Created By: maxwellsilver on May 21, 2013 Last Edited By: maxwellsilver on June 29, 2013
Troped

Orphaned Setup

A setup with no punchline.

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When characters tell jokes, the whole joke is rarely told. We hear either the punchline or setup.

Most commonly a limerick ("There once was a man from Nantucket"), a knock-knock joke, uses Noodle Implements, or crosses two elements.

The inverse of Orphaned Punchline. Often a form of Getting Crap Past the Radar.

Compare and contrast Brick Joke. Often overlaps with Riddle for the Ages.

Examples:

Film
  • In The Breakfast Club, Bender tells a long complicated joke to himself while crawling through an air duct, but then falls through the ceiling before he can finish. - No real-life punchline, Judd Nelson ad-libbed the setup.

Literature
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: The famous "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" is never given an answer.
  • In Reaper Man, Ridcully, making a speech at Windle Poons's "going away party", starts out "You know, seeing old Windle sitting here tonight puts me in mind, as luck would have it, of the story of the cow with three wooden legs. It appears there was this cow, and --" at which point the Bursar stops listening because he's heard it before and the Archchancellor always gets the punchline wrong anyway.

Live-Action Television
  • In NewsRadio, Bill runs a knock-knock joke by Dave.
    Bill: Knock-knock!
    Dave: Who's there?
    Bill: Bill.
    Dave: Bill who?
    Bill: That's all I've got so far.
  • On Alice1976, Mel's mother comes to visit and on multiple occasions tries to tell Alice's young son the Nantucket limerick but gets cut off by Alice after the first line.
  • In "The Naked Now" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data is cut off before he can finish a limerick about a woman from Venus.
  • On QI mention was made of an ancient Greek joke that was orphaned in this fashion, involving a eunuch and an Abderite, the Acceptable Target of the day:
    Abderite: How many children do you have?
    Eunuch: None, I'm a eunuch!
    • For a punchline, Clive Anderson suggested: "How many grandchildren, then?"
  • Annie on Community took a class on joke-telling at Greendale but never learned anything past set-ups. The professor was so old...
  • A sketch in A Bit of Fry and Laurie has Stephen Fry try to tell a joke to his girlfriend, but keeps getting interrupted before he can tell the punchline.
  • In Mash:
    Col. Blake: There was a young lady from Kent, who took off her...
    Hawkeye: Steady, Henry.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, to explain away Alyson Hannigan's maternity leave, the show has Barney tell Lily a "hilarious boy joke", i.e. a dirty joke, that causes her to shun Barney for several weeks. The setup is "What's the difference between peanut butter and jam." While it's a real joke, and dirty, it's not as funny as they make it out to be.

Newspaper Comics

Web Original
  • One of the videos on TBS' Department of Humour Analysis is about a man who wrote some of the funniest jokes ever. To safeguard them, he wrote the setups in one book, the punchlines in another. Tragically, when he disappeared in Mexico, the book containing punchlines was never found. The setups were discovered in a motel, and contains setups such as
    What do you get when you cross a giraffe and a dead Socialist?
    • And
    What has three legs, a tail and drinks martinis from a mug?
    • Sadly, we may never know.

Western Animation
  • Spongebob Squarepants uses this to get crap past the radar to begin his famous opera opener, "There once was a man from Nantucket..." Cue the crowd gasping before he can say a bad word.
  • The Simpsons, while filming Selma and Sideshow Bob's wedding, Marge asks Krusty to tell a joke, and he begins, "A man walks into a bar with a small piano, and a twelve inch pianist— whooaaa hooaaa— I can't tell that one!" (This is a well-known joke involving a genie with poor hearing and a pun on the word pianist.)
    • In another Simpsons example, after a newly-sober and very competent Barney proves his newfound fitness by doing several athletic feats while reciting a few lines from the Major General Song, Homer tries to prove his worth as well by doing a cartwheel and beginning "There once was a man from Nantucket" but he falls over and hits his head before he can finish.
    • In another episode, Bart starts telling Lisa about something he told Maybelle when he's interrupted by Homer.
  • Rugrats has an episode where Grandpa tries to explain an event that had happened to him 15 years prior, during a bowling competition. He gets interrupted so many times that, at the end of the episode, when they're finally willing to hear his story, he no longer has the motivation to do so.
  • On the Looney Tunes short "A Pest In The House", Daffy Duck bursts in on a sleeping hotel guest to tell him a joke he just heard, which takes too long because he's laughing so hard. During the set-up, the guest goes down to the lobby to punch manager Elmer Fudd on the face (a Running Gag throughout the cartoon) and comes back just as Daffy is getting to the punch line... which he had forgotten.
  • In Finding Nemo, Marlin, because he's a clownfish, is often being asked to tell a joke. He tries, but he keeps getting the set-up wrong and has to backtrack, never getting to the punchline. In the end he finally gets the joke right, but that time we only hear the punchline ("With friends like these, who needs anemones?")


Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • May 21, 2013
    hawaiianflower
    Western Animation Cue the crowd gasping before he can say a bad word
  • May 21, 2013
    WackyMeetsPractical

    This could overlap with Riddle For The Ages.
  • May 22, 2013
    TonyG
    • In News Radio, Bill runs a knock-knock joke by Dave.
      Bill: Knock-knock!
      Dave: Who's there?
      Bill: Bill.
      Dave: Bill who?
      Bill: That's all I've got so far.
  • May 22, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Compare and contrast Brick Joke.
  • May 22, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    Added.
  • May 22, 2013
    randomsurfer
    On Alice1976 Mel's mother comes to visit and on multiple occasions tries to tell Alice's young son the Nantucket limerick but gets cut off by Alice after the first line.
  • May 23, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Actually, I wonder if this is Brick Joke, as the original brick joke is literally a setup without a punchline. (Whose punchline is properly known as the 'airplane joke'.)
  • May 23, 2013
    Duncan
    While the first half of the original brick joke IS an example of this (as the punchline shows up in another joke), this is not Brick Joke.

    • In "The Naked Now" episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, Data is cut off before he can finish a limerick about a woman from Venus.
      • And in the episode "The Outrageous Okona", he begins the joke "A monk, a clone, and a Ferengi decide to go bowling together..."
  • May 23, 2013
    Duncan
    • In The Breakfast Club, Bender tells a long complicated joke to himself while crawling through an air duct, but then falls through the ceiling before he can finish. - No real-life punchline, Judd Nelson ad-libbed the setup.
  • May 24, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    So, as it is, does it need improvement, or is it good as is?
  • May 24, 2013
    Duncan
    I think it's fine, though "limerick" is spelled wrong.
  • May 24, 2013
    Generality
    • On QI mention was made of an ancient Greek joke that was orphaned in this fashion, involving a eunuch and an Abderite, the Acceptable Target of the day:
    Abderite: How many children do you have?
    Eunuch: None, I'm a eunuch!
    For a punchline, Clive Anderson suggested: "How many grandchildren, then?"
  • May 24, 2013
    DaibhidC
    • In Reaper Man, Ridcully, making a speech at Windle Poons's "going away party", starts out "You know, seeing old Windle sitting here tonight puts me in mind, as luck would have it, of the story of the cow with three wooden legs. It appears there was this cow, and --" at which point the Bursar stops listening because he's heard it before and the Archchancellor always gets the punchline wrong anyway.
  • May 26, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    Added.
  • May 27, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    Corrected the spelling of limerick.
  • May 29, 2013
    thewriter
    • Annie on Community took a class on joke-telling at Greendale but never learned anything past set-ups. The professor was so old...
  • May 30, 2013
    frosty
    One sketch from A Bit Of Fry And Laurie has Stephen Fry try to tell a joke to his girlfriend, but the waiter at the restaurant keeps interrupting him just as he reaches the punchline.
  • June 2, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    Added.
  • June 6, 2013
    MyFinalEdits
    Rugrats has an episode where Grandpa tries to explain an event that had happened to him 15 years prior, during a bowling competition. He gets interrupted so many times that, at the end of the episode, when they finally will to hear his story, he no longer has the motivation to do so.
  • June 12, 2013
    ClockStopping
    • In another Simpsons example, after a newly-sober and very competent Barney proves his newfound fitness by doing several athletic feats while reciting a few lines from the Major General Song, Homer tries to prove his worth as well by doing a cartwheel and beginning "There once was a man from Nantucket" but he falls over and hits his head before he can finish.
  • June 12, 2013
    TonyG
    • On the Looney Tunes short "A Pest In The House", Daffy Duck bursts in on a sleeping hotel guest to tell him a joke he just heard, which takes too long because he's laughing so hard. During the set-up, the guest goes down to the lobby to punch manager Elmer Fudd on the face (a Running Gag throughout the cartoon) and comes back just as Daffy is getting to the punch line... which he had forgotten.
    • In Finding Nemo, Marlin, because he's a clownfish, is often being asked to tell a joke. He tries, but he keeps getting the set-up wrong and has to backtrack, never getting to the punchline. In the end he finally gets the joke right, but that time we only hear the punchline ("With friends like these, who needs anemones?")
  • June 27, 2013
    StarSword
    Newspaper Comics:
  • June 29, 2013
    maxwellsilver
    I think it's ready to launch. Does anyone have anything more to add before I launch it?
  • June 29, 2013
    maxwellsilver
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