Running Gag

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"That's not a running gag! That's a pun!" "It's a running gag now."

"That's not funny. But don't worry, it's a running joke, so they'll repeat it several times until you have no choice but to find it funny."

A joke that is only mildly funny the first time, but becomes funnier each time it is repeated. Must be repeated at least three times. But repeat it too many times and it becomes an Overly Long Gag. A variant is a joke or scene that occurs Once Per Episode; doing that too often threatens to turn it into an Overused Running Gag.

The ultimate fear for the use of any running gag is not that it becomes an Overly Long Gag; rather, it is that it was never funny in the first place. Nothing is worse than starting a one hour show with a joke that bombs that you're going to use twenty times over the next hour.

A Running Gag can be limited to a particular episode or recur throughout an entire series. If it recurs throughout an entire series, then it will often develop variations and/or be accompanied by Lampshade Hanging. If a character breaks the fourth wall to mention it, it's Didn't We Use This Joke Already?

A comedy Catch Phrase is a type of Running Gag. Can become potential for Memetic Mutation if the gag itself is widely applicable. Compare Arc Words, which are a recurring phrase that isn't a gag. See subtropes Once Per Episode and Every-Episode Ending.

Examples of Running Gag are listed on these subpages:

"X-treme! X-treme!"

The Running Gag, 1/0