The Running Gag Theory
The Running Gag Theory is a straightforward way to gauge the effectiveness of a running gag. Although this theo ry can be applied to almost any work of fiction, for our purposes this theory will only be applied to Daria. Running Gag Theory holds that the effectiveness of a running gag is proportional to the one time effectiveness of the gag and inversely proportional to the amount of times the gag is repeated. In other words, running gags that are funny without being repeated and are not repeated too often are the most effective. The funnier they are and the less they are repeated, the better off they are.
Examples from Daria
Episode #113 - The Misery Chick
Running Gag/Repeated Lines : "It really makes you think."
One Time Effectiveness : Not unfunny, not hilarious.
Repetitio n Frequency : Done to death.
Overall Effectiveness : Even Daria realized it was annoying.
Episode #202 - The Daria Hunter
Running Gag/Repeated Lines : "Those paintball thingies hurt."
One Time Effectiveness : This line is not funny ever.
Repetitio n Frequency : Repeated too much, but not gratuitously.
Overall Effectiveness : Fairly Ineffective
Episode #204 - I Don't
Running Gag/Repeated Lines : "Why didn't you get the same dress?"
One Time Effectiveness : Moderately funny, if used at the right time.
Repetitio n Frequency : Almost every person who saw her said it.
Overall Effectiveness : Somewhat effective, but unnecessary.
Episode #209 - Ill
Running Gag/Repeated Lines : The whole "what happened to Mrs. Sullivan" thing.
One Time Effectiveness : Somewhat amusing.
Repetitio n Frequency : Only repeated two or three times.
Overall Effectiveness : Moderately effective.
Episode #211 - See Jane Run
Running Gag/Repeated Lines : Brittany falling down during splits.
One Time Effectiveness : Ironically funny once.
Repetitio n Frequency : One time too many.
Overall Effectiveness : Not too bad, could've been scrapped.
Episode #306 - It Happened One Nut
Running Gag/Repeated Lines : Kevin jumbling the Nutty World greeting.
One Time Effectiveness : Funny every time.
Repetitio n Frequency : Doesn't matter
Overall Effectiveness : So effective, you can barely tell it's a running gag.
Episode #308 - Lane Miserables
Running Gag/Repeated Lines : <ding-dong> "Who could that be?"
One Time Effectiveness : Not even intended to be funny.
Repetitio n Frequency : Repeated gratuitously.
Overall Effectiveness : Should be forgotten.
Interestingly enough, there was only one major occurrence from season one that came to mind. One can only speculate as to why. The best reason available is that there were just not as many ideas for running gags for that season.
Running Gag Theory is a handy way to perceive and evaluate the effectiveness of running gags. The criteria for effectiveness are purely subjective. Most people's opinions, of how funny a line is once and how many times repeated is too many, will undoubtedly differ. In the examples above, I used my own judgement in determining effectiveness. The judgements of others may or may not agree with them.
Copyright © Mike Quinn and Toonscape, Inc., 2000.
Daria and all related characters are © 1997-1999 MTV Networks, Inc.