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Running Gag

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"That's not a running gag! That's a pun!" "It's a running gag now."

Kermit the Frog: No, Fozzie! Do not answer that telephone!
Fozzie Bear: But, Kermit, all these terrific, funny things happen when I do answer it!
Kermit: I'm aware of that! I'm aware of that, Fozzie! Is there no end to this running gag?!
[Animal runs in and rips the phone off the wall before carrying it away]
Fozzie: Well, I guess that puts an end to this running gag.
Kermit: Yeah, and also to all the incoming calls.

A joke whose humor derives from repetition, ideally becoming funnier each time it is repeated. Must be repeated at least three times, otherwise it's a Brick Joke or Chekhov's Gag. But repeat it too many times and it can become an Overly-Long Gag. A variant is a joke that occurs Once an Episode; doing that too often threatens to turn it into an Overused Running Gag.

The ultimate fear for the use of any running gag is that it becomes an Overly-Long Gag, or worse, it was never funny in the first place and didn't improve through repetition. Nothing is worse than starting a one hour show with a joke that bombs that you're going to use twenty times over the next hour.

A Running Gag can be limited to a particular episode or recur throughout an entire series. If it recurs throughout an entire series, then it will often develop variations and/or be accompanied by Lampshade Hanging. If a character breaks the fourth wall to mention it, it's Didn't We Use This Joke Already?. When the story goes on to kill off the gag for good (either with a final payoff or just by referencing that it's become too overused and it's ending right then), that is Running Gagged.


A comedy Catchphrase is a type of Running Gag. Can become potential for Memetic Mutation if the gag itself is widely applicable. Compare Arc Words, which are a recurring phrase that isn't a gag. See subtropes Once per Episode and Every Episode Ending.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes has a few.
    • Often, people will throw up at the sight of Big M.'s ugly face.
    • Whenever Professor Limen gets angry or pumped-up, he spontaneously grows more muscular, causing his shirt to rip off.
    • In episode 48, Big M. keeps finding Careless S.'s microbombs, when then proceed to explode on him. When the heroes fight the communication machine monster, Big M. gives Careless S. one of the microbombs to use on it.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • Mézga család:
    • First series:
      • Every time MZ/X sends something from the future, it breaks the window of Aladár's room.
      • Paula lamenting that she married Géza instead of Pisti Huffnágel.
    • Second series:
      • Paula and Géza wondering what is wrong with Aladár, then deciding there can be no reason as he is in his room like a grounded kid is supposed to be. But Aladár is actually going out to outer space with his inflatable spaceship.

  • The Minutes, which is set during a small town council meeting:
    • The pronunciation of council member Mr. Assalone's name as "ASS-alone" by clerk Ms. Johnson every time she reads roll-call and records council votes, and his increasingly frustrated attempts to correct her:
      Mr. Assalone: It's asa-LONE-ay!
    • Ms. Johnson accidentally reading the missing Mr. Carp's name aloud during roll-call and council votes, followed by a very awkward silence while her fellow council members glare at her or look away.
    • Mr. Blake's repeated insistence that the town fair should offer an attraction where visitors can pay to participate in a cage match with a wrestler dressed like Abraham Lincoln. He interrupts other proposals to plug the Lincoln Smackdown and offers to vote with councilors on outside issues if they support his proposal.
  • Oslo is a rather serious drama about the 1993 peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, but it's also brimming with repeated comedic beats:
    • The jokes about everyone in Norway's Diplomatic Service and Foreign Ministry knowing/ working for/ having dated/ being married to everyone else in their field. "It's a small country."
      Mona: To clarify: Johan Jørgen is married to Marianne, who works for Terje, who is married to me, who, as of tomorrow, works for Johan Jørgen.
    • The repeated misuse of common English phrases (by Norwegian, Palestinian, and Israeli characters who all speak English as a second language), followed by a deadpan "I don't think that's how you use that."
    • American diplomats mispronouncing Terje's name as tur-JEY.

    Multiple Media 

Waldorf: Why do you suppose they call it a "running gag", anyhow?
Statler: Because it either makes me start running or gag!
Both: Do-ho-ho-ho-hoh!

Alternative Title(s): Running Joke, Running Gags, Recurring Joke Joke


You sayin' it's my fault?!

"So what if I am!"
Cue Ribby and Croaks fighting each other for each time Croaks thinks that Ribby is blaming him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (22 votes)

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Main / RunningGag

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