A Running Gag
is where a particular joke is used several times throughout a work, usually implying that it becomes funnier with each time used. A specific variant of this, the Snowballing Gag
, makes the joke get more and more extreme each time it's used, so that the humor value increases even further.
For example, let's say our Running Gag
is that animals do not like Bob
. To make this a Snowballing Gag
, the first time we show this, he might try to pet a cat, and he will get clawed. The second time, on a walk through the woods, he's mobbed by a bunch of squirrels out of nowhere. The third time, he's at a zoo, and all the animals bust out of their enclosures solely to attack poor Bob.
This trope tends to overlap with Overly Long Gag
Seen It A Million Times
Please limit this to Running Gags
where it escalates noticeably
. Otherwise, it's just a Running Gag
. Subtrope of Serial Escalation
- Tex Avery cartoon Bad Luck Blackie: every time the cat crosses the dog's path, the object falling on the dog's head is bigger and more improbable. Starting with a flowerpot, it procedes to a piano, a safe, a fire hydrant (with water in it!), a lit Cartoon Bomb, a brick wall, and so on. Even when it gets to the proverbial kitchen sink, it goes on to a bus, a plane, and finally, a battleship.
- On the Just Shoot Me episode "The Walk", Nina brags about a Chinese tailor she knows. "He can (impossible tailoring feat), even though he has (ridiculous disability)." With each telling, the tailor's abilities and handicaps escalate in ridiculousness, until at the end Maya jokes that he's "just a head in a jar."
- Airplane: "I chose the wrong week to give up..." (smoking, drinking, sniffing glue).
- Skies of Arcadia: Legends: Vyse's swashbuckler rating rises along with his exploits as you progress through the game. This also effects how the people he meets react to him. Vyse starts small, but his reputation begins to precede him, becoming increasingly exaggerated with each telling, leading to this:
Enrique: (thinking) "At last, I'll meet the infamous sky pirate, Vyse. If the stories are true, he'll look like a demon and breathe fire!"
- Arrested Development: Gob's "$3000 suit" which increases in value every time he mentions it as the episode progresses until his self confidence takes a blow and the price drops again.
- A Very Potter Musical has several:
- Hermione losing House points (for reasons that get more and more blatantly unfair each time), followed by a sarcastic "Thanks, Hermione" from Ron and Harry.
- Gryffindor losing points - again, each time is increasingly ridiculous.
- Family Guy: Each of Peter's fights with Ernie the Giant Chicken is longer, bigger, and more epic than the last.
- In Sir Ron Lionheart's Lets Play of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sir Ron extends his epithet for the title hero with each video. ("Sonic the Hedgehog the Porcupine the Guinea Pig the Olympic World Medallist Swimmer", etc.)