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  • Acceptable Targets: Used with varying degrees of intensity: the more the writers hate it, the meaner they'll be. So far, everything has been ripe for parody. It's even been noted by the narrators that "American Dad Hates Everyone Equally."
  • Anvilicious: Surprisingly averted. It doesn't go nearly as far as Family Guy do and is all the better for it.
    • Parodied in an episode where, after Francine is worried that her and Stan's new friends might get an abortion, he says...

  Stan: They won't, (looks at camera and smiles) because they're awesome! (nods)

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Is Francine a sensible mom/wife or is she an insane dumb blonde? Or sometimes both?
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • Any scene involving Reginald the Koala. They don't make sense even if you know his origin.
    • Roger's bad tortillas cause him to evacuate 'a turd of solid gold' which becomes the MacGuffin in a very bad B-movie - causing two overly long scenes in unconnected episodes where characters we've never seen before kill each other for said golden turd. Fans generally have found them confusing rather than funny.
      • This later turns out to be a Brick Joke, which took about four years to finish.
    • Not to mention the beginning to Irregarding Steve. Without warning, terrorists kill everyone as Klaus and Francine escape through an underground tunnel. They're suddenly in a car driving off as Klaus is in a mech, explaining that "[he's] Max Hammer. And [he's] here to save the world!" After escaping Mexican vampires, they discover the lost city of Atlantis after driving the car off the cliff into the ocean. They begin to kiss as it's revealed to be a daydream by Klaus.
    • In early seasons, Klaus would be a One-Scene Wonder who came right out of nowhere and disappeared. If you didn't know who Klaus was, you'd see the character as a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
    • The fake commercial for crack on A Jones for a Smith. Yeah, it was funny because Stan was imagining the whole thing and it does serve as a bit of satire about America's tight laws for illegal drugs vs. their lax laws on prescription drugs (which can be abused just like the illegals), but the main question is: Did it have anything to do with the plot (other than to be funny)?
    • MIND QUAD.
    • Stan's extended headtrip when "describing" what he sees when listening to "Touch Me I'm Going To Scream (Part II)" by My Morning Jacket in the similarly-named episode My Morning Straitjacket. At one point, lead singer Jim James becomes the face in the sun and when he opens his mouth, Stan comes sliding down a sunbeam in a reclined position.
    • The 1000th vagina joke celebration, to an extent. Where the heck did that come from...?
    • In Home Wrecker, after Stan and Francine demolish the wall separating their halves of the house, part of the ceiling caves in and Roger falls through, dressed in a wedding gown, alongside a blow-up sex doll that's also in a wedding gown. And the episode ends with two agents from INS asking "Where is she?", which leads to Roger screaming "Run Annabelle!", and letting the air out of the doll. As it blows away the agents chase after it while firing their guns.
    • Home Wrecker also completely derails from the plot a few minutes in when everyone breaks out into a song and dance number called "Stan and Frannie" (a parody of "We Go Together" from Grease that mainly consists of gibberish). The song ends about a minute in as Roger went to see Greg & Terry's new kitchen, at which point more plot-irrelevant nonsense occurs when everyone descends into a stereotypical televangelist theme that results in Jeff speaking in tongues, before they all leave followed by a marching band playing "When The Saints Go Marching In".
    • In "The Unbrave One": Maybe baby.
    • The end of "The Unbrave One". Francine steps into Steve's room drunk, and Roger walks in and sings a song. Then a random guy on the street and his lady friend come in and they all start singing along, with the last line being sung by the woman. And she's got the voice of a man.
    • It was Witches.
  • BLAM Episode: Hot Water, the Season 7 premiere. It's a hip-hop musical/horror story about Stan buying a hot tub that turns out to be sentient and a serial killer, and by the end it kills Principal Lewis, Francine, and Stan.
    • Word of God says the episode was written because the writers thought that American Dad was going to get canceled, so they made this episode as a series finale. When news hit that the show wasn't going to be cancelled, they made this the season premiere.
    • Tearjerker, a James Bond spoof with all the family members playing different characters.
  • Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch: People will occasionally accuse American Dad of being a Family Guy rip-off due to the fact that both shows are animated Dom Coms created by Seth MacFarlane (with MacFarlane providing voicework for the father characters), but anyone who has seen even a single episode of both shows can tell you that American Dad does NOT have the same humor style as Family Guy.
  • Crack Pairing: One Fish, Two Fish had Hayley, who'd transferred her mind into that of a goldfish, fake being married to Klaus. Morbid fascination at this quickly popped up.
  • Crazy Awesome: Roger can be this at times, thanks to his vast array of personas. One example is when his persona "Jeanie Golde" tells Steve and Haley to go buy a good present for their parents renewing of vows. When they come back with a $30 thimble, Jeanie "leaves" and his other persona Valik, some sort of Spanish/Mexican thug for hire arrives and slashes Steve across the chest with his knife. Once Francine arrives, Jeanie comes back and tells Steve to bite down on a stick as she begins to sew shut the wound, disinfect it, bandage it, then kiss it. All before telling Steve not to go into shock because "today is not about [him]."
    • Principal Lewis. He gets into fistfights with dogs.
  • Dork Age: Averted hard. Fleshing out the characters and changing the focus away from national security and Strawman Political issues has widened the potential audience. And the original continuity has been respected, for the most part.
  • Dude, Not Funny: Most of the abuse of Stan and Francine towards Steve.
    • The end of the hurricane episode where Stan shoots Francine when he had already hurt her with a harpoon.
  • Ear Worm:
    • Stelio. Stelio Kontos.
    • Guns make holes in your body, through which you can't potty, just your blood and guts spill out! Bambi's mom could still munch grass, Tupac would be tappin' ass, if you hate guns!
    • We're red and we're gay, we're red and we're gay, we're red and we're gaaay!
    • OOOOOLLIE NORTH! -bum- OOOoOLLIE NORTH!
    • El gato, el gato, el gato no es bueno...
    • Again, Hot Water in its entirety.
    • Doin' it, doin' it, d-d-d-doin' it, doin' it, doin' it...
    • I made it rain, I made it rain, I made it rain on dem boys!
    • Trapped in a Locker.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Roger started out as this. Not Klaus as the writers might have been hoping.
    • Agent Turlington is practically made of the stuff that leads to this trope.
    • Principal Lewis.
    • Don't forget THE ANTI-CHRIST.
    • Roger's "Jeannie Gold" persona has a small, but noticeable following, to the point that there's a Facebook page dedicated to him/her. The only other persona that came close to rivalling her is Ricky Spanish.
    • Debbie.
    • Rogu's tumour child, Rogu.
    • Goldfish!Hayley.
    • Santa Claus.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: The message of Shallow Vows would seem to be "It's okay to be shallow as long as your partner is equally shallow."
    • Alternatively, "It's okay to be flawed as long as you're honest about those flaws and your partner accepts those flaws in terms and as part of the relationship."
  • Fanon Discontinuity: "Hot Water."
  • Fountain of Memes: Everything that Roger says is liable to become a meme.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Why does Langley Falls have a werewolf hunter? Because we know that they have an actual werewolf problem!
  • Fridge Horror: What if all of Roger's species is just like him?
    • Roger is The Hedonist but he also has a ton of innate biological powers and fearsome technology. So is the rest of his kind (of which he might be a Super Soldier). They're a Higher-Tech Species that flies around the galaxy in giant ship abducting people to serve as slaves in their shopping malls. Though it seems only a minority are truly malicious however.
    • Everything about Barry once his true evil genius personality is revealed.
    • What if Katie's musical cue was her farting all the time?
    • At the end of Son Of Stan, it's possible that Steverino survived.
    • Francine wants Stan and her to be buried hand in hand in a heart-shaped coffin when they die. That's really cute... until you start wondering what will happen if one of them dies ten years after the other.
    • The implication that if Stan took control of parenting Steve, he'd turn out just like Steverino. Mind you, Francine's parenting isn't exactly better but at least Steve wouldn't have become Ax Crazy.
    • Also counts as Fridge Squick, but imagine how long Snot must have been stuck under Mr. Tuttle.
  • Funny Aneurysm Moment:
    • Lampshaded in the commentary for "Irregarding Steve", where Stan says "Death has better things to do, like remembering Tony Curtis already." The writers said that they prayed that Tony Curtis wouldn't die any time near that episode's airing. Fast forward to 2010...
    • The 2005 episode "Stan Knows Best" makes fun of how inexpensive community college is (Hayley's teacher refusing to grade her paper because she doesn't have the $85.00 for tuition [after Stan announces that he's not giving Hayley any more money for school], so Hayley takes a job as a strip club waitress -- and later a stripper -- to pay for college). In recent years, community colleges have faced major cutbacks, and tuition has skyrocketed. Tuition has nearly doubled in California in just four years.
  • Genius Bonus: The documentary style voice at the end of "Ricky Spanish" was done by an actual documentary VO actor.
  • Gorn: Has indulged in this as of late, though thankfully not as much as Family Guy.
  • Growing the Beard: Midway through season one, after the Stan of Arabia two-parter, though most people think this is for the best, since American Dad's earlier episodes were okay, but not as good as pre-cancellation Family Guy.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In the pilot episode, Roger insists that "we can't all be like those anorexic aliens in the James Cameron movies!" Nearly half a decade later, the then-secretive "Avatar" was released, featuring a race of creatures who were both extremely thin and, unlike his previous aliens, were specifically designed to inspire Perverse Sexual Lust in humans.
    • In "Daddy Queerest," a drunken Stan mistakes Nelson Mandela for Morgan Freeman. It is somewhat funny due to Mandela's and Freeman's similarities in appearance, but it really becomes Hilarious in Hindsight when you realize that the episode came out seven months before the release of the movie Invictus. Take a wild guess as to who's plays Nelson Mandela in that movie.
    • The season five finale "The Great Space Roaster" was about the family doing a roast on Roger for his birthday (with unexpected results). Seth MacFarlane (the voice of Stan and Roger) became the roast master for three of Comedy Central's roasts (David Hasselhoff -- which, sadly was the last time Greg Giraldo appeared before his suicide, Donald Trump, and the recent one with Charlie Sheen).
    • In "Francine's Flashback", an amnesiac Francine runs off with Hayley's boyfriend Jeff to watch the Burning Man event. Stan then absent-mindedly suggests to Hayley that they get back by dating each other. In "Pulling Double Booty", Hayley dates Stan's double Bill (whom Francine initially mistakes for Stan, causing her to freak out over the supposed incestuous relationship). At the end, Stan must fill in for Bill to prevent Hayley from being crushed.
    • In "Stan Knows Best", Stan shows off wigs based on the hairs of Republican first ladies, including Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Maria Shriver, to which Stan comments "Stay tuned." Something tells me what Stan's implying won't be happening anytime soon.
  • Ho Yay: Several times with Stan and Roger, always played for laughs.
    • Roger also has several of those moments with Steve, not to mention a bazillion one-off characters.
    • Linda Memari kissing Francine.
    • Snot randomly kissing Steve.
    • In-Universe, Stan's play "Lincoln Lover." Stan intended the title character as Lincoln's Heterosexual Life Partner but it didn't come off that way to audiences.
  • Hollywood Homely: Downplayed compared to Meg Griffin, but a few episodes imply that Hayley is on the chunky side and rather unappealing to most men but there's very little evidence to support this. Then again, Roger is the one making most of those implications.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Steve frequently falls into this.
    • Roger started off this way in early episodes, due to his secluded lifestyle and loneliness. As the series developed however, nearly all of his sympathetic background is subverted, not only does he now live a very healthy outside life, he actually utilizes false backstories (or at least skewed ones) to manipulate others, transforming him into a straight Jerkass.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Barry, when he's not on his medication.
  • Memetic Badass: Stelio. Stelio Kontos.
  • Memetic Loser: Klaus and Steve. Both In-Universe and out.
  • Memetic Molester: Roger. To be fair, the show is not shy about hiding it.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Maybe baby.
    • KKKKKEEEEVVVVIIIIIINNN! RRRAAAMMMAAAGGGEEE!
    • "Stan I'm about to get raped. Come get me in 45 minutes."
    • "Guns don't kill people. People kill people. Guns defend against people with smaller guns."
    • A leopard holding a chainsaw.
  • Misaimed Fandom: The show does not exist to promote the Republican/Conservative lifestyle and the American Dream. It exists purely to mock everything that Stan stands for.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Francine's biological parents abandoning her as a baby because babies can't ride first class without even batting an eye, then they wouldn't save Stan from being trapped under a wooden beam in his burning house because they didn't want to become a liability. To clarify, babies were allowed on the plane. Just not in the first class. Even Klaus, a proud Nazi, is horrified by them.
    • Roger has crossed this line so many times it's just easier to say he's a bad person. Granted, his species has to let all their bitchiness out or else their body converts it to poisonous bile, but there's a line between being bitchy and being an irredeemable monster, and Roger has crossed that numerous times just For the Evulz. There's also his alternate persona "Ricky Spanish", so horrible and monstrous the sight of him caused everyone in Langley Falls to form a citywide manhunt so they could get their hands on him.
    • Stan has had quite a few. See "Homeland Insecurity", "Failure Is Not A Factory-Installed Option", "Widowmaker" and "Surro-Gate" for shining examples.
  • Most Annoying Sound: MYAAAAAAAH! MYAAAAAAAAH! MYAAAAAAAAAH!
  • Narm: When the illegal immigrants that include Haley's ex-boyfriend at the end of one episode are about to be deported, right when ICE intends to do it, they sing America the Beautiful in Spanish to save their own skin, everyone's touched and ICE changes their mind about deporting them. It's probably the corniest ending of an episode the series had.
  • Paranoia Fuel: A very intentional line from "Hurricane!": "Remember when everyone when was worried about anthrax and dirty bombs a few years ago, even though they should be far, far more worried about it now? Trust me, I know what I'm talking about."
  • Recycled Script: How many times has the show done an episode where Stan tries to prove to someone from his past that he's not a loser only for it to be comprehensively proven that he still is?
  • Rescued From the Scrappy Heap:
    • Klaus wasn't well-liked early on. However, after "Finances with Wolves," his crush on Francine and his creepy pervert side was dropped and his The Woobie traits were played up, making him much more bearable.
    • People seem to be tolerating Reginald more, probably because his appearances are now brief and infrequent.
  • Ron the Death Eater: The show has never attempted to hide the fact that the Smiths are awful people but to hear some fans talk, they're sociopathic murderers.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Reginald the Koala, due to his Spotlight-Stealing Squad tendencies, being written like a bad fan-character, and general unfunniness.
    • For some it's more a case of They Changed It, Now It Sucks. Reginald was cool when he first appeared, talking with a smooth baritone voice and having his own theme song. In his subsequent appearances they replaced his original voice actor with a far less charismatic sounding one. In other words, he used to be Isaac Hayes and now he's Marlon Wayans!
      • He also got a completely pointless Story Arc where he tried to hook up with Hayley. It was like a bad fan-fic came to life.
    • Some fans are starting to see Roger as this, due to his increased role as the Spotlight-Stealing Squad, his Jerkass nature, some of his jokes being generally unfunny and that in the new opening credits, Roger now interrupts and takes over the theme song from Stan at the end.
  • Seasonal Rot: Some believe that this has happened to Season Six, claiming an increase of Refuge in Vulgarity and less talented writers. Around Season 9, the show is believed to have gotten back on track.
  • Squick:
    • Stan gleefully giving his mother a bath while singing about scrubbing her VJ. Even Roger was speechless.
    • Steve and Stan with huge boobs.
    • A sickly mother cat giving birth to 3 kittens in front of an awakening Francine from "Less Money, Mo' Problems".
    • Mr. Tuttle, who is morbidly obese. Thankfully he lost the weight later on.
    • The brothels in Toy Whorey. Stan and Steve's first stop is to the home of fat, old hooker with both her legs missing, slapping a tortilla between her thighs as if she's cooking them.
    • Hayley making out with Bill, Stan's body double.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: The episode "Lincoln Lover" briefly features a play with an obese man wearing underpants and a stovepipe hat tossing joints of meat around the stage while reciting advertising slogans. He then accuses us all of being slaves, and a mirror is lowered with the word "slave" written on it, as sheep noises play. Stan is suitably unimpressed.
  • The Untwist: "The Vacation Goo" reveals that every time the Smith family thinks they've gone on a vacation, Stan's actually put them inside virtual reality machines that create the illusion of being on vacation. After Francine finds out and insists Stan take them all on a real vacation, Steve and Haley take their own turns putting the rest of the family in the virtual reality goo so they can get some time alone. Eventually they go on what appears to be a real vacation, which goes horribly for everyone, and it turns out that... it's just a real sucky vacation. Francine didn't put the rest of the family in the goo machine to teach them a lesson or anything like that; their vacation just sucked. It's considered one of the weakest episodes in the series.
  • The Woobie:
    • Jeff, Hayley's downtrodden on-off boyfriend now husband.
    • Klaus at times due to his desperation for affection (this is actually toned down from the deleted scenes).
    • Sidney Huffman Roger's split personality formed from his few redeeming aspects, that ultimately had his entire life destroyed by the latter, and then himself due to his nice guy persona "cramping his style".
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