USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘dark humor’
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.

 

Humor
Legends
Narrative

A Ugandan Tall Tale

Item:

“I was rafting, on the Nile River in Uganda, we spent the whole day rafting, and we set up camp for the night in this little encampment area on the bank. So we’re sitting there, we’re like cracking beers and stuff, just sitting around this campfire, like the classic storytelling setting, and someone’s like ‘aw man, maybe we should tell ghost stories,” and I’m like ‘oh I don’t know if I know any.’ And we just go around and some people tell some scary stuff that’s happened to them or like various ghost stories that they know, and then this Ugandan guy that’s with us, one of the guides is like ‘I know a ghost story.’ And we’re like ‘okay!’ what could this guy be possibly about to tell us, so we strap in. And he tells us he was just chilling in this village in Uganda, just hanging out, when this man approached him and his friends and was like, ‘I’ll bet you I can drink a whole bottle of Konyagi without throwing up.’ And just to fill you in Konyagi is like the world’s shittiest gin. It is, it comes in plastic bags in like individual serving sizes and it comes in bottles, it’s like turpentine. It’s absolute worst. So, this man, he’s a stranger, comes up to my guide and is like ‘I can drink a whole bottle without throwing up.’ And the guide’s like, ‘ok you’re on, I’ll take you up on this bet, if you throw up, you have to pay me, if you don’t throw up, I owe you the bottle.’ And he’s like ‘ok.’ So they go to the store and the buy the bottle and the man drinks the entire bottle of Konyagi and everyone is just stunned that he was able to do it, then he dies. Of alcohol poisoning, he died because he didn’t throw up. So this man bought the alcohol that killed the stranger so he’s like ‘oh my god, I feel so responsible, I have to at least buy this man a coffin.’ So him and his friends get in this truck and they drive to wherever you go to buy coffins in Uganda and they pick one up for this little village outside theirs. So they’re on the way back and they’re on the road driving along when they see this hitchhiker. They pick him up and he’s like ‘hey are you headed to so-and-so’ and they’re like ‘yeah as a matter of fact, we are, you can hop in the bed of the truck, there’s a coffin back there, don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal,” and he’s like “oh ok no problem.” So the hitchhiker gets in the bed of the truck and they’re cruising along on the road and it starts to rain, and the people inside the truck don’t really notice because they’re sitting inside but the guy in the back is like ‘oh man, I don’t want to get rained on,” so he hits inside the coffee, he’s like “I’ll just hang out inside this coffin until it stops raining.” So he gets in and he closes the door and he’s just waiting there. So they’re driving along the rain eventually stops. The people in the truck no nothing about what’s going on in the back. The guy in the coffin still thinks that it’s raining so he’s just sitting there. And they’re driving along and they see another hitchhiker and he’s like ‘hey are you headed to so-and-so’ and they’re like ‘yeah as a matter of fact, we are, you can hop in the bed of the truck, there’s a coffin back there, don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal,” and he’s like “oh ok no problem;” same thing as before and he sits in the bed of the truck too. So they’re cruising along, and the guy inside the coffin realizes it’s stopped raining. And he didn’t know that this other person is in the bed of the truck as well. So he’s like ‘oh it’s stopped raining, I think I’ll just pop out and take a look.” He opens up the coffin and he’s just like rising out of it. Meanwhile, the guy who was sitting in the back of the truck didn’t know that there was a man in this coffin trying to get out of the rain. So what he sees is a man rising out of a coffin that he thinks is like a zombie, and he’s so horrified at the thought of this man rising out of this coffin to see him, that he jumps out of bed of the truck and dies.”

Context:

The informant heard this story while he was in Africa working to spread HIV prevention and awareness. This rafting excursion was taken as a leisure trip amidst all of the work he was doing.

Analysis:

The way the informant told of this whole ordeal was so engrossing that I wonder just how great it would have been to hear the original story from the Ugandan man. That said, this story is not a ghost story, as he said it was. Even though he related it as if it happened to him, the story and its slapstick comedy is too perfectly paced for it to have actually happened. Or could it? That’s the beauty of legend.

 

Folk speech
Humor

Doctor Slang

I collected these slang terms from a friend who heard it from his older sibling who works at a hospital. These terms are very indicative of the type of humor that medical practitioners have. According to my friend, they receive inordinate amounts of stress. So as to depersonalize the experience or detach themselves from getting too involved, they have to make light of it in almost an offensive way. They came up because we were just talking about unfortunate accidents that happen to people. As I was describing someone getting burned, he called the person a term that is used in hospitals. In asking where that came from, he proceeded to give quite a few terms and their meanings. My friend finds that they are very offensive and doesn’t enjoy that, and even using it for humor makes him feel slightly less human. However, he does believe that in order to maintain their sanity and ensure that they can stay healthy for themselves without being emotionally overwhelmed by anything, doctors do what they have to.

AGA (Acute Gravity Attack) – This term is used when a person falls over.

Beached Whale – This is used to describe an obese patient unable to do much for him/herself except lie there with flailing arms and legs.

Crispy Critter – This describes a patient with severe burns

LMC (Low Marble Count) – This describes a patient with low IQ.

ALS (Absolute Loss of Sanity) – This is used for an insane patient.

Appy – This is a term for a patient who is suspected to have appendicitis

BUNDY – This is an acronym that stands for “But Unfortunately Not Dead Yet.”

Dermaholiday – This is a nickname that is used for the dermatology department, which is supposedly not as busy as the other departments.

Drooler – This is a term for a catatonic patient.

Gorked – This is used to describe a person who is unresponsive and nonverbal either because the patient is sedated or because of a medical condition.

Certainly there are many more terms that are used in the hospital as part of their hospital language. I personally do not find their terms very funny. However, that is part of their job. As they get used to working there and dealing with cases, it probably becomes a part of their culture. It is something that they learn and become accustomed to in order to deal with the pressures of the environment. It also unifies the people in the field together because they speak the same language. People who aren’t inside of that field are not going to understand the terms being spoken because they aren’t acquainted with the culture of the hospital.

Humor
Narrative

The Wife-Beater Vegetable

Informant Background: The informant was born in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Taiwan. He grew up with his parents and grandparents who still speak Chinese, he does too. Many of his relatives are in Los Angeles so they all still practice a lot of Taiwanese/Chinese traditions and celebrate all the Chinese holiday such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry day, Chinese Ghost day, etc. He said his family still hold many Chinese folk-beliefs and superstitions. He also travels back once in a while to visit his other relatives who are still back in Taiwan.

 

A farmer grows a garden of this very puffy vegetable. He would harvest and give to his wife for cooking. After his wife cooked the vegetable he observed that when he gets to eat the vegetable, it is much smaller after cooked than when harvested. The farmer realized every time he brings his wife the vegetable, he sees less at the dinner table. He thought his wife was stealing from him and beat her for not cooking what he harvested.

In actuality this particular kind of vegetable shrinks once cooked. So the wife did not steal, the vegetable got smaller just because it shrunk down under hot water.

This kind of vegetable has a proper name but also called “the wife-beater vegetable” as a nickname.

The informant stated that the name “wife-beater-vegetable” is a common name for this particular kind of vegetable in China among Mandarin speaker. He said that his parents told the story when they were eating this particular kind of vegetable. It is unknown if the legend is true. According to the informant the name has spread around enough that the name is common and known by many.

 

I think this particular story shows a lot of principles and beliefs in Chinese culture, whether it exists today or not. First, the husband farming and the wife cooking show how male is the dominant gender in that culture. It also shows how women are associated to household chores and the kitchen through cooking. The husband beating the wife because of the misunderstood disloyalty clearly reflects the female submissive role in the culture. It also shows how the kitchen space is a separate female space.

The story also has a dark humor element to it. The misunderstanding made me laugh a little but to think about a small misunderstanding leading to beating is quite harsh.

Folk speech
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Polack who shot his dog

Q: Did you hear about the Polack that shot his dog?

A: He found out his wife had had an affair with his best friend.

My informant first heard this joke in the 1970’s when spending time with friends he had made while working for a Southern Californian electric company.  They were sitting around and decided tell each other all of the Polack jokes they knew.  This joke, like every other Polack jokes, capitalizes on the historical American conception of the Polish as dim-witted and uneducated.  However, currently Polack jokes aren’t used as much anymore.  Today, the Polish are well-educated, democratic leaders in Eastern Europe, and an ally.

Polack jokes are a popular form of Blazon Populaire, a type of humor which is based on the insulting another race of group of people.  This joke is clearly an example of blazon populaire, as it is a typical Polack joke that capitalizes on the belief that all Polish are unintelligent.  The best friend of the Polish man is a dog, and while dogs are traditionally a ‘man’s best friend’, they’re not supposed to be.  This represents that a standard Polish man does not have the capacity to make friends with other people, and that his time is best spent with an animal with a smaller brain and incapacity to communicate.  Also, the Polack must also believe that his wife would choose to have an affair with his dog, which is also dumb on the Polack’s part.

This joke works like many other jokes on the establishment of an appropriate incongruity in the punch line.  The incongruity is that the wife is sleeping with a dog, but it’s appropriate because it’s the Polack’s best friend.

Humor

Dead Baby Joke

Q: What do you get when you stab a baby?

A: An Erection.

 

While this joke is gruesome and terrible in every conceivable way, it is my informant’s absolute favorite joke.  He first heard it from one of his friends in high school.  My informant had just told a sexist joke about Helen Keller not being able to drive well because she was a woman. His friend sneered and replied, “You think that joke is bad?”  Then, he continued to tell my informant this joke.

My informant explained that when the question was asked, all he could think of was how terrible it sounded to stab an infant.  Before he could even begin to construct a reasonable response, his friend delivered the punch line.  Of course, such an awful and perverse response is completely unexpected.  My informant “nearly died” from laughter and claims to have never laughed as hard since.

Of course, no one in their right mind would stab a baby.  Also, only the most indecent of all people could receive enough satisfaction from such an act to sexually arouse themselves.  However, in the context of the joke, it makes sense and is humorous (to some) to think that someone would suggest that anyone would feel that way.

The joke works like many others because it delivers an appropriate incongruity. It’s an incongruity because no one expects the answer they receive, and appropriate because it’s funny to think the joke-teller could be that disturbed.  But they’re not, so it’s humorous.  So, in this case, we’re presented with an inappropriate appropriate incongruity.  This joke belongs to a series of similar, equally gruesome ‘dead baby jokes’ that are shared between my informant and his close friends from high school.

Humor

Death Joke

When I die, I want to go peacefully, like my grandfather.
I do not want to be screaming in terror like the rest of the people in the car.

This death-humor joke, which my informant said he remembers from Saturday Night Live, is a fairly simple one to analyze structurally.  According to folklorist Elliot Oring, the source of humor in jokes is the presence of “appropriate incongruities.”  The joke introduces apparent incongruities – ideas that seem out of place, impossible, obscene, or otherwise wrong in some way – and the punchline delivers appropriateness or creates both appropriateness and incongruity at once.  However, this joke is unique in that it reverses the order of the appearance of appropriateness and incongruity.  Whereas traditionally the incongruity comes first and is justified by the punchline, here the first line (and part of the second) makes sense and the punchline reveals the sad incongruity – the old man fell asleep at the wheel.  If the situation is sad, though, then why is it funny?  Certainly a joke like this would not be funny for someone who has recently lost a loved one in a car accident.  However, humor is a popular outlet in many societies for dealing with the concept of death, particularly societies like America who do not share universal beliefs about death and the afterlife.

general
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Knock-knock Joke – Amy Fisher

A. Knock Knock.
B. Who’s there?
A. Amy Fisher.
A. Amy Fishe…?
B. … BANG!
This was only a couple years after a girl named Amy Fisher went to the door of the house of a man named Joey Buttafuco, whom she was having an affair with. She asked him to leave his wife and when he refused she went to his house and shot his wife in the head. This can be an example of a kind of disaster joke, these are risky because for a certain time after the initial incident, people can find the joke inappropriate.

[geolocation]