Sometimes, when writers feel a Running Gag
has gone on long enough, they decide to mix things up by subverting it. We see the gag coming, we expect it to play out the same way it has every other time, but this time, there's a twist. The outcome is different from what we've been led to expect, and (if it's played right) we laugh in surprise.
The difference between this and Running Gagged
is that Running Gagged
is about putting an end to a Running Gag
. It is not concerned with how
the gag is ended, so long as it stops. This
trope is about subverting
a Running Gag
. Such a subversion may lead to the end of the gag, or the gag may continue to be played straight afterwards. What matters is that the audience is expecting the gag, and is surprised when it turns out differently
Anime and Manga
- In the Ranma ½ Elsewhere Fic Boy Scouts ½, there is a running gag that the original work's Ryoga (a chronically lost character) keeps showing up about once a story line, asking, "Where is Furinkan High School?" or demanding to know how to get to Japan. Come the first story line in the retooled Boy Scouts ½ in Japan, and Ryoga does show up, and demands once again to know where Furinkan High School is, only to recognize the people he is accosting. He assumes he is once again in Western Massachusetts and wander away dejectedly, not to be seen again. What Ryoga did not realize is that this particular confrontation occurred right outside of his intended destination.
Live Action Television
- In The Philadelphia Story, Margaret Lord keeps forgetting who Mike is. First she forgets his name, then she calls him "Mr. O'Connor" (instead of Mr. Connor), and then she mistakes him for one of the musicians. At the end of the movie, she turns to him and cries, "Dr. Parsons!" Mike, thinking she means him, is about to explain that she is mistaken. Then he realises that Dr. Parsons is actually standing right behind him, and that it's to him that Mrs. Lord is speaking.
- In Charade, every time Cary Grant's character takes on a new name, Reggie asks him, "Is there a Mrs. So-and-So?", to which he invariably replies, "Yes, but we're divorced." At the very end of the movie, she asks him again, and he says, "Yes." "But we're divorced," she supplies, but he says, "No." She looks crestfallen for a moment, before he pulls out his wallet and shows her a picture of his mother.
- In Double Indemnity, Keys is forever wanting a light for his cigar, and it always falls to Walter to strike a match for him. At the end of the movie, gesture is reciprocated, with Keys lighting the cigarette of the mortally wounded Walter.
- Don Jon explains items of new technology to his family and friends, incredulous that they haven't heard of them yet. Then, half-way through the movie, the tables are turned on him when his girlfriend has to explain that his browser has a "history".
- In The Dark Knight, the Joker is fond of telling (differing stories) about how he got his scars. In his climactic fight with Batman, he asks, rhetorically, "You know how I got these scars?" Instead of waiting to hear the answer, Batman says, "No, but I know how you got these." and smacks him in the face.
- There are episodes of South Park where Kenny appears and survives. (The first time this happened, Kenny noticed his survival and cheered when "The End" came on screen.
- Pinky and the Brain had Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?, a Once an Episode Running Gag that named its own trope. Brain would ask the question, and Cloudcuckoolander Pinky would give some bizarre non-sequitur reply. ("I think so Brain, but if they called them Sad Meals, kids wouldn't buy them.") On third-season finale "Brain Food", however, they did this:
Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?
Pinky: Whoof, oh, I'd have to say the odds of that are terribly slim Brain.
Pinky: I mean, really, when have I ever been pondering what you've been pondering?
Brain: To my knowledge, never.
Pinky: Exactly. So, what are the chances that this time, I'm pondering what you're pondering?
Brain: Next to nil.
Pinky: Well, that's exactly what I'm thinking, too.
Brain: Therefore, you are pondering what I'm pondering.
Pinky: Poit, I guess I am!