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Best Running Gags On Arrested Development

Ah, the Bluths. This stupid, criminally rich family is the centerpiece of "Arrested Development," a cult classic early 2000s sitcom (we don't talk about Seasons 4 and 5) that found infinite layers of endlessly rewatchable comedy in every scene. Michael Bluth is the straight man, and thank God for him. Without him to keep his family grounded, we'd all end up insane as his parents, George Bluth Sr. and Lucille, siblings G.O.B., Buster, and Lindsay, as well as brother-in-law Tobias Funke, his niece, Maeby, and Michael's son, George Michael. That's not even counting the surrounding cast of lawyers, lovers, doctors, family friends, and coworkers, all of whom are just as bizarre, moronic, and ultimately hilarious as the main cast.

And perhaps no sitcom in history has mastered the art of the running gag the way "Arrested Development" did, which means there's some pretty stiff competition for the title of "best" when it comes to recurring jokes. So which hilarious moments take the cake? Get ready to laugh because we've rounded up the absolute funniest recurring jokes in "Arrested Development" history. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.


Say what you will about the Bluth family — they're criminals, buffoons, and just all around selfish jerks — but they did adopt a little Korean boy. That's got to count for something, right? Even if they only did it to make themselves look more charitable for PR purposes and then just generally neglected the kid once he was in the house? No? Okay then.

Anyway, they think the kid's name is Annyong because he says it constantly, every time he walks into a room or whenever someone says it back to him. In fact, for a while, he doesn't just say "Annyong" constantly, he says it exclusively. Their inability to get even a single other word out of the poor kid causes a great deal of frustration among the Bluths, who are so wrapped up in their own stupid schemes that they simply don't have time to get to the bottom of what Annyong's deal is.

But as Annyong later explains, in his own frustration, that's not his name at all. It's the Korean word for "hello." Oh, guess what his actual name is? It's "Hello." Because of course it is. We don't know who thought of this joke, but it's simultaneously one of the stupidest and most brilliantly funny running gags we've ever seen on TV.

'No touching!'

The entire "Arrested Development" story essentially begins with and revolves around the Bluth family getting outed as criminals. As a result, George Sr. is sent to Orange County Prison, where the guards have a strict "no touching" rule. Whenever George's kids visit and try to make any physical contact at all with their dad, the guards shout the same exact phrase at them — "No touching!" — causing a usually riled-up George to throw his hands into the air and repeat it back, indicating he gets the message.

But like George Sr. himself, the phrase begins prison but eventually finds its way outside, where it takes many forms. Michael himself uses the phrase when he's attacked by Lucille, and he even says "more touching!" when George is placed under house arrest and is jumped by his excited wife (something George hasn't been looking forward to). Construction site surveyors say the phrase when G.O.B. and Buster are fighting, and even Lucille's all-women prison has an identical rule despite having no connection to Orange County, where her husband was incarcerated.

The Charlie Brown walk

"Arrested Development" actually makes multiple references to the old Charles Schulz "Peanuts" cartoons. Buster refers to genitals as "Charlie Browns" and "Linus." Several episodes are titled after "Peanuts" references too, like Season 4's "Blockheads" (a common insult in the classic comic strip) and Season 2's "Good Grief."

But perhaps the best "Peanuts" reference is the "Charlie Brown walk." In several episodes, characters react to disappointment by walking away with their head drooping and their shoulders slumped, much like everybody's favorite animated loser. Of course, that classic, sad "Peanuts" piano riff plays in the background as they do it. George Michael does the walk when he gets dumped (complete with a Snoopy-style dog house in the background). George Bluth does it in Mexico when he sees a newspaper photo of Lucille kissing his brother. And G.O.B. does it after "Poof" magazine, a magic rag, labels him the "Poof Goof of the Year."

We'd say it's a good thing these morons are so prone to disappointments, if only so we can see the hilarious Charlie Brown walk in action.

Carl Weathers is a cheapskate

Tobias' desperation to "make it" as an actor leads him to "Predator" and "Rocky" star Carl Weathers, who plays himself on "Arrested Development" as an acting coach. But in this bizarre parallel universe, Weathers is a weirdly thrifty man who's obsessed with getting good deals and stretching each dollar to the breaking point. When Tobias finally meets him (he never showed up to teach the stage fighting class that Tobias flew to California to take), he learns Weathers intentionally gets bumped from flights to collect reward vouchers. Weathers takes him under his wing for $1,100, but instead of teaching him anything about acting, he simply gives him the kind of financial advice you'd expect to get from your cheap, loser uncle.

For example, Weathers buys all his cars at police auctions, tries to get food and drinks on other people's tabs, sues businesses whenever he thinks he can get away with it, and even reprimands Tobias for almost tossing a chicken bone with no meat on it because, in his words, once combined with some other ingredients, "Baby, you got a stew going!" In a rare moment of lucidity, Tobias realizes he's been had and asks for his money back. We don't see what happens next, but we can't imagine Weathers forked it over willingly.

'I've made a huge mistake.'

Like the other members of his family, failed magician and all-around jerk G.O.B. Bluth makes mistakes constantly. But at least he's aware of it, as evidenced by him constantly repeating — to himself under his breath — "I've made a huge mistake." Usually, he makes this remark when his moronic plans have blown up spectacularly in his face and his having made a mistake is so obvious that it doesn't need to be said aloud. But it's way funnier when it is.

For example, he says it after intentionally getting tossed into prison as part of a magic act ... and then realizing a jail cell doesn't have a private toilet. He says it after foolishly getting back together with Marta. Actually, he says the same thing to her face both when breaking up with her again and when getting back together with her again. She later utters the line herself after realizing she loves Michael instead. G.O.B. then drops the line when he ruins George Michael's campaign video, when he realizes Steve Holt is his son, and honestly, too many other times to count. Other members of the family also say it when their own scheming backfires or they realize how stupid they've been.

Our description probably makes it sound like a dead horse being beaten, but the geniuses in the "Arrested Development" writers room make it funny every time, simply by changing the context in which it's said. It's unlikely any other show could've gotten so much comedic mileage out of it.

Tobias the Never-Nude

In a family filled with unhinged weirdos, Tobias — who's only connected to the Bluths through his loveless marriage to Lindsay — might be the strangest. He's also the butt of multiple running jokes. The mystery surrounding his sexual orientation very nearly made this list, as did his failed stints as Mrs. Doubtfire and a member of the Blue Man Group, who amazingly rejected his membership despite him painting himself blue. (What else could you possibly need to do to join the crew?)

The classic Tobias running gag in the show, though, has to be his proud status as a "Never-Nude." This bizarre, almost certainly not real condition (orientation?) is exactly what it sounds like: Tobias can never be without at least some article of clothing, even when showering, having sex, or at the doctor's office. His permanent clothing choice is a pair of (presumably nasty) jean cutoffs. It's undeniably weird, but supposedly Tobias is not alone, defending his unusual habit by shouting, "There are dozens of us! Dozens!"

There are all sorts of logistical questions we have, like does he ever change out of those cutoffs? More importantly, does he ever change the sock that he wears under those cutoffs? Actually, on second thought, we don't want to know.

Gene Parmesan

When Lucille suspects George Sr. of having an extra-marital affair, she hires private investigator Gene Parmesan to look into it. As Michael notes, Parmesan's ultimate failure to prove George's obvious infidelity makes him a less than skilled detective. But for some reason, Lucille loves the guy and frequently hires him to perform menial investigative tasks, like tracking George when he escapes to Mexico, following G.O.B. when he starts acting suspiciously, and in Season 4, getting dirt on Herbert Love, who he supposedly caught with a sex worker.

However, Gene's skills as a P.I. are dwarfed by his talents as a, uh, costume-wearer, for lack of a better term. It's not enough for Gene to blend into his surroundings and covertly snap photos from behind newspapers or take notes or something. No, he likes to dress up in goofy Party City outfits (as firefighters, janitors, a racist Mexican stereotype, and even a bear with balloons) so he can sneak up to Lucille and reveal his identity, which always makes her squeal with delight, even though this outlandish habit accomplishes nothing. Still, the best part about Gene might be how infrequently he's seen, only popping up when you forgot about him entirely and when you least expect him. Which we suppose is the entire point.

The Chicken Dance

It's really not that hard to imitate a chicken. Turn your arms into little wings by tucking your hands into your armpits and just say "cluck" or "bacaw" a few times. Amazingly, but also not that amazingly, how to pull off this simple method of lightly mocking someone is utterly lost on the Bluth family. Whenever they try to do it, they make themselves look far more absurd.

For example, G.O.B. — who sometimes has a prop chicken beak to wear (since you can't tell what he's doing) — claps his hands and chants, "Ca-cacaw! Ca-cacaw!" Lindsay puts a hand on her forehead and dances back and forth, saying "Chaw! Chee-chaw! Chee-chaw!" Lucille performs exaggerated courtesies while repeatedly shouting, "A-coodle-doodle-doo!" George Sr. flails his arms and says, "Coo-coo-ca-cha!" You know, like chickens do.

Michael, who's often the target of this un-insulting mockery (like when he hesitates to ask out a woman), speaks for us all when he says, under his breath, "Has anyone in this family ever even seen a chicken?"


George Michael is one of those dorky kids that you kind of have to support whenever he manages to find love somewhere because who knows when the next interested girl will come along? But not even his family could really support his dating Ann, also known as "plant" and "egg." That's not because she's awful, necessarily, or even because they are. It's just because she's very, very boring and easy to forget, even when she's sitting right in front of you or when you're the one who let her in the house in the first place.

Whenever a family member learns (usually for the fifth or sixth time) that George Michael is dating her, they respond with a genuinely confused, "Her?" Then — a bit baffled by her rather plain appearance — they assume she must be really funny or something. It sounds innocent enough, but it actually results in her being stranded in Mexico after Michael forgets he brought her down there in the first place. Luckily, she seems pretty used to not being noticed and takes it all in stride. Or maybe that's just because she's so boring you can't even tell when she's upset. It's hard to tell. Wait, who were we talking about, again?

G.O.B.'s failed magic career

While many of the Bluth kids jump back and forth between various callings over the course of the show, G.O.B. remains steadfastly dedicated to a single profession: His pathetic magic career, in which his tricks — or, we're sorry, illusions — always fall apart in public. However, these routine humiliations rarely discourage him for long, as evidenced by the fact that he keeps going even after getting banned from the Alliance of Magicians (for revealing how his Aztec Tomb illusion worked on TV), and he always seems to have something up his sleeve.

Oh, we meant that last part literally. G.O.B. stores everything from coins to cigarette lighters in the sleeves of his jacket, planning to use them to pull off some kind of stunt. Unfortunately, sleeves alone are terrible at concealing anything, as evidenced by the fact that whatever device he's hidden up there always goes flying onto the table in front of his audience, ruining the stunt. But that's nothing compared to his bigger illusions, such as blowing up the family yacht to make it disappear, painting the (wrong) playing card on his chest, and tumbling out of a coffin in front of the entire audience at his (still living) father's funeral.

We'd normally be inspired by someone's refusal to give up. But G.O.B.'s case seems to be more of a lesson in giving up stupid dreams while you're still ahead.

George Michael's crush on Maeby

George Michael is an awkward kid, there's no getting around that. But that awkwardness doesn't stop at his dorky dress style, bizarre family, and lack of confidence with the ladies. We would never make fun of those things, but we do have to mention his infatuation with his much cooler cousin, Maeby Funke (Tobias and Lindsay's daughter). 

After Maeby kisses him to make her mother jealous (don't ask), George Michael finds himself wrestling with feelings of attraction to her. He tries to hide those feelings from the family (and only succeeds because everyone else is even dumber than he is), gets even more awkward when she's around (if you can believe it), and tries to engineer romantic moments between the two. For example, he takes her to see "Les Cousins Dangereux," a French film about two cousin lovers, in the hopes that it'll awaken similar feelings in Maeby.

George Michael eventually learns that Lindsay Bluth Funke is adopted, thus severing his biological connection to her daughter, Maeby, and seemingly opening the door to an official romantic relationship. Luckily, Michael realizes what's happening before its too late and talks his son out of this gross pursuit. Because even if they're not related, they're still cousins. Gross. But funny.

J. Walter Weatherman

Sometimes parents have to get a little bit creative when their kids act up and need to be taught a lesson. Most will ground them, or they might take away PlayStation privileges for a week. Now, we don't want to speak for everyone here, but usually "using your one-armed friend to stage outrageous stunts in which he supposedly injures himself horribly as a result of your child's minor disobedience" doesn't make the list. 

But of course, that's exactly what George Bluth Sr. does. He has no moral compass whatsoever, and his friend, J. Walter Weatherman, lost his arm in a Bluth Company construction accident. Naturally, when his kids were growing up, George Sr. used Weatherman to teach his young children life lessons about such serious topics as — let us check our notes here — not yelling and shutting the door when the A/C is running. Each stunt, shown in flashbacks, involves the kids acting up in a way pretty consistent with their age, which somehow results in J. Walter Weatherman "losing" an arm before turning around and offering a cool, "That's why you always leave a note," or something similar. Usually, George himself laughs in the background at another successful traumatizing stunt pulled on his kids. 

It's pretty dark stuff, but it's far too creative not to laugh at. 

Bob Loblaw

Lawyers must love the Bluths. After all, they're a family of criminal idiots, meaning legal services are almost always needed, and they still somehow have plenty of cash to throw at their problems despite being terrible with money. Barry Zuckercorn is the Bluth family counsel for much of the show, but his own idiocy gets him fired in favor of the much more professional Bob Loblaw. Okay, now repeat that five times fast. No, seriously. It rolls right off the tongue, and it's a lot of fun to say, which is the entire point.

These types of anti-tongue twisters surround the hilariously no-nonsense Bob Loblaw, and it's not ever clear if he's aware of it or not. TV advertisements announce, "Bob Loblaw no habla Espanol," and newspaper headlines read, "Bob Loblaw lobs law bomb." As Tobias puts it after Bob tells him he's going to work on his Bob Loblaw law blog, "You, sir, are a mouthful." He is. And that's why we love the writers on this show.