You all know what a Running Gag
is, right? A recurring event that becomes more humorous/meaningful each time it is used, depending on its subject. However, it can only happen so many times before fans will call out the writers for being unoriginal. What to do? This is the payoff of a Running Gag
, where all the humor or drama caused by this builds up to an ending. This is hard to pull off successfully whether the gag was popular among the fanbase or not. If it's popular, that means the gag won't be used anymore. If it isn't, it's wasting time when there are bigger fish to fry.
How do you handle it? Send it off in grand style, of course. Give it a conclusion, or maybe tell the audience and end it there.
Compared to Overused Running Gag
, where the writers acknowledge the joke's tiredness but don't retire it. If the Running Gag makes a reappearance after a while, it would be a Call Back
or a Continuity Nod
, depending on the example. Has nothing to do
with jogging with your mouth stuffed.
Anime and Manga
- In Part 1 of Naruto, viewers would sometimes see how Sakura feels through Inner Sakura whenever she felt differently then how she responded. In Part 2, Sakura has learned how to express her true feelings and Inner Sakura only appears once in what could be considered a Call Back (seen in Episode 8 of Shippuden and Chapter 250 of the manga).
- The last time the gag is used in Part 1 is when Inner Sakura is implied to be a full on 2nd personality and foils Ino's attempt at Grand Theft Me.
- Usopp's lies in One Piece. His fighting style used to heavily rely on flat-out lying to his opponents to scare them and gave him the upper edge. This is a variation because instead of entirely dropping them at a certain point, he used them less and less and utilized more of his inventions. He still lies, but only occasionally, and he will usually have a plan instead of improvising a lie, such as the Usopp Golden Pound in his Thriller Bark fight against Perona.
- Not to mention many of his early lies (such as being eaten by a giant goldfish) have since come true providing a nice Brick Joke for people paying attention.
- In the Funimation dub of Shin Chan, Penny has a very abusive dad that stems most of her humor. Near the end of Season 2, her dad goes to therapy, but because Penny is used to the ideal that Love Hurts, she has trouble coping for an episode before finally accepting it. After the show was brought back after 2+ years on hiatus, the writers seemed to have kept this element.
- In Spy Kids 3D, everybody constantly refers to "The Guy", and it becomes Arc Words and a minor plot thread. Once the kids reach the entrance to Level 5, "The Guy" appears, opens the way, then gets killed immediately after. Nobody brings it up again.
- Maeby in Arrested Development often says "Marry me!" to her coworkers as a means of allaying suspicion whenever they point out how young she looks. But one time when she uses it, the proposal is taken a little too seriously and she quickly stops.
- Another (temporary) example in Arrested Development is Tobias' "never-nude" syndrome. For those who don't know, never-nude syndrome is when whenever you are required to be naked, you instinctively wear cutoff jeans. He recovers from it in a mid-season 1 episode, but at the beginning of season 2, he develops this again after an extreme close-up of his testicles is aired on TV as "proof of weapons of mass destruction".
- A rare example of a Running Gag ending dramatically instead of comically happened on Hill Street Blues. Every few episodes Belker would arrest the same petty criminal. Whenever Belker asked him for his name, he would always give an obviously fake one. Belker would often be on the phone with his mother while booking the criminal, who smirked at the incongruity of a tough detective being nagged by his mom. This went on for years, until the criminal was accidentally caught in the crossfire of a shootout. He had nothing to do with the gang shooting it out with the police; he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. When Belker ran up to him where he lay dying he finally told Belker his real name and asked Belker to tell his (the criminal's) mother what had happened.
- Friends had a Running Gag going since the beginning involving "Ugly Naked Guy", a never-seen, um, Exactly What It Says on the Tin character who lived in the next apartment building over, who would occasionally get mentioned with lines such as "Oooh, Ugly Naked Guy's doing X!" By Season 6, the writers decided it was time to retire the gag, and at that point Ross was also in need of a new place to live. So they killed two birds with one stone by having him move out, and Ross get his apartment.
- El Goonish Shive had a Running Gag involving women hitting men with a Hyperspace Mallet whenever they said something sexist. The Hammers were eventually deconstructed as their true purpose was revealed: They were not designed to prevent sexist comments, but rather encourage them, as the hammers gave women an opportunity to get back at the men in a harmless manner, meaning the men didn't have to feel bad about upsetting them. The hammers became permanently unusable when The immortal who controlled them was preparing for his death and rebirth.
- References to Tedd being androgynous have also stopped, probably because in the newer art style he doesn't really look all that androgynous. Especially with Noah in the comic...
- In Dragon Ball Z Uncensored (a comparison of the original Dragon Ball Z TV show and its English dub), some time after the episode which introduced Hell, Chris Psaros started using the exclamation "What the HFIL?" (in reference to Hell's Dub Name Change), which he kept using until near the end of the Frieza Saga, at which point he retires the phrase, but not before admiring the meme that resulted from it.
- A short-lived example in Bob and George: The third time the Right Behind Me gag was used with Dr. Wily, Dave Anez retired the joke. (The name of that particular strip even lampshades this: "This Is The Last Time, I Swear".) The "retirement" only lasted one year before it was brought back, at which point Wily rages about the author's broken promise.
- From Family Guy, the evil monkey living in Chris' closet. In season 8, he finally came out of the closet, turned out not be that bad of a monkey, helped Peter and Chris amend their relationship, and moves out to live in Jake Tucker's closet. Unlike Ernie the Giant Chicken, whose own running gag was dropped entirely for five whole seasons, the monkey hasn't made a cameo since.
- Another example is Vern and Johnny, the Vaudeville players whose killing off provides the page quote. They started making appearances after the show's revival, and were killed by Stewie in the next season. Their ghosts made one reappearance as a Continuity Nod.
- Possibly Quagmire's hatred for Brian, which was last seen in an Escalating War in "Tiegs For Two" where Brian suggested the two making amends. Granted it culminated in Quagmire running him over with his car, but the feud has not been brought up since.
- The Simpsons, with a combination of Aborted Arc. Pre-season 8, Skinner was a Non-Giving-Up School Guy and Krabappel was a Christmas Cake. In season 8, Skinner and Krabappel hooked up, ending the jokes about the two individually (particularly Krabappel), and became more notable as a couple with A Day in the Limelight together occasionally. In season 14, the two got engaged, and since this show loves Status Quo Is God this would put a stalemate to any future development. Surprisingly, season 15 showed their marriage, where Krabappel left Skinner at the altar. Since then, they reverted back to their original characters, Skinner was received opposite Flanderization (which is very notable considering The Simpsons is the Trope Namer), and Krabappel received regular Flanderization, though Krabappel's case may change since in the season 22 finale, she and Flanders hooked up in a Cliffhanger.
- "Oh, my God! They Killed Kenny!" In its early seasons, Kenny McCormick's death Once an Episode was one of the defining traits of South Park. Many a fan eagerly awaited to see how Kenny would bite it this week. Soon, however, the writers felt that it was becoming an Overused Running Gag, and decided to end it before it got too much. And so, Kenny was Killed Off for Real in the aptly titled episode "Kenny Dies", and stayed dead for the better part of the following season. Eventually, Kenny was brought back from the dead, only now he wasn't killed off... at least not as often. The whole thing got a good Deconstruction in the "Coon and Friends" arc, where we learn that Kenny's parents were part of a Lovecraftian cult and his immortality was a curse from the Dark Ones.
- The boys trying to find a replacement fourth friend in the sixth season. For the majority of the first half they took in Butters, who Got Volunteered into all sorts of Zany Schemes Once per Episode, before finally getting thrown out with Tweek being placed in the role instead. However Tweek was eventually phased out before Kenny himself finally reappeared at the end of the season.
- In the first season of American Dad, Stan would often want to make Steve, his geeky son, popular at school because he was very unpopular when he was his age and doesn't want him to live through what he had to. In the last episode that aired before most Stan/Steve episodes were stripped of this plot thread, Stan gives Steve steroids to make him strong, but instead because of his genes he grows boobs, becomes popular at school because the boys are using him for a cheap grope, and resists Stan when he tells him the boys are only using him. Stan had to resort to giving himself a larger dosage of steroids so he would grow bigger boobs to prove his point to Steve. At the end, Steve gets a chance to tell him he's happy with his real friends, and Stan seemingly accepts it.
- In the early seasons of American Dad, Klaus' entire character (aside from being a man's brain in a goldfish) was his crush on Francine, doing things like trying to look up her dress or rolling around in her underwear, culminating in an episode where he gets a human body and tries to steal her away from Stan. As the show started Growing the Beard, this aspect of his character quietly disappeared without explanation*
- One ongoing plot point in the first season was Hayley being an enemy and foil for Stan's uber-conservative personality who was often at odds with him. When the show started to become more original, Hayley's Soapbox Sadie tendencies were downplayed and she has since gotten married and doesn't appear that much.
- For four and a half seasons of Daria, Quinn refused to admit that Daria was her sister, insisting that she was her "cousin" instead. She was especially nervous that her friends in the Fashion Club not find out her real relationship with Daria. But thanks to Character Development, by the fifth season Quinn's relationship with Daria had improved and she started sticking up for herself more in the Fashion Club. This led to the following exchange in the episode "Lucky Strike":
Quinn:Besides, why *shouldn't* I act sisterly towards her? After all... she's my sister.
Sandi:: [fake gasps] Did you hear that? Oh, my gosh! Quinn just admitted that weird girl is her sister!
Stacey: Well, um, of *course* she is, Sandi! We knew that.
Tiffany: We were just being polite about it.