14 Lame Jokes From Popular Sitcoms That Once Passed As ‘Comedy’
Sitcom writers have a tough assignment: make as many people laugh as humanly possible. They’re not always allowed to make the funniest, most clever jokes — what they’re actually aiming for is a relatively small pool of joke topics and structures that are recognizable to nearly everyone on the planet. That’s why some of the most popular shows purposely appeal to the lowest common denominator.
And that’s perfectly fine! But it’s still annoying, and we think it’s worth cataloging some of the biggest recurring and one-off stinkers from beloved sitcoms.
How I Met Your Mother: ‘Wait for It’
Barney Stinson is a wildly problematic character, so it’s easy to forget: He’s also very formulaic and boring. One of his big punchlines is throwing the phrase “wait for it” between syllables which is — predictable pause to let the slowest among you catch up — not particularly funny.
The Simpsons: Mercilessly Roasting Brazil
They played up all the most negative and hurtful stereotypes of the country, turning it into a Grand Theft Auto game full of kidnapping, murder and marauding monkeys.
The Big Bang Theory: Putting Lipstick on a Pun
Again, writing jokes for a sitcom is hard. One way to speed up the process is to take out the writing altogether. This show loves to make ostensibly smart characters deliver one-liners from a child’s joke book and call it a punchline, like: “A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much for a drink. The bartender replies, ‘For you, no charge!’” That’s not even a single entendre!
The Golden Girls: Accusing Their Housekeeper of Voodoo
The girls fire their Black housekeeper, Marguerite, who tells them in frustration that they’ve made a big mistake. They then spend the episode blaming their household disrepair and random personal problems on Marguerite putting a curse on them. It’s not the first or last time the show would use bigotry as a crutch.
The Honeymooners: ‘Bang, Zoom, to the Moon’
How long can you delight Americans with a promise of televised domestic violence? At least 39 episodes.
The Office: ‘That’s What She Said’
Yes, Michael Scott is supposed to be a horrible boss and the world’s lamest dude. What started as an illustration of the latter became a bona fide punchline. Michael Scott the man can’t help himself when an innuendo presents itself. The writers behind Michael Scott, on the other hand, don’t have to tee him up — but once they knew it was a guaranteed laugh, they went back to that same well as often as possible.
Brookly Nine-Nine: ‘Title of Your Sex Tape’
This is another quip that would be a killer inside joke between two buddies, but turns into lazy chuckle bait when sitcom writers keep relentlessly teeing up their characters with sex puns.
That 70’s Show: ‘I Said Good Day!’
Kelso’s “Burn!” is a contender for lamest recurring joke, and Red’s delightful threats of domestic violence certainly don’t hold up. But something about “I said good day” has always inspired me to change the channel. It’s a one-note joke that takes up three lines of dialogue: 1) Fez will grow indignant and begin to leave, saying “good day!” on his way out; 2) he then has to wait around just long enough for someone to protest, at which point; 3) he’ll reiterate that he’s outta there.
Two and a Half Men: ‘Winning’
This one-word punchline must be admired for its all-time great syllable-to-laugh ratio. Like jangling keys in front of a baby, the writers knew they could make Real America howl with laughter by having Charlie Sheen spout off his cocky catchphrase. Chuck Lorre even popped on screen, after killing off Sheen’s character with a falling piano, to deliver the line in a fourth-wall break so smarmy, you’ll sprain your eyeballs rolling them into the back of your head.
South Park: All the Low Hanging Fruit
South Park is irreverent, it’s zeitgeisty, it’s generally very anti-celebrity. But sometimes when those qualities converge, they spit out a lukewarm take that nobody particularly disagrees with, expressed slightly more cruelly than late-night hosts dare to put it. Britney Spears has an unhealthy relationship with celebrity status; the Jersey Shore crew are a bunch of weirdo gremlins; Paris Hilton likes to party. How brave of you to say so.
S#*! My Dad Says: The Title
This show was based on a viral Twitter feed of the same name, which is a horrible idea and deserves to be periodically lampooned until the end of time. Throwing a swear word into the title of your network sitcom and telling audiences and critics to just say the word “bleep” instead is like a chef serving up some fresh fugu and telling customers to cut around the poison parts.
The Big Bang Theory: ‘Smart’ Jokes
Credit where it’s due: this franchise has made millions of people believe they’re smart for getting “jokes” that are incredibly obvious, and not particularly clever. After winning at 3D Chess — a needlessly complicated game that takes place on different parallel planes — one dweeb tells another dweeb, “It must be humbling to suck on so many different levels.”
Seinfeld: Jerry’s Stand-up
These bits are incredibly hard to watch, and yet they remained a staple of the show throughout its run. The most logical explanation is that Jerry once displayed a charisma that’s been watered-down by his increasingly uninspiring legacy, and two and a half decades of comedian-led sitcoms that have come since. Frankly, they feel A.I.-written. Take this especially egregious riff on car models, for instance: “They try and mangle a positive word into a car name… The ‘Integra.’ The ‘Supra.’ Or the ‘Impreza.’ Yeah? Well, I hope it’s not a ‘lemona’, or you’ll be hearing from my ‘lawya.’”
The Cosby Show: Cliff Huxtable’s Aphrodisiac BBQ Sauce
Bill Cosby, of all actors, should never have delivered a monologue about a special sauce he keeps on his nightstand that causes people to “get all huggy-buggy.”