Imagine pin-drop silence in the lobby of a brutalist-style building with a single receptionist. The ceiling is exceedingly high and all the colors are dull. It is a long walk to the desk and the floor is made of something hard like marble. Your footsteps echo like booms through the large lobby.

You get to the receptionist and their personality contrasts their surroundings almost jarringly (might be goofy, funny, friendly, oversharing, caring, etc.).

I can't quite name a specific example of this trope, but I feel as though I've seen it before (at least enough to write a question about it). Is there a name for this trope? Can you provide some examples?

  • 3
    Not that this is off-topic here, but TV Tropes may be a good place to ask this. (Fair warning: it's also a massive time-sink.)
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Apr 26 at 21:30
  • Barton Fink's Chet comes to mind. Commented Apr 27 at 0:58
  • @F1Krazy Thanks for the recommendation! I'll check out the forums. Does anyone know why my question received a downvote?
    – Scene
    Commented Apr 27 at 2:56
  • Serge, the art gallery receptionist in Beverley Hills Cop, might be another example: youtube.com/watch?v=ZxqkuS8hvlY , although the intimidation there comes more from the high society expectations of fine art rather than the architecture itself. Commented May 5 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


The exact scenario of 'comic relief receptionist in stark or severe setting' is perhaps too specific to be a named trope per se, but it is a good example of 'Mood Whiplash', which is a sudden shift in tone, for comedic or dramatic effect.

The linked webpage gives plenty of examples.

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