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A pay phone was ringing

It just about blew my mind

When I picked it up and said hello

This foot came through the line
Bob Dylan's 115th Dream, Bob Dylan

In television, phones are surprisingly convenient, but in cartoons, they can be even more so. They don't just connect two people metaphorically, they act as mini- teleporters between two places. Occasionally small objects can pass through, but just as often people put parts of their body through the phone line and make contact with the people on the other end (often to deliver some violence), or the phone take on properties of the event (such as growing a mouth).

As an example, if Dave has overslept for work, he might expect a phone call from his boss via a telephone which develops an enormous mouth and yells at him to wake up. It might then develop a giant eye to see that he's still in bed before the boss's upper torso appears from the line and shakes him awake. A grumpy Dave might then reach back through his phone and whack his boss, forcing the boss to pass his job notice form through the receiver.

How this works is never once considered. After all, if sound can be teleported over to the other receiver in an instant, why not other things?

This mostly seems confined to cartoons, although similar events have shown up in live action comedies from time to time, usually ones that don't confine themselves too closely to the laws of reality. While there are more serious works where phones are used as transport focuses, this is about humourous uses.

Compare Television Portal, a serious / horror version of this.

Examples of Reaching Between the Lines include:

Comic Books

  • In The DCU, this is a famous way of traveling for The Atom. He would call someone, and when the receiver is picked up, the superhero would shrink sufficient to enter the phone lines and emerge at the other end. However, one modern story had him forgetting that the call would involve satellite relay and he had a really rough trip.
  • In one series of Dilbert strips, Bob the dinosaur gives Dilbert's company's CEO a "tele-wedgie" to dissuade him from relocating the company.


  • In a Laurel and Hardy short, Stan and Ollie are arguing over the telephone; Stan blows into the mouthpiece and Ollie's hat is blown off.
  • In Bill Cosby's Ghost Dad, he at one point teleports through the phone to berate the man on the other end, courtesy of the fact that he is currently a ghost.
  • In the Abbott and Costello movie Who Done It?, Mervin (Costello) keeps trying to make an important call but is repeatedly obstructed by the operator who keeps telling him, "The line is busy" (even when other people are able to place calls from the same phone). Eventually he gets so frustrated that he squirts a soda siphon down the mouthpiece and the operator gets squirted in the face.
  • In A Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy possesses Nancy's phone and sticks his tongue through it and into her mouth.
    • The first Leprechaun ripped this off, replacing the tongue with a tiny hand.


  • A serious version of this was done in Good Omens. Crowley and his demon assailant make themselves really, really small and travel through the phone lines. And then, Crowley manages to catch his opponent in his (Crowley's) own answering machine.
  • Used (possibly more than once) in the Keys to the Kingdom series. All telephones within the House appear to be able to do this, with the most memorable example being Monday's Noon dragging an elevator operator out of one in order to demote him for stopping an elevator too suddenly whilst he was using it.
  • Chris Miller wrote a short story for National Lampoon (title currently not found) where a female telephone collector calls a broke young man to discuss the outstanding phone bill. He tries to weasel his way out of the bill by claiming he's the bassist in her favorite band. Dirty talk ensues, and then a tongue comes through the earpiece and licks his ear. When he unscrews the earpiece, he finds a mouth-- and lets himself get fellated. The woman's voice on the other end demands sex; he removes the plate from the bottom of the phone and finds female genitalia ready for him. He plunges in-- and then a metal clamp locks onto his junk while the woman, now all business, resumes talking about the bill...

Live Action TV

  • In Police Squad!, someone on the phone asks his caller for a light, and lights a cigarette by holding it to the earpiece.
  • In Black Books, Manny calls a cleaning business to clean the bookshop. He "shows" them how dirty the place is by waving the phone about. There's no indication it works or makes sense, though.
    • Done with only slightly more logic by Manuel in Fawlty Towers to prove his boss isn't there. "He no here! Listen!" [waves phone about]
  • One episode of The Muppet Show had a Running Gag involving stuff coming out of the phone related to whomever was on the other line (water from the water company, smoke from the fire department, etc.).
  • A variation: An episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured as an Invention Exchange the "Gag Fax", by which you squirt water into the receiver, send the fax, and the printout at the other end will squirt the recipient.
  • Moe in a Three Stooges short managed to deliver an eye poke this way once.
  • In a Benny Hill sketch Benny played a switchboard operator in an apartment building with speaking tubes. At one point he took two calls, one from a man whose plumbing was leaking and another from a woman who had a small fire. He connected the tubes together so the leaking water would put out the fire. Another couple of callers were a doctor and his paitent, and the tubes were brokens (they couldn't be connected) so he had to act as an inbetween. The doctor sent a pill to the paitent by blowing it through the tube to Benny, who then blew it to the patient; but he sucked when he should have blown and swallowed the pill himself.


Video Games

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Used often in Looney Tunes and MGM cartoons.
    • One example would be Tex Avery's "Doggone Tired", a short about a dog trying to sleep while a rabbit places the phone on his pillow, with the operator jabbering away. The dog strangles the handset, thus somehow strangling the operator (complete with tongue lolling out the receiver).
  • In a SpongeBob SquarePants episode, SpongeBob tries to karate-punch Sandy through the telephone wire, but Sandy redirects his punch through the speaker of her own telephone so SpongeBob hits himself.
    • The episode "Jellyfish Jam" had Squidward calling SpongeBob regarding the noise coming from next door and getting squirted with jellyfish jelly.
  • Also seen in Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, where the general often reaches his hand through the telephone to attack Dick Dastardly or take his medals. Even more impressive when you consider that Dastardly is often flying (or more likely falling) at the time, and the phone has no visible connection to the network. Remember, this is World War One.
    • As mentioned in another entry, the short "Ice See You" implies that Dastardly's phone can also transmit video, as well as sensations of cold and heat.
  • The Jetsons has videotelephones where either party in the call can pass his body through the screen. (Matter transmission over IP, perhaps?)
  • Family Guy did a variation on this, with Peter's father-in-law punching him in the face through an e-mail.
  • It was even done on The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. In the episode "The Boardwalk Booby Trap", Zippy went through the telephone lines from Pockets' phone to the phone booth in which Penelope was imprisoned.
  • On one Popeye cartoon, Popeye punches out a singer through the radio.
  • Done a few times by Dr. Robotnik on The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
  • In one Kim Possible episode, Professor Dementor invented a device to teleport over phone lines.
  • In the Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "Cold War", Fanboy eats Lenny's nachos while talking to him on the phone.
  • One Donald Duck Christmas cartoon that pits him against Chip and Dale sees them firing candy balls through a phone. Donald attempts to turn the tables by placing a stick of dynamite inside and calling them, but they don't pick up... and trick him into answering his phone again just before the explosion.
  • The Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Total Re-Carl" opens with Dr Weird sending a telemarketer some "phone spiders".

Real Life

  • Candid Camera once did a stunt where a person talking on the phone suddenly sneezed. The victim, at the other end, was then sprayed with water from a gadget in the receiver. The victims reacted with disgust, at least until Fridge Logic kicked in.
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