USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘disaster joke’
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Humor

Venezuelan Power Outage Meme

Context: This meme was sent to me after we discussed the usage of Whatsapp in by Venezuelans to spread jokes, especially concerning the current Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and recent power outage that swept the nation in March 2019.

Piece:

venezuela meme

Exact Translation: What is the sensation of living in Venezuela? Something like this but without light.

Holistic Translation: What does it feel like to live in Venezuela? Something like this but without power.

Background: The informant is a middle aged Venezuelan woman who lives in Boston. She sent this meme via Whatsapp to me as a part of a meme chain. She initially received it from a family member who also sent it through Whatsapp.

Analysis:This meme is part of the new wave of folklore being spread through the Internet. In particular, Whatsapp, a communication app, has become a way for people to communicate globally without the restriction of being in different nations. Whatsapp usage is widely used by Venezuelans, and in recent years has become the mode of communication for families who have migrated due to the dictatorial regime. Whatsapp is not only used for regular communication, but also to share jokes and memes among the Venezuelan community. The informant stated that they receive new jokes or memes daily from family members and continue the pattern by sharing to more contacts.

This meme in particular is a great example of a Disaster Joke. This form of joke is used as a coping mechanism surrounding a traumatic disaster or situation in order to release stress or tension. This joke insinuates that living in Venezuela– which is currently dealing with massive food shortages, high crime rates, lack of medicine and massive power outages– is like being stuck on the edge of a cliff, which is bad enough, and then not having any power. This meme is humorous because of its extreme imagery relating to the already horrifying situation and then the addition of the power outage on top of the bad crisis, showing a form of ironic humor. It is remarkable that a community undergoing such horrific circumstances has the ability to deal with it in such a lighthearted way, most likely because it is the only true way to cope.

 

 

Humor

Bin Laden Assassination Joke

Contextual Data: I was talking with my brother on Skype, and he mentioned that he had heard this rather ridiculous joke from one of his coworkers, as the second year anniversary of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination came up. The following is an exact transcript of our conversation.

Informant: “So you know how you can go to a bar and order all these different drinks? Like a Manhattan or a White Russian or whatever — you know, all these different mixed drinks? Well, there’s this new drink out there called the Bin Laden. And… And, well have you heard what’s in it?”

Me: “No.”

Informant: “Two shots and a splash of water.”

[Both chuckle].

- End Transcript -

My informant said that there’s a whole collection of these types of drink-based jokes arising out of serious news events — this was just one of many that he had heard (e.g. Another was “the Sandy” as a “watered down Manhattan.”) He mentioned that these jokes spoke to a very specific sense of humor and that not all people found them funny. He shared them mostly because he found them funny and he saw them as clever little plays on language.

These jokes seem to be a part of the sort of “disaster joke” culture — people telling jokes in response to big events, partially as a way of taking control of the information and making sense of what might have happened. In particular, the Bin Laden joke could also be seen as an outlet of sorts — a way for people in America to further take down this hated figure, who caused so much pain to the nation, by literally turning his death into a joke.

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