Popular Culture

15 of the Most Overused Jokes on TV


Television is a vast radioactive wasteland where occasionally a stand up comic emerges, spits out a single knee-slapping one-liner, then recedes into obscurity while the joke lives on forever – and ever. In a similar and predictable fashion, sitcoms repackage and recycle the same unfunny scenarios over and over again. Corporate comedy is like corporate sex: no matter how good it is, it’ll never be personal and special.  Here are 15 of the most overused jokes on television that regularly contribute to this dire wasteland.

The Fat Guy With the Hot Wife

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If fat guys got wives this hot, there’d be no couch potatoes left to watch television.  Aliens coming to this planet probably think the Diabetes Center is the best way to pick up bikini models.  The only thing funny about it is that the fat guys continue to get fatter.  The only thing less funny is pointing it out.

The Bottle Episode

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Trapping the characters in one set the entire episode is a clever—  No wait, make that cheap episode.  Community not only devoted an entire episode to making fun of it, they’ve actually done this shtick twice.  And Family Guy did it without sets being a factor and used the clichéd bank vault bit, so what’s their excuse for dusting off this tired chestnut?  Guess they ran out of Simpson episodes to rip off.

The Wacky Neighbor

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Does anyone have any normal neighbors on television?  If they’re not sex-crazed weirdos they’re hipster doofuses with no sense of boundaries.  In fact, what normal person spends this much time with their neighbor, beyond saying hello when you’re taking out the trash?

Nerds are Nerdy

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Only on TV do nerds actually know how to fix computers rather than just whine when their WoW account goes down.   And, only on TV, do they somehow get the girl and aren’t quite that ugly when their remove their glasses.  Where are the 400-pound social misfits that can barely make a sentence and smell like feet and rotten cheese?  And who even uses the word “nerd” to describe anyone in real life, other than, maybe TV writers?

Drunk Guy Does Something Stupid and Doesn’t Remember

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There are not many people that get so black out drunk that they can’t remember anything about the night before, but have two beers on a sitcom and you’ll be lucky not to wake up in Army boot camp or in Vegas married to a prostitute.  Whatever happens, not only is the event simultaneously life-changing, the characters can also somehow get out of it in one episode.

Mistaking a Straight for a Gay Person

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The portrayal of gay people may have been updated, but this joke goes back to ancient times, when Pontius Pilate stood behind Jesus and made a limp wristed motion to the crowd.  We get it, he’s not really gay.  If sitcom writers weren’t so old, homophobic and lazy, maybe they’d actually have time in the episode for an original joke.

Visiting Relative is Crazy

Has there ever been a visiting relative on a TV show that just stayed and had a pleasant visit?  No, they have to be wacked out mother-in-laws, troublesome cousins or troublesome siblings now with even worse kids.

The Star Wars Parody

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The first Star Wars movie, which is technically a parody of Lord of the Rings, is constantly parodied on TV.  If George Lucas hadn’t invented it, TV writers would be forced to throw in actual physics references, making all nerd TV like Futurama or worse, G4.


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Rashomon, named after the Japanese film of the same name, once meant seeing a story from different perspectives.  It’s now an excuse for lazy writers to repeat something they saw on another network.  Oo, gee, I never knew Mr. Belvedere or Urkel saw things that way.  Wow.  That really gives depth to a 2-dimension character that has none.

The Smart Mouthed Kid

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When a sitcom dies, one of its last stages is a pathetic attempt by the producers to infuse new blood into the situation by literally bringing in someone with new blood.  Insert a toddler, baby or other adorable kid and you’ve got the last season of All in the Family, Malcolm in the Middle, Get Smart, Friends, Murphy Brown, Bewitched and The Office.  Somewhere in the middle of a diaper change, people finally tune out.  God forbid if they continue to tune in long enough for the kid to grow up, you get the Olsen Twins or Jake from Two and Half Men.

The Old Guy That Tries to Act Young

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It’s already painful to watch anyone over the age of 30 attempt to rap, now add the “I’m getting old and can’t accept it” episode and you’ve got pure sitcom poison.  Gee, whiz, will that 50 year-old be able to keep up roller blading? And what wacky hijinks will ensue when he goes parasailing and bungee jumping?  Can’t a rich older guy just have sex with a young stripper girlfriend without it turning into a life lesson?

The TV Show About a TV Show

The absolute height of laziness is when the characters get cast on a TV show that’s based on themselves.  It’s a show within a show within a showSeinfeld took this to the nth degree and, fortunately, metaphorically canceled itself.

Prison Rape

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Every single time a character on TV goes to jail, there’s always one guy that wants to have sex with him.  It’s pretty obvious they are talking about prison rape.  They never show it, but the implication is as clear as an episode of Oz.

The Crazy Plan That Might Just Work

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Usually an idiot hero gets himself in trouble, but rather than explain to everyone involved what happened, he concocts a dubious plan to reinforce the lie.  There’s absolutely no surprise when it fails and then, suddenly, he gives a heartfelt confession which somehow keeps him out of jail.  Why couldn’t he give that heartfelt apology when he initially screwed up?

It’s a Wonderful Life/Scrooge Parody

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For God’s sake, aren’t there any other Christmas movies to parody?  There have been so many episodes of this tired, worn out plot, calling it a “classic” would be like calling Stonehenge “kinda old”.  If only the next lazy writer that wants to do this has this dream and death scares him into never writing it again.


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