aka: Comedy Through Superior Firepower
"They're not all funny, but they're in a row."
Don't worry if you missed the joke... a new one will be along any moment.
A style of comedic presentation where a mass of jokes come at the audience in rapid succession in the hope that at least a few of them stick. If the audience doesn't find Joke A all that funny, Joke B is following right on its heels, and if Joke B doesn't cut it, Joke C is right behind that one. Films and TV shows that use this technique are sometimes little more than a string of rapid-fire jokes tied very loosely together through some sort of ultra-thin plotline that no one can be bothered to care about anyway. In other cases, the show will move from one plot to the next almost as fast as the jokes. In short, it's the comedic version of More Dakka
This is actually a standard comedy strategy (it's commonly referred to in production circles as the "shotgun method"). It's easier to keep
the audience laughing than to get
the audience laughing. So stand-up comedians will come on stage and immediately ask for a big round of applause for the master of ceremonies, or the previous comedian. Once the audience starts responding, comedians will use their best material to really get the ball rolling. Then they'll throw in odds and sods with enough good jokes to keep things going.
In some cases, this technique can backfire, especially if the rapid-fire comedy interferes with an otherwise dramatic, sad or angsty moment; complaints also can come when the barrage of gags didn't start out as funny and hasn't really become any better by the end of it.
This technique is an easy way to get crap past the radar
, since the censors don't have enough time to notice the obscene joke among the dozens of other gags.
This is a subtrope of the Rule of Funny
. It's almost guaranteed that the jokes will include a good number of bizarre non-sequiturs
. Hurricane of Puns
, Hurricane of Euphemisms
and Breathless Non Sequitur
are all subtropes of Rapid Fire Comedy. It may happen to you if you Archive Binge
a comedy Webcomic.
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Anime and Manga
- Yonkoma comedy mangas in general. They usually have 1 joke every 4 frames at minimum.
- The last few Orient Men comics turned into this: a pageful of panels filled mostly with Polish popculture references or puns on a single subject.
- MAD, like the aforementioned Discworld, does not have a page without a joke. This includes the table of contents, which inevitably will feature a fake article mixed in with all the real ones. It could be argued that with the addition of full-page ads, this is no longer true, but you still have to at least look because there's probably a 50-50 shot that it will actually be yet another MAD parody.
- Airplane!! is the gold-standard by which all other such works of this sort are judged. This was in many ways when the team Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker perfected the technique.
- Most of the Wayans Brothers' more wacky movies are like this, especially Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Sippin' Yo Juice in da Hood and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.
- This trope was standard operating procedure for the Marx Brothers, especially in their earlier (pre-Night At The Opera) films. Thus, and to a surprise to many people, this trope is Older Than Airplane!.
- The Radioland Murders — even better on second viewing, because some of it is delivered in such an offhand way.
- Mel Brooks is quite fond of this comedic technique; his genre parodies tend to consist of non-stop gags.
- A Hard Day's Night generally runs on the Rule of Funny, but reaches true rapid-fire status during the press conference sequence. All four Beatles take turns offering snarky, punny or just plain absurd answers to reporters' questions. Truth in Television, as they really did tend to be inveterate smartasses, and that scene was completely ad-libbed.
- Snatch combines really quick comedy with a really, really fast-paced plot.
- While the show itself has a fair number of gags (in both senses of the term), a live and boisterous audience turns The Rocky Horror Picture Show into a breathless torrent of wisecracks.
- In-movie example: Andrew tries doing this in Bicentennial Man, but he doesn't understand that humor is about delivery and so he simply recites a bunch of jokes one after the other without transitioning or even pausing between words and sentences.
- It's difficult to find an entire page in any Discworld novel that doesn't have some sort of joke or snark, and that's counting the cover and title page.
- The Jetlag Travel Guides by Tom Gleisner, Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro: tourist guides to non-existant countries such as Molvania and Phaic Tan. These manage to fit in one or two jokes per paragraph, which including photo captions (and even photos themselves) usually results in at least six jokes every page.
- Most every element of Strangers with Candy is either a satire, farce, or sight gag. Every premise, every line, every gesture and facial expression, every relationship, every setting, nearly every character except maybe Tammy, and most of the decor in every room (Principal Blackman's face is in every other shot at the school). Even a lot of the props are used for witty comebacks.
- Happy Endings is said to have this element to it, on it's page.
- The stated intention of The Fast Show. Some of the sketches were little more than "Catch Phrase and out". It worked.
- Most Extreme Elimination Challenge is a proponent of this trope. Between the Amusing Injuries happening on screen, the running commentary, and the nonsensical dubbing, it doesn't let up until you hit a commercial break. MXC actually has one up on other contenders; they do two jokes at once. The action is pure slapstick goodness, and the commentary is about equally funny. It's hard to catch everything.
- MXC has spawned an Americanized show called Wipeout that follows the premise of MXC with new footage filmed specifically for it.
- Arrested Development: It's camouflaged, but attention to the background events and subtext makes it become extremely dense. Try to summarize a typical episode of the half-hour show and you'll see.
- Earlier episodes of 30 Rock (mostly season two, though some fans would argue that the first half of season three held on) operated this way: smart, dense, dadaistic, and somewhat prone to Continuity Lockout, with a minimum of three separate plots per episode. The episode "Succession" perhaps served as the series' Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 was built this way. Most of the jokes will sail right over the heads of 90% of the audience — but the 10% that do get the joke will be reeling with laughter from its sheer obscurity. They make up for this disparity by firing off a lot (perhaps around 700 per episode) of obscure jokes, in the hope that the viewer will be one of the 10% that this joke was designed for. As one of the makers once said, "The right people will get it."
- Good News Week. Both in Paul's monologues and in the games in general.
- iCarly: Happens more and more as the show goes into its fourth season. Notable example being the episode iGet Pranky.
- Exaggerated and lampshaded in Community, when Pierce prepares jokes in advance for viewing the So Bad, It's Good movie, KickPuncher 2
Pierce: Change! Time to change the channel! This guy'll be begging for change soon, he keeps making movies this terrible! We should change to something good, this movie stinks! We should change his diaper. That's change we can believe in!
Abed: [Hits pause] Okay, it's obvious something strange is happening here.
Pierce: What are you talking about? I'm making jokes during a movie.
: Yeah, but you're doing it with the speed and determination of the incomparable Robin Williams
- Mork and Mindy often got into this; understandable, since Robin Williams was the star. Word Of God is that the scriptwriters would often simply write "Robin does something funny" for him to improvise something on the spot.
- Childrens Hospital has only an 11 minute running time, so it does its best to pack in as many jokes as possible.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic loves this; his songs consist almost entirely of jokes and silliness. White and Nerdy is probably the most extreme example. There's also the numerous effects of the virus in Virus Alert.
- The Goon Show. On at least one occasion they manage to keep a wild stream of jokes going until the first musical interlude (some seven or more minutes in) without even getting in-character let alone allowing any kind of plot to develop.
- Hello Cheeky tried to fit as many jokes into a half-hour as possible, with one or two musical interludes every episode. However, since the musical interludes were performed by the regular cast and written humorously, the jokes never actually stopped.
Man: Waiter! This steak's off!
Waiter: I'll get its hat and coat, sir.
Man: Fetch me the manager!
Waiter: I shouldn't bother, sir, he tastes worse than the steak.
- Its That Man Again (ITMA) is probably the originator of this style of humour as far as BBC Radio is concerned. It was wildly popular in its day (1939-49) although to modern ears most of the jokes are incomprehensible (a fact that was lampshaded in a 1970s Burkiss Way sketch).
Stand Up Comedy
- Legendary comedian/actor Bob Hope was known for this style of comedy, which purportedly burned through writers at an alarming rate.
- Robin Williams is the Master of Rapid Fire Comedy, especially considering that he often improvises large portions of his act.
- Comedian Tim Vine is a former holder of the Guinness World Record for most jokes told in an hour.
- Despite his trademark slow, deadpan delivery, Steven Wright's stand-up comedy is all about this trope. Virtually every sentence out of his mouth is a punchline.
- Ben Elton's stand-up act throughout the Eighties was based on this, motor mouthing the gags at twice normal speed. He later lamented the fact that he used up so much good material so quickly.
- Quite a few George Carlin routines, but "Modern Man" wins the prize for jokes/second ratio.
- Jimmy Carr, while he does slow down when he does audience interaction segments, none of his "regular" jokes last more than 15 seconds. The jokes are essentially those lame gags found in Christmas Crackers spiced up a bit and delivered in such a deadpan style that they become funny again.
- Ken Dodd, teller of quick jokes, has stated several times that he's always after a joke rate of "7 TPM", or seven titters per minute. He once won the Guinness' World Record for this, with 7.14 jokes per minute for three or so hours.
- In Magic: The Gathering's Unglued and Unhinged expansions, every card has several in-jokes squeezed onto it. They even put jokes in the legal text on the packaging.
- Some people — those who have only seen it performed, or only seen the movie version — wonder why Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest is so famous. The thing is, the jokes are so rapid-fire that by the time you've had time to get one, five more have rocketed past your head. It's so bewildering that it absolutely kills Suspension of Disbelief. The only way to understand and enjoy a performance of the play is to have read the script enough times to have memorized half the jokes in advance.
- Older Than Steam: Shakespeare's comedies are exactly the opposite of Earnest — many of the jokes go unnoticed, due to language, culture, and context differences, until you actually see them performed (body language is usually more helpful than any amount of English classes).
- Shakespeare is made howlingly funnier for most viewers without a special affinity to archaic language in the Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).
- The audience participation of Rocky Horror Picture Show has in some parts developed so many extensive routines that the audience talks more than the actors.
- This trope is comparatively rare in shorter works like webcomics and newspaper comics, but VG Cats stands out as an example—it often doesn't even have a punchline in the proper sense, ending the strip when it's out of jokes on the subject.
- Bug uses this format all the time. The most common format for the comic is one panel of set-up and three more panels, each with a mini joke within them. "Pizza Delivery" is a good example of the comic's style, and it even has four mini jokes in it!
- A number of xkcd comics, such as this one or these two, present large panoramas built around a common theme saturated with jokes for this apparent purpose.
- The further Hiimdaisy goes, the more jokes in a single issue there are. Case in point: LittleKuriboh's voiceover of Let's Destroy Shagohod (Metal Gear spoilers alert).
- 8-Bit Theater, like VG Cats, uses a longer form, punchline-less system. On an average strip, every single panel with have a joke in each word-bubble, a joke in the background, a Visual Pun and a joke in the title.
- Zero Punctuation. That would be enough comedy in one 5-minute segment to fill a good-size movie, particularly as it appears Yahtzee doesn't need to breathe.