What do you call a joke that has a punchline which as been emphatically implied through omission, as in...

[Comedian peeling banana, saying...]

"one skin, two skin, three skin, (pregnant pause)...five skin"

[...arch look and lifted eyebrows]

Benny Hill used to do a lot of this, and I am trying find a name for it. I have looked up types and classes of jokes, but cannot find a definition for it.

  • I would call it "pulling your punches".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 22:28
  • @HotLicks That is interesting. I have heard the phrase but only in the reference of not hitting someone too hard... Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 22:29
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    In the case of Benny Hill, I'd call it censory deprivation.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 0:17
  • I am sorry @KJ, I just now realized that you had answered the Q in comment. It was perfect. Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 21:55

6 Answers 6


Thanks to Mobitela Fonia's answer, and (now it seems) to K J's comment, I was able to track down a definition at the same source which pretty much gave the best answer.

Stealth pun

The writers put in a joke (almost always a pun), but never make or put in a Punch Line or explicit statement, hiding it in the set up of the joke. Some percentage of the audience will "get" the joke, but the rest will know it was there and be going, "What? Why didn't you say it?" There can be several reasons.

1) It's naughty or otherwise not appropriate for this timeslot, in which case this serves the same purpose as a Last-Second Word Swap.

-TV Tropes


I should imagine it would have to be something which, as with all jokes, creates an expectation, which it then disappoints, but perhaps not without a double entendre. How about this?

Iocus interruptus

  • As Mel Brooks once said, "It's all a ...matter of..........................timing." Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 20:59
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    While sex is often comedic, and comedy sometimes sexual, I could only read that with the implication of your double entendre...cool. +1 Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 21:16

How about this one?

shaggy-dog story

A long, drawn-out anecdote ending with an absurd or anticlimactic punch line.

  • 1
    Sorry, but "anticlimactic punch line" does not address the main point of the question, which asks for a missing punchline. Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 19:29
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    Yeah, didn't read the question properly. Thanks for pointing that out.
    – user405662
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 19:32
  • 1
    No problem...I actually love shaggy dog stories. Issac Asimov, along with my grandfather, were masters of that arcane "art". Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 19:34
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    My grandfather (only a voracious reader, not a writer) introduced me to Asimov's stories in the 60s. Later, in the early 80s, I met Asimov and did an interview for our regional newspaper. Incredibly intelligent man. A deep thinker. Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 19:44
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    @Cascabel— Holy smoke! You interviewed Asimov? That's quite an achievement in itself. Applause mate. I feel smart to be talking with you! ;) You happen to have a recording of that interview? I have seen one of his interviews (he was on the Dick Cavett show probably and I liked it very much.)
    – user405662
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 19:49

According to "TV-Tropes" a joke without a punchline is an "orphaned setup" (the information was obtained from: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OrphanedSetup).

When characters tell jokes, the whole joke is rarely told. We hear either the punchline or setup. In this case, only the setup.

So in this case there is no real punchline, and is "orphaned".

  • What I am saying is please include it your question? Just click on the Edit button. Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 21:06
  • Sorry, but "shaggy dog" stories totally depend on the punchline. Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 21:10
  • I am starting to reconstruct your answer. If you are not happy with the changes I make you can "roll-back". Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 21:11
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    This is not what is being asked for in my opinion. In the OP the punchline is there it’s just not verbal. I think of the orphaned setup as what happens in Breakfast Club when the joke is interrupted by Bender falling through the ceiling.
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 21:28

Also, another way of naming a joke of this sort is a "mind joke" a bit like a "mind rhyme" (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_rhyme). But, as far as I have seen, an official name for this joke-form does not exist.

  • Hi Mobitela...could you please edit your original post? I liked it, and it would greatly benefit from a few edits, including the info in this answer. Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 21:48

I do not know if there exists some unique type of humor for it. But I think that there are a few types of humor that could support the kind we are discussing here. Right now the ones that come to my mind are: Wit and Wordplay.

  • This is a low-quality answer. The "I don't know, I think, me, we, my" sentences show an opinion. Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 21:08
  • Well, yes, id couldn't answer the question so yes we can say that was just an opinion. Anyway, I saw this blog while searching for this type of humor and it had 45 different types. I don't think that this one quite matches any of those descriptions, but have a look if you think it lies in any of these: humornama.com/featured/education/types-of-humor
    – Delilah22
    Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 17:42
  • I self-answered over a year ago...and it seems to be the right one given the criteria i.e.Stealth pun. Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 17:57

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