Creating Running Jokes For Your Story Or Comic

2015 Artwork Running Jokes Article sketch

In the extremely unlikely event that you don’t know what a running joke is, I should probably explain what they are. A running joke is, essentially, just a joke that is repeated throughout your story or comic. It’s that simple.

Well, actually, it isn’t. A good running joke has to be something that is either subtle enough to be ignored (unless you’re looking for it) or something that is just as funny when your audience reads it for the tenth time as it was when they read it for the first time.

So, how do you think of running jokes?

The simple answer is that, most of the time, you shouldn’t.

Yes, you heard me correctly, you shouldn’t try to think of running jokes for your story or comic. A good running joke is usually something that just kind of naturally evolves of it’s own accord when you are writing your story or making your comic.

It’s the kind of thing which you suddenly notice whilst you’re writing and think “hmmm… I could use this as a running joke“. In other words, your running jokes should be something that emerges from your story rather than something that you add to your story or plan in advance.

This might sound confusing, but it actually makes a lot of sense. After all, your running joke has to function as part of the story as well as being funny.

So, the best way to make sure that it actually makes sense in the context of your story is to just start writing your story and then to re-use part of it that you’ve already written as a running joke.

For example, you might notice something like a funny quirk that one of your characters has or something random that you’ve thought of earlier in the story and then decide to use it as a running joke.

This kind of thing makes a lot more sense in the context of your story than some totally random joke that you’ve tried to shoehorn into your story, just for the sake of having a running joke.

To give you another example, in the short sci-fi/ horror comic that I’ve been working on recently, literally every page ends with someone screaming or shouting in a ridiculously melodramatic way. Originally, this was just going to be a dramatic way to end the first page:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 1" By C. A. Brown

“Dead Sector – Page 1” By C. A. Brown

I didn’t expect it to become a running joke when I started making this comic. But, when I wrote the second page, the joke in it ended with someone screaming and running away. This made total sense in the context of the story and the page wouldn’t be as good without it.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 2" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Dead Sector – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

It didn’t take me long to realise that this was fairly similar to how the first page had ended. So, I decided to use it as a running joke. I didn’t plan it in advance, it just kind of naturally emerged from the story I was telling.

But, if you should just wait for running jokes to emerge from your story or comic whilst you’re writing it, isn’t there a risk that they won’t appear?

Well, yes. But this is all part of the fun of writing a story or comic – a good idea for a running joke should surprise and delight you, it should be something that makes you laugh. And, well, the best laughs are often unexpected ones.

Not only that, if no running jokes emerge from your story or comic when you’re writing it – then this is a good thing too. Why? Because it means that you don’t need them in that particular story.

As I said earlier, there’s nothing worse than a running joke that doesn’t really quite make sense in the context of the story that you’re writing.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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