Rapid-Fire Comedy

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"Well, I've still got the pocket. Anything I retain now is velvet, except the coat; that's Prince Albert." (To audience) "Well, all the jokes can't be good. You've got to expect that once in a while."
Cpt. Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx), Animal Crackers
"They're not all funny, but they're in a row."

Don't worry if you missed the joke... a new one will be along any moment.

A style of comedic presentation where a mass of jokes come at the audience in rapid succession in the hope that at least a few of them stick. If the audience doesn't find Joke A all that funny, Joke B is following right on its heels, and if Joke B doesn't cut it, Joke C is right behind that one. Films and TV shows that use this technique are sometimes little more than a string of rapid-fire jokes tied very loosely together through some sort of ultra-thin plotline that no one can be bothered to care about anyway. In other cases, the show will move from one plot to the next almost as fast as the jokes. In short, it's the comedic version of More Dakka.

This is actually a standard comedy strategy (it's commonly referred to in production circles as the "shotgun method"). It's easier to keep the audience laughing than to get the audience laughing. So stand-up comedians will come on stage and immediately ask for a big round of applause for the master of ceremonies, or the previous comedian. Once the audience starts responding, comedians will use their best material to really get the ball rolling. Then they'll throw in odds and sods with enough good jokes to keep things going.

In some cases, this technique can backfire, especially if the rapid-fire comedy interferes with an otherwise dramatic, sad or angsty moment; complaints also can come when the barrage of gags didn't start out as funny and hasn't really become any better by the end of it.

This technique is an easy way to get crap past the radar, since the censors don't have enough time to notice the obscene joke among the dozens of other gags.

This is a subtrope of the Rule of Funny. It's almost guaranteed that the jokes will include a good number of bizarre non-sequiturs. Hurricane of Puns, Hurricane of Euphemisms and Breathless Non-Sequitur are all subtropes of Rapid Fire Comedy. It may happen to you if you Archive Binge a comedy Webcomic.

Examples of Rapid-Fire Comedy include:


Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The last few Orient Men comics turned into this: a pageful of panels filled mostly with Polish popculture references or puns on a single subject.
  • Mad Magazine, like the aforementioned Discworld, does not have a page without a joke. This includes the table of contents, which inevitably will feature a fake article mixed in with all the real ones. It could be argued that with the addition of full-page ads, this is no longer true, but you still have to at least look because there's probably a 50-50 shot that it will actually be yet another MAD parody.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Airplane!! is the gold-standard by which all other such works of this sort are judged. This was in many ways when the team Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker perfected the technique.
  • Most of the Wayans Brothers' more wacky movies are like this, especially Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Sippin' Yo Juice in da Hood and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.
  • The Scary Movie franchise is also notable for this trope.
    • The other "Movie" movies, especially those from Seltzer and Friedberg, however, leave much to be desired.
      • The first two were written by the Wayans brothers.
        • The third and fourth films were directed by David Zucker (with Jim Abrahams co-writing the fourth)
  • This trope was standard operating procedure for the Marx Brothers, especially in their earlier (pre-Night At The Opera) films. Thus, and to a surprise to many people, this trope is Older Than Airplane!.
  • The Naked Gun series (see Police Squad!! below)
  • The Radioland Murders—even better on second viewing, because some of it is delivered in such an offhand way.
  • Mel Brooks is quite fond of this comedic technique; his genre parodies tend to consist of non-stop gags.
  • Kentucky Fried Movie
  • Hot Shots! pretends to be a straight action movie at first, but it steadily slides into Airplane! territory.
  • Most of Woody Allen's pre-Annie Hall output consisted of this.
  • A Hard Day's Night generally runs on the Rule of Funny, but reaches true rapid-fire status during the press conference sequence. All four Beatles take turns offering snarky, punny or just plain absurd answers to reporters' questions. Somewhat Truth in Television, as they really did tend to be inveterate smartasses.
  • Snatch combines really quick comedy with a really, really fast-paced plot.
  • Scott Pilgrim
  • While the show itself has a fair number of gags (in both senses of the term), a live and boisterous audience turns The Rocky Horror Picture Show into a breathless torrent of wisecracks.
  • In-movie example: Andrew tries doing this in Bicentennial Man, but he doesn't understand that humor is about delivery and so he simply recites a bunch of jokes one after the other without transitioning or even pausing between words and sentences.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Given the existence of some of Oscar Wilde's work, this trope is Older Than Radio.
  • David Wong tends toward this, especially in John Dies at the End but also in his columns
  • It's difficult to find an entire page in any Discworld novel that doesn't have some sort of joke or snark.
    • The title? No. The table of contents? Doesn't have one (most of the books aren't divided into conventional chapters). The cover? No...Oh! The pages that are left blank due to binding issues!
  • The Complete World Knowledge trilogy is another example.
  • Columnist Dave Barry tends towards this.
  • Some of the ...For Dummies books.
  • The Jetlag Travel Guides by Tom Gleisner, Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro: tourist guides to non-existant countries such as Molvania and Phaic Tan. These manage to fit in one or two jokes per paragraph, which including photo captions (and even photos themselves) usually results in at least six jokes every page.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Monty Python's Flying Circus is to television what Airplane!! is to film, and is even more of a standard by which to judge rapid fire comedy.
  • Police Squad!! attempted to replicate the Airplane! feel on television, and for the most part succeeded.
  • The Andy Milonakis Show
  • Most every element of Strangers with Candy is either a satire, farce, or sight gag. Every premise, every line, every gesture and facial expression, every relationship, every setting, nearly every character except maybe Tammy, and most of the decor in every room (Principal Blackman's face is in every other shot at the school). Even a lot of the props are used for witty comebacks.
  • Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In
  • The stated intention of The Fast Show. Some of the sketches were little more than "Catch Phrase and out". It worked.
  • Most Extreme Elimination Challenge is a proponent of this trope. Between the Amusing Injuries happening on screen and the running commentary, it doesn't let up until you hit a commercial break.
    • MXC actually has one up on other contenders; they do two jokes at once. The action is pure slapstick goodness, and the commentary is about equally funny. It's hard to catch everything.
    • And has now spawned an Americanized show called Wipeout that follows the premise of MXC with new footage filmed specifically for it.
  • Arrested Development: It's camouflaged, but attention to the background events and Subtext makes it become extremely dense. Try to summarize a typical episode of the half-hour show and you'll see.
  • Earlier episodes of 30 Rock (mostly season two, though some fans would argue that the first half of season three held on) operated this way: smart, dense, dadaistic, and somewhat prone to Continuity Lock Out, with a minimum of three separate plots per episode. The episode "Succession" perhaps served as the series' Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 was built this way. Most of the jokes will sail right over the heads of 90% of the audience—but the 10% that do get the joke will be reeling with laughter from its sheer obscurity. They make up for this disparity by firing off a lot (perhaps around 700 per episode) of obscure jokes, in the hope that the viewer will be one of the 10% that this joke was designed for. As one of the makers once said, "The right people will get it."
  • Good News Week. Both in Paul's monologues and in the games in general.
  • The IT Crowd. The first act usually has a few laughs, things ramp up in Act 2, and by Act 3 you WILL be laughing non stop. This happens Every. Single. Episode.
  • iCarly: Happens more and more as the show goes into its fourth season. Notable example being the episode iGet Pranky.
  • Exaggerated and lampshaded in Community, when Pierce prepares jokes in advance for viewing the So Bad It's Good movie, KickPuncher 2

Pierce: Change! Time to change the channel! This guy'll be begging for change soon, he keeps making movies this terrible! We should change to something good, this movie stinks! We should change his diaper. That's change we can believe in!
Abed: [Hits pause] Okay, it's obvious something strange is happening here.
Pierce: What are you talking about? I'm making jokes during a movie.
Troy: Yeah, but you're doing it with the speed and determination of the incomparable Robin Williams.

Music[edit | hide]

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic loves this; White and Nerdy is probably the most extreme example. There's also the numerous effects of the virus in Virus Alert.

Radio[edit | hide]

  • The Goon Show. Dear LORD, The Goon Show.
    • On at least one occasion they manage to keep a wild stream of jokes going until the first musical interlude (some seven or more minutes in) without even getting in-character let alone allowing any kind of plot to develop.
  • Hello Cheeky tried to fit as many jokes into a half-hour as possible, with one or two musical interludes every episode. However, since the musical interludes were performed by the regular cast and written humorously, the jokes never actually stopped.

Man: Waiter! This steak's off!
Waiter: I'll get its hat and coat, sir.
Man: Fetch me the manager!
Waiter: I shouldn't bother, sir, he tastes worse than the steak.

Stand Up Comedy[edit | hide]

  • Legendary comedian/actor Bob Hope was known for this style of comedy, which purportedly burned through writers at an alarming rate.
  • Robin Williams is the Master of Rapid Fire Comedy, especially considering that he often improvises large portions of his act.
  • Comedian Tim Vine is a former holder of the Guinness World Record for most jokes told in an hour.
  • Despite his trademark slow, deadpan delivery, Steven Wright's stand-up comedy is all about this trope. Virtually every sentence out of his mouth is a punchline.
  • Ben Elton's stand-up act throughout the Eighties was based on this, motor mouthing the gags at twice normal speed. He later lamented the fact that he used up so much good material so quickly.
  • Quite a few George Carlin routines, but "Modern Man" wins the prize for jokes/second ratio.
  • Listening to Dennis Miller is the standup equivalent of Mystery Science Theater 3000
  • Jimmy Carr, while he does slow down when he does audience interaction segments, none of his "regular" jokes last more than 15 seconds.
  • Ken Dodd, teller of quick jokes, has stated several times that he's always after a joke rate of "7 TPM", or seven titters per minute. He once won the Guinness' World Record for this, with 7.14 jokes per minute for three or so hours.
  • Bo Burnham's songs, especially his raps, are made of this.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Magic: The Gathering's Unglued and Unhinged expansions. They even put jokes in the legal text on the packaging.

Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Some people—those who have only seen it performed, or only seen the movie version—wonder why Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest is so famous. The thing is, the jokes are so rapid-fire that by the time you've had time to get one, five more have rocketed past your head. It's so bewildering that it absolutely kills Suspension of Disbelief. The only way to understand and enjoy a performance of the play is to have read the script enough times to have memorized half the jokes in advance.
  • Shakespeare's comedies are exactly the opposite of Earnest—many of the jokes go unnoticed, due to language, culture, and context differences, until you actually see them performed (body language is usually more helpful than any amount of English classes).
    • Made howlingly funnier for most viewers without a special affinity to archaic language in the Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).

Video Games[edit | hide]

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • This trope is comparatively rare in shorter works like webcomics and newspaper comics, but VG Cats stands out as an example—it often doesn't even have a punchline in the proper sense, ending the strip when it's out of jokes on the subject.
  • Bug uses this format all the time. The most common format for the comic is one panel of set-up and three more panels, each with a mini joke within them. "Pizza Delivery" is a good example of the comic's style, and it even has four mini jokes in it!
  • A number of Xkcd comics, such as this one or these two, present large panoramas built around a common theme saturated with jokes for this apparent purpose.
  • The further Hiimdaisy goes, the more jokes in a single issue there are. Case in point: LittleKuriboh's voiceover of Let's Destroy Shagohod (Metal Gear spoilers alert).
  • Eight Bit Theater, like VG Cats, uses a longer form, punchline-less system. On an average strip, every single panel with have a joke in each word-bubble, a joke in the background, a Visual Pun and a joke in the title.


Web Original[edit | hide]

"Comedy so fast The Flash once said, 'Even though I am technically faster than Superman, I too agree that this comedy is quicker than what you typically see.'"

  • Five Second Films; Each video is five seconds long. And usually hilarious.
  • AMV Hell is a series of fan videos with a style of humor curiously similar to Robot Chicken (in spite of being created before Robot Chicken aired). Anime clips, no more than a minute long, are set to music or audio from a different source for comedic effect. It also lasts for more than an hour, and it's Better Than It Sounds.
  • All of Seanbaby's writings are a cluster of connected jokes.
  • Ask a Ninja: Particularly the Omni- episodes, in which the Ninja answers several questions in rapid succession.
  • Nigahiga takes More Dakka and applies it to this trope.
  • Asdfmovie mixes this with Surreal Humour to hilarious effect.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Mr. Burns: It's as big as a football field and weighs as much as the state of New Hampshire. I only flew it once at an altitude of six feet for a distance of four feet. Then we discovered that rain makes it catch fire. Then the Fuhrer fired me.