Tropes used in American Dad include:
- Kafka Komedy: A minor version is invoked with Terry's homophobic father, Tank; after claiming Stan and Greg are a gay to stall coming out, Tank proceeds to make the situation worse by antagonizing everything Stan does simply because he thinks he is Camp Gay.
[Stan leaves Greg & Terry's house]
- Kaleidoscope Hair: Subverted with Roger, who has a collection of wigs that he swaps around for role-playing. Many of them are different in color.
- Kansas City Shuffle: Steve's plan in "Bar Mitzvah Shuffle".
- Karma Houdini: Nearly all the family has gotten away with some horrific crime at some point in the show's run, Roger and Stan are probably the most recurring examples however. It may be balanced by all of them having Chew Toy traits however.
- One notable example: In order to fix the course of history, Stan had to make the assassination attempt on Ronald Regan because John Hinkley was never motivated to do it. History was fixed (with some added benefits of making it easier to buy guns) and Stan didn't have any repercussions happen to him for trying to kill Regan.
- Kent Brockman News: Greg and Terry are low on exposition but high on drama, usually doing their dirty laundry over the airwaves.
Terry: "This recession is affecting everyone, even we're cutting back. Last night we only sixty-eighted.
- "Kick Me" Prank:
- During the opening, Hayley sticks a peace sign on Stan's back, while Francine takes it off before he even notices.
- When Stan gets braces, the other employees prank him by sticking "Shoot Me" on his back. He was lucky he was wearing his bullet proof vest.
- Lack of Empathy: Roger and Stan take this to extremes at times. Roger's mindset got screwed up psychologically the first time he felt for anyone before himself. Roger is also very casual and matter-of-fact about describing himself as a sociopath ("Cops and Roger"). Being a Seth MacFarlane work however, nearly every character displays this trait at times (though it's not as prevalent here as it is on, say, Family Guy).
- Lantern Jaw of Justice: Stan Smith, an unusual non-superhero iteration.
- Large Ham: Stan Smith, as early as the pilot ("Did somebody order a brand new dog?!").
- Similar with Principle Lewis, established the same time as Stan. "You can READ!!!!" "The system WORKS!!!!!!!!"
- Avery Bullock.
- Roger, but usually only when imitating something from a film or another show.
- Like father like son for Steve at times.
- The Antichrist from "Rapture's Delight" (but considering that Andy Samberg—who can be a Large Ham in his SNL sketches—voiced him, that's not a big surprise).
- Also, Barry, from time to time, thus making it a visual pun. They'll give us boo-boos on our feelings!
- Laser-Guided Karma: In "Hurricane!", Roger drowns his annoyingly clingy girlfriend. He's then electrocuted by Stan by accident and blackened to a crisp after Stan lets a bear into the house.
- Last-Note Nightmare: After Stan is done singing while hallucinating ("The Magnificent Steven") the transition back from his Disney-style vision to the real world features a classic example.
- The Last Horse Crosses the Finish Line: Stan is frequently subjected to this trope. One noteworthy example comes from the episode "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man". In that episode, Roger was going through his reproductive cycle, and accidentally eaten all of Francine's potato salad for the pot-luck wake. Scrambling to make more, he realized he was out of mayonnaise, and had to resort to desperate measures. It was not until after the wake that Roger revealed that he made the salad, and that the secret ingredient was his breast milk. Cue Steve, Klaus, Hayley, and Francine recoiling in horror and even vomiting from the news. But it takes Stan a full 90 seconds (the average length for a commercial break to run its course) for him to realize, and take advantage, of the situation.
Stan: Ya, I'm uh laying low. Today is the anniversary of a huge fight me and Francine had last year.
- Laughably Evil: Roger really leans into trope on occasion. He lacks much along the lines of consistent redeeming aspects and is extremely unempathetic to the atrocities he has committed throughout the show's run. Neverless he is as funny as hell and is arguably the show's Ensemble Darkhorse.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Lampshaded in "Spring Breakup".
Partier: Carmen Selectra? Doesn't he mean Carmen ELECTRA?
- Le Parkour: Stan and Francine engage in "free-running" through apartment buildings with an energetic young couple. Francine makes a game effort for a first-timer, but Stan can barely keep up and falls several floors down a stairwell and breaks his legs (with his shinbone sticking out of one).
- Let's Get Dangerous: When properly motivated, Hayley has been able to easily compete with, and even overpower, Stan(a highly skilled weapons expert) on several occasions.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: In Season 3 Episode 1 "The Vacation Goo", the Smiths end up engaging in cannibalism unnecessarily. Francine comments that nothing bonds a family like a dark, horrible secret.
- Lifetime Movie of the Week: "A.T. the Abused Terrestrial" parodies the concept; Roger seeks attention from another boy when Steve starts paying less attention to him, but the boy eventually turns abusive and Steve goes to save Roger from him.
- Like Father, Like Son: Or rather like daughter. Despite her radically different political views, Hayley's actual personality is very similar to her father, right down to the patronizing way she treats her romantic partner.
- Subverted with Steve and Stan, and again with Stan's estranged father Jack. Though in this case, it also works in that the failure to have any sort of relationship with their son/father is pretty much the same.
- Likes Older Women: One episode's side story was about Steve frequently making out with a friend of his grandfather's. And as turns out his best friend Snot does too. The episode even ends with the two declaring that no woman will come between their friendship, right before an elderly woman walks by with an oxygen tank, whom they eagerly chase after.
- Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded by Hayley in one episode when Steve, locked in Hayley's closet, threatens, "Let me out, or I'll rip up all your clothes!" to which Hayley responds "Go ahead! If you haven't noticed, I only wear this one outfit."
- Done again in "Stanny Boy And Frantastic" with Stan:
[Stan opens a wardrobe containing only several duplicate suits]
- Lipstick Lesbian: The Smiths' neighbor, Linda Memari, who is also in love with Francine.
- Living a Double Life: Roger and his disguises, to the point of zig zagging.
- Played straight with Hayley turning out to be a pie maker.
- Living Emotional Crutch: Stan, on several occasions, has been shown to be completely incompetent at most tasks despite working as a CIA agent; in "Fartbreak Hotel", Stan asserts that he is more than capable of dressing himself, but after Francine leaves, he realizes can't remember if navy or black socks go better with his suit and spends the rest of the episode trapped in his room sobbing because he can't figure out which socks to wear.
- Logic Bomb: In two separate episodes, a Smith encounters evidence that one of Roger's personas is actually a real person; this is their reaction.
- Lost Aesop: In "Hurricane!", a running theme is how, in a crisis, Stan will make decisions that at first sound like they could work, but actually always end up making things worse. When Stan comes to realize this and has a Heroic BSOD, Klaus cheers him up by saying he's got to keep trying 'til he gets it right. So Stan gets up, dusts himself off... and just makes everything a whole lot worse while trying to help. The episode closes with Francine telling him to just accept that, in a crisis, he needs to stand back and let others handle things. Stan ponders that for a moment... then decides he's not gonna do it for no adequately explained reason.
- Lotus Eater Machine: The focus of Season 3 Episode 1 "The Vacation Goo". The titular goo is a CIA invention that works like virtual reality and is exploited by Stan (and later the other Smiths) to get some alone time while the family is "experiencing" a family vacation.
- According to "Rapture's Delight", Stan's vision of heaven is this, despite being dead he's still living his everyday life because it's his heart's greatest desire.
- Love Martyr: Hayley's long-suffering loser boyfriend Jeff. He even calls her on the phone when she's in the next room because he just wrote her a song about loneliness.
- His persistence eventually pays off when she marries him in Season Six.
- Magic Feather: In "The Scarlett Getter", Steve believes wearing a pair of Hayley's panties gives him good luck. After Snot steals them Hayley explains to Steve using an old episode of The Smurfs as an example, that it was really his confidence that gave him luck, not the panties. This trope is subverted when it is revealed Hayley does believe they're magic and beats up Snot and takes back the panties from him.
- Mail Order Bride: She's Russian, of course, and she comes with a fidelity contract. Toshi snags her, which is mentioned in a later episode.
- Mama Bear: In "100 A.D.", Francine actually tries to shoot Jeff Fischer when it appears as though he's willing to dump Hayley in order to collect Stan's $50,000 bounty on them. The idea is actually a ruse he and Hayley came up with in order to get the money and still elope, but he would have been dead had the gun had any bullets in it.
- In "Season's Beatings", Hayley fights Stan to keep him from killing her adopted baby even though it's revealed he's the Anti-Christ.
- Mandatory Line: Lampshaded in "Escape from Pearl Bailey": "Nice of Steve to acknowledge us this week, even if it was only this once."
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Initially inverted- Stan tries to impart to Steve that sexual urges are evil and should be repressed. However, played straight with regard to Stan himself; Stan's lack of sexual experience outside his marriage to Francine is often used to make jokes at his expense, and it is actually what drives the plot of "When a Stan Loves a Woman".
- Also played with in another episode where Stan's CIA buddies tease Stan about being a virgin... of killing someone. That's right, Stan has never actually personally killed someone before.
- Mars Needs Women: Klaus the goldfish is in lust with Francine Smith. True, he used to be human, but still...
- Reggie the Koala and Hayley have a brief fling in Season 5, though Reggie, like Klaus, used to be human.
- Menstrual Menace: In Season 4 Episode 1 "1600 Candles," Stan and Francine recall Hayley's first period, in which they are cowering against the wall with Stan holding up a fork in defense, as Hayley screams, "What do you mean every month?!"
- From the very first episode, this exchange takes place when Stan tries to explain why Roger can't leave the house.
- Mexican Standoff: Most notably Joanna vs. Stan in "When a Stan Loves a Woman". Apparently "a little gunplay" is something that Stan finds arousing.
Stan Smith: Francine, this happens every time! First you pull out a gun and threaten to shoot me. Then I pull out my gun. Eventually, your arm gets tired, you leave, and we have passionate "nobody-got-shot" sex.
- Mighty Whitey: Referenced, when Stan escapes on a Predator Drone used as decoration for a float.
Old Chinese Guy: "The dragon awakens! The prophecy has been fulfilled!"
- Mind Rape: Said word for word by Stan after getting tricked by a car salesman.
Stan: Son of bitch, he mind raped me!
- Mind Screw: Usually interwoven with some audacious plotting. See the episode "Widowmaker" for an example that would make Jonathan Creek and Columbo proud.
- Miss Conception: Subverted in a Space Whale Aesop kind of way in Season 1 Episode 7 "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man", due to some alien spawn, Steve's gymnast crush does get pregnant from a kiss.
- Mister Seahorse: Roger and then Steve in "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man".
- Montages: Usually bizarre and accompanied by lively music.
- A good example is shaded in "Pulling Double Booty" ("Haha - you thought they got top hats!").
- Sometimes they use Night Ranger. Yeah, frickin' Night Ranger.
- Mood Whiplash: In "A Ward Show", when Roger discovers Steve has been beat up, he performs three BigNo's, before pulling a SkywardScream, dramatically tearing his shirt off and screaming through the inexplicable indoor thunder and rain. Cut to Roger and Steve quietly enjoying soup together and calmly discussing it.
- Ms. Fanservice: Both Hayley and Francine has been used to cater to a variety of fetishes over the course of the series.
- Mushroom Samba: Joint Custody when Stan and Roger get high on burned weed.
- "The Magnificent Steven": When Stan eats Mad Cow tainted beef and trips in his undies.
- "My Morning Straitjacket": Non-drug related but when Stan daydreams about My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James.
- "A Jones for a Smith": Stan smokes crack in his bathroom and sees his world as a commercial for crack as a prescription medication.
- "100 A.D.": When Roger injects amphetamines into his eyes while driving (much to passenger Steve's horror); in "Son of Stan", when Roger uses a bong in order to "think like a stoner" so that he can track down the eloped Hayley and Jeff (when his trip ends, he discovers it took him straight to them, much to his surprise).
- "For Whom The Sleighbell Tolls": Roger getting drunk on moonshine in, and imagining himself in a Donkey Kong scenario dodging liquor barrels
- Musical Episode: "Hot Water", which serves as a Little Shop of Horrors parody
- My Beloved Smother: Francine in "Iced Iced Babies".
- Sublimely inverted by Stan in "Oedipal Panties".
- My God, What Have I Done?: Stan says this exactly world-for-word when he realizes that keeping Steve down from being the alpha-male means he won't become the man Stan wants him to be.
- My Sister Is Off-Limits: In "Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls", Toshi is ready to kill Steve with a samurai sword for not bringing his sister Akiko home in time at Halloween.
- Mysterious Past: Roger's past on Earth is referenced and rarely shown, with an exception in the Christmas special "The Best Christmas Story Never Told". His history on his home planet (including which planet it actually was) is even more rarely referenced and never shown.
- Roger has been recently informed that his initial purpose for coming to Earth was to be a crash test dummy for a spaceship that his people were testing, not The Decider of the fate of planet as he was told. Stan was less than supportive.
- We are given a brief glimpse of what seems to be his home planet in a flashback in "Brains, Brains and Automobiles".
- Narrating the Present: Klaus in one episode. When asked what he was doing, he explained he was pretending his life was a DVD and he was doing the audio commentary. Later in the episode, Klaus' voice is head narrating over the scene so that we can't hear what anyone is saying. According to Klaus we miss the funniest line in the episode because of this.
- Never a Self-Made Woman: Averted in "Fart-Break Hotel". Francine ultimately comes to the conclusion that extreme devotion to family or career/non-family activities to the exclusion of the other is bad. She only becomes happier when she is able to balance the two as she finds fulfillment in both.
- Never Heard That One Before: During the Halloween episode, we get this exchange between Stan and Terry.
- Never My Fault: After Jeff gives away their hiding spot to Santa by telling him where to deliver their presents (whose planning to kill the Smiths because Steve shot him by accident), Stan immediately tells him off for doing so and calls him an idiot, even though he never warned him about Santa in the first place and was in fact leaving him to die.
Terry: Looking forward to your party tonight.
- New Job Episode: Stan in "Meter Made"; Roger and Francine from time to time.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Roger is this trope. His notable achievements include being buoyant enough to be used as a raft ("Choosy Wives Choose Smith"), resistance to fire ("Big Trouble in Little Langley"), and becoming immune to gravity when he inhales marijuana smoke ("Joint Custody").
- "How did you know I was fireproof? Even I didn't know! Wait, you did know right? I'm gonna go with yes to preserve the friendship"
- Roger can also probe people to gain all their memories ("Roger 'n' Me").
- Well, he IS supposed to be a crash test dummy.
- Roger apparently can now move "really, really fast", showing us how he faked the death of one of his own personas by opening up a manhole cover, pulling out a body double mannequin, going back down into the sewer, coming back out with red paint and various other colors and is able to decorate the body with enough time to reflect on his creation before a bus ran it over, all within a split second.
- In the first episode, Roger spontaneously fires some green alien goop from his pores that gets on everything. He casually remarks that this happens "every ten hours, like clockwork." After the pilot, this is never mentioned again.
- News Travels Fast: When Hayley breaks up with Bullock on live TV, the news ticker at the bottom reports in exact and greater detail about the break-up more than even Bullock himself is learning as he's having the conversation with Hailey.
- Nightmare Face: Francine's face after being disfigured by acid.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Francine is really happy that Stan has the blood of a man he killed on his hands, and has him carry her up to the bedroom, after he boops her nose with blood.
- Nightmare Fuel: In-Universe example with "The Vacation Goo". When Francine decides to take the Smith family on an actual vacation and not one that is a virtual simulation, the experience turns out to be so traumatizing that they decide the only way to take quality family vacations is to do it through a virtual simulator.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Numerous times throughout the series, including: Francine beating up Stan for forgetting their anniversary, which was so brutal, it was filmed for an episode of COPS. Stan beating up Bullock, an elderly security guard, and a meter maid in three separate episodes. Hayley beating Snot within an inch of his life after she learned he stole her lucky panties, although Snot seemed to have enjoyed it.
- No Bisexuals: Stan purchased a gaydar watch from Sky Mall, which is 45% straight, 45% gay, and 10% curious.
- Hayley has hinted a couple of times that she might be bisexual, most prominently in "Pulling Double Booty", where she suggests having a three-way with a waitress and Bill the Double (actually Stan impersonating Bill).
- And in "Haylias", where Hayley tells her parents that she's moving to France to have an affair with many men and even experiment with a woman named Simone.
- Hayley has hinted a couple of times that she might be bisexual, most prominently in "Pulling Double Booty", where she suggests having a three-way with a waitress and Bill the Double (actually Stan impersonating Bill).
- Nobody Ever Complained Before: When Stan goes to Heaven and is denied a chance to return to life, he pulls out his gun and threatens to shoot. Everyone laughs and points out that Earth Guns don't work. The Bailiff pulls out a Heaven Gun and mentions that these do. Stan immediately grabs the gun and threatens to shoot his now-hostage lawyer. Everyone is shocked as Stan runs away. One guy complains.
(Stan grabs the gun; various reactions of gasping and other comments from the crowd)
- Noodle Implement: Toshi's coconut girlfriend in "Failure Is Not a Factory-Installed Option". Whether or not Steve, Barry, and Snot also have one is never made clear.
- Another example is from "American Dream Factory"'s B-story, where Roger enters carrying an abacus, an octopus and a hairdryer, but fails to explain the obscure thing he's doing because whatever Steve's doing with his guitar "looks more interesting".
- Noodle Incident:
Stan: "That's the 2nd time my life has been saved by hip-hop. *camera zooms in on his face* But that's a story for another day..."
- When Haley returns from being sabotaged by Stan:
(Hayley appears holding bloody pickaxe, wearing torn clothing and a shackle on her ankle)
- This is done again in the following episode when Hayley escapes being trapped in the basement:
Hayley: Hello father! Wondering how I escaped from the basement?
- In "Virtual In-Stanity":
Klaus: You're really gonna kill five people over twenty dollars?!
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: Stan takes in a stripper who's the same age as Hayley purely for non-sexual reasons.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Patrick Stewart, as American CIA head Avery Bullock, makes no attempt to conceal his British accent. This is lampshaded in at least one episode.
- Not Good with Rejection: Exaggerated with Hayley. If a boy dumps her, she will go on a destructive rampage. It's getting to the point where the police tell Stan and Francine that if she gets dumped again, Hayley will have to go to prison.
- Not So Different: A defining point between Stan and Hayley's political views in early episodes. Actually, Stan has this chemistry with nearly all of the Smiths, whenever you wonder how he came to be a family man, the others will show they can be just as immoral or insane as he is.
Travis: *to Stan and Francine* You're both complete lunatics! You two were made for each other!
- No Woman's Land: Saudi Arabia turns out to be one in "Stan of Arabia", much to Francine's frustration and Stan's delight.
- Object Tracking Shot: Done with Steve's pubic hair a la the feather scene from Forrest Gump in "1600 Candles".
- Obnoxious In-Laws: Francine's adoptive parents basically force their views/lifestyle on Stan whenever they visit, much to his displeasure (Francine's adoptive parents are Chinese).
- Offing the Offspring: Stan tries to do this to Steve and Haley in "Old Stan in the Mountain", when he mistakenly believes they're going to do him in.
- Oh Crap:
Steve: [To the cat that has been viciously attacking him all episode, and has now appeared to die in his arms] Poor Simon... you're in a better place now. You look so peaceful; almost as if you're sleeping... [beat] Oh, shit. [Cue mauling]
- Oh Look More Rooms: Explored in "Toy Whorey" when Roger goes to fetch wine, only to pass through several ridiculous rooms.
- One-Scene Wonder: Avery Bullock usually has very little screen time: he often utters the best lines of the episode and promptly disappears.
- Principal Lewis is very quickly becoming this as well.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: A moment from "Pulling Double Booty" provides the page quote for that article.
- Also done in "Stannie Get Your Gun". It's even somewhat lampshaded by Roger ("I just love it when crap lines up like that").
- One We Prepared Earlier: American Dad! premiered with one of these. Subsequent episodes would show the origins of various character relationships in Flash Back (such as the fifth episode "Roger Codger", which flashed back to how Roger came to live with the Smiths).
- Only Sane Man: Hayley usually emerges as the only sane woman a lot of the time. Sometimes falls to Steve.
- Operator From India: In "Four Little Words", Francine is teaching English to a village of Indian children. The phrase she is teaching them to say is "Thank you for calling Apple tech support."
- Opposed Mentors: Played with this. Stan and Francine wanted to raise Steve different ways, and Steve ended up with a clone, allowing both parents to try their own ways. It turned out neither one alone worked.
- Oscar Bait: Mercilessly spoofed with Oscar Gold, the Show Within a Show in "Tearjerker".
- Our Nudity Is Different: Played for Laughs in an early episode in the series, where Stan sets up a deal with Ikea to refurnish all of Iraq so it looks like "your first apartment". This cues a Cutaway Gag of a citizen appreciating 80s lifestyle look of his new home, before being appalled at his wife's blatant display of nudity and telling her to put some clothes on. She's fully clothed except for her eyes, so she covers up her eyes and immediately trips over a table.
- Out of Focus: After Hayley got married, she and Jeff were gone from the show for quite a few episodes. Probably due to her status as The Artifact, and there being less dynamic plots to write for her, as opposed to the other family members.
- Outside Inside Slur: Inverted Trope. Francine is starring in a comedy based on her adoptive Chinese family. Her mother—in the show—calls her a "reverse banana": white on the outside, yellow on the inside (i.e. actually Asian) as a compliment.
- Overly Long Gag: Mostly avoided, but one does occur in "Finances With Wolves" during a very long sequence where Stan tries to park at the mall.
- Also the "Golden Turd" sequences. Arguably not a gag, but still...
- In "Weiner of Our Discontent", Stan laughs for a full 30 seconds in a manner seen previously in Family Guy. The gag was so long that, according to the DVD commentary, Seth MacFarlane was exhausted due to performing the entirety of the laughing in single takes.
- "Con Heir" drags the same lengthy gag into the episode three times.
[Francine tells Stan that his family's love makes him the richest man in the world]
- When Stan gets cottage cheese on himself in "Delorean Story-An".
- Back to American Dad
- "Shallow Vows" and "I Am the Walrus", for the curious