Brick Joke

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A Brick Joke is a particular type of Chekhov's Gun (or its variants) for which the payoff, but not necessarily the set-up, is a joke. Named after an old joke, which seems at first brush to be a pair of unrelated jokes. At the end of the first joke, a brick is tossed away, leaving the confused listener without a punchline. At the end of the second joke, the brick returns and the listener falls on the floor laughing. For bonus points, the teller can tell an actual unrelated joke in between. Sometimes, the Brick Joke structure—introducing a seemingly irrelevant feature only to return to it much later, after the audience has largely forgotten about it—can be used for drama as well as comedy.

Popularized in early 20th-century Newspaper Comics by Krazy Kat. (Not to be confused with The Cat Came Back, which is nearly the opposite of this trope.)

Overlaps with any type of Chekhov's Gun. Often this can also be a Chekhov's Gag, if the set-up is also a joke.

Compare and Contrast with the Overly Long Gag, where the humor is in how long it takes to get to the punchline. See also Late to the Punchline, which is where a character who doesn't get a joke finally gets it, making it a kind of Brick Joke for that character. The Flying Brick, however, refers to something else entirely. See also Call Back

Examples of Brick Joke are listed on these subpages:

Print Media

  • In Issue #41 of Mad Magazine (from 1958), the cover picture of Alfred E. Neuman is half-finished because the artist got a call from Time magazine. Cut to the article "The Next Day's Headlines" which shows disastrous headlines based on the advice columns shown on the previous page... and one about Time firing their new artist because all their people looked like Alfred E. Neuman.
  • The Onion did it with pictures. The front cover of the February 21, 2011 issue shows a picture of Blake Griffin jumping over a car with the headline "Car Blake Griffin Dunked Over Vows Revenge". Cut to the March 21, 2011 issue which has the cover showing a picture of Blake Griffin run over by a car with the headline "Car Blake Griffin Dunked Over Exacts Bloody Revenge".