USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Joke’
Humor

Russian Joke

Text: So my grandfather told me this joke that there were two old Russian guys driving through the forest. And, the guy in the passenger seat told the driver, “Hey, you need to pull over.” And the driver’s like, “Well, we can’t pull over, we’re not, we’re not where we’re supposed to be yet.” The passenger goes, “Look,” he goes, “I need you to pull over.” The driver goes, “But we’re in the middle of nowhere.” The passenger goes, “Look, I have to go to the bathroom. You have to pull over.” So, the driver pulls over, the guy gets out of the car, and he heads into the woods. A few minutes later, the passenger comes back to the car, and his pants are soaking wet. The driver looks at him and says, “What’s a matter? You didn’t make it in time?” He answers, “Nah, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.”

Context: AT is a child of Russian and Italian immigrants that grew up in Queens, New York. He would spend the summers in Maine surrounded by dense forest and vast natural landscapes, with is Russian grandparents who insisted that he learn Russian so that they could converse in their native language with their grandson. He has been a fluent speaker ever since then because of their teachings. His grandfather used to tell him this jokes as they were driving through the forests during the harsh main winters. I was told this joke over coffee one afternoon.

 Interpretation: Jokes area very popular form of folklore that can take on different forms in different societies.  The use of punch-lines in the telling of jokes can be largely recognized as an American behavior, for a lot of cultures don’t do punch-lines, rather they just tell funny stories. I expect that this is the case here, for when AT told me the joke for the first time, I didn’t really laugh because I thought the punchline was weak. I expected that perhaps the punch line was funnier in Russian, but now I expect that there is no punchline, only a funny story.

This joke still employs the cognitive switch technique that all jokes share. It sets up something in the beginning only to turn it on its head by the end. The entire story builds the idea that the passenger needs to use the bathroom, and that he will wet himself if the driver does not pull over and let him go into the woods to do his business. However, when the passenger finally gets his chance, he makes a mess anyways, cognitively switching the joke on its head.

 

Humor

Apples and Lemon Cookies to Remedy a Tapeworm

[The subject is KM. Her words are bolded, mine are not.]

ME: Do you want to tell me the joke first, or how you heard it first?

KM: Um… I think the lead up’s kind of… well, no. No, I’ll tell you the joke first.

ME: Okay.

KM: Okay, so, um, there’s this man who comes back from vacation from… somewhere. The place doesn’t really matter, you can change it from time to time when you tell it. But, uh, this man returns from vacation and his stomach is feeling kind of weird, and he’s not feeling too hot, so he goes to the doctor. The doctor, y’know, checks him up, and closes his door, and he’s like, “I’m sorry, sir, but you have a tapeworm.” He’s like, “Oh my gosh, like, what do I even do… do I take, like, antibacterial medication? What am I supposed to do?” He’s like, “Well, I mean you could wait for it to pass, but that could take who knows how long.” And this guy’s like, “I don’t wanna feel like this forever this is gonna suck, so do you have anything faster?” And he’s like, “Well, why don’t you… we’ll schedule an appointment for tomorrow. And I need you to bring an apple and a lemon cookie.” He’s like, “Okay, fine.”

So he schedules that, goes and buys the lemon cookie, buys the apple, is like, why am I even doing this, this is stupid. So he goes to the doctor, and the doctor’s like, “Okay. Bend over and pull down your pants.” He’s like, “I’m sorry, doctor, what?” And he’s like, “You just have to trust me.” And so, the doctor tells him to shove the apple up his butt, which the man does, and then he waits a few seconds, and then he’s like, “Okay, now you have to shove the lemon cookie up your butt.” He’s like, “Okay.” [Makes shoving noise and hand gestures] He’s like, “Oh, god, that was awful, is that it? Is that it?” And the doctor’s like, “I’m really sorry, but you’re going to have to do this every day for the next six days, you have to do it for a week. But then, on the seventh day, you come back to me and we’ll talk about it. But you’ll also have to bring a lemon cookie and an apple.” He’s like, “Jesus, okay.”

So then the second day he’s like uuugh, okay, that wasn’t so bad. Alright. By the fifth day, he’s like, I am sooo ready just… to die. This is the worst thing. So finally it’s the seventh day, and he’s scheduled his appointment, so he shows up to the doctor’s office with the apple and the lemon cookie like, “Doc, I don’t know if I can do it again.” He’s like, “No. Sir, this is gonna be the last time you’ll have to do this, this’ll be great. Like, it’s gonna be done after this.” He’s like, okay, but the man doesn’t really know what’s different because he still had to bring the apple and the lemon cookie, so finally, the doctor’s like, “Okay. Shove the apple up your butt.” So he does it, and he’s like, “Okay, then the lemon cookie?” And the doctor’s like, “No no no.” And he waits a few seconds, and he waits a few seconds, and nothing’s happening. Finally, the tapeworm SPURTS out of his butt and goes, “WHERE’S MY GODDAMN LEMON COOKIE?” And that’s the joke!

ME: So how did you come across this joke?

KM: This is like, one of my dad’s favorite jokes in his repertoire. He just, like, really enjoys this joke. But actually, he heard this joke, I think, because he had been listening to the radio back when we did that in our cars instead of phone music, or whatever, and so um, there had been, like, a radio contest. And like, you submit a punchline of a joke, and they would select the joke that you got to tell on the radio based on the punchline. And so, the punchline of that joke is, “and the tapeworm spurted out of his butt and said, ‘where’s my goddamn lemon cookie?’” And they were like, “what’s the rest of the joke? We have to hear that.” So that’s how my dad heard that joke.

Context:
KM is a white female college student who has lived in Southern California for her entire life. The first time I heard this joke, it happened because I referenced a different joke where a man had to shove fruit up his butt and she thought I was talking about this one. Instead, we discovered that we had two different jokes with the motif of fruit going up someone’s butt. I asked her to tell me the joke again so that I could record it.

Thoughts:
When KM had first told me this joke about a year ago, the man in it had just returned from vacation in South America. I think that this has to do with a common fear that many Americans have about illnesses one can get from visiting or drinking the water in South America. I think that this joke is clever, because from the elaborate setup, I expected it to end with the man discovering that the doctor was giving him the wrong advice and a play on words or something would explain the misunderstanding. Instead, the doctor’s advice works, which makes it even funnier. I also think that this joke would be easy to change with each telling of it, whether you were to change the place the man had returned from or the foods that he uses to expel the tapeworm.

Humor

A Variation of the “Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?” Joke

Main Text:

Collector: “Are there any jokes or riddles that you think are funny that you like to tell at school”

SM: “OO YEAH, I have one! And I think it is realllyyy funny!”

Collector: “Okay, what is it?”

SM: ” Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Collector: “Hmm, I’m not really sure. Why?”

SM: ” To get to the other SLIDE!”

Context:

The informant is a 6 year old girl who attends a public elementary school. I asked her to explain to me as best as she could the reasons why she would tell this joke to her friends. Other than saying it was funny, she said that they like to tell each other jokes at recess when they have nothing else to do and when they are bored. I also asked her where she heard this joke from and she said she learned it from another person in her class when they were playing outside.

Analysis:

In addition to this job being “funny” there are other explanations to why the timeless “Why did the chicken cross the road” jokes continued and still continue to be passed along through all of these years. To use a historical explanation, this joke/question first appeared in The Knickerbocker, a New York City magazine. The issue mentioned it as an example of a quip that might seem like a joke but is in fact a straightforward and unfunny solution. This joke was basically an example of anti humor and not too long after it was published, the line was modified and adapted to become an actual joke format, employing various puns and variations because everyone had already known the original answer to it. Because this joke plays off of the anti-humor aspect where the teller tells something that is not funny which the audience expect to be funny which creates a sense of ironic comedic value, it is important to analyze why people like to use anti-humor for their jokes and riddles in order to understand why this joke keeps being modified and told. More often than not, young children are the ones making variations to this “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke so I am going to analyze the culture of children and why they tend to use anti humor.

 Taking a psychological perspective, young children around the age where they are in preschool and shortly after learn the rhythms and formats of jokes and riddles without really understanding how  humor works, resulting in them saying nonsense like it is a joke, but it not really being a joke.
Adding on to this, kids are very reward-based meaning that they begin to realize that when people tell jokes, they joke teller is rewarded with attention and acceptance. So when these young kids tell these kids of anti-humor jokes and riddles that make no sense, they usually get a lot of positive reactions because it is “adorable” even if it is nonsensical (which also partly adds to the adorableness). This positive reaction the is fed to these young children then teaches and encourages them that it is okay to tell more jokes like these, leading to multiple forms and variations of nonsensical jokes, like we see in this collection. Another thing to understand about children who tell jokes is that kids tend to tell unconventional or peculiar jokes because they have not yet understood what exactly a joke is composed of. What makes a joke is that a joke presents some question or situation and then resolves this question. In other words, kids have not grasped the structure of a joke and therefore continue to tell jokes that make no sense to the listener. Kids are also exposed whether it be through school or their families to many jokes that they probably do not understand, so it makes sense that they think it is okay to put random things together into a joke because that is what they believe that people are doing with the jokes that they do not get.
This misunderstanding of the structure of a jokes as well as the attention they receive when they tell a bad joke accidentally leads to kids forming jokes that resemble more of a complex form of humor, that being the anti-joke. In different words, it is in the psychology and culture of kids to form anti-humor jokes and share them amongst each other and their families. For these reasons, this anti-humor then continues to be passed along from playground to home and because it is rooted in the psychology and social culture of the child I believe it will continue to be passed along for years to come.
general
Humor
Signs

Bellarmine College Preparatory Seal

Context:

My informant is a 21 year old student from the University of Southern California.This conversation took place in a university dining hall one evening. The informant and I were in an open space, and the informant’s significant other was present and listening to the conversation, as well. The SO’s presence, is the most likely reason that the informant was much more dramatic and told the legend quite jokingly, as if for the purpose to get laughs out of both me and the SO. In this account, he explains the legend of the reason why his school puts ropes around his school seal at the center of his high school campus. This is a transcription of our conversation, where he is identified as A.

 

Text:

A: I attended Bellarmine College Preparatory for 4 years as part of my 12 years of Catholic education, which in retrospect, I would not do.  [laughs] So Bellarmine is an all boys school, a little bit of toxic masculinity there… One of the most prideful traditions was… our symbol was the “B” for “Bellarmine,” and so we had in the main quad, uh, imprinted on the quad was maybe a 6×6 rounded print of our logo on the quad.

What the school told everyone–and what we told ourselves–to fit into the standard was that no one could step on the “B,” so everyone walked around it. No one could step on the “B” because it was too disrespectful. Um, and so we do things like try to jump over it, you know like if you’re really risky like I did freshman year, but then one day near the middle of my freshman year, we showed up to school and Bellarmine literally put up ropes around the B. 

No one knows why the B was suddenly roped, but I guess someone must have stepped on it or maybe graffitied it or maybe defaced it? But there’s been stories, my favorite being that, our rival, St. Francis… one of their fine gentlemen defecated on the B. [laughs]

So now our tradition is enshrined, now instead of like a, uh, proverbial “hey don’t step on the B,” now it’s “hm, why does this area look like a crime scene?” It’s because it was a crime scene, probably because that man defecated on our prideful school symbol.

 

Thoughts:

The way Bellarmine treats its school seal is an oikotype of how many schools choose to treat their own school seals. Schools seals are usually incredibly sacred, and touching it (especially before you graduate) can bring you bad luck or be seen as a sign of disrespect towards your school. To maintain school pride, many schools protect this sacred symbol of their school, especially from rivaling schools, who also follow the tradition of trying to deface their rival school’s seals. USC’s rival with UCLA also reflects this type of folklore: during the week of the rivalry football game, USC duct tapes and guards Tommy Trojan 24/7 to ensure that UCLA is unsuccessful in painting Tommy Trojan blue and gold. Similarly, UCLA builds a cage around their school’s bear statue to protect it from USC’s attempts to paint it red and gold.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Serbian Derogatory Roma Joke

“So a Roma woman, a gypsy woman, goes to the gynecologist, and the gynecologist has his gloves on. He notices that his gloves are ripped and notices that his wedding ring has fallen into the gypsy woman’s vagina, So he goes and he looks around and then sticks his head in, and then he sticks his whole body in, and he he is walking around in her vagina. And he sees another man in there who seems to be looking for something. He says to the man, “Hey I lost my ring, have you seen my ring?” And the other man says to him, “No, have you seen my horses?”

Context: This informant, SM, is half-Serbian and was telling my friends and I about a specifically vulgar and racist joke that she has heard other Serbian folks tell her. She explains that the Roma people are all over Europe and some parts of Asia, and are nomadic people. They are known as “gypsy” people, which is a derogatory term as they do not like being called as such. Serbians do not have a positive outlook on the Roma people, as they are seen as beggars and pickpockets. SM explains that sometimes they [gypsies] even use their children to get sympathy and get more money. The stereotype that is used by this joke is that Roma women have a lot of children, hence the size of the woman’s genitals in the story. The joke stuck with SM because of how derogatory and misogynistic it was. SM does not agree with this derogatory speech towards this specific ethnic group, and whenever telling the joke she prefaces by stating her own views towards the joke.

Analysis: Jokes, especially crude ones, are incredibly telling and descriptive of the culture from which the joke emerged. Jokes are a reflection of the things that a particular culture find humorous or witty, or can be a way to allow the persistence of certain stereotypes and essentially make fun of them. For example, the ample number of “blonde” jokes that are basically just jokes about how dumb blonde people–specifically women–are. These jokes allowed the spread of this stereotype across various American communities, leaving many blonde people the burden of having to prove their intelligence–even though none of this is rooted in fact. In this case, the Roma people, and the Roma women are being put down in a racist way, and is a reflection of certain Serbian communities’ views on the ethnic group. The experiences and observations of the Roma People by the Serbian society have influenced the way that they perceive these people. These stereotypes bleed into their jokes as a way to connect with the rest of their community, despite its provocative nature.

Along with this, there is a specific demographic to whom we tell stereotypic jokes. SM would never repeat this joke in front of a Roma person, in fear of offending them or them thinking that she shared the views espoused by the joke. This shows that we alter the way that we share folklore based on the context and the audience.

Humor

Butthole Hair (Korean Joke)

Background Info/Context:

Both my mom and dad would tell me this silly Korean expression, that I truly believed as a child, whenever I would cry and then start laughing. They used this phrase to make me laugh harder after crying, most likely to help me feel better or to just poke fun at me. They used to say it in a sing-song manner, implying that this is something that people would say to each other as a joke. This is a saying that my parents’ friends used to say to each other as kids.

 

Piece:

Korean:

울다가 웃음은 똥꼬에 털난다!

 

English Transcription:

Ool da ga oos uhm myun ddong go aye tul naan dah!

 

Transliteration:

Cry and then laugh then butthole hair grow!

 

Translation:

“If you cry and laugh, your butthole will grow hair!”

 

Thoughts:

This little saying is probably not true, but I think that it can be interpreted as more than a joke. Even though this phrase is usually told in a playful way, it has some serious implications in its underlying meaning. It seems like a light-hearted way of telling someone that they should not be so fickle about how they feel. Crying and laughing can be considered opposites to each other, as crying implies sadness, while laughing implies happiness. So at the most basic level, it does not really make sense for those reactions to occur one after the other. Growing butthole hair could be viewed as a “punishment” or a repercussion to having almost “bipolar” reactions. 

Humor

Eating While Laying Down

Background Info/Context:

As a child, I liked to eat snacks or meals while laying down, whether it be my parents’ bed or on the floor in front of the TV. My dad used to scold me, saying that it was bad for my digestion, but I never felt sick or nauseous. I had seen him do it a lot, so why would it be bad if I did it too? So he told me this Korean saying to try to prevent me from further eating while laying down.

 

 

Piece:

누어서 밥먹으면 소된다

 

Transcription:

Noo uh suh bap mug uhmyun soh doen dah.

 

Transliteration:

Lay down while eating cow become.

 

Translation:

“If you eat while laying down you’re gonna turn into a cow!”

 

 

Thoughts:

My dad probably said this to scare me into doing as he asked, and to prevent me from developing bad habits. Even though I never truly believed it, I did stop eating while laying down, just in case. I think this saying functions in a similar way to the belief of “If you eat the seeds of a watermelon, a watermelon will start growing inside you!” Although it’s not true, and there isn’t a real punishment for eating while laying down or eating watermelon seeds, they both seem to be things that people tell children to see if they are gullible or not.

 

Folk speech
Humor

Newton’s Law “Dad” Joke

KO: Ok uh, do you know what Newton’s Law is?

VG: Yes.

KO: Do you know what cole’s law is?

VG: No.

KO: You don’t know what thinly sliced cabbage is?

 

Background:

Location of riddle: N/A

Location of Performance – Classroom, Los Angeles, CA, late morning

 

Context: This performance was done in a group of 3-4 people after a class in response to a question about potential high school traditions, festivals, jokes, or riddles. KO was the first among the students to offer this joke as performance. KO and I are classmates.

 

Analysis: After my initial recording, KO classified the joke as a “dad joke,” which prompted many others. Therefore, it is apparent that this is a popular genre because everyone was commenting on the tradition of dad jokes and even had a collection of these themselves. I wish I would have questioned KO about how she discovered this joke and the genre of dad jokes as a whole because I am curious to see if these are actually jokes that are sourced from fathers or father figures. My assumption is that this genre rose out of children utilizing these jokes to critique their parental figures and practice rebellion in a relatively harmless way. 

 

Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

“America versus Yogurt” Joke

Context: The informant is a 19-year-old student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and he is currently an Art History major at USC. I asked him if his family is one that passes around a lot of jokes, to which he immediately replied, “Oh yeah. My family is really into humor and comedy.” I asked him if he could tell me a joke that a family member tells often. He said, “Here’s one that my dad says like all the time, especially to foreigners, and especially when we’re in another country.”

Piece: Q: “What’s the difference between America and a cup of yogurt?”

A: “If you leave the yogurt alone for long enough, it’ll eventually develop a culture.”

Analysis: This joke is a variation of the common “What’s the difference between…” joke format. A pun on the word “culture” is used to deliver the punchline as the word refers to both bacteria cultures and human culture. This piece is playing off of the common stereotype, or blason populaire, that Americans have no culture. This is a viewpoint that a large number of foreigners, and few Americans themselves, hold against the country, as many think that Americans are lazy, entitled, greedy, and gluttonous. We certainly do live in a society that glorifies excess; however, many would argue that the culture of America is one of the richest in the world since the country is a melting pot of many different cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, races, and religions. This stereotype may have also stemmed, in part, from the fact that the country is relatively new compared to many of the world’s other nations and quite separated from a large part of the Earth.

Humor
Narrative

“A frog walks into a bank” Joke

Context: I asked the 20-year-old informant from New Jersey if there were any jokes, pranks, or games that hold a certain significance in his family. He told me that there was one joke that his grandfather always tells at family gatherings. The joke is especially told if there is a guest at the gathering who has never heard it before. The informant also mentioned that in recent years, he and his father have started to recite the joke more and more.

Piece: “So, one Tuesday afternoon, a frog walks into the local bank to take out a loan. He walks up to the bank teller, her name is Mrs. Patty Whack. Frog sees her nametag and says, ‘Hi Mrs. Whack. I would like to take out a loan today.’ And Mrs. Whack is thrown off because, you know, usually humans are the ones who take out loans, not frogs. So Mrs. Whack says, ‘Umm…This is peculiar, but, you know what, you’re talking, so let’s just get this over with. If you want a loan, you must really be something. So, tell me about yourself. What’s your name? What’s your background?’ The frog responded, ‘Well, my name is Jerry and actually, you wouldn’t believe this, but my father is Mick Jagger.’ And Mrs. Whack says, “Oh! Well I guess he’s kind of got a froggy face, so it makes sense that he would, like, carry over to you. Maybe he’s a frog himself.’ And Jerry says, “Oh no. Don’t say that about my dad. That’s not a nice thing to say about him.’ And then Mrs. Whack says, ‘I’m so sorry. Well, let’s see. Can I have some form of collateral for this loan?’ And Jerry takes out a little pink elephant, a special elephant, and he says, “Hey, you know, this is kind of ironic. Elephants are usually larger than frogs, but here I am with like a really tiny elephant in my hand.’ Mrs. Whack chuckles and says, ‘Ok, haha! Let me take this. It’s not the greatest collateral, but I’ll take it. And let me speak to my manager in the back.’ So she goes to the back of the room, and she says to the manager, ‘You know, I’ve got this frog who wants to take out a loan. And for collateral, all he has given me is this like little pink porcelain elephant. Do you know anything about this little pink elephant? Is it valuable or whatever?’

And the manager says to her, ‘It’s a knick-knack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man is a Rolling Stone.’

Analysis: Upon hearing this joke, I immediately recognized a connection to another subgenre of jokes: “A blank walks in a bar…” jokes. These types of jokes also often have an anthropomorphized animal as the main subject. It’s often a horse or a duck, and, in certain examples, I have also seen people use a frog as a subject of the joke. Those jokes often usually begin with a confused bartender asking the animal how they are able to walk and talk or why they have even come to the bar. The punchline of this particular joke is a play on a well-known line from a popular British nursery rhyme, “The Old Man.” In this nursery rhyme, the most famous line is, “With a knick knack paddy whack, give a dog a bone. This old man is a rolling stone.”

 

 

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