Top 10 TV Shows With the Best Running Gags

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Top 10 TV Shows With the Best Running Gags

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Matt Klem
The shows with the best running gags never get old. Our countdown includes "Friends," "Parks and Recreation," "Seinfeld," and more!
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Top 10 Shows With the Best Running Gags


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Shows with the best running gags.

For this list, we’ll be looking at television programs that have a talent for bringing back entertaining jokes again and again.

What’s your favorite running gag from a TV show? Let us know in the comments.

#10: “Community” (2009-15)


Who would have thought a Spanish study group would spawn so many jokes? Fans of the show would often pick up on the recurring jokes throughout its run. The show is full of questionable fashion choices of Dean Pelton, the “awwws” of Annie and Shirley, and excessive celebrity name rhyming. Any one of these gags is enough to give fans immediate flashbacks to various points within the show. Often understated, we’re glad to see that the creators craft jokes for the audience that always put smiles on our face. The staggering amount of ways the writers remixed simple jokes like Troy and Abed’s morning show is simply incredible.

#9: “Parks and Recreation” (2009-15)


If someone had told us we’d get a great comedy out of a municipal government department, we would have said you’re crazy. Yet, with only seven seasons, the show still amuses fans. When we look back at some of our favorite gags, the likes of Burt Macklin, and Leslie’s disdain for libraries stand out to us. But there’s plenty more to enjoy on the show that includes a popular horse named Li’l Sebastian and Jerry...or is it Garry? The ever-so-inappropriate city hall murals also stand out as being both hysterical and obscene. No matter what the joke is, “Parks & Rec” gives us more than enough to keep us watching.

#8: “The Big Bang Theory” (2007-19)


Whether you have watched every episode or tuned into the occasional rerun you’re bound to have heard of at least one of this show’s running gags. With 12 seasons worth of content, you’ve undoubtedly heard Sheldon knock at Penny’s door three times. Or maybe you cringed when Howard’s mom would yell at him. We’ve heard Leonard and Sheldon argue over the nuances of their roommate agreement and laugh at Bernadette’s high pitched voice. Whether you’re a diehard fan or not, the likes of soft kitty and “Bazinga!” are ingrained in our minds, and never to be forgotten.

#7: “Friends” (1994-2004)


The ability for an audience to connect to a show has always been rooted in the characters. If a viewer feels like they can relate to the people on screen, they come back time and time again. Part of that connection comes from the audience understanding the “in-joke” when presented. For “Friends”, when Ross exclaims, “We were on a break,” or Chandler talks about his job, we feel like we’re a part of the group because we know the history behind these words. Joey’s pickup line, Phoebe’s terrible songs, and ugly naked guy’s antics all help us feel closer to this tight knit group of friends.

#6: “How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14)


What do a yellow umbrella, going to the mall, and slap bets all have in common? They’re some of the best running gags from “How I Met Your Mother”. As the story of how Ted Mosby met the mother of his children stretched over nine seasons, we certainly got plenty of recurring jokes. Barney could sell a book where he talked about his suits or just list all of his various catchphrases. Whether we’re cringing at another Robin Sparkles video, or learning of a new doppleganger, there always seemed to be one more item to add to a growing list of series-long jokes.

#5: “Arrested Development” (2003-06, 2013-19)


We suspect the folks over at Fox may have repeated one of Gob’s best catchphrases when they pulled the plug on this show back in 2006. The show garnered an even bigger audience when it went to Netflix and went on to earn two more seasons. When it comes to running gags, we don’t even know where to start with this brilliant comedy. Chicken dances, the stair car, and even the overuse of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” are just a handful of gags splattered across the landscape that is “Arrested Development”. Thank you Netflix for giving us more of what we didn’t know we needed: a chance to see Tobias fail at acting yet again.

#4: “Seinfeld” (1989-1998)


In a sitcom about nothing, there’s definitely something funny here that we recognize every time we watch it. While it was on the air, Seinfeld managed to find a way to keep viewers in the know with carefully planted recurring gags. Given Jerry Seinfeld’s affinity for superheroes, it’s not surprising a legend sprung up about Superman being referenced in every episode. While it turns out that that superhero rumor isn’t true, that hasn’t taken away from any of the other long-running jokes on the show. Elaine’s favorite exclamation, Kramer’s wacky entrances, and George’s obsession with speaking in the third person are all prime reasons why this show’s humor is still remembered today.

#3: “South Park” (1997-)


This show has been on the air for more than 20 years. Long after Kenny stopped dying every week, it still managed to produce countless ongoing jokes that hardcore fans were eager to find. The early years saw plenty of episodes with Chef breaking out into song, aliens appearing in the background, and countless references to “Star Trek”. As the show has aged, political humor and ridiculous moral monologues seem to keep those eagle eyed fans happy. When the show finally has its curtain call, we hope the cast members blame Comedy Central with one quote: “They took our jobs.”

#2: “The Office” (2005-13)


It would be easy to say Michael Scott’s signature comeback line was one of the most repeated quotes while “The Office” was on the air. But that doesn’t take away from the other running gags that started in Dunder Mifflin. Michael’s undying hatred for Toby, all of Angela’s cats and the signature way Jim stared into the camera kept all in stitches all the time. We could probably just rank Jim’s pranks on Dwight alone! Although this spot isn’t the big tuna of our list, it still has more than enough enjoyable gags to make it worth the watch.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Modern Family” (2009-20)
Please Just Get That Step Fixed Already!

“Archer” (2009-)
Please Watch Your “Phrasing!”

“Scrubs” (2001-10)
What Was the Janitor’s Name Again?

“Cheers” (1982-93)
Everyone Knew Norm’s Name

#1: “The Simpsons” (1989-)


With 32 seasons, you know there’s going to be plenty of running gags for fans to find. Some of these are pretty well known. Fan or not, you’ve likely seen the chalkboard or coach gags the show is famous for. Even the very location of Springfield itself has been an ongoing mystery that is likely to never be solved. Hold music, pennants, Homer’s brain, Bart’s prank phone calls, and Mr. Burns utter ignorance of his employees names are just a smidge of the ongoing humor this show has produced since hitting the airwaves all the way back in 1989.
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