Informant: What is worse than ten dead babies stapled to one tree?
Collector: I don’t know. What?
Informant: One dead baby stapled to ten trees.
Context: The piece was collected during a casual interview. I grew up hearing the informant telling dead baby jokes so I asked her to participate in an interview to collect one.
Background: The informant is my twenty-two year old sister. She learned this piece from friends in high school who shared her self-proclaimed “dark humor.” She both attended high school and currently lives in San Diego, California. She is an avid metal and alternative music fan with a love of body modifications including tattoos and piercings.
Analysis: Dead baby jokes are most common among teenagers and people in their early twenties, coinciding with my sister’s age both when she learned the joke and when it was performed for this collection. I believe my sister particularly enjoys this genre of joke because it is very grim and graphic. She participates in numerous unconventional subcultures that involve bold displays of self expression (including seven face piercings and visible neck and hand tattoos) that may be considered tabooistic. The joke finds humor in infant death, a subject usually not discussed openly or with humor if discussed at all. In doing so, the joke is at odds with social convention in the same way that my sister’s displays of self expression may be.
For more information on dead baby jokes, see:
Dundes, Alan. “The Dead Baby Joke Cycle.” Western folklore 38, no. 3 (January 1, 1979): 145–157. http://search.proquest.com/docview/75040401/.