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After a long night with the guys, Bob comes home at 3 a.m., and walks into the room. He reaches for the light switch, until he hears a familiar voice saying nearby, "Hello Bob." It is his wife, Alice. Bob gets a good reprimand.

This is a trope most commonly found in Western Animation and sitcoms, where a married man is out later than usual and upon returning is suddenly surprised to see his wife, despite it being late at night, or just not expecting her at all. The room is usually dark. It can be expanded in all areas, like children coming home late at night with their parents waiting.

See also Matchlight Danger Revelation.

Examples of Lightswitch Surprise include:


  • In House Party, Kid has returned from the eponymous party, sneaking into the house through the window. He's just taken off his pants and is crawling into bed. Cue the voice of his father in the doorway.

 Father: "I wouldn't do that just yet." *belt snap* "'Cause your ass is mine."

This is followed by an absolutely hilarious conversation during the credits as Kid's father monologues punctuated by cracks of the belt and Kid's cries of pain.


  • Played for absolute drama in Peeps. She uses the darkness to test his reflexes, proving her suspiscions he's a Peep.
  • The Fredric Brown short story "Nightmare in Yellow": The main character is coming home from work on his birthday and decides to start a new life, starting with killing his wife. He does so on the front porch when she comes out to greet him, then steps inside propping up her body, turns on the light and... all the birthday guests shout, "SURPRISE!"

Live-Action TV

  • White Collar does it with The Reveal.
  • Psych also had an episode with this.
  • Mad Men, naturally. Always played for drama.
  • On the show "Titus", Christopher Titus describes a surprise party they threw for his uncle. When he walks in the door and the lights go on and people start yelling, he draws a revolver and starts shooting, injuring at least one guest. He then realizes what's happening and says "You guys."


  • The Stephen Foster song "My Wife Is a Most Knowing Woman" has these lines:

 Not often I go out to dinner

And come home a little "so so,"

I try to creep up through the hall-way,

As still as a mouse, on tip-toe,

She's sure to be waiting up for me

And then comes a nice little scene...

  • Happens in the music video for "Love of My Life" by Erykah Badu: she comes home late (and presumably drunk, given the way the music is "screwed" and the scene is blurry) with her date (actually Li'l Flip), to find her mother waiting on the couch and asking where she's been.

Newspaper Comics

  • Happens in Zits with Jeremy sneaking home after his curfew and thinking he's got away with it, but his parents are lying inside his bedroom door in a sleeping bag. He faints.

Western Animation

  • The Powerpuff Girls has Harold walking in with his wife there waiting, unknowingly to him, with wonderful news, and another with Sedusa.
  • The Incredibles
  • King of the Hill
  • Family Guy
  • The Boondocks, with Granddad and another one of his insane girlfriends.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants had an amusing example: Patrick came home from a party to a waiting SpongeBob.
  • The Simpsons has done it.
  • A recurring sketch on Dead Baby Comedy Monkey Dust: A sad looking man arrived home late at night to find his wife waiting up for him. He explains his lateness with an elaborate, detailed and dubious story. Skeptical wife asks him what he's really been doing. Man confesses to something disturbingly degrading. Funnier than it sounds.
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