Created By: BlueIceTea on October 8, 2013 Last Edited By: BlueIceTea on October 26, 2013
Troped

Running Gag Stumbles

A running gag is subverted.

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Trope
"Who's there?"
"Banana."
"Banana who?"
"Knock-knock."
"Who's there?"
"Banana."
"Banana who?"
"Knock-knock."
"Who's there?"
"Banana."
"Banana who?"
"Knock-knock."
"Who's there?"
"Orange."
"Orange who?"

Sometimes, when writers feel a Running Gag has gone on long enough, they decide to mix things up by subverting it. We see the gag coming, we expect it to play out the same way it has every other time, but this time, there's a twist. The outcome is different from what we've been led to expect, and (if it's played right) we laugh in surprise.

The difference between this and Running Gagged is that Running Gagged is about putting an end to a Running Gag. It is not concerned with how the gag is ended, so long as it stops. This trope is about subverting a Running Gag. Such a subversion may lead to the end of the gag, or the gag may continue to be played straight afterwards. What matters is that the audience is expecting the gag, and is surprised when it turns out differently.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Film
  • In The Philadelphia Story, Margaret Lord keeps forgetting who Mike is. First she forgets his name, then she calls him "Mr. O'Connor" (instead of Mr. Connor), and then she mistakes him for one of the musicians. At the end of the movie, she turns to him and cries, "Dr. Parsons!" Mike, thinking she means him, is about to explain that she is mistaken. Then he realises that Dr. Parsons is actually standing right behind him, and that it's to him that Mrs. Lord is speaking.
  • In Charade, every time Cary Grant's character takes on a new name, Reggie asks him, "Is there a Mrs. So-and-So?", to which he invariably replies, "Yes, but we're divorced." At the very end of the movie, she asks him again, and he says, "Yes." "But we're divorced," she supplies, but he says, "No." She looks crestfallen for a moment, before he pulls out his wallet and shows her a picture of his mother.
  • In Double Indemnity, Keys is forever wanting a light for his cigar, and it always falls to Walter to strike a match for him. At the end of the movie, gesture is reciprocated, with Keys lighting the cigarette of the mortally wounded Walter.

Live Action Television
  • As The Stinger to every episode of The Vicar of Dibley Geraldine tells Alice a joke, and the latter doesn't get it. In the series finale, Geraldine's new husband tells the joke instead, and Alice gets it.
  • In the final episode of Blackadder I as Edmund is dying, his father (who never gets his name right) finally calls him by the right name, only for it to be resubverted moments later
    Edmund: Father, you called me "Edmund."
    Richard IV: What? Oh, sorry Edgar.

Western Animation
  • There are episodes of South Park where Kenny appears and survives.
  • Pinky and the Brain had Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?, a Once an Episode Running Gag that named its own trope. Brain would ask the question, and Cloudcuckoolander Pinky would give some bizarre non-sequitur reply. ("I think so Brain, but if they called them Sad Meals, kids wouldn't buy them.") On third-season finale "Brain Food", however, they did this:
    Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
    Pinky: Whoof, oh, I'd have to say the odds of that are terribly slim Brain.
    Brain: True.
    Pinky: I mean, really, when have I ever been pondering what you've been pondering?
    Brain: To my knowledge, never.
    Pinky: Exactly. So, what are the chances that this time, I'm pondering what you're pondering?
    Brain: Next to nil.
    Pinky: Well, that's exactly what I'm thinking, too.
    Brain: Therefore, you are pondering what I'm pondering.
    Pinky: Poit, I guess I am!
Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • October 8, 2013
    henke37
    • There are episodes of South Park where Kenny appears and survives.
  • October 8, 2013
    StarSword
    TV:

    • As The Stinger to every episode of The Vicar Of Dibley Geraldine tells Alice a joke, and the latter doesn't get it. In the series finale, Geraldine's new husband tells the joke instead, and Alice gets it.
  • October 8, 2013
    reflaxion
    Anime/Manga:

  • October 8, 2013
    Larkmarn
  • October 8, 2013
    reflaxion
    Also, I love the name.
  • October 8, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Which one? I'm taking suggestions. Running Gag Trip is okay. Maybe Tripping The Running Gag?
  • October 8, 2013
    DAN004
  • October 8, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    How's this different from Running Gagged?
  • October 8, 2013
    reflaxion
    Possibly a subtrope. Most of the Running Gagged examples wouldn't fly here.
  • October 8, 2013
    reflaxion
    Re: name, I vote we keep Running Gag Falls Down.
  • October 8, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Hmm, I didn't know about Running Gagged. It's similar, but I think the description would have to be re-written to include the examples here. That trope seems to be about any act that brings a Running Gag to a definite end. This one is specifically about subverting a gag, whether it brings the gag to an end or not.

    For example, my Philadelphia Story example wouldn't fit Running Gagged because there's still no evidence that Margaret remembers Mike's name. Conversely, the Friends example wouldn't go here, because having Ugly Naked Guy move out of his apartment doesn't really subvert our expectations.

    That said, there does seem to be a lot of cross-over. Thoughts?
  • October 8, 2013
    Chabal2
    Animorphs: As Rachel is about to use her Catch Phrase, Marco quickly interjects that he bets anything she's going to say "Let's do it!". She then says "Let's... go for it!". In another, Marco is the one to say it, just for once.

  • October 8, 2013
    KarjamP
    What about Running Gag Tripped?

    More witty, in my opinion, and more obvious than Runnin Gag Trip, due to the ambiguous use of the word "trip".
  • October 9, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    ^^ That sounds like Catchphrase Interruptus. Which I guess would be a sub-trope.
  • October 9, 2013
    KarjamP
    ^ Only if said catchphrase is itself a running gag.
  • October 9, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Aren't all Catch Phrases?
  • October 9, 2013
    KarjamP
    ^ A catch phrase is something the character tends to say often. It doesn't necessarily have to be Played For Laughs.

    As an example, see the page image.

    Neither The Incredible Hulk's catch phrase nor The Thing's catch phrases aren't gags so much as being a time where they become Bad Ass.

    Doesn't make it a running gag.

    And Atlas from Bioshock's "Would you kindly?" is actually Played For Drama within the story.

    Running gags are recurring jokes (hence it's name), not an element that keeps on recurring.

    And note it says "A comedy Catch Phrase is a type of Running Gag," not "All Catch Phrases are Running Gags."
  • October 9, 2013
    KingZeal
    Possible page quote.

    "Okay, they're dead. Alright? We're not gonna be seeing them again."
    Stewie Griffin, talking to the audience after killing Vern and Johnny (aka "The Piano Guys")

  • October 9, 2013
    allboyband
  • October 9, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    ^^ Okay, I see your point. But the Animorphs example is still a better fit for Catchphrase Interruptus than this trope, isn't it?

    ^ Um, no, 'cause a) that's already the page quote for Running Gagged, and b) how does it illustrate this trope? For that matter, what does the example have to do with this trope???
  • October 9, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Did some formatting.
  • October 9, 2013
    jamespolk
    I'm still not seeing a lot of distinction between this trope and Running Gagged. Can we have some clarification on which is which?

    Anyway...

    Western Animation
    • Pinky And The Brain had Are You Pondering What Im Pondering, a Once An Episode Running Gag that named its own trope. Brain would ask the question, and Cloudcuckoolander Pinky would give some bizarre non-sequitur reply. ("I think so Brain, but if they called them Sad Meals, kids wouldn't buy them.") On third-season finale "Brain Food", however, they did this:
      Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
      Pinky: Whoof, oh, I'd have to say the odds of that are terribly slim Brain.
      Brain: True.
      Pinky: I mean, really, when have I ever been pondering what you've been pondering?
      Brain: To my knowledge, never.
      Pinky: Exactly. So, what are the chances that this time, I'm pondering what you're pondering?
      Brain: Next to nil.
      Pinky: Well, that's exactly what I'm thinking, too.
      Brain: Therefore, you are pondering what I'm pondering.
      Pinky: Poit, I guess I am!
  • October 9, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    I just realised that Running Gag Stumbles is the name I should have proposed from the beginning. I'll add it to the pot now, and we can hold a crowner later.

    ^^ Thanks.

    ^ The difference:
    • Running Gagged is about putting an end to a Running Gag.
      • The Running Gag must stop after the trope is applied.
      • It doesn't matter how the gag is ended. It may be done in a funny, ironic, or boring way.
    • This trope is about subverting a running gag.
      • The Running Gag doesn't necessarily stop after the trope is applied.
      • The gag must be set up in the usual way, and then subverted. It's not good enough for something to happen that renders the gag useless, the audience must be lead to believe that the gag will play out as it always has, and then be surprised with a twist.

    As you can see from the examples I mentioned above, some incidents will clearly fall into one trope or the other. However, there are some incidents that could apply to both tropes, which is where the difficulty arises.

    Your Pinky And The Brain example seems like a clear fit for this trope. It isn't Running Gagged unless Pinky never says the "I think so, Brain, but..." line again.
  • October 9, 2013
    reflaxion
    ^^ Poit!
  • October 9, 2013
    jamespolk
    Pinky and the Brain did indeed return to the Are You Pondering What Im Pondering gag in later episodes, so ok, I guess this fits.

    Narf!
  • October 10, 2013
    KarjamP
    @Blue Ice Tea: It does.

    I never said it doesn't.
  • October 10, 2013
    DAN004
  • October 10, 2013
    reflaxion
    I'll throw down with Running Gag Stumbles if the gag is allowed to continue after the subversion.
  • October 10, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    What We've Done:

    • There seems to be broad agreement that this is a trope and it isn't already covered.
    • We've collected some fairly clear examples.

    What Needs to Be Done:

    • Needs A Better Description: The current description sucks! I've tried re-writing it, but it still sounds like rubbish. I know what I want it to mean, and I can give you lots of examples, but putting a definition into words seems to be beyond me. Can anyone give me a hand here???
    • Needs A Better Name: We still need to choose a name. I'll make a crowner for that.
    • Running Gagged: Although we seem to agree that this is different from Running Gagged, there is overlap between the two tropes. For example, the incident from Charade could qualify as both. What shall we do about this? Shall we say that it's an example of both tropes? Or shall we request that people list it as one or the other? Personally I think this should be the default trope for such incidents. But that's because I think this is a way more interesting trope than Running Gagged.
  • October 10, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Come to think of it, Stumbling Gag is shorter than Running Gag Stumbles...

    Anyway, Crowner!
  • October 10, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Could Meta Twist be considered a Sub Trope?
  • October 10, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^^ Stumbling Gag isn't a good name at all, since the connection to Running Gag isn't obvious anymore. It could as well be a gag about a horribly clumsy person.
  • October 10, 2013
    reflaxion
    ^ I would laugh.
  • October 15, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Well, Running Gag Stumbles seems to be the early favourite. Any input on the other issues I mentioned?
  • October 19, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Is this publishable?
  • October 19, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ 3 more hats plz.
  • October 20, 2013
    KarjamP
    ^ Make that two. :P
  • October 20, 2013
    reflaxion
    Hat.

    NARF
  • October 21, 2013
    DAN004
    Narf?
  • October 21, 2013
    TheTwelfthDoctor
    ^ "Narf" is one of the main vocal tics Pinky (from Pinky and the Brain) intersperses throughout his speech.

    Back on topic, I do think the description needs rewriting some. I might work on it if I have time later. Otherwise this trope's good to go. I'm personally nott a fan of the same — it seems kinda clunky — but since everyone else likes it I'll just let it lie.
  • October 21, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    I've found another example that I think counts, even though it's not funny. It's from Double Indemnity:

    • Running Gag: Keyes ends all his conversations by pulling out a cigar and patting all his pockets for a light. He never has one at hand, so Neff has to come to his rescue with a quickly-lit match. In the last scene, their roles are reversed: Neff, dying from his bullet wound, is too weak to light a match for his own cigarette; Keyes has to light it for him.

    Is it okay to include it?
  • October 22, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    In the final episode of Blackadder I as Edmund is dying, his father (who never gets his name right) finally calls him by the right name, only for it to be resubverted moments later
    Edmund: Father, you called me "Edmund."
    Richard IV: What? Oh, sorry Edgar.
  • October 24, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    @The Twelfth Doctor, you're more than welcome to try a re-write. As I said, I seem to be suffering from a bout of inarticulateness at the moment.

    Also, I added the page quote as a way of clarifying the meaning of the trope. I know it's long, repetitive, and annoying as heck. But it does get the point across so clearly! If anyone really objects to it and/or can supply a better one, you're welcome to change it.
  • October 24, 2013
    somerandomdude
  • October 26, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Well, the Crowner seemed pretty definitive, so I'm going to go with that.
  • October 26, 2013
    BlueIceTea
    Launching.
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