4 Forgotten Ongoing Jokes from Popular Shows

Not all running gags go the distance
4 Forgotten Ongoing Jokes from Popular Shows

A leg up that the world of televised comedy has over movies is the ability to mine running jokes for all they’re worth. They’re great; they give loyal viewers a feeling of gratification for having closely paid attention to a series or something new to notice during a rewatch; and they allow writers to take an early lunch on some days. But not all of these gags quite make it to the finish line, as even some of the most popular shows in history have had recurring bits that fans may have already completely forgotten, such as…

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‘The Simpsons’: Grampa’s Gender Curiosity

In earlier seasons of The Simpsonsthere were repeated, largely uncommented upon, references to Grampa Simpson’s fervent desire to live his life as a woman. Remember back in Season Four how he had “the nicest dream” in which he was the “Queen of the Old West”?

Then there was the time he claimed to have spent the final days of World War II “posing as a German cabaret singer” — this wasn’t actually true, although Grampa conceded that he did “wear a dress for a period in the ’40s.”

Meanwhile, at the end of Season Five’s “Cape Feare,” Grampa is left at home without his pills, which causes him to grow long hair and breasts and paves the way for him to go on a date with Jasper. While this aspect of Grampa’s character was largely dropped by the writers, as YouTuber Cora Roberta points out in her video “Is Grampa Simpson Trans?” a 2006 episode included Grampa’s revelation that he played for an all-female baseball team, the “Springfield Floozies,” in an attempt to avoid being drafted.

‘Seinfeld’: Kramer the Shut-In

It’s hard to imagine Seinfeld without seeing Kramer out and about in the world, whether it’s conducting bus tours, riding on the top of a fire truck or scouring the streets of New York in a fruitless search for a place to drop a deuce.

But during the show’s first few seasons, the defining joke about Kramer was that he was an eccentric recluse who never went anywhere outside of his apartment — except, of course, when he visited Jerry’s place across the hall. The first time we meet Kramer, Jerry remarks that he hasn’t “left the building in 10 years.”

While this aspect of the character was eventually scrapped, Kramer’s apparent agoraphobia is the reason why his character didn’t appear in the classic episode “The Chinese Restaurant” since it was entirely set in a public place.

‘South Park’: Stan’s Vomiting Problem

In the early episodes of South Park, viewers could count on two things: 1) Kenny would die a horrible death; and 2) Stan would yak in the face of Wendy Testaburger.

But as the years passed, Stan’s gastrointestinal nervousness around his schoolyard crush seemingly subsided; that is, until Season 11’s “The List,” which ended with Stan going full Exorcist all over Wendy for one last time.

Of course, even that episode’s final callback was to an early joke from nearly 16 years ago, making it very easy to forget that Stan’s barfing was once an essential aspect of the show.

‘Friends’: Ross Claiming to Have Written Several Hit Movies

Throughout Friends, Ross Geller had some memorable (read: mostly extremely obnoxious) recurring character traits, from “we were on a break” to his flagrant disregard for New York City’s exotic pet laws. However, a less indelible running joke was Ross’ penchant for claiming credit for secretly inventing several pop-culture staples. 

In a Season Nine episode, Ross weirdly asserted that he was the one who first came up with the slogan “Got Milk?” Before that, in Season Seven, Professor Geller is seen blatantly wasting his class’ time and money by lecturing about how he “had the idea for Jurassic Park first.” Judging from the accompanying blackboard notes, Ross’ allegation involves a dream he once had after being bitten by a mosquito.

This aspect of Ross’ character would have been slightly more established had an earlier deleted scene been left in. In the original cut of “The One With Chandler in a Box,” Ross emphatically stated that he came up with the idea for Die Hard and has the napkin he wrote it on as evidence.

Of course, Die Hard was based on a novel written in 1966, meaning that Ross would have had to have been a toddler when he first came up with a story involving an off-duty cop battling mercenaries in an office building — making this claim even harder to swallow than his passionate defense for why it was cool to cheat on Rachel.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 

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