A spit-take is a comic technique in which someone spits a beverage out of his or her mouth when he or she reacts to a statement. In this context, the word "take" is used in the sense of taking in information. It is similar in construction to the phrase "double-take."
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Two characters sit at a table. Character #1 has a cup of coffee in hand.
Character 1: Did they ever find that missing toxic sludge?
Character 2: Yes.
(Character 1 sips coffee.)
Character 2: Someone poured it into the coffee urn.
(Character 1 spits the coffee all over the table.)
In a spit-take, the reaction is usually one of surprise. The "spit" action is overly dramatized; performers will add lots of noise and spray liquid from their mouth in an exaggerated fashion.
The surprise need not be related to the substance being consumed; it is a vehicle to convey shock or surprise humorously with an exaggerated visual.
Example: Three characters sit at a table. Character #3, wearing a yellow sweater, has a cup of juice in hand.
Character 1: Hey, did you hear that laundry detergent can cause fatal psoriasis?
(Character 3 sips from cup.)
Character 2: Yeah, but only for people who wear yellow sweaters.
(Character 3 spits the drink all over the table.)
- Danny Thomas sometimes is credited with popularizing its use in comedy.
- Albert Brooks' short film, The Famous Comedians School, features a workshop on spit takes.
- Jon Stewart mentioned the spit-take on The Daily Show, Dec. 14, 2011, in the segment "Lowe's Balls of the Week." He also sometimes performs obviously-staged spit-takes as a running gag.
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