Superman: Is everything okay?
Wonder Woman: Well, I'm sort of missing Flash's obligatory joke about Grodd having made a monkey out of us.
Superman: Just couldn't let it go unsaid.
Wonder Woman: Obligatory!
In certain situations, characters (and writers, it seems) just have to make certain puns or references. And they're usually the same ones. But Tropes Are Tools, as in many cases the audience may feel disappointed or even slightly confused if the obligatory joke fails to come up.
Often relies on If It Was Funny the First Time....
Nonetheless, many writers try to inject some freshness into the obligatory, by lampshading or overt and deliberate subversion.
- Anything involving a primate is going to involve lines like "monkeying around", "making a monkey('s uncle) out of someone", and "monkey business".
- Anything involving honey, molasses, maple syrup, etc. will be described as a "sticky situation".
- A person Bound and Gagged, or even just bound, will be described as "a little tied up right now".
- A victim of Unwilling Suspension may also be described as "(just) hanging around".
- If an animal of some kind is biting someone, an onlooker will be prompted to ask, "What's eating you?"
- Any hand-related pun when dealing with hand monsters or armless people.
- Cat-related jokes are sometimes catastrophic or catholic. They may leave you catatonic. Especially when they're done purrfectly.
- Stuff that Dracula says about you, the photo of your wife, or his own habits when you are first visiting his castle.
- Puns are elemental to all three of Fire, Ice, Lightning:
- Any time electricity is involved, you know someone will quip about a "shocking" situation.
- Expect An Ice Person to be surrounded by an abundance of "Ice to meet you", "Take a chill pill", "Let's break the ice", Ice Queen, etc. jokes.
- Expect anyone with fire-based powers to say "things are heating up", "now we're cooking", "they're hot", etc.
- Anything involving a living creature being inflated (usually due to Cartoon Physics) will result in someone saying he's "all full of hot air".
- Someone who's just seen a ghost will immediately be told You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost.
- Whenever a mummy (as in a preserved corpse, like from Ancient Egypt) appears, someone's gotta make a joke about the alternate use of "mummy" to mean "mother". ("I want my mummy!")
- Anything involving Pyramids, or simply Egypt, will be dubbed a "pyramid scheme" at some point.
- Clones will prompt jokes about being beside oneself, Me's a Crowd, using "I" instead of "he" or "she" when talking about one of their clones, and possibly jokes revolving around Screw Yourself (either overtly or subtly).
- Murder in a mansion? Get ready for butler and Clue/Cluedo jokes.
- A lot of situations will nearly guarantee a Monty Python reference. The most common one may be "only a flesh wound" after someone loses a limb.
- If you have a Special Guest you had better make a remark on what they are most famous for. What's the point of having Mark Hamill show up if there isn't going to be a Star Wars reference?
- Any object that's "to die for" will involve someone who already did die for it or actual mortal peril for anyone who seeks it.
- A villain intent on feeding the hero to carnivorous critters may make a quip about "staying for lunch/dinner/breakfast".
- After someone falls into a Trap Door, his captor may remark on how he just "dropped in".
- Anytime there's a long trip with somebody who is young, dumb, and/or snarky there will be some variation of the Are We There Yet? joke.
- Doctors must be greeted with "What's up, doc?", especially if the speaker is a villain.
- If someone says "You'll pay for this" or something to that extent, expect the Deadpan Snarker to reply with "Send me the bill" or "Sorry, I left my wallet at home".
- If the plot involves a certain European nation between Sweden and Germany, somebody will note that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark".
These days, Obligatory Jokes tend to be subverted in the vein of Anti-Humor or So Unfunny, It's Funny. One character could say "Aren't you going to say <X>?" and get a confused look or a deadpan "No.". Critics and reviewers tend to use them fairly regularly, Lampshade Hanging optional.
See also Pun, Bond One-Liner, Quip to Black, and others, which have considerable overlap. You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost is one subtrope. A Punny Name or Unfortunate Name resulting in this may make someone a Phrase Catcher. Contrast Subverted Punchline.
Common responses include Lame Pun Reaction, Collective Groan, "You Just Had to Say It", "Never Heard That One Before", or if you're really lucky "That's... Actually Pretty Funny." Might be justified with "I Always Wanted to Say That", or "Someone had to say it!", lampshading the obligation.
- In Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure a one-shot comic by Walt Simonson and Mike Mignola, at one point Wolverine falls through a trapdoor and is held prisoner by Apocalypse.
Apocalypse: Greetings, Wolverine! I hope you don't mind, I'm required by law to say this, but how nice of you to drop in so unexpectedly!
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe: At the end of "Return to Plain Awful", as the gang is leaving the square-shape-obsessed land:
Donald: They made their billions by being tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties. And you know what else...
Scrooge: (cringing) Oh, no, nephew, don't say it! Please!
Donald: They made it SQUARE!
- At the end of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) #27, as Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are stuck in the vines coming from the Everfree, which have covered up the entire palace:
Luna: Hey, Celestia...
Celestia: Don't say it.
Luna: Hey, Celestiaaaaa....
Celestia: Don't say it.
Luna: You can reply back that we'd love to help, but we're too busy hanging around! Ha!
Celestia: You said it.
- When Sally gets caught by a tree in the "What's the Point?" segment of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) #9, Sonic actually halts the narrative's progression just so he can get through as many inevitable tree puns as possible in one panel.◊note
- The Bolt Chronicles: In The Kippies, Bolt asks the obviously upset Mittens, What's eating you, anyway? She initially responds by saying, I'm at the top of the food chain, Wags. Nothin's eating me, as far as I know. Well, maybe fleas — but Pennys moms got a dip for that.
- In a fake trailer for "The Magic School Bus: The Movie", the last scene involves the Frizz Kids ending up in Hell. After one of them says they need to hurry and find Miss Frizzle, Carlos quips "Or there's going to be hell to pay.", prompting a Lame Pun Reaction groan of his name.
- Unbreakable Red Silken Thread: Cody drives a DeLorean, so of course there's an obligatory Back to the Future reference thrown in.
- James Bond in general is very fond of bad puns (especially after killing enemies), so pretty much always goes with the obligatory joke. Particularly Pierce Brosnan's Bond. It got to the point where audiences were shocked when he didn't make one.
- In Casino Royale (1967), Q is outfitting his character with spy gadgets, including a fountain pen that shoots a stream of poison.
Tremble: It must be very useful when writing —-Q:— a poison-pen letter, yes. All our new agents say that.
- Subverted in The World Is Not Enough.
Bond: I don't know any doctor jokes.
- Then ultimately played straight at the end of the movie.
Bond: (in bed with Jones) I was wrong about you.Christmas Jones: Yeah? How so?Bond: I thought Christmas only comes once a year.
- Then ultimately played straight at the end of the movie.
- Subverted in Die Another Day. When asked what took him so long after in a spy car vs spy car fight, Bond avoided the obvious joke "car troubles".
- Quantum of Solace:
Bond: Tell her Slate was a dead end.
M: Dammit, he killed him!
- In Casino Royale (1967), Q is outfitting his character with spy gadgets, including a fountain pen that shoots a stream of poison.
- Austin Powers, not surprising given what it's parodying:
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery had Austin and Vanessa escape Dr. Evil's death trap, leaving the guard get his head bitten off by the ill-tempered sea bass. Austin then launches into a Hurricane of Puns about losing one's head, while Vanessa waits patiently for him to finish, both seemingly well aware of this trope.
- Happens again in the second film when a guard falls into a lava pit.
- Dracula, either in 1931 or in general, makes all sorts of double entendres that the audience will get, even is his visitors don't.
- Comes up, naturally, in Iron Man 3 when Tony's fighting the Extremis enhanced Ellen Brandt and her heat powers.
Tony: You walked right into this one — I've dated hotter chicks than you!
- Discussed in Hot Fuzz.
Nicholas: I left him in the deep freezer.
Danny: Did you say "Cool off"?
- Averted in Avengers: Infinity War. Despite both Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch having a significant amount of screentime together, the writers deliberately avoided the obvious "No shit, Sherlock" joke.
- Animorphs: "Let's do this!" is Rachel's Catchphrase, said whenever about to go on a dangerous and possibly lethal mission. Marco, being the comedian of the group, does what he can to prevent the gag from going stale:
- In one case, he says "Let's do this!" before Rachel can because he Always Wanted to Say That.
- In another, he quickly interjects "Bet you she says 'Let's do this!' ", leaving Rachel to say "Let's... go for it!", leading to Marco complaining of cheating.
- In yet another, there's an expectant pause:
Marco: Rachel! What's keeping you?
Rachel: Sorry, I forgot. Let's do this!
Marco: Thank you. No suicide mission is complete without the blessing of Xena: Warrior Princess.
- Belles on Their Toes: During one chapter where the Gilbreth boys are shopping for clothes en masse and the salesman asks them what they "want in a shoe", one of the boys tells the others that they had better not say "a foot" to avoid bothering the salesman any more than they are.
- The Dresden Files: To hear Harry Dresden tell it, he's the original this. He claims that he's now so well known that if he isn't flip and punny to every supernatural being of a distinctly higher weight class than him, they'll be insulted because they expect him to be. Note that this was a retrospective excuse to Sigrun for pissing off Odin's secretaries.
- Only a few people actually make jokes about Moist von Lipwig's name in Going Postal, but he seems to think people will, saying things like "I've heard all the jokes" and "Please don't laugh."
- Likewise with Adora Belle Dearheart. "As you can imagine, I have no sense of humor whatsoever."
- Quoth is a talking raven, saddled with an obvious joke name (the wizard who named him is one of those people proud of a sense of humour he doesn't actually have), who "doesn't do the N-word".
- The raven in American Gods doesn't do it either, and is blunter than Quoth on the subject.
"Fuck you", said the Raven.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Life Serial" Buffy goes out for a night of drinking with vampire Spike, who invites himself to a demon poker game, only he hasn't got any cash.
Spike: Come on, someone's gotta stake me.
Buffy: (grinning) I'll do it! (off Spike's look) What, you thought I was just gonna let that lie there?
- Rick Castle is fond of these. In Castle's first Nikki Heat novel, his Author Avatar is introduced by saying "It's raining men! Hallelujah!" when a crime scene contained an outdoor table umbrella with a victim's blood and guts on it.
- The "tied up right now" variant comes up when the eponymous character had bound himself to a chair to see whether he could free himself.
- Played with in another episode: Lanie finds out that the recent victim, who had been burnt in a pizza oven, has the last name "Burns". She tells Castle, who had started to look excited, to make the Obligatory Joke...but it turns out that Castle had actually recognized the name.
- Paige does this in Charmed when talking to Cole:
Paige: You were a demon and a lawyer? Insert joke here.
- Subverted by Jon Stewart when Tim Pawlenty was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Jon: Tim Pawlenty is here, and I'm sure that we will have... a lot to talk about.
- Doctor Who:
- "The God Complex":
Rita: [There's also] Joe, but he's tied up right now.
The Doctor: Doing what?
Rita: No, I mean he's tied up right now.
- "Twice Upon a Time" has the First and Twelfth Doctors meeting each other and having an adventure with a British Army captain from World War I. Upon their first meeting:
The Captain: So sorry. I don't suppose either of you is a doctor?
[One and Twelve give each other an Aside Glance]
Twelfth Doctor: You trying to be funny?
- "The God Complex":
- Get Smart. Maxwell Smart is trying to break into a villain's hideout when a trapdoor drops him into a chair in front of the villain who starts to say, "Mr. Smart, how nice of you to..." with both Smart and the villain finishing in an ironic tone "...drop in, yes."
- Done in an episode of Grimm that featured music students:
Wu: Guess they're going to have to face the music.
Hank: Really? You went there?
Wu: Somebody had to.
- Homicide: Life on the Street: In the seventh season episode "A Case of Do or Die", a man is murdered at a repertory movie theater that was showing a double feature of Casablanca and The Big Sleep. When Detective Sheppard finds out the audience has left the theater, she says to her partner, Agent Mike Giardello they only have one thing to do, and they say, "Round up the usual suspects."
- Done very consciously in an episode of Law & Order where a disturbed man is arrested for a mass shooting. He will only identify himself as "Regis Philbin". Everyone expectantly looks to Briscoe, who rolls his eyes and sighs, "Is that your final answer?"
- The "all tied up" joke is used very darkly on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit by a man taunting a woman about her daughter, whom he has just raped.
- After the first act of the Jaye P. Morgan episode of The Muppet Show, where Morgan wears a ruffled bird outfit:
Statler: Ooh, Jaye P. Morgan is terrific!
Waldorf: Yeah, but that last number was for the birds!
Statler: You had to make that joke, did you?
Waldorf: Well, one of us had to, and I lost the toss!
- In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Revenge of the Creature, Professor Bobo informs Mike and the bots that it's the future, human civilization has fallen and apes now rule the world. You know where this is going:
Mike: A planet where apes evolved from men?
Professor Bobo: Well, it's maybe a little more complicated than that but, that is the rough outline, yes.
Mike: "You did it! You finally did it!"
Professor Bobo: [apathetic] "...Damn us all to Hell". Yes, yes.
Mike: "It's a madhouse! A..."
Professor Bobo: "...madhouse." I know!
- On QI, giving the obvious-but-incorrect answer causes an alarm to ring and the panelist to forfeit points. Obvious riffs such as these sometimes trigger the klaxon as well.
- Averted in Sesame Street, when Kermit the Frog reported from the throne room of Old King Cole.
Kermit: In just a second he's going to call for his pipe, he's going to call for his bowl and he's going to call for his fiddlers three. Let's listen.
Old King Cole: What ho! Bring me my royal pipe, and step on it!
Kermit: At this point, you might think we'd go for the cheap joke, but we're not going to.
- The X-Files: Upon finding the body of a black guy with all the pigmentation sucked out of him, Mulder comments, "There's a Michael Jackson joke in here somewhere, but I can't figure out where."
- It's lampshaded in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People episode 5. Homestar is in a dungeon suspended by his "arms". Strong Bad asks him what's up:
Homestar: "Oh, you know, not much..."Strong Bad: (sighs) "You can say it, Homestar..."Homestar: "Just hangin' around."
- In RuneScape, when the player talks to their creeping hand pet (an animated, severed hand), they would invariably make a hand-related pun.
- Yahtzee's review of No More Heroes opened with the song "No More Heroes" by The Stranglers, which he cut short stating it was too obvious.
- Completely averted in Elsa meets My Little Pony—the entire episode does not contain a single "Let it Go" joke.
- RWBY subverts and defies this in volume 3 episode 2, courtesy of that year's Vytal Festival announcers.Details
Port: You know what I call that victory?
Port: No, well earned. What you said is stupid.
- On this page of Dinosaur Comics, T-Rex complains about the overuse of the phrase "a whale of a good time" in conjunction with literal whales.
T-Rex: It should mean "a good time that is large or immense: METAPHORICALLY like a whale", but the metaphor's broken because it's always used on literal friggin' whales. "Dog-gone great" is getting there too.
- In Cinema Snob Reviews Frozen (a fan comic where The Cinema Snob reviews Frozen (2013)), Snob assumes the "weasel town" assumption is because John Travolta told them how to pronounce "weselton" (in a reference to the Adele Dezeem gaffe). Snob says that he was just getting that joke out of the way.
- In El Goonish Shive, after Elliot specifies that his love for Tedd is platonic by comparing it to Sam and Frodo, Tedd decides to forgo the "obligatory gay hobbits joke" on the grounds that he really needs a hug.
- The Order of the Stick 136 is simply an extended Monty Python reference. The strip title lampshades this: "It's Not a Gaming Session Until Someone Quotes Monty Python".
- The Nostalgia Critic:
- In his review of The Care Bears Movie, when the leader of the Care Bear Cousins said his name, Braveheart, Critic showed a clip from Braveheart, asking how could he not do that joke.
- He opened a review of the film Alaska with "Sarah Palin is stupid. There, I got my Sarah Palin joke out of the way, let's talk about Alaska."
- The Critic also gets pissed off at Rover Dangerfield's use of the "corn dog" pun when Rover gets trapped in a pile of corn, especially because the whole movie is a Hurricane of Obvious Puns throughout. The Critic even has a mock game show where he has the "audience" submit guesses as to what pun Rover is about to use, only to show the pun immediately after the chime on the assumption that everyone has come up with the exact same answer.
- In his review of Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, he congratulates himself for going the entire episode without making the obligatory Finding Nemo joke, only to realize that technically the episode isn't over, and he just blew it.
- Lampshaded when reviewing Bangarang, the short film Dante Basco created. Not only does Critic make the obligatory Avatar: The Last Airbender and American Dragon: Jake Long jokes, but he also provides convenient time stamps on exactly how far into the video he waited, for the sake of any betting pools anyone had been running.
- In his Blade II review, after he makes a joke about calling Blade the Tax Dodger in reference to Wesley Snipes' legal troubles for tax evasion, he crumples up a "Tax Joke" paper and throws it at the camera, getting the joke out of the way.
- When Bennett the Sage mentions that "We Didn't Start the Fire" is a lazy song, it cuts to "The Lazy Song", then to Bennett saying while writing on a paper "obligatory joke quota... done!".
- During The Cinema Snob's review of Sleepaway Camp, when one of the campers is killed by a beehive dropped in his bathroom stall, the Snob dubs in the infamous "NOT THE BEES!" bit from The Wicker Man (2006).
Snob: Easiest fucking reference I ever made. I almost feel lazy for adding it.
- During Linkara's review of Cosmic Slam, he mentions that it's about baseball players fighting an outer space menace and that the audience knows what he has to do with that before he cues up The Quad City DJs and starts rubbing his head.
- On Slashdot, there have been a lot of repetitive memes which users will continue to post to any half-relevant story along with "ob" lampshading that it was obligatory. Two examples: "I, for one, welcome our new [what the article is about] overlords (ob)", and, responding to a reasoned, compassionate, and well-rounded argument with "you must be new here (ob)".
- The Music Video Show did this in the beginning of the 100th episode by playing Stuck In The Drive-Thru during Trapped in the Closet.
- Sometimes, he flat out averts it by saying, "Insert (Blank) Joke here."
- Unskippable deals with the intro to Bionic Commando. They go through every single arm/hand joke they can come up with. All the ones they can't fit in are shoehorned in on a text field at the end.
- In Salut Les Geeks, pretty much every time there is an Accidental Innuendo, the Boss will make a Double Entendre joke.
- Analyst Bronies React: When Sci-Twi sings "What More Is Out There", most of the cast compared it to a Disney Princess song (though Thespio drew the line at referencing High School Musical).
- In one episode of her vlog "The Flog," Felicia Day recommended a puzzle website called Jigidi. She finished the segment by saying "You can get jigidi with it at www.jigidi.com. I know I didn't want to say that, but I had to."
- This Grantland article apologizes for making a joke that organizing the America's Cup regatta in San Francisco was not "smooth sailing".
- The Spectacular Spider-Man had Green Goblin do the "tied up" joke, chuckling to himself that you gotta love the classics.
- In the Danny Phantom episode "Doctor's Disorders", Penelope Spectra tries to get a sample of Danny's DNA to make a perfect body for herself. When she's not looking, Danny swaps it out with something from his dad's used handkerchief. The result is Spectra turning into a Jack Fenton-shaped snot monster. Danny comments, "There's a 'You blew it' pun here somewhere, but I'd rather not." When the fight begins, Spectra growls, "Let's boogie!" to which Danny replies, "That's exactly the kind of pun I was trying to avoid with the 'You blew it' comment!"
Danny: Lovely weather we're having.
- And in "Torrent Of Terror", we have this scene between Vlad and Danny after Vlad loses control of Vortex.
Vlad: Ah, yes, the obligatory weather pun.
- In a particularly silly episode of The New Batman Adventures, Robin and Batgirl are fighting genetically altered giant cows. Batgirl lampshades the fact that Robin couldn't resist yelling "Holy Cow!"
- The page quote was used in Justice League after the heroes foiled Gorilla Grodd's plot to turn all of humanity into gorillas.
- Kim Possible:
Drakken: Enough chit-chat! My pets are famished! Perhaps you two could stay—
- In "Rufus In Show", Kim discovers that the villain keeps electric eels, to which she replies, "The puns just write themselves. Shocking, isn't it?" Of course, the villain says the very same line later when he reveals his electric eels.
- Lampshaded during Kim's first run-in with Dr. Drakken in "Tick-Tick-Tick":
Kim: For lunch?
Drakken: (defensively) I wasn't going to say that!
Ron: Oh, dude, you were so — "for lunch".
Drakken: (exasperated) Aargh! Yes! Then — stay for lunch! (dumps them into the trap)
- Subverting obligatory jokes makes up about 90% of The Simpsons—it's actually kind of shocking when they do play them straight.
- Launchpad gets 3 uses of "crash course" in DuckTales (1987) (including the movie).
- Garfield and Friends
- Subverted in a short where Garfield and Jon check into an inn, and the nutty old innkeeper tells them to "Walk this way!" while showing them their rooms, hunched over and walking with a gait. Garfield turns to the viewers and says, "Don't worry, we aren't doing that old joke". (Probably a double subversion, actually, because simply saying that was a variant of the joke.)
- In one U.S. Acres segment where Orson describes cartoon humor, he states that anyone doing a chase scene in a cartoon is required by law to use the joke where the character paints a tunnel on a mountainside. (Exactly where this law is stated, he doesn't say.)
- One example of this joke was unique to The Smurfs. In "The Astrosmurf", on a long trip to a volcano, one of the smurfs asked, "Is it much father, Papa Smurf?" He replied, "Not far now." Another smurf repeated the question and he repeated the same answer again, through about three consecutive scenes; the joke ended with one of them asking it, and him replying angrily, "Yes it IS!" From that episode on, the joke was used every time they had to make a long trip; in fact, it was lampshaded in one late-season episode, where after one of them asked it a second time, Papa Smurf snapped, "Oh, don't start that again!"
- Both The Real Ghostbusters and Danny Phantom have made this unavoidable joke:
Ghost: You'll never take me alive, coppers!Pursuer: You're a ghost.
- On Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Gruffi refuses to get in the flying machine they've found, but as it's taking off, a rope snags him around the ankle and drags him into the air after it. His response when Zummi pulls him aboard and asks him what happened? "I was roped into it."
- One rather unique example, yet somehow just as unavoidable as any other, happens in The Sponge Bob Squarepants Movie. SpongeBob pulls up to a gas station in a hamburger-shaped Cool Car. One of the attendants immediately asks, "What'll it be, fellas, mustard or ketchup?"
Mr. Krabs: SpongeBob, what are you doing?
- In the series proper: the episode "Wet Painters" has Mr. Krabs happen upon SpongeBob hanging from a wall like a picture frame for reasons irrelevant, leading to this exchange:
SpongeBob: Oh, you know, just hanging around.
Patrick: [giving a thumbs-down] Boo!
- This was the reason Ralph Fiennes didn't reprise his role as Voldemort in The LEGO Batman Movie. Since he was already voicing Alfred, the writers knew they would have to have a "you sound familiar" joke. They couldn't figure out a good way to work it in, so they cast an entirely different actor to avoid the problem.
- When CNN was reporting on the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, one of the cycled headers printed at the bottom of the screen was "Pyramid Scheme". It's a stretch to call it a "scheme" and it's a stretch to say pyramids had much to do with it, but, hey, obligatory.
- With Star Wars: The Force Awakens' record-breaking weekend, many headline writers used "The Fans Awaken".
- Local religion stories in Toledo, Ohio can never resist using "Holy Toledo".
- Due to the poor reception and box office performance of the Kate Beckinsale horror movie The Disappointments Room, quite a few people (especially professional critics) have cracked jokes about its title as being indicative of its overall quality.
- Call out for somebody named "Marco" and everybody will answer "Polo!"