USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘funny’
Folk speech

“What a Cannoli!”

Title: “What a Cannoli!”

Age: 20

Ethnicity: Mexican-American

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): AJ is sitting on a sofa in front of the Trojan Knights house, it is a calm warm Sunday in South Central Los Angeles. It is a group of 10 male students from the University of Southern California sitting on the front porch, sharing stories. All of these men are members of Trojan Knights, and are relaxing after having started cooking homemade friend chicken. All of these men are close to one another, including the interviewer.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee – “You’re a cannoli! What a cannoli!”

(Everyone present laughs)

Interviewer – “I am a what?”

(More laughter)

Interviewee – “A cannoli. Such a cannoli thing to ask if you’re a cannoli!”

(Uncontrollable laughter from the other men)

Analyzation:  This phrase/phrases are more of an internal joke. No one knows why the phrase caught on, but now there are a good 40 students at USC that will call each other and other people cannoli. The meaning behind this is simple. One could interchange the word cannoli with ‘dingus’, or ‘dimwit’, maybe even ‘silly-head’. It is a playful way of making fun of people that you are close with. The development of this saying, or better this word is that it is a way of signifying and showing that one if part of that group of people. Within the University of Southern California, and within a group called the Trojan Knights, and even within that, is a group of friends that call each other cannoli. It is how they show that they are part of the group, the group of friends that they all love and care for. Anyone that questioningly looks at them after they say that is understood to be an outsider, someone who is not from the group. This type of wording is seen throughout the worlds when certain groups develop their own language and rituals associated with the group. In this case, if you are part of the group, then you are, by definition, a cannoli.

Tags: Cannoli, inside-joke, funny

Game
general

What Are the Odds?

“If someone says, like, if you’re at dinner, say we’re at dinner together, and I go, ‘L, what are the odds that you’ll pretend to trip and fall on the ground on the way to the table?’ and you have to say, um, 1 to 25, you make up a number, like an end number, depending on like, how badly you wouldn’t want to do it, or you would want to do it. So I will count ‘1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . .’ and on the count of three, you say a number between 1 and 25 and I say a number, too. Like a number as well. And if we say the same number, then you have to do it. So like say you said, ’13,’ and I said, ’13,’ at the same time. You have to trip and fall on the floor on the way to the table. But say I say, ’12,’ and you say, ’13,’ then you don’t have to do it. But, um, D gets mad at me because when he does it, he gets mad if I do anything over 10. He’s like, ‘K, what are the odds you’ll eat your dinner with your hands?’ and I’m like, ‘1 in 12,’ and he’s like, ‘No!’ and like he’ll try to get me to go lower, and try to convince me that like the odds are like too big or something like that and there’s no way he’s gonna guess my number. And so he’ll count, ‘1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . .’ and I have to say a number . . . if he gets it right, then I have to do it. If he gets it wrong, I don’t have to do it and I’m stoked. But he does it to his family . . . everyone! It’s annoying. So annoying.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place late one night in my apartment’s living room when I began asking her about different games she knew. When I asked her who she learned it from, she said, “I learned it from [her boyfriend] and he learned it from his [hockey] team. I guess they just . . . I don’t know who on his team came up with it, but they do it all the time. When I went to go visit them, everything was like, ‘What are the odds?’ It’s like, ‘What are the odds you’ll turn the TV off?’ It’s like a stupid thing! It’s like it makes no sense, like I’ll just turn the TV off, there doesn’t need to be a game about it.”
When asked why she thinks people play this game, the informant said, “Just ‘cause they’re frickin’ bored, or if they don’t wanna do something they’ll be like, ‘What are the odds you’ll buy me dinner tonight?’ If they don’t wanna do it, then they’ll play ‘What Are the Odds?’ in hopes that they get it right. ‘Cause they don’t lose anything if they get it wrong, ‘cause everything’s the same as before they even played the game.” She also said, “I shows how much a person is willing to do something based on like a number that they come up with. So like, if you really don’t wanna do it, you’ll say an outrageous number like, ‘Thousand, like 1 in 1,000,’ and it’ll show, obviously, you really don’t wanna do something. If you say like, ‘1 in 3,’ then you’re saying, ‘I don’t really care if I have to do that, like I’ll do it. I’ll do it without even really asking, you know? But it’s just another way to turn life into a game, I guess.”

 

The informant also noted that, to her dismay, “What Are the Odds?” has spread to her family and her boyfriend’s family. It is an interesting game because, in addition to showing how much someone does not want to do something, it shows how well the person guessing knows the person answering the question. It is almost as though the reward for someone knowing the other person well enough is getting to see the other person do something they would prefer not to do. This game also appeals to the gambling spirit in people. In this case, however, there is no consequence for losing and it is exciting and fun when you win. More than anything, “What Are the Odds?” is a fun (for some) way to pass time, build relationships, and pass an unpleasant or hilarious task on to someone else.

Folk Beliefs
general
Gestures
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kiss the Lollipop

The ritual: “My high school’s cross-country team…our sectionals which was like the last meet of the year, cause we always lose sectionals…it’s always at the same place, it’s at this elementary school in Noblesville. And we would go there and there’s like this random path into the woods, and all the guys on the team would go there together, and we would take one lollipop and everyone had to kiss the lollipop and it was super weird.”

The informant carried out this ritual for his high school cross-country team. He said that one guy on the team never did it because he thought it was too weird, probably because he thought it was too close to kissing other guys. This ritual was probably more ironic than for good luck, since the informant himself said that the team lost sectionals every year. Going in knowing that they’ll lose, the ritual for “good luck” was probably just a parody, since the ritual itself is kind of weird to begin with.

Legends
Narrative

High School ‘Senior Punishment’ Legend

Informant (“A”) is a 19 year old, female from Rancho Santa Fe, California, and attends The University of Southern California. She is a Human Biology major.  She is of European descent and her family includes her mother, father, and older brother who attends college in Texas.  Informant has studied ballet for 17 years, including work in a professional company.

 

A: “My high school used to be a boarding school, the school is over 100 years old, so we had a lot of traditions.  First of all, the seniors have a rec room that they repaint each summer in their classes color.  It takes a ton of hard work and time and is kind of a sacred space for the seniors, and they take their positions of ‘guardians of the lawn and rec room’ very seriously.  There’s this legend about this guy named W who was this tiny, tiny 7th grader.   Anyway I guess one day he got a bunch of squirt guns and soaked some seniors who were sitting on the lawn.   The seniors of course got really mad and they chased after him and duct taped him to a tree.  I guess he like was there for hours too.  Just about every 7th grader knows this legend, and definitely knows to respect the seniors and their rec room and lawn.”

 

Analysis: The legend appears to reinforce the hierarchy maintained by the older students over the younger ones, showing that going against an established hierarchy leads to embarrassment. Her emphasis on the fact he was left for several hours plays into the fact that the punishment was quite severe for her perspective, and serves to show that forgetting one’s place in this hierarchy is an especially socially unacceptable offense.

general
Humor

Legend of a Man Who Carried Around an Imaginary Lizard

“M” is 21 year old male student at the University of Southern California, where he is a Junior studying Animation and minoring in Philosophy. M is originally from the outskirts of New York state where he describes himself as living in a rural area. He described himself as going to a high school of ~60 students, where cliche formation was rare as students could ‘jump from social group to social group’. He describes his parents as ‘hippies’ that were very relaxed in their parenting style as well as their personal approach towards life. He is of Irish descent on both sides and describes this aspect of his life as very active in his life.

 

Transcript:

“M: There was this kid my friend heard about, he would pretend to carry a lizard around and show people his lizard. Um… but obviously his hand’s empty so no one can actually see this…  lizard. Most people that knew him were like, alright, here’s this lizard, just say hi… than like fuck off man

(M laughs)

He met a new guy once who had no idea about the imaginary hand-lizard. So he held out his hand, and looked at him [the man who was ignorant of the lizard] and the guy gave him a high five.

Me: (start laughing, ends up interrupting his talking)

M: From that day on, the kid just talked and didn’t have a lizard… the lizard died and he became a normal human being.

Me: How did you hear about this?

M: From a kid in high school, he said it was one of his friends.

Me: Do you think it’s real?

M: No way, someone like that can’t really exist haha.”

 

Analysis:

The appeal of the legendary figure above appears to be the absurdity of the original gesture, introducing an imaginary lizard to people who obviously knew it was no real. This contrasts sharply as well with his apparent transformation into normalcy upon having his imaginary lizard killed by an ignorant stranger.  Though the contrast itself isn’t interesting, the further claim that this may have been an actual person makes the situation peculiar and something that peaks interest. It seems to contradict our basic assumptions about how a person normally acts, and acts as a source of speculation (could he have been joking, suffering from mental illness, was the story made up?).

Some further aspects that make the legend fascinating is the apparent non-reaction of the lizard carrying man to having his lizard killed, despite the massive time investment in keeping the gesture going. It’s an abnormal reaction for someone who sees a pet killed, but not for someone who may have been joking. At the same time, why would he invest so much time into something he did not believe to be true? This abnormality, mixed with the humorous parallel serve to make the tale interesting to the listener.

Game
Humor

The Mustache Game

Item:

“Ahahah it honestly never gets old, we lose it every time and nobody is doing anything but staring at it.”

The Mustache Game is a drinking game wherein people make a cut out mustache and tape it to a random spot on a television screen — typically not near the edges. Then, everyone sits around watching TV. If the mustache perfectly lines up with a character’s upper lip, everyone watching drinks. The excitement from the game comes from when the mustache gets extremely close but the character keeps moving around it.

 

Context:

The informant says it’s the most fun drinking game he plays since it’s pretty passive — people can hang out and watch TV but also laugh incessantly at all the near misses. He also claims people can’t focus on anything else so it ends up getting turned off so people can actually talk or do other things. Sometimes he varies the game by having people draw or cut out different types of mustaches or facial hair. He made mention of putting two mustaches on the screen at once, but it apparently has never lined up. If it did, everyone would go crazy, he said.

 

Analysis:

This sounds like an incredibly fun drinking game. It’s really easy to set up, works on a lot of different TV shows I’m willing to bet, and is decently passive. To be fair, it’s not really much of a game — there’s not a ton of user input, a win state, or a risk of loss. But “drinking game” can connote more than traditional games, as its just an activity used as a platform to drink because in honor of. I also like the idea of expanding the rules — different mustaches, multiple mustaches, what channel you choose. It’s a very modern drinking game obviously, but accessible by many.

general
Humor

Prince Charles and Princess Di

Q:Why does Prince Charles have a coloured knob?

A: He kept sticking it in Di.

My informant, who grew up in the 80s, was lucky enough to be around when Prince Charles and Princess Di were still alive and well. Thus, when this joke began to circulate, one could guess that even though it’s fairly tasteless, it was still somewhat acceptable. Now it has become even more tasteless and bordering on insulting since the princess’s death. That doesn’t stop anyone from laughing at it though. These Princesss Di jokes have definitely died down in the past few years, with much of the new generation not even sure who Princess Di was. Thus, this joke is generally only used when in a specific age range.

Mechanicaly speaking, the metaphor is a simple play on words with Di replacing dye.

 

Humor

Off-color Gambling Joke

A bank teller is greeted one day by a woman who wants to make a large deposit – approximately $3 million.  The woman’s demeanor and clothing do not suggest a person of great wealth, but for such a large amount of money, the teller thinks that the woman should be treated especially well, and that he should take extra steps to make her feel secure in making the transaction.  Thus he goes to get the manager.
When the manager returns, he greets the woman and she hands him the checks.  When he reads them, he is wide-eyed and asks, “Just out of curiosity, do you mind if I ask what business you run?  It seems you are very successful with it…”
She replies, “Oh, I made the money off of bets.”
“What?”
“I made the money betting.”
“You mean betting, as in gambling, like at the casino?”
“No, I just make big bets with people.”
“Your friends?”
“Anybody.  For instance, I’ll bet you $100,000 that one of your testicles is blue.”
“What? Are you crazy?”
“No, I’m serious.”
The bank manager is wary, as obviously the woman has been successful with her betting, but on the other hand, he is absolutely certain that neither of his testicles is blue.  Just to double check, he unzips and takes a quick peek while standing behind the counter so no one sees it.  Sure enough, both sides are totally normal.  So he accepts the bet.  “Sure, I’ll take you up on your bet.”
“Alright, but we’ll need to wait until tomorrow to verify who wins the bet.  I want to bring in my lawyer to make sure there are no legal issues and that the loser pays the winner fairly.  I’ll bet you that after 2 o’clock tomorrow, one of your testicles will have turned blue.”
Confused and still somewhat shocked by the proposal, the manager thinks briefly about it and they agree to the bet.  He cannot imagine her being able to do anything to cause one of his testicles to turn blue.
When the manager awakes the next morning, he does another check.  Still normal.  At work, he nervously anticipates the arrival of the woman and her lawyer at 2 o’clock.  Every now and then, he takes another peek at himself to make sure both testicles are still normal.
At 2 o’clock, as planned, the woman and her lawyer arrive.  The manager quickly checks one more time, and taking them aside, he excitedly tells the woman that he has won the bet.
“Do you mind if I check to make sure?” asks the woman.
Nervously, the manager gives her permission, eager to receive his $100,000 reward.
As the manager unzips for her and she inspects, the lawyer suddenly begins to shout loudly in anguish and bang his head against the wall.
“Is he alright?” the manager asks.  “What’s the matter?”
“He’s fine,” she replies, “I bet him $1 million the other day that I could get the manager of this bank to drop his pants for me while he stood there watching.”

 

his was an Internet joke that my informant received from a friend of his.  My paraphrase is actually slightly less graphic than the original version of the joke.  It is a complex joke which could strike different hearers as having different thematic implications.  When I heard the joke, I picked up the idea of female outsmarting male and that of the lawyer being humiliated.
The joke also features multiple oxymorons, or “appropriate incongruities, ” which according to folklorist Elliot Oring, are the backbone of a joke’s humor.  The rich woman’s strange ability to make millions from betting is the first apparent incongruity.  This is followed by her assertion that one of the bank manager’s anatomical members is blue, an obvious falsehood.  Finally, the lawyer’s emotional eruption seems strange and unexplainable.  All of these incongruities are readily corrected and made appropriate, however, by the punchline, delivering a triple dose of somewhat off-color humor.

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