USC Digital Folklore Archives / Humor

Swing Jokes

There is a kind of dark joke that has been passed down through Eloisa’s siblings that goes like:

Why did Sarah fall off the swing?

Cause she had no hands!

Knock Knock!

Who is there?

Not Sarah!

The joke has been passed down about 3 generations from her dad’s side. It’s always been used when someone is going through a dark patch to cheer them up.


Eloisa is a Michoacan born lady who has lived in Arkansas since she has been a little girl. She used to be really religious, but after being opened up to human rights, and mostly women rights, she has taken a step back and tried to analyze everything to decide on what she can really identify as part of her.


Rituals, festivals, holidays

Leaving a Place for Elijah

The source is an Israeli Microsoft employee describing a prank he pulled on his children on Passover.

Well, as you may know for Passover Seder, we set an extra place at the table for the Profit Elijah. The tradition normally is that we pour a cup of wine for the profit and the husband of the household open the door for him. Of course, the seat remains empty and the wine full. And many parents know you can have some fun with young children, who of course are watching the Elijah’s Cup intently, by knocking the table when they’re not looking so that some of the wine spills out and it appear that the cup is drunk. When they’re older maybe they don’t fall for this.

Anyway, last year we had the idea to take that one step further and I asked my friend from work Farhan to help me with a prank. He’s Zoroastrian so he’s not doing anything that night. So this Seder we set a place for Elijah like normal; we pour the wine like normal. My children are nine and thirteen so they don’t take the whole thing too seriously anymore; they know the trick of knocking the table and spilling the wine; you know, they’re too wise to fall for that anymore.

Well this year we start eating and suddenly a bearded olive-skinned man in a tunic walks in the front door, comes to Elijah’s place, drinks the wine, and walks out again without saying anything. My kids drop to the floor and they say, “who was that, Dad.”

And I say very casually, “That’s Eliyahu [Elijah].”

To this day I won’t tell them that it was really my friend Farhan.


The Toaster Era

This entry was given to the interviewer through digital means. The interviewer asked the informant, Sahit, about any superstitions in the NBA he knows because of Sahit’s die-hard obsession to the sport. He replied with a comment about the “winningness” of the Golden State Warriors.



“I can’t think of any pregame superstitions or anything like that, but there is this thing that recently came up about a toaster that Klay [Thompson] signed. Some guy on Reddit went to a Klay autograph signing but instead of a shirt or a basketball, he had Klay sign his official Warriors-branded toaster. This kinda became a meme in itself because Klay was just so dumbfounded about signing the toaster that there are pictures of the awkward pause right before he signed it. But, since then, the Warriors are undefeated. This is now known as the Toaster Era and the Warriors are 20-0 in the Toaster Era.”


The interviewer had heard about the “Toaster Era” but didn’t know what it was attributed to in the first place. More than anything, this whole thing seems like a passing meme about the Warriors’ insane ability to win against any team in the NBA. I really doubt that the Warriors are undefeated solely due to the toaster, but it is nevertheless entertaining to think of this superstition as a reason for their repeated victories.



Yo Mamma Jokes

The following history of the yo mamma joke is told by my old high school history teacher in an interview:

“Yo mamma jokes have been around since Babylonian times.  The earliest record we have of yo mamma jokes comes from an ancient Babylonian tablet which reads ‘..of your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it?’ Although this joke does not make total since in today’s context of the joke, as a riddle the phrase makes more sense.

Yo mamma jokes were used throughout history by intellectuals such as shakespeare who used the joke in his play Titus Andronicus’ when he writes:

‘Demetrius: “Villain, what hast thou done?”

Aaron: “That which thou canst not undo.”

Chiron: “Thou hast undone our mother.”

Aaron: “Villain, I have done thy mother.”’

Even in ancient times, people were digging jabs at each others mothers as a form of comedy.  The joke later evolved to fit the big screen as it was featured in movies such as the Monty Python  and began its transition into mainstream popular culture.  In later years, yo mamma jokes have been featured on many television shows and movies such as South Park, various Adam Sandler movies, and classics like Remember the Titans and Mean Girls.  Here are some other examples of modern day yo mamma jokes:

Yo momma is so fat, I took a picture of her last Christmas and it’s still printing.

Yo mamma is so ugly when she tried to join an ugly contest they said, “Sorry, no professionals.”

Yo momma is so stupid when an intruder broke into her house, she ran downstairs, dialed 9-1-1 on the microwave, and couldn’t find the “CALL” button.

Yo momma is so fat when she went to KFC the cashier asked, “What size bucket?” and yo momma said, “The one on the roof.””

Analysis:  Although the form in which the yo mamma joke is delivered has changed overtime evolving from a riddle to a joke, the main themes of the joke have remained constant.  The themes of the jokes include but are not limited to weight, intelligence, and beauty.  Other common themes are yo mamma jokes about other people having sexual intercourse with one’s mother.  The yo mamma joke is still prevalent today but not as much as it once was in the early 2000.  This is a very interesting piece of folklore because it is not limited to geographical boundaries.  Overtime, the whole world has learned and created their own variation of yo momma jokes while still maintaining the same themes.


Two Olives

So like, there’s two olives on the table. And one rolled off the table. And the other olive rolled closer to the table and said, “Are you okay?” and the other olive said, “Olive!” (pronounced like “I’ll live”).

She was told this joke by her dad, who she believes heard it told to him when he was younger.

This is a cute wordplay joke that I think I’ve heard before.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

The Cook and the Cowhands

There was a joke that my grandpa used to tell. It’s a little off color but not so bad. But he told the story, and then my mom told the story, and I haven’t really told it but I can tell it to you so you can hear it. It’s a little bit racist but you can take the race out of it and it works just the same. This is a story that my grandfather’s older brother and father told him. So there was a ranch in the West somewhere, probably Colorado or California. There were cowhands, and they were working all day on the ranch, and they had a cook named Wong. They thought they would play some practical jokes on him. When Wong was sleeping, the cowhands they would tie his shoes together with lots of knots. The next day they waited for a reactions, but nothing happened—he just fixed his shoes and didn’t mention it. The next day they put thumbtacks on his seat. They waited to see his reaction, and when he sat down he kind of grimaced, but just swept them away and didn’t really care. The next day they either short-sheeted his bed or soaked his sheets with water—I don’t really remember. They waited for a reaction, and no reaction. So they finally decided to talk to him. “So Wong, you’ve been a really good sport, tying your shoes in knots and putting thumbtacks on your seat, and messing with your sheets, so we won’t do that to you anymore.” In a different voice; “You no more put knots in my shoes?” “No, no more knots in your shoes.” “You no more put tackies on my seat?” “No, no more tacks on your seat.” “You no more soak my sheets in water?” “No, we won’t soak your sheets in water anymore.” “Good, well I no more pee pee in your soup.”

This story is important to the informant because of its history, and it having been passed down for multiple generations. It reminds him of how different the world used to be regarding the treatment of minorities, and their portrayal.

I find it interesting that the racist aspect of this narrative isn’t actually essential to the story– it could be told just about the same, without making stereotypical voices or mentioning the races of the characters.


Pointy Thing Meme

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor. The informant tells me(AK) about a very popular meme regarding the recent construction on USC’s campus.

SM: Let me tell you about this new meme, it’s called the “Pointy Thing” meme (shows picture on phone). pointythingmeme

AK: I actually haven’t seen this one, can you explain a little about how this started?

SM: You know, I’m actually not sure. I just remember seeing someone post about it on the USC meme page and it kind of took off from there.

AK: Do you think this says anything about our student body?

SM: I think it’s a great thing that we’re all able to make jokes about something like this. You know, even Nikias posted about these “pointy things” on his Instagram, so it just seems like something everyone can laugh about.

I found this piece to be incredibly interesting because not only did it feature a very modern form of media, but also because it referenced the specific folklore of a college. In today’s day and age, people are always in search of a form of immediate gratification. Memes are the perfect outlet for quick jokes or puns because they feature a short amount of text that highlight a funny or playful picture. For this reason, memes are the perfect way for something like this to spread quickly across a college campus to the point where even the president hears about it. The other thing that made this so interesting to hear about is the fact that it is relevant only to USC. Any group, large or small can have folklore, and this piece is a testament to that fact.


Filipino Joke

The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Nicole, at Blaze Pizza. Nicole is a Catholic missionary from the Phillipines. We were joined, as well, by another missionary named Carlos. Nicole shared with me a Filipino joke.

Nicole: “Why did the priest stop eating salt?”

Me: “Why?”

Nicole: “Because it was asin. ‘Asin’ means ‘salt’.”

Me: “In– In what language?”

Nicole: “Tagalog.”

Me: “Is that, like, from the Phillipines?”

Nicole: (nods)

Me: “Okay, that’s awesome. And where did you hear that from?”

Nicole: “From my… dad.”

Me: “Okay, did he tell it often, or…?”

Nicole: “Um… it was said among my friends, too.”

Me: “Oh, really? Like, around what age?”

Nicole: “Um… probably middle school…. (Laughs) that’s it.”

I really think this joke took full advantage of the Filipino-English pun potential and struck some serious gold.



The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Grant, after mass at the Caruso Catholic Center. He said he had a joke he could tell me.

Grant: “Why was the plumber crying?”

Me: “Why?”

Grant: “‘Cuz his… his brother got hit by a bus and died.”

(We laughed)

Me: “Is that– is that kind of like an anti-joke?”

Grant: “Yeah… I remember those were all the rage in, like, freshman year.”

Me: “Oh yeah, definitely, me too. What makes an anti-joke so funny to you do you think?”

Grant: “Um, they’re, like, ironic in the sense that the punchline has nothing to do with the set-up, and they’re just dark, and a little dreary… and for some reason that’s funny.”

I remember having anti-joke competitions with friends in high school. You would get more laughs the more intensely dark, messed up, or just plain nonsensical your joke became, so it almost became like an addiction with diminishing returns.


Shitty Luck

Informant is my friend that has grown up in Taiwan and Canada, while also studying in LA.


狗屎運 (Gou Shi Yun) literally means: “dog poo luck”. In our culture upon stepping on any type of poop is considered good luck. We just happen to say dog poo because there are more stray dogs that poo on the streets. Stepping on the dog poop on the street is in itself an unlucky event, but doing so is supposed to bring some personal good luck. Walking around carrying the luck everywhere as you go around!

I personally think that this is a pretty funny superstition about stepping on dog poop. It is like feeling bad for yourself to be this unlucky to step on poop, but thinking of it bringing good luck to yourself is a good way to get around being sad for oneself.