This describes any number of situations where characters play a role, generally to practice for a real life situation. Hilarity ensues.
For example, Alice wants to talk to Bob, but she's afraid, so her friend Carol tells Alice to pretend she's Bob and practice on her. Carol could actually be in love with Alice, creating an awkward situation; or Carol could act like a complete jerk, making Alice more worried; or Alice could freeze at just the thought of talking to Bob, even though it's still only Carol; or Carol could really be Bob in disguise. The possibilities are limitless.
There's also psychological roleplaying - where you pretend you're the other person. This always seems to end up something like:
Bob: Oh yeah? "Hi, Bob, I'm Alice. I just love to nag all day and am never supportive."
This is by no means exclusive to romantic situations; role plays take place everywhere, from work to school to friend circles, or sometimes even in the bedroom. It seems to happen most often when a plot requires a Group Therapy episode.
Related to the Trial Balloon Question and I Have This Friend. Not related to Role Playing Games. (Or Cosmic Role Play.)
- In Yuu Watase's manga Epotoransu Mai, the genie inside Mai's digital organizer has the power of Voluntary Shapeshifting, and he takes the form of Mai's Love Interest so she can practice her Love Confession on him. When she finally spits it out, his response is a deadpan "I hate you." (He explains that he was just trying to help her be prepared for the worst...)
- It happened with Tenma and Harima in School Rumble. She even put on his sunglasses and added whiskers to show him how to confess.
- In one episode/chapter of Ah! My Goddess Peorth tells Keiichi, who has a severe case of Cannot Spit It Out, to pretend that she's Belldandy so he can practice saying "I love you" to her. This eventually leads to a Not What It Looks Like situation when Belldandy walks in to find Keiichi repeatedly shouting "I love you!" at the top of his lungs to Peorth as as she shouts "more! more!".
- In Inuyasha, Kagome's little brother Sota has a crush on a girl in his class. He asks Inu-Yasha to let him practice on him, and Inu-Yasha reluctantly agrees. Then Kagome walks in.
- Early on in My Love Story!!, Suna has Rinko tell him what she wants to say to Takeo - as Suna planned, she immediately starts passionately declaring her love. Also as Suna planned, Takeo is hiding beneath the bed Riko is sitting on the whole time, and agrees to go out with her as soon as he can actually accept that it really happened.
- Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun:
- When Mikoshiba is roped into going to a mixer, he asks Sakura and Nozaki to help him practice. Unfortunately, both are terrible at it. Nozaki is a workaholic who only thinks about shoujo manga, while Sakura is only interested in Nozaki.
- In another chapter, Nozaki spends a day in his protagonist Mamiko's shoes — acting like a stereotypical female shoujo protagonist. Of course, being The Comically Serious, he confuses a lot of people.
- Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!: In Chapter 70, Akihiko, Sakaki, and Ami are helping Shinichi practice giving a Love Confession to Hana, but Ami gets a bit too into it. Of course Hana walks in as Ami is taking Shinichi's shirt off.
- On Brave, Elinor is upset by her daughter Merida's behavior, so Fergus suggests she talk to him as if he were Merida. As Fergus is a bear of a man with a gravelly voice, his impression of her isn't very convincing. But is IS convincing enough for Elinor to temporarily forget who she's talking to, and absentmindedly tell "Merida" that she initially didn't think much of marrying Fergus.
- In Definitely, Maybe, Isla Fischer gets Ryan Reynolds to practice his engagement speech on her. His original speech? "Will you, um, marry me?"
- In The Film of the Book Never Let Me Go, Hailsham students are shown doing a role-playing exercise to teach them to order things in a cafe. Much awkwardness ensues. And apparently the lesson didn't take, since the (now grow up) characters are shown in a later scene being struck dumb when asked for their order by a waitress in a real cafe.
- In Riding in Cars with Boys, Beverly Donofrio has to tell her parents that she's pregnant at 15. She practices on her best friend, Fay.
Fay: Okay, pretend that I'm your parents, say what you're going to say.
Beverly: Okay, Mom, Pop?
Beverly: I don't know how to say this...
Beverly: I'm pregnant.
Fay: My daughter's a tramp! My daughter's a tramp! You're 15 years old, how could you do this to me? Why don't you just take my gun. Take my gun and shoot me in the head with it, tramp! I wish that you were never born! How was that?
- In Pride & Prejudice (2005), Mr. Bingley practices proposing to Jane Bennett with Mr. Darcy in the role of Jane. Darcy generally doesn't get farther than answering "Mr. Bingley" before Bingley breaks off and tries another approach.
- In Freaky Friday (2003), Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, while body-switched, use this as an excuse as to why they're behaving so oddly.
- In Havemercy, Thom attempts to instill manners in the Airmen by setting up a roleplaying game in which they have to put themselves in the shoes of people they've wronged. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.
- In Happy Endings, Brad and Jane are often discussed roleplaying in their sex life, seen twice in Boys II Menorah, first when Jane is dressed as a police officer and pulls Brad over.
Jane: I'm gonna need to see your license, registration and proof of penis
Brad: This is outrageous. I'm writing down your vag number.
Jane: Its number one.
Alex: "I'm old Dave, I never make any effort"
- Later in that episode Dave and Alex, after a failed attempt at a Grand Romantic Gesture, they talk about how much better they are now than when they were first together.
Dave: And "I'm old Alex, I constantly wear sweatpants and phone it in when its my turn to go downstairs."
- In the Workaholics episode "Stop! Pajama Time" Blake and Adam do a scrimmage firing for Jillian's benefit, so she can be ready to fire people while filling in for Alice. It goes off the rails very quickly, with Adam using a hotgun as a pretend gun to threaten Blake, Blake having removed the gun's bullets, Adam throwing a banana peel (as a butterfly knife) at Blake, which he catches. Blake then pretends to put on sunglasses (Adam even asks "are those sunglasses?") and "kills" Adam with a flamethrower (Actually a lighter).
- The original version of The Office: A training coach puts off a little role playing exercise, to show the right and wrong way to deal with customers. Unfortunately, he asks Brent to be his partner. Painfully awkward hilarity ensues.
- In the American version, Andy and Erin role play Andy breaking up with his current girlfriend so he and Erin can start their ship. They play it with Erin reacting a few different ways.
- In the Friends episode "The One with The Stoned Guy", Ross doesn't know how to talk dirty to his new girlfriend, so he practices with Joey, leading to a Ho Yay Not What It Looks Like moment when Chandler walks in on them.
- Gilmore Girls did this with Rory and her mother. Lorelai was pretending to be Rory's then-boyfriend, Dean, when Rory was trying to figure out how to tell him she'd kissed another guy. But Lorelai was having too much fun making fun of Dean's hair.
Lorelai (as Dean, in pseudo-masculine voice): Rory, what do you think of my hair? 'Cause sometimes, I wake up in the morning, and I'm like "Cool." And sometimes, "Not so cool."
- Pushing Daisies: Olive tells Aunt Lily (who's been revealed to be Chuck's mother) to say to her what she wants to say to Chuck. Unbeknownst to Lily, Olive's brooch is bugged and the real Chuck is listening in.
- On Arrested Development, Tobias and Lindsay go to couples' counseling (with a doctor played by Bob Odenkirk) in which this is one of the tools used. Tobias, who thinks he's an actor, does a terrible job at playing Lindsay ("I'm a woman, with womanly needs!"). Eventually, the psychologist starts playing Tobias, and it gets... awkward. Quickly.
- In Community, when Jeff is facing the prospect of meeting his Disappeared Dad, Britta suggests that to prepare him they role-play, with Britta taking on the role of Jeff's Dad. Jeff then proceeds to take on the role of Britta's Dad. Things break down not long after, with Britta pretending to be Jeff's dad tries to seduce Jeff pretending to be Britta's dad, and Jeff reveals he is actually an under cover agent and that they are in Iran and Jeff's dad is now under arrest for homosexuality.
- At least three other Community examples: Abed and Troy swap multiple times during a role-playing pep-talk, Britta role-playing "Star-Burns" to help the group "deal with his death", and an entire episode is built off of a variant of this trope, with Abed and Annie in the Dreamatorium.
- 30 Rock has one of the NBC psychologists having Tracy doing a role-playing exercise to deal with his daddy issues. The psychologist has Tracy talk to the chair like it's his dad. Tracy has trouble imagining that the chair is his dad, so Jack pretends to be Tracy's dad. It goes downhill fast.
Tracy: Now be me!Jack (as Tracy): I only act out because I want your love! Dy-no-mite!Therapist: Okay, now we're just doing Good Times.Jack (as Tracy's mom): He gambled away my welfare checksJack (as the upstairs neighbor): Oye, callate! People are sleeping!Jack (as Tracy's dad): Mind your own business, Mrs. Rodriguez!Tracy: Now be the white guy my mom left my dad for!Jack (as the white guy Tracy's mom has left Tracy's dad for): Now Tracy, it is impolite to slurp one's soup.Tracy: No need to resort to racist stereotypes....Jack: You know, it's a shame your dad never knew Howard Cosell, because I had that [impression] in my pocket the whole time.
- On Buffy, Spike makes several attempts to practice an apology speech (complete with a box of chocolates as a peace offering) using a mannequin wearing a blonde wig and one of Buffy's sweaters. At least one attempt ends with him losing an argument to the mannequin and then bashing it over the head with the box of chocolates before carefully picking it up, dusting it off, and starting over.
- The first season had Xander (seeming) to ask Buffy out, only to spin off into a Digging Yourself Deeper speech. It's only then that it is revealed that he is practicing with a (deeply smitten) Willow. While bluntly admitting that his last attempt was pretty bad, she offers to let him practice on her some more.
- On Angel, Wesley and Cordelia explain Buffy and Angel's relationship to Fred in this manner. Probably the standout line is:
Wesley-as-Angel: Oh Buffy! I love you so much I almost forgot to brood!
- Doubly-funny due to Wesley and Cordelia being the subject of a fair amount of Ship Tease when they were on Buffy's show.
- On Boy Meets World, Topanga suddenly breaks up with Cory after he tells her he loves her, and Shawn gets Cory to re-enact the moment he said those words to figure out what got Topanga upset. Thinking they're alone, he gets Cory to pretend he's Topanga and hold his hand and say "I love you", only to realize there are a bunch of students looking at them through the doorway.
- An episode of Frasier sees him saddled with an outgoing new producer who undermines his psychiatric advice with folksy home wisdom, driving him up the wall. But of course he can't just tell her this; she happens to be black and he's scared he'll be Mistaken for Racist. Niles offers to roleplay the conversation with him, and Frasier's impression of a Sassy Black Woman (plus a good measure of Uncle Tomfoolery) is utterly Cringe-inducing (not to mention more racist than anything he'd have been likely to say to her face).
- Mindy stages one of these in an episode of Drake & Josh to help Drake practice breaking up with his girlfriend:
Mindy: Josh, you be Tori — Drake, you be you.Josh: (sincerely disappointed) Oh, I wanted to be Drake!
- In one episode of Orphan Black, Allison gets involved in a counselling session with her husband Donnie that requires the two of them to role play as one another to better understand each other. But of course, it isn't actually Allison but Sarah pretending to be her who didn't realize she'd be required to do this. The confusion factor of having to pretend to be Allison pretending to be Donnie (whom she has never met) is bad enough she can't manage to get a single believable line out. (Of course, since nobody knows about the clones it just looks as though Allison is behaving very oddly.)
- The It Crowd: In "From Hell", Roy attempts to teach Moss how to deal with a group of bullies through role play. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.
- El Chavo del ocho: In the episode where Professor Jirafales and Doña Florinda break up, at one point Jirafales attempts to ask Don Ramón to help him practice apologizing. Quico and El Chavo see it from the window and they assume the worst and go tell Doña Florinda about it.
- The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: In "Team Tipton" a coach suggests this to the hotel employees as part of a team building exercise.
- ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.?: The family calls their priest for advice in dealing with conflicts. He suggests they try to exchange roles, with Joe and Carmen as the parents, Pepe and Juana as the children, and the grandparents as spectators. The latter spend the whole exercise interjecting observations:
Juana as Carmen: (jumping up and down on the couch) I can't stand it anymore! Can't stand it, can't stand it, can't stand it!
Antonio: Carmencita, ¡qué sangrona estás! (Carmen, you are such a nuisance!)
- The Thin Blue Line: This happens several times.
- In "Honey Trap", Grim thinks that Habib is not being seductive enough when trying to make Terry the Tank confess, so he demonstrates, saying everyone will have to imagine the skirt, and speaks in a silly voice. Disgusted, Raymond says "Are we trying to make him confess, or throw up?"
- In "Court in the Act", Raymond role plays a defence barrister, complete with a mop on his head for a wig, and yells ruthlessly at Goody, who weeps because Raymond is being so mean. Habib in Gladstone join in as the prosecution barrister and the judge: Habib with a tea cosy on her head, and Gladstone with packing material on his head. When Raymond tries to tell him what to do, Gladstone replies "Who is the judge here?".
- In "Ism ism ism", Raymond pretends to be an alien from outer space, telling his team to imagine the alien features. He makes alien noises, interspersed with English.
- Cabin Pressure
- In the episode "Ipswich", Dr. Duncan has Douglas roleplay as a nervous first officer trying to bring up a potential problem with an intimidating captain. As Douglas is a very confident first officer and Martin is not remotely an intimidating captain, snark ensues.
- In "Kuala Lumpur", Carolyn roleplays as various passengers (with funny accents) to raise Arthur's stewarding skills from Very Bad to merely Bad. Arthur gets more and more confused and worked up, culminating in him delegating some tasks to the passengers, and shouting for everyone to SHUT UP! Carolyn says that wasn't even slightly the correct procedure ... but it's probably what she'd have done, so he's passed.
- In an episode of Wolf 359, Eiffel tries impersonating Commander Minkowski to try to figure out a way out of a dangerous situation. Thanks to his unhinged tendencies and over-dramatic nature, it's a matter of seconds before he's manning both sides of an argument between himself-as-Minkowski and himself-as-himself and any sense of urgency or danger has been promptly forgotten.
- In As You Like It, Rosalind (disguised as Ganymede) helps her love interest Orlando practice talking to the woman he's in love with— who is, of course, Rosalind.
- In Shakespeare's Henry IV, young tearaway Prince Hal and Falstaff take turns playing the role of Hal's father, the titular king, asking him to account for his dissolute ways. It begins comically, but takes a bitter turn...
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead:
- Guildenstern pretends to be Hamlet so Rosencrantz can practice asking him questions to gather information about his "affliction." That is, once Rosencrantz gets the idea of Comic Role Play straight.
- On the boat, each of them gets a turn to play the King of England while the other pretends to arrive at the court, explain who he is, and hand over the letter meant to be delivered to the king. In both cases, the one pretending to be the King opens the letter while in character, reading aloud the death warrant enclosed.
- In the Team Fortress 2 short "Expiration Date", RED Scout asks RED Spy to teach him how to seduce women, because he's only good with Dumb Blondes. Spy puts him through a Training Montage that starts with Spy insisting that Scout practice seduction on him.
- En route to Undertale's Golden Ending, the player will find themselves on a date with Alphys. She admits that she likes Undyne, but can't work up the nerve to tell her. The player suggests that they roleplay as practice, and then chooses between serious or goofy role-playing lines. Of course, it spirals out of control regardless of the player's choices.
- In Season Two of Batman: The Telltale Series, Bruce will give dating advice to John Doe, and one option employs this trope.
Bruce: "Hi, John, I like hiking. Do you like the outd-
John Doe: (Grabbing Bruce by the lapels) Why won't you love me?!
- In a Ctrl+Alt+Del strip, Ethan freaks Lucas out by wearing fake breasts when playing his girlfriend.
- One arc of Girls with Slingshots sees most of the cast dressing up as each other for Halloween. The intention was good but after they start roleplaying they end up offending each other due to the tacky costumes and Character Derailment. The only two who come out of it well are the two guys who just say a couple of nice things about each other.
- Family Guy did this with Peter/Lois and Brian/Stewie.
Lois (in the role of Peter): "Don't listen to your mother kids. She's worthless and dumb and ignore her and only listen to me, Peter."Peter (in the role of Lois): " I'm Lois. I brake for yard sales but I don't let Peter buy anything he likes, like that Narraganset beer sign where the hot chick has 2 mugs for jugs. It was 8 freaking dollars and we have a dozen places to put it!''Stewie (in the role of Brain): "I'm the dog. I'm well read and have a diverse stock portfolio but I'm not above eating grass clippings and regurgitating them under the small braided rug near the door.''Brian (in the role of Stewie): "I'm a pompous little Antichrist who will probably discard all my plans for world domination when I grow up and fall in love with a rough trick named Jim."
- Happens in Drawn Together when Xandir's roommates role play as his family to help him confront them about his homosexuality. However, his friends decide to go for the worst-case scenario approach and by the end of it, over half the group is dead. Xandir thanks his friends' corpses and merrily goes off to speak to his family.
- When things first start getting violent, Clara is quick to ask "Why are we still doing this when Xandir isn't here?"
- Life with Louie does this, when Andy thinks about asking his boss for a pay rise. Ora convinces him to try with Louie:
Andy: M-mister A-Applegate...Louie: Yes?Andy: I...I-I, yyy...Louie: C'mon Andersen! I don't have whole day!Andy: I-I...w-ould like....to ask...for....a...rise.Louie: No.Andy: No?! Just no?! That's all?! That's it! Go to your room!Louie: You're fired.Ora: Andy, calm down.Andy: Calm down? He just fired me!
- Right after that, Ora and Louie do it again, to show Andy how he should act.
- Rugrats: In the subplot to the first episode, "Tommy's First Birthday", adult brothers Stu and Dru Pickles attempt to stage a puppet show version of "Little Red Riding Hood". While the babies go on the episode's adventure, we keep flashing back to the puppet show's degeneration into petty bickering and emotional baggage. After it ends, a third adult comments "Well, it was definitely a spirited performance."
- The Replacements has Gordo trying to teach Dick how to treat women so he asks Dick to pretend that he is K.
Gordo: Dick, I want you to do the laundry, clean the house, and take the kids to school.Dick StaresGordo: DICK?Dick: Oh Sorry K, I was staring at your moustache, it would tickle me?
- Daria had the Morgendorffer family go through the psychological version, switching roles in a family therapy session. It starts out funny, but Helen ends up genuinely getting her feelings hurt.
- The Flintstones special "Flintstones on the Rocks" begins with Fred and Wilma in couple's therapy. When they try role play, it quickly devolves into Volleying Insults, and finally an all-out fight.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Snowball Effect", Squidward tries to incite a snowball fight between SpongeBob and Patrick.
Squidward: Now, Patrick, pretend I'm SpongeBob.Patrick: And who am I?Squidward: You're Patrick.SpongeBob: Can I be Mr. Krabs?Squidward: No! Wait, why?SpongeBob: He's a good leader.Squidward: Would you butt out?!Patrick: Hey, you can't talk to Mr. Krabs like that, Squidward!Squidward: I'm SpongeBob, you're Patrick...(throws a snowball at Patrick) Now, what are you going to do?Patrick: (throws the snowball back at Squidward)Squidward: Patrick, why didn't you hit SpongeBob?Patrick: You said you were SpongeBob, SpongeBob.SpongeBob: (as Mr. Krabs) Arrgh, it's true, Mr. Squidward. Now, get back to work! (laughs)
- Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero: At Principal Larry's sensitivity training, the main trio is required to do this. It ends with Boone doing a shockingly accurate version of Sashi, complete with a pitch perfect imitation of her voice. It's actually effective in convincing Sashi she needs to manage her anger better.