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Running Gag Stumbles
A running gag is subverted.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-10-08 09:37:04 sponsor: BlueIceTea (last reply: 2013-10-26 17:49:05)

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"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!
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