that all the fraternity members had denied it. ("Yeah, I stole the door." "Cut it out, Feynman, this is serious!")
    • Additionally, he relates the story of how he got into a drunken brawl in night club with a black eye to prove it. When he truthfully explained where he got it, nobody believed him.
    • And he did a similar act along with Mathematician's Answer to get out of the military on his psych evaluation with lines like

Evaluator: Do you ever hear voices?
Feynman: Yeah. I can hear a few right now.

  • Allegedly, famed Prohibition agent Izzy Einstein was fond of using this trope to gain entrance to speakeasies, beseeching the guy on the door to let him in, as he was 'A very thirsty Prohibition Agent'.
  • Uncommon but effective in Poker. Simply announcing the real contents of your hand is a good luring tactic because everyone will dismiss it outright as a bluff. Even more effective if you show them afterwards because the next time, your opponent will think twice.
  • There is a story about a Jewish sympathizer in Nazi Germany who was hiding Jews in her home. When the police came by and questioned her as to whether there were any fugitives in her house, she answered "Yes there are, under my kitchen table!" Since there was obviously nobody under her kitchen table, they figured she was crazy and left. They did not check for the trapdoor under the rug under the kitchen table.
    • The above example comes from the biography of Corrie ten Boom, and it was her sister hiding her brother from the German press gangs.
    • And it was the sister's young daughter who told the truth. She wasn't being sarcastic - her family in usual circumstances just put a high value on honesty.
  • Someone known to be a Deadpan Snarker has a much higher chance of pulling it off since scathing sarcasm is their usual way to respond to almost anything.
  • Once, a taxi driver asked a city newcomer checking out of a hotel if he had a dead body inside his heavy bag. The newcomer matter-of-factly answered yes, and the taxi driver laughed. The newcomer was Jeffrey Dahmer.
  • General James Wilkinson, head of the US Army under Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, was long suspected of being in the pay of the Spanish crown—so much so that the General would jovially agree that he was a "Spanish pensioner" at social gatherings. Turns out, he was.
  • Edward Snowden tells: So I get stopped in the hallway as I’m carrying this old computer that I need to copy the files, and one of the chiefs asks: ‘What are you doing with this machine?’ And I look at him frankly and I say: ‘Stealing secrets.’


  1. It isn't until after this one that Richilieu even starts being facetious.
  2. an organization from the main story who are now worshiped as angels