Meaning?: Brick Joke

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Hmm. So I'm reading about Brick Jokes, and I think I'm just about getting it. As far as I can tell, a "Brick Joke" is one where a seemingly nonsensical joke is told, and then later (sometimes much later) another joke is told whose punchline relies on an element of the first one, right?

So, by extension, it's where a seemingly nonsensical or insignificant detail becomes important later on. Sounds quite easy to get confused with Chekhov's Gun, and indeed the description refers to its dramatic use as "like Chekhov's Gun, but more so". I didn't think we liked "the same but more so" tropes anyway, but OK, whatever.

Only as far as I can tell, half the examples are either Chekhov's Gun or Chekhov's Gag, or even Call Back or Running Gag. Some of them are Arc Words and a Shout-Out or two. Basically any dramatic or dialogue element that is mentioned again some time after its original appearance is listed as a Brick Joke, though as far as I understand it has to be intentional on the part of the creator.

This example, for instance:

  • The Star Trek The Original Series episode, "The Tholian Web", ends with the USS Defiant (Constitution class, not the one from Star Trek Deep Space Nine) disappearing into a dimensional rift. All but forgotten, few expected it to pop back up 37 years (and 4 television series) later in the Star Trek Enterprise episode, "In a Mirror, Darkly", where it is revealed that the rift hurled it not only 113 years into the past, but into the Mirror Universe as well.

Is clearly, to my mind, not a Brick Joke as the original writers had no intention for any of the Enterprise stuff to happen. It's one of the others.

Now, I would just take a hatchet to the example page, but I'm not absolutely convinced I sufficiently understand the difference between this and the various other related, overlapping tropes...

Not An Avatar
If I understand correctly, the thing about Brick Joke that distinguishes it from Chekhov's Gun is that it's used more as a joke than a plot twist (while it can be both). Also, Chekhov's Gun is a detail that's set up early to be used later and is plainly visible as foreshadowing, i.e. "a gun in plain view on the mantelpiece in Act 1 that will be fired later". It might surprise you, but the savvy audience reasonably expects it to show up again. In a Brick Joke the original detail shouldn't seem relevant early on, and is meant to be forgotten until it resurfaces, for added surprise.
We're not just men of science, we're men of TROPE!
I remember there was a thread about this before. Chekhov's Gag is a specific type of Chekhov's Gun where a joke early on sets up a payoff later. Brick Joke is when the joke is initially set up without a punchline, and the punchline doesn't show up until later on. I think.

These tropes really need an entry in the Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions.
Rhymes with "Protracted."
4 Ghilz29th Nov 2010 06:27:09 PM from Canada, or the Moon , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
We've had this discussion at least 3 times before (Because of the recent forum archive cleaning, I cannot find the old discussions).

Each time people agree on a distinction between this and Chekhov's Gag, but the problems are never resolved. The description is a mess, the examples are all over the place and are NO help in understanding the page.

I am seriously wondering if this page is worth keeping. This is what? Discussion #4 on the topic?
Sigh. Again? Alrighty.

  • Chekhov's Gag: About humor: a joke is set up, pays off, and is forgotten by the viewer, but then much later pays off yet again.
    • Example: Family Guy - In a cutaway about random Discovery channel specials, Peter watches an Animal Documentary-esque program about the hunting rituals of fire engines. Later on, at the very end of the episode, a feral fire engine ends up on their lawn for another gag. Basically a call-back gag.
  • Brick Joke: Not about humor. Plot related. A minor, insignificant, or seemingly concluded event occurs, and the viewer is meant to think it over and done with. The event then recurs much later on to effect the plot in an unexpected way.
    • Example (made up): Willie and Joe are adventurers, and their first insignificant mission is to protect the priceless heirloom of the King. They fight a band of thieves and manage to protect it until the King can get it formally hidden. Once they succeed in saving the King's prized possession, he hires them for more jobs and they set out to explore the world. After many years and books worth of countless adventures, it is revealed that the heirloom they protected so long ago is actually the only thing that can destroy the Big Bad. In some ways, it is actually a Call Back with severe plot significance.
    • More Traditional Example: Early in the movie, Joe steals something insignificant as a show to the audience of how much of a rogue he is, and escapes the police. Later on, when Willie shoots him, it's revealed he never got around to taking the thing out his pocket and the bullet ricocheted off of it, saving his life.

They're both valid tropes. The only real issues arise when people keep assuming that Brick Joke is about humor when it's not.

edited 29th Nov '10 8:26:32 PM by KnownUnknown

Assuming that something called "_____ joke" is about humor is not exactly weird lateral thinking. The "trope namer" is in fact a (supposed to be funny, but not really) joke. Are you sure?

edited 29th Nov '10 8:31:19 PM by rodneyAnonymous

Becky: Who are you? The Mysterious Stranger: An angel.
Huck: What's your name? The Mysterious Stranger: Satan.
I've had this conversation a lot (I'm the one who YKTTW'd Chekhov's Gag, so I've had it several times clarifying what it's supposed to be).

I'm fairly clear on what the distinction is supposed to be by now. The problem is that the eponymous "Brick Joke" has the same roots: the joke itself is a gag made to seem like a clunker, but which is actually a set up to pay off in a much later joke - the trope is the application of that concept to plots and storylines.

It doesn't help that Brick Joke can involve humor if the end result has some effect on the plot anyway.

edited 29th Nov '10 9:05:02 PM by KnownUnknown

8 Madrugada29th Nov 2010 09:11:18 PM , Relationship Status: In season
Known Unknown, will you add them to the Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions and Laconical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions, please? Your explanation is the clearest one we've ever gotten.
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
9 Tyoria29th Nov 2010 09:21:21 PM from Portland, Oregon
rationally insane
So, if I have this right: Brick Joke is a term that predates TV Tropes and means a joke that ends without a punchline, only to pay off later, except on TV Tropes it means a more broad payoff that isn't limited to jokes, and the pages get confused? It isn't intuitive in the first place, the only part that is intuitive means something other than what it says it means, and it means something different than what anyone who'd heard the term would believe it meant in the first place, and it's an obvious source of bad entries - what exactly is desirable about keeping the name as it is?
[up] I agree with this sentiment. Brick Joke needs to be a joke for the name to make sense, and the definition should reflect that.
Rhymes with "Protracted."
Should Brick Joke be a redirect to Chekhov's Gag, and Brick Joke get renamed to something that doesn't sound like it's about humor?
Becky: Who are you? The Mysterious Stranger: An angel.
Huck: What's your name? The Mysterious Stranger: Satan.
12 Tyoria29th Nov 2010 10:16:32 PM from Portland, Oregon
rationally insane
Unfortunately, Brick Joke (Classic) is not identical to Chekhov's Gag as described. They operate on a similar principle but Chekhov's Gag pays off twice while Brick Joke only does once. If we want a page for Brick Joke Classic, it looks like we'd have to build it from scratch. But, if we changed the current page to some other name, we would at least have a spot for it.
^^^^^ Jawohl. Done and done.
14 Ghilz29th Nov 2010 11:15:36 PM from Canada, or the Moon , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Adding them to the list is not going to fix the problem long term. I do believe that, as it's been mentioned, the "joke" part of the title is causing pointless confusion. Perhaps a rename is in order. There are examples of misuse (just look at the damn page itself, many of them are just jokes).

Yeah, if Brick Joke isn't supposed to be about humor, it should change. Otherwise, what next? A trope called Men Are Blue that's really about rabbits that eat cheese on Tuesdays?
But the title makes no sense.
I just reread the description and looked over a bunch of examples, and I still can't figure it out. An actual Brick Joke seems tropeworthy, but the trope described at Brick Joke seems to be Chekhov's Gun and/or Chekhov's Gag, But More So, and the examples are all over the place.

edited 30th Nov '10 7:05:50 AM by NativeJovian

18 carla30th Nov 2010 09:33:24 AM from panama city, panama
ahhh, this trope. i was around for the previous discussion and honestly, i still don't really get it.

Known Unknown's post on the difference between Brick Joke and Chekhov's Gag is fantastic. it really makes things clear on that front. my problem here is that if Brick Joke is not supposed to be about jokes (crappy trope title aside), and it's about something that recurs, that makes it a bit too close to Chekhovs Boomerang instead, for me. maybe even Chekhov's Gun. that's where i get confused.
I agree, this is seriously confusing. Especially considering the fact that 99% of the time, people use Brick Joke for jokes only, whether or not they're plot-related. Added to which, the trope title comes from something that was only about a joke, which only makes it worse.

Possible solutions to the problem:

- Eliminate Brick Joke altogether. Chekov's Gag could cover two types of jokes: the double payoff, and the single payoff that most people use Brick Joke for. The problem here is that Brick Joke is extremely well-known and everybody's going to link to it without a second thought anyway.

- Split Brick Joke into 'non-humourous Brick Joke' and 'humourous Brick Joke' pages. Name the former something else such as "Plot-Related After All" (bad, on the fly example), and name the latter "Brick Joke". And then add on the "Plot-Related After All" page that sometimes the use of this trope results in a brick joke.

That way, the majority of links back to Brick Joke are in line with what it actually is (according to the new definition).

Edited to add that the buzzwordphrase 'nonindicative name' applies here...

edited 4th Dec '10 6:36:19 AM by inked

Avatar features (clockwise from top left) Sophie Scholl, Elizabeth I, Dodie Smith and Sylvia Plath. So now you know.
How about this for a redefinition: Chekhov's Gag is a Chekhov's Gun that is initially just a joke when it first appears but may or may not be humorous later, whereas Brick Joke is a Chekhov's Gun where the payoff when the gun is fired is just a joke and its earlier introduction need not have been Played for Laughs.

This would mean that Chekhov's Gag will often lead to a Brick Joke—if the joke is funny both times around, it's an example of both tropes.

Added benefit: Chekhov's Gag would become 100% consistent with other Chekhov's Gun subtropes where "Chekhov's Gun is an X," e.g. Chekhov's Skill, Chekhov's Gift, Chekhov's Lecture.

edited 4th Dec '10 10:56:38 AM by troacctid

Rhymes with "Protracted."
Can't we just delete the current description, put in Known Unknown's (with slight editing to fit the format of a description rather than the forums), and then bold the part where it isn't a joke?
@ Discar: the problem at this stage isn't really the meaning of the trope being unclear, but that everybody's using the trope name to mean something else.

@ troacctid: I think your idea works.

Also, I just realised that my earlier suggestion became kind of useless because a Brick Joke without the joke is just a Chekov's Incident or something anyway... *facepalm*

edited 4th Dec '10 9:44:07 PM by inked

Avatar features (clockwise from top left) Sophie Scholl, Elizabeth I, Dodie Smith and Sylvia Plath. So now you know.
23 Ghilz4th Dec 2010 11:31:56 PM from Canada, or the Moon , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Made a Rename Or Not crowner.
I don't think a rename would help the page. In this case, I'd say we're better off changing the definition to match the usage.
Rhymes with "Protracted."
25 Ghilz5th Dec 2010 04:26:35 AM from Canada, or the Moon , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Considering that that usage is already covered by Chekhov's Gag, you mean we should turn the page into a redirect to Chekhov's Gag?

edited 5th Dec '10 4:27:23 AM by Ghilz

Page Action: Brick Joke
What would be the best way to fix the page?
At issue:
Brick Joke is heavily misused and has been sent to the Trope Repair Shop multiple times. What to do?

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