Series: Community

Main Cast Seasons 1-4 from left: Troy, Annie, Abed, Shirley, Dean Pelton, Chang, Britta, Jeff, and Pierce.

Community is an Ensemble Cast Sitcom created by Dan Harmon that aired on NBC from 2009 to 2014 and will stream on Yahoo! Screen in 2015. Joel McHale stars as Jeff Winger, an Amoral Attorney who got caught playing fast and loose with the truth... this time in regards to his college degree. In an attempt to get a legitimate(ish) degree without doing any work, he's enrolled in the local community college.

He quickly attempts to get in good with Britta, a girl from his Spanish 101 class, by pretending to be a "board certified Spanish tutor" who can help her study. Things go awry, however, when she invites their mutual acquaintance, the socially challenged Abed, to their fake study group. Abed, in turn, invites some of their other classmates — ex-high school football star Troy, compulsive overachiever Annie, single mother Shirley, and not-quite-as-smart-or-with-it-as-he-thinks moist-towelette magnate Pierce — leading to the organization of the cast's Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.

Each season features the study group taking a class together with some sort of underlying theme. In the first season, it was Spanish and was built around the study group members learning to communicate with each other; in the second season, it was Anthropology, which highlighted the group growing into a tight-knit "tribe"; and in the third season, it was Biology, feeding into the group struggling with their capacity to evolve. The fourth season was History, with the group coming to terms with their pasts but also realizing how much they've grown. The fifth season revolves around the characters returning to the school after some time having failed to make much of their lives outside the school, and decide to form the "Save Greendale" committee in order to both improve the school overall and to find meaning in their lives.

The show's humor is driven by the character interaction, supplemented by rampant lampshade hangings. As a side effect of this, the trope examples will be very quote-driven.

Dan Harmon - whose work ethic and perfectionism had made for constant battles with the network, the production studio, and star Chevy Chase (who infamously left a hate-filled tirade on his voicemail) - ultimately got fired off his own show, and replaced by producers Moses Port and David Guarascio, who had previously worked on Just Shoot Me! and Happy Endings. Even after a lack-luster fourth season, the show still got renewed and ultimately Harmon (who in the meanwhile took his podcast Harmontown on the road, with the tour selling-out many dates and spawning a well-received documentary) was hired back as showrunner. However, Chevy Chase left late into season four (leading to Harmon killing his character), and Donald Glover only appeared in the first five episodes of season five, before leaving to focus on other projects (not, as has been widely reported, to focus exclusively on his rap career as Childish Gambino, he had been a writer for 30 Rock before joining the show).

For the longest time, fans held out hope for "six seasons and a movie". But on May 9, 2014, they heard the four words they dreaded: "NBC has cancelled Community." There was some speculation that it might be be picked up for another season by Hulu, Netflix, or another network, but the cast and Dan Harmon himself considered that to be a long shot. However, on June 30th 2014, the very last day before the cast's contracts expired, it was announced that the series had been picked up for a sixth season by Yahoo. The icing on the cake came that same day, when Sony announced that yes, they're planning on giving it a movie, too. Sometimes fans' dreams do come true! However, in September 2014, Yvette Nicole Brown announced that she would not take part in the sixth season, to focus on taking care of her ailing father.

The writers of the show are aware of this very wiki, (Dan Harmon has been quoted on Twitter as having used to be on TV Tropes "Religiously,") and often use it for research.

The show also has its own Community TV Tropes Tumblr.

Note: Due to the Troperiffic nature of the show, tropes relating to the series in general go here. Please put tropes that apply to individual episodes or individual characters in the series on their respective pages.

Community contains examples of:

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  • Aborted Arc:
    • Chang's Sanity Slippage at the beginning of season two was supposed to feed into a subplot where Chang would be haunted by the twin sister he ate in utero. The idea was quietly dropped, though it was briefly referenced in "The First Chang Dynasty".
    • In "Beginning Pottery", Rich is revealed to have severe Mommy Issues. He's seen a few times in season two, but his Mommy Issues are never brought up again.
  • Academy of Adventure: Between paintball wars, pillow-fort civilizations and vocational secret societies, Greendale campus has definitely grown into this over time.
  • Adaptation Decay: In-universe, the American remake of Inspector Spacetime shown in "Conventions of Space And Time'' is considered an example of this by Abed, mostly due to the drastic changes suggested by Pierce at the focus group meeting (including making the Constable a blonde Statuesque Stunner and forcing the Inspector to sleep with his own grandmother in 1960's San Francisco.)
    Abed: (whispering to Pierce) I hate you.
  • Adults Are Useless/Apathetic Teacher: a large number of the teachers, and to a lesser extent the dean, are shown to be questionably effective at their jobs. Senor Chang bullies his students, Professor Duncan throws a tantrum and blames a student when his experiment doesn't go like he wanted, and at least one chemistry teacher spends a large portion of a class answering a trivial phone call inside the classroom.
  • Aerith and Bob: Jeff, Annie, Troy... Magnitude, Paradox.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head:
    • Discussed. Jeff and Annie's relationship is characterized by him being an older brother to her, except that the increasing sexual tension is making that awkward and they can't keep it up, meaning their relationship has to evolve. The discussion ends with "We can't keep doing this, kiddo," with a gentle chuck of the chin.
    Annie: Can't we? (long pause) No, it's gross.
    • Earlier examples have involved similar moments of tension between Annie and Jeff end with him awkwardly patting her on the head.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Jeff and Annie have addressed one another as "Milady" and "Milord," (respectively) on more than one occasion.
  • All Just a Dream: This promo trailer for season 5.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: The first few episodes seemed to offer a fairly predictable version of this, with alpha-couple Jeff/Britta and beta-couple Annie/Troy. But it eventually averted this, in that after a while the characters decided to move on to other people instead of fawning over someone seemingly uninterested. There is still occasional Ship Tease between these pairings, but it's not a primary focus (and there's just as, if not more, Ship Tease between other pairings, such as Jeff/Annie and Britta/Troy). By season 3, Jeff/Britta and Troy/Annie ship tease has all but disappeared, with Jeff/Annie becoming the primary source of Ship Tease while Troy gets a fair amount of it with both Abed and Britta. Annie and Abed also have their moments.
  • Always in Class One: The study group passes all three criteria.
    • The seven main characters all took the same Spanish class, and never added anybody else that they met at Greendale to the study group afterward (at least as for as long as they could still technically be called a study group). Somewhat subverted after they got to know each other, however, as they all purposefully scheduled at least one class together each following year (instead of happening to randomly get matched with each other).
    • Criteria number 2 was lampshaded in Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts by Vicki:
      "We came so close to having one class that wasn't all about them."
    • You can bet that they're Weirdness Magnets, too.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The Dean was regarded as this for the first two seasons before it was revealed in the third (as well as by Jim Rash in outside interviews) that he's actually pansexual.
  • Arc Words: "Look at me now, Dad!"
    • "Annie, you live in a terrible neighborhood". Annie moves in with Troy & Abed in season 3.
    • "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" had the question "Why do I go Greendale?"
  • Artistic License: For a community college, having alcohol on campus is a big no-no—even if everyone is the right age, regulations and by-laws prevent campus-sponsored activities from including it. This is especially important in S1E11; a lack of alcohol and the subsequent sexy activities would have made the last few moments much less urgent and funny.
  • Artistic Title: Features a cootie catcher! It changes for a few episodes—the Halloween episodes have spookier images, while the "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" credits had epic music and medieval-looking script. Then, of course, there's the one-shot animated opening for "A Fistful of Paintballs".
  • Asshole Victim: Jeff gave Pierce's father such a great "The Reason You Suck" Speech that he had a heart attack and died. Keep in mind that Pierce's father was massively homophobic, racist (Even to other white people), was the one who twisted Pierce into the man he is today, and wore a toupee made out of ivory.
  • Audience Participation: Of the voting variety. Fans designed their own Greendale flags and then voted for one to become official, the winning one was introduced in "Basic Rocket Science" and the voting was written into the plot as having been done by Greendale students.
  • Bait the Dog: A very weird inversion. Before the fandom met Andre all they heard about him was nothing but bad things from Shirley. So when he turned out to be Mr. Perfect it jarred so much with the fandoms preconceptions of who he was. As a result many in the community fandom absolutely hate Andre, because they can't see Mr. Perfect as the man who Shirley described.
    • Played a bit straighter in "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts" in which, after being Mr. Perfect in his previous appearances, Andre demonstrated a darker side to his character... by which, we mean he got a bit annoyed when Shirley showed up late to their wedding rehearsal, called her 'woman' and demonstrated that he held some rather old-fashioned ideas about a woman's place in married life. This made it a bit easier to see why tensions might have arisen between them and that he wasn't perfect. However, it also rather disproportionately fuelled the hatedom in some places as well, as these flaws were blown up to make Andre look like a misogynistic monster instead.
  • The Bechdel Test: Easily passes. This may be due to the fact that, unlike most shows, Community's writing team is made up of 50% female writers and 50% male writers.
    • The first plot involving the women of the study group interacting centers around free speech in Guatemala.
    • Learning how to fail the test is considered a point of character development for Britta in "Football, Feminism and You".
    • Usually, the show will have a storyline with just the girls every 3-5 episodes or so.
  • Berserk Button: A new one comes up every few episodes. Individual Buttons are found on the Character Sheets.
  • Beta Couple:
    • For a short time, Troy and Annie, before Troy started going out with Randy (it can be a girl's name too) and Annie generated some UST with Jeff. Annie clearly still carries a torch, though, based on the loud gasp when Britta says that she and Troy have something to announce.
    • In season 2, as the Britta/Jeff relationship was developed, there have been moments of Ship Tease for Annie/Abed.
    • With Season 2 & 3 building up Jeff/Annie, Troy/Britta ended up becoming the new Beta Couple.
    • One could also make an argument for Abed/Troy as the consistent Beta couple to either Jeff/Britta or Jeff/Annie.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: One of the show's primary rules is: Never let a Trope go unlampshaded.
  • The B Grade: The teachers at Greendale use A-minuses (and minuses in general) as a way to purposely invoke this trope in students they don't like so that they will drop the class out of frustration. One teacher even says they were explicitly invented for this purpose.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The study group (minus Jeff and Pierce, who are more obvious bitches) and Dean Pelton can be this from time to time.
  • Big Bad: Dean Spreck for the entire series, arguably.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: In Season 3, Chang trying to take over Greendale, Evil Abed trying to cross over from the Darkest Timeline and corrupt the Prime Timeline until it matches, and Vice-Dean Laybourne trying to bully Troy into joining the Air Conditioner Repair School. And of course, Dean Spreck is shown to still be plotting against Greendale in the season finale.
  • Big "NO!": Originally Annie but seems to have passed on to Troy.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The label on the bottle of wine Pierce gives Jeff in "Competitive Wine Tasting" says 'La tua diventa più bello con ogni bottiglia', which translates as 'You become more beautiful with each bottle'
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor:
    • During the season 3 hiatus, the 3-part cartoon, "Abed's Master Key" took a shot at NBC's failure to consider online viewers, which had been determined during the second season comprised the majority of the show's demographic.
    • The cast has a lot of fun with NBC's claims to air season 4 on October 19th. You can see for yourself.
    • When the show was about to make its debut on Comedy Central after entering Syndication, they took the opportunity to take a shot at NBC's lack of promotion for the show.
    • Season three opens with Jeff dreaming about having a normal, less random year is a direct reference to what NBC wanted the show to be like...and is totally lambasted with the fact that said dream takes the form of an over-the-top musical number.
    We're gonna stand holding lands in this brand new land, far away from the borderline
    We're gonna seem like a mainstream dream, and be appealing to all ma-nkiiiiind!
  • Black and Gray Morality:
    • On the one hand, we have:
      • Pierce (Depending on the Writer and how uncharitable you're feeling towards him), a racist, sexist sociopathic bully dedicated to making everyone's lives a living hell
      • Chang, a murderous psychopath
      • Cornelius Hawthorne, an even worse version of his son
      • Dean Spreck, an underhanded, vicious cheat.
      • Starburns, a sleazy drug-dealer.
      • And Allan, an Amoral Attorney with no limits as to what he'll do to win.
    • On the other hand, we have:
      • A selfish, dishonest jerk (Jeff)
      • Self-righteous, judgmental hypocrites (Britta, Annie, Shirley)
      • Social outcasts still getting used to the world outside their TV (Troy and Abed)
      • A lonely, socially-maladjusted old man who just wants to make friends but, thanks to his neglectful upbringing, has no idea how to go about doing so without rubbing people the wrong way (Pierce again, Depending on the Writer and the Alternative Character Interpretation)
      • An incompetent and deeply insecure administrator who, despite his eccentric and frequently inappropriate behaviour, just wants to be liked and respected by those around him (Dean Pelton)
  • Book Ends:
    • The first and last episodes of Anthropology class under Duncan are, fittingly, about death and birth, respectively.
    • Chang begins and ends season 3 hiding in the air vents but with the latter, he's in City College.
    • The Tag of the season 3 finale, marking Dan Harmon's departure from the show, ends with the same music that was used in the Cold Open of the pilot.
    • Season 4 begins & ends with episodes focused on change and what happens when the Study Group start their lives after Greendale. Both episodes also heavily feature elements of All Just a Dream, with Jeff & Abed flipping roles - It's Abed's fears at the start of the season, resolved by Jeff giving a Rousing Speech in Abed's mind; and the other way round in the finale. The first & last lines of the season are also variants of the "Troy & Abed in the Morning!" Mad Libs Catchphrase Running Gag.
  • Bottle Episode: "Cooperative Calligraphy". The trope name is even mentioned by Abed.
  • Brand X:
    • Characters sometimes sip on "Old British 600" and an ill-sized oval changed Jeff's laptop's brand from a Sony Vaio to, apparently, a teapot.
    • When the security staff is directed to gas the ventilation system with "monkey tranquilizer", the logo on the canister reads "ChimpanZZZZZZ".
    • Lampshaded by having Leonard post video reviews of Eugenio's frozen pizza and Let's potato chips. The Let's bag is a prop sold by company called Independent Studio Services. (Be warned, the ISS web site is the TV Tropes of props. They make Brand X everything.)
    • The cafeteria stocks PC Cola.
  • Breakout Character: Abed, Troy & Annie.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Abed has a whole subplot entirely in the background in "The Psychology of Letting Go" - he refers back to this in "Applied Anthropology" when Shirley goes into labor, to widespread confusion among the rest of the study group.
    • This running gag of a certain Tim Burton movie of the '80s.
    • In "Curriculum Unavailable" the police officer tells the group they shouldn't keep their door open with a brick (as Annie said in "Remedial Chaos Theory") but rather than being for security reasons, it's because the brick is actually valuable.
  • Buffy Speak
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Greendale seems to be one among institutes of higher learning, especially where local powerhouse City College is concerned.
    • Britta is the Butt Monkey of the study group. Her constant attempts to be capital-G "Good" (in the most politically liberal interpretation of "good") receive constant groans from the other group members, her attempts to become a therapist are universally mocked (despite having some good results) and "you're the worst" has become so much of a catchphrase that it has now been repeatedly lampshaded. This said, she does bring a lot of it on herself; her attempts to be good (or Good) tend to be hypocritical, inept and backfire disastrously, she often overanalyzes her friends rather ineptly (frequently stumbling into being helpful inadvertently rather than as a consequence), and overall she often puts her foot in her mouth and embarrasses herself.
    • Chevy Chase on the DVD commentaries, which seem to include everyone but him, and while there will be occasional nice things said about some work he's done, generally he is a walking punchline to the other cast members. And writers. And directors. And producers.
  • California Doubling: The college is supposed to be located in suburban Denver, but palm trees and cars with California plates are often visible in exterior shots. According to Dan Harmon on the DVD Commentary, the reason it doesn't snow during the show is because global warming hit Greendale pretty hard.
    • The California plates could easily be explained as being out-of-state students, and the palm trees as the work of the Dean, and, as someone who lives in CO, snow usually comes really late anymore, so Harmon's rationalision isn't that ooc for Colorado as a state at this point.
  • Call Back / Continuity Nod: The show thrives on these, and there seems to be two or three per episode. Individual Call Backs and Continuity Nods are listed in the episodes in which they took place.
  • Captain Obvious: In "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts", when Shirley's water breaks and she goes into labor:
    Dean Pelton: Okay, give me your attention. This student is having a baby. What am I talking about? You already know.
  • Casting Gag: In-universe, the American adaptation of Inspector Spacetime casts Luke Perry as The Inspector and Jennie Garth as his companion.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Played relatively straight with Abed's "Cool... coolcoolcool.,"
    • Parodied with Magnitude's "POP POP!"
    • "You don't have a patent on (insert thing)" which started as something Britta said to Slater in the season 1 finale.
    • "Troy and Abed in the Morning!"
    • Annie and Shirley's shared "Awwwww!" (which Britta sometimes joins in on).
    • Leonard's repeated use of the Bronx Cheer.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • On the school's website, Pierce's favorite movie is listed as Fletch. Also, Production Posse extra D.C. Pierson's character's favorite book is listed as The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To.
    • At one point Shirley refers to the "Gerard Butler movie poster with the guy's heart over his wiener". That movie poster is for The Ugly Truth, a movie Yvette Nicole Brown (who plays Shirley) starred in.
    • While working on his skills as a ladies' man, Abed does a pretty spot-on impression of Don Draper, which Annie really enjoys. Alison Brie, who plays Annie, is widely known for playing Trudy Campbell on Mad Men.
    • The Black Rider in season 2's paintball finale looks exactly like one of the main characters from LOST, which Abed has a DVD set of according to "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas".
    • The biology teacher in season 3 is played by Michael K. Williams from The Wire, which was referenced multiple times in the first season by Troy and Abed. In "Basic Lupine Urology", Williams even says Omar's classic line "a man's gotta have a code."
    • Vice Dean Laybourne is played by John Goodman. Abed once stated that he loved The Big Lebowski.
    • In the 'Floor is Lava' episode, Chang lets slip that his same-sex celebrity crush is Nathan Fillion. Guess who plays Greendale's head custodian?
  • Celebrity Resemblance:
    • As noted by both Abed and Jeff, Britta looks like Elisabeth Shue.
    • Troy notes that the Dean looks like Moby. The Fake Dean says he is sick of being a Moby impersonator
      The actor who played the Fake Dean played a character on How I Met Your Mother who was also mistaken for Moby.
    • An unseen biracial character is alternately described as a black Michael Chiklis and a white George Foreman.
    • In the same exchange Jeff calls Abed "brown Jamie Lee Curtis."
    • In "Contemporary Impressionists", the study group are all hired to work as celebrity impersonators — Troy and Britta are both Michael Jackson (young MJ and old MJ, respectively), Annie is Judy Garland, Shirley is Oprah Winfrey (in an earlier episode she was compared unfavorably with Ms. Winfrey), Jeff is Ryan Seacrest (Joel McHale's real life "arch-nemesis"), Abed is (brown) Jamie Lee Curtis, and Pierce is Fat Marlon Brando, although he insists that he looks more like Burt Reynolds.
    • Lampshaded, The person who notes these resemblances is a French Stewart impersonator played by...French Stewart.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Pierce's increasing villainy and peeks at other characters' issues made the second season significantly more serious than the first, and the third is building up to be even heavier.
  • Character Blog:
  • Character Development: Some of the main character grow over the course of the show.
    • Troy goes from a popularity-obsessed, immature Jerk Jock to a kind-hearted, responsible geek. A lot of this is apparently due to his friendship with Abed.
    • Jeff learns to care for others and decides to confront his Daddy Issues head-on.
    • Annie grows up a bit over the course of the show. In early episodes, her insecurity and drive to over-achieve are much sharper. Her youth is also played up: Jeff states that she's too young to be "sexualized," and her fashion sense is one of a prim schoolgirl. In later episodes, her personality softens to be more sweet and sensitive. Coinciding this change, she's portrayed as a more mature woman. Her hairstyle and fashion sense look more mature, and she's even romantically linked to Jeff.
    • Abed's perhaps a more subtle case. While he's been having No Social Skills and appears to have Asperger syndrome, similar with Annie these aspects were much clearer early on. There were also even shades of Loners Are Freaks and he didn't seem to grasped nor cared much for the concept of "friendship". While still maintaining having no social skills later on it's not as exemplified and Abed seems to have grasped more on friendship with shades of being a "quirky loner" dispersed to just him being a quirky member of the group.
  • Characterization Marches On: Some characters don't so much grow as simply change from their original persona.
    • In season one Chang starts out as a mix between an Apathetic Teacher and a Sadist Teacher. By season three, he's a full-blown lunatic. Some of this is due to character development that occurs within the plot of the show.
    • In the Pilot, Britta has "douche-ray vision" and serves as a competent foil to Jeff's jibberjabber. By season 3, douches are her catnip, and she Brittas everything she does. Britta's seismic shift in characterization is referenced by Jeff in season 3, when he points out that she seemed smarter than him when he first met her.
    • Pierce in the first few episode dressed in a slightly suave style which appears to be a Casanova Wanna Be of some sort and showed very little of his Innocent Bigot traits. Of course it doesn't take long for him to grow into the Pierce we know today...
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Most notably with Jeff, but throughout the series if a character tries to solve their problem through underhanded means or through cheating it usually backfires on them.
  • Chekhov's Gun: True to form, Community pulls this off with an actual gun in "Remedial Chaos Theory". Troy discovers Annie's gun in the very first timeline we see. Later on, in another timeline, where no one knows about the gun, it accidentally goes off. The stray bullet leads to Pierce's (somewhat) untimely death, which, in conjunction with Jeff's loss of an arm, makes this undeniably the Darkest Timeline.
  • Chewbacca Defense / Courtroom Antic: Jeff's go-to strategy as a lawyer. He particularly seems to like invoking 9/11. Subverted in at least one instance: when he uses it in "Debate", Greendale loses, 50-8 (and the 8 were to Annie)..
  • Christmas Episode:
    • "Comparative Religion" (season 1), "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" (season 2), "Regional Holiday Music" (season 3), "Intro to Knots" (season 4).
    • Lampshaded several times in "Comparative Religion", when Shirley's efforts to force everyone to participate in her Christmas party as if they'll completely ruin Christmas Day for her if they don't do exactly what she wants often elicit the response that it's only "December 10th". She later picks up on this; when one of the bullies begs for mercy from Shirley, saying, "Please, it's Christmas!" she responds, "It's December 10th!" and attacks him.
    • Also "Miracle on Jeff's Street", an animated promo trailer for season 5.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Professor Slater after season 1, Duncan after season 2.
    • Lampshaded with Slater in the season 2 episode "Political Science":
      [ticker at bottom of the screen] PROFESSOR SLATER STILL MISSING
    • Duncan finally returned in season 5.
  • Church of Happyology: Apparently Pierce is in a variation of this, called Reformed Neo-Buddhism (which appears to be a combo of this and Buddhism.)
  • Clean Pretty Childbirth: Lampshaded in S2, E22: Shirely gives birth in the middle of class. While the trope appears to be averted via Britta's vomiting at the sight of the birth, in the end it's played straight as the birth turns out looking clean and tidy.
  • Cloudcuckooland: Greendale.
  • Collective Groan:
    • Every time Shirley mentions her Finnish friend Gary.
      Troy: I hope he transfers to Hell!
    • Whenever Britta starts acting self-righteous.
      Troy: You're like the AT&T of people!
    • Whenever Annie tries to stand up for real academics at Greendale.
    • Jeff also gets one for his lame excuse as to why he didn't bring anyone to Family Day. And also when everyone's discussing their religions and he says he's agnostic.
    • Done a LOT. Everyone seems to have a bunch of crumpled balls of paper on hand on this show.
  • College Is High School Part 2: Season 3 reveals that Greendale students each have a locker. And Jeff once lamented that all the drama makes him feel like he's in a high school drama.
    Jeff: Oh my God! My life is Degrassi High!
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: In "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking," Jeff is convinced that Chang is faking his Changnesia. Then it turns out that Chang genuinely doesn't remember his ex-wife, and now Jeff knows how Chang used to feel all the time - hated and ostracized. Naturally, it was subverted by the end of the episode - Chang really is faking, and is taking orders from someone unknown.
  • Completely Missing the Point:
    • The core of Pierce's character.
      "That makes no sense! Why would I [sexually] harass someone who turns me on?"

      "Don't use that word [tardiness] around Abed!"

      Jeff: Can you help me block out people's voices I find extremely annoying?
      Pierce: (discreetly pointing at Britta) Jeff, she's right there...

      Troy: (Deconstructing a classic prank on April Fool's Day) Snake in a can?
      Pierce: No thanks, I'm fasting.
    • In "The Politics of Human Sexuality", the Dean discovers free condoms handed out by the school are faulty. Fearing pregnancies and the spread of STDs amongst students, he instructs Abed to make an announcement about the condoms over the speaker system. Abed then instructs everyone "if you're going to have sex tonight, don't use condoms."
    • In "The Psychology of Letting Go", Duncan points out that Jeff's recent desire to belittle and undermine Pierce's faith in his cult is linked to Jeff's discovery that he has high cholesterol. Jeff accepts this, but instead of the expected 'so lighten up about it and let Pierce continue regardless' message, Jeff instead decides that this increased self-awareness means he can really go to town on pulling the rug from under Pierce.
      Professor Duncan: No, that wasn't what I w — actually, I don't care.
  • Continuity Porn: Look at the Callback + Continuity Nod list. Walk through the episode guide and you'll find up to a dozen of these in a single episode.
  • Conversational Troping
  • Couch Gag: Coupled with The Tag. Most episodes end with Abed and Troy doing/saying something funny, often on the couch in the library (making it a literal Couch Gag).
    • Couch Gag Vanity Plate: "A Dan Harmon/Russo Bros. (word or phrase that changes every episode)" The design of the plate changes as well.
    • "Troy and Abed in the MOOORNING!"
    • "Troy and Abed in STOP MOOOTION!"
    • "Evil Troy and Evil AAAAABED!"
    • "Troy and Abed sewn toGEEEEETHER!"
    • "Troy and Abed being normal."
    • "Troy and Abed shooting LAAAAAAAAAVA!"
    • "Troy and Abed back from SUUUUUUMMER!"
    • "Troy and Abed in the MOOORNING, Nights!"
    • "Troy and Abed are in MOOOURNING!"
    Troy: "Wait, you were saying it with a 'u'?"
  • Counting Bullets: Evil Troy does this, badly:
    Evil Troy: I'm counting bullets. And one of us is out.
    Troy: Is it you?
    Evil Troy: ...yes.
    Troy: Why would you tell me that?
    Evil Troy: To sound intimidating.
  • Crack Pairing: In-Universe. "Romantic Expressionism" parodies this with a long sequence of Ship Tease suggestive glances between all of the characters. In order, it goes: Pierce / Shirley / Jeff / Britta / Abed / Britta / Annie / Britta (gasp!) / Annie (gasp!) / Troy / Shirley / Troy / Annie / Pierce / Annie / Jeff / Annie / Jeff / Abed.
  • Create Your Own Villain:
    • The Study Group's treatment of Chang during season two can be seen as the reasons behind his descent into madness & outright villainy during season three.
    • As lampshaded several times throughout the season, Pierce becoming more & more antagonistic to the Study Group over the course of season two was in large part prompted by the Study Group's poor treatment of him, which was in turn prompted by Pierce's jerkassery in the first place.
  • Creator Thumb Print: All the '80s references from Abed. He doesn't seem to make many from either earlier or later than the '80s, which is a little strange when he's in his early twenties and would've grown up during the '90s and '00s.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The group sets up a D&D game to make Fat Neil feel better in "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jeff and Professor Duncan. Britta as well, especially in Season 1.
    Jeff: (referring to school mascot the Greendale Human Being, which wears a full-face mask with no eyeholes and is playing Cupid for Valentine's Day) Oh, now it has arrows. That's safe.
    Britta: (walking in hungover) Oh, now it has arrows. That's safe.
    • Troy and Annie have gotten good at snark recently
  • Debut Queue: Variation. A conscious effort was made in the first six episodes to focus on each character of the study group in turn for an episode. In the order they aired, after the first episode introduces Jeff: Jeff partners with Pierce on a class project, Abed enters a film class, Jeff and Shirley bond over gossip, Jeff defends Britta on a cheating charge, Jeff reintroduces Troy to his football past, and Jeff helps Annie with her Halloween party.
  • Deconstruction:
    • In "Studies in Modern Movement," the show points out that Troy and Abed are the funnest guys to be around... In small doses. Living with them while they act out a usual side plot from an episode is very not fun.
    • The third season has also done a bit of a deconstruction of Jeff and Abed respectively; Jeff's role as Standardized Leader is being examined and his snide, aloof snarkiness has been shown to be concealing a rather messed-up person underneath, while Abed's Ambiguous Disorder has been put under a spotlight to reveal him to be not just a cool, in-control Meta Guy but an inconsiderate, damaged and controlling person to be around sometimes.
    • Both "Documentary" episodes deconstruct documentaries (and 'Mockumentaries' based on the documentary format), suggesting that for all that documentary makers try to remain objective and present the 'real' events as they occur without interference, the very act of filming random events and building a narrative around them is inherently artificial, and that remaining objective and watching people and events deteriorate around you might do more harm than good.
    • Jeff's relationship with Britta in season one could be deconstructed in terms of the whole Official Couple/[[BelligerentSexualTension Belligerent Sexual Tension tropes. Instead of truly falling in love, they spent most of the time snarking at each other and competing with each other, to the point where everyone was complaining about in "Modern Warfare". Speaking of which, they finally slept with each other, only to go back to snarky arguments and competition. In the finale, Britta's war with Jeff's ex led to her blurting out that she loved him (the season two premiere revealed that she did not mean it), only for Jeff to leave...and kiss Annie. In short, relationships that are based mainly around snide arguments are likely to be at the very least a bit messed up.
    • Greendale faced massive deconstruction in the season five premiere, where the school faced major criticism for ruining the group's lives. Basically, it is a look at what happens when a school acts ridiculous instead of ensuring that people actually learn.
  • Deconstructor Fleet
  • Disney Death: See Dropped a Bridge on Him below.
  • Documentary Episode: "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" and "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux". "Pillows and Blankets" is more of a Mockumentary, by contrast.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Annie had an Adderall addiction and Pierce was on painkillers; both spent time in rehab for it. Also the message of the play the group puts on in "Celebrity Pharmacology 212".
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe, a few times.
    • Troy, to Chang, when he calls Troy and Shirley dirty.
    • Chang, to Pierce, when he says, "Hm, Asian, can't drive, can't direct."
  • Dump Them All: The season one has Jeff torn between Brita and Professor Slater. He essentially chooses this option when he decides to leave as opposed to making any decisions.
  • Dynamic Character: see Character Development above.
  • Dysfunction Junction
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Early episodes feature more outdoor sequences.
    • The first two episodes of the show include pop songs on the soundtrack.
    • The first season deals more heavily with Jeff's transition from lawyer to student, and the group is fairly unfamiliar with each other. By the second season, Jeff is comfortably a student and the group members are true companions, plus or minus Pierce.
  • Easter Egg:
  • Eating the Eye Candy: When Jeff and the Pool Professor strip nude during their showdown the entire study group averts their eyes, except Annie who sneaks a few dozen peeks and Abed.
  • Ensemble Cast: While originally intended to be Jeff-centric, the show regularly gives A-stories to other characters in the study group.
  • Epic Fail: Several instances, which is only natural for a sitcom. The Dean is the main perpetrator of this. The STD fair and Greendale commercial are only a few of several examples.
  • Everybody is Single: The study group at the start of the series.
  • Evil Counterpart: City College, complete with a pretty gay dean.

  • Fake Real Turn: The study group, after the pilot episode.
  • Faking the Dead: Starburns. Evil Pierce is also revealed to have done this in an imaginary scenario in the season 4 finale.
  • Fan Fiction: Alison Brie admits to reading Jeff/Annie fanfics.
  • Fanservice:
    Jeff: "Eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns on the sexiness."
    Annie: "What's a diminima-mya-mya?"
  • Fanservice Faux Fight: Buddy's Self-Serving Memory of Britta and Annie in cheerleader outfits fighting over a bra that neither one has in a kiddie pool filled with whipped cream, which he states afterwards "may have been a dream".
  • Flanderization: To the extent that "Repilot" addressed it on screen.
    • Britta's Soapbox Sadie aspect was increased to the point of being a Straw Character, where she'll actively contradict herself within the same conversation just to be Anti-something; at the same time, Britta moved from being The Straight Man to a more sympathetic character, before eventually regressing into the Study Group's resident airhead.
    • Pierce started out as a misanthropic, bigoted, but generally kind of harmless and Grumpy Old Man, even with occasional hints of a well-buried heart of gold. By Season 2 he's evolved into an overtly evil Manipulative Bastard who plays elaborate, cruel mind games with his only friends, gleefully abuses a suicidal classmate, and shows very little regard for anything except himself and his status in the group. Season 3 dialled him back towards his Season 1 persona, before Season 4 flanderized his Racist Grandpa side resulting in him becoming an extreme racist. The extent of the racism caused Chevy Chase to blow up on the set and quit the show.
    • The Dean starts out the show as a fairly incompetent dean with an inferiority complex about Greendale. His campiness and sexual eccentricity, first hinted at in episode four when he makes a Freudian slip about "going both ways," gets quickly ratcheted up to him being a pansexual freak who is obsessed with outrageous costumes and stalks Jeff shamelessly. His habit of dropping "dean" into every conversation also starts in episode four and quickly becomes one of his major running gags.
    • Shirley and her Christianity. Every season she becomes more and more of a hypocritical Christian fundamentalist. Her high-pitched, lilting sing-song voice also becomes much more pronounced after a while.
    • Annie moved from being a driven young woman, to an "Awwwwww" machine. Her crush on Jeff has also moved from merely being a smaller aspect of her character to one of the more notable parts of Annie's identity.
    • Chang has become crazier with each passing season, to the point that Season 5 opens with Chang himself outright admitting to it and moving back towards his Season 1 persona.
    • Troy and Abed have gone from being merely being best friends, to so codependent on one another that Abed literally can't function without Troy. Individually, Troy has become dumber and more immature as the show has gone on; whilst Abed has gone from being a reasonably functioning adult to suffering a mental breakdown over his favorite TV show being delayed to mid-season, whilst Season 3 has him moving from being a pop-culture encyclopaedia to being almost entirely hung up on Inspector Spacetime, the in-universe Doctor Who expy.
    • The Season 5 premiere addresses this, with Jeff pointing out how Britta went from being a socially-conscious anarchist to the show's Butt Monkey, how Troy got progressively stupider and had his entire identity consumed by his relationship with Abed, and so on.
  • Food Slap:
    • Abed gets a drink thrown in his face during the group's outing to a bar.
    • In "Anthropology 101," Britta dumps a bowl on Jeff's head in the cafeteria.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: More than one of each type:
    • Sanguine: Shirley, Pierce, and Pelton
    • Choleric: Annie and Chang (when he has power, at least)
    • Melancholic: Britta and Abed
    • Phlegmatic: Jeff and Troy
  • Foreshadowing:
    • After the revelation that Abed can see the show's Plot Twists coming, he demonstrates Jeff's character trait of actually being bothered by things he pretends not to by showing a clip where he gets distraught that Pierce is at the top of the class. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Pierce is actually a genius.
    • In "Advanced Criminal Law", Pierce writes a song about life at Greendale which mentions "taking air conditioner repair", a major plot thread of Season 3.
    • In "Football, Feminism, and You", Troy tells Jeff that he should accept what he's good at and maybe take a pottery class.
    • In "Introduction to Statistics", when he notices Pierce taking his medication, Abed tells him a story about his grandpa hallucinating from taking the wrong pills. Cue Pierce taking what appears to be the most powerful ecstasy known to man.
    • "In "Intro To Political Science", Troy asks Abed "Do you just constantly have your own little side adventures?" to which Abed bluntly replies "Yep", prompting a saddened "Yeah, me too", in a high-pitched voice. Troy feeling inferior to Abed becomes an important point exploited by the vice dean in the third season, during the build-up to the blanketfort vs. pillowfort war
      • Additionally, one of Annie's campaign promises is that "the assailant known only as the 'Ass Crack Bandit' will be brought to justice." The search for the bandit becomes the subject of "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics" years later, in season 5.
    • In "Aerodynamics of Gender", Abed's Robocop sequences foreshadowed the events of the next several episodes, including the blanket forts, Troy's birthday and the Christmas special. One of his mental notes says "Sell Group on Paintball Sequel." A few episodes later in "Intro To Political Science", the news blurbs mention the dean denying another paintball match and suggesting a "Western-themed end-of-the-year picnic". The two-part finale of the season? A Western-themed paintball adventure.
      • On the opposite side of the screen from the notes during the Robocop sequences are the dates of Britta's, Annie's, and Shirley's menstrual cycles, foreshadowing the events of the very next episode.
    • In "Epidemiology" Troy becomes the hero and saves the day by lowering the temperature of the air conditioning to get everyone to collectively snap out of their zombie state which foreshadows his affinity for fixing air conditioning units
    • In "Cooperative Calligraphy", Britta comments that Jeff usually wears different boxers - only Abed catches her use of "usually." He is later the first to figure out that they've been having secret sex in "Paradigms of Human Memory."
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Jeff and Shirley realize that when they were children Shirley humiliated him in a game of foosball. Jeff moved away soon after and they did not meet again until they were adults. The humiliation turned Jeff into the Jerk with a Heart of Gold he is today and Shirley's Heel Realization made her a very passive person.
  • Freudian Trio - Troy, Abed and Annie since they started living together.
  • Friendless Background: Most of the study group:
    • In "Pillows and Blankets", Troy sends a vicious text message to Abed saying that "we all know I was your first friend."
    • Pierce had been attending Greendale for over ten years, but it would seem that the study group are the first meaningful connection he's made.
    • Jeff's line of career makes it pretty obvious that he never had anyone he trusted or cared about in his firm.
    • Chang, for obvious reasons: he's pretty much insane. Despite his efforts, though, he never makes it into the study group.
    • Britta tearfully remarks at one point that she's never really had any female friends ("Women have always hated me!") and there are hints that most of the people she hung out with pre-study group couldn't wait to be rid of her.
    • Annie was the bullied awkward nerdy girl at school.
  • Friends with Benefits: This eventually becomes the arrangement between Jeff and Britta.
  • The Friends Who Never Hang:
    • Shirley and Troy didn't have a B-Plot together until the fourth season. Yvette-Nicole Brown (Shirley's actress) noted this in the DVD commmentary for a season three episode where Troy gave a heartfelt goodbye to Shirley, although the two never spent time together on-screen. They also rarely spoke to one another directly even when the group was all together around the study room. This could be read as an attempt to avert any potential Unfortunate Implications of having the only two African-American members of the group hang out all the time, except that it's gone a bit far the other way.
    • Shirley and Jeff intentionally invoke this because it was established in their first episode together that they were really toxic to one another. This is brought to light again in season 2 where the two almost conspired to get Chang imprisoned for the rest of his life. The third season episode "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" had a Jeff and Shirley pairing that seemed to resolve their issues and later in the season the two spend an episode together without resulting in them becoming horrible people.
    • Also Abed and Pierce haven't spent too much time together, but this seems to be at least partially intentional on Abed's end because, as Abed puts it, he doesn't find Pierce all that compelling as a character.
    • In Season 1's Social Psychology, Abed lampshades the lack of plotlines between him and Annie using Phoebe and Chandler as an example. Although this is somewhat of a parody of the trope seeing as this episode was only the fourth in the entire series.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages:
    • In the pilot, this is combined with My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels when Jeff is trying to sell Britta on the idea that he's a Spanish tutor. When challenged to say precisely that in Spanish, he gives a supremely confident delivery that the audience (thanks to subtitles) can see is nowhere close. It is, however, in itself coherent Spanish ("I sleep late Spanish. One more hour. Don't scratch my car."), implying that Jeff knows some limited Spanish (but only what he would need to say to interact with hotel maids and valets) and is pulling a minor Batman Gambit on her, knowing full well that she won't understand it. He even includes the word 'Spanish' in Spanish in the middle because that's the one thing she'll be listening for.
    • Subverted when the gang walk out on their Spanish final to go and rescue Annie, and as they're leaving each of them talk to the replacement teacher and each other in perfect Spanish. Pierce, however, brings it back to form.
    • Also Abed talking with his father in Arabic and with Pavel in Polish.
  • Funny Background Event: Usually provided by Abed.
    • Including, in "The Psychology of Letting Go", an entire funny background storyline. While the main plot of the episode takes place, Abed can frequently be seen in the background meeting a pregnant woman, getting in a fight with her boyfriend, and finally delivering her baby.
    • In "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," a blink and you'll miss it moment when the group is in the Christmas world. As Abed is talking to the group, a snowman can be seen looking at the group from behind a tree. In the real, non-stop-motion world, this would be Chang staring at the group from outside the study room.
  • Genre Savvy: Abed, who frequently points out what's about to happen based on the way the story is progressing so far. He is also the only one that can tell that the Christmas episode is stop-motion animated. Or maybe he's just being delusional.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot:
    • While hypnotising Britta, Pierce tries to coerce her into a hot tub party with himself and her "friend... with lower self-esteem and slightly larger breasts," presumably Annie.
    • In "Early 21st Century Romanticism," Britta kisses Paige (very awkwardly) and is very nearly kissed by Annie.
    • Buddy feels this way about Britta and Annie, daydreaming of them wrestling in whipped cream while wearing cheerleader uniforms over a missing bra.
    • Britta and Annie accidentally put this to good use when raising money for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as they end up raising most of their money by oil wrestling.
  • Golden Moment: Played straight and subverted frequently.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Shirley's husband Andre plays with this trope; the negative consequences of his adultery and leaving Shirley prior to the first season are not glossed over, but when we finally meet him and they get back together in the second season he comes across as a decent person who made a mistake, genuinely regrets it and is making a sincere effort to turn his life around and fix things with Shirley. It's also suggested in "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy" that while Andre's actions were the catalyst for the breakdown of their marriage, Shirley herself was not entirely without fault either.
  • Group Hug: The study groups does this every few episodes.
    Jeff: Bring it in here you knucklehead!
  • Halloween Episode: "Introduction to Statistics" (season 1), "Epidemiology" (season 2), "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" (season 3), "Paranormal Parentage" (season 4).
  • Happily Failed Suicide: Fat Neil in the Dungeons & Dragons episode.
  • Happily Married:
    • Averted a lot. Jeff, Abed, Annie, and Troy's parents are all divorced. Also, Shirley's husband divorced her for a stripper though they're back together and have another child now, and Pierce has burned through seven wives.
  • Held Gaze: Between Jeff and Annie, frequently, as part of their UST.
    • Another Held Gaze also happens in the intro episode for Rachel, Abed's love interest. She notes that these usually happen (appropriately) before The Big Damn Kiss.
  • Her Code Name Was Mary Sue:
    • Abed's films about the gang, especially if you actually watch them.
    • Buddy in-universe, but the show is so meta, it's hard to tell how obnoxious he is in the show's universe.
  • Hero of Another Story: There's another, apparently cooler study group, which includes Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Starburns and a hot chick. The study group is this to the other students, since everything turns out to be about them.
    • Remember when they all took that fishing trip on St. Patrick's Day?
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Abed has one in "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" after he finds out his mom started a new family.
    • He has a second one in "Biology 101" after all the characters in "Cougarton Abbey" kill themselves after only six episodes. He recovers when Britta shows him Inspector Spacetime.
    • Troy has one in "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" when he meets LeVar Burton in person instead of just getting an autographed picture.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Abed and Troy. In "Physical Education", they even do The Tag in imitation of this trope and Ho Yay's patron saints, Bert and Ernie.
    Shirley: You don't see me saying anything crazy about Abed and Troy's weird little relationship.
    Both: They're just jealous.
  • Hidden Depths
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Almost 40 MINUTES worth of outtakes from Season 1 alone.
  • Hollywood Psych: An interesting case of this actually. There are several instances of this in the show, but they're all facts stated by people who are clearly incompetent and ignorant. This is most likely done on purpose.
  • Hot for Teacher:
    • Jeff, in one of the rare examples where the student is older than the teacher.
    • Professor Duncan assumes Annie is hitting on him before she even asks him anything, then immediately rates her an 8 (which is "a British 10")
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • "Social Psychology": After ranting — at length — about a student evaluation feedback card he received, how hurtful and racist it was, and the lengths he went to in order to discover who the evaluator was:
      Señor Chang: [To Annie, very very creepily] Who's erratic and unstable now, Princess Gringa? [Kisses her on the forehead]
    • "Advanced Criminal Law":
      Britta: You know I have a problem with dishonesty!
      Jeff: You're on trial for cheating!
      Señor Chang: That's right, we are mature! Too mature to sit in a class with a cheating, lying poop face!
    • "Environmental Science":
      Annie: Britta, Jeff suffered for us, give him a little credit.
      Troy: Yeah, you can be pretty cold.
      Abed: (in the distance) Troy?
      Troy: Damn. Here comes Abed. He needs my help- I gotta get out of here.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Almost every episode has a name like a community college course (Intro to ______, _______ 101, etc.), though the plausibility of them as titles for real classes gets slimmer and slimmer as the series continues: Season 3 gives us an episode named "Advanced Gay", when something like "Gay/Lesbian Studies" would have been a more realistic class name.
    • Averted with the pilot, "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas", the two-part season 2 finale "A Fistful of Paintballs"/"For a Few Paintballs More", the season 5 opener "Repilot", and "G.I Jeff".
  • Improbably Predictable: Abed is so good at predicting his friends' responses that he can mimic them while they're talking and his videos foretell the future.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Done repeatedly with Dean Pelton.
  • Informed Poverty: The college itself. Despite their atrocious reputation and numerous alleged problems, their campus is large and well-maintained, and they have lots of money to use on various plot-relevant events (including redoing 5000 posters, a paintball match, and a large statue, just to name a few).
  • Irony: Rich is supposed to be better than Jeff at everything. Greg Cromer, who plays Rich, was the runner-up for the role of Jeff.
  • I Think You Broke Me:
    • Abed reacts this way to a hangover in "Communication Studies."
      Abed: The last thing I remember is... you were dancing like that girl in the movie... The kids in detention?
      Jeff: The Breakfast Club.
      Abed: Dear God. What have you done to me?
    • Lampshaded by Abed, who uses this trope for his own means to end a conversation with Chang in "Asian Population Studies"
      Abed: It’s a mixer, it’s a mixer, it’s a mixer… [Chang walks away] Works every time.
    • The premise for "Virtual Systems Analysis." Annie breaks Abed and has to find/fix him again.
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: In "Advanced Gay", Pierce talks about looking something up on "the Wackapah-DIE-ah".
  • Ivy League for Everyone: The premise for the show is the inversion.
  • Jerkass/Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Although Jeff and Pierce are probably the most obvious examples, pretty much all of the main characters have both their jerk sides and their hearts of gold (albeit to varying degrees).
  • Jumping the Shark: Lampshaded. Many fans consider "Modern Warfare" to be the best episode yet. In the second season Abed has shirts and hoodies made up to give as souvenirs to the people who took part in the paintball game; on the back is printed "It's all downhill from here". invoked
    • Invoked by Abed. Troy immediately complains that the trope-naming episode of Happy Days was the best one.

  • Lampshade Hanging: Everywhere.
    • In Cooperative Calligraphy, Jeff explicitly says:
      Jeff: Gwenifer! Hi, yeah, it's me, I can't make it. Well, tell your disappointment to suck it; I'm doing a Bottle Episode!
    • Examples of tropes not yet covered by this website, but employed and then lampshaded by the show:
    • It is revealed to the audience that Troy is in a dance class when he suddenly and dramatically tears off clothes to reveal tights underneath. Later, when encouraged of the positives if he were to reveal his dancing secret to the group, he notes "I have been spending a lot on tear-away clothing."
    • In the first season finale, Britta is taking therapy with Professor Duncan. She has automatically lain down on the couch for the session, which Duncan notes is how one would act "in a Woody Allen movie" and is unnecessary.
    • One episode, "Paradigms of Human Memory," lampshades the act of lampshading things.
      Jeff: Abed, stop being meta! Why do you always have to take whatever happens to us and shove it up its own ass?
    • In "Applied Anthropology and Culinary Arts", a couple of background characters mention how everything at Greendale seems to revolve around the study group.
  • Large Ham:
    • Jack Black as Buddy.
    • Señor Chang's defining character-trait.
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    • Subverted and lampshaded in "Comparative Religion":
      Shirley: What is going on?
      Troy: We're trying to get Jeff ready for the fi-iiiiiii.... iiiighhhh... t. (whispers) I couldn't think of another word.
      Jeff: Idiot. He meant we were figh- ...ting. It is hard to think of another word.
    • Played straight a couple of times in "Physical Education":
      Annie: It's just like The Notebook- except, instead of Alzheimers, Abed has—
      Shirley: (Mm-hmm!)
      Annie: —someone who... likes him.
      (next scene)
      Troy: Abed, for guys like you, this kind of opportunity only comes around once in a li- (looks at Shirley) ...while.
    • Played straight once in "Basic Rocket Science":
      Britta: During high school field trips, we used to sneak in there and get— (glances at Shirley) praying.
      Shirley: That's nice!
    • It is unclear when it comes to Troy finding out that Jeff and Britta had sex on the study room table. He starts with what seems to be an agonized "AAAAH!" with Annie and Pierce, then finishes it out as "AAAWESOME!" It's unclear whether he was planning that word from the beginning.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The season two DVD packaging reveals the (admittedly minor) spoiler that for much of the season, Shirley is pregnant.
  • Laughing Mad: Chang after losing the Pop 'N Lock contest, which the study group doesn't care about.
    Dean: Okay, he's bringing us down. Get him out of here.
  • Le Film Artistique: Abed's films.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Abed mentions that talking about people like they're in a TV show is his gimmick and that they "leaned pretty hard on that last week." He then says that he "can lay low for an episode." Abed is not featured in the episode after that, except when he avoids talking to the study group and Britta explains, "he's just laying low".
    • From the second episode of Season 3: "Abed, I told you, you can't just mumble stuff, nobody's cutting away!"
  • Limited Social Circle: From Community S3 E03: Competitive Ecology:
    Annie (to Jeff): And who the hell are you always texting?! Everyone you know is here!
    • As of episode 405 it's revealed he's texting no one.
  • Logo Joke: The first, third and fourth logos at the end are the same on each show (Krasnoff-Foster Entertainment, Universal Media Studios/Universal Television and Sony Pictures Television), but the second states this to be "A Dan Harmon/Russo Brothers...
  • Love Dodecahedron: Jeff started the study group to be closer to Britta, who at one point dated Vaughn, then went out with his (former) statistics teacher who he broke up with in "Basic Geneaology". Annie had an intense study session with Jeff when he joined Debate Club, but still had a serious crush on Troy, until she decided to pursue her relationship with Vaughn. Troy apologized for leading Annie on when he announced he had a date with Randy, quickly explaining that Randy can be a girl's name, too, but (due to some interference by Britta and Jeff) became attracted to Annie, who rejects him for Vaughn. Britta claims she doesn't have feelings for Jeff, but choked onstage when she saw him with an "official" girlfriend, Professor Slater, and Troy had to snap her out of it by "being a friend AND a man." A few episodes later, Jeff and Britta hooked up in the middle of an intense paintball game. In the finale of S1, Slater and Britta both declare their love for Jeff, but he leaves and kisses Annie. Annie and Jeff continue to have big-time UST in S2 and a bit in S3 as well. Meanwhile, Jeff and Britta have been hooking up on the down-low throughout S2, which is brought to an end when everyone else finds out. Annie and Abed kiss in the S2 finale, but only because Abed is in character as Han Solo, and once the paintball game is done he drops character and doesn't reference it again, though Annie is still a bit flustered by the experience. The two of them have a couple of nice Ship Tease moments in S3 as well. Meanwhile, Troy and Britta have more and more bonding moments throughout S3, especially in "Origins of Vampire Mythology", which sets Troy up as the sweet, earnest, good guy Britta's never really had in her life. The amount of lingering hugs and longing looks and other such moments between the two of them, especially in the S3 finale, means that they're the closest thing to an actual couple currently in the group.
    Jeff: All right, all right, maybe we're not a family. Maybe it's more complicated, because unlike a real family, there's nothing to stop any one of us from looking at any of the others as a... sexual... prospect... (everybody starts glancing around the table, leading to the entry under Crack Pairing)
    • As of Season 4, Britta and Troy are an official couple until they amicably break up in "Basic Human Anatomy."
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Annie when Abed cosplayed as Han Solo, Batman, or Don Draper.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The lyrics to the theme song are surprisingly dark.
    [brightly] We could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year~!
    • Even the jaunty chorus "I can't count the reasons I should stay / one by one they all just fade away" seems pretty gloomy in the context of being with your friends.
  • MacGuffin: The "MacGuffin Neurological Institute" in the Season 4 episode "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking."
    • Annie's pen in "Cooperative Calligraphy". The pen itself plays no role in the story, and it doesn't even matter that it's a pen. But the need to find it drives the entire plot. (It could just as easily have been a pencil, a roll of tape, a stick of gum, etc., and the episode would have played out exactly the same.)
  • Meaningful Background Event:
    • In the Bottle Episode, the reveal that it was the monkey who stole the pen seemingly came out of nowhere. Early in the episode, during the shot where Troy says he wants to lick the puppy Dean Pelton is holding, in the background a tiny monkey hand is seen taking the pen off the table. It is very easy to miss.
    • In "The Psychology of Letting Go," the background events tell the story of Abed helping a pregnant woman, getting in an argument with the father, and eventually delivering the baby.
  • Memetic Badass: In-universe, Jeff Winger and the study group - at least according to the Dean.
  • Mic Drop: Annie Edison finishing her eulogy for Star-Burns.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Pierce thinks both Jeff and Britta are gay.
    • Britta and her "lesbian" friend from "Early 21st Century Romanticism" are both straight, both think that the other is a lesbian, and both only befriended the other so they could feel hip and progressive for having a lesbian friend.
  • Moral Myopia:
    • Jeff points this out to Duncan in the pilot episode.
      Jeff: Duncan, you did seem less into integrity the day I convinced twelve of your peers that when you made that U-turn on the freeway and tried to order chalupas from the emergency call box, that your only real crime was loving America."
    • Jeff is being more than a little hypocritical here, given that he's on several occasions a near-perfect example of Moral Myopia. Granted, he is gradually getting better, but even so. One particularly notable example:
      In the Pilot, having spent the entire episode manipulating, lying and cheating the other members of the study group to get what he wants, he's outraged when Britta reveals she's also been lying to him to try and expose him and when Duncan reveals he hasn't given Jeff the test answers he's been demanding throughout the episode.
  • Mood Whiplash: Inevitable in a series which insists on playing out typical comedy scenarios - but with genuine consequences and character development. For example, the story arc where Pierce gets injured in a wacky accident on a trampoline... which leads to his being forced to wear full casts on both legs for a good portion of the season, and become addicted to painkillers which nearly claim both his friendships and his life.
  • Motive Decay: The original reason the study group was formed was so Jeff could seduce Britta. This premise stopped being mentioned about half way through the first season, and towards the end of the third even the study group was temporarily dropped as an excuse to keep the group together. This does not go without a lampshade for long.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Jeff. Particularly in that episode when he played pool.
      Jeff: I discovered a new back muscle to work out. Ladies, you'll thank me come tank top season.
    • Troy's Dracula costume (shirtless with a toilet seat cover as a collar and toilet paper cuffs) during season 2's Halloween episode "Epidemiology". Donald Glover running around cracking wise and fighting zombies without a shirt is nothing to complain about.
    • All the guys, except Pierce, stripping down to their underwear in "Cooperative Calligraphy." Especially, and surprisingly, Abed.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • As of the season two finale, Britta and Annie have wrestled in whipped cream while wearing cheerleader uniforms (and no bras) and in oil while wearing tight t-shirts. Annie's also been covered in paint - which Alison Brie has referred to as part of Community's plot to cover her in as many different liquids as possible.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • Jeff and Pierce's multi-costumed, multi-propped Spanish presentation, which gets horrified looks from the students and F/F- grades.
    • "Somewhere Out There"/Shirley's Public Speaking Speech/Chang's Irish Dancing Montage.
    • The entire episode "Modern Warfare" does this for paintball.
    • The sailing course from "Basic Pottery" which is treated like a high seas adventure.
  • Mushroom Samba: Several season 2 episodes have Pierce overdosing on pain meds and conjuring up a "friend" who's a tiny little airplane pilot (played by Andy Dick).
  • Musical Episode: Regional Holiday Music.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy", Andre talks Shirley and Jeff out of getting Chang put in jail for 20 to life for human trafficking. This comes back to haunt not just the study group, but all of Greendale in season 3 when Chang becomes the Big Bad.
    • Also, Jeff and Shirley mocking Vaughn behind his back led to him attacking Britta in song after he dumped her over their actions.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If Alan hadn't gotten Jeff disbarred, Jeff would've missed the tons of Character Development he went through during his time at Greendale.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In the episode Intro to Documentary Filmmaking, Jeff threatens to and does attack Pierce, resulting in visible injuries.
    Jeff: Oh, I should probably tell you; if you're lying to me, if my father isn't coming, if a car pulls up, and anyone other than my father steps out, say, an actor, you in a wig, if you try to pull any Ferris Bueller, Parent Trap, Three's Company, FX, FX 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion bullshit, I will beat you. And there will be nothing madcap or wacky about it.
  • No Sense of Humor: Shirley's Unseen Finnish friend Gary is hated by the group in part because he's a humourless buzzkill.
    Shirley: He grew up in a land without sun!
  • Off-the-Shelf FX:
    • Abed and Troy's Kickpuncher costumes.
    • Also, Abed and Troy's Alien Queen and Power Loader costumes from "Epidemiology." This comes back to bite Troy when he attempts to fight off zombies in the power loader, despite it being made of PVC
      Troy: OK, I don't know why I thought this would work.
  • Official Couple: Troy and Britta, as of Season 4.
  • Omake: Usually non-related to the plot of that episode.
  • One Head Taller: Jeff is a head taller than both Britta and Annie.
  • Only Sane Man: Britta came off this way early in Season 1, but Characterization Marches On. Jeff likes to think he is this. However, according to the Britta's psych evaluations in Season 3, Abed is the only one of the group who isn't psychologically insane.
    • On the commentary track for that episode, Dan Harmon suggests not reading too much into this, because part of his point was that there is only so much about a person's mental stability you can gather from any multiple-choice test.
    • Whenever he shows up, Shirley's husband Andre comes across as a rather sensible and decent fellow who has plentiful reserves of common sense, in contrast to many of the main characters.
    • Professor Kane acts as this in season three. "I have so many conversations that have no sense."
  • Opaque Lenses:
    • Jeff does this to hide/fight a hangover:
      Britta: Well? did you talk to Chang?
      Jeff: Yeah, but... it didn't do any good. My head still hurts from all the yelling... and my pupils are more sensitive to light because he yelled at me so much.
    • Britta uses them the same way in a later episode. And later that same episode, Jeff and Abed use them... also to hide a hangover.
  • Out of Order: Unconfirmed, but in Season 1 episode 17 has Jeff say to Leonard "I talked to your son on family day" but family day isn't until the next episode
    • "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts" and "Contemporary Impressionists" were aired in that order, but swapped on the DVD allegedly because this is the order in which they are meant to be watched, although that doesn't make much sense either because the latter ends with the beginning of the temporary Troy/Abed breakup, of which there is no sign in the former.
    • "Digital Estate Planning" was aired after the study group's expulsion from Greendale, but the end tag had Troy and Abed talking in the study room, and no one acted oddly to their presence. The reason for this discrepancy is that an end tag was written for the episode that did not take place in the study room, but Chevy Chase did not want to film it, therefore a new one was written. However, the episode itself also does not make much sense in the timeline of the show as in the previous episode they learned that Chang had replaced the Dean with the Doppel Deaner, and yet the Study Group decided to have this side adventure instead. Possibly justified as it involved the contents of Cornelius Hawthorne's will, and therefore Pierce's inheritance, which probably could not be delayed.
  • Out Run The Fireball:
    • Abed (as Batman) dragging Jeff and Pierce out of the library to Out Run The Collapsing Fort Made Out Of Desks in the Halloween Episode.
    • In the end of "Modern Warfare" when Jeff leaps out of the study room to escape the blast from Chang's paint bottle time-bomb.
  • Overused Running Gag: By season 3, paintball episodes. "Curriculum Unavailable" first sets lampshades that paintball's overdone, and then the next paintball episode where they say they "finally figure out how to make paintball cool again" (though opinions are mixed on how successful that was).
  • Parody Episode: A focal point of the show's humor, starting with the second half of the first season, various episodes devote themselves to being parodies of various genres:
  • Phony Degree: Jeff's diploma-mill undergraduate degree.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: For a study group, they don't do that much studying onscreen - which makes sense, since that would most likely be boring and slow.
    • Typical of this show, they lampshade this from time to time, as whenever they are reminded that they have to study, they are reluctant to do so.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Abed and Annie seem to be heading this way.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad
    • The Greendale mascot was carefully designed so as not to resemble any specific race or culture; it ended up being called "The Greendale Human Being" and looking like a blind and mute alien.
    • The religiously neutral Santa.
    • Pretty much everything involving the Dean is an example of this. Case in point: "Alternative History of the German Invasion" has the Dean slamming on the obnoxious German trio for celebrating Oktoberfest (along with everyone else), because it's their own tradition and therefore a national stereotype. Or something.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Occasionally pops up due to the age gaps within the study group (from Pierce to Jeff and Shirley to Annie and Troy) and to a lesser extent due to the race differences:
    • A conversation about the UST between Jeff and Britta:
      Shirley: You remind me of Sam and Diane... I hated Sam and Diane.
      Annie: Who's Sam and Diane?
      Shirley: [furious] Okay, we get it! You're young!
    • When attempting to convince Abed to change his personality in order to help him talk to a girl:
      Abed: You're gonna Can't Buy Me Love me. You know, transform me from Zero to Hero, Geek To Chic?
      Troy: Ohhhhh, he wants us to Love Don't Cost a Thing him.
      Shirley: Ohhh!
      Troy: Can't Buy Me Love was the remake for white audiences.
      Shirley: That's so uncomfortable when they do that, I can't believe it doesn't insult them.
    • One of the 'Study Break' webisodes has the gang decide to play a game while on a study break. Troy, Annie and Abed decide to play 'The Floor Is Lava', Pierce and Shirley break out the cards to play Pinocle, and Jeff and Britta find themselves trapped between the two poles. Lampshaded when Jeff dryly taunts Britta by pointing out that "the generation gap is splitting our group — and you're right in the middle of it."
    • Shirley repeatedly makes a point of reminding everyone that she and Jeff are about the same age—she just seems to be further removed in age because of her more old-fashioned, conservative views and the fact that she is a parent while Jeff is not.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: an in-universe (platonic) example in "Trobed".
  • Post Modern: The show repeatedly takes dialogue, scenes, shots, premises, and songs directly from other works (about higher education or otherwise) and notes it.
    • Interestingly, David Foster Wallace predicted that just this show would appear... in 1990. Had he lived to see Community, his reaction would have been a mixture of horror, fascination, and amusement.
  • Pottery Barn Poor: A source of contention for fans is the fact that the sources of income for almost all the characters are unclear. Of the main characters:
    • Jeff is briefly homeless in an early season 1 episode, indicating he must not have had much money saved from his former lawyer job. However, in all later episodes his financial status is fine. Up until the "season 3 finale," many fans assumed he consulted at his old firm, but Alan debunks this by telling Jeff about events that have happened since he stopped working there. Jeff has been shown to live in an apartment.
    • Britta is repeatedly established as being poor. Of the younger characters, she is the only one ever seen with a job—in "Critical Film Studies", she works at a diner, but gets fired at the end of the episode. Britta is also known to live in an apartment.
    • Troy lives with his father in the first season, but gets kicked out and goes to live with Pierce. In the third season, he and Abed live together in an apartment, but their source of income is never revealed.
    • Abed is the only one who lives on-campus in the two seasons, and then lives together with Troy in an apartment in season 3. He actually gets into debt with a celebrity impersonator company, revealing he has no source of income. Abed seems to have depended entirely on his parents until arriving at Greendale, and it's possible that his father still pays for his bills.
    • Annie's financial status is actually the focus of an episode, "Celebrity Pharmacology". A recurring claim throughout season 2 and early season 3 is that she lives in an apartment in a "bad neighborhood." She tells Pierce that she pays her bills with money she saved from every birthday and special occasion (such as the "period fairy") she's had, which, although unrealistic, is at least more than can be said for the others. However, she runs so low on money that she is forced to take a bribe from Pierce. At the end of the episode she says she plans to get a job, but this has never been elaborated on. Some fans jokingly think she works at Dildopolis, the sex toy store below her apartment. In season 3, she begins living in Troy and Abed's apartment.
    • Shirley, as a single mother, presumably received child support and alimony from Andre. They later reconnect and get back together. Later, she begins attempting to start her business, and Andre implies that he is the breadwinner of the family.
    • Pierce is rich and the heir to his father's fortune, although he chooses to give it up to his half-brother Gilbert Lawson. He presumably has a large fortune for himself.
    • Chang in Season Two. It's doubtful the school was paying him to show up to classes, given how grievous his resume-falsifying was, and he flat-out tells Jeff that his wife kicked him out in "Early 21st Century Romanticism," depriving him of whatever income she had. It is worth noting that Chang lived inside Greendale for an undefined amount of time.
  • The Power of Friendship
  • Precision F-Strike: In the episode where the group is visiting Pierce in the hospital, and he is using it as an opportunity to screw with them, he tells Jeff that he located Jeff's real dad. Jeff knows that Pierce is almost certainly messing with him, so after saying that he will go see him, he turns and says: "Oh, I should probably tell you; if you're lying to me, if my father isn't coming, if a car pulls up, and anyone other than my father steps out, say, an actor, you in a wig, if you try to pull any Ferris Bueller, Parent Trap, Three's Company, FX, FX 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion bullshit, I will beat you. And there will be nothing madcap or wacky about it."
  • The Present Day: A rare example of a show that literally takes place as much in the present day as possible; it is implied episodes are taking place on the very same timeline as they're airing. On two occasions, characters have referenced the events of the previous week's episode as having happened last week. The first season's Christmas episode aired on December 10, 2009 and takes place on December 10, 2009; more subtly, "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design" featured a Latvian Independence Parade, and aired on November 18 — Latvian Independence Day. The time when the season takes place (mid-fall through spring, usually with a break in the winter) corresponds with the time that most colleges are in session, even to the point that the mid-season break is the break between fall and winter semesters and the customary re-run period over spring break is the break between winter and spring semesters. So doing the episodes in a real-time weekly structure works.'
    • This is also why "Paradigms of Human Memory" is so effective—compared to what we see in the episodes, there's tons of stuff we don't get to see, including entire episodes revolving around a ghost town, a haunted house, a shark hunt and a St. Patrick's Day rafting trip. Even when the cameras aren't on, the characters are still doing things.
    • Similar to the Latvian Independence Day example, the upcoming pillow vs. blanket fight episode is airing on National Pillow Fight Day.
    • Averted so far in season 4, which was delayed till February 2013 and yet its first episode still takes place on the first day of school in the fall.
  • Present Day Past: The supposedly 1980-vintage RV based space simulator included flatscreen displays and the glimpse we got of the actual RV dashboard was considerably more modern than it "should" have been.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: E Pluribus Anus.
    • "Out of many, an old woman"?
  • Psychologist Teacher: The accounting teacher who insists that he will fail Jeff if he doesn't seize the day.
  • Pun:
    • Oh, Christmas Troy! Oh Christmas Troy!
    • "Asian Population Studies" has Chang constantly doing this with his own name (to Jeff's increasing frustration).
      Jeff: Let's change the subject...
      Chang: You mean CHANG the subject.
    • "Most of you have responded to my e-vite, but some of you remain eeeeeeeeevasive!"
    • "My room has a bunk bed... which is kind of a misnomer because it's the real deal."
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Annie's not-so-secret weapon.

  • Real Men Wear Pink:
    • Troy during dance class in "Interpretive Dance".
    • Also, Troy and Pierce in "Communication Studies." They wear vibrant blue and pink (respectively) pantsuits, as punishment for the fallout of Shirley and Annie's prank on Señor Chang.
    • In "Home Economics", Abed describes Jeff as being just like Goldie Hawn in overboard - he's wealthy, assertive, arrogant, and gets manicures all the time.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "At Least It Was Here" by The 88.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Troy and Abed, respectively.
  • Reference Overdosed: The whole series, especially where Abed is concerned. "Modern Warfare" deserves special mention, though.
  • Remember the New Guy: Mocked with both Buddy and Paradox.
  • RPG Episode: "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons."
    • Revisited in "Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" in season 5, where David Cross plays Mr Hickey's estranged son and the group play to get them together.
  • Rousing Speech: This has become something of a Jeff Winger trademark. In fact Jeff uses this trope so much it could be called "Winger Speech" in his honour.
    • Lampshaded in "Paradigms of Human Memory", which at one point cuts between several shots of him delivering multiple near-identical speeches to the rest of study group in different situations.
  • Running Gag:
    • Shirley's (never-seen) friend Gary, who nobody likes.
    • The Dean's dalmatian-furry fetish is followed from its very beginning ("I hope this doesn't awaken something in me"), to its escalation (dalmatian mugs, posters, and rugs), to its inevitable conclusion in "Pascal's Triangle Revisited".
    • Troy and his propensity for "butt-stuff."
    • People like to comment on the size of Jeff's forehead. By the end of season 2 he starts getting insecure about it.
    • The first season commentaries continuously allude to (the non-drinking) Yvette Nicole Brown being an alcoholic.
    • As well as Britta's "skankiness" (although Gillian Jacobs is the first one to use the term).
    • Season 2 involved a lot of diorama-making, including a diorama of them making a diorama.
      Annie: I heard someone made a diorama about a world without dioramas.
    • Season 2 also involved no-one knowing what Anthropology is actually supposed to be about. Including the Professor teaching the class.
    • Season 3 seems to have a theme of new characters not getting the show mechanics.
    • The Dean walking in and seeing Jeff in a compromising position, and then proceeding to check him out.
      • Also everytime the Dean leaves the study room, he touches Jeff.
    • The racist and anti-racist jokes.
    • Chang's inability to recognize backhanded compliments.
    • Pierce getting mistaken for dead.
    • On random occasions throughout Season 3, characters can be heard humming Michael Haggins' "Daybreak." It spreads from character to character.
      • It starts with Abed humming it as part of his 'horror story' in "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps." In a later episode, Troy (who was the only one who enjoyed Abed's story) hums it as he leaves the blanket fort and sees that Annie broke the Dark Knight DVD. Then, a few episodes later, Annie hums it as she goes outside to talk to Jeff. Finally the song is played for real when Neil plays it over the school radio in the pillow war.
    • Jeff's "blow off" class always becoming more important than he thought.
    • Seemingly mundane, innocent and everyday things being blown up to Serious Business levels by either the study group or Greendale as a whole.
    • Annie swooning over Abed's impersonations.
    • Halloween costumes: Jeff is always 'accidentally handsome' (handsome cowboy, David Beckham), Annie is obliviously sexy (lycra skeleton costume, Little Red Riding Hood), Britta never makes any attempt to be attractive (squirrel, dinosaur), Pierce dresses as sex symbol from his youth (Beastmaster, Captain Kirk), Shirley's costume is always "unintentionally ambiguous" (Harry Potter [mistaken for Urkel]), Glinda The Good Witch (mistaken for Miss Piggy) and Abed's costumes reference his favourite films (Batman, Alien).
    • Magnitude greeting everyone (and everyone greeting Magnitude) with "Pop pop!" According to Donald Glover, it's "so not a catchphrase it becomes a catchphrase again."
    • From the behind-the-scenes footage, Alison Brie's rapping and predilection for handjob jokes. In the second outtakes reel the others start impersonating her doing the latter.
    • Joel McHale repeatedly humping things, ranging from a dead homeless man to Alison Brie, during the season 2 outtakes reel.
    • In the season 3 commentaries, Joel McHale always introduces himself as somebody else, usually as Alison Brie.
    • In season 3 (especially the second half), a character will ask a brief request of three different characters individually using the same word or brief phrase while pointing at them. ("Intervention? Intervention? Intervention?")
    • The group (but mostly Annie and Shirley) saying "Awww!" in unison, and the Collective Groans to Britta's self-righteous statements.
    • Troy saying: "Pretend like you're asleep!"
    • The study group's habit of saying something aggressive, then rhyming it with a famous person's name.
    • "TROY AND ABED IN THE MOOOOOORNING!" and the numerous variants.
    • Various people (even a priest) telling Britta "You're the worst!"
    • One character interrupting another by blurting out "let him/her finish!" when they mistakenly expect him or her to be cut off mid-sentence by the rest of the group.
    • Annie being reminded that she lives in a terrible neighborhood.
    • Annie & Troy don't understand some pop culture references because they're too young.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Chang in seasons 2 and 3.
    • The Study Group of the Darkest Timeline.
  • Sarcasm Mode:
    • Annie makes a point of pointing this out when she sarcastically thanks Jeff and Britta for ruining her love life.
    • Abed has to go into this:
      Abed: Oh, that's sarcasm, but I forgot to inflect. This sounds way more like sarcasm. Inflection is so interesting.
    • Also:
      Abed: You shifted the balance, like in a sitcom when one character sees another one naked.
      Jeff: Is that really a sitcom staple?
      Abed: You're right, what do I know. I'm Abed, *derp face* I neeeever watch TV.
  • The Scrappy: Vaughn, in-universe example. Another in-universe example is Shirley's friend, Gary. (Troy: "I hope he transfers to HELL!")
  • Secret Handshake: Troy and Abed's secret handshake is not particularly secret, it's just their usual handshake followed by both of them whispering "SECRET".
  • Separated by a Common Language:
    • Duncan refers to leaving his wallet "in the back of my lorry", presumably because someone heard that 'lorry' is British English for 'truck'. In fact it suggests that the psych professor mysteriously owns an 18-wheeler - pickup trucks are hardly ever seen in the UK, and when they are they're called 'pickup trucks'.
      • Not to mention that, as shown in the pilot, Duncan doesn't have a pickup truck at all; he drives a Smart car.
    • Duncan also states that he grew up on "52nd Street in Islington". Assuming he means Islington in London, not only is there no such street, but in British cities streets are usually named, not numbered in the same way that they are in American cities.
    • In-universe example: "Let's blow this pop stand and head out back for a spot of slap and tickle. That's sex, in case the lingo hasn't made it across the pond."
    • ...all of which are part of the larger joke that Duncan doesn't actually know any English slang and knows very little about England, having come to the US at a young age with his grandfather.
  • Serious Business: To the point of a Running Gag; it seems that there is nothing on Earth that either the study group or the wider Greendale community as a whole cannot take and find some way to completely blow out of proportion. Such as:
    • Chicken fingers are so important that the gang starts a mini-Mafia to control them.
    • Paintball, as shown in "Modern Warfare", "A Fistful of Paintballs" and "For a Few Paintballs More".
    • Losing a pen leads to the Study Group literally tearing the study room apart to find it.
    • In ''Early 21st Century Romanticism" the group are just as — if not more — outraged by Jeff's dislike of the Barenaked Ladies than his reluctance to join them in an intervention for Pierce.
    • The rivalry with City College - up to and including a 'space race.'
    • Love of the game of pool is treated this way in "Physical Education."
    • The Air Conditioner Repair Annex is basically a cult, complete with their own by-laws & traditions.
    • Picking lab partners, instead of being a quick & painless task, took the Study Group an entire day to get done. And even then, they didn't actually do it.
    • Foosball.
    • The decision whether to make a blanket fort or a pillow fort turns into a campus-wide pillow-fought civil war in "Digital Exploration of Interior Design" & "Pillows and Blankets".
    • Abed and Troy's 'Dreamatorium' - they would rather sleep in a tent within their apartment than use the room as a bedroom.
    • Someone pushing a yam off a table in "Basic Lupine Urology".
    • "Alternate History of the German Invasion" reveals that the group treat anyone else using Study Room F as an invasion of their home, whilst the Study Group hogging the room leads to the rest of the student body protesting against them.
    • Someone else using Magnitude's "Pop pop!" catchphrase leads to him having a nervous breakdown & crisis of identity.
    • The Ass Crack Bandit, who runs around Greendale dropping quarters down people's ass cracks when they're bent over, is treated like a police force would a serial killer. This is gradually subverted towards the end, however; when the study group learn of the death of Pierce, they immediately recognise the Bandit as ultimately trivial in comparison to the death of their friend.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Parodied/referenced/somethinged during Troy's and Abed's "supercool elevator" mime act.
  • Shameless Self-Promoter: Joel McHale spends a lot of time on his E! Network show The Soup urging people to watch Community.
  • Share Phrase:
    • Troy and Abed: Troy and Abed in the Morning!
    • Annie and Shirley: Awwwwwwwwwww!
    • The study group as a whole appear to have adopted Britta's "Duh-doy!" when they want to suggest something or someone is stupid.
  • Shipper on Deck: Shirley, during around half of the first season, really wanted Britta and Jeff to get together.
  • Ship Tease: Also, see Crack Pairing. The most prevalent pairings teased are:
    • Annie and Jeff.
    • Britta and Jeff.
    • Britta and Troy.
    • Troy and Abed.
    • Abed and Annie.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: In-universe and out, Team Britta versus Team Annie. Also versus Team Slater in-universe.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Mike's gang in the climactic scene of "Comparative Religion":
      Mike: Shirts off, boys!
      Britta: I'm being Punk'd, right?
    • Jeff had a shirtless scene and then just simply didn't stop. Pretty soon it ended with him (gratuitously) lifting his leg up onto a pool table while lining up a shot... completely nude.
  • Shoo Out the New Guy:
    • Mocked mercilessly with Jack Black's appearance as "Buddy" a student who has allegedly been in the gang's Spanish 101 class this entire time. The entire main cast are either weirded out by his sudden, unexplained appearance in their lives or convinced he's a murderous psycho. The episode ends with Owen Wilson suddenly appearing and offering Buddy a spot in the "cool" clique.
    • Professor Slater - NO ONE is on Team Slater.
  • Shout-Out: The show does this a lot. Examples from individual episodes are listed on the Recap pages.
  • Show Within a Show:
    • Super-meta Abed writes and directs a campus TV show called The Community College Chronicles, with characters based on his study group. Abed's so well-versed in TV tropes that he can use the show to predict what's going to happen to the study group next, down to Shirley being chased through the library by a werewolf - also making this a Type 4 example.
    • In the season 3 premiere, two fictional television shows are mentioned - Cougarton Abbey, a portmanteu of Cougartown and Downton Abbey, and the fan-favorite Inspector Spacetime, an affectionate Doctor Who parody (although Cougartown and Doctor Who both exist in Community's universe—it's just that the former is a Transatlantic Equivalent and the latter is a more popular rip-off).
    • Hilariously played with in the season 4 premiere, where Abed is told to go to a happy place in his mind. Cue an alternate multi-cam style version of the show (complete with laugh track and fake banner ads) playing on "Abed TV," followed by a cartoon version inside that one, where everyone's a baby. As Leonard so aptly puts it, it's "show-ception!"
  • Significant Reference Date:
    • December 10th, 2009: "Comparative Religion"
    • December 3rd, 2010: "Mixology Certification" - the day before Troy's birthday.
    • December 9th, 2010: "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"
  • Similar Squad:
    • A pair of security guards freak Troy and Abed out with this at the end of "Football, Feminism, and You".
    • The cast of Abed's films is an invoked example.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Many, many.
    • Rich, for Jeff.
      • Leonard seems to have taken on this role for Jeff in Season 3.
    • Duncan, for Chang.
    • Annie Kim, for Annie.
    • Chang, for the group.
    • The glee club, for the group.
    • The group, for Starburns.
    • Greendale and City College and their respective deans.
  • Six Student Clique:
    • The Head: Jeff
    • The Muscle: Troy
    • The Quirk: Abed
    • The Pretty One: Britta
    • The Smart One: Annie
    • The Wild One: Pierce
    • Shirley doesn't really fall into a slot as she's Team Mom.
  • Slut Shaming: Jeff is a shallow manwhore and the ladies love to call him on it. Annie subverts it, though, in that she's an uptight prude and rather proud of it, thank you very much!
  • Smurfing: Chang and the Dean are both prone to this. Examples include (both from the season four premiere) "Changnesia" and "Simmer dean."
  • The Smurfette Principle: "As the only female member of the Greendale Gooffaws, I have played many memorable comedic characters on stage. My favorites include the roles of "Girlfriend," "Mom" and "Nurse 2" in the Greendale Goofaws' "A Tale of Too Witty" musical revue."
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Jeff and Britta excel at this.
  • Society-on-Edge Episode: This is a recurring situation. Greendale Community College is a sucky school and the students tend to get more volatile and over-the-top as finals approach. The major breakdowns occur once a year in-universe; which corresponds to one per season. In the past this has twice resulted in paintball competitions totally wrecking the school. In season three, the school loses most of its funding so things get even worse. An attempt to achieve a world record for the biggest blanket/pillow fort results in a civil war and a short time later the wake for a deceased student turns into a riot.
  • Something Completely Different: The show has established a ratio of doing this once every three episodes (or so), a few examples include mafia movies, action movies, space movies, zombie movies, conspiracy movies, claymation, mockumentary, and westerns.
  • Special Edition Title:
    • The Halloween episodes replace the normal cootie catcher drawings bearing the cast members' names with different, monster-themed ones.
    • "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" has Abed, in his stop-motion animated form, singing the title theme with different lyrics.
    • "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" has fantasy-themed pictures, to a medieval rendition of the theme.
    • "A Fistful of Paintballs" replaces the usual title theme with an animated sequence mimicking the opening credits of The Good The Bad And The Ugly.
    • The season two finale, "For A Few Paintballs More" replaces the main theme with a parody of the Star Wars opening crawl.
    • "Basic Lupine Urology" features titles similar to those of Law & Order, right down to an instrumental version of "At Least It Was Here" In the Style of... Mike Post.
    • "Digital Estate Planning" has the study group's portraits being rendered into 8-bit avatars in preparation for the video game they're about to play, complete with the title theme in instrumental 8-bit.
    • "History 101" has Abed singing a rewritten version of the theme as part of his imagined "Abed TV" sitcom.
    • "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics" has a montage over the evidence and news reports of the Ass-Crack Bandit as an Homage to the opening credits of Hannibal.
  • Special Guest:
    • Parodied with Jack Black wanting to join the study group after coming back from the mid-season break.
    • LeVar Burton appears as himself in "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking".
    • French Stewart appears in "Contemporary Impressionists" as a guy who used to be a professional French Stewart impersonator.
  • Springtime for Hitler: In "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking," Jeff does his damnedest to sabotage the attempt to get a grant from the MacGuffin Neurological Institute for research into Changnesia, part of which includes having Pierce put on an incredibly racist puppet show. Needless to say, it backfires miserably.
  • Stealth Pun: Most of the show's episode titles relate to the A- and B-plots of the episode. So at first glance, "Digital Exploration of Interior Design" doesn't make any sense. Until you remember that Britta and Subway did something in the pillow fort...
  • Stereotype Flip: Señor Chang the Spanish teacher goes on at great length about this.
    • He does embrace the Asian love of gambling displayed in the pool episode when he takes bets from the surrounding crowd, though.
    • In "Basic Genealogy," it is revealed that Señor Chang's brother is a Rabbi. This is lampshaded by Dean Pelton (though he also mistakenly assumes that the Changs are Japanese).
      Dean: Well, it was wonderful meeting your brother. Adios Señor Chang, Shalom Rabbi Chang, and to both of you, Sayonara.
  • Stepford Smiler: Annie's parents, who would've covered up her drug addiction rather than support her in her decision to go to rehab.
    • Annie (covers up her insecurities), Shirley (has a Dark and Troubled Past) and Dean Pelton (afraid that Greendale isn't good enough).
  • Stepford Snarker: Jeff.
  • Stock Scream: The producers love using the Wilhelm Scream whenever possible. It shows up about 5 times a season if you listen for it.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: And frequently, too.
    Jeff and Abed: [to Britta] You look like Elizabeth Shue.
    Britta and Pierce: If Señor Chang gets any crazier, he'll win a Grammy.
    Jeff and Britta: Oh good, now it has arrows, that's safe.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Commissioned by NBC by DJ Steve Porter, also known for his "Rap Chop" and "Jam Wow" Vince Offer remixes. There is a second mix, and a third.
  • Studio Audience: In a very weird example, Joel McHale and Ken Jeong hosted a running commentary for a Community marathon between seasons 1 and 2 that had a studio audience. At one point, for no reason at all, the entire audience walked out.
  • Stylistic Suck: Abed's student film.
  • Take a Third Option: In "Pascal's Triangle Revisited", Jeff has to choose between Britta and Slater after both admit they love him. He chooses Annie.
  • Subject 101: "Spanish 101", "Debate 109", "Anthropology 101", "Biology 101", and "History 101" thus far have been episode titles.
  • Sucky School: Greendale is filled to the brim with incompetent teachers and suffers from financial problems.

  • The Tag: Typically where Troy and Abed get to shine, often assisted by Jeff.
  • Take That: Repeatedly.
    • "If I wanted to learn something, I wouldn't have come to community college."
    • Combined with Take That Me:
      Pierce: [sincerely] You remind me of myself at your age.
      Jeff: I deserve that.
    • "Basic Genealogy": During Jeff's breakdown to Pierce after he sees Michelle dancing with someone else after she dumped him:
      Jeff: We used to watch the shows she wanted to watch. I hate Glee! I don't understand the appeal at all!
    • "Modern Warfare" issues another one to Glee when the Glee club's paintball unit is told to sing something original for once.
      Jeff: Write some original songs!
    • "The Art of Discourse": Abed explains how the absence of Pierce has left the status of group Butt Monkey up for grabs:
      Abed: We've lost our Cliff Clavin, our George Costanza, our Turtle... or Johnny Drama... or E. Man, that show is sloppy.
    • "Anthropology 101": It's suggested that Troy's "Old White Man Says" Twitter feed could be made into a TV show... then is immediately written off as a stupid idea. A hint to one of CBS' competing shows, perhaps?note 
    • "Anthropology 101": "Since you've clearly failed to grasp the central insipid metaphor of those Twilight books you devour, let me explain it to you: Men are monsters who crave young flesh!"
    • "Epidemiology": Jeff throws another Take That at William Shatner by mocking Pierce's Captain Kirk costume:
      Jeff: Whoa, hey, if you get any more sweaty and puffy, your costume is going to reach new levels of authenticity.
    • "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design": At CBS again
      Britta: Thanks, but I've got adult things to do tonight.
      Troy: Okay, enjoy eating fiber and watching The Mentalist.
    • In "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," the first season of LOST symbolizes a lack of payoff. Doubles as a Shout-Out in a way.
    "Thanks, Lost."
    • "Early 21st Century Romanticism" has Jeff railing against Barenaked Ladies.
      "Oh, okay. They're 'BNL' now. We need a shorthand for the Barenaked Ladies. That's how fundamental they are."
    • In "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" Abed takes aim at mockumentary shows like The Office and Modern Family: "It's much easier to tell a complex story when you can just cut to the characters explaining things."
    • In "Critical Film Studies", Jeff lists "watching Cougar Town" as one of Abed's eccentricities that makes it seem like he's determined to make people not like him.
    • In "Biology 101" when Abed learns Cougarton Abbey is only 6 episodes, Britta states how British television actually gives closure to its shows.
    • "Regional Holiday Music" is basically a thirty minute long Take That aimed at Glee.
    • Jim Belushi is a favourite punching bag on the show:
    Jeff: The biggest truths aren't original. The truth is ketchup. It's Jim Belushi. Its job isn't to blow our minds, it's to be within reach.
    Prof. Slater: (later in the conversation, about Jeff's fear of the word 'boyfriend') Whoopdie-freakin'-ding, Winger. It happens 50 million times a day. It's the Jim Belushi of sexual commitments. It barely means anything and it grows on what's there over time.
    Jeff: Boy, that guy's really taking a pounding in this conversation.

    Jeff: (practicing a wedding toast) Webster's Dictionary defines-
    Annie: Aaaagh! Stop! 'Webster's Dictionary defines'? That's the Jim Belushi of speech openings. It accomplishes nothing, but everyone keeps using it and nobody understands why.
    Evil Abed: Do you know what kind of person becomes a psychologist, Britta? A person that wishes deep down that everyone more special than them is sick because healthy sounds so much more exciting than boring. You're average, Britta Perry. You're every kid on the playground that didn't get picked on. You're a business casual potted plant, a human white sale, you're VH-1, Robocop 2 and Back To the Future 3, you're the center slice to a square cheese pizza... actually that sounds delicious... I'm the center slice to a square cheese pizza...You're Jim Belushi.
    Secret Agent: *having just searched Abed's bag* You're clean. Although I could issue a warning for this pirated copy of The Last Airbender.
    Abed: Eesh, where were you a week ago? You can keep it!
  • Talk Show: "Troy and Abed in the Morning!"
  • Team Dad: Jeff frequently ends up falling into this role against his will.
  • Team Mom:
    • Parodied in one episode with Jeff as the Team Dad, Britta as the Team Mom and Pierce as their kid.
      (Jeff is at a water fountain; the rest of the group gathers around him expectantly)
      Jeff: Look, if you guys just let me get to the can opener, I can feed you.
    • Shirley.
      Troy: Hey! You don't get to talk to me like that! You are not Shirley! ...And Shirley's not my mom!
    • Deconstructed in "Comparative Religion"; normally Shirley is a benevolent Team Mom, but in this episode her ability and tendency to use this role to be smothering, passive aggressive and emotionally manipulate her friends through guilt trips is noted and called out, and it's pointed out that since she's not actually their mom she has no right to act in such a fashion.
  • The Teaser
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations"
  • There's No "B" in Movie: The movies that Abed and co. watch, such as Kickpuncher. They watch them to riff on how bad they are.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!:
  • Toilet Humor: The "Creative Compromises" featurette on the season 1 DVD is presented as a way for Harmon to show us what his cut of some scenes from "Football, Feminism and You" would've been. It changes the "Britta deals with her lack of female companionship" plot to "Britta has a flatulence problem."
  • Token Minority Couple: Pierce uses this to Schmuck Bait Troy:
    Troy: Dude! That is not cool!
    Pierce: Well, that foxy black girl thinks it is!
    (Troy looks away, Pierce kicks him in the shins)
    Jeff: What are you doing?!
    Troy: Why does she have to be BLACK?!
  • Troperiffic: This show has literally gone down a list of tropes to invoke over the course of an episode.
  • Trope Overdosed: No surprise here.
  • True Companions: Explicitly described in "Basic Genealogy", and awesomely shown in "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas."
    Pierce: You, me, Jeff, Rainman, Big Boobs, Medium Boobs, and Black Boobs - we're a family.
    Troy: I Black Boobs?
  • Truncated Theme Tune: Used on some episodes.
  • Ultimate Job Security: All the teachers never get fired, despite how sadistic or incompetent they can get. Lampshaded in at least one episode; after complaining to the dean, Annie mentions that they've been trying to fire one teacher for three years, but no one else wants the job.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Jeff and Britta. Lampshaded in "Modern Warfare", and resolved by the end of Season 2.
    • Jeff and Annie.
    • Annie seems to spread this wherever she goes, and she has some clear UST with Britta, Abed and Troy.
    • Increasingly up through season 4, Britta and Troy. It's over now.
  • Tsundere: The Secret Service girl for Abed in Season 2, episode 17.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Happens with both Britta and Slater for Jeff.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist:
    • Jeff's not a complete jerk, but he definitively leans towards the Jerkass side of Deadpan Snarker, and for sure most of his problems are his own fault.
    • Also Pierce, to the extent that he's the protagonist.
  • Vague Age: Of all the main characters, Abed is the only one whose age is completely unknown. Danny Pudi is 33, but his youthful appearance and Abed's social awkwardness and Man Child behavior make it difficult to tell how old he is supposed to be. Most fans assume he is somewhere in his early 20s, like Annie and Troy, but this has never been confirmed. Additionally, his development and childhood appear to have been heavily influenced by 80s and early-90s pop culture, suggesting he may be at least a few years older than Troy and Annie (born in 1989 and 1990, respectively). However, in one of the internet shorts, Abed participates in the "Floor is Lava" game with Troy and Annie, and he is usually grouped in with them when jokes or comments about the younger members of the group are made. In an early pilot script, Abed was said to be in his "mid-20s," at the same time when Annie and Troy were 18 and 19, although all the characters were substantially different in that early draft.
  • Valentine's Day Episode: Two so far.
  • Weaponized Offspring: While playing the in-universe video game "Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne" Abed reprograms his NPC wife to birth babies (which look like tiny versions of Abed) and uses them to fight the final boss.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Cornelius Hawthorne is this for Pierce, and his half-brother Gilbert.
    Troy (after meeting Le Var): I told Pierce a thousand times, I never wanted to meet Le Var in person! I just wanted a picture! You can't disappoint a picture!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Professor Slater vanished into the ether after season one. Although in the episode "Intro to Political Science", it is noted by Troy and Abed's Campaign Followup that Prof. Slater is missing. Word of God is that Harmon was simply tired of the character.
    • Professor Duncan became a case of this after Season 2 (it was even lampshaded in Season 4). He returned in Season 5, having spent the last two years caring for his ailing mother.
    • Does Troy still play football for Greendale?
    • Dean Spreck's next evil plan to destroy Greendale, after getting a huge tease at the end of Season 4's penultimate episode, has not been revisited.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The full-episode affectionate parodies:
  • Will They or Won't They?: Jeff and Britta in Season 1. Abed invokes both this and Unresolved Sexual Tension in the same sentence, by name.
    • In season 2, Annie references herself and Jeff with this trope.
    • By season 3, Troy and Britta did this too. As of season 4, They Do.
  • Women Are Wiser: Subverted. While at first glance it may appear as if Britta, Annie, and Shirley are the more normal ones in the group as opposed to Troy and Abed's wackiness and Jeff and Pierce's meanness, a closer look reveals that the girls can be just as crazy as the guys, they're just better at hiding it. In the episode Aerodynamics of Gender, Jeff and Troy find serenity and perspective, while the girls are consumed by hateful activities and dominant behavior.
  • World Limited to the Plot: Lampshaded when Jeff mentions they should learn the others' names, too and when the other characters mention it's irritatingly all about them. Almost everything happens in the study room, even Jeff's graduation and Shirley's wedding is organized there.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Pierce's dad dies of a heart attack (after being yelled at by Jeff). Having written in his will that whomever kills him will inherit his ridiculous looking ivory toupee, it goes to Jeff, who really doesn't want it. The ivory headpiece is later worn by Troy in his and Abed's apartment, indicating Jeff gave it to them instead.