|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
It's just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. Then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a racecar. Is any of this getting through to you?
Basically, it's when a character tries to give an anecdote or tell a story (usually a well-known real one, or else people might not know that it diverged from the original without help from Mr. Exposition). They then go off in absurd and comedic tangents, and the intended moral/ending/what-have-you is lost.
Contrast Shaggy Dog Story, where the story does go somewhere, it's just not impressive once it does.
- The climax of Billy Madison has the eponymous character trying to compare the changes in literature brought on by the Industrial Revolution with a children's story called "The Puppy Who Lost His Way". We never get to hear most of it but what is heard appears to be pretty impressively mangled.
"Mr. Madison, what you've just said... is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
- Discworld's Granny Weatherwax tries to tell the joke about the man who orders an alligator sandwich and says "and make it snappy!" but she can't remember the punchline, so she keeps coming up with things like "And I want it quickly!"
- It's explained at some point that, while she's not entirely missing a sense of humour, she tends not to understand why a certain joke is funny. In this case, she's simply repeating one she's heard, and doesn't understand why no-one laughs when she tells it.
- Also, Pyramids has the Greatest Storyteller in the World, who is unfortunately hampered by a bad memory and short attention span, so all his stories turn into this.
- Woody Allen uses this a couple of times in his humorous "The Early Essays".
- On Seeing a Tree in Summer: "Once a lumberjack was about to chop down a tree, when he noticed a heart carved in it, with two names inside. Putting away his axe, he sawed down the tree instead. The point of that story escapes me, although six months later the lumberjack was fined for teaching a dwarf Roman numerals."
- On Frugality: "Take the case of the ant and the grasshopper: The grasshopper played all summer, while the ant worked and saved. When winter came, the grasshopper had nothing, but the ant complained of chest pains. Life is hard for insects. And don't think mice are having any fun, either. The point is, we all need a nest egg to fall back on, but not while wearing a good suit."
Live Action TV
- Stargate SG-1 example:
Col. O'Neill: Haven't you guys heard the story about the dog and the dancing monkeys? It's about getting along and... dancing.
- This a throwback to an earlier exchange between O'Neill and an old man who likes using proverbs and fables. The exchange is peppered with this.
Old Man: No one can be a friend if you know not whether to trust them.
Jack: Don't judge a book by its cover.
Old Man: Enemies' promises were made to be broken.
Jack: And yet, honesty is the best policy.
Old Man: He who has too many friends has none.
Jack: Ahh, but, birds of a feather.
Old Man: I'm unfamiliar with that story, what lesson does it teach?
Jack: It has to do with flocking, and togetherness, and to be honest I'm not so familiar with the particulars myself.
- Upright Citizens Brigade' episode "The Story of the Toad."
- From almost every episode of Home Improvement: Tim has a problem. Tim receives wise advice from Wilson. Tim tries to share Wilson's wise advice with others, mangling it into incomprehensibility in the process.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson will tell a story allegedly to illustrate a point that ends up merely highlighting his sexual prowess.
- As with the above example, Will's boss on Will and Grace tells him a story about a passionate sexual encounter on the beach. When Will asks him what his point is, he answers, "No point, I just like telling that story. Now get back to work and stop listening to pointless stories."
- Done on Russell Coight's All Aussie Adventures when Russell tells a tour group an Aboriginal dreamtime story, that somehow includes a fox (not native to Australia) and a three-eyed snake. His tourists point out the holes in it.
- "You know, something just like this happened back in St. Olaf..."
- "Picture it, Sicily, 19xx..."
- In an episode of Just Shoot Me, Finch goes into great detail when explaining how he pranked Maya. This is relevant to the episode, but then Finch throws in the part about how he played Twister with supermodels while the others were out.
Elliot: Why are you telling us that part?
Finch: Dude, I'm telling everybody that part.
- The Muppet Show once did a reading on the Aesop of the Ant and the Grasshopper. Only in this version, the grasshopper drove his sports car to Florida when winter fell, and the ant got stepped on. The reader, Sam the Eagle, responds accordingly once he realizes what he's read.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Albuquerque" and "Everything you Know is Wrong".
- "Albuquerque" is definitely an example, but "Everything You Know Is Wrong" probably wasn't going anywhere in the first place.
Mad Margaret: You pity me? Then be my mother! The squirrel had a mother, but she drank and the squirrel fled! Hush! They sing a brave song in these parts -- it runs somewhat thus: (sings)
'The cat and the dog and the little puppee
Sat down in a -- down in a -- in a --'
I forget what they sat down in, but so the song goes!
"If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight! Sun Tzu said that, and I'd say he knows a little bit more about fighting than you do, pal, because he invented it, and then he perfected it so that no living man could best him in the ring of honor. Then, he used his fight money to buy two of every animal on earth, and then he herded them onto a boat, and then he beat the crap out of every single one. And from that day forward any time a bunch of animals are together in one place it's called a zoo! (Beat) Unless it's a farm!"
- In Betrayal at Krondor, the book Thiful's Bird Migrations starts with a discussion on birds, but since the author simply cannot keep on topic, it becomes the only book to provide bonuses to every skill in the game.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, most of what Grandpa Sea Monkee has to say is some variation of this.
- The wizard Fernswarthy's letter to his future grave-robber starts out with threats of a terrible curse for descrating his grave, segues into a discussion about the merits of a career in chartered accountancy, segues again into a letter to an unnamed friend in the Distant Lands, and ends up as a shopping list. The curse also fails to work properly. Fernswarthy wasn't all there in his old age.
- In Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty, Otacon takes over as Snake's Voice with an Internet Connection, and takes all the roles of Snake's former team. However, he does not that great of a job imitating Mei-Ling's quoting of classic literature.
Otacon: Remember the Deep family's fish, Snake!
- Poker Night At the Inventory sees Tycho asking Max where he learned to play cards. Max starts recounting an adventure in Atlantic City, but by the time he finishes the anecdote he's forgotten there was a question he was supposed to answer.
- This Pictures for Sad Children.
- Xkcd shows us what happens if a math professor starts rambling while reading fairy tales:
"But while the ant gathered food ... zzz ... the grasshopper contracted to a point on a manifold that was not a 3-sphere."
- Some of the girls' side adventures in Camelorum Adventures feel like a cross between this and Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
- In The Simpsons episode "Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie", Homer tries explaining to Bart why his punishment is for his own good.
Homer: You know, when I was a boy, I really wanted a catcher's mitt, but my dad wouldn't get it for me. So I held my breath until I passed out and banged my head on the coffee table. (Cheerily) The doctor thought I might have brain damage.
Bart: Dad, what's the point of this story?
Homer: I like stories.
- In a similar vein is Homer attempting to explain to Bart why he can't have the video game he covets;
Homer: When I was your age, I wanted an electric football game more than anything in the world. And my parents bought it for me, and it was the happiest day of my life.
- Homer had a few actually, including this one from "Homer the Heretic"
"Kids, let me tell you about another so-called ``wicked guy. He had long hair and some wild ideas. He didn't always do what other people thought was right. And that man's name was... I forget. But the point is... I forget that, too. Marge, you know what I'm talking about. He used to drive that blue car?"
- Pretty much everything Grandpa Simpson says:
"We can't bust heads like we used to. But we have our ways. One trick is to tell stories that don't go anywhere. Like the time I caught the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for m'shoe. So I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt. Which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. Gimme five bees for a quarter, you'd say. Now where was I... oh yeah. The important thing was that I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the style at the time. You couldn't get white onions, because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones..."
- And then there's Reverend Lovejoy's sermon following Homer's supposed alien encounter:
"I remember another gentle visitor from the heavens. He came in peace, and then died, only to come back to life. And his name was... E.T., the extraterrestrial. [sniffs] I love that little guy..."
- "Haven't you ever heard the story of 'Hercules and the Lion'? Well, a big lion had a thorn in his paw, and all the animals tried to pull it out, but none of them were strong enough. So they got Hercules. He used his mighty strength to pull the thorn out, and the lion rewarded him with treasure." "Where'd a lion get treasure?" "...I don't know, it was the olden days." "Was that story from the Bible?" "I think so."
- Done hilariously in Freakazoid.
"I saw this once on an after-school special. Mary and Sally, best friends! They did absolutely everything together. Then one day, Mary fell in with the wrong crowd. And Mary didn't have time for Sally anymore. Sally would say, 'Wanna go play a game or pretend we're kitties?' and Mary would say 'Uh-uh, I'm in with the wrong crowd.' Sally was so sad she ran home, climbed up a tree and started eating cookies. A ton of cookies. She got huge, HUGE, HUGE, HUGE!...got any cookies, Mike?"
- Happened more than once on Futurama, mostly through the... wisdom of Fry, as the page quote brilliantly demonstrates.
- From American Dad, "White Rice":
Francine: Are you sure about all this?
Roger: Remember when Rudy from The Cosby Show got old and stopped being cute? I brought them Raven-Symone! Saw her on a Philadephia playground and knew she was a star, snatched her right up! Six months later, her parents saw her on TV and realized she was still alive... did some time for that. So, you ask, am I sure about this? I dunno.
- Mater's Tall Tales is, as it suggests, Mater telling stories about how he supposedly met aliens, was a firetruck and a matador, amongst other things. Hilariously, around half-way through each retelling;
- SpongeBob SquarePants, "Something Smells"