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What is a Callback?

 , updated on September 17, 2016
A callback is a comedic technique that extends a previous joke with a new but related joke. A significant period of time may elapse between the two jokes. For example, in a television show the joke may refer to a previous episode. In other cases, a callback is used at the end of a story or a comedy performance in order to go out with a big laugh and establish a sense of completeness.
Callbacks create rapport with an audience because they feel like an inside joke.

Seinfeld

The American television show Seinfeld is considered the first sitcom to use regular callbacks that span multiple episodes. This broke an unwritten rule in the television industry that each episode of a sitcom be understandable to new viewers. The callbacks in Seinfeld helped to give the show a strong following as it had a rich vocabulary of self-references.
Overview: Callback
Type
Definition
A series of time-separated jokes that are interrelated.
Value
Creates a sense of rapport as they feel like inside jokes.
Establishes continuity and gives a story a familiar feeling.
Related Concepts

Storytelling

This is the complete list of articles we have written about storytelling.
Analogy
Archetypes
Artistic License
Atmosphere
Character Development
Callback
Character Flaws
Cliche
Dry Humor
Design Fiction
Improv
Deux Ex Machina
Kairos
Direct Language
Literary Device
Literature
Figurative Language
Macguffin
Hypothetical Question
Metaphor
Mood
Improvisation
Myth
Inside Jokes
Plot
Jumping The Shark
Quibble
Rhetorical Device
Sarcasm
Lost The Plot
Satire
Message Framing
Tone Of Text
Understatement
Metaphysical Conceit
Verbal Irony
Want To Believe
Mood
Wit
Narrative Thread
Worldbuilding
Non Sequitur
Peak-End Rule
Personification
Red Herring
Rhetorical Question
Rule Of Three
Slice Of Life
Suspension Of Disbelief
Tagline
Looking Glass
Word Of Mouth
More ...
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