20 Comedy Clichés We’re Totally Over
Finally, a definitive collection of the jokes we as a society (or just me) have deemed, too unoriginal, repetitive, or easy to continue in comedy. If you utilize these phrases, jokes, and bits in your next project, or hear them in someone else’s, just know the world (or just me) is looking at you with shameful eyes. Here are 20 comedy clichés that need to be left behind for good.
Have we come to terms with the idea that it would be funny if a baby could talk? Can we leave that in the 90s and 2000s? The world has been oversaturated with its baby insurance commercials, its Look Who’s Talkings, its Boss Babies, and Baby Geniuses. Maybe we should have stopped with Stewie Griffin.
The Bedmate Reveal
The comedy protagonist is sleeping in bed and slowly opening their eyes. Nothing weird about that…but wait. What’s this? There’s someone or something else in the bed?! Get out of town! Here’s a great example of a play on this trope from my least favorite movie, Grown Ups 2. Sandler has elevated the joke by having a deer pee in his mouth.
Fainting To End A Scene
Maybe this one hits too close to home as I have a pretty severe case of vasovagal syncope, the blood pressure issue that causes fainting, but how many times can we use this as the button of a scene? If someone faints and their feet go up into the air after hearing news, don’t you sort of make that side eye to anyone else in the room as if to say, “OK, that was a choice.”
Men Kissing As A Punchline
Comedian Mitra Jouhari told Vulture about one of her least favorite comedy clichés. She said, “I think we can retire the joke of ‘two guys kissing is inherently funny.’ If that’s your big ‘joke,’ look inward. Even if those two guys are politicians you hate! Still lame.” This is a fair criticism and I’ve actually removed a joke in my act where I kiss my bandmate on stage around three years ago.
”I Just Threw Up A Little In My Mouth”
Puke or don’t puke! This line is played out! It’s demonstrated perfectly in Dodgeball from 2004, so let’s leave it there, shall we?
OK! Good talk… Another great example of a contrived way to end an awkward conversation between two characters. If you’re writing a script and see this phrase, grab some white out and go to town on the page.
”I Can Explain!”
“I can explain,” said the character who was clearly going to have a hard time explaining why he’s naked with an elephant in an ice cream parlor. It’s lines like these that give your brain permission to turn off if you hear them in anything made past 2010.
”Soooo, That Just Happened”
This has the same energy as a room of people going silent and someone saying “Awkwaaard.” If I knew someone in real life who said “so that just happened” after an event I’d sock them in the mouth and everyone would cheer.
”You And What Army?”
Has this phrase EVER been used without an immediate army following it up? In your next real-life argument, throw in a few “You and what army?”’-s and see if you win the argument, or are killed by an army.
Back To School
Billy Madison, Ernest Goes To School, Back To School, and 21 Jump Street all revolve around this same premise of the “back to school fish out of water” plot. It has also appeared as a plot point in several TV shows like The George Lopez Show, My Name Is Earl, Full House, The Cosby Show, and is the entire through-line of Community. Lets take a break from it for a while and maybe reverse it into a movie about a child being deployed into the draft by accident.
This is one you may not actually notice until you start looking for it, but you’d be surprised how often this joke is planted for no reason, I think the most predictable is the wide shot of an injury or an injury off-screen followed by an “I’m Okay!” and never referencing the injury again. It’s fine, but a fairly easy bit.
They’re Fat! Get it?
Remember when a character’s entire personality could be that they liked to eat food? Or that they were chubbier than all the other Goonies? The trope is often referred to as the “fat idiot” character (seriously), as media would often make the larger characters less intelligent. Your Kevin Malones, and Homers, and Peter Griffins.
”It’s Right Behind Me Isn’t It”
A great hack to this rule is to say something like “I hate giant chocolate candy bars…wait..there’s one right behind me isn’t there.” Because there will undoubtedly be one standing right behind you according to the laws of all media.
”Soo, Dating Is Weird!”
Allen Strickland Williams told Vulture that his least favorite stand-up cliche is the phrase, “Dating is hard.” Williams said, “I’m so sick of hearing about how hard it is to date. Dating isn’t hard. Dating is easy. You’re just hard to deal with.”
So let’s just say I have this friend who is writing an article about his least favorite overused comic devices. And let’s just say that he wanted to include an overused joke where the main character asks for advice using a fake hypothetical friend they’ve made up. Do you think that is a fair criticism of that joke?
They are Gay. Get it?
In the 2000s, there was a strange running joke that it would be funny if two parents or friends of the main character are gay, and that’s sort of the end of the joke. Kicking and Screaming, Malcolm In The Middle, Big Daddy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, are all offenders here, but thankfully it seems we've moved past it.
Kevin Hart Is Small The Rock Is Big
If one more movie comes out where tiny Kevin Hart is paired up with some large actor I’m gonna lose it. We get it, Kevin Hart is the chihuahua The Rock is a Great Dane and it’s fun to see a chihuahua bark at a Great Dane, but, let’s just equate Hart with Danny DeVito, who has long moved past his height being a comedy centerpiece.
”Did I Say That Out Loud?”
This joke is one of the most tired cliched devices on the market…wait. Did I write that out loud?
Luckily we have grown out of the trope where someone having an accent and being born outside of America is an acceptable joke. The world has shifted to telling more stories from their perspective as opposed to being boxed into silly mystic side characters. Borat, Big Daddy, Master Of Disguise, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and countless others have utilized this trope, so let’s keep it in the past where it belongs.
The Fake Game Show
I can’t be the only one that got pretty tired of the game show format on SNL, it just feels a bit too predictable. The game is weird and the contestants are normal. The game is normal but the contestants are weird. The host is weird and one contestant is weird and the other contestants are the straight man. In addition, who is even watching game shows anymore?
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