Running joke

When I first heard that phrase I had visions of jokes on little legs running away and on second thought ot me running way because some of the jokes one hears on TV are so awful that my first instinct was indeed to run away.

Neither of those explanations, however, are correct.  A running joke is one that continues throught a work of literature, in many episodes of say at TV sitcom or a comic.

Once again the pirates ship has been reduced to rubble by Asterix and his friends. pic: asterix.co.nz

Running jokes may start out unintentional and may not even very funny in the beginning, but over time and with the repetition and usage – sometimes in inappropriate contexts – the running joke or running gag becomes funny – at least to those who know about the joke and anticipate it.  It is less funny or interesting for those who aren’t in the know, that is, don’t know about the joke and don’t expect it.

A lot of spoofs about movies use quotes from the original and make them into running gags.

An example for this from one of my and my son’s favorite comics: Asterix.  In many (all?) of the books a band of pirates makes an appearance and they always get beaten badly and their ship wrecked by the Gauls .  As soon as a reader sees the pirates he/she knows what’s in store for them.  And the pirates know it too, on occasion they destroy their own ship just so the Gauls can’t do it for them.  Their inability to fight Asterix and his friends has become a running gag.

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One Comment to “Running joke”

  1. I fell on your blog while searching for exactly the picture from Asterix and Obelix that you have chosen to explain “Running Joke”. My motivation was to illustrate the growing tendency in Swiss interior politics to sack and to sink our nation’s ship for fear of being attacked from abroad, in a manner that reminds the runnng joke of the Asterix and Obelix pirates. In the French original which I had in my mind, the text reads “je suis médusé” instead of “we’ve been framed”. The picture itself alludes to the famous painting by Géricault “Le radeau de la Méduse” (The Raft of Medusa) whith the survivors of a naval disaster that had taken place some miles off the shore of Senegal in 1816. To be “médusé” in French means to be stunned or hypnotized by a terrible image like that of the head of Gorgo Medusa, the monster of ancient Greek mythology. (In modern biology, the term “Medusa” or “méduse” is used for a particular type of jellyfish).For details on the wreckage of the “Méduse” and the Géricault painting , see http://www.mage.fst.uha.fr/asterix/allusion/gericaul.html.

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