Meta-humor is an intensely important quality to all of the students of Greendale, but none more so than pop culture junkie Abed Nadir. The reality of Greendale is always questionable, but Abed is always relaxed and completely in control of the situation, by constantly comparing it to television tropes he's familiar with.
Jeff regularly gets mad at Abed for his constant references, although he does play along sometimes, too. Regardless of the rest of the group's feelings, Abed only truly stops believing in certain greatly maligned episodes. Also it's worth noting that in "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps," each group member takes a personality test, ultimately learning only one of the characters was sane: Abed.
Although they lived in a very high end legal world, when left on their own, Alan Shore and Denny Crane often turned into man-children living out a buddy comedy. Naturally, given their intellect and the acute awareness and cunning required to become a lawyer, they seem to realize this and accept the fact they are essentially sitcom characters.
Sharing nightly cigars on Denny's patio, the two would discuss what happened during the episode, in thinly veiled words when necessary. Other times they got very blatant, poking fun at ABC for switching around their time slot in "The Court Supreme," and more than once the entire cast would show signs of awareness and note they were some of the very few old people on TV.
Watching It's Garry Shandling's Show with modern eyes is nothing compared to how jarring and odd it must have seemed to audiences back in 1986, but it's still completely unique. It didn't break the fourth wall so much as gleefully admit there was no fourth wall. The titular star is in on the joke, but so is the entire supporting cast, the camera people and at times even the audience itself. Show reality and real reality blur, with characters on the show being acknowledged as actors playing a role, but still becoming strongly invested in those roles as episodes progress. No one has ever had a show quite like Garry Shandling's show.
Shawn Hunter was never presented as a genius, but he was always very resourceful and quick when it came to making a plan. And many of his plans were based on television, which is why he was always certain they would work.
In Season 4's "Sixteen Candles and 400 Pound Men," Topanga's birthday falls the same day as a big professional wrestling event the boys want to attend, Shawn suggests they attend both, citing an episode of The Flintstones where Fred pulled it off, telling Cory, "Trust me, it's exactly the same thing."
During "And Then There Was Shawn," Shawn repeatedly correctly states what is going to happen next based on his vast pop culture knowledge, and the knowledge he exists in a TV show, so they must follow those tropes. There are countless other examples of Shawn acting based on the knowledge he's in a TV show. The other characters seem suspicious at times, but only Shawn really knows.
The Randal of Clerks the movie was wisecracking and very aware of the world around him, but not until he became a cartoon did he realize he was a character in a scripted universe. As early as the first episode, Randal and Dante discuss their favorite TV show, The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, Randal noticing how eerily similar the episode it is to their own situation. Dante says it would be naà¯ve to simply do whatever Desmond does, however, considering that's a TV show, so it couldn't possibly work for him and Randal. Randal then notes Dante is the naà¯ve one.
The cartoon would become more and more reliant on meta-humor as its short run progressed, but straight from the get-go it was clear Randal's coolness would extend to self-awareness.
The Fresh Prince himself had more than a few moments where he revealed his self-awareness, and his best friend Jazzy Jeff was right there with him in spirit. Will openly acknowledges it's a TV show in several minor nods to the camera and Carlton ran through the set, but only Jazz vocally noticed something that can only happen on television: They changed the actress playing Aunt Viv. Jazz first noticed in "Where There's a Will, There's a Way" leading to Will giving a deadpan stare to the camera. Maybe Jazz isn't actually aware he's in a TV show after all...but he's getting there.
Sketch comedy has the ability to go meta for only a few moments, so the audience doesn't get dragged too far away from the inner reality of the show. However, this Kids in the Hall sketch does so much damage to the fourth wall the character deserves a mention. In a sketch called "Raise," Mr. Picklefeather explains to a writer why he won't give the writer a promotion: If the sketch they are appearing in is any indication, the writer must not be that good of a writer, considering he wrote it. Let's be real: If he's naming people Picklefeather, that's not a good sign. As the sketch continues, Picklefeather grows more and more weary of the clichés the writer forced him to exist with, and the joke only grows stronger, ending with the punch line: the writer forgot to write an ending, and now he and Picklefeather are stuck in this poorly written sketch forever.
Television isn't the only medium capable of breaking the fourth wall, and perhaps the most popular video game character to pull it off was Psycho Mantis. He didn't break the fourth wall of his own existence, but rather the wall that separates the notion of video games in their entirety from reality. Scanning players memory cards, Psycho Mantis told players he knew what other games they had been playing, giving this meta-reference a personal level of enjoyment to many gamers.