Tag Archives: humor

The Joke A Dog with No Nose

Informant: It’s a very short joke.

Interviewer: That’s perfectly fine. Just tell it how you know it.

Informant: Okay. A dog with no nose, how does he smell? — Terrible!

Interviewer: You don’t wait for someone to ask how?

Informant: Not usually. Usually everyone knows the punchline so we all say it together.

Informant: Who’s the we? Where did you learn this?

Informant: Well I think I learned it from my father, he was always making silly jokes like that. Everyone learned it so quickly that it’s a bit hard to say. I remember hearing it during a big party at a small house. It must have been a Sunday because Sunday was when you went to see your family. I remember that because it was something everyone used to get hysterical about, everyone would roll about laughing.

Background: The informant believes she first heard this joke from family. She was not sure if she heard it from her father or older brother who was in the army. They were very close so it’s difficult for her to say who came up with it first, or if they heard it from someone else.

Context: I was asking my informant to recount things she remembered from her childhood and she remembered a few songs and this joke specifically.

Thoughts: It appears to be more of an inside joke but every British person I’ve interacted with appears to know it, but they always play along if they’re asked. It is probably incredibly popular because it’s an easy joke for children to remember and is incredibly easy for them to share to other kids.

Finals Week Nude Run

Background:  DL is a man in his early twenties who attend the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. It is a small school with less than 3,000 students (mostly undergrad). DL is getting degrees in violin performance and gender studies.

Context: “Dead week” is the typically week before finals, where classes are canceled so students can study. It’s usually a time of high tension across a campus, and DL believes the nude run is a way to “destress.” He does not have a clear idea of how the tradition got started or how long it’s been going on. He mostly finds it amusing, but was slightly embarrassed to elaborate on what happens during the annual nude run when I asked him for more information.

Main Piece:

(In the following interview the informant is identified as DL and the interviewer is identified as JS.)

DL: We have a tradition during dead week in the fall semester…it’s a naked run [laughs]. And it starts, starts at the library, at the top floor of the library, where people completely nude in a big pack run from the top floor of the library all the way across campus to, like, the dining hall and go through the dining hall. And it’s probably thirty degrees outside [Fahrenheit] because it’s winter.

JS: What time of day does this take place?

DL: Maybe like 10 or 11 P.M.

JS: And the library’s still open at this point? People take their clothes off there?

DL: Yeah, you go in a robe or something—and like, not everybody goes completely nude but a lot of people do, so it’s not really that…weird?

JS: Have you done it before?

DL: I haven’t, no.

JS: Okay, okay. So you—have you watched people do it, though? Like, you sat out? Do people sit out in lawn chairs and watch it—

DL: No? No. Cuz that would be…

JS: Creepy

DL: Yeah, I feel like everyone has specific etiquette rules. People don’t like sit and watch, but like, if you happen to witness it, then that’s acceptable.

JS: And you’ve “witnessed” it before?

DS: I’ve witnessed it.

JS: Do you have friends that have done it?

DL: Yes, no one I live with has done it, but I have friends that have done it.

JS: And how does the administration feel about it?

DL: They don’t care.

JS: Does a specific person organize it or does a mass text get sent out?

DL: Like, a mass text gets sent out, so everybody knows when it is and on what day, because it’s the same every year.

Thoughts: I’ve heard of similar traditions at other campuses across the country, and I think the nude run practice falls in line with the similar traditions of skinny dipping or walking into public fountains fully clothed. I’d agree with DL’s idea that this a way for students to destress—it’s something that’s so wild and impulsive that it puts the concept of final exams into perspective. There are multiple elements of risk in it, including both the very cold weather and the willingness for people to go nude in public (a technically illegal act). I find it particularly interesting how the administration doesn’t seem to mind that it occurs on a predictable, annual basis, and that certain social codes about how not to be creepy have regulated themselves. People don’t sit around and wait for the nude runners to go by, they just witness it by coincidence—the fact that it’s a big pack of students also makes it somewhat safer to perform. It’s definitely not the kind of thing I myself would participate in, but it’s a pretty hilarious concept all the same.

Playground Taunts

Background: The performer is my college roommate and friend. She spent the first fifteen years of her life in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to Thousand Oaks, California for high school. She is currently in her twenties and attends school at the University of Southern California.

Main Text:

“Brick Wall

Waterfall

Boy you think you got it all

You don’t

I do

So poof with the attitude

Loser, whatever

Flyaway forever

Where’d you go?

Loserville

Population? You!”

Context: The performer explained that traditionally this taunt was chanted in elementary school, usually from the age ranges of eight to eleven. She explained that most of the time, they chanted it on the back of the bus on the way home from school, usually with friends. She mentioned a social heirachy on the bus, which stemmed from the fact that children were all different ages but lived in the same area, so the third graders, who didn’t like the fourth graders and so on, would chant it back and forth in a playfully “mean” manner. Sometimes it was targeted at a specific person and other people would join in.

Thoughts: Growing up in a different state from the performer, I had not heard this chant before, nor did I ever take a bus to elementary school. Still, I think the chant is amusing, especially looking at how it eases tensions for young children in a way that isn’t violent or truly hurtful. Instead they trade somewhat playful stock insults, which other children are encouraged to join in on. I wonder if there was a standard rebuttal phrase the performer and her friends would use if others sang this at them. The comment about the age-related hierarchy is also interesting, presumably because this sort of chant would only be learned by listening to old kids singing it. In addition to the lyrics, the performer had simple hand motions to accompany the lyrics (“where’d you go”/shrug, “population, you”/pointing at other person).

Llama Song

Background: The performer is my college roommate and friend. She spent the first fifteen years of her life in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to Thousand Oaks, California for high school. She is currently in her twenties and attends school at the University of Southern California.

Main Text:

“Happy llama

Sad llama

Totally rad llama

Super llama

Drama llama

Don’t forget Barack-a-llama”

Context: The llama song was traditionally performed around age eight and stopped around age eleven. The performer cannot recall any particular reasons for starting it up, it was just the sort of thing chanted on the playground when bored. The llama hand motion (ring and middle finger touching thumb and pinky and index pointing up to form a llama head) was essential to performance.

Thoughts: I am familiar with the llama song, despite growing up in a different state than the performer. Her version has slightly different, more appropriate lyrics, despite the rhythm and the hand motions being the same. The part that surprised me the most was the final line “don’t forget Barack-a-llama,” because it specifically dates the song around the year 2008, when Barack Obama was first elected as President of the United States. Contextually, I think that this reference is an interesting measure of what children pay attention to—most elementary school-aged children would not be aware of politics before the 2008 election, but the event was memorable enough that proper nouns stripped of all political or historical meaning would work their way into children’s playground folk culture. The preoccupation with llamas is something else I’ve always wondered about, because I recall other childhood songs and jokes about them. I think it’s a combination of the unique spelling (the double “ll” is not common for English speakers), the inner rhyme of the word “llama,” and the fact that llamas were a rarer animal than, say, dogs or horses. For young children just getting familiar with the English language, the word “llama” is both easy to rhyme and funny to describe, as demonstrated with this song.

Violent Barney Song Parody

Main Piece:

(to the tune of the Barney Theme Song)

“I hate you

You hate me

Let’s get together and kill Barney

With a baseball bat and two-by-four

No more purple dinosaur!”

Background: The performer is a friend of mine in his early twenties. He spent his entire childhood in Long Beach, California and now lives in Tacoma, Washington. He went to public school in the Long Beach Unified School District from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and his elementary school (grades kindergarten through fifth) had around five hundred kids in it.

Context: The informant hadn’t sung the song since elementary school, but he was willing to perform it for me anyways. In a traditional context, the Barney spoof would be sung on the blacktop by children ranging from seven or eight years old all the way through elementary school (10 to 11). A remembers learning it from kids a few years older, hence the dark material.  After singing it, A seemed a bit embarrassed and shocked at his parody and asked me why we all had such animosity for Barney in particular.

Thoughts: Though I did not attend the same elementary school as the informant, I can remember similar violent Barney songs. I wonder if the informant’s school had ever tried to ban them the way mine did for their violent and sometimes gory rhetoric. It’s strange how it seems so disturbing now; A and I both thought the songs were very funny as children. I suspect that Barney was a popular target because of his infantilizing dynamic and dopey voice, as opposed to other childhood PBS characters like. Elmo or Dora the Explorer. Anti-Barney humor is actually a well-recognized phenomenon, in both adult and children folk groups alike. For young children, the violent humor can be a way of navigating changing worldviews and increasing maturity—the graphic gore or death taunts are a schoolyard form of taboo humor, a way of rebelling against previously held-notions of childhood and asserting that they are more mature than parents, teachers, and popular children’s shows might regard them.

Echale Sal al Animal, Quien te Pico

Background: The account below is explaining a game that the informant used to play as a child with her family members. The informant is Mexican American and grew up on the South Side of Chicago. She remembers a few games and stories that she played as a kid that would entertain her and her cousins without toys, or often supervision. However, the specific game below is one she learned from her mom, who learned it from her mom, who heard it from her mom. This has been passed for generations. The informant doesn’t remember playing this in school, only with family members. 

Main piece: 

*** names of informant’s family members are represented by S, J, R

My sisters used to play that. They’d be like okay, “Lie down! Echale sal…” and my mom too. If we were bored in the car she’d say okay let’s play a game. And like you bend over on the legs and you pull the back of your shirt up and you take turns, and you have to guess who pinched you. Was it S, was it J, was it R, ya know, was it mom? Who pinched you? It’s a group game and if you guessed right then that person would go next. If you guessed wrong you’d lie back down and do the pinch over again until you guessed who pinched you. If they were being jerks they pinched hard. “Echale sal al animal, quien te pico” It means, “put salt on the animal who bit you” and pico is like a poke, like a fork. Like you would stick an animal with a  fork, ya know. That’s why they said put salt on the animal — like they’re salting you up when they rub their hands on your back. Echale sal al animal— and PLOOP. And poke. So rubbing the salt on the back is like they’re seasoning an animal and then boop you get pinched… I mean you have to think way back when as kids you had to entertain yourselves. We all played that. Well, the family did.

Context: This conversation took place over a video chat. During the conversation I  asked about her version of this saying, sharing that I had my own. The informant instantly filled with giddy nostalgia as she explained something so natural and personal to her childhood.

My thoughts: I grew with the same Spanish text: Echale sal al animal quien te pico. However, my experience never translated over to a game. My mother would rub my back in circles saying the line, and then she would lightly and playfully give my back a pinch. This happened a lot in an embrace, so it was always a term or gesture of endearment. My family members often did this to each other sometimes if they were being playful. More to the little kids who would go off giggling after being pinched. I was fascinated to learn the informant’s version. I realized that both of our experiences were terms of endearment that we shared with a select few. Moreover, it brings back happy childhood memories. I feel that this game is also related to other hand/ body games that children would play with their closest friends to jovially pass time without worry. 

Irish Limerick

Main Piece:

There once was a man named Paul

Who went to a fancy dress ball

He thought he would risk it

And went as a biscuit

And was eaten by a dog in the hall

Background: The informant was born in Ireland, and moved to the United States as a baby. He is a Dual-Citizen and feels closely connected to his Irish roots. He shared with me him and his sisters favorite Limerick. He says this is his favorite because his dad is named Paul, so as kids it was hysterical. 

Context: This was a brief conversation on a walk outside. I asked the informant if he knew any jokes, and after chuckling to himself for a moment he shared this Limerick. The moment was light and happy.

My thoughts: I love a good Limerick. The structure and rhythm of the piece always adds a jovial sense to the joke no matter the subject matter. In this particular case, I can see the hilarity in this Limerick for my informant in the way that he is personally tied to it. It was clear the informant used to almost tease his father playfully with the limerick as a child, and he still looks on it with fondness.

Bill Clinton Music Meme

Background: The informant here is explaining a Bill Clinton themed meme that has been exploding on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a college Junior on all social media platforms, the informant also explores the nature of these collaborative quarantine meme challenges. She also explains her own rendition of the meme that she shared on her social media. Said photo is included below. 

The Main Piece:

So yeah this meme started going around on the ‘gram. Um like twoish weeks ago now probably. Um, this is one of many viral repost interactive things that you can do with your friends type of meme that has popped on social media since quarantine began. I think it’s just a way that people stay connected during this, and even if it’s not fully reaching out to your friend even just a little nudge to be like ‘hey, I remember you— you exist and I care to hear what your answer is to this type of stuff,’ I think is a cool way of interacting with people during these time. Um, but ya you chose like your four albums and people were kinda putting different twists on them, like I did mine on my top albums of 2019. Uh, some people were doing like their quarantine jams, some people were doing like their favorite 70s albums. So like there were a lot of different takes on it and people were able to make it their own. Yeah, it was interesting, they’re all pretty short- lived  because like the new one comes around and everyone starts doing that one instead because everyone’s bored as hell. So. 

Context: This conversation took place on a late night in quarantine. The informant and I are quarantining together. This conversation arose from a seemingly nightly tradition of talking about how Covid-19 has affected the world, including its influence on pop culture and social norms. 

Analysis: This meme is a great example of the sort of ‘collaborative’ memes that have become so popular during quarantine and social distancing. I agree with the informant that these memes stem from using social media as one of the only tools to connect during this pandemic. A feeling that is reminiscent of the fascination of opening an account and getting connected in the first place. I also agree with the informant that it is a nice sentiment and a way to stay connected creatively. For this reason the new wave of content feels less of showing off and more of finding ways to creatively pass time with each other while not actually physically being with each other.

“Karen” as a folk term

Main Piece

Interviewer: What does “Karen” mean?

Informant: Karen is an internet slang word to describe a  very entitled, middle-class white woman. Or a boomer white woman. They are often blonde and they often have very short haircuts. They usually like to speak and the managers, and then proceed to yell at the entry-level employees who have no control over the matters. 

Interviewer:Where did you pick it up?

Informant: Maybe a year ago, scrolling through Twitter. 

Interviewer: do you use it frequently?

Informant: Yeah, especially when making jokes with friends or memes on the internet, haha.

Background

The informant is a good friend and housemate of mine, and is a junior at USC studying Computer Science and Computer Engineering. He is originally from Manhattan Beach, CA and has been coding ever since highschool. He has had several internships with different computer science companies such as Microsoft and is very involved with different coding clubs on campus. 

Context

The group of individuals at my house tend to send each other a lot of memes and use internet lingo throughout the house as different jokes. “Karen” is one that this informant uses very frequently, so during our interview I asked him to describe it in his own terms. 

Analysis

This term of folk speech is a perfect example of how internet lingo and culture has permeated into everyday verbal communication. Many of these terms are associated with humor and generational differences, as seen with this one which is intended to poke fun at individuals from an older population. This shows the rift in values and morals between generations, and displays how everyday names can be transformed to carry much more weight and meaning.

Campfire story-The Ghost With One Black Eye

Background: My informant grew up in a small town in Michigan in the 70s. Growing up, her friends would often sit around bonfires and tell stories. She tells me this is one of her favorite campfire jokes because you think it’s going to be a scary story, but it actually turns out to be a joke, which usually makes it funnier because people are expecting to be scared.  She tells me the joke is told at the campfire as if it’s something that happened to you at a different campfire. We sit in her living room as she tells me the story.

Main text:

“So we were all sitting around the fire, just like this”

She motions to the campfire we were pretending was in between us 

“And suddenly we all heard ‘I am the ghost with one. Black. Eye’”

She uses a deep ghostly voice for the part of the ghost

“Everyone looked around in shock like ‘what?! What was that?!’”

She says this part in a hushed tone

“Then we heard it again ‘I am the ghost with one. Black. Eye’ only this time it was louder”

She continues to speak in a hushed tone except when she does the ghost’s voice

“And then it gets closer, ‘I am the ghost with one. Black. Eye!’  by now everyone is shivering”

She makes a shivering sound

“Closer and closer, louder and louder, we kept hearing it. ‘I am the ghost with one. black . eye! I AM THE GHOST WITH ONE. BLACK. EYE’”

She gets louder

“And all of a sudden it’s right behind us  ‘I AM THE GHOST WITH ONE. BLACK. EYE!’ and I stood up and I shouted ‘IF YOU DON’T SHUT UP YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE GHOST WITH TWO BLACK EYES!’”

She starts laughing 

Analysis: As she was telling me this joke, I could tell it was important to her. She would smile to herself in the middle of sentences as if she was reliving her childhood sitting around campfires. While I did find the joke to be funny, I agree with her that part of the reason the punchline is so impactful is that you get caught up in the fear of there being a ghost that you aren’t expecting it to turn out to be a big joke. Sitting around a fire at night would have made it more impactful than sitting in her living room, but nonetheless the voices she used for the characters and the intensity in telling the story made it a very successful joke.