Where did the punchline drum roll come from?
February 10, 2005 2:16 PM   Subscribe

What's the origin of the drum roll, "ba-dum-bum-CHING", used by old-school comedians after a joke's punchline?

And is it "tom-tom-kick-crash", or just "tom-kick-crash"? I've heard it both ways.
posted by deshead to Society & Culture (13 answers total)
I don't know the origin, but it's called a rimshot.
posted by milkrate at 2:20 PM on February 10, 2005

The "ching" part is a rimshot.
posted by kenko at 2:27 PM on February 10, 2005

Best answer: It's a verbalisation of the old vaudeville / musichall tradition of the percussionist making a drumroll+rimshot after the comic cracks a joke (and therefore a cue, for us in the audience, to laugh).

Still used today by Letterman & Paulie...
posted by dash_slot- at 2:30 PM on February 10, 2005

I've always heard it as "Ba Da Bing". Maybe I'm thinking of some mafia related thing.
posted by quadog at 2:32 PM on February 10, 2005

Related AskMe
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:32 PM on February 10, 2005

What dash_slot said. Think of it as doing the same job as a laugh track, back in an era when recorded laugh tracks weren't possible.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:33 PM on February 10, 2005

I'd hazard a guess that its origins are in vaudeville -- having a drummer add a rimshot would seem to add a little extra oomph to make the joke go over better. Whereas in the modern era, I think it's usually meant with irony or sarcasm, or just a very self-aware "THERE'S THE PUNCHLINE!" kind of thing. Of course, I could be wrong.

On preview, dash_slot said it faster.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:34 PM on February 10, 2005

I've always heard it as "Ba Da Bing". Maybe I'm thinking of some mafia related thing.

Club Bada Bing? Bada Bing Bada Boom?
posted by fixedgear at 2:35 PM on February 10, 2005

Response by poster: Ah, thanks dash_slot .. According to this page (and Zed_Lopez's AskMe link), it's called a "sting."

Hmmm, but that doesn't help Google settle the issue of how many beats there should be. Just a drummer's preference, maybe?
posted by deshead at 2:38 PM on February 10, 2005

To expand on what milkrate is saying... the true definition of a rimshot, from a drummer's point-of-view anyway, is when the tip of the stick strikes the head of the drum (usually the snare drum) and the barrel or shoulder of the stick strikes the rim at the same time. It's usually quite loud and it obviously used for emphasis on that particular beat. The are other slight variations of this, but that's the commonly understood rimshot. FYI... that's all.
posted by Witty at 2:58 PM on February 10, 2005

The "ching" is not necessarily a rimshot -- in fact, I think it's more often a crash cymbal. A rimshot is a very loud, jarring "crack!" noise, and not something you really want to subject an audience to over and over again.

My impression of the convention is that, in the old school, if the joke went over well (i.e., the audience was laughing), you got "ba dum bump crash". If the joke flopped, you got a rimshot at the end -- "ba dum bump thok!" -- and the audience would at least laugh at that.

I think it's four beats, deshead, tom-tom-kick-[crash/rimshot], although I've heard it abbreviated to three and even down to practically two, with the tom and the kick happening in very close succession.

Also, I don't think "ba da bing" has anything to do with any of this.
posted by jjg at 9:12 PM on February 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

Is Anton Fig a MeFier? His expertise would be a godsend in this thread. He (with Dave's encouragement) has turned the rimshot into an art form.
posted by fletchmuy at 6:30 AM on February 11, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the idea, fletchmuy. I asked Anton on his message board, and he responded: I always thought the basic figure was a three beat figure - 2 sixteenths and a quarter note [the quarter note being the downbeat]. The 2 sixteenths are on the snare, the quarter note is bass drum and crash. Not technically official, but probably as close as I'll get.
posted by deshead at 1:42 PM on February 15, 2005

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