USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘funny’
Humor

Anti-Joke

Main Piece: Anti-Joke

 

My brother told me this joke:

 

Brother: “Ask me if I’m a tree.”

 

Me: “Are you a tree?”

 

Brother: “No.”

 

Background:

 

This is my brother’s go to joke and has been for a while, and he finds it funnier than the person who he tells it to. He was told this by a teammate in high school who is around the same age as him, and tells me it is called an “anti-joke.” This was a big thing for a while, when people would begin to tell a joke and the listener would expect a funny punchline, but there really is no comical aspect to the joke. Here is another example of a joke like this:

What is green and has wheels?

Grass, I lied about the wheels.

 

My brother loves this joke because it is generally not seen as funny, but the fact of how stupid it is and how the listener is trying to think of what the punchline is leaves them dumbfounded by how simple it is and how there really is no point to the joke. Some people may think of how stupid the teller is, but once the joke sets in the listener tends to find it pretty comical.

 

Context:

 

This joke doesn’t necessarily have a subject, but is more so something you tell people at a random time when they’re unhappy or need to get their mind off something, because you are so caught off guard by the joke not having a punchline and having no real point.

That being said, there really isn’t a specific time or place when this joke is told, but rather it comes up when least expected and tends to catch the listener off guard, and that is what can make it so funny.

 

My thoughts:

 

I personally find this joke pretty funny, but I have a pretty odd and very far out sense of humor. My brother first told me this one day when I got home from water polo practice after a rough day of classes and the coach ripping me for messing up, and I had a pretty downer mood at that point. He had picked me up that day and could tell I was in a bad mood, and the first thing he said to me was, “ask me if I’m a tree.”

I find the stupidity of anti-jokes to be the funniest part, and seeing the confused and puzzled look on the listeners face more satisfying than the joke itself. I have used this joke occasionally and it tends to put a smile on the listener’s face whenever I tell them.

Humor
Legends
Narrative

Mullah Nasreddin and the Cold Night

I understand that you like to tell “Mullah” stories. Could you share one with me?

“Mullah is a traditional character they attribute a lot of stories to him… and you know, they’re, they’re, usually as funny stories, but then on the other hand has quite a bit of meaning to every story.

This story goes like this, uhh… Mullah and his friend they were getting together, it was at night. So they were kinda challenging each other if, uhh… anybody can stay out there in the cold, it was really cold, night. And uhh, be able to survive until the morning.

Mullah says ‘well, I’m gonna do that, I’m gonna try that.’

So he stays out there, in real cold, but he endures, you know, and he had some experience, he endures the cold night. So in the morning they get , they get together, and he explains to his friends that he really, uhh… survived the cold, you know, last night.

They said, ‘nuh uh, it’s impossible.’ Uhh… you know, ‘You couldn’t have survived. You must have had some help. Maybe you had some fire? You made some fire?’

He says, ‘No! There was nothing! uhh… it’s just endurance, and I endured the uhh…’ uhh… I… I was supposed to say it in Farsi!” [laughs]

That’s okay! You can finish in English and tell the Farsi version [later]. (And MB did tell the full story in Farsi, but transcribing the entire story in phonetics would take an immense amount of time. I skip ahead here to the English explanation.)

“The English goes like this, uhh, Mullah and his friends, they were uhh, together, and they were getting together one cold night.

So they started challenging each other who can uhh… stay out there in that cold weather and uhh, survive until morning. And if anybody can do it, you know, they buy him lunch.

Mullah says, ‘Oh, I’m gonna try that!’ So he goes out there in the cold, and uhh, really cold night, and it was suffering all night and everything, but he, because of his experience, he endures the cold.

So in the morning they get together, Mullah says ‘You know, I managed to stay out there in the cold.’

But his friend says ‘Well, that’s impossible, nobody can do that. You must have had some fire keeping you warm all night.’

He says, ‘No, there was no fire. But on second thought, I could see a light several miles away. All night.’

His friends say, ‘Well, that’s it! That light kept you warm all night!’

Then Mullah says, ‘Okay, you folks won, and I lost, so I prepare you lunch tomorrow. I’ll make you some, uhh, soup… for lunch.’

They all say, ‘Great!’

They come to his house, wait an hour, nothing happens, two hours, they wait two hours, no sign of lunch. So they ask Mullah, says ‘Well, what’s happening?’

Mullah says, ‘Still cooking!’

They say, ‘Well wait a minute! How long is it gonna be cooking! Let’s go out there and, uhh, see what’s going on!’ So they go out there and see a big pot of soup with a candle underneath.

They say, his friends say, ‘Well, Mullah, this is stupid. This candle is not going to heat up that big pot and make your soup.’

Mullah says, ‘Well, if that light several miles away could keep me warm all night, this candle should be able to also cook your lunch.’

His friends realize that they, you know, made a mistake, and uhh, says, ‘Okay, we’ll buy you lunch, Mullah, you won.’ End of story.”

Note: For a published version of this story, see Houman Farzad, Classic Tales of Mulla Nasreddin (

Analysis: Mullah Nasreddin stories are very common in Persian culture. They are often used for humor and for imparting wisdom to older children, but are commonly told at all stages of life. There are countless encounters attributed to Mullah Nasreddin, and many have been documented in published works. For another version of this story, see:
MB is especially fond of this Mullah story, and was animated while telling it. MB made a habit of telling Mullah stories to his grandchildren after family dinners in order to get them to laugh and to understand more adult concepts like happy marriages, compromises, good friendships, and general wisdom.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Funny Korean Proverb

Informant SL is a junior studying business communication at the University of Southern California. She is of Korean descent and only moved to America at the age of 16. Here, she performs a proverb that is very notorious to her because she heard it for the first time after doing something she learned she shouldn’t have done.

Original Proverb: 누워서 침 뱄기

English Translation: “Lying down and spitting.”

The informant was an only child growing up. For this reason, in elementary school, she didn’t have anyone to vent about her parents with. So one time she bad-mouthed her parents to a friend. This friend told her mom, and the friend’s mom told the informant’s mom. The story ends with the informant’s mom repeating the proverb to the informant. The proverb is very apt in this case because the informant explained that she essentially “lied down and spit on herself” because by telling a friend, she invariably ended up telling her mother. The informant believes that this proverb is very significant to know because it can apply to almost anything. It is akin to the concept of karma because what goes around will always come around (or land on yourself as spit in this case).

To me, this proverb is very simple to decipher. I take it to mean don’t do anything that could come back to bite you. This is especially relevant in today’s day and age due to the prevalence of the internet and social media. Everything we do online is documented and saved forever in the archives of the internet. This means something we have published over 5 years ago could be resurfaced at a later date. Everyone knows of very obvious examples of where this has happened, but everyone at one point or another has posted or commented something they would not like the world to see. For this reason, it is imperative that one doesn’t “lie down and spit”. This etiquette is essential to prevent something incriminating coming back to cause harm further down the line.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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