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Format-Specific Joke

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The makers of a work decide to add a joke specific to the format it will initially be displayed in, usually a movie theatre or broadcast on TV. All meaning to the joke is lost when the work is released on Blu-ray or DVD.

Possibilities include:

  • 3D-dependent elements in a 3-D Movie which are lost in 2D
  • A TV show makes jokes about a commercial break is shown on DVD
  • A TV show makes jokes about the ads which run at the bottom of the screen during a show
  • Advertisement:
  • A TV show interacts with or makes mention of the network's logo bug floating in the corner of the screen

This is not limited to movies. Early music albums which were recorded for distribution on vinyl records generally contained tons of these, generally involving the needle running off the track at the end of the record, or the need to flip the record to its B side. While the mentions of flipping were still relevant on cassette tapes, they didn't make any sense when the albums were distributed on CD.

Super trope of Born in the Theatre.



Comic Books

  • A minor joke in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has Scott ask Ramona Flowers if her hair is her natural color, to which she gives a noncommittal response. As a caption notes, the book was originally printed in black-and-white. For the color re-release, where Ramona's hair is clearly blue, her answer remains the same; however, she's visibly confused, and the caption is changed to explain that the joke was funnier in black-and-white.

Films — Animated

  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters: The movie begins with a parody of theater promos about the refreshment stall and theater etiquette.
  • Toy Story 2 features a Barbie doll saying goodbye to people as they leave the theater. Doesn't really work on DVD or TV.
  • The Simpsons Movie:
    • The opening mocks viewers for going to the cinema to watch cartoons when they could watch them for free on television at home. Also, as in the TV show, for the opening title a choir sings "The Simpsons...", but this time Professor Frink adds "movie...on the big screen!". For the DVD release, Frink introduces the DVD menu in the same way, except that he says "small screen", but he still says "big screen" in the movie itself.
    • Advertisement:
    • As Homer and Bart are playing in the yard, a news banner rolls across the bottom of the screen displaying the message, "That's right, we even advertise shows during movies now". The implication is that the advertisement is being done live, but the joke is lost with anything other than a live viewing.
  • The last gag in Aladdin has the moon suddenly start laughing with the Genie's face, then for Genie to push back the film reel and announce "Made you look!" The gag was meant to psych out audience members who started leaving early because they thought the movie was over, only to look back when something else starts going on. Nowadays in home viewings the reason for the gag is much less clear.
  • The Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse had the characters coming through the movie screen and into the theater. When watching it elsewhere, the effect is somewhat less engaging.
  • The Stinger of Soul has Terry telling the audience to go home now that the movie has ended. The film was originally meant to be released in theaters, but it was instead released on Disney+ due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, meaning most of the audience was already watching it at home.

Films — Live-Action

  • Averted with the VHS release of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Instead of the Gremlins invading the theatre's projection room and being stopped by Hulk Hogan, they break the VHS tape and mess around with the viewer's TV, being stopped by John Wayne. For the DVD and Blu-Ray releases, the original Hulk Hogan scene is used, but the alternate VHS scene is available as a bonus feature. The novelization has the Brain Gremlin locking the author in the closet and writing a monologue about himself.
  • Tropic Thunder begins with fake movie trailers. These might possibly make sense on DVD, but it also begins with a fake movie theater candy commercial.
  • The original ending to Little Shop of Horrors has a laughing Audrey II breaking through the movie screen.
  • Bean: ends with an after-the-credits gag of Mr. Bean sitting in a cinema, saying that he stays after the credits as well.
  • The Stinger of Ferris Bueller's Day Off consists of Ferris asking the audience why they're still in the theater, telling them to go home. CM Punk's Blu-ray/DVD, "CM Punk: Best in the World", along with Deadpool (2016)note  also end this way, presumably as Shout Outs.
  • In Fat Albert, the characters tell the audience to sit back down as the movie isn't over yet. However, they're clearly addressing a film audience, calling out "you in the back", so it doesn't have the same effect if watched on DVD.
  • In the middle of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, Tony Randall comes on screen out of character and compares film's big screen to the tiny TV screen.
    Ladies and gentlemen, this break in our motion picture is made out of respect for the TV fans in our audience, who are accustomed to constant interruptions in their programs for messages from sponsors. We want all you TV fans to feel at home, and not forget the thrill you get, watching television on your big, 21-inch screens.
  • Spy Kids:
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail starts with the opening credits to Dentist on the Job, which run for a couple minutes before the projectionist (voiced by Terry Gilliam, incidentally) realizes his mistake and switches out the reels. Obviously, this falls a bit flat on home releases. And yet, some more modern cinematic showings have skipped the "screw up" sequence, despite the opportunity to play with it.


  • Many, many jokes involving wordplay only work when written down and not when spoken aloud, or vice-versa.
    • There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't. In this context 10 is pronounced "one zero" instead of "ten" so it ruins the joke if you say it aloud.
    • One that doesn't work in print: What's the difference between 'illegal' and 'unlawful'? 'Unlawful' means 'against the law'. 'Illegal' is a sick bird ('ill eagle').


  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy features the famous line "The spaceships hung in the sky in exactly the way that bricks don't". The film adaptation, using visuals rather than narrative description, simply depicts brick-shaped starships... and the Lemony Narrator element of the humour is absent.
  • Film adaptations of Terry Pratchett's novels are unable to indulge in his famous Footnote Fever.
    "You're a wizard. I think there's something you ought to know," said the princess.
    THERE IS? said Death.*
    * That was a cinematic trick adapted for print. Death wasn't talking to the princess. He was actually in his study, talking to Mort. But it was quite effective, wasn't it?

Live-Action TV

  • An episode of The X-Files about a plague of cockroaches threw in a gag where a roach appears to run across the TV screen on which the program is being viewed. Watching this episode on a large television detracts from this effect, because the roach looks so big that it'd be too heavy to scamper across a vertical surface.
  • In one of The Drew Carey Show's April Fools' Day "spot the mistakes" episodes, one of the mistakes is the ABC logo bug floating away from where it's supposed to be (in the corner of the screen) and Lewis catches it & puts it back in its proper location. In syndication (and presumably on DVD release if there is one) the ABC bug is replaced by a balloon, but it makes no sense for a balloon to be there.
  • The Dimension 404 episode "Matchmaker" features ads for a fictional matchmaking website that are meant to resemble the ads that accompany Hulu videos.
  • The first section of the Babylon 5 episode "The Illusion of Truth" features an ISN crew filming a story on board the station. As Sheridan turns on the screen to watch the show when it airs, he comments, "It'll probably be a commercial". The episode's original airing cut to an actual commercial break at this point.


  • All the gags in the "run-out groove" of a vinyl LP, as the record ended and ran out to the finish, are lost on CD. (For instance, the "backwards bit" at the end of Sergeant Pepper.)
    • This is also sometimes adverted with altered tracklists on different formats. (An example being Godspeed You! Black Emperor's F♯ A♯ ∞ being extended and having an ending on non-vinyl formats)
  • Neil Innes on The Bonzo Dog Band's Gorilla album opens a track with this:
    Good to see you, happy you could stick around!
    • This is puzzling to people who buy the CD, but in the original format it was on the start of Side Two, where you physically had to lift the playing arm, flip the record over, and re-start on the other side.
  • The people who physically created vinyl LPs used the format to add written messages in the dead space between the last track and the label; one technician used to sign his LPs with things like Another Prime Porky Cut, just to make his own creative mark on the record-making process.
  • CD pressings (along with the iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music releases) of Tom Petty's fourth album, Full Moon Fever, contain a hidden track inserted about midway through the album, consisting of Petty giving a brief monologue while his bandmates make animal noises in the background.
    Hello, CD listeners. We've come to the point in this album where those listening on cassette or records will have to stand up—or sit down—and turn over the record or tape. In fairness to those listeners, we will now take a few seconds before we begin Side Two. [Beat] Thank you. Here's Side Two.
  • Electric Light Orchestra's hit song "Mr. Blue Sky" ends with someone saying "Please turn me over," into a vocoder. This is because, on the original double-LP Out of the Blue, "Mr. Blue Sky" was the last song on side C—so there were still four more songs to hear on the last side. (As a result of this, the vocoded speech is frequently misinterpreted as someone saying the title of the song.)


  • When The Jack Benny Program moved to TV they realized that some of their most beloved running gags couldn't be replicated in a visual medium so they had to be abandoned: namely, Jack's underground bunker/safe and the polar bear guarding it, and Jack's very old car.
  • The LP version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy carried the scene where one cast member, whose identity shall not be disclosed because revealing it here would only hold up the story, bruises their upper arm in a tense stand-off with guided nuclear missiles. The run-out groove at the end of the side tells you the bruised crewmember was Arthur Dent.
    • The original radio and LP versions featured multiple jokes based on the lack of visuals, mostly based around withholding information from the viewers that was obvious to the characters. Zaphod's multiple heads and arms were an example of this. The more famous book version, of course, had to explain everything in narration as it was presented, so this was lost.

Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy

  • Hey, Hey It's Darryl and Ozzie - one of the comedy LPs made by the cast of Hey Hey It's Saturday - has joke about someone getting upset and storming off to the other side of the album through the hole in the middle. Needless to say, this joke will not work in any other format.

Video Games

  • In the original floppy disk versions of The Secret of Monkey Island, examining a stump in Mêlée Island's forest makes Guybrush realize that there is a hole at the base of the stump to "a tunnel that opens onto a system of catacombs!" The player is then prompted to insert the non-existent disks 22, 36, and 114, and Guybrush concludes he'll "just have to skip that part of the game." This joke was removed for the CD-ROM version, which is all on one disk, and the digitally-released Special Edition.
  • One of the tutorials in Kirby Super Star describes the joypad as "that thing with the purple buttons on it". This line remained in the British release, even though European SNES controllers have the original Japanese multicoloured buttons.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • According to the DVD Commentary of The Powerpuff Girls Movie, when the Professor first creates the girls and stares right up at the screen, this was supposed to make the audience see his face the way the tiny girls did — huge and staring at them.
  • On an episode of Chowder they made a joke about the Cartoon Network channel bug in the corner of the screen. On DVD the channel bug just appears and disappears when the joke comes up.
  • Looney Tunes uses Is There a Doctor in the House? on more than one occasion, which makes no sense to TV or DVD viewers watching at home.
    • They also use the "hair in the aperture" bit, where the projectionist's hand comes in to remove it.
  • Family Guy:
    • On at least one occasion, the show has built a gag around a promo running at the bottom of the screen. The joke stumbles a bit on DVD, or when viewed on TV in a country which doesn't have on-screen promos.
    • In "Switch the Flip", Stewie encourages Brian to offend God by telling him, "Say something you couldn't say on TV." Brian looks up, says, "Hey, God..." and the rest of his speech gets censored.
    • In "Big Man on Hippocampus", a gag resembling an Adult Swim card appears, chiding the viewer for watching the show on FOX. This joke only works in the episode's original airing on FOX, but given that encores would air a week after on Adult Swim, the joke is lost, much moreso when the show left Adult Swim completely for FXX and Freeform.
    "Can I ask you something? Why are you watching this on FOX? Family Guy is a lot funnier on Adult Swim, because we don't cut out the funniest jokes. You probably think you're watching this on Adult Swim right now, don't you? Well, you're not. It's still FOX."
    • That said, the Adult Swim airings attempt to salvage the joke with a fake FOX Station Ident insisting the viewer is watching the show on FOX... as in, "FOX for people who watch FOX on Adult Swim."
  • In The Cleveland Show, Cleveland Jr. gets into a rap battle with Kenny West. At one point, Jr. flips Kenny off, singing "On the DVD, this isn't pixelated."
  • In the Ireland episode of Yogi's Treasure Hunt, Huckleberry Hound makes a reference to a commercial break, which made no sense when it was shown on The BBC.
  • Code Monkeys, being styled after a video game, displays a pause screen whenever the show cuts to commercial. In a commercial-free format, this results in random pauses appearing for no reason. Although considering all the other random nonsense in the show, it's not entirely out of place.