USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Joke’

Watermelon Tai Chi

Daniel is an immigrant from Hong Kong who immigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities and a better life for both him and his family. Living in a poor family with seven other siblings, he immediately went to work as a police officer after receiving his high school diploma in Hong Kong. Once he moved to Los Angeles, he worked as a computer technician, and subsequently, changed his career to a funeral counselor.

Original Script

I don’t know whether it’s true or a joke—I believe it’s a joke. For a tai chi master, he had a hard time to teach his disciple how to do the beginning steps of a sort of tai chi kung fu. Right now, I will illustrate in English:

One big watermelon. I cut it into two halves. This half I give to you, you don’t want it, I take it back. And the other half I give to you, you don’t want it too, I take it back.

And those are the steps of the beginning.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant heard about this tale from his friends during passing period in high school. His friends were taking tai chi at the time and demonstrated the moves of the watermelon tai chi to him. He believes the story is a joke, rather than the truth, because both the moves and the chant are humorous.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant at his house.

Tai chi is an internal form of Chinese martial arts used for its health benefits and defense training. Several styles of tai chi have developed over time; the five most common ones today are the Chen, Sun, Woo, Wu, and Yang styles. There are a few who believe that the watermelon tai chi was created because both tai chi and watermelons promote similar properties, such as improved blood circulation.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I first learned of this watermelon tai chi in my high school Chinese class. The teacher taught our class the moves and the chant; however, she did not mention that this form of tai chi was a joke, like the informant. When I performed the watermelon tai chi alongside the informant, I found the movements quite calming, but saying the chant in Cantonese was very amusing.


The Coffin

A man asked Juha: “What do you think is better, to walk behind a coffin, or in front of a coffin during a funeral?”

Juha replied: “Be wherever you want, except inside that coffin.”

Background information: This is a popular joke heard throughout the Middle East, starring a recurring character, Juha.

Context: The informant told me this joke in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: This is quite humorous, a bit of dark humor. It deals with funerals, but makes a joke out of it, saying the worst place to be at during these events is inside a coffin (because that obviously means you’re dead!).

Folk speech

A Joke with no Punchline



Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background


The first party I ever went to was kinda a bummer. I was invited the day of and was stressed cause I had nothing to wear. So I went to the mall and picked out a shirt and waited in the checkout line. But then I was hungry so I went to wetzel’s Pretzels and waited in the pretzel line. And then later that night I showed up and waited in the party line to get in. And then when I finally got I went to get a drink but there was no punchline.

Collector’s thought’s:

This joke takes a while to develop and is paradoxical in nature. The first person aspect of it makes it so that the audience can not tell that it is a joke and not real until the repetition of waiting in lines kicks in. Part of what makes this joke funny is that the punchline of the joke is literally that “there was no punchline”, a paradox that is equally infuriating and hilarious.

Folk speech

Dentist Joke


Terry is a second generation Irish american who grew up in los Angeles in the ‘60s and 70’s. He is now a dentist working and living in the Bay area.


Ok, so here is a joke that I learned in dental school. It goes like this:

What did the dentist see in the North pole?

A molar bear

Collector’s thoughts:

This short dentist joke is a pun which replaces polar bear with the word molar. The informant laughed at his own joke and got great pleasure from telling it. To me it seemed that half of the fun in telling this joke for the informant came from the fact that it is a somewhat boring joke.


(Najkraci vic na svijetu) the shortest joke in the world

TK is my dad and he likes jokes. It was a part of his culture growing up and he always likes to have a nice laugh.


Every summer we my family and I would go to Iž for our vacation. Iž is an island in Croatia. Usually to pass time in the car on our way there we play games, tell jokes and on one of those rides he told us this one.


TK: do you want to hear the shortest joke in the world?


Me: Yes


TK: do you want to hear another one?


He heard this joke from his friend back when he was in high school. The genre of jokes he enjoys is simple, short and stupid just like this one above. For those exact reasons these kind oh jokes are funny. A joke like this one is meant to bring giggles and not full on laughter. They are usually used to pass time, in between classes, on road trips and etc.


Two men filing a missing report

Informant: TF was born and raised in Villa Park, California. His father works in commercial real estate and his mother working as a manager for Choc Hospital. He has one older brother, a twin sister, and one younger brother. TF is half Lebanese and strongly connected to his Lebanese background. He is a first year student at USC. TF heard this joke from his friend back in high school. TF told me this joke last semester while studying for one of our finals.


“A husband came to the police station to report that his wife is missing. There was one man already there filing the papers for his missing wife Katarina. The police officer asked what Katarina looks like; the husband says: “long legs, blonde, big breasts…”

The police officer turns back to the other husband and asks: “and your wife sir.”

“Forget my wife, lets find Katarina.”’


The joke makes fun of men; as soon as they see an attractive woman they go running after her. Not thinking with their heads, but instead with their penises. The joke is exaggerating that men are only interested in the superficial. This is why it is funny, because if we generalize men, it is true to an extant.

Folk speech

Vermont Accents

This is a description of the Vermont/Milton accent that is used in Northern Vermont. The informant is from Burlington, which is one of the larger cities in Vermont and the most metropolitan.

“Um so, people in vermont, its actually a very interesting socio-economic uh little raft, because it’s a lot of very old farming families that have been there forever, so a lot of french-candadian and irish old old old families, that like, live there, and then in 60s and 70s a lot of communes popped up, and so theres was like a lot of college educated upper middle class wealthy people who moved to vermont, and so theres kind of a lot of class divisions and dynamics working out there. Um, and it kind of, there’s a division between people who have the accent and those that don’t, and the further isolated you get, the thicker the accent is, and the most isolated is in the islands of vermont, um, and that’s Milton, but if you live there is “Mil’un”, because you don’t say the T and you really hit the vowels, um, so we make, they are the butt of everyone’s jokes, the people up in the boonies,  up in the fucking islands, who like cannot speak a word of english and you can’t understand it, um, they’re seen as the dumbest hillbillies and just the like biggest idiots in all of vermont and there’s a lot of big idiots in vermont, um, and they, people do their accents, so I don’t have an accent because my parents are from upstate new york and i have a very upstate new york accent but the vermont accent is a lot of dropped T’s, Vermon’”


Analysis: When speaking about Vermont, it was clear that informant knew a lot about how the differences in class affect how vernacular speech is disseminated between communities. She was aware that living where she did and having the parents that she did created a difference between her and the other Vermonters who had been there for generations. She was also able to perform the accent although she doesn’t speak with it.


Ironic Doctor Joke

Would you mind sharing a joke from your childhood with me?

“This is a joke that my dad, uhh, told me. Uhh… [tells the joke in Farsi, but the phonetics are muddled in the recording.]

The English translation is that my dad told me that ‘Whenever you get sick, be sure to go to the doctor. Uhh… Because, you know, the doctor has to make a living, he has to live. So when you go to the doctor, make sure you get a prescription, and take it to the pharmacist, and get your, you know, get your medication, because the pharmacist has to make a living too, he has to live also. And when you get your prescription, make sure you don’t take it yourself, because you want to live, too!'”

And what was the context that that would be delivered in, like, why was that a joke, why was that funny?

“Uhh, generally, everybody’s out there to make a living, you know, but you want to make sure it’s not at your expense. So you’re not a, uhh, sacrificial lamb for everyone else to make a living.”

Analysis: Keeping with the trend of cautionary proverbs and stories, this ironic joke from MB explains through humor that not everyone, even often-trusted authorities, ought to be trusted outright. With Masood’s background growing up poor in Iran, this may make some sense, but it is interesting to note how often distrust or wariness comes up in the lessons that he and Tahereh were taught when they were growing up.

Folk Beliefs

Hands Mean Cancer?

The Main Piece
“If your hand is bigger than your face then it means you have cancer.” After hearing that one usually puts their hand in front of their face and the performer slaps the performee with their own hand.
Background Information
My informant is my roommate, Sarah Kwan. She is an undergraduate at USC and considers herself a hilarious person making people laugh at the jokes she tells. She enjoys telling this joke because she feels it is a “old-school classic.” She can recall when her own friend pulled the joke on her when she was in high school and has used it to prank others ever since. It was a good way for her to make groups of people laugh, although it did not work all the time. Because of its “classic”-ness many people had heard of it and did not find it amusing, however she continues to use it despite naysayers’ attitudes.
This joke was performed in front of me and a couple other of my roommates. Unfortunately, many of my roommates did not particularly enjoy the joke, but it was an ice breaker as we half heartedly laughed at the joke. This may have occurred because of the fact that we were only a couple of weeks into the school year and did not know each other too well.
Personal Thoughts
I felt her attempt to break the ice with this joke had good intentions even if it did not work out the way she expected it to. It also revealed to me the usefulness of a joke and how these joke would get passed down from person to person, not necessarily being told by one another as stories are, but in the way that pranks are pulled on each other, thus creating a chain reaction of jokes or pranks.


Making Fun of the Portuguese (From Brazil)

Title: The Portuguese Joke (from Brazil)

Interviewee: Rafael Blay

Ethnicity: Brazilian

Age: 19

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): In his room in Webb, with 3 other friends playing video games in the background. It was a Thursday in April, all the work done for the week, so spirits were high. The interviewee sat on his bed to recount some tales and such.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee- “You ask a Portuguese person if they have the time. He says yes.”


This joke and all the humor targeted towards the Portuguese seem to speak for itself. The humor is target towards the country that once “owned” them, the country that started them as a colony. This phenomena is common amoung all colonies, much like Americans make fun of British people, and Mexicans make fun of Spaniards. The jokes always seem to center around their people being silly or stupid, and just generally not in touch with the modern day and in touch with the average person. Remaining hatred left from colonialism is probably the reason for that type of humor. And generation to generation, that humor is then passed down and repeated, until you end up with the jokes of today.

Tags: Joke, Brazil, Portuguese