Very, very late to the punchline.
"The thing about childhood is that nothing makes sense. You have no idea what half the jokes on sitcoms are about, Bugs Bunny keeps making references to WWII-era European dictators you don't recognize, and Hot Wheels always manage to go around the loop-the-loop just fine on the commercials. So you just relax and go along with it, and fifteen years later you look back on the things that confused you and say 'Ah! Yes! It makes perfect sense now!'"
Sometimes it takes a long time for a character to get a joke. Missed in-jokes and Parental Bonus
can mean someone gets the joke much later. Or perhaps the character is just slow of mind. At the time the character may not even realize it was a joke.
This trope is what happens when, several scenes, in-universe years, or even seasons
after the original joke was told, the clueless character finally understands the joke
and gives off a great big laugh about it. Irony
makes this especially funny if the actual joke had to be repeatedly explained
in the process of all this.
Compare Fridge Logic
, Fridge Brilliance
, Fridge Horror
(those three for this trope as applied beyond the Fourth Wall
), Brick Joke
(where the punchline itself is late in arriving) No Sense of Humor
, Lampshaded the Obscure Reference
. The non-joke version falls under Delayed Reaction
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- "In Blackest Night", a story by Alan Moore from Tales of the Green Lantern Corps, has a variation where it's not that she doesn't get the joke but that, because of who made it, she initially fails to realize there was a joke at all:
...and four cycles later, in the recreation complex, Katma Tui realized that for the first time in many years' service, she had heard a Guardian make a joke.
She felt vaguely uneasy for the rest of that day.
- Groo The Wanderer.
"What did he mean, "slow of mind?"
- In one extreme case, he utters this phrase in response to a childhood flashback.
- Moose of Archie Comics lived this trope.
- In one issue of Zannablu, the boars — usually so stupid that it's a miracle they're still around — find and drink an intelligence-boosting serum. The first thing everybody does upon drinking is burst into laughter. A flashback later reveals they'd been told a joke that morning which nobody understood.
Film — Animated
Film — Live Action
- In Dogma, Azrael asks the barkeep for a "holy bartender" and then pumps him full of bullets when he asks how it's made. It takes Jay a while to get the joke that he really asked for a "hole-y bartender".
- In the Star Trek: Generations movie, Data had recently gotten upgraded to feel more realistic human emotions and starts laughing almost hysterically out of nowhere.
- In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Russ tells Nick he learned artificial respiration, which he just used to save Nick's big sister Amy, from French class. At the end of the movie, the closing scene irises out — only to iris right back in on Nick, the pre-teen genius, laughing his head off as he finally makes the connection between artificial respiration and French class.
- In Predator, Hawkins's telling of a post-battle old and dirty joke to Billy about his girlfriend's, ah, capacity leaves Billy looking bewildered for a good long pause. Hawkins desperately re-tells the punchline and then wanders off looking a bit crestfallen. A few more seconds pass...then Billy laughs heartily.
- A plot point in Short Circuit. To test Number 5's sentience, Newton Crosby tells a rather tasteless joke. The robot is stumped, and Netwon takes it as evidence that he is not as "alive" as he thinks. Just when he's about to remark on it, Number 5 blurts out "I GET IT!" and starts snickering. Crosby is astounded, and instantly sides with him and Stephanie against his bosses.
- Taken to the limit in Mystery Team. One character states that their sign reads "Lost kitten finding purrrrrfessionals", in which Charlie exclaims he finally gets the joke... Eleven years later.
- In Raising Arizona, this is Glen's excuse for H.I. not laughing at his terrible joke. Glen claims that it's a "way-homer" that you only get on the way home. H.I. counters that he's already at his home.
- Near the end of Mary Poppins, Mr. Banks has been fired from his job at the bank. However, while stunned at first, he has a hysterical epiphany that ends with him telling his ex-bosses the old 'man with a wooden leg named Smith' joke from earlier in the film before leaving. While the rest of board is shocked by his behaviour, Mr. Dawes Sr. is mulling over the joke's punchline. After a few moments, he starts to laugh. And laugh. And keeps laughing till the end.
- FUBAR. Fucked up beyond all recognition. FUBAR. Got it! - quite a lead-up to the final fight scene where they all are most likely going to die...
- The former trope namer (Swiss Moment) is an old joke: Why do the Swiss laugh during church? That's when they get the jokes they heard at Saturday night's party.
- Paraphrased from a joke that Isaac Asimov wrote in his Treasury of Humor. When you tell a joke to a German, he will laugh twice: Once when you tell the joke, to be polite, and once when you explain the joke, to be polite. He will never get it. When you tell that same joke to an Englishman, he will laugh three times: Once when you tell the joke, to be polite, once when you explain the joke, to be polite, and once again when, in the middle of the night, he gets it, waking himself from a sound sleep. When you tell that joke to an American, he will laugh once, for he will get it.
- A man contacts his lawyer: "I want to sue Bob! He called me a rhinoceros!"
Lawyer: "No problem. When did that happen?"
Man: "Four years ago!"
Lawyer: "Four years? And you decide to sue him now?"
Man: "Yes, today I went to the zoo with my kids, and that was the first time I've ever seen a rhinoceros!"
- A Dumb Blonde joke: a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead all die and go to the gates of heaven. They're told that they must now go up a flight of stairs to heaven. On each step, they will be told a joke. If they can make it to the top without laughing, they get in. The brunette makes it 7 steps before laughing. The redhead makes it 13 steps. The blonde makes it all the way to the top, and she meets God. A few minutes later, she starts laughing. When God asks her what's so funny, she answers, "I just got the first joke!"
- A similar joke to the one above is a popular old-school Chilean joke about an Animal Kingdom ruled by a tortoise. One day, a lion, a hippo and a zebra were being prosecuted for a crime and the trial was to tell a joke to the king and if they make him laugh they'll be safe, but if the fail, they will killed. So the lion told a hilarious joke, everyone laughed but the king remained silent. Executed. Then the hippo told a joke that was even better, everyone in the court was crying and suffering extreme side pain -For laughing to hard- but the king didn't react. Executed. Then the zebra told an incredibly lame joke, it was so bad that the room stayed quiet, but the tortoise was laughing out loud and writhing in joy. "Oh my god, oh my god, the lion's joke is the best thing ever".
- How many times does a [member of group you feel like insulting] laugh at a joke? Three. Once when you tell it, once when you explain it, and once when they get it.
- In the Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum, Magrat mentions to Nanny that now that she's a mother, she gets most of Nanny's favorite jokes, "except for the one about the old woman, the priest, and the rhinoceros," to which Nanny replies, "I certainly hope not! I didn't understand that one until I was forty."
- Especially frightening given that this is Nanny Ogg we're talking about. How many children, by how many men, do you think she'd had at forty?
- In the Agatha Christie novel Five Little Pigs, Angela mentions having one of these moments, where she actually said aloud "Oh! Now I get the point of that story about the plum pudding." This led her to recount a similar incident where she realized the significance of something she observed the weekend of the murder.
Live Action TV
- This is Pee-Wee's Playhouse's entire appeal for those who laughed as small children and are rediscovering it as adults.
- The Xena: Warrior Princess episode "The Quill Is Mightier" revolves around a magic parchment Gabrielle "finds" that makes everything written on it come true, though often in Literal Genie ways. One of the first consequences is that when she is first ambushed, Joxer is with her, despite not remembering how he got there. Analysis of the parchment reveals nothing written about him, despite one oddly-phrased line: "Gabrielle awoke with a jerk." Despite several other characters noticing it quickly, he doesn't figure it out until the final battle of the episode.
- In Home Improvement, during the Flashback to the pilot episode of Tool Time, Tim tells the audience he is going to teach them how to "drive a stake" and holds up a picture of a man sitting on top of a steak with a steering wheel. Al doesn't get the joke until several moments later.
- Calvin and Hobbes featured a couple of these:
Calvin: [looking through some playing cards] What the...?? I'm not playing with a full deck!
Hobbes: That's what people say.
Calvin: Really? Then why didn't somebody buy some new cards?!
[That night, in bed]
- Another strip that's very similar to the above as well.
Calvin: [looking under a chair] I've lost my marbles!
Hobbes: Everyone suspected as much.
Calvin: Well I sure hope somebody finds them.
[That night, in bed]
Calvin: Susie, what's the answer to this question?
Calvin: [writing it down]
The tooth fairy's gonna make you rich tonight, Susie...
- Matt Groening's Life in Hell has a very cute one. Milhouse Mouse is telling all his friends (including Bongo the Rabbit) a dirty joke about a lady who owned a little dog named "Freeshow." The punchline is that one day the lady was in the bathtub and realized that Freeshow had gotten out, so she jumped out of the tub and ran out the front door, tearing down the neighborhood street completely naked while screaming: "Freeshow! Freeshow!" All the kids laugh except for Bongo, whose face remains expressionless. Then he goes home, does his homework, eats dinner, etc.....before finally climbing into bed for the night, and then he gets the joke and starts laughing.
- A Beetle Bailey strip starts with unexplained laughter in the middle of the night, which turns out to be Zero reacting to a joke told during the day.
- In Get Fuzzy for October 18, 2012, Satchel laughs in a somewhat tense situation and says it's at one of Rob's jokes. Rob says he told the joke an hour ago, but Satchel actually meant a joke from about six months ago.
- Drabble for June 15th, 2013. Ralph is cooking hamburgers outside when his wife June hands him some tongs and says "Tongs!", to which Ralph says "You're welcome!" June walks away puzzled. Later that night while they're in bed she tells him "Oh, I get it!" Of course, Tongs = Thanks.
- A comedian by the name of Tim Sample occasionally started his routine by explaining that you might not get it right away, and that you could, for example, burst out laughing on the highway and drive right off the road.
- Denis Leary made a joke about finding the youngest Hanson brother in a motel all the way up a hooker's vagina with an 8-ball of cocaine next to them, and how the audience will remember the bit when it comes to pass. "You're gonna laugh about that later. People will say, 'What's so funny?' and you'll say, 'Can't tell you! You had to be there!'"
- Dane Cook has a standup routine where he's talking about the really annoying sort of car alarms, and coming up with lyrics to go with the alarm noises. He says that it might seem stupid now, but the next time you hear a car alarm, you'll stop and think to yourself, "Ha ha, that Dane Cook is a silly bitch."
- From a Tom Lehrer song intro, "I particularly remember one heartwarming story of his about a young necrophiliac who achieved his boyhood ambition by becoming coroner." (Tepid laughter) "The rest of you can look it up when you get home." (A lot more laughter)
- British comedian Stewart Lee runs into these responses fairly often, as his act is rather unconventional. During the course of one show, he informed his audience that "the jokes are there, but some of you might have to raise your game". On other occasions, he has divided the room by response - those getting the joke becoming Team A, while the less receptive audience members become Team F.
- The Capitol Steps have a regular bit they call "Lirty Dies," where they throw as many Spoonerisms in as they can while commenting on a few recent news items. If they get delayed laughter the performer will likely add some comment such as "Got some low slearners here tonight" or "Better deck your chicktionaries on that one".
- Referred to as a "icebox laugh" in Picasso at the Lapin Agile (i.e., something that you laugh at when Fridge Logic kicks in) and brought up in relation to an intentionally nonsensical joke about e-shaped pies. Gaston gets the joke while in the bathroom, most likely by, as Einstein puts it, "process of elimination."
- In Shrek The Musical, Shrek gets the usual blank stare from Donkey after joking that Lord Faarquad is Compensating for Something with his castle. Later, during the "Travel Song", Donkey bursts out laughing when he suddenly gets Shrek's joke.
- In Tales Of MU, a harpy character says that in the badlands, "thunder means someone told a giant a joke three days ago." The giantess who's appeared in the story bears this out, not realizing she was at the center of a hurricane of Double Entendres until much later.
- In the closing credits sequence of the Zero Punctuation review of Bionic Commando: Rearmed.
- In Red vs. Blue, it is mentioned at one point that this is how Caboose reacts to everything because he's just so dumb that he lags a few moments behind everybody else. He mistakes this for telepathy.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series:
I always knew you wanted me to be inside you
Marik: What do you suppose he means by that?
Bakura: [sarcastically] I couldn't hazard a guess.
Then face me Florence, and suffer the wrath of the Egyptian Gods! * Evil Laugh
Marik: Oh, I get it. He was implying that you wanted me to sleep with you.
- 5 Second Films gives us "Brian Finally Gets Mike's Joke". From the description, though, it appears it wasn't such an obvious gag:
"I don't typically understand jokes related to the Reconstruction (particularly the election of 1872), and I especially don't when I've had a fifth of bourbon and fireworks are going off all around my face. Mike should be thankful I even remembered it in the morning."
- In the Edds World flash movie WTFuture, the following exchange occurs:
Tom: As ever Edd, your sense of humor never ceases to amaze me.
Edd: Is that an insult?
Tom: You figure it out.
[As they walk away, Future Edd appears in a flash of lightning.]
Future Edd At last, after many years I have returned. Now it is time to- HEY! That WAS an insult!
- During episode 15 of Rooster Teeth's Let's Play Minecraft, Michael tells Ray to stop making Kung Fu noises when the latter found a Kung Fu picture in front of Ryan's house. 13 episodes later, Michael finally finds the Kung Fu picture and realizes why Ray had done that so long ago.
- The Ultra Fast Pony episode "Shameless Self Reference" features numerous Continuity Nods and references to the creator's other work, all of which prompt Fluttershy to respond, "I don't get it." The episode ends with Rainbow Dash working the words "ultra fast pony" into her dialogue, to which everyone responds with over-the-top awe—while Fluttershy shouts "I got the joke! I got the joke!"
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: While confronting the Kyoshi warriors, who all fight with gold-plated warfans, Azula mockingly calls them the Avatar's "fangirls". Several beats pass before Ty Lee exclaims, "I get it now, that was funny, Azula." But then Ty Lee is the group's designated cloudcuckoolander.
- An episode of the animated Fraggle Rock revolved around "The Funniest Joke In The Universe". Grumpy Bear Boober didn't get it, and asked everyone else, who immediately convulsed in unstoppable hilarity. It turns out he has to get water from the Well of Forgetfulness to make them stop laughing and since he's the only one not in stitches, he's the only one who can. At the end, all's well... until Boober gets the joke, and the other Fraggles have to take him to the well.
- From The Simpsons: "I am not slow!" That line was from when Homer and his friends were reunited for a night of poker. At some point, one of them told another one not to yell at Homer just because Homer was slow. Homer's brain then stopped to process the fact something mean was said about him. At first, he recalled the "don't yell at Homer" part but figured out that was nice. By the time Homer figured out he was called slow, the other guests had already left and the host was helping himself to a midnight snack.
- Sideshow Bob gives Wiggum the nickname "Chief Piggum". The police chief understands this joke during Bob's parole hearing and went from angry to finding it Actually Pretty Funny.
- After Snake's hair is shot in "Hell Toupee"
Wiggum: Now that's what I call a bad hair day.
: May I remind you that two people are dead and ... oh, wait, I just got it. [joins in with Everybody Laughs Ending
Announcer: And now, the woman who "Mom"-opolizes the robot industry...
Fry: I get it!
Fry: Oh... now I get it!
- In "Rebirth", a few seconds after a series of increasingly obvious references to leaving Fox and joining Comedy Central (culminating with "It's a sort of "Comedy" central shipping channel, and now we're on it"), Amy exclaims "I get it!"
- The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show had a cartoon called "Aesop And Son". In one episode, Aesop laughs at a joke he heard days ago and tells his son a fable with the moral "He who laughs last laughs best". Come to think of it, a lot of things in that show were jokes young viewers wouldn't get until later.
- Or, in many cases, ever (e.g., the Kerwood Derby).
- It was a long drawn out gag involving this guy and a bunch of really bad jokes that seemed to offend him greatly, so much so that he tried to sue the makers of the show to get them to stop... it failed.
- Lampshaded from time to time too:
Twenty dollars?!? That's antihistamine money! Rocky:
Antihistamine money? Bullwinkle:
Yes. It's not to be sneezed at. Get it? Not to be sneezed
at? Rocky: (exasperated) I get it
- In an episode of King of the Hill Bill and Dale tell Hank and Peggy a joke about them ordering nachos with cheese and the punchline is they tell the waitress "if it's nacho cheese then who's is it" and everyone enjoys a good laugh except Peggy, later much time has passed and Peggy says "oh I just got that nacho cheese joke it's funny!".
- George of the Jungle
- In the "Dr. Chicago" episode, George announces to the Commissioner that ants on a railroad, "Steal track!" The Commissioner, misunderstanding, answers: "Yes, George — steel track. That's what makes the train run so smoothly." Shortly before the end of the episode, George bursts out laughing, and the Commissioner asks, irritably: "What's so funny?" George answers: "Steal track! Steel track!"
- In another episode he's been caught in a snare by poachers who mean to leave him there. He comments "It pretty chicken thing to do to King of Jungle!" A poacher replies "If there be one thing I like, it be 'Chicken a la King'!" A few scenes later, back home, George starts laughing "Ho ho! Chicken a la King!"
- In Family Guy, Peter (in an attempt to become more sophisticated) spends days standing by a newspaper stand staring at a New Yorker cartoon (with the punchline "I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic") before he finally gets it, saying in a charitable tone that it's "kind of funny," before returning the magazine and getting a copy of Juggs.
- In Adventure Time, Finn is worried that Flame Princess doesnít like him anymore because she didnít laugh at one of his jokes. Jake and BMO try to assure him that she just probably didnít get the joke yet. Towards the end of the episode, after Finn comes back from his (possibly) trippy dream inside the pillow fort, Flame Princess calls Finn, telling him that she finally understood the joke. Their relationship is saved!
- Top Cat is a show about a gang of colorful hoods living in a Damon Runyon-esque world. A lot of kids must only have grasped what was going on here years later.
- One Smurfs episode revolves Jokey finding the ultimate joke. Anyone who hears it will laugh uncontrollably and never be able to stop. Jokey alone is immune because he doesn't get it. After a long, arduous journey to cure the laughing Smurfs, the band returns to the village... only for Jokey to burst out laughing, having finally got the joke.
Oooh I get it, the World War II-era dictator being referred to was Adolf Hitler! Heh heh heh.