World's Smallest Violin

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Lucky for Squidward, listening is free.

Bob has accidentally allowed his subscription to Better Homes Than Yours to expire. Now he's going to miss the finals of the Fall '10 wrap-around porch competition. He'll never find out if Mrs. Custerly's balsa-wood extravaganza will win out against that retired marine biologist's oak/rattan experiment. Bob is in deep, deep dejection when he comes across Aerith.

"Woe is me," says Bob. "Bloody-well woe am I." Aerith, who has just taken her terminally ill mother to the hospital for another round of chemo, asks Bob what is afoot. Bob explains the situation to her and adds that the very weight of his depression is leading him to contemplate suicide.

With an eyebrow cocked at a jaunty angle, Aerith begins sawing two fingers back and forth across each other. "Here's the world's smallest violin," she says. "Let me play you a sad song on it."

A predominantly Western gesture, the World's Smallest Violin is given to a person who is exaggerating the sorrow of his/her predicament in order to gain sympathy; the person who does the giving presumably has none. There are other, much more rude, hand gestures available to tell someone they're being an ass, but the violin is more sophisticated. It plays on the idea that wangsty characters expect the Warsaw Symphony to pop up out of nowhere to provide some background for their soliloquies. This gesture is rare both in real-life and in fiction. Usually it will be given by the Deadpan Snarker, possibly villainous.

"BAAAWWWWWW" and "somebody call the WAAAAAAH-mbulance" are the internet equivalents.

See also Misery Poker.

Examples of World's Smallest Violin include:


  • One State Farm ad has two men who were in a car accident; when one blames the other, he uses the State Farm jingle to summon the World's Smallest Violin.

Fan Works


  • In Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Pink plays the world's smallest violin for underpaid waitresses during a debate about tipping.

Mr. Pink: Do you know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin playing just for the waitresses.

Live-Action TV

  • Possibly the Trope Maker: Margaret does this on Mash in 1978 when Charles complains that an overflow of post-op patients has kicked him out of his tent.

Margaret: Charles, do you know what this is? It's the world's smallest violin, and it's playing just for you.

Kraft: Aww, here's the world's smallest violin playing the world's saddest song just for you!

  • Charlie mentions the world's smallest violin in an early episode of Two and A Half Men.
  • This exchange in the Warehouse 13 episode "Merge With Caution" after the Warehouse agents just jumped out through a window and Pete is complaining about his knees:

Myka: *makes tiny violin motions*
Pete: What's that?
Myka: The world's tiniest purple violin. (she's wearing purple protective gloves)

  • In School Of Comedy, a brash character attending a group therapy session actually produces a miniature violin to play for someone relating their story.
  • On a Saturday Night Live skit, Saddam Hussein (Horatio Sanz) calls Osama bin Laden (Jimmy Fallon) to complain about bin Laden running him down in one of his tapes. Osama rubs his finger and thumb together and says, "You know what I'm doing? I'm playing the world's smallest violin."


Run your mouth when I'm not around, it's easy to achieve
You cry to weak friends that sympathize
Can you hear the violins playing your song?
Those same friends tell me your every word

News Media

  • Used by a columnist in the New York Times (11/9/2003) about the travails of bluebloods having trouble finding jobs.

"In a tight job market, should we be surprised that some Ivy League grads have problems? Welcome to the 21st century, and excuse me while I practice the world's smallest violin."

    • Was the general reaction to this article about a family that's just squeaking by on an annual $300,000 income. How the Wa Po thought for a second they'd garner any sympathy whatsoever is beyond me.

Video Games

  • World of Warcraft has an Emote Command, /violin, which displays "You begin to play the world's smallest violin." If you have something targeted, it displays "You begin to play the world's smallest violin for [target]."
  • An actual weapon in Kingdom of Loathing (and a fairly good one at that), although the item description references the related symbolism.
  • Referenced in Adventure Quest Worlds in the description of the Bone Violin.
  • In The World Ends With You, Joshua plays the World's Smallest Violin for Neku after Neku shares the story of how Shiki Misaki is now his entry fee.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Linkara once got out a violin when Ultimate Wolverine was about to get into a long flashback involving how he had sex with Wanda's mother.

Linkara: Are we going to start a flashback involving Wolverine's past? Give me a second. *Goes off screen and came back with a violin.* You may continue.

  • Doctor Tease once played a tiny violin to accompany The Nostalgia Chick angsting.
    • Which according to the commentary, had been an actual gift from Lindsay, prior to that.
    • The violin returns in the She's All That review for Freddie Prinze Jr. - though first The Makeover Fairy appears with a real violin as Lindsay can't find it.
  • Todd in the Shadows plays with it reviewing Chris Brown's "Deuces". He sets his piano on violin and plays a song to "show his sympathy".

Western Animation

  • In South Park, Cartman took out a violin while someone was telling a sad story.
  • An old Captain America (comics) cartoon had Cap asking the Red Skull if he wanted someone to play a violin while he told his sad Backstory.
  • In a soundtrack gag on Avatar: The Last Airbender, a violin plays very, very softly during Toph's brief attempt to bond with an unsympathetic Zuko during the series finale.
  • Pictured above: a scene from the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squilliam Returns" in which Mr. Krabs literally plays the World's Smallest Violin as a variant of this trope.

Mr. Krabs: Oh, boo hoo. Let me play a sad song for you on the World's Smallest Violin. [does so]
Squidward: This is serious!
Mr. Krabs: I know, this really is the World's Smallest Violin. See? (camera focuses on his claw to show World's Smallest Violin)

  • Apu, from The Simpsons, does this gesture in response to his wife's complaining but with a sitar rather than a violin.
    • Fat Tony, having won his daughter's prized violin in a poker game from Krusty, does this when he begs him to give it back. Then he goes "Oh wait, now I can do it for real", pulls out the violin and actually starts playing it (quite well, too).
    • In the episode "Them Robot" Lenny also plays the world's smallest violin for Homer, but it turns out he was actually holding a real tiny violin. Moments later he loses the bow.
  • In an early episode of Family Guy, Peter gets sent on a Vision Quest. When the trees start talking to him, he asks the old question:

Peter: Hey, if any of you falls down and no one is around to hear you, do you make a sound?
Tree 1: Of course, Frank fell down last week and he wouldn't stop talking since.
Frank: Oh stand there and bitch! No one stops and takes the time to HELP MEEEE!
Tree 2: (rubbing branches together) Ooh, look at me Frank, I'm playing the world's smallest violin!

  • In episode 5 of Animals of Farthing Wood. While it's not a tiny violin, Rabbit does pick up a stick and mock-play sad violin music when Mr. Pheasant starts to get a bit theatrical about "when one faces death as often as me" before leaving back to the farm to help Adder find her way to the others. True enough, Mr. Pheasant just lost his wife to the farmer's gun, but the general opinion of his established character is that he's all too concerned in himself.

Real Life