What is a blackout gag?
June 28, 2007 1:33 PM   Subscribe

What is a blackout gag?

The term pops up in discussions about cartoons, comedy, vaudeville and other theater, but I can't seem to find a plain definition of it anywhere among Google's results. Nor is it defined on Wikipedia, despite the term being frequently used.
posted by codger to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always heard it this way (and I may suck at this description). Basically, it's when you have a setup, and then your punchline or gag, and you go right to a blackout/curtain drop. The comedic 'moment' is supposedly intensified by the scene just cutting off, there's no need for any sort of wrapup.

Does that make any sense?
posted by pupdog at 1:36 PM on June 28, 2007

pupdog has it exactly
posted by briank at 1:44 PM on June 28, 2007

It's a quick, comedic sketch that has no relevence or continuity to anything else going on in the context of the larger show. For example, the "Verrrry interesting" bits by Artie Johnson on Laugh-In are black-out gags. Likewise the high-speed Benny Hill romps in between sketches on his TV show.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:47 PM on June 28, 2007

If you're looking for a current example, take something like Robot Chicken, where sometimes you get long extended pieces, and sometimes you get just a quick bit, and it's cut off. Part of the draw of a 'blackout' is that the audience may not even register the joke for a beat, and you get that 'did I just see what I think I saw' feeling.
posted by pupdog at 1:52 PM on June 28, 2007

a blackout gag is an abrupt gag where the abruptness of the joke is part of what makes it funny.

this is kind of a lame example, but, essentially:

(lights up)
A - what's the secret of good comedy?
B - i don't know, wha--
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:00 PM on June 28, 2007

the blackout gag may or may not be relevant to the rest of the show, by the way- it's not the content that makes it a blackout, it's the short duration of the bit, and the fact that the final laugh is partially a response to the brevity of the gag.
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:02 PM on June 28, 2007

See about 26 half hours of Monty Python.

And now for something completely different.............

And of course the God himself Ernie Kovacs
posted by Freedomboy at 2:21 PM on June 28, 2007

Basil Fawlty: "Sorry. Duck's off." >>roll credits<<
posted by gimonca at 2:31 PM on June 28, 2007

Everyone so far is right. It's sort of a trademark of Second City sketch shows, though it's looked down upon by some.
posted by YoungAmerican at 6:30 PM on June 28, 2007

Recently? There was an episode of Family Guy which ended with Brian pushing Stewie under a bus immediately before the credits. It's the best example I can think of -- though perhaps purists would dispute that, based on the very long setup.
posted by genghis at 5:59 AM on June 29, 2007

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