Tag Archives: Joke

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.

The Joke: Boston Crow Story

Informant: have you heard of Boston Crows?” ‘No?’ Okay so, in Boston New York, there has been a recent discovery of these special crows that are smarter than your average crow. They have these white speckles, making them very distinct. They’ve been recorded learning how to talk, do routines, and a lot of other things. People started considering them the local pets, almost, but people then started to find a lot of the same crows dead. The outcry got researchers to look into this, led by avian expert Dr. Roseburg. Rosenburg theorized there were many possible factors: different life spans, specific diseases, or predators. So the team observed the crows, trying to find the cause. They found a very interesting behavioral pattern. These crows mated for life early on and would spend a lot if not all their time with those partners while foraging. The most frequently visited places for these crows were the sides of not very busy roads, where people threw out trash of their windows while driving by. This is when scientists discovered something, a majority of these birds were dying due to being hit by vehicles. But these crows were not stupid, they had a very good system of communicating with one another. One bird would sift through the trash while the other sat on a nearby sign post or something and be look out. When a vehicle came along the look out would alert the one down in the gutter so it could fly out in time. But some birds still got hit, for you see, while it’s very easy for a crow to say ‘cahr’… it is very difficult for them to say ‘truck’.

Background: My informant states that they learned this joke from Reddit but they don’t remember the original name of the person who posted it. They first told the joke close to how it was originally written but quickly developed a game out of it where they’d try to spin the story for as long as they could. Their record was 30 minutes

Context: I asked my informant about the joke specifically because they took pride in making the story longer every time they told it. Over Discord I told them to make the story as long as they wanted, they sent me this version a day later.

Thoughts: This is a wonderful example of a shaggy dog story, and allows a lot of creativity on the half of the teller. As long as the punch line isn’t altered you can make it as local or as distant as you want. It was also a great joke to hear someone tell if you already know the punchline, for then you can simply watch the reactions of others who haven’t heard the joke before. I believe I found the original post my informant was referring to on reddit, please see:
docpepson. ‘The Crow Mystery‘. r/Jokes. Jan 25, 2008. www.reddit.com/r/Jokes/comments/1l888r/the_crow_mystery/. Accessed March 22, 2020.

My Father’s Favorite Yiddish Joke

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my father/informant (JET). 

JT: So here’s the story. A man owes another man money, but the guy who owes the money doesn’t have any money. It bothers him so much he can’t sleep. So, on the day that it’s due, at like three or four in the morning, he goes and knocks on the other guy’s door. And he says “you know that money I owe you? I don’t have it, I can’t pay you.” And the other man says, “okay” (laughs) “so why are you telling me this at three in the morning?” (laughs) And the first man says “Bis jetzt hub ich nisht gekennt schlufen, jetzt solst dee nisht schlufen!” That means “‘til now, I couldn’t sleep, now you shouldn’t sleep!” (laughs). 

LT: I love that one. Can you explain the punchline a little more? 

JET: Yeah, it kind of plays with your moral compass. Sure, he couldn’t pay the guy back. But hey, he was honest! 

Background: 

My informant is my father, whose parents were Holocaust survivors who immigrated from Poland to New Jersey without speaking any English. My father was raised primarily speaking Yiddish around the house, and he learned English mainly at school. This particular joke is a classic Yiddish joke and was one of my grandfather’s favorites, who told it to my father throughout his upbringing. My father likes this joke “because, first of all, it’s funny,” but also because there’s a lot of truth in it: “It would really bother you if you couldn’t pay someone back, if you have any morals at all, but the thing about that line is the roles get flipped. Now it’s the other guy’s problem, and it must really bother him to know he’s out of money!” 

Context:

While I’m not in quarantine with my informant/father, I do call him every day, and this piece was collected during a routine call. 

Thoughts: 

I like this joke because it plays on a famous Jewish stereotype. Although it’s never explicitly said, all the characters in Yiddish jokes are jews (unless specified otherwise). One of the most widely known stereotypes is that jews are stingy. Well, this joke is about two jews who don’t have any money. However, they do have other virtues that play into the joke. The first is generosity. The fact that the man’s debt couldn’t be repaid means that the other man gave him money in the first place. The second virtue is honesty. The man not being able to sleep at night shows how he was uncomfortable leading the other man on. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, is a sense of humor. There are so many ways to tell someone you can’t pay them back, but the man did it in a punchline. While this story probably isn’t true, what makes it funny is that it could be. Everyone in the community knows people who have the characters’ qualities. In addition, virtues like generosity, honesty, and sense of humor are what I think of as some of the core values of the Jewish community. 

School Game- Spundalele

Context: My informant grew up in Texas during the ‘70s. In elementary school during integration, he was one of the few white students transferred from a white school to a black school. He recalls a game the black students taught him called Spundalele. The first time someone “spundaleled him” he was surprised and angry because he didn’t understand it was a game. Once he understood, he and the other white students quickly adopted the game and played it every day. He says it was one of his first interactions at his new school, and it was a game that quickly brought together the white and black students. 

The Game: M: “Basically, if you have something in your hand, and somebody knocked it out of your hand, said ‘SPUNDALELE!’, and then picked it up before you could…it was theirs and you don’t get it back. Well I mean you can take it back under violence, but that’s not really part of the game.”

To Play:

  1. Find someone with something in their hand
  2. Knock the object out of their hand and onto the floor
  3. Shout “spundalele”
  4. Attempt to pick it up before they can
  5. If you succeed, you get to keep the item
  6. If you fail, they get to keep the item

The game works best if everyone knows the rules before playing

My thoughts: The concept of this game is strange to me; why would you play a game where people take each others’ things? But as an elementary school student in the ‘70s, you probably aren’t carrying anything of great value. Integration was a dramatic change to schools in the south, so if this game brought people of different races together, it sounds like a good game to me.

Armenian Mother-In- Law Joke

Joke: There is a funeral for a woman. Someone at the funeral asks the son-in-law how his mother-in-law died. He says that she died from poisoning. The other person then asks why she had so many bruises. The son-in-law states that this is because she did not want to eat.

The point of the joke is that the son-in-law had forcefully poisoned his mother-in-law, alluding to a tumultuous and strained relationship between son and mother in law.

Background Information: Armenian Joke. Not necessarily exclusive to Armenian culture as it is a pretty common topic which shows the often rocky relationship people have with their in-laws.

Context: I was told this joke during a dinner in which we were sharing common jokes within our communities. This was the first joke that came to his mind. He was a little adamant when it came to telling the joke because of its morose content. I assured him that it didn’t matter to me. He told me that this joke was told to him by a few of his male friends at a house gathering.

Thoughts: I believe that this is a joke that looks at the sometimes difficult relationship with parents-in law. This idea has been explored through many cultures, including American culture with films such as Monster-In-Law and Meet The Fockers. It is often difficult to connect and have a good relationship with your in-laws. I think jokes, like this one, are used as a coping mechanism and as a way to make light of a difficult situation/relationship. I find it interesting that this joke was brought up at a house gathering in which a group of males felt comfortable telling this joke, but when it came to telling it to other people such as women, the informant felt uncomfortable. I think this shows that this topic is an uncomfortable one and is meant for very specific groups that will be able to understand and relate to the topic matter.

Drinking Alcohol to kill Corona

Main Piece: One myth I heard about coronavirus is that tequila or any hard alcohol kills the virus. This is something I’ve heard not just about the virus but when you’re sick in general. It’s based on the fact that alcohol is normally a sanitizing agent so drinking alcohol would sanitize your body. The joke would be set up when someone is feeling slightly ill. Then when someone else hears about the illness, they sarcastically say that they should go take a shot of tequila.


Context: The informant is a current junior at Cal Poly SLO. She is one of many students that were removed from her school due to the Coronavirus pandemic. She encountered the joke from her classmates and peers.

Thoughts: This joke shows off the stereotypical college experience in which people drink a lot. This joke stems from another folk belief that alcohol sanitizes your system for any disease. I think it’s just another excuse for people to drink alcohol.

A Filipino Pun

Context:Context: The informant (NA) is a freshman at USC. He lives in a Filipino household and experiences all of the traditions that a family in the Philippines would have. He heard this joke from both his peers and his family. The piece was performed on an online conference through a Zoom meeting with the interviewer (DM). 

Main piece: 

NA: “Why do Filipinos not like salt”

DM: “Why?”

NA: “Because it’s asin”

This is similar to a pun and the main point of this joke is saying that salt which is asin in Tagalog, is a sin, like doing something wrong.

Thoughts: Personally I am a huge fan of puns and wordplay like this. The joke ties English in with Tagalog and it reflects the focus on religion that many people in the Philippines have. It also could reference the preference of taste with Filipino with the lack of salt which has some truth to it since Filipino dishes use fish sauce as their main source of saltiness. It ties in a common habit in cuisine and cleverly merges it with a play on words and with the stereotype of the religious Filipino community

Psychiatrist Light Bulb Joke

Piece: 

Informant: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Collector: I don’t know, how many?

Informant: One, but the light has to want to change. 

Context: The informant was sitting next to me while I was doing homework in his living room. He turned over to me and posed the joke. The collection occurred in the piece’s natural performance setting.

Background: The informant is Canadian born, but has lived the majority of his life in the United States. He is the son of a psychologist and has frequently interacted with psychiatrists. To the informant, the joke is incredibly humorous based on the common principle in therapy and mental health treatment that a patient has to want to change for the treatment to be effective. He is unsure of where he learned the joke, but guessed that he may have heard it in a television show. 

Analysis: The joke is a variation on “How many ___ does it take to change a lightbulb?” jokes that often build upon existing stereotypes. This particular joke  relies on the common principle of mental health treatment that a patient has to want to change for the treatment to be effective. It also plays on two interpretations of the word change. On one hand, it relies on change as literal replacement as in the case of the lightbulb. On the other, it relies on change being understood as a mental transformation. Ultimately, the joke plays upon an understanding of Western psychiatry and the idea that a psychiatrist would approach everyday tasks the same way as he/she/they would approach his/her/their work. 

For another version of this joke, see:

Wikipedia. 2001. “Light-Bulb Joke.” Last Modified May 3, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lightbulb_joke&dir=prev&action=history

British Bus Driver Joke

Piece:

Informant: 

*Speaking in an artificial British accent*

Bus driver pulls up to a bus stop, opens the door, looks out and there’s a guy standing there. This guy has one leg, three eyes, no arms. 

So the bus driver looks at him and says, “Aye aye aye, you look ‘armless.” 

Background: The informant was born in Canada and spent most of his life in America. The joke was originally told to him by his Welsh father who has a natural British accent. The joke reminds the informant of his childhood, a time when he didn’t understand the joke but still enjoyed his father saying it to him. 

Context: The piece was collected while I stayed with the informant and his family during a state mandated stay-at-home order. We are very good friends and have known each other for a long time, making the performance very casual. He and I were about to sit down for dinner with both of his parents when he turned to me and posed the joke before saying it to his dad and asking if he remembered it. The piece was collected in its natural performance setting. 

Analysis: The humor of the joke relies on an understanding of the phrase “Aye aye aye” being a homonym of “eye eye eye”. This is comical due to the potential interpretation of the phrase as both a British greeting and a reference to the man’s three eyes. The second part of the joke relies on the usage of the British accent to omit the /h/ phoneme in “harmless” so that it sounds identical to the word “armless,” referencing the man’s lack of arms. While the joke isn’t considered overwhelmingly humorous to the informant and audience, conjuring a smile rather than a laugh, the informant retells it as a memory of his father and British heritage. For me, hearing the joke was joyful because it symbolized family and quintessential “dad humor.”

Dead Baby Joke

Piece:

Informant: What is worse than ten dead babies stapled to one tree?

Collector: I don’t know. What?

Informant: One dead baby stapled to ten trees. 

Context: The piece was collected during a casual interview. I grew up hearing the informant telling dead baby jokes so I asked her to participate in an interview to collect one. 

Background: The informant is my twenty-two year old sister. She learned this piece from friends in high school who shared her self-proclaimed “dark humor.” She both attended high school and currently lives in San Diego, California. She is an avid metal and alternative music fan with a love of body modifications including tattoos and piercings.

Analysis: Dead baby jokes are most common among teenagers and people in their early twenties, coinciding with my sister’s age both when she learned the joke and when it was performed for this collection. I believe my sister particularly enjoys this genre of joke because it is very grim and graphic. She participates in numerous unconventional subcultures that involve bold displays of self expression (including seven face piercings and visible neck and hand tattoos) that may be considered tabooistic. The joke finds humor in infant death, a subject usually not discussed openly or with humor if discussed at all. In doing so, the joke is at odds with social convention in the same way that my sister’s displays of self expression may be.

For more information on dead baby jokes, see:

Dundes, Alan. “The Dead Baby Joke Cycle.” Western folklore 38, no. 3 (January 1, 1979): 145–157. http://search.proquest.com/docview/75040401/.