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Fourthwall 9025

And so, on June 19, 1978, a very long history of shattering the fourth wall began.

What!? What fourth wall!? There's never BEEN a fourth wall in this stupid comic!
George, Bob and George

Some series can go their entire lives without breaking the Fourth Wall once. Some series will occasionally break the Fourth Wall for a few moments of comedy, but outside of that the Fourth Wall is in full effect.

And then there are these.

A series with No Fourth Wall doesn't just break the fourth wall, it vaporizes it. There might as well not be one. Characters will make references to "the last episode" or "next issue". They'll criticize the writing, production, management or even the audience. In extreme cases, they'll refuse to go on acting. Expect there to be large amounts of Medium Awareness, such as characters in a comic pointing out the use of panels. No Fourth Wall often leads to characters being extremely Genre Savvy, or frequent lampshading of Genre Blindness.

A good way to test for whether it's merely Breaking the Fourth Wall or if there is No Fourth Wall at all is to check how important the breaking of the fourth wall is to the premise: If the moments of Breaking the Fourth Wall could be removed without readily changing the premise of the series, it's likely Breaking the Fourth Wall; if breaking it is such an important part of the series that removing it would noticeably change the series, it's No Fourth Wall.

See also:

Contrast Willing Suspension of Disbelief, this trope's sworn enemy. See also Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness. Lampshade Hanging is a less extreme form of this trope.

Examples of No Fourth Wall include:


Anime and Manga Edit

  • Gintama has the main characters complain about just about everyone at one point. The mangaka himself has appeared as a gorilla in several episodes.
    • Shinpachi himself ends up breaking the fourth wall at least once per episode. Being the Only Sane Man and the Straight Man in a comedy manga can do that to someone.
  • The Slayers often had characters addressing the viewers in an aside.
    • Similarly, at one point Lina notes that Martina's still alive after NEXT's climactic battle because she's the comedy relief. Sylphiel quickly warns her she's giving too much away.
    • Revolution has Lina pursuing new character Pokota because he usurped her traditional big scene in the first episode where she blows up an unsuspecting town with the Dragon Slave.
    • One could venture that that the entirety of The Slayers novel-verse has no fourth wall, as they are first person, Lina's point of view. She frequently pauses to address the audience, often reacting as if she's been called on her sometimes (often) less-than-ethical actions where assaulting local banditry is concerned. This usually results in her denial before readers are given the details of what actually happened to cause ten armed men to chase her.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico had entire episodes explaining various aspects of the show.
  • In the first episode of Ichigo Mashimaro, Nobue describes the other characters directly to the audience; while describing herself, she turns to look directly at the camera (incidentally, doing a Shout-Out as well).
    • She does the same thing in the Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere chapter of the manga, acknowledging the reader while saying: "A 16-year-old girl shouldn't be smoking!"
  • Excel Saga and its Spiritual Successor Puni Puni Poemi don't so much demolish the fourth wall as they never bother to build one in the first place.
    • In particular, Poemi in Puni Puni Poemi hasn't even gotten as far as the first wall yet -- she's convinced that she's actually her voice actress and refers to herself by that name, and also believes her father Nabeshin is actually the director. Which he is, but she shouldn't know that.
  • In Kodomo no Omocha, both Babbitt and Sana make frequent references to the fact that they are in an anime; Babbitt in particular scolds Sana on several occasions for doing things that she shouldn't in a kids' program.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler invokes this trope pretty much every single episode, with the characters constantly aware that they are in an anime and that there is a narrator and audience. The manga re-erects the fourth wall eventually, then it stays mostly intact.
  • Bobobobo Bobobo broke the fourth wall all the time in the manga, but the anime did it even more.
  • Ninin ga Shinobuden is full of characters who constantly address the camera. The last episode is dedicated to the characters trying to figure out a satisfactory way to end the show.
  • Ouran High School Host Club deserves a special mention for the constant references to it being a romance anime -- at one point this leads to Tamaki declaring himself and Haruhi the romantic leads and relegating the rest of the club to the homosexual supporting cast.
    • The cast tends to more often lean on the fourth wall than break it, but the bananas might be said to be a consistent Fourth Wall breach that would even change the plot outcomes.
  • Samurai Pizza Cats of course!
  • FLCL never even really had a fourth wall...and if it did, there is now a crater where it once was...
  • Dr. Slump does this all the time too, with jokes often hinging on the fact that the characters are aware that they are in a manga.
    • It even did it during the series crossover with Dragon Ball Super when Vegeta is shown to be completely aware that Arale is a gag-manga character and even swears to never fight a gag-manga character again after his fight with Arale.
  • Violinist of Hameln (manga version) never built a fourth wall in the first place:
    • The characters say things like "this is a really stupid manga".
    • When the heroes first meet Ocarina, Hamel is happy to "finally have a girl in sexy clothes in this manga".
    • When Hamel's violin is broken his friends plan to take over the manga and steal the main character status.
    • At one point, Hamel tells Olin that he's not important because he wasn't in the Anime adaptation.
  • Dragon Half. At one point in the second episode, a new character appears to proclaim the main heroine his implacable rival. He gives an impressive rant about what she's supposedly done to him... and she has no idea what he's talking about. He pulls out a TV set and a tape of the first episode to show her, only to find that all his scenes were cut by the editor. This prompts another rant.
  • One of the ways the original Lupin III manga differed from any subsequent adaptations was its shameless lack of a fourth wall. From Lupin's quip in chapter 6 that "This manga is very thrilling!" to some stories involving the author as a character (one was just a chapter of Lupin criticizing and abusing the author, the other has Lupin giving the manga-ka a tour of his hideout), to a chapter starring the reader himself.
  • Osamu Tezuka does this all the time. Usually it involves his author avatar or playing with the panel borders.
  • Nerima Daikon Brothers: Fourth wall? What's that? Everyone mentions the audience and animators, and often comment on the "Stupid dub writer!"

  "But what are we supposed to do with lyrics like 'legal rabid beagle?' You want my advice? Fire the goldang English dub writer!"

  • Several characters in Medaka Box are aware of their status in a manga. In particular, the Big Bad is in the midst of forcibly shifting the manga from action to love comedy to give the main character a better chance at success. And in chapter 127, she claimed she intended to speed the manga up, and make it end before the anime comes out. One can only wonder how she's going to take that in the anime.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei- In Meru's introduction epsiode she criticizes her classmates' character types (i.e. "Your Bandage Babe character is worn out"), and at that point the series breaks the fourth wall practically every second episode (Kafuka stating it's time for a commercial break, and later that it's the end of the episode, Chiri saying profound things should not be said in a cheap anime, and so on.)
  • Characters in Yuru-Yuri, especially in the manga, constantly break the fourth wall, referring to readership, publication history and things like colour pages and Fan Service content. Memorably, a bonus Yonkoma strip was almost entirely filled with characters talking about the format change.

 Kyouko: She isn't trying very hard to become a memorable character.

Yui: Oh, but... The author says that putting her in that role has actually made her more interesting and easier to incorporate. On the other hand, he thinks this has made Chinatsu-chan start to fade into the background instead...

Comic Books Edit

  • Deadpool, of the Marvel Universe, has "Blasting down the fourth wall, brick by brick!" as his Catch Phrase. Among his powers is the ability to see the yellow text boxes. He has also made sarcastic comments re: "that dreamy Tobey Maguire" being the reason Spider-man is so popular. Other characters tend to dismiss the "merc with a mouth" as completely insane, which he is, so it sorta works out.
    • Deadpool is so aware of being in a comic book, he even has knowledge of events that, in-book, shouldn't be known by anybody. For example, he's aware of One More Day, and Spider-Man's deal with Mephisto.
    • Deadpool is so aware of being in a comic book, he even wishes he knew about what he was informed about during the recap pages, which aren't part of the continuity.
    • Deadpool is so aware of being in a comic book [1]he even speculates on whether pulling off something specifically awesome will get him a solo series or movie.
  • Pretty much the entire point of Ambush Bug, whose works usually serve as a satire of the comic book industry, and who can even see speech bubbles, and interact with his own writer and editor.
  • Animal Man of The DCU became aware of the true nature of reality during Grant Morrison's revival of the character. This even extended to a peyote trip where Buddy looked out of the page and declared "OH MY GOD! I CAN SEE YOU!" to the reader. Unlike most who share this knowledge, Buddy has a hard time dealing with it and is prone to mental breakdowns as a result.
    • It got worse : the Psycho-Pirate, the character who became aware of the fourth wall first, at one point goes "We are the creations of sick minds. Yes. I've seen... and there's something worse... the creators... they're not real either..."
  • The First American and U.S. Angel from Alan Moore's Tomorrow Stories.
  • Included in the latter half of DC Comics' Tales of the Unexpected mini-series as comic relief (which it desperately needed) were the adventures of the DCU's resident Doubting Thomas, Doctor Thirteen, as he and a team comprised of other canceled, abandoned characters to battle DC Comics' head writers for the right to continue existing in the about-to-be rebooted universe. However, the writers are referred to in-character only as "the Architects", leading to a finale similar to Rick Jones' (see above), when the good Doctor finally puts the pieces together and begs the reader not to turn the page, "Our very existence depends on it!" This, of course, turns out to be the last page. Turn it, and the comic's over.
  • One memorable crossover between Batman and Sgt. Rock also crossed into the real world, with the villains holding the writer at gunpoint and trying to make him write the deaths of the heroes. Batman and Rock couldn't hear the narration he wrote, but he could indirectly help them if the villains were distracted.
  • Superboy-Prime follows this trope as the Clark Kent from Real Life is brought into the comic world. As a comics nerd back home he already knows everyone's stories and weaknesses, and has no problems killing probably around a trillion characters (though only a dozen or so are relatively important) by exploding an Earth or two. His conclusion for Legion of Three Worlds takes this trope to the most extreme of meta, reading the same page of the same comic as you do. His story concludes in his parents' basement, plotting revenge on the comics universe by complaining about comic books on the internet. He's probably here now.
    • This comes back to bite him in the ass as it turns out, his parents read about all his misdeeds and are now completely fucking terrified of him. They would've disowned him if they weren't so sure he'd kill them horribly.
    • Continued in Adventure Comics' Blackest Night Tie-In, when Adventure Comics #4 begins with Superboy-Prime just having finished reading Adventure Comics #4 and shitting his pants. He spends the entire rest of the issue trying to find advanced copies or internet spoilers for Adventure Comics #5 and then gets attacked by a Black Lantern version of his former partner, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3, who wastes no time telling him that the readers all think he's a joke, Superboy-Prime dies in Adventure Comics #5, and discovering that the internet is a box that acts as a conduit for the rage of all the people in our universe.
  • The Fantastic Four once met The One-Above-All ("God" in the Marvel Universe) and it's... Jack Kirby.
  • In Hsu and Chan, the titular brothers have spent whole issues addressing the reader and at one point prepared for a possible disaster because "that text box guy is being smug again."
  • The Pathetic Fallacy of Jack Of Fables knows that he is part of a comic book, to the point where he chastises Jack and Wicked John for interrupting his story "that shouldn't have taken more than two pages is now going to have to be continued into the next issue" and worries about losing readers because of their bickering.
    • In the crossover event "The Great Fables Crossover", many of the characters from the main Fables book guest star in Jack of Fables. Jack, frustrated that his book isn't focusing on him, storms out of the restaurant they're in on the last page, exclaiming, "I'm going back to the main book, and I'm taking my favorite artist with me!" You can probably guess what happened in the next issue of Fables.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog was like this pre-Cerebus Syndrome. Now it's limited to Off Panel, a strip in the back pages about the characters reacting to the story.
  • In DC's Infinite Crisis, Alexander Luthor -- the superintelligent son of a Lex Luthor from another universe where evil was good and vice versa who helped defeat the Anti-Monitor in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths (pant pant) -- was trying to create the "perfect world" by artificially creating thousands of universes and physically mixing them into new versions. It doesn't work very well -- but at one point, he looks up and out at the reader, says "You" and starts to reach out of the page (not really, thankfully, but the art suggested it). Significantly, the universe where his ally Superboy came from -- namely Earth-Prime -- at one point supposedly was the "real world". The one outside your window.
  • Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is a textbook on the medium of comic books -- in the form of a comic book whose main character addresses the reader throughout, discussing the techniques the book also demonstrates.
  • Issue #46 of The Powerpuff Girls was titled "See You Later, Narrator," and dealt with Mojo Jojo kidnapping the narrator and making him read a prepared script showing Mojo as ruler and the girls as unavailable. Season 5 episode "Simian Says" was its animated expy.
  • Most of the less serious comic strips in any of DC Thomson's AnthologyComics. For example in The Beano the characters often interact with the reader, the editor and the Beano artists. Which can often lead to insane things for example in one Beano annual Billy Whizz messed up the Beano Office resulting in all the comic strips being mixed up together resulting in composite strips with aspects of one strip combined with another. Also in The Beano and The Dandy the characters often read the comic in which their strips appear.
  • Croatian children's comic Blueberry practically relishes in this. Every character is aware they're in a comic book, and after the 100th episode, the main heroine (the titular Blueberry) actually steps out of the comic. In the next episode we see her hiding behind the panels, listening to the others wondering where she is. Not to mention the episode where she meets the author and berates him for not meeting up with his deadline, or the several episodes where she answers fanmail.


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Fan Works Edit

  • Every. Single. Abridged Series. EVER.
    • Special mention to Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series, where season 2 ended with the fourth wall literally collapsing and the show being cancelled. The episode following was titled "Beyond the Fourth Wall."
    • Also the fourth episode of Friendship is Witchcraft, where Pinkie Pie bends space-time by... baking... the fourth wall.
  • Chapter 8 of Takamachi Nanoha of 2814 by Shadow Crystal Mage maliciously and with forethought takes an axe to the fourth wall, using this very wiki as the tool to do its evil work.
    • Opening Author's Notes for Chapter 9, after breaking the newest replacement fourth wall: "To the No Fourth Wall TV Tropes page! As you can clearly see, I used a hammer, not an axe!"
  • The entirety of Adventures of the Writer by Der Blaue Wolf. The basis of the story is that the writer has been kidnapped and his characters have to go and save him. It also includes laptops that can change the world around them, simply by writing something into the story. It later even mention the place 'where the fourth wall used to be.'
  • Pokemon fanfiction The Adventure of Adventureness by Missingno. Master is one of the best examples of this trope. It is literally the story of how the protagonist and the narrator seek revenge on the author for writing them into a terrible story.
  • Calvin and Hobbes The Series has a whole page of Medium Awareness moments.
  • In the fan film Star Trek: The Pepsi Generation, during the end of one scene, we can see the writers brainstorming ideas to put in the movie.
    • Also, the Big Bad 's leader is revealed to be _______

Film Edit

  • Oliver Hardy regularly broke the fourth wall with his mastery of the Aside Glance. While uproariously funny in itself, it was often used to pad out a gag to give the audience time to finish laughing so they wouldn't miss the next bit of dialog.
  • Mel Brooks loves this trope:
    • In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the introductory scene for Maid Marian begins with a camera zooming in on the door to her chambers as she sings to herself. The scene cuts to the inside of the room where Marian continues to sing until the zooming camera from the first shot suddenly breaks through the window above the door. Later on, when the Sheriff splits Robin's perfect bull's-eye arrow in twain, they have to resort to the script to find out that Robin gets another shot. Not to mention that the opening scene, a credit run with flaming arrows that ends with a peasant village burning to the ground, is followed by the entire population of that village shouting as one, "Leave us alone, Mel Brooks!" Also, when Robin is training his merry men and they're proving an incredible incapability to fire arrows, he simply turns, looks intently straight at the camera, and then goes back to watching the men without ever saying a word. Nicely played.
      • And then, of course, while walking down the aisle during the wedding scene, the Abbott's staff bumps into the camera, in a possible case of Throw It In.
    • Spaceballs does this many a time (with Dark Helmet responsible for the vast majority of these, especially when he flips up his helmet in annoyance):
      • The camera zooms in on Dark Helmet in the middle of a dramatic speech and conks him on the head.
      • Helmet accidentally kills one of the cameramen during the climactic final duel.
      • And how does he find out where the heroes escaped to? By watching Spaceballs, of course! This includes fast-forwarding past the embarrassing scenes that happened to the bad guys, and accidentally finding the scene where they are watching Spaceballs, causing a very confusing conversation about defining the concept of "now".
      • Early in the movie when Col. Sandurs finishes explaining the Spaceballs' evil plot, Helmet pointedly turns to the camera and asks, "Everybody got that?"
      • President Skroob must run throughout the ship because its ridiculous length warrants it. If he walked it would take too long and "the movie would be over."
      • Also, when Helmet captures the heroes, he actually captures their stunt doubles.
      • Comanderette Zircon calls Skroob on an unlisted wall, right above the urinal he's utilizing. They salute and Skroob briefly exposes himself to Zircon. In a subtle blink-and-miss-it moment, Zircon looks directly at the audience and smirks before logging out.
      • Yogurt, the movie's most prominent Jewish stereotype and played by Brooks himself, not only recognizes he's in a movie but admits the real money is made by merchandising and proceeds to market Spaceballs merchandise within the movie itself. Apparently the kids just love the flamethrower.
      • Dark Helmet is aware of the Spaceballs action figures and in fact owns the whole set, which he likes to role-play with in private. The scene was entirely improvised by Moranis.
    • Blazing Saddles does the same thing. Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid, having already destroyed their own movie set and that of a nearby Busby-Berkeley-esque movie, wonder how Blazing Saddles ends... so they go to the theater and watch it. At the end of the movie, they ride off into the sunset only far enough to meet the film's horse wrangler and their limo.
    • They also get a gag where Hedy Lamarr (that's Hedly!!) asks himself where he might find a sheriff whose very appearance would drive the townsfolk out of Rock Ridge, while looking at the camera, then asks "And why am I asking you?"
      • And his comment during his speech to the evil army that "You will be risking your lives, while I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor!"
    • Brooks literally breaks the fourth wall in High Anxiety -- at the end, as the camera is pulling away from the hero and his new wife as they occupy themselves on the honeymoon bed, it crashes through the fourth wall of the motel room, resulting in a huge hole in the wall and prompting the off screen camera operators to panic ("Just keep going!").
  • Wayne's World has Wayne and Garth frequently addressing the camera and viewers. This is vaguely lampshaded.

  Wayne: (To another character) Hey! Only me and Garth get to talk to the camera!

  • The Truman Show features this about the show-within-a-movie for everyone but the titular character. In fact, because the show doesn't have commercials, the people interacting with Truman will often mug at the camera while holding some random item placed there by sponsors. Eventually, this tips Truman off about the nature of his world -- when his "wife" launches into a poorly-timed pitch out of nervousness, Truman exasperatedly asks who she's talking to.
  • Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Examples include a random knight killing the "famous historian" relating the knights' strategies to the viewers. The narrator is attacked (off-screen) and replaced by a hairy creature (that continues to leaf through the Book of the Film). The "aptly named Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film", the characters talking about "scene 24", a castle guard calling Arthur on using coconuts to make riding sounds, a monster dying because "the animator suffered a fatal heart attack" and, of course, the ending where the police arrives to arrest the protagonists for the murder of the famous historian and one of the policemen turns off the camera, remarking "All right, sonny, that's enough, just take off." -- and that's not nearly all of them, mind you.
    • Not least of which is the entire "deleted scene", since restored in some versions, that occurs near the end of the Castle Anthrax segment, where Carol Cleveland turns to the audience and asks if they think the scene should be cut.
  • 24 Hour Party People is an interesting one considering that it's a biopic. Aside from the main character narrating on screen (including one time where he remarks that one scene will be "cut and appear on the DVD extras"), there is also a scene in which a (fictional) incident is recounted in which Tony Wilson's wife cheated on him with Howard Devoto of the Buzzcocks. The real Devoto, playing a janitor in the scene, turns to the camera and remarks "I definitely don't remember this happening!". And there's also one point in middle of the film where every cameo by an actual musician is pointed out, which happens right after Steve Coogan -- playing Tony Wilson -- points out that the guy in the last scene was the actual Tony Wilson.

  Tony Wilson: I'm being postmodern. Before it was fashionable.

  • The postmodern Peter Sellers biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.
  • In The Mouth Of Madness married this trope and had little half-movie, half-trope babies. Trent is looking for a very popular author who has vanished while writing a novel. He finds out that the town featured in the previous book is a real place, and goes there to find every minute detail exactly as it was in the book. He also finds the author, only to slowly discover that he himself is the protagonist of the author's current novel, "In The Mouth Of Madness." The author has written himself into the book, which is about how that same book ended the world, and how Trent has to try and stop it from going to publication. Otherwise it will drive people nuts, turn them into monsters, and allow the really bad monsters back into the world. Trent fails of course, but sees a movie theatre playing the movie adaption. On the screen is the beginning of the film the audience has just been watching. Epic Mind Screw.
  • George of the Jungle is a serious contender for king of this trope. For one, the beginning of the second movie, where George explained, at the behest of the narrator, "Me new George. Studio too cheap to hire Brendan Fraser."
  • Funny Games is a horror movie with No Fourth Wall. One of the villains is well aware that he's a slasher movie villain, and frequently talks to the audience. Why is he torturing this innocent family? Because his only motivation to kill is to please the audience, and breaking the wall takes the audience away from an observer's point of view and makes them part of the movie itself. This is the director's way of guilting the horror movie watcher; by making them the sole reason for the protagonists' demise. Isn't that why people watch these movies? The most remarkable scene is the one where he rewinds the movie after his partner gets shot by their victim.
  • Whatever Works, the Woody Allen comedy starring Larry David, opens and closes with the main character Boris openly and deliberately speaking to the audience, fully aware they are in a movie theater. This is toyed with for laughs, as it seems only he is capable of seeing and speaking to the audience. In the opening scene, it even shows that from the point of view of everyone else, he's speaking to no one. A black woman shuffles her child away, fearing he is insane. He explains this in the end by pointing out that he's the only person who can see "the whole picture".
  • The indie film Killer Flick is built around this trope. The characters are all filmmakers who reside in the film they are creating. They try to make it as violent, sexy, and exploitative as possible so they can sell it and earn lots of cash.
  • The Muppets, largely. This is somewhat expected in The Muppet Show and Muppet*Vision 3D, which were basically Variety Shows, but even the actual films like The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper come up one wall short.
  • In Return of the Killer Tomatoes, talking to the camera is the least of it. The film stops halfway through because it runs out of money, then continues full of Product Placement. When someone needs paper to write a message, he uses a copy of the script. The phone-in presenter from the framing device calls during the finale scene. When someone calls attention to the setup/payoff nature of the film, a pizza tossed into the air in the first scene lands on his head. And so on.
  • Paul Greenaway's The Baby Of Macon heavily blurs the line between what is fictional and what is "real" within the film. The plot of the film is sometimes a morality play performed before an audience, but sometimes it seems real. Sometimes members of the audience are just spectators, and sometimes they walk onstage and influence the plot. We're frequently shown the actors backstage, and sometimes the actors conspire to make what happens on stage real. When the performers all make a curtain call, the lead actors, whose characters have died, remain dead. The living actors bow to the theatrical audience, and then the audience stands up and they all bow to the camera.
  • The Road To series fully embraced this trope by Road to Morocco.


Literature Edit

  • Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions involves Kurt treating the reader as someone who does not understand earth customs and regularly pauses to explain concepts and includes cute doodles of things like motor cars (used for transport) and anuses (used to bowel evacuation). In addition, he as the author writes himself into the book to speak with the main character, explains that it is a novel, that he is the author and that the character is fictional and then grants the main character freewill.
  • Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler is written in the second person, with the Reader as the protagonist, and begins: "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler."
  • Robert Rankin's novels are full of No Fourth Wall devices, including characters complaining the plot is the same as an earlier book, and minor characters demanding names and descriptions before they'll continue. Notably, Armageddon: the Musical concludes with Elvis Presley listing every Fridge Logic moment in the book. He doesn't get a satisfactory explanation. At one point, two characters reappear some time after apparently being blown up. One says "Oh, it's us! I thought we were dead!"
    • In The Witches Of Chiswick, the plot really starts to get muddy and away from Rankin about 3/4ths in. One character comments more or less: "This is starting to get so confusing, I wish the author of this book would plan things out ahead of time instead of making up the story as he goes along".
  • In Robert Anton Wilson's and Bob Shea's Illuminatus! trilogy, the main characters eventually learn that they are characters in the book itself, being narrated by an all-powerful, overseeing AI. Of course, the book is so perspective-jumping and Mind Screw-filled that what the "truth" is intentionally left up to the reader.
    • In an earlier example, twice in the book the associate editor of "Confrontation" (the magazine that several of the characters are associated with) calls up his book reviewer to ask about the progress of his latest review. The books described by the book reviewer are obviously the Illuminatus Trilogy itself (for added humor, the book reviewer has nothing but contempt for the trilogy's length, shifting perspective, complicated plot, or frequent use of sex, drugs, and obscene language).
  • The novel How to Mutate and Take Over the World is all about... the writing, publication, and aftermath of How to Mutate and Take Over the World. A review of the book actually appears in the book about a third of the way through, and it spoils the ending.
  • The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales manages to break the fourth wall before the first page, when the Little Red Hen appears on the front endpaper, loudly demanding that Jack the Narrator tell her story (or at least help bake her bread). Things only get worse as the book progresses: Little Red Running Shorts and the Big Bad Wolf refuse to perform their story after Jack the Narrator spoils the ending. The Giant takes issue with the usual plot of "Jack and the Beanstalk", so he tells his own (nonsensical) story, then threatens to eat Jack the Narrator if he can't tell a better one. After Jack bores the giant to sleep with a recursive story, he tries to sneak away by moving the endpaper a few pages before the actual end of the book.
  • In The Neverending Story, this becomes the entire basis for the first arc. It turns out that the whole purpose of Atreyu's adventure inside the book is to draw the main character (who is outside the book, reading the book... inside the book we're reading... you know what I mean) into the story and give him important information. To further complicate matters, there is another "neverending story", or possibly the same one, being written inside the story by a god, which is the story of the world. The main character also rewrites the reality he inhabits by coming up with new stories.
    • The movie version went a step farther, in that the Childlike Empress makes direct reference to how the audience has been observing Bastian all morning.
  • The classic childrens book The Monster at the End of This Book features the Sesame Street muppet Grover -- having read the title on the frontispiece -- taking increasingly (and comically) desperate measures to prevent the reader turning any more pages, as he's terrified of meeting the Monster at the end. Fortunately, it turns out the titular monster is Grover himself.
  • Mr B Gone by Clive Barker is about a demon trapped inside a book, the book he is trapped in is in fact the one you are reading. The plot of the novel is: the demon attempting to convince you, the reader, to burn the book, this book. Over the course of the book he asks politely, begs, bargains, and out-right threatens you in his quest to get you to stop reading the book and burn it right now.
  • Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder evolves over the course of the plot into a multi-layered version of this that doubles as a textbook on the history of philosophy as revealed by a Genre Savvy, quasi-Author Avatar philosophy teacher, much to the shock of the title character. By the end of the book, the dominant POV has switched to Hilde, the daughter of the "author" of a book called "Sophie's World," who has received the book as a birthday present from her father, who is not Jostein Gaarder. Confusing, but brilliant.
  • The way House of Leaves is written plays up everything in it to have actually happened, with Johnny Truant directly addressing the reader several times. The problem comes up when other, supposedly fictional agents begin to address the reader directly as well. There is a scene where Navy reads and burns a copy of House of Leaves.
  • The main character in Chris Wooding's Poison learns that she is a character in a story being written by the heirophant of the Fairy world. When she goes into a suicidal malaise after hearing this, she is snapped out of it when bluntly reminded that she isn't just a character in a story -- she is the main character in her story. She ends the book, beginning to write the Story which we have just been reading.
  • Examples abound in the Lord of the Rings parody novel Bored of the Rings, mostly involving characters looking to see how much of the book remains to be read before they can get out of the mess they're in.
  • In the novel The Great Good Thing and its sequel Into the Labyrinth, the protagonist, Sylvie, and everyone surrounding her, are all characters in a book-within-the-book. They all have to run around in the book to perform their lines for Readers, and Sylvie even starts up a friendship with the Writer. In the second one, the book is moved online, and they have to run down the screen. They get their dresses caught on the words, etc. There's no fourth wall at all in the book-within-the-book.
  • In the Martha Soukup short story The Story So Far, the narrative character is a secondary character in someone else's story, and is only conscious while she's "on screen", and is forced to act like a puppet. But she learns tricks that let her remain aware and in control of herself while the main character and the readers can't see her.
  • In the Robert A. Heinlein novel The Number of the Beast, the four characters eventually discover they can travel between worlds that only exist in fiction, as well as other "real" dimensions. This leads them to speculate on traveling to universes created by Heinlein. They mock Stranger in A Strange Land, saying, "Some people will write anything for money."
  • Captain Underpants is fraught with examples, including green gloop running through the classrooms of their school, through hallways, and even covering up the text on the page.
  • The Samurai Cat series is this trope. It folds, spindles, mutilates, and slices sashimi out of the Fourth Wall, so much so that the feline characters constantly deride the author for being such a spineless, unimaginative hack. Occasionally, this incurs direct in-story retaliation in the form of bad luck and/or nasty enemies' sudden and inexplicable appearance.
  • In Michael Gerber's parody of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Chronicles of Blarnia: The Lying Bitch in the Wardrobe, one of the characters asks another if he thinks they are in a children's book. The protagonist merely replies if the asker hasn't seen the page numbers below them.
  • In The Book Thief Death often addresses the reader directly.
  • In John Dickson Carr's mystery novel The Nine Wrong Answers, the narrator regularly halts the action to inform the reader that if you think such-and-such is the case, "you're wrong."
  • Becoming quite common in children's books. Mick Inkpen is another example. Hide Me, Kipper! starts with "Kipper was sitting on the first page of this book, wondering what sort of a book it was going to be". Then a mouse (who first turns up before the title page, saying the legal bits are boring) hides in the foldy bit in the middle of the book. This Is My Book is about a dragon who steals letters from words in the book.
  • In The Pale King, David Foster Wallace addresses the reader directly whenever he narrates.


Live Action TV Edit

  • One of the earliest TV series that regularly broke the Fourth Wall was The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show, a Sitcom in the '50s. Not only would George (playing himself putting on a TV show) turn to the audience and comment on what the other characters were doing, but in later episodes he would often direct the audience's attention to a TV set in his private study. On the screen you would see the events that he was talking about, occurring in real time as if it were a security camera monitor. He would use this information to intentionally complicate things in order to ensure maximum Hilarity Ensues.
    • In one episode, George and Harry -- his announcer -- are in the living room when Harry says, "I understand you're about to rerun a few episodes, George." George says, "Yes, why tonight we're doing the one in which Gracie tries to get me to invest in the Ballet. In fact, it's coming on right now, let's go watch." They get up, and we fade into the first scene of said episode.
    • In the original live broadcast, this is how the commercials were done. (George walks over to the "neighbor"'s "driveway" where he's waxing his car; "Say, Bob, that sure is a beautiful new Oldsmobile you got")
    • There are some public domain episodes with Carnation Milk as a sponsor. These truly get inventive in working the product into the storyline.
  • The 1952 Tales of Tomorrow episode "The Window" has a live drama show being interrupted by spontaneous images from an apartment somewhere in the city, where a woman is conspiring with her boyfriend to murder her husband. Watch here.
  • The ultimate example may well be the late-80s Showtime series It's Garry Shandling's Show. From its self-referential theme song to its numerous guest stars, it extensively parodied the conventions of the Sitcom while actively demolishing the fourth wall, starting right from its opening credits:

 This is the theme to Garry's show, the opening theme to Garry's show.

Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song...

 Denny: There should be a show about us.

Alan: We could promote it.

Denny: No, there's probably a law against promoting us.

  • Rab C. Nesbitt: Espousing theories at the audience. These may have been deep and important, but were almost incomprehensible.
  • Saved by the Bell: Zack Morris is notorious for saying, "Time out," then stepping aside to speak to the audience. This may be an homage to Ferris Bueller's Day Off or the musical Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, both used a similar gimmick.
    • Taken to the extreme in one episode, where he uses it to dodge an incoming punch and escapes. Nobody seemed too bothered that he just vanished into thin air...
    • In an episode of Jimmy Fallon, Mark-Paul Gosselaar showed up as a guest, as Zack Morris, in character and all, and used the "time out" trick at one point to explain something without Fallon interrupting him. When he timed back in, Fallon stopped for a second, then asked, "Did you just time me out?"
  • Ellery Queen (NBC, 1975) always had one No Fourth Wall moment every episode. Immediately following Ellery's mandatory Eureka Moment, he would turn to the audience, briefly review the key evidence for the viewers, and ask them if they'd figured out who the culprit was -- right before going to a commercial. (See All in Hand.)
    • This was a trademark of the radio show as well.
  • Seans Show was a UK sitcom with a similar premise to It's Garry Shandling's Show; the main actor/character (Irish comedian Sean Hughes) knew he was starring in a sitcom and what sort of plots he could expect as a result.
  • Also from the UK, The Young Ones regularly made reference to their being characters on a sitcom. In one episode, Neil's mother visits to complain about his working on a program with such shoddy production values, smashing a chair as an example; Mike points out that the chair is a breakaway prop Rik was going to be struck on the head with. Sure enough, Rik gets clobbered with a chair a few minutes later ... and is knocked unconscious, because his attacker unwittingly uses a normal chair instead of the ruined prop!
  • In Eerie Indiana, there was a entire episode about Marshall's life suddenly becoming a television show, and finding out that he isn't even Marshall Teller at all, but somebody they keep calling 'Omri Katz' (which is, of course, the real name of the actor playing Marshall). Dash X is still a villain in the tv-show world rather than his actor, but acknowledges that the only reason he is one is because he's a fictional character.
  • In Titus (A sitcom starring comedian Christopher Titus), the main character addresses the audience from a small room with one light bulb, viewed through a black-and white filter. On one occasion, when he was drunk, there were three light bulbs.
  • In Mystery Science Theater 3000, the crew of the Satellite of Love were apparently broadcasting their skits to the Mads and us. In every skit, Joel, Mike, or one of the 'bots would talk to the camera, addressing either the Mads or the audience. (The Mads also talked to the camera, but almost always to address the SOL crew.) The camera itself was a character (a robot named Cambot), albeit one who never spoke, rarely interacted with the others (beyond filming them), and was only seen during the opening theme. And the Magic Voice's main job on the Satellite of Love was to announce the start of the first commercial break.
    • This is explained very early on as that Dr. Forrester is selling the tapes of Joel and the bots to Comedy Central.
    • The Movie reversed this, with Dr. Forrester addressing the audience while Mike and the 'bots ignore the fourth wall.
  • Moonlighting used this trope quite often.
  • In The Bernie Mac Show, Bernie frequently goes to his garage to sit facing the camera and address "America."
  • The Narrator in Arrested Development addresses the audience, responds to things the characters say, criticizes the narration of other TV shows, and observes after a remark about "arrested development," "Hey! That's the name of this show!"
  • Subversion: Stargate SG-1 ended up plotwise, with Wormhole X-Treme, a show made by an alien character suffering from multiple amnesia layers. In a bonus clip for the 200th episode, one of the real-life actors playing an actor in the show becomes confused and disoriented at where exactly the fourth wall is. Doubly subverted in that the actor was just, well, acting and knew what was reality all along.
    • Hilariously, in the same episode, the Wormhole X-Treme creator says that they need something unexpected to reel in audiences, prompting Jack O'Neill (who hadn't been seen for a couple of seasons) to wander into the room and say, "Something like this?" Which then caused Sam Carter to remark "Are you kidding? They'll show that in the commercials." In fact, the commercials for the episode did showcase the "return" of Jack O'Neill to the show.
      • In the same episode, during the third act, the alien film producer (Martin ) starts complaining about how he was just notified that there's going to be a huge budget cut to the movie:

 Martin: Well this is just great, this completely ruins the end of act 3!

Carter: Why, what happens at the end of act 3?

Martin: Well at this point, not much! Act 3 just ends!

Cue fade-to-black and go to a commercial break.

    • Combined with Bilingual Bonus: Russian dialog frequently comments on the show itself (provided you can work through the generally horrible pronunciation). One exchange between two ill-fated Russian sailors in "Small Victories" goes something like this:

 (clunk)

Sailor #1: What was that?

Sailor #2: I dunno; maybe it's the bugs from the last episode.

  • Monty Python's Flying Circus was famous for breaking the fourth wall; but one unfortunate example was actually forced on them by Executive Meddling . A sketch that the team wanted to do, about undertakers asking a man if he wanted to eat his mother's corpse instead of burying it or burning it, was only allowed by the BBC if they showed the studio audience reacting with distaste and invading the set during the sketch.
    • And of course, everyone's favorite Running Gag character, Colonel Mustache. "Quite right, quite right, stop this sketch, it's getting entirely too silly."
    • And here's the clincher: offenses against the "Getting out of sketches without using a proper punchline" Act, four, namely, simply ending every bleedin' sketch by just having a policeman come in and... wait a minute...
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air broke the fourth wall quite often, but the moment that evaporated it came during the premier of the fifth season. The previous season had ended with Will deciding to remain with his mother in Philadelphia, leaving viewers expecting some sort of emotional catharsis. Instead, the next episode opened with an NBC executive approaching and informing him in no uncertain terms that the show was called "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," and that was where he was going to be. And then kidnapping him.
  • The story arc of Red Dwarf -- Back to Earth consists of the intrepid four discovering that they're just characters in a TV series, and trying to track down the writers to find out how long they have left.
    • Subverted, as it was actually a group hallucination brought on by the ink of a psychedelic squid.
  • Brazilian sitcom Os Normais had the two protagonists frequently monologuing to the audience. Once a couple the protagonists were visiting noticed the cut to a Flash Back, and did one themselves (complete with the husband asking "who filmed this?" as the flashback ended).
  • The Mighty Boosh spits on your fourth wall! They not only look at the camera and talk to the audience, they make in-episode references to the show's premise, the actors playing multiple characters, that episode's costumes and special effects, even the show's channel and time slot.
  • The ICarly online content (as opposed to the in-universe webshow) often breaks the fourth wall, by way of a 40 year old man filling in for Sam, and a clip of Freddie informing the 'Baby Spencer' character (who is played by Jerry Trainor), that Jerry Trainor was nominated for an award.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide was famous for this. In the "Guide to Girls", Ned had nothing to offer and asked Moze to give some tips. After a false start, he stops her and produces a CD player from under the table to play the "tips" BGM.
  • The sitcom The War at Home has its characters speaking directly to the audience by providing cut scenes with commentary throughout the show. Usually, Michael Rapaport's character is the primary one to do this, but all the other characters get their chance occasionally.
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
  • The BBC series Hustle includes at least one fourth wall-breaking moment in every episode, in which one or more of the main characters will address the audience about the con currently underway, sometimes as time freezes around them. Some episodes are more subtle, having a character perhaps wink at the camera.
  • The first season of Roger Moore's TV series The Saint began each episode with Simon Templar addressing the audience and setting the scene for each week's adventure. After the show moved to color production, this was replaced by narration.
  • Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Belle talks to the audience at least as much as she talks to anyone on-screen.
  • PJ Katie often spoke right to the viewer on PJ Katies Farm.
  • The British sketch show, The Fast Show, has three recurring characters that directly address the viewer: The Fourth Duke of Wimbledon (who remarks to the viewer on his compromising situation) an unnamed character played by Mark Williams (who is shown engaging in suspicious activity before noticing the camera and saying, "You ain't seen me, right?") and Unlucky Alf (who sadly reflects to camera about his bad luck, before falling victim to it).
  • The Colgate Comedy Hour. Though sometimes the performers would build one and then knock it down again, just for fun.
  • This troper has admittedly not watched it (yet), but is reliably informed that Gangsters fitted this category rather well.


Music Edit

  • The folk song "Railroad Bill and the Kitten" is about a character who gets into an argument with the singer. It doesn't end well for him.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "This Song's Just Six Words Long" consists of the songwriter proclaiming he can't think of anything to write about, so he'll just keep repeating the same phrase.
  • Simon and Garfunkel's "Leaves That Are Green" (and Billy Bragg's "A New England") kicks off with the line

 I was 21 years when I wrote this song

I'm 22 now but I won't be for long

  • Neil Young's decidely odd Rock Opera Greendale features the following line as one of the characters is dying and suddenly notices Young singing about him:

 That guy just keeps singing

Can't somebody shut him up?

  • The Beatles had 'Only a Northern Song,' a song written (by George Harrison) largely out of contractual obligation, in which the lyrics talk about how badly-written the song is, and then says that it "doesn't really matter." It's basically a Take That against the record label.
  • Pretty much all of Dokaka's "Human Interface" album. He interrupts various tracks with a request to skip them, uses multiple tracks to announce how much time has passed or what point of the album the listener is currently at, and at one point suggests the bitrate at which the album should be encoded should the listener wish to save it to mp3 player.
  • The band Gorillaz sometimes acknowledge that they're cartoon characters; 2D once claimed that paternity suits from live-action women "don't stick because I don't have any DNA", and Murdoc shrugged off murder charges after the El Manana incident with "I'm a cartoon, mate. You'd have a hard time sticking anything on me. I don't even have fingerprints."
  • The old novelty number "Crazy Mixed-Up Song," by Homer and Jethro (among others): "You may think that this is the end/Well it isn't 'cause there is another chorus." Then: "You may think that this is the end/Well it is" and the song cuts off.
  • "Something Changed" by Pulp starts:

 I wrote this song two hours before we met

I didn't know your name or what you looked like yet


Newspaper Comics Edit

  • Jerry Dumas and Mort Walker's sadly short-lived Sam's Strip of the early '60s was more or less built around this. The title character would address the readers directly, frequently complained to the cartoonist, kept spare idea bulbs and swear symbols in a closet, and would occasionally rent out the strip's panels. Characters from other strips, many of them old and obscure, would frequently pop up.
  • Garfield has had gags that directly addressed the audience literally since day one.

 Jon: Our only thought is to entertain you.

Garfield: Feed me.

  • Pearls Before Swine milks this for all its worth. Sometimes there are storylines about production mistakes (like when they ran out of A's for text balloons), sometimes the cast interacts with fellow comic characters, and sometimes the characters gripe about and/or reprimand the author for Incredibly Lame Puns.
    • Or in one case, brain him with a baseball bat before he started one.
  • Berkeley Breathed's various strips had not only jokes but entire story arcs built around the fact that the characters knew they were in a comic strip -- although the characters treated it more like a TV series. Opus, after delivering a particularly stupid line, occasionally pulls out his script to make sure he didn't botch it; characters argue frequently with the narrator, demand that boring scenes be re-written, and complain to the show's "producer" (who essentially personified comics-page Executive Meddling).
  • Beetle Bailey has been known to comment on Sarge's Symbol Swearing, saying things along the lines of "Hang on, that's not how you use *storm cloud* in a sentence." He's also pointed at things in the previous panel.


Professional Wrestling Edit

  • Professional Wrestling, in its various forms, has no fourth wall (or first through third, for that matter) by design; characters frequently directly address the audience (either the audience in attendance at the arena, the viewers at home, or both), and the production crew often find themselves employed as characters in the story. As well, characters often directly address the camera in order to talk to characters not appearing in the episode, saying, "I know you're somewhere watching this right now..."
    • D Generation X would often use this to comedic effect by lampshading it into oblivion including a time Triple H covered up a flub with "Gimme a break, it's live TV." and once acknowledging he hadn't anything funny to add to the DX mantra that week because coming up with new ones every week was hard.
  • NXT, by reason of it being a try out show, needs a lot of this. Bryan Danielson calls David Otunga a worse wrestler even though Bryan always lost to him, because everybody knows Bryan is better, he broke the fourth wall and basically said Otunga only won because it was pre-scripted. It's topped itself in season three, where Josh Matthews literally told Michael Cole that wrestling is fake.
  • Pro wrestling's version of this is called breaking Kayfabe: the performers acknowledge for once that what they're doing isn't real, as if we didn't already know that. Most notably, whenever a wrestler dies or makes a memorable exit from the company, the other wrestlers will temporarily put aside the fact that they "hate" each others' guts and come out to the ring together for a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.


Tabletop Games Edit

  • The brilliant Over the Edge includes a metaplot in which the PCs encounter odd things, and start to notice clues, and finally discover that they are actually characters in a role-playing game!
    • The adventure in question eventually has the characters meet the players playing them. (The rule book specifically advises that the players not play that adventure under the influence of psychedelic drugs.)
  • Bride of Portable Hole Full of Beer, a farcical Dungeons and Dragons supplement includes a prestige class that slowly figures out that it is a RPG character as it progresses. At the final level the character enters the real world and moves in with the player.

Theatre Edit

  • Before the Realism movement, the fourth wall didn't exist. Asides and soliloquies were common and expected; actors weren't subtle about speaking to the audience. Elizabethan actors had to deal with overzealous audience members trying to join in with the action.
    • Hecklers were common and expected. Retorts could fly from the stage back into the crowds, characters would direct their lines at certain members of the audience or mug for the crowd, particularly well-done or well-thought-of scenes could be encored (although not as often as in Opera). Every good actor could improvise and react to the goings-on. They weren't helped by lines being added up right up to showtime.
  • In The Revenger's Tragedy, one character takes an aside to the audience only for one of the other characters to ask who he's talking to. The whole play is a Refuge in Audacity.
  • Noises Off is a play within a play that shows three performances of the same first act. It demolishes the fourth wall, with actors popping up from seats in the audience and throwing props off the front of the stage. At one point, when everyone is screwing up magnificently, Gary Lejeune gives up and addresses the audience directly, trying to explain what just happened, "In case any of you are out there thinking, 'My God!'"
  • In Spamalot the Holy Grail is found under an audience member's seat. Then, there is the scene of the Lady of the Lake's actor coming on in the middle of the show and having a great musical number asking what happened to her part! Just to be clear, it's not the Lady of the Lake doing an aside, it's the actress playing her, in her bathrobe, singing about how the producers deceived her about the size of her part and she's sick of her career, and how she's going to call her agent.
  • The play Our Town by Thornton Wilder has No Fourth Wall -- and depending on your definitions also lacks the other three as well. It has a character named "The Stage Manager" who directly addresses the audience, narrates the action, plays the role of the minister in one of the scenes involving the other main characters, comments on the lack of scenery, and interacts with actors planted in the audience.
  • The musical Into the Woods features a Narrator who addresses the audience and, at one point is pulled into the story proper by other characters who don't like the way he's been telling the story.
  • In the 60's musical Hair one of the characters complains to his parents that they're embarrassing him in front of the audience. In some productions police officers arrest audience members for watching an "obscene" play at intermission.
  • The script for Picasso at the Lapin Agile has an actual fourth wall, usually represented on stage by a row of colored lights. At points in the production, various characters step into the colored light with an audible cracking sound as the rest of the scene freezes so that the character who's broken through the fourth wall can address the audience directly without missing anything.
  • Some productions of Hamlet have the soliloquy performed by the title character presented as talking to the audience instead of simply to himself.
  • Shakespeare loved this trope -- it's a rare protagonist who doesn't freeze everyone else in place so they can talk to the audience. The talks range from quick asides to full on soliloquies.
    • Special mention should be given to the prologue to Henry V. Not only does it provide the normal amount of Exposition that you'd expect from a normal soliloquy, but it also lampshades the fact that the theatre can't possibly represent a real battlefield or army, and attempts to inspire the audience to make up for these deficiencies with their imagination.
  • Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author is about the titular six characters approaching a theater group and trying to get their story told, which leads to several different levels of "reality" throughout the show. By the same author is Absolutely! (Perhaps), in which the main character looks at the audience as he's meant to be looking in a mirror. At the end, after the central mystery of the plot is very pointedly not resolved, he turns to the audience and says "Are you satisfied?", then laughs wildly.
  • Hellzapoppin constantly broke the fourth wall.
  • Pippin. When the title character's very first words are a request to have some more lighting, it's clear that the Fourth Wall is going to be transparent at best. Throughout the show, characters talk to the audience and the conductor and get into conversations with the Lemony Narrator. And this is without going into what happens in the final scene, where the show suffers such a catastrophic breakdown that by the final curtain there might not even a third wall.
  • The musical Urinetown is based off this premise. The characters of Officer Lockstock and Little Sally frequently break away from their in-show groups (Lockstock from police officers and Sally from the urchins) to discuss with the audience the musical they're in, with Lockstock giving Sally advice on how not to put too much exposition into their conversations with the audience, or at the end when Sally complains that the show should have a happy ending because the music is so happy.
  • Drood plays with this, written as actors putting on the show in a London music hall, and narrated by the Chairman of the company, who at one point has to step in to fill in for another actor and is frequently confused about which role he is currently playing. The audience and actors vote on the ending, the actors at one point making a decision because they dislike the music hall actress playing one character.
  • One of the major themes in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are minor characters in Hamlet, and that they die because the playwright had written that they were dead. At one point Rosencrantz even shouts "Fire!" in order to demonstrate the abuse of free speech. This is a play off of the "Shouting 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre" exception to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (since they are characters in a play, it is obvious that they are in a crowded theatre).
  • All The Great Books Abridged embodies this trope. The entire play is three teachers jotting through a list of classics to the audience, who are all students in a remedial English class.
  • In Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, at the end of the opening number "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" the cats become aware of the audience, and de-facto narrator Munkustrap acknowledges the confusion of certain audience members as to what exactly a "Jellicle" cat is. Later, the cats take refuge among the audience when hiding from Macavity.
  • In Rock of Ages, Lonny acts as the narrator of the story and at one point, actually informs the main character, Drew, that he is in a Broadway Play and shows him the playbill to prove it.
  • In Avenue Q, the characters frequently address the audience in a manner similar to Sesame Street, which the show is parodying. At one point, when the characters are trying to collect money, they literally run into the audience with hats and collect money from audience members (the money is donated to Broadway Cares).
  • The Skin of Our Teeth is about human life from the invention of the wheel, to the great flood, to the end of great war. It also is constantly connecting the "historical" events to real life, because there is no fourth wall at all in the play. The actors are constantly "forgetting lines" and at one scene where Sabina tries seducing George, Sabina says she can't go on with the scene explaining a friend of hers recently broke up with her boyfriend for the same reason. A member of the audience leaves the auditorium in tears.
  • As a hybrid of circus and traditional theater, Cirque Du Soleil does this a lot -- while many of the shows are telling a self-contained story, it's usually with full awareness of the audience and Audience Participation and acknowledgement are common. Notable examples include:
    • The principal clown of Mystere, Brian Le Petit, is a Screwy Squirrel who somehow got into the theater and first masquerades as an usher. By the time the show is over, the animal characters of the Red Bird and Green Lizards have almost thoroughly explored the first few rows of the theater, a real audience member has been adopted by a giant baby as its parent, and Brian has locked a man in the audience in a crate so he can woo his date.
    • In O, The Everyman protagonist is a (fake) member of the audience called up by the theater's Crusty Caretaker and pulled into a Magical Land.
    • In "Kooza," the 'King' character sets off the stages security system every time he moves onto it. The alarm blares out, "please move away from the stage" until the king pulls out //something//, and turns off the alarm with the accompanying car alarm beep. Note that this only happens to the king. Later in the show, an audience seat is revealed to be on a hydraulic lift, raising the audience member five to six feet above the nearby seats.
  • The Umbilical Brothers
  • The Mighty Boosh have a live show that has no fourth wall to speak of, the players cracking asides to the audience and commenting on the effects (they apparently have a very bad sound technician). It gets meta damn quick.
  • A Very Potter Musical does this trope quite well. At one point, Ron complains that he hasn't a snack, and the piano player gets up and hands him a pack of Twizzlers.
    • Also, after a song that Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny sing, Draco enters and says that he was backstage listening to their four-part harmony. Later in that scene, Hermione mentions that they haven't seen anyone from the Order of the Phoenix the whole play. Ron then proceeds to call her toward him, saying, "Hey, Hermione, come here. Come downstage."
  • Book-it Repertory Theatre's plays are narrated by the characters as they act.
  • A play based on Ramona Quimbly began with Beezus talking to the audience, until Ramona interrupts her by talking to the audience herself. During dinner, Ramona complains to their parents that Beezus won't let her talk to the audience, to which her parents reply that Beezus gets to talk to the audience because she's older.
  • The Drowsy Chaperone Lights dim. Theater goes dark. Waiting. Disembodied voice "I hate the theater" 2mins Soliloquy later... lights come up and the narrator directly addresses the audience for the remainder of the show.


Video Games Edit

  • Every case of He Knows About Timed Hits, where a character in the game explains the controls for you. Often the player character will not be oin on the fourth-wall breaking, and say things like "X button? What the hell are you talking about?"
  • In The Bards Tale the player character and the narrator interact regularly. This usually involves them insulting one another, with the narrator taking almost sadistic glee in the acerbic protagonist's misfortunes.
  • The Discworld games do stuff like this a lot, particularly the second game. Constant references to "obvious plot devices" and "the game's budget can't afford a better action sequence". The games protagonist, Rincewind, also identifies many typical fantasy clichés and character stereotypes and meets the man who built all the crazed-logic problems of the game. He has a cathartic time shouting at him.
  • Duke Nukem 3D has Duke address the player if he leaves him standing still too long, berate the player for making him spend too long searching for hidden doors and switches, and, in the Atomic Edition, ride a theme park ride on which all riders must be at least 48 pixels tall.
  • The Elder Scrolls game series incorporates this trope in subtle but relatively major in-game ways, especially in The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind. In fact, the games' developers are known for incorporating programming errors and other game quirks into canon by explaining them in later games. Obliterating the fourth wall is just one of the ways they have done so.
  • Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals has a meta ending, where Larry and Patti are transported at one point to Sierra studios, where they have to navigate through obvious stage sets from other game series by Sierra, such as Space Quest, Police Quest, and King's Quest. At the end, they meet Roberta Williams, co-owner of Sierra, who agrees that their story would make a good set of adventure games. It ends with Larry starting to write the first game in his own series.
    • The fifth game in the series, Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work, begins with Larry and Patty separated and with no recollection of what happened in the last game, because Big Bad Julius Bigg stole the master floppies and the game was never released.
  • The Disgaea series.
    • The first game cracks it here and there with Laharl's complaints about The Rival's tragic past and Vyers' nickname "Mid-Boss".
    • Then after Etna's previews just makes the wall disintegrate from here.
    • The second game decides to nuke the remains from orbit. How do you know the Big Bad isn't dead yet? Because nobody's title changed to "God of All Overlords".
    • Don't forget the Senate hearings over who gets to be the main character.
    • In the third game they've just thrown up their hands and run with it. Characters note that expository dialogue explaining a past relationship is very helpful for the player who is on his first time through the game.
    • Another comments on how cheat-codes would help.
    • There's also Mao who's trying to become a "hero" because hero's never lose.
    • Laharl is very aware of this fact, I guess that's why he wants to become the main character so bad
    • In Disgaea 4, it's like the wall never existed! There's one of the main characters, Desco, who wants to become the "Final Boss", so she decides to attack the main characters to become one.
    • This game also comes with a next episode preview like the first Disgaea
    • When the main cast meets Des X , she looks just like Desco, just recolored. One of the main cast makes a comment: "Was this a cos-cutting tactic by the creator!?"
    • There's also the post-game, when they meet Asagi it is revealed that she is just an 8-bit sprite unlike the others who are in HD.

 Valvatorez: Didn't she get the memo? Bummer.

  • Nippon Ichi Software's grand continuity features Asagi, a character whose entire purpose is attempting to take over games from their main protagonists to make up for her own Makai Wars becoming Vaporware.
    • Similarly, Laharl's frequent cameos in other Nippon Ichi games tend to be based on his neverending desire to usurp the main character and take over the game. Or, lacking the ability to do that, just plain destroy the whole thing.
  • The fourth wall for Soul Nomad and The World Eaters was very solid despite the tutorials on the first playthrough. The instant Asagi's name is mentioned in-game, the fourth wall just crumbles -- and her first move when Revya and Gig don't comprehend, much less comply to, her demands is to obliterate Feinne with one shot!
  • Conkers Bad Fur Day includes buying and reading the in-game manual, subtly pleading with the game designers not to change the game signifigantly in the remake, and Conker winning the game only because the game locks up near the end.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Some Sabbat vampires have captured and are considering mutilating the player character; the leader turns, gives the player the finger, and comments, "Those of you sitting in the first few rooms will get wet." If the player asks Rosa if they will be victorious in the end, she says "Whether you win or lose is irrelevant. What's important is that you bought it."
  • The Nintendo DS game Contact does this almost all the time, with the Professor speaking directly to the player asking you to "guide" Terry, the main character.
    • That's just to start. In the ending, following the final boss fight, Terry wakes up back on the first island and start to talk to you. Up until this point he had been a Silent Protagonist, as you (the player) controlled him, and you could not actually speak. He then tells you that he realized that he just was being controlled, and was angry at you. He then attacks you, forcing you to fight him yourself. After that, the rest of the ending rolls, and if you're lucky, you can see the epilogue, in which the professor explains that the entire plot of the game was started when he realized he was a video game character. He learned what he was, and afterward, began to live even when the game was turned off. He then says that he's leaving the game to travel the (real) world, and creates a copy of himself in case you want to play through the game again, leading you to wonder if the one that left that message was even the original to begin with...
  • Destroy All Humans! (and Destroy All Humans! 2) does this a lot.

 Orthopox: Oh don't mind me, I'm only a fictional character in a simulated universe, after all. I have nothing better to do, really. I'm just made up of a bunch of electrons floating around your console, and a few hundred kilobytes of data stored on your DHS disk... DON'T PAY ANY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEE!

    • After talking to The Freak in disguise and trying to recap his mission goals, The Freak had already forgotten what he said 30 seconds ago. Crypto turns to the camera and says "This is why you shouldn't do drugs."
    • While constructing an interstellar communicator from parts found around the city, Crypto starts singing a rendition of Dry Bones:

 Cryptosporidium: The sensor cell connects to the focal plane; the focal plane connects to the plasma beam... I know you're waitin' for me to sing that damn song. Well, I ain't doin' it. I've got standards; they may not be high but I've got 'em. Also we couldn't get the rights.

    • Reading the mind of a Majestic agent will sometimes reveal ahead of time that Silhouette is a woman, this is quickly followed by the agent thinking "Crap, the player's not supposed to know that yet!"
  • The Game Cube RPG Baten Kaitos played this alarmingly straight by having the player serve as a "Guardian Spirit" assisting the party, whom the characters would occasionally address by turning to the camera and asking a direct question. Choosing an answer contrary to the plot wouldn't change the storyline, but would reduce the likelihood of getting certain special attacks in battle. Having said that, separating the player from the party wasn't entirely a gimmick: it allowed the main character, Kalas, to hide his motivations for betraying the party until the Face Heel Turn actually happened.
    • It happened again in the game's sequel/prequel, Baten Kaitos Origins. And as it turned out later, the Guardian Spirit had an even more significant role in this game.
  • Some sample quotes from the Metal Gear Solid series:

 Baker: I forget, it's on the back of the CD case.

Mantis: [reading your memory card] I see you like ... Castlevania.

Ocelot: There are no continues, my friend. And don't even think of using auto-fire, or I'll know!

Colonel: Turn the game console off right now. ... Don't worry, it's a game.

Rose: You'll ruin your eyes playing so close to the TV.

Colonel: You wouldn't be trying to give yourself a bogus score using some ingenious trick, would you? That's just about as low as anyone could possibly stoop.

Mei Ling: You should be happy you have time to be playing video games, Snake.

Mantis: No memory card! Where are your saves? ... No vibration either. (alternatively, "Vibration is back!")

    • And how about Otacon in MGS4, after the Crying Wolf boss fight? It goes like so:

 Otacon: Hold it, Snake! Time to change the disc. I know, I know, it's a pain. But you need to swap Disc 1 for Disc 2. You see the Disc labelled "2"?

Snake: Uh, no?

Otacon: Huh? Oh! We're on Playstation 3! It's a Blu-Ray disc! Dual-layered, too. No need to swap!

Snake: Dammit, Otacon, get a grip!

Otacon: Yeah, what an age we live in, huh, Snake? What'll they think of next?

    • In Twin Snakes, when Psycho Mantis tells you to put the controller on the floor, the camera cuts to Snake who, while keeping his pistol pointed at Mantis, will shift his eyes towards the camera and nod at you, telling you it's ok.
  • Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns. Most notably on menu screens and such, but also any time the plot from the previous game becomes important the fourth wall comes down long to inform you that if you want to know what they're talking about you should go play the original game, which they refer to by name.
  • The SNES game Secret of Evermore held one instance where, if the player talks to an old man enough, he will say "This is a video game. We are in a video game, and there is a person outside, holding the controller, controlling our every move, every word we say!"
  • The Banjo-Kazooie series has remarkably little fourth wall, especially in the second game--Kazooie observes when the music changes, signifying new events, Banjo continuously asks if the quests are over so they can get jiggies, and Jamjars works the names of the controller buttons into his Sound Off[2]. It helps that both protagonists have become alarmingly'Genre Savvy since the last game.
    • Of course, Jamjar's songs are butchered in the XBLA version.
      • "...Press LT or RT..."
  • Kid Icarus Uprising takes the fourth wall and shatters it with a light arrow. Much of the banter in the stages and boss battles talk about things that lets the player know they're well aware they're in a video games. Strategy guides are mentioned, bosses recognize themselves as such, and Palutena even remarks how the Three Sacred Treasures are no longer pixellated like they once were.
  • In Rhapsody a Musical Adventure, missing the timing while fighting the Puzzle Boss leads to Etoile blaming Cornet for the mistake. Cornet immediately shifts the blame to the person holding the controller (or stylus in the DS remake).
    • A nice example comes pretty early on, actually. After the first Boss Battle, Myao orders another boss to attack. Cornet immediately accepts and says she will fight with all she got, to which Kururu asks something similar to:

  Kururu: Are you sure you want to fight? I mean... if you lose, it will be game over... and you'll have to watch this whole scene again!"

  • No More Heroes. Right off the bat in the intro. "Just push the 'A' Button!" Then slowly chipped them away one by one until the last mission and then completely destroyed at the end ("I would expect you and your players would expect a twist or some kind!").
    • The second game doesn't even bother repairing the damage. "Players don't want to know about your fall from grace, it's BORING!"
  • In Rayman 3, Murfy spends much of his time in the game bickering with his copy of the game's instruction manual (which replies via on-screen captions.) To heighten the effect, the real instruction manual is very uncomplimentary of Murfy in the character profiles section. Additionally, Murfy farewells the player with the words "See you in Rayman 4!" and Globox can be bullied into saying, "You were nicer in Rayman 2!"
  • The Simpsons Game is definitely a good example of "There Is No Fourth Wall". After the first level (which is a direct reference to the "Land of Chocolate" daydream from the German episode) Bart finds a videogame user's manual for the very game we're playing right now, and through that manual, discovers that each member of his immediate family has some kind of videogame superpower.
    • In the final cut scene Ralph Wiggum walks up to the TV screen, knocks on it, and says, "Daddy, people are looking at me!", just before the TV (not the real one) turns off.
    • Also, at certain points as you play, the game is interrupted by the Comic book Guy pointing out the fact that you just came across some typical videogame cliche, such as invisible walls or an enemy that is physically identical to another one but they changed the colours.
    • Plus, there are entire levels that scream nothing but "You're in a videogame, this is a videogame, and we're going to remind you that you are playing a videogame. Also, here's some references to some other videogames."
  • Gaia Online's Gee Boi Turbo item was a minigame in which the two dark elves and their pet owl go to a Gaia Online-centric anime convention. The owl commissions Head-Tiltingly Kinky fanart of the local Yaoi Guys, among other things.

  Kuro: * upon finding Kuro/Devin yaoi fanart* Seriously, guys. This isn't canon.

    • Other Gaia Online events have involved user participation more directly, such as playing games (the Olympics) or voting on matters (Ian's trial, Timmy's puberty). These have not always turned out quite the way the users expected (Timmy's puberty).
    • And during the Alien invasion one alien (02) got a huge fan following. The leaders of the 02 fan group even got drawn into the manga.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network installing the Humor program into the Navi Cust lets Megaman tell (bad) jokes, one of which Lan responds to with "We'd better stop this or our players will get crabby!"
  • In Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal which is based on the 2nd edition AD&D ruleset, Mazzy the Halfling Fighter has a discussion with another NPC who suggests she should become a Paladin. Mazzy responds by saying Halflings can't become Paladins (as is the case in 2nd edition). Paraphrasing: "It's not as though there's a third edition out is there?"
  • X Edge spends most of the game with a solid Fourth Wall for the main scenario, however, after you beat the last boss and hit the post game, they waste no time in tearing the fourth wall into bite sized chunks and dancing merily on its remains. They act very Out of Character, quote completly insane lines, refer to in game events as such, count the number of lines they have in a scene, blatantly lampshade numerous RPG and Character Tropes, and basically throw away all pretentions they are anything but a game.
    • Considering Etna of Disgaea (mentioned above) is in this game, the player is lucky there's a fourth wall at all. Needless to say, her hidden episode previews waste no time shattering it when found.
  • Eat Lead: the Return of Matt Hazard eats, drinks and breathes this trope. The developers even went as far as adding fake fansites detailing the non-existant Matt Hazard games.
  • In the Artix Entertainment Games, the one who really broke the Fourth Wall was (and still is) the Guardian Dragon in Adventure Quest when you summon(ed) it for a super special attack. Most of his jokes and gibes were (are) at the player, the game creators, and a few other things. In Dragon Fable, however, when your character is asked why he fights for good, he answers, "I'm the Hero of the story. It's my job."
    • There is of course the one where he goes "Don't blame me, the idiots in the forums wrote my lines!"
  • The hidden ending for The Nameless Mod has Trestkon wandering around the boundries of the final level, watching all the mooks respawn and go about their business. He talks to the player, and decides he enjoys having God-like powers over the world. He accepts his position of existing solely to entertain, and bids the player good-bye, inviting him or her to come back if "you ever want to play again sometime."
  • This shows up in Batman: Arkham Asylum. As you solve the Riddler's puzzles, he occasionally throws out different comments. When you've got most of them he demands to know if you're cheating by looking up their locations on the internet.
    • There is a bizarre encounter midway through the game with the Scarecrow. While the first two encounters were in-universe hallucinations, the third one begins by making the console appear to lock up and restart the game, this time with Joker taking Batman into Arkham as an inmate. The Joker pulls out a gun and shoots Batman in the face, triggering a fake "Game Over" screen with a "Try This Next Time" tip that's impossible (the console versions say to use the middle joystick to dodge the bullet (lucky there's no N64 version); the PC version says to tilt the mouse). Choosing continue or quit will both bring you to the actual fight stage.
  • Happens in-universe in the final scene of Assassin's Creed II, where Minerva turns and looks directly at Desmond and speaks to him, ignoring Ezio, who is understandably confused by the whole thing.
  • In Marvel Vs Capcom 3, Deadpool goes the whole hog and beats the opponent with his healthbar in one of his attacks. Deadpool's taunt acknowledges the player pressed the taunt button. His victory cinematic has him approach the camera going so far as insulting the player for various reasons such as not recording the gameplay footage or sitting around while he does all the work.
  • Donkey Kong Country's Cranky Kong breaks the fourth wall near-constantly in the older games, but the entire (All in The Manual) storyline of Donkey Kong Land depends on the lack of a wall: Cranky has K. Rool steal DK's bananas again as part of a bet that DK and Diddy can't have a successful adventure on the 4-color Game Boy.
  • Some of Kisala's idle chatter in Rogue Galaxy invoke this. If you haven't saved in a while, she'll say stuff like "Shouldn't you save soon?", and the like.
  • In X-Men Legends II, Deadpool is a mid-level boss whom you have to fight in order to proceed with the game. Upon game completion, Deadpool is unlocked as a playable character and can be used in replays at any time. Having him in the party at the Deadpool boss fight unlocks an Easter Egg dialog where both Deadpools discuss which cheap comic book plot they can use to explain the situation and then conclude that game programmers are stupid for not realizing the paradox they created.
  • Super Paper Mario is another one with no fourth wall, at least as far as NPCs are concerned. The dialogue suggests that Mario himself is unaware of the player's existence, though it's hard to tell, but if he is, he's the only one.
  • Virtual On. Players who think they are playing a mere game console are actually participating mecha combats in another reality.
  • Though not explicitly breaking the Fourth Wall, in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer game Chaos Bleeds for the Game Cube, in the tutorial level, Buffy refers to the game controls while addressing characters.

  Buffy: Come on, Spike. Even Vampires know that to open a door you walk up to it and press the USE button.

  • Do a barrel roll! Press Z or R twice! Hold A to charge up shots!
    • could be Justified in that Fox is piloting a very advanced ship which may have 'Z', 'R' and 'A' buttons.
      • Let's not forget that joysticks can have buttons labeled 'Z', 'R', or 'A'.
  • We gotta find The Princess! And YOU gotta help us! If you need instructions on how to get through the hotels, check out the Enclosed Instruction Book!
  • Present in Ever 17 and Remember 11 VNs of Infinity series, but not in the usual way. In both games, the player is an entity within game universe, acknowledged by certain characters, and holds a major plot importance: is essentially the "Deus" in Deus Ex Machina ending of Ever 17, and virtually the antagonist - or at least the one responsible for some bad things (albeit unknowingly) - in Remember 11.
  • Fate Stay Night Tiger Dojo, the hint section between deaths and routes, Taiga, Illya and sometimes Rin address the player.
  • When grinding, use the X button to accelerate, and the left thumbstick to balance.
  • Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctors's intro makes you think there's a fourth wall, shatters that perception 30 seconds in and never rebuilds it. The entire game has The Master and the first seven Doctors (as well as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) talking to you.
  • In the video game Mafia II, Vito Scaletta is hiding in an office waiting for the guards to move away so he can steal gas rationing coupons. If you make him wait long enough, the guards engage in a conversation aout a television one of them has purchased (remembering that this is a WW 2-era game at this point) and one guard describes how it might be in the future that you could control the characters on the television, using some device to make them drive cars, shoot guns and essentially behave just like the characters in the first-person shooter you are playing and that they are. The other guard is dismissive of the idea. There are occasional NPC comments that indicate an awareness of the game.
  • In Omikron: The Nomad Soul the first thing you see upon starting a new game is the protagonist addressing you, the player directly, telling he has bridged the gap between his reality and ours through your computer and asks you to transfer your soul into his body so you can control it. The only way the fourth wall was more nonexistent would be if he openly admitted this was just a game, rather than state that you are entering another world that is just as real as ours.
  • In Super Smash Bros, the series has no fourth wall. The opening cinematic (for the original) indicates that the entire game is a child's daydream about the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny. And if characters get knocked off the top of the stage, they'll either do the Team Rocket flash-in-the-sky, or bounce off the inside of the TV screen. Brawl takes this one step further, with all characters explicitly recognizing that they are trophies.
  • In Distorted Travesty, there is a fourth wall... but Jeremy is sitting on top of it, so it might as well not exist. The characters are fully aware they are in a video game and are constantly discussing game tropes as the story progresses. Later it turns out that This Is Reality... sort of. The real world and the fictional world of games have been joined together in a big Reality Warping mess.


Webcomics Edit

  • 1/0 takes the concept fairly seriously; the cartoonist is a disembodied voice who talks with the characters often. Incidents such as the characters going on strike (refusing to talk, move or think, to drive down readership and force the cartoonist to give in) or developing "personal fourth walls" were common, and the end of the series was largely concerned with the question of how to let the characters survive past the strip's end.
  • Deviant ART based comic The Grind takes place in the game Runescape, and the characters are players in the game. As such, all of the characters know they are in a game...except for the main character, who is the only one who doesn't know what he is actually doing, sort of an anti-Fourth Wall Observer.
  • Roomies also has the narrator directly interact with the cast. The plot device to explain this is he is a disembodied spirit of some kind. (Not to be confused with the other webcomic named Roomies!', which evolved into It's Walky!)
  • Framed! is based on the premise that the characters really are the real people they are based on, whom the cartoonist, DaMonk, has trapped in a Pocket Universe; unfortunately for DaMonk, being real people, he has no control over them, and at one point they turn the tables on him, trapping him in the comic.
  • Schlock Mercenary does this quite often; for instance, the mercenary captain asking the narrator why he's not allowed to swear.
    • Of course, the Fourth Wall does exist, otherwise they wouldn't have had to fix it
    • On a couple of occasions, the Author actually shows up in the strip to warn the characters to straighten up.
    • They also converse with the narrator and discuss tropes amongst each other. The Fourth Wall is basically the second-most-commonly destroyed object in all the comedy. (The first? Lawyer drones.)
  • The Insecticons are the most frequent offenders in the Insecticomics, but to some degree or another the characters are aware of their status. Some of the hand-drawn comics feature the author herself talking to the characters -- and one rather odd one in the usual Photo Comic format with the Insecticons (who are only about two inches high, as toys) talking to the author's giant head.
  • The Stick Figure Comic Stickman and Cube. The two titular characters are fully aware of their status as comic characters and are constantly making meta-jokes and talking to the readers.
  • Triangle and Robert takes the no-fourth-wall concept way past its logical conclusion. Not only does the Cartoonist interact with the characters, his presence has altered their universe -- everything has been badly drawn and monochrome since he showed up. Unsurprisingly, there are anti-Cartoonist protests in the characters' world.
  • Real Life does this on an almost daily basis, with the author talking to characters of the strip. This interaction works both ways, with the strip's characters sometimes talking to the author, the characters or the author talking to the readers, and even, at one point, an instance where the comic's main character vandalised the comic's website.
  • Checkerboard Nightmare -- the story of Checkerboard Nightmare's attempt to create a wildly popular webcomic, starring himself -- smashed the fourth wall to bits and danced across the rubble from day one.
    • In the particularly insane "Repairing the Fourth Wall" arc, Vaporware decides webcomics have become too dependent on No Fourth Wall gags, so he decides to rebuild the Fourth Wall. He succeeds in spite of much opposition from the rest of the cast, who come to grudgingly accept that removing the crutch of self-aware humor is probably for the best. Then Chex smiles at the audience and says, "That's it for this storyline, folks! Be back here next strip for more Checkerboard Nightmare! And please click on a few ads."
  • The characters of Sluggy Freelance frequently complain when they are forced to participate in lame filler strips, especially when illness, laziness or holidays mean they're drawn as stick figures. The cartoonist, Pete, occasionally speaks to the cast (appearing as a godlike figure whose features are not visible due to golden light), and Shirt Guy Tom (represented by a stick figure) frequently tries to take the comic over, which everybody hates because he is a terrible artist. There's an entire mini-arc drawn by a guest author, featuring the guest author coming up with a guest comic and then being chased by angry fans because she messed with canon.
    • However, the plot proper firmly requires a fourth wall. Even when it's broken within the normal comics (as opposed to filler), it's always in throwaway lines, and the characters go back to being unaware of being in a comic for most of the time and at all important points.
  • Out at Home Penny, she has a few instances.
    • Also Ordog
  • Penny Arcade does this from time to time. This is one of many examples.
  • Also most characters in Least I Could Do]] use No Fourth Wall on occasion, especially during the comic's annual Valentine's Day contest, wherein the characters themselves often read through fan-mail and pick a winner to go out on a date with a chosen character in the strip.
    • Another instance of LICD No Fourth Wall is when the author and artist send a letter to the characters stating that they will no longer be "forever 24", and that they will begin to age like normal people do. See also Webcomic Time.
    • In a perfect example, the main character Rayne threatened both the writer and artist should they censor a reconcilliation between a lesbian couple. (Or Rayne's attempt to seduce them both). Linky
    • Don't forget when John mentioned the title of the strip, quickly followed by a smack from "God's Hand", and a firm verbal downtalking. Leave the question: who did the slapping? Ryan or Lar?
      • It's Lar. Watch the artist Ustream.
  • Irregular Webcomic is also a frequent offender, especially in the "Me" theme. An example possibly topping all of those in this page is the current storyline in that theme where after saying a regular cast member would die permanently before the end of 2007, the author himself is killed by what is later revealed to be his future self who has since become Death Of Going Back In Time And Killing Yourself.
    • And when he is sent back to kill himself, he refuses and are now on the run from death it(?)self.
  • Jayden and Crusader used to use this trope heavily, and was indeed a pivotal plot point in one storyline, but since March 2008 has been desperately been trying to put up a flimsy fourth wall.
    • It then totally blew the fourth wall into tiny smithereens in this page [1]
  • Some characters in Magical Misfits know they are fictional.
  • Applies to some series in The KAMics.
  • Three Walls Tavern. 'Nuff said.
  • Jerkcity contains what is probably the first, and perhaps the only, occurrence of a fictional character reporting a real bug in OpenBSD.
  • Darkmoons Silly Web Comic. Lampshaded, even.
  • Paul Robinson's Tales Of Zenith: In the first issue, the strip's creator comes on a local afternoon TV show in the City of Zenith to tell the host that they're currently in a web comic. She doesn't believe him, of course.
  • The Way of the Metagamer. Extremely so. The author appears as a major character, the other characters repeatedly talk about the audience and possess Medium Awareness, and literal plot holes allow the characters to travel to other works.
  • Instead of a fourth wall, Voices has a window, through which the forumgoers can see, hear and speak to the main protagonists.
  • The webcomic Order of the Stick has the distinction of having two fourth walls to break: the fourth wall of being a comic (which in one instance is hilariously broken by Haley Starshine climbing onto the character introduction page to steal a diamond to be used for a Resurrection spell), and the fourth wall of being in a game (characters often directly reference feats, having skill points, and gaining levels, which technically aren't supposed to be in-character knowledge).
    • One scene from the prequel "On the Origin of PCs" lampshades it brilliantly:

 Elan: Good evening, innkeeper! I require a room [...]

Innkeeper: Of course, sir. What kind of room did you have in mind?

Elan: Well, I was thinking of something with a ceiling, a floor, and four walls.

Innkeeper: Are you certain, sir? Because rooms without fourth walls are very popular in this comic strip.

Beat Panel while both smile and wink at the reader.

  • Pessimistic Sense of Inadequacy has in the early comics interactions between the comic characters and the "web comic" nature of the comic so much that for comic #100, the author is in the strip, the characters are talking to the audience, and then ... http://psiwebcomic.com/00100a.htm (animated gif). "If you break the 4th wall so much, you are bound to break something else...."
    • Not to be outdone, during the crossover wars, the author is forced into an interaction with one of the evil army's main bad guys. No 4th wall? The author is talking about the comic to another character from another comic, and Fesworks has said that this was never his plan for his comic.
  • The Metroid Sprite Comic Planet Zebeth is an interesting case. Although nobody (except Author Avatar Kabutroid) knows that they exist in a comic strip, the characters are aware that they are fictional, and that the entirety of the planet actually exists on Kabutroid's server (which still uploads with a 33.6k modem and has a lot of glitches). This even drives the plot at some points, like when they were stuck mid-transfer in an FTP client when Kabutroid had computer problems, and directly afterward when he had to install Linux, leaving Samus and Kraid stuck wondering what was going on.
  • Done often enough to qualify for this in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures especially in the early comics. Including but not limited to Dan addresses the narrator, Mab decides to be plot convenient for the day. The characters are shocked and appalled by amber's poorly drawn scenery, dark pegasus having to explain his evil plot to the cursed readers. wildy comments on a convenient plot twist. I should probably stop now. Here’s one of the worst ones
  • Magic and Physics plays with this trope, as the creators desperately want to maintain the fourth wall, while the characters make sure it doesn't exist.
  • Bob and George uses this for nearly the entire running time, with the author ultimately becoming a main character.


Radio Edit

  • And then there's Captain Kremmen by Kenny Everett, which not only demolished the fourth wall but the fifth, sixth and seventh! It knew it was a radio serial and of course often started with the Kremmen's bright "Hi Kids! In our last episode ..." Many episodes, more digitals than could be calculated on a digital calculator, included some sort lampshading or wall shattering, including:
    • Why Captain Kremmen knew he would thwart the cosmic baddie's plans: "I have faith in my scriptwriters!"
    • Captain Kremmen to Captain Kremmen, in the Bionic Double arc: "Won't this confuse the listeners" "Anyone who listens to this is mad anyways!"
  • Icelandic radio theatrical comedy Harry & Heimir would do this a few times per episode. From noting they only had x minutes to solve the mystery of the week before the end of the episode to reading the other character's lines in the script; and in the finale of the second season they drove a horse carriage out of the studio, onto the streets of Reykjavík and finally crashing. The show ending where they were recovering in the hospital.
  • Firesign Theatre was basically Radio Without Walls
  • Hello Cheeky was some sort of strange play on this, depending on how you choose to interpret it...the characters (also actors) share the actors' names but have distinct personalities, and a lot of the jokes come from casual conversation between the characters while not playing characters, or moments that weren't scripted in-canon. Apart from this, No Fourth Wall also applied in a more traditional sense -- the characters were fully aware they were in a show called Hello Cheeky, and would occassionally read letters from fans, explain jokes or technical hitches, or otherwise address their listener ("hello, Eric").


Web Original Edit

  • Played double straight in Unforgotten Realms. Not only does the game of unforgotten realms exist with no fourth wall to the players, but the animation itself constantly references the fact that it's an animation.
  • TV Tropes (Wiki) itself. See for example, its Real Life sections and articles.
  • Part of the premise of Lonelygirl15 and LG 15 The Resistance, as stated by Word of God, is that there is no fourth wall. The characters are always aware that there is an audience, and often address them directly. However, the characters do not know that they are fictional, so perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the fourth wall exists -- it's just transparent.
    • Kate Modern follows the same premise, but additionally, characters sometimes play with the Fourth Wall in a more traditional sense.
  • A major part of the plot of The Church of Blow is Cornelius discovering he is a fictional character. And it is so sad.
  • In Avatar Adventures, there is literally none at all. Characters frequently address the posters, to the extent that "Out Of Character" tags may as well not exist. One character in particular, Sam G, is said to exist on a plane between the two worlds; he is, unsurprisingly, an Author Avatar.
  • All of the characters on That Guy With The Glasses .com / Channel Awesome. Most of them are reviewers, and talking directly to the audience by their premise, but it goes beyond that. Characters from the shows/movies/comics/games that they review come out, they can invoke tropes to control the narrative, use a Big Lipped Alligator Moment or whimsical montage as a weapon, and they can read the subtitles.
  • While the song is originally from The Legend of Zelda, THIS WILL MAKE YOUR BRAIN NUMB!
  • Gaia Online characters periodically comment on news from "the real world", interact with users in the forums, and the like. Chance Items have gone to even stranger places; one of the Lex-Box scenarios was Lex using a tablet to illustrate himself on that stage using the tablet to illustrate (recursion), while the Gee Boi Turbo was all about Don Kuro, his sister, and his pet owl going to a Gaia Online fan convention. And the Don finding yaoi about himself.


Western Animation Edit

  • Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs are essentially built on this trope, using it for most of their jokes.
  • A Pup Named Scooby Doo had a gimmick similar to Ellery Queen, just before they revealed who the monster was.
    • Then there was the late '70s prime-time special Scooby Goes Hollywood, which had Scooby and Shaggy getting tired of being stuck in a formula-driven Saturday morning show, and attempting to sell a network executive on giving them a prime time show of their own.
    • Scooby Doo in Arabian Nights featured this in one part, when Magilla Gorilla commented on it was amazing how things would happen right on cue in a cartoon.
  • Perhaps the most brilliant example ever was the classic Looney Tunes short Duck Amuck, which entirely consists of Daffy Duck and an unseen (until the final shot) animator arguing with each other across the Fourth Wall.
    • The animator turns out to be nobody else but Bugs Bunny (but then, who didn't see that coming?).
      • "Ain't I a stinker?"
    • There's a much-less-classic sequel, called Rabbit Rampage, in which Bugs Bunny is tormented by Elmer Fudd. Effective only in highlighting the character-driven brilliance of the original in contrast. Bugs, as Chuck Jones thought of him, has far too much grace under pressure to freak out as beautifully as Daffy.
    • A 1940 Looney Tunes short titled "You Ought to Be in Pictures" involves Porky Pig and Daffy Duck literally jumping out of their animation cels and interacting with the real (live-action) world.
    • In the early short "The Case of the Stuttering Pig", the bad guy plotting to off Porky and his kin taunts the audience that there's nothing they can do about it, especially not "you in the third row, you big creampuff!" At the end of the cartoon, the pigs are saved by "the guy in the third row" throwing his chair at the bad guy and knocking him into a set of stocks.
    • There's also the one where Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny are going through the motions of a typical cartoon, when Elmer suddenly decides he has enough, and rips his contract with Warner Brothers apart.
    • 1939's "Thugs With Dirty Mugs" has an audience member trying to leave the theater ("Well, Mr. Killer, this is where I came in!") and being forced back into his seat at gunpoint. In the next scene the patron alerts police officer Flatfoot Flookie of the Killer's planned break-in of the Lotta Jewels mansion.
    • Bugs Bunny in general.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle is also noted for its missing fourth wall; the characters know that they are on a TV show, know that there are censors watching, realize that it's a children's show, and recognize that the writing/plot/script/concept is "bad writing" at times.
    • They also talk to the narrator from time to time. At one point, Boris fails to discover a piece of paper, and has to answer to the narrator who insist it is "right under his nose". He was sitting on it.
      • And, moments later, he rewinds the tape to miss a plot-critical statement made by the narrator.
  • Woody Woodpecker frequently does this, taking it to the point of Roger Rabbit Effect in the live action segments of his old 60's TV series.
  • In an episode of Danger Mouse, the narrator is tired of his voiceovers and just says, "London, city of millions...blah blah blah blah." Colonel K pauses in mid briefing to say, "Did you hear someone going 'blah, blah, blah' just then?"
    • This occured on the show frequently. Another episode had the narrator just not bothering to start the regular spiel and he walks off without a by-your-leave. DM and Penfold wind up doing the opening.
  • In an episode of Batfink, Hugo Agogo shoots the narrator with his speed up ray so he will talk faster and keep the action moving.
  • In one of Disney's Winnie the Pooh stories, Tigger is stuck up a tree and asks the narrator to narrate him down, which he does by tilting the page so Tigger can climb down the text of the story(!).
    • This happened quite a bit in the old videos -- at one point in "A Day For Eeyore", when the titular donkey gets rescued from the river, he argues with Tigger about whether or not he was bounced into the river. The narrator promptly interrupts, much to the confusion of everyone (except Tigger, of course), then he turns the pages back in order for everyone to see the scene and find out. Earlier in the episode, the narrator has to tell Pooh why he used sticks instead of fir cones for Poohsticks (you know, that game where you drop sticks from a bridge).
  • Garfield and Friends did this from the beginning, there are several cartoons entirely based around the cartoon status of the show. Characters acknowledge the audience on a regular basis, and remark that they want bigger parts in the show. At one point Garfield even sits down and watches his own show on TV to find out what he should do next; in another episode, opening in medias res, has him pull out a script to find out what has happened up to that point. In one other episode, Garfield was afraid the plane he was on was going to crash, so he turned to the camera and asked the viewer to check their TV listings to see if it were the last episode.
    • The Garfield Show does this too, though only Garfield seems to have full awareness of the world beyond the screen.
  • In Dog City, animated detective Ace Hart would frequently engage in conversation with his creator Eliot Shag, even stopping the show while it was being animated to do so.
  • Dave the Barbarian often uses that, to the point where the narrator is brainwashed by the Big Bad to narrate a story where he is victorious. Sometimes the low budget of the show is referenced too ("And so, our heroes defeated the muffin monster in an epic battle which is too expensive to be animated in such a cheap show like this").
  • Dora the Explorer is a prime example. In fact, the whole point of the show is to be "interactive" with its viewers. Of course, it's not practical to make it really interactive so it is just assumed that the child does interact and the appropriate pauses are given. "We're going to need your help to get Map to open! Say 'map'! (pause) Louder! (pause, then map opens)" Not to mention the whole "Swiper no swiping" exchanges.
  • Long before Dora, though, there was Winky Dink, who not only interacted with the kids watching, but actively needed their help -- as provided via crayons and a clear plastic overlay for the TV screen (conveniently available for sale at your local store).
  • Blue's Clues is usually credited as the genesis of modern interactive children's shows. Live-action host Steve (or Joe) talks directly to the audience and, like Dora, waits for appropriate responses to his questions. Unlike Dora however, there is audio of children answering him after a short pause, probably to make the children at home feel more comfortable with participating.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, during a telephone call the creature was not speaking English so subtitles appeared on the screen. When Mandy asked Grim what he said Grim relayed the message explaining that he didn't understand a word of it, but he was pretty good at reading subtitles backwards. Mandy also frequently breaks the fourth wall, asking who writes the show, or stepping entirely out of the screen to watch the episode. These are just some of the many instances of breaking the fourth wall.
    • Chowder also does this, which is no surprise, considering it was created by one of the writers from Grim adventures of Billy and Mandy. The most memorable instance of this was when Mung-Daal, Schnitzel and Chowder spend the entire budget, meaning there isn't enough for the show's animation. Cut to the voice actors wondering what to do to get the money back and subsequently organising a car-wash fundraiser.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Crossover movie Turtles Forever had an absolutely beautiful moment where the goofy 1980 cartoon version of Raphael speaks to the audience, causing the Hun (a villain from the more serious 2003 cartoon) to look at the "camera" in total confusion.
  • Subverted in Duck Dodgers. In one episode, the Martian robots think the Martian Commander is crazy for narrating his plans to an unseen audience. The subversion is that he probably doesn't know such an audience really exists, and is just talking to himself.
  • In the Jonny Quest TOS episode "Monster in the Monastery, Jonny turns and looks right into the camera, then tells the viewers "I hope Hadji and Bandit made it."
  • In an episode of Johnny Test, the title character and his genetically-altered intelligent talking dog Dukey get themselves trapped in a virtual reality designed by Johnny's super-genius twin older sisters. As they face certain doom, about to go over a cliff in a speeding car being driven by an action movie character, Dukey admonishes Johnny for getting them into the mess by using his sisters' lab without permission. 'Why can't you just watch cartoons like a normal kid?' At that, both Johnny and Dukey glance sideways at the viewer.
  • The "Sam and Max" animated show never had a 4th wall, pointing out jokes that were used in the comics, referencing the constraints a kid show puts on them, and even going so far to point out the shows lack of viewers.

 Max: Sam, I think we're being watched.

Sam: Judging by the lack of fan mail, I beg to differ little pal.

  • Chowder is fond of destroying the fourth wall whenever possible. Characters constantly acknowledge that they're within an 11-minute episode (or, alternatively, a 30-minute special) or a season, and refer to the viewers regularly. One time, Chowder even pointed to the Cartoon Network logo bug at the bottom of the screen.
    • Don't forget when they ran out of money for the animation and the voice actors had to hold a car wash to afford it again.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode 'Krusty Krab Training Video' has the characters hearing the narrator speak; going as far as to even make comments about what they are hearing

 "Your ceiling is talking to me."

  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy does this from time-to-time, saying things like "End of first sequence and fade to black" or "an Iris-In would be appropriate, don't you think?", quickly followed by whatever was just mentioned. Then there was that absolutely ridiculous episode where they play around with cartoon physics, including having another character turn into a puddle of talking color when they remove his outline.
  • Sheep in The Big City makes use of this, frequently switching to the narrator inside the recording studio for commentary. The Series finale tops it all off where It turns out that the sheep is the real Big Bad, and that the sheep powered ray gun has 2 settings, sheep, and narrator.
  • Duckman engages in this regularly.
  • The characters of Family Guy criticize "the network" (Fox) on a regular basis.
  • The Emperors New School uses this, to the point where it was used as a plotline
  • Children's cartoon Word Girl regularly has the narrator talking to the heroine (and sometimes the villains). At least once, he outright tells Word Girl where the villain is.
  • Duh, Phineas and Ferb. At first they seemed to have it, but Rule of Funny seems to have eroded it. At this point they've had a musical episode where everyone just agreed to sing and dance to the music without a source, parodied several times the fact that Status Quo Is God and used it as a power, had clip-shows, and character commentaries of episodes. ("You live in a cartoon and have never seen a thought bubble before?")
    • Monogram seems to dislike breaking the fourth wall according to "Make Play":

 Major Monogram: "Oh, wow, what are the odds."

Carl: "Well, it is a cartoon, sir."

Major Monogram: "What did I tell you about breaking the fourth wall, Carl?"

Carl: "Sorry sir."

  • Pinkie Pie. Oh my god, PINKIE PIE. She doesn't break the fourth wall... IT OPENS ITSELF UP FOR HER.

  Pinkie Pie: "Hey! That's what I said!"

    • When repairs of the fourth wall got too expensive, they installed a door.
    • Spike has apparently been taking lessons from Pinkie Pie, as evidenced in the episode "Lesson Zero".
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold has Bat Mite, who actually goes so far as to discuss the legitimacy of that show's interpretation of Batman relative to the darker incarnations in the show itself (his exact position changes over time). In the Grand Finale he intentionally tries to make the show Jump the Shark to get it canceled so a Darker and Edgier cartoon can take its place, complete with replacing one character's voice actor.

Notes

  1. how aware is he?
  2. Remember that Rare is a British company, so Z is pronounced "zed", not "zee"

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