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The Best Running Gags On That '70s Show

"That '70s Show" rarely gets the love or respect that it deserves. Maybe that's because it was aimed at an audience roughly the same age as its high school main characters: protagonist Eric Forman; his next-door neighbor and on-again, off-again girlfriend Donna; best buddies Hyde and Kelso; Kelso's own on-again, off-again love interest Jackie Burkhart, who's almost as ditzy as he is; and Fez, a foreign exchange student they all pal around with. On top of that, you've got Eric's sister and arch-rival Laurie and their parents, the sweet but neurotic Kitty and her curmudgeon of a husband, Red.

Like many classic sitcoms, the show lasted nine seasons, peaked around Seasons 3 and 4, slowly declined from there, and fell apart pretty quickly at the end when some of the show's biggest breakout stars (Topher Grace (Eric) and Ashton Kutcher (Kelso), in this case), departed early and were replaced with characters nobody liked. It's a tale as old as time, or at least as old as television: "The Office" and "Scrubs" went through exactly such an evolution, and plenty of other shows have lousy final 9th seasons even if the main cast remains intact (looking at you, "How I Met Your Mother").

But ending on a weaker note didn't stop "That '70s Show" from delivering some of the early 2000s' best sitcom laughs — including more than its fair share of epic recurring jokes that still hold up today. Get ready for a trip to Point Place: We've assembled a list of the best-ever "That '70s Show" running gags.

Star Wars

As natural as their friendship seems on screen, we're not sure if Hyde, Fez, Kelso, Donna, Jackie, and Eric would've been pals in real life, because, well, they just don't have much in common. Hyde's an anti-government rebel who's prone to conspiracy theories. Fez is naive and often doesn't really understand American culture. Kelso is a goofy, oversexed lunkhead. Donna takes her education and future plans more seriously than any of them, Jackie is a vapid, gossiping rich girl, and Eric is just a straight-up nerd.

When "Star Wars" comes out in a Season 3 episode, though, all the guys (and even Red) are blown away by the groundbreaking visual effects. Kelso, in particular, is head-over-heels for the movie, but eventually gets back to doing what he does best: pursuing women.

Only Eric sees "Star Wars" as a genuinely life-changing experience. He won't shut up about the movie at home and even has dreams where everyone around him plays one of the iconic roles in the movie. But it doesn't stop there. He turns his love of the film into a bona fide obsession and a core part of his personality, even down to his sexual fantasies. Throughout the show, he makes references to the film so frequently that it starts to annoy everyone around him, especially Donna and Red — but it sure is funny to watch.

Jackie and Kelso's on-again, off-again relationship

Michael Kelso and Jackie Burkhart, easily the two most airheaded members of the main cast, have one of the most dysfunctional relationships in sitcom history. Neither one is mature enough to be in a relationship at all, and only Jackie is really committed in the first place.

Michael genuinely loves her, but he also loves pursuing women in general. So, you know, most of the time he just does that — while he's still seeing Jackie. Only Ashton Kutcher could make such a remorseless, selfish jerk as lovable as Kelso somehow is. Most notably, Kelso gets involved with Eric's sister Laurie. She's a bit like him, but smarter and lacking that streak of puppy-dog innocence that (almost) absolves him of wrongdoing. When Jackie finds out, she dumps Michael on the spot.

But that's just one example of their instability. Throughout the earlier seasons, both Jackie and Kelso privately express concerns about their partner to their friends. Jackie is afraid of a future with an immature buffoon like Kelso. Meanwhile, the other guys find Jackie annoying and constantly pressure Michael to dump her, which he always says he's about to do.

Usually, though, she's the one who pulls the trigger, and the cycle repeats: Both are heartbroken, and Kelso goes to some insane lengths to get back together with her — only to cheat on her and get caught and dumped once he does. It's arguably a pretty realistic portrayal of high school relationships.

'I said good day!'

Ah, Fez. Short for "foreign exchange student" (F.E.S.), this nerdy kid, obsessed with women but never quite able to close the deal (until the end of the show), is one of the funnier members of the main cast. He's not usually the central focus of the story, serving instead as comic relief or the center of the B plot. Normally he's a good sport, too. You kind of have to be if you're in a group of five other kids who bond largely over constantly grilling and prancing each other.

Although Fez is a frequent target of hazing, with his buddies often using his naivety regarding American social customs against him, he's also a willing participant in pranks and schemes of his own. He also seems to have no problem being called "Fez" in the first place, even though that's not his real name and nobody knows or seems to care where he's from.

All that being said, Fez does have his limits. Whenever he's genuinely insulted, such as when the other guys recognize the insanity of his girlfriend Caroline well before he does (and he takes offense to their warnings), he'll storm off with a flippant "Good day!" This always leads to them apologetically calling him back, to which he responds, without fail, "I said good day!"

'Ow, my eye!'

Michael Kelso was a little bit like the Joey Tribbiani of "That '70s Show": A good-looking womanizer who, to put it politely, is a bit lacking in intelligence. Kelso, the self-described "king" of idiocy, is frequently the butt of jokes and is by far the most likely member of the main cast to bungle his way into an unfortunate situation from which his friends must bail him out.

One bad habit he has is constantly trying to get the drop on Steven Hyde. Hyde, who's still a kid but has as much street cred and survival skills as everyone else combined, rarely finds himself on the losing end of one of these wrestling matches. Luckily, they're never particularly violent, just two buddies horsing around in good fun (although there's often some kind of beef involved).

However, accidents do happen, and the fights tend to end rather abruptly when Kelso leaps up, holding his face and screaming, "Ow, my eye!" It's never made clear if Hyde is deliberately targeting Kelso's eye or if the pretty boy buffoon is just unlucky and prone to injuries in that area. Either way, it's more than a little bit his fault that it keeps happening since he's almost always the one who starts the fight in the first place. But hey, it's Kelso, for crying out loud. What exactly do you expect?

Falling off the water tower

As Eric and his friends frequently lament, Point Place is a boring, one-horse town and far from an ideal place to grow up. So they have to get creative when it comes to entertaining themselves. Usually, they'll wind up hanging out in the Formans' basement, chilling at the Hub, or riding around in the old Vista Cruiser, which Eric got as a birthday present in the show's pilot episode.

Sometimes, though, they'll wind up spending time atop the town's rickety old water tower. Despite said tower not being remotely designed to support the weight of six high schoolers and a bunch of stolen beer, they spend more than a few nights hanging out on its walkway.

Predictably, people fall off more than a few times. Kelso is the most notable victim, tumbling off and breaking his arm while they're painting a pot leaf on the tower and Hyde asks him to back up to get a better view. Eric almost falls off a few times. Fez tumbles to the ground at least once. Most tragically (although the show plays it as a joke), Charlie Richardson falls to his death while hanging with the gang sometime between Seasons 7 and 8. The tower is renamed the Charlie Richardson Memorial Water Tower in his honor, although the gang never refers to it by this name (or seems to care that they had a hand in the kid's death). It's a disconcerting part of a running gag that's otherwise treated very lightheartedly.


Eric and his friends have a lot of bad habits, because they're high schoolers with "not a thing to do" but hang out down the street (which is the same old thing they did last week). They can't drink (at least not legally), they lack the funds to escape their one-horse town, and there's no Internet to keep them occupied.

Naturally, bored, immature doofuses can always find a way to get into trouble. Luckily for the town at large, though, they usually turn their guns on each other with insults, pranks, comebacks, and occasional violence — any instance of which is enthusiastically acknowledged by Kelso with an iconic "Burn!" at the expense of the target.d 

He's a good sport, though, and is perfectly willing to shout this at his own expense as well if someone gets him good enough. In one Season 3 episode, he "burns" his buddies by tricking them into a fancy dinner that he has no intention of paying for. He dines and dashes, followed by everyone except Eric and Donna. As revenge, they lace some brownies with chocolate Ex-Lax and send everyone scrambling for the nearest bathroom. Kelso comes down, plops on the couch, and applauds Eric and Donna's revenge, before breaking down what made it such a good burn. "I didn't see it coming," he explains. "Parts of it really hurt." To their astonishment, he then voluntarily eats another brownie. A good sport, sure, but dumb as all get-out.

Kitty's laugh

Kitty Forman's just about the sweetest, most charming, most impossible-to-dislike sitcom mother ever. To put it mildly, her personality stands out in stark contrast to that of her perpetually ill-tempered husband Red, who thinks showing any emotion other than sneering anger is a sign of weakness. Kitty can always be seen doting on Eric (who, unlike Red, she prefers over her troublesome daughter Laurie) and his friends, cooking meals for everyone, and, when Red finds himself between jobs, selflessly heading back to work and earning the family's income through nursing. She has her moments of anger, such as when Red and Eric forget her birthday and when she discovers that Eric and Donna are sleeping together ... But for the most part, she's a little beam of sunlight who loves her family dearly.

However, we have got to talk about that laugh. It's more than a little hard to describe. It sounds like a series of joyful hiccups, like someone's repeatedly tapping her on the back and making her skip like a record. You'll honestly just have to hear it for yourself, but we can guarantee it'll have you laughing right along with her.

We're not sure if it was meant to be a running gag from the outset, but, as evidenced by the fact that the canned laughter kicks in whenever she lets the laugh loose in later seasons, it effectively became one. And it's more than hilarious enough to earn a spot on the list.


Red Forman is the last guy on earth you'd want to mess with (or even spend too much time around), despite his being aged well past his prime and not all that physically intimidating. He's a grouchy, perpetually out-of-patience combat vet who knows how to use a gun and hates nearly everyone he meets. When he gets angry and threatens to knock skulls together, you apologize profusely or run. That's all there is to it.

Most of the time, though, he doesn't have the energy to punish everyone and everything who annoys him because, well, everyone and everything does annoy him, and all that retaliation would just be too much work. He'd much rather read the paper alone or watch a Packers game. For that reason, Red usually just resorts to one of two canned, but always hilarious, insults when someone (usually Eric or Bob Pinciotti next door) crosses him: threatening to "put my foot in your ass" or the more succinct but always classic "dumbass!"

In one flashback scene, we even get to see a drunk Red spontaneously coin the term when referring to his immature friend who'd upset Kitty at a Halloween party. "He's dumb," Red says. "And he's an ass. He's a ... dumbass!" Of course, the show pairs the iconic revelation with a golden beam of sunlight and an angelic chorus. It's maybe the most excited we've ever seen the Red, who's used the phrase ever since.

Nobody knows where Fez is from

No, "Fez" isn't Fez's actual name. It's a lazy shorthand for "foreign exchange student," which he is. He does briefly explain to Kelso, Hyde, and Eric what his name was and where he comes from, right after they rescue him from bullies on his first day at their high school (as seen in Season 4's "Class Picture," where everyone reminisces about meeting for the first time as they try to come up with a funny yearbook slogan). But this explanation is drowned out by the noise in the background, and neither his friends nor the audience are able to hear it. So the crew christens him "Fez" instead.

It's not the last time he tries to describe his background, either, nor is it the last time he's unable to do so due to something unexpected either interrupting him or drowning out his words. The show takes place over the entire latter half of the titular decade, and despite seeing Fez nearly every day for all those years, not a single one of his friends knows his actual name or country of origin.

It's a hilarious, simple gag made better by the fact that Fez really doesn't seem to mind at all. He's perfectly fine being called a mildly insulting nickname borne out of everyone's ignorance of and indifference toward his actual identity. At the end of the day, the naive, happy-go-lucky kid's just happy to have friends at all.

Definitely not smoking pot

"The Office" had talking head interviews. "Arrested Development" had a narrator. And "That '70s Show" had the Circle: the round-table hangout format in the Forman's basement where Eric and his friends (usually just the guys) chat, gossip, scheme, and uh, do something else that the show was never willing to directly acknowledge. (Pot. It was smoking pot.)

Actually, we take that back: The beginning of Season 3 is all about Hyde getting busted for possessing (Jackie's) drugs — and Eric stupidly announcing that he smokes too in order to deny an infuriated Red the justification he needs to kick Hyde out of the house. This leads to Red cracking down hard in order to purge his home of what he clearly sees as some kind of heavy, life-ruining substance. It's one of the best arcs on the show, only ending when Kitty puts her foot down and demands Red stop turning her house into a prison.

For the most part, though, other than painting a pot leaf on the water tower, the show played dumb when it came to weed. The closest it gets to directly addressing what the gang is up to in the basement, or when hanging out with Leo (played by Tommy Chong, so you can put two and two together), is to surround the gang with a smoky haze and depict them laughing uproariously at stupid jokes. But hey, this running gag left fans laughing, too.

Red threatens to put his foot in everyone's ass

"That '70s Show" was excellent, and Eric's dad Red was arguably one of the best characters. Played inimitably by Kurtwood Smith, Red is a grizzled, out-of-patience curmudgeon who delights in punishing and embarrassing Eric, whom he sees as a disrespectful weakling, and his friends, whom he finds stupid and supremely annoying. The fact that they only ever hang out in his basement certainly doesn't help things. The only people the grumpy war vet genuinely seems to like are his daughter Laurie, who he sees as daddy's little girl regardless of how openly vicious and manipulative she is, and his wife Kitty, to whom he is fiercely loyal. And that makes sense: Not even a grouch like Red could find a reason to dislike her if he tried.

When dealing with those he hates, though, which is just about everyone else, you can expect him to whip out some version of his favorite phrase: "I'll put a foot in your ass." The line takes many forms, but the important bits of anatomy are always there. Luckily for Eric (who's most often on the receiving end of the line and who's so scrawny Donna once said you could fill up his chest with water if he was on his back), Red means this threat metaphorically, not physically. So instead of actually using his foot, Red resorts to yelling, threatening, grounding, and mocking. But when it comes from a guy like Red, that's just as scary. (And hilarious).