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Orphaned Punchline

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Zuko: Would you like to hear Uncle's favorite tea joke? [...] Okay. Well, I can't remember how it starts, but the punchline is "leaf me alone, I'm bushed!"
[awkward silence]
Zuko: Well, it's funnier when Uncle tells it.
Katara: Right, maybe that's because he remembers the whole thing.

When characters are seen telling jokes to one another, we rarely get to hear the entire joke: usually we will just hear the setup or the punchline. Punchlines are often more common, as it allows us to cut to the end and see other people's reaction to the joke, whether it be rip-roaring hilarity, monocle-popping disgust or a deathly quiet.

An advantage of this over actually telling the joke is that the writer's sense of humor may not match with the viewers, leading to a different reading of the joke, when it's easier to just suggest it. It can also be a form of Getting Crap Past the Radar, hinting at filth in works that would never allow it. The punchlines or setups are often from actual jokes (usually dirty or obscure ones), so there are several stock punchlines you hear; "The Aristocrats" is a popular one. Alternatively they're intended to be as weird as possible, leaving the audience wondering what the setup/punchline could possibly be — in most of these cases, the setup/punchline never existed in the first place.

Another alternative is a dirty Limerick which is cut off before the end. People from Nantucket are common (with the implication being that the previous line ended in "Fuck it"), as well as something akin to:

... and then I told him, "That's no dragon, that's my mother!"

A subtrope of Nothing Is Funnier, as the setup is left entirely for the listener to imagine. See also Orphaned Setup, Subverted Punchline, Late to the Punchline, Lost in Transmission, Noodle Implements, Faux Final Line, Forgotten Trope, And Then I Said.


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  • An (infamous) Australian advert for Clayton's from the '70s began with actor Jack Thompson (not that Jack Thompson) in a bar giving the punchline "Now we can all get some sleep!" to uproarious laughter.
  • An American TV ad from the '70s began with a man at a bar saying, "And the kangaroo won!" to much laughter.
  • A current ad for Miller Lite begins with a man saying to his girlfriend, "And when I got there, he had 13 monkeys!" as she laughs.
  • In a memorable American Express commercial with Jerry Seinfeld, we hear the end of a joke tailored to British audiences after his original version falls victim to Separated by a Common Language. Thus "...So I looked out the elevator and said, 'What is this, the seventh-inning stretch?'" becomes "...So I took a butcher's up the apples and pears and said, 'What is this, the tea interval?'"note 
  • A 2013 commercial for the New York State Lottery showed a series of clips of a man telling jokes (written by writers he hired with his lottery winnings). Each clip ends with one of these. Only one makes sense on its own:
    Man: (holding a melon) He was born with no face!
  • A promo for a stand-up comedy show on TBS had shots of the comedians delivering the punchlines to their jokes with the announcement "If these are the punchlines, imagine what the setups are like." The promo was apparently made by someone who had no idea how jokes work.
  • A commercial for Pepsi Twist featuring Austin Powers and Britney Spears finds a crowd laughing as we hear Britney finishing a joke with "Ooops, I did it again!"
  • A Cap'n Crunch commercial had a kid receive an award for the funniest story, and had to read said story in front of his school. We never hear the story except for the last line, "So she said, 'That is my foot!'" The whole school, and Cap'n Crunch himself went into hysterics.
  • Students at Class & Islamophobia from Ocasi Ontario starts with, where the unheard setup should be something along the lines of "What's the difference between ET and Muslims?":
    Girl: What?
    Boy: E.T got the point and went home.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In one Darker than Black episode, April calls the phone of her partner, November 11 and gets a recorded message in which he tells a joke. In the English dub, the audience hears the beginning in which he starts talking about a Shepherd, and then the ending which is the traditional "That's my wife".
  • In Lucky Star, some scenes cut in just as a character finishes a joke regarding 'something stinky'. Variations on this are played as a Running Gag. There's also a number of examples that don't follow that pattern.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Vita tells Nanoha, "We Belkans have a saying: If you're an ambassador of peace, don't carry a spear!". Zafira points out that it isn't a saying, it's the punchline to a joke.
  • A surprisingly smutty one appears in the English dub of Pokémon 2000: One character is heard finishing a joke with "...and then she says 'No, but I have Krabbys!'"
  • In the "dream" episode/chapter of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, everyone's personalities are reversed, and so instead of his usual insightful/hopeful stories, Jun Kudo whispers a dirty joke in Sensei's ear. The audience doesn't hear it, but Nozomu comments that it was about a man who injured both of his hands and was helped by his mother-in-law. In a way, most of Kudo's stories are this, as the audience generally doesn't hear the whole story, but just sees the cast's reaction.
  • The beauty/comedy contest in episode 18 of Sgt. Frog features a few of these. This is made more obvious in Funimation's Gag Dub version, highlights of which include the punchline of the funniest joke in Keroro's repertoire ("And she gets mad when I suck my thumb!") and a reference to the infamous "Japanese golfer" joke ("What do you mean, it's the wrong hole?").

  • Lewis Black has an entire bit about having overheard one and being driven insane in pondering what the hell would trigger the phrase "If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college."
  • Dave Chappelle admits he does this on purpose, writing a punchline, putting it in a fishbowl and working from what he pulls out. In this case the punchline was "So I kicked her in the pussy". He then tells a story about how his white friend invited him over to have Stove Top stuffing for dinner, then learning from his mom that they won't have enough for him.
  • From The Firesign Theatre's album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, there's this:
    Patty: That's why he's so MEAN!!
    Hugh: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! (Fake-sounding laughter)
    Patty: Well, well, well, yes, yes. So what else happened in history today, Hugh?
  • In Gabriel Iglesias's special Aloha, Fluffy, there was one point where he was going over a time he went touring in Saudi Arabia. As he was transitioning to the next story about the trip, an audience member yelled out, "I love you Fluffy!" This caused him to reply, "Sit down mahu" which was a previous bit that he decided to return to that one, leaving the rest of the Saudi Arabia story unfinished.
  • Australian comedian Glynn Nicholas would use this to puzzle/punish latecomers to his show. Tipped off that some people were coming in late, he would tell the audience to laugh uproariously at a punchline. The latecomers would be allowed into the audience and Glynn would wait patiently. Then, when they had settled, he would pretend to be finishing the joke. Audience wets themselves laughing, with the exception of four unfortunates.
  • Gilbert Gottfried will occasionally recite a string of punchlines to dirty jokes without the vulgar set ups. ("You told me yesterday." "If you help me find my keys, we can DRIVE out of here." "Let me see that map again." "For a nickel I will." "Could you quit keeping score on my ass?")

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City:
    • It gives us Crackerjack's " the woman says 'You idiot — This is a duck, not a pig!' And the bartender says "I was talking to the duck!'"
    • "A woman walks into a bar holding a duck and orders a drink. The bartender says "What are you doing in here with that pig?"
  • Batman '66 #31 has one joke from the Joker with an orphaned punchline, though longtime comic book fans will know the setup very well:
    Joker: What do you think I am, crazy? You'd turn it off when I was halfway across!
  • In the Bone prequel Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails, Big Johnson Bone, having been run out of town for cheating in a card game, gives his monkey companion a long-winded explanation as to why there was an ace up his sleeves. The story is so long that it goes on to the morning of the next day!
    "—Then what did I see at my feet? Completely untouched by the explosion that leveled a good hundred miles of forest— Yes sir, that's right, a single playing card— An Ace of Spades to be precise. So I picked it up and put it inside my coat in case whoever lost it came lookin'.
  • The original graphic novel of The Crow contains a scene in which one of T-Bird's henchmen is telling T-Bird a joke. He's gotten as far as "so then the hooker says" before he's interrupted, first by his own laughter and then by a shotgun blast to the head through the roof of the car. When T-Bird later attempts to escape in the same car, with the corpse still in the passenger's seat, he facetiously asks him to finish the joke.
  • In the graphic novel adaptation of Mort, King Olerve the Bastard dies halfway through the punchline "...And the farmer said 'I don't know, but they're green and they taste of peppermint'." The set-up is that a farmer was trying to breed his cattle, but was having trouble getting the bull interested. So he asked the vet about it and the vet provided these pills and told him to give one to the bull. As soon as he did so, the bull jumps up, services all the cows, and runs around the field looking for more. The next day, the farmer is telling his friends about this, and one of them asks what the pills were. And the farmer says...
  • The Hitman (1993) installment of DC One Million has Tommy teleported to the 853rd century while saying "' the cowboy says read my lips: posse!"
  • In the Judge Dredd story "The Torture Garden", a prisoner of the Dark Judges has managed to survive by telling a morbid joke that amused one of them. The reader is only shown the set-up and punchline, which involves an actress walking into a bar with a dead monkey, and at the end someone commenting that the monkey is still breathing.
  • In Dwayne McDuffie's Justice League run, one sequence has a race-shifting superhero named the Brown Bomber (inspired by an aborted concept for DC's first black superhero, which ultimately became Black Lightning) introducing himself to the Vixen and explaining how his powers work, calling it "C.P.T." Then there's a Beat Panel before the Vixen, inexplicably, says to him, "No. You absolutely can't." As it turned out, the comic's editor removed set-up dialogue from the beat panel, which was the Brown Bomber asking if he can have N-Word Privileges.
  • The Pinkie Pie issue of My Little Pony Micro Series gives us this one from Equestria's funniest clown:
    Ponyacci: " I said 'Alligator? I thought you said bagpipes! '"
  • The Sandman (1989):
    • The story "Men of Good Fortune" began and ended with snippets of conversation in pubs, 600 years apart, with similarities including the punchline "... up her dress, and she says, 'Hunting for rabbits again, Vicar?'" ("friar" in the medieval version).
    • In the one-shot Sandman Midnight Theater a party scene includes what seems to be the middle of the same joke: " — no, this is funny — the farmer says, 'Vicar, I'll not say another word about the poaching, if only you'll tell me how you caught all those rabbits'..."
    • The joke can be found in the second reply here. It's not work-safe.
    • Also in The Sandman is Thor's joke resulting in the punchline, "You're Thor? I'm tho thore I can hardly pith!" It found a cold reception. There's several versions of the leadup to this one, involving sex and/or riding on horseback. Disney did a clean version of it in Aladdin and the King of Thieves with Genie doing both sides of the joke ("Well, it hurtth.").
  • In the XXXenophile story "Hoisters", we get the punchline "... so the butler says 'Well, if it's that kind of party, I'll just stick my nose in the mashed potatoes.'" This is a reference either to comedian Mantan Moreland, or more likely the Beastie Boys who sampled a line from That Ain't My Finger for "B-Boys Makin' with the Freak-Freak" on Ill Comunication. In both cases, something else is being stuck in the mashed potatoes.

    Comic Strips 
  • A speech instead of a joke from Dilbert:
    Pointy-Haired Boss: Our top priority is quality. And our other top priority is price...and service...and... [one hour later] and that's why circles are round.
  • The Far Side:
    • "Then the bartender says 'Hey, that's not a duck!'" on Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
    • Another cartoon had a butter knife doing a stand-up act in front of an audience of flatware. The caption read, "...and the waiter said, 'That's not a soup spoon!' But seriously, forks..."
  • In Garfield it's used several times with Garfield's fence act:
    And so the moose says: "That was no chicken, that was my wife!"
    So the guy says "Hey, I thought that was your face!"
    So the chicken says, "That was no herring, that was my trout!"
    So he says, "That was no aardvark, that was my wife!"
  • Zits has a number of strips that open with the tail end of one of Walt's stories, with the rest of the strip dealing with Jeremy's reaction. One such example was "...and half an hour later, I say "If that's a pigeon, I'd hate to see an ostrich!"
  • One Bloom County strip started with Opus asking Portnoy if he'd heard the latest news. The strip is then interrupted by an explanation on why Opus' nose has been subjected to Scenery Censor recently; when we get back to the strip, the joke is already in process.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Chicken Run: "...So the pig turns to the horse and says, 'Hey, buddy. Why the long face?'"
  • Near the start of Finding Nemo, Marlin tries to tell a joke about a mollusk and a sea cucumber. We get to hear the punchline at the end: "With fronds like these, who needs anemones?"
    • The DVD has a bunch of bonus alternate orphaned punchlines, including "Hey, this stuff tastes like carp!"
  • In G.I. Joe: The Movie, Quick Kick is telling Gung Ho a joke that ends with "I says to the guy 'I don't care if it takes all night, we're gonna get there by morning."
    • According to writer Buzz Dixon, this is the punch line to the dirtiest joke he ever heard.
  • Ray delivers one in The Princess and the Frog. "Den he say, Dat a ugly fish, yeah."
  • In Shrek Forever After, Shrek is heard telling the end of a joke to Rumpelstiltskin. "So, the centaur says, 'That's not the half I'm taking about.'"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2010: The Year We Make Contact: Dr. Floyd tries to keep a panicking Dr. Curnow calm during his spacewalk with a joke about a marathon runner and a chicken. When Curnow presses him for the punchline, Floyd admits he made it up.
  • In the Rodney Dangerfield film Back to School, a new scene begins with Rodney's character Thornton telling a joke to the college dean: "...And she said, "Let's do it! The room's already paid for!"
  • Black Sheep (1996): A stoned Chris Farley delivers this gem. "Rectum? Damn near killed 'em!" The setup involves two bulls reminiscing about their days in the arena, and one correcting the other's grammar regarding an amusing horn placement.
  • In Crackerjack, Jack walks back into his flat to hear Stan finishing an anecdote to Nance and Dave:
    ...And that's why I'll never get another tattoo in Manila.
  • In Deadpool (2016), a scene begins as Deadpool finishes explaining to Dopinder about "why the movie Cocoon is pure pornography."
  • Lloyd's fantasy sequence in Dumb and Dumber features him ending a joke with "So he said, 'Do you love me?' and she said, 'No, but that's a real nice ski mask!'" to uproarious laughter.
  • In Ernest Goes to Africa, Ernest tells the tribesmen a joke with the punchline "It's a knick-knack, Patty Black, give the frog a loan!" The actual joke is about a frog trying to get a bank loan using a miniature model of the Eiffel Tower as collateral.
  • The first High School Musical sees Troy telling Chad about something involving pink jelly, apparently an ad libbed line about a dream Zac Efron had had. In the second film, Sharpay's father twice uses "...and then she stepped on the ball!" referencing Trading Places.
  • An old Laurel and Hardy movie has Ollie leave the room for a bit, telling Stan to keep the women entertained while he's gone. When he comes back, Stan is telling the shocked women, "... so then the farmer walks in, and shoots the traveling salesman."
  • Mexican film Matando Cabos starts with the protagonist telling his friend a story about his boss Oscar Cabos that starts with an important dinner in a restaurant in which he tells a joke, which ends with the punchline "...he said, yes! But I've never seen one so inside!" Everyone laughs but, as the protagonist points out, it's not because the joke was funny, but because if Oscar Cabos tells a joke, you better laugh.
  • Men in Black. In the first film, K ends a joke with the line "But honey, this one's eating my popcorn!" The setup is probably some variation of the following: A farmer decides to go into town to see a movie along with his pet rooster. Noticing that no animals are allowed inside the cinema, he smuggles the rooster into the theater in his front overall pocket and unzips it once the lights have dimmed and the movie started so the rooster can see. The woman sitting next to him eventually notices, and nudges her husband. "I think this man is a pervert. He's got his thing out." Her husband replies, "So? It's nothing you haven't seen before." to which she says "But honey, this one's eating my popcorn!"
    • This same orphaned punchline was originally featured in the movie The Sting. The vaudeville comedian starts his routine but the main character is in the foreground talking over him so we don't here the first part. Once the main character leaves, the scene remains long enough, that we hear that punchline to the joke he just told.
  • In Miller's Crossing, we hear Caspar deliver the punchline of a fairly well-known joke: "He said 'Fuck him, give him a fiver.' The coffee was my idea." For those who don't know it, a housewife invites the postman in for coffee and sex, before giving him the money, because when she asked her husband what they should give the postman for Chrismas..."
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "...And that, my liege, is how we know the earth to be banana-shaped." What's funnier, he might be serious - it's certainly in character for him to think the world is shaped like a banana. Stranger still is the fact that it's not that different to Stephen Hawking's theory that the universe is saddle shaped and was written 9 years before Hawking published his own theory.
  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, Fozzie tries to bring Kermit out of his amnesia by giving examples of his "humor":
    Fozzie: ", the grizzly bear, he walks out of the room. Well, the panda bear's just sittin' there. And he thinks to himself, 'This is odd!' And then - whaddaya know, the phone rings. You know who it is? It's the polar bear. And the polar bear, he says to the panda bear, 'I didn't know it was a koala bear!' Get it? Koala? Wocka-wocka!"
  • In Peewees Big Adventure, Pee-wee mingles into a crowd following Milton Berle just as he finishes a joke with the punchline, "So the other fella said, 'What do you think I got down here, a duck?'" Even though he didn't hear the rest of the joke, Pee-wee laughs heartily to fit in.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: "...And then they made me their chief."
  • In The Prince of Thieves, Friar Tuck starts telling a joke about to two knights and two maidens who want to get married to distract the castle guards while Robin and Allan sneak in. The scene cuts to Robin and Allan breaking in before cutting back to Friar Tuck and the punchline " they got married and the mothers-in-law lived happily ever after".
  • One of the comedians in the movie Punchline has an act which seems to entirely consist of only the punchlines to old jokes.
  • RoboCop (1987): "I'd buy that for a dollar!" (Although this may be a Catchphrase rather than a punchline. Without context it's hard to tell.)
  • In Sherlock Holmes (2009), Holmes is imprisoned, and Lestrade hurries to get him free before he has to fight off the entire penitentiary of criminals. As Lestrade arrives in the prison yard, he sees a crowd of unruly thugs gathered around Holmes... who is delivering a punchline for the joke he was telling: 'To which the barman says, "May I push in your stool?"' Having charmed the prisoners with his jokes, Holmes leaves in peace.
  • In Some Like It Hot, we hear the end of what was (apparently) a very dirty joke about a girl tuba player who was stranded on a desert island with a one-legged jockey:
    "... so the one-legged jockey says 'Don't worry about me, sweetheart! I ride sidesaddle!'"
  • In Star Trek: Generations, Data starts laughing, saying he's finally gotten a joke Geordi LaForge told offscreen seven years earlier during the Farpoint mission. He repeats the punchline: "...The clown can stay, but the Ferengi in the gorilla suit has to go!"
  • Super Troopers: Mac's orphaned final line of an anecdote: "...and that was the second time I got crabs."
  • Trading Places: Bunny delivers the orphaned punchline "... and she stepped on the ball!" This is a reference to a scene in Auntie Mame in which Gloria Upson tells an unfunny anecdote at a cocktail party with this punchline, causing an awkward silence. The use of it as a hilarious orphaned punchline in Trading Places is itself referenced in a number of other works.
  • A minor character tracks down the protagonist in Trois Couleurs, Bleu to return her necklace taken from the car crash at the start of the movie. In return he asks her to explain her husband's dying words to him "Essayez de tousser, maintenant" (try to cough now). She explains that it was the punchline to a joke he'd been telling about a woman who goes to see a doctor about a chronic cough and is given a powerful laxative.
  • The Usual Suspects: To distract Saul and his bodyguards before attacking them, Hockney is telling a story - the line we hear is "so I open the car door, and this chick is totally naked..." Apparently, later in the movie one of the guards on the boat gives the setup to this line in Hungarian.
  • A small scene towards the end of When Harry Met Sally... opens at the New Year's Eve party before Harry shows up, and Sally has been buttonholed by a stranger who's been trying to tell her a joke. The punchline is "And then the nun says, 'Read the card!'" Sally is not amused. Given that the joke in question is about a nun pursuing a crush on her gynecologist by inserting a bouquet of flowers into an uncomfortable place, one can scarcely blame her.
  • The infamous "toad hit by lightning" line from X-Men is actually one, as the only remnant of Joss Whedon's Running Gag of him spending the film bragging about things toads can do.

  • The line "as the actress said to the bishop", used in British humour to lampshade Double Entendre, is believed to be one of these. It is said that the joke came to be when a stage actress named Lillie Langtry went on a stroll in the garden with the Bishop of Worchester. During that walk, the bishop accidentally pricked his finger on a rose thorn. Over lunch, Langtry asked the bishop about his injury, saying: "How is your prick?" The bishop then replied: "Throbbing". A butler who overheard this dropped some potatoes he was carrying.
  • Any inside joke between people is one of these.
  • It is also statistically bound to happen with Carambars. For those not in the know, it's a caramel candy with jokes inside the paper. But the paper is cut by a machine that doesn't know where jokes end. So you often get jokes missing a punchline, and orphaned punchlines.
  • An arguable case: once a clay tablet from ancient Sumer has been unearthed, that — apart from several exchanges euphemistically described as riddles — bore a damaged fragment of text ending in "...your mother". Was it the world's oldest Your Mother joke? Lacking the setup, we will probably never know.
  • The punchline "Rectum? Damn near killed him" is almost never given a setup and doesn't really need one.
  • A similar one is someone saying "[word ending in -er]? I barely know her!," the implication being they think that he is saying [something] her as an Unusual Euphemism for sex

  • In the young adult book Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst, one of Anastasia's friends complains that her older brother frequently begins to tell jokes at the dinner table, but is always hushed by her father. So she has heard many setups, but no punchlines. Some of the brother's jokes include: "A man goes to the psychiatrist, and says: 'Doctor, you have to help me, because everything I see reminds me of breasts.' " and "How do you make a hormone?" The punchline to the second one? "Refuse to pay her."
  • One of Dave Barry's columns about a summer camp talks about another boy telling a long-form (up to half an hour) joke involving marital infidelity and a closet, the punchline of which is "Ding dong, dammit! Ding DONG!"
  • Confederation of Valor: The Better Part of Valor opens with Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr telling Captain Rose, "And the moral of the story: never call a two star general a bastard to his face." The joke is a Call-Back to the closing scene of Valor's Choice, where Torin got pissed off at Major General Morris for trapping her unit in a battle the author based on Rorke's Drift in order to win the Silsviss over to the Confederation.
  • In the Discworld novels Feet of Clay and Jingo, Nobby Nobbs tells a series of inappropriate jokes in mixed company. In neither does the reader hear anything other than the punchline "That's funny, it's never done that when I've tried it!" and a reference to "the one about the very small man with the piano". The latter is mentioned in Feet of Clay as well, and is told in its entirety on this page.
    • That joke also comes up in this xkcd.
    • Nobby also mentions another joke he told: "And they laughed even though they don't have the same kind of doorbells here!" The joke just might involve a man with multiple broken bones.
    • Nanny Ogg's "Just twist the first thing you can grab, as the priest said to the vestal virgin." This seems to be used as the Discworld version of That's What She Said's ancestor, "... as the bishop said to the actress." A footnote tells us that, like it's real-world equivalent, a lot of people have heard that line but nobody actually knows the rest of the joke.
    • In Carpe Jugulum, Magrat mentions to Nanny that now that she's a mother, she gets most of Nanny's favorite jokes, "except for the one about the old woman, the priest, and the rhinoceros," to which Nanny replies "I certainly hope not! I didn't understand that one until I was forty."
    • Nobody knows the origin of the phrase "pull the other one, it's got bells on," (in real life, it's just a play on "pulling my leg") but it's been theorized in-story to come from a long-lost joke about a particularly torture-happy ruler who tried to outlaw Morris dancing.
    • Also, the Feegle battlecry "Bang went sixpence!", taken from an old joke about how Scottish are cheapskates: "I wasna there more'n two hours, and bang went sixpence!" Daft Wullie actually gets a line like this in Wintersmith.
  • An almost certainly crude one appears in The Doomsday Code: "... and the pig says, 'If you seen the things I've seen your wife doin', you're tail'd be curly too!'", as told by a group of soldiers. Liam, accompanying them, doesn't get it. The soldier begins to explain, but an ambush prevents much elaboration.
  • David Brin, Earth:
    Teresa: This time, though, Bob didn't whisper in Thunder's left ear. He didn't whisper in the right. This time he held the horse's face, looked him straight in the eye, and said, "Read my lips, dummy. I told you to go get a Posse!"
    • The beginning of the joke has Bob being captured, but allowed to send his horse with a message. The hearing impaired horse brings back a woman.
  • Garrett, P.I.:
    • In Sweet Silver Blues, Morley pretends to be telling Garrett a joke, so he can warn him that their campsite is being watched. Garrett plays along, and fakes a big laugh "like it was the one about the bride who didn't know the bird need to be cleaned before it went in the oven". The actual joke, though evidently hilarious, is never mentioned again.
    • Garrett tries to tell Gilbey a joke about a troll, ogre, and barbarian walking into a bar in Faded Steel Heat, but Gilbey's heard it before and jumps straight to the punch line ("Mice are never amusing"), leaving the middle of the joke unsaid.
  • In Han Solo's Revenge, we see one of these ("Well, how do you think my pack-beast got knock-kneed?") when Han tells Chewbacca a joke, right when Chewie is drinking some foamy beer, so the laughing Wookiee sends suds flying everywhere. When Chewie gets irritated at this, Han points out that's how the joke was told to him, too.
  • A semi-example of this type of thing is when we hear the middle of Vernon Dursley's "Japanese golfer" joke in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which apparently some people have recognized as not the kind of joke you tell in civilized company. (Well, the punchline is "What do you mean, 'wrong hole'?", if that tells you anything...)
    • Let's just say it's not the kind of joke you'd tell in front of your wife, your twelve-year-old son, a prospective customer, and his wife, and leave it at that. It involves a Japanese prostitute and implied anal sex...
  • The same phrase shows up in Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar books, referred to as "the punch line to a joke making the rounds." "Acres and acres and it's all mine!"
    • I heard a joke with similar punchline. It was about a dwarf who married a giantess, and then gleefully jumped up and down on her, shouting this.
  • In the Judge Dee book The Chinese Lake Murders, while the Judge has been occupied, his Lovable Sex Maniac assistant Ma Joong has been talking with other servants. When the Judge finds him again, he is at the end of a joke (or autobiographical anecdote) which concludes "... and that was when the bed broke."
  • In Jurassic Park, we get to hear the punchline of a joke Malcolm tells Dr. Harding. Gennaro walks in just in time to catch the punchline: "So the other man says, 'I'll tell you frankly, I didn't like it, Bill. I went back to toilet paper!'"
  • The The Lost Years of Merlin book series has something like this. Bumblewy, the mournful jester, always asks if he can tell his Bell Riddle, but because of his reputation as a failed jester, everyone interrupts him before he can tell it. At the end of the story, when Merlin tells him to just tell it already, he realizes that he's forgotten the riddle, and that he just kept trying to tell it expecting people to interrupt him before he could.
  • A flurry of these mark the climax of Chris Crutcher's short story "The Pin".
  • Stephen King, under his pen name Richard Bachman, quoted a couple in The Regulators. Namely, "Hey, mister, your sign fell down," and "I don't know about the other two, but the one in the middle looks like Willie Nelson."
  • Robert Anton Wilson's Schroedinger's Cat trilogy has one that shows up at least once in every book, serving as a common element between the various Alternate Universes between which the narrative (insomuch as one actually exists) jumps more or less at random. And we never do find out what "No Wife, No Horse, No Mustache" is all about.
    • And like all Wilson's aphorisms, it may also have a spiritual/mystical meaning; the seeker after truth should have no earthly encumbrances or family ties (no wife), should present only his own un-masked face to the world (no mustache) and trust only his own strength and resources (no horse - he walks).
  • The Scream : Hempstead's joke "...and the next day's headline read ARTIE CHOKES THREE FOR A DOLLAR AT SAFEWAY!"
    • This is a real joke, a rather punny one about an assassin named Artie who gets paid a dollar to kill a man's wife, strangles her in a grocery store, then has to kill others who saw the crime. The number of people killed and the name of the grocery store can vary.
  • Two (possibly more) of the Star Trek novels had someone walk in a room in time to hear; "I don't know where you've been lad, but I see you won first prize." Which is the last line (more or less, as it varies depending on who's singing it) from The Scotsman Song.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, the viewpoint character is told that "laughing because it hurts too much to cry" is the basis of all comedy, and she's shown to consider this by mentally listing the punchlines of all the jokes she knows:"-her entire bridge club"..."Should I bow?"..."Neither one, you idiot — instead!"..."-the Chinaman objects"..."-broke her leg"..."-make trouble for me!"..."-but it'll spoil the ride for me"..."-and his mother-in-law fainted"..."Stop you? Why, I bet three to one you could do it!"..."-something has happened to Ole"..."-and so are you, you clumsy ox!"
  • Used at several points including in the Thursday Next novels, including unidentified jokes being mentioned and characters attempting to understand the jokes in question. Most jokes are identifiable, if obscure.
  • In The Time Of The Transference, Mudge saves the group from a hungry dragon by sending it into uncontrollable laughing fits with a hilarious story. Details aren't given, but after their escape, the others recount which parts — the Baker's College, the traveling ladies' choir, the elephant, the six chimps — they found funniest.
  • Kurt Vonnegut was fond of mentioning the punch line of his favorite dirty joke: "Keep your hat on. We may wind up miles from here." We never did find out the rest.
  • An anecdote book has this trope crossing over with some auto-Bowdlerise. The guy in question was famous for telling steamy stories. Once he was asked again, but he refused due to ladies being in the room. The ladies wanted to hear things too, and suggested he might leave out the too raunchy details. "In this case one story might be told, but not much remains than: HA! A boot!"

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • The use of "... and she stepped on the ball!" as an orphaned punchline is a reference to its use in Trading Places, which was in turn a reference to a scene in Auntie Mame. It's usually delivered by a high-class character to match the references.
    • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: One of Xanthippe's preppy female friends delivers the punchline: "...and she stepped on the ball!" causing all the other preppy kids to laugh.
    • Billions: Chuck Rhoades' father tells it as "... and she stepped on the billiard ball!" at his gentleman's club, causing all the men in his company to laugh. It was actually a ping-pong ball in the original Auntie Mame.

By Creator:

  • The line "...I said Ping Pong Balls, not King Kong's balls" has cropped up in a few of Peter Kay's TV shows, including Phoenix Nights and its spin-off Max & Paddy's Road to Nowhere.

By Series:

  • Played with on 3rd Rock from the Sun:
    Officer Don: So then I said to the robber, "Not your pants, the gun!"
    (everyone laughs)
    Officer Don: Yeah... that didn't really happen.
  • Played with on 30 Rock, where Jack has the idea to write the punchlines first, then come up with sketches to match them. ("Nuts to you, McGillicuddy!" "Who ordered the wieners?" "Beep beep ribby ribby!")
    • And apparently Frank actually wrote a sketch based on "beep beep ribby ribby!"
  • In As Time Goes By, several times Lionel tells a joke about a parrot with no legs that ends with the punchline "I got so excited I fell off my perch." The repeated failure of the joke is actually a gag for the audience.
  • Babylon 5:
    • In "A Race Through Dark Places", we cut into Sheridan telling Delenn about a Noodle Incident that tails in, "So I told him, 'If you let that cat anywhere near me again, I'll have you both up on charges!'"
    • The following punchline appears in both Babylon 5 and Crusade: "... that's not my leg, that's my airhose!" The joke, whatever it was, was always met with howls of laughter.
    • Another example, told by Londo: "...and then he says 'goulash'! Get it? Hahahaha!"
  • In The Big Bang Theory, we hear the end of a joke Howard tells Bernadette: "So, two years later there's another knock on the door, the guy opens it, and there on his porch is the snail, who says: What the heck was all that about?" That's not a dirty joke, though.
    • This joke appears in its entirety in the movie Training Day.
    • "Hey Leonard, your momma's research methodology is so flawed..."
  • One of the vox pops from A Bit of Fry and Laurie: " I said to him, if God loves me he's got a funny way of showing it, hasn't he? And that shut him up, pope or no pope."
  • Blackadder: "...and so the bishop said, 'I'm sorry Officer, I didn't realize you meant organist!'"
  • Lloyd's "tasty joke" from the Breakout Kings episode "There Are Rules":
    The kid's crying, the mom is naked, and then the party clown says, "Now that is what I call a 'balloon knot'!"
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Restless", Anya is on stage telling a joke. We hear the very beginning, where she fumbles, and the end, when she says, "And then the duck says, 'There's a man attached to my ass,'" to much hearty applause and laughter.
  • Cheers featured more than one occasion in which Diane told a joke with a French punchline: "So I said, 'Si vous parlez lentement, je ne peux pas comprendre!'", which translates to "If you speak slowly, I can't understand!"
  • In an episode of Chicago Hope, an elevator door opens and two characters have the following conversation:
    Dr. Aaron Shutt (Adam Arkin): There is no getting through to you! It's like that joke about the Pope, the penguin and the agnostic! (steps out of the elevator)
    Tom Wilmette (Ron Silver): Um, I'm not familiar.
    Dr. Shutt: (looks at his watch, then gets back on the elevator) I'll tell it fast. Phone rings at the Vatican, pope picks it up...(elevator doors close)
  • Several episodes of CNNNN open on the end of a particularly weird report from Simon Target.
    Simon: But the vital knowledge we have gained from the affair is that John Major's buttocks are smoother than apricots. I'm Simon Target in London.
  • In the French Canadian show Le cśur a ses raisons, Brittany explains how she survived during what seems like several hours, and we only hear: "And then I gave birth in a submarine! And my four fingers grew back."
  • The trope was lampshaded by Community, as the show often does with comedy tropes. The penultimate scene in the episode "Modern Espionage" opens with Abed delivering the punchline "and the giraffe says "Hello? I'm in the room!" and then apologizing for not knowing the rest of the joke.
  • In the Corner Gas episode "Safety First", one scene begins with the punchline, and then the next scene includes a flashback that explains the joke.
  • In the first scene of a 1990 episode of The Cosby Show, Olivia calls a dial-a-joke phone service twice and hears a different joke each time. She tries to tell the first joke to Cliff but doesn't say the punchline. She gives the set-up for the second ("Two men are playing golf"), doesn't say the middle, and goes straight to the punchline ("It doesn't work unless you know how to putt!"), to Cliff's confusion.
  • Used on Dexter, though the writers don't try to hide how dirty the joke is. Dexter walks into the bar just as Lila is telling Angel and Masuka the punchline, which is "But you fuck one little goat..."
    • Right after that Masuka starts telling a joke but is immediately stopped by Angel, fearing it might be inappropiate.
    • The setup involves a man showing a newcomer around town and pointing out all his accomplishments, none of which earned him a nickname.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Green Death", the Doctor tells a joke that ends with the line "Never trust a Venusian shanghorn with your perigosto stick."
  • The very first line of the very first episode of The Drew Carey Show:
    Lewis: ... and that's why the French don't wash.
    • Ryan Stiles originally used this line in a similar fashion on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Reportedly, Drew Carey saw the episode in question, and when Stiles was cast in The Drew Carey Show, Carey encouraged Stiles to use the joke again.
  • In episode 3 of season 5 of the series The Expanse, Admiral Delgado tells Avasarala the setup to a joke involving a Martian, Earther and Belter going into a bar. The Martian and the Belter get the drink of their worst enemies. When he was about to tell what the Earther would order, he was cut off by the person they were supposed to meet, who then promptly asks for a bourbon (presumably of Earther origin). It's possible to read this interruption as the subtle completion of the joke, namely that while Mars and the Belt have external enemies, Earth's worst enemy is itself.
  • Farscape:
    • In "Through the Looking Glass" Rygel has been telling John a joke in YellowMoya, which ends with "...And then the Trawlian priest turns to the Calanese cleric and says, "Doesn't bother me. You should have seen her mother!"
    • And in "We're So Screwed Part 2", two hooka-smoking Charrid officers in a Bad-Guy Bar are heard saying "Cause the Kalish had no idea, 'cause he's a frelling harpooda!"
  • The Fast Show had a recurring character named Rowley Birkin, who would sit in his chair telling a long rambling story, and his speech was so garbled that the audience could only make out bits and pieces of it. The finisher was always "...I was very, very drunk."
  • In an episode of Firefly, Wash (and the audience) come in just as Shepherd Book finishes telling an anecdote that has the rest of the crew in hysterics: "No! There wasn't one among the brethren had the heart to say anything. He was so proud of it!"
    • Another had Mal finishing a joke with, "So the Companion says to the Shepherd, 'Well, a good goat'll do that.'"
  • An episode of Freaks and Geeks revolves around Sam not understanding a risqué joke that others keep telling. For most of the episode we only hear the punchline ("How do you think I rang the doorbell?") until the very end of the episode when Sam begins to tell it to his gym teacher and everything finally makes sense. "So there's this man with no arms and no legs..."
  • Friends:
    • In the episode "The One with the Apothecary Table", a scene starts with Chandler finishing a joke: "And then the farmer says, 'That's not a cow, and you're not milking!'"
    • In "The One with the Joke", we don't even get told the punchline; we just get Chandler and Ross trying to explain it to Joey: "You see, the doctor's a monkey. And monkeys can't write prescriptions!" We also discover, courtesy of Monica, that it is offensive to women, doctors, and monkeys.
    • In "The One with the Male Nanny", Monica mentions a joke Chandler told to her about "Jerry Lewis and the girl with the lazy eye."
    • In "The One with Chandler's Work Laugh", Monica walks over to a group of people listening to a joke being told by Chandler's boss. The joke ends with "thirty dollars father, same as in town." Which is the ending of a joke involving a priest being propositioned by several prostitutes in town.
    • One episode features a song example: we cut to Phoebe finishing with "and a crusty old man said 'I'll do what I can' and the rest of the rats played maracas!"
  • There's a Full Frontal sketch that opens with a man delivering the punchline "that's not my wife, that's my Latvian dental hygienist!" and then laughing uproariously. The people to whom he was telling the joke have heard the whole thing, but they don't find it remotely funny. The man ends up literally laughing himself to death, after which one of the others says "I guess you had to be there" and walks away.
  • The Golden Girls episode "Comedy of Errors" had Dorothy doing stand-up at a comedy club. While she's debating whether she really wants to go through with it, you can faintly hear the comedian talking on stage, but not his actual words. Then it cuts to his punchline:
    "So, the guy says, 'My Saint Bernard?...I thought it was your Saint Bernard!'"
    "I gotta go wash my mouth out with soap. Good night, everybody!"
  • The "To Serb with Love" episode of Happy Endings has Jane creating a joke tailored to her otherwise humorless father's specific interests of World War II, Chicago Bears, bass fishing, Chevy Chase and old-timey slide projectors. The joke is told twice, but the audience only gets the punchline each time: "... so, Mike Ditka, former Bears coach, is in a Sherman tank, and he is holding a fish, a bass, and then he says 'next slide, please.'" Her father finds it hilarious.
  • In the closing sequence of the Hawaii Five-0 episode "Kuka'awale" ("Stakeout"), an old lady finishes a joke: "She says 'what's she got that I haven't got?' and he says 'Parkinson's'." It gets a laugh from the Five-0 crew and Chin Ho calls her a dirty old lady. He's right, as that's an actual joke, and a dirty one at that. The lady with Parkinson's gives better hand jobs on account of her condition.
  • This happens twice in the TV version of Hello Cheeky. The first time occurs when Barry explains that transmission of the show cut out in some areas, and that they've therefore compiled some highlights of part one, resulting in a stream of orphaned punchlines and setups, at least three of which weren't actually included in part one. The second time...
    Barry: And now, in the interest of economy, the three of us will tell a joke all at once.
    All: (overlapping speech)
    John: ...which just goes to show he could have painted it blue and joined the police!
  • Herman's Head: As Herman discusses the Zany Scheme of an episode with Louise, she suddenly responds to his question if it's crazy by dramatically saying that it was Crazy Enough to Work, explaining to his puzzlement that there are two lines she had been dying to try, and that was one of them. The other? - "Captain - it is I, Ensign Pulver, and I just threw your stinkin' palm tree overboard! That one's gonna be a little harder to work into conversation." Later in the episode Louise's voice is heard triumphantly piping up with that phrase over the din of conversation and the audience is left wondering what gave her the necessary opening.
  • Heroes: Nathan Petrelli tells his campaign staff the joke that ends with "... holy cow, a talking dog!"
  • Homicide: Life on the Street had Meldrick Lewis frequently tell the same filthy joke, of which the audience only ever got to hear the punch line: "You're not here to hunt, are you?" In one episode, his partner Kellerman only says that line, to which Lewis replies that the build-up to the punchline is the whole point.
  • In House, Chase tells Foreman a joke that ends with "... and the bear wipes himself with the rabbit!"
    • This one is actually told (crudely) in its entirety at the end of Eddie Murphy's 'Delirious' comedy show.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, a montage of how Ted is like a dad starts with the ending to a lame joke ("Shredded tweet") and ends with the set-up ("What do you get when a bird meets a lawnmower?").
    • To explain away Alyson Hannigan's maternity leave, the show has Barney tell Lily a "hilarious boy joke", i.e. a dirty joke, that causes her to shun Barney for several weeks. The setup is "What's the difference between peanut butter and jam." While it's a real joke, and dirty, it's not as funny as they make it out to be. So, in this case Orphaned Setup.
    • In the final season, Barney has gotten so drunk that the alcohol acts as a Truth Serum. Ted and Robin use the opportunity to ask him a number of questions that they (and the audience) have been wondering about for most of the series. For a number of them we only hear Barney's answers and without knowing the context they end up as NoodleIncidents. The natural assumption is that they relate to some sexual depravity Barney committed but one incident that is actually explained in more detail was actually referring to Barney sharing a cab. It is left to the viewer's imagination what kind of question could have prompted an answer of "not while she was the Secretary of State" and whether "now while she was the Secretary of State'' referred to the same thing or something completely different.
      • In a flashback of Barney's sexual conquests, there's a brief shot of Madeline Albright, Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, and in another episode Barney begins an anecdote with the phrase, "So I say to her, Madeline". As far as the other "she"... well Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton were also Secretary of State. Take your pick.
  • From The Kids in the Hall: We come in at the punchline of a joke told by a man committing one faux pas after another at a party: “...Well, if that’s your canary, who’s your wife?” When, even after repeating the punchline, the other man reacts with a blank stare, the man proceeds to sarcastically ask if the other man is deaf—which it turns out he is.
  • This clip from a 1985 episode of Late Night with David Letterman finds guest Johnny Carson delivering the punchline to a joke that he'd started on his own Tonight Show earlier that same day: "And the man says to Mrs. O'Hara, 'I'm not so sure about that, he got out three times to go to the bathroom.'"
    • Letterman has had such top ten lists as "top ten punchlines to dirty Scottish jokes" ("It took me a fortnight to get out the thistles!")
    • He also has used this trope when flashbacking the answers to Viewer Mail Questions. A viewer wrote in to ask him what the deal was with his pants on such and such a date. Cue flashback. Dave is just finishing his monologue with "Cloak of invisibility my foot, there were squirrels all over the place!"
    • Once Dave and Paul Schaffer were talking about "Ventriloquism Week," and Dave threw in, "Wednesday, we'll have Dick Cheney and George W. Bush!"
  • Leverage: In "The Broken Wing Job", all we hear of the joke Hardison is telling the monkey is the punchline.
  • In The Love Boat episode "Mind My Wife," Doc tells a joke that ends with "And the planet says, 'If I could do that, I'd be a star!'"
  • In Mad About You, Paul overhears the end of an anecdote at a party. "You can't do that! This is Pennsylvania!" Those who were in on the joke found it hilarious.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • An episode opens with Col. Potter and Father Mulcahy together in the mess tent:
      Mulcahy: So the priest says, "Oh, my gosh, I thought it was an altar boy!" (after Potter fails to laugh) Uh...did I mention that he had a pet collie?
      Potter: No, you didn't.
      Mulcahy: Oh, dear. It's much funnier if you know that.
      Potter: Maybe.
    • The episode "Where There's a Will" featured Hawkeye having a flashback to the surgeons getting wasted at the officers' club, with Winchester completely passed out in his chair while Potter stammers "So the third cowboy — looks at the orangutan — and says to the bartender, "'I'll have what he's having.'"
    • At the end of "Captains Outrageous" the crew celebrate Mulcahy's long overdue promotion to captain:
      Mulcahy: When the two sisters' car broke down, I said, Why don't you go over to the fruit stand? Don't nuns always travel in pears'?''
      Houlihan: Father, the only place you should tell that joke is in confession!
    • Another episode has an orphaned punchline compounded by the fact that it's also altered. Potter is about to drop the punchline of a dirty joke (which the audience hasn't heard) when he sees Mulcahy standing there and quickly sanitizes said punchline. So not only is the setup of the joke missing, the audience doesn't even hear the proper punchline.
  • During the first couple of CBS years, Match Game would break for a commercial, then when they returned, the audience would be in the midst of gales of laughter. Gene Rayburn would turn to us and say puckishly "We were just listening to a passage from Beethoven's Ninth symphony..." (He would eventually entreat viewers to write for tickets and see a taping to get the full brunt of what goes on during commercial breaks.)
  • One episode of The Mighty Boosh has Bob Fossil finish an anecdote with "...and that's why you should never bring a Cricket Bat to Greece!"
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. "Putting your head on the camel, paste down the edge of the sailor's uniform, until the word 'Maudling' is almost totally obscured."
    • Another sketch inverts it by having the participants of the sketch realize that neither knows the punchline. They go to ask the BBC executive what it was, who reads the script in his hand, laughs to himself while remarking "we could make a whole series out of that" and then tells everyone that the sketch has run too long and they need to cut to the next one.
    • The pre-Monty Python John Cleese special, How To Irritate People, Mr. Cleese sets up a sketch about asshole airline pilots with the joke about the two beautiful blondes who were on their first trip to a nudist camp. As he starts to tell the joke, the audio cuts out, and it returns in time for the punchline: "Well, I didn't know he played the violin."
    • Used in Another Monty Python Record, though not as the punchline to a joke per se.
      Phone Caller: Hello; I was just listening to this record with my wife and our au-pair, and I'd like to say how shocked we are that a pleasant collection of Norwegian folk songs should be turned into an excuse for Communist propaganda of the shoddiest kind! What's gone wrong with the world? I can't even take a bath without six or seven communists jumping in with me! They're in my shirt cupboard and Breshnev and Kosygen are in the kitchen now eating my wife's jam! Oh, they're climbing up my legs! I can see them peeping out of my wife's blouse! Why doesn't Mr. Maudling do something about it before it is too late?! Ohhh, God - [Phone is hung up]
      John Cleese: And several butcher's aprons.
  • Variation in an episode of The Muppet Show: the Swedish Chef tells a joke which elicits uproarious laughter from a group of other Funny Foreigner muppets. While most of it is in Scandinavian gibberish, the last word can be recognized as "linoleum".
    • On another episode, Fozzie tells a supposedly hilarious joke about an electrician and a polar bear that is drowned out by a passing train and all the audience hears is "... but the wallpaper is delicious!"
    • Also, "The Banana Sketch".
  • Murder, She Wrote featured a cut to a party scene in which a Jerkass guest character was giving the line, "No, it says 'Welcome to Jamaica, mon, have a nice day!'"
    • "It" in this case is the tattoo on the speaker's Gag Penis.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Beatniks", Crow simply creates his own orphaned punchline.
    Guy: Wouldja get off my back?
    Crow: Hey, that's the punchline to a dirty joke!
  • Never Mind the Buzzcocks "And now, some punchlines we didn't have time to use this week."
    • Some Series 9 episodes have a punchline announced before the cast intros and told in full later during the show.
  • New Girl: This trope is referenced and poked fun at in the season 4 episode "Par 5" (episode 20). At the beginning of a scene Nick, laughing, says "So I say to her, 'Water? I barely even know you." and Coach replies "Stop talking to me like we're in the middle of a conversation. We just sat down. I hate when you do that."
  • Night Court had, as a Running Gag, this punchline: "Twenty dollars, same as in town!" There were occasional variations like "So Anna Karenina says, 'Twenty rubles, same as in St. Petersburg.'" This one's originally about a nun.
  • Orange Is the New Black has the repeated abandoned punchline, "So the penguin says, 'He's not an eggplant; he's retarded!'"
  • It's a Running Gag on Pardon the Interruption, with Tony Kornheiser saying something that usually disturbs Michael Wilbon.
  • The Pee Wee Herman Show Pee-wee and Mailman Mike quote the punchline of famous old joke without telling the actual joke. In conversation, Pee-wee asks, "Would I? Would I?" He and Mike pause and smirk at each other before both saying, "Harelip! Harelip!" note 
  • Person of Interest: Mafia don Carl Elias is driven out to the middle of nowhere by two Dirty Cops, and pulled from the car with a bag over his head. The minute the bag is removed, he dryly remarks, "Oh, that kind of 'prisoner transfer'."
  • On the final episode of Police Squad!, Frank Drebin (undercover as "Tony Da Wonderful") is performing on stage at a nightclub. We hear only the punchline of a very filthy joke: "So anyway, the guy looked up at her and he said, 'Lady, I don't think I can take sixty-seven more of those!'" The audience roars.
    • That one is about an inexperienced man attempting the 69 position with a partner who is suffering from flatulence.
  • The "Jingle Bells" episode of QI had the guests try to find setups for the orphaned punchlines in their Christmas crackers, including this one: A puppy isn't just for Christmas. "It's very good cold on Boxing Day, too."
  • From Quantum Leap: "...and she said, 'Of course you can: that's where lawyers come from!'" This is a real joke, setup NSFW: A girl asks her mother, "Mom, can you get pregnant from anal intercourse?"
  • The Sandman, "The Sound of Her Wings": In a flashback to Morpheus' first meeting with Hob, in a tavern in 1389, a man in the background tells a joke that ends with the punchline, "Hunting for rabbits again, friar?" A man in the pub in 1989 tells what sounds like the same joke only with a vicar. In both cases most of the set-up is not heard.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • In the early years, when they did the Saturday Night Report, Chevy Chase would always start by being caught on the telephone when the News started. You heard the end of the phone conversation. "No, it's just CALLED blow, you really suck ....... Oh, gotta go."
    • A famous Steve Martin monologue: "Oh, did I assassinate your penguin?"
  • Seinfeld's "The Yada Yada" features a joke about rabbi and the farmer's daughter, where the punchline is "Those aren't mahtzah balls." and an another one about the Pope and Raquel Welch in a lifeboat, where the punchline is either "I said, pass the buoys" or "Those aren't buoys." Interestingly, Jerry tells only the beginning and end of the joke to a priest (passing over the middle with the titular conversation fudger) and the priest gets a kick out of it anyway. (Elaine's reaction to the joke earlier suggests that "buoys" is enough of an Inherently Funny Word to carry the joke by itself.)
    • Invoked by Jerry in "The Little Kicks". Jerry asks Kramer to pretend they're talking about something interesting, so Kramer says "So I killed the guy, and they're still looking for me."
  • During Oliver's funeral on Slings & Arrows, a story gets told about him that ends "Well, if it's not my car, I'm certainly not going to clean the upholstery!"
  • Stargate SG-1: Not really a joke, but in "Window of Opportunity", the "Groundhog Day" Loop episode, every time O'Neill is sent back in time, O'Neill is back at his bowl of cereal with Daniel Jackson saying to him "Anyways, I'm sorry, but that's the way I feel about it. What do you think?" It's also the first hint to O'Neill that something was very unusual about the situation. Exactly what Dr. Jackson was talking about was never elaborated on. Notable in that this was also an in-universe example: not only does the audience have no idea what Jackson is talking about, neither does O'Neill. O'Neill wasn't paying attention the first time, he isn't given the option in any of the subsequent loops, and he mentions that one of the irritating things about being sent back in time is constantly hearing the orphaned line.
  • Two from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, both told by Quark to Morn: "And the Andorian says, 'Your brother?! I thought that was your wife!'" And the other one is, "And then the Andorian says, 'That's not my antenna.'" The first one took Morn a little while to get, but then he busted out laughing; the other one was met with stony silence. It's quite likely that the first joke was the writers being extra clever; Andorians have 4 sexes, two of which look roughly male and two of which look roughly female, so if an Andorian sees two males acting like they're family it's perfectly natural, from their perspective, to assume they're married. The pilot of Deep Space Nine establishes Morn himself as quite a storyteller; we first see him just after he's told the funniest joke in the universe and everyone is laughing. Morn is quite a talker, we just never see it.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • In an episode of Still Standing, Bill is shown laughing at a joke told by his mother-in-law, marveling that "that joke has everything: a gorilla, a whorehouse, and beans!" Later, after sister-in-law Linda tags along, Bill is shown laughing again, while Linda complains, "What would a gorilla even be doing in a whorehouse?"
  • In the episode "The Spy Who Shoved Me" of The Suite Life on Deck, Moseby and London, on separate occasions, tell a joke (or perhaps two different jokes with the same punchline) whose punchline is "Nougat!" Apparently, the guests find it hilarious, leaving the audience to wonder what was so funny.
  • One sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look opens with a newscaster announcing Jimmy Savile has received three life sentences. "You think you know a guy, and then he goes and does something like that." This was years before the cover-up scandal exploded.
  • The Two and a Half Men episode Hey, Does This Smell Funny To You? subverts it slightly, since we do actually hear the whole joke (kind of, the first part was told by Charlie, and the punchline was given by Jake while giving his report), but the two parts did not mesh well.
    • Miley Cyrus' Missi character gives one at the beach to Jake in "And You Know What The Lollipop Is For":
      "And that is why you don't smoke pot in church!"
  • WKRP in Cincinnati had one in the opening credit sequence. We see a driver searching for a decent radio station. At one point, he comes upon this:
    News reporter: The senator, while insisting he was not intoxicated, could not explain his nudity.
  • From an episode of The X-Files: " the parrot says, 'I only got one question: what did that chicken in there do?'"


    Print Media 
  • A couple of Dave Barry columns alluded to dirty jokes by only quoting their punchlines:
    • "Ding dong, dammit! Ding DONG!" (Joke involving marital infidelity and a closet.)
    • "But first, roo roo."
  • In one Dragon magazine cartoon, one D&D character is telling another a joke about a paladin. He gets as far as that before the second character interupts to ask if the punchline is "something about his 'special mount'". He's told it isn't, it's the one where the paladin says "Oh, you meant lay on hands".
  • Leslie Nielsen said in an interview with Empire magazine that he doesn't remember the setup of his favorite joke, but the punchline is "It's not a bagpipe, lassie, but keep blowin'!"
  • MAD ran these fairly consistently, as "Punchlines in search of a joke".
    • They also did the opposite: "Jokes That Don't Need Punchlines".
  • In The Onion, Orphaned Punchlines appear as banner quotes within fake articles which endlessly repeat the sentence, "Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood."

    Pro Wrestling 
  • From the 2003 WWE Divas: Desert Heat DVD: In of the montage sequences featuring out-of-context clips of the various Divas, there's a scene of Ivory saying, "I keep messing with my panties!" The line did not appear in any of her sequences previously on the DVD, nor did whatever would have led up to it.

  • Recent Ad Bumpers for a radio station in Nashville, 102.9 The Buzz, have the listener come back from a commercial break just in time to hear the punchline of some dirty joke or the climax of a dirty story as told by the usual ad bumper voice to his coworkers as if he didn't know the break was over yet.
  • Occasionally used by The Burkiss Way.
    "...bouncing bombs, and that was the end of the Irish air force."
  • The Goons would often use the punchlines of filthy jokes learned during their Army service. This allowed fairly nasty gags to get past the stoic BBC censors.
  • A round in the radio Panel Game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue requires the panelists to recite the punchlines to old jokes, without any setup. They are eliminated (at least, in theory) if the Studio Audience laughs.
    • Another game on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue involves two competing players telling a story in turn and directing its course towards a punchline that each of them were given at the start. The punchlines are of this unlikely Noodle Implements type so as to be amusing (and it to be fun seeing how the players get there). For example "he grabbed it at each end, cut it in half and declared the supermarket open".
  • An example from Paul Merton during a round of Just a Minute:
    Paul: The microphones weren't working particularly well when we did the soundcheck for this programme, but now they're... (Goes silent for several seconds)... and there was half a pound of mince left at the end of the evening!
  • Often done on Opie & Anthony, where only the punchlines of offensive racial jokes were told. For example: "Put Velcro on the ceiling!"
  • One episode of The Stan Freberg Show featured a "real-life" couple who would occasionally turn off the radio during the episode to discuss what they'd just heard. At one point, the husband tunes back in just in time to hear this apparently hilarious punchline:
    Stan: ... alligator? I thought you said bagpipes!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Some of the comics in the Exalted books have an Orphaned Punchline (Manual of Exalted Power: Sidereals and one of the Compass books). The punchline was: "So the first man says 'A lantern? If I had a lantern I'd have found my horse and ridden out of here already!'" A medieval version of an old joke involving a guy falling into a too-loose vagoo and running into someone else and commenting that it was too dark to see, but if he could find his flashlight... "A flashlight? If I had a flashlight, I could find my car keys and drive back out."
  • Vampire: The Masquerade had a segment in the Malkavian clanbook discussing the mysterious true purpose of the being known as the Word Eater—except that the text was being dissolved by an illustration of said being, continuing on the next page with "and other butcher's aprons."

  • In Hamilton, Word of God confirms that Laurens's "All right, all right, that's what I'm talking about" at the beginning of "Satisfied" was "the punchline to a dirty joke you never got to hear"
  • Shakespeare's Hamlet has an idiom for which the origin is lost though the meaning may be discernible from context. This may have been the punchline to some obscure joke the audience would have understood back in his time:
    Hamlet: "I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw."
  • In Rumors, Lenny spontaneously comes up with one of these ("So, Mrs. Thatcher replies, 'I don't know, perhaps it's in my umbrella stand.'") to try to get 'into character' as he prepares to cover up the events happening at the party when more guests arrive. Chris then puts him on the spot to finish the joke, leading him to awkwardly finish, "Mr. Gorbachev? ...He said, 'I don't know, I never ate cat food before.'"

    Video Games 
  • Enemy Chatter in City of Heroes: "...and he says 'Aren't you a little old to be believing in leprechauns?' Then I threw him out the window! Hah! I love that one."
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 has one in the Allied mission in Cannes.
    Conscript: ...And Premier says, "If that is bear, then where is beloved mother?"
  • In Day of the Tentacle, in a Bad Future where walking, animate tentacles rule the world, you can overhear a tentacle judge ending some anecdote with "...And Then I Said to her, 'That's not my suction cup'!"
  • Destiny: You hear a lot of these in the form of ambient dialogue in the Tower, but the best is probably Lord Shaxx saying, apropos of absolutely nothing, "Yeah, well screw him."
  • In Dragon Age II, Aveline's last Act 3 quest starts when Hawke walks in on her sharing a bottle with either Varric or Isabela, who has just finished telling her about some Noodle Incident.
    Isabela:...and he says — he says — "I swear I had two when I came in here!" Mmm. You know, those stains never came out.
    Varric: And so I said, "It's a kingdom, and that makes him king. But it's also a country." Heh-heh-heh. I find interrogations are better as a two-way affair.
  • Dwarf Fortress: If you have your adventurer tell a joke to an NPC, the game randomly provides either an incomplete setup or an incomplete punchline.
    ... and the elf said, "Are you going to eat that?"
    ... and the dwarf saw the sun and vomited on the spot!
  • In Guild Wars: Eye of the North, one of Gwen's battle quotes is "...and I'm all out of mossgum!"
  • Half-Life contains one of these, which was lampshaded by Freeman's Mind. As Freeman is heading to the Resonance Chamber, a security guard says to him "Looks like you're in the barrel today."
  • Whenever the C.A.W. agents in A Hat in Time gather, you can only hear little bits and pieces of their conversations, which mostly sound like the punchlines of jokes or Noodle Incidents, after which all the agents will laugh loudly.
    Because, he was missing one his feathers!
    Right as he was about to sneeze!
  • In one of the early missions in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, the opening cutscene has Jaden and Kyle piloting their ship, with Kyle relaying a a story of his previous adventures to his student before they're interrupted by a distress signal:
    Kyle: Then Jan punches the Weequay right in the...
  • In three of the Leisure Suit Larry games (Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards, Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places), Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out!), a Ken Williams expy says nothing but random punchlines to Larry whenever they try to talk to each other. They are always of dirty jokes, and always impossible to understand if you haven't heard the joke.
  • Life Is Strange: True Colors: At Gabe's wake, Duckie shares a memory of the deceased which ends in "and then [they] said, I know, that's why the 'k' is silent!"
  • Persona 4: One of the lessons at schools begins with, "..And it turned out that she was actually a robot! That's important! I recommend that you memorize the context."
  • Psychonauts:
    • During a cutscene, Raz walks onscreen yelling about how "The crib wasn't even that clean!" (It was less of a joke and more of him ranting about things, but the point remains.)
    • A straighter example would be this line, said to Clem after Clem gets rebrained.
      Raz: ...And I said 'Brainer'? I don't even know 'er!
  • In Quest for Glory I when you have to say the rhyme to enter Baba Yaga's hut, one of the choices given is a poem about an alien from Venus, "whose body was shaped like a..."
  • Overheard in a cutscene in The Simpsons: Hit & Run while Homer watches the news:
    Kent Brockman ...leaving the famous bearded cartoon creator incarcerated in a Peruvian jail.
  • In a cutscene from the Terran campaign of the game StarCraft, a formation of Wraiths is attacking space platforms over Tarsonis. It starts out with an orphaned punchline.
    Wraith pilot 1: I says, "Answer that and stay fashionable!"
    Wraith pilot 2: That's not funny anymore, Harley.
  • The "Meet the Medic" video released as a supplement to Team Fortress 2 has this crossed with Noodle Incident:
    Medic: Vait! It gets better! Vhen ze patient woke up, his skeleton was missing, and ze doktor was never heard from again! [laughs before the Heavy starts to laugh] ...Anyway, zat's how I lost my medical license. Heh.
  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception: After a hectic shootout, Sully says, when back in their headquarters, "... so then guy says: Well, you better tickle mine too, 'cause now I gotta catch the goddamn thing."
  • World of Warcraft: Caretaker Alen in the Eastern Plaguelands occasionally blurts out "...And then the tauren said, "13 INCHES!"". The set-up may be known, but we can probably assume the punchline is referring to a 13-inch-long penis, possibly the Tauren's considering it's the largest playable race in the game.*
  • Kathy Rain, the titular character befriends a local woman she needs to interview by offering her one of her cigarettes. The woman accepts her offer, and it then cuts to the two of them in the middle of sharing a funny story as they smoke.
    Kathy: ...And then he realized, it wasn't his bong!

    Web Animation 
  • An Akatsuki's Life Itachi lost his ears under uncertain circumstances, and can't hear his colleagues talking. He panics, prompting the others to look at him, then after a short beat Kisame actually Greed says "Well the Zerg still suck".
  • Homestar Runner likes this one a lot.
    Homestar: ... But it turned out I didn't die.
    Strong Bad: ... And that's when I realized I didn't even need Lamaze classes.
    TV Announcer: And that's why come William Shakespeare was so awesome.
    • They even decided to play with this, by having several episodes of Strong Bad Email feature references to "DNA Evidence" until eventually releasing a cartoon explaining the whole story behind it.
    • It's gotten to the point where they Subverted it in "Where U Goin' 2?":
      Strong Bad: He said he thought paunchberry sounded like a disgusting ice cream flavor. But I beg to differ.
      Strong Bad: Yeah, we probably were.
    • In "Road Trip", Strong Bad mentions that all road trips need to end up developing an in-joke for everyone involved, so he decides to try and make that joke BEFORE the trip even starts (the attempt he shows is "jumbo/LARGE"), effectively turning it into this.
  • Happens in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Abridged. As Jotaro is about to explain how D'Arby managed to cheat against Joseph (it involved letting the sun melt a piece of chocolate), the screen cuts to a still of Rule 63 Jotaro and Dio. When we get back to Jotaro, he finishes with "...Intercourse".
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: In Episode 33; we should note that both of the following women are high on Vicodin:
    Jayna: (to Mackenzie's mother) So, then I tell him, "Carlos, trim the hedges, don't murder them!" (Jayna and Mrs. Zales laugh)
    Mrs. Zales: Oh my god that's so funny! (continues laughing)
  • In one Neurotically Yours cartoon, Germaine goes into a brief flashback which begins with her saying: "... so I said to the Pope, 'I'll see you in Hell first!'"
  • Red vs. Blue has three examples:
    • From episode 58
      Tucker: And he says "Did I read it? I already ruined it!"
      Tex: That's disgusting.
      Caboose: I don't get it.
    • From episode 70
      Donut: And that's how I rescued you both, and saved the day. The, End. Any questions?
      Grif: Donut, that was the longest story I have ever heard. And I don't think I believed a word of it.
      Sarge: And quite frankly I found the showtune in the middle to be a little over the top.
    • Season 10, episode 8
      York: Wrecked 'im? Damn near killed him!
  • In RWBY Chibi, it's not uncommon for the "Now that's a katana" line to be used as this.
    • In issue 6, Yang gets hit with this when she says "Bumblebee? More like—" before Team JNPR walks in.
  • In ASDF Movie, there's "the funniest thing you've ever seen... from really far away". You can never hear what the first guy says before he explodes and the other guy yells out "Apples!"
  • Ultra Fast Pony, the episode "The David Bowie Drinking Game":
    Rarity: ...and that's where the term "gold digger" came from.
    Spike: I don't understand that, either.
  • Played with in a grand fashion in the Waterman internet cartoon series. One episode has a running gag that involves the titular character mistelling the same joke repeatedly, but all we hear is the mangled punchline: "Rectum? Damn near herpes!... Wait, that can't be right."
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Tristan says, "The talent agent said, 'What do you call that routine?' and the father said, 'The Aristocrats'."
  • Zero Punctuation, right after admonishing the creators S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky for having the audacity to release a game that was clearly still unfinished and riddled with bugs:
    Yahtzee: But I'll tell you the worst part worst part ab- worst part ab- worst part ab- worst part ab-
    Windows dialogue box: This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down. Angry policemen are en route and resistance will only make them angrier.
    [test card]
    Yahtzee: And whistled for a baboon!

  • 8-Bit Theater: The "8-Bit Chronicles" gave us three of these in the form of a sentence continued from a page not shown:
  • Subverted in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja when the Alt Text tells the whole joke, though you could probably get the gist of it just by reading.
  • Concession combines this with a Fourth Wall breakage:
    "... and that's how I saved Christmas."
    "What an interesting and well-told story! Sure am glad I didn't miss it thanks to a scene transition!"
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures
    • Azlan saying "... And that was the last time I took Neni to <Place>" is a running joke.
    • Also, in the filler on how to make a webcomic, "...And that is why there will never be another wombat in Lost Lake."
  • In El Goonish Shive Tedd recounting how he saved Christmas is presented this way.
  • Emergency Exit: "And that's how I found out I'm bulletproof!"
  • Several of Maytag's jokes in Book 0 of Flipside. The author mentions he just made up the punchlines, and the setups never existed.
  • In Goats, a plotline deals with people defeating humourless cyborg chickens with old parlour jokes. We only ever hear the punchlines of the jokes, but the punchlines are from real jokes which you may be able to identify if you know the joke.
  • Killroy And Tina had an interesting variation: Brandon's telling Qwerty a joke, and the reader sees just enough of the punchline to figure it out, and upon doing so, gets a headache. (Brandon being Brandon, it's also entirely possible that this is all of the joke he told Qwerty, too).
    Brandon: The bartender says, "oh, everybody does that." So the guy says "You don't understand — 'Chunks' is my dog!"
  • In Least I Could Do, Rayne has made something of a Catchphrase of "...and that's when I bought the horse a prostitute," as part of an account of his first date with Cyndi. Depending on the audience - and he'll say it to anybody - it can have very mixed results.
    • Almost always, though, it is immediately followed by the phrase "I love this guy!"
    • Recently inverted with the horse telling his side of the story.
    • Lately, it's been showing up as an Orphaned Punchline in everything from webcomics to fanfiction.
  • The line "Rectum? Damn near kill 'im!" is the end to a quite well-known joke. It's also the story of how Hinjo in The Order of the Stick became a paladin. (Apparently it involves a class feature.)
    • Also from The Order of the Stick, we miss Therkla's explanation leading to the conclusion "... which is why pants should be forsaken whenever possible."
    • After Redcloak rounded a corner and ran right into O-Chul, who was wielding a steel rod from his prison, it was probably inevitable that the comic's discussion board would toss out this line:
      "An evil goblin cleric walks into a bar..."
    • And we have Haley's explanation of how Thor ended up on the Minnesota Vikings logo.
    • Spoofed in a bonus strip from the collection Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales, which opens with Haley telling Belkar "—so I said, 'No, the best part of scouting ahead is when you get to open the strip with a bit of out-of-context conversation.'"
  • This Penny Arcade consists of three orphaned punchlines. If you listen to the podcasts, they've been trying to fit at least the first two into a strip for months.
  • The first panel of this Questionable Content strip modifies the traditional punchline slightly.
  • In Rain, the first time we see Maria, she's finishing a joke with the line, "...and I said that's NOT a duck!" In another comic by the same author, another character is shown saying the same line. This comic featured Rain herself before she got her own series.
  • Reversed in Something*Positive; Aubrey reminisces about her childhood favourite TV show host, the Marquis DeRod. On his last show, he started to tell a joke involving a werewolf, a mummy, and an IRS agent walking into a bar, and then suffered a heart attack and died on live TV. Aubrey's only thoughts on the matter are that she's spent twenty-five years wondering where that joke was going.
  • Think Before You Think, on this page.
    Becky: then I thought, what am I going to do with all this spaghetti?
  • In Uniju Holiday Theater, we get this line in The Argentinean Beef Ribs Day Disaster:
    Anton: And that's how my Pikachu lost its Occipital lobe.
  • Venus Envy has this happen with the end of an anecdote:
    "... so I stabbed him in the eye with a fork!"
    "Why do all your stories end that way?"
    "I don't know. Lack of other options?"

    Web Original 
  • Semi-common on Image Boards, where multiple threads are used to create coherant jokes or image-series. Unless you visited the website at the right time, the only way to understand the point of these threads is to wait until someone compiles the screenshots.
  • This picture posted on The description reads, "So Marx, Thoreau, Mao, and Lenin go hiking one day and... (omitted for explicit content) ...then Marx says, 'now that’s what I call the opium of the people!' God I love that joke."
  • Parodied and discussed at the beginning of this Cracked video.
    "It's a way to make your characters seem charming and funny without you actually having to write a joke."
  • An anecdote about a deceased contributor to Eyrie Productions Unlimited who had an extraordinarily keen sense of humor noted that punchlines of jokes or situations that had previously sent him into hysterics could be used again out of context to repeat the effect, especially in the presence of (thoroughly baffled) people not present for the original telling. Most intriguing was one that was never attached to a joke, appearing in an early Self Insert Crack Fic by the group's main writer, which was used on the "victim's" fictional avatar but eventually had the same effect on the real deal.
  • TV Tropes: The Edit Reasons page can occasionally read like this, especially when the page they're from seemingly has nothing to do with it:
    It wasn't an Oreo, it was one of those Little Debbie snacks. (Giant Food)
    At least two of those three examples are not exceptions (Yes, there is Rosie O'Donnel porn). So not accepting examples of them without substantiated proof that no one has ever made porn of them. (Omniscient Database)
    God, what a cool title (Axe Cop)
    We're not stupid. (The Protomen)
    Your Obedient Serpent logged in from work to make this change. Heinlein didn't and wouldn't say "diaper", gang! Lazarus Long was from turn-of-the-last-century Missouri! (Humans Are Average)

    Web Videos 
  • The sixth episode of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared has Red Guy tuning into a conversation three other Red Guys are having at a nearby table.
    Red Guy: —but I was like, "Yeah, that's not even the same bucket!" (laughing)
  • One entry in Marble Hornets opens with one.
    Tim: (...) had to do that about five times.
    Jay: That's a good story.
  • raocow sometimes does this with his video editing, as he tries to cut out boring parts for the sake of his audience. However, since he rambles near constantly, when the video resumes it often does so on a Non Sequitur. Granted, raocow's rambling often results in non-sequiturs regardless.
    raocow: [break in video]—and I am not a time-ologist, unfortunately.

    Western Animation 
  • The 2 Stupid Dogs episode "Inside Out" begins with Little Dog telling Big Dog the punchline of a joke out of context.
    Little Dog: So, this guy comes out of the doctor's office and says "Hey! That's not my pontoon boat!"
  • An episode of Animaniacs featured a Batman parody using Chicken-Boo. The villain was a guy called Punchline (obviously an amalgamation of Joker and Riddler), and his whole shtick was this trope. The one he used that stands out is "... Forget the subpoena, MY monkey doesn't DRIVE a Lexus!"
    • Slappy Squirrel once tells that famous old chestnut to someone on the phone: "Wrecked 'em? I freaking killed 'em!"
    • Another one when Slappy is hanging out with Vina Walleen, the actress who played "Bumbie's" mom:
      Vina Walleen: So then Pebbles says, "Hey! Get your own Bam-Bam, lady!"
  • After a string of terrible mummy jokes on Aqua Teen Hunger Force Meatwad starts to tell a joke about "a prostitute and a person of the Polish persuasion" but is cut off before he can continue.
    • From "Dummy Love"
    Shake: And the gorilla says 'you mean the one that [BURP]'ed you up the ass?' And the lion said 'Why, did it already make the papers?'
    • That one's real. A gorilla rapes a lion while he's sleeping, but when the lion wakes up, the gorilla runs for his life, hiding his face behind a newspaper. The lion asks if he's seen a gorilla...
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has Zuko once trying to say a joke abou tea Iroh told him, but he can only remember the punchline ("Leaf me alone, I'm bushed.").
    • Which he says in an Iroh accent so terrible it immediately makes any real-life fan who has attempted that feel better about themselves.
  • Used as a Shout-Out/Parental Bonus in the first episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold; as Jaime's flipping through channels, on one of them is a stand-up comic saying "'s called The Aristocrats!"
    • Only on the Canadian broadcast — the US version had the TV announce "... to get to the other side."
  • Beavis and Butt-Head
    BUTT-HEAD: "So the guy's like, excuse me sir, I told you to put the flower in your buttonhole."
  • Camp Lazlo would often feature the central trio walking in at the tail-end of one of Edward's stories to the rest of the scouts; e.g. " that's why I don't play croquet any more."
  • Code Lyoko's prequel "XANA Awakens" has the tail end of this joke from Odd: "And then the waiter says, 'I don't have frog's legs, that's just the way I walk!'"
    • Most of Odd's jokes are shown this way, like at the beginning of Season 4 episode "Double Take". His friends agree that said jokes usually aren't funny anyway.
  • Detentionaire has had a few, such as Cam's “And I was all: 'No way, hombre! That piñata is a toilet!'” and Brad's “...And that's why I always stretch before I eat yoghurt.”
  • Erky Perky: "... so I said 'If you're doing that with my teeth, we should get married.'"
  • Turns up in an early episode of Exo Squad. We only hear the punchline: "Gulp... that's my wife!" and the entire squad laughing heartily, except for Marsala.
    "This is what you humans call... a joke?"
    "Not a very good one."
  • One episode of The Fairly Oddparents had Mark Chang telling a joke where all you heard was '... And Then I Said, The Aristocrats!' If you know anything about the setup for that joke, you can appreciate just how much was implied there.
    • Given that Mark Chang enjoys eating diapers, the above could also count as an Incredibly Lame Pun, and would wind up being an enjoyable joke on Mark's home planet.
    • When Timmy throws a party, he is shown telling a joke to a group of Vikings: "...and he said is that a Chevie? And I said no, it's a fjord!"
  • From Family Guy:
    • In "Hot-Pocket Dial", they deconstruct this joke, with Lois sitting at a table with friends and saying "... And so I said something that suggests an entire hilarious backstory." Everybody laughs in response.
    • In one episode we enter a scene wherein people at a dinner party are telling jokes. The orphaned punchline is "... and then the French guy says 'Deodorant? What's that?'"
    • In the episode "E. Peterbus Unum", the US army launches a missile intended to hit the Griffin house, but it misfires and hits Quagmire's house next door. Fortunately, it doesn't explode and instead merely juts through the roof without hitting Quagmire or the random fling he's having a drink with. The only words we see exchanged:
      Quagmire: To answer your question, something like that.
    • The joke that makes Peter keep crapping his pants ends with the punchline, "...P.S.: Your vagina's in the sink!" This is a classic dirty joke about a girl who crams liver into her vagina before sex so she'll feel like a virgin.
    • Quagmire uses a variation in the episode where Stewie warms up to Peter. While at the bar, Quagmire is about to start a story of one of his sexy exploits but Peter covers Stewie's ears before he begins. We see Quagmire telling his anecdote and acting out the scenario and at the end, Stewie gets to hear "...and this is the hand that started all the trouble!" He then grabs Stewie's nose with the same hand and gets a very terrified reaction from Stewie.
    • Parodied in the episode "La Famiglia Guy" when you see Peter saying to the Dons: "And the guy says, 'Oh, I thought you were complaining about your angina.'", only for one of the dons to say "You never told us a beginning to that joke!"
  • A variation from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, "Sweet Stench of Success": Bloo is trying to communicate to the audience of his TV show that the producer is evil. In one skit, he and an actor go through a series of "Doctor, doctor!" jokes, but Bloo replaces one of the setup lines with "Doctor, doctor, Kip the producer is keeping me locked in a cage!" The other actor responds with the punchline of the original joke ("I guess you're two tents!"), which has become a complete non sequitur.
  • Used a lot in Futurama:
    • "And that's why they call me Honest Bender."
      • In the commentary, the writer explains this joke to be from a 1934 W. C. Fields gag, where the second half of the story is given as the main character having found a glass eye on a pool table, returning it to the owner, and being given the nickname "Honest John".
    • "The moral is, if you want it to stay sunk, tie a weight to it!"
    • Super Collider? I just met her!
      • And then we built a super collider.
  • A Garfield Christmas Special has this in the scene where the Arbuckles finish decorating their Christmas tree and have to put the star on. Dad asks why they can't just put the star on the tree first and then put the tree up, to which Mom replies by saying that "it just wouldn't be Christmas" if they did that. In the special itself, no response is given to that line, but in the Comic-Book Adaptation, Dad replies ""One more remark like that, and you'll see stars, woman."
  • Generator Rex: Rex wakes up from being drugged to hear Dos saying "And then I said to the General, 'your surrender I can accept, but there is no excuse for that haircut'." As he laughs, Five complains that Dos had told the joke before.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • It was a running gag to hear Stinky telling the end of a story about his favorite flavor of pudding at the beginning of a scene. All the audience would ever hear is "...and that's why lemon pudding is my favorite pudding." We never got to hear why.
    • This was a running gag of scenes cutting into Lila telling a farm related joke and one instance where Helga was imitating Lila.
    So then the farmer said: "Butter? I thought you said 'udder'!"
    So then the farmer said: "Whatever you do, don't touch that cow!"
    So then the farmer said: "That's no kid, that's a baby goat!"
    So then Miriam said: "New beeper? I thought you said 'zookeeper'!
  • Hotel Transylvania: The Series: "For Whom the Smell Tolls" has Uncle Gene telling an out-of-context punchline to Aunt Lydia.
    Uncle Gene: So then the werewolf says "I thought that was an umbrella".
  • Jane and the Dragon has Jester reading a joke that Dragon wrote for him that finishes "That isn't a cow. That's just my cave chicken". Crosses over into Cannot Tell a Joke territory to judge from Jane and Jester's reaction.
  • This is used often on Jimmy Two-Shoes, to the point of a Running Gag. They tend to be of the visual variety. It's not uncommon for the show to open a scene or introduce something to the plot via Heloise conducting some kind of sadistic experiment on some unfortunate demon (usually Beezy).
  • The Johnny Bravo episode "Johnny on Ice" has the research granter visiting Dr. Richard Leaking tell the end part of a joke while Leaking's daughter is examining Johnny (who was mistaken for a frozen caveman).
    Research Granter: So Farnsworth says to me "If I could walk that way, I wouldn't need an aesthetical tarsal bone!"
  • One episode of Lil' Bush opens with the kids eating lunch and Lil' Rummy saying "So then I said, how about I show you the places he didn't touch me?"
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In the Daffy Duck cartoon "A Pest in the House", Daffy is a bellhop working in a hotel. He awakens a sleepy guest solely to tell him an apparently hilarious joke about a traveling salesman. We hear some of the beginning, and then the guest walks downstairs to complain to the manager, Elmer Fudd. By the time he gets back to his room, Daffy is almost done the joke, but can't remember the punchline. "And the salesman says... Ha ha!... the salesman says... hey, what do you know, I forgot what the salesman did say. But... Ha ha!... It was a riot!"
    • "Norman Normal" features a drunk at a cocktail party trying to tell Norman a joke about "a travelling salesman and an Eskimo". Norman doesn't approve of jokes about "racial minorities", so he tunes the guy out, and we only hear a bit of the beginning, a few vague snippets, and the very end: "Just before the icicle breaks, he screams out 'That was no walrus, that was your wife!'"
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "The Ticket Master" sees Pinkie Pie blurting out "And Then I Said, 'Oatmeal? Are you crazy?'" after Twilight Sparkle interrupts an argument between her friends. The original subject was who should get to go as Twilight's guest to the Grand Galloping Gala, so it's safe to say Pinkie got a little off-topic...
    • One scene in "Sweet and Elite" has Rarity amusing some upper-class ponies with an anecdote that ends with "That's not a hat; that's a natural disaster that somehow landed atop your head!"
    • In "Read It And Weep", Rainbow Dash is trying to find ways to pass the time during a stay in the hospital, and at one point is seen telling jokes to her room-mate (an unfortunate pony in a full-body cast). We only hear the punchline of one: "To get to the other side!"
  • Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero: "Larry Manor" has Larry saying what seems to be the punchline of a joke, only for Rippen to reveal that there was no setup to begin with.
    Rippen: You can't just yell random punchlines and expect people to figure out the setup!
  • Done often in Phineas and Ferb, like in 'The Lake Nose Monster'. Lawrence Fletcher attempts to tell the boys about his capture of a giant fish named Big Mouth Ramon, but the boys leave. Through the episode, we hear snippets of this tale.
    "A chilly April morning, 1980, disco was on the way out, and it was just beginning to dawn on everyone how ridiculous they looked in it was either go up the fire escape or lose the pants altogether, when suddenly it hit me...I said, John, it's great, I love the tune, but the words! 'All you need is a Philips-Head screwdriver'? It just doesn't really ring true, now does it?...It seemed there was no way we could get through the entire petting zoo...and well, ha, ha, and he was...and that was when I saw the way down, I saw Ted standing on the handles of the anyways there I was, four hours from the nearest dental supplies store, oh, there you are, Perry, and what a burglar I gasped… so I learned that it was too late, we were already headed off for Southampton, and that is the story of how I caught the Big Mouth Ramón."
    • "Leave the Busting to Us":
      Candace: And then Ferb says...
      Ferb: And that is why I will never wear suspenders in public.
    • In "Agent Doof", Doofenshmirtz becomes an agent of O.W.C.A. (he gets away with it despite being human because he was raised by ocelots), and in one scene is telling a joke that ends with "And the duck says 'got any grapes?'" This is a Shout-Out to The Duck Song.
    • Lampshaded in "What'd I Miss?"
      Buford: So then the seamstress walks back into the stateroom and says, " 'Titanium'? I thought she said 'cranium'!" Hahaha, yeah. Pretty good punch line, huh?
      Baljeet: Yes. All you need now is the first part, and then you will have a whole joke.
  • ReBoot has one that you need to do a little work to notice. In an audition for Enzo's birthday party, a comedian binome tells a joke. The joke is said in binary, so the viewer has no idea what he's saying but the characters all laugh at the end. Apparently if you translate the numbers into decimals, and then into letters, you get "Take my wife, please!"
  • The punchline "... that's no kindergartner, that's my wife!" was a running gag on Recess; we even got some interesting characterization out of it in one episode. The episode had two separate shorts. The first ended with Principal Prickly delivering the punchline to great reception among his peers. The second short opens with his opposite number, TJ, delivering the same punchline to his own peers and getting a similar reception.
  • Robot Chicken references the Yoda vs. Palpatine battle from the end of Revenge of the Sith in this way in one sketch, which starts off with the Emperor telling two laughing guests, "So I threw the Senate at him. The whole Senate!"
  • An episode of Rugrats had a TV commercial director give one as he walked into the studio: "So whatever you do, don't sell that poodle!" resulting in uproarious laughter from the crew coming in with him.
  • Numerous examples in The Simpsons:
    • Chief Wiggum, reading from a book of "Truly Tasteless Jokes" (a real book by the way), concludes "And the third travelling salesman says, 'Don't look at me, I just ate all the hot buttered corn!'" This is referencing a real joke and it is unbelievably filthy. Suffice it to say it involves a bodily orifice.
    • "So I says to Mabel, I says...."
    • Helicopter flying instructor: "... so he's so busy worrying about the front rotor, he walks right into the back one. Only in this business..."
    • "...and that's how I got the vending machine contract for the Kremlin."
    • "...and then Lenny says 'As if! Don't even go there, sister!'"
    • A scene in one episode starts with a Sunday school teacher saying, "...and that's why God causes train wrecks."
    • The Simpsons Hit & Run: "...leaving the famous bearded cartoon creator incarcerated in a Peruvian jail."
    • Almost all Kent Brockman segments begin this way, leaving us to wonder what the start of the newsline was.
    Kent Brockman: ...which if true, means death to us all.
    • This exchange:
    Mr. Burns: ...and that's how you win an opium war!
    Homer: And the life lesson is?
    Mr. Burns: The Yangtze River swallows all secrets.
  • Several times on South Park:
    • The coroner in the episode "Pinkeye": "And then the necrophiliac said, 'If this ain't a cadaver...'" They are interrupted by the zombie Kenny.
    • One episode featured a democratic presidential debate between Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton being interrupted by a news report showing Britney Spears peeing on a ladybug. It cuts back just in time for Clinton to finish her remark with the words "...and spearchuckers."
    • "What did the breast cancer say to the Polish monkey?"
    • In "The Last of the Meheecans", Stan gave us: "... so then the Pope says, maybe you should go check the toilet!" Later on, Butters follows this up with: "...and then the fireman says, that won't even fit in my scrotum!"
  • Steven Universe has one in the episode "Future Boy Zoltron": Steven, disguised as a fortune-telling machine, has been delivering advice and fortunes to people all day. We eventually cut back to him speaking to Suitcase Sam, saying that whatever he just asked "is a question for your doctor."
  • The Tales from the Goose Lady short "The Tortoise and the Hairpiece" has a scene where the toupee tells a joke to his co-workers, but we only hear the punchline.
    Toupee: So then the elephant says "That's alright, that's not my trunk!"
  • Teen Titans (2003) did this a few times through Starfire. In "Final Exam", Starfire enters the show by ending a discussion with Robin about how to achieve faster-than-light travel. Technically, this was the series' first episode (not the first episode produced, but the first episode broadcast), making it her first line on the show overall. Then in the beginning of the New Teen Titans short "Burp", she has the opening line, "...and that is what happened right before the Big Bang." It seems Starfire knows quite a lot about the secrets of the universe, but the show just won't let us hear them!
  • Wander over Yonder: Dominator delivers one in "The Night Out," and Sylvia repeats it in "The Sick Day" (worth noting: writer ND Stevenson apparently wasn't allowed to use the slightly racier punchline "Blaster? I hardly know her!"):
    And then the ballet dancer says, "Annihilation? I thought her name was Susan!"
    • "The Date": "And the butcher says, 'Not on my dime!'"
  • We Bare Bears:
    • In "Fashion Bears", we hear the punchline of a joke Grizzly is telling a busload of businessmen: "And then I said 'Desert? I thought you meant dessert!'"
    • In "Coffee Cave", we catch the very end of a joke one of the Bears' customers is telling: "And then I realized, I was wearing his shoes!"

...And he says, "I call it 'The Aristocrats!'" But seriously, folks...

Alternative Title(s): Peacock Joke


The piñata joke

Meta humor when a character realizes he missed the setup of a joke.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / OrphanedPunchline

Media sources: