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So you've got a Toyota Prius sitting by the side of the road. Two guys get out. Then another four guys. Then another six guys...
No, there is no way all of them could possibly fit into that thing. It is a Clown Car Base.
A common variation in animation and comics is for a character to live in a structure barely larger than himself, but constantly drop hints that it is considerably more spacious than it appears; the actual interior of the structure is never shown.
Primarily a comedy trope. When we actually see the inside of the thing, it is Bigger on the Inside. See also Space Compression. Compare Units Not to Scale. The equivalent trope for containers is Bag of Holding.
Anime and Manga
- While infiltrating the Hidden Rain, Jiraiya of Naruto used one of his toad summons as a mobile base. On the inside, it was cavernous; on the outside, it was the size of a normal toad. Watching him pull himself out of the toad's mouth without its size changing was interesting to say the least.
- Inverted in a way by French comedian Florence Foresti in her gig about the Barbie Airplane, in which she points out how the inside of the plane is much smaller (or less furnished) than it's made to look on the outside. A rough translation:
"[...] Barbie Big Fat Liar. Why? How many seats in this plane, you think? (shows the 4 windows on the plane) I'm asking you people sitting at the front, of course... 4? Ah, 8? I see the maths sup and maths spé are here today too (imitating a Dumb Blonde) "Of course, there's 2 rows!". So yes, 4 or 8, that's what we'd like to believe. Except that, Barbie Big Fat Liar (opens up plane), 3 seats. You're expecting some nice people, a great atmosphere, and all you find is 3 crappy seats."
- Resident Evil: Extinction From a steel freight crate seven by fifteen feet, that is open and partially empty (the view fades to an ominous jet black), dozens of zombies come running out. The scene and the zombiestream lasts for several minutes.
- Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Jesus gets in a fist fight (for no apparent reason) with a group of atheists who pour out of a compact car. Six at a time. In six waves.
- In one scene of You Don't Mess With the Zohan, over a dozen Arabs get out of a regular New York taxi cab.
- In the Mel Brooks To Be or Not to Be movie, the Jews who had been hiding in the theater emerge in front of an audience of Nazi officers, as an endless stream of clowns from an actual clown car on stage, and walk out unhindered through the front door.
- In Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, over eighty children of all ages come out of a small apartment in one continuous cut. Of course it's all the more impressive how they all must have come out of the same mother. . .
- In Monty Python's Life of Brian, a group of few dozen roman soldiers are inspecting apartment so small it couldn't possibly fit half of the group in. And still they manage not to find any of the dozen Jewish revolutionaries hidden inside the place. Not even after re-checking.
- In the Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle / Buster Keaton two-reeler Moonshine, forty-five revenooers get out of a model-T (at 0:59 here)
- Played for Drama in Gaunts Ghosts novel His Last Command. No one can figure out how so many Chaos troops are emerging from the admittedly large rooms the Guard is assaulting. Turns out that there are warp portals through which they emerge, on the other side of which are vast armies.
- Wizarding tents in Harry Potter work this way: Sure, the LOOK like a regular two-person tent on the outside. But on the INSIDE, its roughly a fourth of a circus tent, complete with kitchen and numerous bunk beds. And those are the ordinary-looking ones.
- Death's house in the Discworld series, from the outside it looks fairly normal, if a bit morbid, but inside... Death's study is reckoned to be about a mile square, and it apparently isn't the biggest room.
- This has as much to do with Death just not understanding physics as anything else. In the land his house occupies, the ominous mountains in the distance are actually fairly close to the house; they simply look far away because they're literally blurry, which is all Death really cares about.
- On Sesame Street, Oscar the Grouch has at least one elephant living in his trash can. And a swimming pool. And even Mr. Snuffleupagus himself once payed the grouch a visit - his snuffle was seen first coming out as he was leaving the trash can (and after five kids came out of it first!).
- Also in the show, an actual clown car was used in a counting lesson. A mini hatchback (with a police siren) came in driving around in circles, then came to a stop to let out 10 clowns (each counting 1 to 10 as the came out) before they all went back into it (counting backwards this time), after which the hatchback took off.
- Used with an actual clown car in Pushing Daisies: a number of clowns were driving away from the circus when they were forced off the road and into the lake. When their car is dragged up from it and they start pulling the bodies out, it starts out with only one clown...and then another one is pulled out and another one and another one, including a clown wearing stilts, and it keeps going until it's hilarious.
- In The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Artie lives in a porta-potty, but has hosted barbecue parties out of it, though the interior is never shown.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus episode 11. A vicar motions two gravediggers to get out of a grave they're digging. They do so, and then several others get out: 6 more gravediggers, two miners, two soldiers, a police dog and its handler, and a surfboarder. Watch it on YouTube here. This could be called a Clown Car Grave but that name has already been used for another trope altogether.
- In the scene immediately before, four undertakers are carrying a coffin, only for each of them to collapse one by one. Every time one of them falls, the other men in the group promptly put down the coffin, place the undertaker inside, and then move on. By the end this coffin made for one man contains five people (all four of the undertakers plus the body they were originally carrying), resulting in the coffin somehow moving on its own towards the grave, resulting in the aforementioned sequence.
- The Goodies episode about the Rolf Harris plague has a take-off of the Pied Piper of Hamilton, which includes the Rolf Harris "attacking the babies in their cradles". Later when the Goodies draw them out of the city by playing "Waltzing Matilda" on didgeridoos, an endless stream of Rolfs are seen clambering out of the one baby carriage.
- Played with on the SCTV "Fishin' Musician" segment - host John Candy and musical guests The Tubes are seen on a typical 16mm 'outdoors show' film leaving a little cabin; Candy narrates "There's that lodge we stayed at there, it looks small there, but it goes down four hundred feet, sleeps eight hundred..."
- Batman's Batmobile turns out to have some serious Clown Car carrying capacity. In an attempt to infiltrate the Batcave, The Joker, the Penguin, and six of their henchmen can all fit in the Batmobile's trunk.
- Doctor Who has the TARDIS, which apparently has a library (and a swimming pool in the library), a closet for the Doctor to change outfits, and even hallways, many of which are apparently past incarnations of it that came with each regeneration.
- Heck, in at least one instance, the TARDIS was shown to be big enough to contain itself.
- In Jim Davis' U.S. Acres , one-off mentions of things like his TV show add up to make the inside of Sheldon's eggshell downright palatial. No wonder he doesn't want to fully hatch.
- His feet are also always sticking out of the bottom. That alone makes it probably the most unusual example on this page by a wide margin!
- Snoopy's doghouse from Peanuts is much larger than it seems. Sometimes implied (or even stated) to be an elaborate basement, but whenever the (tiny) visible structure is destroyed, he behaves as if the entire house is gone. And, perversely, he chooses to sleep on top of the thing, even in the rain or cold!
- A few strips had Snoopy building a birdhouse for Woodstock, which turns out to be another (bird-sized) Clown Car Base.
- A recurring gag in Funky Winkerbean involved Funky doing things inside his locker that should have been impossible, like roasting hot dogs on a fire.
- In Monsterpocalypse, some units have the "transport" ability while others have "cargo," with the former able to drop off infinite numbers of the latter. This can be explained with Units Not to Scale for the pods or Sizeshifter for the Shinobi, but the 60-ft tall Mechacthugrosh storing that many of the 15-ft tall Mecha Taskmasters?
- In Crazy For You, the choreography for "I Can't Be Bothered Now" has more Chorus Girls emerging from a smallish car than could possibly fit in it.
- Every strategy game ever.
- Age of Empires I provides an egregious example in Transport Ships. You can pile up to 10 elephants in a Transport Ship, and it looks like it would have difficulty carrying one.
- Total Annihilation and Spiritual Successor Supreme Commander are notable aversions, you can actually see the units being produced in a properly-scaled building and they have to clear the production platform before the next one can start. It's especially notable with certain giant units: Total Annihilation's Krogath was so big it needed it's own specialized factory to produce, and Supreme Commander's "experimental" tire units are so big they're placed and constructed like buildings.
- Zigzagged in Starcraft, due largely to Units Not to Scale: the sprite for a Terran siege tank is roughly the same size as a dropship, but the dropship can fit two. On the other hand, the bunker seems big enough to fit four infantry.
- Golden Sun, especially the first one. How do they fit into those tiny little wagons?
- Super Robot Wars invokes the trope often. Depending on the base capital ship and robots you have. A typical situation would be the Ra Calium from Gundam with a standard load of twelve roughly eighteen metre Mobile Suits plus another dozen super robots in the 30+ meter range. Probably at it when the 100m Daitarn 3 is on board. Occasionally possibly averted when Macross or its descendants are available.
- This gets REALLY bad in Super Robot Wars Destiny, where you get permanent control of Shin Dragon, which is roughly the size of an entire CITY, fitting in one of the battleships. This is averted somewhat in its next appearance, Super Robot Wars Z2: Saisei-Hen when it is designated as a battleship on its own.
- Can happen in Left 4 Dead and its sequel thanks to the algorithms of the AI Director. When a random horde spawns to charge the players they'll all spawn in the same area, usually just out of sight of the survivors. This occasionally leads to comical clown car circumstances, where 30 zombies come charging out of a single bathroom stall. The best examples are closets and small rooms that you just cleared and walked out of literally 5 seconds ago. Where were they all hiding?
- It's entirely possible for a horde to spawn behind and come piling out from behind a small stack of boxes.
- A key element of Pokémon. Poke Balls, roughly the size of a baseball or a hand grenade, can fit a 40' long whale or an 11' long, 2094 lb. dinosaur/earth god without changing size or weight whatsoever. They hinge open when capturing or releasing a Pokemon, but they don't change otherwise. It's even crazier in the anime, where they can shrink down to the size of a large marble until needed.
- Used liberally in Gauntlet Legends. The bases have three sizes each, and the size determines the toughness of the monsters that come out.
- Ace Combat games have from time to time bases or carriers that can keep spawning enemies until destroyed.
- Halo Wars There is no way a infantry transport vehicle the size of three dump trucks can carry 240 Marines, and look empty from your view over the battlefield.
- The Koopa Clown Car (actually some kind of reverse helicopter) from Super Mario World is able to carry Bowser, several Mechakoopas and an infinite amount of enormous cannonballs inside itself without running out of room, and the cannonballs are at least as big as the car itself.
- Done in the Dawn of War series, the first one and its expansions featured vehicles which were much smaller than the ones you would find on the tabletop, yet still able to fit about 30 troops, on average, while the tabletop version could fit a single squad of about 10 or so. The second Dawn of War had vehicles that still followed this trope.
- The second game's unit proportions are about equal to the tabletop models, actually.
- In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, at one point Travis walks into a parking lot with two vans in it. He has to fight the thugs coming out of those vans, who seem to keep pouring out for a good 20 minutes.
- Actually, several more vans (about eight more) pull up. Albeit those vans seem to have come from Hammerspace.
- Units from Machines can be significantly too large to fit inside the building that created them and transport unit can carry units larger themselves inside them. This partial justified by teleporting technology.
- Star Ruler has Quantum Space Compressors allowing you to do this. At high levels of Spatial Dynamics research, it gets... impressive. Even without them you can build ships or stations bigger than the constructor used.
- Mini Robot Wars has the Transporter and its Aquatic Mook equivalent the Killer Whale, both of which are Mook Maker units that can spawn a huge amount of enemies for something its size.
- Breeding pens in Farmville can hold up to 40 animals when fully expanded. This is reasonable for rabbits and other small creatures, but gets ridiculous with horse paddocks, cattle yards, and especially zoos, which can be stuffed full of 40 elephants.
- In Growl, Round 5 ends with an encounter against a tank that has nine mooks inside it.
- In the NES version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Mission 3 is set entirely inside the confides of a chopper. The player fights against a total of seven or eight enemies in this stage (two right hand-men, three or four Williams and two Bolos), all coming out from the helicopter's cockpit.
- Most space stations in the X-Universe series dock ships on external berths, which avert the trope. But some stations can dock ships up to heavy fighter size internally (and certain shipyards can do the same with ships of up to corvette and freighter size). There is no limit to the number of ships that can dock internally. One popular mod adds internal docking (and a pair of capital ship docking clamps) to player-built factory complexes, making them pretty easy to defend: just stuff a few dozen fighters inside (pocket change in the late game) and have them launch as needed; out-of-sector combat modeling does the rest.
- The Whiteboard: Red asks Doc if his truck was bought from a circus clown after seeing a bunch of players and gear being unloaded. Doc says no, but notes that it uses the same technology.
- Played with in the Looney Tunes cartoon "Rabbit Every Monday". During the cartoon, Yosemite Sam forces Bugs Bunny into his old wood-burning oven, and prepares to add wood to the fire. Bugs at one point emerges from the oven door and asks Sam, "You got a bottle opener on ya?" He then emerges from the oven for a moment, and returns to the oven with a bucket of ice and some folding chairs, and then pops out again to empty some ashtrays. Every time he opens the oven door, Dixieland music is heard playing. Finally, he opens the door and asks Sam, "Ain't ya comin' in, Mac? The girls have been askin' for ya." Sam, suddenly excited, slicks his hair back and enters the oven, expecting a party. Bugs gets second thoughts and opens the door to tell Sam it was all just a gag, only to see that there really is a party going on inside the oven. Bugs dives into the oven, and emerges one last time with a party hat and noisemaker, saying, "I don't ask questions, I just have fun!"
- Also done with an OLD Popeye cartoon with an Arabian theme. Olive Oyl is captured by an Arab shiek (Brutus) who takes her to his teeny (obviously no more than 3ft by 3ft) little tent in the desert. When she dubiously peeks inside, its palatial; going on and on and on. She draws back outside and then cartoonishly stretches her neck so her head goes all the way around the tent. This is older than color.
- As revealed in the animation "Where's The Cheat?", The Cheat from Homestar Runner actually lives in the King of Town's grill. Occasionally, we actually get to see Strong Sad be stuffed inside the grill, and in one Strong Bad Email, there is actually a pizza parlor inside the grill, and both Strong Bad and The Cheat actually fit inside the grill.
- Subverted on The Simpsons. Krusty the Clown emerges from a stretch limo and a bunch of other clowns follow him out.
Krusty: Get back in! It's only funny with the small car.
- In another episode, when Bart was about to crush a clown car, Krusty and several other clowns quickly got out of it.
- Another older example is in Trolley Troubles, an Oswald short. Oswald's trolley seems to be fairly small, but it can hold hundreds of riders!
- The buses from Cars 2, which for some reason can actually carry cars inside them!
- In the U.S. Acres segment of Garfield and Friends, Roy and Orson were running for leader of the farm. Every time a chicken entered the voting booth and voted, they fell through a trap door. Roy, who watched the chickens entering the booth, didn't suspect a thing until Orson asked how many got out of it.
- During the song "Topsy Turvy" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a troupe of women can be seen doing the can-can emerging out of one very small tent and disappearing into another (which also happens to be Esmeralda's dressing room).
- Many looped animations circulating the Internet have carefully crafted to make mundane objects in real life appear to act this way (for example, to the trash! [note: contains audio]).
- Bill Bailey once recounted a tale of people sneaking into Glastonbury by digging a tunnel under the fence that came out under a one-man tent. This is made even funnier when he describes the witnesses who are high on weed or LSD, watching thousands of people just pouring out of this tiny little tent. Something similar to that happened at the Woodstock festival.
- There is a joke that Mexican people have the superpower of making any van they enter into a Clown Car Base. If you live near the US/Mexican border, you could see they can fit 40-50 people in an 8-person van. It is kinda freaky. Made fun of specifically here.
- An amusement park in México City used to have a promotion called "auto sardina" (sardine car) where you pay the entry fee based in the size of the car, not the number of people in it, so you usually have two families jammed in a really small car.
- In Spain this joke is made with the Chinese instead.
- There is another joke about this and the Basque, but this time it does not play with their supposed ability, but to the triple stereotype of them supposedly being stubborn, braggarts and gambling-lovers: "How do you fit 20 Basques in a Mini Cooper? By claiming they cannot".
- Sometimes a thing is just bigger than you think it is, volume-wise, if you're willing to use it in a manner it wasn't designed for. For instance, some soldiers figured out that they can fit fourteen people in a porta potty. YouTube is full of videos similar to this.
- Certain tiny apartments in the North End of Boston are well known for achieving this affect whenever a group of people leave it at the same time, especially if it's a party that's been broken up by the cops.
- Operation Solomon, an airlift operation by the Israeli Government to rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews from a collapsing Ethiopian government in 1991, set a record by airlifting 1,122 passengers in a single Boeing 747 (of which the highest official capacity, for the 747-400 in single-class configuration, is 624 passengers; even the personnel involved in the operation expected not to be able to fit more than 760 people in the aircraft).