Inside Jokes From 7 Classic Sitcoms That Only True Fans Will Get
Sure, the CHARACTERS on your favorite show have running gags - every Parks & Rec fan knows that the real devil's lettuce was salad all along, and every Community fan knows about Garrett - but what about gags you only get if you've already seen the whole show? Or ones that you'll only understand if you have a whole LOT of fandom context?
These aren't inside jokes FROM the show; they're inside jokes FOR the show.
If you want to know if you're a #TrueFan of any of these sitcoms, just see if you understand what we're talking about before you read past the header.
The Office - The Identity Of The Scranton Strangler
Yes, anyone who watched The Office at all will be aware of the Scranton Strangler, a serial killer who - you guessed it - was known for strangling people in Scranton. Though he never appears on screen, he features prominently in several episodes, and even has a hand in the overall plot when Toby has to leave to do jury duty on his court case.
However, if you're in The Office fandom, you will already have seen something wrong with that last paragraph; namely, that it says he never appeared on screen. It is a known fact that if you go to discuss the show with other fans, there is a decent chance the fan you're talking to either earnestly or ironically believes the famous fan theory that Toby is the Scranton Strangler. (Some people also think it's Creed or Mose.)
Community - The Gas Leak Year
If you've ever seen any community arguments around Community (ha) that end in someone dismissing a point about a character from season 4 because "that was the Gas Leak Year," you may have been a little confused...unless you're a die-hard fan, that is.
In "Repilot," the first episode of season 5, Annie mentions a school-wide gas leak that happened the previous year at Greendale when Jeff confronts her about losing her go-getter attitude. This offhand mention was a little inside nudge to fans who were upset by the turn the show had taken following the firing of showrunner Dan Harmon the previous year. Without the creator at the helm, the characters of Community went so far off the rails that one reviewer for WIRED compared watching it to "squinting at a painting and trying to determine whether or not it was a forgery."
When Harmon returned after season 4, this first episode was definitely a lot about damage control. In the very segment that the gas leak is mentioned in, Jeff compares who all the characters were when they met to the caricatures they became. Annie's little one-off joke, a small canonical band-aid explanation for how much all the characters' personalities shifted (and a bonus reminder to check those carbon monoxide detectors), really resonated with fans, and now it is commonly accepted fandom knowledge that any characterization that happened in season 4 might be entirely irrelevant.
Parks & Rec - Mark Brendanawicz Is An Untoasted Slice Of White Bread
There was one very central character in the early seasons of Parks and Recreation that everyone forgets about...and that's the joke.
In the first two seasons of Parks & Rec, it's very clear that show creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur were struggling to differentiate this new show from the Office spin-off it was originally pitched as. Leslie's awkwardness is less endearing and exuberant and more like early Michael's, and it's clear that city planner Mark Brendanawicz is supposed to be her unwilling love interest.
As the show moves forward and grows into its own skin, however, Leslie's love life is pushed to the side, and Mark becomes Ann's boyfriend instead. With the original dynamic so changed, the jigsaw pieces that these characters were growing into didn't all quite fit. When Mark's laid-back attitude was not contrasted by Leslie's borderline-cringey enthusiasm, but instead by Ann's down-to-earth deadapans, it simply fell flat. There was nothing interesting about his character's presence anymore, and he was basically written out of the show, and replaced with the much more memorable duo Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger.
Brendanacwicz is never mentioned on the show again, and never appears in any other episodes, and coupled with the fact that some fans don't even watch the show before those characters appear, and the result is that everyone forgets about Mark - until somebody says "can we talk about Mark?" at which point everybody either says "he was so nice" or "he was so boring."
Brooklyn 99 - Jake is Bi
Brooklyn 99 has been an LGBTQ ally from the moment they put the little pride flag on Captain Holt's desk. In the season 5 episode "99," Rosa tells Boyle point-blank that she's bisexual, one of the first ever TV characters to openly do so. This was a big win for the bisexual community, because frequently even characters who have been shown on-screen in romances with more than one gender are simply referred to as "gay," don't have their sexuality mentioned whatsoever, or worse, have their sexuality played as a "phase."
However, as much as it's an indicator of how far we've come on erasing those taboos, openly mention that Holt is gay and Rosa is bi and even showing them on screen with same-sex partners, there is (at least) one more character who, to use the old saying, "swings both ways" who never identifies himself out loud.
Multiple times through the course of the show, Jake Peralta makes some unsubtle indication that dudes definitely do it for him sometimes. From the moment in season 2 when he asks a handsome witness what he's doing later, to the moment when he gets "really lost in it" acting out how Rosa should come out to her parents, Jake basically tells us he's bi...but the fact that he never said the words still drives fans nuts.
The Good Place - Chidi Is Ripped
There's nothing much to this inside joke, explanation-wise: In one episode of the afterlife sitcom The Good Place, neurotic, brainiac philosophy professor Chidi Anagonye takes off his shirt and we find out the he is, in fact, as ripped as Captain America. (Captain Senegal? Captain Australia?)
The thing that drives fans crazy about this is that the show pays this almost no attention. It's a fun subversion of the age old "wimpy nerd" stereotype, but nobody in the show acts surprised by it at all - even though trying to picture Chidi using a bench press is objectively hilarious. (How would he ever decide which bench to sit on?)
It's not written in because it's not really part of a show - the layered joke here is that they never intended for Chidi to be absolutely jacked, William Jackson Harper just...already was, and they decided not to say anything about it.
New Girl - The Rules to "True American"
In every season except season 4, the tenants of the loft play a seemingly nonsensical drinking game called True American, which involves aspects of The Floor is Lava, Candyland, and a lot of random improv acting loosely based on American historical events.
The game was never meant to be playable - the rules are never presented clearly and actual playing of the game is only ever shown in montage form - but unsurprisingly, enough die-hard fans did the work to gather together all the rules mentioned in the show, and when rounded up they do amass to a near complete game with only a few blanks to fill in.
The instructions to the full game (or fans' best attempt to aggregate them) can be found on the New Girl Wiki, but basically it's a giant board game where the players are the pieces and the furniture you must jump on are the spaces you can move. Players use various methods to "earn" moves towards the middle square, where several bottles of alcohol are fanned out in a circle. The goal is to drink through all those and be the first team (or single player, there aren't always teams) to get to the large bottle at the center of the table.
This one isn't so much a fandom joke - it's funny because it's so nonsensical. What it really is is a true act of fandom passion, and it counts as an insider because if you saw someone playing this game you would be absolutely baffled that it came from a TV show, even if you had seen a few episodes of New Girl.
Martin - Tommy Was a Drug Dealer
There was a long running gag on the 90's sitcom Martin, starring Martin Lawrence, that his friend Tommy (Thomas Mikal Ford) "ain't got no job." Despite this, he always seems to be saying he was at work, dressed well, or throwing around money.
There was even an episode where Martin followed Tommy around to determine if he was making money through prostitution, but he eventually simply gave up and chose to accept that he'll never know what his friend does for money.
On the show, this is just played for a joke, but fans have thought of a very good reason Tommy might always have wads of cash but never be at work: He's a drug dealer.
The cast of Martin have officially dispelled this rumor; Tisha Campbell Martin revealed in a 2016 interview with Don't Be Scared that Tommy was actually a counselor at the Boys' and Girls' Club. However - perhaps because it was ingrained so hard throughout the show that Tommy has no job at all - if you say "Tommy was a drug dealer," many fans will simply agree as though it's fact.
What did you think of these jokes? Do you know of any major ones we didn't mention or funny little ones nobody knows about? Tell us all about them in the comments!