Call Centre Confusion

play by Annaleise Byrd , illustrated by Tohby Riddle

Learning Intention: 

I am learning to recognise comedy devices so that I can incorporate different techniques for humour in my writing. 

Success Criteria: 

  • I can recognise the way a particular comedy device is applied to a range of scenarios in different stories. 
  • I can come up with my own story ideas using this technique. 
  • I can apply this technique in my own short story. 

Essential Knowledge: 

Information about identifying the genre of a text can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Genre. 

Assign roles to students and act out the play. Ask students what they believe the genre of the play is (comedy) and why. Their answer should centre around the absurdity that comes with the call centre operators accidentally taking the wrong calls and mistaking the other company’s customer for their own, leading to them giving very wrong advice. 

Explain that the use of ‘mistaken identity’ is a popular comedy device that has been used in comedic writing for centuries, and was commonly used by William Shakespeare. In modern times, it has often been central to the plots of plays, movies and even sitcom episodes, with the mistaken identity sometimes being accidental, and sometimes being an intentional trick by the characters. Some video examples that can be used to demonstrate this to students include: 


The Parent Trap (trailer – 2:25) - adapted from the German book Lisa and Lottie and a remake of a 1961 movie, this film tells the story of identical twin girls who were separated when their parents broke up and each took full custody of one of the girls. The sisters don’t remember each other but reunite at summer camp and take on each other’s identity so they can trick their parents with the intention of getting them back together.  


Galaxy Quest (trailer – 2:04) – An old sci-fi show is mistaken by a group of aliens to be real, leading them to taking the show’s captain into space to help fight their alien enemy. When the mission is unsuccessful, the rest of the show’s cast are brought on board to help but they don’t realise the aliens are real and think they are simply taking on an acting job.  


School of Rock (trailer – 2:34) - Dewey Finn is a guitarist who is fired from his band and needs a job. When he answers a phone call intended for his roommate, who is a school teacher, he pretends to be him and takes a position teaching at a local school.  


Video Wanted - Mr Bean (full episode – 11:20. Video can be stopped at 4:15 if time constraints are an issue) – Mr Bean is arrested and sent to prison after being mistaken for a wanted criminal who looks just like him. 

Discuss the different scenarios and uses of the ‘mistaken identity’ device in the examples given as well as any others that students know of. 

Instruct students to write their own short story based on the concept of mistaken identity. Remind students to first create a plan using a table or mind map to help them establish:  

  • Characters 
  • Setting 
  • Complication 
  • Resolution 

Students should have the text on hand to refer back to should they wish to revise how a mistaken identity scenario can unfold.