Over the course of 250+ M*A*S*H episodes, there were a handful of jokes that appeared in more than one episode. To clarify, I do not mean instances such as Col. Potter saying some variant of "Horse hockey"; that's not a joke, but rather a purposeful character idiosyncrasy. I am instead talking about a distinct turn of phrase, or a set-up and punchline, or witticism that appeared in more than one script. How and/or why these instances occurred, I'll leave up to the reader, but I'll quote Larry Gelbart devotee Aaron Sorkin in commenting on his own repetition: "I have an unfortunate confluence of limited talent and very bad memory."
So, here is a list (incomplete I'm sure) of 'jokes' that were used in more than one episode:
- "You look like an ad for death." from GERM WARFARE (season 1 - by Larry Gelbart), and from CARRY ON HAWKEYE (season 2 - by Larry Gelbart, Laurence Marks, and Bernard Dilbert).
- PA Announcement: "The following people have volunteered to go on today's 10-mile physical fitness hike. [long silence ensues before music resumes playing]" from DEAR DAD (season 1 - by Larry Gelbart). The same setup and joke appears in very slightly altered form from THE TRIAL OF HENRY BLAKE (season 2 - by McLean Stevenson). In the latter episode the line read: "The following people have volunteered to go on a 10-mile hike."
- "You guys should be sentenced to life in front of a firing squad." from MAJOR FRED C. DOBBS (season 1 by Sheldon Keller), and from THE TRIAL OF HENRY BLAKE (season 2 - McLean Stevenson) where the line read: "Yeah, get me life in front of a firing squad."
- "Frank, if I could yawn with my mouth closed, you'd have no idea how boring you really are." From HAWKEYE ON THE DOUBLE, (an unproduced script by Stanley Ralph Ross dated 11/3/1972 found in the Larry Gelbart archives at UCLA). And from PAYDAY (season 3 - by John Regier and Gary Markowitz). [Note, this technically would not count because HAWKEYE ON THE DOUBLE was only a spec script. I only include this because it is a letter-for-letter wording in both cases. I'm confident in saying that Larry Gelbart or Gene Reynolds must have repurposed the joke. Regier and Markowitz would not have had likely access to a two-year-old spec script and it's hard to imagine they accidentally stumbled upon a joke in such an exact manner.]
- "Henry was never very good with his hands; I guess that's why he became a doctor." from THE ARMY-NAVY GAME (season 1 - Sid Dorfman) and from DEAR DAD THREE (season 2 - by Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks). In this latter episode, the joke was altered: Henry: "I was never very good with my hands, Radar. " Radar: "I guess that's why you became a doctor, sir."
- "...The least objectionable of which is staying here with you idiots, in this upholstered men's room." from CHECK UP (season 3 - by Laurence Marks). The joke appeared in altered form in AID STATION (season 3 - by Larry Gelbart and Simon Muntner) as "I never thought I'd be happy to see that upholstered toilet again". In this case there is arguably a third appearance, in STICKY WICKET (season 1 - by Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks): "This place is an upholstered cesspool."
- Henry: "These are Captains McIntyre and..." Hawkeye (interrupting): ...and these are Captains Pierce." from THE INCUBATOR (season 2 - by Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks), and from HENRY IN LOVE (season 3 - by Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks).
- "They know what causes that [pregnancy] these days." from SHOWTIME (season 1 - by Larry Gelbart and Robert Klane), and from HAWKEYE (season 4 by Larry Gelbart) in slightly altered form, "...and we know what causes that [pregnancy] these days, too."
- "They're has-beans." from IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (season 4 - Larry Gelbart and Simon Muntner), and from THE JOKER IS WILD (season 11 - by Dennis Koenig), in altered form: "These beans are so old they're has-beans."
- Trapper: "Would you like some tonic?" [then manually shakes his cheeks to create the sound of tonic splashing in his hands] from L.I.P. (season 2 - Carl Kleinschmitt, Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks), and from BOMBED (season 3 - Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum). In this latter example Hawkeye is the one who does the joke, not Trapper.
- "I got enough nausea to light up the city of Toledo" from CARRY ON HAWKEYE (season 2 - by Larry Gelbart, Laurence Marks and Bernard Dilbert), and from CHECK UP (season 3 - by Laurence Marks), in slightly reworded form: "I got heartburn that would light up the city of Toledo".
- "Major Burns wouldn't give a drowning man a glass of water." from THE PRICE OF TOMATO JUICE (season 4 - Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds), and GIVE AND TAKE (season 11 - Dennis Koenig), reworded: "He's the kind of person who'd give a drowning man a glass of water."
- "Some men are born to greatness, while others have garbage thrust upon them." from SOME 38th PARALLELS (season 4 - John Regier and Gary Markowitz), and from THE LIFE YOU SAVE (season 9 - John Rappaport and Alan Alda) "Some men are born to garbage, while others have garbage thrust upon them."
- "When did this line start using stewardesses?" from WAR CO-RESPONDENT (from Season 8 - Mike Farrell) and from THAT'S SHOW BIZ - Part 1 (season 10 - David Pollock and Elias Davis) worded: "Since when did they put stewardesses on this run?"
- Frank: "Gripe gripe gripe..." Hawkeye [singing]: "....the boys are marching!" from CRISIS (season 2 - Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks), and from O.R. (season 3 - Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks). In this latter instance Frank says "Sex sex sex..." before Hawkeye sings the refrain. This joke is a send up of the famous Civil War marching song "Tramp Tramp Tramp the Boys Are Marching".
- "You like Chinese food? You like walking in the rain? How about eating Chinese food in the rain?" from PAYDAY (season 3 - John Regier and Gary Markowitz), and from OF MOOSE AND MEN (season 4 - Jay Folb). The latter example was "Do you like walks in the rain? Do you like Chinese food? You could ahve been my wife."