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Chekhov's Gag
Most times, jokes come and go; they get their set up, make you laugh, and then they're done and you move on to the next joke. But sometimes, jokes aren't done with you. Sometimes, you find yourself not only going back to the joke, but having it bring a whole new twist - the first joke wasn't just a gag, but also set up for something else that blindsides you later on.

This can happen in any span of time, in a single episode (usually very beginning to the very end), in several episodes, or even whole seasons.

The first gag is always a set-up for whatever will happen later, though ideally it doesn't seem that way at first. If it isn't, then it's a regular Running Gag. If the setup is played out to be a What Happened to the Mouse? moment, only for it to have closure later, then it's a Brick Joke.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Naruto has the Harem Jutsu. Introduced in the second chapter, a gender-bended version is used against the Big Bad, Kaguya Ootsotsuki 680 chapters later. The real kicker is, it works. Albeit, it distracts Kaguya by causing her to be mystified as to what the heck Naruto is doing rather than causing her to perv out, but it still lets them get their first actual hit in against her.
  • In episode 24 of Inazuma Eleven, as Endou is preparing for an overnight training camp, a brief comic relief scene occurs where his mom hands him a pair of boxers with his name written in marker ("En" on the left butt cheek and "dou" on the right in really big handwriting, no less) to make sure he doesn't get his laundry mixed up with any of his teammates. Seven episodes later, Touko barges in on the boys changing, and gets an eyeful of Endou in his underwear - and he's actually wearing that very same pair of boxers.
  • One Piece:
    • Sanji's dream to meet a mermaid turns into a nightmare when he finally meets one — Kokoro, who isn't exactly a young or pretty mermaid. Later on, the crew meets another mermaid, Camie, and this meeting is ridiculously funny because of their earlier meeting with Kokoro. To clarify, his meeting with Camie (who is rather attractive) retroactively erases all memories he ever had of Kokoro (who is not).
    • Luffy spends a lot of the earlier episodes asserting that their next crew member needs to be a musician, over things like a doctor or a cook. Sure enough, 300+ episodes later, the 9th Straw Hat pirate is Brook, an undead musician.
    • During the Water 7 arc:
      Luffy: Hey Zoro, why were you running away from the storm?
      Zoro: Oh, it's nothing. Forget it.
      Chopper: He was stuck inside a chimney.
      Zoro: Why you, Chopper!
    • Later, during the ride to Enies Lobby aboard the sea train Rocketman:
      Zoro: Hey, I don't see Luffy. Where did he go?
      Chopper: Maybe he got stuck in the chimney of the Rocketman.
      Zoro: Chopper, shut up!
  • Daily Lives of High School Boys : In an early skit High School Boys and Scary Stories (2), Hidenori mentioned Karasawa was "experienced in scary tales," and Tadakuni made up a story on how he saw what was under Karasawa's cap, remarking that it was hilarious. It's nowhere near funny at all, as his backstory unfolded: he was covered with scars—including an ugly scar on his forehead that he wears a cap to cover. These scars were courtesy of Habara, the girl who lives next to him and, eight years ago, was an Enfant Terrible-level bully.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, when Lieutenant Hughes constantly discusses his wife and daughter, Colonel Mustang warns him that in war movies, the guy who's obsessed with his family always gets killed first. It's at first may seem like just an innocent joke. Then it actually happens and isn't so funny anymore.
  • Haiyore! Nyarko-san:
    • Happens all the time, as the most inconsequential remarks and jokes often turn out to be the lynchpin of the plot (to the growing frustration of the Only Sane Man male lead, Mahiro). In particular, a second season episode has Nyarko catch an Earthly cold and discuss the concept of powerful aliens having Weaksauce Weaknesses. At the end of the episode, the evil invading aliens are defeated when Nyarko's ringtone, an alien pop song, makes their heads explode — a direct Shout-Out to Mars Attacks!, which Nyarko explicitly referenced during that earlier dialog.
    • In another episode, the group visits the Great Big Library of Everything because Nyarko has to return an overdue book, but they get sidetracked when two criminals ransack the place looking for a particular book. Trying to be Genre Savvy, Mahiro guesses that Nyarko's overdue book is what they were after, but it turns out that this time he's the one responsible, due to a copy of "Malign God's Memo Pad" he idly picked up during their visit and accidentally pocketed. Nyarko even complains about how unfair it was for him to assume that she's always responsible for these things.
    • Also subverted and discussed earlier; one episode introduces a vacuum cleaner, voiced by Norio Wakamoto, apparently just to allow another Shout-Out to Kamen Rider Double. At the end of another episode (which also featured it), both Mahiro and Nyarko remark that they thought the vacuum would turn out to be one of these, only to be proven wrong.
  • In Log Horizon, there is a humorous sequence where Akatsuki is trying to run away from Henrietta (or to be more precise, the dress in Henrietta's hands). Trying being the operative word, as Henrietta has privileges over the building (specifically, who can interact with doors, use skills, or fight). It ends with Akatsuki in a doll outfit. Shiroe uses this precise ability to defeat the Hamelin guild, by banning them from entering the guild building (essentially locking them inside their own guild hall). He simultaneously uses the threat of this same ability to blackmail the major guilds into forming a council in order to bring law to the city.
  • Black Butler has a couple.
    • We never see Undertaker’s eyes. It looks like a character quirk, but in both the anime and the manga this is to hide something, although this example only has significant impact on the plot in the manga.
    • In the second episode/third chapter, Finny picks up a large stone statue and easily tosses it around in an attempt to crush a mouse. It’s played for comedy, as part of the servants goofy antics. Later on in both the anime and the manga, we learn that Finny has super-strength, and is a formidable opponent in battle.
    • Whenever Bard blows up the kitchen, it’s played for comedic value. Except when there are two intruders are trapped inside, and we learn that Bard's combat specialty is explosives.
    • Vice-Principal Agares being clumsy.
    • In the anime's third episode, Grell accidentally makes skull shaped topiary out of EVERY bush in the manor. "His" repeated suicide attempts also count.

    Comedy 
  • Very very common in long stand-up comedy routines.
    • Michael MacIntyre is particularly notorious for referencing topics he covered earlier in new situations.
    • Eddie Izzard does this frequently.
    • Baddiel & Skinner Unplanned often incorporated this trope, when earlier topics of discussion would be incorporated impromptu into the current topic, almost certainly as a big punchline.
    • Ross Noble is very fond of bringing back jokes he told over half an hour earlier.
    • George Carlin did this on occasion. In a '70s set, he had a run-through of TV shows, including a Truth or Consequences-like game show where they were going to reunite a woman with her sister, "but you blew the question, so we sent your sister back to Maine!" Later, a Queen for a Day-like game show had the sister on, complaining about a show out west promising to reunite her with her sister, "but that never worked out".

    Fan Works 
  • As noted on Brick Joke, Abridged Series in general and Dragon Ball Z Abridged in particular love this.
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
    • At one point, Calvin uses the MTM to contain some lightning in an attempt to stop a storm from doing any further damage. He later uses it for revenge on Socrates.
    • Also, the lady with the clipboard recording anything related to Dr. Brainstorm in "Robot's Day Out".
  • Surprisingly Played for Drama in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction It's A Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door. At the beginning of the journey, Pinkie makes some off-hoof jokes at the kind of monsters that Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash might run into. When they finally reach the end of their quest, the World Serpent is their final challenge. After a description that makes said creature about as big as an island nation, Pinkie is given lip service in one of the biggest Oh, Crap jokes ever.
  • The Stalking Zuko Series has Iroh having Naked Iroh Time in his apartment, scarring Jet and Zuko's neighbors. Jet realizes that "Mushi" must be the Fire Nation spy instead of Lee since the apartment is poorly insulated and it's early spring, too cold for a Non-Firebender to walk comfortably naked.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Kung Fu Panda, a joke is made about Po being so fat and fuzzy, that he cannot properly be given acupuncture. This turns into a sort of unlearned Chekhov's Skill later on, when Po ends up facing the most dangerous martial artist in the land... who relies on pressure-point attacks, and thus, cannot hurt him!
  • "Not so fireproof on the inside, are you?" from How to Train Your Dragon is introduced as a one-off gag. At the climax of the movie Hiccup uses this knowledge to take out the Big Bad.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog The Movie. During the last fight scene, Robotnik fires two missiles at Tails' plane. One of the missiles is shaped like a rabbit, and very fast; the other is shaped like a turtle, and ridiculously slow. Robotnik laments that the latter is "another design failure". After the fight is completely over, there's a brief shot of the turtle continuing, slowly and steadily, across the field of battle. Then, as Robotnik gloats to the heroes that he still has the data to build another, stronger Metal Sonic, the turtle missile very slowly flies up to Robotnik, grabs the data disc from his hand, and explodes.
  • Toy Story includes the claw-game worshiping Little Green Men, who hold "the claaaaaaaw" in high regard because it will choose and deliver them to a better place. Fast forward to Toy Story 3, near the end when the entire group is holding hands as they await their inevitable death in an incinerator... only to look up as see a gigantic crane claw scoop them up being controlled by the Little Green Men adopted by the Potato Heads in Toy Story 2.
  • Up: "Squirrel!" Russell uses it to distract the dogs in biplanes shooting at him, causing them to crash into each other.
  • Early in The Iron Giant, Hogarth is trying to take a photo of the Giant, but gets bored while waiting for the Giant to appear. During a Time Passes Montage, one of the clips shown is a quick gag in which Hogarth cleaning the lens of his camera only to accidentally take a picture of himself. Later, Mansley discovers the camera and develops the photo that Hogarth accidentally took of himself, revealing the Giant looking over Hogarth's shoulder, thus finally giving Mansley photographic evidence that the Giant exists.
  • During the Dazzlings' Villain Song in My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks, DJ Pon-3 can be seen in the background, bobbing her head to her own music and apparently oblivious to the goings-on. It turns out she's unaffected by the Hate Plague being spread by the Dazzlings, and later in the movie she helps free the Rainbooms from a trap, and even provides a sound system for the climactic battle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The crazy guy in the bushes of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle compliments Kumar's "manscaping", which was mentioned near the beginning of the movie.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • The ending is this. We get a gag of a knight on horseback killing the Famous Historian, and then at the end the police investigating the historian's murder show up and arrest King Arthur. The investigation is shown between scenes several times during the movie. It's why Lancelot isn't in the end scene.
    • The end credits are also an example — there aren't any, since the credits people were all fired for the moose-related nonsense in the opening credits.
    • Also, the bit with King Arthur getting to cross the Bridge of Death by responding to the question about the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow with a question of his own, directly from the first scene of the film. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, Bedivere ties a coconut to a swallow and releases it in his first scene. It puts a new light on his comment after Arthur's Bridge of Death questions.
    • And don't forget that upon meeting the French, they say they already have a Holy Grail, then at the end they are in the castle with the Grail in it.
    • At the end of the Bring Out Your Dead bit, someone comments that Arthur must be a king because he hasn't got shit all over him. The French at the end dump shit on him. Twice.
  • In Home Alone, it's established that Kevin's cousin Fuller is a notorious bed-wetter, and thus, no one wants to share a bed with him. Toward the end of Home Alone 2, Kevin and most of the other McCallisters (besides Kevin's parents, who have a separate room) are seen sleeping squashed together everywhere other than the bed. Guess who's got that huge bed all to himself (with Coke cans all over it, no less)?
  • In Bruges has this dialogue in the middle of the film. Guess whose head is blown off by the end of the film? Jimmy, the midget actor, of course.
    Ray: This is exactly my point! People going around calling you a midget when you want to be called a dwarf. Of course you're going to blow your head off.
  • Shaun of the Dead is chock full of them. Lines that were funny earlier on become rather morose and depressing later. For instance, the quote "You've got red on you" was said to Shaun very early in the movie as a result of him having a red pen in his pocket that had leaked onto the rest of his shirt. Later, it was said about the blood that had been splattered all over him.
  • In Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, Chad is revealed to have asthma, using his inhaler many times throughout the movie. During the climax Dale throws a box of chamomile tea at Chad, which causes him to have an asthma attack and fall to his apparent death.
  • Made into a form of art in Hot Fuzz, another comedy by the same people. Everything that wasn't a joke comes back as a joke. Every joke comes back as a funnier joke.
  • The one funny moment in the new Bewitched movie: An actor attributes his last film's failure to the costume department. This is presented as a spoiled actor making excuses and then forgotten about until an hour later, when he's watching TV and the film comes on, showing him in a snowstorm wearing an enormous fur hat and yelling, "TURN BAAACK!". It was worth seeing the rest of the movie for that.
  • For a series with a lot of Continuity Nods and Brick Jokes, Back to the Future does not have a lot of Call Backs that are necessarily this. However, they do have an example in the first movie with the joke about Uncle Joey not making parole in 1985. Then we see him as a baby in 1955 and his mother says that he cries whenever they take him out of his crib.
    Marty: "Better get used to those bars, kid."
  • Rock 'n' Roll High School loves this trope.
    • While the heroine skips school for three days to stand in line for Ramones tickets, her best friend delivers fake notes to the principal to excuse her absence. The first says the heroine's father died, the second says her mother died, and third says her goldfish died. Later, the principal calls the heroine in with proof that the notes were fake; the goldfish, alive and well! Later we see the principal's two idiot assistants eat the goldfish.
    • In another example from the same movie, the principal subjects a mouse to rock music of increasing intensity. When she subjects it to the music of The Ramones the mouse explodes. Later, at a Ramones concert, a mouse tries to get in. The bouncer refuses, saying it might explode, until the mouse shows it brought a headset to protect itself.
  • In the climax of the recent Seltzer and Friedberg movie Vampires Suck, Bella... er... Becca rushes to stop Edward from ending it all, fighting through a crowd of Edward and Jacob fangirls along the way. At the end, after Becca becomes a vampire, one of the Jacob fangirls kills Edward. This results in a Karmic Death, as Becca feasts on the fangirl's blood.
  • In Galaxy Quest the whole "By Grabthar's Hammer..." speech is played as such a horribly tired cliche that "Alexander Dane" boils over every time it's said to him. Then it's turned around into one of the most moving moments of the whole film. Ditto for the "Chant of Strength" which appears to help in another scene.
  • The Running Gag in Almost Heroes where Hunt (Chris Farley) kept getting attacked by an eagle. It happens again in the climax but he hangs onto the eagle until it carries him to the Pacific ocean, beating Lewis & Clark in the process.
  • In Spice World the girls joke about Emma's smile helping her get away with anything, complete with Imagine Spot of her using the smile to get away with murder. Then when the girls are confronted by the police for their wild bus ride across London, all Emma does is apologise and smile sweetly and the girls are free to go inside the concert hall.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sherlock's urban camouflage turns out to be this when he is revealed to be disguised as a chair behind Watson, who is writing the events of the film.
  • In Iron Man, Tony has one of his bumbling armature robots on fire duty during his building the Iron Man Mk2 suit. His first disastrous flight into the ceiling results in the 'bot dousing him with the extinguisher. During his second, more successful flight, he threatens to donate the bot to a community college if it douses him again. The third time, after his spectacular botched landing on the roof of his house, the 'bot douses him again and Tony just lays his head down on the Cool Car he landed on in his basement garage. In a rather funny Chekhov's Gun at the end of the film, Tony needs to get at the replacement arc reactor on the table, but is too weak to stand up. Just as he gives up, the robot arm obligingly pushes it into his outstretched hand.
  • In The Avengers, the gag with SHIELD agent Phil Coulson attempting to have Captain Steve Rogers sign his mint-condition Captain America trading cards takes on a slight darker turn later on when we see the aforementioned trading cards wet with the (apparently) deceased Coulson's blood, and being used by Nick Fury to motivate the Avengers to get their act together.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger : When introducing Captain America's new gear, Howard Stark says "Although, HYDRA's not gonna attack you with a pocket knife." When Captain America boards Red Skull's doomsday ship, the first mook to attack pulls out a pocket knife.
  • Early on in Robot And Frank, the robot is being teased by children while Frank's in the library without him. The robot repeatedly tells the children not to molest him. When Frank sees this, he tells the robot to scare them off next time by saying "Initiate self destruct" and counting down from 10. When the cops are checking his home at the end and are about to use the robot to bust Frank for grand theft, the robot starts telling the people not to molest them... then says "Initiate self destruct" and starts counting down. It helps Frank escape and later format the robot's memory to help him get away from any charges.
  • In The King's Speech, when Lionel tries get Albert to bring up a topic, the latter responds: "Waiting for me to... commence a conversation, one can wait rather a long wait." Later, when Albert returns to apologize to Lionel, he tells him: "Waiting for a king to apologize, one can wait a long wait."
  • The extra-powerful soda machine in Silent Movie seems like just another slapstick gag, but later the main trio are being chased by E&D's cronies, and they end up near the same soda machine. Hilarity Ensues again, this time as the trio weaponize it.
  • In 7 Zwerge, the dwarves' hats all stand up straight upon seeing Snow White except for Brumboss's hat, which remains limp. Initially it seems like just another throwaway gag, but it also foreshadows that Brumboss isn't actually a dwarf.

    Literature 
  • Five books later in The Heroes of Olympus series, Annabeth proclaiming the Laistrygonian giants to be "Canadians" in Sea of Monsters is brought back up in Son of Neptune where Percy calls them Canadians... in front of genuine Canadian Frank Zhang. Frank is not pleased.
  • Book #6 of the Captain Underpants series has George and Harold introducing a new joke called Squishies, which consists of putting ketchup packets under toilet seats so that they squirt onto the legs of whoever sits on the toilet. The next book has Captain Underpants use this with crates of oranges and a giant novelty toilet as a method of defeating the Villains of the Book.
  • Discworld. Witches Abroad. "Glod".
    • In that same book, Granny Weatherwax's absolute certainty of who she is and where she stands, and tendency to refuse to follow stories which attempt to include her in their plots is frequently discussed in side remarks after seeing it put into action, the first example being her inability to understand Magrat's attempt to "relate to herself" at a conceptual level, gradually building up the reader's knowledge of this aspect of her character. Surprise, surprise, that certainty comes into effect at the end of her book. Both she and her evil sister Lily are trapped separately within a shattered mirror, and Death tells both of them - separately - that they can escape "When you find the [reflection] that's real". Lily, who has lived on stories for most of her life, runs on "through the endless reflections", with the implication that she will never escape. Granny asks if this is a trick question, then looks down at herself. "This one".
  • Happens fairly often in the Harry Potter books, understandable considering the sheer size of its Chekhov's Armory. Four plot devices in particular are first introduced as gags; the Vanishing Cabinet gets this treatment twice, first trashed by Nearly Headless Nick to get Harry out of trouble with Filch in Chamber of Secrets, then used as a joke by Fred and George in Order of the Phoenix when they shove Montague into it; the latter incident is mentioned directly when the Cabinet becomes a serious plot device in Half-Blood Prince. Hermione signing up for every class in Chamber Of Secrets is also treated as a character joke, until it's revealed in Prisoner of Azkaban that Hermione's had to use a Time-Turner to get to all her classes, which is then used to save Sirius and Buckbeak. Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes are introduced in a humorous way in Goblet of Fire, but many of them play a larger role than expected in later books, particularly those used by the trio in their attempt to infiltrate the corrupted Ministry of Magic. Finally, The Room of Requirement is indirectly mentioned in an offhand humorous way by Dumbledore in Goblet Of Fire; in the final three books, it becomes the most important room in all of Hogwarts.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy opens with a monologue describing all the troubles and widespread unhappiness on Earth, and how one London woman suddenly had an epiphany about how all of that could be solved that was tragically cut short by the destruction of Earth. It then goes on to note "This is not her story" and rambles a bit about the titular Hitchhiker's Guide. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish opens with a word-for-word repeat of that exact same monologue, but instead ends with the line "This is her story."
  • In the first chapter of Good Omens, it's mentioned that Crowley made changes to the plans for the M25 to make it a demonic sigil. This sets up his character (he likes to do large amounts of low-grade evil), and once the apocalypse comes it turns into a rather nasty barrier, that completely destroys his car as he crosses it.
  • In the The Dresden Files book Blood Rites, one of the characters constantly gets Harry's name wrong. Later in the book where it turns out that since she either is not smart enough to remember or just does not care, when the time comes for his name to be vital (in framing him for a murder) she gave the police the wrong name. Harry finds this appropriately hilarious and sad.
  • At Around the World in 80 Days there are multiple references to Passepartout's watch falling further behind as they travel east, and how the proud Frenchman refuses to touch the heritage of his ancestors. An explanation in Chapter 11 regarding how the days are shorter when one travels eastbound foreshadows The Reveal.
  • The Twits: Turns out the Shrinks is a real disease you can get from being upside-down for too long.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Friends is full of minor examples of these, but there have been a few very significant ones. In season 5, Chandler goes away to Jersey for the weekend claiming it's for a work convention. Monica goes away to Jersey the same weekend claiming it's for a culinary fair. Afterwards, Chandler told Joey he saw Donald Trump while waiting for a lift and Joey also fields a call from Chandler's hotel regarding a forgotten eyelash curler. These appear to be nothing more than normal jokes about Joey knowing obscure trivia or thinking Chandler's gay. However, at the end of the episode, Joey overhears Monica telling Phoebe she saw Donald Trump while waiting for a lift and asking Rachel if she can borrow an eyelash curler because she's lost her own. Joey therefore becomes the first Friend to uncover the truth about Chandler and Monica's Secret Relationship, setting him up for a mini story arc whereby he learns the hard way that Keeping Secrets Sucks.
  • Power Rangers RPM has two shining examples:
    • An early episode has Dillon try to ditch training, while Dr. K tells him he has to learn to be ready for anything. To drive the point home, when he opens the fridge to get a drink, she has a ludicrously over-sized laser cannon emerge. Later on, a comedic All Your Base Are Belong to Us fight has broken out, and to deliver the finishing blow Dillon pops open the fridge...
    • Another episode includes a flurry of Lampshade Hanging, including questioning why the Transformation Sequence is punctuated by explosions. Flynn's morpher then develops a glitch, and he has an idea of how to fix it, but there's the risk of a side effect - namely, an even bigger explosion. Which he helpfully aims at The Dragon and her Mooks.
  • In Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters, Beet J. Stag's habit of Jumping in front of Jin in the manner to upstage him comes in handy in Mission 25 when The Monster of the Week tries to use his candlelight to give Jin Nightmares just as he had to Hiromu, Youko, and Ryuuji when they looked into it. Since Buddyroids are immune to it J is unaffected and Jin is able to slash the wick and put the flame out. Though it's entirely possible that Avatars are immune too as Jin is not really there.
  • In Angel one episode mentions Fred laughing at something a Shrub said. Later in the last season when she becomes Illyria one of her powers is talking to plants.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia had a great Chekhov's Gag in the episode "The Waitress is Getting Married." Charlie knocked a hornets' nest down in the bar and put it in a box so that he could kill them with smoke and get whatever hornets make (hornets make nothing at all). He drew an "H" on the box and set it aside for later. When he learned that his obsession, the waitress at a coffee shop, was getting married, he went to give him a congratulatory gift. After Charlie learned that the guy was just marrying the waitress so he could dump her and get revenge for being treated badly in high school, Charlie lets him have the gift anyway and walks off. In the shot, we can see an "H" drawn on the front of the box.
  • One episode of Father Ted ("Hell") starts with the village idiot entrusted with an anticulated tanker to deliver "Craggy Island's largest ever consignment of raw sewage" for processing. "This button opens the door, this one releases the sewage." This is not mentioned again until the very end of the episode, where he stops to pick up Ted and Dougal. Guess what happens.
  • The Young Ones was fond of this. In the episode "Bambi," a Cutaway Gag visits the old idea that we are all microbes being observed by a giant scientist. Later, after the chaos begins to erupt, the episode ends with a giant-sized eclair falling on the main characters, after the giant scientist left his snack a bit too close to his research.
  • In the episode "Everybody Hates the Buddy System." of Everybody Hates Chris, Julius gives Drew a Wayne "Gritzky" jersey. Then in the episode "Everybody Hates Gretzky," a couple of white guys try to steal Drew's jersey, but back off when they realize it's misspelled.
  • Frequently occurs on Jonathan Creek, where a seemingly completed comic scenario returns following the solution of the episode's mystery to deal the final (hilarious) blow. For example in one episode, Carla is doing a book signing and there is a comic scenario involving a fan's (fully grown) nephew crushing her lap whilst posing for a photo. This is pretty funny in it's own right, but much later on Jonathan discovers that the fan and nephew had really tricked Carla into signing a consent form for her likeness to be used on a range of sex merchandise.
  • How I Met Your Mother does this from time to time such as in Life Among the Gorillas where Marshall's coworkers repeatedly come up with bizarre celebrity comparisons (where the point seems to involve who you'd rather sleep with) while asking, "What do you do? Go!" Its reframed in the last moment of the episode when Robin calls Ted to invite him over and Narrator Ted asks, "What do you do? Go!"
  • Home Improvement was rather fond of these:
    • In the episode "Quest for Fire", the Cold Open shows Tim Taylor trying to use rocket fuel to light a barbecue grill. This results in Tim launching the grill into low orbit, in a gag that's seemingly unrelated to the rest of the episode. Later, the Taylors are on vacation at a lake, and at the end of the episode, right before the ending credits, Tim and Jill are walking away from the lake when the barbecue grill splashes down.
    • "'Twas the Flight Before Christmas" has several jokes early on about Tim using Absurdly Bright Lights to decorate his house for Christmas, including Al saying "You could light up an airport runway with that much wattage!" Towards the end, Tim's trying to make it back home in time for Christmas, but his flight has to be diverted because visibility is too low in Detroit to land any planes. Tim comments that his kids are probably lighting up the decorations as he speaks...then suddenly a beam of light coming from his house lights everything up and makes it possible to land the plane.
  • In one episode of Boy Meets World, Shawn stops Cory from giving Topanga flowers by snatching them from him and handing them to a jock who happens to walk by in the school hallway. It's a brief gag that isn't given much attention. Then, several scenes later, Cory and Shawn are alone in a classroom doing Comic Role Play that involves Cory saying "I love you" to Shawn. They look up and see that same jock standing in the doorway holding the flowers and watching them, who then throws the flowers on the floor and walks away in anger.
  • A third season episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun has Dick and Mary engaging in an ever-escalating prank war, where Dick has Mary's desk removed, sends her a fake letter from then-president Bill Clinton, and gets a garage to add massive speakers and flame decals to her Volvo. In response, Mary gets Dick's hands (and face) stuck to his desk with thermal bond epoxy. While Dick is slowly, and painfully, removed, they finally come to a truce. Mere seconds afterward, they hear a loud, booming noise from outside.
    Judith: Mary, it appears your Volvo is back from the shop.
  • Mr. Young:
    • In one episode of this Canadian teen sitcom, Tater says he asked someone if they'd seen a Fryers chicken head, then pulls out a poultry chart and says he thought he meant a medium-sized frier chicken, as opposed to the slightly larger grosser and the slightly smaller boiler. in a later episode, Adam says his mom's "giant man eating chicken" scam doesn't seem very believable, since "chickens are not carnivores, and according to this poultry chart, even a grosser doesn't weigh more than 7 pounds". It turns out to actually be a giant man eating chicken.
    • In the same episode with the "giant man eating chicken", Adam tries to knock over a stack of milk cans, but he's not strong enough, even though he keeps hitting them. Later, Adam goes on a slingshot, and when he lands he hits the milk cans with his head, yet he still fails to knock them over.
    • In the pilot, Adam says Slabb looks like Bigfoot. Later, when he goes into disguise as a cranky old man, he refers to Slabb as Sasquatch.
  • In The Legend Of Dick And Dom episode "Hairwolf", a lunatic goes on a random tirade about things you shouldn't do, like playing the bassoon in the bathtub. At the end of the episode, he jumps in front of the camera and says to the audience, "DON'T have a cheesy ending-noone would believe it".
  • In the Married... with Children episode "The Stepford Peg", while Al and the kids discuss the schedule Al planned out for Peg, Kelly brings up the upstairs bathroom that Peg had cleaned, claiming that there's a window above the sink and she saw a girl who looks exactly like her. This seems like a typical a Dumb Blonde joke, but then The Tag shows up, in which Kelly walks up to Bud and introduces him to the girl next door. Cue a second Kelly walking in. Bud is speechless.
  • In Spaced, the characters are out boozing when Mike stands up, announces he is going to point the pink pistol at the porcelain firing range, and leaves. We assume that he's taking a trip to the loo. While he's gone, evil Matrix-style Agents turn up to take Daisy, but Mike returns to save the day, wielding a pink handgun.
  • Special mention goes to Supernatural, which had Sam and Dean joking about the existence of unicorns way back in season 2, with Dean sarcastically commenting that "There's a tonne of lore or unicorns, too. In fact, I hear they ride on silver moonbeams and shoot rainbows out of their ass!". Five years later, a case revolves around strange deaths in a town including, sure enough, a man being murdered by a rainbow-farting unicorn.
  • One episode of The Honeymooners, entitled "The $99,000 Answer" involves this trope. Ralph is cramming for an appearance on the titular game show where he has to identify songs, and Norton is helping him by playing songs on the piano. To Ralph's consternation, EVERY SINGLE song is preceded by Norton "warming up" which consists of the first few notes of "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" followed by "dadum, dadum dum DUM!" But after studying almost every popular song in existence, guess what the first song he gets on "The $99,000 Answer" is? And guess who it is that composed that song?
    Ralph: ...Ed Norton?
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Eye-Spy", Ward mentions to Coulson that Skye is having trouble telling a gun's safety from the magazine release. Later in the episode, Skye tries to take down the villain of the week with the night-night gun...and promptly ejects the magazine instead.
  • In Queer as Folk, Stuart teases Vince about his incessant babbling about Doctor Who, joking that soon Vince's boyfriend Cameron would be able to name all of the Doctors in order - leading to a nice little joke where they talk about their Fanon Discontinuity for the show. However, Vince's eventual ultimatum to Cameron is to challenge him to "name all of the actors who played Doctor Who". Cameron can name Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, "that bloke with the white hair" and "the vet". Vince decides that they're breaking up.
  • Several Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes (usually during the Joel era) end with a host segment showing the Mads still feeling the effects of their Invention Exchange. For example:
    • "Eegah" has Dr. Forrester remove TV's Frank's blood and replace it with radiator fluid for the Invention Exchange. At the end of the episode, Dr. Forrester has to give Frank a tune-up because the coolant ran out.
    • "Manhunt In Space" has Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank show off bean bag chair pants (pants with a bean bag chair built in). They test them out and promptly fall onto their backs. At the end of the episode, Joel contacts them and finds they're still lying on their backs.
    • "Time of the Apes" has the Mads create the Miracle-Grow Baby which starts as an infant and grows up very quickly. At the end of the episode, we see the baby has grown to adulthood. While Forrester and Frank argue over who's going to change the baby and who's going to push the button, the baby says "I'll push the button" and does so.

    Music 
  • In most music videos of the Gorillaz "Plastic Beach" album, there is a jellyfish in it, and that jellyfish is usually destroyed somehow. Later in the album, there is an entire song based around jellyfish, ironically trying to get them not killed.
  • Five Iron Frenzy did this on their farewell album, with a full song referring to earlier albums' short nonsense tracks (all the "These are Not My Pants" tracks, "Combat Chuck", "Kitty Doggy", etc.) and full-song hilarities ("Where is Micah?", "The Untimely Death of Brad"), named "That's How The Story Ends".

    Puppet Shows 
  • In The Muppets, Fozzie suggests that since Miss Piggy's office in France is too far to drive to, they instead travel by map. Later, when Mary and Gary provide backstage help during The Muppet Telethon, the Muppets ask where they came from, so Mary replies, "We traveled by map. We thought it'd be quicker."

    Video Games 
  • At 3:10 in this Dissidia: Final Fantasy video, it's mentioned that Jecht can accidentally kill himself during the 'hop back' part of Triumphant Grasp. At 4:17, he does this with Sephiroth's Meteor.
  • Early on in Fallout 3, local bully Butch is incensed when his G.O.A.T. exam results tell him he's best suited to work as a hairdresser. Later in the game, you find out he's resigned himself to being Vault 101's hairdresser, though he insists on being called a barber.
  • In the first level of Earthworm Jim, Jim must launch a cow into the air in order to make progress. After beating the final boss, Jim meets Princess What's-Her-Name and witnesses the cow come crashing down upon her.
  • In one of your early conversations with Samantha Traynor in Mass Effect 3, she makes a comment about her toothbrush, which uses focused mass effect fields to clean teeth. In the Citadel DLC, the toothbrush proves instrumental in opening an emergency hatch so that Shephard can break into the Normandy after it gets hijacked.
    Shepard: If you'd told me this morning that a toothbrush was going to save the Normandy, I'd have been very skeptical.
  • At least half the comedic dialogue exchanges in Ghost Trick, whether it's meeting the hyper-friendly Pomeranian, Missile, or discovering how ridiculously severe your Laser-Guided Amnesia is.
  • Ashtarte in Tears to Tiara 2 arguing with Kleito over worshipers, usually Hamil. Then it's revealed that the lack of worshipers had caused the rest of the Ba'al gods to fall into a coma, and she is trying to wake them up. She succeeds and in the climax they save her life.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue is littered with Chekhov's Gags, though discerning which gags were intentional setups and which were just called back to is difficult. Of particular note here is the scene where Wash and the Red and Blue teams (whom Wash regards as complete idiots by this point in the story) are arguing about the pronunciation of "EMP," with the others saying it as "ehmp." During the climax in the next episode when Wash activates the EMP, the computer itself uses "ehmp."

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Dino Attack RPG, the idea of a cyborg Mutant T-Rex was first brought up by Laxus as a joke while he was riffing Dino Cop with Andrew, Joike, Pterisa, and Dr. Cyborg before the Final Battle. In the Final Battle itself, Cyrista's Bane showed up... and nobody was laughing at the joke anymore.
  • When raocow played An Untitled Story and happened upon a heart container, he let his inner Large Ham com out and yell "I FOUND A HEART!!!" Several games later, in Bunny Must Die! Chelsea and the 7 Devils, he came across another heart container and,... well,.... His reactions to previous hearts in BMD were very subdued and didn't use the metal-voice at all. The way-over-the-top version in the link was probably in response to people in the comments complaining about this.
  • From the Whateley Universe: In "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl", known practical joker Jericho is along on the trip. He's blind, but notorious for wearing clothing so horrid that people get nauseous or faint. He dresses nicely for the trip, but everyone teases him about it. Jokes ensue, including him claiming that while his clothes are nice, he's wearing an undershirt of DOOM underneath. Later on, the party is attacked. He takes out two mercenaries in power armor by showing them his undershirt and making them puke in their armor. Chekhov's Gag with emphasis on the gag?
  • In one Global Guardians story, heroic shape shifter Pseudo is hired as a consultant to a production company making a superhero movie. At one point he uses his powers to duplicate the appearance of Viggo Mortensen (the leading man) as a joke and is immediately mistaken for the actor by his co-stars. The story is shared among Pseudo's teammates and they all have a good laugh. A year later, Pseudo is hired again by the same company as a consultant for the sequel. When Pseudo's teammates visit the set, they immediately step up to Viggo Mortensen and start chatting away, thinking he's Pseudo. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Create.swf Adventures: Shenanigans in a Magical Forest:
    • Respecting the original joke from MS Paint Adventures, almost every character must "retrieve their arms" almost immediately after they are introduced, usually as the first command they recieved. This may seem as if it doesn't qualify, but when you can go almost a 100 slides (which would be over several weeks and broken into small updates) without mention of arms, and then suddenly get hit by one out of the blue, it's safe to say that prior to the revival of the joke, most had forgotten about it.
    • There's also Masha's seemingly useless bit of paper. It's only mentioned briefly after her "birth"... and doesn't show up again until the ending. She throws it at Cirno to calm her down.
  • Often done by Aaron Karo of Ruminations fame. He'll often bring up random subjects he thinks about in each issue, then come the last rumination, he ends it off with a clever callback to the previous ones before signing off with "Fuck me".
  • In the KISS Comics #1 review of Atop the Fourth Wall, 90s Kid makes a pretty tasteless joke about unearthing Kurt Cobain's body and propping it up onstage. Much later in the Planet of the Symbiotes review, this is what helps Linkara clue into the fact that 90's Kid isn't himself. Also, the real Kid would know that Kurt was cremated!
  • Early on in Worm, it's mentioned that a mad scientist created a portal to an alternate Earth through which they exchange DVDs, but the alternate version of the Star Wars prequels were still pretty disappointing. Initially it just seems like a throwaway joke but much later on it turns out to actually be important to the plot.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In a season 6 episode, "Itchy & Scratchy Land", the family, heading to the title theme park, makes a brief stop at "Five Corners", in which five different states intersect. 15 seasons later, Sideshow Bob takes Bart to the same area in "The Bob Next Door" to exploit extraterritorial jurisdiction, setting the stage for the episode's climax.
    • Also in "Itchy & Scratchy Land", Bart can't find his name among the gift shop's name license plates, but finds ones labeled "Bort" ("Oh come on, Bort?"). Seconds later, a boy named Bort asks his mother to buy him one, and it turns out an adult male park guest in the shop has the same name. Later in the episode, we see a sort of park mission control with men giving orders to staff around the park via headsets. One of them says that more "Bort" license plates are needed in the gift shop because they're sold out.
    • In the season 2 episode "Bart the Daredevil" Bart wants to attempt to jump Springfield Gorge on his skateboard. Homer stops him at the last moment and prepares to do it himself to scare Bart straight. Homer accidentally attempts the jump and ends up falling down the gorge. After being loaded into an ambulance, the ambulance immediately crashes into a tree and Homer goes down the gorge again. Over ten years later in The Movie, the climax has Bart and Homer (unintentionally) make a successful jump of Springfield Gorge on Homer's motorcycle. The two pause for a moment of realization and then cheer. Also, the busted-up ambulance is still there.
    • In "Funeral for a Fiend", Sideshow Bob "dies" and we see that his coffin has a high bump at the end of it to make room for his large feet. This jokes later becomes important to the plot; Lisa figures out that something is up when she wonders why Bob's family would pay extra for a custom-made coffin to comfort a dead guy.
  • Family Guy loves these.
    • One memorable example is when Peter, at the beginning of the episode, notes that he saw a Discovery Channel documentary on Fire Trucks, which then segues into a short and nonsensical fake documentary of Fire Trucks, which has them hunting gazelle in the savanna. It's funny, it's over, and out of mind... until, in the final scene, a Fire Truck suddenly attacks Peter on his lawn.
    • Another gag had Spider-Man saving random characters ("Everybody gets one."), that had whole seasons in between the gags.
    • Peter is trying to get a promotion at the beginning of the episode. So to impress his boss, he tells her he planted explosives on the competition's bill-board. He directs her to the window, where the bill-board is on a building beside a children's hospital. When he pulls the trigger, the hospital blows up, and he makes a point about how he screwed up. Near the end of the episode, after a series of wild antics, he ends up in the boss' office again, and asks if he ever ended up getting the promotion. She makes a big point about how he blew up a hospital, and the episode ends with him in court.
    • In the first Star Wars Parody Episode, the scene where Chris Griffin/Luke Skywalker watches the sunset has a Left the Background Music On joke with John Williams and the London Philharmonic. They are later seen as some of the casualties of the Empire's attack on Luke's farm.
  • Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoons used this occasionally.
    • One notable example had a steel wall not release properly from a slot in the ground, but when Wile E. Coyote went to check it, it didn't spring up on him right away. Instead, it waited till the end of the cartoon to pop up and stop Wile E. while he was chasing Road Runner.
    • There was one where they set up one of his traps, and it goes off on him several times wrong before he gives up. So he goes for something else, in which the original trap went off him, then the combination of his next scheme and the attack was his downfall, then he'd almost get the roadrunner, and the trap would get him again.
    • And there's another where he rigged up a "Free Glass of Water" with a match attached to the glass on top of a box containing TNT. Pulling the glass up would cause the match to light the fuse. The Road Runner ignores it and holds up a sign stating that Road Runners can't read and don't drink. Later on, Wile E. is crawling on the ground exhausted after another failed attempt and grabs the rigged glass, only realizing his mistake right before the TNT goes off.
  • In the animated special, Tales From The Far Side I, there is a 15-second "Meanwhile... back in Egypt" segment that consists of a desert marketplace full of locals who eventually stop and wave at the viewer before going about their business. Unlike the rest of the special, there's no weirdness whatsoever. But in the sequel, there's a segment with amoebas at a party that's abruptly interrupted when their "world" goes sideways. The camera cuts to a man putting down a mostly-empty water glass... then pulls back to him and his family exiting the same exact Egypt scene (sans waving) from the first special. You didn't think a bunch of Egyptians wishing the viewer "Gung Hay Fat Choy!" was odd?
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes:
    • The Celebrity Is Overrated episode has Heloise using an inflatable Jimmy doll to distract the press. Several episodes later, we discover that she has several of these dolls in her Stalker Shrine.
    • In another episode, Heloise asks Jimmy if he swallowed her Bad Luck Accelerometer and he replies "When have I ever done something like that?" followed by a montage of scenes where he accidentally swallows various things, including an elephant. Later, he tries to spit out the Accelerometer and instead spits out the elephant.
    • In the same episode, when Heloise first makes the Accelerometer she shows Lucius a tape in which it is used as a whale magnet. At the end of the episode, Jimmy spits out the Accelerometer and throws it at someone who is promptly crushed by a whale.
  • There's sort of a cross between this and Chekhov's Boomerang in the first two episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender: After Aang comes out of the iceberg and collapses, Sokka pokes him in the head a few times with the hilt end of his spear. Later, when Zuko attacks the Southern Water Tribe's village, Sokka tries to fight him, but Zuko breaks the spear and pokes him in the head with its hilt. In the following episode, Sokka returns the favor with Aang's staff. Then, in the third season, Sokka pokes Zuko to get him angry.
  • Animaniacs could really play this trope for all it was worth. 'The Monkey Song' stands out in particular for being a four-minute-long series of Chekhov's Gags, from Squit's flute, to Mindy and Buttons flying around on balloons, Pinky and the Brain running away with the mousetrap, even Slappy vs. the Mime.
  • South Park:
    • The show has two in the "Biggest Douche in the Universe" episode. Early on, in a fit of frustration with John Edward, Stan calls him a douche and goes on to say that he nominates him for the Biggest Douche in the universe award. At the end of the episode, some aliens show up to reveal that Stan's nomination apparently got through. Not only that, John Edward wins, much to his dismay. The episode's other example is the series of spoof trailers based on movies starring Rob Schneider. Another one at the very end of the episode reveals that Rob Schneider accidentally got possessed by Kenny.
    • In "You're Getting Old", there's a joke where Stan can't tell the difference between a turd in a microwave and an ad for Kevin James's Zookeeper. In the following episode, at the very end, Stan's friends ask him to come watch a movie together. Guess which one it is a sequel of.
      Cartman: Zookeeper 2: Zookeepier!
  • In the pilot episode of Drawn Together, Captain Hero wishes for a 12-year-old girl and a donkey, and it appears to be a joke about Captain Hero being a pervert. In the second season, it's revealed that he meant Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. This is a rare example of a Chekhov's Gag spanning seasons. An actual 12-year-old girl riding a donkey also appears to him in a dream once.
  • In part 1 of the Bonkers pilot, Bonkers slips on a banana peel, pointing out to Lucky that no Toon can resist doing that. In part 2, this is used to expose the Collector as a human.
  • The episode of Futurama where Fry has his head attached to Amy's body for a while has an example of this. Near the start of the episode, there's a scene where Bender goes in for a checkup, and is warned that his ass might explode at any time. He rejects the option of getting shock absorbers for it and the matter is apparently forgotten as the episode's main plots of Amy and Fry's relationship (and aftermath) and Bender's attempt at being a paid matchmaker take over. Then at the very end of the episode Fry accidentally kicks Bender's ass, which promptly explodes.
  • The 1979 Nelvana short Intergalactic Thanksgiving featured one amusing gag. On the planet Laugh-A-Lot, where humor was the norm, King Gucci was attempting to perform the planet's biggest Pie in the Face gag on a waiting courtier. The ceiling opened to reveal the huge pie, but it wouldn't drop. Fast forward about halfway through the short, when his oracle basically tells him his humor (and thus his throne) was being upstaged by a family of boring space farmers, he pulls the cord one more time in frustration. You start to hear the sound of something falling. The King then runs into the courtier...still standing there waiting for the punchline. Gucci looks up... Cue giant SPLAT!
    Oracle: Now thaaaat's FUNNY!
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In the episode "Doof Side of the Moon", Doofenshmirtz accidentally reveals a jelly-bean taped to a cork instead of his big new invention, and claims in embarrassment "Don't judge it, it's a layered idea!" Later in the cartoon, Perry is unable to stop the Lunar Rotate-inator from being activated when he trips over the jelly-bean and cork. Doofenshmirtz proceeds to brag "I told you it was a layered idea!"
    • In "Phineas and Ferb and the Temple of Juatchadooin", Phineas tries to figure out how to get a key out from under a glass dome, when Isabella points out "Or, we could hit it with a rock!" Later, Isabella tries to figure out how to deactivate the amulet that controls the rampaging Corn Colossus, and Phineas says "Or, we could hit it with a rock!"
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents, Crocker makes fun of Timmy for believing 2+2=5, but as part of a plan by Remy Buxaplenty to make Timmy stop needing Cosmo and Wanda so they would have to leave Timmy, Stephen Hawking bursts in and shows an equation in which Timmy's answer is correct. The episode ends with Crocker chasing Stephen Hawking, shouting "I checked your math, and you're wrong! Two plus two isn't five, it's six! Six!"
  • In The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow, the goat that keeps pestering Vanity by eating out of his cornucopia hat becomes the Headless Horseman that Papa Smurf used to save his little Smurfs in Smurfy Hollow from Gargamel.
  • Snoopy Come Home: "NO DOGS ALLOWED!" When Snoopy goes to live with Lila, more out of duty than anything, he encounters this sign at the apartment she lives at. For once, when the Leitmotif plays, it's actually triumphant rather than sinister.
  • The first episode of Gravity Falls ends with Mabel getting a grappling hook after Grunkle Stan allows the kids to pick any item of their choosing from his store. Nineteen episodes later, and the grappling hook saves Dipper and Mabel from falling to their deaths after a fight with Gideon.


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