Obligatory Joke

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Superman: Is everything okay?
Wonder Woman: Well, I'm sort of missing Flash's obligatory joke about Grodd having made a monkey out of us.
Superman: Just couldn't let it go unsaid.
Wonder Woman: Obligatory!

Justice League Unlimited, "Dead Reckoning"

In certain situations, characters (and writers, it seems) just have to make certain puns. And they're usually the same ones. But Tropes Are Not Bad, as in many cases the audience may feel disappointed or even slightly confused if the obligatory joke fails to come up.

Nonetheless, many writers try to inject some freshness into the obligatory, by lampshading or overt and deliberate subversion.

  • Anything involving a primate is going to involve lines like "Monkeying Around" or Making a Monkey('s uncle) out of someone," and "Monkey Business".
    • We're just going to make it easy and say that whenever a situation with an animal comes up, somebody will have to quote a saying or phrase having to do with it.
  • Anything involving honey, molasses, maple syrup, etc. will be described as a "sticky situation."
  • A person Bound and Gagged, or even just bound, will be described as "a little tied up right now."
  • If an animal of some kind is biting someone, an onlooker will be prompted to ask, "What's eating you?"
  • Any hand-related pun when dealing with hand monsters or armless people.
  • Cat-related jokes are sometimes catastrophic or catholic. They may leave you catatonic.
  • Any time electricity is involved, you know someone will quip about a "shocking" situation.
  • Similarly, expect An Ice Person to be surrounded by an abundance of "Ice to meet you," "Take a chill pill," etc. jokes.
  • Whenever identical twins appear as part of a main cast or as recurring characters, someone will eventually ask who the older one is, even though this is only truly important if they are royalty.

See also Incredibly Lame Pun, Bond One-Liner, Quip to Black, and others, which have considerable overlap. You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost is one subtrope. A Punny Name or Unfortunate Name resulting in this may make someone a Phrase Catcher.

Examples of Obligatory Joke include:

Comic Books

Fan Works

  • Sirius Black taking every opportunity to make "serious"/"Sirius" puns in Harry Potter fanfics, to the point that in many later works, the characters start out already tired of them.



  • The Dresden Files: To hear Harry Dresden tell it, he's the original this. He claims that he's now so well known that if he isn't flip and punny to every supernatural being of a distinctly higher weight class than him, they'll be insulted, because they expect him to be. Note that this was a retrospective excuse to Sigrun for pissing off Odin's secretaries.

Live-Action TV

  • On QI, giving the obvious-but-incorrect answer causes an alarm to ring and the panelist to forfeit points. Obvious riffs such as these sometimes trigger the klaxon as well.
  • Castle uses the "tied up right now" variant when the eponymous character had bound himself to a chair to see whether he could free himself. Played with in another episode Lanie finds out that the recent victim, who had been burnt in a pizza oven, has the last name "Burns". She tells Castle, who had started to look excited, to make the Obligatory Joke...but it turns out that Castle had actually recognized the name.
  • After the first act of the Jaye P. Morgan episode of The Muppet Show, where Morgan wears a ruffled bird outfit, we have this exchange between Statler and Waldorf:

Statler: Ooh, Jaye P. Morgan is terrific!
Waldorf: Yeah, but that last number was for the birds!
Statler: You had to make that joke, did you?
Waldorf: Well, one of us had to, and I lost the toss!

Newspaper Comics

Web Original

Web Comics

  • On this page of Dinosaur Comics, T-Rex complains about the overuse of the phrase "a whale of a good time" in conjunction with literal whales.

T-Rex: It should mean "a good time that is large or immense: METAPHORICALLY like a whale", but the metaphor's broken because it's always used on literal friggin' whales. "Dog-gone great" is getting there too.

Western Animation

  • In the Danny Phantom episode "Doctor's Disorders", Penelope Spectra tries to get a sample of Danny's DNA to make a perfect body for herself. When she's not looking, Danny swaps it out with something from his dad's uses hankerchief. The result is Spectra turning into a Jack Fenton-shaped snot monster. Danny comments, "There's a 'You blew it' pun here somewhere, but I'd rather not." When the fight begins, Spectra growls, "Let's boogie!" to which Danny replies, "That's exactly the kind of pun I was trying to avoid with the 'You blew it' comment!"
  • In a particularly silly episode of The New Batman Adventures, Robin and Batgirl are fighting genetically altered giant cows. Batgirl lampshades the fact that Robin couldn't resist yelling "Holy Cow!"
  • The page quote was used in Justice League after the heroes foiled Gorilla Grodd's plot to turn all of humanity into gorillas.
  • In one episode of Kim Possible, Kim discovers that the villain keeps electric eels, to which she replies, "The puns just write themselves. Shocking, isn't it?" Of course, the villain says the very same line later when he reveals his electric eels.
  • In the Garfield and Friends (U.S. Acres segment) "Secrets of the Animated Cartoon", Orson explains that it is required by law to do a a take whenever you're scared, and then goes on to explain Double Takes, Spit-Takes, and Delayed Reaction Takes. In the next scene he claims that a chase scene in a cartoon also requires the Painted Tunnel, Real Train gag.
  • In every version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, someone will, at least once, use the word "rat" in a negative way, and then have to apologize to Splinter.

Video Games

Homestar: "Oh, you know, not much..."
Strong Bad: (sighs) "You can say it, Homestar..."
Homestar: "Just hangin' around."

  • Starcraft has a meta-example. If you claim it's War Craft In Space, someone is sure to counter this claim by saying, "it's far more sophisticated!"