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Running Gagged

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"Okay, they're dead, all right?! We're not gonna be seeing them again!"
Stewie Griffin (after shooting Vern and Johnny), Family Guy

A Running Gag is a recurring event that becomes more humorous or meaningful each time it is used, depending on its subject. However, it can only happen so many times before fans will call out the writers for being unoriginal. What to do? This is the payoff of a Running Gag, where all the humor or drama caused by this builds up to an ending. Ending the gag is hard to pull off successfully whether the gag was popular among the fanbase or not. If it's popular, that means the gag won't be used anymore. If it isn't, it's wasting time when there are bigger fish to fry.


How do you handle it? Send it off in grand style, of course. Give it a conclusion, or maybe tell the audience and end it there.

Compared to Overused Running Gag, where the writers acknowledge the joke's tiredness but don't retire it. A specific form of this is Shoo Out the Clowns, in which the joke is gagged to cement a shift in tone. See also Subverted Catchphrase. If the Running Gag makes a reappearance after a while, it would be a Call-Back or a Continuity Nod, depending on the example. Has nothing to do with jogging with your mouth stuffed.

Related to Discredited Meme.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Part 1 of Naruto, viewers would sometimes see how Sakura feels through Inner Sakura whenever she felt differently than how she responded. In Part 2, Sakura has learned how to express her true feelings and Inner Sakura only appears once in what could be considered a Call-Back (seen in Episode 8 of Shippuden and Chapter 250 of the manga). The last time the gag is used in Part 1 is when Inner Sakura is implied to be a full-on 2nd personality and foils Ino's attempt at Grand Theft Me.
  • One Piece:
    • Usopp's fighting style used to be based around flat-out lying to his opponents to scare them and give himself an edge. As the series progressed and he took a few levels in badass, he lied less and less in favor of his various inventions. He still lies on occasion, but now he usually only does it as part of a larger plan, such as the Usopp Golden Pound in his Thriller Bark fight against Perona. Not to mention, many of his early lies (such as being eaten by a giant goldfish) have since come true providing a nice Brick Joke for people paying attention.
    • Sanji's laughably inaccurate bounty poster was a long-running joke... until the Straw Hats end up getting attacked by a guy called Duval who's life has been totally ruined by the fact that he happens to look just like that crappy poster, causing people to think he's Sanji.
  • In the Funimation dub of Crayon Shin-chan, Penny has a very abusive dad that stems most of her humor. Near the end of Season 2, her dad goes to therapy, but because Penny is used to the ideal that Love Hurts, she has trouble coping for an episode before finally accepting it. After the show was brought back after 2+ years on hiatus, the writers seemed to have kept this element.
  • After quite a few of Kanto's Gym battles in Pokémon end in Ash being given a badge either out of pity and/or saving the Gym or its Leader's personality, Blaine does not give Ash a Volcano Badge after he helps stop a volcanic eruption. He offers a rematch instead (as Ash had surrendered to him earlier), but Ash is still happy to take it (especially when Charizard decides to behave for a bit and inserts itself into the 1 on 1 battle with Magmar).
    • The anime began regions with Pikachu wrecking the bikes of that region's female lead (Original Series with Misty, Hoenn with May and Sinnoh with Dawn). However, since Iris lacked a bike in Unova, Pikachu shocked her instead; and the gag was retired after Kalos with Serena joining the group.
    • The Sun and Moon series featured a recurring joke about Lillie being afraid of touching Pokémon in its early episodes. After the reveal this stemmed from an incident with the Ultra Beast Nihilego, the gag stopped being used after that.
    • A subtle example: Team Rocket's Meowth notably was unable to learn Pay Day due to learning to speak like a person instead. The move becomes G-Max Gold Rush when using its Gigantimax form in Pokémon Sword and Shield, which ends up happening in Pokémon Journeys after Meowth is hit with a blast of Galar particles from Eternatus and gains the ability to Gigantimax.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love is War: In the early part of the series, the main running gag with Yu Ishigami was his utter fear of Kaguya. Due to Poor Communication Kills and One Dialogue, Two Conversations, he had become convinced that she hated him and was plotting to kill him (and, given how powerful her family is, she could probably do it). This typically took the form of Kaguya saying or doing something Ishigami interpreted as a threat, which would result in him leaving school early while saying something like "I need to revise my will" or "I'm gonna go hang myself". Through the later chapters Kaguya begins helping Ishigami with his poor grades and his romantic pursuits, refusing to give up on him because she knows the truth about the incident that made him an outcast; as a result Ishigami develops a more positive image of Kaguya, and the two even develop a sweet Like Brother and Sister relationship.

    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Spider-Man:
    • Spider-Man following every single denial he was a mutant with "Not that there's anything wrong with that" before ultimately stopping whilst thrown into a Hunting the Most Dangerous Game situation alongside the X-Men.
    • In a meta-sense, J. Jonah Jameson twisting every single heroic deed Spider-Man made and Spider-Man's general status as a Hero with Bad Publicity. After over 4 decades of it in the mainstream Marvel universe and 9 years in the Ultimate universe, Jameson stopped slandering Spider-Man after the events of Ultimatum, when he witnessed Spider-Man doing everything he could possibly do to save people in the midst of New York being flooded whilst the other superheroes were nowhere to be seen, and subsequently this led to Spider-Man having the best PR out of any of the heroes when Jameson proceeded to admit he was wrong and the Bugle became Spider-Man's biggest supporters. He did restart the slandering when Miles Morales started on his path as Spider-Man, but in an interesting twist, this was because Jameson (like many people) thought that Miles was desecrating Peter's memory... and in 2018, the good ol' 616 version of Jonah put his own version of the Running Gag away (if not for good because Status Quo Is God, then at least for a while) in Spider-Geddon, with him helping Peter survive Morlun's latest rampage and publicly proclaiming Spider-Man as a hero (which actually leads to a hefty In-Universe backlash calling him a "sell-out").
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye: The Rodpod (a dropship modeled after Rodimus' head which everyone except Rodimus hates) gets retired with a vengeance at the end of season two when the DJD blow it up in their first attack against the Lost Lighters.

    Fan Works 
  • In Season 1 of Script Fic Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, the titular duo would often have meaningless arguments over stupid things. This was quietly dropped in the second season.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • The "Kaio-what?" gagnote  ended with Freeza No Selling it (though it did return in the Goku vs. Superman episode of DEATH BATTLE!).
      Freeza: No, seriously, Kaio-what?
      Goku: Kaio-crap!
    • It comes back for one last hurrah in The World's Strongest Abridged.
    • In an odd way, the running gag of a freeze frame Squicky Fan Disservice picture appearing whenever someone uses Solar Flare endednote  by undergoing a mini-Cerebus Syndrome, as when Cell shows up they go from being humorously squicky (such as Freeza's head photoshopped onto a guy showering, or Lanipator dressed as Dr. Frank-N-Furter) to two real cicadas mating, until finally a (mercifully cropped) picture of Semi-Perfect Cell raping Android 18 appears in the episode where he absorbs her and becomes perfect. It does come back one last time during Cell's Really Dead Montage at the end of the saga, with Imperfect Cell wearing a bikini being the flashed image, but the gag itself dies with him.
    • Ever since the very first episode, the series has kept up a "Krillin Owned Count", going up every time something bad happens to the resident Butt-Monkey. This gag is put to bed in The Stinger of Episode 60, when Krillin and Android 18 hook up. The counter starts to go down, and keep in mind it went down for every "round" and it was at 39 in the end, before being annihilated by a Scatter Bullet.
    • Freeza makes a game out of counting aloud all of the heroic cliche lines he's heard in his years as a galactic conqueror, to unnerve and demoralize would-be freedom fighters who repeat them. However, when Goku cheerfully boasts "I'mma deck you in the schnoz!" Freeza is initially left speechless, then admits he actually has never heard that one before. He then slowly loses his mind in his fight with Goku, not just because of Goku matching him blow for blow, but because he can't make sense of how Goku thinks.
    • The "Goku is a bad father" joke seems to die in Episode 60, with Goku's Heel Realisation and subsequent attempts to fix the situation, resulting in his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series:
    • In Bandit Keith's final appearance in the main series, his Eagle Land characterization was officially dropped when it was revealed that he was only pretending to be American and he was actually from Canada. In the episode that wrote out Bonz, he reveals that he actually can talk normally and his constantly saying "Braiiins..." was just an act. Both characters' subsequent appearances in all future side videos have dropped these gags. It's lampshaded in one anniversary special where Bakura and Marik try to do a drinking game off some of the gags from the series, they end disappointed when both Bandit Keith and Bonz explain that they don't do those anymore.
    • One of the earliest running gags in the series was Weevil and Rex being obvious expies of Beavis and Butt-Head. This officially ended after Episode 73 when the Seal of Orichalcos allowed them to Retcon this behavior away and act more like their canon counterparts. And then subverted when Yami defeating the Orichalcos for good causes them to revert back to acting like the duo.
    • Episode 78 ends the running gag of Kaiba's two henchmen being Those Wacky Nazis. When asked about it, Kaiba says that the gag was stupid.
    • Episode 83 opens with the reveal that Duke’s theme music has been killed by YouTube getting wise, so he now has Tristan beat-boxing his theme music as a compromise.
  • In Just a Pancake's series of Kingdom Hearts parodies, all of Yen Sid's appearances see him trying to tell everyone what his name spelled backwards is, but he keeps getting cut off. In Kingdom Hearts III in a Nutshell, he finally gets to finish... and it becomes a Badass Boast during his Big Damn Heroes moment, somehow making the parody version even more epic than the real thing.
  • On Final Fantasy VII: Machinabridged's version of the original game's startup menu, appearing at the start of every season, under Continue, there's an option that says "HD Remake" that's reveal an inhumanly long download time, a reference to the apparent Development Hell it was in. After that, New Game starts Season 1 and Continue starts Season 2 and 3. When selected at the start of Season 4, however, a window pops up declaring "The joke is dead", because in between seasons, more trailers, footage, and ''a proper release date'' was revealed. Also, Square Enix themselves had used the gag to introduce the remake at their panel during E3 2019. When the Movie rolled around, the HD Remake option was dragged off by a Whisper.
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, Pinkie Pie's a New Zealander and an obsessive fangirl for The Lord of the Rings (the movies specifically). So nearly every episode she appears in, she'll shoehorn at least one LOTR reference into her dialogue. The series creator, Wacarb, eventually got sick of doing those gags—so when he abridged the episode where Pinkie clones herself dozens of times, he took the opportunity to kill Pinkie off and replace her with one of those clones, one who doesn't know anything about LOTR.
  • Kingdom Hearts Ψ: The Seeker of Darkness has a running gag involving Kairi being in denial about her bisexuality, something that Everybody Knew Already. It's eventually Gagged when Terra brings it up among a few other things they all knew but didn't talk about and Kairi finally admits it to herself.

    Films — Live-Action 



  • After two movies of being a Found Footage Film series, REC 3 goes through a Genre Shift to more traditional horror... and the way it does this is by filming its first act in the regular Found Footage style and then one of the characters ending up pissed at the cameraman because he is eager to continue recording everything instead of helping (the cameraman even justifies himself by repeating a line that the characters on the other films use to encourage their cameramen into continuing his recording), so he wrestles the camera away from the cameraman and slams it into the ground.
  • In Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, everybody constantly refers to "The Guy", and it becomes Arc Words and a minor plot thread. Once the kids reach the entrance to Level 5, "The Guy" appears, opens the way, then gets killed immediately after. Nobody brings it up again.
  • Star Wars:
    • The famous and recurring "Wilhelm Scream" has been officially retired from use in the film series, starting with Rogue One, The Last Jedi and Solo, since it's now considered an overused and cliché sound effect to use, and it has been replaced with a new (as yet unidentified) recurring stock scream in The Rise of Skywalker.
    • Subverted with "I have a bad feeling about this." Rogue One looks like it shuts down the gag by having K-2S0 try to say it, only to be told to shut up. The Last Jedi then plays coy by having it be said by BB-8 without any subtitles, meaning you wouldn't even know it's said unless you heard the Word of God about it. Just to drive it home, Solo straight up inverts the joke, having Han say that he has a really good feeling about his current situation. And then The Rise of Skywalker brings the gag back in all its glory, just so Lando will have finally gotten the chance to say it.
  • The Wolf of Snow Hollow: Jim getting repeatedly physically injured is played comically until he gets stabbed by the killer in the climax.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock has a running gag where Jenna compares a current situation to increasingly bizarre Noodle Incidents involving her and Mickey Rourke, like the man trying to fire her from a catapult. The Series Finale puts a stop to it.
    Jenna: He's in a really bad place, like when Mickey Rourke... ok, I can't do this anymore. [looks straight into the camera] I've never met Mickey Rourke.
  • Adam Ruins Everything had a recurring gag of references to characters being afraid of "little bugs". This came to a head in the penultimate episode, "Adam Ruins Little Bugs", which was entirely devoted to explaining why many little bugs aren't as scary as people think they are.
  • Arrested Development:
    • Maeby often says "Marry me!" to her coworkers as a means of allaying suspicion whenever they point out how young she looks. But one time when she uses it, the proposal is taken a little too seriously and she quickly stops.
    • Another (temporary) example is Tobias' "never-nude" syndrome. For those who don't know, never-nude syndrome is when whenever you are required to be naked, you instinctively wear cutoff jeans. He recovers from it in a mid-season 1 episode, but at the beginning of season 2, he develops this again after an extreme close-up of his testicles is aired on TV as "proof of weapons of mass destruction".
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • One of Raj's defining features during the early seasons was his selective mutism, which rendered him unable to speak to or in front of women other than his mother and sister, forcing him to whisper in someone else's ear, usually Howard's, to relay what he had to say, unless he was inebriated (which rendered him obnoxious) or on experimental drugs (which caused various side-effects). However, at the tail end of Season 6, a bad breakup shakes him to the point of curing him. The selective mutism and the alcohol-induced obnoxiousness make a brief comeback in a Season 12 episode.
    • A running gag in the early seasons is that the "check engine" light in Penny's car is constantly on. Sheldon and others bug her about attending to it, and she refuses. Her car finally breaks down in the Season 7 episode "The Friendship Turbulence."
    • When Stuart's comic book store becomes popular after Neil Gaiman made a visit to the place and then tweeted about it, late in the series' run, Stuart, who has hitherto been a Starving Artist stuck in Perpetual Poverty, is finally financially secure — so much so, that he hires an assistant named Denise to help him out with the business, who would stay on for the rest of the series and quickly becomes his Love Interest.
    • The last example of this trope, chronologically speaking, comes right at the series' Grand Finale, in which the elevator of the apartment, which has been broken since the beginning the series, is finally fixed.
  • Doctor Who: For a few seasons of the new series, there was a gag in which the companions would try an accent and/or repeat what The Doctor said, to which he inevitably replied "No... no, don't do that." The episode "Midnight" murdered this gag, as Donna repeating what the Doctor said after he was nearly taken over and killed by an unseen monster was the last thing he needed to hear. The gag has not been used since.
    • Also, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors both expressed disappointment upon first regenerating that their hair still wasn’t ginger. This running gag was quite popular with fans of the revival series. However, it’s been abandoned since those two incarnations.
  • Friends had a Running Gag going since the beginning involving "Ugly Naked Guy", a never-seen, um, Exactly What It Says on the Tin character who lived in the next apartment building over, who would occasionally get mentioned with lines such as "Oooh, Ugly Naked Guy's doing X!" By Season 5, the writers decided it was time to retire the gag, and at that point Ross was also in need of a new place to live. So they killed two birds with one stone by having him move out, and Ross get his apartment.
    • An earlier example would be how throughout the first season, a neighbor, Mr. Heckles, would complain the gang was making too much noise despite them clearly have been going about their business at a normal volume level. Early into season 2, they get tired of it and intentionally make too much noise and Mr. Heckles dies moments later. While cleaning out the apartment, they realize that the acoustics of the apartment actually did make their normal activities sound louder than they really were.
  • A rare example of a Running Gag ending dramatically instead of comically happened on Hill Street Blues. Every few episodes, Belker would arrest the same petty criminal. Whenever Belker asked him for his name, he would always give an obviously fake one. Belker would often be on the phone with his mother while booking the criminal, who smirked at the incongruity of a tough detective being nagged by his mom. This went on for years, until the criminal was accidentally caught in the crossfire of a shootout. He had nothing to do with the gang shooting it out with the police; he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. When Belker ran up to him where he lay dying, he finally told Belker his real name and asked Belker to tell his (the criminal's) mother what had happened.
  • How I Met Your Mother brings back Barney's fireball magic trick, but everyone snaps at him that it isn't funny anymore, the barmaid reminds him he's been banned from doing it by the fire marshal, and Lily tells him to go stand in the corner. A flashback in a later episode shows that the gang at some point held an intervention to try to persuade him to stop doing it.
  • iCarly: Gibby loved to take his shirt off, even during inappropriate moments, and it was more or less his defining characteristic. Once he became a main character starting in the fourth season, he does it less and less until he eventually stops going shirtless altogether and it is lampshaded.
  • In Kamen Rider Drive, Lt. Otta had two major running gags:
    • First, he only got bits and pieces of information about the Kamen Riders and therefore had a wildly inaccurate image of them - for instance, he saw only parts of Drive's body at times when he was in different forms, so his mental image of Drive was a mashup of all of them; and then when he realized there was more than one Kamen Rider running around he thought that all of Drive's forms were actually different people. This ended when Drive's identity went public and Otta could get his facts straight from the source. It gets an amusing Call-Back in the Kamen Rider Heart post-series movie where Heart's attempt to transform into Drive results in his turning into a real-life version of Otta's mashup picture, complete with a reaction shot from Otta when he sees it.
    • Otta also displayed a comical inability to say the word "Roidmude" no matter how many times he's corrected; what he does say instead gets translated into things like "Hemmoroido" and "Pork Roasto". In one episode, he even acknowledges this while under the effects of a Hate Plague, raging that his co-workers think he's an idiot because of it. The gag gets put to rest about 3/4 of the way through the show, where it's revealed that the incredibly powerful Freeze Roidmude placed a mental block on the police to render them ineffectual, keyed to the word "Roidmude"; Otta's mispronunciation is one of the only reasons he was able to remain competent. A cure is developed, and once it's used on Otta he's able to say the word properly, much to his teammates' relief.
  • German comedy Klimbim had the unknown drinker at the bar, who never said a word and fell from his stool. When they got bored with it, in a series finale he shoots everyone and says "Finally I can talk!" (Too bad Morn didn't get the chance...)
  • My Name Is Earl: Number 86 on Earl's list "Stole a car from a one-legged girl". Earl had a one night stand with a woman named Didi, who, unbeknownst to Earl until the next morning, had a prosthetic leg. Earl freaked out, stole her money and leg while making off in her car, leaving her to hop around on her remaining leg. Earl had several encounters with Didi, but she would instantly go bonkers and try to hurt/kill him on sight before he could explain his new faith in karma and attempt to make amends (her triple amputee boyfriend even helping a time or two). Come season three, Earl is finally able to calm her down long enough to get through to her and after making him hop a mile in her shoe, Didi finally forgives Earl and he crosses her off his list.
  • Odd Squad: The running gag of Season 1, where a character remarks "If Sheila could see me now" after performing some sort of action, comes to a head in the finale "O is Not For Over", where "Sheila" is revealed to be the name of an actress in the Show Within a Show Bizarre Brigade who has, quite literally, lost her head. Once Otto restores it with the aid of a gadget, the director of the SWAS states that "I'm so glad Sheila can see me now!" This is lampshaded in the Season 2 episode "The Ninja Situation" when, after giving a disguised Otis the pizza needed to win over the Yum-Yum Twins, Olympia remarks "If Sheila could see me now" only for Oona to tell her that "I don't think we're doing that anymore."
  • Sesame Street: No one else could ever see or hear Snuffleupagus due to him conveniently being missing when a character other than Big Bird would attempt to see him, causing the rest of the cast to believe that Snuffy was Big Bird's imaginary friend. This was eventually put to rest, due in part to the writing staff running out of ways to implement this, as well as fear that children might not tell authority figures about something important by having Big Bird and Snuffy formulate a plan so the others could see him.
  • Stargate SG-1: Fun with Homophones jokes regarding the Goa'uld Lord Yu were abandoned in the eighth season, as even the characters in-universe were getting tired of them. Weir, a newcomer to the series, hears his name and is immediately told that every single joke and pun has been done to death, so please don't. Yu himself dies near the end of the season as well, putting the final nail in the proverbial coffin.
  • Veronica Mars: Cassidy Casablancas is constantly being tormented by his nickname, Beaver, and Veronica consistently starts calling him Beaver before switching it out with Cassidy; Logan also makes a series of "Dick and Beaver" jokes about sleeping with Kendall (their stepmother). Then, come the end of Season 2, Logan accidentally calls him "Beaver" when trying to persuade Cassidy not to kill himself after it comes out that he crashed the bus and killed multiple people due to being molested. This seems to be the final straw for him, and he emotionally tells Logan that his name is Cassidy before jumping off the roof to his death. Dick doesn't call him that again.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: To end the game "Scenes from a Hat", Drew Carey would fling the hat offstage. He stopped doing it when he accidentally hit a camera, knocking it off its crane.

  • Welcome to Night Vale: In the first few seasons, every time Cecil reads out the week's horoscopes, the one for Scorpio sounds angry and demeaning. It's eventually revealed that this is because Cecil's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis, Steve Carlsberg, is a Scorpio. Cecil and Steve resolve their differences in "Matryoshka", and in "The Promise of Time", Cecil promises Steve that he'll never insult Scorpios again, putting an end to the gag.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show's Rita Moreno episode has the telephone gag, wherein Fozzie answers the telephone, and something comes out of the microphone. Eventually, Kermit gets annoyed at the gag and orders Fozzie to not answer the phone. When he disparagingly cries "is there no end to this running gag?!" Cue Animal ripping the phone from the wall and running off with it.
  • Throughout Dinosaurs, Baby would regularly hit Earl over the head and shout "Not the mama!" In the episode, "Refrigerator Day", the Sinclair family ends up in financial jeopardy when B.P. Richfield fails to deliver the holiday bonuses, which results in their fridge getting repossessed. Feeling like he's at an all time low, Earl asks Baby to hit him over the head. Baby thinks about it for a second and says, "It's getting old."

  • Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depends on quick scene changes and uses minimal set dressing. At the beginning of each new scene, the Greek Chorus describes the setting to the audience, pointing out the locations of imaginary windows, furniture, etc., and frequently ending with "And a door." When Utterson breaks down the locked door of Jekyll's laboratory at the end of the penultimate scene, the subsequent scene shift to the interior of the laboratory ends with "And an open space where there used to be a door."

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • Parodied in the Strong Bad Email "the facts"; Homestar tells Strong Bad he's incorporating a new Catchphrase, "That's bupkis", which he never says in any other cartoon.
    • A long string of SBEmails featured a Running Gag where characters would randomly make a reference to "DNA evidence". The last email to feature this running gag, "rough copy", had an Easter egg at the end where Homestar is sitting by himself in Marzipan's living room and wearily says the phrase "DNA evidence", to show the joke had officially worn out its welcome.... that is, until it became the subject of its own toon.
  • Red vs. Blue starts Season 11 with the main characters stranded in an unknown planet after their ship crashed. All through that season and the next, there would be a flashback showing one of the cast (except the one viewers would expect, the Lethally Stupid Caboose) might have caused the accident - Washington tripping on a power cable, Grif spilling soda over the controls, Tucker hitting on the pilot, etc. Come episode 15 of Season 12, the ship actually crashed because of a tractor beam on the planet - only the cumulative hijinks from those flashbacks actually saved their lives ("Ships come by, we pull them down and then kill everyone aboard. Would have worked on you too but something went wrong. It was like the ship tried to jump to slip-space, change course and power down all at the same time. It didn't make any sense. Instead of pulling you down, the ship got ripped apart").

  • El Goonish Shive:
    • There was a Running Gag involving women hitting men with a Hyperspace Mallet whenever they said something sexist. The Hammers were eventually deconstructed as their true purpose was revealed: They were not designed to prevent sexist comments, but rather encourage them, as the hammers gave women an opportunity to get back at the men in a harmless manner, meaning the men didn't have to feel bad about upsetting them. The hammers became permanently unusable when the immortal who controlled them was preparing for his death and rebirth.
    • References to Tedd being androgynous also stopped for a while, probably because in the newer art style he didn't really look all that androgynous. They later made a return, along with Tedd getting a new (and much more androgynous) look in-universe.
    • Later, an arc titled Bringing Silly Back seemed to be mainly using this as a chance to call a capper on the overly silly running gags, and reconstruct them to fit the new tone of the comic.
  • A short-lived example in Bob and George: The third time the Right Behind Me gag was used with Dr. Wily, Dave Anez retired the joke. (The name of that particular strip even lampshades this: "This Is The Last Time, I Swear".) The "retirement" only lasted one year before it was brought back, at which point Wily rages about the author's broken promise. The gag would continue to be used on occasion right up to the final story arc.
  • Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content frequently used Yelling Bird, a foul-mouthed avian, as filler material when he needed a break. In August of 2015, he officially retired Yelling Bird, after letting the bird verbally abuse the readers one last time.
    Jeph: I am tired of Yelling Bird comics so there will be NO MORE OF THEM, goodbye you shitty bird.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del had a running gag of a normal strip being interrupted with one of the character randomly getting shot by an arrow. It was officially retired by having Ethan dodge and catch it and snapping it in half. Cue him being crushed by an elephant.
  • The Order of the Stick had a gag where the raven Blackwing would only appear when his master Vaarsuvius remembered his existence. This joke was played purely for laughs with little impact on the plot until Vaarsuvius suffers a crushing loss to Xykon and needs someone who can fly to save the day. Following that incident, Blackwing has had a more permanent presence in the party. In addition to showcasing Vaarsuvius's character development (atoning for their former negligence of Blackwing), the author has also commented that retiring the gag was deliberate as he thought that there was no variation of it he could pull off that would be more impactful than its last iteration.

    Web Videos 
  • In Dragon Ball Z Uncensored (a comparison of the original Dragon Ball Z TV show and its English dub), some time after the episode which introduced Hell, Chris Psaros started using the exclamation "What the HFIL?" (in reference to Hell's Dub Name Change), which he kept using until near the end of the Frieza Saga, at which point he retires the phrase, but not before admiring the meme that resulted from it.
  • Noob has a case of this trope meeting Real Life Writes the Plot. One of the running gags was a situation in which a Player Killer named Dark Avenger was in a Mistaken for Badass situation with Sparadrap, The Fool of the cast. The actor playing one of the two could no longer participate so Dark Avenger's higher-ups suddenly got frustrated with the situation that has been lasting for years and expelled him from his guild. That is followed by Sparadrap managing to beat him up in the middle of trying to give him a little consolation. That results in him quitting the game out of spite.
  • Nitro Rad: Ever since his review of the Gex series, James would often use his dislike of how Gex talked as an example of annoying dialogue from video game characters. After his review of Bubsy 3d, in which the title character has an even more obnoxious voice with more pointless dialogue, he promises to stop harping on Gex, admitting his stupidity was more charming.
  • The Nostalgia Critic has had various jokes that he used at the beginning of his run, only to cycle them out and exchange them for new ones.
    • With one — his showing of a clip M. Bison saying "Of course!" when a character expresses a desire to rule the world — he refuses to show it because it's been overdone, only for the clip to force its way onto the screen despite his protests. In the commentary for the review, Doug Walker mentions that he tries to be mindful of if he's overusing a joke to the point where it isn't funny, at which point he tries to mix things up a little and keep it fresh.
    • On that point, one of his reviews did end with its respective Running Gag (a Flanderized-to-the-point-of-uselessness Patch Adams called "Bitch Spasms") being blown away (and the cadaver being left on the ground as a Brick Joke for a future episode), the review for Jurassic Park III finishing (at least apparently for now) the "Motherfucking T-Rex" gag (on the moment that the T-Rex gets its neck snapped by another dinosaur. It do, however, gets a glorious resurrection as Awesome Music for the Rexy-vs.-Indominus fight on the Jurassic World review), the review for The Lost World kills the newsreel-style Long List of how humans screw up nature that had pervaded several nature-related film reviews with the critic belting out a Big "SHUT UP!" and rambling about how annoyingly Anvilicious films get when they try to (continuously) hammer this point.
    • "Bat credit card" was killed by Linkara when the critic made a cameo in his review of a tie-in comic. Linkara reconstructs the meme by explaining Batman is filthy rich, uses secret methods to spend that money on crimefighting in ways that cannot be traced back to Bruce Wayne, is known to purchase items while fighting crime if he needs them, and is obsessed with putting his bat brand on everything he uses. With all those traits to him, a Bat credit card is actually rather logical and practical for him to have, so what's so anger-inducing about it? The Critic is speechless.
    • His "Boomer Will Live" gag started with his Independence Day review. When he did the review for Battleship, he showed a clip of a pilot with the call sign "Boomer" on his helmet after the aliens are defeated. He starts to do the usual gag until...
    Boomer... is retiring this joke..
  • raocow has done this in a few LP's, such as in Mushroom Kingdom Meltdown, where he would often abruptly cut away to a fast-forwarded clip of him farming infinite lives whenever he ran out, usually while singing badly. After a few occasions, he said "Okay, this has stopped being funny now", and retired the gag (though he did still farm infinite lives offscreen). He's also said he reads his own trope page and checks under "Catchphrase" and "Running Gag" to see what he's overdoing and making an effort to stop doing that.
  • SomecallmeJohnny had a runningGag in his Metroid videos where, anytime he mentioned the Screw Attack powerup, a disembodied voice would suddenly shout "SCREW ATTACK!" much to Johnny's confusion, and later, annoyance. By Metroid Prime 3, Johnny finally calls it off and guns down the "SCREW ATTACK" guy, ending the gag. It got one last oblique mention in his video of Federation Force where he mentions the Screw Attack, and then immediately says "I shot that bastard dead."
    • In his earliest reviews of Sonic games, when he brought up Big the Cat, he mocked him in a certain way or said "I don't like Big the Cat". Then comes his review of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, and when he mentions Big the Cat as a playable character, he inhales to say "I'm kinda sick of saying that."
  • history of the entire world, i guess has "you could make a religion out of this" repeated after the founding of various world religions. The line starts to repeat after The French Revolution and the death of Maximilien Robespierre, but is interrupted by "no, don't"note .
  • A common Running Gag in Scott The Woz was him voicing his dissaproval for Chibi-Robo Zip Lash! by throwing his copy of the game into the toilet and exclaiming "This game blows!". This eventually came to head during his "Dark Age of Nintendo" mini-series, covering what many consider some of Nintendo's weakest offerings in recent times, as the final episode was centered around the titular game, and explaining in depth why he hates it so much, ending with him and his friends trekking out to the sewers to destroy every copy he threw down the toilet.
    • The mini-series itself also has its own Running Gagged. Scott's friend Jeb is obsessed with Gex the Gecko, and Scott continuously tricks him into playing games with him by disguising the game he's actually playing as a Gex game. When they destroy the copies of Zip Lash! however, Scott decides to play Gex for real...only for Jeb to be confused.
    Jeb: ...What the f*ck is this?
  • Jules Gill of is known for making crass Your Mom jokes in his videos on the WhatCulture YouTube channel (invariably followed by "That's my one per list."). Around Spring of 2020 he phased those jokes out, saying that he thought they had run their course.

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Bugs Bunny doesn't do his trademark crossdressing shtick much, if at all, anymore, since it's considered rather politically incorrect now to play something that can be interpreted as making light of transgender identity for a laugh, even if that wasn't remotely the intention of the original filmmakers. The last major instance of Bugs doing it was in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which was specifically done to call to attention how dated and questionable the gag is now.
    • The Looney Tunes cartoons and comics can't use caricatures of Peter Lorre anymore (at least not in the context of him being a Mad Scientist like he was in a few of the older Looney Tunes) due to legal issues with his estate, who will no longer authorize using caricatures of him in that context. (Not to mention that younger viewers are less likely to recognise him nowadays.) It got a planned appearance of him axed from one of the Looney Tunes comics and replaced with the scientist from Water, Water Every Hare.
  • Early on in The Boondocks, Tom was deathly afraid of being raped by Bubba, despite happily sending members of his own race to the exact same fate. In "A Date With The Booty Warrior," he faces his greatest fear: The Booty Warrior. He easily defeats the Booty Warrior, and he doesn't get a single rape joke in Season 4.
  • Family Guy:
    • The evil monkey living in Chris' closet. In season 8, he finally came out of the closet, turned out to not be that bad of a monkey, helped Peter and Chris amend their relationship, and moves out to live in Jake Tucker's closet. He has been Out of Focus in Family Guy, but he makes a complete Heel–Face Turn in The Cleveland Show, where he is renamed Monkey, and he saves Cleveland from the guys from Deliverance.
    • Another example is Vern and Johnny, the Vaudeville players, who would be killed off. They started making appearances after the show's revival (although Vern appeared by himself way back in the second season of the show), and were killed by Stewie in the next season. They end up making one more appearance after this, with Vern as a ghost and Johnny in Hell (Vern's ghost explains that Johnny liked little boys). They also have a background cameo in one of Stewie's nightmares in "A Lot Going On Upstairs" that involves other recurring extras that were no longer used. They are also seen in Peter's hallucination of deceased characters in "Coma Guy".
    • Also killed off was Paddy Tanniger, a character introduced in the second season whose defining trait was his catchphrase of "Big whoop, wanna fight about it?". During the climax of "Hell Comes to Quahog", he says the phrase while mocking Brian and Stewie's tank, and the two promptly run him over before he can even finish.
    • Subverted with the running gag of Peter's shenanigans destroying the front of Cleveland's house while he's taking a bath, causing his tub to fall to the ground. At first, it seemed like the first episode of The Cleveland Show was this, as it was The Last Straw that convinced Cleveland to move out of Quahog. Even after that, however, the gag still makes a few sparse appearances, once with an empty tub falling down because Cleveland moved, once when a missile manages to hit Cleveland's new house, and once when time is going backwards for Stewie and Brian, plus one time kicking off the plot of a Cleveland Show episode where it happens to Loretta, which kills her.
    • The Conway Twitty gags. They started in the season 5 episode "Bill and Peter's Bogus Journey", where a character makes an Aside Glance, introducing the viewers to Conway Twitty as a distraction, playing a performance of one of his songs. This occured a few more times in later seasons. There are a few times where the characters are annoyed by this, as in "3 Acts of God", God gives Peter, Cleveland, Quagmire and Joe a message where Conway wishes that they would stop doing these gags, and in "Peter, Chris, & Brian", teenage Peter starts to play Conway Twitty's music for his adult self in a video, but present Peter finds it annoying, not wanting to sit through the song.
    • The "Brian's Emmy Vote" online shorts are basically remakes of the scene in "Patriot Games" where Stewie beats up Brian for not being able to pay back the money he owes him, only this time Stewie is beating up Brian for not giving Family Guy a vote in the Prime Time Emmy Awards for Best Comedy (its fellow nominees were 30 Rock, Entourage, Flight of the Conchords, How I Met Your Mother, The Office (US), and Weeds). The last video abruptly ends early as Stewie decides Weeds is not worth beating Brian up over.
    • A few episodes produced for Season 1 had Lois reprimanding Chris for saying perfectly harmless words with “Chris, that’s a terrible word! (Whatever the word is)!” note  No such line has appeared since then.
  • In The Flintstones, Fred would ask Barney to lend him a few bucks until payday saying he's short on cash, with Barney replying that he's a little short (in stature). In the 1994 live-action adaptation, it starts out with Barney mentioning that nothing's changed when Fred asks him for a couple of bucks. Later, after Fred goes back to his old job with benefits for the rehired workers, Fred asks Barney again, and Barney replies "Not this time!"
  • The Simpsons:
  • South Park:
    • "Oh, my God! They Killed Kenny!" In its early seasons, Kenny McCormick's death Once per Episode was one of the defining traits of the show. Many a fan eagerly awaited to see how Kenny would bite it this week. Soon, however, the writers felt that it was becoming an Overused Running Gag, and decided to end it before it got too much. And so, Kenny was Killed Off for Real in the aptly titled episode "Kenny Dies", and stayed dead for the better part of the following season. Eventually, Kenny was brought back from the dead, only now he wasn't killed off... at least not as often. The whole thing got a Cerebus Retcon in the "The Coon And Friends Trilogy", where we learn that Kenny's parents were part of a Lovecraftian cult and his immortality was a curse from the Dark Ones.
    • The boys trying to find a replacement fourth friend in the sixth season. For the majority of the first half they took in Butters, who Got Volunteered into all sorts of Zany Schemes Once per Episode, before finally getting thrown out with Tweek being placed in the role instead. However, Tweek was eventually phased out before Kenny himself finally reappeared at the end of the season.
    • Many episodes ended with characters (usually Kyle) giving morals, most of the time accompanied by the phrase, "You know, I learned something today." This practice was mocked in some episodes such as "Butt Out" and "Cartoon Wars, Part 2", but it was put to sleep for good in Season 19's "Where My Country Gone?", where Kyle's friends blame a recent wave of illegal Canadian immigrants on his speech about tolerance and acceptance in the previous episode, and ignore him whenever he argues against them. At the end of the episode, Kyle disrupts Mr. Garrison's rally to issue a moral against sensationalistic politics, only to be met with angry glares from the audience. From that point forward, the show completely stopped tacking morals onto its episodes.
    • A lot of other catchphrases from the show’s early days, notably “Screw you guys, I’m going home!” and “Dude, this is pretty fucked up right here!” also ended up being phased out.
    • Cartman's love of Cheesy Poofs is well established within the first two seasons but almost never is referenced outside of that timeframe.
  • The first two episodes of Futurama have Professor Farnsworth commenting that he wants to help out, but he’s already in his pajamas. The writers intended to make this a catchphrase, but it never ended up being used or even referenced past those first two episodes.
  • A recurring gag of Butt-Monkey Brett accidentally getting shot on Archer ends in the Season 5 premiere when FBI agents storm ISIS headquarters and accidentally shoot him in the head.
    "He died doing what he loved... getting shot."
  • American Dad!:
    • In the first season, Stan would often want to make Steve, his geeky son, popular at school because he was very unpopular when he was his age and doesn't want him to live through what he had to. In the last episode that aired before most Stan/Steve episodes were stripped of this plot thread, Stan gives Steve steroids to make him strong, but instead because of his genes he grows boobs, becomes popular at school because the boys are using him for a cheap grope, and resists Stan when he tells him the boys are only using him. Stan had to resort to giving himself a larger dosage of steroids so he would grow bigger boobs to prove his point to Steve. At the end, Steve gets a chance to tell him he's happy with his real friends, and Stan seemingly accepts it.
    • In the early seasons of American Dad, Klaus' entire character (aside from being a man's brain in a goldfish) was his crush on Francine, doing things like trying to look up her dress or rolling around in her underwear, culminating in an episode where he gets a human body and tries to steal her away from Stan. As the show started Growing the Beard, this aspect of his character quietly disappeared without explanationnote 
    • One ongoing plot point in the first season was Hayley being an enemy and foil for Stan's uber-conservative personality who was often at odds with him. When the show started to become less centered around politics, Hayley's Soapbox Sadie tendencies were downplayed and she has since gotten married and doesn't appear that much.
  • For four and a half seasons of Daria, Quinn refuses to admit that Daria is her sister, insisting that she is her "cousin" instead. She is especially nervous that her friends in the Fashion Club not find out her real relationship with Daria. But thanks to Character Development, by the fifth season Quinn's relationship with Daria has improved and she starts sticking up for herself more in the Fashion Club. This led to the following exchange in the episode "Lucky Strike":
    Quinn: Besides, why shouldn't I act sisterly towards her? After all... she's my sister.
    Sandi: [fake gasps] Did you hear that? Oh, my gosh! Quinn just admitted that weird girl is her sister!
    Stacey: Well, um, of *course* she is, Sandi! We knew that.
    Tiffany: We were just being polite about it.
  • Kim Possible:
  • Adventure Time had some jokes in early seasons which implied that Gunter, despite being to all indications an ordinary penguin, was in fact the ultimate evil in the Land of Ooo, surpassing even Hunson Abadeer and The Lich in threat level. This seemed to just be Rule of Funny until "Orgalorg", which revealed that Gunter is actually a Mad God named Orgalorg who is older than the Universe and can destroy planets on a whim when at full power. The only reason he's seemingly not a threat is because the King of Mars wiped his memory when he was banished to Earth, reducing him to primal animal instincts. Only when his brain is exposed can he remember his past.
  • Helga’s horrible home life was a long-standing bit of Black Comedy in Hey Arnold!... until "Helga on the Couch" had her go to therapy and promptly break down over her family situation, revealing that it’s actually left her with serious emotional and mental issues. After that point, Helga’s problems with her family are never Played for Laughs.
  • King of the Hill:
    • The season 4 episode "Nancy Boys" puts an end to the 14-year affair between Nancy Gribble and John Redcorn, after they both realize how good of a person Dale really is. Though Dale never finds out about the affair.
    • Dale's paranoia resulted in him using the alias "Rusty Shackleford" when he doesn't want to use his real name. At least until season 11's "Peggy's Gone to Pots" where it's revealed that Rusty is an actual person who Dale knew from school and believed to be dead (he actually just moved away). Rusty returns to Arlen to confront Dale over tons of credit and identity issues as resulting from Dale using his name. Dale panics and arranges a failed murder-suicide pact with Peggy, after which Rusty merely has Dale sign a form clearing him of all his identity troubles.
  • Hero: 108: In the first season, ApeTrully tries to give gold to all the animal kingdoms to get them to join Big Green and gets captured every time, which results in First Squad having to come and save him, but starting in season two, he stops doing this.


Video Example(s):


"Pirate Oath" Routine

Everytime Skurvy recites his oath, he condenses it more and more for convenience sake.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / RunningGagged

Media sources:

Main / RunningGagged