I’ve been re-watching the wonderful Arrested Development series. That show used a lot of interesting comic techniques, and one of the most prevalent was the callback. That is, referencing the same joke multiple times after it first appears. Too many in that show to begin listing them.
But here’s an easier example from Back to the Future, which was pretty much one big callback. Marty keeps using the word “heavy” to indicate unusual or mind-blowing. Doc Brown takes it literally, at one point asking if in the future there is a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull. Whereas Doc frequently exclaims, “Great Scott!”
This happens several times until in the final film when, upon making a terrible discovery Marty wearily says, “Great Scott.” And Doc mutters, “This is heavy…”
- Why do we find callbacks funny?
Even if the original joke isn’t especially hilarious, somehow it’s funnier when it’s referenced later on. What’s the psychology behind this type of humor?
- What’s the difference between a callback and a running gag? Is there a difference at all?
Seems to me it’s variation. Changing the joke slightly, as opposed to doing it the same way ever time in a running gag.