USC Digital Folklore Archives / Humor
Folk speech
Humor

“Dark in Here!”

Context & Analysis

The subject is a BFA in USC’s School of Dramatic Arts Acting program, which is extremely competitive. I asked him if he knew of any theater traditions or sayings specific to USC’s theater program. I included the full dialogue of our conversation below for clarity.

Main Piece

Subject: ‘Dark in here’ is a big one for the BFA’s. Any time the lights turn off someone just has to go ‘Dark in here!”

Me: What’s the context of that?
Subject: It was a line in a scene and we—Mary Jo probably made them do that line for an hour straight.

Me: Who’s Mary Jo?

Subject: Mary Jo Negro is the head of undergraduate acting at USC, she’s our acting professor, she’s the one that cuts us [laughs]

Me: So what play was it taken from?

Subject: It’s a 10-minute play called ‘Tape’. It’s very bad. [laughs]

Me: So why did it become a saying within the BFA’s?

Subject: Uh, because we’re the ones that had to run through it for an hour—it was just that line. And so then every time the lights turn off we’d have to go ‘Dark in here!’—so the lights turn off and he [the main character] goes ‘Dark in here” and so now any time any professor ever turns the lights off somebody goes “Dark in here” and I hate it [laughs].

Folk speech
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

Chinoisms: Sleep

Context & Analysis

The subject often mentions her mother’s “Chinoisms”, or unique sayings that her mother learned when growing up in Chino, CA. Below is the subject’s direct quote on the origin of her mother’s proverbs:

            “So my mom comes from Chino [California], and so she has a plethora of sayings that I didn’t even know what they meant earlier, I just said them until I got older and I was like “Oh! That actually makes sense!”

The subject’s mother’s response is cheeky and plays upon the pun created in the phrasing “How did you sleep?”. The question is rather contextual; if the question is taken literally (like how the subject’s mother does) it is results in a humorous answer.his reminded me a lot of classic “dad jokes”, or jokes that give literal responses to questions often with the purpose of irritating their children for a humorous result. The subject’s re-enactment of her mother’s gesture is also an important part of re-creating the joke, as the punchline of the joke is delivered physically rather than verbally.

Main Piece

“Almost religiously whenever my mom is asked “How did you sleep?’ she says “Like this!” and then she puts her hands next to her face, and, um, tilts to the side like she’s sleeping. [The subject put her hands in a prayer pose on the left side of her face like she’s sleeping on a pillow and tilts her head slightly].

Humor

What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake?

Subject: American Joke on Irish Drinking Habits

Collection: “Q: What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake?

A: One less drunk.”

Background Info: This joke was told on the 30 March 2018 by A. Haynes. He is a resident of San Clemente, is a proud father of two children, and still married to his high school sweetheart.

Context: I recorded this joke from a friend of my father at dinner at an Italian restaurant in San Clemente, CA. At the table was also another childhood friend who was visiting from Hawaii, where he now lives with his wife. As part of the celebrating their reunion, the men ordered two pints of beer. This joke was shared as the waitress was setting the beer down on the table.

Analysis: The joke was shared out of the jovial spirit of the moment. The speaker knew that neither of the two people to whom he addressed the joke (I overheard on accident and then asked permission to document it) would have any objections to the unflattering portrayal of the Irish as drunkards who in turn do not properly honor the dead or the insensitivity towards the treatment of death.

In fact, one of the main subjects of conversation at dinner that night was the death of a family friend (ironically, one who suffered from alcohol addiction for the total of her adult life) who was close to all three families present at the meal. Drinking is commonly thought of as a social and jovial activity with contradicts the nature of death. The news of her death weighing heavily on the brain, all present were aware that our present happiness, might be disrespectful or, at least, not doing proper honor to her memory. The joke itself also deals with the oxymoronic relationship between death and drinking and what it means to return to normality following a death.

We later learned that the speaker of the joke has gone on a diet in the last six months, the reason for him not ordering the Rigatoni Pomodoro, his favorite dish. In this context, the joke can then also be read as a comment on excess. He is a man who is trying to improve his health through changing his diet, making his consumption of beer seem counter-intuitive. However, by sharing a joke over a pint of beer marks this occasion as one worthy of indulgence.

In conclusion, the joke capitalizes on stereotypical beliefs of the Irish to be drunks with curious funeral rites to reveal anxieties about death and indulging in drink, especially if the two are related.

For Further Readings: An interesting collection and commentary of Irish-as-drunks can be found at “SoberRecovery : Alcoholism Drug Addiction Help and Information > Social Groups > Recovery Follies” in the folder entitled “What’s the difference in an Irish Wedding and Wake?”.  One participant in the online forum, Nocellphone, responded to the joke with, “Always loved that one! You’ll find lighthearted stuff and jokes in the Recovery Follies forum. Just keep scrolling down…”. This environment shows a different type of indulgence: jokes to build support and comradery out of deprivation of the item that the group otherwise has in common.

Folk speech
Humor

Floating a Log- Euphemism

Subject: Folk speech. The taboo.

Collection:

“Interviewer: When we were on our trip, we- our trip around Arizona and Utah, we went to… a lake, Lake Powell.

Interviewee: I checked the prop there many times.

Interviewer: So, can you tell me a little bit about what it meant to you as a kid to float a log?

[intense laughter]

Interviewee: Uh… uh.. yeah. We- it saved time going to the outhouse or into the motor home.

So, who- so, who was on these trips and who was partaking? Can you describe this environment a little?

That would be my good buddy Kelly… the race car driver.

Kelly Slater, the race car driver?

That would-be Kelly Slater the surfer.

Whatever.

Although, I’d betchya Kelly Slater has floated a log or two.”

Background Info: S. Taylor grew up in Southern California he grew up snow skiing, water skiing, motorcycle driving, jet skiing, playing volleyball, and racing cars. He first heard and began using the expression as a kid on trips to Lake Powell with his family friends. Today, S. Taylor lives in San Clemente, CA with his wife, C. Taylor.

Context: I first heard this phrase from my father when he was recounting stories of his childhood trips to Lake Powell on our trip there together. This account was shared over dinner to one-up his wife’s contribution of a phrase used as a substitute for urination that she learned from her mother. After this, the subject of conversation was abruptly changed.

Analysis: This phrase intentionally subverts societal taboos by openly addressing and making public those bodily functions that are actively suppressed. When on camping trips or other nature explorations, the rules surrounding bathroom etiquette are looser, especially for men. Often, these trips are a way of escaping urban society and allowing oneself to live freely in commune with the natural world.

The phrase “to float a log” naturalizes the bodily function in two ways. First, it calls the action of defecation to the forefront, making it public. This action combined with the humorous phrase allow for the speakers and bystanders to let out tensions that usually surround bathroom activities. This addresses the fact that defecation is a normal bodily function done by everyone, and calls into question the ways that society currently punishes talk or open expression of “toilet talk”. Second, the phrase uses metaphor that links feces to the natural world, or something that is thought to exist in nature, as opposed to something disgusting. This further naturalizes the action both in that moment and for when the performers of this folklore return home.

general
Humor

Office Folklore- Unicorn Death

Subject: Office Folklore. Pranks and comradery.

Collection:

“Interviewer: So… you have an employee in your office who is in a band… what type of music does her band play?

Interviewee: Death metal.

Interviewer: And what is the name of her band.

Interviewee: Unicorn death.

Interviewer: Now, for her birthday or before she’d go on tour, is there anything, any hijinks the office would get into surrounding her band?

Interviewee: So, she only wears black, and so we took her office and we covered it all in pink posy-notes, and then we saran wrapped her chair, um… we put Justin Bieber… pictures and we stuck them inside her notebook and inside her drawers and…

Interviewer: Why Justin Bieber?

Interviewee: Because he is a music genre she would not be interested in… um, we all put on a unicorn hat that was pink with like a purple horn… and um we um forced her to wear it.”

Background Info: Sehi Computer Products is in San Clemente, CA and consists of an inside office and an outside warehouse division. They have roughly twenty employees at any given time with most employees sitting at open work stations in one larger room. Conversation is open with side banter occurring intermittently with tasks and projects. My mother has worked in the office since 1989.

Context: This story was given over dinner with my mother and father while discussing jokes and events to parts of our lives unique to the rest of the family.

Analysis: It is now part of office culture to collect and send photos of unicorns to workplace associates. By the time clock, there is a bulletin board of photos of different employees wearing a unicorn hat in honor of the employee and her participation in the band. Such actions allow for employees to feel involved in one another’s personal lives within the often impersonal and task-based office setting. Now that the employee is touring with her band, the employees still mention and joke about unicorns, allowing her to stay relevant in the office community and actively works to integrate her into their social circles. Furthermore, all levels of personnel in the office participate in the tradition which helps to break down the traditional structures of command that can lead to negative feelings between manager and staff.

Being told the backstory around the unicorns is a rite of passage for employees, marking them as participants and contributors in the office community. Often, summer employees clock in and out every day without understanding the significance of the photos. However, to people in the office at the time of the employee going on tour, it marks a tie to a dear friend and a spirit of kinship, originating in being part of the “in” group in the office.

Furthermore, there is an element of play in the pranks that plays on subverting the individual’s personality. The people playing the prank purposefully choose items they knew the individual being pranked would not like and augmented them. The prank is tailored specifically to her interests, and this level of care communicates to the individual that they are known and valued in the office environment. The prank was not malicious, but rather a celebration of the individual and her unique personality .

Folk speech
Humor
Narrative
Proverbs
Tales /märchen

Nate the Snake

Subject: Folk Speech. Humor.

Collection: “There were two towns that ruled all of the land, and every year… similar to Thanksgiving, they would battle it out for a day. One day the Western Kingdom thought to lace the Eastern Kingdom with explosives while all the townspeople were asleep and then blow up the town the next day, ending the fight completely. The successfully laced the entire Kingdom and hooked up the explosives to a giant lever. However, in the morning the King of the East came over bearing food and gifts as a peace treaty.  The King of the West accepted the peace treaty but felt bad because of the threats to blow up the other city, so he decided to declare peace and just not say anything about the bombs.  The King decided he needed someone to guard the lever so that no radicals or youngsters would mess with it, but the guards stationed at the lever were lazy and didn’t want to be standing around the lever. They missed their families and their children, but one day a snake name Nate came up to a guard and told him that he will watch over the lever. At first the guy was skeptical, but Nate the Snake told him how there’s plenty of land around for him to live in and to catch mice and survive. So Nate became the new guardian. Nate became the hero of the town and was loved by all! People wore Nate the Snake Shirts, celebrated Nate the Snake Day, Nate became the most common name in all the land… Nate lived in this glorious state of love and pride for the work he was doing for his country. However, one night as Nate was doing his rounds at the lever, he saw a truck driving straight towards the lever. Nate thought and thought and thought of what he could do but nothing came to him. All he could do was sit helplessly watching as a truck came barreling towards the lever. At the last minute, however, the truck swerved and hit Nate the Snake. News of Nate’s death shocked the Kingdom but you know what they say… better Nate than Lever.”

Background Info: J. Ingraham is a freshman enrolled at Chapman University pursuing a Bachelor of the Fine Arts in Theater Performance. He attended Dana Hills High School and is still a permanent resident of Laguna Niguel, CA. This story entered my social sphere from a mutual friend who he and I shared performing arts classes with in high school. The first time he heard the story was backstage at a production of Fiddler on the Roof.

Context: I first heard this story in a car on a road trip to Big Bear, CA in December of 2016. It was relayed as friends jumped in to try to one up one another with their personal stories, and for general entertainment. The account of the story was given over email.

Analysis: This narrative builds up to the final punchline and is designed to allow the narrator to embellish as much or as little as they like, while remaining true to the story. I have heard telling in which the narrator went on a rant of all the different merchandise that the town people developed to celebrate Nate the Snake. Another teller gave an in-depth description of the last battle leading up to the Western kingdom lacing their enemy’s land with explosives. The goal is to make the story as absurd and intricate as possible so the simplicity of the punchline rhyming with the proverb, “Better late than never,” achieves its maximum potency.

The story features familiar troupes that locate the story securely in a Western society and one character that subverts expectations: Nate the Snake. First, the narrator locates itself as part of the Western kingdom which is painted as witty yet aggressive. The East, meanwhile, favors peace and gives the West lavish gifts from their land. This plays into ideas in classic literature of the East as languid and indulgent peoples while the West has discipline and democratic practices to keep them vigilant. Second, this was likely developed recently, since it contains references to explosives and a single trigger switch, making the references to kings and kingdoms somewhat out of place. However, I propose this is done to age the story and make it appear like a traditional piece of narrative folklore—playing off ideas of folklore as being something out of medieval Europe. One troupe that is not specific to a Western society is that of talking animals. Humanizing Nate the Snake and embedding him with intelligent thought and complex feeling causes his death to be more objectionable.

Lastly, the character of Nate the Snake is the hero of the story, which contrasts the traditional portrayal of the snake as a villain, or otherwise Satanic, in countries with histories of Abrahamic religions. This aesthetic modernizes the story as more and more people in America practice non-Abrahamic religions. I contend that Nate playing the role of protagonist comes as a surprise, since a snake is expected to be sneaky and deceptive, making the audience feel guilty for expecting Nate to be the villain and the punchline more ironic and shocking. Upon first hearing the story, I believed that the punchline was going to involve Nate betraying the Western kingdom, as snakes usually do. While snakes are animals so biases against them are not thought of as being objectionable, afterward I felt guilty for forcing my assumptions onto him. In this way, the content of Nate the Snake is built off traditional structures that then subvert to afford the joke its greatest effect.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
Humor

Arizona Desert Metaphor

Subject: Folk expression.

Collection: “It’s hotter than a snake’s ass in a wagon rut.”

Background Info: K. Cowdery is 21 years old and a junior Narrative Studies major at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and now resides in Los Angeles where she attends school.

Context: My friend shared this piece of folklore while joking about odd things the generation over than us say. She heard this from her father’s friend (who is in his late 50’s) and is a cattle rancher. Essentially, in the desert after it rains, the cars and wagons make deep ruts in the road that then harden and crack once the weather gets warm again. Since the ruts get hotter than the surrounding area, snakes like to lay down in the rut to get warm. Since a snake’s butt is located on their stomach is, they are absorbing the heat from the rut and surrounding dessert through their butt.

Analysis: This metaphor capitalizes on a knowledge of and interaction with desert weather and the fauna that calls it home. While someone not from the desert can understand that the simile is used to communicate that it is hot outside, only people who have experienced and forced to live in this kind of heat can call upon a sense memory of Arizona summers where temperatures have been recorded about 110 degrees, giving it extra meaning to those from this specific place. It is logical that the expression is used by cattle ranchers because their occupation requires them to spend a lot of time outside in the elements, encountering both heat and snakes. For those most familiar with these elements of the desert landscape, this phrase allows them to relate about the oppressive conditions of their home, strengthening a sense of belonging to the place and defining what it means to be of that place. Lastly, the metaphor includes an element of humor for the teller and the listener, using the amusing nature of the metaphor to help appease the weight of the oppressive heat.

Folk speech
Humor

Spanish Language Word Play

Subject: Joke featuring a play on words.

Collection:

“Atrás te huele!”

“Interviewer: So, do you have any jokes that are particularly like crude, because I think those are the best one.

Interviewee: Oh… it’s like, my dad’d always tell this joke about how there’s a difference in like the arrangement of words. So, like you can say, uh, ‘huele a traste’. Like huele-a-taste, which is three words. Which means it smells like dishes versus ‘atrás te huele’. Which should be, it smells like dishes still, yes it should be. But, because if you like break up the word, if you break up the word it means you smell like ass… and it’s my fav.”

Background Info: Z. Cantú is a twenty-year-old college student majoring in Theater at the University of Southern California. She is from Brownsville, Texas and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Both of her parents immigrated to the United States as teens where they met and started a family. She has grown up with a melding of American and Mexican traditions.

Context: My roommate would frequently make mention of jokes her dad would tell involving funny rearrangements of words in her native Spanish. This is the crudest and her favorite. I asked her to recount this story for my collection.

Analysis: This joke garners its humor by subverting the expected to reveal a new, surprising, and rather crude meaning. The simplicity of this model is what lends the joke its success. Without garnish, the simple wordplay is clear and easy to pick up on. Furthermore, the crude language and insult involved in the joke increase its surprise since it is amazing to many people the power of language in that a slight change can create a whole new meaning. The simplicity of the word play marks it a clear “dad joke”.

Folk speech
Humor
Narrative
Proverbs

Quit While You’re Ahead

Subject: Folk speech. Humor.

Collection: “There once was a boy who was born with just a head. His parents were initially shocked at this but with the right medical treatment and enough time they got used to it. Every day he would wake up, and his mom would pick him up and put him on the windowsill so he could watch the other kids play outside. Every night the boy would pray and pray that he could just have arms so he could throw the ball around with his friends, and one day he woke up and had a fully connected torso with fully functioning arms. He woke up and yelled: “Mom!! Mom!!” His mom ran in the room and saw him and went to the dad’s closet to get him a shirt. She put the shirt on him then brought him out the front yard so he could play catch. However, the boy realized he couldn’t run around after the ball because he didn’t have legs, so he started to pray and pray that he could have legs so that he could run and play with the other kids. And one day, he woke up and had legs and shouted: “Mom!!” and his mom ran in and freaked out and grabbed him pants from his dad’s drawer. Then the boy ran out to go play with the other kids across the street, and as he was crossing the street, a car drove by a hit him, killing the boy instantly. The moral of the story is… quit while you’re ahead.”

Background Info: J. Ingraham is a freshman enrolled at Chapman University pursuing a Bachelor of the Fine Arts in Theater Performance. He attended Dana Hills High School and is still a permanent resident of Laguna Niguel, CA. The speaker first heard this story from his father who would frequently trick him and his sister into listening to the story again by saying, “Did I ever tell you the story about the kid who was born with just a head?”.

Context: I first heard this story in a car on a road trip to Big Bear, CA in December of 2016. It was relayed as friends jumped in to try to one up one another with their personal stories, and for general entertainment. I contacted the active bearer of this narrative upon being assigned the assignment to collect folk speech. The account of the story was given over email.

Analysis: This story begins with a long set up that creates the false expectation for the story to be a typical piece of narrative. However, it then breaks the genre’s mold with a final punch line which relies on the play on words. This subversion of genre adds to the surprise, causing the joke to be more humorous than if it had not had the preface.

In the narrative portion of the of the folk speech, the structure follows typical archetypes. The repetition in the story occurs three times; this follows the Western tradition of storytelling elements coming I threes. Multiples of threes appear frequently in Abrahamic religions; for example, the Holy Trinity or three days between death and resurrection. In this model the boy openly beseeches God for his desires which God delivers on. However, on the third repetition, the gift God has given him leads to his death. Not only does the content mock religion since it is God’s gift that lead the boy to his premature end, but also it subverts tradition.

The pun itself is a clever play on words. It takes a traditional English proverb and subverts it so its meaning becomes literal. It also physically embodies the meaning of the proverb in which the idea is that it is better to stop altogether if your endeavors are going well before something goes wrong. The harsh outcomes of not quitting in this situation reinforces the meaning of the traditional proverb while the absurdity comments on the potential for quitting to be equally foolish.

Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Story of the Trids

Subject: Narrative joke.

Collection: “Uh, so this is… um, let’s see. So, long ago… long ago in a faraway kingdom, there lived a tribe of- of these druid like people. Um… you know, it’s yore, I guess. Um, and they live- lived, it’s this agrarian society, they’re very peaceful, uh, they don’t practice warfare um li-like of any kind, not even like with sticks or anything, you know. They’re just ve- very nice people uh pacifists, no violence. If you swing a punch, like that’s your- that’ it, you’re out of the society. You know, you’re gone. Um… and uh it’s almost a utopia just because of how peaceful it is, and, uh, and sustainable and everything. Except for one thing. All of their crops- they’re separated from their crops by a river. Um, on their side of the river, it’s not suitable for their crops. Um, but on the other side uh, it is. And the thing is, uh, they weren’t the best engineers so they only really managed to build a bridge in like one place. Uh, otherwise they would have to go way, like a couple miles away to like a calmer part of the stream, I mean river. Because it’s a little bit of a wild river. So, uh, so the- they really found that one perfect spot, and then the other good spots weren’t for a few miles, like in the other directions. Um, so they only built one bridge and the thought, like why would we- we need more than one bridge. Um… so and the other thing about these crops is um they’re very, very particular. They hav- they’re very sensitive, um you have to take care of them really well. You know, the right amount of water, the right amount of food, these people actually sang to their crops. Um, because, uh it-it helped the crops grow. Um, they were very talented musically. And um, oh I forgot to mention, these people are- they’re um, let’s see… yes, they are Jewish. Um, so, and they uh, they’re very talented musically so they’ve go- they have their own fiddler on-on the roof. That’s not the joke, don’t worry. Um, and uh, and yeah, these crops and um the fiddler would go and play to the crops as well. Um, not because that actually helps the crops as much as singing, um but um, just because they’re nice. They’re nice people. And these crops needed to be harvested at a particular time, uh otherwise they were terrible. Um, it’s kind of like, like you know avocados. Like how if… you buy an avocado, an- and it’s not ripe yet. And then it’s ripe for five seconds and then suddenly it’s- you’ve got to throw it in the trash. Or compost it. You got- composting is important. That’s actually a very important part of this society. That’s one of the- the core tenets of their sustainability program… Um, and um so yeah. It’s not exactly like an avocado, like you harvest them and then they’re ripe for a small amount of time. It’s that they have to be harvested at a perfect time. Um but that’s like, the avocado was just like the closest analogy I could come up with to help you understand because the particularity of these crops is a very important part of this story. Um, it’s- it’s you know, it’s one of the main character motives for this society, this group of people. So, I really want to hit home that just like an avocado, there’s a really small window where they’re good to go. And, uh, one day it’s harvest season and they’re like, ‘let’s go, let’s go. This is the window, let’s go get these crops’. Uh so, they all prepare to cross this bridge, when from under the bridge a troll jumps out and um they’re like, ‘what, we’ve never seen this troll before, where did you come from? Uh, and who are you? Uh, will you allow us to pass’. And the troll says, ‘no, this is my bridge. And none of you will pass’… and uh, and the troll says, ‘none of you will go back either’. And they go, uh, they go, ‘No, what does tha- what? We’re going to be stuck here forever?’. And uh the troll says, ‘No, I’m going to kick you into the river’. And they go, ‘What?’ [laughter]. And so, one by one he kicks all of them into the river. And they’re fine though. Uh, It’s a, you know, it’s a bit of a wild river, but they’re all okay, none of them have any broken bones or anything, because they just fall into the river and the river, it- it sweeps them pretty far away, you know. Because, like I said, the only good places for a bridge is where that place, and then like really far away, and they get swept all the way there. Many miles away. And they- they’re- they manage to get out of the river and they’re alright. They’re wet, they’re a little wet you know, it’s not fun… And uh, so all their clothes are cotton and cotton shrinks., is the problem. So, they’re worried about their clothes, and they’re worried about the crops, they just got sweeped down the river miles away, they’re running out of time for these very time-sensitive crops that need to be harvested. Otherwise, they won’t have any food. And they don’t know where this troll came from or why it’s there or why he’s kicking them or how to get around him. So, they go and they go, let’s try again. So, they go and they try again and the same exact thing happens. Again. Uh, and… threes are also a very important part of this story, because the rule of threes contributes very heavily to the comedic effect, um… But the other thing about the three is, uh, you know these people, they’re, uh, they’re called the Trids. Because they love the number three. And, uh, uh, uh the Trids. Um, so plenty of things are based off the number three. The fiddler, all the songs that he plays are- they’re in three. Like 1-2-3, 1-2-3. When the sing to the crops, it’s in three. Part of their sus- their sustainability program is actually a three-point program, and the composting is one of the three points. Um, and also, the- their sustainable fields are like organized into three sections. Um, so they’re big on threes… So, they go back and the second time, you know, the second time. And the third time, they’re like, ‘What can we do?’. So, they go back to the town, um, and they get the rabbi. And the rabbi, and they say, ‘Rabbi, there’s a troll on the bridge who won’t let us get to our crops’. So, he goes, ‘Oh my goodness! Uh, that’s why you guys aren’t back with the crops yet’. And they go, ‘Yeah! What do we do?’. And he goes, ‘Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never dealt with trolls before. Um, but I’ll give it a shot. I’ll try talking to this guy’. You know. And so they go back again to the bridge. This time with the rabbi at the front. And, uh, the rabbi says, uh, to the troll, ‘Uh, I am the rabbi and these are my people the Trids, please let us pass. We have these very important time-sensitive crops’. And the troll says, ‘No, I’m going to kick you again’, And he starts kicking people. And the rabbi is like, ‘hold on, hold on, hold on! Stop kicking people’. And the trolls are like, the troll is like, ‘Okay, I’ll stop for like three seconds. And the rabbi says, ‘Please just tell me why you’re doing this’. Uh and the troll’s like, ‘No’. And, uh, so he starts kicking people again and the rabbi is like, ‘Come on. Hey, stop it! Stop it’. He ju- grabs the troll and starts shaking him and he’s like, ‘Why are you doing this’. And the troll is like, ‘Get off of me old man’. And uh, you know, he shimmies out of the rabbi’s grasp, the rabbi is pretty old you know. He- he’s not very strong. It’s- it’s -it’s not an even match-up. And finally, Uh… the rabbi… um… invokes God and says, ‘In the name of God, I command you to stop and tell me why you are kicking my people off the bridge’. And, uh, and he’s like, ‘Is it, you know, tha- is it a personal thing? Like, are you guarding the crops?  Like, I don’t understand’. And the troll goes, ‘Silly Rabbi, Kicks are for Trids’.

Background Info: M. Takla is currently a sophomore at the University of Southern California pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering. He is from Foster City, CA.

Context: M. Takla told me this joke over dessert, sitting outside around dusk. I challenged him to a joke off, through which we both learned each other’s best narrative jokes. I then asked to record him telling this joke for my collection.

Analysis: This joke subverts the expectations for a typical punchline while employing traditional narrative elements on which the narrator is free to embellish. First, the narrator sets the story in days of “yore,” setting up the expectations that this will follow the formatting of a normal tale. Therefore, when the whole story leads to a joke, the subversion of the typical genre lends the joke its surprise and humor. Second, the story (rather openly) capitalizes on the tradition of tales to introduce an activity or patter three times before arriving at the punchline. By building to the punchline in this way, the joke comments on its dual roles as narrative and joke so that the genre of tale is mocked.

This joke also interacts with institutional and copyright culture, playing off the motto of Trix cereal brand: “Silly Rabbit, Trix are for Kids”. Therefore, it can be determined that the joke emerged Terminus Post Quem the television and network advertising. Without these commercial systems, the aesthetics of mocking brand marketing would not have emerged. Furthermore, when hearing or telling the joke, the individual recalls their experiences with the cereal, usually from childhood, locating them within a group. The combination of these factors affords the joke its immediate humor and, then communicates further mocking of childhood elements such as the tale and Trix breakfast cereal.

For Further Research: For reference to the Trix marketing and commercials that popularized the phrase in the 1970’s and 1980’s, refer to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUIYYx2n1bI.

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