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
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- 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.
- In 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.
- Happens all the time in Haiyore! Nyarko-san, 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.
- At one point in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, 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.
- The crazy guy in the bushes of Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle compliments Kumar's "manscaping", which was mentioned near the beginning of the movie.
- The ending of Monty Python and the Holy Grail 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.
- 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 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!
- 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.
- In Bruges has this dialogue in the middle of the film:
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."
- Guess whose head is blown off by the end of the film? Jimmy, the midget actor, of course.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Up: "Squirrel!" Russell uses it to distract the dogs in biplanes shooting at him, causing them to crash into each other.
- 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.
- "Someone stole that man's face" in Mystery Team.
- 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 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."
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Eighty 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- The 2012 New Year comic on Cyanide and Happiness is one to their 2010 New Year strip, seen here
- Sluggy Freelance: Emergency Pants and Emergency Pants strike back.
- 8-Bit Theater had an issue of Nintendo Power, first appearing in the seventh comic. ("Four white mages? It'll never work.") Reappearing in 1221, when four white mages defeat Chaos, over 1000 comics and almost a decade later, which is probably the longest set-up in webcomic history (or perhaps any history).
- There's also this strip, where Black Belt unwittingly predicts who history remembers in terms of the heroes. The fact that he was referring to the Light Warriors makes it all the more ironic.
- And then there's Thief stealing his class change from the future, which comes back to bite him later.
- In Ménage à 3, several throw-away gags come back for those who pay attention to it:
- Jung's review of Dillon's play.
- Kiley reading a pamphlet about breast enlargement when she first meets Yuki, after her A-Cup Angst when she saw DiDi.
- Shortpacked! had an arc that was caused by a Chekhov's Gunman and a list from a one-shot joke.
- From Dr. McNinja: "I think I'll have that thing stalk Doc forever now."
- The derailing of a speech in Darths & Droids is brought back almost 500 episodes later to denote Anakin's fall to the Dark Side.
- Goblins made a joke about Minmax knowing 38 ways to kill a guy with his thumbs, but not being able to dress himself. Years, passed, the joke was forgotten about... and then this happened.
- Early in Adventurers!, Gildward the bard tries to convince Karn into letting him join the party by talking about his backstory, including seemingly-ridiculous things like being a princess and pulling the harp "Muscalibur" from a stone. Turns out the "Muscalibur" thing is real, and another bard resents Gildward for it...
- As noted on Brick Joke, Abridged Series in general and Dragon Ball Z Abridged in particular love this.
- Chekhov's Dog Dookie.
- 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.
- In 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.
- 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".