When the writers openly acknowledge that a Running Gag has run its due course, even as they are hauling it out again— gain— gain— gain—*WHACK*
There we go. Anyhow, the use of a Running Gag is generally constrained over the course of one episode. But there are some jokes that the writers thought are just so funny that they should be used in another episode, and another, and another and another. Even if it isn't Once an Episode, it's still squeezed into the series wherever they see fit— fit— fit— fit— fit—*THUMP*
Okay. After a while, though, the writers will come to realize that the bit has started to peter out. Then one can be sure to start seeing plenty of Lampshade Hanging and heavy subversion in the effort to keep the joke fresh, or tolerated. Once that wears thin, one can expect the bit to be dropped like a Christmas ham— ham— ham— ham— ham—*SMACK*
Okay, that joke's really wearing thin. Before we continue, let's get that audio equipment fixed.
One hour later....
There, fixed. Anyhow, for this to be a trope, examples should not be subjective. They should be based on whether the writers have reacted to its overuse (lampshaded or used it less), rather than just a feeling that the gag has been used too much.
The inevitable fate of many a comedy Catch Phrase. Commonly confused with Overly-Long Gag, which is when a single gag is stretched out for an irritatingly long time. That said, for any joke, good or bad, enough repetition can make people decide it's an Overused Running Gag.
The next step after this is Running Gagged, where the joke is terminated with extreme prejudice, once and for all. Or until they bring it back.
Compare Discredited Meme, which this often leads to— to— to— to— to—*WHUMP*
Sigh. Okay, if it does that again, that audio equipment is gonna get a dose of C-4.
Note: This is for In-Universe examples only. Do not use this trope to Complain About Running Gags You Don't Like.
In a meta example, Bakuman。 featured the main characters working on a light-hearted comedy manga, but only a bit more than 10 chapters in, they're already making entire chapters based on the running gag of the main character saying "I dunno about that." This serves as one of the signs that this isn't the right sort of series for them.
In CLANNAD, Okazaki attempts to make Kotomi more social by bringing her to new people and telling her to introduce herself, at which point she always turns around and introduces herself to Okazaki. The third time this occurs, Okazaki remarks that that particular gag is getting old.
In Mahou Sensei Negima! there was a running gag throughout the Mahorafest arc of Takane always getting stripped, four times in total, largely because she used magical clothing that stopped working if she was knocked unconscious. When she reappears in the Magic World arc she forces several girls to wear it as well because it increases defense, so when attacking the Cosmo Entelechia stronghold you can see the only one who knows about that and has to wear it herself nearly in tears. Contrary to all expectations, not one of them gets stripped this time.
Brock flirting with any older female he sees in Pokémon, before being hauled away by Misty/Max (by the ear), Bonsly (using Double-Edge) and Croagunk (getting Poison Jabbed in the ass). It's acknowledged in-universe by his companions (and even antagonists Team Rocket) occasionally getting annoyed at his antics. It was funny the first three times, then it just became old. For Croagunk's bit, it's a minor Running Gag in of itself for Dawn to get caught completely surprised whenever Brock makes an instant recovery.
The series also occasionally made fun of Meowth's tendency for the bizarre Imagine Spots, mostly from the other members of Team Rocket.
The series also has the running gag of mispronouncing Bill and Stafan...er, Team Rocket's Butch and Best Wishes' Stephan's names. Both characters frequently mention that they're going to change their names after several characters get them wrong.
The Rita Moreno episode (#5 of season 1) of The Muppet Show features an old-style phone backstage. When it rings, Fozzie answers it, and something comes out of the receiver related to who's calling. At the fifth call, Kermit gets fed up and asks, "Is there no end to this Running Gag?"; then Animal comes in and puts an end to it (as well as to incoming calls, unless someone thinks to call the number for the phone on the desk).
In the 2000 The Invisible Man TV series, Darien Fawkes would greet each worsening situation with "Oh Crap" in a resigned manner. Eventually, the characters find it annoying. By the second season, there are lampshades; for instance, it's the only thing he remembers about himself when he gets Laser-Guided Amnesia, forcing him to use it to tell who his friends are.
Parodied in The State. Under pressure to create more catchphrase-driven characters like Saturday Night Live, the writers created "Louie, the guy who says his catchphrase over and over again." The character would repeatedly ask for volunteers to present him with a substance and then loudly announce, "I wanna dip my balls in it!" while holding up two golf balls. The Only Sane Man in the sketch can't understand why the gag never gets old to any of the other characters. Ironically, the character proved popular and was brought back a few times.
Hannah Montana's tendency towards zany schemes is noted, repeatedly, by Lilly, who eventually gets fed up at never being asked to just sit down and have breakfast but constantly being roped into Miley's schemes.
iCarly: T-Bo's food on stick gag (capsicums, chicken, doughnuts, etc) is put up with a couple of times, and now every time it's brought up he is forcefully rejected by the other characters.
Everything Spencer touches catching on fire. When it happens in the Grand Finale, Spencer just looks at the item with a bemused "Of course you burst into flames." expression on his face.
Friends had Ross's running joke "We were on a break!" Despite being called out on it, this saw usage right up until the very last episode. Additionally, Joey's Catch Phrase "How you doin'?" saw a few lampshades.
The IT Crowd has Roy answer the phone almost every time with the line, "Hello IT, have you tried turning it off and on again?" However, early in the second season he interrupts his signature line with, "I'm sick of saying that. What do you want?" From that point on he never again utters that catchphrase until he brings it back in the fourth.
One episode has Jen bet him he cannot go an entire day without saying it. He loses.
And in another episode, his phone is hooked up to a tape machine that plays a recording of him saying the catchphrase when someone calls.
In the film Escape 2000, there is a scene at the beginning where the phrase "leave the Bronx" is repeated constantly. Mike and the Bots naturally turn this into a Running Gag, with Servo even singing the phrase repeatedly along to the music at the end credits. But when the movie is over and Mike tries to make the joke again, Crow tells him that it's not funny any more.
Stargate SG-1 had a habit of making Who's on First? jokes using the Goa'uld System Lord Yu. When Elizabeth Weir tried to get in on it, she was stopped by Daniel.
Daniel: Don't. Every joke, every pun, done to death.
My Wife and Kids introduced Michael's catchphrase "Eh... No." in the second season, which he used to troll the kids by giving them hope he would say yes to them before ultimately rejecting them. It was used so often in the second season alone that he began finding increasingly idiotic ways to drag out the "Eh..." part of the catchphrase, such as running up & down the hallway several times whilst saying it before jumping back into the room & saying no, that it made no sense that his kids continued to get their hopes up that he'd say yes years later.
Community: The show had paintball episodes in the first & second seasons. The third season had the characters commenting on how played out paintball was at that point, and everyone agreed they shouldn't have another paintball game... Only for the fourth season to end on another paintball game. Abed even says that they "finally found a way to make paintball cool again."
Mass Effect 3 took Garrus's memetic stock line about being busy calibrating and turned it into a running joke. At the end of the last DLC mission, "Citadel", he offers to stop saying it - "but only if Liara stops saying "By the goddess!""
El Goonish Shive has used every possible permutation of the hammer and the demonic duck, and yet they just won't go away, even despite the author explicitly saying they will.
They haven't been seen in a while, so maybe he kept his word. A whole arc was spent on some of the characters going to see why the hammers have stopped working, which resulted in a canon explanation for why they're gone (and were there in the first place), and one character gaining the ability to use them as her personal magic spell (which she has yet to use). This was also the last time the Demonic Duck was seen. This was in 2010.
In Square Root of Minus Garfield, this happened with the "Garfield (pun for Minus) Garfield" meme, also known as the "pudding pops" strips. Strip 268, "Garfield Linus Garfield", began this gag. Each strip in this gag editted Garfield strip 2001-11-28◊, by replacing the second panel's Garfield with Linus, Sinus, or anything that rhymes with "minus", or sounds a bit like "minus". Most of the strips kept a line about "pudding pops". Strip 478 lampshaded the gag but failed to stop the meme. Strip 518 provoked a forum thread that became strip 625, "Garfield Skynet Garfield: Judgement Day". This strip killed the Overused Running Gag; but the gag later returned to life, and now the admins limit new "pudding pops" strips to about one per month.
Saying the word "Elephant" summons the Burger King who silences the characters in the movie who won't shut up. It didn't work on Twister. After the Top 11 Nostalgic Mindfucks, he recalls that it didn't come when he talked about the Pink Elephants from Dumbo; after some experimentation, the Burger King logo brained him out of irritation.
Nostalgia Critic: I had my fun.
On his commentary for the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog review Doug spent some time discussing the need to alter running gags frequently and drop them before the audience gets sick of them. He also mentioned that people have asked to drop every running gag except "OF COURSE!".
In conventions, at least one person will bring up a "Bat Credit Card". Eventually he went on record saying he's really tired of that (mostly because the raging does a number on his voice) but he still does it because it makes the people laugh.
Like Critic's Sonic episode, Phelous's "Dawn of the Living Dead" episode has him declaring he'll never end his "I'VE GOT A SHOTGUN!" gag and that he's sick of it after using it again seconds later.
In her "Top Eleven Animated Villainesses", The Nostalgia Chick had to be stared at by sad puppies for a while until she was forced to break out of deadpan mode and do her running gag:
The series is riddled with running gags, some of which are overused for comedic effect. Most notoriously, the "Retrieve arms from x" command has been done about 12 times in Problem Sleuth and Homestuck. So far.
"And that was the X time I died" used by Unskippable when some catastrophe seemingly killed the main character was eventually acknowledged with the words: "No, wait, I take it back. Semenoske got nuked, this guy's going to be fine."
Richard of Looking for Group doesn't seem willing to acknowledge the "Fork of Truth" has had its day and needs to be retired. In the Fork's most recent appearance, the other cast members completely ignored his rant about it, except for Sooba.
Newsgroup rec.humor was flooded with the two-strings-in-a-bar/frayed-knot jokes. This is to the point where some jokes began pointing out that the joke was killed.
The Citation Needed podcast begins with a rundown of improbably named podcasts that supposedly failed to last as long as Citation Needed. By episode 8, these podcasts include "Running Gags To Start Your Podcast With That Are Becoming Increasingly Hard To Think Of".
WrestleCrap's induction of a wrestler named Man Mountain Rock featured a picture of said wrestler shrugging with the caption "Yeah, I don't know either dude." After using this picture in 6 straight updates, writer RD Reynolds threatened to end its use. Fan demand brought him into an additional 6 updates and possibly counting.
The two vaudeville players Vern and Johnny, who appeared so often to fill the time before commercial breaks that Stewie killed them to assure the audience that they would never appear again. (They still came back... as ghosts).
In the last season or so, Cleveland would get knocked out of his house on a regular basis. It was even used twice after Cleveland left for The Cleveland Show. Cleveland eventually lampshades it, saying "I fell out of that house way too many times than could possibly be funny." In fact, that's how Cleveland's first wife died.
Another episode pokes fun at itself for its constant use of a Cutaway Gag by having Cleveland complain about how he hates it when a show cuts away to some other bullcrap. Cue a Cutaway Gag showing Hitler riding a unicycle as he juggles objects. Later on, the same gag is used again, but Peter rushes in and punches out Hitler, saying "See? We had a plan for that all along!"
In The Simpsons, the clip where Homer falls down the Springfield Gorge (from the episode "Bart the Daredevil") was referenced several times. In the episode "The Blunder Years", when Homer flashes back to it, Lisa interrupts him, saying "Everyone's sick of that memory."
It also gets referenced in the episode "Behind The Laughter" when its called a comedy classic, and then deconstructed when we see Homer in rehab with several broken bones.
On TV Tropes itself, there was a time where a ridiculous number of trope pages mentioned by way of example that they were one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. (This trend was referenced by Uncyclopedia.) This is because over 95% of recorded human history is older than the "book," which was apparently written in 1950 (when television gained popularity in the USA). It became common to see tropers avoid the repetition of that unwieldy trope name by putting it in a Pot Hole under some phrase like, "You know what that makes this..." Splitting The Oldest Ones in the Book into sub-indexes such as Older Than Dirt, Older Than Steam, and Older Than Radio has done a lot to reduce the annoyance, both because of the variety and because anything that isn'tOlder Than Dirt is newer than much of the book.
Now Older Than Dirt itself has become way overused and misused, being frequently applied to pages that are nowhere near old enough to count (currently the cutoff is 800 BCE; previously it was 500 BCE). Doesn't help that despite being an index, it's often treated as a trope.