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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

A classic gag. Alice tells Bob some news, which he interprets in a wrong (and hilarious) way. She tries to explain and correct his mistake, but he applies his misinterpretation to the explanation as well. Bob is usually portrayed to be somewhat dim-witted, but a variant of this trope has him invoke it on purpose, just to screw with Alice.

Related to Boke and Tsukkomi Routine, Chain of Corrections and Who's on First?.

Examples of Sustained Misunderstanding include:


  • There was an ad for Best Foods salad dressing where a woman is trying to explain to her relatives that the salad dressing she's serving isn't homemade. At the end, she says "Best Foods made the dressing!" at which point the relatives say "You sold your recipe to Best Foods? We're gonna be rich!"
  • There was an ad for Kraft shredded cheese where the husband was being a Jerkass about the word "finely," purposely misinterpreting it as "finally."

 Her: Wow, Kraft finely shredded cheese!

Him: You mean they didn't before?


Comic Books

  • Played for drama over a fifteen year period in Quantum and Woody. Eric Henderson believes his best friend Woody abruptly left because of simmering racism, surfacing only once to leave him a rude note demanding a phone call. In reality, Woody left because he and his mother ran away from an abusive relationship and soon fell into poverty; the note was intended for Woody's father to finally call his long-abandoned son.

Film - Animated


 Rafiki: You won't find him here! The king, has returned.

Nala: I can't believe it... He's gone back!

Timon: Gone back? Whaddaya mean? Hey... what's goin' on here? Who's the monkey!?

Nala: Simba's gone back to challenge Scar!

Timon: Who?

Nala: Scar.

Pumbaa: Who's got a scar?

Nala: Nonono, it's his uncle-

Timon: The monkey's his uncle?

Nala: NO! Simba's gone back to challenge his uncle to take his place as king...?


Timon and Pumbaa: Ohhhh...


Film - Live-Action


 Uncle Henry: Dorothy? Well what has Dorothy done?

Miss Gulch: What she's done? I'm all but lame from the bite on my leg!

Uncle Henry: You mean she bit you?

Miss Gulch: No, her dog!

Uncle Henry: Oh, she bit her dog, eh?

  • From The Adventures of Rocky And Bullwinkle

 Rocky: She's not here about the trees! She's with the FBI!

Bullwinkle: The FBI? Didn't they take our show off the air?

Rocky: You mean the FCC!

Bullwinkle: Didn't they like it either?


Live Action TV

  • On ANT Farm, Lexi is unaware of a fellow cheerleader's birthday since she never received her invitation. When she stopped trying to find out why. Her Dumb Blonde friend Paisley says she has to deliver an invitation to someone named " iX37" and assume its a robot. When Lexi sees the name, she realizes that Paisley had the envelope which says LEXI turned upside-down. When she tells Paisley its addressed to herself, Paisley replies, "I didn't know my best friend was a robot!"
  • Red Dwarf, from episode "Pete 1":

 Lister: Nah, Kill Crazy's probably right. That's why houses under the flightpath are always so cheap.

Rimmer: Cos of all the flushing planes?

Lister: Yeah, well, think about it: you can't sunbathe, you can't have a barbecue, and every time you go out you've got to wear a washable hat and leg it to your car.

Rimmer: It's the noise. That's why houses under the flightpath are so cheap; because of the noise.

Lister: The noise?

Rimmer: Yeah.

Lister: They're half a mile up. You'd never be able to hear people on the loo from that distance. Not unless they were like my Uncle Dan.

  • Blackadder:
    • In the Blackadder The Third episode "Duel and Duality", Blackadder and Prince George switch places after the latter is challenged to a duel.

 Prince George: Oh, fantastic, yes, dressing up, I love it. It's just like that story, "The Prince and the Porpoise".

Blackadder: "...and the Pauper", sir.

Prince George: Oh, yes, yes, "The Prince and the Porpoise and the Pauper".

    • Blackadder himself gets one in the second series;

 Blackadder: Perhaps you'd like to slip into something more confortable?

Lady Farrow: No, for there is a great pain in my heart.

Blackadder: It's probably indigestion, I'll soon take your mind off that.

Lady Farrow: No, it is my husband.

Blackadder: Your husband's got indigestion? Well he won't be bothering us then!

Lady Farrow: No, he dies tomorrow.

Blackadder: Come now, you can't die of indigestion, you're overdramatising.

Lady Farrow: He is to be executed at your order. I am Lady Farrow.

Blackadder: [Silent Oh Crap]

  • Scrubs had one moment where The Janitor accuses J.D. of taking 'it' after J.D. asked if he had lost something. As J.D. continues to deny taking anything, The Janitor tells him he'll leave his cart unattended and if 'it' should reappear on the cart, no further questions will be asked. J.D. tells him he doesn't even know what 'it' is, to which The Janitor replies, "Then why take it?"
  • A deliberate one from Gilmore Girls:

 Emily: You were on the phone?

Richard: Long distance.

Lorelai: God?

Richard: London.

Lorelai: God lives in London?

Richard: My mother lives in London.

Lorelai: Your mother is God?

Richard: Lorelai...

Lorelai: So God is a woman.

Richard: Lorelai.

Lorelai: And a relative. That's so cool. I'm gonna totally ask for favors.

Richard: Make her stop.

Rory: Oh, that I could.

  • The opening skit of the 2006 Emmys found host Conan O'Brien wandering into several TV shows. Towards the end, he walked into an empty house, only to find himself in the middle of an episode of "To Catch A Predator", with every (truthful) explanation that he gives only serving to make him look more guilty:

 Chris Hansen: I'm Chris Hansen with "Dateline NBC".

Conan O'Brien: Oh, God. Okay, it's not what you think. I'm looking for the Emmys. I'm hosting.

Chris Hansen: Hosting? That's what you call this?

Conan O'Brien: Yes, it's my second time. (Conan had previously hosted the Emmys in 2002)

Chris Hansen: So you've done this before?

Conan O'Brien: Yeah, I did it one time and I liked it and I thought maybe I should do it again.

Chris Hansen: Of all the predators I've meet, you are by far the creepiest.

Conan O'Brien: Look, this is very easy to explain.

Chris Hansen: Explain it then.

Conan gives up and dashes out of the house.

  • On MST3K, Mike tells the 'bots, who are performing a kabuki play, how he prefers Noh theater. Who's on First? and hilarity ensues.
  • The entire plot of the Japanese drama Anna-san no Omame (a.k.a. The Best Friend of Beautiful Anna) is based on this trope.

Newspaper Comics

  • In one Pearls Before Swine anthology, Stephan Pastis wrote that Pig "is rather easy to write for. He just needs to misunderstand everything said to him, and then when it's explained to him, he needs to misunderstand that too." And indeed, it's one of Pig's most common gags. The strip he referenced had this exchange:

 Pig: If this player can win a World Series, he'll finally get the donkey off his back.

Rat: Monkey.

Pig: Get the donkey off his monkey... that's one strong monkey.


Web Comics

  • Questionable Content: Hannelore and Marigold discuss their lack of sex lives; Hannelore because she's rather squicked out by those fluids, while Marigold is a shut-in:

 Marigold: You can probably guess how many boyfriends I've had.

Hannelore: Uhm...six?

Marigold: You're off by six.

Hannelore: Twelve? Wow!


 Elan: Man, I can't believe the illusionist guy lied to the nice ghost-paladin!

Haley: He was just a regular human back then, honey.

Elan: Oh. Well then I can't believe he lied to the nice ghost-human.



T-Rex: Oh, I do them too! I've done aspirin, dude. I follow the instructions on the label!


T-Rex: The instructions CAN be quite complicated!


Web Original


 Marth: Hey look, it's Metroid.

Samus: My name is Samus.

Mario: Hi, Samus. What do you want?

Samus: I am the Crazy Finger!

Marth: I though you said you were Metroid.

Samus: I said I was Samus!

Mario: ...I thought you just said you were Crazy Finger.

Samus: I am the Crazy Finger!

Star Fox: Wait, Samus is who, exactly?

Marth: Samus is Metroid.

Mario: No, Metroid is Samus... I mean, Samus is Samus!

Samus: Samus is Crazy Finger!

Star Fox: I'm Star Fox.

Marth: But... but I thought you said you were Falco.

Mario: No, he's Metroid! No, wait. Let's start over.

Marth: Okay, Metroid.

Mario: I'm Mario.

Marth: I'm Star Fox.

Star Fox: I'm Star Fox.

Samus: I'm Star Fox!

Marth: Then who's Metroid?

Star Fox: Nobody is.

Marth: Well then who the hell is Nobody?

Samus: I'm Nobody!


 Boss: These network computers are great! Sonya's just been proselytising us.

BOFH: Really? I can't say I approve, but hey, what's good for Amsterdam is good for London!

Boss: No. I mean she's converted us.

BOFH: So you're all prostitutes? Wouldn't quit the day job if I were you!

Boss: I'm talking about network computers!

BOFH: Of course! And the prostitution?

Boss: There's no bloody prostitution!!

PFY: Of course there isn't! Walls have ears and all that.


Western Animation


 Kowalksi: [shows picture of Marlene and King Juilen] You there. Have you seen this otter and lemur?

Fred: Which one's the otter?

Kowalski: This one, obviously. Note the whiskers?

Fred: Oh, I thought that was a cat.

Kowalski: Did I say "have you seen this lemur and cat?"

Fred: No. That's why I thought it was odd that you drew a cat.

Kowalski: It's not a cat.

Fred: Then why does it have whiskers?

Kowalski: You know what, forget the otter.

Fred: Cat.

Kowalski: Whatever! Have you seen the lemur?

Fred: What's a lemur?

Kowalski: I think we're done here.

  • Archer, "Skytanic", during a bomb defusal:

 Archer: OK, I'm about to...

Gilette: "OK"?!? Wait! Stop! You said those last two letters were Oscar Kilo!

Archer: What? Oscar...

Gilette: O.K! Oscar Kilo!

Archer: No, OK, like, "OK I'm gonna tell you what the letters are."

Gilette: And then you didn't!

Archer: I thought you were skipping that part!

Gilette: (incredulous) Skipping a step in disarming a bomb!

Archer: Yes, which I thought was pretty irresponsible of you!


 Willie Nelson: Hey I know you, you're the kid who rakes my yard.

Bobby: No, I'm the boy who hit you in the head.

Willie Nelson: You hit me in the head with a rake?

Bobby: No sir, with a golf club.

Willie Nelson: You've been raking my yard with a golf club?! I want my quarter back.

  • The Simpsons, when Homer is required to take a science class

 Teacher: We're going to take a test, true or false.

Homer: True.

Teacher: Homer, I was just explaining the test.

Homer: True.

Teacher: Homer, just take the test. You'll do fine.

Homer: False.



  • The comedy team of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin were masters of this trope. Take this example from the opening of just one of their many Laugh-In shows:

 Rowan: Are you looking forward to the show tonight?

Martin: Yea, what's the movie?

Rowan: What movie? You doo doo, it's Laugh-In.

Martin: Oh that's right, Laugh-In's on tonight! I almost forgot it was Tuesday!

Rowan: It's not Tuesday, it's Monday!

Martin: Glad you reminded me! <to audience> Don't forget to watch Laugh-In tomorrow night.

Rowan: Laugh-In's not on tomorrow night.

Martin: Finally canceled it, huh? I knew they couldn't keep it up every week.

Rowan: You knew who couldn't keep it up every week?

Martin: Funk and Wagnalls.

Rowan: Funk and Wagnalls aren't on Laugh-In.

Martin: See, I told you they couldn't keep it up!

Rowan: Now, now, you're getting me confused. Let's go back to the beginning.

Martin: Well, in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, there was this boy and this girl, and...

Rowan: We might need not go back that far, let's just go back to the beginning of the show.

Martin: Ok...

<NBC Logo appears> "The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC."

Martin: Hey, was that Funk and Wagnalls?

Rowan: That was the NBC peacock.

Martin: That's how our show starts.

Rowan: That's what I've been trying to tell you. This is our show.

Martin: Oh you mean it's Tuesday already.

Rowan: No, it's Monday. Laugh-In is on on Monday nights.

Martin: Well somebody better tell Funk and Wagnalls, they're gonna be late for the show!