Running Gag

aka: Running Gags
"That's not a running gag! That's a pun!" "It's a running gag now."

A joke whose humor derives from repetition, ideally becoming funnier each time it is repeated. Must be repeated at least three times, otherwise it's a Brick Joke. But repeat it too many times and it can become an Overly Long Gag. A variant is a joke that occurs Once an Episode; doing that too often threatens to turn it into an Overused Running Gag.

The ultimate fear for the use of any running gag is not that it becomes an Overly Long Gag, or worse, that it was never funny in the first place and didn't improve through repetition. Nothing is worse than starting a one hour show with a joke that bombs that you're going to use twenty times over the next hour.

A Running Gag can be limited to a particular episode or recur throughout an entire series. If it recurs throughout an entire series, then it will often develop variations and/or be accompanied by Lampshade Hanging. If a character breaks the fourth wall to mention it, it's Didn't We Use This Joke Already?. When the story goes on to kill off the gag for good (either with a final payoff or just by referencing that it's become too overused and it's ending right then), that is Running Gagged.

A comedy Catch Phrase is a type of Running Gag. Can become potential for Memetic Mutation if the gag itself is widely applicable. Compare Arc Words, which are a recurring phrase that isn't a gag. See subtropes Once per Episode and Every Episode Ending.



Alternative Title(s):

Running Joke, Running Gags, Recurring Joke Joke