Don't Explain the Joke

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
It seems jokes are something The Joker doesn't like to kill. Get it? It's because he's a criminal with a comedy theme!

"Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

E. B. White

In short, explaining the punchline of a joke just makes it not funny, whether or not it would be otherwise. Jokes can be hard to do, and sometimes not everyone will get it, but while explaining the context might help, the punchline should stand on its own.

Explaining a joke, for better or worse, can come in a number of variants:

  1. Someone doesn't get the joke, and has to have it explained. Then again, that doesn't actually kill the joke. It was already dead, since the listener didn't get it in the first place. It can still work, but only if the joke actually is that someone doesn't get the joke. (This includes private in-jokes which even intelligent people would never understand without explanation.) Sometimes that someone tries to guess at what the joke is until everyone becomes exasperated and actually has to explain the joke instead of offering subtle hints which make that someone even more confused.
  2. Explaining the joke with no prompting. This may be done as an attempt at Post Modernism, but it's usually done with jokes that wouldn't need any explaining. It can still work if the explanation is tongue in cheek. Sometimes the real joke is about killing the joke by explaining it (cf. Hypocritical Humor).
  3. Explaining the joke actually is part of the joke.
  4. The joke-teller or writer has a tin ear for comedic timing, and overdoes the joke without knowing better.
  5. The listener has only the dimmest idea of what constitutes humor, and will blurt out the punchline to ensure that everyone knows they've got a sense of humor and they were laughing at something funny.
    1. Corollary: Sometimes the teller also has the dimmest idea too.
  6. The joke is German, where a lot of jokes are explained in the end, for some reason (usually a foreigner making a clueless face).

Note that the lines between these can be blurred. And despite the title, sometimes you can get away with explaining the joke. A way is hinting to the pertinent parts of the joke. That way you don't have to actually explain it completely.

It's very common to have the character explaining the joke wink at the audience, which can lead to homicidal mania towards winks.

Do not confuse this for giving the context. This is actually explaining the punchline, not the setup. That also means don't pothole this for the necessary information.

A Sub-Trope of Measuring the Marigolds.

Compare If You Know What I Mean and Euphemism Buster (close cousins of Variant 3), "Just Joking" Justification. Often goes with an Incredibly Lame Pun, and is how such pun can lead to a Collective Groan.

Contrast Stealth Pun (where absolutely no explanation is given), Am I Right?, and No Sense of Humor. See also Leave the Plot Threads Hanging. Not at all like Anti-Humor jokes, where the whole point is that the listener doesn't get the joke. Oh, wait, did I just explain the joke?.

Why did the troper cross the road? To get to the examples! (The joke is that there are examples below this point.)


  • There is a 2009 T-Mobile commercial with a part where the customer is in her dummy studio and states that she wants a phone plan that "...doesn't cost one of these and one of these." while holding up a dummy arm and leg then immediately stating that they are in fact " arm and a leg."
  • A Cheez-It commercial does this with the cheese before it "matures" when a cheesewheel asks, "What do you call cheese that isn't yours? Nacho cheese! Get it? It's not your cheese, but I said 'nacho.'"
  • From a commercial for a certain pizza chain:

Basketball Coach: Now if only Pizza Hut could do something about their free-throw percentage.
Player 1: Hey!
Player 2: What?
Basketball Coach: It's bad.

Anime and Manga

  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has a Running Gag that if anyone comes up behind Miu, she'll throw them. Every single time this occurs, there's a little caption box that says something like "Miu has a habit of throwing anyone standing behind her". It gets to the point that the caption itself is its own Running Gag.
  • In the beginning of the 26th episode of Excel Saga, Excel has an argument with director Nabeshin about making a musical episode (musicals, after all, take a lot of effort to produce). They conduct this argument while singing the melodies of the series' music. At the end of this segment, Hyatt chimes in, noting that it's already a musical (with Hyatt's enigmatic personality, it may be variant 4 or 5, though).
  • Pokémon's dub is absolutely rife with bad puns, and sometimes Lampshades this. "Looks like I'm all in one...PEACE! Haha, see, it's funny, because I'm making a "peace" sign!"
  • Black*Star of Soul Eater sometimes overexplains the meaning of his jokes... which is necessary, because they're pretty incomprehensible.

Comic Books

Fan Works

"llol guys hav u heard this 1 its gr8" ok yes "what did the flamers say 2 tha fanfic writer" "i dont kno wat sakura" "u suck" "haha but then what" she then said bak 2 me "well then the fanfic writer said bak... u guys need 2 stop smoking its bad 4 u!" "LMAO1! I getddit becus the flamers r callded flamers and flames have smoke lol dats funny!"


  • In the first Austin Powers movie, one of the evil spies (an Irishman with a charm bracelet that has a unique trinket on it for every man he kills and is of vital interest to international law enforcement) proclaims "they're always after me lucky charms!" which causes the audience and everyone sitting at the table with him to snicker. He asks why everyone always laughs when he says that, and Frau Farbissina tries to tell him about the commercials. Her ridiculous description of the commercials (in reality an ad-lib that was Thrown In) doesn't help him one bit.
    • The third movie was particularly rotten with this trope. Near the end, it cuts to The Osbournes and has them deconstruct the running gag of people seeing the spaceship and using sexual euphemisms to describe it (and demonstrating it by calling them boobs for doing the same joke twice). A previous scene features a Japanese exec who speaks subtitled Japanese, but parts of the subtitled sentences are blocked by conveniently placed objects to make the remarks look offensive ("Please eat some shittake mushrooms", "Your assignment is an unhappy one", "I have a huge rodent problem."); the scene ends with Austin(who doesn't understand Japanese, so is forced to read the subtitles) finally getting fed up and suggesting that the conversation switches to English to avoid any more misunderstandings, then flashing a big grin.
    • "I like to see girls of that... caliber. By "caliber," of course, I refer to both the size of their gun barrels and the high quality of their characters... Two meanings... caliber... it's a homonym..."
    • The third movie starts right away with this. The joke in the opening is that we're watching an Austin Powers movie starring Tom Cruise, one of the most recognizable humans alive, and the movie helpfully labels him. It does the same to Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito, as well as Gwyneth Paltrow, putting her character's name on screen one second after she said it. Cut away to Steven Spielberg, who is not only in a chair labeled "Steven Spielberg", but is referred to by Austin by name, with his job helpfully mentioned. It gets better. When Austin sees Britney Spears, he helpfully yells, "It's Britney Spears!" Oddly enough, when Quincy Jones appears, he is not introduced, despite being the only one of those cameos the average 2002 moviegoer wasn't likely to know.
      • Not true:

Austin: "Ladies and gentlement, Mr. Quincy Jones! This is where the film gets its mojo baby!"

    • Oh, just choose any Mike Myers film these days.
      • The Love Guru: "Bring me alligator soup, and make it snappy! ...See, 'snappy', because it's 'alligator' soup. And also because I want it 'promptly'." (grins for camera)
  • Although it was a threat instead of a joke, after the sheriff in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves threatens to Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon, his dimwitted henchman Sir Guy of Gisborn doesn't get the comment, so the sheriff says, "Because it's dull, you twit. It'll hurt more!"
  • There is a German movie called Französisch für Anfänger ("French for Beginners") that contains a dialogue that goes something like this:

Boy: French is friggin' boring. And those French people ... selfish, arrogant baguette munchers!
Girl: I guess you won't be getting along with my mother too well ...
Boy: No?
Girl: She's French.

  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: Ron Burgundy plays this well. First he uses subtle innuendo to get across the joke without explaining it. Then he dives right in and explains what everyone was thinking. Despite this, everyone in the film still considers him a smooth individual, making for a third level of funny.

Shelly (former cheerleader): I've got a big story for you, and it's right here. [points to her breasts.]
Ron Burgundy: Well hello... you pointed to your boobies.

    • From the soundtrack of the film:

Ron Burgundy: You know what I'm talking about.... [implied wink]... I'm talking about sexual intercourse.

    • He goes further, in that explaining what he's doing often becomes the joke.

Ron Burgundy: We are laughing and we are very good friends. Good buddies sharing a special moment...
Brian Fantana: Don't say anything Ron and just let it happen.
Ron Burgundy: ...laughing and enjoying our friendship, and someday we'll look back on this with much fondness.
Ron Burgundy: I'm storming your castle on my steed, m'lady.

  • In Epic Movie, a Samuel L. Jackson lookalike says the "muthafucking snakes" line (although a PG-13 variant), and then keeps repeating it instead of getting rid of the snakes. Could have worked (just not in that movie), but then after the third time, he says that the fanboys in the Internet love it when he says it.

So, don't just tell a joke, tell it twice in a row. That way, it's double-funny. Imagine Leslie Nielsen saying, "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley. Because, when you said 'surely', I mistook it to mean that you were calling me by the woman's name 'Shirley'. They sound alike and I became confused."

    • The Soup made fun of Meet the Spartans by making a trailer for Reference Movie, including one girl dressed as Britney Spears saying, "I'm just fighting for custody of my kids, y'all. Get it?"
      • It can be said that this is a staple of Seltzer and Friedberg movies. Part of the reason any comedy value they have is gone is that they feel the need to point out every gag they put into their movies.
  • Up: "It's funny because the squirrel gets dead!"
  • Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth, which is either a parody of a parody or a parody of a parody of a parody (depending on whether you think it's a satire of Scary Movie or just a satire of Scream) has a scene similar to the one in Scream where the Genre Savvy guy actually explains to a loungeroom full of teenagers all the rules about horror movies, in which the redhead girl explains all about Parodies and how they work. Some people could learn something there.
  • The first Harry Potter book contains Hermione's amusing tirade, "We could all have been killed -- or worse, expelled. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to bed." Where Rowling's line, buried in the middle of an angry speech, causes a humorous double-take, the equivalent line in The Film of the Book, written by Steve Kloves, not only emphasizes the joke in a glaringly obvious manner, but explains it as well:

Hermione: I'm going to bed before either of you come [sic] up with another clever idea to get us killed. Or worse...expelled!
Ron: She needs to sort out her priorities.

    • Done a bit too much in the movies, mostly owing to the fact that Harry's observations, while funny in his head, were rather forced when spoken aloud. Another example from the first movie, when Neville gets his Rememberall and it turns red:

Neville: The only problem is, I can't remember what I've forgotten!

  • In Sling Blade, Karl can be thought of as doing this when he tries to tell the joke about the two men pissing off the bridge. He gets the parts of the joke out of order and winds up explaining the joke in a way that kills all the humor.
  • In Predator, Hawkins tells two jokes to Billy about his girlfriend, but since he Cannot Tell a Joke, both times he ends up explaining the punchline when it doesn't get a laugh.
    • It's possible that Billy is messing with Hawkins on both occasions since he sometimes parodies his own role as The Stoic from time to time.
  • The Princess and the Frog has one, though the other character would have genuinely had trouble hearing Naveen.

"Now you're really into the music! Do you get my joke? Since, well, your head, it is in the tuba."

  • The Hangover: Mr. Chow insults Zack Galafinakis and then explains... "It's funny because he's fat!"
  • At the end of The Mummy Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the comic-relief sidekick Jonathan declares that he's going someplace where there aren't any mummies to deal with, and adds, "On to Peru!" A caption then "helpfully" informs us that "Soon thereafter, mummies were discovered in Peru." Like we couldn't have guessed that from the context even if we hadn't already heard of Inca mummies.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has a good example during Scott and Ramona's first date:

Ramona: I just wanted to move somewhere more chill, y'know?
Scott: Well, it's certainly "chill" here!
Ramona: (Smiles) Yeah.
Scott:'s "chill" as in "cold."
Ramona: (Deadpan) Yeah.

    • Additionally:

Todd: Tell it to the cleaning lady on Monday.
Scott: What?
Todd: Because you'll be dust by Monday... because you'll be pulverized in two seconds. The cleaning lady? She cleans up... dust. She dusts.
Scott: So, what's on Monday?
Todd: 'Cause... it's Friday now, she's the weekends off, so... Monday, right?"

Guide [to the camera]: Bad guy falls in poop! Classic element of physical comedy! Now comes the part where we throw our heads back and laugh! Ready?
Other Guides: Ready!
[all burst into laughter]

  • In Get Him to The Greek, there is a song in there by Aldous' ex-wife Jackie Q called "Ring Around My Posy", full of innuendos about anal sex. At the very end she says, "I'm talking about my asshole."
  • In the final spoof trailer for The Muppets Pepe says "It's Twilight. Almost time for Breaking Prawn." Not only does he address the audience "Get it?" but then a narrator explains that Pepe is a shrimp, also called a prawn.


  • Discworld often had characters who after making a pun(e), or other clever word play would usually start to explain the joke before the other character even has the time to react to said joke. Death tends to be the biggest offender—being The Spock of the series. Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs are repeat offenders, too.
    • The Fools Guild, naturally, teaches its students to do this. Its founder, Jean-Paul Pune, perfected the art of pronouncing brackets, as in "Q. When is a door not a door? A. When it's ajar (A. Jar)."
      • The Fool in Wyrd Sisters does this in the middle of a joke: "Marry, nuncle, if'n I had a Knighthood (Night Hood), why 'twould keep my ears Warm in Bedde."
    • Willikins, Sam Vimes' butler, explains a reference in the Ankh-Morpork Times' political cartoon to his employer in Thud!. Considering it's a reference to stakeouts in a cartoon about vampires, lifelong policeman Vimes is the last person to actually need the pun pointed out to him.
    • Witches Abroad. Granny Weatherwax tells a joke, or tries to anyway: "So he said, 'Get me an alligator sandwich -- and be quick about it!'"
    • After much speculation on (it says here), Terry Pratchett explained it thus:

"It is (I hope) obvious that Granny Weatherwax has absolutely no sense of humour but she has, as it were, heard about it. She has no grasp of how or why jokes work -- she's one of those people who say "And then what happened?" after you've told them the punchline. She can vaguely remember the one-liner, "Give me an alligator sandwich -- and make it snappy!" but since she's got no idea of why it's even mildly amusing she gets confused... all that she can remember is that apparently the man wants it quickly."

    • This joke predates Terry Pratchett; on an episode of I Love Lucy we hear Lucy tell a joke about a man ordering chicken "without too much fat," to which the waiter responds, "Which way?"
    • Death has a similar problem with the concept of humor, as seen in this exchange from Hogfather:

Death: Let's get there and sleigh them. Ho. Ho. Ho.
Albert: Right you are, Master.
Death: That was a pune, or play on words, Albert. I don't know if you noticed.
Albert: I'm laughing like hell deep down, sir.

    • The phrase "Pune, or play on words" tends to show up pretty often in Discworld books... presumably the Disc's humorists will eventually come up with a pun which would actually be funny without having to be explained.
      • Because, you know, the jokes are so bad that they aren't funny to anyone else and the people telling the jokes have to explain them.
      • Carrot does this a couple times when writing to home, which makes sense because his parents are dwarves. Dwarves have less of a sense of humor than Granny Weatherwax and think that "Irony" means "something like iron."
    • An even worse example happens in Reaper Man: during a meeting between Ankh-Morpork's various leaders, the Alchemists' Guild master mentions how a piece of lab equipment earlier levitated and shattered, whereupon the representative from the Fool's Guild responds "Verily, it was a sharp retort." No one gets it, he explains the joke, and everyone else makes a forced chuckle. Then the alchemist adds, "What makes it even funnier was that it was an alembic." Argh.
    • In Going Postal, after Moist Von Lipwig cons the city into thinking the gods gave him a ton of cash, his business competitor comments that they will handle this in the newspaper by stating that they are interested in "profits, not prophets." Since he's saying this out loud, no one in the room gets it. He tries to explain the joke by repeating it, but it goes over their heads again, so he sighs and remarks that it will look better in print.
  • The puns in the later Xanth novels are often explained rather than actually showing their pun nature. Take the "Hippo-Crite". Does it actually do things that are hypocritical? No. It just says, "I never mean what I say."
    • Well, since it's a series of books built exclusively on puns, anymore, it's not hard to imagine that Piers Anthony would run out of steam eventually.
      • He did. A lot of the puns are fan-submitted, although some of the setup is still Anthony's.
  • Kurt Vonnegut does this constantly in Breakfast of Champions to emphasize the narration's ironic and misanthropic point of view. He even explains and illustrates things which would be ridiculously familiar even to not very smart readers, which gives the weird impression that readers are not expected to be familiar with life on Earth.
  • Nintendo Power magazine used to do this. Whenever they cracked a Take That joke, they'd always add "That's a joke; we kid the (target attacked)!" One fan letter pointed this out and said that it kills the joke; he should know, he went to a comedy school. NP responds with, "You tell us you took a comedy class and then write us a letter that's not funny? Some comedy teachers you have! That's a joke; we kid your teachers!"
  • Dave Barry briefly indulged in this after receiving one too many letters from people who didn't grasp that he was joking when he wrote something. The rest of the article was written with "closed-captioning for the humor-impaired", in which he explained every single joke he made immediately after making it.
  • Daphne's father in Nation does this, as the narration mentions that this is something no one should ever do not even the king. Then the Gentlemen of Last Resort tactfully explain why the joke still doesn't work, and advise him what change he needs to make for it to make sense.
  • In "First Lord's Fury" of Codex Alera, a joke is flayed to a bloody mess on the carpet:

Antillus: When we get back, you and I are going to have a talk in which you lose your teeth. Because I'm going to knock them out of your head. With my fists.
Phrygia: I think we all understood what you meant at the end of your first sentence, dolt.

  • From Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain:

"You mean...oh, I see now -- how marvelous!" Hans Castorp laughed. "What a jokester you are! 'At half past nine' -- did you hear, cousin? Herr Settembrini is saying that it's too early for some of 'last year's participants' to spend a little time at the ball. Ha, ha, how spooky. He means the people who have finally put aside all 'lusts of the flesh' -- if you know what I mean."

Live-Action TV

  • There was a "don't make the joke at all" example in a David Letterman monologue - close enough. The setup was "President Clinton banged the ceremonial gong". Letterman stopped at this point and said "you don't need my help with this one", then, apparently not happy with the audience response, yelled "'CAUSE HE'S BANGED EVERYTHING ELSE!". See, he ruined it, 'cause it would have been funnier if he'd left it to the imagination.
  • The Daily Show, actor Russell Crowe makes a comment that falls flat with the audience and then remarks, "And the crowd goes mild". After Jon Stewart attempts to correct him on his phraseology Russell is forced to Explain the Joke.
    • Here's the video for the previous entry, starting at about 3:00. It's actually quite painful for John that he didn't get the joke, but he makes a half decent recovery.
    • Here, explaining how "Obama got served".
    • And yet, somehow inverted during Jon's interview with Louis C.K. He began dissecting Toilet Humor during the interview, leaving Jon and the audience in stitches.
  • Father Ted episode "Flight Into Terror" features this example:

Ted: When everything's going OK, I just keep imagining all the terrible things that can happen, but when one of those things actually happens, it's just a rush! I am fearless. Like that film with Jeff Bridges.
Dougal: I haven't seen that one.
Ted: Not a lot of people have, Dougal, so it's probably a bad reference.

    • Ted would often go a bit too far in trying to explain why what Dougal just said was stupid, though Dermott Morgan's delivery would usually make it work as its own joke.
  • Johnny Carson was a master at telling jokes that nobody gets. His sheepish explanation would get the laughs.
  • Happens quite often on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, when Kevin Eubanks doesn't get the joke, and Jay has to take time out to try to explain it. Sometimes Jay just explains the joke even when everybody gets it for some reason.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In the episode "Killed By Death":

Cordelia: Oh, right. Your obsession with protecting Buffy. Have I told you how attractive that's not?
Xander: Cordelia, someone's gotta watch her back.
Cordelia: Yeah, well, I've seen you watch her back.
Xander: What is that supposed to mean?
Cordelia: Well, I was using the phrase "watch her back" as a euphemism for looking at her butt. You know, sort of a pun.
Xander: Oh! Right. Hey!

  • In the episode "Gingerbread":

Cordelia: And If you hang with them, expect badness, 'cause that's what you get when you hang with freaks and losers. Believe me, I know. [begins to walk away, turns back] That was a pointed comment about me hanging with you guys.

  • In "Out of My Mind", Willow teases Buffy about her new-found academic prowess:

Willow: Should I be watching my occipital lobe?
Buffy: Your what?
Willow: Occipital, the lobe in the back of your brain? You know, like, should I be watching my back? But, you know, the back of your brain.
Buffy: Apparently not.

  • Even funnier because the occipital lobe contains the brain's visual processing centers. Which process the watching. Of the back. Of the brain.
  • Taken to extremes by Anya in "Restless", where, in Giles' dream, she takes up stand-up comedy and is so abysmal at it that she has to explain every joke just to get the crowd to laugh.

Anya: And then the duck tells the doctor that there's a man that's attached to my ass! You see, it was the duck and not the man that spoke.

  • In family, the Scoobies are discussing the demon who attacked Buffy the previous episode (later revealed to be Glory, the Big Bad of season 5) and Tara tells a joke that presumably is only funny if you are a Wicca like she is:

Tara: Yes, you learn her source, and we'll introduce her to her insect reflection. (Everyone is confused.) Um... That was funny if you studied Taglarin mythic rites... and are a complete dork.

  • Some viewers looked that up; your "insect reflection" is your recognition of your smallness in the scope of the unimaginable vastness of the universe, like a single ant in comparison to the entire earth. Once you realize this, you will suddenly see how insignificant your existence (and human life in general) is in the grand scheme of things. Exactly why Tara finds such a thing amusing, well, clearly only she knows.
  • The Big Bang Theory does this all the time, mostly via Sheldon. Like when he summarizes the entire point of one episode:

Sheldon: It's the juxtaposition of the high-tech nature of space exploration against the banality of a malfunctioning toilet that provides the comic fodder here. [beat, then his weird laugh]

    • Plus, he notes all of his own "hilarious pranks" with his Catch Phrase "Bazinga!"
  • Bill Maher sometimes feigns a halfhearted explanation of a joke, if there's not enough laughter. Sometimes he still does this when there is (to more laughter).
  • On one episode of Muppets Tonight, there was Seymour and Pepe's attempt at telling the "Elefino" joke, which is made even funnier by the diagrams and placards they use to explain it. The audience still doesn't get it.
  • In the Doctor Who Christmas Episode "The End Of Time", the Doctor locks the TARDIS by pointing the key at it, at which point it chirps, and the light on top flashes. He then rather desperately tries to explain to Ood Sigma (The Comically Serious) why this is funny.

Doctor: Like a car? You see? I locked it ... like a car ...

    • There's a rare straight example in the last story of the original series, "Survival", where a shopkeeper fails to understand the joke his friend is telling him, about two friends confronted by a lion, and the Doctor explains "He doesn't have to outrun the lion, only his friend. Then the lion will catch his friend and eat him."
  • A variation on Angel: the Host (who has green skin) tells everyone his name is Lorne, but he doesn't like to use it for obvious reasons.

Angel: Right, like Lorne Greene!
(The others stare at him blankly.)
Angel:You know, from Bonanza.
(The others keep staring at him blankly.)
Angel: Come on, that show had 15 seasons!
(The others keep staring at him blankly.)
Angel: ...I feel old.

Robin: I got highlights.
Ted: Oh, for the waiting room of your dental practice? [awkward pause] Highlights is a children's magazine.

    • And when Barney hits on a girl in a hula dancer costume at Halloween:

Barney: So, what does a guy have to do to get laid around here?
Hula Girl: Riiight. 'Cause I'm wearing a lei. (walks away from him)
Barney: (angrily) It's not funny if you explain the joke!

  • Used often in Monk, such as in this example from the episode "Mr. Monk Gets Lotto Fever":

Disher: Glad you like numbers, Billy. You're gonna be wearing some numbers on your shirt.
Murderer of the Week: Is that right?
Disher: And they won't be lottery numbers.
Murderer: I get it.
Disher: 'Cause you're going to prison.
Murderer: Yeah, I get it.

  • Martin from Frasier does this sometimes -- "Tomorrow, I'm going to the birthday party of one of my old friends from the force, he'll be 16... Because you see, tomorrow's the 29th of February... It only comes every four years... He's really 64..."
    • "The previous act was a guy with a parrot -- Sargent Joe and Officer Chirpy. Dick Chirpy was one of the finest men I ever worked with... Did you see what I did? Chirpy sounds like it would be the parrot but it's actually the man... Dick Chirpy, you see, you'd think he'd be Sargent Joe... Joe is the parrot."
    • When Frasier and Martin realize that they can't stand to live together without Daphne around:

Martin: You know how an Oreo has that soft creamy filling between two hard cookies? That's what keeps them together?
Frasier: See your point, Dad.
Martin: Daphne's kind of the centre.
Frasier: I'll go and talk to her.
Martin: Now, you and me, we'd be the cookie part.
Frasier: I get it!

  • Spaced: "So it wasn't so much an Eskimo roll, as a case of rolling right Inuit!" (blank look) (Delivered in the same tone) "Inuit's another word for Eskimo!"
  • Norm Macdonald as Burt Reynolds in the Celebrity Jeopardy sketches on Saturday Night Live finds an over-sized cowboy hat backstage. "It's funny. It's funny because it's ah, bigger than, know, a normal hat." Darrel Hammond's impersonation of Sean Connery did this frequently:

Alex Trebek: Where did you get that magic marker? We frisked you in on the way in here.
Sean Connery: I didn't have it in my pocket.
Alex Trebek: That's disgusting. Please.
Sean Connery: I bet if you frisked me, you would have found it.
Alex Trebek: All right, that's enough.
Sean Connery: Because I was keeping it in my butt.

Norm Macdonald: Who are safer drivers? Men, or women? Well, according to a new survey, 55% of adults feel that women are most responsible for minor fender-benders, while 78% blame men for most fatal crashes. Please note that the percentages in these pie graphs do not add up to 100% because the math was done by a woman.
[uneasy laughter, groans]
Norm Macdonald: For those of you hissing at that joke, it should be noted that that joke was written by a woman. So, now you don't know what the hell to do, do you?
[laughter increases]
Norm Macdonald: Nah, I'm just kidding. We don't hire women. [riotous laughter and applause]

Jake: What are you doing in Amanda's apartment?
Wayne: Hi Jake. Jake, I'm, ah, I'm the new handyman.
Jake: What do you mean?
Wayne: You know, I'm unclogging her pipes.
Jake: What are you getting at?
Wayne: I've been having sexual intercourse with Amanda, repeatedly in different positions for many, many hours.
Jake: What are you trying to say?

    • John Cleese and Michael Palin explained the main premise of the Dead Parrot sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus while performing it on Saturday Night Live. Fans of the sketch probably seem to think it is surreal due to a) not understanding British culture and b) not understanding that customer service is much, much better now than it was when the sketch was originally made.
      • Case in point, the parrot itself is not actually that important to the sketch. A sketch with the same premise was written for another show by Graham Chapman and John Cleese about a car.
      • Palin and Cleese Lampshaded this in a live performance when Palin handed Cleese a full refund immediately, leaving Cleese dumbfounded and saying, "You can't say Thatcher hasn't changed some things."
  • Frequently done by Conan O'Brien, in a high pitch laugh as a follow-up to a joke that no one in their right mind could possibly not get in under a second, as if the joke required any amount of explaining. "BECAUSE HE'S FAT!"
    • Which he'll re-explain, quickly. if one of the following jokes bombs. "--becauseshe'sfat.
    • According to a DVD commentary, back when Conan worked on The Simpsons, he pitched that if a joke was obscure and might not work, his head would appear on the scene for a split second to explain the joke.
  • Bo Burnham spends a large chunk of his raps explaining the rapid-fire jokes that make them up, from why a girl dating a "large" man should wear African neck rings to interrupting a love song portraying him as a southern aristocrat in a relationship with one of his slaves to explain that he'd still have to work her full time because "there's a difference between romantic language and complete disregard for socio-economic trends."
  • Played with several times on Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the characters (usually Servo or Crow) would sheepishly explain a joke or Pun that they knew was bad.
  • From No Heroics:

The Hotness: I've got a risotto to heat up, and there's a certain little lady called Vicci who wants to play with fire... by that, I mean my cock and balls.

  • The Drew Carey Show When Larry is forced to play Santa he suggests that store visitors would enjoy seeing him "unwrap his package." When Mimi doesn't like the idea, he helpfully explains that "when I said 'unwrapping my package' I meant 'expose myself!'" On another episode, Drew attends the wedding of Nicki, his former fiancee. In a toast Nicki's dad mentions that she's been involved with

losers, characters, and ne'er-Drew-wells. I mean ne'er-Drew-wells. [points to Drew] Hell, I mean that guy right there.

  • On Filthy Rich & Catflap, deluded failed light entertainer Richie Rich makes a poor joke implying that his minder, Eddie Catflap smells. When Eddie remains silent, Richie feels the need to explain the joke ("Because you're so smelly.") Eddie bluntly responds that he got the joke, he just didn't think it was a very good one. Hence the lack of laughter.
  • In an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Max embarrassed herself repeatedly during student body presidential elections by trying to get people to laugh at her burns against Cody by explaining them.
  • On The Rotten Tomatoes Show, while reviewing the baseball movie Sugar, Brett Erlich says "And he tries to steal home, if you know what I mean. By having sex with her."
  • Leverage does this, in "The Runway Job". And if Parker thinks you're going too far, you already did:

Eliot: Dated a lot of models. Lot of private fashion shows, if you know what I mean.
Parker: Yes, yes.
Eliot: Most of the dresses ended up on the ground.
Parker: Yup, I get it, you're a guy.
Eliot: It means they were naked.
Parker: Okay, seriously?

  • On Pushing Daisies, Olive knows that Lily is actually Chuck's mother and talks to her at a convent:

Lily: This place knows things about me nobody knows.
Olive: You mean that you holidayed here thirty years ago and found a baby in a cabbage patch? And by cabbage patch, I mean your lady parts?

  • Anytime someone tells a joke on Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, it'll probably end up like this, probably with Thornton delivering the over-done line. For instance, in an episode where a character is killed by a screwdriver:

Sanchez: Let's all go for a drink.
Liz: As long as it's not a screwdriver!
(everybody laughs)
Thornton: I'd prefer a beer!

  • A certain skit on The Kids in The Hall featured Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley as a burlesque comedy duo, with Dave's character as the overly literalist straight-man. Two lines into Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine, Dave's character interrupts and says, "Oh, I see what your problem is! You're confused by their names because they all sound like questions!" and proceeds to go on spouting excessively detailed descriptions of all the baseball player names.

Kevin: So, I understand you manage a baseball team!
Dave: No, I'm a vaudevillain.

  • In an episode of House, Cameron attempts to imitate House by holding his red coffee mug, leaning on the white board and asking "Foreman, are you going to contribute? Or are you too busy stealing cars?" Everyone one stares at her blankly, prompting her to say, "I'm being House. It's funny."
  • In an episode of Top Gear, the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car was asked if he knew Tom Cruise well. The response was a rather clever joke about not knowing him well because of attending different churches. After getting a respectful nod from Jeremy Clarkson, the guest then proceeded to ruin his own joke by adding "I'm in the one with Jesus, baby."
  • From Star Trek: The Next Generation, when LaForge is telling a joke to Data, the android.

LaForg: the guy staggers to his feet, and goes back to the girl, right? Well, she smiles, looks him straight in the eye, and says, "Just try that in hyperspace!"
(LaForge laughs while Data remains silent)
Data: I see. So the difficulty in attaining such complex positioning in a zero gravity environment, coupled with the adverse effects on the psychological well-being of the average human male is what makes this anecdote so amusing! Yes. Very humorous, indeed. Hysterical, in fact.

    • But then, Data is well known for literally not having a sense of humor, so his failure to get the joke is, in fact, the joke. (Which, of course, makes one wonder why LaForge tried telling him a joke in the first place.)
      • Another example took place in the Voyager episode "Workforce", where the crew is brainwashed by an alien society and used as part of its...well, yeah

Jaffen: ...So, the man kept making these rude comments - all of them about my father - and he couldn't figure out why I wasn't insulted. Finally, I just had to tell him I'm Norvalian; I don't have a father.
Tuvok: (laughs raucously)
Jaffen: It wasn't that funny, Tuvok.
Tuvok: On the contrary! The man was ignorant of how your species procreates. His attempt to disparage you ultimately humiliated him. Irony is often a source of humor.
Jaffen: Well, when you put it that wasn't funny at all...

  • On Bones, Temperance Brennen has long had trouble understanding humor. So when she does understand a joke, she's quick to point out to anyone, including the teller of the joke, why it's humorous. For example, in the episode "The Predator in the Pool," she asks FBI Supervisory Special Agent Andrew Hacker if he is allowed to date her (due to regulations prohibiting relationships between agents and consultants). Hacker says he got permission, from himself:

Hacker: In fact, I not only granted permission, but I insisted that I see you socially.
Bones: (Pauses, then laughs.) That's funny, because you're satirizing bureaucratic rules by adhering to the letter of the regulations instead of the spirit of it. (Laughs again.)

  • Every episode of The Vicar of Dibley ended with Geraldine telling Alice a joke, which Alice would completely misinterpret and Geraldine would have to explain.
    • In the episode that ends with Alice and Hugo on their honeymoon, Geraldine tells David the joke, then starts explaining it out of habit even though he already laughed.
    • The final episode of the entire series throws in a subversion. Once again Alice doesn't get the joke or Geraldine's attempts to explain, but then the camera pans back to reveal Geraldine's new husband, Harry, who very drily explains the actual mechanics of the joke's humour (in just about the most unfunny way possible). Alice finally gets it and bursts into hysterical laughter, leaving Geraldine speechless with disbelief.
  • The Young Ones featured an episode where their house was invaded by a vampire. Mikel tried phoning Battersea Dog's Home to help, Ric suggested he should have gone for Doggersea Bat's Home. Cue half a minute of wrangling as Ric tried to explain why that joke worked.
  • In Warehouse 13 when Pete learns that Artie has used an artifact to regrow his appendix about once a year in order to have an excuse to meet Vanessa, the cute Warehouse doctor.

Pete: If only there were some way for you to... interact... with Vanessa, that did not involve invasive surgery. Perhaps some kind of... I don't know... social ritual... one involving the charing of food or the enjoying of... filmed entertainment with mayby some duds that have been milked. Beat] I mean a date.
Artie: I know what you mean!

Greg: So a man with a wooden eye walks into a bar and as you can imagine he feels very self conscious--
Mr. Montgomery (astutely): Because he had a wooden eye!

  • In a season four Criminal Minds episode, "Masterpiece", Dr Spencer Reid attempts to explain a joke that totally bombs:

Reid: (to a lecture hall full of college students) How many existentialists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Rossi: Don't.
Reid: (smiles at Rossi in attempted reassurance) Two. One to change the lightbulb and one to observe how it symbolizes an incandescent beacon of subjectivity in a netherworld of cosmic nothingness. (Reid laughs, everyone else in the room is silent) Um, an existentialist will question -
Rossi: Okay! Before he does his quantum physics knock-knock joke...

  • In Scrubs, after Elliot accidentally gives a patient an orgasm during an exam:

J.D.: I've never heard a woman make sounds like that before.
Elliot: Oh, I'm sure you haven't.
Turk: (laughing) See, it's funny because you've never really satisfied a woman.

  • Daniel Tosh violated this rule on his show when he showed a picture of dozens of Chinese packed shoulder to shoulder into a swimming pool. He said that that must be the shallow end. "(Beat) Get it? Because they're short!"
  • Radio Rochela had the "Felix Gonzalito" sketches. The setup of the sketch is that the titular Felix Gonzalito (interpreted by the late Pepeto López) is called by his boss (interpreted by the late Martha Piñango), so she could tell him a joke (usually a very lame one), and then order him to laugh at it. Invariably, Felix Gonzalito never gets the joke, so in an attempt to understand it he begins to ask increasingly bizarre questions about the joke and its punchline, ultimately exasperating his boss to the point of her trowing him out of the office, which the sketch ending with the very baffled man not understanding what he did wrong.

Felix Gonzalito: Pero si uno no pregunta, ¿cómo aprende? [1]


  • The Basement Jaxx song "Oh My Gosh", A girl sings about a guy she's met (not that THAT narrows it down, but, you know); their conversation at one point goes:

He said "how many sugars do you like in your tea?"
I said "Forget about the sugar, have a spoonful of me!
'Cause I taste so sweet!"

  • As this blog post points out, rappers in general are prone to explaining their own jokes in-song, much to the disdain of the blogger.

Biggie: "If Fay' have twins, she’ll probably have two ‘Pacs ...Get it? Two...Pacs?"

Keep on finding gold and jewels, just lay off the quack.
Off the quack! It’s a pun and it’s about ducks.

  • "It's Halloween!" by Songs to Wear Pants To: In one verse Andrew is listing off costume-appropriate treats to hand out, which ends with:

Swine flu guy gets some bacon strips
And for the robot, a bag of really small chips
Get it? It's a joke about microchips...

  • "Smell The Color 9" by Christian singer Chris Rice, in which he compares trying to find God for oneself to attempting the song title. At the very end, he sings "Nine's not a color, and even if it were, you can't smell a color. That's my point exactly."
    • But you can smell a color (or even associate a number with a color) if you have synesthesia.

Newspaper Comics

  • The Far Side had its infamous Cow Tools cartoon, which absolutely zero people got. Gary Larson ended up having to explain it (which can be viewed on the Cow Tools page). Of course, all the debate over it ended up boosting Larson's circulation.
  • Dilbert creator Scott Adams once released a compilation called Its Not Funny If I have to Explain It.
    • Let me explain the irony in that title: it's a compilation of strips, each one commented by the creator. Get it?
  • The upcoming treasury collections of the legendary comic strip Bloom County will probably runneth over this trope. Since much of the humor is a product of the 1980's, the collections will include "context pages" to help explain the cultural and political references to anyone born after the Reagan administration. Because of that, it might be born out of necessity to explain the background of the Meadowcrats...
    • Not wanting to have to explain the joke was a huge factor in Breathed's decision to let the collections go out of print and not release any further reprintings.
  • Bloom County also had an in-universe example (although again, it makes more sense to the reader when you remember it was released in 1984). In one strip, Steve Dallas, who is representing Bill the Cat, who has been arrested for selling secrets to the Soviets, asks a guy at the FBI building just what these secrets were:

FBI guy: Secrets? (looks at clipboard) The Secret of the Sierra Madre, the secret recipe for Coke, and the secret of George Bush's appeal.
Steve: Secret of George Bush's appeal?
FBI guy: Yep.
Steve: George Bush doesn't have any appeal.
FBI guy: (frantic) Well, that's the secret![2]

  • In April 26,2012, a spider about to be swatted said it was okay as long as Garfield didn't sit on it and then explained he said it because Garfield was fat.

Professional Wrestling

  • Believe it or not, the subtitles that explain what is going on is beneficial to the Botchamania series. As a lot of the clips (botches) are taken from some of WCW's older stuff, explaining the context of the match, stipulations, etc. help the viewer understand why it's considered a botch in the first place (it should; this IS old WCW, after all.)
    • Plus Maffew explaining the joke sometimes underscores the hilarious inanity of segments ("THEY BRAWL OUTSIDE IN A CAGE MATCH")


Jon Culshaw: (as Alan Sugar, as the coroner in the Diana inquest) "Your task was to try to prove a conspiracy by Prince Philip to kill Diana. You've offered no real evidence and wasted my time. I have no choice - You're Fayed!
Hugh Dennis: You see? Because it sounds like "fired"! Fayed! It's his name!

  • Used in Fags, Mags and Bags:

Rameesh: Ted, do you like kids.
Ted: Yeah... but I couldn't eat a whole one! You get it? I'm implying that I eat children!

Grytpype: That would certainly deter them.
Seagoon: Yes. They'd have to make a detour. Hahahahahaha! Get it? Detour? Hahahahaha! ...ahem.

Recorded and Stand-up Comedy

  • Subverted by Craig Shoemaker, who will find a young person in the audience and explain the older jokes (like his Barney Fife impression) to them, making age jokes at their expense.


  • In Mary, Mary after Mary and Bob light their cigarettes, they both exclaim, "Mmmm--that's real coffee!" Tiffany is puzzled by this, and demands an explanation of this private joke:

Bob: We once heard this announcer on television. It was late at night and I suppose the poor joker was confused from having to talk about so many products all day. Anyway, he started to do a cigarette commercial. He sucked in and smiled and said "Mmmm---that's real coffee." (Tiffany does not react) You see, it wasn't worth going into.

  • This article criticises Spamalot for explaining a joke (which wasn't explained in the original film), and thus going against the whole point of Pythonesque humour.
  • The play Picasso At The Lapin Agile features a joke about a man who walks into a bakery to order a pie shaped like the letter "E". When everyone doesn't get it, Einstein has to explain why they had to use the letter E by explain why they didn't use most of the letters, such as a C-shaped pie is the same in capital and lowercase, and an O-shaped pie is basically a regular pie. He says he'll get back to D, but never does... maybe because a D-shaped pie is basically half a pie.

Video Games

  • Whoever wrote the cutscenes for the earlier Harry Potter games had a tendency to murder J. K. Rowling's wit by reformatting her jokes into the most obvious, overstated manner possible. Combined with the bad voice acting and the occasional Captain Obvious moments ("This leads to the dungeons."), the result borders on So Bad It's Good.
  • Ernie Steele from Backyard Sports does Variant 2 a lot.
  • Mega Man Star Force has a "Don't Explain the Insult" variant at the beginning of the satillite admins segment of the first game, when Geo gets pissed off at Luna for following him everywhere and trying to get him to go to school, and calls her a "satellite". Luna doesn't get it, so Geo tells her what he meant, also adding that it's a play on her name.
  • Portal, in the end credits song.

GLaDOS: Maybe you'll find someone else to help you. Maybe Black Mesa... THAT WAS A JOKE. HA HA. FAT CHANCE.

  • Portal 2 has both antagonists pull this one on separate occasions. GLaDOS because she's a Deadpan Snarker and Wheatley because he's genuinely stupid. The latter is adorned with heavy Lampshade Hanging.

GLaDOS: Remember in the last test chamber when I was talking about smelly garbage taking up space? I'm sorry, but that was a metaphor. I was talking about you. You didn't react at the time, so I wasn't sure that you understood, which would have made this apology sound insane. That's why I had to call you garbage a second time just now.
Wheatley: You [...] are going to love this big surprise. In fact, you're going to love it to death. Love it until you're dead -- until it kills you. I don't know if you're picking up on what I'm saying...
GLaDOS: Yes, thanks, we get it. [later] Alright, so he's not even trying to be subtle anymore. Or maybe he still is, in which case, wow, that's kind of sad.

  • Super Mario Galaxy 2: "I'm on cloud control! Ha ha! Get it? Instead of "crowd," I said... Aww, never mind."
  • The Wii version of Sonic Colors plays this out right for laughs:

Eggman: "Nothing will stop me now!I know I said that before but really, this time nothing will stop me!"
Orbot: Er...boss..."

  • Orbot points to behind him. The camera pulls back to reveal Sonic.*

Sonic: "Who you calling nothin'?"
Cubot: * Scratches head* "Huh...?"
Orbot: "Since the boss said nothing's going to stop him and Sonic here is going to stop him, it's basically like the boss is calling Sonic nothing.
Sonic: "Great! I though no one would get that!"

Moe: "What are showing me that for? It's not like it's going to LORE Y'A to the truth! HA HA HA"
Maya: "What...?"
Moe: "You know? "LORE Y'AA"
Maya: "Oh! I get it! You know Nick? Your a lawyer and he said LORE Y'AA! It fits in to both his sentence and the context of the people his talking to as well!
Phoenix: "Ok! I get it! (Geez! Don't explain the joke! Expectingly if it as bad as that one!)

    • Though the first game itself really had a problem with underestimating the player's ability to recognize its myraid Punny Names. Thankfully this stopped in the sequels.
  • A random conversation between Joker and EDI in Mass Effect 3 has Joker telling her a joke about a krogan and a salarian. When he's finished, EDI breaks this rule and then proceeds to dissect the stereotypes behind the joke.

Web Comics

Belkar: Get it? Because he said "Fire!" and then you used a "Fire"-ball, and now they're all dead!
Eye of Fear and Flame: Yes, sir. Very funny, sir. Please don't hurt me.

Crimson 57: We'd like to apologize beforehand, in case this causes any inconvenience.
Eeb #2: Hey, that's funny! Because one would think that getting melted alive was more than just an "inconvenience".
Crimson 57: No, it was funny until you explained the joke.

Web Original

  • The Nostalgia Critic falls into this all of the time when targeting comedies, oftentimes substituting explaining a joke rather than pointing out why it isn't funny. This is most blatant in his review of the Super Mario Brothers movie when he calls out the movie's use of a Who's on First? joke by asking whether or not it's supposed to be a Who's on First? joke.
  • Carson Baye was a particularly unpopular character in Survival of the Fittest V3 due to his habit of referencing anime, then immediately explaining the references. Although, there were a number of other (mostly out of character) reasons for this too.
  • Homestar Runner goes through several layers of this, along with an implied Type 1 and unnecessary Lampshade Hanging, when Strong Bad reads through a computer catalog.

Catalog (as read by Strong Bad): The Roomy-Vac is a real power-HOUSE... Get it? Oh, you don't? Well, because it's the size of a... Oh, you were kidding? You do get it? Pretty good, huh? No?
Strong Bad: Why would they print that whole exchange?

  • In The Guild, season 1 episode 3 "The Macro Problem"

Zaboo: You like my helm ? It's + 5 sexterity... Get it ? It's like "dexterity" but... with "sex", in the front. Like a prefix... I'm kind of a linguist.

Captain Hammer: 'Cause she's with Captain Hammer. And these -- [lifts fists] -- are not the hammer. [walks out]
Dr. Horrible: ...
Captain Hammer: [walks back in] ...The hammer is my penis.

Joey: "Man, that is one girl I'd like to play card games with. And by "play card games" I mean "have sex"."

    • Bakura in Episode 18. "Run while you can mortal, soon I will rule the world, and then we'll see who smells. (pause) It'll be you!"
    • Also Kaiba in Episode 21, while inside a computer simulation: "Time for a trip to the recycle bin, Phantom. And then once you're in the recycle bin, I'm going to right click on it and select "empty recycle bin". Because otherwise, you'll just be taking up unnecessary space. In other words, I'm going to kill you."
    • A failed example that wasn't intentional is when Tristan's voice changes, and Joey later punches him when he insults his fighting ability. According to Joey, "Ever since your voice changed you've been like a completely different person." He then continues with "Actually, you've been like the same person, just with a completely different voice".
    • "It is funny because "wang" means "penis"."
    • Marik combines this with Late to the Punchline after Melvin telling Bakura 'I always knew you wanted me inside you Bakura'.

Marik: Oh I get it he was implying that you wanted me to sleep with you.

Goku: Hey, King Kai.
King Kai: What the hell, Goku?
Goku: I just realised. While trying to introduce the blooper special, we're making bloopers for it. Isn't that funny?
King Kai: No. No it's not.

    • Also this pretty blatant (but hilarious) example:

Vegeta: Now it's time to reveal my giant monkey... [camera over his crotch, crowd gasps]...form [camera pans to face. Crowd sighs in relief].
Man in Crowd: Thank God, I thought he meant penis!

    • On Fake Namek the imposters get confused by their own plan, leading to the comment "It's funny because 'wang' means 'penis'."
    • In the Bardock special Zarbon had one.

Frieza: Oh forget about it, he's already on a direct course for Planet S.O.L.
Zarbon: ...Planet what?
Frieza: [long-suffering sigh] Planet-
Bardock: Vegeta!

    • One time, explaining the joke turned out to be the setup to another joke:

Krillin: Geez, these aliens are scary. Especially that one in the front-looks like a total fag.
Gohan: Krillin!
Krillin: What? A Freaky Alien Genotype. What'd you think I meant?
Gohan: Oh. I thought you were calling him a derogatory term for a homosexual.

Joseph: Do you know where the building in this photo is?
Bartender: Depends. Do you know where my foot will be if you don't order anything?
Joseph: (sigh) Alright, we'll have four iced teas-
Bartender: It will be up your ass. Just saying.

Fartinidus: Spartans! My name is Fartinidus, which is a clever play on the name of the hero from the movie Meet the Spartans, which in turn was making fun of Leonidas, from the movie 300, which was popular.
Random Everygirl: Wait! I'm just a lonely single girl trying to make it in the big city! You see I used to be quite comically overweight, but then my cowboy friend gave me a makeover! He's gay! Like in that movie, Brokeback Mountain!"
Bitterman: I have a confession--I'm not actually a gay cowboy. I'm actually...a space alien! It's a twist, like in an M. Night Shyamalan movie!"

How could a comic that incorporated any of the following panels not be funny? Somehow, Garfield manages. And the secret, it turns out, is through overkill: Here, the punchline is set up twice and delivered twice (visually and through dialogue).

Western Animation

Chief Wiggum: Save it, Ma Peddle.
Lou: Ma Peddle?
Chief Wiggum: It's a reference to Ma Kettle, a movie character from the 1940s.
Lou: Chief, if you have to explain it, it's not very good.

  • Inverted in "The Last Temptation of Krust" during the family's visit to a comedy club.

Comedian: I finally got around to reading the dictionary. Turns out the zebra did it.
[crowd laughs]
Homer: I don't get it.
Lisa: Dad, the zebra didn't do it, it's just a word at the end of the dictionary.
Homer: I still don't get it.
Lisa: It's just a joke.
Homer: Oh, I get it! I get jokes! [laughing]

  • This is a legitimate technique to recover from flat jokes in real long as your audience is aware of this scene.
  • And there's the time Skinner and Chalmers try to do Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine, with Skinner (in Costello's part even) explaining exactly what the gag is at the first opportunity.

Chalmers: "Well, Seymour, it seems we've put together a baseball team, and I was wondering; who's on first?"
Skinner: "Yes, not the pronoun, but rather a player with the unlikely name of 'Who', is on first!"
Chalmers: "Well, that's just great, Seymour. We've been out here six seconds and you've already managed to blow the routine!"

    • This excerpt from "McBain: Let's Get Silly":

McBain: You ever notice how men always leave the toilet seat up? <pauses, but nobody laughs> That's the joke.
Heckler: You suck, McBain! <McBain machine guns the crowd>

  • From "Girls Just Want to Have Sums":

Bart: I can finally walk around with Bart Jr. out. <pulls out frog and kisses it>
<Bart Jr. croaks; subtitles read "I thought he meant his penis.">

  • From "I'm Going to Praiseland":

Wiggum: This place is more like "Crazeland" <confused murmurs from crowd>. Instead of "Praiseland" <crowd gets it>
Moe: It's a play on words.

  • In "Homer the Moe", Homer is in charge of Moe's Tavern briefly, and ends up taking one of Bart's prank calls.

Bart: Uh, yeah, I'd like to speak to a Mr. Tabooger, first name Ollie
Homer: Ooh, Bart, my first prank call! What do I do?
Bart: Just ask if anyone knows Ollie Tabooger
Homer: I don't get it
Bart: Yell out "I'll eat a booger"
Homer: What's the gag?
Bart: Oh, forget it...

Sokka:Wait! I got it! He's an earthbender, right? So, what about. . . Rocky! You know? Because of all the rocks?

  • Sokka also gives us this gem:

Aang: Hey guys, I think this river is polluted.
Sokka: Well that explains why I can't catch a fish around here. Because normally my fishing skills are off the hook... Get it? Like a fishing hook.
Toph: Too bad your skills aren't *on* the hook.

  • In Robot Chicken, they likewise allude to this Abbott and Costello routine with a shot of The Fourth Doctor from "Doctor Who" standing on first base eventually waving exasperatedly "Do you get it?!" ...Which is more like alluding that there's a joke present without saying what it is.
  • In the Danny Phantom episode Shades of Gray, Danny needlessly explains the joke "Who let the dogs in?". Embarassed, he goes ghost, and Sam shouts at him to bring back better jokes.
  • Fozzie on Muppet Babies killed his already tepid jokes by explaining them.
  • Occasionally done by O'Farrell on Fillmore!. This one followed a Chase Scene in which the perp was caught with a roll of bubble wrap.

O'Farrell: I'd say you two wrapped this case up rather nicely. Bubble wrap, that is! Get it? It's basically a play on the word "wrap"...

Kuzco: Okay, I admit it. Maybe I wasn't as nice as I should have been, but, Yzma, do you really want to kill me?
Yzma: Just think of it as, you're being let go, that your life's going in a different direction, that your body's part of a permanent outplacement.
Kronk: Hey, that's kinda like what he said to you when you got fired!
Yzma: I know. It's called a 'cruel irony' -- like my dependence on you.

  • A similar thing happens in Bolt.

Mittens: That wasn't the deal! We had a deal!
Bolt: The deal just expired.
Pigeon: She said the same thing to me not ten minutes ago! The irony!

  • On Arthur, the eponymous character was called upon to decide where the family should take their trip. Arthur decided upon Washington, D.C.:

Arthur's father: That's a capital idea! (chuckles) Washington's the nation's capital.
Arthur: We got it the first time, Dad.

  • Another scene had Arthur's father tell a joke to Muffy's parents. The viewers come in when he delivers the punchline: "The snail said, 'Look At that S-car go!" He proceeded to explain that "S-car go" sounds like "escargot," the French word for, "snails." Muffy's father replies that he already knew that, but still didn't find the joke funny.
  • One of the most frequent criticisms of Family Guy is that it explains the jokes; for example, during the FCC song:

And if you find yourself with some young sexy thing,
You'll have to do her with your ding-a-ling!
...'Cause you can't say "penis."

  • This might be a subversion though, since the explanation is probably funnier than the joke itself.
  • He's saying you can't say penis. On TV. While saying penis. On TV.
  • In one episode, Brian catches a rerun of One Day At a Time. Mocking Schneider's comic schtick, he announces that he's there to:

Fix your sink Ms. Romano, and by "fix your sink" I mean I'll have sex with you, and by "I have sex with you" I mean I'll fix your sink. And by "sink" I mean your reproductive organ. And by, "reproductive organ" I mean the thing between your knees, and by "the thing between your knees"? I... I guess that one's kind of self-explanatory.
Brian: Woo! Damn, Schneider; what won't you say?!

Guy: Hey, Fouad, can I buy you a cup of coffee?
Fouad: Ho, ho, ho, yes, it's funny cause it's free... anyone can have.
Guy: That's right...
Fouad: Ohhh ho ho ho!
Guy: That's the joke.
Peter: I think Fouad is an illegal immigrant. I cannot stand by while he steals wages and opportunities from citizens. I mean this is an American company, you don't see Nike or Microsoft or General Motors or Ford or Boeing or Coca Cola or Kellogs profiting from non American labor.
Fouad: Ohhh ho ho ho... it's funny because they all do!

  • In the episode where Stewie goes to the performing arts school, his antagonist Olivia puts down a performance of his by giving an appraisal: "You are the weakest link. Goodbye." Stewie then expounds very sarcastically about how totally not grossly misapplied, inappropriate, and uncreative it was (in an attempt to shame her and castrate the comment).
  • "I don't know who to feel worse for, Meg or the pig!" "I feel worse for the pig!"
  • Lampshaded In the episode "Screwed the Pooch" when Peter is playing poker with Carter and his celebrity friends.

Michael Eisner Are aces high or low?
Peter: They go both ways.
Bill Gates: He said they go both ways!
(Eveybody starts laughing)
Ted Turner: Like a bisexual!
Michael Eisner: Thank you Ted, that was the joke.

  • Dug the dog from Up gives us a particularly hilarious example: "Hey, I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, 'I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead.' Ha! It is funny because the squirrel gets dead."
  • A diner worker in Garfield and Friends: "No more burgers until I see some lettuce, cat. It is money to which I refer."
  • John Kennedy from Clone High, who often used the joke type: "I'd like to X her Y....and by Y, I mean SEX!"
  • From American Dad:

Klaus: I'd buy you ten muffin kiosks if I still had my human body. I'd do lots of things if I still had my human body. Because, you know, I'd have a penis.

Stan (showing Steve his favourite example of wood-burning): "'You Want It When?'" (laughs) "'You Want It When?'! Get it? It expresses disbelief at an unreasonable deadline."

  • Also happens in "Can't Stan You," when Stan convinces the government to force his neighbors out of their houses.
  • Played for laughs with Steve a few times through "Live and Let Fry:"

Stan: That's what transfat is? The stuff that makes everything taste wonderful? Why doesn't the city council just declare war on flavor?! Like the English did years ago.
Steve: (Aside to Francine) Their food is atrocious.
Francine: I miss Lady Di.
Steve: (Aside to Stan) She was the people's princess--

  • From Superjail

Prisoner: Hey Gary, I got a worm for your right here... I'm talking about my penis...

  • Bird then tears off the guy's penis so he and Gary can eat it.

Cartman: Eh, too bad drinking scotch isn't a paying job, or else Kenny's dad would be a millionaire. [Silence] I said your dad would be a millionaire, get it?! Kenny?! Your family is poor, Kenny!! Your family's poor!!!

  • Several of the Intervention-style captions in "Crippled Summer": "Mimsy has put the black mamba snake in the wrong canoe"; "Nathan's frustration with Mimsy has caused a momentary lapse in judgment. He has played the B flat himself, thus causing his plan to literally backfire on him."
  • Zapp Brannigan of Futurama does this a lot. But there are several others:
    • The crew watching a broadcast about Mom.

Announcer: And now, the woman who Momopolizes the robot industry...
Fry: I get it!
Announcer: ..."Mom"!!
Fry: Ohhhh, now I get it!

  • and...

Bender: You may have to metaphorically make a Deal with the Devil. And by 'devil', I mean 'Robot Devil', and by 'metaphorically', I mean 'get your coat'.

  • In the third short of the episode "Reincarnation', where the cast appears as they would in a low-resolution video game:

Bender: Byte my 8-bit metal ass! (Whispering, to Hermes) That's "byte" with a Y, heh-heh-heh.

Beast Boy: Hey guys, why are ducks so funny? [beat] Cuz' they're always quacking jokes!
[others groan]
Starfire: Oh I see. It is humorous because ducks lack the large brain capacity required for telling jokes. [giggles]
Robin: Actually, Starfire, it just wasn't funny.

Phineas: Dad, can I borrow your glasses? I can't see my entree. (beat) You know, beause it's so small.
Lawrence: Yes, I think we got that.

    • In "The Beak":

The Beak: All right, let's wrap this up. Hey, my first superhero pun.
Spectators: Well, don't quit your day job, Mr. Comedian.
Actually, I thought it was pretty clever.
Yeah, because, see, it wrapped around the legs.
If you didn't like that one, maybe this'll be a hit.
Yeah, see, because-- Because he hit him.
I'm not an idiot, Charles.

    • How about the time when the creators explain jokes. Which for some reason, makes them funnier.
    • Doofenshmirtz does this all the time.

Wire you doing this to me? Get it? Wire? Cause I'm in wire?
(When he captures Perry with duct tape) "I have captured the rare duct-billed platypus! Ya know, like, duck-billed?

    • Major Monogram slips into this, too.

I guess for you it'll be a walk in the park. <beat> Heh heh, cause you're going to the park.

    • Not even Isabella is immune.

Kid in leaves: Hi, I'm Russel.
Isabella: Oh, Russel! Like the leaves!

Lucius: We will fight over the Abyss of Nothingness! To the winner goes victory! The loser gets...nothing! Get it? Abyss of Nothingness! Nothing!

  • Archer pulls one and immediately regrets it:

Cyril: I've got one bullet left.
Spelvin: Does he?
Archer: I don't know. Who am I, Count Bullets...ula? Like Dracula-that was bad.

    • In season 2, episode 1 of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, Dr. Katz tries to explain a joke to Julie, noting that "it works on so many levels." Stan tells him "You gotta stop explaining the joke. If you do that, life's not worth living."
  • In The Princess and the Frog, after Lawrence gets thrown into a band:

Naveen: Lawrence! Glad to see you're finally getting into the music! Do you get my joke? Because your head, it is in a tuba.


You have lot of well-wishers here tonight, and a lot of them would like to throw you down one... a well. They wanna murder you in a well, which seems a bit harsh, but that's what it says here on this cue card

Real Life

  • Many stand-up comics use this as part of their act, especially to single out a heckler to explain the joke very slowly to them. Examples include Stephen Wright (who already has a notably slow delivery), Ron White, and Daniel Tosh (his trademark involves explaining a particularly complicated or obtuse joke). Also helps to SPEAK VERY LOUDLY, in case they don't understand English in a normal (ie, amplified through microphone) tone.
  • Whenever Fark greenlights a headline with an overused meme (which occurs only every two or three minutes), someone will reply why it's "funny" in full Sarcasm Mode. For example, whenever a Sarah Jessica Parker headline with a horse pun is greenlighted, someone will say, "Oh, it's funny because Mrs. Parker's face is hideously elongated, not unlike a horse's face!"
  • Henry II of England apparently fell foul of this one, having to explain to his court that when his jester pointed out that he looked "like a bastard son of a tanner's daughter", he was in fact referring to his great-grandfather, William the Conqueror. Henry thought it was funny, if no one else did.
    • Henry II predated the Magna Carta. No matter how funny it was, admitting that you thought so does not seem to be a move calculated to enhance longevity.
  • During his annual speech/stand up comedy routine at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama released his "official birth video": a clip from The Lion King. He then went on to make sure everyone understood the humor:

President Obama: "I wanna make clear to the Fox News table...that was a joke. That was not my real birth video. That was a children's cartoon. Call Disney if you don't believe me; they have the original long-form version."

  1. "But if one doen't ask, how then can one learn?"
  2. Of course, this would prove Hilarious in Hindsight, as George Bush would eventually gain enough appeal to become President.