"It's a running gag... well, it's limping a bit by now."
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
. 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.
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Anime and Manga
- 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.
- In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, during an episode explaining many of the series' jokes to newer audiences, the audience member asks about the background running gags. "It's like something we do Once an Episode." "What's funny about that?"
- By the third Austin Powers movie, the running gag of several witnesses likening a flying object to a naughty body part was called out by Ozzy Osbourne, watching it on TV with his family.
- In the first two The Swan Princess movies, Puffin says, "No Fear!", so many times, Jean-Bob finally grabs Puffin's beak shut and threatens to tear it off if he says it again.
- In the film The Court Jester, "Giachomo"'s response to mention of the Italian court, "What better place to court Italians?", eventually becomes tedious.
- Dave Barry often has Overused Running Gags in books which aren't merely recycled columns:
- "No! Sorry! That's it for the Hawley-Smoot tariff, you have our word." (Dave Barry Slept Here, which nevertheless references it in three subsequent chapters).
- "Do you think we've had enough Winston Churchill jokes? Explain." (also Dave Barry Slept Here)
- "Do you think the author will eventually grow tired of the Buffalo Bob joke? Why not?" (Dave Barry Turns 50)
- "If you think we're getting tired of the zucchini joke, you had best think again." (Dave Barry Hits Below The Beltway)
- The Trolls has Aunt Sally reminding us about how Great-Uncle Louis, who came for two weeks and stayed for six years, came for two weeks and stayed for six years almost everytime she says his name.
Live Action Television
- 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.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del had the Running Gag where Ethan gets hit by an arrow from off panel (as a homage to The Kentucky Fried Movie). The author decided to end the gag after it became overused and played with its end by having the last arrow fired by Ethan and into the author himself as punishment for all the times he was hit.
- A strip of The Order of the Stick has one person telling his teammates to stop screaming "SNEAK ATTACK"; after that, for the first time, someone reacts to them yelling and kills them before they can land the blow.
- For added strangeness, the one being criticized for calling his attacks is a fighter that shouts "Power Attack", while the dozens of rogues in the fight are shouting "Sneak Attack" with no commentary.
- Pv P had a panda that would randomly attack Brent. The reasons behind these attacks were eventually explained in a rather long arc, and the gag died down considerably after that.
- For a while, almost all the male characters in Sluggy Freelance joked among themselves that "monkeys" was Gwynn's pet name for her breasts. Since Gwynn owns several real monkeys, this gag came up a lot when she made innocent remarks like "My monkeys! They're gone!" or "Be on the lookout for my monkeys and grab them if you see them. They could pop up anywhere." Eventually, Riff got tired enough of the joke to reprimand himself for using it again. And then The monkeys got killed off.
- At least one running gag in Bob and George (specifically, Wily getting overheard by someone standing just behind him) got this treatment. As early as the third iteration, it was acknowledged as an Overused Running Gag, and supposedly retired. And then it was brought out of retirement. And averted, inverted, inverted again, parodied (to the breaking point), double subverted, lampshaded, and...well, you get the idea.
- Nerf NOW's fans are starting to get fed up with photo notes claiming "Mine!" or "Spy here".
- Schlock Mercenary: In-Universe, this is what Tagon considers Shodan's continuing to bring up the accident during the Mall Cop Command arc where Tagon got a fork stuck in his eye.
- Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff does this on purpose to go with the Stylistic Suck, outside the universe the fans reference SBAHJ endlessly and inside the Homestuck universe, where characters reference SBAHJ all too often.
- 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.
- South Park's "Oh My God, They Killed Kenny!" It gets old, gets lampshaded, subverted and eventually cut down severely in the later seasons.
- Drawn Together is yet another example of the "regurgitate the same jokes over and over, then acknowledge how they've stopped being funny and continue using the jokes over and over again" tactic.
- Find a Running Gag not lampshaded, inverted, or subverted on Phineas and Ferb.
- Family Guy
- 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).
- Cleveland picked up a gag where Peter would destroy half his house while Cleveland was taking a bath, causing his tub to slide out of his (second-floor) bathroom and dump him in the yard. When Cleveland's first wife gets killed this way in The Cleveland Show, Cleveland feels survivor's guilt because, in his own words, he'd fallen out of that same house "way more times than could possibly still be funny."
- 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 a cut away gag where Quagmire thought he was the one getting the spinoff he mentions the two of the show's more infamous running gags.
: See you later, bitches! Have fun with your stupid *bleep* giant chicken jokes and your Conway Twit-
why is there a moving truck outside of Cleveland's house?
- 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."
- 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't Older 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.
- I Am Not Making This Up and So Yeah ended up being discredited and finally dead. Or So I Heard was completely reworked.
- The beautiful useful notes: Brazil page has a beautiful example of this with the beautiful word, "beautiful".
- The Mary Sue Classic page mentions the word "perfect" so many times that it apologizes for it no longer looking like a real word at the end.
The end— end— end— end— end— *BOOM*