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Escalating Punchline

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Skull Boy: A horseshoe.
Poe: Well that shouldn't be hard to spot.
Skull Boy: A seahorse horseshoe.
Others: Ohhhhhh.
Skull Boy: For a baby seahorse.
Others: Ohhhh...
Skull Boy: A baby miniature seahorse.
Others: Oh.
Ruby Gloom, "Lucky Me"

Traditionally, a joke consists of a succinct remark made in response to a setup, after which either the conversation goes on in its original direction, or the scene ends. An Escalating Punchline, on the other hand, keeps extending the remark by tagging on further and further additions, often with each being more extreme than the last. These are always short and delivered in an uninterrupted sequence, separated by very brief but distinct pauses. With sufficient increments, it can turn into an Overly Long Gag.

Jokes like this usually rely on Crosses the Line Twice, where it gets progressively funnier as the punchline is exaggerated. Compare to Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking and Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick, where all the escalation occurs in one section of the punchline, usually with the last part; also see One-Two Punchline. Compare Inflationary Dialogue, Serial Escalation, Worse with Context.


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    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie:
    • When King Neptune comes to the Krusty Krab looking for his crown and sets Mr. Krabs' rear end on fire:
      Mr. Krabs: Me pants are on fire! Me underwear's on fire!! I'M ON FIRE!!!
    • In a later scene when Karen points out to Plankton what might happen if SpongeBob and Patrick succeed in retrieving Neptune's crown from Shell City, and how Plankton can be easily implicated for its theft:
      Karen: My sensors indicate that they're going after the crown. If they make it back, Neptune might discover some fingerprints. Tiny fingerprints. Stubby, tiny fingerprints.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Shaun of the Dead opens on one. The first shot is Shaun staring vacantly into the camera. Then it pulls out, revealing that he's actually listening to his girlfriend, Liz, talking about Shaun's friend, Ed. Then it pulls out a bit more, revealing that Ed is playing at an arcade machine right next to them, just ignoring her constant insults. Then it pulls out just a bit more to show that Liz' friends are also there, being completely ignored in favour of insulting Ed.

  • The Aristocrats is an inversion of this style of joke. A group of performers (often described as a family) approach an agent to sign up with them and get asked if they can demonstrate their act. The set up then goes on and on, getting more and more elaborate as it describes acts of disgusting and weird behaviour, basically whatever it takes to make the joke's actual audience very uncomfortable, including incest (which is why them being a family matters), coprophilia, animals, and so on. After making your actual audience as disgusted as you can, you get to the fairly simple punchline (which they probably already know, since this is a famous old joke, and the actual entertainment comes from seeing how far you can push the set up). Of course, the agent is in shock at what he just witnessed and asked what they call this act. The entertainers say "The Aristocrats!" (Theoretically the joke is simply that all aristocrats do all this sort of thing all the time.)
  • There's a joke that exists in various forms about a man with "Shorty" tattooed on his penis. Eventually, a woman goes to bed with him and emerges pleased and exhausted. Her friends ask what was so great about sex with "Shorty," and she reports that the tattoo actually says "Shorty's Pizza Parlor." (Beat) "Established 1990." (beat) "Eat In, Take Out, or Delivery." (beat) "Albequerque, New Mexico 47101..."
  • Some people just need a high-five.
    In the face.
    With a chair.
    Made of steel.
    A day.
    Every day.
  • The joke with the car who runs into a police control, and the inhabitants blathering away happily. Usually goes from the "Don't listen to him, he's drunk" to the corpse in the trunk.
  • A Russian joke takes this approach to the Bedroom Adultery Scene: A man came home after a business trip. The same day in the middle of the night a naked man with a knife jumps out of the wardrobe and shouts: "I am fugitive criminal Ivanov!" and then run through the door. A few seconds after that another naked man jumps out of the wardrobe and shouts "I am police detective Petrov, have you seen where fugitive criminal Ivanov went?" The confused husband gestured to the door. "Thank you, citizen—SWAT team, follow me!"

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this:
    Prosser: But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.
    Arthur: Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.
    Prosser: But the plans were on display...
    Arthur: On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.
    Prosser: That's the display department.
    Arthur: With a flashlight.
    Prosser: Ah, well the lights had probably gone.
    Arthur: So had the stairs.
    Prosser: But look, you found the notice didn't you?
    Arthur: Yes, yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard".
  • Discworld: Near the start of Hogfather, Archchancellor Ridcully demands that a sealed-off bathroom (designed by "Bloody Stupid" Johnson) be opened, citing the reason "to see why they wanted it shut, of course." A footnote adds:
    This brief exchange encompasses everything one needs to know about human civilization. At least, those parts of human civilization that are either walled off, underwater, or still smoking.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: When the students are boarding the Hogwarts Express, Percy Weasley just happens to mention that, as a Prefect, he gets to ride up front. Which gets this reaction from his brothers, Fred and George:
    "Oh, are you a Prefect, Percy? You should have said something, we had no idea."
    "Hang on, I think I remember him saying something about it. Once—"
    "Or twice—"
    "A minute—"
    "All summer—"

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blanche in The Golden Girls:
    I can't sell my car to you; you're a friend. My great granddad always said there's two things you never sell to a friend: a car, and a slave. Because if either one stops working you'll never hear the end of it. 'Course, they hanged my great-granddad. He said a lot of things he shouldn't have.
  • Bette Midler in Bette when she takes a job as a waitress:
    I got some very nice feedback. Even a love letter! It was very sweet. Kind of dirty, though. [holds up letter in sandwich bag] I'm sending it to the police, actually.
  • Phoebe in Friends:
    Parker: I'm sorry, but that's who I am! I'm a positive person!
    Phoebe: No, I'm a positive person. You are like Santa on Prozac! At Disneyland! Getting laid!
    • Another Phoebe line:
      "Sluts-R-Us"? Is that a real place?... Are they hiring?
  • Outnumbered, "The Dinner Party":
    Pete: I remember at school, that the bullying stopped when I showed them that I just wasn't frightened of them. And when that new boy started. Boy with a stutter. Peter the Repeater, they called him. Well, Paracetamol Pete after the suicide attempt.
  • Andy Parsons on Mock the Week:
    She said she is Radio 2 to Gordon Brown's Radio 4. And you're thinking, well, she's not Radio 2. Radio 2 is the most popular radio station in this country. If she's anything, she's Isle of Wight FM. On a Sunday morning. At 3 o'clock. In January. When the transmission mast is broken.
    • Greg Davies about his grandmother, who (allegedly) applied night cream each night for decades to keep complexion young:
      You've spent all that time and all that money, Gran, and your face is no better than Granddad's. And he's dead. He died in the war. He got shot in the face. With a cannon.
  • Very common in Monty Python's Flying Circus, particular examples include the "Tuesday Documentary" sketch and the "American Defense" sketch.
  • Too Many Cooks starts out as an Overly Long Gag parody of Dom Coms with ridiculous premises, but quickly grows from there into a psycho stalker, a parody of crime shows and sci-fi, and gains multiple levels of metaness in the process.
  • Will & Grace, "Leo Unwrapped":
    Grace: No! You know I have to be surprised. Remember two years ago how upset I got when you left your present out for me to find?
    Will: "Left it out?!" It was hidden in a storage locker in Queens. That I rented under an assumed name. You bit through a combination lock!
  • Get Smart had a Running Gag of Max making outrageous claims and then scaling them back in response to the other party's disbelief.
    Max: At the moment, seven Coast Guard cutters are converging on us. Would you believe it?
    Mr. Big: I find that hard to believe.
    Max: Hmmm . . . Would you believe six?
    Mr. Big: I don't think so.
    Max: How about two cops in a rowboat?
  • The Clarke and Dawe skit "The Front Fell Off", in reference to the Kirki oil spill off the coast of Western Australia in 1991, culminates in John Clarke's character Senator Bob Collins claiming that the tanker has been towed outside of the environment (and not into another environment, somehow).
    Bryan Dawe: Well what's out there?
    Clarke: Nothing's out there!
    Dawe: There must be something...
    Clarke: There is nothing out there. All there is sea, and birds, and fish.
    Dawe: And?
    Clarke: And twenty-thousand tons of crude oil.
    Dawe: And what else?
    Clarke: And a fire.
    Dawe: And anything else?
    Clarke: And the part of the ship that the front fell off. But there's nothing else out there. It's a complete void, the environment's perfectly safe.

  • The bawdy English folk song "A Long Strong Black Pudding'' has elements of this.
  • Rapper Canibus used to love this. Example "Mic-Nificent": "My rhymes confuse niggas like somebody trying to gangbang / Wearing a blue shirt, and red pants / Throwing up signs with the left hand / Standing out in the corner of wetlands / With a confederate flag for a headband"
  • My Dear Boss is a long series of greater and greater misfortune, explaining why the singer cannot come to work

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Christopher Titus, telling a story about his dad waking him up one morning.
    "How about you tell me why the car is parked at such an odd angle. On the porch. Across the street."
  • Jeff Dunham has this with his puppet Walter when describing the ease of obtaining condoms.
    Walter: When I was young I had to walk five miles to get a condom. Uphill! In the snow! With a boner!
  • George Carlin says that he doesn't worry about germs; if he drops food on the floor, he'll pick it up and eat it!
    "Even if it's at a sidewalk cafe! In Calcutta! The poor section! On New Year's morning during a soccer riot!"

    Video Games 
  • When GLaDOS tells Chell an engineer has officially noted in her file that her orange jumpsuit looks stupid on her in Portal 2.
    GLaDOS: Still, what does [an engineer] know? Oh wait, it says she has a medical degree. In fashion. From France!
  • In Ratchet & Clank (2002), Chairman Drek starts out as simply the chairman of his company. As the game progresses, he begins tacking on more additions to his title until he's referred to as Ultimate Supreme Executive Chairman Drek.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • A lot of Cracked's original videos end up as this, for example When Giving Away a Lifetime Supply Turns Deadly.
  • Movie Bob about a scene in Mamma Mia!:
    It's all really sad. How sad? Picture a six-year-old cancer patient singing "Puff the Magic Dragon". At a funeral. For his dog. That was killed on 9/11.
    • Also, about how much the concept of Monsters seems to be almost tailor-made to his taste:
      It's like a Reese's Cup. Inside a blueberry pie. With Cool Whip. Served to me by Anne Hathaway. On a speedboat. In the Mushroom Kingdom. On Christmas.
  • The Zero Punctuation review of The Darkness:
    Yahtzee: At this point, I'd only consider buying the full version of The Darkness if it came down to budget price. And they threw in another, better game. And some cake. And Belgium.
    • Also, the Too Human review:
      You're left with a gaming experience that could be recreated by walking down a wide road in the middle of nowhere stopping every five seconds to crack yourself in the eye with a hammer (beat) and the road is a million miles long (beat) and the hammer is made of wank.
    • And his Resident Evil 5 one.
      It's like watching someone beat his fists against a wall before running off to hospital only to come back and do it some more. And they used my medical insurance. And it's my wall.
    • And in his review of Sacred 3:
      Reminds me of that old joke game Progress Quest: gameplay based solely around a steadily incrementing number, except the whole "joke" part has been taken off, and burned, and stomped on, and worn as a silly hat by a cunt.
    • And in his Rise of the Triad one, describing the difference between casual and hardcore gaming:
      Oh, look at this wee man, who thinks he can roll with us! Maybe if you eat this entire live crab. While I'm hitting you. With the crab.
    • In his "Best and Worst of 2015" video, his explanation for why he named Halo 5: Guardians #1 Blandest Game of 2015 is capped off with:
      There's only so much you can do with the material, I suppose. It's like trying to paint a masterpiece with used bath-water on a canvas of dryer lint... in a house made of bog-roll... in Swindon.
  • Done a few times on Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "the show", Strong Bad decides to compare Homestar's antics to "me... kicking the Cheat... into Strong Sad... with the chicken pox."
    • In "montage", Strong Bad's reaction to an emailer asking him to "creat" a montage is to say, in a mocking, high-pitched voice, "Oooohhh! Why don't you 'creat' an alternate reality where you don't have to spell correctly? (beat) And I talk like this. (beat) And your name is Watered Down!"
    • In "strong badathlon", one of the events in the eponymous -Athlon is "the Clean and Jerk... Strong Mad's Underwears... Over His Head. Fortunately, you don't really have to clean them."
    • In "slumber party", Strong Bad claims that at childhood slumber parties, Strong Sad was the much-ridiculed "kid who got picked up early 'cause he misses his mom", even when they were holding slumber parties in their own basement.
      Strong Sad: That only happened once!
      Strong Bad: Uh-huh...
      Strong Sad: A week...
      Strong Bad: Keep goin'...
      Strong Sad: For ten years.
      Strong Bad: There you go!
    • In "Fan Costumes '09", Strong Bad makes fun of a bunch of Homestar costumes and unexpectedly sees a bad costume of himself.
      Strong Bad: I know what you're thinkin', and it's what you thought. But that is actually a costume of Strong Bad after he's been... run over twelve times! By a cliff. Off a skyscraper. Into a discount... felt... surplus... store.
  • Used in episode 39 of Red vs. Blue, combined with Metaphorgotten:
    Caboose: I know where you can find O'Malley. He lived inside my helmet for a while, maybe he left an address to send his mail. We were like roommates!
    Sarge: Sounds like he took some of the furniture when he left. And the carpet. And the drapes. And I wouldn't expect to get that deposit back, if you know what I mean.
    • Commentary on the DVD reveals a lot of Sarge's ad-libs went on like this.
  • In the second AMV Hell, there is a recurring image of an EVA. The first two appearances both use the same somber orchestral music, but the third has only cricket noises. The fourth appearance has a song with the lyrics "WON'T SOMEBODY KILL ME PLEASE? KILL ME! I WANT TO DIE!" If you wait after the cut to black, the EVA is shown for a final time, finally crushing and dropping its victim.
    • Only to see that it's the EVA's head that's falling...
  • Noob has a scene during which the main guild is looking for a new healer and recruiting in an area that has many low-level players. Near the end of the episode, someone passes by and the group jerkass makes fun of him, assuming he's a low-level player. The guild master's answer can be paraphrased as "That 'kid' you just made fun of is part of [the game's top guild you're hoping to join someday]. Actually, he's in the same team as [top player of said guild of whom you're a Fanboy]. He's also the game's best healer."
  • While playing a game about become a YouTube star, Josh of Let's Game it Out runs into a famous streamer and asks about collaborating with her. When she turns him down, he decides it's because she doesn't want to make a video with a complete stranger, so he starts increasing his Relationship Values with her until she's willing to work with him. Forty-five seconds later, they're married. And she still doesn't want to collaborate with him.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Void," Gumball and Darwin watch the school cheerleaders disastrously rehearse. Gumball cheers supportively, but Darwin expresses his criticisms.
    Darwin: It's not that I'm not supportive, but...they're kind of like a train wreck. That, like, a truck crashed into...and then the whole thing sunk into a lake...and managed to catch fire...and exploded.
    • Another has the workers and management of the grocery store get younger and younger until eventually the shareholders are all but stated to be talking sperm.
  • American Dad!:
    • In "Stanny Tendergrass", when the mistreated employees of Roger's country club turn on him and he talks to an angry old woman with a crossbow, who is the daughter of a woman whom Roger married and then killed and wants her mother's fortune:
      Roger: Oh, Pamela. Good. I was just looking for you. You have the same scowl your mother had. When I banged her. After I pulled the plug. (Pamela fires a bolt at him) God, I was kidding! Looks like someone pulled the plug on your sense of humor.
    • In "Stan Smith Is Keanu Reeves as Stanny Utah in Point Break":
      Stan: I'm sorry, Kai, but there are worries. There are lots of worries. For instance, I'm standing on a jellyfish. And the jellyfish has attracted wolves. And the wolves are being hunted by poachers.
      Poacher: (aiming his gun at Stan) You've seen too much!
  • Season 4 of BoJack Horseman has Princess Carolyn meet her boyfriend's wealthy family while the couple keep her pregnancy secret from them. They offer her: some smokes, an assortment of drinks, a swift punch to the gut ("It's a rich-people thing"), a ride on their private rollercoaster, and standing around Mrs. Stilton while she smokes.
  • From Clerks: The Animated Series:
    Dante: Caitlyn has a kissing booth? Like, for charity?
    Jay: Yeah, only it don't cost nothin' and it's not for charity.
    (leaves and comes back)
    Jay: And there's no booth.
    (leaves and comes back)
    Jay: And it's more than just kissing.
    (leaves and comes back)
    Jay: And you don't have to be a guy.
    (comes back)
    Jay: Dude, she's cheating on you.
  • An episode of Danger Mouse has the narrator telling us of how DM climbed Mt. Everest. On his head. Blindfolded.
  • In the Duckman episode "Forbidden Fruit", when Duckman stays over at Fluffy and Uranus' house:
    Fluffy: Mr. Duckman, you've only been here eight hours and already, you've turned our whole world topsy-turvy.
    Uranus: We spent the morning burning your sheets, and your mattress, and the bed, and the carpet around the bed leading into the bathroom, [pans to the destroyed bathroom] and the bathroom!
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "To Love and Die in Dixie", Chris bears witness to a crime. After Chris is assured anonymity, Peter walks into the Police Lineup and gives his son's identity away in an increasingly absurd fashion.
      Peter: Hi. Excuse me, you guys. I'm here to pick up my son, Chris Griffin. He's here to finger the guy who held up that convenience store. Maybe you've seen him. His name is Chris Griffin. I think I got a picture of him, somewhere. (Peter pulls out a picture) Here you go. Yeah, you can go ahead and hang on to that. I got a ton of them at home. In fact, I was gonna throw that one out anyway, 'cause Chris messed it up by writing his school schedule and a list of his fears all over the back of it.
    • In "Airport '07", after Peter causes Quagmire's plane to crash by siphoning fuel from it in the hopes of using it to make his new pickup truck fly, Channel 5 shows a visualization of the plane crashing into a school and flaming kids pouring out of the building. They then show the plane crashing into a school for bunnies and flaming bunnies pouring out, and then the same thing as the second, but one passenger survives, goes home, and takes his anger out on his wife.
  • In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "My So-called Wife", Mr. Herriman greets the eccentric benefactor who's looking to donate to the home, and the benefactor says "Please, call me Benjamin! ...Edward... Factor... the Third... Esquire... DDS!"
  • Futurama:
    • In "Space Pilot 3000", Leela informs Fry that those who refuse the jobs assigned by their job chips will be fired. Out of a cannon, into the sun.
    • In "War Is the H-Word", Zapp commends "Lee Lemon" (Leela in disguise) for performance on an obstacle course.
      Zapp: Yes. He edged out my old mark by two seconds ... and 16 minutes ... and 12 hours. I do plan to finish someday, Kif.
  • A "Mr. Know-It-All" segment on Rocky and Bullwinkle has Bullwinkle showing us "How to be a lion tamer and pick up a little scratch. On the side. Of your face." (shows a scratch mark on his face)
  • The Ruby Gloom episode "Lucky Me" has the gang helping Skull Boy looking for his lucky charm. When asked what it is:
    Skull Boy: A horseshoe.
    Poe: Well that shouldn't be hard to spot.
    Skull Boy: A seahorse horseshoe.
    Others: Ohhhhhh.
    Skull Boy: For a baby seahorse.
    Others: Ohhhh...
    Skull Boy: A baby miniature seahorse.
    Others: Oh.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Midnight Rx" has Mr. Burns and his anecdote about the "Plywood Pelican".
      Burns: It's as big as a football field and weighs as much as the state of New Hampshire. I only flew it once at an altitude of six feet for a distance of four feet. Then we discovered that rain makes it catch fire. Then the Führer fired me.
    • In "Marge in Chains" Lionel Hutz tries to save his case by handing the judge a fake verdict.
      Judge: This verdict is written on a cocktail napkin! And it still says guilty! And guilty is spelled wrong!
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In a memetic scene from "Rock-a-Bye Bivalve", Patrick's retort to SpongeBob telling him that he's only bothered to change Junior's diaper once is that Junior is so small that he can't be going through diapers that fast. SpongeBob shows him a garbage can full of diapers, which Patrick dismisses, so he then shows him another garbage can and two bags of diapers in a corner, then more diapers in the fridge, underneath the upholstery of the sofa, and in the walls, before capping off the gag with a huge mountain of diapers being shoveled and loaded into a waste disposal truck.
    • In "BlackJack":
      Uncle Cap'n Blue: You're not cut out for this kind of work, boy. An innocent kid like you doesn't stand a chance against a criminal mind. Do you have any idea what people like that do to people like you?
      SpongeBob: You mean they won't give me a push on the swing set?
      Uncle Cap'n Blue: Well, let's just say, I hope you've practiced walking without legs. Or arms. Or a body.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Coach Steven", Steven's dad Greg (who is not in the best shape himself) builds Steven, Sadie, and Lars a makeshift gym, and offers to join them in their workout.
    Greg: I been slackin' on my workout routine for a few weeks. (frowns) Months... Years... (Beat, coughs sheepishly) Decades...
  • From the Turbo F.A.S.T. episode "Taco Tank", when the titular tank is careening out of control and headed for the Brentwood Home for Unwanted Puppies and Lonely Grandmas:
    Burn: Oh, no! An adorable puppy has wandered in front of the tank!
    Smoove Move: Oh, no! Now a grandma has wandered out to pet the puppy!
    Whiplash: Oh, no! Now a second grandma with a hat made of puppies has come out to give a birthday cake to the first grandma! And she brought a dozen grandma friends to celebrate! And they're leading an adorable puppy parade! With a kitten marching band! And they're all in our path!
    Everyone: (with big text appearing) Oh, no!
  • In one episode of The Venture Brothers, Rusty discovers that his given name is also that of an incredibly lewd sex act. Cue one character after another describing, in increasingly vulgar detail which ranges from toy-based to scatological, exactly what said act involves.