Witty Banter

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"I'm not talking about movie chemistry, like the crackling sexual energy between Bogey and Bacall or Hepburn and Tracy. No, in breakfast or daytime telly, "chemistry" is a euphemism for an overly matey bloke and a woman who wouldn't give him one in a million years."

Marina Hyde, Lost in Showbiz

Occurs most often in non-fiction shows with more than one host. The hosts will trade supposedly funny and or witty comments back and forth instead of presenting what they are supposed to be presenting. They may also digress into talking about their personal lives. Viewers often profess to be bored or irritated with it.

Young, hip viewers might assume that the execs are out of touch for encouraging the banter, but most viewers find this kind of thing entertaining. According to an Ipsos-Reid poll taken in 2004, over 85% of viewers preferred shows with banter to those without even if they had previously claimed not to like banter. This includes young, hip viewers! Producers know what viewers want, and it's apparently lots of small talk.

Local news broadcasts, daytime talk shows, and infomercials seem to be the worst offenders, but you also get it between the DJs on music programs (radio also suffers from this). In news broadcasts, reporters who are live on the scene will sometimes engage in this at the end of their segment.

Sometimes there exists a pair or trio of hosts who have good chemistry, and can do this spontaneously (this is key), without making it seem forced or artificial (also key). The producers may note this and insist on more of it, ruining the chemistry. More often it's a forced attempt to build chemistry that doesn't actually exist.

British news programmes are usually blissfully devoid of this, apart from the occasional half-hearted attempt at banter between the newsreaders and weather forecasters. In contrast, British music radio stations often rely on good banter more than on good music, to the extent that many people tune in to hear the hosts more than the music they play.

For hero/villain banter, see You Fight Like a Cow.

Examples of Witty Banter include:

Played straight

Live Action Television

  • The UK cable channel Dave is supposedly called this because they ran a survey and discovered that almost everyone in the country knew at least one person called Dave. It touts itself as being "the home for witty banter". In other words it shows endless reruns of Top Gear, Red Dwarf and several different panel shows that they've got their hands on, often the exact same episodes day after day.
  • Most recent showings of the Eurovision Song Contest have featured a pair of hosts (male and female) exchanging excruciatingly scripted Witty Banter, usually by way of "flirting." Usually in English, which is not their first language. On at least one occasion (Denmark, 2001), rhyming couplets were employed for the purpose.
    • In Britain most of this is either talked over, or at least commented on by Terry Wogan who mercilessly rips it apart.
      • Terry Wogan (and Graham Norton, now that Wogan left) is the only reason many British and Irish people can bear to watch them. Wogan's hilarious but oh-so-true comments about how Britain never gets any votes and how most countries are simply making tactical or political votes as opposed to voting for the genuine best song make you wonder how the Eurovision execs let him get away with mocking the entire contest as a whole.

I don't make the mistake of thinking it's a major musical event. I love the Eurovision Song Contest and it will continue long after I'm gone. Just please don't ask me to take it seriously.

        • He has admitted, in at least one interview, that they keep a mini bar on hand while they're doing the commentary, and have gotten quite drunk during the ad breaks over the years.

Prime Time News

  • The 5 O'Clock news on CTV's Maritime affiliate ATV is essentially nothing but Witty Banter interspersed with films at eleven. And weather.
  • The American morning news show The Daily Buzz is pretty much based around presenting the news in an entertaining format, and they seem to make Witty Banter work on their show to the point it has become a viable comedic alternative to other morning news shows like The Early Show or Good Morning America.
  • Conversely, Witty Banter, when breaking down, can be funny. Case in point, NJ News Channel 12:

Scene reporter: [rambling monologue about New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel in relation to the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America]
Anchor: ... Yeah...

  • Similarly, MSNBC:

Entertainment goon: [presenting 17-year-old Daniel Radcliffe's half-naked promotional pictures for Equus to an audience of millions and explaining with numerous Harry Potter references]
Anchorwoman: He doesn't look that Hairy to me.
Entertainment goon: I wouldn't have noticed that. (Summed up by Anthony of the Opie and Anthony Show as "Nohomo. Back to you, Diane.")

  • The "Greatest Hits" game in Whose Line Is It Anyway? revolves around two performers (almost always Colin and Ryan) advertising a compilation album while exchanging witty banter.
  • The more Genre Savvy guests on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, who recognise them as comedy shows, engage in a bit of witty banter with the respective hosts instead of focusing entirely on the (supposed) subject of the interview.
    • 'The toss', the segue from The Daily Show into The Colbert Report, is scripted witty banter - one toss hung a lampshade on it by having Stewart note that the purpose of the toss was to allow the viewers to share in their cameraderie, upon which they both instantly went wooden.
  • Examples of this abysmal habit can be seen in BBC local news shows, in which presenters with an alarming lack of chemistry attempt to act like chums, despite occasionally swearing at each other off camera.


  • The CBC radio morning show in Montreal, Daybreak, has a lot of Witty Banter between the host, the sports guy, the traffic girl, the weather girl, and several other people who don't seem to have any specific job on the show.
  • RMX, a radio station from Guadalajara, runneth over with Witty Banter, especially during the morning show (three guys who keep dissing each other and talking about the immortality of the crab and about recent events), and during the afternoon (a 20-something girl who keeps talking about all the times she got massively drunk).
  • Punto y seguido, the 8 o'clock show from Radio Metrópoli, also a radio station from Guadalajara, is about Witty Banter between the top journalists from the Notisistema news network about recent events and the Topic of the Day.
  • Wake Up To Wogan.
  • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo, who are frequently referred to as an old, bickering, married couple.

Sketch Show

  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? also has occasional bit of witty banter before and after skits between the performers and the host. Sometimes the subject of the banter becomes a small Running Gag and appears in the skits themselves.

Video Games

  • Done in various sports Video Games, usually the ones where Witty Banter is a feature of real commentary. In games, you can get the same canned lines of "witty banter" played back 50 times during a single game.
  • A fictional example: The entire point of the radio stations in the Grand Theft Auto series is the witty banter. Good news? It's actually witty. Bad news? Eventually it runs out.
  • This is one of the main features of the widely-known "Eyewitness News" format (not all of the stations using the EWN name emphasize this trope).

Web Original

  • Steve & Larson top 10 video game lists have a lot of it.


  • Charlie Brooker commented on how US TV is much more capable of pulling off witty banter between news reporters than the ones in the UK, as they just manage to come off as much more relaxed. In his own words, "when our news-readers try to relax they just look awkward, like they've accidentally shat themselves and don't want to let on".
  • On Room 101, the show where people nominated things to be permanently removed from the world, one of Dara O Briain's choices was banter. He noted that in Real Life, all of us engage in pointless small talk to smooth over social situations that would otherwise be awkward; the mystery is why anyone thinks those moments should be televised.

Parodies and spoofs


  • Anchorman parodies this straight to hell. The two hosts hate each other; their on-screen banter is all scripted, and over the station credits they improvise:

Ron Burgundy: I'm gonna punch you in the ovary, that's what I'm gonna do. A straight shot. Right to the babymaker.


Live Action Television

  • On the iCarly web awards episode, the gang made lame banter on purpose.
  • In an episode of Back to You, the anchors of WURG realise that they need to "practise their banter".
  • Also spoofed in Broken News, where the news presenters would frequently make witty banter involving double-entendres to their weatherman.

Presenter: Don't go there!
Weatherman: I won't go there!

  • Frequently parodied in The Day Today, the show in which Alan Partridge (mentioned above) originated; the segues between host Chris Morris and the other correspondents parody these tactics in different ways. With the travel reporter Valerie Sinatra, Morris would make no effort to conceal the fact that he had a heavy crush on her, which she would politely attempt to rebuff; with the business correspondent Collaterlie Sisters he would openly insult her, and he would psychologically torment Alan in a variety of different ways, including flirting and overly aggressive interrogation.
  • In an episode of Friends, Joey practices with Ross and Chandler before his audition for the role of a game show host. He jokingly berates Ross for introducing himself too verbosely. Chandler introduces himself as:

Chandler: Well Joey, I'm a head hunter. I hook up out of work Soviet scientists with rogue third world nations.

  • Smashie and Nicey on Harry Enfield and Chums are a parody of radio DJs who seem to spend more time engaging it Witty Banter than actually playing records.
    • Record. Specifically, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.
  • Spoofed on Murphy Brown: During a FYI airing, Miles tells Murphy and the gang at the last minute to talk amongst themselves so that the footage can be played during the end credits to give the show a "friendly atmosphere". However, he adds that the audio will not be recorded, prompting this exchange of dialog:

Frank:[cheerily] So Jim? What do you say we get together after work and go beat up Miles in the parking lot?
Jim:[cheerily] Good idea! We'll throw a blanket over his head! He'll never know what hit him!


Video Games

  • In City of Heroes you wind up fighting a robot clone of local wise cracking Trick Arrow expert Manticore. The robot's dialogue files are incomplete, so he winds up throwing error messages during his taunts:



(after defeating someone) That sure was MISSING FILE ONE_LINER.TXT


Web Original

  • In "Fall Float Parade" on Homestar Runner, Coach Z attempts to engage in witty banter with cohost Marzipan, but fails because he's too much of a Casanova Wannabe.

Western Animation

  • On Family Guy, the "banter" on the Channel 5 newscasts invariably devolves into the anchors dumping on each other.
  • Spoofed in Futurama by the sinister alien Morbo and his perky human co-anchor Linda. Morbo's attempts at banter involve rants aboutdestroying humanity and mid-range Hulk Speak. Linda is an airhead who just laughs it all off.
  • In The Simpsons the two DJs from the radio station KBBL engage in this all the time. The station's motto serves as a Lampshade Hanging; "No sports, no talk, no information -- for mindless chatter, we're your station!" In "Bart Gets an Elephant", the voice-tracking machine that is going to replace them if they don't give Bart an elephant comes pre-programmed with several different kinds of inane babble.
    • On a separate occasion Homer met with the man who claimed to have invented the radio version of this trope. Homer punches him and the man admits he gets that a lot.


  • The entire point of Alan Partridge is his complete failure at this sort of thing. His frequent attempts at witty banter are cringe-worthy and often offensive, but hilarious in a very different way.
    • His handoffs to the host of the next slot are Witty Banter between two people who aren't very witty, and genuinely hate each other. Alan's only slightly worse at it than his colleague.
  • Two DJs on BBC Radio 1 (Mark Radcliffe and Mark Goodier, if memory serves) often used to do the handover as "Right, witty banter, witty banter, see you tomorrow."