Title of not-quite-CIDU post

Okay, it’s clearly not a CIDU because there’s no doubt what the joke is.

But this is sooooo familiar. But I don’t know from where, exactly. This is thus a Comic Whose Familiarity I Can’t Pin Down.

I think I’m thinking of a classic (or at least “very old”) bit by a comedy sketch group, like maybe Second City or The Groundlings or maybe even Nichols and May. Can anybody ID a sketch using this idea or pattern?

That is: a dialogue in which the actually uttered words are descriptions of the place in the structure of the scene occupied by the character’s turn or line; or description of the tone and effect of a line that would go there; or some similar meta-level description in place of the expected base-level line of dialogue.

Also, can you make a short and snappy name for the trope? And more examples, in any genre?

GoComics commenter “The Brooklyn Accent” posted a link to the song clip below, “Title of the Song” by Da Vinci’s Notebook, which does some of the same things and probably belongs within the same trope.


  1. I can think of two musical examples. First, the Gary Shandling Show theme. Second, Weird Al’s “[This Song’s Just} Six Words Long” (a parody of George Harrison’s “[Got My Mind] Set On You”.

  2. There’s “The Song That Goes Like This” from Spamalot, the spinoff from Monty Python and The Holy Grail. But I don’t know what you would call the trope.

    Once in every show
    There comes a song like this
    It starts off soft and low
    And ends up with a kiss
    Oh, where is the song that goes like this
    Where is it?
    Where? Where?
    Now we can go straight into the middle eight
    A bridge that is too far for me
    I’ll sing it in your face
    While we both embrace
    And then we change the key
    Now we’re into E
    Hm, that’s awfully high for me
    But everyone can see
    We should have stayed in D
    For this is our song that goes like this

  3. Once again, Lay Lines incorporates a character whom I would never want to meet, much less interact with on a daily basis.

    P.S. One detail that IDU is why she is threatening revenge from her “uncle”: the traditional “white knight” in these kinds of conflicts was usually an older brother.

    P.P.S. @ Narmitage & @ Powers – Great minds think alike!

  4. I distinctly remember (from ‘The Midnight Special’ on WFMT in Chicago) a skit from Nichols and May incorporating this trope (could they have been the first?) . . . but no idea where/how to find it.

  5. Powers and Kilby, yes and to me the most familiar version of the “cry uncle” trope is that the bully or current winner, while still controlling the victim or current lose, will demand the latter “call Uncle” as a condition for release.

  6. OK, I admit that “Cry ‘Uncle!’” is the perfect explanation for that last panel, but it seems horribly dated for a modern webcomic. I have never heard the phrase actually used, I have only seen it in written form, typically in stories in which the interjection “Swell!” also appears as a “current” equivalent for what would now be described as “Great!” or “Fantastic!“. In other words, that “Uncle!” is a geezer.

  7. Pretty sure Andréa is right about Nichols and May. I had a cassette tape of a Midnight Special “greatest hits” show that I’m pretty sure had this bit on it. WFMT has a bunch of old Second City (and their earlier incarnation Compass Players) that was probably never released officially. When we downsized I pitched all those old cassette tapes.

    Also on that show: “The Eggplant that Ate Chicago” and “The Cockroach that Ate Cincinnati”.

  8. I think the most meta example might be elsewhere from Monty Python, in a bit that was called “Argument Clinic” on one of their record albums.

  9. I don’t think I had ever seen anything like this before, and I didn’t translate the last panel to “Uncle”, though I understood it once it was pointed out.

    The other thing this reminded me of is a similar category called “Literal Videos”, where the music video has apparently nothing to do with the actual lyrics, so someone made up lyrics that explain what’s happening in the video, but sing it to the music. Look up “Total Eclipse of the Heart Literal Video” for a well done example.

  10. The only place I’d heard this was in ‘A Christmas Story’, which took place in the 1940s, so yeah, it’d be considered a geezer alert. And why ‘uncle’ anyway?

  11. The Python sketch is indeed a classic, and quite wonderful.
    However, I wouldn’t put it in the same bins as the original or many of the supplementary examples, where a characterization replaces a non-meta line, throughout.

  12. @ Andréa – There are several possible origins for the phrase “Say ‘Uncle!’“, including Irish, Latin, or even mistaking “T.O.” (for “time out!”) to be Spanish (“Tio“). Wikipedia even lists a parallel expression in Arabic.

  13. I’ve learned a lot from the comments made; however (probably just because I think this way) the comic evokes a strong sense of traditional “signifying” in the most general sense. A semantic figure of the truth and object figures coexisting in thought.

  14. pretty old one found on bash.org from the IRC days:


  15. Thanks, Shrug! It may or may not qualify exactly, but it certainly was entertaining! We can only wish, along with some of the YT commenters, that it had been a video.

  16. Note to readers who didn’t follow Rellik66’s link: There were character names as speech attributions, which probably didn’t survive pasting as they used angle-brackets which the WP input would take as intending HTML input.

    But it doesn’t spoil the point!

  17. Neo-Futurists! Yes, I’ve been to see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind — but only once, in like the 80s or 90s.

  18. After reading the comic, I immediately thought of the Da Vinci’s Notebook song before reading the text. To clarify the point of the song, one of the members of the band described it as “Every boy band song ever made”.

  19. John Barth’s short-story collection Lost In The Funhouse includes his story “Title” in which all the parts of the story are metadescription : the title is “Title” etc.

    I imagine the text of it is out there somewhere, but it is a difficult thing for which to google.

  20. At the end of “occupation reality” video that I had going in another tab while reading this thread, the guy sums things with, “Anyway, life is interesting and humans are weird.”

  21. It is long past time to give credit where credit is due: Targuman’s suggestion for a “short and snappy name for the trope” is perfect:


  22. There is a Ted Talk that is an instructional on how to do Ted Talks, but I can’t find it. “And now I raise my voice and my hands at the same time, revving up the audience…” and the like.

  23. @joel hanes, I was for a while a big fan of John Barth’s short-story collection Lost In The Funhouse, thinking of it as a significant breakthrough or landmark in American short fiction. Oddly, I don’t quite remember “Title”. I thought I could easily look it up without tricks, as a matter of “I’ll pull it down from the shelf” but it wasn’t there! Still, thanks for the reference!

  24. And picking up from Joel Hanes’s point about the odds against internet searching for a story titled “Title”, I know I previously (probably a few times) commented on the difficulty of finding on Amazon a certain novel titled “Encyclopedia” – since their search would return the innumerable Encyclopedias of This and Thats.

    But then in a thread here on March 3, our own Shrug worked from my description of the contents to come up with a listing:

    Mitch4: Librarians are your friends. This includes retired librarians, like your friendly neighborhood Shrug.

    WorldCat record (edited):

    Title: Encyclopedia /
    Author(s): Horn, Richard (Novelist), author.
    Publication: New York : Grove Press, Inc.,
    Year: 1969
    Description: 157 pages ; 21 cm
    Descriptor: Bohemianism — United States — Fiction.

    Armed with the author’s name, finding it on Amazon was much simplified!

  25. “Mitch4: Librarians are your friends. This includes retired librarians, like your friendly neighborhood Shrug.”

    And Library Media Technical Assistants, such as myself (and it helps, too, that Hubby is a retired Librarian).

  26. Thanks, Johan! That shows how deeply the trope has penetrated. As some of the YT comments said, this is not so much funny as depressing.

  27. From the Quintet version of “Tonight” from West Side Story:

    The Jets are coming out on top, tonight
    We’re gonna watch Bernardo drop, tonight
    That Puerto Rican punk’ll go down
    And when he’s hollered “Uncle”
    We’ll tear up the town

    Songwriters: Stephen Sondheim / Leonard Bernstein

    Here’s two great film performances cut together:

    (Please turn on CC for version and cast IDs)

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