USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Joke’
Folk speech
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

Chinoisms: Sleep

Context & Analysis

The subject often mentions her mother’s “Chinoisms”, or unique sayings that her mother learned when growing up in Chino, CA. Below is the subject’s direct quote on the origin of her mother’s proverbs:

            “So my mom comes from Chino [California], and so she has a plethora of sayings that I didn’t even know what they meant earlier, I just said them until I got older and I was like “Oh! That actually makes sense!”

The subject’s mother’s response is cheeky and plays upon the pun created in the phrasing “How did you sleep?”. The question is rather contextual; if the question is taken literally (like how the subject’s mother does) it is results in a humorous answer.his reminded me a lot of classic “dad jokes”, or jokes that give literal responses to questions often with the purpose of irritating their children for a humorous result. The subject’s re-enactment of her mother’s gesture is also an important part of re-creating the joke, as the punchline of the joke is delivered physically rather than verbally.

Main Piece

“Almost religiously whenever my mom is asked “How did you sleep?’ she says “Like this!” and then she puts her hands next to her face, and, um, tilts to the side like she’s sleeping. [The subject put her hands in a prayer pose on the left side of her face like she’s sleeping on a pillow and tilts her head slightly].

Folk speech
Humor

Spanish Language Word Play

Subject: Joke featuring a play on words.

Collection:

“Atrás te huele!”

“Interviewer: So, do you have any jokes that are particularly like crude, because I think those are the best one.

Interviewee: Oh… it’s like, my dad’d always tell this joke about how there’s a difference in like the arrangement of words. So, like you can say, uh, ‘huele a traste’. Like huele-a-taste, which is three words. Which means it smells like dishes versus ‘atrás te huele’. Which should be, it smells like dishes still, yes it should be. But, because if you like break up the word, if you break up the word it means you smell like ass… and it’s my fav.”

Background Info: Z. Cantú is a twenty-year-old college student majoring in Theater at the University of Southern California. She is from Brownsville, Texas and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Both of her parents immigrated to the United States as teens where they met and started a family. She has grown up with a melding of American and Mexican traditions.

Context: My roommate would frequently make mention of jokes her dad would tell involving funny rearrangements of words in her native Spanish. This is the crudest and her favorite. I asked her to recount this story for my collection.

Analysis: This joke garners its humor by subverting the expected to reveal a new, surprising, and rather crude meaning. The simplicity of this model is what lends the joke its success. Without garnish, the simple wordplay is clear and easy to pick up on. Furthermore, the crude language and insult involved in the joke increase its surprise since it is amazing to many people the power of language in that a slight change can create a whole new meaning. The simplicity of the word play marks it a clear “dad joke”.

Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Three Men in A Bar

Subject: Narrative joke.

Collection: “Alright, so, uh, one night these three friends you know they’re out-they’re out being buddies, they’re out drinking, going to bars. And uh, one bar, its late at night, they’re already pretty drunk, and they find a magical beer bottle and they are totally mind-fucked. There drunk, it’s a magical beer bottle behind a bar. Why were they there? I don’t know. They were peeing, throwing up, something. So, they find the magical beer bottle and there’s a genie inside of it. And the genie has the power to fulfill three wishes. Um so since there’s three friends, each friend gets one wish. So, uh, they do they’re business meaning the whole peeing and vomiting thing, and the wish making and when they each get what they want, they enter the bar. And, um, these guys, all the other bars they walked into earlier in the night, nobody noticed them, they’re kind of losers. But when they walk into this bar, um, they’re- everyone- they’re turning heads. Um, but they don’t mind. They’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re turning heads’. So, they sit down and one of them goes up for the first round of drinks. Ans the bartender sees this guy coming up and he’s like, ‘Oh snap, this is a very, very impressive man’. Um, he’s got uh like, uh these- ya know, he’s wearing a tuxedo, he’s got a gold monocle, he’s got an ivory cane with gold inlay engraved in like swirling patterns and on top of it, this huge pink diamond. And it’s so big, it’s like- you know that one that the British people stole from Africa. Like it’s bigger than that… But, like this pink diamond, gigantic. Um, an- and the tuxedo it looks so soft, and it looks so suave. It’s perfectly tailored. It’s sleek and plush, and to top it all off, he’s got a top hat. Um, so he’s just 100%, he’s like a caricature, he’s like the monopoly man, he’s like a gazillionaire. And um, and the bartender’s like, ‘This is cool but something’s off. What’s off about this guy?’. He knows something’s off, he can’t put it together, but he’s just like, ‘Alright, whatever’. So, uh, the guy reaches him, the bartender, and the bartender’s like trying to be impressive, you know. He wants to sound smart. So, he goes, ‘I couldn’t help but notice your fine array of accouterments’. And- and he goes, ‘Can I ask, what is the secret to your success?’. And you know, they guy just laughs, um and he explains that he was piss drunk, peeing in an alley, and found a magic beer bottle and wished to be the richest man in the world. And the bartender’s like, ‘Oh, alright that- that’s kind of disappointing. Um, I wanted to be rich but whatever’. Um, so the, the f-the guy takes his drinks, and you know, goes back to his table to share them with his friends. And, so the bartender is disappointed because he’s not going to be rich, but he knows he’s in for like some night, you know. And, he- he’s waiting for those other two friends to come up, because you know it’s not every day that you get three people… and um, and where was I, let’s see. He knows he’s in for a night. So, second friend, comes up. And the bartender sees, or rather doesn’t see that this other man is, also, very impressive. And what I mean by doesn’t see is that he’s just surrounded by women and the bartender cannot see him. But, like, he’s surrounded by women, that’s very impressive… Um, so the bartender just kind of like hands the three drinks into the crowd. And then somewhere from the crowd, money for three drinks comes back. And uh the bartender’s like, ‘What’s going on here?’. Um he doesn’t know what direction to talk in, so he just kind of yells and says, ‘I couldn’t help but notice the crowd’. And he doesn’t really expect the guy to hear him, and he doesn’t really expect a response, but very faintly, he hears, ‘I’m sure you have met my friend, the rich guy and that he explained what happened out back with the magical beer bottle. But did you ever wonder where all of his gold diggers were?’. And the bartender’s like ‘Ah-ha! That’s what was off about the rich guy, there were no gold diggers, like what was up with that?’. And the shouting man continues that his wish was to be the most attractive man in the world. Um, and the bartender was like, ‘Nice… Good shit’. Um, uh, so the crowd ya know starts to disperse as you know the life of the party’s going back to his seat. And the bartender’s like, ‘Alright, what a  couple wishes. Like I wonder what the third guy could’ve wished for. You know to like out do the other to. I- I hope I don’t get let down’. Um, and when the third friend finally comes up to get the third round of drinks, what the bartender saw was just nothing that anyone really could have expected. Um, you know, the bartender kind of noticed that like the first two friends, their wishes wer- were kind of obvious, you know. Like, if you dressed all rich, you wished to be rich. If you’re surrounded by women, you wished to be the most attractive man in the world. But the third guy, it- it was- not obvious at all, if you’re even in your right mind. Uh, and when the third guy comes, there’s no crowd about him, you know, but there’s this swagger in his step, as if the genie had fulfilled for him a combination of his two friends’ wishes, as if he were the richest and most attractive man in the world. Um, that was not the case. Uh, never the less, he was… still impressive. As impressive as the other guys, but not in the same way, it wa- it was kind of a negative sort of impressive, you know. The bartender’s kind of, he- he’s really appalled, but he’s also intrigued and overall, he’s just totally taken aback. He’s going, ‘I can’t even begin to imagine what had gone through this guy’s head, if he even had a head before, because now, what is this protrusion springing from his neck? I- uh, uh, it cannot be dared called a head, you know’. And the bartender decides maybe it’s best not to mention it at all until the guy reaches me which he did. And he orders his drinks, ultimately, casual like. And he’s trying to make small talk with the bartender as if there was just nothing up. It was just awkward because… he was never a cool guy to begin with. You know, when these guys found these beer bottle, they were like the three nerdiest guys, and he was the nerdiest out of all of them. So he’s just trying to chit-chat like there’s nothing up, he’s a terrible conversationalist, and he looks funny. Um, and the bartender jus- he can’t take it anymore. So, he goes, ‘Listen bub, you’re friends with those two guys who found the magical beer bottle, right’. And the guy goes, ‘Yeah, of course’. And the bartender screams, ‘Well what the hell did you wish for?!’. You know, he finally snaps, everyone in the bar turns, and looks because this bartender has lost his shit, he’s screaming at the man, um he- he’s even got a little voice crack in there It-it’s comedic, you know. This is a joke. Um, and he totally is off the wall because he cannot just, he can’t process this guy’s giant fuzzy orange head, he’s in total disbelief. Um, but you know the guy who’s being yelled at, he just totally remains calm and he says, ‘I wished for a giant fuzzy orange head, obviously’.”

Background Info: M. Takla is currently a sophomore at the University of Southern California pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering. He is from Foster City, CA.

Context: M. Takla told me this joke over dessert, sitting outside around dusk. I challenged him to a joke off, through which we both learned each other’s best narrative jokes. I then asked to record him telling this joke for my collection.

Analysis: This joke subverts the expectations for a typical punchline while employing traditional narrative elements on which the narrator is free to embellish. The build-up for the joke appears to be growing more and more extreme, which, in many way, it is. However, the absurdity of the joke (magic beer bottles, genies, and the gaudy fulfillment of the men’s wishes) comes to a head when the man reveals he wished for the giant fuzzy orange head. In a way, the story was so absurd that an even more absurd ending, or climax, is expected. The joke mocks itself and the genre of the typical tale by casually employing elements such as the Rule of Three and magic that are found in traditional tales. The combination of these factors lends the joke its success and aesthetic pleasure.

Riddle

Riddle of the Days

I am a big fan of riddles, and I decided to ask my friend, marked KB, if she knew of any. She shared with me one.

Riddle:

Question: Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?

Answer: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

Context:

Phone conversation in which I recorded KB’s recounts of folk similes as well as a riddle she grew up learning.

Background:

KB is a freshman at the University of Southern California and grew up in Austin, Texas.

Analysis:

I enjoy this riddle because it is clever and something I never would have thought of. It would be interesting to further research this riddles origins and possibly link it to specific heritages or cultures.

Humor

The Jungle Joke Competition

Interviewer: What’s the jungle joke that you mentioned earlier?

Informant: Ok, so, the king of the jungle, a lion, decides that he wants to hear the best joke in the jungle. He gathers all of the animals of the jungle around him and announces that whoever tells a joke that gets everyone to laugh will win. But, if their joke does not make every single animal laugh, then they will be killed.

The elephant immediately begins to tell his joke, thinking that he will no doubt win the competition. After he finishes, the crowd is silent. No one thinks the elephant’s joke is funny, and so the king of the jungle murders him.

Next, the parrot comes forward. The parrot tells his joke and half of the crowd erupts into laughter. The other half is silent though, so the king of the jungle kills him too.

Then, the giraffe steps forward. The giraffe pauses, then begins his joke. When he finishes, every single animal in the crowd laughs – except one, the turtle. The king of the jungle pauses for a moment, waiting for the turtle to join in, but the turtle never does. So, the giraffe is killed too

Finally, the jaguar strides forward and tells his joke. The jaguar, who mostly likes to hunt, doesn’t know many jokes, and his joke is terrible. Only one animal laughs – the turtle.

After the King of the Jungle kills the jaguar, he asks the turtle why he laughed. The turtle says “the giraffe’s joke was hilarious!”

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old college student. Though he was raised in the United States, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and his first language is Spanish. This joke was told in a college dorm room, with the informant sitting across from me.

Background: This informant heard this joke from his parents, both of whom are from Chihuahua, Mexico. He enjoys it and remembers it because of the turtle and his delayed reaction. He and many of his friends and family use “Don’t be the turtle” to chide someone when their reaction is delayed or they did not respond to ones question or statement.

Analysis: I personally enjoyed the joke a lot. It doesn’t rely on wordplay or any sort of cultural knowledge, all the listener has to know is that a turtle is slow – this makes the joke relatively accessible. At the same time, the use of a somewhat brutal method of punishment, that is, death, for a bad joke, also makes the stakes higher for the animals and adds to the hilarity of the situation, since, at the end of the day, death is a ridiculous punishment for not making everyone laugh. I also found it interesting that the motif of threes finds its way into this joke as well. Though there are four animals, the giraffe, the animal to tell the best joke, and whose joke elicits laughter from the most animals, is the third to tell a joke.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Iranian “Turk” Jokes

  1. The main piece: Iranian “Turk” Jokes

“We have a lot of racist jokes. You know how some American jokes start with “a guy walks into a bar.” A lot of our jokes start with “what did the turk say” or “why did the Turk do this.” So there’s a region in Tehran, Tabriz, where there’s a lot of Turkish people, and they have a certain accent. So whenever we tell the Turk jokes, there’s a certain accent we use.”

  1. Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? The context of the performance?

“I mean, this is kind of embarrassing because it’s not the best portrayal of us. But it’s not like we really think this about Turks anymore, it’s just what the jokes have become and been for so long. Like dumb blonde jokes are still funny, even though we know blondes aren’t dumb. I’ve heard different family members and family friends tell these jokes at parties… I mean, they’re funny and remind me of jokes that people from my culture make.”

  1. Finally, your thoughts about the piece

This piece is a clear example of stereotyping and Blason Populaire in jokes. It utilizes a common cultural bias or stereotype about a group of people who are not originally from the area, showing that they are being jested at because they are “different” and they are the minority. Stereotype and Blason Populaire jokes, when not utilizing stereotypes about a group to itself (i.e. Turkish people telling Turk jokes) alienate the group of people being made fun of in the jokes, and perpetuate the cultural differences between the two groups.

       4. Informant Details

The informant is an 18-year old Iranian-Canadian female. She was born in Iran but moved to Canada as a young child, then moved again to southern California as a teenager. Learning about her parents’ Iranian culture helped her feel a sense of continuity throughout the different moving experiences she had. They also helped her feel more rooted and attached to her place of birth.

Folk speech
general
Humor

Fix it in Post

The following is a common filmmaking joke phrase:

If something is not working right while working on a film you just say

We’ll fix it in post

 

According to the informant it means that you will let the editor deal with it.

 

The informant also added that it is said by a lot of newer people but describes it as less funny the longer you have been there.

 

Context: this was collected during our in class collection time

 

Thoughts: I think it’s kind of funny how the reception of a joke can show how long you have been in that business, if you are a newcomer you will laugh more than a veteran. It can sort of outline your status. I also find it funny that the joke is technically about not wanting to do work, so you are passing it off to another person. I found that to be a common idea in many occupational jokes.

Folk speech
general
Humor

Gaffers vs Grips

The following is a common filmmaking joke:

How many grips does it take to fix a light bulb?

I don’t know

None, let the gaffer do it

 

The informant explains that gaffers only handle electrical work, while grips handle everything else and its disrespectful to do the gaffer’s work if you are not one

 

Context: this was collected during our in class collection time

 

Thoughts: I found this joke to be amusing, mainly because you can look at it from two sides. One, that you do the work you are assigned and don’t take someone else’s work. Or two, you don’t want to do extra work, so you leave it to someone else. I find it funny that even where I work retail, we have similar jokes, about not wanting to do extra work too.

Folk speech
general
Humor

The PA and the Light Bulb

The following is a common filmmaking joke phrase:

How many Pas does it take to screw in a light bulb?

I don’t know, how many?

Six, one to do it and five to stand around and wish they got asked to do it.

 

The informant explained that often PAs are not really given jobs to do, so they just want something to do

 

Context: this was collected during our in class collection time

 

Thoughts: This joke I found particularly interesting because rather than complaining about having to do work, which I found to be a common theme of occupational jokes, rather this joke is about complaining because you don’t have any work to do. I think it would be interesting to compare the jobs of PAs to other jobs on a film set to see if this is really true.

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

A Mexican Runs Into a Wall…

Item (direct transcription):

A Mexican with an erection runs into a wall. What does he break?

His lawnmower.

Background Information:

The informant read the joke on 9GAG, an online social media site.

Contextual Information:

The informant made it very clear that he would only tell the joke to someone he knew very well and was confident wouldn’t be offended.

Analysis:

This joke is a clear example of blason populaire, playing on the stereotype that all Mexicans are gardeners.

[geolocation]