Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother

Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother

All comedy shows love a running gag. It’s a nice easy way to ensure a laugh, it rewards persisitent viewers and it makes the show have a nice cohesion over time.

Few shows have understood how to do this feat quite like How I Met Your Mother does and and have cultivated so many cracking running jokes that they can cycle them so often that they never get old.

With the show’s seventh series out now on DVD, we decided to mark out our favourites from the past 160 episodes.

Robin Sparkles

We all love looking back on the 80s music wise. More hair spray than you shake a proverbial stick at and jeans jackets galore, it makes for fantastic schadenfreude.

So, imagine our delight when it turned out that our favourite local newscaster had a rhinestone covered past as a teenage Canadian pop sensation. With a duo of fantastically weird music videos and a horrendously suggestive kids TV show to her name, Robin Sparkles is the type of past we’d all love to have, but hate to get found out.

The show’s dusted off Robin Sparkles three times so far (and according to Cobie Smulder’s Twitter a fourth appearance is on the cards) and each and every one has so far been beyond a delight.

We rub our collective hands together to see what they’ll have Cobie do next in that blonde wig.

Slap Bet

The show’s one fool proof piece of advice; never make a slap bet, especially not with Marshall Eriksen.

Coming from the same episode as Robin Sparkles, it all started with Marshall and Barney making a bet as to what was Robin’s dirty little secret. Marshall was eventually given the victory, and Barney was forced to choose ten slaps straight away of five over eternity. He chose the five (which would later rise to eight) and still lives in fear as to when Marshall shall use the last two he has left.

The beauty of the slap bet joke is that it’s always potentially there, bubbling under the service. At any time, Marshall can whip out a monstrous blow and Barney can do nothing about it. A brilliantly evil piece of physical comedy in a show dominated by witty word play.


The gang’s constant Canada digs have become a constant touch stone throughout the show’s running so far and took on a brilliant new tone this season with Barney’s finding out he has more in common with the ice hockey loving friends across the border than he ever thought he would.

From jokes ridiculing the countries sports, coffee, writers and even its smutty pseudonyms, the Great White North has become the butt of many a gag throughout the show’s running. Long may the fun poking continue.

The Bro Code

Brought up by Barney again and again throughout the show, this tome of manly actions is the centre of much amusement.

Often quoted from (although not as much recently) this text has become Barney’s bible and the source of much of his indignation and many a high five.

What other running jokes have a two books (the second is a new edition for expecting parents) published tying in to them?

Tie-In Websites

Most show’s love to have a bit of fun with the internet, but How I Met Your Mother goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to making its audience giggle online, as it actually creates many a website to support the show.

From creating a website for Barney and Ted’s made up bar ‘Puzzles’ to the fully working fake Wikipedia for Barney’s pseudonym Lorenzo Van Materhorn and a MySpace page for Robin Sparkles, the show’s creators have been right on the money when it comes to bringing their fiction to life.

It’s the little touches that make all the difference.


How I Met Your Mother Season 7 is out now on DVD and Blu Ray.

FemaleFirst Cameron Smith