The Art of the Running Joke

Series spanning running jokes are among my favourite things about current television. Although many shows, especially in the 80s and 90s, had running jokes their deployment nowadays tends to be more pointed. Arrested Development in many ways started this trend with its attentive planning and near-flawless memory.

Perhaps the best currently airing example is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Jokes such as Uncle Jack’s self-consciousness about his hands, Dee’s stage fright (or whatever you want to call it), Dennis’ psychopathic tendencies and Mac’s sexuality are expertly built on throughout the entire series. When re-watching the show, which i do often, the early seeds of those running jokes are a pleasure to experience.

Dan Harmon’s Community has proven to be an expert as well, even stretching jokes over years until finally getting to the punchline. Although there are probably as many detractors as there are defenders of Community these days, the attention to detail and the ability to mine jokes over a period of time is surely one of the shows most consistently good features.

Even dramas are getting in on the action. Hannibal‘s annual maiming of Chilton is possibly the most darkly humourous of all of the running jokes I’ve seen. But with Bryan Fuller at the helm, is Hannibal‘s morbid sense of humour all that surprising?

So, with my spiel done, what are your favourite running jokes? Are there any trends in comedy, like this, that you actually hate? Come on people, lets have a beer and hash this out!always-sunny-best-episodes